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Chicks In Gaming

By Jeff Freeman

c/o ack@rpg.net

 

Chicks in gaming is a hot topic right now. It has been ever since the first generation of role playing gamers were old enough to become interested in chicks. Someone looked around the gaming table and thought, "Man, I wish some chicks would hang out with us." Game publishers also took note, thinking, "Man, I wish twice as many people were buying my games."

Two basic strategies were developed: One, add things chicks like to the games. Two, remove what they don't like.

If they knew what chicks liked, they wouldn't have spent their youths hanging out with a bunch of geeks pretending to be elves. So they had to stick with the remove-what-they-don't-like approach. That's unfortunate, because what chicks don't like about role-playing games are, to be specific, the gamers.

I mean honestly, if hunky Brad, captain of the football team, were playing role playing games, chicks would be interested. Instead, it's not-so-hunky Norman, captain of the chess team. Chicks hate being hit-on by Norman every time they try to play a game, and rest assured, Norman does hit-on them. They call it `sexual harassment', on account of Norman being such a dork.

Norman: "If you're hurt, my Paladin can heal you by laying-hands on--"

Chick: "Don't even think about it, dweeb."

And so it went. The game publishers sought to remove game fans from the role-playing hobby.

To their credit, they did a pretty good job. They also discovered some other things along the way that chicks don't like about gaming, but possibly this was coincidental. In removing things from games that the game fans liked, they did indeed remove some other elements that chicks weren't comfortable with.

The word `chicks', for instance. Chicks hate that. Not many game rules use the word `chick' to refer to chicks any more. Not that there ever were that many games literally using the word `chick', but figuratively, the tone was the same. Also, games don't make so many generalizations about chicks. Chicks don't like to be generalized. Art that featured chainmail bikinis on big-breasted warrior chicks, to site another example, was disliked by most chicks and, at the same time, was one of the big draws for chess-captain Norman, who was also disliked by most chicks. Anyone that ever played 1st edition AD&D remembers the succubus drawing in The Monster Manual. Sure, she would drain hard-won experience levels, had fangs, little horns and bat-wings, but just look at those hooters! Woo-hoo!

The DM would threaten, "She's going to suck the life out of you," to which Norman would respond, "Bring it on, baby!"

Math was another sticking point. Chicks are terrible at math, or at the very least they don't enjoy it, whereas people like Norman love crunching numbers. Now most new chick-friendly games are `rules-lite', low-math, sorts of things. Chicks dig that, Norman doesn't. As a bonus, Hunky Brad, captain of the football team, isn't very keen on math either. Rules-light, low-math games are comprehensible by Hunky Brad, so that if someone read the rules to him, he could actually play. Getting Brad to play and getting Norman to go away is the key to getting chicks into the hobby.

A lot of games started using the pronoun `she' in place of the neuter pronoun `he'. This was meant to make the games exclusive - specifically to exclude people like Norman. No danger of excluding people like Brad, remember, because Brad can't read. The pronoun `he' is inclusive because, as it is generally understood in the English language, the word `he' applies to either males or females. For example: "The game-master runs the game. He rolls dice for all the monsters."

In that context, "He rolls dice" means "He or she rolls dice." It's inclusive, and it makes people like Norman feel free to play the game. `Can't have that.

New rules say "She rolls dice..." Now Norman understands that this isn't his game, he needs to go hang with the math club.

The few chicks already in gaming are doing their part to exclude Norman, too. Possibly the game-publishers are just following their lead. Women In Gaming, or `WIG' is a chick-only group. Norman couldn't join if he wanted to (and believe me, he wants to). Now, I know `WIG' sounds sexist, since associating women with wigs is stereotypical, and I am not at all sexist, but those chicks came up with the acronym on their own. Personally, I would have gone for Broads In Gaming, or `BIG'. They didn't ask me.

