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!
Panels are one of my all time favorite aspects of the con. It’s a chance to indulge in conversation about my favorite fandoms and stay aware of the current happenings in my industry. It gives me the opportunity to hear stories that I otherwise may not get the chance to—or even meet people that I otherwise wouldn’t. Panels are not only a great way to learn, but they’re a great way to connect.
In anticipation for GeekGirlCon ’19, I asked my team to write small pitches for panels that they’d like to see at GeekGirlCon. Since our deadline for panel submissions is coming up at the end of the month, you never know what might inspire your next great idea!
Title // Putting the A in LGBTQIA+
Description // What is the asexuality spectrum? What is it like being asexual and/or aromantic? How do these identities fit into the LGBTQ community? Do aces have sex? This panel of asexuals and aromantics would provide a frank discussion of these lesser-known identities and what it’s like to be aro/ace in an allosexual world.
Title // A Talk with Ijeoma Oluo
Description // From her writings on race to her opinions on makeup brands and application, Ijeoma Oluo embodies so much of the GGC spirit. I would love to bring her in as a featured contributor, if we could make it happen.
Title // The Good, the Bad, and the 13 Reasons Why: Depictions of Mental Health in Media
Description // From Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to Lady Dynamite to (yes) 13 Reasons Why, television shows often seek to portray characters struggling with their mental health, but the degree to which these depictions are successful varies wildly. Join our panelists for a discussion of both the most polarizing and the most effective depictions of mental illness on TV, as well as an exploration of themes of stigma, romanticization, and relatability.
Title // Choose Your Own Adventure: The Creative Possibilities of Fanfiction
Description // Whether you’re a veteran writer with hundreds of fics under your belt (or published to your Archive of Our Own account); are just beginning to dabble in the world of AUs, headcanons, and ships; or are a complete novice, you’re welcome at this panel exploring the world of fanfiction! As proud fanfiction writers and readers, we’ll be discussing the freedom, creativity, and radical possibilities inherent in fanfiction as a genre, and how “choosing your own adventure” by writing fanfic has the power to expand, enhance, and subvert the media we love.
Title // ?Zankoku…? (ahem) the Power of Anime Openings and Endings
Description // Have you ever watched an anime simply because it had great opening animation? Do you know only the first 1:25-2 minutes of a catchy Jpop tune? This panel is for you! Discuss the history of anime openings and endings, how they’ve changed throughout the years, and (of course) watch a few clips of our favorites.
Title // Reboots, Remakes, and Nostalgia
Description // Twilight Zone. Fruits Basket. Aladdin. Hellboy. Men in Black. Final Fantasy X. What do all of these cultural icons have in common? They’re all getting remade for today’s audiences. Join us as we explore the deja-vu filled world of reboots. Are we in an age of remakes, or have we seen this pattern before? How does the process of remaking a movie differ from porting a video game, or a new storyline in comics? In the end, what audience do these reboots target — new audiences, or nostalgic fans?
GiveBig is an annual day of giving in Seattle. Hosted this year by 501 Commons, GiveBig supports local nonprofit organizations. GeekGirlCon is participating again this year to help raise funds for the 2019 convention on November 16 & 17.
We wouldn’t be able to host the convention each year without your support. We are a community, and we are all extremely passionate about GeekGirlCon’s mission to create a welcoming, safe environment for people of all backgrounds, colors, sexualities, and genders. Everyone should be able to tell their story, and we want to hear yours.
By donating to GeekGirlCon, you are supporting this mission. You are enabling us to create that space, and we couldn’t do it without the support of our community.
You can follow along on social media and return to this post for live updates. We’ll also be livestreaming every hour throughout the day starting at 8 a.m. PST on Facebook.
Current Total From 30 Donors: $14,203 of $10,000 Goal
Thank you for Giving BIG and showing continued support for GeekGirlCon!
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for live updates throughout the day. You can give your gift online today. If you are interested in becoming anindividual or corporate sponsor for GeekGirlCon, check out our sponsor benefits and reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the last few years GeekGirlCon has participated in GiveBIG, an annual day of giving in Seattle. Hosted this year by 501 Commons, GiveBIG is a single-day online fundraiser for local non-profit organizations. Starting today, April 23rd, you can schedule your gift to GeekGirlCon before GiveBIG happens in two weeks on May 8th!
As a volunteer-run organization, everyone at GeekGirlCon is extremely passionate about our mission: to create a safe and encouraging space for all people regardless of color, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Our staff embodies this message and we strive make sure that our community is welcoming to all. Everyone at GeekGirlCon has a unique perspective, and we all support this organization because we believe that the world can do better. From STEM to gaming, the arts and popular culture, no one should go without their story being told. Whether you’re a fan, creator, scientist, or a gamer, we can all come together to celebrate our common interests while also celebrating what makes us unique. No two geeks are alike, after all.
