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Subject: Manchester clubs - intimidating for women and LGBT? Feedback please rss

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Get up, get up, get up, get down, fall over.
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I work hard to make sure that my club in Bolton, and the events we run are as open and welcoming to everybody as they can be. My personal experience of other clubs and other events in the North West is that they also try hard to be inclusive and welcoming.

Consequently, I was a bit surprised to find that some people think otherwise.

If we are doing something to make anybody feel intimidated about coming along to game with us, for whatever reason, then I would like to address that.

I would appreciate any feedback from anybody who has a view on what we could do better to make our clubs and events more welcoming or less intimidating. If you would prefer not to post publicly, please PM me your views and I will post them anonymously for you.

Thanks

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John Bradshaw
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It could be that some women simply feel intimidated by men generally. If so, I doubt there's anything you can do to become more welcoming.

Now by drawing attention to the issue I suppose those concerned would feel even more intimidated so I don't think you can win here! A bit of a Catch-22 situation that one.

I don't think it's your fault or the fault of the club - that's probably just the way it is. It would be great if the OP on the other thread could suggest any improvements that would make clubs more welcoming, but whether or not she gets in touch I wish her every success in getting a like-minded group together.
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Peter Darby
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Here's the thing: when you're part of a group or section of society that can attract comments that make your teeth revolve in frustration if people find out you're part of that group, it's sometimes nice to be able to relax in a group where you're all part of that group. Because when you're part of one of these groups, it may take only a couple of comments down the years, it may take hundreds, but you're going to hit a point where you would like to spend some time around people that have that thing in common, just so as you know those teeth revolving comments won't be made. And some of those teeth revolving comments will be incredibly well meaning. And no matter how thick your skin, if you're part of one of those groups, you will eventually get enough to make you say "enough, I need to get a space where I can get away from this.

I'm speaking as Mr Invisible Privelige UK 2012(white, male, over 30, mostly straight, English in the UK, parent), and even then as a home educator I like spending time with other home educators knowing the "home education 101" conversation will not come up, even when the group is not "about" H.E. It's one of the reasons my new (H.E only) drama group feels more relaxed than my old (mixed) drama group.

It's not about it being intimidating to go to a more heterogenous group, or even about that group making an effort to be more inclusive (which, frustratingly, can be even more intimidating for the people you're trying to include, as it makes it about them. In a nice way, but still).

In fact, to quote a lesbian friend of mine explaining why they were having "women only" meetings: "It's not about you. In every possible sense of that phrase."

You can have non-discrimination and anti-hate policies, which are great, and wouldn't it be great if "don't be an asshole to people" never had to be written down anywhere, and there's no reason why people can't go to both groups, but... there's a qualitative difference between a space where you know it's not an problem (because everyone's self selected on the basis of a particular trait or issue) and a space where "we treat everyone the same". Both are great, and brilliant, and needed, but they feel different and serve different needs.

TLR blah blah, mansplaining, privilege, safe spaces, autonomy.
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Kim Foale
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Hey, thanks for the invite, and the thread, really appreciated

First off - this really really isn't about Manchester, in any way shape or form. It's also really not about specific people, groups, or anything else. It's about the general state of society - your question could really be "why are there LGBT/women specific *anything*"?

When you go anywhere, and the population is almost entirely white, male, and of a fairly limited age range (as I've just discovered, I think I'm mixing up the CCG fans with the board game fans - I'm new to this so I didn't realise they were so different!) the first question you ask is, why? Why is this place so straight appearing, white and male? Does anyone care? Are there good reasons for this? And then the doubt starts to set in.

Honestly - I've never been to any board gaming groups. That's why I'm here, dipping my toe in the water. But, I've seen the comments most photos with a woman on get on this site (hint: not pretty). I've seen the Manchester Uni boardgame group have open discussions about how "awesome" that kickstarter tentacle rape game is. I've seen the art/characters a lot of board games have, almost always designed by white dudes (hint: pretty sexist). I've seen my partner get openly stared at by every guy in the room when walking into certain game shops. I've overheard boardgamers having very offensive conversations about games about violence against trans people. More than anything else I was involved in the video games thing for a long time, doing clan/lan/competitive stuff. There was just a background level of sexism/homophobia that I really really can't be doing with now I have more limited leisure time, and I'm still an esports fan and the sexism gets to me, still. I've heard the promises before about "nobody cares about X" lots of times in lots of situations.

