When I was a broke college student, I would visit my local game store to play Magic: The Gathering. Sometimes, I would encounter other players trying to mansplain the rules of the game to me—an experience many female gamers have had. When this occurred, however, the owner of the store always stuck up for me and told the offender to treat me as an equal player. I never forgot these moments and how comfortable I felt being in a gaming community where I felt safe.
In October, Source Comics and Games came under fire after former employee Lisa Olson published a post in the Twin Cities Geeks Facebook group that described in great detail how management and fellow workers sidelined LGBTQIA+ comics, misgendered trans customers, and failed to address sexist harassment in the store. The Source has since responded by announcing that it’s making changes to address these issues, including sensitivity and bias training for employees. One thing I hope those changes will include is creating a formal code of conduct policy for its store.
Creating a code of conduct is vital for places like game stores and conventions because of the diversity of identities among geeks in the Twin Cities and in communities everywhere. It should be prominently displayed and be available through the company’s website. A great example is the Gamers Den in Cambridge, Minnesota, which has a policy stating that abusive language will not be tolerated and details respect for employees and other gamers in the vicinity. I haven’t been to the Gamers Den yet, but because of this it has been added to my list of places where can feel safe gaming. Many local cons, including CONvergence, Anime Detour, and 2D Con, also have policies clearly posted on their websites and on site.
Besides being widely available, a code of conduct policy should be specific and explain the consequences of violating it, such as dismissal from the store. This should include respecting employees’ and customers’ pronouns and encourage the use of nongendered language to prevent accidentally misgendering someone (for example, using “them” instead of “he” or “she” to refer to an unknown person). It should include policies again ableist language and an explanation of invisible disabilities. It should ban sexist, racist, and queerphobic behavior. And, of course, the code needs to be consistently enforced. I recognize that as a cis, white woman, there’s a lot of discrimination I will never experience. These policies aren’t just for me but for the community as a whole and treating everyone with respect.
According to the statement by manager Patrick Brynildson published on the Source Facebook page in November, steps the store intends to take include putting up a “Diverse Perspectives” section with material written by LGBTQIA+ and nonwhite creators; applying a new hiring process to get more diverse employees on the floor; and installing automatic doors to make entering the store more accessible. This all sounds great, but there’s no mention of a code of conduct. The Shieldmaidens, a group for women who meet at Source to participate in nerdy activities together, also recommended a code of conduct in their open letter to the store published here on Twin Cities Geek.
The Source is adapting, but they have a long way to go to rebuild the relationships with local geeks. And the problems are not unique to one store. They can happen anywhere—but a code of conduct can help prevent them and create a system for dealing with them when they come up. This is a learning experience for all of us to help create a welcoming, beautiful, diverse geeky community.