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What is Wrong Here?

Posted By Patrick Benson On March 1, 2011 @ 12:00 am In GMing Advice | 39 Comments

Yesterday Gnome Stew reader TwoShedsJackson left the following comment in response to Martin’s excellent Why Are Most Gamers in the U.S. White and Male? article:


“I’m a woman, playing in an otherwise all-male group. The situation I describe below is starting to become a problem for me, and I wonder if a similar dynamic may discourage other women from playing RPGs.

There are times when I become very frustrated with my group. They seem to have a very different concept of roleplaying from my own. Almost no RP occurs except with NPCs. The PCs in our parties have as much common ground, understanding and knowledge of each other as do the characters in the first episode of Lost. Whenever I have my character try to do something that would alter this situation in some small way, the others in the group (including the DM) betray visible signs of impatience and in some cases actually interrupt in order to “get back to moving the plot forward”. When this happens I feel stepped-on, marginalized, and out of place.

Is this actually a gender issue, or is my group unusual?”

Is this a gender issue? Is TwoShedsJackson’s group unusual? I do not think so in either case.

No One Is Doing Anything “Wrong” Here

Some groups do not want to explore the personal relationships between the PCs. There are players who find this kind of role playing to be uncomfortable. Gender is not solely related to this phenomenon (at least in my experience it is not), but it can be a factor for some players. Other things may be contributing to this discomfort, such as personal histories.

Some people have a problem with developing the relationships between PCs because it feels too intimate to them. A boundary is crossed that blurs the relationship between characters and players. The situations that PCs may find themselves in are often more intense than what most people will encounter in their daily lives, and the roleplaying of those relationships may be perceived as being significantly more intense as well. Not everyone enjoys being in that sort of situation.

On the other hand there are groups where this kind of roleplaying is intensely fun. The players see a distinct line between the relationships of the PCs and the relationships of the players. What is explored within the game world is safe because it does not impact the relationships within the real world.

Finally there are groups that are not uncomfortable with the roleplaying between PCs, but they just do not enjoy this sort of play. How the PCs feel about each other is irrelevant to the story being told. All that the group wants is to unveil the story and to get to the combat scenes.

And there are infinite variables between these three extremes. None of these approaches are wrong. They are just matters of taste.

Something Is Very Wrong Here

So if developing the relationships between PCs or avoiding such roleplaying is a matter of taste what is the problem? The issue is that TwoShedsJackson feels that she is being “stepped-on, marginalized, and out of place” because her group does not want to explore the relationships between the PCs when she does. We only have one side of the story here though, so we’re not going to be able to resolve this issue for her.

What we can do is to focus on the real issue here and it is not the relationship between the PCs. It is the relationship between the members of the group, both the players and the GM. Without more information we cannot make assumptions. It is quite possible that the group is enjoying their games and that this problem is a minor one, or perhaps the group is swimming in problems. In either case the solution is the same – the group needs to have an out of game discussion about what it is that each player wants from the different aspects of the game.

Get Busy Talking

TwoShedsJackson’s problem is a serious one, and to resolve it she needs to get her group talking about it. The best way to start that conversation? Request that your GM put it on the group’s agenda. What if you are the GM and a player makes such a request? Here are some tips on what to do next:

  • Do not dismiss a player’s request for a group discussion. If a player is asking for a group discussion treat it as a serious matter.
  • Do not make promises. You cannot predict how the discussion will go. All you can do is to guarantee that the discussion will take place.
  • Announce at the end of a session that the discussion will take place at the beginning of the next session. State the issue clearly to everyone in the group, and give them time to think about the matter before the discussion takes place.
  • Demand that respect be given to everyone at the table. It is rare that a GM should ever be demanding of the players. This is one of those times though, and you need to make it clear that everyone at the table is to be treated with respect.
  • Play the role of mediator, not judge. Your job is not to pass sentence but instead to ensure that all sides are heard on the matter including your own.
  • If a resolution is not reached after a reasonable amount of time schedule another discussion for the next session and start the game.