So maybe, maybe the groups that exist are sexism, racism and homophobia free. But the general vibe of this site, and (the very, limited yes, I hold my hands up to this) board gaming groups in general that I have done internet research on haven't exactly done anything to shift this general feeling of "actually I don't want to deal with this crap again".

So as the last commenter put it perfectly, it's not about you. Society is pretty homophobic, transphobic and sexist and thus far I have not seen any reason to believe that, in general, gaming groups are any different, and quite a lot of worrying portents to the opposite. The key thing here is it's a leisure time activity - people don't want to be having to deal with the sort of stuff they do everyday in their job. The group I was proposing wouldn't be for everyone, and I wouldn't expect every other group to cater to me either. I'd like to think tho that having groups that do directly appeal to gaming minorities is a good thing for everyone because there's more people playing games in general.

I can't stress enough though how much this isn't about you, or anyone else, a place or a shop. Society is kinda unequal and the ways and means it does this can sometimes be hard to see if you're not in a group that actively suffers discrimination.

Hope that clears it up a bit and hope to come to one of your events one day
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Peter Darby
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And just to clarify: having been to a few of the GNOME semi-annual games days, they have been very safe spaces for women, more so than some gaming days, greatly more so than some university game groups, or most CCG groups I've stumbled across (personal experience, I could just have caught them on a bad, antisocial night. Three weeks in a row.) Don't offhand remember any homphobia, but then I'm mostly straight.

Generally, board gaming tends to be on the more tolerant, accepting end of geekdom (though less so than the kind of RPG group I tend to be close to these days, maybe I'm just better at avoiding assholes than I used to be).

I would say that I think Kim would be fine at a Gnome event. I also think and LBGT and / or women only gaming group in the area is no bad thing.
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Martin G
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Interesting discussion, especially as I'm the organiser of a big games group in London. Kim - I'm sad that certain elements of BGG and other experiences you've had have tarnished your opinion of the boardgaming community.

Speaking for London on Board, yes, we're overwhelmingly white and majority male (probably 3:1), as is the hobby as a whole. But we're very international, span ages from 20s to 70s, and I have no idea how sexuality breaks down because it has simply never been an issue. I like to think that as a group we are welcoming and accepting of whoever comes along and I would take it very seriously if any of my members was unhappy about the way they'd been treated at a club event.

I can totally understand why you would be interested in setting up an LGBT/womens group (your post and Peter's were both excellent) and wish you the best of luck with it. But I think it would be a shame if you write off the groups in your area without at least trying them. Just remember that groups vary a lot between things like LoB (and Gnome, I imagine) and Magic meetups for spotty teenagers in games shops.
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Richard Dewsbery
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kimadactyl wrote:
When you go anywhere, and the population is almost entirely white, male, and of a fairly limited age range (as I've just discovered, I think I'm mixing up the CCG fans with the board game fans - I'm new to this so I didn't realise they were so different!) the first question you ask is, why? Why is this place so straight appearing, white and male? Does anyone care? Are there good reasons for this? And then the doubt starts to set in.

Stereotypically, gamers are white, middle-aged, overweight, wear beads and T-shirts announcing their favourite rock bands, work in IT and have an aversion to soap. Which means that meeting and interacting with others not confirming to those "norms" takes them outside their comfort zones ad they behave a little strangely.

Except of course that description makes me guilty of the same kind prejudices that you fear/experience (albeit from a different direction). The truth is there are many gamers like that; and there are many gamers who are nothing like that at all.

