I’ve been coming to Gen Con every year (save one) since 1997. When I first got married, I brought my wife. Not being much of a gamer, she was bored out of her skull, but she is quite resourceful and found things to do in Indianapolis while I was in a berserk game-frenzy for four days. After a couple years of this, she decided she would rather stay home when I went to the ‘con, which is fine with me. These days, she takes our son to visit Grandma for a couple days, and I head to Indy to nerd out as usual. I’d much rather she was relaxing somewhere she liked than being stuck effectively alone in another state for most of any given day for a four day period.
A couple of years ago, I noticed events starting to appear in the Gen Con catalog under the heading “Activities for the Better Half.” I thought this was a really good idea. Most of the activities had to do with crafting and dancing, but they’ve started to expand to things like women’s self-defense (which, as a karate instructor, is a topic near and dear to my heart). I’m not sure I agreed fully with most of the events being geared toward women (surely there are male non-gamer spouses?), but these events seemed like a step in a good direction. Granted, these activities aren’t near numerous enough to take up a non-gamer’s whole day and night, but it’s certainly far better than nothing if they don’t want to stray far from the convention center for something to do. At its heart, this is an accomodation for non-gaming spouses to make them feel more welcome. I can’t speak for anyone else’s relationships, but I know I have a lot more fun when I know my wife is happy (and if she isn’t, I’d rather it wasn’t because of me). This is a win-win for everybody.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I went to register for events this year to find this:
Let’s review. Non-gamer spouses are offered events to help them pass the time and have a little fun. +5 to diplomacy, good job! And now they’re being visually characterized using an old euphemism holding down their gamer-spouse and keeping him from having fun. It does not take a particularly high INT score to understand why women would find this offensive.
As for us guys — you shouldn’t put up with this either. Especially if we have kids, some of us are depending on on our spouse’s kindness in taking over our responsibilities for a few days so we can go to Gen Con. It’s hard enough not to pull Wife Aggro under these circumstances without the convention’s organizers officially mass casting Mordenkainen’s Anachronistic Misogyny all over everything. Sure, I get it. It’s a joke. It’s a terrible joke that reflects very poorly on geeks everywhere. As a part of society that generally slants more toward the progressive than most, this should make us all angry. And even if none of the societal or ethical implications bother you – this kind of thing makes women angry and makes it harder for guys to enjoy our yearly pilgrimage to Nerd Mecca.
And so, I plea to the elder gods of Gen Con: Please, please change your stupid ball and chain to something less offensive and horrible.