Tag: Enforcers

Ex-Enforcer

Despite living with it for over two decades, I know very little about grief.

I know that it confuses me, makes me angry, aggravates my pain, and informs some of my worst decisions. Living with a fear of failure and loss that puts the sword of Damocles to shame has lent my personality an intensity that can be difficult for others to fathom. I talk too much, laugh too loud, flirt too heavily, cry over small setbacks, and field catastrophic thoughts that have taken me to the brink of suicide on more than one occasion. It takes effort to pull myself back from that brink, and that effort best takes form in the written word.

Case in point: On January 13th, I was informed that I had been reported to the Safety Circle within the Enforcers “regarding an incident that occurred at another convention.” I was suspended from the Enforcers, which prevented me from attending PAX South. I told the Safety Circle I have nothing to hide, and was willing to work with them to resolve the issue. On February 4, I finally received word that my suspension is permanent. When I followed up, I was simply told that “there is a pattern of behavior … that doesn’t have clear remediation steps.” Other than this, I have been left entirely in the dark. This is how the Safety Circle operates to protect potential victims, and reports submitted to the Circle are anonymous. While the charter of the Circle mentions mediation “between the reporting Enforcer and the other parties involved”, it does not mention any recourse for the accused to learn more about the decision, let alone offer any defense against an allegation. That is its nature. This is its power. It is a mechanism to protect the vulnerable and innocent. And like any such mechanism, it can be used with ulterior motives, or go off by accident; it can be just as much a source of fear as it is a source of comfort. I have felt the full force of it in the span of less than a month, with no warning, no hint of an issue beforehand, no clear idea of the whys or wherefores.

This was me after I found out my suspension is permanent.

The wristband is from Harborview Medical Center. The night I got the news, I put myself there. I didn’t trust myself. I feared my own darkness. It would have been easy, oh so easy, to open up my veins, or take one step too many from a tall place, or swim out into deep water until I was too tired to turn back. I planned each way. I weighed pros and cons. I felt it would be best for everyone. My brain began listing the people who would be throwing a party upon news of my death.

I was wrong. And I knew it. So I called 911.

Suicidality is nothing new for me. I was thinking about killing myself with my mother’s kitchen knives when I was a teenager. Conversations with my older sister kept me from doing anything monumentally stupid. And then she died. Suddenly, violently, without warning. It was my first full-on encounter with true grief, and left me with traumas including severe abandonment issues and a very odd perception on the fleeting nature of mortal life.

I’ve grieved my innocence and my sanity. I’ve grieved my failure to build the family I thought I wanted. I’ve grieved for career derailments and writing projects that I, with a fear of abandonment, had to abandon so better projects could be completed.

I grieve for my broken heart and shattered mind.

And now, this.

These shirts are colors I will never wear again. Coming to terms with the fact that my suspension is permanent, and there isn’t a damned thing I can do about it – no character witnesses on my behalf, no appeal process, no representation or rights – I have forced myself to turn to why I took up the colors in the first place.

It wasn’t for Penny Arcade.

It wasn’t for the gaming companies.

It wasn’t even for the show itself.

In the end, it was for people like this.

Courtesy The Mary SueCourtesy The Mary SueCourtesy The Mary Sue

Once I was in the thick of the show, I realized there was no way I could bring anything but my best to the floor. I was not going to let my fellow Enforcers down. Having attended a PAX before Enforcing, I knew that the Enforcers I interacted with – those managing and entertaining lines, facilitating panels, busting their asses on the Expo floor, so many I didn’t see – were there for the attendees, to make the show as personal and smooth as possible so the sole concern of an individual attendee was where the next attraction might be. I needed to bring that experience in my own way, and help my fellow Enforcers do the same, from before the show opened until the very moment it closed.

It shouldn’t be about the badge, I reasoned; it should be about the people who paid and traveled to be there. The excitement in a child’s eyes when they saw the Expo floor for the first time. The roar of the crowd when the Protomen take the stage. The cosplayers, the pranksters, the anxious and the weary, the hopeful and the innocent. They deserved nothing less than for a schlub like me to be at my very best.

