It is our pleasure to introduce our first Featured Contributor for GeekGirlCon 2019: Tanya DePass!
I had the opportunity to meet Tanya earlier this March during Women’s Month on the Nerdy Venom’s podcast, where we chatted about diversity in the gaming industry. A truly inspiring woman to listen to, Tanya is the founder of I Need Diverse Games, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization. Passionate about encouraging diversification across all of gaming—from development to representation on screen to the community itself—Tanya strives to make gaming more inclusive for everyone.
Her work with I Need Diverse Games is just the beginning: her writing has been featured in many publications, including Uncanny Magazine, Polygon, Wiscon Chronicles, Vice Gaming, Paste Games, and Mic. She has contributed to publications for Green Ronin, Paizo, and Monte Cook Games; was the editor for Game Devs and Others: Tales from the Margins (2018); and contributed to The Advanced Game Narrative Toolbox (2019). An avid streamer, Tanya is a partnered variety streamer on Twitch with a focus on single player RPG’s. She’s also a cast member on the Rivals of Waterdeep actual play show; every Sunday at 10am Pacific/12pm Central on twitch.tv/dnd. In addition to all this, she’s also the programming and diversity coordinator for OrcaCon and GaymerX.
Leading up to the convention this November, Tanya helped us put together a Q&A about her career and the importance of diversity in games.
Why gaming? What got you started in the field? It was all a happy accident, hitting on a note at the right time, and right place when #INeedDiverseGames hashtag hit twitter.
What was it like starting a movement and then creating and directing an org to highlight diversity in gaming? I never thought of it as starting a movement, that wasn’t my intent when I angrily tweeted around 6 am before work a few years ago. The formation of the non-profit was intentional, to keep the momentum going and give us a vehicle to do the work. It was a lot of work, a lot of stress (still) and worry that I’m doing enough.
It’s been about three years since you founded the non-profit for I Need Diverse Games. What changes, if any, have you seen in the gaming industry since you started, and what would you say are the biggest or most pressing changes that still need to be made? A very slow burn towards more POC in games, more women as lead characters or just existing in games. We need to have characters that are neurodivergent, that are disabled and not tropes or stereotypes. Games have to get away from mental illness as a reason for villainy.
What did your priorities/goals for the org start as? Have they evolved? To be a resource, to be a hub for folks looking to do better in inclusion for all games, and projects. For instance, if someone needs a diversity consultation; if we can’t provide it then I’d love to be able to refer them out to someone else. The other goal is to be a point of access for folks to get into the industry. Things have evolved over the years as I realize what is feasible, what’s not as a small org and what we can do with the resources we have.
What would you say to people who are frustrated by systemic problems they see in media or other industries but feel like they don’t have the money, power, or audience to make an impact? Speak up, do it in a productive way when you see a stereotype in a game, or film or other media. By productive I mean use methods for feedback, don’t scream at devs on twitter, or speak over marginalized folks who are already talking about these issues. Amplify, don’t trample. Screaming at developers won’t do anything but likely earn you a block or mute. If more players, especially folks who don’t have an audience speak up, it will show developers that people do care about these issues.
How do you measure success both with the org and within your own life? Hah, I’m not there yet with the organization. We’re not in a position to fund people, or hire folks to do a lot of the work that needs to be done, or even rent a physical space. For my own life, it would be having enough money in my account to not worry if I had a sudden expense hit, like a medical issue or not having to think too hard on what I can spend on groceries. It may sound shallow, but when you aren’t worried about keeping the lights on, food in the fridge, etc? You can focus on other things.