This is a much tougher task to deal with then preparing a session or running a game. For those you have rules to guide you. Here you can only rely on your ability to lead, your people skills, and the maturity of your group. This is difficult work, but it is also rewarding work! Good groups do not shy away from these issues. Good groups address them, and good GMs take the lead in seeing that these discussions takes place.

Have you ever needed to lead a group discussion in order to resolve a similar issue? If so, how did it go and what approach did you use? Share your story by leaving a comment below.

And good luck to TwoShedsJackson with starting a discussion with her group! If you think it will help share this article with your GM, and let us know what the result is.

About  Patrick Benson

Patrick was born in 1975, and is more or less your typical American male for someone of his age. Except he is a tabletop RPG gamer and a damn fine game master! What else matters?




39 Comments (Open | Close)

39 Comments To "What is Wrong Here?"

#1 Comment By Wesley Street On March 1, 2011 @ 10:45 am

I sympathize with TwoShedsJackson but I also agree that, from what has been presented, her situation is more indicative of different play styles than gender issues… unless she’s being treated unjustly due to her gender and that’s unacceptable. As the only woman in her group she has a legitimate reason to feel marginalized if her needs as a gamer aren’t being met. That shouldn’t be immediately dismissed.

Though I’m male, I have a similar POV to TSJ. As a GM I believe the “RP” aspect is as important as the “G” aspect, else I would be playing a board game. That doesn’t mean I expect sessions to be amateur theater hour or to turn weird and uncomfortable. I don’t even expect “in character” dialog. But I do expect that the players put themselves in the mindset of their characters rather than treating their PC solely as a collection of statistics. Or the game as something to “win” rather than be shared. However half my players are incapable of understanding my mindset. And I have to accept that and tailor my game accordingly or wait for that mythical perfect player who will never come.

I have had to lead group discussions in regard to what is expected of the game. A player (who was also another player’s wife) missed several sessions and missed out on opportunities for improvement as her PC was out of the picture. When she returned she was distraught to find her PC lagged behind the others. This caused severe friction between two camps in the group. After toning the fiery rhetoric down it was decided that players would receive compensation for their PCs no matter if they participated in a session or not. Not everyone was thrilled, included the two other women in our group who made a commitment to attend regularly, but it was the best compromise we could come up with.

#2 Comment By Roxysteve On March 1, 2011 @ 11:16 am

While I don’t in any way condemn the effort of people talking out the issues that they believe “their group” suffers from (and what a pit of viper-like assumptions lurks hidden under that innocent-sounding phrase), I’d have to say that in this particular case the discussion has already been had in the meta-text of the game (judging by what was posted). One player would like to try a different style of roleplaying, the rest of the group has rejected the idea.

The best that can come of a discussion on the subject would seem to be an airing of differences and perhaps – hopefully – a more genteel way of saying “sorry, not interested” that doesn’t involve alienating one player for the convenience of the others.

I hope I am very wrong here. I hope a discussion will sensitize the others and bring out their inner need to explore backstory and relationships instead of killing monsters and taking their stuff. I’d certainly give it a go were I a part of the group, though I’m a lousy real-time first-person roleplayer and in all likelihood TSJ would end up begging me to stop.

But I’m thinking of my best friend and long-time Call of Cthulhu player Jeff, who agonized over telling me that since he did forensic paperwork for a living, he could no longer bear playing through the highly paper-clue-intensive investigative New York stage of the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign we had played for only two sessions.

The options there were unpalatable but obvious. We could drop the game. Jeff could suck it up for the few sessions it would take to get beyond that phase of the adventure to the stuff I know he would lap up. We could excuse Jeff from the game.

No amount of discussion was going to change the fact that Jeff was in a game that mirrored his real life, the escape from which is the real point of playing any RPG. He was a poor fit for the game the rest of us were playing, a situation that seems to mirror the situation TSJ finds herself in.

I’ll hate to lose Jeff from the Call of Cthulhu game, and his departure might spell the end of that campaign as the rest of the group evaluates the change in cast. He formed one of the two poles to which I moored the group. Not only that, the game is/was the only opportunity we get to meet each month.

