Let's Fangirl

Interview With Girl Gamer Gathering Founders Amerja and Maria!

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Girl Gamer Gathering.. AKA GGG. What’s it all about?

We sat down with the founders Maria and Amerja to discuss their up coming event Girl Gamer Gathering. GGG is a safe, all inclusive gathering for nerds, geeks, gamers, cosplayers, fans of anime and whatever else your nerdy brain can dream of. GGG takes place at the Radisson Ontario, CA Airport Hotel, on Friday the 1st through Sunday the 3rd of April 2016.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule for this interview, we truly appreciate it!

FURBY: What is the driving force or motivation behind GGG?

Maria: The biggest motivation for GGG is creating a place for the people who often don’t feel safe or comfortable in traditional gamer spaces to come and play. So not just girls, but LGBTIAQ people, non-nurotypical people, people of different ethnic backgrounds, etc

FURBY: Personally, I think that cosplay/gaming/conventions/etc should be a safe and fun place for everyone. Do ya’ll feel like this isn’t always the case?

Amerja: I think that while conventions genuinely are always trying to make a safe environment, it does not always necessarily mean it is inclusive. We believe that cosplay is not consent, and that everyone should be able to have fun, playing games, together as a community.

Maria: I agree that it should be, but it isn’t always the case. For example, GGG came about after I went to my fourth gaming convention in ten years. I’m a casual gamer who wants to get better so I kept trying to go to cons and learn. But I kept leaving early, usually before even playing any games because people, especially in my case a certain type of men, were so horrible. I would be condescended to, hit on, occasionally groped, followed, and all sorts of other stuff until I was so mad I would just leave. So I joked that I was going to start a gaming convention that I felt safe at. And so many people had had similar experiences that the idea grew and became GGG.

FURBY: I’m definitely a fan of cosplaying not being consent! I don’t approve of my cosplay and con friends being harassed. There’s been plenty of times that I see people like you described and I’ve stepped up to get them to back off.

What are some of the things that you’re planning to do that are different from other conventions in order to make it inclusive and help stop this kind of behavior from happening?

Maria: The first this is that we have a code of conduct, prohibiting harassment of any kind, that everyone has to follow. The second is we have a department called the Pink Paladins. Amerja, do you want to talk about that?

Pink Paladin

Amerja: Yes, I definitely would like to. Pink Paladins are a mix between a fairy godparent department and con ops. Our Pink Paladins main concerns are that everyone who wants to play games can do so in a fun and safe environment and that any harassment or conflict is resolved in a quick manner. We are not only concerned with physical violations of our code of conduct, but also verbal as well. It is our hope that with the Pink Paladins, our attendees will have just a bit more fun than at most conventions.

Maria: We are also providing ALL staff with training on what to do if they see a problem or if a problem is reported to them. See something, say something.

FURBY: That seems like an amazing idea. How are doing planning on dealing with conflicts?

Maria: We have a mediation department for smaller conflicts where both parties are open to the idea. For larger problems we have protocols ranging from warnings to banning to calling the police depending on the level and number of offense. Obviously we hope that we don’t have to use anything on the harsher end of the spectrum, but we want to make sure that we have all of our bases covered.

FURBY: I definitely like the idea behind Pink Paladins. Not that I mind stepping in to stop someone being a jerk or harassing someone, but it’s good to know that the staff will actually step in order to do something instead of just standing by with that “It’s not my problem” logic! I’ve seen that far too often at a few conventions in the past.

Maria: Absolutely! It is alway great when bystanders step in, but they shouldn’t have to. We really wanted to make people fell comfortable and welcome and I think Pink Paladins will really help with that. From dealing with code of conduct violations to seeing someone looking alone or confused and checking in with them, it’s all important to the feeling of the con.

FURBY: Now, is a little friendly competitive trash talking allowed or are we only talking about when someone takes it too far?

Maria: Friendly trash talking is allowed as long as it isn’t taken to far and everyone in the game is ok with it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to play! But each group playing a game can determine what level they are comfortable with and everyone involved in that game will be expected to abide by that. So some games will be full of trash talk and others won’t according to the comfort level of the players.

FURBY: That’s definitely understandable.

Let’s talk about some of the events that are planned for the event. What kind of guests do you have planned to show up and what kind of panels are you hosting?

Brianna WuMaria: Well, we have the amazing Brianna Wu as our electronic gaming GoH and Kristen and Andy Looney as our board/card game GoHs. Kristen and Brianna will be doing panels on game design, getting into gaming, and what it’s like being a woman in the gaming industry.
We will also have learn to play events and tournaments. Our biggest focus is on our gaming rooms though. We will have a boardgames room, RPGs, Collectables, LARPs, console gaming and a bring your own PC gaming room. There will be lots of games for gamers of all types and levels and hopefully a lot of fun!

