Monday, 23 February 2015

Gaming with The Girls II: Player Perspective

 I mentioned in my last post that I've been running a "girl's only" game, which started due to player initiative. The article basically stated that running a game for women is no different to running one for men.

That's the GM perspective, anyway. The player perspective seems to be a bit different.

One of my players, Hazel, was kind enough to give her thoughts on this.

Ivan is probably right - that DMing an all girls game probably isn’t much different from a co-ed or all male game. But, a bit to my surprise, playing it is. 

Now let me make this clear - I don’t usually gravitate to ‘girls only’ clubs and events. Most of my friends are male. A girls’ only session hadn’t really occurred to me until Nat suggested it. Almost all of my (limited) prior gaming experience has been in settings where I was the only girl. Most of my that came over about six months in High School. My university crowd took it more seriously than I did and the time I joined a game it was a disaster. Most recently, I joined an existing game. With the exception of my partner, the rest of the group knew each other for a minimum of 20 years. With the exception of me, they were all blokes. With the exception of one, they were pretty decent guys. 

But the one that was an asshole… 

And this is the big difference in playing with women. Every woman I know with any experience in gaming has left a game because of a man, and most have had the experience repeatedly. For many the first experience of leaving because of a man is the last - but only because it is also their last involvement with gaming. 

I left that game because of an asshole. He wouldn’t get a word in edgewise and treated me like an idiot and generally seemed determined to give the impression that he was attempting to shove his head well up his rectum. (Sadly, the physical reality of his efforts did not muffle his voice adequately.) My character did more for the team than his and his bad decisions repeatedly cost us money and hit points. 

Two of the other four men complained about him behind his back but support in the game? Nada. Confront him when he was pushing us into a bad decision? Not a chance. As much as the obnoxiousness from the asshole, it was their silence that really made me feel like they didn’t see me as a part of the team. Their lack of visible support left it as ‘me vs. the asshole’, not ‘us vs the asshole’. 

Outright rudeness isn’t the only way men push women away from gaming. We also leave because of unwanted advances from ‘nice’ men who won’t take no for an answer. We leave because of breakups when we’re expected to be the one to make the sacrifice for the comfort of others. We leave because of openly sexist comments - all too often disguised as jokes. We leave because we get shoehorned in the stereotyped ‘women’s’ roles when we didn’t want to be. We leave because of lack of support from life partners who don’t leave us with the time to play. We leave because it’s just not worth continuing to fight when we’re not supposed to be in the game in the first place. 

And this is why the girls game is different. I know that Nat, a longtime friend, isn’t going to leave her longtime partner and the father of her children because she’s developed a crush on me and won’t take no for an answer. I know that if I don’t know every detail of the Version 5 Player Handbook, Sally isn’t going to think I’m an idiot. I know that they’re not going to reinforce their stereotypes about women being flighty, shallow and trivial if we all decide to plan a party as part of the game (and yes, we did that - and yes it had strategic value). 

Ivan mentioned my fondness for spitting acid at people. And yes, I’ve done that and I’m going to do it again. Spitting acid is fun. (Oh, that I could do it in real life!) But it’s worth noting that I spit the acid in someone’s face in a session where I was the only girl. And the character (now sans face) was annoying my character. It may not have been a stellar decision - though that did lead me to my current start of an empire. 

The ‘Girls game’ is the first game I’ve played where I’m not simultaneously playing against the scenario while fighting for a modicum of respect my alleged allies. I’m not expecting to get driven out of the game by a boy. And, as Ivan mentioned, the food is a lot better, as are the drinks.

Now we just need to figure out how to kill that Cthulhu damned dragon…

A Note
It's interesting that Hazel brings up the acid-spitting. Indeed, it was pretty much the first thing she did in her first session, to an arrogant and demeaning gate-guard who deserved to be knocked down a peg or two. And as she said, she was the only girl in that session. 

I wondered at the time whether this was a way of asserting herself. A way of telling us all that she wasn't going to be pushed around and take any shit. Melting the face off a minor NPC was a powerful way to make that statement and was possibly even overkill.

But I can see why she did it. And the consequences have resulted in good stories.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Gaming with The Girls

I ran a Dungeons and Dragons game "for the girls" recently and figured that deserved a blogpost.


Question: What's the difference between male and female roleplayers?