Jeff is like a brother to me, so I’m trying to get a Conan game into my already crowded GM schedule so he can hit things and keep the clues down to what he can see and hear.

#3 Comment By Trace On March 1, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

I run games in a manner similar to what TSJ appears to want. And I know that my group, at least in my area, is the exception, not the norm. We are also “snobby,” and actually audition people before we let them play with us, specifically BECAUSE out RP involves real & fictional emotional intimacy. We have, as an aside, had a mixed gender group over the course of the years.

I have played in other groups, and felt exactly the same way as TSJ, and it had nothing to do with gender, only a fundamentally different need in play style.

#4 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On March 1, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

I don’t know that I agree with the concept that the issue has already been discussed and that the best that’s going to come of discussion is a formal “no thank you”. I think in situations like this, most people are aware of what they want from the game but aren’t always so good at picking up cue from other players on what they want. So it might not be that the other players consciously rejected Two-Shed’s play style, but rather that they did so unconsciously and that given a chance to choose consciously, they may say “Well… Not my thing, but sure, we can try it.”

#5 Comment By Roxysteve On March 1, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

@Trace – Just out of interest, could you give us the demographic makeup of your group?

#6 Comment By Roxysteve On March 1, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

@Matthew J. Neagley – Like I said, I hope I’m very wide of the mark. It wouldn’t be the first time. I once read a short SF story about a non-human culture which revered the role of the Zeromaster, whose function was to be dead wrong about everything 100% of the time. I felt a strong identification with that character.

#7 Comment By Roxysteve On March 1, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

@Roxysteve – [edit] and I obviously put myself badly because my “best case” prediction was a little more positive than you’ve read into it.[/edit]

#8 Comment By Rafe On March 1, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

>>> Is this actually a gender issue, or is my group unusual? <<<

I think I can say with great confidence it isn't a gender issue. Head to any gaming convention dominated by small-press games being played. Your style of PC-to-PC interaction is not only encouraged in most of those games and amongst those gamers, but the lack of such would be noted and possibly even commented on. You might not even be able to play without it. Male, female — it doesn't matter. (in my experience)

So not to pull the "maybe it's a game system thing" card. . . . but maybe it's a game system thing. ;)

I'm not sure if your group is unusual, but I'd certainly like to think so. Most long-lasting gaming groups I've been in have had as many women as men — in one case, there were fewer men. I count myself lucky, to be honest, since I really enjoy the altered dynamic of a mixed group vs an all-male group.

Viva gender diversity!

#9 Comment By recursive.faults On March 1, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

I’m going to be a bit different and say it is a gender issue.

I have a bit of a background in game development and there are a lot of emerging studies coming around about gender differences in games.

I’m living in the land of generalization here, but stay with me and know there are always exceptions.

There’s a famous paper that breaks down gamers into four personalities. They are Explorers (Want to see every piece of a game), Adventurers (Immerse themselves), Killers (They live for grief), and Socializers (Pretty self explanatory).

The best games mix those elements well, and some games mix them better for certain genders. RPGs have been largely geared for the types of gamers that women are usually not.

While there is no doubt this problem should be brought as a group problem I am saying it is stemming from the gender difference. What I think most women crave in a game most GMs and groups aren’t prepared to offer. As a generalization, women fall largely into the Socializer group of gamers, and I think it’s pretty evident here.

I’m bringing this up because I think this kind of thing is really interesting, and it’s even neater to see it pop up here too.

Just food for thought.

#10 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 1, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

Thanks everyone for the great comments! I still believe that this is not a gender issue for most groups, because I’m a male and I believe that the socializing and roleplaying is the most important part of the game. I could be wrong with this particular problem, but I know many men who also put the highest value on the roleplaying and character development in their games.

But I don’t know the group that TwoShedsJackson belongs to, so until she reports back on the matter I will just have to wait and see what the dsicussion reveals.

And that is really the key here: you need to have a discussion when issues like this arise. Even if the discussion leads to a person leaving the group, it is better to have a civilized discussion and to see a person part based upon a mature decision rather than to let the problem continue and fester. That can result in the group fracturing in far worse ways.

