Since my comparatively recent entrance to the world of tabletop gaming, I have become more aware of the conversation on sexism in gaming. On the whole I think having a conversation is certainly better than not (I do love to talk) but seriously; opening up a dialogue gives us the opportunity to make a change if needed or value what we already have if not. As with most debated issues, I feel an extreme view in either direction can be less healthy; unwillingness to debate and discuss those more extreme views even more so. So let’s have a delve into some issues of political correctness in table top gaming.
Gender bias: My experience so far has been perhaps an average of 1/3 female players if I’m being a bit generous – but that could just be my social circle / local area. I’d love to hear about your experiences of gender balance in your local groups and whether you think it has an effect on how you play.
How does the gender balance of a player base affect the gameplay itself? I’ve always played female characters and, with a couple of exceptions, my friends have generally played characters that match their own gender identities (that’s some cracking PC lingo that probably wouldn’t have been common parlance only a few years ago!). The most important thing, though, in my opinion, is how unimportant character gender can be. So your character is a sexy elf with the bikini armour and you want to use you feminine wiles to get secrets from your captive… well sorry love but my mate over here Phlegm, the dwarf famous for his nauseating (and successfully intimidating) snorts and coughs can flirt just as well as you can and there’s no telling what the captive might prefer anyway!
So that’s gender bias sort of wrapped up – the headline? Play with a group of players you can have a good game with. Play a character that you can have a fun adventure with. That’s pretty much all there is to it.
So let’s talk Sex… well that would be a bit uncomfortable. Let’s talk about sexiness and how it applies to games such as DnD. I’m a regular lady: I am self-conscious about a fair few aspects of my physical appearance and social ineptitude. So when I drew up my first character I did what I think the vast number of girls would do (though please please please correct me if I’m wrong as I’d love to hear your stories and let’s be honest, that sweeping generalisation was entirely non-PC!). I created an elf. She was cool, she was pretty and all her stats weighed in favour of being calm and witty. I don’t think I am really any of those things so I really did not choose wisely for a first foray into RPG. Whilst I might now have my favourite half-orc going strong and a fairly irritating dwarven bard in the sidelines, when I started a new RPG series (Star Wars role playing – try it out it’s great!) I did exactly the same thing. I created a Twi’lek who is super cool, charming and seductive, none of which can I role play terribly well. I really should stick to my club swinging characters should I not? Anyway. My point is that the whole concept of fantasy is that you can pretend to be whatever you want so if you don’t feel sexy in real life, OF COURSE, it’s ok to play a sexy character without being unPC and I think that goes for girls and guys playing characters of either role.
Addendum: if you’re super hot you can totally take a break from being objectified everywhere you go by joining friends and playing any character you want in just the same way – no discrimination here!
I think my last point is that it’s good to escape the day to day and go adventuring. It’s good to build your real life confidence playing characters with personality traits you may not feel you have in person. You can also consider scenarios and characters that would not be considered politically correct (though maybe read the room beforehand). We now live in a world where you can be scared to ask a question in case it causes offense – so you go away just as ignorant as you came. Perhaps rather than treating our games as a battleground for gender neutrality or anything else, we treat them as a neutral zone (a “safe space” if you will) where ideas and themes could be discussed in abstract to allow people to understand them better in their own lives.