Interview update!

The Oldest Game team has been busy conducting interviews for a vital aspect of the game: including the voices of those with lived experience as sex workers.

The people we have spoken to so far have been incredibly generous with their time and insights, sharing with us their experiences of doing sex work in Canada. Many of the themes we identified in our research have come up during these interviews, but these conversations provide even more complexity. We have heard from sex workers first-hand about the misconceptions around violence in sex work, as well as the huge impact stigma has on their lives. Further, we have seen the incredible diversity of sex workers, their backgrounds, and their lives.

After we finish our interviews, we will be integrating the insights of these sex workers into the game as new scenarios, as well as audio and textual samples. As this is a newsgame, (a serious game about a news issue) we are experimenting with how we can include quotes from stakeholders in this format. We are hoping that the audio and textual excerpts from these interviews will function as a textual quote in an article, or an interview on televised news does, providing a perspective from those involved in the issue. For TOG, this is an important aspect of our foray into this medium, and is invaluable in providing direct, lived experiences from real people who are living the lives we are attempting to represent.

We are so grateful to the people who have participated so far. We know that sex workers are often over-researched and that their lives are the subject of much analysis. We hope that we can use these interviews as a way of amplifying the voices of sex workers, and their honest and complex world-views. These perspectives, above all, are the ones that we need to hear in response to policies such as Bill C-36 and SESTA/FOSTA. We aim to give accurate representation towards these voices in our game in return.

Updating the Game

As Sadie wrote last week, we are back at work on The Oldest Game with the goal of completing the project by the end of the year! Things are moving pretty fast now and so I thought I would write a quick update on some of our most recent developments.

One of our main tasks was to see what academic, legal, and media research around Bill C-36 is saying now, after almost four years under this legislation. Sadie and I spent a few weeks reading any recent research that we could get our hands on to see how we could update the game to best reflect the lived experiences of sex workers in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto today.

Surprisingly, there was not as much contemporary research as we expected that actually mapped out the current impacts of the bill. Much of the work we encountered was still largely theoretical. Some of the most thorough research came from the website http://sexworklawreform.com and their information sheets about Bill C-36.

Using what we found, the team decided on a few different scenarios that needed to be revised and added to the game. I’ve outlined them below:

Fear of Police

One major effect of Bill C-36 is that it increases sex workers’ fear of the police, which means that they might question going to the police for support. Although we already had quite a few police scenarios in the game, this research is something we will keep in mind when reviewing the project before release. Our research articulated a frustrating situation around enforcement of the bill. It seems that, with the large amounts of discretion given to local forces, it is hard for sex workers to know where they stand in relation to the law and the police.

Health Care & Stigma

Something that we hadn’t represented much in the game as of yet are the experiences of sex workers with health care. Although sex workers can greatly benefit from a safe and reliable clinic to seek care, many experience poor treatment as a result of the biases of health care professionals However, the stigma associated with sex work does not only come from bureaucratic forces, like health care, but can also come from friends and family. These negative interactions can leave a sex worker feeling isolated, depressed, and less likely to reach out for help. These experiences are something we have worked to represent in our new scenarios, which include a choice to go to the clinic when one’s health is low and an interaction with a nurse hotline, each with varying outcomes. Sex workers have both positive and negative experiences with health care providers, and we want that represented in the game.

Spatial Displacement

Another point of interest that we wanted to address was the spatial displacement of sex workers and how this increases risks of violence and fosters unsafe working conditions. Security, police, and construction can all work to displace street sex workers from a regular location and moving to a new spot can disrupt the consistency and safety of their work.

Stressful Working Conditions

One of the most consistent implications of Bill C-36 is that, instead of making conditions safer for sex workers, it actually tends to foster unsafe working conditions in a number of different ways, such as spatial displacement or lack of health care. These unsafe conditions can lead to greater stress, more health risks, and an increase in self-medication (using drugs as a coping mechanism for physical and mental problems caused by stressful work environments). We were cautious to include a scenario about self-medication in the game because we do not want to perpetuate the stereotype of sex workers as drug addicts, but we decided to include a situation where you can choose to self-medicate and the results are random; you might have a good or a bad trip but the consequences are not devastating.

 

These scenarios are the majority of what we have been working on recently. Once we have a final draft of the game up and running, the team will be reassessing if any other scenarios need to be rewritten or added. Until then, we are getting ready to conduct interviews with sex workers to make sure that their perspectives and voices are represented within the game. If you are interested in having your voice in the project, reach out to us at theoldestgame@concordia.ca

Back in Production!

So, after a long hiatus, The Oldest Game is back in production! We’ve got a team made up of some original members and some new ones, and we are hitting the ground running to finish this game and release it.

However, some aspects of the game need to be changed, added to, and re-evaluated for the current context. Specifically, Bill C-36, the controversial piece of legislation introduced by Stephen Harper’s government, has been in place for some time now (it received Royal Assent 6 November 2014), and we think it’s important to make apparent in the game, how this legislation is affecting the lives of sex workers. To understand these changes, we are in the process of surveying new publications which highlight the changing context of sex work in Canada. We are looking at academic work, legal publications, and reading up on news releases and the work by sex worker advocacy organizations. We are going to change some of our existing scenarios, and add some new ones to reflect the changing realities of doing sex work in Canada.

After some reflection and feedback, we’ve also decided that integral to the game is including the voices of sex workers in some capacity. The thinking is: in a newspaper article, journalists collect quotes from stakeholders offering an opportunity for those affected by an issue to voice their opinion and have their perspectives represented. In The Oldest Game right now, we don’t have anything performing this function. So, we’ve decided to pursue an audio version of a quote, gathered from sex workers about the conditions of their work. This decision is based on an interest in exploring and expanding the conventions of the quote in the newsgame format, and on the feminist principle of including and centering the voices of those affected by issues in research and discussion. Some of the voices you will eventually hear will be those of sex workers; for those who don’t wish to include their voice, but want their perspectives to be part of the game, their comments will be distorted or re-recorded by an actor.

Team members in Vancouver, Montreal and possibly Toronto (the locations of the game) will be reaching out to sex workers to hear their perspectives, stories, and opinions for inclusion in the game. If you’re interested in having your voice be a part of it, reach out to us at theoldestgame@concordia.ca.

The option of anonymity and a small honorarium will be provided.