It has recently become known that Need Games has become a partner of Tabletop Gaymers Inc. to reaffirm its support for LGBTQ + players and to emphasize that their tables will always be safe spaces for all gamers.

Just in the past few weeks, Need Games, an Italian publisher of role - playing and board games, has announced on its Facebook profile that it has become a partner of Tabletop Gaymers Inc., complete with a new rainbow logo.

So let's see what this partnership means, why Need Games has made this choice and how this initiative relates to other safe spaces in the world of role-playing games.

To deepen the subject and listen to some different points of view, we interviewed four prominent and highly relevant personalities on the issue, namely Nicola DeGobbis of Need Games, Claudia Pandolfi of Donne, Dadi & Dati, Giulia Cursi of Sisterhood of Evil and Pietro Guermandi of La Gilda.

Need Games' new rainbow logo!
Need Games' new rainbow logo!

The announcement of Need Games: let's recap!

On February 5, the Facebook page of Need Games suddenly became rainbow, in the wake of an announcement, which you can still find highlighted here.

#gaymer #ally #ribbon #needgaymes #tabletopgaymers

Since we were born, everyone knows us about the mess we make.
We don't do it because we just want to make noise and noise, we do it because we are exactly like this, we are total casinists who love RPG more than anything else.

We have shown, however, that in addition to making a mess, we are also able to do something good. 

And we are not talking about our games, but the events dedicated to kids, the charity and all those times that we are around to promote the RPG, where very often we play games not produced by us.

That's why, sometimes, we like to pat ourselves on the back by ourselves.
This is one of those times.

We are incredibly proud to announce that NEED GAMES! has become a partner of Tabletop Gaymers Inc.

Tabletop Gaymers Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is to tackle homophobia in the role-playing and board game community by providing educational, social and networking opportunities for #gaymers and the LGBTQ + allies (Bisexual Gay Transgender Queer Lesbians).

During the Gamehole Con ALL the role players sported the #gaymer and #ally ribbon on their badges (respectively in case of gay player or "ally" player) and when we asked for information, with a huge smile they explained what it was and we noticed that two words they were always repeated by everyone: #safe #space (safe space).

These two words have remained etched in our heads and we thought it is true that we make a mess, it is true that we are screaming monkeys, it is true that we jump on the tables during fairs and events. But it is equally true that any event we organized, large or small, has always been a "safe space".

From now on in all the conventions where we will be present and during the events that we will organize, we will distribute the #gaymer and #ally ribbons free of charge to attach to the badge.

These ribbons are a symbol and are worn to raise awareness, improve the social environment, promote open and honest discussions, build community and provide networking opportunities.

Come and get your #ribbon at our stands and show it off with pride everywhere because it is a small piece of cloth that is worth a thousand words.

Whether you are #gaymer or #ally we are waiting for you to play together, because in addition to giving you a safe space, we promise you that you will have fun like crazy. Word of NEED GAYMES !.

Nicola DeGobbis, Andrea Lucca and Marco Munari of Need Games at the Cassero LGBTI Center with Pietro Guermandi, Michael Paul McBacon and Riccardo Gandolfi Belletti from La Gilda. Photos from In Nome del Pop Italiano.
Nicola DeGobbis, Andrea Lucca and Marco Munari of Need Games at LGBTI Center formwork with Pietro Guermandi, Michael Paul McBacon and Riccardo Gandolfi Belletti from La Gilda. Photo from In the name of Italian Pop.

The reason for safe spaces: Nicola DeGobbis' reasons

During the Bologna Nerd Show, we were able to catch on Nicola DeGobbis, the founder of Need Games. We therefore took the opportunity to ask him the reasons for the partnership with Tabletop Gaymers and to tell us a little about his experiences with discrimination at the gaming table.

Need Games wanted to openly deploy as a company, since in our opinion everyone at the game table is heroes and characters to play. Role-playing is cool and at our tables people have to sit and feel at home: that's why we joined this initiative.

We were afraid of making enemies, that many people would abandon our Facebook page and not buy our products anymore. But, as a founder of Need Games, do you know what I tell you? That these people could safely leave. I would have preferred that. Fortunately, however, the response from the public has been very positive.

