So designing games.
One of the weird things I've discovered over the past year is that I actually have ideas about games. I have the game I made for Game Chef (called Vovetas), I have another all-ages game I'm still working out, I have Daedalus, and I have A Comedy in Five Acts still on my plate, in addition to some far flung ideas about the steampunk mad scientist game, and a couple other RPGs and other things that I'm doing freelance (and, you know, my dissertation and syllabi and whatnot but lets not talk about that right now).
I have discovered during this period of time that yes, I really am a game designer. Not just a mechanics inventor or writer or editor, but a designer, designing games from scratch. I have opinions about what works and what doesn't, and although I don't get things right all the time, I get them right often enough in games that I feel as though this is not going to be something I give up lightly. I think it's especially important given that I'm a woman, and it's really freaking time that women in game design got credit for their work, and put their names out there -- I'm far from the only one, but I may be one of the few who's in a position to really exert the creative control and have production experience behind it.
Which sort of brings up the idea/problem/question -- how do I make this work with my very real and important to me academic life? How do I use it to pull others up and have them see their value and hear their voices too? How can I make my games a more useful mirror to a wider world? If I have a microphone, I ought to use it for something useful as well as something fun, you know? It has taken me a lot of years, and only now am I coming to understand forms of activism and how they can work in my life. My social anxiety makes it hard for me to protest in public or go to major political events. I don't have a lot of extra money to donate to things; grad student stipends aren't all that, you know, plus I have kids who need support as well. But issues of representation, offering a chance for other voices, helping out where I can... these are things I can do.
One of the things that's been brought home to me from the latest ToR debacle is how incredibly wasteful it is to create something tasteless and harmful, just because you can. I mean, sure, you can do that. You can also stick your hand in a blender. Both of these beg the question as to why you would bother when you could spend your time in so much more enjoyable and productive ways. And I'm not even saying that you have to avoid darkness or awful things. There's SO MUCH value in looking at and talking about the awful things in the world, even though it's hard to do (I do focus on the Gothic, after all, and let me tell you, it does not shy away from icky stuff). But your goal can't be to glorify or dismiss the bad stuff. You have to give it its proper weight and horror. The only way the Grand Guignol works is if you take it seriously and respect it; if you play the horror for comedy or, worse, treat it as passe or commonplace, then you're seriously screwing up and probably some people will be hurt by it.
If, as OBS suggests, we are to view RPGs as art (and I think there's an argument to be made there), then artistic integrity is a thing. Respect your work and its potential power, both in terms of an artistic statement and in terms of your audience. Respect the people who buy and read your work and don't subject them to schlock (or worse, try to play them for suckers). Respect the content and take it seriously. Respect that you have a voice to use that can be heard, and that you have a platform for it; that's no small thing in this world. Respect yourself -- is this something you won't be ashamed of when someone comes up to talk to you about it in five years? If you can't answer that straight on, then maybe it's not ready for primetime yet. Because seriously: anything less is a waste of everyone's time.