New anti-harassment Policy Ready for Nordic Game Conference

Copenhagen Game Collective readies their new ‘Safer Space’ anti-harassment policy to debut at the Nordic Game Indie Night.

When the pre-party launches for this year’s Nordic Game Conference, it will be with a brand new anti-harassment policy in place. Copenhagen Game Collective, who traditionally organizes the Nordic Game Indie Night – a night of indie gaming that kicks off the conference the day be fore the official program, has now presented a new policy called Safer Space. An initiative they plan to  debut at the Nordic Game Indie Night 2015.

Ida Toft from Copenhagen Game Collective has been one of the driving forces behind the new initiative, and she ensures Nordic Game Bits that the fact that the initiative is being debuted at the Nordic Game Conference 2015 does not imply that this event needs it more than others. “It was simply the next major event we had coming up,” Toft explains. “And we didn’t feel like we could put it off any longer.”

 

IMG_4134-300x200The new policy is intended to ensure “a space where all people, of any orientation, gender identity, and race, are respected, accepted and welcome,” according to the official presentation of Safer Space on Copenhagen Game Collective’s website. In practicality, this means that a number of designated Safer Space ambassadors, wearing a button pin to identify them, will be present at the event specifically to handle any unwanted behavior.

However, the policy is still under development as Copenhagen Game Collective is currently refining the policy based on feedback from previous attendees to the Nordic Game Indie Night and other people with an interest in the new initiative.

 

Harassment, and the prevention of it, has become one of the most discussed themes of the computer games industry, especially since last year’s GamerGate-related incidents. But according to Ida Toft, that may actually be a benefit in the long run.

The misogyny and sexism that we are witnessing online now has not been created overnight. It has been a part of gaming culture for a long time, even in Denmark. Until now, it has been suppressed, but I know of several people, who have experienced abusive harassment and uncomfortable situations – myself included.

“The fact that we are now having a public debate about this is a step in the right direction,” she explains. “Women and other traditionally targeted groups can now see that their experiences are not unique, and that they should not blame themselves for what has occurred to them.”

 

Ida Toft explains that she also sees this debate as an important step in creating a community that can share experiences and strategies about how to deal with harassment. As such, Safer Space is both a tangible tool for those who feel threatened or left out, but also a symbolic initiative to try and help the discussion along, and help make people aware of the problem. “Out culture has a history of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. and that is still present in our language, our jokes, our expectations to each other, and how we interact,” she explains.

The Safer Space policy focuses on the cases where someone is feeling harassed, especially from the traditionally exposed groups. It’s not about objectively discussing if that feeling is justified or not, and neither is it about intentions. Sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. is rarely intentional.

 

While Safer Space is an ambitious initiative,  Toft rejects the notion that it’s an overreaction, even if Denmark and the rest of the Nordics traditionally have been viewed as one of the most progressive regions regarding equality and fair treatment regardless of gender, ethnicity, etc.

“On the contrary, I think the national identity that I often hear: that Denmark is a pioneer regarding equality, is antiquated,” she tells Nordic Game Bits. “Today Denmark looks like it’s progress has stalled, politically and culturally. And when it comes to racism, I think it is the minority who would argue that Denmark is a pioneer in this field.”

For Copenhagen Game Collective, the tiny number of non-whites and non-dudes involved in Danish game development, and the situations where people feel unwelcome or even harassed, are reasons enough for us to take this initiative. We believe there is a need for more formal and direct action.

See the official Copenhagen Game Collective website for more details, and a full description of all the details in the new Safer Space-policy.

Jesper K. Kristiansen

Multi-passionate game developer and journalist. Has been writing about the Danish games industry for more than ten years, and creating audio design for both Danish and International games for almost as long.

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