As we state in our recruiting material, there are no dues in CAR-PGa, but members are expected to work. There are essentially two types of work meant by this statement: research and advocacy/defense.
This sounds more intimidating than it really is. The main part of research is just keeping your eyes and ears open to anything involving role-playing games. When you encounter something, then get it in some form of documentation. This may be a photocopy of a newspaper article or a video tape of a TV newscast. It might just be a written account of a strictly verbal incident; it isn’t as good as the sounder documentation, but it’s considerably better than nothing.
This documentation is to be sent with the full citation (including page numbers) to the Chair. There it will be cataloged and filed in the CAR-PGa files and be noted in the New Material section of the Newsletter. This will make it available to any member needing the material.
On occasion, the Chair or another officer will contact you directly for research on something that has occurred in your area. This is the reason for the question on the application form concerning what newspapers you have access to in libraries. Frequently the anti-game forces will “document” their anecdotal cases with references to some obscure newspaper. It may be obscure to CAR-PGa, but it is someone’s hometown paper. If we have members in enough places, these papers can be accessed easily. Much of the time it turns out that the “document” is merely quoting one of the anti-game organization’s people; they are really citing themselves as proof!
It does little good simply to accumulate vast quantities of information if nothing is done with it. As a result, much of our work is involved in public relations.
Ideally, this would be done by the Chair (who has access to all that data), but the mass media generally would rather contact someone closer for obvious reasons of cost. As a result, any member may be called upon to fulfill this function some time. What’s even worse, this will most likely occur either in a crisis situation, typically involving either some tragedy in which RPGs have been blamed because it is easier than doing a proper investigation, or when one of the anti-game traveling circuses has come through and upset honest but gullible people.
Such crises can be minimized by sufficient preventive measures but can never be avoided totally. Preventive action includes getting in contact with the local media before there are problems. This is one area in which the member in a small town “in the middle of nowhere” has an advantage over the member in some big city: At least the small town member can not only get to see reporters without having a major story, but can even get to know them personally. This makes later contact a lot easier and gives you the opportunity to know what sort of approach or angle is the most likely to be covered by them. This makes it a lot more likely that what you have to say will be published/broadcast.
Have a press kit on hand at all times. This should include the Literature List for your own reference, the contact information for your State or Provincial Coordinator, your Regional Director, and the Chair should you need to refer a reporter to one of them, and possibly copies of the Evidence sheet as handouts. This will cover most of the general questions they are likely to raise and you can go directly to the specific situation at hand.
The first rule in dealing with the media is to never fake it. The mass media has been brainwashed since 1979 to be anti-game. They are comfortable in this position. It has definite implications that they were wrong if they have to change, and no one ever wants to admit they are wrong.
If you make even one minor error, the media and anti-gamers are likely to pounce on it, whereas the anti-gamers, because they have had so long to indoctrinate without our side being heard, have no such problem. You can be the one who tips this the other way. Document how the anti-gamers are in error. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. However, don’t just let it stay there; offer to get the information or refer the attackers or questioners to CAR-PGa’s nearest State or Provincial Coordinator, the Regional Director for the region, or the Chair.
If there are several members in a given area, one of them should be designated as the speaker for the organization there. When this is done, other members should have no contact with the media except to refer the matter to that representative. This does not, however, preclude them from writing letters to the editor, nor does it prevent more than one member meeting the press at the same time as a panel. This latter method is particularly useful when various members have their own particular expertise in various aspects of the subject. The representative(s) should be knowledgeable, believable, articulate, and available.
Public Relations “Do”s and “Don’t”s
- Do tell the truth, even against gaming; it establishes credibility the anti-gamers don’t have.
- Do release only confirmed facts, the more independent confirmations the better.
- Do be concise.
- Do show concern; we generally get involved only when there is a tragedy, so sympathize with the victims.
- Do defuse negatives.
- Do dispel rumors.
- Do remain calm.
- Do Be accessible.
- Do provide updates and show a willingness to help fill in the blanks in information.
- Don’t speculate.
- Don’t discuss liability or legal action.
- Don’t place blame.
- Don’t talk off the record; anything said to a reporter is fair game.
- Don’t be thrown by hostile questions.
- Don’t give exclusives; we need maximum exposure and exclusives only make the excluded media mad.
- Don’t reveal any confidential information or sources.
- Assess the situation.
- Continue to communicate with the media and public in general.
- Evaluate the handling and critique the system.
- Correct the flaws.
- Test the corrected system.
