Monday, February 20, 2006

Violent young girls

This Saturday I had taken on my responsibility to introduce three girls between 13 and 14 years old to roleplaying. The event was taking place at a youth camp arranged by an organization for soberness. (These organizations are quite common in Sweden, many of them created during the turn of the century.)

I had a number of goals when planning the events five hours:
- I wanted to play a fairy traditional scenario, to give them an image of how a typical roleplaying session work.
- I wanted to base it on a commercially available Swedish game.
- I wanted to simplify the rules to enable quick learning of the system and getting on with the actual play.
- I wanted to avoid fantasy, to counteract the opinion that roleplaying is fantasy.
- I wanted the players to have fun and getting to play as they wanted, seldom saying "No, you can't do that at all".

I choosed to use a convention scenario called "The seven mutants" for the game Mutant*. I simplifying the already quite basic rules and did not use the pre-made characters. Instead I created a system where you drew four pieces of paper containing different parts of you character like "personality" and "appearance". You could redraw, choose openly or invent something on your own. It was only an aid for the imagination. It really worked out well.

Now, time after time I have met the opinion that "girls seldom like roleplaying games and computer games because of their great focus on violence and sexual stereotypes. They want stories about relationships". With this in mind I had decided to downplay the violent part of the scenario, a classic murder mystery.

I was so wrong. It started when choosing weapons. I had stated that it was a good idea for their characters to have some kind of weapon, as it fitted both the setting and the scenario. Having the simple and common breach loaders manufactured at this post apocalyptic times was not enough. They wanted artifact weapons with large clips and big calibers. An ancient .44 Magnum revolver was a popular choice and one girl picked the ultra destructive plasma carbine. Hmmm.....Ok, everyone wants big guns. Munchkinism is natural...

We started playing and everything went smooth. They had no problem understand how to play and the separation between the players and the gamemaster seemed natural to them. They were involved in the plot, played their characters well and overall impressed me. But the longer we played the more violent they got. They liked rolling for damage. They really liked when the first enemy exploded by the plasma carbine. They soon started to base their action on how to maximize the potential carnage. At one point at the end of the game they had do decide on which of two factions they would support. As one would let them kill one person and the other five it was an easy decision. And of course they followed up by killing the other side of the conflict and a couple of innocent bystanders. When they did not just kill their opponents they used a combination of seduction and drinking them under the table. Sex, drugs and violence.

I had fun and I'm certain they had too. One of the girls complained on stomach aces from laughing to hard at a couple of in-game funny moments.

After the initial scenario we had some time left and they wanted to continue, this time "playing something with less violence". Sure.... The mission they got was supposed to be sneaky and focusing on social interaction but they still wanted plasma rifles and they still ended up murdering both the target for their investigation and their employer, in addition the requested sneaking and lying.

I do not know if my sample is big enough but maybe it is time to scrap the common understanding that girls do not like sex, drugs and violence in their fiction.


Anonymous Linnea said...

I can't help but complain on stomach ache from laughing after having read this description of young girls' roleplaying.
It's really nice. Also, don't forget that the most violent character in our roleplaying group is created and played by a woman. So, yes, it is about time to scrap the common misunderstanding about girls, sex, drugs and violence.

7:46 PM  
Blogger John Kim said...


I feel a bit of guilt here, because in an essay on RPG gender disparity, I did cite violence as a possibly reasonable factor in females playing fewer RPGs. There does seem to be some valid statistical data that on average, females play less violent games than men in the market. (Though the much stronger factor is just that RPGs treat women like dirt.)

But that totally doesn't do justice to how many girls love to shoot you through the skull and ransack your body for loot.

2:36 AM  
Blogger Jonas Barkå said...

Could you elaborate a bit on "RPGs treat women like dirt"?

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Jonne said...

I can join i with similar experiences from my RPG-group (Me the GM 3 women and 2 men)

The 3 women are new to RPG:s and they wholeheartedly commided themsef nad there caracters to ultra violence, garfic sex acts, vild parties and reckless criminal behavior.

I must admit the theme of the campain to bee, "What if nothing forcing your morality in place?"

But still I must say they exceeded my ecpectaions.

7:30 AM  

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