What are your favorite individuals/orgs to support? So many, goodness. Definitely AbleGamers; a percentage of any money I make as a Humble Bundle partner benefits them. Anykey, who are focused on good conduct in eSports and inclusion. DungeonCommander, a force for so much good in the tabletop space for POC, queer and non-binary folks. GaymerX & OrcaCon (Disclosure: I volunteer for both organizations conference doing programming and inclusion), Dirtbagboyfriend, a great non-binary artist in Seattle, Tales from the Mists is another actual play D&D show that has women, poc and non-binary folks on it. Everyone (else) who’s on Rivals of Waterdeep, the actual play D&D show I’m on Sundays on twitch.tv/dnd, MegaRan, Sammus Music, Mike Eagle, the NPC Collective, Shubzilla; and one of my favorite people ever and amazing author; NK Jemisin. That’s by no means an exhaustive list but we only have so much space here!
How do you explain the reach of gaming (and therefore the importance of diversity in the industry) to non-gamers? I liken it to films and books, especially when I can’t go to the movies now without seeing a commercial for a game, or seeing big names playing, sharing, streaming and voicing them. I remind them it’s a world wide industry; still growing and learning, but still touching on so many places and bringing us stories that aren’t even possible in other forms of media. They can be used to teach and more, and are far more than mere toys.
What are some of the biggest/most derailing misconceptions folks have about games? About your work specifically? About games in generalis that they are for kids and teens, that you grow up and out of gaming and this goes for all games, including tabletop; and that mobile games don’t count. Also that games have no value. About my work, people assume I only care about black folks, women and queer issues. They don’t ask, or they base it strictly off my identity being what I must care about and nothing else.
What challenges are you currently facing in terms of the org’s work/growth? How can the GeekGirlCon community support you best? Resources, money and being in a position to hire even part time staff. The best way to support is our Patreon (patreon.com/ineeddivgms) Otherwise, if people donate with convention passes, then also funds to help people attend. We can also take donations at PayPal.me/INeedDiverseGames.
What are your favorite games? Other favorite media? Single player, RPG’s are my favorite video games with Dragon Age II being my favorite game ever. The Division 2 has been taking up a lot of my gaming & streaming time, along with Magic the Gathering Arena. I don’t have a lot of other favorite media because I don’t have cable anymore and am way behind on new music, tv, etc. I have been really digging Daveed Diggs library of work, and I’m re-reading NK Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdom’s trilogy.
Why are physical gatherings such as GeekGirlCon important to this work? Why is this a space you want to show up in? For those that can afford to make it to an event like GGC, or PAX or OrcaCon; it’s important to find community in person. To make those connections that sometimes start online stronger and to find new friends at panels, or in game rooms. Sometimes you can start community in these spaces and the can grow online afterward. I want to show up because too often I hear people say that they don’t see people like them at events like these. Too often, can I count on two hands; maybe a couple times over the people of color at events focused on gaming. Being present and visible is part of inclusion.
Outside of gaming, what else are you currently passionate about? Sleep, lots of sleep and my cat Genki.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tanya and the other spectacular guests that are joining us for #GGC19, buy your passes online today! We’ll see you November 16th & 17th at the Conference Center at the WSCC.
For those who haven’t experienced it, the DIY Science Zone is a place were geeks of all ages can get hands-on and do experiments one-on-one or in small groups under the guidance of top scientists. Your donations will help us stock enough supplies and bring in enough field experts to ensure that everyone who wants to participate is able to join in the geeky fun.
We want to make this year our greatest yet, and we need your help. So, strap on your safety goggles, pull up your neoprene gloves, and let’s make some science happen!
Well, folks… it’s that time of year again! Time for planning barbeques, buying fireworks, and trying not to be maimed or seriously injured by said fireworks. That’s right y’all! It’s Independence Day!
For many people, and in latter years I think particularly, the Fourth of July is a mixed bag of emotions. Everyone loves an excuse to have friends and family gather around to gorge themselves on Costco hot dogs, vats of potato salad, and luscious summer watermelon. The weather is (generally) pretty good in most places of the US, and it is a day off work for many to celebrate the bravery of the founding fathers.
