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'A Night at Netrunner', or 'That One Guy'


#1

Last night was the first night I took someone new to the weekly Netrunner night at Table Top Cafe. Not just someone new in fact, but my partner Amber. We’ve played Netrunner at home a bunch, enough that she knows the game and is starting to pick up on good strategy. Enough that she can beat me from time to time, so she’s no slouch. I finally convinced her to come out for our Wednesday night meet up because we had an early ball game and could pop on over for a bit after it was over.

Things went well initially. We found some table space at a double-wide table next to two others. We introduced each other, grabbed some munchies, and began playing. Things were good, I believe I was runner this game and I eked out a close victory. At some point the match next to us concluded and as is the way things go some players switched up and a new person sat down to Amber’s left to play against the other person at the table.

This person is an older man. He’s a good Netrunner player, creative and smart, and always happy to chat about Netrunner ideas. He’s also sometimes a bit loud with a big laugh. That’s not so much a problem, we all know someone like that. I like this guy, he’s fun to play against both casually and in tournament scene. What I don’t like is what went down during the two games going on.

At first he was just being the curious, loudish, guy he is. Asking Amber who she was, what she does, how she go into Netrunner and such. Eh, no big deal. He didn’t really need to pry, but honestly I’d seen him do similar things with other new people beside him or across from him during games before so that wasn’t an issue. It’s not exactly nice, but it’s not setting off the alarm bells yet.

When it came around to ‘who are you in relation to Laury’ it went off the rails. I’d quipped that we were partners. (I don’t like offering ‘shes my girlfriend’ as an answer to that for reasons that are long and complex and out of scope here)

He said in response “I didn’t know, I need to know that cuz what if she’s your sister or something. What if I wanted to hit on her”.

Yeah. Like that.

Yes it was said without a serious tone. Sure the excuse was ‘it’s a joke’. It’s not a joke. Neither is “Come on Laury, aren’t you going to let her win?” a few minutes later.

The joke here is really that anyone else at Netrunner that evening, and most other evenings and tournaments in fact, I felt 100% comfortable introducing Amber to and knowing that if they sat down to play they wouldn’t create this kind of toxicity. But nope. Had to be this one guy and this one night of all nights.

Listen. Guys. Men. Whatever. DON’T DO THIS. It’s really not hard. Someone new has come to play Netrunner! Hurrah! And strictly based on her gender, she was made to feel incredibly uncomfortable. Don’t take my word for it, even though it made me upset knowing she was feeling uncomfortable, take her words for it (from twitter):

“Had a gross experience at a card playing group last night; basically my SO got grilled on what my relationship to him was, followed by gross
Jokes about hitting on me if that wasn’t clear. Can’t I just pay the game and be a human? Everyone else was nice but that one person
Made it uncomfortable when there was zero need for it”

What is so very frustrating for me is that in our Facebook group we had just been discussing this exact issue TEN DAYS AGO! How to be more inclusive, more friendly and more diverse. How not to be that ‘other scene’, the toxic ‘guys only’ situation that lots of game stores and other TCG/CCG’s have become. And yet, first real crack at expanding things, this happens.

It’s not a small thing. It’s not ‘nothing’. It’s a warning sign to anyone that’s read Amber’s tweets that this stuff still happens at gaming stores, and in particular this group. The group that I personally am trying to arrange an afternoon to help introduce new players, specifically ladies who are interested, to get into the game because I felt like I could trust these guys and that we have a good scene where everyone would be accepted in. And honestly, I still feel that way…except this one guy.

Seriously. One guy is all it takes to go from having a good night playing some cards with good people to having a gross experience. One guy is all it can take to make someone never want to go to a gaming store again because of their gender. One guy is all it can take to make someone never want to play Netrunner again because of their gender. One. Guy. That guy. I can’t even begin to express how frustrating that is as someone looking on and seeing that’s all it takes.

I don’t know if this has soured Amber from the scene for good. I hope not. I can’t blame her for not wanting to go back either, if that’s what she wants. I certainly would never judge her for it. I can only say ‘It was just that one guy, everyone else is good’. That’s not good enough though.

