søndag 4. desember 2011

Gaming as a Girl

Gaming as a Girl
Because I'm Never Allowed to Forget

Here are the rules: 
1. If you dismiss my experiences, even unintentionally, I will tell you. The correct response to this, if you are not a douchebag, is, 'I didn't mean to dismiss your experiences. I'm sorry.' If you feel an uncontrollable urge to append 'but' anywhere in that statement, you're doing it wrong. If you're in the mood, you can ask me how you dismissed my experience and I will tell you.
2. Do not denigrate the people to whom I've referred to in this post. That is not the point of this post. Doing so will net you a similar response as the above and possibly have your comment removed.


When I was a teenager, young, impressionable and naive, my brothers (all three of them) would play tabletop with each other. I had read Lord of the Rings, I was a fantasy novel junkie, I loved the idea of a fantasy RPG. But I wasn't allowed to play because I was a girl. My mom only vaguely approved of my brothers playing these games and had always hoped for a feminine daughter. Letting me play seemed like finally giving up all hope that I would like to wear dresses and do my hair and gossip about boys.

So very early on I was taught that playing RPGs was a guy thing. I might really really want to join in, but it was understood that girls don't do that.

Eventually my brothers sort of caved to my demands when they moved out of the house and started going to university. I never did get to play with them, but they did let me build a character or two. That was the start. The sad, excluding start, or my life as a tabletop gamer.

Then it was grade 11. I was picked to go to this program a big university was running to encourage women to get into the hard sciences. I met my best friend there. We met because I refused to be apologetic about my rural roots, she found that fascinating, then we discovered a mutual love of fantasy. Where she had had the opportunity to play in tabletop games, I had not. So we promised that when I came to the city for my university, we would set up a game and play. I was in heaven. Finally, someone who wanted me to join in.

So we started in the World of Darkness. Werewolf, to be exact. It was fun, we messed around with our ridiculous (and in hindsight) mary-sue, over powered characters. Everything was grand. Then, in my third year, I met another girl in an aquatic biology class who was running a LARP. A werewolf LARP, no less. Well, now was the time and we jumped feet first into LARPing. There were so many people there and we were suddenly surrounded by geeks. I met my spouse during this time. He invited me to his vampire larp (not WoD, exactly). But the lessons I learned there were harsh.

One of the first things he told me was that because I was his girlfriend, everyone was expecting him to play favourites with me. So he was going to have to do the opposite and actually ignore me some of the time just to counter appearance. Some of the other players so obviously believed this that they would approach me with things they wanted rather than asking him directly. Other personal friends of my SO could talk his ear off about game, but me doing so would have been favouritism so I kept my mouth shut.

People would invite my SO to games with the expectation that he'd just drag me along. So I started refusing to go to things where I had not been specifically invited because it incensed me so much that I was considered an appendage to a guy rather than a person in my own right. Often, it was expected that I'd play a character who would support or assist him so I'd make a point of playing characters that had nothing to do with him. I was often frustrated.

Then my spouse decided to run a game in Eberron. The setting was new and looked fun. He hadn't run a tabletop in ages. No one wanted to play the healer role, so I build a favoured soul. It looked fun and I had some great ideas. But since I didn't know how to put together a spell list, I'd ask for help. And the two guys who were players would 'help' me. And by 'help', I mean pick spells that benefited and made their own characters cooler and did me not a lick of good. Later in that campaign while I became steadily less useful outside of 'buff the party, wait until people needed healing' everyone was getting handed things to make them super cool. Our ranger had a god-beast of the land that would rise up and fight with her but only within the area that worshipped it. Our main fighter had a sentient and incredibly powerful spear. Our druid was turning himself in a dragon. My thing that I was offered? A powerful magical artifact. But I had to marry an NPC with the expectation that I would have to have the NPCs kid at some point. I balked. I was already frustrated and angry at having to play second fiddle to everyone else. Now I was expected attach myself to an NPC who had literally just showed up to get my cool thing? Fuck that shit. I didn't need the cool thing. I would rather continue to suck.

I think that surprised my SO. He really hadn't expected me to pass up something that would have made the character cool again. And it's not like he'd expected the character to have a kid right then and there. It was a contract for the future, right? Well the game continued on, me leaving most sessions feeling useless and frustrated until the story-arc ended.

These are the lessons I learned when I was new to gaming. And there are so many more. I've learned that unless I'm constantly trying to get the GMs attention, I will be ignored in favour of guys or other players who will do that. I'm used to the idea that men will come up with brilliant ideas, declare them and then argue with you when you don't like the idea. And sometimes it's easier to be brow-beaten into accepting whatever it is they wanted to do. Guys have offered to help me figure out the system but this almost always turns into 'here I built you a character/ship/sword/cool thing' rather than actually helping you to figure out how you want to build a character/ship/sword/cool thing. Then said guys will look hurt when you tell them that you really aren't interested in that at all. 

And it still happens, to this day.

Most guys I game with aren't so bad. Many have either learned or just do not try to shout down women although it still happens at times (especially around rules). But when I game, I still give up arguments when I can see what pattern they are taking. I still make decisions that screw over my fun because it's not worth the interpersonal drama of fighting.

So when you wonder why there are no girls or women around your gaming table, remember what lessons I've had to learn. Remember that women are told that gaming isn't for them. That I've had to fight, to this day, to not have my decisions over ridden by men.

Skrevet av L.H på Rpg.net

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