With every issue big and small, there tends to be an extreme polarization within a community. Especially in the United States, where we seem to thrive on polarization! Just take a look at our political system with its ‘Us vs. Them’ and ‘You’re with Us or Against Us’ mentality. There is no room for anything outside of the binary ideologies and consequently, no room to find a middle ground or a common understanding. I recently listened to a very interesting interview of a current Republican congressperson about their experience in Washington during the current administration. In a time where Republicans should be overjoyed at controlling the government, a handful of representative, including the one interviewed, are finding it challenging to make progress. As they were saying in the interview, they feel pressure, both covertly and overtly, to fall in line with the party, even if it hurts their constituents. Right now it seems like politicians, this includes both parties, are more concerned with the image of the party than it is with the people they represent. When one person deviates from their party, they are immediately ostracized.
Sadly enough, this polarization of perspectives and ideas happens in our hobbies. In the board game world there are many polarized battles: Euro games versus Amerithrash games (I absolutely despise those terms by the way), this designer versus that designer, heavy games versus light games, needs good artwork versus I don’t care about art, and I could go on. In the book world we come across similar issues: indie versus big publisher, YA versus adult fiction, non-fiction versus fiction, etc. And many of these debates and arguments, much like politics, leave no room for common ground. A little less polarized but nonetheless, we think we know best about these different issues and we know the only way to go about it. If someone doesn’t fall in line, we want nothing to do with that person. But it’s a perspective from our lived experience and that is key to remember and to also remember that when others talk to you, they are speaking from their own lived experience. They might seem like a YA hater or a racist or a game elitist (and they could consciously choose to operate in this way)… and I wonder what experiences they have had through their life that brought them to that point. Someone in the debate needs to take a step to move it to a dialogue. Someone needs to open the possibility of a common understanding for anything to move forward. I have asked folks, “Why do you not like the game Monopoly and hate on it so much publicly?” (As a side note, the view of Monopoly as a game is a highly polarize topic in board gaming.) And usually they answer with the mechanics and how much it is luck-based. But then, we can have a larger conversation about how that first comment might make someone feel who does enjoy Monopoly and might actually join the hobby game scene if they felt they were included. I personally do not enjoy Monopoly but I would never publically humiliate people who do… I believe all of us have similar goals in the hobby: to have fun and enjoy our time with others if we choose to do so. Why push someone out who feels the same way? They simply might have a different path to the overall goal and we can talk about that path together.
Back to politics: If we perceive it or not, there are many people on both sides of the political spectrum who want to improve our country, and yes, this includes Republicans. The way we approach issues or think about these issues depend on our lived experiences. This is why it is so important to have diverse representation. If no one in the government making decisions that will impact me have my lived experience or similar lived experience, how I can I be confident they are taking into consideration my welfare? How can new ideas influx into our system if our thinking about critical issues is homogenous?
The same goes for our hobbies.
Many many people in our hobbies want them to thrive and want to share them with the world. But people approach hobbies differently. And that is why we need diverse representation in all aspects of the hobby to one, draw even more people into the hobby, two, have a huge influx of creative and innovative ideas, and three, provide perspectives on all levels based on our lived experiences, making participation in the hobby inclusive. Similar to the conversation about representation in the government being polarized, so are the ones here. If we have the same goals, then I am not sure the disconnect. Either, externally folks are stating their goals but really they want an exclusive space to control the status quo, or folks are simply unaware and/or unable to empathize with a different lived-experience. The first I can’t work with to well and their needs to be a fundamental shift in those values. The second I can and with the second person, I am able to create space for common ground. That’s the goal y’all. Finding that common ground to reduce the polarization on everything for critical issues of our country, to smaller dynamics in our hobbies.
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