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Multiple reports of sexual harassment emerge from this year's Origins Game Fair

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Several occurences of sexual harassment are alleged to have taken place at this year’s Origins.

Reports first surfaced during the weekend of the show, with one designer and senior member of a games publisher alleged to have asked multiple women to “play test his erect penis”.

In a separate incident, another woman was reportedly followed for multiple blocks back to her hotel.

Tabletop gaming personality Bebo used Twitter to raise awareness of the distressing events on behalf of the anonymous victims, adding: “Anyone who says harassment of women isn’t an issue in the industry can eat dirt.”

Both situations were reported to GAMA, the organiser of Origins, which is said to be taking appropriate action in response, although the company is yet to issue a public statement regarding the events.

[UPDATE 22/6/18: GAMA has now issued the following statement on the events that took place at this year's Origins Game Fair. It is as follows:

"An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment. This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies.

"To ensure that a thorough review of any allegation is conducted, we must have statements from individuals with firsthand knowledge of the event. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this instance so gathering the information is taking more time. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward and share a statement after an incident occurs, but with the cooperation from individuals involved we can address these situations in a timely fashion.

"As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.
This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging.

"Part of our process review is acknowledging that we need to broaden the community services available for attendees at the show. This includes less intrusive methods for reporting issues of harassment while still ensuring we have firsthand reporting and providing a more welcoming setting if an attendee is not comfortable with speaking directly to law enforcement or show staff.

"We are working with the community to enhance those services, adding Victim Services staff as another avenue for attendees to report violations. We are also working with the Columbus Police Department to establish an online reporting process that is immediately accessible to everyone, less intrusive yet still capable of channeling vital information to us on-site so we can act appropriately. We want this process to be non-intrusive and user-friendly so that any person experiencing/witnessing harassment feels comfortable reporting the issue.

"It is very important that if you are being harassed or are in any way endangered, you report it immediately. We cannot address issues that are unreported and void specific details that only those individuals with firsthand knowledge can provide.

"The idea that this sort of behavior is happening disturbs us greatly and we simply will not tolerate harassment in any form. We want to work together as a community to ensure that everyone is being treated fairly and equally."]

The designer alleged to be responsible is yet to respond to the outcry. [UPDATE: The designer concerned has since posted a statement to his Facebook denying the claims.]

Origins has a harassment policy on its website, which encourages victims to report any occurrences and states: “Harassment is generally any behaviour that alarms, threatens, or excessively annoys another person or group. Harassment includes offensive verbal comments [related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion], sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, unwelcome sexual attention, and false accusations of harassment. Attendees asked to stop any harassing behaviour are expected to comply immediately.”

A few days after the reports, UK content creator Katie Aidley revealed that she was one of the Origins attendees harassed, and had spoken to GAMA about her experience. [CLARIFICATION: Aidley has not suggested that she was one of the women approached by the designer mentioned above, nor the woman followed to her hotel.]

Aidley followed her initial tweet with a lengthy account detailing multiple experiences of being sexually harassed by members of the industry at several different conventions over multiple years.

“A situation happened at Origins this past week and before I had even had time to process it and deal with it, it was all over the internet from many sources,” Aidley wrote. “I then spent the entire weekend getting abuse and being bombarded with messages and tweets asking what had happened and asking me to tell the truth and confirm the allegations. This. Is. Not. Support. Listen to women when they tell you they have been sexually harassed.

“There was an incident at a convention a few years ago. Somebody that was well-known in the industry at that time cornered me in an elevator and refused to let me go until I kissed him. When I refused, he just became more forceful. 

There have been times that well-known game designers have sent me inappropriate messages and pictures constantly when I have asked them to stop and have then proceeded to make ME feel guilty or bad about what was happening.  That this would ruin their marriage and they were just joking around. This is not a joke.”

She concluded: “There is so much more to this story, and more that I will reveal when I feel it is safe to do so but the first step is to recognize that this does happen, more often than you think and we need to start realising this and we need to start taking steps to eliminate [sic] and create safe spaces.”

The events at Origins follow several high-profile reports of women being harassed in the tabletop community during the last year, including the departure of one of Magic: The Gathering’s biggest cosplayers after being targeted for abuse by a male video personality. The situation led Magic publisher Wizards of the Coast to outline its community ‘expectations’ regarding harassment.

In November, roleplaying publisher Green Ronin cut its ties with C.A. Suleiman after the writer was accused of sexually harassing visitors of horror convention StokerCon, from which he was later permanently banned.

Scythe and Charterstone creator Jamey Stegmaier penned an open letter to gamers last year urging them to call out harassers.

“The gaming community can be a wonderfully welcoming place for people of all shapes, sizes, creeds, races, genders, nationalities, sexualities and ages,” the designer wrote.

“The entire industry – gamers, designers, publishers, etc. – benefits from this diversity and ever-expanding community. So don’t harass people who are different than you, and when you see harassment happening (in person or online), don’t turn a blind eye.”

Origins failed to respond to Tabletop Gaming when contacted regarding the allegations of sexual harassment by the time this story went to press.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yesterday (Thursday, June 21st), we published the above article concerning allegations of sexual harassment that had allegedly taken place at this year’s Origins Game Fair. In the piece, we cited several sources, including two members of the gaming community who had been at the convention: one of whom had raised public awareness of two events on the behalf of two anonymous women affected, and one who was herself a victim of harassment in a separate incident.

Needless to say, the incidents were shocking, distressing and upsetting to read about – harassment is absolutely unacceptable in any form, in any industry, and continues to be a particularly toxic and damaging problem among the tabletop community that demands addressing and stamping out for good. When the first reports of sexual harassment at Origins emerged, we immediately reached out to the organisers to obtain further details and a statement on the incidents, but were never contacted back. While we completely believed the victims’ accounts and felt strongly that harassment is something that should be confronted rather than shied away from, we decided that the right move at the time given the lack of concrete information available was to hold off on reporting the story to avoid any risk of inaccuracy or misrepresentation of the truth, as well as to protect those involved.

A few days later, one of the victims published a bravely honest and open public account of their experiences of sexual harassment, both at Origins and in the wider community. Her courage in stepping forward and opening up the public discussion of harassment is absolutely to be commended, as reflected by the passionate and supportive response of the community to the post, which has since been shared hundreds of times and read by tens of thousands. With this new information, we felt that the time was right to report the story, anchoring the victims’ public descriptions of what happened with a wider context of sexual harassment in the tabletop industry – which Tabletop Gaming has prided itself on covering multiple times in the past with the sensitivity and severity it deserves.

Wishing to avoid hearsay and stick to the facts, we directly cited the victims’ firsthand accounts, avoiding any mention of the alleged harassers to protect those concerned and uphold accuracy. We believed that, as before, we had approached the serious and important topic with the level of respect, professionalism and thoughtfulness that it demanded, taking the time required to ensure that we weren’t simply quoting rumours or making assumptions. But we failed. In publishing the piece without first seeking the verification of those we quoted, we failed to fully demonstrate that sensitivity and respect, which is absolutely crucial to uphold when it comes to such a serious situation. When one of those concerned highlighted this, we immediately contacted them to apologise and ensure that the article accurately represented their experiences.

Consent of any kind is not an option: it is a necessity, and we are sorry that Tabletop Gaming’s usual level of standards wasn’t upheld here. We will continue to champion inclusivity, diversity and equality, and tackle harassment wherever we see it, in all its forms. We hope that you feel able to stand alongside us in doing so.

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