Thoughts on diversity, conventions & cost

Tanya DePass
Nov 16, 2016 · 5 min read

As of late my Medium posts are collated and cleaned up twitter threads. Here have another, this time on the following:

I often get asked if I’m going to X or Y convention. Unless I’m on panels and/or invited as a guest the answer is probably no. Here’s why.

Going to conventions is expensive As Fuck. Especially when they are on the West Coast. Most conventions comp your badge and that’s it if you’re a speaker. Travel usually comped only if you’re a Guest of Honor. Some conventions don’t even comp your badge or they didn’t until recently. Which is asking for free labor in exchange for exposure.

I.E you go to a convention and there’s supposed to be a prestige about doing panels at whatever it is. But there’s work beforehand. Well if you want to give a good talk or Panel, there’s work before hand that doesn’t get acknowledged usually. There is another side of it. Often people want POC and LGBTQIA folks to attend their events to show they’re inclusive but they fail.

Often marginalized folks are invited but kept on diversity 101 panels or women in _______ fill in the blank panels & nothing else. Shockingly we have expertise in areas besides giving 101 level discussion on how to do the bare minimum in your work. It’s why I work so hard on GX programming to be truly diverse not just have marginalized folks speak about diversity issues.

I just wish other conventions would step up and not have the same people talk about the same things every year. I’d love to go to a convention that wasn’t all white people or one token POC on panels. That’s not diversity, its doing least work possible and expecting a pat on the head.

That gets me to my next point. Convention attendance is an economic privilege. Reminder cons aren’t cheap. So if you run events and ask POC/LGBTQIA folks to attend? Show us the money & cover travel costs & registration. I’ve had to crowdfunding my travel costs a lot this year. Patreon doesn’t always cover it. Yet people expect me to go to a lot of cons because of the work I do.

You can’t reach out to marginalized folks, say help me make my event inclusive then not offer to pay travel. You’re asking for free labor. Also, you can’t throw up a guest list full of POC, LGBTQIA folks & expect a jump in non-white attendees. Offer scholarships if possible. It’s not that we (marginalized folks) aren’t into gaming/SFF/cosplay/steampunk or what have you, but cons are expensive as fuck.

Badge prices for a lot of cons have gone up recently. Pax East is what $150 for a weekend? TwitchCon doubled in cost to $150 as well. That’s nice if you can drop that kind of money. Now add airfare & hotel if you’re not local. About $1K or so. Already at $1150 right? You gotta eat, get to & from the venue so tack on another $250-$400 assuming I’m talking about PAX East in this example.

Anyway, you want sweet loot right? Kiss anywhere from $50-$500 or more goodbye. Being a nerd ain’t cheap either. So you’re looking at close to $3K (I’m estimating on the high end based on my costs for travel) for attending ONE convention. Multiply that by however many cons you plan to attend in a year or that people want you at.

Which brings me to my last point. Right now I’m getting by on Patreon, occasion freelance writing & comps due to being a guest/staff. People who can easily make one or two conventions their annual vacations don’t seem to realize the struggle, or seem to care to be honest. It’s hard to get people to see the value in diversifying their conventions & content. Harder to get them to invest in doing so with dollars to show their commitment to actually making their event more inclusive.

So when before you ask a marginalized person to bring a new pov to your event; consider the following:

  1. Am I asking them to attend because I want my event to be more inclusive & welcoming to everyone? Or is this for performative allyship?
  2. Can I offer compensation for their travel & expertise? If the answer is no, reconsider. Or find funding sources before asking.
  3. What am I doing to ensure my event *Is* inclusive & welcoming to people that aren’t assumed white, cis, male?
  4. Does my event have a code of conduct? Is it enforced when someone disregards it?
  5. Is there an Anti-harassment part of the ConCom? Will it actually uphold its duty to the con & community?
  6. Is my ConCom itself diverse? If not, fix that first! Are people allowed to stay on forever? If so, enact time limits to all roles.
  7. What’s our advertising like? Are there POC/LGBTQIA folks in our flyers & social media? If not fix that!
  8. Lastly, look at your content. Is it all white dudes handing down their “expertise”? If so fix that shit, fix it with a diverse team

So now you’ve fixed problems with your con, supposedly. You’ve shown your event is welcoming to all. But it’s still pretty white event? Start at step 1, review, revise & try again. Don’t stop till you’ve actually got an inclusive event.

Also there are places you can contribute if you don’t run events. @con_or_bust takes monetary & pass donations for SFF cons. Disclosure: I am on the board of @con_or_bust the mission is to get more POC & others to SFF events. Donate $ or event passes!

I Need Diverse Games is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) org in case you forgot. We can take $$ & event passes too! Often conventions will take donations even if you have no plan on attending yourself.

Lastly, this one might be hard. If you are not marginalised & you’re offered a spot on a diversity panel? Say no. Often I see diversity panels of all/mostly white people with no clue on what’s needed. It’s what they think diversity work means. Event runners, find & compensate people doing the work to speak at your events. Go beyond the 101 for fucks sake. Also look to youth doing this work. In many cases they can speak to their peers better than adults talking at them can.


  1. Comp invited attendees & speakers

2. Cover travel costs for marginalised folks you invite

3. Fix your ConCom & content

Written by

I Need Diverse Games Founder, cast Rivals of Waterdeep, games critic, diversity consultant, freelance games journalist & public speaker.

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