So that is what I did. Every PAX. Every time.

In the end, not knowing the exact circumstances of my suspension may do me a favor. I drove myself nearly inconsolably mad trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, if I’d missed something, if the obvious explanation was the truth or if something else had come into play years ago that set me up for failure, long before my heart was truly broken and my soul left vulnerable to a near-fatal blow like this one. In the end, when I look back at my years of Enforcing, it isn’t failure or confusion I feel.

It’s humility.

I’m humbled to have been among such excellent human beings for so long. I’m humbled to have been chosen to lead, on more than one occasion, and given praise for my leadership. I’m humbled to have been so focused on working to the best of my ability, and pushing my limits past their breaking points, that I was forced, again on more than one occasion, to take myself from the floor lest real damage be done to myself. I’m humbled to know my fighting was not in vain. I’m humbled that my contribution mattered, that I mattered.

I fought battles large and small over those years. And this last one, this surprise attack, is one I lost.

It blindsided me. It devastated me. It wounded me to the point that I was certain I would not survive the night.

But I did.

And it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down.

What matters is, you keep getting back up.

This is me, now. Bearing the colors I once wore with pride. The colors that forever stain my broken heart, even as it beats on, strong and loud, doing its utmost to drown out the voices of denial, derision, and madness.

Instead, I hear the voices of my fellow Enforcers. The ones who brought me into their lives. The ones who became my friends, and so much more. The ones I chose to become a second family, bound in honor and love.

And, much to my blushing humility, the cheeky sods chose me right back.

To said cheeky sods (you know who you are): Thank you. You know what you mean to me. And when I see you face to face, I’ll remind you. ‘Cause I’m a cheeky sod, too.

To whomever reported me: I’m sorry you felt this was your only option. I’m sorry you weren’t comfortable bringing this up to me person to person, or face to face, which I completely understand. I’m sorry things had to end this way. And I am so deeply, thoroughly, sincerely sorry for any discomfort I may have caused you. I hope that you are satisfied with this punishment, and that your life going forward is peaceful and happy.

To the Enforcers still “in”: Please talk about this. Fear can be a powerful cause for silence, and the only way we have to fight that fear is to break that silence. Isn’t that why the Safety Circle was established in the first place? If something makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, if you feel like you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, no matter who or what is making you feel afraid, I encourage you to share that, be honest about it, and do what you can to improve the community. You are Enforcers. That is supposed to mean something. Your strength is in standing together, and supporting one another, not trying to tear each other down. Do that, and maybe my loss might actually mean something, too.

I may not know a great deal about grief. I may never know the exact circumstances of why this particular tragedy struck and threatened my life. I may not know what the future holds for me.

But I know that this is not the end of me.

I know that I am loved, and esteemed, and honored, and cherished, and necessary.

I know that I can look back on my work as an Enforcer with no shame and no regrets.

I know who I can trust, who’s been there for me, and for whom I will remain, stalwart and compassionate, for as long as I naturally last.

And I know that even when something threatens to put me in my grave, the best thing I can do is dig. Dig deep. Keep digging.

Because one I’ve broken through, it will mean that I, in the end, have won.

After all, if you’re going to dig, you should dig for the heavens.

Spoiler

You can’t feel the heat until you hold your hand over the flame
You have to cross the line just to remember where it lays
You won’t know your worth now, son, until you take a hit
And you won’t find the beat until you lose yourself in it

 

That’s why we won’t back down
We won’t run and hide
Yeah, ’cause these are the things that we can’t deny
I’m passing over you like a satellite
So catch me if I fall
That’s why we stick to your game plans and party lines
But at night we’re conspiring by candlelight
We are the orphans of the American dream
So shine your light on me

 

You can’t fill your cup until you empty all it has
You can’t understand what lays ahead
If you don’t understand the past
You’ll never learn to fly now
’til you’re standing at the cliff

And you can’t truly love until you’ve given up on it

 

That’s why we won’t back down
We won’t run and hide
Yeah, ’cause these are the things that we can’t deny
I’m passing over you like a satellite
So catch me if I fall
That’s why we stick to your game plans and party lines
But at night we’re conspiring by candlelight
We are the orphans of the American dream
So shine your light on me

 

She told me that she never could face the world again
So I offered up a plan

 

We’ll sneak out while they sleep
And sail off in the night.
We’ll come clean and start over, the rest of our lives.
When we’re gone we’ll stay gone.
Out of sight, out of mind.
It’s not too late,
We have the rest of our lives.

