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"Women in Gaming?"


It appears I've broken one of the unwritten rules of game-related columns. It's been over a year and I haven't yet done an edition on that "novelty" of women in gaming. It is a deep issue, as Jeff Freeman's earlier column suggested. Shadis' recent editorial talks about it, and the RPGA email list had some controversial discussion on women characters.

The general consensus of such columns tends to be "gee, when we added 1 lone girl gamer into our frat-house environment, boy did things change". Generally such columns start the female in the role of "mother" first, forcing the boys to mind their manners and dress nicer. Slowly, she assumes the role of "madonna", uplifting them from their barbaric combat-oriented games into a gentler, more sensitive sort of roleplaying. Often she gets cast into the "whore" role as well, serving as girlfriend for the GM and causing tension and controversy within the group. Oddly enough, the "person" or "individual" role is ignored (and god forbid she be a hardcore gunbunny or power gamer). But is this accurate?

Well, speaking personally, I remember how our group was changed when the sexes mingled. In a way, I suppose we should have predicted it. After all, we couldn't keep them out forever. And yes, it did broaden our gaming. I remember when the other gender really became part of our group.

For the most part, we were playing "Call of Cthulhu". In this particular series, the adventure I was running was half set in the Dreamlands. And in our own immature way, our players had fun running around, investigating things, interacting with NPCs, and coming up with clever solutions to horrifying world-ending problems.

Then the new characters came in, and a whole new world was opened up. The very idea of actually just shooting the NPCs, instead of talking with them, was brilliant. It opened up whole worlds for the game! We'd been so silly, trying to come up with people-based solutions, when the direct way was so straightforward! It even explained why the game books had so many pages devoted to combat, something we'd previously considered as only a last resort.

Once this new way had been breached, well, our group became much more accommodating. We had both guys and gals playing side by side for a time. Sure, some tended towards guns while the others tended towards thinking, but just the novel impact of mixing the Mars/Venus crowds had opened new vistas for our games!

Of course, the social aspect changed considerably. We started to dress more nicely, since after all we were now being observed not just as gamers, but as potential sexual mates. And since our roleplaying was actually just a raw reflection of our primal ids, well, things started to get a little wild.

Just the mere presence of the mixed genders led to a sexual tension, heightened by the tendency of all of us to play wildly stereotyped characters. Eventually, though, we just made sure we gamed in places with extra rooms and extra futons, so gamers that got carried away could add a live roleplaying aspect to their amorous interactions.

And popularity for the games soared! In fact, we now had enough players that we could begin charging for "newbies" to join our "gaming club". Merely assigning the appropriate brutish combat characters and helpless conquest/sex object characters was enough to get the juices a'flowing, and eventually most of the interaction was live and rather explicit. Since we charged hourly for these "games", well, we were making a rather tidy income.

Some people might argue that, since the point is roleplaying, that perhaps stereotyping characters by their player's gender was a bit limiting. Others might argue that perhaps women and men gamers, already being on the skewed side of the population norms, aren't inherently locked into cliched gender patterns. But I say poppycock to all that, for our experience showed that mixing the genders results in nothing short of pure fulfillment of biological imperatives. Individuality be damned, we are all hard-wired to react certain ways, even in gaming.

Of course, when the police shut down our operations, it was just more evidence of the public bias against gamers. But that's subject for another column. All I can conclude from this is that, yes, indeed, when you take a group and mix women and men gamers, it'll change your entire viewpoint!

After all, none of us are unique.

Until next month,
Sandy Antunes

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