Ah, the luxury of a long weekend shines forth once again. Yes, with the Jones Crew not heading in holiday this summer – what with family health, doggo worries, exam results, and that old devil COVID – the Ever Lovely Mrs J and I are using up or holiday by taking shorter weeks at work. I’m rather liking it as there’s times in booking a break that it just adds more stress to the general huff and puff of life.
That aside, I’ve been enjoying the weekly podcasts from Mermaids UK and if you’re not yet listening in, there’s a list of them here. It’s a collection of different presenters from around the Trans community and they talk about both the news – including saying we’re not going to talk about this, which made me laugh – as well as guest interviews from bloggers, activists, YouTubers, et al.
A recent episode featured Rowan Ellis (YouTube) who, A) I found her interview and YouTube videos fascinating, and B) ‘cos I’m a Dad, I’d not bumped into her channel. 🙂
The thing that really stood out for me in Rowan’s interview was around D&D and queerness (DnD as in Dungeons and Dragons, if you’re very new to all this). I’ve not role-played for years now, but before work and family commitments, I certainly did. The inclusion of queerness into the discussion really made me think and look back.
I’ve been T something or other for as long as I can remember and I would latch on to positive depictions of people like me in fiction. Not that there were many back then in the 80s, or if there was, I wasn’t looking in the right games, comics, or books.
To jump on something in the interview, part of the fun in playing a table top RPG with friends is you can be anyone or anything. I think it does let you explore different roles and I know as a teen who was struggling with my gender identity, playing a female character now and then was very liberating. As a kid in deep stealth (aka so far in the closet, I could see the street lamp in Narnia 😉), if I’m honest here, those gaming sessions kept me going when things were tough. I could not express who I was back then, but in those games and improv with friends, I could. I’ve said recently that playing a computer game as a character of my choice is validating and it can help keep the blues away when things aren’t going your way. So it was with table top gaming too.
With TTRPGs (table top role-playing games) being very much part of the time in which they’re written, some were progressive, some where not, and some have not dated well. What I also picked up on in the podcast and later video, is that queer folk have come towards these settings and changed them to work for them.
Looking back at some of the characters I played and the games I ran, I know some of my friends felt that some were a bit ‘out there’, but as most of our gaming was sci-fi or near future, I argued politely that rights would move on, more folk would be okay, etc. This was well before reading Ian M Banks and his rather good Culture novels (written on the idea of a far future where the good guys had won. Hint: liberals 😉). Conversely, I knew of gamers who’d only play a character that matched their gender, but maybe they were playing for different reasons, who can say. I think having an all male gaming group meant there was a certain dynamic and when someone played a non-male character, that challenged assumptions about behaviour and the ideas of what people – fictional or otherwise – might do. Improv and reflection on gender roles in society? No wonder I was interested in all of this 🙂
So other than feeling part of something that seems quite modern (if niche) – queer gaming – but from a few of the past, where are we going with this? I guess I would say it’s about taking chances. If – and I guess in the unlikely event younger RPGers are reading this – take the opportunity to play folk not like you… or maybe as you might be. Break the rules, change the setting, and create a world that’s as you’d like it. Oh, and all that creativity? Sharing with others it’s awesome and together we can build something cool.