#11 Comment By TwoShedsJackson On March 1, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

When I brought up the issue in the other thread, I wasn’t sure whether it was a gender issue or not. I wrote about it because the topic was (in part) why more women don’t play RPGs, and my story described a reason why this particular woman may not be playing much in the future. Now I feel uncomfortably conspicuous, and not sure how much more detail I want to go into.

But in any event, I appreciate the discussion and the thought that everyone has put into it.

#12 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 1, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

I’m going to go out on recursive.faults’ limb and say that there is probably a gender element here.

Preface: For most of my life, I believed that there was no difference between women and men that could not be explained by testosterone. I no longer agree with that belief. After having a daughter, and seeing how differently she behaves from boys her age, I am pretty sure that women and men are generally wired differently.

One of the Filipino martial arts schools starts off their male students with stick-fighting lessons, but starts off their females with knife-fighting lessons. Having sparred for years against various combinations of gender and weapon, I’d have to agree that they got it right.

Before I’m accused of mistaking social conditioning for gender, many of our erudite ‘rugrat-rearing’ books mention that a baby girl, too young to be conditioned, will focus on faces. A baby boy will seek out movement, whether by people or things. This is quite a sea-change from the sociology I studied back in the 80s.

That said, there are certainly female hack-and-slashers, and male RPers; general tendencies are stupid things to apply to individuals. But I would bet my lucky dice that there are proportionately more female RPers and male H&Sers.

Does this mean that TSJ is somehow less justified in liking what she likes? Heck no!

Is she being marginalized because she’s in the minority opinon, or because she’s female? Now there’s a question! If the latter, I suggest she find a group which knows the meaning of ‘equals’.

#13 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 1, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

Oh, and on an ironic side-note, the Google-placed ad on the right column is for ‘single women in my area’.

#14 Comment By evil On March 1, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

I seriously doubt that this is a gender issue. I’ve been a part of several groups during the past 25 years, and most of those groups have been pretty evenly split between the genders, as well as a nice variety of orientations and races. In all but one of those groups, the group decided as a whole to skip the majority of the roleplaying aspect, no matter what game we were playing at the time. It just didn’t matter to US. In one group, it did matter to us, so we played it up in that group.

The only change I’d suggest to the guidelines in the article is to tell the player with the issue that you will do your best to make the conversation happen. Previously I’ve made that promise, and then have made myself inadvertently a liar because the group decided flat out that they were not having the conversation. I’m sure in that case my group was the exception, but it’s a valuable lesson.

#15 Comment By Wesley Street On March 2, 2011 @ 7:56 am

@recursive.faults – Are you aware of any online publications or articles touching on game design and gender? I’m genuinely curious.

#16 Comment By Trace On March 2, 2011 @ 10:12 am

@Roxysteve, since this is a public forum, I will use initials instead of real names.

Usual GM, Myself: Caucasian Male, 31
Usual Players:
KW Caucasian Female, 30
GL Caucasian Male, 25
SW Caucasian Male, 35
BG Ginger Male, 31
KD African-American Male, 33

Sometimes Players
EF Caucasian Male, 28
SF Caucasian Female, 29
CM Caucasian Male, 34

#17 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 2, 2011 @ 10:22 am

@Trace – *boggle* Ginger’s a race now? ;)

#18 Comment By Peter K. On March 2, 2011 @ 10:31 am

I’ve played with a couple groups in the last 10 years with a mixture of genders. From my limited, anecdotal experience gender didn’t seem to be the major factor in how much social/inter-PC roleplaying there was, but it seems to have some impact. For example:

Group 1: Started out with two women and maybe four guys. Not much inter-PC social roleplaying was involved. A third woman who seemed very much into a sort of “acting” style of roleplay got involved briefly. Later a fourth woman also was gamed with us for a time, but didn’t seem particularly interested in the inter-PC socialization aspects as far as I can recall.