 

We’ll sneak out while they sleep
And sail off in the night.
We’ll come clean and start over, the rest of our lives.
When we’re gone we’ll stay gone.
Out of sight, out of mind.
It’s not too late.
We have the rest of our lives.

 

The rest of our lives…

 

Because we won’t back down
We won’t run and hide
Yeah, ’cause these are the things that we can’t deny
I’m passing over you like a satellite
So catch me if I fall
That’s why we stick to your game plans and party lines
But at night we’re conspiring by candlelight
We are the orphans of the American dream
So shine your light on me (shine your light on me)

 

No, we won’t back down
We won’t run and hide
Yeah, ’cause these are the things that we can’t deny (shine your light on me)
I’m passing over you like a satellite
‘Cause these are the things that we can’t deny now!
This is a life that you can’t deny us now.

 

 

(Enforcer images courtesy The Mary Sue and posted on Blue Ink Alchemy here; featured Enforcers are RGB, Ysterath, oogmar, and NotHanz. Original images hosted by Auspex on her Tumblr.)

From the Vault: Stubborn Stinkbrain

I’m working on overcoming a severe bout of depression. Thank you for being patient. While I keep making steps forward, I continue putting effort into being less of a “selfish diaper-baby” as Ralph would put it. And with a bunch of new Enforcers joining the fold, I have to remind myself that quitting what I love is not the answer to anything. So it’s time this post came back.


Courtesy Disney

I used to be really, really good at quitting.

I can think of several instances in my past where I would be attempting something, run into the first real obstacle, and just give up. I would avoid putting myself in positions where I would have to deal with any major difficulties or consequences. I hate to admit it, but I was something of a coward. While I still remain afraid of screwing up, letting people down, or hurting the feelings of those I care about, I’ve learned that giving up before all alternatives are exhausted yields only more doubt, disappointment, and is generally less favorable than making legitimate efforts.

It feels a bit odd for me to talk about hardships and difficulties when I’m a white cis male in the first world, which is about as privileged as you can get. I’m not really wanting for food, shelter, clothing, or any of the essentials a human being needs. It should be an easy life for me. I’m choosing to make it more difficult by involving myself in the things I choose to be involved in, and in that I am engineering my own defeats. And yet, I know if I simply enjoy my privileges and do not take steps to share what I can with the world around me, I am no better than a day-trader on Wall Street or a corrupt corporate executive. So I try to make the world a better place, and sometimes, the world seems determined to remain terrible.

Case in point: I’ve made the choice to be an Enforcer, part of the PAX volunteer staff, and by extension, I am tangentially connected to Penny Arcade and its creators. Mike (“Gabe”) has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to sensitive issues, and this was the case yesterday. He made a comment that was offensive to the transgender community, and the resulting exchange has caused people to call for PAX boycotts and, if I understand the situation correctly, several of my fellow Enforcers have quit in a show of solidarity with those offended by Mike’s comment. They more than likely see Mike’s apology and exchange with Sophie Prell as half-hearted or perfunctory or some other word for insincere.

I for one am willing to give Mike the benefit of the doubt. As I see it, the possibilities are that he makes comments that he thinks are funny and only occasionally gets it right; he puts his foot in his mouth more often than not by tweeting before he thinks; or he’s a deplorable human being through and through. What I have seen and heard of the man leads me to believe that the first two cases are the most likely. Considering his brand is one that is mostly comedic, the first is the logical conclusion for me to draw. Penny Arcade has done a lot for the gaming community, children’s charities, and a more inclusive Internet in general; why would I want to disassociate from that?

Don’t get me wrong. Anybody who feels strongly enough to quit or boycott has my understanding. Not everybody is wired the way I am. And, to be frank, I could be wired completely wrong. I’m willing to consider and even accept that, if presented with sufficient evidence.

