The role play arrives at the university with the conference Genre and R-existences in Movement: let's see the intervention of Women, Dice & Data (DD&D) on gender discrimination in role play!

In recent years, the role-playing world has been widely investigated in relation to many issues. Before talking about the conference Genre and R-existences in Movement, let's take a brief overview of some of the social and educational topics that the GDR can touch.

Role play as a tool to grow and as an environment to study

There has been talk of his educational benefits and it was brought to schools, as we have seen with Role parents. Industry specialists have studied how role-playing can be used to deal with and overcome trauma or for exercise empathy putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

But in the meantime there have also been studies that have investigated how existing disparities and social prejudices can reoccur in role-playing, de facto making it a potentially unpleasant experience. A lot has been said about these issues and how to deal with them, inside and outside the Seekers website. We have already talked about the two Genderplay (here e here!), in which gender discrimination was first investigated and then emotional security in role-playing games. Next, we talked about security mechanics and how to deal with strong themes here. Finally, we talked about the negative cases where character rape was used to make players uncomfortable here.

The bulk of the work was done by the study groups of Women, Dice & Data. The people inside DD&D have worked hard to fight discrimination, sexism, homobitransphobia and racism (not very frequent, fortunately!) In the Italian community of the world of role-playing games. Over the past year, the results of their great research on gender discrimination (to which I contributed a little too and which you can read in full here!) in the Italian world of RPG have been exposed on many occasions. The first was during the Modena Play 2019, followed by other meetings in internal and external contexts to the community.

We Seekers have talked about this research several times. Today, therefore, we will see how this research ended at a conference on gender studies at the University of Trento.

Claudia Pandolfi, Gloria Comandini and Aurelio Castro at the conference Gender and R-existences in Movement
Claudia Pandolfi, Gloria Comandini and Aurelio Castro at the conference Genre and R-existences in Movement

DD&D presentation at the conference Genre and R-existences in Movement

The conference Gender and R-existences in Movement: Subjectivity, Actions and Perspectives at the University of Trento (where they also did seminars on Tolkien, as we have reported here e here!) was held on January 31 and February 1. Here, Claudia Pandolfi, Aurelio Castro and I have exhibited the research of DD&D. You can find the conference program here and our slides here!

The presentation focused, after explaining what role playing was, on'' exposure of the data collected by DD&D research and their analysis. Basically, as mentioned in the research, gender discrimination affects a minority part of the community in the Italian RPG, but the people who suffer it are mostly women and non-binary people. These discriminations reflect those of everyday life and do not seem to be more present in our community. However, in the field of RPG they tend to present themselves in particular forms, linked precisely to the structure of the game table and the interpretation of characters.

So, we focused on these methods of discrimination that are also, but not limited to, the RPG, so as to understand how to counter them and make the experience of the game pleasant even for the minority of people who have heard things like "women they will never be able to play a good role ”.

The questions asked after the presentation and reception of the public

After the exposure, which lasted about 15 minutes, the speakers were asked a few questions.

First, we have been asked how gambling people reacted to the rape of their characters in game. It was therefore specified that there is a big difference between role-playing games in which rape is something that all the players agree on wanting to play, and the cases reported in the DD&D study, in which rape had been used to make players uncomfortable. After this necessary specification, we reported what had been said in the testimonies collected: in these cases, most of the players left the party.

Secondly, we have been asked how big the gdr community was in Italyae if it happened that the players had to adapt to a stereotypical "playing like a man" to be accepted in certain contexts. To the first question we replied that there is no precise data, but that some members of our community and of certain publishing houses assume that the players / role players are around 60.000. We then specified that, in some cases, we received testimonies in which the players said they had to adapt their playing style to the murderhobo of their all-male party, to be accepted.

In general, all the people who held a talk in our same session were very capable and brought very interesting topics. However, I must say that, when we came up with role-playing games, the interest of the public had a big increase. After all, the RPGs are a new topic in the field of gender studies in Italy and it was very nice to see them welcomed with curiosity and genuine interest.

Not by chance, in fact, after the session some people approached us to ask us for more information on both the topic of our presentationand i.e. gender discrimination, both on role-playing games in general.

The title of the conference Gender and R-Existences in Movement
The title of the conference Gender and R-Existences in Movement

Some final considerations

At the end of the day, I'm glad to say that, probably, from the Faculty of Sociology of Trento about forty people left having discovered what role-playing is. The fact that problems exist in our community will hardly put our hobby in a bad light, since these same problems have been investigated within many other realities that everyone agrees to be positive anyway. In fact, there has been talk of gender and / or sexual orientation discrimination in literature, in the world of communication, in the workplace and in schools of all levels.

This conference was an opportunity for growth e an opportunity to meet other industry experts, taking role play out of its niche. We hope that our intervention will push the public to deepen their knowledge of role-playing games, exploring their potential and variety.