Group 2: This group also has two women and four guys. There has been a little more inter-PC social roleplaying, but generally not influencing the ongoing story very directly. And inter-PC roleplaying in our group has always been a bit on the humorous side. While the guys in the group aren’t adverse to the intra-PC social interactions, I think that the women in the group have been more of a impetus toward it.

Hadn’t really thought about it much before now, but I guess what I take away from my own experiences is that the women involved weren’t always gunning for more social roleplaying. But if anyone in the group is looking for a more social experience it’s more likely to be the women.

Disclaimer: Of course individuals differ and my sample size of 2 groups may not be representative of the population.

#19 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 2, 2011 @ 10:50 am

@TwoShedsJackson – I’m sorry if the article makes you feel uncomfortably conspicuous. That was not my intent in bringing attention to your comment. I just wanted to point out that your comment suggests to me that your GM should start a discussion if approached by you regarding the matter.

@evil – I disagree. As a GM I will pull the nuclear option and hold the game off if the group refuses to have a discussion on the matter. That is my personal approach, and others might disagree with it, but I have found that people who take a stand get better results in life.

#20 Comment By EpicWords On March 2, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

I have a quick suggestion for GM’s wanting to make Role playing feel a little more natural in a heavy Roll playing game. I got it from the FATE system:
Have your players write character history TOGETHER at the table, by answering GM led questions that establish who knows who, and why. (Inspiring questions make it a juicy group brainstorm, instead of a chore.)

When you are done, characters end up with a reason to adventure together even if they are socially polar opposites. The whole game just makes more sense. And while it sounds simple enough blow through, there’s something about formalizing this process that seems to mentally draw a box around character relationships, keeping them in-game relationships only. Hopefully Role playing will flourish in this environment.

Plus it’s a lot less awkward then “You’ve just met at a Tavern… now talk!”

If you can get your hands on the Dresden Files Demo game “Neutral Grounds”, there is a great example of a clever Q&A series just for this purpose.

#21 Comment By knowman On March 2, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

Kurt – I’m really curious why they start the female students on knife fighting and the male students on stick fighting.

I had never really thought of this issue before reading this post, but doing so now I realize that in the group I’ve been gaming with for the past 20 years, we don’t often see role-playing between the PCs. Sure there was the time the ranger got really mad when we turned some fishes in the local lake into living mines to locate the lake monster (and boy was that awkward), but for the most part we tend to avoid conflict between the PCs.

I think we do so both consciously and unconsciously, because it’s not as much fun to roleplay disliking your buddy and because, much as the way most people would let things slide a little with their friends, we make the same accommodations for our PCs. But I think the other reason we don’t feel compelled to roleplay the interactions between our PCs is that we’re usually present when they’re interacting with NPCs, and thus we know them well. I don’t usually need to have an IC discussion with our ranger to know he’s going to react badly to a particular plan or to rehash the scourge that is Chaos with our zealot. So we either modify the courses of actions that are going cause the inter-party conflict, or do a really good job of making sure we hide the activities that are likely to cause that conflict from one another. Just like in real life. ;-)

#22 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 2, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

@knowman – Not to derail the train of thought here, but a stick is something you hit people with, the harder the better. A knife does a lot of the work for you, and rewards finesse, sensitivity, awareness, and even social manipulation. It’s like the difference between a mace and a rapier.

#23 Comment By Trace On March 3, 2011 @ 9:03 am

@Kurt: I think any group that experiences bias based on genetic cosmetic differences qualifies as a race. And, that’s how he identifies himself. Plus, of course, that lets you guys know he doesn’t have a soul. :)

#24 Comment By Roxysteve On March 3, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

@Trace – Thanks, but since I don’t know where you come from I have no way to interpret “Ginger” (when I was young and living in the UK it was Cockney rhyming slang for “homosexual”).

#25 Comment By LordVreeg On March 3, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

Though there are certainly different hardwiring issue in terms of gender behavior as well as social/cultural modelling issues coming into play, I don’t think it is a gender issue as much as a ‘gameplay’ issue.
The Gameplay side has already been gone over to some degree. The GM in any group has got to keep an eye on each player and make sure that their style and needs are being fed.

