Because the Culture Wars have now spread to every front imaginable, for the last few years board and tabletop games have been going through their own struggles as players traditionally marginalised in the space have fought for greater inclusion, in turn facing increasingly shrill levels of opposition. That opposition has taken a strange and hostile turn over the past week, with attendees of the huge Gen Con show being sent harassing messages from what looked like the convention’s staff themselves.
Some attendees posting online have shared racist and sexist messages they were receiving before they had even arrived at the show (which runs from today, August 4 until Sunday August 7), some claiming to come from show staff and security, others from fellow attendees. Here’s Monte Cook Games’ LaTia Jacquise getting text messages from someone falsely claiming to be part of the show’s security team:
CW: Nazi symbolism
-waves to you from Twitter, where you’re clearly watching me- 🙃 pic.twitter.com/H52s8NpuHW
— LaTia Jacquise 🔜 GenCon #2519 (@LaTiaJacquise) August 2, 2022
Here’s another example, provided by the show’s safety consultant Kelsey Danger, pointing out that the messages were designed to try to convince the targeted folks to not attend the show:
General @Gen_Con heads up:
There's a bunch of spammers going around pretending to be people with the intent of getting them cancelled/removed. If you get messages that seem overly gross and have names attached, they're likely fake. Here's an example: pic.twitter.com/h1WV5KunYf
— Mx. Magpie @ Gen Con 2022! (@mx_danger) August 1, 2022
Gen Con organisers have since issued a statement, saying:
We’re aware that there are harassers attempting to impersonate Gen Con attendees and staff via text and email. We encourage you not to engage with them and instead report any in concerns...
We're aware that there are harassers attempting to impersonate Gen Con attendees and staff via text and email. We encourage you not to engage with them and instead report any in concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org or our safety consultant, @mx_danger.#GenCon #GenConIndy pic.twitter.com/UQ3c4N0jDB
— Gen Con (@Gen_Con) August 2, 2022
The selected targeting of marginalised attendees led some to speculate that someone inside Gen Con had played a part, but Gen Con later denied this, saying that none of the attendees affected had provided their phone numbers to the organisers. Instead, it simply seems that folks who it would be assumed would be in attendance at the industry’s biggest North American show were targeted, along with anyone commenting or replying to tweets about the subject:
One more thing! This isn't internally. The folks affected don't have their phone numbers in our system.
— Mx. Magpie @ Gen Con 2022! (@mx_danger) August 2, 2022
If you or anyone you know was affected, Gen Con’s email address guide above is a useful tip to pass on. Hateful messages on Twitter should of course be reported immediately. UPDATE: Gen Con has also increased security around events including some of the affected attendees.
Gen Con is held every year in Indianapolis, and is the largest tabletop and board games event in North America, for both industry members and fans. The last pre-pandemic show in 2019 attracted nearly 70,000 attendees.