Quote:
But, I've seen the comments most photos with a woman on get on this site (hint: not pretty). I've seen the Manchester Uni boardgame group have open discussions about how "awesome" that kickstarter tentacle rape game is. I've seen the art/characters a lot of board games have, almost always designed by white dudes (hint: pretty sexist). I've seen my partner get openly stared at by every guy in the room when walking into certain game shops. I've overheard boardgamers having very offensive conversations about games about violence against trans people. More than anything else I was involved in the video games thing for a long time, doing clan/lan/competitive stuff. There was just a background level of sexism/homophobia that I really really can't be doing with now I have more limited leisure time, and I'm still an esports fan and the sexism gets to me, still. I've heard the promises before about "nobody cares about X" lots of times in lots of situations.


I think that the phenomenon is due in no small part to the fact at many of those interactions are online - or at least not face-to-face. People behave like total morons when insulated from the world by their keyboard and monitors (even when, via modern inventions like Twitter, FB and the internet in general, they most certainly are not). Some media are worse than others - online action games, and Xbox Live in particular, is a cesspit, and if people truly are like that in real life they'd end up face-down in a ditch pretty quickly.

There's also the matter of the 'net allowing a disproportionately loud voice to the more vocal - who are often the ones with time on their hands and strange social attitudes as a result. There have been plenty of times that I've sat here scratching my head wondering how people find the time to post utter garbage on the 'net (before realising that I have found the time to sit here reading it). And the people that spend most time here could probably all do with spending proportionately more time interacting with real folks in real life.

If there's one thing that worries me about the LBGT-only approach (and I completely get the reasons behind them, wonderfully explained by Peter), it's the fact that it continues to separate the people who may mock from the people who they mock, so neither ever reaches the realisation that the other isn't deserving of mockery, and what they all have in common is that they are first and foremost people (people who game, people who like am-dram, etc). Because I think that it's only when everyone sees everyone else as a real person, rather than as a label, that prejudice can truly be addressed.
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Kenny VenOsdel
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Quote:
but the general vibe of this site...


This is the real tragedy. I fit into the classic male, straight, 20-30's, etc stereotype and I get just as annoyed at those pictures/comments, tentacle games, and hyper-sexualized female art as you do! Please don't think those things are representative of this site or straight male gamers in general. For every person who is commenting nastily on one of those pictures there are dozens who are offended by it.

In general the people I've met or interacted with on this site don't care or think about what your gender or sexual orientation is. We just love games!
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RDewsbery wrote:

If there's one thing that worries me about the LBGT-only approach (and I completely get the reasons behind them, wonderfully explained by Peter), it's the fact that it continues to separate the people who may mock from the people who they mock, so neither ever reaches the realisation that the other isn't deserving of mockery, and what they all have in common is that they are first and foremost people (people who game, people who like am-dram, etc). Because I think that it's only when everyone sees everyone else as a real person, rather than as a label, that prejudice can truly be addressed.


I can totally see why any group that is marginalised in some way might want to separate itself from the "mainstream" to relieve the pressure of having to deal with the stuff that happens all too often in the world.

But I have to agree that there's definitely merit in showing the "normals" that everyone's an individual and a person rather than just "one of them".

Somehow it's difficult for me to get behind the idea of separatism for a group whose primary function is to play board games. I mean, boardgaming doesn't have anything to do with sexuality, or colour, or religion, or whatever, right? If you have, say, a black origami group, doesn't that suggest that the focus is as much on blackness as on origami?

Of course this has no bearing on the original question - as far as that's concerned I'm totally happy for people to be playing boardgames in a way that is enjoyable to them. Just don't tar all the "normals" with the same brush - if my experience is anything to go on, you'll find that most boardgamers are more tolerant than society as a whole. We care much much more about whether you're a 40k player, or hate FFG, or insist on playing the cyber bunny in King of Tokyo every single time, or say "dice" when you should say "die", or whether you prefer Dr Who or Firefly, than what your orientation or ethnic origin or whatever is.
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Graham Marsden
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Speaking as someone who has a business making and selling BDSM gear, many contacts in the LGBT community and who also is a regular board gamer and attendee at SF and Fantasy conventions like Discworld and Eastercon (to mention just a few!) the fact of the matter is that you are always going to get some a$$holes who speak without thinking and don't consider the feelings of others (or don't care).