But I have run all sorts of different gender matched groups, and as we get older there is more interplayer roleplay, as well as multiplayer with NPC roleplay.

Someplayers don’t accent the roleplay as much as others, but since it is a RPgame, one would think a move into that direction would be a welcome one.

#26 Comment By Trace On March 4, 2011 @ 10:06 am

@Roxysteve… I’m from the Central Midwest in the USA. When we say Ginger, we mean someone with red hair, really fair skin, and freckles. I as far as I know, he digs chicks.

On a side note, we have had homosexuals in our group before, and it brings an interesting dynamic to the game. Normally, I don’t let people play against gender, as I don’t feel they can really accurately play an opposing gender without stereotyping. But when someone is transgendered IRL, its hard to tell them they can’t play the gender they’ve chosen for themselves.

#27 Comment By Roxysteve On March 7, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

@Trace – I only commented to alert you that it is possible when using “local code” to pass along an entirely unintended subtext. 8o)

#28 Comment By Bercilac On March 11, 2011 @ 1:55 am

It kind of worries me that the only two people who claim that there may be a gender issue here are saying that the issue is that “girls and boys play different games.” That reeks of gender bias to me. I haven’t got any data on me, though, so I’m not going to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

The really clear gender issue to me is that the one woman at the table feels “stepped-on, marginalized, and out of place” in a pretty male-oriented setting. This isn’t unique to gaming. It happens in schools, it happens in workplaces, and it happens in social organisations of all types. Surprise surprise, it happens at the gaming table. It’s called sexism.

I’m not trying to rag on TwoSheds’ group, or on male gamers. But men have to be aware of how they routinely handle disagreements with women. Subconsciously at least, most men consider denigrating the importance of what a woman says to be far more acceptable than the same treatment of a man. So while I agree with Patrick that the ideal answer to this problem would be to bring it up outside the game, I think he’s ignoring the obstacles to a woman doing so, not least of which is being accused of pulling the “gender card.”

#29 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 11, 2011 @ 7:49 am

@Bercilac – Your comment strikes me as being sexist. The women in my life (mother, grandmothers, and my wife) and men (father, grandfathers, and brothers) don’t blame sexism for behavior until they know a person is indeed sexist. They also don’t assume to know what is taking place in another’s subconscious.

I did not dismiss gender as being the issue here, but having seen the exact same thing happening in all male groups, and in a group dominated by females I still do not believe that this problem is a gender one. Not having met the group in question I won’t assume that the problem is sexism. I don’t know what the problem is, but I have seen similar issues that were not based on gender with other groups. I could be wrong, but so could you. Only I tried not to offend anyone in making my point. You on the other hand have insulted me.

#30 Comment By Bercilac On March 11, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

“Is this a gender issue? Is TwoShedsJackson’s group unusual? I do not think so in either case.”

This is what I was referring to as a dismissal. And I was not “blaming sexism,” I was pointing out that we have a situation (one woman feeling her voice isn’t being heard by an all-male group) here which bears a lot of hallmarks of a sexist culture, and so I didn’t feel it was safe to dismiss the possibility that issues of gender and power play a part. As I said, I think your advice is good. But as you say, “What we can do is to focus on the real issue here and it is not the relationship between the PCs. It is the relationship between the members of the group, both the players and the GM. Without more information we cannot make assumptions.” And those relationships are implicated within socially constructed gender roles (as are yours, as are mine). As such, I was trying to raise the possibility that gender may have played a role in preventing TSJ from raising her problems earlier.

I’m sorry that you’re offended. If you could tell me exactly how I insulted you, it would be a great help. My attempt was to critically engage with what you were saying, not to insult you or to call you a sexist (I don’t think I did). I’m actually a little bit surprised and upset at your reaction. I debated for a while whether the Stew was interested in what’s really some pretty standard feminist reasoning, given the above reactions (which, it seems I must stress, I’m not calling sexist, but not feminist either), but I’ve been called sexist and insulting for my pains.

