Gay Power

Stefano first talked with me about this game about a year and a half ago, at Modena Play. At the time, he was anxious about how it might be received, about whether or how one might be designated unsuited or ineligible for authoring such a thing, and about representation in general. Dozens of playtests later, and having weathered at least one internet storm based on exactly those things, he’s not anxious any more. He’s certain now – and pissed off in the very best way.

Allen Ginsberg, observing the Christopher Circle district soon after the riots which are the subject for the game, said of the gay community there: “They’ve lost that wounded look.” As has been noted by many who’ve written about it, this was the moment that marked the transition from the Mattachine Society’s slogan, “gay is good,” to the street slogan, “Gay Power.” That moment is, in the game, what we do.

This is one of the consulting/proto-game sessions from Lucca, just a week or so ago. I did six of them, and was very, very happy to see that Stonewall has hit the point of no return. No matter who says otherwise, we’re going to be seeing this thing finished and published.

The game’s squarely situated in a known family of play: structured freeform, powerful historical underpinnings, and pinpointed moments of crisis. It’s not unfamiliar to the author of Spione and Shahida, as indeed those games and others like Steal Away Jordan and Grey Ranks serve as the foundation for it. If you can believe this, it forges ahead into territory those games only glance at.

Ready for this? Stefano says, No Lines, no X-card. Seriously. This is deliberately dangerous, vulnerable, uncompromising play. You know what I think? That it ultimately succeeds or fails based on one thing alone: love. The characters suffer and defy oppression. The question is whether you can love them and in doing so, love aspects of one another, for real.

Anything else I have to say about it is in the video.

You’ll see as well that I’m developing a language to focus on the transition between writing for design and writing for play, emphasizing that the former needs to ignore the audience’s understanding, and the latter needs to focus only on the audience’s procedure. We can get more into this later as you’ll see me apply it in almost every session.

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4 responses to “Gay Power”

  1. I’m following Stefano and his

    I’m following Stefano and his game since the first steps, and look how much road he has done since then! I tried Stonewall 1969 just a bit less than two years ago, and it was a very insightful and wonderful experience.

    I consider myself one of his most motivated cheerleaders, and I have reason to say it, I think. I’m looking forward to seeing it published. Good luck, Stefano! wink

  2. I played this game and I’m still happily bleeding

    this is Filippo an Italian player (to give some context to all people ere)

    Thanks for the video: so many interesting things to hear and learn especially since I playtested the game this summer.

    I want to talk about that playtest as it relates strongly about one of the topics discussed in the video and in the accompanying text: Veils, lines and x-cards and the game being played with people already trusted.

    As we started to play the game resonated with me on a deep level, not directly on the queer part of the theme as I'm a etero cis gender white male but on the "political struggle" side: I'm an activist and my parents had always strong opinions and so on.

    So I found myself, after 10 minutes in the game, "real roleplay" not yet started, on the brink of tears and facing the choice to pull in the reins or to ride the tiger I decided to trust Stefano, his design and the safety rules: I let the tiger take my by his big pointy teeth and drag me along.

    Boy, what a game!
    Nearly 3 months after the game I'm still with watery eyes right now as I writing this.

    I knew it was a playtest so I just tried to push and push and push, and it worked.
    No X-card in the world would have me allowed to play like this and explore the themes of the game like this.
    X-card is thought like "oh, i don't want to be hurt" which could be fine, I guess, in some context of games with some specific purposes but… if someone had the power to tell me "no, this is too much this never happened I would have felt extremely frustrated: we want to "talk" about *this, we agreed to talk about it and now that I made myself vulnerable by bringing it to the table this you don't allow me to? WTF!?

    So I think is that usually the X-card is more like saying "oh, I don't want to feel to much"… which is not the same as not being hurt.
    I think the safe mechanics put in place by Stefano work really good in the direction of "we want to feel and I trust other people not to hurt me and help me if I'm hurting".

    One potential issue of course is that the game works best if you let the tiger drive you around and if you are not in an environment that has already build that kind of trust it can be difficult.
    But again I think the ritualized introduction of the safety mechanics that Stefano designed go to great lengths in trying to pave the right way…

    So: go Stefano, you know we are all cheering for you, this game rocks.

    • I completely agree with you.

      I completely agree with you. Only a couple of months ago, I was afraid to say so in my conversation with Keenan Kibrick, but when I did, I was amazed to receive his agreement. Then, one of the most important features of my trip to Lucca this year was discovering how widespread this agreement is. As you know, our playtest of Quella Volta Che resulted in a terrifying conversation about it – I realized my criticisms of the X-card were comparatively mild.

      Bluntly, it's time to de-sanctify the X-card. I want to set up a Monday Lab toward that end.

  3. Stonewall audience

    I haven't read the rules or played the game, but I've talked to my daughter (age 17) about the concept, and we both feel that this type of game would have tremendous payoffs for her age group. Stonewall was never mentioned in my education, and my daughter says it's only been cursorily mentioned in her classes. In addition, the building of empathy is so crucial, though it is often not a focus of education. 

    I'm curious about the demographics the playtest groups thus far and whether Stephano has tried the game out with a younger (16-18 year old) audience. Is the game appropriate for that group (or might it be modified to accomodate that group)? If he hasn't and wants an outside playtest group, I might be able to set something up with my gaming group (which consists of two teachers and a group of 16-18 year olds).

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