The truth about sexual harrassment and boardgaming

When I first discovered boardgames, I was excited, ready to be part of a hobby that on the surface seemed inclusive and friendly. A hobby that would accept me for who I was and treat me the same as everybody else. The way I looked wouldn’t matter, my gender wouldn’t matter but what would matter was my love and passion for games. Sure, that is the hobby we are trying to build, a hobby that so many people have created and a fight many of us fight everyday but there are challenges that we aren’t talking about, challenges that we sweep under the carpet. Why? Because every time we speak about these challenges we are blamed or not believed or it ruins our careers. These challenges aren’t something new, they have been around for years and we can no longer ignore them. It’s time to speak up. 

Sexual harassment is real, it’s happening in this hobby and it is not going away. 

I’ve worked in the boardgame industry in some capacity or another for over four years. I’ve worked in booths, I’ve worked at shows, I’ve worked on social media and the severity of sexual harassment I’ve experienced over the years is alarming, and I know I’m not the only one. From unsolicited dick pics to online harrasment to rape threats, I’ve heard and seen it all.

For years, I’ve worked and socialised in spaces dominated by men. Men that are just ‘joking around’. Men that are ‘flirty and touchy with everybody’. Men that don’t believe women. Men that accuse us of being dramatic. Men that say “you must have got it wrong”.  Powerful men. 

So I’m here to tell you, it is happening and you need to believe us. 

I remember when I first started working in the industry, I was working for Esdevium games and I would demo games at different conventions. I was in my early twenties, going to all of these cool places and I was super excited. I would get a lot of male attention and I just figured it came with the territory, you know ‘boys will be boys’ and all that. Guys asking me out when I was just trying to demo a game, touching me up when they shouldn’t be and finding me on social media and persistently messaging me. That’s how it started and it was almost expected.

Did I ever report it or mention it? No, because it was made out to be a minor thing. It was made out that it was just a bit of fun but these events have been seriously detrimental and damaging over the years.

There was an incident at a convention a few years ago. Somebody that was well-known in the industry at that time cornered me in an elevator and refused to let me go until I kissed him. When I refused, he just became more forceful. 

There have been times that highly respected game designers have sent me inappropriate messages and pictures constantly when I have asked them to stop and have then proceeded to make ME feel guilty or bad about what was happening.  That this would ruin their marriage and they were just joking around. This is not a joke. 

I could create a collage with the amount of unsolicited inappropriate pictures I have received. To the point I had to close off my Twitter DMs and work email address at one point meaning I wasn’t getting all of the legitimate emails and DMs I needed to continue my career and work. 

Then I started a blog, I started writing about my favourite thing in the world, wargames and that came with its own set of challenges. I’ve been called a wargame groupie. I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I only write about wargames to get male attention. I’ve been called every derogatory term under the sun and I’ve swept it under the carpet. Why? Because I was worried that my blog and my reputation in the industry would suffer if I spoke about it. 

There are so many events that have happened over the years and even the recent past that I could talk about here but honestly, I don’t feel safe doing that yet. What I do want to say though is that women need your support.  Be there for the victims in whichever way they need you to be but do not take away their voice. A situation happened at Origins this past week and before I had even had time to process it and deal with it, it was all over the internet from many sources. I then spent the entire weekend getting abuse and being bombarded with messages and tweets asking what had happened and asking me to tell the truth and confirm the allegations. This. Is. Not. Support.

Listen to women when they tell you they have been sexually harassed.

Do not excuse the behaviour, being drunk or joking around is not an excuse. Recognise that this is happening and not everybody has a voice to speak up about it but will handle it the way they can and when they can. Enforce a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. If you see your ‘bro’ making comments, say something. Believe women when they trust you enough to tell you that something happened. Getting angry is going to happen but that doesn’t help the situation, on some occasions, it can actually make it worse. 

There is so much more to this story, and more that I will reveal when I feel it is safe to do so but the first step is to recognize that this does happen, more often than you think and we need to start realising this and we need to start taking steps to create safe spaces. 

