bonny_kate: (Default)
Let me start by saying that my RPG group is awesome. They are the sort of people that you want to play RPGs with (unless you want a serious game, because our group doesn't really do serious). They are nice people who have fun and are pretty much the opposite of every horror story that you hear. (I feel so bad for women who say that they were forced to play a certain sort of character, or that their (female) character was a target for romance or violence that other (male) characters weren't, or that the group was just generally misogynistic.) This is particularly significant because there are currently five other players plus the GM (Game Master aka the person running the RPG), and all are men. I'm the only woman in the room, and I'm the only one playing a female character.*

Overall, I would say that my experience playing as a woman has been quite good. Other players take my opinion into account and generally assume that I'm a competent player with a competent character. Reading other women gamers' experiences make this sound like the fluffy unicorn of player groups, because I'm also the GM's wife** and I bring baked goods most weeks. Basically, my group has been pretty awesome at accepting me as a player and being alright with the fact that Joel is the current GM. 

I can't help but wish, though, that someone else would play a female character so that I wouldn't have the weight of playing the only female character in the group. It makes it a little more difficult to play an interesting character and not try to represent all women with one character. It's like how Black Widow is the only female Avenger in the first Avengers movie, and even though she is a really awesome character, she still is only one character and can't show a range of options (whereas for male characters we see Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Hawkeye).

And there is the odd moment when someone says something and I do a double take. Or there are the occasional assumptions that all NPCs (non-player characters) are male. (Joel does a pretty good job balancing NPCs about fifty-fifty, so that helps.) For instance, at one point on our first run when we were sneaking into a warehouse, one of the players said (partly joking) that my character, Jefferson, should flirt with the guards. The player seemed to be assuming that the guards were male (not all of them were), that they were interested in flirting with a woman (unknown), and that Jefferson would be the appropriate one to flirt with them. Actually, if the player had thought about it, the opposite is true. Jefferson is not a flirty character and she has very few dice for social interactions, while other characters roll handfuls of dice for just about any social situation. Thankfully, that sort of thing seems to have died down.

I've definitely had a good experience playing RPGs so far, and I think my group is pretty great. There are just some things that I notice that are generally blind spots for the group (like assuming PCs are female).
 

 

*I have played a male character, once. It was interesting. I did feel that I got a few weird looks, but overall our group seemed fine with it.

**There was also the session where it directly involved my character, Jefferson, and involved a lot of set up beforehand. Granted, it mostly involved Jefferson getting shot at (a lot) and then we started the session by her frantically calling the others for help because she was penned in by snipers, and Joel said that he's perfectly willing to work out something similar for anyone else who wants to have their character shot at . . . but this is still the sort of thing that would not be ok in a lot of groups because my husband is the GM.

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

April 2017

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