ConTessa: Games by Underrepresented Voices for Everyone

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The organization dedicated to building diversity in tabletop games by increasing the visibility and number of women-led events at gaming conventions is expanding its umbrella to include all marginalized people. Founded in 2012 by Stacy Dellorfano, ConTessa has been running tabletop games online and off, hosting panels on the creative process and professional development, and offering articles on everything from gaming tips to designer diaries “by women, for everyone.”

As of December 2016, ConTessa has expanded its representation from women to everyone on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, people of color, and any marginalized group. Anybody and everybody is welcome and encouraged to attend ConTessa’s events, but the focus remains to highlight the contributions of marginalized groups on the convention circuit and in the industry. ConTessa Women events will continue to spotlight women gamemasters, moderators, and designers. Panels and events in the QueerTessa block will be helmed by people from the LGBTQ+ community. Finally, people of color will be leading the programming during events in the ConTessans of Color block. All three tracks will be coming to a convention near you in 2017, as well as events run under the general ConTessa banner featuring all three groups.

The question of whether to increase the number of groups represented by their offerings cropped up as the organization’s success and reach attracted more and more volunteers. Were non-binary people allowed to run games at ConTessa events? What about gay men? Dellorfano knew she wanted to include these people who wanted to help the organization, but she worried about doing so “in an organization billed and branded as ‘by women.’” The solution, she believed, was to expand ConTessa. At its core, the group was about representation, so she shifted the organization’s mission to be more inclusive and feature all groups who are underrepresented at gaming conventions and in the industry.

While other groups in the tabletop games hobby revolve around activism for these communities, ConTessa prefers to let the programming speak for itself. “Our content revolves around how your experience has informed the creator you’ve become with the purpose of using those experiences to inspire and energize others like you,” Dellorfano writes in a recent news article on the ConTessa Blog. “Representation is power and vulnerability all at once. Every time a ConTessan leads an event, they make themselves vulnerable by representing who they are, and every person who goes to our events with an open heart and an open mind makes themselves vulnerable, too. Standing against the tide of hate hand-in-hand, unwilling to budge, unwilling to be someone we aren’t. Being vulnerable together is power that changes the world.”

You can become a part of that force for change and share your experiences as an underrepresented voice in gaming by volunteering at events for ConTessa or becoming a guest contributor on their blog. Or you can show your support by attending one of their game sessions or panels at Gen Con and other gaming conventions, or at online special events. In February 2017, ConTessa will be hosting Big Gay OnCon, an online convention featuring events run on Google Hangouts, Skype, Roll20, Discord,, Fantasy Grounds, and others. On August 17-20, 2017, the group will have 20 tables in their own space at Gen Con 50, and recruiting for this event will be happening soon.

Have you attended a game or panel put on by ConTessa in the past? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Image Credit: ConTessa

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