Among other things, WIG is promoting a "Chicks only" day, so Norman can be told point-blank on at least one day a year that he isn't welcome. I think they're going to call it, `I like you, just not that way, you have a sweet personality, let's just be friends'-day. And maybe they want to breast-feed infants in mid-game, which isn't as much of a turn-on as you might think.

TSR, Inc. adopted a different strategy to get gamers out of the hobby that was even more spectacularly successful: They wrote the game for twelve-year-olds. This is sheer brilliance, because even twelve-year-olds aren't interested in anything written for twelve-year-olds. For example, 1st edition AD&D was written for adults, the vocabulary alone insisted on a college reading level. Game modules, the monster manuals and so on, contained adult themes and pictures of bare breasts, sans suckling infants. Naturally, lots of twelve-year-olds were attracted to it.

As illustrations of this principle, take `teen' magazines. Who reads them? Not teenagers. Pre-teens read them, because they deal with issues that are inappropriate for pre-teens. For example, sex. The surest way to get youngsters disinterested in anything is to write-down to them. TSR, Inc. realized it, did just that, and young boys, along with everyone else, stayed away from the game. School game clubs followed chain-mail bikinis right out of the hobby. TSR's strategy was so successful that they nearly went out of business and had to sell-out to a card-game company.

The not-using-sex-to-sell strategy was adopted universally by all the game publishers. Sex sells, most especially to the types of people they didn't want to sell to (i.e. gamers), so they all took the moral high road to bankruptcy and quit doing it. Young boys are attracted to young girls, and a naked elfin princess is basically a naked fifteen-year-old with pointy ears. Game publishers could answer inquiries from the Justice Department with, "Kiddie-porn? Goodness, no... look! Pointy-ears!" Anyway, it is difficult to understand the arguments against using sex to sell, because if it weren't for sex, none of us would be here. And of course, by `here' I mean `on the internet'.

In any case, getting Norman out of the hobby was only the first step. Now they needed to get chicks into the hobby.

Vampire and vampire-type games accomplished a bit of both. They were introduced because people like Norman hate them. Norman wants to be a warrior-hero, using complex mathematically equations to blast big-breasted monsters into oblivion. Gothic games feature none of that. They feature a rules-light, no-math, romantic angle that Norman can't even comprehend, let alone enjoy. Chicks on the other hand, like all that romance stuff, and vampires in particular appeal to the perverse sexual rape-fantasy that all chicks deny having.

So now the Storyteller says, "He's going to suck the life out of you," and the female player responds, "Bring it on, baby!"

Of course, the vampire thing is only the beginning. `Deadlands' is popular now and it's a horror sort of western. The `horror' part provides a good transition from vampire games, and chicks like cowboys. In fact, you could probably predict what sorts of RPGs will come out next year by going to a male strip club and looking at the costumes. There's always at least one "Bronco Billy" dancer who comes out wearing spurs, chaps, boots and a hat. The g-string isn't really part of the cowboy costume, but it's required by law.

This is not to say that women can't be attracted to swords-and-sorcery type RPGs. I played in a campaign for a while that many of the players' girlfriends joined. The GM began running adventures that the chicks would like, so of course all the real players ultimately quit. Eventually the party consisted entirely of chicks. This will be much more common as people like Norman give up the hobby and chicks get into it. If you plan on being a GM to an all-chick group, you'll need to adapt.

There are several things a GM must do in order to keep the game interesting for the chicks. They aren't going to want to do the same sorts of things that guys want to do. They don't want to use complex mathematically equations to blast big-breasted monsters, for example.

Men like hunting. They like being given a target/goal and then pursuing that target with single-minded fanaticism. That's why so many fantasy adventures are of the `quest' or rescue variety. Actually, a `rescue the princess' adventure is just a quest in which the goal has breasts. It isn't really a different type of adventure so much as a variation on the theme. It's the medieval fantasy equivalent of surfing the net.