Fortunately in the communities I mention above, said a$$holes are much fewer and further between because people who are into such areas tend to be a lot more open-minded and considerate.

What I would say, though, is that a LGBT *only* gaming club would be IMO counter-productive, I'd prefer it just said LGBT *friendly*, ie you don't have to be LGBT to join, just don't discriminate against others.

I have to say that I've never really found a problem like those described, although the groups I tend to play with tend to be older gamers and thus have learned a little more consideration for others (or, at least, have grown up a bit) from the attitudes they may have had when they were teenagers.
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Steve Evans
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@ Kim.
You've just had a bad experience. It sounds like you found a group of teenagers somewhere and you're painting us all with the same brush.
Believe you me, I don't think a tentacle rape game would ever be played at the events I attend.

And the idea that games artists are white dudes and pretty sexist, I've never once been tempted to oggle at a nice orange cube (although the purple cubes give me funny looks).

Just find a decent group. I honestly don't care if you're black, white, straight, gay, whatever, as long as you're tidy enough and play games in the right spirit then come along. It's never even been an issue with anyone at the clubs I attend. I can't think of a single conversation where sexuality has ever come up.
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Stijn
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Not from Manchester, or even UK, but noticed this thread on the front page.

I can understand the reasons why they want their own game nights. I mean, I don't agree with those reasons, but maybe that's because I've always been lucky with the game groups I was part of.

I've been in roleplay and boardgame groups with people of all ages, creeds, orientations, genders and physical ability. The bigger clubs where I'm part of the membership, men still outnumber women usually, but it's more like a 55/45 shift. Definitely not 2 to 1 or worse. And the amount of GLBT is I think somewhat higher than it is in general society (as far as my gaydar is working), without being overwhelming. We barely have any people of non-European origin though, that one I gotta admit.

Our town also has one game night that's actually organised in a gay bar by people in the GLBT community.. And I regret both times that I tried going there. I mean, I stay away from the gay community to start with, because I find them very unwelcoming to bi folks. But those game nights in the gay bar were the only game nights where I ever felt like an unwanted guest - just by the distrustful glances and the rude manners people showed me because I was not a regular at the place.
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Jester Wales wrote:
Just find a decent group. I honestly don't care if you're black, white, straight, gay, whatever, as long as you're tidy enough and play games in the right spirit then come along. It's never even been an issue with anyone at the clubs I attend. I can't think of a single conversation where sexuality has ever come up.


As long as you've had a wash relatively recently and don't behave like a complete arsehole, you're good AFAIC.
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jood shine
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maybe i can reassure you?
if a group is not sexist or homophobic then it welcoming for me.

my wanting to go to a wommen or lesbian only group has nothing to do with that - a bit like enjoying 2 foods - i like to eat apples and carrots - if i choose carrots it doesnt mean apple was unwelcoming

hope that helps

lastly in reply that sexuality etc has nothing to do with games for me in a way it so does - its part of who i am - i dont feel anyone e who isnt any of those things has a right to tell others.

interesting only this week someone posted photos of a christian games con saying how nice it was to play games with others who loved games and christ.and no one blinked an eye.

you could change lesbian only for christian,veggie,gardeners,opera lovers etc only games group -

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Steve Evans
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jood wrote:
maybe i can reassure you?
if a group is not sexist or homophobic then it welcoming for me.

my wanting to go to a wommen or lesbian only group has nothing to do with that - a bit like enjoying 2 foods - i like to eat apples and carrots - if i choose carrots it doesnt mean apple was unwelcoming

hope that helps

lastly in reply that sexuality etc has nothing to do with games for me in a way it so does - its part of who i am - i dont feel anyone e who isnt any of those things has a right to tell others.

interesting only this week someone posted photos of a christian games con saying how nice it was to play games with others who loved games and christ.and no one blinked an eye.

you could change lesbian only for christian,veggie,gardeners,opera lovers etc only games group -



So just to play Devils Advocate here. Are you suggesting that your chosen segregation is preferable to permissive integration?

