Writing Lessons Learnt From Gender Flamewars

This year has seen lots G+ discussion on gender and other social issues within role-playing. I have been part of this, especially regarding my role in Indie+‘s James Deborough controversy and Indie+’s subsequent development of a community standards agreement.

I have two take away lessons from this experience.

The first is obvious but is worth repeating. There are lots of different opinions about what is acceptable gaming behaviour and there is no right answer. What you do and feel comfortable about in your life and in your games may be extremely distressing to other people.  

The second lesson seems obvious given the first lesson but many of us, myself included, haven’t always made the conceptual leap.

It is that we must talk about what is acceptable behaviour  within our gaming groups. Not in abstract here on social media but actually at the gaming table with the people we are gaming with. This is especially true in con-games and other situation where we are gaming with strangers.

We all have a responsibility to ask the question, what does this gaming group consider appropriate and acceptable? The very act of asking the question makes people think about the issues involved and helps build trust. By having this dialog we can avoid causing accidental  distress to our fellow gamers but more importantly it enables us to game with confidence and to push ourselves as role-players to the very limits of the subject matter, safe in the knowledge we have the support and trust of our fellow gamers.

As a writer and publisher of games adventures I have a responsibility  to foster these discussions where appropriate. 

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I'm currently revamping Mince Pies & Murder, a whodunit set in the 1920s.  One of the characters is called Eastern Wisdom and loosely based on Charlie Chan.  When I've run the adventure at conventions I have had players of other characters, while 'in character', make racist remarks about the Eastern Wisdom character. This made me uncomfortable but because I hadn't asked the question of acceptable behaviour before the game I was unsure how to handle those remarks.

To encourage my readers to ask the question and think about the issues the adventure raises, I've added a paragraph to the adventure's introduction.

"However, these detectives and the books they appeared in originate in times when different social attitudes prevailed. This is especially true regarding gender and race issues. The author recommends ignoring this historical baggage and playing the characters with modern attitudes and sensibilities. The quest for historical accuracy is no excuse for racism and bigotry at the gaming table. The Game Leader may wish to discuss these issues with players before the game starts. Some consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate for those people playing the Eastern Wisdom and The European characters to put on silly voices."

The aim is to make readers and players think about the issues without lecturing or forcing a 'right' answer on them. Adding paragraphs like this to adventures is something I will be doing to future publications and requiring other 6d6 writers to do the same.

This will not change the world or prevent people being insulting or insensitive around the gaming table but its a small step in the right direction and one I am personally able to take.

The new version of Mince Pies & Murder is available as part of the Super Bundle from https://6d6rpg.com .

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