So guys, please. PLEASE. Don’t do this. Don’t be that guy. If someone is being that guy, call them out on it. Make the space you’re in open to everyone regardless of gender and don’t pretend these ‘little jokes’ are anything but toxic.

As I reflect on this I feel bad that I didn’t say something stronger at the time. I had said something like ‘why does it matter?’, but that was weak. It didn’t bring home the point that he was making things uncomfortable. I should have made it clear that it didn’t matter who she was, or that she was a she, that all that mattered was we’re here to play some Netrunner. Gah!

And excuse me while I go find a table I can flip…


#2

Amen to this. My wife and I had a similar experience that made us realize why people always say FLGS instead of LGS. We switched stores even though it’s an extra 5 miles away, and it’s always a much more comfortable experience shopping, though I doubt I’ll ever get her to come to a game night again.


#3

Stuff like this sucks to have happen. The question as I see it what do we do as a community to either change that one guys behavior or worst case kick them out? I know it’s one of the issues I’ve faced getting my SO to come to an event.

We should think about getting some sort of action manual or dealing with unfortunately common events such as this (in the sense that these are non-one off events, not that it’s true of every netrunner community).


#4

Damn, I’m sorry that happened, it’s definitely not cool. I know that I really want our Netrunner groups to be welcoming and not creepy, and I would be furious if I heard this happened at one of our game nights.

Was there a particular person who organized the event? Perhaps you could talk to them about it?


#5

My wife and I used to shop at Netherworld Games in Madison since it’s much closer to us than I’m Board in Middleton. We bought >$100 worth of stuff there before finally getting tired of the eyerolls we’d get when we’d come in and take a peek at the casual shelf first, or how weird everyone got when a woman stepped into their store. I’m Board is a lot nicer so far, but it’s really depressing that bringing our hobby outside of our house has to be so risky. We (men) can do better, and the community will get more awesome and more diverse (and thus more interesting) the better we do.


#6

As edgy as it may seem, I’m going to voice an opinion that anecdotal stories like this don’t belong here on Stimhack. I did read your story and I’m sorry it happened, and while he is at fault I think this was also a clash of personalities and outlooks in addition to him being an ass.

Take this to Reddit /tg/ or BGG.


#7

I think the best thing we can do as a community is, if you see something like this, say something. It’s going to be awkward and feel confrontational, but the only way things like this change is if the general sense is that it’s not okay.


#8

That is truly unfortunate. Sucks when fun games become negative.

I’m not trying to play devils advocate, but did you communicate to him that his behavior wasn’t appropriate or appreciated?

One of my favorite quotes about game-playing nerds is “There is something wrong with all of us”. That is not to say you should excuse the behavior, it is to say that most of us have social issues of one type or another. This guy had a social issue where he thought game night was a bar scene.

Had you clearly communicated that it was making you or someone else uncomfortable do you think he would have continued?

You have every reason to be dissapointed in this experience. You also must realize that unless you take action that it will happen again, if not to you then to someone else. Next time try and clearly and calmly express your displeasure and either he stops or is perceived negatively. If he’s not willing to conform with the expectations of the group how much longer do you think he would show up?


#9

these stories should be mentioned here. stimhack is home to some of the most influential players in netrunner communities around the world. anecdotes and the resulting conversations about these problems help bring these issues to their attention, potentially motivating them to take a proactive role in fostering safe, approachable environments in their respective play groups.


#10

IMO I think we should treat this as a community wide problem (the inability to create a space welcoming for half the potential audience, and an environment toxic for part of the existing player base).

We should be discussing it as a community (ie, it’s an important and appropriate topic for stimhack), and we should seek to solve it as a community. The onus shouldn’t be on an individual to step up and say “hey, this is wrong” (especially not the target of abuse). Because that will never be sufficient to solve the problem we inherited from both society as a large and larger gaming culture.

I don’t know exactly how to solve it, but I know that we need a community based approach.


#11

It’s problematic, especially if it’s hard for somebody to speak up out of fear, etc… I’ve spoken up in the past when players have"hit kati" etc and I don’t think it gets through enough. We as a group need to try and change it through collective efforts. But, you should still say something anyway. I’ll continue to at least.


