For Modena Play, the study group Donne, Dadi & Dati will present the results of the survey on discrimination in the Italian world of role-playing games. We Seekers have also lent a hand: let's see what's cooking!

In the past year, the world of role-playing games has seen quite a bit of discussion on the subject of minority representation in titles and sexism at the gaming table.

Just think of the gigantic controversy sparked by the fact that, in a new D&D expansion, some elves blessed by their own divinity could change sex once a day. We Seekers were not yet born as an independent editorial staff, but at the time I, Yari and Simone talked about it in a live on Facebook, in which Yari explained to us that indeed, for the lore of the setting, perhaps it would have been more appropriate to give this blessing to other people. For the rest, however, taking into account the fact that this trait is optional and that it may not even be chosen, we all agreed that the novelty was not so important and that it was probably being made a tragedy unnecessarily.

Other part of our world, however, remember that he took the news very badly, rising and shouting at the politically correct and inclusiveness at all costs that were ruining the world of role-playing games. If you look in some Italian groups dedicated to certain role-playing games, you can still find comments that say “How to destroy a race. Step 1: members change sex whenever they like ”.

The terrible manual with genderfluid elves!
The terrible manual with genderfluid elves!

Role-playing discrimination: does it exist?

In the wake of these and other controversies that cyclically reappear, one wondered if the Italian world of role-playing games was a generally unfriendly environment towards women, non-straight and non-cisgender people (therefore transsexual / transgender, non-binary people, genderflui et similia).

Now, it wasn't a question that was easy to answer: each of us has had his experiences and while some are quick to swear that they have never seen discrimination whatsoever, others have quick tales of unpleasant incidents that happened to them or other members at the table. It is not easy to build an overview that gives a bit of a general idea of ​​the situation, also because on the internet we can only see a certain type of interactions between players and role-players: most of the discriminatory behaviors questioned take place, instead, between the walls of the house, in the private of the game table.

How to understand if sexism and homo-transphobia at the table really existed?

Women, Dice & Data: the questionnaire

The outbreak of the controversy about genderfluid elves convinced a group of people, academic and otherwise, that it was worth investigating more about discrimination in the Italian world of role-playing games. Thus, it was born Women, Dice & Data (DD&D) (Thu the Facebook page), a research group made up of women, men and people of other genres, dedicated precisely to study of discrimination in role-playing games.

Aware of the delicacy of the topic and of the fact that it would probably take several studies and insights to understand the phenomenon well, the people of DD&D decided that, to begin with, it would be useful gather the experiences of the players of role Italians. Of the series: in the meantime, let's see what the community tells us with this survey, then, also on the basis of their testimonies, further insights will be made.

Thus, the questionnaire that last year shot most of the Facebook groups dedicated to role-playing games. In this questionnaire, users were asked to tell which ones contexts had started to play role-playing and with which companies he currently played, also investigating which games he preferred and how long he played. Given this context, the questionnaire then moved on to questions relating to discrimination that the user could have suffered or could have witnessed, both of gender, and related to sexual orientation, or based on other issues (ethnicity, income, inexperience, physical and psychological disabilities, etc.). Finally, users were asked to tell some more details about the discrimination they had suffered or witnessed by responding to a open question.

Purpose of the investigation: a starting point for the future

In this way, it was hoped to have an overview of the situation of the players and role-players reached by the survey and what kind of discrimination they encountered in the environment. Moreover, given the type of questions asked, it was immediately specified that it would serve as starting line for future studies, generating hypotheses to be confirmed.

After all, the numbers collected would hardly have provided the explanations of the percentages they showed: if there are fewer female players between the ages of 31 and 50, does it mean that after a certain age women experience social pressure that makes them stop gambling and forces them to devote themselves to their families? Or, do we simply tend to start role-playing at a younger age and ten years ago women were starting to play less? Or is it all just a coincidence? Hard to say, but knowing that there are fewer women in this age group leads to some questions and stimulate further research, perhaps conducted on other samples and other populations.

