As a conservative, you recognize that you are a true friend of local mom and pop stores. The economic illiterates on the left love to tar the right with the “Party of Big Business” brush, even as they support every two-bit piece of legislation and regulation written by Big Business with the express goal of forcing the little guys on Main Street out of the market. They typically hide behind shibboleths like safety, the environment, and the ever popular “for the children”, but somehow the net effect of the regulations they so love just ends up empowering the 800-pound gorillas at the expense of start-ups and established family businesses. Then in a classic example of the projection they engage in so routinely, they turn around and accuse the conservatives of favoring Big Business.
Hold that thought for a moment, because we have to establish who counts as Big Business within the small pond of tabletop RPGs.
Within the small market of tabletop roleplaying game conventions the undisputed king has to be GenCon. The grand-daddy of them all has recently made headlines for their decision to put politics ahead of gamers. Convention leadership believed the hype ginned up by wild-eyed progressives with more zeal for social engineering than legal knowledge(1) and fired off a letter to the Governor of Indiana threatening to withdraw the convention from its home of the past 12 years if the Religious Freedome Restoration Act pass.
As usual, the progressives are fighting for uniformity under a banner of diversity – they are letting all of their customers where they stand politically, and have indicated that they will use the money collected from their customer base, that wide cross-section of America, for left leaning political aims. The GenCon leadership believed that most of their customers, gamers like you, would either rally behind them or keep their mouths shut and stay in the conservative closet.
So far, if words on the internet are to be believed, they have been right.
Of course, there’s the internet, and then there is the real world. While supportive blog posts and tweets and tumblr commentary (oh Lord, the tumblr commentary) might be the scorecard of choice among on-line crusaders, the real measure of just who GenCon alienates by hitching their wagon to a blue horse is actual, physical attendance at the convention.
And that my friends is how conservative gamers can, should, and must push-back against GenCon’s naked partisanship. The major sponsors aren’t going to say anything – most of them lean west when walking north(2) to begin with, and those few that don’t? They run the risk of being blacklisted for engaging in un-American Activities if they speak up. But as a consumer, you can speak up without fear of being dragged up against the figurative wall.
There are a few different way to make your voice heard. The first is to simply not go. GenCon brags that their attendance is up 14% year-over-year. If attendance drops, or even holds steady over the next couple of years, that would be a sign that they did something wrong this year. They’ll need a little more push to spot the elephants that are no longer in the room. So those who are locked in to attend this year, by all means go, but take a moment to drop a note explaining that this will be your last visit specifically because of the GenCon leadership’s decision to shift from a gaming outfit to a political one. If you don’t want to risk being blacklisted(3), then drop an anonymous note in the comments box.
Not quite willing to let go? If you’re brave, wear something clearly identifying yourself as Right Wing Gamers. It’s risky – given the level of harassment one could expect from the ever-so-tolerant folks on the left…brace yourself for the sort of discrimination that GenCon’s organizers falsely claim to be fighting against. But you’ll also get a whole bunch of nods and secret right wing handshakes and all those other little freebies that we members of the vast right wing conspiracy give each other when liberals aren’t looking, so it might just be worth it.
If you’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any more (after this year, though, WotC has some crazy stuff planned to drop for D&D Fifth, amirite?), it’s not all bad. The organizers clearly don’t want unclean souls like our tarnishing their love-in, so you don’t have to rub elbows with people who hate you, and they don’t have to risk being infected by politically unclean – the normal unclean will be as much a sweaty, smelly, stained shirt problem as ever, but not the political untouchables. Everybody gets what they want! And you sleep better knowing your money goes to better organizations more in line with your views. Capitalism for the win once again.
If you decide to skip the political rally, how are you supposed to get in some decent gaming? Circle back to this essay’s first paragraph. This greatest nation on earth is home to countless amazing local conventions. You go to those. You’re not just going to support the little guys – the guys who donate their time and effort not for profit or political gain, but out of love for the game. You’re going to get the same great gaming at a smaller cost, and you’re going to meet more gamers from your neck of the woods, both those who are worth sharing tabletime and those who aren’t. You’ll get a better feel for which games are popular in your neck of the woods. Your money stays local and in the gaming community, instead of being funneled into political organizations. There is no downside here – aside from not being able to rub elbows with people who detest you, which come to think of it is no downside at all.
Sure, your local con may be corrupted with the same political stench as GenCon, and that’s why you need to tell those organizers that you are choosing their even over GenCon – and why. Again, do so bluntly, informally, or even anonymously, it doesn’t matter. Where the 800-pound gorilla can safely ignore a few negative comments, the little guys you deal with at local conventions will savor every piece of feedback you can give them – especially positive feedback.
Don’t feel like you are one man against the ravening horde or that your one comment card is the one destined to turn the tide. You aren’t and it won’t. You will only feel like one man so long as all of us stay quiet. And while your lone comment won’t change anything all by its lonesome, enough comments from enough people can move even an 800-pound gorilla. And if the gorilla won’t budge, then we can still cut off enough chunks that the rest of the gorillas will take note and think twice before using the money we gave them to sabotage efforts to protect our religious freedom.
A unicorn, A liberal legal scholar’s fair and balanced analysis of Indiana’s RFRA is available on-line: “The proposed Indiana RFRA would provide valuable guidance to Indiana courts, directing them to balance religious freedom against competing interests under the same legal standard that applies throughout most of the land. It is anything but a “license to discriminate,” and it should not be mischaracterized or dismissed on that basis.” Shame Sulu’a word carries more weight than legal scholars with GenCon’s leadership.
(2) For those of you educated in public schools, that means “to the left”.
(3) This blogger operating under a pseudonym certainly has no room to criticize anyone on that score.