RPG a Day: We’re Not Gonna Take It…

13. Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

I first started gaming when I got to university, which had a big game club. Every week the club’s meeting night looked like a mini-convention; you could browse the offerings and play whatever sounded interesting—AD&D, Gamma World, MERP, Diplomacy, 007, Traveller, Top Secret, Star Trek… I acquired the mindset that you pick a game and then find players for it. For years I looked at game store bulletin boards for specific games, or advertised to recruit players for specific games.

It was not so bad when I was in big urban areas with lots of gamers but when my husband and I moved to a more rural area for a few years, the choices became limited; you could practically know every gamer by name. Edmund and I found ourselves gaming with a number of guys who were tolerable but not in any way friends. 

And the kicker for me was something I had rarely experienced—or perhaps noticed—before: these guys disregarded everything I said and paid attention only to what other men said. I really started noticing it when we had the occasional woman who also played; these women got the same treatment. It was simply as if their contributions were inaudible at the game table, no matter how clearly spoken.

If you are a white cis het man, you have little or no idea what I am talking about: the sense that you are at best an invisible ghost in a group, and at worse a target of contempt or slurs. Not invisible as in “Buzz off, we don’t like you,” but invisible as in “You and your entire kind are not really human.”

Then Edmund asked me, for a Traveller: New Era game he was starting, to play the ship’s captain because he didn’t want any of the murder hobos to be in charge. I had never officially been a party leader and I was not sure how to do it, but I agreed. Right in the first game we had the guy who was essentially the lowest grunt on the ship argue with my character’s decisions, yell at me, and call for my PC’s to be removed from the bridge and court-martialled—and his murder hobo buddies pretty much just enjoying the show and eating popcorn.

Being me, I tried at first to have a player-to-player discussion, explain that in game my captain was within her rights to throw his grunt in the brig, but that I cared more about players than characters, and I wanted to find a way to game that would be enjoyable for all. That fell on deaf ears and he just kept trying to bully me. He was standing in my kitchen and yelling at me! Edmund and I tossed everyone out as neutrally as possible.

That changed the way I gamed in a few different ways. First, from then on I tried to snag the party leader position whenever I had doubt about other candidates, or at least to steer players I trusted toward the role. I think I have become quite good at it, and this has also served me well in non-game-related parts of my life because I am able to facilitate.

Second, the light bulb finally came on and I realised that I should look for nice people and select games that we would enjoy together, rather than pick games, look for gamers, and hope that they would be nice people.






One thought on “RPG a Day: We’re Not Gonna Take It…

  1. You’re quite right, as a white cis het man I don’t really have any idea what the situation you’re describing feels like to endure, I completely agree with the sentiment of picking nice people and then finding a game you all like, rather than the recruit and pray philosophy.

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