Avery Alder’s games bring the messy dynamics of queer communities into fantastical settings. Playing RPGs together can be a fun way to practice mutual aid.
Game Maker Avery Alder on the Mechanics of Care
Like everyone else I know, I’ve been trying extra hard lately to find new ways to keep all my friends alive.
One thing I’ve focused on is trying to get groups of friends together on a recurring basis. Getting together regularly in a structured way gives me more confidence that we know what’s going on in each other’s lives and that we have each other’s backs.
One of my regular hangs is with a group of trans folks who play RPGs (role-playing games) together. While the most notable RPGs, like Dungeons and Dragons, usually emphasize combat, there’s a whole world of idiosyncratic games out there that draw on the broader spectrum of ways that people can interact, in love, sex, friendship, and the work of building communities.
Playing RPGs together has turned out to be a very weird, fun, and sweet form of mutual aid. World-building in the sense of telling stories together is a lovely and intimate thing, and committing to getting together regularly with friends is another type of world-building, concretely building the type of world I want to inhabit. I like the idea that another world is possible if you and your friends all agree to work together, meet on the regular, and bring snacks to share.
My gateway into the world of RPGs was the work of Avery Alder, whose games bring the messy dynamics of queer communities into fantastical settings. What if we were all navigating multifaceted identities, fierce loyalties, and overlapping traumas, but it was ALSO the post-apocalyptic future?
Alder’s work, like her writing, shows a deep interest in and engagement with the mechanics of how we care for one another: the ways we fuck up at care, the ways we’re set up to fail at care, and the crafty, ingenious ways we manage to care for each other regardless.
I interviewed Alder on how care and community-building play into her life and her game design.
What are some ways you care for others (or have been cared for by people in your life) that are important to you?
A lot of my games are about learning to care for one another, because that’s a topic that’s always on my brain. Mutual aid is really important to me.
When I think about care, one of the main things I think about is food. Me and my partner have been organizing a weekly, drop-in dinner for everyone we know. We just had our fifteenth one last night – I cooked vegan and vegetarian lasagnas, wild sourdough rye, greek salad, and cupcakes. I want to feed as many of my broke queer friends as possible, and send them all home with leftovers.
But not to just focus on my friends, you know? Lately I’ve started mulling over the phrase ‘militant generosity’ in my mind, thinking about how generosity can be politicized and politicizing, thinking about the importance of slowly but perpetually widening the circle of who you extend care to.