But with the good can also come the bad… Political tensions are running high. Fireworks can often be seen as a nuisance. Perhaps you are a person suffering from PTSD, a small child scared of loud noises, or a pet fearing the apocalypse. Or maybe you are just a person who enjoys peace and quiet, which is okay too. No one likes being taken off-guard by the random whims of the neighbor down the street who only get the kind of fireworks that are so loud they rattle your windows. Beyond that, fireworks are expensive and are also a safety hazard when handled improperly.
When asked, most people will proclaim Thanksgiving or Halloween as their favorite holiday, but I would have to say that the Fourth of July is one of mine for a very special reason.
When I was little, we were pretty poor. My dad worked a crummy construction job for a slum lord and my mom was a bookkeeper for a few small businesses. While my parents always made sure that we always had everything we needed, with three kids there wasn’t a lot of room in the budget for luxuries.
As an adult, I now kind of see fireworks as a symbol of literally burning money, so it is surprising to me that my father would insist that we buy fireworks every year, even if it was just a few. My town was small and there wasn’t a community fireworks show until I was older, so if you wanted fireworks you had to buy them yourself. I remember getting positively giddy when I would see the small Lion’s Club stand being erected in the grocery store parking lot at the end of every June. I would scour the couch for coins, saving up to buy my favorite firework, The Climbing Panda. As the calendar flipped from June to July, I could barely contain my enthusiasm, and sure enough, the time came to purchase our fireworks to celebrate America’s birthday.
I was the middle child of three. My older sister was a strong willed wild-child, and my younger brother always needed more attention as the baby. With young kids and working full time, it is hard to find one-on-one time with any of your children, but my dad made it happen for me every Fourth of July. A few days before the big day, my dad would scoop me up and whisk me away to the store to pick out the fireworks, just the two of us.
I would hold his hand as we walked up to the red shack, savoring the scent of gunpowder. It was so unlike any smells that I would encounter normally and it acted like a stimulant to my excitable mind. I would stand on the little wooden steps that the proprietors placed before the stand so that the smaller patrons (ie, me) could see over the counter. I remember emptying the coins from my pocket, carefully counting them out, and asking politely for a Climbing Panda. Looking back on it now, it is slightly laughable that the Lion’s Club would sell a small explosive to a six-year-old, even if I was accompanied by an adult.
My dad and I would look over the wares of the stand carefully, calculating out how many sparklers we would need. Ten in a box, three kids (plus some of the neighborhood kids), two adults, and at least one box of each color. We would pick up a few Roman Candles, some smoke bombs and ground flowers. Then my dad would point to a twenty dollar pack of bigger fireworks, and I would goggle at the fortune he was spending on something that would only last for a night. Twenty dollars seemed like quite a lot compared to my ninety-nine cent panda.
Once the sun went down on the evening of the Fourth, we would get to show off our selections to my family and the neighbors. We would pretend to be fairy queens with sparklers, and army commandos with the multi-colored smoke bombs. Pop-its littered the sidewalk as ground flowers glowed in their short, whirlwind blooms. Dad would be the lead technician, always stressing safety when enjoying fireworks. I would snuggle in a blanket near my mom as we watched the glow and pop of the mostly fountain-style fireworks, and most of all, my Climbing Panda. And in a whiff of sulfur, it was over and it was time for bed.
Now I am an adult, and my dad and I aren’t on speaking terms. Life happens, and the years go by, and all that other cliche stuff. Oddly though, even after all these years and everything that went down with my dad, I still get excited about the Fourth of July. I will walk into a fireworks tent, smell the gunpowder, and I am instantly transported back to being a little girl counting out sticky pennies to buy a tiny firework. And I remember how much fun I had with my dad.
Fireworks are kinda like life, yeah? An expensive and inconvenient nuisance that might burn you, but beautiful to behold, best shared with friends and family, and over far too quickly. So, things might not be great now–like my relationship with my dad, or the state of our country–but that doesn’t stop me from looking forward to better times. And when those better times come, I will appreciate them all the more for knowing that the moment is fleeting.
That is why I love the Fourth of July.