I play board games with Christians and non-Christians and honestly, we don't care. If someone asked me would I run a Christian only board game group I'd ask them politely to go jump. My faith, sexuality, political orientation doesn't define me, rather my humanity does.

Just saying, and I am asking to provoke because I want to know not because I want to cause offence.
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Neil Cook
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RDewsbery wrote:

If there's one thing that worries me about the LBGT-only approach (and I completely get the reasons behind them, wonderfully explained by Peter), it's the fact that it continues to separate the people who may mock from the people who they mock, so neither ever reaches the realisation that the other isn't deserving of mockery, and what they all have in common is that they are first and foremost people (people who game, people who like am-dram, etc). Because I think that it's only when everyone sees everyone else as a real person, rather than as a label, that prejudice can truly be addressed.


This. I was trying to put together the words in my head to express this response, when I saw this and realised I no longer have to.
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jood wrote:

lastly in reply that sexuality etc has nothing to do with games for me in a way it so does - its part of who i am - i dont feel anyone e who isnt any of those things has a right to tell others.

interesting only this week someone posted photos of a christian games con saying how nice it was to play games with others who loved games and christ.and no one blinked an eye.

you could change lesbian only for christian,veggie,gardeners,opera lovers etc only games group -



I don't think ANY of those things have anything to do with boardgaming.

My being a mid-30s white working-class disabled straight-ish woman (fyi I'm sexually attracted to both men and women, but prefer to have relationships with men) has nothing do do with it. My atheism has nothing to do with it. I have a recurring ganglion cyst on my left wrist and I sing in a choir and I own a black Labrador and I refuse to eat anything containing non-sustainable palm oil and I wash my hair with bicarb instead of shampoo, and all of these things are part of who I am, and none of them are in any way relevant to boardgames.

I guess it's easy for me to say since I'm relatively "mainstream", but I've never connected things together like that. I've never thought, wow I'm having fun with this boardgame but it would be even more fun if the other players had tattoos and preferred dark chocolate to milk.

If I'd seen the post r.e. Christian boardgaming, I'd certainly have expressed my disapproval. And I'd have a problem with an atheist-only group too.

Do we really want to fragment the gaming community even more? As a group we're already seen as weird (and worse) by society as a whole. The fact that we like gaming and aren't assholes to each other should be all that matters.
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I think that it's also worth nothing that you may well get idiots in any group. Just because everyone in your group has something in common, doesn't necessarily make it any more inclusive.

Sure, a LGBT group likely won't discriminate against you for being gay, but there's no guarantee that they won't discriminate against you for some other reason.
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Peter Darby
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silverleaf79 wrote:
I think that it's also worth nothing that you may well get idiots in any group. Just because everyone in your group has something in common, doesn't necessarily make it any more inclusive.

Sure, a LGBT group likely won't discriminate against you for being gay, but there's no guarantee that they won't discriminate against you for some other reason.


Yes, but.

Like I was trying to say, at least you won't have to have That Conversation About That Thing. Again. Knowing that can be quite refreshing, and allow you to just get on with pushing cardboard and plastic.
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Peter Darby
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silverleaf79 wrote:

If I'd seen the post r.e. Christian boardgaming, I'd certainly have expressed my disapproval. And I'd have a problem with an atheist-only group too.


Really? Do we have to all play together all at the same time all of the time?
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Martin G
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Jester Wales wrote:
So just to play Devils Advocate here. Are you suggesting that your chosen segregation is preferable to permissive integration?

But the point was that it doesn't have to be either/or, you can do both. I might enjoy a 'boys night out' every now and then, but I wouldn't call that 'chosen segregation', and it doesn't mean I like the company of women any less.
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pete_darby wrote:
silverleaf79 wrote:
I think that it's also worth nothing that you may well get idiots in any group. Just because everyone in your group has something in common, doesn't necessarily make it any more inclusive.

