The first time I came out professionally was in a job interview. It was in the early ’90s, and I was in Chicago, at FASA Corporation, interviewing for the job of Shadowrun developer following Tom Dowd’s departure.
When I was asked if had questions, other than talking about the particulars of the job, I said (something along the lines of) “Well, yes. I’m gay. Is that going to be a problem?” See I was fairly newly out, just to family and a few friends. The prospect of starting a new life in a new city … well, I wanted to do it right.
As it happened, my interviewer didn’t miss a beat and didn’t think there would be any problems, and I honestly don’t think it had anything to do with my not getting the job (which, obviously, I didn’t. I was way too young and inexperienced. It went briefly to SR author Carl Sargent, and then to FASA designer Mike Mulvihill). Still, it was a big step for me.
Why am I bringing all this up? Well, as you may know, Green Ronin announced a planned Kickstarter for a new edition of the Blue Rose roleplaying game of romantic fantasy, and the fact that it’s late in getting going is at least partially my fault, as I’ve been busy with this other project you may have heard about. So Blue Rose hasn’t gotten my full attention until fairly recently. While I apologize for any delays, I think it will be worth the wait and, honestly, the timing couldn’t be better.
You see, it’s LGBT Pride month, which is, to me, the ideal time for me to be talking about and working on Blue Rose, a project that made such a concerted effort ten years ago to be one of the most inclusive RPGs in terms of gender and sexuality. Now, honestly, we fumbled the “B” and “T” parts of LGBT, and could do better with others, but part of the point of a new edition is to apply lessons learned and make a good game even better, and that’s certainly my intention.
Now, Blue Rose is not as much about “the gay stuff” as some of its detractors (many of whom haven’t even read it) seem to think. Indeed, we tried to make Aldis’ acceptance of same-sex and polyamorous relationships as integrated and “normal” as possible for the setting, without calling a lot of attention to it. So why keep talking about it? Because, while it might not be a huge part of the game, it is still a big deal.
How can I explain just how desperate I was as a closeted high school geek to see some openly gay characters in the games I loved? Not even as heroes—oh no, that would have been too much to hope for—just as people who existed in the world, evidence that, in my fictional fantasy worlds, at least, I wasn’t as alone as I felt in the real world. Seeing some reflection of yourself in stories: That kind of representation matters, especially to young people who feel isolated and afraid. It matters that when we talk about stories of adventure and heroism, we make it clear everyone can be a hero—or a villain, for that matter. We make it clear that you—yes, you—can be the hero.
Inclusion and representation—whether it’s gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, or any of the other qualities that make us who we are—have become much more widespread issues than when Blue Rose was first published a decade ago, and Green Ronin’s expansion of the Adventure Gaming Engine (AGE) system offers us a great opportunity to apply all that we have learned in the intervening years by returning to the world of Aldea and the Kingdom of the Blue Rose. It also allows us the opportunity to be more inclusive on the creative side of things, and we’re putting together a great list of creators interested in providing different looks at the world, its characters, and the kinds of adventures you can have there. Although the name of the game is Blue Rose, we want a garden of roses, an entire field of different flowers, to bloom, and we hope you’ll join us in making that happen.
I know better at this point than to give you an exact date, but I can tell you that the Kickstarter is coming soon, and to watch this space and Green Ronin’s social networks like Facebook and Twitter for an announcement as we get ready.
Steve Kenson has been an RPG author and designer since 1995 and has worked on numerous book and games, including Mutants & Masterminds, Freedom City, and Blue Rose for Green Ronin Publishing. He has written nine RPG tie-in novels and also runs his own imprint, Ad Infinitum Adventures, which publishes material for Icons Superpowered Roleplaying. Steve maintains a website and blog at www.stevekenson.com.