Wednesday, December 18, 2013

PAX: Diversity Lounges, a PR Near-Disaster

Quite recently it leaked that the Penny Arcade folks were going to have a "Roll for Diversity Hub and Lounge" at all upcoming PAX events (and since confirmed at Kotaku by Robert Khoo himself). The leak itself--which you can read more of here--specified that a space will be set aside for PAX attendees to get information on women, LGBTQ, people of colour, disabled folks, and mental health issues in gaming.

Now, that by itself sounds a little like a gay village or a ghetto, right? Everyone "diverse" sequestered off to the side. That's not all the information, however, but nobody on the Internet would ever jump to conclusions without all the data. That'd be absurd!

If you read more into the documents, they talk about how it can be a place in where community groups will have tables with info about promoting diversity in the industry and gaming, and gaming companies can use table slots to educate folks on how they promote diversity in the industry. A place where folks who can't afford Expo Hall space normally can use to educate the masses so to speak. And companies can't just use this as a way to get free Expo Hall space: if they want to promote products, it already has to have a booth elsewhere in the Expo Hall. It should be a place to learn about geek businesses that cater to diverse communities.

Of course, the first thing everyone jumped to was separate but equal, gay villages, or even calling it a zoo. Now, I'll be the first to say that Penny Arcade has some definite issues with communication and language, but at the same time Robert Khoo is a smart man. He's incredibly aware of how minority communities view them (mostly around Mike Krahulik's ignorant and often asinine comments), so I couldn't imagine him being as dumb as just segregating the minority populace and calling it a day.

Turns out that, surprise! There was more than meets the eye as far as the leaked internal document was concerned. Robert Khoo clarified to Kotaku what the lounges were about, though mostly they just reiterated what the leaked documents said, if anyone bothered to actually read them rather than jumping to conclusions. A central place does not mean that other panels, spaces, and such won't exist. A hub does not mean that it is a ghetto, and the gays and women aren't allowed out of their cage. Khoo specifies that it'll be a large room in a high traffic area, so rest assured folks won't be stuffed in a corner.

I, for one, am rather excited to see PAX take steps forward like this. It's unfortunate their message got muddied by a leak, and frankly the PA folks have never been that good at messaging things to begin with, so to see people jumping to negative conclusions isn't entirely unfair or surprising. But at the same time I love having panels around queer-gaming, ladies in games, and the like. Seeing a minority group of which I am a part of get traction and representation is fantastic, because it directly relates to my interests. So I'm interested to see how this Diversity Hub and Lounge works out, because execution here is everything, and if they can live up to their promise, perhaps we can amplify the message to the industry that we do want to be catered to, and we are a sizable buying force, and maybe, just maybe, we can cut down on the hatred in the gaming community as a whole, even just a little bit.

Perhaps I'll go to PAX East after all, if only to check this out.

1 comment:

  1. I had not heard of the leak until now. I'm glad Khoo was able to clarify some things. As with most things, it will all depend on how they implement it. It could be a new leaf for the Penny Arcade guys. Of course, if Mike decides to speak without thinking, it could add fuel to the fire.