But, beyond the dedication of our staff we couldn’t host the convention each year without your support. Individual donations by our community and sponsors give us the ability to organize the best possible event that we can. Your support allows us to bring more panels, events, Featured Contributors, exhibitors, and so much more to the con each year.
This November, we’ll be hosting our biggest convention to date and we simply could not do this without you.
Over the next couple of weeks stay tuned as we ramp up for the big day. We want to tell you our story—and we want to hear yours, too! Why do you support GeekGirlCon?
I’ve been a pretty avid gamer for a long time—I mean, heck, writing for games is what I chose to do with my life. However, had you told me that I was going to advocate for a dress-up game a little over a year ago, I would have laughed. Hard. But, here we are.
This week is my one-year anniversary playing Love Nikki, a shamelessly feminine dress-up game. You may have seen some horribly inaccurate advertisements over the last year or so posing the game as a girly, quirky dating simulator, but, I swear, don’t let those sway you. The narrative is young, but has quite a bit of depth packed into an app—there’s character death!In a FASHION GAME! I dig it.
The primary mechanic and purpose of LN is to utilize your wardrobe to “battle” against other players and NPCs in styling contests. Each article of clothing or accessory has a specific attribute that gives you more points. Some of these attributes are as standard as preppy, rock, or bohemian, while other attributes are more unique, paying homage to various eras of Chinese clothing (a nod to the game’s origin). There are also Associations, which are much like guilds or clans in other popular MMOs. Association members work together to complete unique suits and other hands-on activities. Overall, it’s actually very engaging, and at minimum, it gives you a short checklist of things to do while drinking your morning coffee.
It’s a great deal of fun and pleasantly progressive—but that’s not all it fulfills for me. LN goes beyond just being a fun game.
I started playing LN back in April. This was a really hard period of time. I’d just started seeing the cracks in my relationship, was coping with some frustrating career progression, and was about to step into a fit of depression that would carry me well into the fall. Late one night while I was fighting off a bout of insomnia, I was watching a video by Sharla in Japan that was sponsored by the developers and showcased the game. The art was cute, and I’m pretty easy to hook with a good aesthetic, but I was in a gnarly funk, and it seemed like it would be a far better distraction than just passively watching a random video online. So I downloaded it and gave the game a go.
Attending GeekGirlCon’19 from out of town? You’re going to need somewhere to stay, and you can’t get much closer than the Hyatt at Olive 8!
This year, we’re partnering with the Hyatt to offer reservations for the full con weekend (November 14 through 18) for just $149 a night. The Hyatt is right down the street from the Conference Center where GGC’19 will take place, close enough that you can pop back over in case you forgot something or need to charge your phone for a bit in the middle of the day. Make your reservations now!
Looking for more to do while you’re in town? Check out the Hyatt’s list of sights, attractions, wineries, breweries, and sports stadiums that call Seattle home to start planning your geeky adventure in style.
Prepare yourselves, dear readers, for today I will be telling you about an experience that changed my life.
No, not a death-defying feat, a thrilling adventure, or an inspiring turn of events.
Specifically, “You Can’t Suck at Everything,” a writing workshop that I was lucky enough to attend last October at GeekGirlCon ‘18.
As someone who has abandoned so many half-finished novels I could set up a small graveyard in my backyard, I couldn’t get to this workshop quickly enough. Not only did it promise to help provide the basics of a 3-act story structure, delve into character creation and worldbuilding, and explore how our perceived “flaws” are actually key to finding and articulating our own unique perspective as writers, but it was also run by the one and only Margaret Stohl.
If you are one of the ten billion people (a rough estimate) who devoured the Beautiful Creatures series (co-authored with Kami Garcia), you might be familiar with the powerhouse talent that is Margaret Stohl. As if being an internationally bestselling author isn’t enough, Stohl has also written multiple comics, including the Mighty Captain Marvel series, and has a long career as a writer and narrative director for video games.
Almost immediately, Stohl cultivated a sense of community in the workshop, uniting us all as writers, artists, and creators of all kinds. It can be so easy to feel isolated as a writer or creator. If you’re like most of us, you’re probably plagued by constant doubts, spend an unhealthy amount of time with fictional characters, spin off into daydreams when you should be doing things like “concentrating” or “working at your day job,” and guard your work like a fearsome dragon mother.
This workshop felt like the perfect antidote to the self-imposed isolation of doubt, fear, and embarrassment. When everyone’s in the same boat, what is there to be self-conscious about?
There were so many points, tips, and ideas that I walked away from the workshop with, but, in the interest of not making you read a full thesis, here are some of the highlights:
Everyone has a story, and everyone wants to tell a story. As Stohl said, “I’m interested in yours and you should be more interested in yours than anyone.”
