The (Social) Justice League: Chip Nixon on Buttons, Classes and Meeting Anita Sarkeesian
Written by JC Lau, MouseSmash.com
Amongst the hostility of current Gamergate debacle, there have been positive, creative and humorous responses. The Doubleclicks, for example, offered internet trolls their own love song. Nonadecimal developed a satirical battle game about arguing online. And this year, Sarah “Chip” Nixon brought 150 sets of social justice class buttons with her to GeekGirlCon.
The Origin Story
The term “Social Justice Warrior” was considered a pejorative for those who argued for equality and called out sexist, racist or homophobic instances of online culture. SJWs are seen to care too much about social, cultural or political issues, and are often considered overly serious about their cause.
It’s odd that promoting equality should be open to criticism. Chip’s project, then, is a positive and humorous way to respond to the term. She describes her buttons as “a playful poke at the idea of being a Social Justice Warrior”, and that you can stand up for social justice without being aggressive.
But it’s more than that: classes suggest that standing up for equality and diversity is a group effort. “By being able to choose your own Social Justice class, it feels like you’re joining this team in a way that you get to define yourself, on your own terms,” she says.
Chip’s project originated about a month before GeekGirlCon ‘14, and in true geek form is archived on Twitter:
Having classes, Chip says, came naturally after that. She picked the original six classes because she felt that they covered most archetypes and were the most iconic in roleplaying games. Chip also has experience with creating buttons, so they were an obvious option to express her idea. And thus the social justice class buttons were born.
Release the Buttons!
A veteran con attendee and GeekGirlCon volunteer, Chip garnered considerable attention before GeekGirlCon for her social justice class buttons. Her project was picked up by The Mary Sue and BoingBoing. Wil Wheaton tweeted about it. (The author also wrote a short piece about her here). By the time GeekGirlCon ‘14 rolled around, there had been so many people clamoring for buttons online that Chip had to rush order more to meet the demand!
Her buttons sold out both days, which is telling of their popularity. Chip says that she was particularly excited that attendees at GeekGirlCon ‘14 had sought out the buttons specifically. “There was a guy who saw the buttons on the Boing Boing article,” she recalls, “and that they were debuting at GeekGirlCon, which he had never heard of. He purchased a pass to GeekGirlCon to grab a set for [him] and his wife! I was so pleased to have been able to introduce people to this convention.”
The highlight of GeekGirlCon ‘14 for Chip, though, was meeting Anita Sarkeesian, who, as it turned out, was also specifically looking for them. “She [Sarkeesian] told me that people she knew in the games industry were very excited about them, and together we both gushed over why they are a positive idea and why people seem to like them as much as they do.”
Sarkeesian also ended up buying two sets of buttons (the maximum number of sets allowed) and tweeting about her experience:
She also picked a class:
Of the experience, Chip says, “it’s an amazing feeling to be able to meet one of your heroes, and have them just as excited to meet you!” Coincidentally, they’re also in the same class; when asked what class she would be, Chip’s response was also wizard, “because I’m a Hufflepuff.”
Of course, as the buttons rise in popularity, there’s been some pushback online. However, true to form, Chip’s strategy has been to respond playfully to detractors. “I want to show them how ridiculous I think they’re being by not being angry about it at them,” she says, but she’s also quick to point out that she doesn’t seek confrontation, and that the buttons are actually rather neutral, as they don’t actually make a joke at anyone’s expense.
Despite the popularity of the buttons, Chip didn’t profit from them at all. “If I’m making something that represents Social Justice, they should actually be doing something good in the world,” she says. She chose Planned Parenthood as the recipient of the proceeds, and over the two days of GeekGirlCon ‘14 managed to raise a total of $1,258. Not being satisfied with that amount, Chip rounded that out and donated $1,275 in total to Planned Parenthood.
Level up! The Future of Social Justice Class Buttons
Now that the buttons have been unleashed on the world, what’s next? Chip is still working to get the buttons online and available to people who couldn’t make it to GeekGirlCon this year. Because of the response she’s received, she’s partnering with others to help fulfil orders. There is also the possibility of social justice fridge magnets, and international shipping.
There will also the expansion pack with six more classes. Chip muses, “people who didn’t see their own class represented were VERY vocal about it,” so she created an online poll for suggestions. Based on the responses, Chip has already confirmed four of those classes will be paladin, barbarian, druid and warlock. The remaining two are still under wraps.
If she had to do it again, Chip jokes that she would have changed their initial tweet. “I would have crafted a tweet much better than, “OMG GUYS. Guys, they are REAL.” … I also would have chosen a better, more compact hashtag.” (The current hashtag is #SocialJusticeClasses.)
The diversity in the classes represented by the social justice buttons is also reflected in the diversity Chip sees in the future of gaming. “Inevitably, games will reach broader audiences, touch on more subjects, and be more powerful than ever in the future.” As this happens, Chip hopes that rational thinking and compassion will win out to make gaming a truly inclusive experience.
She says, “Overall, it will be a wonderful thing.”
If you want to know more about the upcoming expansion pack, you can sign up for Chip’s newsletter. What do you think the two remaining classes in the expansion will be?[Feature image provided by Chip Nixon.]
Hailing from Australia, JC Lau is Seattle-based video game journalist. She is open to playing most things, but has a soft spot for indie gaming. She is a regular contributor to Short Game Review and has been published in various academic journals in her former career as a college professor. She also blogs about geekery and gender at Mouse Smash. Her non-gaming interests include political philosophy, food science and roller derby.