Chicks, on the other hand, like shopping. They like going out to see what they can find, versus knowing what they are looking for right off the bat. Also, female adventurers will stop and ask for directions if they get lost, so you won't need either random encounters or `getting lost in the wilderness' charts. The chicks will seek-out encounters on their own. "Excuse me, Mr. Orc? Can you tell us if this is the way to the Dark Forest?" Mind you, they aren't going to the Dark Forest for anything in particular, they're just going to see what they can find there.

Don't think you can get away with just having the Orc attack them, either. Men will kill the Orc, rifle the corpse and be on their way, even though they are totally lost and haven't any idea which way that is. Chicks will want to form an interpersonal relationship with the Orc. They won't kill him at all, but they might capture him and then bitch until he wishes he were dead. "Look at what you're wearing! I mean honestly, how could you leave the cave looking like that? Don't you have any respect for your mother?" and "Why are you being so hostile anyway? I'm not going to untie you until you learn to express yourself in a non-confrontational manner."

Also, `questing to recover something of great value' isn't as appealing to chicks as `finding a real bargain.' That is, a sale. Let them hear a rumor that broadswords are on sale in the next town and next thing you know, they're off. Of course, they'll have to outfit for the journey, which for them means actually buying an outfit for the journey. You'll have to role-play all of that, so it's best to develop some game-mechanics to handle the situation. Get used to saying things like, "Okay, you try-on the outfit... now roll d20 to make a saving-throw versus it-makes-your-butt-look-fat."

You can throw out the character sheets that you've been using for the past ten years. They'll need to be redesigned to account for the increased detail in equipment descriptions. Whereas men write "clothes, worn" on their character sheets (if that), a chick will list the type of clothing, designer, color, washing instructions and where she bought it. Instead of recording the cost of any particular piece of equipment, chicks will write down how much they saved by purchasing it. "Sword, long, elven-styling, gray steel with mauve handle featuring Krados High-Elf designer insignia, saved 10 gold coins at the Sword Warehouse in Morgorim City." It might be best to use a separate page.

Game snacks are going to change a whole lot, too. Forget the Cheetos, Brand-X budget cola and pizza. Welcome to the world of hors d'oeuvres, fat-free cookies, dry popcorn, diet coke and wine coolers. An `hors d'oeuvre' is going to be a pretty bite of food on the end of a toothpick and if the group is meeting at your house then "stay out of the it, it's for company" (you'll hear that a lot). Get used to eating with toothpicks, or for that matter, silverware. There are also small square bits of paper or cloth, called `napkins', which you will be expected to use. This assumes that you're even invited.

Ultimately, game publishers will have just swapped audiences. Instead of expanding, selling to both men and chicks, they'll be selling all-chick games to chicks only. This is still a better financial situation for publishers. They will eventually be paying chicks to do the design, art and authoring of games. That means real savings, because they'll only have to pay the chicks 75-cents on the dollar compared to what they pay men.

Now, you might be thinking that you enjoy role-playing games and you don't want to hand the hobby over to chicks. You might feel as though this is not at all fair. Well, stop crying, sissy-boy, there's nothing you can do about it. Men should have thought of that before they let chicks vote. Now they feel empowered to take whatever they want, the way we used to feel. There's no stopping them.


Feel free to email Jeff at ack@rpg.net. No, really!

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What do you think?

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All of Jeff Freeman's Acks

  • The One True Way to Roleplay, Online: July 20, 1999
  • What Were We Thinking? September 8, 1998
  • Random Thoughts August 9, 1998
  • Run With It! July 14, 1998
  • Background: I'm Evil! June 9, 1998
  • Who Wants to Role-Play? May 12, 1998
  • Playing Without Brains Apr 8, 1998
  • Ultima Online Looked Good Off March 10, 1998
  • The Perfect Game February 10, 1998
  • "INTRO TO RPGs" January 6, 1998
  • "Do I Have A Point?"
  • "LOOK BEFORE YOU LARP" November 11, 1997
  • "RPGs: Then and Now" October 7, 1997
  • Chicks in Gaming", September 9, 1997 (and its Danish translation)
  • The FUDGE review that inspired it.

    Other columns at RPGnet

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