- Share what you have learned with the rest of CAR-PGa.
Some have said that we have too many officers in CAR-PGa; that all we really need is a Chair and maybe members. If we had the funds of B.A.D.D. or NCTV, that may be true, but a love of the truth will never raise the kind of money that hatred does.
The Chair is the coordinator of the whole thing. The Chair “presides” (in quotes because it is done by mail) over the Board of Directors, coordinates and catalogs the library of documents, and generally (although there is no requirement that this function be done by the Chair) edits the Newsletter.
The incorporation laws require that any corporation have a board of directors who establish policy for the organization. It would be easy to have all these in one place where they could meet face-to-face, but it would also unintentionally create a bias toward viewing that one region’s situation as being universal. Therefore, CAR-PGa directors are spread throughout the world to get as wide a range of viewpoints as possible to enable the organization to function better.
Their major duties are those of any corporate director and as coordinator of recruitment and research within their regions; otherwise, their duties are the same as for other members.
State (Provincial) Coordinators
For some strange reason, the mass media will be willing to go across their state to get a story but not across a state line, even if it is closer. As a result the SC or PC is important as a media contact. Three times, so far, major PR disasters have been defused and avoided by the prompt action of SCs near the situation. Because they are more likely to know gamers from local game conventions, they are in a better position to recruit than the RD might be.
We have several audiences for our work and each of them has different needs and so the approach will be different to each.
The General Public
Much of our work is directly aimed at the general public, and ultimately all of it is. However, contact is on a personal level (face-to-face talking, game demonstrations, etc.) or is indirectly through the mass media.
The vast majority of the public is really apathetic about gaining: They have no personal interest in it, but they don’t believe the anti-gamers and are quite willing to let gamers have their fun. The main approach to this group is one of general rights. The denial of rights to anyone endangers the rights of everyone. Therefore, they have a vested interest in supporting gaming against attacks even if they have no interest in playing themselves. The minority portions of the general public are so identifiable as to constitute specific audiences themselves.
The Mass Media
The mass media is really two audiences. The publishers/broadcasters are interested only in making money and they do this by selling readers or audiences to advertisers. Few of them really care what is published as long as it gets this income, which is one reason for the rise in the tabloid mentality, both the supermarket “newspapers” and the TV “talk shows”. Most of the printed mediaï–it is questionable who is in the majority in the electronic forms–consider this attitude a little obvious and therefore ultimately self-defeating and so try to be a bit subtler.
The reporter is the second audience in the mass media. The reporters are the ones you will deal with directly, but they are restricted by the policies dictated by the first group and while their personal sympathies are more likely to be with us, their course of action is greatly restricted. They have a reputation for being liberal, but many of them are actually politically conservative, and what makes it into print or on TV is almost entirely anti-game in any case. Therefore, we must be very careful when dealing with the mass media. We must walk a tight line between the requirements to be honest, not to try to “put one over on them”, and not to betray our beliefs on the one hand and on the other the need not to come across as a fringe group or, worse, a threat to the world that they consider to be real.
In dress, deportment, vocabulary, etc. we must be as unthreatening to their view of the world as possible without surrendering our beliefs. The anti-gamers can be seen as part of a social movement that has been working since the early 1980s to portray youth culture as criminal. Role-playing games are considered youth culture by them and lumped in with video games, rock music, horror movies, and even drugs. Therefore, our image must call this attitude into question. On TV this means suits (unless they came to you at a game convention), no smoking under any circumstances, and a tendency to resemble the characters on a 1950s sit-com.
Those already into RPGs are the main source of our membership, although we have some valuable help from those who care nothing about RPGs but merely need some of the material we have and vice-versa. There is no need to go into details about gamers; you know what they are like and they defy description.
The principal rule here is to avoid getting sidelined. Gamers like to talk about gaming as much as play, but it eats up time. All gamers have their favorite games, but this is no time to be lobbying for yours or putting down theirs.
Be careful when bringing up CAR-PGa at game conventions. Some of those who put on these cons are territorial to the point of paranoia and don’t want anyone to do anything on their own initiative. Try to work with them and you might get a seminar on the schedule. Otherwise, work under deep cover and hope the other conventioneers will help convince them that a party-line stance is ultimately hazardous to the future of the con. Never get CAR-PGa involved directly in this action, but leave it for those outside CAR-PGa to carry the ball on this one.
At least with gamers, you can be totally yourself. They know how gamers really are and are not too likely to misinterpret things unless you really foul things up.
