Thoughts on Being a Woman and Trying to Make Games

I’m going to write about some of the obstacles I see as a writer and creator of games. These are in no way representative of the obstacles other people have experienced, and I acknowledge that my obstacles are unique to me, as a middle-aged, well-educated white woman from the middle class. These aren’t even obstacles that I have necessarily faced, so much as ones I can see even through my own experience’s filter.

This post is spurred by something a trollish person said a couple of weeks ago in a Google+ thread about gatekeepers and exclusion in gaming. The thread started with a thinly-veiled metaphor about exclusion in geek culture, but it expanded in the comments. Most telling about the comments was that, for the first several hours at least, they were all from men. Probably white men, but I don’t know– this is the Internet.

But back to the trollish. He remarked that it was very easy to make games, if you want to have games that reflect you or your experience, or just games that don’t limit women to virgin/whore/victim roles.

“All you have to do is have something to write in. You can make a game for less than $1000.”

This speaks of a privilege that is so invisible to the speaker, it astounds me. Anyone wondering about why this statement blows my mind should please go read Virginia Woolf’s excellent work, A Room of One’s Own, which is entirely about women not having a safe space to write. In the broader sense, it’s about anyone who lacks a space to write due to lack of privilege, but Woolf was a feminist of her time, so it’s written from the perspective of women’s issues (much like this post).

But anyway. Here are some of the obstacles to making games that I see, as a woman who is starting to make games. This is limited to tabletop games, and I use the phrase “game creator” here because “game designer” is not always what a game creator does– if you write an adventure for a pre-existing system, you aren’t really designing that game, though you are creating, and share many of the same obstacles as a designer.

Video games cost much more money and have even more obstacles, including “you will get death/rape threats just for daring to exist.” I’m not going to address those, since they don’t happen as much or as visibly in tabletop gaming. Yet.

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Epyllion, session 3

I ran Epyllion on Sunday for Dad, Mom, and Kiddo again.

Our second session of the game was over a month ago, and didn’t go so well. We had a problem with saying "no" a lot to the 8 year old, and I wasn’t super happy with the results.

For this session, we started out by me explaining that I wanted Kiddo to feel comfortable adding to the story, so we were going to rewrite the "visions" move so her dice would determine if I got to tell the vision or if she did– and in either case, the other one would be able to ask 3 questions. She agreed, rolled, and got a 9.

HEY, KIDDO’S MOM AND DAD! I KNOW YOU READ MY BLOG! SPOILERS AHEAD! GO AWAY!

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2014 RiSE Lantern Festival

This post could easily devolve into a ranting of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

I’m going to save the negativity to the end, and focus on the happy things from last weekend.

However, if you just like happy things, go ahead and watch this video, and then ignore the rest of this post.

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Freaks in Lycra

We playtested Neither Super nor Heroic last night. The tagline for our game might also have been "Freaks in Lycra." Neither Super Nor Heroic is a hack-in-development for Goblin Quest, a silly-fun casual RPG by Grant Howitt.

I’ve found in running Goblin Quest that pre-planning the scenes and risks takes a lot of the spontaneity out of the game, so one of the things I do is plan the starting scene, write down the target numbers for each scene thereafter, and proceed from there. Really, with 4 players, the numerical goal is "roll a 5-6 at least 36 times." Which means a lot of dice rolling (dice hit the table about 108 times).

This hack may have a mechanical flaw, though it hasn’t really come up in my playtesting yet. In Goblin Quest, you might roll up to 3 or 4 dice in one action. In Neither Super, it’s not explicitly stated in the rules what might give you an extra d6, and we ruled only your power gave the extra die. There were cases where description or equipment could have given a boost– one of the characters wanted his IT Guy to both turn into liquid *and* wield a Cat-5 lasso. I probably should have given extra dice for those, but by that point, I’d already needed to change rules (see below).

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A couple of micro-maps

Sorry if you see this a couple of times today. We’re moving my blog server, so this low-content post is going to test a few things for me.

I drew a couple of tiny maps today, stretching my wings after re-joining the Micro Maps group on Google+.

This is Jarl Gorvik’s Meadhall:

2014-10-15 09.24.05

It’s on an index card, in pencil. If you want to use this map, feel free. Here are some of the questions you should have your adventurers try to answer:

  • What’s upstairs?
  • What does the pentacle in the cellar do? Why is it behind a secret door?
  • Why are there so many tables in the meadhall, and so few people….?
  • Where is the Jarl, and why did no one greet you but his "learned advisor"?

Next up is the Cliff-Climber:

2014-10-15 09.53.37

This micro-map is on a post-it flag, stuck to the pen I used to draw it.

  • There’s a cave in the cliff near the path. What lives there? Why is it there?
  • Why is the bridge above the waterfall? What’s in the churning waters below?
  • Who built the bridge, and what toll do they extract when you cross it?

I hope you enjoy these maps, while I continue testing our server migration!

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