But I refuse, to the core of my being, to quit now. Not when I can try to change things for the better.

I know that I can’t change people who don’t want to change. And I know that my words and actions may have zero effect on the people or world around me in general. I accept that. What I will not accept is the idea that I cannot change anything at all on an individual level. I don’t want to muck around with people’s brains to make them what I would consider “better” – each individual is entitled to be and think and feel however they want to be and think and feel. I have no claim to change things within another person’s being by force. That isn’t right.

All I can do, all I want to do, is be the best human individual I can be, engage as often as possible in what I consider to be better behavior, exemplify compassion and understanding for my fellow human beings, and do what I can, small as it may be, to make the world around me a better place. Every person deserves to be treated with respect, and the best way for me to get that idea into the heads of others is to be as respectful as I can with everyone around me, especially strangers. As an Enforcer, I meet thousands of strangers. This, to me, is an excellent way to ensure that I am doing as much as possible to be the change I want to see in the world. I may affect even more if I can get more writing off the ground; time will tell on that score.

But I’m not going to quit either, I’m not going to quit giving people the benefit of the doubt, I’m not going to quit being me, even if I can be overly optimistic and occasionally gullible and something of a stubborn, tactless, somewhat arrogant stinkbrain from time to time.

This is who I am. This is who I choose to be.

Take it or leave it.

PAX East 2014 After-Action Report

PAX East 2014 Expo Floor

It’s been two years since I started attending Penny Arcade Expos. A year ago, I began working as an Enforcer for said events. It’s not a ton of experience, but it’s built on top of all I’ve done before. In light of that, I have to say this PAX East was the smoothest one yet, and one of the best convention experiences I’ve had in a long time.

In previous years, I’ve gauged the success or lack thereof in the experience on what I get to see, do, or play. I’ve had to readjust those priorities. Conventions and gatherings of the like-minded are awesome in and of themselves, and working as part of the staff for such a thing means having a hand in making that experience more awesome for other people. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone. But it’s a big part of why I’ve chosen to do it multiple events in a row, now.

That said, I’ve met a ton of cool people doing this. Not just the people I’ve worked with, but the people who make it to the event. I have definitely arrived at a point where I am more excited to meet people than I am to see exhibits, at least when it comes to PAX. I can see that changing when more games arrive that grab my attention, but for this time around my focus was entirely on how things were running in my theatre.

I hope everybody that made it out had an excellent time! I have to keep this short since I have a number of things with which I need to get caught up.

Stubborn Stinkbrain

Courtesy Disney

I used to be really, really good at quitting.

I can think of several instances in my past where I would be attempting something, run into the first real obstacle, and just give up. I would avoid putting myself in positions where I would have to deal with any major difficulties or consequences. I hate to admit it, but I was something of a coward. While I still remain afraid of screwing up, letting people down, or hurting the feelings of those I care about, I’ve learned that giving up before all alternatives are exhausted yields only more doubt, disappointment, and is generally less favorable than making legitimate efforts.

It feels a bit odd for me to talk about hardships and difficulties when I’m a white cis male in the first world, which is about as privileged as you can get. I’m not really wanting for food, shelter, clothing, or any of the essentials a human being needs. It should be an easy life for me. I’m choosing to make it more difficult by involving myself in the things I choose to be involved in, and in that I am engineering my own defeats. And yet, I know if I simply enjoy my privileges and do not take steps to share what I can with the world around me, I am no better than a day-trader on Wall Street or a corrupt corporate executive. So I try to make the world a better place, and sometimes, the world seems determined to remain terrible.

Case in point: I’ve made the choice to be an Enforcer, part of the PAX volunteer staff, and by extension, I am tangentially connected to Penny Arcade and its creators. Mike (“Gabe”) has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to sensitive issues, and this was the case yesterday. He made a comment that was offensive to the transgender community, and the resulting exchange has caused people to call for PAX boycotts and, if I understand the situation correctly, several of my fellow Enforcers have quit in a show of solidarity with those offended by Mike’s comment. They more than likely see Mike’s apology and exchange with Sophie Prell as half-hearted or perfunctory or some other word for insincere.