When asked to tell how he had known the Tabletop Gaymers initiative, DeGobbis replied as follows:

It all started in America: at Gamehole Con we saw players with ribbons and, asking around, we discovered this thing. We got to know Tabletop Gaymers specifically thanks to the Wizards of the Coast and we liked their initiative so much that, once back in Italy, we asked for the partnership.

It's fantastic that our logo is among the sponsors, along with those of Paizo, Wizards of the Coast and Asmodee [Editor's note: you can see the sponsors here].

However, Nicola knew perfectly well about not having invented the safe spaces in Italy for this, but still wanted to help make the role-playing world a better place for everyone.

We are a small drop in the sea: the first to have created a safe space were those of La Gilda!

But we still wanted to do something, because such a safe space affects everyone: as a role player, for example, I like to play female characters (like Calliope, the half-drow thief). It is difficult for me to play a woman pg, because I have to strive to enter the personality. But in the end, role-playing is also this: exploration!

When we asked him if he had seen gods discriminatory behavior at the gaming tables of the fairsluckily Nicola had only one anecdote to tell.

We had an unpleasant experience involving a female master as a victim. A player, who should have played with her, stood up before the game to tell us that he wanted to change tables, because he didn't want to play with a master. For us he might have gone, but the master instead convinced him to stay and play with her, to prove him wrong. Eventually, this player apologized and admitted that he just played the best game of his life.

Fortunately, however, it was an isolated case and at the fair we found many splendid people.

Regarding how Need Games plans to materially decline this intention to create safe spaces, DeGobbis replies as follows:

Meanwhile, in the next fairs, starting from NEEDCON! and from Modena Play, the data ribbons from Tabletop Gaymers will be available free of charge at our stands, with #gaymer or #ally written on them.

Then, we thought of organizing events and, perhaps, games particularly focused on these topics, even if already 7th Sea e Vampiri i am very gay friendly. But we will be able to make adventures specially dedicated to these themes, even using other games!

For sure, we already know that at NEEDCON! will be brought an adventure di 7th Sea in which an all female crew will be played, that of the Maria Callas.

The logo of Donne, Dadi & Dati
The logo of Donne, Dadi & Dati

Safe space and inclusive realities in Italy: the perspective of Donne, Dadi & Dati

At this point a question arises: but in the Italian world of role-playing games, safe spaces are needed? Do we really need to reiterate that a gaming table is a place where non-straight and / or non-cisgender people can feel safe and non-discriminated based on their sexual orientation and / or gender identity? Shouldn't that be a fact? Shouldn't we all feel safe when we play?

To answer these questions and to better understand the general Italian situation, in terms of safe space and inclusive realities, we interviewed Claudia Pandolfi, member of the Working Group Women, Dice & Data (DD&D).

DD&D deals in fact with study and monitor discrimination in the Italian world of role-playing games, focusing a lot on gender issues, but without forgetting the other issues. So, we asked Claudia if our community still has sexism and homo-transphobia problems.

I believe that until a few years ago the GDR environment was extremely male-dominated, homo-bi-transphobic and racist, also and above all due to the fact that the games themselves conveyed prejudices and contributed to the invisibility of minorities.

But then someone began to highlight the problem, to ask questions where previously he had always taken for granted what was offered by the market without reflecting too much on it: the first generation of men and women became adults, an evolution of the way to use the RPG.

And this evolution has also led to the recognition of the need to create "safe space", inclusive and protected places, where anyone could sit at the table and play in peace.

Claudia then summarizes the creation of various Italian safe spaces which allowed minorities to play roles safely.

But let's take Italy. The first "safe space" that comes to my mind is the Guild of Cassero in Bologna (but I will be happy to be denied by those who were aware of similar realities previously born), a reality active since 2014.

Subsequently, other similar spaces were born elsewhere, both physical (the "Queer Box" project of the LGBTE Coordination of Treviso, the "L'Altrove" group of the Arcigay Tralaltro of Padua, the recurring event "LUDOUT" of the Arcigay Palermo , to name a few) that virtual (the Facebook group "Sisterhood of Evil", the fan page of Luca De Santis's "Geekqueer" site ...).

