Over the last few days, perhaps you've seen it, there has been a great and tremendous groundswell effort on Twitter called #1reasonwhy, followed by #1reasonmentors and #1reasontobe. For those not familiar this effort was started by a question -- "Why aren't there more female game designers?" which is a wonderful question.
And then this whole idea sort of ballooned up and became a movement. It even had some rather idiotic trolls involved, which is always nice to see (not really).
I threw my hat into the ring to be a mentor, pretty much without any prodding - it just seemed to be the thing to do. And then I thought about it, still didn't question it, and hold out hope that someone out there in the big world can be helped by some of the things I do.
Yes, yes, you can argue that loads of people already have been helped by what I do and who I am, and while I have some great evidence of that, I still...don't always see it. To me, it's one thing to give advice about sentence construction or idea generation, it's another thing to be a mentor. That word...means things to me, it has weight and a responsibility behind it.
So let's speak a moment about some relevant things. I'm a white male, well-educated, who grew up in an affluent town and because my family had a good income I was afforded many things that others would call luxuries. But not once have I ever been told to "check my privilege" or "back off white guy" (okay, I made that second one up) because how I was raised or how I live my life does not interfere with some very fundamental ideas I have. I outline them here:
1. Every person, regardless of gender, age, orientation, race or whatever other characteristic should be able to express themselves however they want -- if that means they want to make games, write novels, paint pictures, be a florist, whatever...they should be free and able to do so without harassment.
2. Every person no matter what or who they are should be able to live comfortably, without the fear being belittled, minimized, marginalized or written off. Again "just" because you're a....whoever you are does not mean that you're in anyway inferior or second-rate.
What matters to me is the work produced. Is the book any good? Is the art captivating? Does the food taste good? Perhaps I'm a hedonist, but to me it doesn't matter who or what someone is - if they want to do something and it's within my power to help them (and they ask for my help) I'll help, to the best of my ability.
With all the labels that get either put on people, or all the labels that get self-imposed (either out of pride or guilt or whatever), it's not my place to cement them. It's not my place to even deal with them, unless they come up in the course of working together. (And you'd be surprised how rarely that happens). I'm not one to debate how important the label is, because to me, I don't see a lot of these labels. I'm sure some of them have a story behind them, I'm sure some of them get propped up as shields just as others are erroneous, but I don't really see them, and not because I'm oblivious -- when I work with someone, it's not about their gender, their race, their whatever, it's just about the work we do together. That's pretty merit-based. And to my mind, pretty equal.
I'm proud of myself for saying I would mentor people wanting to get started in the "industry". I don't know if this post aided or ruined that effort, but above all else, I wrote the truth here, and that made me happy.
I'm proud of everyone who spoke up, especially so if they don't normally.
We'll talk soon.
PS You're awesome.