Ronin Round Table: My Gaming Agenda

More than once, Green Ronin has been accused of having "an agenda" when it comes to its published products. Now, it’s no secret that the owners and core of Team Ronin skews to the left politically and socially but, generally speaking, I can’t think of any products where those personal beliefs took precedence over accurately portraying the genre and style of the game or setting in question. Yes, elements of Blue Rose are quite socially progressive, but that’s the nature of the Romantic Fantasy genre the game looks to emulate. Is Testament promoting a "Fundamentalist agenda"? Does Freeport: City of Adventure promote piracy? Does Legions of Hell mean Green Ronin is secretly run by heavy-metal Satanists? All those and many other products don’t have any "agenda" beyond being interesting game books. They may not all interest the same audience, but that sort of diversity is a good thing.

That’s where we hit upon my one and only "agenda" when it comes to writing and developing game books and settings: inclusiveness. It’s no secret: I’m gay and have been out for longer than I’ve been "in" at this point, and I’m looking forward to June’s Pride events and marching in the Boston Pride Parade, as I have for the past several years. I know what it’s like to be on the outside, and so do a lot of gamers, in one fashion or another. In fact the "gamer as outsider" is so archetypal it has become stereotype.

Last year at GenCon, I was privileged to sit on a panel for a seminar we called "Queer as a Three-Sided Die" to talk about sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc.) in gaming. My fellow panelists and I had no idea how it would go over. As it turned out, the room was packed, and the event was recorded on video for YouTube! The audience helped to remind us how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go. Depictions of trans- people are still at the point where those of gay characters were a couple of decades ago. Online communities like Gaming as Women and the documentary project Gaming in Color show there are strong, and often unacknowledged, parts of our "tribe".

Several years ago, my Green Ronin colleagues adopted the nickname "The Johnny Rocket Fan Club" for the various "gaymers" who would stop by our booth to thank me for including an openly gay character in the Freedom City setting. I’ve gotten emotional fan letters from gay readers of my Shadowrun novels who appreciated the matter-of-fact handling of Talon the street mage having male romantic interests. Might not seem like a big deal (unless you think I’m pushing "my agenda") but to some of them it was the first time they looked at a heroic adventure setting and saw themselves as heroes. So, if I can create a world where someone looking to live out a fantasy can see a reflection of themselves in there somewhere, I’m going to do it, and not just gay characters but women, people of all races, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and more. That matters a lot to me, and that’s my "agenda" in as much as I have one: In our worlds, we can all be heroes.

Steve Kenson

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