Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ladies Who LARP

Introduction: Hi! I’m Karin, and I’ve been LARPing since 2000 (unless you count SCA, which I don’t :) ). I joined a Plot team in 2002, and have been Plot, Campaign Plot, and Coordinator at NERO WAR, and have co-run Exiles since 2008. And, as this post will discuss, I am often the voice of the minority on the teams I’ve been on – women! This is a longer post, but I hope you'll bear with me and I'll shorten them up for the future :)

If you LARP or game, you know that women are already there, playing, whether or not we admitted early on that we’re into the nerd scene. And, in case you didn’t get the memo in kindergarten, girls are different from boys. :) While in general all we want is some r-e-s-p-e-c-t, there are some general concepts for players and plot alike to keep in mind when thinking about satisfying female gamers, so to speak.

Just to put in the disclaimer, these are very general concepts that may or may not apply to all us lady LARPers to some degree. There are plenty of examples of tough dames who LARP - and could kick the butts of many of the guys around them.

First, I’ve noticed that there tend to be two basic groups of women who come to games (we could break it down past that, but I don’t want to go far into psychology here). There are those who come because they’re honestly interested intrying it out, and those who come because their significant other is (I call them Girlfriends).

In the first situation, you have an interested player right away. The second group is often not interested in the game, can be a challenge to get involved, and they often don’t turn into long-term players. But don't mistake one for the other; being shy isn't the same as being disinterested. Try throwing them something they can get involved with, and see if you can hook them into your game (your male players will thank you). Try making your NPC take a shine to them, or make it so that they have that one specific trait or skill that is needed for the ritual. See who bites.

Okay, so, you’ve got an interested player. Now what do ladies want out of a game?

Sparkling vampires, fairy princesses, and babies.

I’m kidding (for the most part). First, we want to be taken seriously. There has been a lot of “boys club” vibes in the gaming groups I’ve encountered, which leads to some guys not taking the female perspective into account. Our perspective may be different, as players and Staff, but it is a real demographic that should be addressed in your planning and playing.

It seems that female players tend to like story, immersion, and role-play a little more on average than their male counterparts. This may be obvious, when you think about it, but these are the areas that often get skipped by game staff and avoided by other players. Don’t forget that you’re not only missing your male players who like those things, but you’re disappointing a lot of your female players.

Many women tend to be more nurturing, so they may like plotlines that involve helping people. We tend to gravitate to healing and support roles rather than combat, so we want to see situations that use those aspects. A lot of women like buying knowledge type skills – so don’t forget to make those count. Include some mods that are based around using skills or diplomacy; even out of game skills - I've been asked to include things like sewing, making books, and cooking at events (it's true!).

That’s not to say that we all want sparkling fairy baby plot (see what I did there?). We like serious stories and content as much as anyone – just not always in combat form. You know the two warring elementals who are threatening to destroy your town? Maybe they used to be in love (yes, I said “in love”), or they're brothers, so you can include some hooks to get these types of players to investigate a way to reconcile them – or pit one against the other. I won’t pretend – women can be devious too! But it’s the intrigue, investigation, and story that might draw your female players in a little more than usual.

Female staff members also have a lot to offer, and often have a different perspective on plot. Women tend to be better multi-taskers, better listeners, and better at dealing with any emotional issues that come up – or that add depth to plotlines and characters. I’ve seen a female staffer whip logistics into shape in away I’ve never seen any male do. As a side benefit, we often smell better. :) Having a woman on board also allows you to interact with your PCs in a unique way. A “save the princess” mod is not the same when you’re rescuing Bob in drag. Plus, if they like writing the stuff other women dig, they can add that to the mix with expert flair.

This isn’t to say that women should be relegated to writing ONLY that kind of thing – far from it. It’s just to say that many women come at plot from a different angle, and it can be useful as well as challenging.

Other things that make a girl feel at home? Aside from “don’t be creepy,” just don’t forget that we need a few extra points of consideration:
- When picking a camp, don’t forget we need somewhere to go to the bathroom (and hopefully wash hands).
- Knock.
- Women often aren’t used to getting hit, at least at first, so just watch how hard you’re swinging.
- Plotlines or conversation that involve or joke about sensitive topics are also touchy. For example, any type of assault on women. You just never know what a person has gone through (or someone close to them), and throwing around the word “rape” is never cool.

Now, we do still like epic adventure, kicking in the door and taking some names (though for some maybe as part of a group rather than the door-kicker). That’s why we keep playing. Just don’t forget to add the other things in if you want to really hook us.

Women at games can also bring up some issues in the minds of some, valid or not, that I’d like to talk about in future posts. Tune in on Thursdays for Dealing with Drama and LARPing with the Ones You Love – and don’t worry, it's not all about grrl power!

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