Sep. 11th, 2015

bonny_kate: (Merida)
I have been thinking, lately, about how to explain my experience gaming as a woman. Ideally, I would be able to say that gender only factors into gaming inasmuch as it is part of who I am, but in reality, gaming, board games, and RPGs have a bias towards men. Board games seem to fall into four camps: games that are gender neutral, games that handle female characters rather well, games that are rather decent but slightly problematic in how they handle female characters, and games that are very problematic in how they handle female characters. Interestingly enough, I can't think of a game that is problematic in how it handles male characters (and I've played a decent number of board games).

Some games are gender neutral, and I appreciate it. It doesn't matter what your character's gender is in Settlers of Catan, because everyone has the same little houses and cities and fences. In both Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island, the characters are little genderless pawns and the descriptions of the various roles are given in terms that don't use pronouns. These games feel particularly friendly, as I can choose any role that I want and play it as a female character if I want. The pilot and the archaeologist might very well be me.

The second type of games, games that handle female characters really well, is depressingly slim. In fact, the only game that I can think of is Pandemic (together with both expansions, On the Brink, and In the Lab). In Pandemic, there is a wide variety of character roles, split approximately equally between male and female characters. The female characters are at least as powerful as the male characters, the language on the descriptions is neutral, and, most refreshingly, the characters seem to be dressed like people who would actually work in a lab. The lack of objectification or sexualization of the women in the artwork means that I can recommend the game to my friends or suggest that we play it without having to qualify it or feel uncomfortable about some of the characters.
cut because this is long and has several images )

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Kate Saunders Britton

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