This leads me to wonder why you would raise gender issues, and the question of whether there may be issues of sexism at stake, if you weren’t prepared for someone to say yes? Why, indeed, would you write an entire article in response to someone asking “Is this a gender issue” if only to say “Nothing of the sort?”

I guess I shan’t be in the drawing for the FUDGE game, which is a pity because I admire your work.

#31 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 11, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

@Bercilac – I won’t speak for Patrick, but your post basically states that taking into account the differences between the genders “reeks of bias”. On the other hand, it also states pretty categorically that most men are denigrating towards women.

I find both of those statements mildly offensive. The first flies in the face of a growing mountain of data that is finding significant gender differences that are not socially constructed. The second is outright sexist in assuming that men are to blame for the problem.

I don’t know if you were aware how your post came across, but that’s what I inferred from it.

#32 Comment By Bercilac On March 11, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

Bravo, moderator.

#33 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 11, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

@Bercilac – Kurt nailed exactly what insulted me with your comment. I also don’t like the term “dismiss” in this case, because while I do not believe that this issue is based on gender I clearly stated “Gender is not solely related to this phenomenon (at least in my experience it is not), but it can be a factor for some players.” That can be a factor part means that I understand it is a possible cause, but having seen this very same issue occur at tables that were populated solely by men I don’t believe that this case is based on gender.

While Martin was working on his article about most gamers being male and white, I was working on an article about how disturbed I am by sexism in gaming. We were both writing these articles with no knowledge of what the other person was writing. I have my sexism article on hold because Martin and I agreed that the two topics were to similar to be so close to each other on the calendar. We wanted to make sure that such similar material was spaced out to keep the site’s content diverse. After reading your comment, I’m not sure that I want that article posted.

As to why did I write this article, well that is simple – the problem in question can’t be addressed by outsiders. A talk needs to happen at that game table.

I don’t see how this effects the Fudge game drawing. You are still eligible for the drawing unless you withdraw from it. I can run a game for someone that I have had, or am having, a dispute with. I run games for people that I don’t agree with all of the time, and I’ve run games for people that have insulted me or that I have insulted. It happens. People don’t get along perfectly nor are they meant to. You move forward anyhow. One incident does not mean “game over” (no pun intended).

#34 Comment By CalvinOsiris On March 15, 2011 @ 10:19 am

I…don’t really know how to put this in a politic way, but to be frank, I don’t think I would RP with any of you. It’s nothing personal, it’s the fact that I think that bringing sex and race as visible chips on one’s shoulder to the gaming table is, to put it bluntly, a bad idea.

I, for one, do not in any way, shape, or form sympathize with TwoSheds. That probably makes me a jerk, but the post was -very- selfish. It consisted of her complaining about how the group wasn’t meeting her needs and how she was dissatisfied because of it.

We, or at least those role-players that I know, role-play because of the group. If everyone isn’t having fun, then things change. If one person isn’t having fun, there are things that can occur: if the difference is small and can be resolved with the group, fine. If one person, however, wants to change the entire tone of the game, or alter the way everyone else plays to suit their needs…then go find another group.

I’ve gone through my share of prima donna players. They want things to be a certain way, because that’s how -they- would do it. That’s fine. It really is. Run your own game. Make it be what you want. That’s the beauty of the hobby, you can do that. Ain’t like there’s only one person who can run a game.

Here’s a completely off the wall suggestion! Instead of saying that you feel “stepped-on, marginalized, and out of place” why not ask your GM if you can run the game for a while, or even run a one-shot, or an off day game? Introduce the players to what you want to do in YOUR game, instead of trying to get them to change THEIR game to suit you.

So, is it a gender issue? Probably not. Is your group unusual? Definitely not. There are dynamic groups of players (lots of different styles and systems, willingness to change) and static groups (only plays one type of game, keeps a very specific style of player in the group). If you want a more dynamic group, go find one. Some groups just like hack n’ slash games where they say, “My guy hits it with an axe.” That’s fine. It’s a hobby. It’s how they want to spend their time. If someone else wants to explore the pathos of an undead priest, that’s also gravy! Will the two mix? Maybe? Probably not for long term.

