21 September 2008

Gender Gaming

Something else I've often thought was fun was to play a character of the opposite gender. I've done this several times, and I always enjoy it. In fact, many of my favourite characters have been female. Of all the Werewolf: The Apocalypse characters I've played, I liked Michelle the best. One of my favourite Changeling characters was Sarah Storm, the piskey hacker with a sentient chimerical computer.

This probably appeals most to Method Actors, who enjoy stretching their dramatic and psychological muscles with the challenge of getting into a different mindset (and playing the opposite gender IS a different mindset; if you don't believe me, just read Sperm are from Men, Eggs are from Women by Joe Quirk and Self Made Man by Norah Vincent). Storytellers are also quite fond of the challenge, as it affords them new opportunities to develop and explore the storylines of their games. The other types may or may not be interested in trying this out, but are generally indifferent. Butt Kickers and Power Gamers, in particular, aren't likely to care, as the gender of the character killing monsters has no real bearing on whether the characters are effectively killing monsters.

But I personally think it's a great way to expand the game. There are a lot of things to keep in mind, of course. It may be hard to do this with your particular gaming group. There are a lot of stereotypes out there about gamers being reclusive geeks with no real experience interacting with women whatsoever, and so the only way they have of perceiving females is as objects of desire. Such persons can't meaningfully interact with women, and if there is a female character in the party, they're likely to say things such as, "I do her!" Never mind foreplay, developing a relationship, taking her to dinner first, et c.
This stereotype is somewhat unfounded, and as gaming becomes more accepted and more popular, the stereotype becomes less and less valid. But there are some out there who work that way. Obviously, if your gaming group is such a one, then perhaps playing a female is not really a good idea.

Keep in mind that there are major differences in the way that men and women work. Just one (and it's kind of a pity, really, that this has to be the first mentioned, but given the above stereotypes, perhaps its best and safest that it is) would be attitudes towards sex. As one psychologist said to me, "Men feel close because they have sex. Women have sex because they feel close." Obviously, there are always exceptions (on both sides of the equation), but if you're a man playing a woman, chances are your character isn't going to go looking for a lot of casual sex. So don't do it. Or at least, try not to fall into the trap of having a sex-crazed character who bangs anyone she meets. Such women do exist, of course, but they tend to be the minority.

Another difference is the way men and women handle conflict. Men prefer the brute force method, whereas women are more cerebral (though by no means less vicious; a female's social manoeuvering and psycho-emotional attacks can be every bit as cutting as a male's phsyical fights). Also, men tend to be more bound by rules than women (especially in a fight). Men, for some reason that I don't fully understand, develop all these rules about what is and what is not acceptable when you're trying to kill your enemy. If you watch a street fight between two men, there are many advantages they they simply refuse to take over their opponent. Striking the genitals, aiming for other vulnerable targets such as the eyes, biting, et c. These are just some of the things that men choose not to do, because it violates the "code of conduct" that they've developed. Women don't have such a code; there have been fights between two females in which combs are used as weapons; they'll tangle the comb into their adversary's hair, twist it around a few times to get it firmly caught, then yank as hard as they can. Females take a lot more to get to the point of physical violence, but once they do, there will be blood.

There are many other differences between the two; just a couple minor examples are that men are better at three dimensional spatial reasoning, while women are better are multi-tasking. But if you are able to at least start to comprehend the differences, and to apply them to your character, then playing the opposite gender can be a challenging but rewarding experience.

That's all for this week. Join us again next time, and until then,

Game on!

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