Thank you for reading.




  1. Aje Sakamoto


    Wow. This is very distressing to read and wish you (and other women) didn’t have to go through this in a hobby that is meant to bring people together and have fun. Thank you for having the courage for speaking up (that can never be easy) and I hope one day you will be comfortable enough to bring forth additional details you are holding back to make people accountable for clearly inappropriate behavior. Why? Because even though the title of your article says harassment, the incident you describe in the elevator is not harassment. That is sexual assault. There are legal definitions for both terms and that type of situation definitely goes beyond harassment. I hope you are receiving help and/or getting support for this atrocious behavior. Please know that even though you may feel some angst about potential backlash if you disclose additional information in the future, you will have many good people in this hobby that will support you and not let your openness be wasted or be in vain. What you describe is clearly a topic we are discussing and wrestling with today as a society and gaming should not be immune to those discussions. I truly wish you the best and will be supporting you in the future as you need it. Best regards.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. old-ass lady

    “I don’t go to gaming conventions because I find gamers disgusting fat…”

    Do you know what the author of this blog looks like? I’m not sure what’s worse, that you don’t, or that you do and you are commenting here just to add insult to injury. An added dimension to this problem is that women who aren’t young, thin, and pretty are even less likely to be believed. I can assure there are plenty of pervs who are not picky about looks and age, who in fact seek out the uglies, fatties and oldies because they perceive them to be low-hanging fruit and know their complaints about harassment will be disbelieved.

    Someday you, your wife, and your friends will all be old and ugly, maybe fat and disgusting too. I hope you’ll still be willing to defend them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. old-ass lady

    “I’m not going to partake in a demented crusade”

    That ship sailed. With you aboard. Wearing a skin-tight telnyashka and short shorts.

    “Whether you’re man or woman, I don’t know you. I’m not taking your word for it. Are you nuts?Trust no one. Everybody lies.”

    I’m getting flashbacks of the time I accidentally walked into the men’s room and saw a man having a shouting and slapping match with the mirror above the urinal.


  4. Claire Stephens. . .

    Mike, you don’t read well if you think the elevator incident is all Katie can really complain about.. Katie doesn’t need to detail “Unsolicited dic pics”–only the creeps & anatomists would want to read that!
    “Rape threats” is graphic-and specific- enough. No need for details!
    “Derogatory names” are certainly not respectful, and surely constitute harassment. It’s hard to do good work while embarrassed, Even excess unsolicited emails cause workplace problems, because it takes extra time to find the ones you neede for work.

    Psychologist Jordan Peterson recently said that “there’s a level of hinting at physical threat that you can bring to bear in a conversation with a man that you cannot bring to bear in a conversation with a woman.” because physically it’s not a level playing field. If the other person has a woman’s physical capacity, that rule applies.
    That’s probably why the behavior Katie describes is unethical harassment toward a woman, when some of it might just be ‘kidding around” between men.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Claire Stephens. . .

    Yes, people do sometimes make false claims, so evidence helps sort this out..
    But the problem with evidence of sexual misbehavior is that the action often takes place in privacy, or when no one’s looking. Think about it–for example, how could cornering someone (presumably alone) in an elevator have a witness? But “if you see something, say something” is helpful, because the harasser may have multiple styles. .
    But women should be believed enough to take it seriously when seen, and to investigate the claim when unseen. So if someone–of whatever gender–complains of ongoing sexual harassment, friends & coworkers should be alert for it.One key is to tell someone immediately, and make a dated memo. That way it doesn’t look like bandwagon me-too-ism.