FURBY: I don’t think I’ve seen a convention run a LARP room. Neat!

Maria: I love LARPs, so I’m pretty excited for it. My biggest problem running the convention is worrying that I won’t have much time to play!

FURBY: I’m pretty sure you’ll definitely get a few moments to sneak away. I’ve never thrown a convention so I don’t know how hard it is to put something of this scale together, what would you say has been the HARDEST thing to deal with so far? What has caused yall the biggest headache?

Maria: Finding staff. Getting a new convention off the ground takes a lot of dedicated people. I’m lucky that I have a core group of people who are really dedicated and hard working, but filling all of the smaller, but no less important, positions is kind of difficult. If anyone is interested we have a volunteer sign-up page on our website girlgamergathering.org.

FURBY: Are there perks to being part of staff?

Maria: You get to say that you staff! lol. The main perk is that if you work enough hours you get a pass on for next year.

FURBY: That’s pretty awesome. Free passes for the next year do seems like a good motivator

Maria: I like to think so.

FURBY: Do you gals hope that this convention will be something that sets the bar when it comes to creating a safe environment for all other conventions?

Maria: I don’t really want to set the bar because I’m sure we will mess up somewhere, hopefully small, because we’re human and humans mess things up. I’d like the bar to be even better. I just think we are a step in the right direction and I hope that other conventions decide that this is something that is worth really working on.

Amerja: I think also, we hope it sets a high standard for the gaming community. We are running a convention for gamers, by gamers, who are at least 51% girls (or female presenting) as a staffing policy. This helps to change perspectives, and hopefully, change some of the negative perceptions about gamers as a whole.

Maria: Exactly!

FURBY: So enough about the con! Let’s get personal!

How long have you gals been going to cons and what has been your favorite con so far? I mean, i’m pretty sure GGG will be your favorite con when it happens but until now!

Maria: I went to my first con when I was four. My mom ran the kids room. I’ve been going to at least one con a year (often many more) since I was eight and volunteering since I was 13 and old enough to be allowed. And I have two favorite cons on opposite end of the spectrum. SDCC and Wiscon.

Amerja: I have been attending conventions since 2007, where I went to one Anime Expo before I decided I wanted to be a part of making conventions happen. Since then I have been a part of AX, Anime Conji, Anime Los Angeles, AM2 and more. No where near where Maria is at with her experience, but I feel like conventions have been pretty consistent in my life since that first time. Too much fun not to be apart of. My favorite conventions are Tokyo Game Show, and Anime Los Angeles.

FURBY: Damn, since 4!? We got a veteran here. I’ll agree cons are definitely too much fun to not be apart of them! What is one con you haven’t gotten to go to yet that you wish to go in the future?

Maria: Well, it helps to have parents in the scene. And I want to go to Geek Girl Con in Seattle.

Amerja: E3 of course! The gamer in me would love the chance to be a part of that kind of industry expo.

FURBY: Oh you would be in heaven at E3 then. I’ve been a couple times due to friends hooking it up, it’s like a candy store for gamers!

What has been your favorite cosplays that you have done?

Wreck It Ralph
Amerja:
 My first cosplay was Vanellope Von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph. I might have to say it is my favorite since I have improved my sewing skills many times since the first version of the costume. I am currently working on my 2nd gaming cosplay, as Alyssa Anderson from Life is Strange.

Maria: Oh, so many! I think my favorite is Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6. She is such a wonderful happy nerd and it is so much fun being her.

FURBY: Your Vanellope cosplay is adorable! and I adooooorrrreeeedd Honey Lemon. I think Wasabi and her are my favorite characters from Big Hero 6

Maria: Me too!

FURBY: As gamers, What are you currently playing and what are you excited to come out?

Amerja: I am currently playing Heroes of the Storm, which I am barely at plat level in. Otherwise I am looking forward to the English version of Black Desert online, a Korean MMO with some amazing graphics and character customization.

Maria: I am currently playing lemmings. Old school and dorky but my favorite game. And as I said, I’m really still learning about gaming, so I’m not really up on what’s out. Looking forward to finding out though.

FURBY: Lemmings is a classic. You can’t knock the classics haha

Well Ladies, thank you for your time and thank you for amazing people. I can’t wait to see you all at the Gathering!

So if you want to check it out, remember to go to the OFFICIAL Girl Gamer Gathering site for all the details: http://www.girlgamergathering.org

Also, join their Facebook group for up to the minute details regarding the event! https://www.facebook.com/groups/girlgamergathering/