I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ConTessa Online - An Online Gaming Convention By Women For Everyone - Interview

A week or so ago I stumbled upon Contessa Online, slated as, "An Online Gaming Convention By Women For Everyone". I was intrigued by this title, and the concept especially since I was in two minds about its execution, purpose and overall success.

On one hand I applaud the initiative taken to organise a free online convention of this nature, dealing less with the topic of women in gaming and more with women who happen to love and play games.

On the other hand I can see the idea attracting criticism for its moderation procedure (or lack of), and somewhat frivolous content, the latter of which is completely intentional.

I'm also personally divided as to the choice of artwork style, which might seem like an odd thing to feel uncomfortable about, but I feel that it's overly cute, even in the fun context of this convention.

That said, speculation doesn't help, and the only way to find out more information is to ask questions - so I chatted to Stacy Dellorfano, the organiser to find out more.

Let me know your thoughts.

1. Tell us about ConTessa - what is it and how did the convention come into being?

ConTessa is a 4-day gaming extravaganza celebrating the women who play games, write games, and love games! Entirely run by women, ConTessa is all about showcasing the women who run, write, design, play, talk about and create games. Run by women, fun for everybody! ConTessa is not a forum for debate on gender issues and has no political agenda. Events will be fun, positive and informative – giving women center stage to talk about what they love about gaming and to share the games they love with everyone.

I started ConTessa after I noticed that most of the time when I and other women are invited into a conversation about games, we're asked to discuss our experience as women in gaming rather than as gamers. While relating our experiences and coming up with ways to make them better is a great thing to talk about and certainly important, it's easy to get caught up in the arguments and forget that the whole point of being gamers is to have fun. It started out as a hastily written-up Google document that I put together while on vacation over the holidays at my in-laws, and has been growing since then. 

2. What are you hoping to achieve with this convention?

Fun, fun, and more fun. The whole point of the convention is to give all of the women in the gaming world a platform to talk about the things that they love, and boy do they want to talk! The excitement that I've seen around the convention has honestly blown me away. There's going to be a lot of great stuff that comes out of this convention, which means that it can achieve lots of things. Education, great gaming, fun, networking, and new experiences are all great potential take-aways. 

3. Why did you make the decision to go purely online?

I run and play a lot of games via Hangout myself, and have found the Google+ RPG community to be a fantastic group of people and a brilliant set of resources. Having the convention online enables us to make it a truly worldwide convention. Plus, using all free tools online and a volunteer workforce allows us to put up a con that's free for all. 

4. How strict is the moderation process? 

Not terribly. The only thing I'm looking for is that the event adhere's to the spirit of the convention, and that the automated form system hasn't screwed up any of the formatting. Beyond that, if you want to run a game or put together a panel, all it takes is coming to our website and registering! 

5. This is a multi-pronged question you can answer in any way you wish - Do you think there's any danger of not being taken seriously? Conversely, do you WANT to be taken seriously? The artwork that you've chosen to use for the con definitely falls into the cutesy realm, and while that certainly has an appeal, why do you think this helps rather than hinders your cause?

I prefer to call the style whimsical. As an apolitical convention, we don't really have a cause. We're not here to change anyone's mind or prove any points. There are other places suited for that kind of work, one might even say the entire rest of the hobby. ConTessa is strictly a space for women to go and talk about, run, and play the many and varied games that they love.

6. What kind of person are you hoping to attract? 

We're hoping that the convention will pull together a nice cross-section of the gaming world. 

7. Obviously each session is limited in numbers, if there is a high demand for a specific session would you host multiple sessions on a single topic?

The great thing about Google Hangouts is that there really aren't the same amounts of limitations. While only a certain amount of players can play in a particular Hangout game (or video game or board game depending on the format), anyone can watch on YouTube over Hangouts on Air, and that means that panels don't have an audience restriction at all. Questions are taken through comments on the Google+ post that contains the Hangout video, and the panel moderator can read them off for their guests to answer. As for multiple sessions, that's up to the individual creating the event!

8. How do you feel a convention like this will benefit the perception of women in the videogaming arena?

Honestly, I've had more people interested in tabletop gaming than video gaming, but I'm hoping we'll get some panels and events centered around video games. They are one of my root loves, and I spent about ten years working in that industry, so seeing more women talking about video games would be splendid. However, I don't really have an opinion one way or another on how it will benefit or not benefit the perception of women anywhere. It'll be interesting to see what some of the residual effects are, but that's really not the point of the convention. Perceptions are for other people. ConTessa is for women. 

9. Have you faced any opposition or criticism when organising/publicising this event? 

Yes. My first draft was sloppy and far too biased towards my own personal opinions. It drew opposition from the fringes of either side of the debate, and a bit of trolling, to be fair. I did my best to look past the trolling and the mocking and the bad behavior to see what the real root concerns people had were, and I found that those concerns were valid. Future iterations contained less and less of my personal opinion, and I've now pretty much wiped it out entirely. I, of course, have my personal opinions, but ConTessa is sanctuary. It's that place where those opinions don't matter, just having fun. 

Since the latest few rewrites, however, I haven't really had any criticism. I don't necessarily expect it to stay that way, but people are welcome to their opinions and they're also welcome not to attend if their feelings on the subject are that strong. All we're here to do is to provide a place to have some fun. 

10. Anything else you'd like to add?

Just be sure to come by and check us out at http://www.contessaonline.com!

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