I for one am willing to give Mike the benefit of the doubt. As I see it, the possibilities are that he makes comments that he thinks are funny and only occasionally gets it right; he puts his foot in his mouth more often than not by tweeting before he thinks; or he’s a deplorable human being through and through. What I have seen and heard of the man leads me to believe that the first two cases are the most likely. Considering his brand is one that is mostly comedic, the first is the logical conclusion for me to draw. Penny Arcade has done a lot for the gaming community, children’s charities, and a more inclusive Internet in general; why would I want to disassociate from that?

Don’t get me wrong. Anybody who feels strongly enough to quit or boycott has my understanding. Not everybody is wired the way I am. And, to be frank, I could be wired completely wrong. I’m willing to consider and even accept that, if presented with sufficient evidence.

But I refuse, to the core of my being, to quit now. Not when I can try to change things for the better.

I know that I can’t change people who don’t want to change. And I know that my words and actions may have zero effect on the people or world around me in general. I accept that. What I will not accept is the idea that I cannot change anything at all on an individual level. I don’t want to muck around with people’s brains to make them what I would consider “better” – each individual is entitled to be and think and feel however they want to be and think and feel. I have no claim to change things within another person’s being by force. That isn’t right.

All I can do, all I want to do, is be the best human individual I can be, engage as often as possible in what I consider to be better behavior, exemplify compassion and understanding for my fellow human beings, and do what I can, small as it may be, to make the world around me a better place. Every person deserves to be treated with respect, and the best way for me to get that idea into the heads of others is to be as respectful as I can with everyone around me, especially strangers. As an Enforcer, I meet thousands of strangers. This, to me, is an excellent way to ensure that I am doing as much as possible to be the change I want to see in the world. I may affect even more if I can get more writing off the ground; time will tell on that score.

But I’m not going to quit either, I’m not going to quit giving people the benefit of the doubt, I’m not going to quit being me, even if I can be overly optimistic and occasionally gullible and something of a stubborn, tactless, somewhat arrogant stinkbrain from time to time.

This is who I am. This is who I choose to be.

Take it or leave it.

PAX East 2013 Report

PAX East 2013 Expo Floor

I think it’s safe to say I haven’t had an experience like this year’s PAX East in a very long time, if ever. I’ve been to conventions before. I’ve been part of their staff for an event or two. I’ve joined communities and made friends, but… none of these previous experiences held a candle to being an Enforcer at PAX.

Before I get to that, let’s talk about the Expo floor. I didn’t get to spend much time there last year, and I made a concerted effort to change that. I visited all sorts of booths, from RiotGames’ League of Legends locus to checking out the next iteration of Magic the Gathering’s Duels of the Planeswalkers. I gave the beta of WildStar a try, and saw some interesting things going on with Ubisoft and Square Enix. But by far the highlight was the Supergiant booth and the preview of their next game, Transistor. I’m going to see if I can throw together a preview post with my thoughts.

I became an Enforcer for a few reasons. It had little to nothing to do with free admission or swag, though those are both nice. The point of PAX, to me, is that it’s an expo that’s by gamers for gamers, focused far more on the community and fostering good & healthy interactions rather than on marketing hype and sales figures. I’m 110% behind this concept, and it’s my belief that as many people as possible should enjoy as much of their experience as possible, even if it’s just waiting in line or walking down a hallway. Being an Enforcer empowers me to make that happen for people. And when I “took the black” (even though the shirts for East are red), I discovered so much more about it.

Enforcers are helpful, generous, and overall fantastic people. I’m sure there are exceptions, but every one I had the pleasure of meeting and working with fits that bill. I was assigned to work outside of one of the satellite theaters in the hall, but I also ran things for other Enforcers, embarked on secret missions, and helped break down several booths down on the Expo floor. It was surprisingly intense. I ended every day somewhat sore and quite tired. My joints continue to ache and I am seriously lacking in sleep.

And I can’t wait to do it again.

I’ve been asked by several Enforcers if I will be out for PAX Prime in August. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t giving it some serious thought.

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