In general, the study on the responses to the questionnaire was done not with the intention of demonstrating that in the Italian world of role-playing games there is discrimination, but to understand if there is discrimination in the Italian role-playing world. And, if there was discrimination, in what forms it manifested.

Furthermore, the survey does not even want to be representative of all the Italian players and role players: even just for the fact that it was shot mainly on Facebook, it has inevitably left out all those who do not use this social network and / or do not frequent the groups and pages of role players. Quoting from the document setting out the survey results:

The sample that participated in the survey cannot therefore be considered representative of the community of players in its entirety (reference population), but refers to that portion of the reference population made up of people who are Facebook users, who knew about the survey and who had an interest in filling it out.

Women, Dice & Data: the research team
Women, Dice & Data: the research team

The results of the survey: the presentation at Modena Play

Given that a year has now passed since the survey was put into circulation, DD&D has decided that will present the results of the survey at the Modena Play. Subsequently, the document with all the results of the survey, the testimonies, the statistics and the reflections of those who contributed to the work will be made available to everyone on the internet.

The presentation of the results will be held Saturday 6 April, from 9.30 10.30 in 30 room, therefore we advise everyone to arm themselves with coffee, so as to face tables, graphs, statistics and ugly linguistics in strength. Obviously, admission is free and all interested parties are invited. New information and updates will be posted on the page of the Facebook event.

The topic is long and thorny, so we hope to be able to do it in our turn an overview of this overview, so as to understand the working method and the most interesting results. Finally, we would also like to leave some space also for questions and discussion, even if, if things will go as in Gender play, in the end we will leave the room that we will still be talking and we will continue the discussion in front of yet another coffee of the day.

Then those who want to deepen the topic can do so by reading the document, which should more or less be around 70 pages and will also contain a whole series of explanatory tables on the numbers of responses to the survey.

Let's put our greasy little hands into the corpora!
Let's put our greasy little hands into the corpora!

Linguistic investigation: what do Seekers have to do with it?

As mentioned, the survey from which the survey started was created and shared by DD&D, with whom we Seekers stayed in contact after the organization of the Genderplay, often discussing various issues, such as safespace in role-playing games.

Since, personally, in the academic field I deal with studying, from a linguistic point of view, both fandom language, is thehate speech, and my approach is mainly based on corpora linguistics, the idea of ​​creating both a corpus of Italian used by the role-playing community, be a language corpus of discrimination, always related to the role-playing community.

Talking about it with Claudia Pandolfi of DD&D, I was also offered to analyze written testimonials that those who participated in the survey left in the open question:

If you answered yes to the question “Did you ever experience gender discrimination during RPG sessions or demonstrations in which you participated?”, Here you can provide some more details. For example, who have you been discriminated against? What kind of discrimination have you experienced?

Taking into account the fact that from these testimonies the language of discrimination cannot be studied, it was decided to study the language in which the writer described discrimination.

In this way, you will be able to see the linguistic strategies that the respondents have used to talk about what they have undergone or seen undergo at the table, noting also some interesting differences between men and women. In addition, you will also notice what the writer has decided to highlight with details rhetorical strategies, such as the reported speech.

However, it should be noted that the corpus made up of these testimonies is very small, since it only counts 10.000 tokens (i.e. 10.000 graphic words), and was not designed to be a language study tool. Consequently, this corpus cannot give us representative datanor statistically relevant numbers for the phenomena we went to analyze.

However, the fact that this corpus gives us the gender identity of the writer and presents formations that could hardly be found even in much larger corpora (seeing is believing!) Makes it a valuable source of information. Definitely, it's the right place to go identify phenomena to be explored in the future, with the help of more capacious and representative corpora.

In general, therefore, even the linguistic study carried out on this survey is only apreliminary investigation, to develop hypotheses to be tested in the future and to invite reflection.

The results of the linguistic analysis will therefore come from me presented at Modena Play, together with the survey results. So I'm waiting for you on Saturday morning, together with the DD&D girls and boys!