Peers, part the second

The apartment convention of mine is successfully in the past, for now. As a good little blogger I’m just going to babble about it a bit. For all I know this blog might be a half-assed web diary and I just don’t know it yet.

First, one of the guests documented the meet-up a bit with his camera. The photos mostly show folks playing various German style boardgames. I’m not in most of those pictures, mainly because I didn’t play that much, just as I suspected. Instead I spent most of my time playing the fine game of host: cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Which was fine with me, as that’s part of inviting a bunch of folks over to your place. The guests were courteous and they took just the right amount of responsibility in warming the house and the sauna, cooking and cleaning, so that I never felt like it was getting too tiresome.

The blessings of having a blog became evident on Saturday, however, when one of the guests dragged my whining butt from the kitchen and had me play Age of Empires III, a fine game of colonial conquest. Apparently he’d read an earlier entry about my habits of no-play in convention setting. Age of Empires was clearly the high point of the convention for me, as I rarely bother to buy heavier boardgames I never get to play around here anyway. The game itself is rather conventional German-style phased resource priorization exercise with scheduled scoring, but the beauty of the components and getting to play a tad heavier game than usually made the experience very enjoyable. Thanks for the game, Pyry and Henrik! Thanks to WordPress for being a venue for publicly broadcast private introspection! Oh, the wonders of technology!

Other than that… we had a female guest at the convention for a change. Boardgaming is a very masculine hobby in Finland (compared to roleplaying, for instance). Perhaps 5% of guests in a public convention tend to be women, and those are mostly girlfriends and such. The percentages here at Upper Savor game club meetings are closer to 25%, but that’s just because most of the player pool here is comprised of teenagers, which have different priorities than the more usual 20-40 year olds most of boardgamers are. Our activist convention last year was entirely male, as you might imagine being the case in the executive caste of a boardgaming association. This year was different as our membership secretary Anna joined the guys for the weekend. I didn’t spare this another thought when preparing for the convention; men and women playing together is not exactly that strange. I was a bit annoyed during the convention itself, though, by the constant genderizing of an otherwise very equal hobby, bordering on sexism or sexual innuendo at times. Halfway through the convention it seemed to me that Anna, being the sole female in the company, was being used as a humorous focal point of a thinly veiled critique of women in gaming, with everything she did being interpreted as typically feminine. Anna is a very outspoken, confident and healthy person, though, and it didn’t seem to me that anything the guys said bothered her. Definitely they intented to mean nothing serious by it (although who knows what lurks in the dark hearts of men, even unknown to themselves), so I hope she doesn’t go home thinking that the guys have some kind of a problem with her gender. Part of my annoyment is that I myself tend towards non-correct humour at times, but now I felt bad whenever I slipped and went with the sexist flow of the conversation. A joke that would be perfectly appropriate the first five or ten times does get a vicious undertone when you repeat it a hundred times with no variation at all. I’m pretty sure that Anna, an attractive lady though she may be, has a personality apart from her gender qualities as well.

(Of course, just like all discussions of gender and equality, this one is hampered by the difficulty of actually comparing subjective expectation and intent. I might just as well say that everybody in a relaxed male-dominated bonding environment is the victim of stereotypical caricaturising, because crafting that kind of single-dimensioned little character profiles for each other is what males do when they get to know each other and establish social relations in a group, however cruel it might seem from the outside. I guess the only reason I don’t feel bad for Tommy, the official unclear-rules-explainer-guy of the group, is that his perceived group identity is not based on something that is traditionally a reason for serious actual ostracisation. Or it might just be that stereotyping Anna based on her gender seems too easy and unfairly generic to me; everybody deserves to have a personal caricature.)

But apart from that the meet-up was quite fun, and while we didn’t get as much association paper work out of the way as we’d have liked, at least there was plenty of socialization. My favourite moments apart from the Age of Empires game were conversations: my brother Markku came up north for the convention, so I got to talk about that jarkkovuori-project of game design with him and Pyry, a talented young artist. Another good one was a discussion of religion we had with Anna, KJ and… I think it was Jussi, too. That discussion was at the same time interesting and annoying, as I learned that KJ is involved with the local Northern Savo neo-pagan society, which I only have the utmost respect for. Anna, on the other hand, is a rabid Christian, so it was less than nice when she dragged out the relatively offending Christian notion of pagan spirits being demons. My personal agnosticism couldn’t care less, but KJ would’ve been justified in starting a discussion about the Crusades at that point. After all, if we’re going religion-bashing, there’s no sense in not being thorough.

What else… ah, I lied about my favourite moment. The definite favourite was Saturday night around nine o’clock in the evening, when I was going to cook some potatoes and a minced-meat-sauce-with-good-things-in-it. I started after taking a quick trip to the sauna, but just after getting the potatoes to boil and starting to fry the meat Henrik joined me in the kitchen and agreed to help. Then the rest of the Upper Savo teenager contingent I had at the convention appeared, keen to help in some manner, so I organized them into a kitchen preparation squad with the express mission of lugging out and preparing a full buffet instead of just the simple dish I’d originally planned. After my brother Markku woke up and came to show the teens how a proper salad is made with a sharp knife the situation started resembling some kind of a cooking anime show (or perhaps reality tv), with teenagers running around boiling eggs, warming pastries, washing dishes, collecting utensils, arranging bread baskets, potting rice and doing a dozen other things simultaneously. The end result was a rather enticing collection of good things to eat, not all of them in my pot of sauce, either. At first I thought that we’d made too much food, but presentation counted, and ultimately the 15 or so conventioneers ate almost everything. The only complaint was that the teens boiled the eggs soft instead of hard, which is much more common in Finland. Making food is much more entertaining with a big crowd, even if there is a greater chance of little miscomprehensions like that. The conventioneers even cleaned the kitchen afterwards so I didn’t need to.

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