Structure Without Walls

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Hobby gaming started as an old white guys club. Thankfully it is evolving, though far too slowly.

You know from these posts the effort I make to evolve personally from my native Midwestern white cis heterosexual male and middle-aged perspective.

Game publishing is part of that personal effort. Equality and inclusiveness aren’t just buzzwords; they’re standards.

I can’t speak for people of other backgrounds. What I can do is strive for game design that gives a structure for play without imposing boundaries. And strive to write in a way that’s inviting.

I’m a paradoxically proud and humble guy. Proud of my games. Humbled at the honor of their having some place at gamers’ tables. Energized by stories of players’ adventures. Hoping to hear more of them from a wider range of people. If that’s you, please let me know. Thanks. ❤

Just Graffiti

By this point, I figure anyone left reading my posts is either of like mind regarding COVID, etc. or a diehard fan who takes these in stride as personal thoughts unrelated to my work. Anybody else has likely been chased away.

That sense of changing audience has affected my purpose in writing, away from trying to reason with COVID deniers, to encouraging compatriots to be more vocal and proactive.

But at its heart, everything I post about COVID, about civil rights, predatory capitalism, blind faith, or whatever, is just as much my own struggle to cope.

And frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m sick of trying.

So nothing about this post is an attempt at reason. I’m sick of writing. Sick of being any sort of public figure. Sick of hearing my own “messages.” These words are just graffiti.

Yesterday I accompanied my spouse out into the world of people to do some shopping. She needed the company, and at least some break from driving everywhere herself all week long, to one appointment or another.

On the way out, I had taken on a newish frame of mind, a friendly feeling that mask-less people in this Red state aren’t *all* antagonistic. And that while my mask is a statement, I can still wave at these people the way Nebraskans do when they see each other at gas stations. I had a new hope for Tolerance not as passivity, but as giving people’s motives the benefit of the doubt.

First stop, Shopko Optical in Lincoln. Lincoln with its mask mandate. Shopko Optical with a sign in the window saying masks are required and 6-feet social distance recommended.

Three employees inside. One with her mask at her chin; one with his below his nose; one with no mask anywhere in sight.

I spoke up from the tolerance-doesn’t-mean-silence attitude. (It’s tough to speak up. Tougher to do so calmly.) “I don’t mean to be impolite, but what’s with the masks?”

“Oh! Sorry. No problem. When nobody else is in the store, we sort of relax, and we just forgot to put them back.”

I think she was the manager. Her mask went up. The guy pulled his mask over his nose. The other woman stared at me blandly, then asked to go on break. When she came back, it was mask-less. At her desk, she held a mask one-handed over her face for a couple of minutes, then dropped it.

The rest of the trip was pretty much the same. Step into a store, mental defenses up, no one masked in sight, then notice a few with masks, glance at each other with a sense of embattled camaraderie. Grit my teeth behind the mask-less bitch coughing in the check-out line.

So much for a fucking sense of equanimity.

One of my wife’s step-brothers died of COVID this week. My age. Had been having moments of forgetfulness from what turned out to be mini strokes from blood clots migrating from his lungs. Then the clots killed him. Unvaccinated. Someone she shared her teenage years with in the same house.

A 10-year-old boy nearby, dead of brain lesions. Unvaccinated. Some don’t want to admit it’s COVID related, but he’d just gotten over COVID.

What was I saying? Oh, right. Trying for equanimity.

Earlier last week, I had an annual physical. The MD asked how my head is doing. The usual annual conversation with him:

Me: “I’m a thinker living with bouts of migraine/seizure. An extrovert living in isolation. An educated Liberal in a Red state of uneducated Trump worshippers. A guy with a college science background among people with a chip on their shoulder toward ‘eggheads.’ This COVID denial is a perpetual frustration. When will it end?”

Him: “It’s never going away.”

Me: “I don’t mean COVID.”

Him: “I know. And then they come to me wanting me to fix them.”


Him: “So, are you still writing? Still publishing?”

He asks that as a gauge of my migraine/seizure trouble. Can I still function.

Yes, I still function.

But I’m emotionally worn out even trying to care whether my unvaccinated neighbors die. Every day, I wake up wondering about Trump, “Is that son-of-a-bitch dead yet?”

Every time I hear another news story of an unvaccinated person with COVID, them begging other people to reconsider, I feel grimly thankful that they got it, hoping that their treatment ruins them financially, that their physical suffering is severe enough to shake their COVID-denying family and friends. My only reason for hoping they live is that they’ll spread the message instead of it dying with them.

There’s my equanimity. The thought that with enough suffering and death, the surviving deniers will come around. Maybe it’s Nature’s way of lightening the ship enough for us to turn from *complete* environmental catastrophe, because COVID and climate change are equally environmental.

And with that last, post-comma phrase, I slipped back into message mode. I’ll stop myself right there. My purpose is graffiti. Just spray paint defacing the side of a building to say, “I was here. And I fucking protest.”

Our Silent Majority Power

Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash

We are in a worldwide struggle to break the death grip of a fearful, ignorant people led by status-quo politicians who are themselves beholden to short-sighted, quarterly earnings business.

You and I can make a real difference even from the privacy of our homes, without being publicly confrontational.

Simply donate to a just cause.

Even if it’s just a dollar a month, it affects the balance of power.

Worried about being swamped by email from ActBlue or whatever? Unsubscribe when those emails arrive, or better yet set a Gmail filter to trash them. (Even better yet, don’t let your minor discomfort outweigh the day-to-day suffering of others.)

I live on modest means. (The plight of aging game designers is no secret.) Thankfully, my bucket-list DriveThruRPG titles help fund my giving to Feeding America and the Bail Project.

Yes, I’m being pushy in this post. Nothing changes without being pushed. So please find a charity that speaks to you, skip McDonalds or Starbucks just once a month, and donate that cash. Challenge family and friends to do the same.

We don’t have to stand out front. We can make a difference by helping lift from behind.

It also lifts your spirits.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Lately, in an ongoing struggle with myself concerning stubborn bigotry and ignorance, and how best you and I can confront and change it, my training as a medic and practical nurse has come to mind.

Palliative care versus treatment. Triage versus whack-a-mole.

We all know how contentious debate on social media is. How quickly disagreement can turn to personal insult. How easy it is, consequently, to walk away. But we all know in our hearts that nothing ever changes if ignored.

It occurred to me late last week that online debate is palliative treatment versus healing the diseases. God knows I’m as guilty as anyone, maybe more so than most. When it comes to bullies, I’m kneejerk pugnacious. And these issues have victims. Bigotry still has to be called out, even shamed.

But actual healing requires treatment of the core problem, and triage means treating the most crucial first: I’m the core problem; I’m the most crucially diseased. Chances are so are you.

You and I are ignorant. We want to fix things, but we don’t know how, because we don’t really understand them.

That’s treatable, but steel yourself, because it’s painful. Especially for white people, especially for white males. (But it should go without saying that our pain of seeing ourselves for what we are is nothing compared to the plight of 2.3 million Americans behind bars, for example.)

If you care, don’t waste time arguing with people whose opinions are the symptoms. Call out bigotry. But treat yourself. Start by watching 17th, a documentary Netflx has made free on YouTube. Then read So You Want to Talk About Race. (Almost certainly available from your library.) From there, you can pursue your own treatment, and maybe we can help heal this world.

P.S. Hey, gamers! Roll a d20 versus world population. On a 1, you’re American! Then roll a d20 versus world prison population. On a 1-5, you’re also American. :-/