Don’t put off what you want because you’re worried about failing. You will fail! Spoiler alert: that’s okay.
It’s hard to take yourself seriously as a writer and creator, even–and especially–if it’s the thing you want most in the world. Do it anyway. Affirm yourself as a writer and creator.
“If you want something, you take it. There is exactly nothing standing between you and that thing.”
“You cannot write a protagonist without being a protagonist in your own life.”
Understand who you are writing for, and write for them, not for the whole world.
A novel is, at its core, just 30 words. Write a list of 30 words that map the arc of your story, and make those your chapters. Go from there.
You are probably a specialist in fear. Write about that, use that. There is nothing you know more about than what you fear.
Start developing and curating your “brain office.” Collect and organize your material, even in your own mind.
Keep everything. Old lists, descriptions, terrible poems, scraps of dialogue. Keep it all.
Find a critique partner for accountability and support.
“Do not confuse sucking at one thing with sucking at everything.”
There you have it, some solid gold advice for when you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, or insecure. If I came away with one conviction from the workshop, it’s that I’m a writer. I’m a creator.
Can you believe that it’s already February? We’re well into the new year and you know what that means: programming submissions for GeekGirlCon 2019 are officially open!
The GeekGirlCon staff is ramping up again as we plot this year’s convention. The creative team is in the thick of brainstorming the 2019 theme (which we’re excited to share with you later this spring) and now our programming team is eager to see your ideas for new panels, events, and workshops.
Panel Submissions Panels are the heart and soul of GeekGirlCon. We’re all about sharing a diverse range of unique voices and stories—and we want to hear yours. This year, we’re particularly interested in engaging content inspired by our community. What are you passionate about? What do you want to share?
Panelist and/or Moderator Application Interested in being on a panel but don’t necessarily have a group? You can apply to be either a solo panelist or a moderator! We’ll try our best to match you to any panel in need of an additional participant.
Performance & Event Submissions Panels aren’t the only events at GeekGirlCon. Historically, we’ve hosted our annual Fashion Show and Cosplay Contest, but each year we aim to expand on our content. From variety shows to networking events, if you and your company have an idea for a performance or event, we’d love to hear from you!
Workshop Submissions GeekGirlCon also hosts a variety of workshops and other interactive programming. If you’re interested in giving a more hands-on presentation or class, we welcome you to apply. Prior workshops have included the Use Your Voice, Rey: Political Advocacy 101, Allyship in Fandom, and the Black Girls Code Workshop.
Tabletop Game Host Applications Are you working on a game, whether independently or with a larger studio? We’d love for you to demo it on the gaming floor! Tabletop games, indie developers, and larger game studios have joined us at GeekGirlCon in the past, and we’d love to see you this fall.
A couple tips and pointers to consider when submitting your proposal:
Make sure your submission is on-mission. We’re looking for engaging content that correlates with our mission statement, which is to celebrate and honor the legacies of under-represented groups in science, technology, comics, arts, literature, game play, and game design. We do this by connecting geeks worldwide and creating an intersectional community that fosters the continued growth of women in geek culture. GeekGirlCon provides a safe space to spark conversations around social justice while encouraging unabashed geekiness.
Think about what’s going on right now. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and we are very interested in topics that are relevant to recent events or discuss important issues in interesting or new ways.
We want to hear your unique perspective. We want to hear from everyone. Regardless of how you identify, the color of your skin, your gender, or your sexual orientation—we’re all geeks here, and that’s what matters. Tell us your individual story. What are you excited about? What is your niche?
If you have any questions about submitting your programming idea, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
While the next GeekGirlCon is almost a full year away (November 16 and 17, 2019!), we’re already getting the ball rolling, and we’d love your help! We’ve compiled an Amazon Wish List of items that will help us make the con a success. If you’d like to support our mission, please take a look and consider donating an item or two to the cause.
Source: Giphy. Description: An overhead shot of many people putting their hands into a pile as a celebration of teamwork. The last “hand” is a dog paw.
Each item on the wish list is labeled with the area of the con it will help support, so you can contribute directly to the experiences that have had an impact on you.
Love our panels and featured contributors? Consider donating a Southwest Airlines gift card to help us bring in more panelists from more places around the country.
Appreciate our accessibility efforts? You may want to donate a pack of writing pads to support that mission.
Consider our cosplay contests the highlight of GeekGirlCon? Our wish list is full items we’d love to offer as fabulous prizes for contest winners. (Pro tip: if you’re looking for holiday gift ideas for the geeks in your life, I’d highly recommend scrolling through our list.)
Source: Giphy. Description: a trio of people dressed as Santa’s elves wrapping a present.
Whatever you love about GeekGirlCon, our Amazon Wish List is a great, inexpensive way to have a tangible impact on next year’s con. We appreciate your support and can’t wait to show you what we have in store for the upcoming year!