Saturday, July 28, 2012

This ain't the Olympics (on being kind to n00bs)

Hey folks, SinSynn here.

It may come as a surprise to some that I love the Olympics. Summer or winter, it doesn't matter to me. I luvs 'em.
Olympic athletes have a singular purity of purpose that I admire. Their entire lives orbit around the sport they participate in, and their goal is simple- bring home Gold for the country they represent. Not just for themselves, but for their country.

*I react this way when I roll 6's*

Olympic athletes tend to maintain a level of professionalism and sportsmanship throughout the games that I respect. There's honor there, by and large, and despite my general disdain for sports, I find myself drawn in every time the Olympics roll around.
So here's me, hoping Michael Phelps put the bong down and got his practice laps in (nice job qualifying, Mike!), hoping Hope Solo is on point in goal and the US Women's Soccer team brings home the Gold and avenges their World Cup loss, and getting a huge kick outta Rowan Atkinson during the opening ceremony.
Ah, good ol' competition. To me, the Olympics prove that it's a 'good thing.' Events like the Olympics give me hope in humanity.

And then there's the Ultimate Rival....sigh.

One of our recent debates has centered around the fact that our gaming club has asked him to 'be nicer' when giving demo games of Flames of War. He was nominated for this task simply because he owns so much FoW stuffs (both models and terrain), that he can literally leave several armies at the store at all times solely for this purpose. Customers visiting the game store we play at who express interest in FoW can schedule a demo game with the staff, and the Ultimate Rival will show up and talk them through the basics.
That's the theory, anyway.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, the Ultimate Rival has taken great joy in crushing each and every person he's given a demo game to. The last four people he's beaten never returned to the store, and well, that ain't good, for obvious reasons.
We want to grow our FoW community, not drive people away. We want the store where we play to make money.
Y'know- professionalism. Sportsmanship.
There's a time for hard-core competition, for sure, but there's also a time for training, for teaching and learning. When it comes to hand-holding a baby seal through his first game of anything, that simply isn't the time to get all competitive, in my opinion.

*The new guy ain't ready for this level yet (but damn- Hope Solo is tough! No header for you!)*

I recently introduced my friend Nascar (we all have nicknames where I live) to FoW, and I had a LOT of fun doing it. Seeing my buddy all amped up and hanging on every roll of the dice Maybe I'm a lil' jaded. Maybe I've played so many games that I don't have the same level of enthusiasm any more, I dunno.
Oh, but seeing Nascar jumping up and down, pumping his fist at every successful save bought it all back to me.

I let him win the first game, and I had absolutely no issues doing so. I was happy to do it, in fact. Nascar had a huge grin, and his eyes shone with victory. In that moment, he was filled with hobby joy, and I'd be a flat out liar if I said that I wasn't happy, just seeing him happy.
I know I did the right thing, because he immediately asked me if we could play another. I'm absolutely certain I did the right thing, becasue halfway through our second game, he was animatedly discussing his plans for the third. We played on until well after midnight.
We have a game scheduled for later today.

Sometimes I think experienced gamers may have forgotten what being a noob felt like. Worse yet, I think that some experienced gamers use the word noob as an insult. This is especially prevalent in on-line gaming, but it occurs in our hobby, as well. Many of the games we play are complex, and possibly intimidating to the newcomer. More than that, mini-gaming represents a considerable investment in both time and money.
It behooves us, as a community, to kindle the interest shown by the new bloods, not to discourage them.

Take care of the noobs. Represent our community in a friendly manner. Be inclusive, be welcoming.
Save your Olympic caliber play for where it matters, at a tournament.
That's all I have to say about that.

Until next time, folks- Exit with catchphrase!



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

[Weekly Words on Women] Women Owners

A few of you know that I own a FLGS. I talk about it here now and then, and a lot more often over here.

I work at the store at least once a week, and more often if I'm needed or if I can. That leaves a lot of time that I am not there. For the most part, the store operations are run by TheDude and our employees.

Many times, because of how much work TheDude and the employees do, I feel like an out an out fraud, saying that I'm an owner. But the reality is, that's in MY head. I do all the negotiations with service providers, and have the connections in the professional networks we use. My name is on all the important paperwork. I make as many decisions as TheDude, and those decisions are just as essential and relevant as any he makes. I'm involved in as much of the running of the store as TheDude; just in a different way than his work. That doesn't make what I do less valid, it just makes it different.

I've previously wondered, where are the ladies; and found that in the hobby world, there just aren't that many. I struck upon a strange discovery recently- that all the powerful movers and shakers that happen to be ladies are in the CRAFT world, and there just aren't very many in the HOBBY world. Looking at crafting; there's a virtual cornucopia of women owners and designers (Martha Stewart just to name one), and there are very few men in crafting. The exceptions appear to be in highly technical crafts or crafts that veer into art territories, where there are plenty of men (Bob Ross is dead, but you get the idea). I have to wonder what that says about men and women; and if it has any relevance to me at all.

I look around at the gaming and geeky landscape, and I'm fairly alone as a woman in charge. There are not very many (if any) women that operate game stores, game companies, publishing houses, or who design games. There aren't a lot of ladies that are featured artists, or win a lot of contests, or who write adventures. 

How many of us are there in the hobby landscape? How many women are bosses, developers, creators, innovators, writers, publishers, artists, studio heads or any of the other various positions of power or influence in this geeky world? How many of these women love what they do? How many are doing things in action and not in words/lip service?

I can really only think of two "big names"- Margaret Weis and Felicia Day. I'm not a big name by any stretch of the imagination; I'm barely recognizable outside my inner circle. I often wonder if I have the passion, the drive, the energy, dedication and fearlessness to move to the next step and take my business to a higher level.

When I think about the level of dedication and devotion needed to "step it up", I think of my personal role model; Megan Hunt aka Princess Lasertron. Yes, she's in "crafting", but she has diligently pushed her brand into much more than just "artsy fartsy" stuff (how many people view crafting) and moved into high end design and fashion. I've been following her for a very long time, and I'm constantly impressed with how much work she puts into looking at what she needs to do on or with herself in order to grow her business and brand. She exudes a certain level of fearlessness that I envy and strive for; even if it is just what I see and not reality.

The self examination part of growth usually takes up more time and energy than it should for me, and my business stays where it is for now.  I'm also not the only one making these decisions, and TheDude has his own reservations and reasons for (or against) any growth or changes we make with the store.

It's not always easy being a female in this "wilderness of men" (my quote from a long time ago). There's a certain amount of "boys club mentality" at times; which I usually ignore. There's also some outright animosity aimed at women; especially PRETTY women (as seen here ). There are many times when the dismissive attitudes and condescension aimed in my general direction are frustrating enough to make me want to hang it up; and I've honestly asked if the reward is worth the work more than once.

Very few people know how much undermining and second guessing goes on with a business, especially one that's even close to successful.  We have quite a few people that hit us with "concerns" - concerns that are roughly disguised complaints that we aren't doing what they want; concerns that are unfair or hurtful, concerns that are fair but we aren't in a position to immediately correct whatever issue is present, concerns we don't have a direct avenue of addressing due to the form they're presented to us, concerns that are another fire we have to put out.  Trying to balance the desire for growth with the seemingly incessant quicksand of our customer's expectations and community feedback is a whole lot tougher than I ever imagined.

I do think it's worth it, in the long run. When I see my customers enjoying the community that I've worked hard to develop, when I see the laughter, the friendships, the volunteerism and dedication; I know I'm doing something right.

Being a woman owner, being proud of what I do is essential, because otherwise things will just get me down. I'm too thrilled with what I do to let that happen.