Creating a Safer Gaming Environment
One of the biggest challenges that any event, game store or convention faces is how to create a safe and inclusive environment not just for folks with thick skin like myself, but for everyone. Had I been a new gamer and that had been my first experience with tabletop gaming I would have never looked back at this community. So I want to give you quick tips and tricks that can help you create a safe environment for everyone!
Create a Code of Conduct
We think the most valuable and tabletop specific codes of conduct include the following:
Be Inclusive. Welcome everyone from all backgrounds and identities. This includes but is not limited to members of any sexual orientation, gender identity & expression, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, social and economic class, education level, color, immigration status, sex, age, size, family status, religion and mental and physical abilities.
Be considerate. Call everyone by their proper pronouns. (Consider having pronoun pins available too)
No Gatekeeping. All it takes to be a gamer is to be a person playing a game. Everyone is welcome here.
Always ask and be given consent before touching another person
Do not harass people. If someone asks you to stop, you need to stop.
Choose your words carefully. Be professional, do not use insults, do not exclusive others with your language, do not threaten anyone for any reason, discriminatory jokes and language are not welcome, unwelcome sexual attention is unacceptable, and encouraging any of this behavior or participating in it is strictly prohibited. Do not use ableist, sexist, or racist language.
Do not deliberately intimidate someone.
Do not photograph people without their permission.
Sustained disruption of discussion is not welcome.
Deliberate “Outing” of any aspect of a person's identity without their consent is not permitted
Deliberate misgendering or use of ‘dead’ or rejected names is strictly prohibited
Gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behavior in spaces where they’re not permitted is not allowed
The single most important aspect of this however, is having this information visible to all parties in every room of your event. Having a code of conduct visible to all parties not only when they walk in but any time they are gaming will not only make the attendees feel safer, but it will also make it easier for you to enforce the code when someone breaks the rules. Set up a google voice text address and have it visible on the code of conduct if someone has an issue this way they can easily step away and text message or call the number for assistance at your event. Not everyone is comfortable getting up to leave a dangerous situation. It’s your job to make sure they know there are resources available for them in the event that they are the victim of harassment or assault.
There are many other things that you should also keep in mind when picking the space you’re using. To start, provide a physical space that helps participants feel comfortable and safe. Make sure that at no point is one person able to block the entrance or exit in a way that would mark any party feel trapped or stuck in the space. Having more than one entrance or exit is important in helping people feel safe.
Respect people's confidentiality, except where it's required by law to disclose the information. This should be clear to the participants and you will likely need skilled facilitators to do this.
Now, I understand that you may not be able to do all of these things. If you’re able to do one thing and only one thing, make sure your code of conduct is visible in all rooms, preferably highly visible with a phone number or email to contact should they find themselves in trouble. At the start of your event ask everyone to please read the code of conduct and abide by it. Be prepared to immediately intervene or help with the situation and don’t be afraid to boot people from your event. If it’s a paid and ticketed event you’ll need to make sure to include in the purchasing process a disclaimer that states any breach of the code of conduct will result in their removal from the event without a refund.
The most important thing to remember above all of this is that none of this matters unless you enforce the rules. Having a quick and easy way for everyone to report incidents is the most important aspect of this. An email or text message contact is likely the best way as many people are uncomfortable with phone calls and don’t want to make a scene in public. Sometimes people who experience trauma need time to process what’s happened to them. I almost never know the “right” way to react in the moment. It takes people time to process what’s happened to them and giving them the time to process, grieve or articulate what they’ve experienced is critically important in building a better, safer and healthier environment.
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