All places (or non-places) that responded to a specific need: the need to confront and share one's passions among equals, far from prejudices and phobias.

As for the Need Games initiative and the feasibility of making an open and chaotic place like a fair "safe", Claudia has shown herself very positive.

Making "temporary places" such as trade fairs "safe" is also a more complex, but necessary, especially in this historical moment.

Clearly signaling that allies of a discriminated minority, such as LGBT + people, are present in that particular place and at that time, would contribute to making people who are part of it accepted and supported, regardless of whether they are "out" or not.

Indeed, contributing to the visibility of the LGBT + community in the most disparate contexts would be a beautiful work of inclusion and acceptance: it would convey the message that LGBT + people, the minority, are well-liked there as are the majority of Cisgender and heterosexual people; these kinds of situations reinforce the sense of belonging in the former and understanding in the latter.

I can't imagine the most beautiful thing! No, that's not true, I can: I imagine a future in which all this will no longer be necessary, because people will be recognized as equally valid and deserving of being loved as human beings, united in respect for their diversity and affinity.

The members of La Gilda at Lucca Comics & Games 2018, in all their rosy splendor. Credits.
The members of La Gilda at Lucca Comics & Games 2018, in all their rosy splendor. Credits.

The first Italian safe space: La Gilda

When it comes to safe space in the Italian world of role-playing games, we cannot but think of the first and most authoritative exponent of the genre: The Guild.

As the Bolognese role-players will well know, La Gilda is a playful laboratory that was born in reality in LGBTI Center formwork, bulwark of the Bologna (and not only) gay movements. Present in many Italian fairs, The Guild is de facto a safe space where people from the LGBTQIA + community can play role-playing, table and cards safely, in a friendly and open environment, without fear of sudden homo-transphobic comments.

To find out how the Need Games initiative relates to previous safe spaces, such as that of La Gilda, we interviewed the group's representative, Pietro Guemandi, first of all asking him how and why La Gilda was born.

The birth of the Guild became necessary when we had the spaces and the means in an environment that we liked.

Clearly, utopistically speaking, it would have become necessary many many years ago, when ours (can we put ourselves in the same generation, yes?) Entered the nerd world for the first time and was fascinated by it. A Guild would have been needed whenever the lgbti + and nerd subcultures collided, creating exiles on both sides.

Now that we have our own space, let's work to make up for all the lost years and never leave any * girl * alone.

The Guild proved to be very useful for the purpose we had set ourselves (which has no goal, no end, and requires an infinite succession of work), that is, on the one hand, to reach all lgbti + game lovers, fanfiction, movies etc etc to let them know that they are not alone in their interests, that we also exist and we (probably) want to play with them; on the other hand, the Guild has been (and still is) an excellent means of letting the nerd-normative world know that "the frocetti want to play" and that we would also like to do it in a happy, inclusive and non-discriminatory space.

At this point, Pietro explained to us the challenges and difficulties involved in creating a safe space:

Creating a safe space is not easy. It is not enough to declare the environment as such to put it into practice. It takes preparation, it takes methods, it takes care. In the world of the relationship dynamics between social aggregations, there are several types of spaces (safe, good, etc etc) and each of this wants its definition based on the care we decide to have towards the / others *.

I will be frank: it is a difficult job. It is, and it shouldn't be.

It is difficult because we in a safe world have not grown up and freeing ourselves from certain dynamics requires a continuous duty.

Nonetheless, not doing it would be irresponsible, since we believe there is no future without inclusion.

With these premises, he gave us his opinion on the Need Games initiative:

That said, I think Need Games' initiative is a great stepping stone. I think it's a wall that is finally starting to have scattered holes, which allow us to see beyond. I think NG is sending an explicit message to the Italian world, and that this message is making itself felt very good. How it will evolve I can't really say, we will have to see what will be put in place about it (impossible to say now).

I would say that for now we can have "good hopes" such as being listened to, and respected as political agents in place and not prevailing.

At this point, however, Pietro also specified what do you hope to see in the future, that is, a world where support is not given by specifying that you are not a "gaymer".

We would like the lgbti + community (but the speech applies to any community) to have the opportunity to express itself with its words, with its voice.

