UPDATE: Kotaku has received confirmation from Robert Khoo of Penny Arcade that The Roll For Diversity – Hub and Lounge will be rolling out at future Penny Arcade Expos. The proposal for these is displayed below.
The “Roll for Diversity Hub and Lounge” will be launched as part of a push to provide a resource hub for PAX attendees in relation to marginalized communities within the gaming audience, including women, people of color, the disabled, LGBTQ communities and those with mental illness. It will be a hub for communication, networking and, hopefully, an increased understanding of issues facing these communities every day and the promotion of a tolerant, safe space within PAX.
The leaked documents outlining the proposed Diversity Hub and Lounge can be found below. Just click on the small images to see a bigger version:
The lounges, detailed as a separate space within the convention itself, have their own booths, tables, speakers and panel tracks, each with a focus on a company that serves a diverse community or is run by a diverse individual (or in the case of the panels, diversity issues and what I’m going to assume are issues of inclusivity in gaming).
They have their own information on diverse spaces and talks within and without the expo hall for the duration of the convention, their own security teams specially trained in “Safe Zone Training” (whatever that is), and generally appear to be an area where people of diverse backgrounds can chill out while non-diverse attendees can go to learn about people who aren’t like them in a tolerant space.
“…people can come to find out about all the different diversity related things happening in and around PAX”
“Diverse” is the key word here. So expect “diverse” vendors to get to set up their booths specifically to cater to their “diverse” clientele. “Diverse” individuals will feel safe around diversity enforcers trained in diversity. Specialists will be on hand to teach diversity to the slavering hordes of unwashed white men pounding down the pearly gates of humanism. You can bring your portfolio, and then get someone diverse to have a look at it.
Missing The Point?
Despite the proposal documents mentioning these spaces to be part of a continued effort “to provide a safe and welcoming environment,” in labeling an entire, separate little village as the “diverse” space, I think you’re running into a lot of potential problems, even if the experience is supposed to be focused on non-judgmental learning. For instance, why can’t the entire PAX space be explicitly marked as a safe space? Why does it appear that this is going to be the only area where someone might not feel threatened because of their ‘biological gender?’
There are the added concerns about the “diversity specialists” on hand to teach people about diversity in the gaming industry. Who are they, and who is vetting them? Why have these individuals been chosen to specifically represent queer gamers or woman gamers, or gamers of color? And why does the promotional registration policy for the diversity lounge seem so draconian?
For clarification on that last point, here is how the promotional registration policy reads:
“If you wish to promote any of your products or services, that product or service must already be represented in the EXPO Hall, or your company must also have a booth in the EXPO Hall. If you only wish to interface with the community and not promote products, no representation in the EXPO Hall is required.”
“…the hubs could lead to a few practical breakthroughs in how ‘diversity issues’ are handled within the frame of conventions the scope of PAX.”
Forcing anyone looking to promote artful products of their experience, as many marginalized members of the gaming community do, to register with the main hall seems like a very sanitized method of controlling just how diverse these conversations can get, especially when you factor in that whole dickwolves saga from earlier this year. That didn’t seem very diverse at all. In fact, it caused The Fullbright Company, and other developers and organizations, to boycott PAX entirely.
To be fair, the hubs could lead to a few practical breakthroughs in how “diversity issues” are handled within the frame of conventions the scope of PAX. GaymerX, a much smaller convention, already does it right. It manages this mostly by being an incredibly tolerant, safe space with loads of colorful people enjoying what they love, without needing a special lounge to let them feel included. Imagine that.