Sexism in Gaming

Yesterday I read an Tumblr post that made me deeply uncomfortable. Go read the article but be warned it’s disturbing.

Ok if you don’t want to read it it’s an account of how abhorrently women are treated in the gaming community; specifically tabletop, Pen & Paper, and miniatures/strategy. Not just heckling or general sexism but multiple forms of assault.

It made me sick to my stomach and a little part of me was glad I’d never experienced it. (In case you’re just tuning in; I’m a thirty-something, white, cis, male.) As I sat there thinking how it might turn me off gaming completely, and how sad that would be, I remembered a game I ran once.

It was the mid-2000s and Lost was every geek’s favourite show. Narnia had burst onto the big screen and I was running a game for three other guys. They were my first gaming group and they had a strict no girls policy.

The game was set on an Island (of course) and had Halflings that rode polar bears into battle (what game doesn’t). The overall theme of the game was racism, I’d based the story vaguely on the real life story of boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter. (I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan at the time.) Only he was a Halfling Colosseum fighter.

The group was ridiculously cautious. They’d spend 20-40 minutes per decision trying to plan for every contingency. (Probably my fault, a polar bear had killed their character in the jungle when they’d foolishly run ahead alone.)

After several sessions of them literally doing nothing and then getting pissed that I wasn’t moving the story along fast enough I introduced a new character; an impulsive human female Ninja, with shady motives. The idea was to have a character that could move the plot forward without a player fearing for their characters’ lives.

I’d done it early with an, “enemy of my enemy” style bad guy and they’d followed him straight into a trap. They still liked him afterwards.

They hated the Ninja from the start. At first I thought it was the impulsiveness (ten years later I think it was the gender). It wasn’t too bad at the beginning but when I started having her assert opinions like, “You’ve been arguing about going through this door for 30 minutes, I’m sure they’ve heard you.” Or “Shut up and stab something.” They started to verbally abuse her both in game and out of game and she was renamed, “The Bitch”.

At one point, in the middle of a puzzle, I tried to give them a hint through the Ninja. One of the players told her to shut up and let them work. I snapped and asked through the character, “What the hell is your problem? I’ve saved your life, fought monsters beside you but you still treat me like shit.”

The answer was, “You’re an NPC.” (Non-Player Character) Which I would believe if they hadn’t had the epic bromance with the last NPC. Then the player added, “Plus I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”

The rest of the group burst into laughter as if it was the cleverest joke they’d ever heard.

If it sounds familiar, it’s a quote from South Park that specifically makes fun of a character for being sexist.

The game fizzled out shortly afterwards. It had made me deeply uncomfortable. At the time I thought it was because I was doing something wrong in running the game. I thought the hate and vehemence was aimed at me.

I’m sure some of it was aimed at me but most was aimed at the character who dared to be female and not be a love interest, damsel, or incompetent.

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the sexism women deal with every day and it sucked. It’s nothing like the stories in the article but my experience does illustrate how deep seeded the sexism in gaming is, that a fictional character played by a man was treated poorly just because I wrote down F instead of M on the character sheet.

Since then I’ve played with dozens of people and have had great experiences. I’ve built up my own community of players that aren’t jackasses and I’ll re-post what I said on my facebook yesterday:

Let me be completely clear: Books End, FADDS, and any game I run is a safe space. If you EVER feel uncomfortable you let me know and it will be dealt with.

This sort of behaviour is unacceptable, deplorable, and will result in being permanantly banned. I also have no qualms with calling the police if things are bad enough.

Gaming is about having fun and imagining other worlds. It’s not exclusive to one gender, sex, race, class, ethnicity, language, etc… It’s meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone.

 

Be Excellent to each other!

Éric

Basic Update – July 14

The morning heat rushed to embrace me as I left the house. Its touch was warm and soothing to start but quickly it started to suffocate me. As I walked the short walk to the bus the heat threw a blanket of humidity over everything and made the world feel and look like it was under water, without the soothing liquid.

That’s not the start of a story, it’s just my morning commute… blarg. I hate heat. Fall is my favourite season. Give me 5-15 degrees Celsius and I’m happy. I realize it’s only been a few days of 30 degree weather but I’m not a fan.