We would like that for once the heterosexual world, in supporting us, does not have to start every sentence by emphasizing that "I'm straight but-" and that there was no need for "ally" pins, but only the rainbow ones so that even that feeling begins to unhinge. so even if close, it leaves us distant. We wish we could * welcome them all *, without them, for once, feeling like those * divers *.

But on the other hand, that's what inclusivity should do, right?

The cover of the Facebook group Sisterhood of Evil
The cover of the Facebook group Sisterhood of Evil

An all-female safe space: Sisterhood of Evil

Over time, as Claudia Pandolfi recalled, numerous safe spaces have been created in Italy, following the example of La Gilda. Among these, the one we wanted to know better is a virtual safe space, i.e. the Facebook group Sisterhood of Evil.

Unlike La Gilda, however, Sisterhood of Evil is a safe space designed primarily for role players, where community women can discuss role-playing games in a safe and controlled environment, where they are not at risk of harassment by trolls.

Sisterhood of Evil, therefore, stands out from the safe spaces of Need Games and La Gilda not only for being online, but also for its nature of closed safe space, which only women can enter. To better understand its nature and peculiarities, we interviewed its founder, Giulia Cursi, who told us the story of the group.

Sisterhood of Evil was born from my need, it had no pretension apart from giving me a space in which to share certain articles, news or reflections without the danger that trolls or misogynistic people would come to bother.

I went through a period in which in just one week various social events happened that made me see so many people who do not mind, for example, making jokes about rape like "I stun a beautiful girl and take her to my basement, after the first game session I'm sure he will be passionate about it ”.

Not to mention that I often do not respond to various discussions, because it happened to me that my answer was ignored, where maybe I was just giving advice or answering someone who had opened the discussion with a question.

Other times I see that maybe a discussion has already reached many comments where among trolls or people who answer to pass the time I don't see the reason to throw a reasoned comment in the pile.

Consequently I decided to open a group for all people who identify themselves as women. Paper role-playing games, larp etc… it doesn't matter, just be among people who manage to hold a discussion without insulting each other or making unreasonable comments.

I was happy to see girls posting photos or anything, while elsewhere they didn't.

Regarding the open or closed nature of a safe space, Giulia underlines how the context is very important:

Closed safe spaces make sense in contexts where you just want an intimate space.

Sisterhood has an entry threshold but does not have blacked out posts, everything posted is public, but we are not people who chat face to face. Written communication is always more complex than speaking by voice by seeing oneself.

Public safe spaces make sense in public events such as: conventions, fairs, larp, ​​etc ...

As for public safe spaces, Giulia brings some examples drawn from one's personal experience, also telling us some anecdotes.

I, together with my boyfriend and two friends, have been holding a convention called IndieCON for some years which takes place in Rimini in mid-May, we have decided that our convention is based on inclusivity.

Each participant must be able to play quietly and safely, being in the midst of people who will not come out with a derogatory comment. Attention to those with disabilities, to those who are part of the LGBT community, etc ...

Role play allows people to share beautiful moments, experiences, feelings and allows you to create unexpected bonds. If you don't have a safe space this doesn't happen. If I have to worry about the guy who gropes my butt I don't play quietly, for example.

Not to mention that if you declare that you want to pay attention to certain people, you give them the message "I know you exist and here you can feel good." A friend of mine with disabilities, Davide, is always present at the convention, every year, he has a great time and comes back, as do many other people.

But each event has its own characteristics and must be thought differently as a safe space. A D&D Epic Dungeon with 20 people tables requires a different job to become a safe space than a 20 person larp.

Giulia then spoke about the Need Games initiative, underlining the importance of such stances by influential commercial entities.

The position taken by NEED Games which, like mine, is political, because you make a strong statement in favor of certain realities, gives me hope for an improvement in the community of Italian players.

What I can do as a private individual is little compared to a publisher or someone who organizes events for 200 or 2000 people, seeing that at a larger level a publisher makes a statement like that also settles the type of customers he wants to encourage and which to discourage.

I appreciate it and hope that others will also take certain inclusive positions over time.

Photos from the Genderplay
Photos from the Genderplay

Some final considerations: why do we still need well-made safe spaces?