#12

Totally disagree. This is exactly where this belongs, mostly for the reasons Eric mentions above. Making this game inclusive should be every players task, it benefits players everywhere.

I think this applies to everyone, not just people that play games.

As far as the anecdote, this sucks and I hope that your partner can see past this guys unacceptable behavior, and give Netrunner another shot. Nobody deserves to be made uncomfortable, especially when they are trying to have fun. Unfortunately, lots of people are unaware that certain things they do or say are not desirable, or acceptable, and they won’t know otherwise until told. The only thing to do at this point is talk to him on the side, talk to the event organizer, and talk to the store owner. I don;t think this guy did anything (as far as I can tell) to warrant being ostracized, but certainly needs to be told where the line is, and that he was crossing it.


#13

World’s full of assholes. Just needed to dress him down. Sad experience. No wonder women don’t come to game stores.


#14

I want everyone to understand my post came from a place of absolute positivity. I think the Netrunner community is the impetus of competitive card gaming communities when it comes to inclusiveness and friendliness. The grander issue at hand has already been accepted by the general gaming community and is in full practice.

This topic is timely and needed to be said. Release valves are awesome.

I’m simply expressing that all of the Stimhack peeps are quite frankly paragons of these virtues and ultimately this is literally the metaphor of preaching to the choir.

Unless you want a social media raid on this guy, all we can really say is sorry and move on.


#15

It is really unfortunate to hear stories like this as this is the kind of thing that keeps women from joining the hobby. If I ever witness anything like this occurring, I will definitely as politely as possible tell “that guy” that it is uncalled for to treat anyone (male or female) like that, because it just scares people away.


#16

Even well-meaning people screw up, so it’s important to reiterate the effect this has on the community. If it’s merely preaching to the choir than at the least it serves as a good affirmation of what we hold important. But it can also be a reminder of how easy it is for incidents like this to crop up and how hard we have to work to help develop a welcoming and safe community, especially for those player who have been historically excluded and marginalised.


#17

It’s good to get these stories out here, thanks for sharing this. The Netrunner community has been awesome so far, but there’s always going to be some assholes that slip through, and it’s up to us to nip that shit in the bud.


#18

How do you bring Stimhack values into the local game stores though? I think that’s a great question to address as a community. I think there’s a danger in complacency—there’s a lot of work to be done in creating healthy environments for play, and pushing these anecdotes to other spaces erases them from our view when we should be mindful of how bad it still is for a good number of women players.

Also just saying, very few of the women I know who play are aware of Stimhack. Forums haven’t historically been the most welcoming place for them, so game store events are their primary source of experience with the ANR community. If that’s all they know, then it makes sense that they’d have different thoughts on how welcoming and friendly the community actually is.


#19

It’s more. It’s a reminder that creating a welcoming space for women and other minorities requires more than just behaving right individually, and shaking our heads behind the scenes when something like this happens. It requires speaking up in situations like these, which is, quite frankly, emotionally taxing and hard work. Everyone here should commit to be willing to bear that emotional burden when they find themselves in a situation like this where they don’t personally feel victimized but can tell someone else does.

The netrunner community does a lot of patting itself on the back about how progressive and inclusive it is, but we mustn’t forget that that isn’t just a state of being that we’ve already achieved. The work it takes to maintain that is unpleasant, but it’s our responsibility.

Plus, if we build expectations that most people will be willing to speak up about unacceptable behaviour, you’ll know when you go to speak up yourself that people around you will have your back, and it will be less stressful to get started.


#20

It’s worth noting that Stimhack is almost certainly not all paragons of virtue. For one thing, I’m sure there are lots of lurkers here who read but don’t post, and there are almost certainly regular posters who have behavior patterns that contribute to unfriendly environments. I don’t have anyone in mind saying that but the point is that people who contribute to those hostile environments aren’t bogey-men. They’re like the rest of us: readers, contributors, testers, mentors… And showing them via threads like this that their behavior hurts segments of the community that they aren’t paying sufficient attention to will help them figure out how to be better. We all learn at some point to pay closer attention to how our behavior affects others and it’s safe to assume someone is reading stimhack who needs help noticing their behavior issues. This thread’s presence (and the community leaders in it voicing their support) could help those folk stop being part of the problem.