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.

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