From these interviews we have learned many things, so let's make a very brief summary.

First of all, it can be seen that those who belong to a part of the historically discriminated population (women, queer people, disabled people and the like) do not yet feel they live in a safe space, but find themselves in the real condition of being sometimes afraid of being exposed. However, the Italian role-playing world is changing and more and more initiatives are seen to prevent discriminatory behavior and make minorities feel welcome.

Partly, these considerations also emerged from an event in which we, the Seekers of Atlantis, also participated, namely the Genderplay. In this conference, in which i relationships between role-playing games and gender issues, Pietro Guermandi and Claudia Pandolfi, together with Chiara Listo and Giuseppe Vitale di Morning gift and Stefano Burchi, creator of the role-playing game Stonewall 1969.

Genderplay, in this sense, was a safe space, albeit in a non explicit way: after all, putting the word "gender" in the name gave the event a precise political and cultural connotation, keeping away anyone who was bothered by just hearing about the dreaded "gender issues". We are honestly surprised that no priest has made an evening of reparative prayers at an event that has the GIENDER in the name!

However, as in the case of the Need Games and La Gilda initiatives, Genderplay was also a safe space open to the public, in which anyone could have entered, provided that he behaved in a civilized way and did not make others uncomfortable. In fact, many of those who attended the Genderplay from the public almost had the tone of the confession held inside for too long: after the first story of discrimination, in fact, the others came as an avalanche. They were many and passionate, as if for many people the Genderplay had been the first pretty safe place where you can let off steam.

Instead, a closed safe space, in many ways, is feasible only on the web, where these kinds of environments are born like personal alternative to other already existing environments and are only found by people who actively seek them out.

However, in public events that take place in real life, putting up a sign outside forbidding entry to a certain category of people is not the most suitable way to create a safe space. To underline, instead, with the name of the event or by other means, that this convention or role-playing game is a positive environment towards women or homosexuals and that therefore participants are invited to show themselves civil, mature and respectful is the best strategy. Why, in this way, participants are encouraged to adhere to certain standards of behavior and civilization: it is educational without being exclusive.

It had been very different, if you remember (we talked about it here), the initiative of Riot Games, who at a convention organized a workshop that on paper supported the participation of women and non-binary people. However, de facto that workshop had proved to be a closed safe space, to which instead men could not enter. Apart from the fact that, at this point, I wonder if trans men could enter, however, that particular story turned out to be very counterproductive.

In fact, not only had it caused the indignation of the men present, but (I add) as it was organized it forced non-binary people to come out to a public event, to access the workshop. And basically non-binary people don't always have much pleasure in revealing themselves as such, given the amount of hatred and threats they usually receive.

So, in this case Riot Games not only created a bankruptcy event from the point of view of communication, but in doing so it also exposed a minority to the danger of harassment, going against the safe space philosophy. And in doing so, he further the bad reputation that safe spaces have in mainstream communication has worsened.

In fact, as many will know, safe spaces would be for some reactionary rhetoric the fragile soap bubble in which they find refuge special snowflakefragile and immature people who, always according to this rhetoric, would not be able to accept criticism or hard life in the real world. And, therefore, these special people would need their special place, where no one can harm them and where they can live without ever facing the harshness of life.

However, as it will also be understood from these interviews, safe spaces are not safe cradles for special children, but places where those who enter are asked not to call a gay person a fag, or to define a trans woman " transvestite ”, or to tell a woman to go back to the kitchen. They are basically gods places where it is ensured that certain types of verbal violence are not produced, under penalty of a severe social sanction and exclusion from the event. Or, even more fundamentally, they are places where people are explicitly asked not to be dickheads, because insulting people in a civil society is not acceptable. And not insulting people, denying their dignity as a human being, is a matter of civilization, not politically correct, as many people like to think.

So, as the people interviewed also said, it is hoped that, in the future, safe spaces are no longer needed, because the company will have learned, through education and social sanctions, that at the end of the fair being an asshole does not pay. And that when you role-play the important thing is not that * you * party mates * like courgettes or potatoes, but that you ROLE. HARD. ALWAYS. (Cit.)