20 October 2006

Thoughts on "Gaming like a Girl"

Here's what I think gaming like a girl means, in reference to blog entry linked above. I meant to write this a long time ago, but I couldn't get my thoughts together. Then today, I was picking up Ingrid, and it came to me. I still can't vouch for conhesiveness, as it is late and I'm very tired but wired due to post migraine insomnia.
First, "Gaming like a girl" is really "Gaming like a woman". (I went to a women's college, not a girl's school, thank you very much.) Just as boys can run like girls, men can play like women.
When gaming like a woman, your character doesn't have to be a woman. Your character doesn't have to be a bitch goddess. Add more dimensions than that. Your character isn't necessarily frilly or cute, but if she is, these are played as strengths or benign features, not weaknesses or ways to manipulate (unless your character is manipulative by nature, not by virtue of being a woman). Your character doesn't have to be a woman (or a feminine man.)

Your character might most likely delve into themes of body image, domestic abuse, children, sex, control and power over one's body and faculty, pregnancy, blood, finding work with a family to care for, breasts, perceived whore vs. virtuous woman, being as strong as a man, but still just considered a bitch, all in a manner that reflects how these issues affect women IRL. These themes come to mind immediately, I'm sure there are others (Anyone who reads my blog?)

So I consciously played a character like a woman the last time I played Dogs in the Vineyard. Her name was Polly, as in Polly, Pretty Polly. She was that very one [Theme of domestic violence]. But after Sweet William buried her, she jumped out of the grave, and went to the steward (Willie was going to be a Dog). Polly took Sweet Willie's place at Bridal Falls. She didn't have much else left for her in the town, since she had a fast repuation that was so shameful to a fine upstanding Dog candidate like William, that he'd try to do her in. [whore? nope, she was virtuous at the time, but a victim of small town gossip] She was a little bitter about it, but she had tried to let go of her anger about the whole stabbing through the heart and her heart's blood flowing, being thrown into a grave and the dirt thrown over her thing. She preferred a knife to a gun [blood], she liked fashionable clothes that walked a fine line between Faithful modesty and Eastern whorishness [whore vs. virtue], she was a chain smoker who offered tobacco as an ice breaker, and she had a very foul mouth (That was just me. Since I've had kids, I've really worked hard to hold my sailor's tongue. I took the oppurtunity to cuss to my heart's content.) She also had poor people skills (would insult them to their face, then apologize, then do it again.), and she really disliked children [Because being a woman doesn't make one a natural mother!] She ministered to prostitutes (converted one, too!) without passing judgement. And she was once a midwife apprentice, which gave her an in with the prostitutes (free cervical/vaginal exams! Whoopee!). [body stuff]
Over the course of the game, it came to pass that Polly often relied on other's perception of what a "lady" was and how one conducts oneself around a lady. She avoided getting arrested by insisting that the deputies wait behind her closed door as she got dressed. She believed that spouses shouldn't withhold sex from each other (nor force one to have sex, or to marry). She had no interest in marriage. [power].

I tried not to play her as an stereotypical rpg strong woman. She was strong in some areas, and very weak in others. She was not terribly soft, not hardened, although being stabbed and buried alive could have easily made her hard. I imagined that she liked to sing. She was not conniving or sneaky. And she was definitely not a bitch goddess. Cranky at times, yes, and quite human.

And then there are breasts. If one plays like a woman, your breasts enter every scene with you, and generally before you enter the room. Especially if you're like me, and you've breastfed 2 kids, suffered through sore nipples, thrush, gravity, and the cruel joke of gaining 2 cup sizes when you're already too busty to buy bras at Victoria's Secret. My breasts and my hair have lives all their own. There was a funny scene in a playtest of a game Emily's working on called "Sign in, Stranger", where my character was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader (can't get any strong girlier than that!). She was sitting around with a bunch of guys, and one woman she had determined to be so "manly" she needed a makeover [a little catty, but not a bitch goddess], and breast and penis jokes came up. I played her getting very uncomfortable, and saying so. Another character made the comment that she was a "real lady". Yes! Real ladies don't sit around and let the conversation make them uncomfortable.

In the next game we play, I will be interested to see where my character goes. One theme that popped up early in creating her was pregnancy, still birth, and child loss. She has a baby born still and her granny tells her how to get a demon that will give her live babies (and all the joy that's involved in making them), but those babies keep disappearing. The demon offers the coldly comforting assurance that they can have another one. It's a common comment made to real women who've had children die. It's a cruel assurance, so there it is, said by a demon with demonic sincerity.

It is an issue that can tear a person apart, male or female; but a woman whose baby dies in utero has an experience and view that only a woman can have. I was not a worrier when I was pregnant. I don't dwell on worst case scenarios. But when I was nearing the end of both pregnancies, every morning I would poke at my belly to wake up my babies. And sometimes those 2-3 minutes before they would start to kick would be very very long 2-3 minutes. I so enjoy playing my darkest fears.

1 comment:

Parthenia said...

I said "She [Polly] was not conniving or sneaky."

Okay, so she played the I'm a lady card to her advantage. It's a little manipulative, I suppose, but she had no control over what others believed about ladies, how they should act, and how they should be treated. She had no intention of getting dressed in front of a bunch of men, so if she closed her door, and the oppurtunity to escape arrest, why not? That's not sneaky or conniving, that's resourceful.

Hope that makes sense. I'm wicked tired, and I'm at work.