One of the players asked me about this subject during a break in the game. After all, my experience with running games has mostly been with male-dominant groups (often all-male) and it's rare for a GM to run a game where all the players are female. However, the ranks of women in gaming culture are increasing, and I welcome the change. So how is it different?

Having now run a D&D session of all-women players, it's only natural to try to make observations. But I don't think I really can. Or should.

For starters, I've only run two sessions like this, which is not enough to make firm statements. Also, it would be foolish and demeaning to suggest that these women are indicative of all female gamers. Like most of the women I know, the ladies playing in my group are all highly individual people with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. I'd hardly say they're a typical group of women any more than an all male group is a typical group of men.

Maybe it would be best for you to meet them.

"The Girls"

First up is Hazel, the most experienced gamer of the gang, who I first met through my gamer housemate. Her perspective on the gender issue is probably better than mine and we like to talk about it. Her boyfriend Shane has also played with us, and she also has been playing in a group he's been running. This was her third session she's played with us.

Secondly is my newest housemate, Sally, a primary school teacher who has stepped into geek-dom (and our home) like a comfy pair of slippers. Having been subjected to Firefly and board games, she was keen to give roleplaying a go. Though hungover on her debut session, she recovered from a mid-game spew to go on to have a great time. She was looking forward to her second game.

And the third member of our little coven is Nat, my next-door neighbour. Her husband Roland has played a lot of roleplaying games and pressured her into playing. Her enthusiasm for the artform has been only matched by her natural talent,and she has gained a massive appetite for it since her first session with Hazel and Sally.

As you can see, that's two gaming newbies. At a recent barbecue party, they informed me that the next session was going to be a girl's only event. I seemed to be exempt from the gender divide (being the DM) and a date was set. Immediately plans were made for dips and margaritas, which was all fine in my book.

Hell, one of my house rules is that the storyteller's cup should never be empty. They've got that covered.

It should be noted that this means we haven't got merely a group of women roleplayers; we have a group of largely new roleplayers who happen to be women. I think that newcomer aspect is important. Definitely more important than their sex and gender.

Even so, the players themselves decided to have a "girl's day" playing D&D. And that itself is intriguing.

"Girl's Day"

Here's a point: though I've often played with men I've never encountered a group that has specifically wanted an all-male group. They've always been open to female members. There's been a couple of times where a game has become "boy's night" but that seems to be more consequence than artifice.

The fact that the group had specifically labelled this a "girl's day" means something to them, I guess. Very simply, it seems to mean that they want to value time with other women and do things that they themselves define as girly. It seems an excuse to indulge in certain girly behaviour.

The margaritas and choice of food are notably different to the classic beer and pizza of male groups, I guess. And I haven't had male groups talk about how cool it would be to have makeup in the style of their Dragonborn character's scales and how we should do that one session.

But apart from these artificial novelties, the game seems to run like any other group and I get the feeling that the "girl's day" trappings are going to lessen the more sessions we play. Already they are focusing primarily on the story and their place within it, and their choices and decisions are not dissimilar to any other group.

The Stereotype
I suppose I know what I'm meant to say. I'm meant to say that there's a definite difference between male and female players. I'm meant to say that boys like bashing monsters and competing whilst girls like talking with NPCs and working as a team. Guys are more interested in "what they can do" and chicks want to know "who they are".

That's not my experience. I've found that stereotype to be completely false. Both men and women are equally eager to roleplay or kill stuff. Though The Girls (for want of a better name) seem to love the roleplaying side of things, they're also more than willing to get blood on their hands in the most ruthless of ways (Hazel is a huge fan of the fact that she can spit acid in someone's face).

Maybe a part of this has to do with the way I run the game. I'm going for a comical Ankh-Morpork-esque tone more to do with social politics than dungeon delving and hours can go by without a single roll. The Girls seem to really enjoy that, but that's the same way I GM for my male players and they are equally responsive. It's uncommon for D&D games, but not unheard of. And I like to think my DM style contributes to the enjoyment of my players.

I think that my contribution is interesting and would be better expressed by one of the players. And I'd like to see what they think about the fact that I'm a male running the game for their all-female group.

What's the difference between male and female roleplayers?

Not much, really. Female gamers are less common, but they don't tend to act much differently.

If pressed, I would say that these are the only real differences:
1) They appreciate not being the token girl of the group
2) They seem to like Dragonborn more than guys
3) The catering is of a better standard

That's it.