Other than the heat my weeks are busy with multiple big projects at work, tweaking FADDS from player feedback, and trying to get some writing done. With the constant urgencies at work I’m starting to feel like I’m falling behind on my writing. I think it may be time to start writing at night again. (Yeah I know I was spoiled.)

FADDS is coming around really well. My two major blocks were Magical items and Villains. Last week in the shower I figured out magic items cost and creation.

Villains, Monsters, Fiends, Challenges, opponents, adversaries, bad guys, etc. whatever you want to call them they’re essential to role playing games. My biggest issue with most games is their lack of instructions for making a villain that isn’t a player class. Sometimes I like to have an insanely awesome rat fight my high level characters. Without making it really big or giving it class levels.
On the flip side as a game master I really don’t want to spend 1 hour or more making a monster that my players will ignore or kill in under 30 seconds.

So the challenge I have is creating a two tiered system, one for genuine big-bads and one for the challenging but quick monsters. All without players knowing the difference.

Building a game system is difficult but really exciting. I’ve spent so many hours in front of a screen that I can say with authority, get yourself computer glasses. I love the feeling I get when everyone is having fun and the game is moving forward. It’s great.

Éric

Recommendation Thursday – Non-Player Character Webcomic

Hi,

Every once in a while I’ll find a webcomic that devastates my productivity. It’s been a few months since this happened. The other day I was reading Weregeek and the guest artist had their own comic called NPC. The first joke I read was a D&D joke and I was hooked from then on.

It’s a gag a day comic with mini-storylines and it’s extremely entertaining.

Go check it out.

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Eric

Guidelines for Cooperative Gaming Fun!

A cooperative game is any game that you play cooperatively with others instead of opposed to other players. Massive Online Roleplaying games, some tabletop games, Pen and Paper Roleplaying games, and certain video games all fit into this category.

All of them require that you play well with others, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.

**Disclaimer: This is my opinion and I have almost no experience playing MMO-RPGs.**

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Read moreGuidelines for Cooperative Gaming Fun!

Recommendation Wednesday – WereGeek

Hello my imaginary friends,

Last week I wrote ahead to make sure I had Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off from writing. I thought that was enough. I totally forgot about the fact that Monday was a vacation and that I should have worked ahead. Past Eric messing with present Eric again.

Of course it’s a short week and the workload can be described as “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” so I’m not getting as much done as I’d like.

For all those reasons I’m starting a new tradition: Recommendation Wednesday. Where it’s Wednesday and I recommend something.

This week’s recommendation is: WereGeek.

It’s the most balanced gaming/slice of life comic I’ve read. The characters are fun and believable and the gaming is exciting and makes me want to try new things. Plus there’s a healthy sprinkling of puns.

Alina Pete has a great sense of humour and a great feel for characters. Go give it a read if you’re into gaming and like webcomics.

2006-11-27

 

Éric

The Simplest Role Playing System

I went to a social gathering the other night and someone asked if I’d brought a game. I hadn’t, so obviously I offered to run an improvised RPG. I had my phone with a dice roller so I was covered.

Turned out that I wasn’t needed but it got me thinking about how to create a simplified rule set that would be easy to remember and even easier to teach.

Here’s what I came up with… You need a coin or a dice (a coaster or other flip-able thing works too), a storyteller, and players. (Something to write on and with would help.)

Simple Rules: Each player chooses Body, Mind, or Luck as their characters specialty. They have 3 in that ability. (Ex. Fighters choose Body.) Their health and defence equal 4.

Complex Rules: Each person has 5 points to place in Body, Mind, and Luck. No negatives. Their health equals their Body plus their Luck+1. Their Defence equals Body plus Mind +1

Resolution Mechanism: When a character needs to do something the Storyteller decides if it’s easy (1), hard (2), ridiculous (4), or clownshoes crazy (7). The character then subtracts their attribute from the difficulty.

If the attribute is higher than the difficulty they succeed. If not they have to flip the coin 5 times and call it (if it’s a die have them call even or odd). Add every right guess to their attribute.

Combat: Each character does 1 point of damage if they hit something and take the same if they are hit. Death occurs at 0 health.

Everything else: The storyteller makes up.

Character Sheets: Available here!

I’d like to thank both XDM and Shadowrun for inspiring me.

Remember this when you’re at a bar or party and everyone looks scared or/and bored. Everyone will think you’re awesome! I promise.

*Rules updated July 7th, 2015 after a play test*