Sure, a LGBT group likely won't discriminate against you for being gay, but there's no guarantee that they won't discriminate against you for some other reason.


Yes, but.

Like I was trying to say, at least you won't have to have That Conversation About That Thing. Again. Knowing that can be quite refreshing, and allow you to just get on with pushing cardboard and plastic.


Does that conversation happen a lot? I'm not being facetious, I genuinely want to know. Maybe I've been lucky, but I tend to mention my disability only when it becomes relevant (I'm often tired and in pain and find it hard to concentrate which affects both my gaming and my general socialising) and mostly people don't ask much about it.

An how specific does a group need to be before you don't get any of that conversation at all? If you need to know someone's sexuality at a LGBT group you're still going to have to ask them which boxes they tick, surely?

pete_darby wrote:
silverleaf79 wrote:

If I'd seen the post r.e. Christian boardgaming, I'd certainly have expressed my disapproval. And I'd have a problem with an atheist-only group too.


Really? Do we have to all play together all at the same time all of the time?


Of course, everyone's free to play with whoever they want. It's just that I see that attitude (e.g. it's better to play with other Christians) as saying that [my ingroup] is better than [the outgroup], and I don't like that.

Similarly, the concept of an *insert irrelevant characteristic here* boardgame group is advertising to the world that people with *irrelevant characteristic* are better than those without it. That may not actually be the attitude of the people involved, but that's how it looks from the outside.

I want to make clear though, I have no problem with specific-interest groups. LGBT group? Great. Knitting group? Fine. Handlebar moustache appreciation group? Whatever floats your boat.

But excluding people from a group based on something that isn't in any way relevant to that group? Not cool.
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Vivienne Raper
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qwertymartin wrote:

Speaking for London on Board, yes, we're overwhelmingly white and majority male (probably 3:1), as is the hobby as a whole. But we're very international, span ages from 20s to 70s, and I have no idea how sexuality breaks down because it has simply never been an issue. I like to think that as a group we are welcoming and accepting of whoever comes along and I would take it very seriously if any of my members was unhappy about the way they'd been treated at a club event.


LoB has - in my experience:

a) a noticeable percentage of women, and;
b) a noticeable percentage of suit-wearing city professionals (being located near Bank in the city of London);
c) a large percentage of 'transient' gamers, i.e. international gamers who are travelling to London on holiday or business. My six-player game of Eclipse on Monday involved two people who were only in London for a few days;
d) a higher percentage of Asian gamers than any other non-white ethnic group;
d) a high proportion of 'newbies', many of whom are women;
e) few, if any, teenagers.

I have no idea about anyone's sexuality - I don't ask.

I wouldn't judge the people you're likely to meet at meetups from BGG, Kim. I have experienced sexism on BGG, including some weird GeekMails. I'm sure I'd get more if I didn't have a male username and androgynous avatar. I've never experienced any sexism at LoB.
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jood shine
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ann - thats your personal feelings and thats just fine, just as my feelings and choices are mine

steve - sory im not interested in getting into provoking dialogues - i just wrote a bit hoping it would explain a little bit,and as i said and someone else has since said its not an either or - just a bit of choice on the menu - and we all have different choices, life experiences that add to our choices -

namastexxxx
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United Kingdom
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kimadactyl wrote:
I've seen the Manchester Uni boardgame group have open discussions about how "awesome" that kickstarter tentacle rape game is.


I'm going to object to this as people appear to be jumping on it. A link to Tentacle Bento's kickstarter was posted, and it recieved 3 comments, all of which are obviously joking about how absurd the idea is. To say there was a group discussion about how great the game is is simply dishonest.

We get a reasonable number of female members, and I've never encountered anyone acting inappropriately towards any of them, and most first timers do come back. As a bisexual member of the society, I haven't heard anyone disparaging my or anyone else's sexuality, although obviously I don't know whether or not there are many other LGBT members.
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