The world of tabletop gaming is coming to terms with accusations of sexual harassment after allegations of improper behavior at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio.
Origins Game Fair, which ran June 13-17 this year, is a tabletop gaming convention sponsored by the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA). Its partner this year was Wizards of The Coast, known for Dungeons & Dragons and the Magic: The Gathering franchises. Other sponsors included a who’s who list of major publishers, including Rio Grande Games, Iello, Wizkids, Paizo and CMON.
Origins is an opportunity for fans to see the latest games, and for those in the industry to see each other and do some networking ahead of Gen Con, the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, which is held in Indianapolis each August. Many in the industry choose to mingle outside of the event, and that’s where at least one attendee says an exhibitor sexually harassed them. The allegations surfaced on a personal Facebook page and on Twitter, but were also sent to GAMA. The individual accused has denied the allegations.
Reached for comment, GAMA said it is investigating.
“An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment,” said a GAMA representative. “This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies. [...] We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging.”
The accusations have caused an outcry throughout the tabletop community. One thread, currently rocketing up the front page of Reddit, points out how women within the hobby are treated differently from men.
“I’m tired of being polite and non-accusatory,” writes abigalia. “There is a problem with how women are treated in this hobby. It’s not the Magic players. It’s not a few random men. It’s pervasive and it’s frustrating and, since it doesn’t impact the majority, it’s not taken seriously. At the same time, men wonder why so few women are in the hobby. Often, I see a lack of interest in difficult games blamed. That’s wrong. The reason women don’t join the hobby is not the games, it’s the men.”
Another account written by a popular board game blogger tells a similar story:
Listen to women when they tell you they have been sexually harassed. Do not excuse the behaviour, being drunk or joking around is not an excuse. Recognise that this is happening and not everybody has a voice to speak up about it but will handle it the way they can and when they can. Enforce a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. If you see your ‘bro’ making comments, say something. Believe women when they trust you enough to tell you that something happened. Getting angry is going to happen but that doesn’t help the situation, on some occasions, it can actually make it worse.
Polygon will continue to follow the story and report on the outcomes of the GAMA investigation.
GAMA’s full statement is included below.
An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment. This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies.
To ensure that a thorough review of any allegation is conducted, we must have statements from individuals with firsthand knowledge of the event. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this instance so gathering the information is taking more time. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward and share a statement after an incident occurs, but with the cooperation from individuals involved we can address these situations in a timely fashion.
As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.
This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging.
Part of our process review is acknowledging that we need to broaden the community services available for attendees at the show. This includes less intrusive methods for reporting issues of harassment while still ensuring we have firsthand reporting and providing a more welcoming setting if an attendee is not comfortable with speaking directly to law enforcement or show staff.
We are working with the community to enhance those services, adding Victim Services staff as another avenue for attendees to report violations. We are also working with the Columbus Police Department to establish an online reporting process that is immediately accessible to everyone, less intrusive yet still capable of channeling vital information to us on-site so we can act appropriately. We want this process to be nonintrusive and user-friendly so that any person experiencing/witnessing harassment feels comfortable reporting the issue.
It is very important that if you are being harassed or are in any way endangered, you report it immediately. We cannot address issues that are unreported and void specific details that only those individuals with firsthand knowledge can provide.
The idea that this sort of behavior is happening disturbs us greatly and we simply will not tolerate harassment in any form.
We want to work together as a community to ensure that everyone is being treated fairly and equally.
Disclosure: A centerpiece of the Origins Game Fair is the announcement of the Origins Awards, presented by The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. The author of this article was a volunteer jury member and participated in the selection of this year’s Origins Awards. He voted on the category of Family Games. He has never attended the Origins Game Fair.