Happy Independence Day everyone! If you are planning on enjoying fireworks, always practice proper fireworks safety! And please remember to be courteous to your neighbors.
While a lot of our content covers the queer and LGBTQIA+ topics at play within our larger community, we thought we’d take a moment, here at the end of June, to do a little Pride round-up with our staff. The work of queer safety, equity, representation, and celebration is ongoing, both a part of our history and our future. We’re committed to those values here at GeekGirlCon, and wanted to share a little bit about how we personally view the intersection of these communities.
Hanna, Copywriter | @hupptwothree on Twitter and Instagram
Your identity? Bisexual, queer
What does being part of this community mean to you? Being part of the queer community means everything to me. From my relationship with my girlfriend, to my incredibly supportive group of queer friends, to the immediate connections I can make with queer coworkers, to queer media of all kinds, being part of queer communities is a constant source of support, strength, love, joy, and resistance.
Favorite pieces of queer media? Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (gay First Son + gay Prince of England = the best romance novel I’ve ever read?!), The Handmaiden (the most incredible Korean historical lesbian psychological thriller, with gorgeous visuals and true romance), Schitt’s Creek (feel good small town vibes, a sweet slow-burn gay love story and “The Best” by Tina Turner—what more could you ask for?), Steven Universe (just watch it, I promise you won’t be disappointed).
Welcome to Geek Girl Talk, a (biased, subjective, opinionated) conversation about the pop culture we’re currently loving, hating, and obsessing over. This month, we’re discussing romance novels and what the genre has to offer in terms of queer representation and complex, autonomous women characters. In other words, we’re fangirling about Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue and Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient.
Who We Are Vaguely and in Terms Only of the Media We Seek Out Most Often:
Teal (roman type!) Literally any teen TV show, YA, women’s and feminist media, everything Star Trek
Hanna (italics, baby!) Reality TV, memoirs, romance novels, anything British, any podcast ever
Spoiler disclaimer: We kept it spoiler free, so read on!
I’ll start by saying that this whole conversation could just be one long line of exclamation points as far as I’m concerned, because that’s how passionately I feel about our topic of conversation: romance novels in general, and Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang in particular. But since that won’t get us very far, I’ll actually begin with the fact that I love romance novels. My whole childhood basically consisted of flipping through slightly-age-inappropriate books to get to the smutty and/or romantic parts. Of course, my relationship with the genre—and especially with certain tropes (namely heterocentric ones)—has changed over the years. For a long time, especially as I was coming to understand more about my own sexuality and navigating real-life romantic and sexual dynamics for the first time, romance novels stopped being satisfying for me. Reading them was fun, but it wasn’t full of that giddy, half-in-love-yourself feeling that used to be there. I wasn’t connecting with the same dynamics and tropes that used to feel so all-consuming to me. That is, until I read RWRB this past month. I read it three times, and basically forced you to read it too, Teal, because my love for this book (and for you—you’re welcome for introducing you to this brilliance!) knows no bounds. I’m so curious about whether you had the same reaction—did reading this book feel different to you too? And, if so, why are we feeling this way?
There’s just something about libraries. No matter the time of day, I always see people browsing the shelves or picking up items on hold. Surprisingly, it’s never too loud or too quiet in the building. There’s just enough clacking of keyboards and soft conversations to remind me that there are people in the library with me, all using the space in their own way. For me, the library is an integral part of my life as a geek.
My love of libraries came from my father. He frequented the public library to use the computers, and to feed my never satiated hunger for something to read. Under the dim fluorescent lights I read classics like Black Beauty and The Black Stallion, and found great fantasy novels such as Tamara Pierce’s Wild Magic (surprise, I had a thing for horses). Most of these books were brought back quite late, and I have memories of paying my late fees in change. No matter how inconvenient, the library workers would take my change with a smile, and always encouraged me to come back for more books.
