Women In Gaming Panel — Highligts

I’ve had more than one request for a more detailed account of the Women In Gaming panel so,

First the disclaimer:  I created this highlights entry from memory and I expect that when I get to see the video some things will be different than I remembered.  Chani, Kreely, or anyone else who was there is welcome to add comments or corrections.

We began with introductions and gaming backgrounds.  I don’t remember all of it, except that the collective gaming experience of the panelists was considerable. 

We spent some time discussion what it is like to be a Woman gamer.  There are some social stigmas involved which are harsher than for men.  One of the things I focused on, and the reason I gave up gaming during high school was the fact that my gaming sessions had at least two games going on.  There was the official game and then the game of “impress the girl”.  Chani and Kreely both mentioned that in games with unfamiliar people they tend to get talked down at.  The guys all start explaining “how things work” to the female even if she has more experience in the area than he does.  We all agreed that the GM makes a huge difference in this kind of behavior.  The GM can make the difference between getting back to playing or getting bogged down in sexual politics.

We also discussed the pros and cons of having women in gaming sessions.  There seemed to be general agreement that when a woman was playing there was more “Role” playing and less “Roll” playing.  More characterisation and less hack’n’slash.  The point came up that for some men this could actually be a drawback.  There is a real benefit for men in having a “Guys Gaming Night” sans women. All the women panelists agreed that we had no problem with that, what we have a problem with is men saying it’s okay for us to play with them and then treating us differently while secretly resenting our presence.

We discussed stereotypical male first characters (Buff fighter with big sword) and stereotypical male newbie mistakes (Tackling 10 demons with a solo 3rd level fighter.)  And their female counterparts (Beautiful Elven Magic User who thinks she can solve all problems by charming people.)

When I posted about this panel on a message board one of the first responses I got was “Do women gamers exist?  Where can I get one?”  I mentioned this in the panel and a really cool discussion followed, from which I’ve culled these pointers.

Start by inviting a woman who is a fairly good friend.  She is more likely to feel comfortable.

Pick a world to play in that the woman is somewhat familiar with.  If she’s never watched anime or much science fiction then dropping her into a world full of Mecha and expecting her to understand it or like it isn’t really fair.

Carefully craft a character for her which she’ll enjoy playing.  You’ll need to know enough about her to make this work. 

Do a pre-game briefing so she’ll know roughly what to expect.  Include in the game briefing an introduction to any of the players whom she might not know.

Invite more than one woman.  They may not all stick around, but they’ll feel safer for their first foray into role playing.

Be the GM.  That gives you far more control over the behavior of other players.  You can run interference, prevent others from talking down to the woman, prevent ego boosting and munchkinism and a whole host of other things which could drive away the female you want to get hooked on gaming.

That, in a nutshell, was the Women in Gaming Panel.  We never got around to discussing much about computerized gaming or women in Science Fiction.  There wasn’t enough time.  Once I get my hands on a copy of the tape I hope to transcribe it and make it available to anyone who is interested.

Addendum: There was a recording error during the panel. It looks like that transcription will not be happening after all. I’m afraid what’s here is all that remains. sigh.

9 thoughts on “Women In Gaming Panel — Highligts”

  1. A “munchkin” player is one who is interested only in gaining levels, having the most powerful weapon, obliterating enemies with a single blow, and generally boosting his own ego at the expense of the game and everyone else in it. When munchkin players are thwarted in these desires they tend to throw tantrums.

  2. It’s what the SJ game is referring to.

    To be a munchkin, or to munchkin, is to tweak/twink your character without any thought towards roleplaying and character balance. Okay in some D&D modules that are supposed to be like that, but really not okay in most other games, since one person doing that can break the game, much less several.

  3. Other acceptable terms…

    Others terms used include ‘Cheese’, ‘Broken’, and ‘Twink’…

    “Man, I have some serious cheese on my character sheet…”

    “Dude, that PC is broken!”

    “I twinked my character so now he has mega-uber-power of d00000m!!”

  4. A few suggestions….

    These might be useful later:

    1) Pick the game and group carefully – a system like Iron Crown’s RoleMaster is an absolutely atrocious introduction to RPGs – it’s less an RPG than a hobby for statistics majors and dice-mongers who enjoy memorizing tables of items and then figuring out how those tables interact. Ditto the Palladium RPG system, which also factors heavily with a lot of exotic dice and rolls – keep the equipment needs to a minimum, if possible, to save both your sanity and that of your new arrivals.

    If your RPG group is heavy into one game system, try breaking the ice by picking a system or a new setting that most of the older players there are unfamiliar with. Let everyone set up new characters for said system or setting, and then start with that clean slate – that puts everyone on an even footing by removing all the baggage of past campaign sessions, and it’ll help cut down the munchkinism as those who are inclined towards such displays may not be familiar enough with a new system to engage in it.

    Alternately, you could also just keep the same setting but announce a break from the current campaign and set up new characters, again avoid the past baggage and giving the newcomers a taste of the setting without committing them to anything – that way, if they leave, then it’s no loss to the group; introducing crucial or new members into an existing campaign and having them depart can seriously bugger things up otherwise.

    2) Set up a good background or scenario for bringing in the new recruit – if your characters were left in the middle of a battle the previous session, it may not be the best time to bring in a newcomer. Try to bring them into the game when there’s ‘downtime’ for the characters – they’re in a new town and finding a place to stay for the night, or they’ve just gotten back to base and the Colonel has a new recruit waiting in the briefing room, etc. This will help in bringing the player into the rest of the group with as little disruption as possible, and giving them a good background to work with will help them stand up to the old salts, as it were… especially if there’s a hint of mystery or the unknown behind them. But try not to make them integral to the new plot – it may mean that the characters will drag the newbie along, but it won’t make any points with the rest of the group.

    3) If introducing a person to an RPG with a well-established group, it might be easier to bring them in if they’re around for a bit, lurking in the background and getting a feel for the session. Have them work an NPC for you for a bit, perhaps, before bringing them fully into the game. Get everyone comfortable with one another, and familiar with the world and gaming styles to avoid a sudden shock to the new player.

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