I have always been a gamer. I love video games, tabletop miniature games and especially running roleplaying games. I have done the first and last (video and roleplaying) my entire life. The needed pieces for those games is easy to transport. I have always had a good selection of players for my RPG, and opponents are easy to find online.
Miniature gaming is a little different. It takes meeting with people in the real world, hauling boxes of miniatures (sometimes more than a hundred miniatures taking up 4 boxes, depending on the game). However, as a teenager and into my mid twenties I played a lot of tabletop games.
When I was younger and played in the gaming stores, I fit in pretty well. I was young, white and heterosexual. I remember our normal conversations consisted of fighting over rules, strategy discussions, horror and sci-fi movies and in general young male focuses. I have to admit though, most of my tabletop people I played with, I didn’t actually make close friendships with those people though.My friends all came from my RPG group (which consisted usually of at lest 50% women). This was mostly because a lot of the players who were at the store, were the stereotypical guys who would never see a girl naked. Even talking about sex was awkward with most of them.
Turn the clock forward a decade and my tabletop gaming had dropped off. We started moving around, I got married and tabletop miniature gaming takes a lot of time, both in playing and in prep (not even counting money) so I played less and less and I found RPG and just spending time with my spouse more enjoyable. In addition at this point I realized how misogynistic in general the people who frequented the store were. There was a reason they were “forever alone” fedora wearing guys. I decided at that time I didn’t have time to play miniature gaming.
Fast forward to just before Wolsey’s transition began. I was fifteen years older, with a lot more disposable money and kept thinking how great it was to game with people using miniatures (in the down time I have played a lot of extensive RPGs, and video games that mimicked what we used to do in the store). Call it a sense of nostalgia but I found myself really missing playing with people in person at a store setting, and using miniatures.
I jumped in it by playing in a blood bowl league (think of a truly fantasy football game involving elves, dwarves and demons), warhammer 40k (the titan of tabletop gaming), and bolt action (a world war 2 miniature game that really gels with my favorite type of strategy gaming). I have bought an army or more for each game, and the paints to go with it (don’t think those are cheap either).
Now that I have played a few times, I discovered something disquieting. The game stores are a lot more misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic. In fact the poor treatment of others even extends to other hobbies that people don’t understand. Let’s not even get into the what they say about civil rights for people of color. Also in full disclosure I think I was also turned off by hygiene and play style of the people, but that was a minor turnoff.
One of the reasons I got back into this hobby is that I have friends that play regularly. They know who they are and they are nothing but supportive good people who have been there for me. They go in and deal with it regularly (and many of them fall into the LGBT)
When I first went into the store, it was right before Wolsey’s transition, so they met him as my wife. I gamed a bit at that time, but even then I should have realized something was off. The demographic of most of the gamers was slightly younger then myself but still consisted mostly of white heterosexual males.
Something seemed a little off, but I didn’t really notice it until after Wolsey started transitioning. The new people I met I introduced my spouse as my husband during conversations. People would freeze. As in literally stop and stare at me. These were people I hadn’t played before, so they had no history so it was obviously because it indicated I was gay.
The people who already did know me had a different reaction. They froze as well confused. They seemed confused and a couple asked if I had divorced my wife and if that was why, but were even more shell shocked when I said no, that my husband was transitioning from being my wife. Honestly, most of them accepted that pretty quickly on the outside at least. Please note, this does not include the people I consider my actual friends and know me outside of the gaming store. They knew as things happened and have always been supportive, this is about the gaming store only guys.
It was during this time that I noticed a lot of the players kept saying the word “fag” or “faggot” and would talk about things being gay. I even had the words tranny used around me twice. Although before I flipped my lid on them, I do have to say others would rush up and whisper in the offender’s ear and then both would look over at me. Once word had spread I was gay and my husband was trans all the comments stopped, but it was uncomfortable.
I also noticed at this time other groups were being targeted, made fun of and those people usually never came back. One of our games took place at a restaurant that specialized in serving gamers. It allowed people to run games at the tables. It was at one of these that my group started targeting other people in the restaurant. Their targets included bronies, furries, and Pokemon players.
I realize this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was at this point that I realized that this same group’s conversations always shifted when I came in the room. I realized they probably said the same thing about gays, transgender people, and anyone else that didn’t fit in the group. It was here I also realized I had not seen a single woman or person of color actively involved with the miniature games. There are a few exceptions (especially in the card games) but it isn’t reflective of society.
I found that day I wasn’t having nearly as much fun as I thought I would, and definitely not as much fun as I remembered having when I was younger. Now I am debating if I want to quit trying to engage in miniature gaming. I can play almost all the exact same games (or things close enough) in a video game setting, or I can run a roleplaying game that is a much more diverse group.
Then I worry if I had missed something when I was younger. Was the homophobia there when I was younger. Did I miss it because I was a heteronormative white male at the time. I definitely know I missed the misogyny that occurred until I started dating and realized how they talked about women.
Watching this now as a man in a same-sex marriage I don’t think I can enjoy myself here anymore. This is definitely an unexpected shift due to Wolsey’s transition, but not something I regret. What I regret is that I didn’t see this before the transition. I never realized how much I must have accepted that behavior when I was younger.