In middle school, I found something else to read—manga. My local library didn’t carry any comics, so I stopped visiting. I started saving leftover lunch money and used it to buy a new manga every week. I ended up with my own library of manga that my friends would borrow from, and even had a notebook to keep track of my books! After I graduated from high school, my money situation changed. I could no longer afford to buy shiny new manga every week for myself. I stopped looking for new series because I could not legally access them. The geekiness inside of me faded into the background as I struggled to figure out other parts of my life.
I don’t remember too many details from my first visit to my local King County library. I think I had just moved to Washington State, was bored, and wanted to sit somewhere with air conditioning. I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the building. Would I be there only person there? Would it be like the dimly lit library of my youth? I stepped in, and was shocked—the place was packed! Every corner of the building was in use, from study rooms to public computers. Some people were just sitting in a comfy chair and enjoying the view from the large windows. Others browsed the shelves, looking for a book cover to inspire them.
And you know what I found? Manga! The library had a whole section of beautiful manga! I stood in front of the shelves, a big grin on my face. I could finally read all the manga and comics I wanted without going broke. At last, I could feed my inner geek again.
I now visit the library several times a month to borrow all sorts of media. Through the library I watched Westworld and Star Trek: Discovery, two TV series that are only available through a subscription service. When I need a new crafting project, I’ll browse the crafting section in nonfiction. Manga-wise, I finished Fruits Basket, and am now tackling all of CLAMP’s works.
No matter your fandom, you’ll find something for your inner geek at your local library.
When I came out to my mom, I did so in a Mexican restaurant. I figured picking a public place to tell my Evangelical Christian mother that I was queer would 1) keep the conversation from getting two heated and 2) prevent her from just leaving the room.
In recent years, the quality and standards of cosplaying have reached incredible heights. Artists are focusing more and more on bringing characters to life with careful attention to detail, set design, and facial features. They now combine various skills in costume development, makeup, graphic design, modeling, and even acting.
With the rise of Instagram’s popularity in the last few years, more and more Asian cosplayers are displaying their passion for their craft. They capture the attention of dedicated casual and dedicated fans alike amassing influence all over the world. Some even welcome viewers behind-the-scenes and showcase their talent on YouTube.
Among the thousands of cosplayers around, we list the most create Asian cosplayers you can follow.
AniMia started modeling back in 2001 and caught the cosplaying bug in 2008. She is a regular across many conventions in the United States, typically as a judge in cosplay contests. The Asian-American is also a columnist in Otaku USA Magazine. You can also find her hosting PREVIEWSworld channel on YouTube featuring comic books, toys, and more.
Alodia Gosiengfiao is an internationally known cosplayer, model, actress, singer, and presenter. The Filipina discovered cosplaying in an Internet forum called Anime Club at the age of 15. Since then, she joined various competition gaining popularity in 2003. Her creativity and achievements in the community have led to various endorsements both in the Philippines and abroad. She’s now known as a VJ for Animax-Asia. UNO Magazine names her one of the Most Influential Women in the Philippines. Alodia was also featured as one of the local FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in 2009, 2010, and 2012. Aside from Instagram, you can find her on YouTube featuring anything and everything geek.
If you read this blog, you’re probably familiar with A Very Potter Musical, or, as I like to think of it, the funniest, smartest, most heartwarming piece of fan art of all time. What you might not realize, though, is that since the show premiered on YouTube in July of 2009, Starkid has grown into a fully-fledged theatre company that’s produced eleven full-length comedy musicals (all of which are available on YouTube) and is currently working on its twelth, which is due to open this October.
Being the tenth anniversary of A Very Potter Musical and Starkid’s inception, this year marks a huge milestone for them, but also for us, their fans. I’ve been following Starkid since the beginning. I watch the shows the moment they come out, I buy the soundtracks and listen religiously, and I have been known to launch into convoluted but exuberant explanations of the chronology of their works to anyone who loves me enough to pretend to listen. I even follow their careers outside of Starkid, everything from sketch comedy groups to planetariums to Buzzfeed.