Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Windy City Times publisher creates new board game that’s so gay


by Chuck Colbert

The indefatigable publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times is at it again. 

This time, when Tracy Baim is not organizing a march of the Illinois state capital in support of same-sex marriage or publishing books on gay media or President Obama, the Chicago native is playing — better yet — creating games. This one is a board game, designed to be as much fun as it is a teaching tool for LGBT community empowerment.

Similar to Trivia Pursuit, the new board game, called “That’s So Gay! A Game of LGBTQ Discovery,” takes its name from the playground putdown and adult pejorative.

During a recent telephone interview, Baim talked about the game’s genesis.  “My family and friends play a lot of board games,” she said. “I felt it could be a fun idea.”  After all, “I have all these facts in my brain.”

Furthermore, “Different parts of the [gay] community don’t know about the other parts.” Overall “knowledge” of LGBT history and culture “is pretty sparse. We don’t learn it in high school or college. It’s just not part of everyday knowledge. We may know about Ellen DeGeneres, but not about Tchaikovsky, Thornton Wilder or Audre Lorde.”

"We just don't do enough of it," she added, referring to teaching “our” history. "Beyond the most recent episode of 'Glee' or pop culture stuff, it feels like our community sprang up and out of the ground 10 years ago. We're even lucky to remember 'Will and Grace' and who was on it.”

Sure enough, straights like "That’s So Gay!" too, she explained, pointing to how well her father played. A lot of the questions are general culture, but with a gay twist.

Take the case of Tchaikovsky, the 19th century Russian composer. “If you know who wrote the ‘1812 Overture,’ you’re are going to get the right answer,” said Baim. “There are a lot of questions like that.”

Straights also like “That’s So Gay!” because “they want to learn more about the community,” Baim said.  At a recent event, a woman told her, “Oh, good, now I have something to give to my friends” for a wedding shower.

In all, the game comes with a booklet consisting of more than 2,400 questions of LGBT history and current events. Two can compete at “That’s So Gay!’ but “it’s better played in teams of three or four,” said Baim.

There are 1,200 main questions that are mostly multiple choices. If players get a question right, they get a bonus question, but those are not multiple choice.

Along the way, players collect colored Bingo-like chips, with the goal of filling in the red, orange, yellow, blue, green and purple stripes of the rainbow flag.

The six categories of questions are color based, with a variety of topics, including:

Red: Celebrities, Athletes and Historical Figures. Orange: Politics, Protest and the Courts. Yellow: Movies, Television and Media. Green: Music, Theater and Dance. Blue: Literature, Art, Fashion and Culture. Purple: Science, Spirituality, Health and Grab Bag.

“You can play across any color of the flag,” explained Baim. (It takes five correct answers to fill a rainbow stripe.) “Or you can win by getting of one of each color.” For marathon competitors, “You can play the whole rainbow.”

At four times along the way, a player or team can use a pink chip for outside help, for example skipping a question or asking a friend for help.

Baim said she had the idea for the game a year ago — before she came up with the name. “I tossed around a whole bunch of names,” she said. “But once I thought of ‘That’s So Gay!’ I couldn’t think of anything else.”

Still, at first she worried about backlash, like when the community first heard of Queer Nation or the Dyke March. “I suppose 'Fag Rag' had that problem in the 1970’s and 1980’s,” she said.

So far, that has not been the case. “I’ve sold 300 games in the last month,” Baim said. Sales are strongest on both the East and West Coast (Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), also doing well in Michigan, Ohio, but the best is in Illinois, where Baim has been able to host game parties and sell at events. Boston is also a strong market, she said.

“That’s So Gay!” has a Facebook page with about 150 likes to date. It is available for purchase at Amazon for $25 at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GXKD13E.

Ultimately, Baim envisions “That’s So Gay!” as an LGBT empowerment tool for schools and homeless shelters as a way of saying to those who disparage gay people and the LGBT community: “No, ‘That’s so gay’ is not a slam. We are gay and proud.”

Of course, gay media has picked up on the game-board phenomenon of “That’s So Gay!” Bloggers Karen Ocamb (LGBT POV and Frontiers LA) and Joe Jervis (Joe My God) have posted about Baim’s latest endeavor, along with Huffington Post Gay Voices, The Advocate and Bay Windows.  Locally, Baim also played “That’s So Gay!” on radio talk shows in Chicago.

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