Ropecon 2021 Guest of Honor Cat Tobin LOKI interview

Etä-Ropeconin 2021 yksi kunniavieraista on Cat Tobin, joka tunnetaan ehkä parhaiten Pelgrane Press -pelikustantamosta. Hän on ollut julkaisemassa yli sataa roolipeliä, roolipelaa ja larppaa. Tobin on tuonut kustantamolleen lukuisia palkintoja, kuten yleisön suosikki ENnien Gen Conissa.

Ropeconin kotisivut kuvailevat Tobinia myös seuraavasti:

”Tobin on myös suuri tasa-arvon ja feminismin puolestapuhuja alalla, ja tekee paljon työtä pelialalla Yhdistyneessä Kuningaskunnassa työtä tekevien naisten verkostoitumisen edistämiseksi. Omien sanojensa mukaan hän on suunnittelija, joka on kiinnostunut immersiosta ja oikeita tuntemuksia herättävistä peleistä.”

Päätimmekin kysyä LOKIn aktiiveilta, mitä he haluaisivat kysyä Tobinilta näiden kuvausten perusteella. Ja tässä Irlannin Corkista kotoisin olevan Cat Tobinin vastaukset tiukkoihin kysymyksiin!

Cat Tobin

How to start in the rpg industry and run a company?

The barriers to entry for new companies are lower than they’ve ever been. Previously, people wanting to set up new companies had to have a lot of financial capital to buy a print run of books to publish an RPG, to travel to conventions and buy advertising to market the RPG. The introduction of digital formats such as PDF, and print-on-demand services like Lightning Source, means that to set up an RPG company now, you just need to produce a game, upload it to itch.io or DriveThruRPG, and start marketing it on social media.

5 reasons why women should dare to start in the rpg industry and forget that it is a male dominated world?

  1. New RPGs ideas! Men have dictated the direction of RPG design for so long that the vast majority of them are…kind of the same, often with a focus on combat as a way of resolving conflict, and with domination of others and taking their stuff as a recurring narrative. We need different types of stories and play experiences, and more diversity means more creativity.
  2. Greater industry diversity generally. Women in RPGs are vocal advocates not just for gender diversity, but also for ethnic, sexual, and ability diversity. More women means more of everyone else, too, which is vital in a creative industry like ours that needs new ideas to thrive.
  3. ”If you can see it, you can be it”. We need more women designing, writing and running companies in the RPG industry so that younger women have role models and mentors, and internalise the message that they can also make their passion their career.
  4. Improved networking and industry communication. It seems to me that many new RPG companies reinvent the wheel, learning their business through trial-and-error, often making big mistakes along the way. Women are natural connectors of people and team-builders, so I think if we had more women in the industry, we’d have better support and education networks to help newcomers, as well as better communication among existing RPG companies and more sharing of skills and expertise.
  5. Women should be daring to start everywhere in this male-dominated world, not just in RPGs!!

Which stereotypically ”female” traits or abilities have been helpful in running a business in the rpg industry?

The traits and abilities we traditionally associated with women are some of the most vital in running a business in RPGs.

For a start, relationship building is key; the better your company’s relationships with colleagues, freelancers, suppliers and influencers, the more of advantage you’ll have in getting the best from them. Related to this is clarity and empathy in communication. Being able to communicate clearly and kindly is a vital skill for any RPG business owner.

The old classic of multitasking is also incredibly important in running an RPG business. Within a few minutes, you might be doing an interview for Finland’s largest RPG medium, have a significant error shot towards your desk from a printer, or have a critical business deadline loom against an unexpectedly virulent discussion on your social media. Being able to switch your attention quickly between tasks is vital!

It’s been my experience that women are generally better administrators and organisers, and that’s really important in a publishing business. Making a good plan and being able to find everything you need quickly through strong organisation are key skills in the constantly-shifting RPG industry.

How do you know, that your idea is a good one?

That’s a tricky question! Many people address that by just reusing ideas other people have been successful with, and that’s generally the easiest way of telling whether your idea is a commercially viable one – new ideas sell fewer games to start with.

If you have an original idea, researching similar ideas in other forms of media (e.g. film, TV shows, books) will give you a sense of whether it’s something people are interested in. You could also, if you’re not too precious about it, ask your social media followers what they think of it, or post on RPG design communities on Facebook or Reddit.

Your playtesting will also give you an accurate idea of how good your idea is, so be sure to capture playtester feedback at all stages of the design.

Can you tell us about the network for women making games in the UK mentioned in your wikipedia article?

When I ran Dragonmeet, a London-based convention, I wanted the guests to be as diverse as possible, but our tight budget meant that we could only have UK-based guests. I did a lot of research and really struggled to find women designing RPGs in the UK, so I decided to create a network to support and encourage more designers from underrepresented genders. So I created a Google+ community for non-men writers which included all the writers I was working with on Seven Wonders(Pelgrane Press’s storygames anthology), and adding other non-men as I encountered them, or as recommended by existing members. The goal was to provide a safe and supportive space to discuss RPG design with other RPG designers, particularly designs that related to the community’s lived experience, with a view to bolstering RPG publishing by non-men in the UK.

What advice would you give to women in Finland starting a network (like that) of our own?

Do it!! It only takes one or two people to get the ball rolling, and it’s a great way to develop your RPG writing and design skills, find like-minded playtesters, and have a safe space for asking questions you might feel uncomfortable posting on the wider internet, or working on RPGs with themes internet trolls love to pounce on, like feminism or racism.

Additionally, you have the advantage of being able to set up your network in Finnish, which would give further support to people who don’t have the English language skills to participate in international conversations – I’d guess women would be particularly impacted by that, having traditionally less leisure time and money to improve their language skills.

The biggest market for English language RPGs is the USA, and it can be difficult to get noticed over there as a newer designer. However, with a national community of designers, you can build a national RPG reputation and so make more of an impact internationally. You can do this through signal-boosting each others’ games on social media, and taking a booth at an international convention showcasing Finnish RPGs.

Kiitos haastattelusta, Cat! On ilo saada sinut Ropeconiin!

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