Family, Non-gamers, Friends
These can be supporting or a total pain. Try to be calm. Explain the reality of things (with a demonstration, if possible). Don’t burn any bridges. You will get too old for parental interference soon enough, no matter how long it may seem now, but family ties are difficult to repair once damaged.
This is the easiest audience of all. Let us have some information periodically and work on any project that interests you and the rest will take care of itself. Because we act as our own informal peer-reviewers, we may call you on some things, but likewise you should call us on our statements too. Don’t let this bother you. It is the way the system works, and remember, we are all on the same side.
This does not refer to Channel 13 on TV, but rather the channel through which you reach your intended audience. Like the message, the audience will determine the channel used.
The general public will be most easily reached through the mass media or by public demonstrations (of games, not picket lines and rallies!). Shopping malls may be interested in the latter, especially if there is a game store there to sponsor your demo.
The mass media will sometimes come to you, especially if you have done your homework in establishing media contacts. If not, you can use a press release if anything of note comes up. If you are not given coverage, try a letter to the editor. Even some TV stations have these on a once-per-week or occasional basis as part of or following the nightly newscast.
If there is a major event, such as a con, a press kit giving background information should be provided. These should be kept brief. The full Chamber of Commerce packet is useful only for major cons which generally have their own PR staff anyway.
Other gamers can be contacted by using the existing game media. An article (or at least a letter to the editor) in national publications, a newsletter for a local game club, or the bulletin board at the local game store will get the word out.
CAR-PGa provides a variety of ways for members to communicate with each other. Items sent to the Chair for the files will be noted in the Newsletter and will be requestable from the Chair by others. The Newsletter also publishes articles and letters to the editor. Discussions among the members can happen in the Newsletter or via CAR-PGa’s e-mail discussion list. If there were ever really a problem within the group and the administration tried to prevent discussion, you could always send a letter directly to the other members by looking them up in the Membership List. Additionally, regular posters to the e-mail list are not moderated. However, the present administration will ensure that such drastic measures are not necessary.
All CAR-PGa material beyond simple housekeeping notices and official CAR-PGa papers (such as most of the materials on the website) are by-lined. In all these dealings with whatever audience, remember that no one, including the Chair, speaks for CAR-PGa. The author is totally responsible for what is said.
We are a network of researchers and advocates, not an organization. You can use your identification with CAR-PGa as credentials to show you do know something about the subject, but the statements are your own and always subject to peer review as with any other research.
The Points System
While CAR-PGa charges no monetary dues to its members, there are dues nonetheless: “work for the cause.” While this is good in theory, in that no one is discriminated against because of lack of excess cash and the organization is spared any temptation to go after the money rather that the organization’s purpose, there is still the problem of just what constitutes a “paid-up” member.
The points system provides this objective means of determining who is paid up and who is delinquent. It is a nuisance and reeks of legalism, but at least it is a clear-cut method.
Points are earned by various activities on behalf of the cause. They expire one year after the time the work was originally done. Each member is responsible for reporting points earned with supporting material unless intrinsically obvious; sending in a document is its own reporting and supporting evidence, while conducting a conventions seminar should be supported with the convention program.
Five current points are required for Active status, which includes voting privileges. Current point status is included with the Newsletter, but non-subscribers are responsible for keeping up with their own. Work throughout the year will insure against suddenly dropping below the voting minimum or having all points expire and being dropped from membership.
The points are:
- +1 Point: Membership application, Fandom Directory form, Newsletter subscription, survey response, article clippings (with full citations including page, if possible), letter to the editor of a local publication if printed, term paper copy, article published in the CAR-PGa Newsletter, “cluster items” (BBS postings, convention schedules, peripheral subject material, etc.) in groups of at least five at once, or each contribution of $5.00 (US).
- +2 Points: State [Provincial, etc.] Coordinator, letter to the editor printed in a national publication, local radio/TV appearance, lead seminar at local convention, provide court decision (with citation), or coauthor a CAR-PGa publication.
- +3 Points: Regional Director, author of nationally published article, sole author of a CAR-PGa publication, network radio/TV appearance, or lead seminar at national convention.
- +4 Points: Author a published book on RPG and provide a copy.
- +5 Points: Author a peer-reviewed paper and submit copy with citation.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that get points. If you have done something not on the list that you thinks benefits gaming, be sure and let us know and we will determine the number of points it should get.
Not only for the points, but in all activities, be sure and keep the Chair informed. Your work may give others ideas on how they can help too.