    When emails are the problem, a company could designate someone to forward emails to, so there’s a record of the problem. An individual might be able to set up an email “rule” that automatically sends emails from a certain source to a particular folder. That way the recipient never has to see most of them, but there’s a record.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so in awe of what you did here Katie. You are an inspiration to so many (women and men). I for one will stand with you and be more aware of this in the future. And I promise you I’ll have you or any other womens back. Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so in awe of what you did here Katie. You are an inspiration to so many (women and men). I for one will stand with you and be more aware of this in the future. And I promise you I’ll have you or any other womens back. Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Let me stop you right there, Jacob. This isn’t a court of law. She isn’t asking for these goons to be prosecuted. Therefore, if she’s just telling her story, you have no reason to go all naysayer. No one is advocating for someone to ‘just take their word for it’ in a court of law. This is a blog. She’s telling you bad behavior is happening, and you’re defensive. Maybe you’ve been a grabass or forceful. I don’t know your story. But in this case, believe her. She has nothing to gain from telling her story except maybe people looking at their own behavior in a mirror. If one guy goes, “Damn. I’ve done that. I had no idea…” then it was probably worth the time she took to write this blog post.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Alexandru .. Lucus .. Too many people are afraid to speak up for fear of how THEY will be perceived. If it’s someone of influence that you respect and admire, it’s even harder to speak up against their bad behavior. Who wants to alienate a person they admire for the sake of a girl they don’t know? Not many. So they probably say nothing. Or if they do, and it does go down like they expect, and this guy lashes out. Anyone else observing has learned the cost of speaking out. Not many people will accept the consequence of speaking up for a stranger. Certainly there are people who will. I would like to think that I’m one of them, but I’ve not been given the opportunity to test that. So while there may be plenty of people, in number, to watch her back. How many will actually do so?


  10. Just an attempt to gain victim points? Where do you cash those in, Mark? What is their worth? Apparently all they gained Katie is a bunch of dudes who want to whine about her telling her story. It would seem to imply that if she’d just shut up, she wouldn’t have to worry about people coming to her page and pissing all over it. I wonder where women get the idea that they should just shut up or move on. See how much less hassle she’d have had if she’d internalized it? Victim shaming is a bad look, Mark.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I think we read different posts. We’re talking about one person’s right to exist without constant physical and psychological obstruction. You know these matter or you would not be commenting.

    What’s under threat that you need to protest? Do you want a world where women feel unsafe?

    Glad you’re taking a stand Katie. You have my full support.


  12. Ken

    Thank you for your courage. This does need to be addressed more in the open. I was in line at a con once and a guy started going after the girl between us in line too aggressively. I traded places with her, shut the guy down. This stuff happens too often to women. I’ve seen it. And I will step up again when it happens. If a woman tells you it’s never happened to her, she just isn’t ready to share it with you. I believe you Katie.


  13. Be cautious with the Aspergian characterisation for showing ableism. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and I think that my social skills have improved through finding friends to play board games with.

    I haven’t noticed toxic masculinity in these groups, but you bet I would speak out!

    I think the argument seems like a Boys Will Be Boys … which I do not support.


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  18. Bill

    Why do you keep saying she has nothing to gain? I’m not saying I don’t believe her, but the fact is that she is bring attention to her blog and whatever else she is doing with her social media. I’m guessing she has alot more followers than she had 3 days ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Yup – sometimes instigating change isn’t about blaming individuals, it’s about airing issues that we as a society can then move to resolve.

    Humans are not logical. If they were we wouldn’t have these issues.

    So, this happens. The logical step is how do we convert likes and words of support into progressive action that results in change?

    And no – I don’t believe a bro-force going around beating people up is right either – see earlier comments.


  20. Thank you for sharing.

    Some of these comments sadden me. They don’t supprise me but they sadden me.

    I’m so glad that they are in the minority though. Still vocal enough for the rest of us to be vigilant and work hard to stamp this all out.

    So far as I am concerned if you feel what has been written is just a whiny female looking for attention, not only are you part of the problem, you need to consider whether you should be in the hobby at all.


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  22. Kevin Culli

    Katie – I’m so sorry that you have had to endure this harassment. It honestly makes me angry when I hear that some of my gender are poisoning the fun of my favorite hobby by acting like Neanderthals and treating other gamers in horrible ways. Being away at a con is NOT an excuse for anyone to act inappropriately towards others.