I think people are looking for vaginas and penises where really it’s a difference in play style. Anyone can take on the “poor me” persona at the table. I had a player who murdered a child. In cold blood. Slit his throat. The rest of the players in character and out turned on him. He said, “I’m just role-playing my character.” He was affronted, insulted at the fact that he was being “stifled,” that he was “being forced to conform.” (He was playing a goblin and threw out the term humanocentric, but that was probably just spite.) Is it a gender issue? No. One of my female players was up in arms as much as the rest. Is the group unusual because they don’t want a psychopathic child murderer in their party? Probably not.

Nothing will ruin a good time like politics. I am loathe to think that something I love, the hobby that I’ve spent almost two decades doing, might one day devolve into a guessing game of, “Well, is it okay to have a female villain? Is that oppressive? Is it too stereotypical to have a gay barkeep? Should goblins unionize? OMG role-playing is, like, so hard now!” Pfeh. This leaves an awful taste in my mouth.

#35 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 15, 2011 @ 11:36 am

@CalvinOsiris – Understood, but none of the solutions that you suggested will just happen. They only come about as the result of a discussion. That was the true point of the article.

I don’t think that politics, sexism, or anything of that nature is at play here. I would not say that TwoShedsJackson is being selfish. The truth is that I don’t know what is wrong in this example. But if one player is not having a good time then something is wrong, and the group should discuss it.

The solution may be as simple as “Oh. We did not know that you felt that way. We can try your style and see if it works for us.” or it can be as severe as “You have to leave the group.” Regardless of what the solution is it won’t just appear like magic. It will either be addressed by a discussion, or it will slowly wreak havoc on the group. IMO, having the discussion is the better way to deal with the matter.

#36 Comment By CalvinOsiris On March 15, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

@Patrick Benson

I would agree that a discussion is a good idea…but you’ll notice, rather pointedly, that discussion or how to actually fix the issue was not part of the post. That’s why I find it so…distressing. It was a question of whether or not it was a gender issue (which was the meat of the discussion where it originated).

Sex was the issue that has been jumped on here from the start. TwoSheds planted the seed with the way the post was phrased. If it were gender neutral, this would simply be a question of behavior and reaction, but sex adds an unhealthy weight to it. There was nothing in her post to indicate that she was being told, in effect, “Hush, woman, the menz is playin’.”

And you are correct, none of the solution I suggested will “just” happen. One must be proactive. However, sitting back and…let’s say internally airing one’s grievances, will not get anything done, which seems to be exactly what has happened in this case. TwoSheds never said, “I brought this up to them and they blew me off,” instead it goes from an action from her, a reaction from them, and then feeling bad. People, for the most part, aren’t mind readers. If the GM and other players think you are just trying to derail the game, yes, they will display annoyance. Have you explained to them why your cleric has suddenly decided to build a macaroni castle in the middle of the dungeon? If not, it might look like you are just screwing around for the sake of screwing around. I’ve had players do similar, and yes, it is annoying, especially when they don’t bother to explain themselves.

I think the answer is really just as simple as, “Act like a freaking adult.” This isn’t rocket surgery. Talk to your group. This goes for ANY group.

#37 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 15, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

@CalvinOsiris – Can you clarify what you mean by “not part of the post”? Are you referring to TwoShedsJackson’s original comment? Or are you referring to my article? The entire “Get Busy Talking” section of the article is all about how a GM can lead and moderate a discussion with the hope of discovering a possible solution.

#38 Comment By CalvinOsiris On March 15, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

@Patrick Benson

TSJ’s post. Apologies for indistinct nouns.

#39 Comment By Patrick Benson On March 15, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

@CalvinOsiris – Thank you for the clarification. I think that TwoShedsJackson’s comment was justified. She was not the one to bring up sex in this case, because she was commenting on a previous article that focused on gender and race. This article was a response to her comment, and I don’t think that she jumped on the gender issue as much as she was looking for help. I hope that after reading this article that she was able to have that discussion with her group and that her situation, and the group’s, has improved because of it.


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