    The reason I get angry about it is twofold: first, there is never, never, ever a reason to treat another human with disrespect like this. Second, these actions only serve to drive people away from our hobby, which is FINALLY starting to grow and become more inclusive – something we old-timer gamers have been waiting for, for decades now.

    I can tell you that if I see someone acting like this when I’m at a con (or anywhere else), I will speak up immediately to confront that person. Because there is no excuse for that behavior. And if I’m running a table, that individual will immediately be asked to leave. I hope others of my gender will join me in enforcing the zero tolerance harassment policy that already exists at major conventions like Origins (and every other con I’ve attended, honestly.) Let’s all do our best to show the offenders that this is not OK – and it never is.


  23. Thanks Katie. Your post and some of the recent discussions make me realize that I need to get better at calling out bad behavior when I see it. I tend to sweep microaggressions under the rug instead of confronting them, because my nature is not very confrontational. I need to get better at saying “we don’t do that here.”

    I hope you feel that the support you’re getting is overshadowing the denialists and the defenders of shitty behavior (I really believe they are a vocal minority.) I think folks like you coming forward with honest stories about their experience is very helpful in that it gives the entire community an opportunity to reflect upon our own behavior and the behavior that we enable by not confronting that needs to change. I think that as people come forward with their stories, and we all discuss and internalize them, new behavioral norms will emerge, and everyone will be better off for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Believed? She hasn’t made any accusation or statement to believe. Name names and actions. This post is just vague shit about a community I find full repulsive losers.

    I enjoy Katie’s blog, but if she has beef with people in the gaming world she needs to throw it down on the table.

    As for my wife and friends I will always defend them. Part of that is helping them not get fat. Dying of diabetes and hypertension, pumping onself with metformin, statins, and beta blockers is a slow miserable death.


  25. Amen, Katie! That’s all I can say to that. I think the defenders are larger in number than you do, only because they are defending them because they are the way they are and you’re not going to change them. They’re gamers. That’s just like the racism argument. It should be exactly the way you envisioned it to be originally – “A hobby that would accept me for who I was and treat me the same as everybody else. The way I looked wouldn’t matter, my gender wouldn’t matter but what would matter was my love and passion for games.” PERIOD! We shouldn’t tolerate anything else.


  26. Lycanthropica

    I stopped playing wargaming tournaments because I had to fight to have people listen to me when I would say my opponent had the rules wrong (me being a girl and them being a guy) I was never once wrong.


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  28. We all have a part to play. If we create spaces that are dedicated solely to the intent and goal of the social experience, to share, discuss, play and enjoy games, it will be safer. Everyone can help by being allies and calling out ill behavior when it happens. The social pressures to not ‘rock the boat’ are strong. The desire to ‘fit in’ and belong is one of the most power human motivations. Yet, when we engage in ‘fitting in’ behavior that actually is excluding, insulting, and harmful of others, we are failing in their desire to ‘fit in’. The job of the group is to make the space open, welcoming, encouraging and, above all: About gaming.


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  31. Christopher Raba

    I’m so, so, so sorry that this happens in our community – or at all. Thank you for your courage. I wish you strength. And please remember that there are some good people out there. Not enough, but some.

    – Chris Raba


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  33. NeonPinkBunny

    hey Katie, I think you’re a liar. No one should just believe another person. You have nothing to back up your claims and you refuse to share any sort of evidence (screenshots, police reports, etc.) and that you won’t even name a name just makes it sound like you’re not telling the truth and if you named a name you’d be sueable for libel.


  34. This Is Hilarious

    All the people here lapping up vague sob stories and saying “I wish this never happened to you” are in luck. Because non of these things actually happened. They are all part of the fantasy world this girl lives in. Its funny how she has enough evidence of her harassment to make a art out of it, but doesn’t actually offer a shred of it. Its funny how she has been the target of repeat, illegal, harassing conduct, but has never once reported it to the police. Its also funny how apparently everyone wants a ride on a woman who looks like she ate a horse and put her makeup on in dark. So we can all feel better knowing that all of this is the attention seeking work of a fat little troll, hopping to get on her own little #MeToo wagon.

    Liked by 1 person

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