La Luna

La Luna
Indorktrination

Greg Tito | 2 Sep 2008 12:50
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"That game is not user friendly at all," she said after logging out. I pointed out that a low barrier to entry was actually one of its selling points. "Well, maybe it's just me then. I don't know how to move, I guess," said Erin. I don't think it is just her, however. A friend reported a similar experience when he introduced his wife to WoW. Videogames, especially action-oriented ones, assume a basic spatial understanding of how to control an avatar in a three-dimensional space. Some people don't find this process intuitive. Furthermore, research suggests that females, unless specifically trained, have more difficulty quickly analyzing spatial relationships between objects than males. This doesn't mean that women aren't able to overcome such difficulty, but those who are biased against gaming anyway have no incentive to work through it. Did Erin hate gaming simply because it was hard for her? Given her somewhat competitive nature, that seemed to make sense.

Despite her experience, the next day Erin said she couldn't stop thinking about the game. She was proud of herself for finally sitting down and playing it with me. "I also thought about the funny things that my bag would get filled up with, that I would then sell for money," she said. "It made me wish I really had a bag full of glowing eyeballs and dirty boots."

It was time for the mother lode of dorkosity: bringing Erin to a Dungeons & Dragons game. I asked her what went through her mind when I first told her I was into roleplaying games. "I thought it was weird," Erin said. "I was kind of devastated because it has such a bad reputation. It's embarrassing. I told my friends that you were going to play poker or something. Society doesn't accept it, so I didn't. I thought it was this weird thing, maybe even cultish."

Appealing to the theater in her, I explained that it is akin to improvisational acting but with more clearly defined rules. Still, she approached playing D&D with great trepidation. To make it less intimidating, I invited two players who also had a theater background, Matt and Jason. Matt even invited another female player, Janelle, to make Erin feel more comfortable. I would be the Dungeon Master, and I spent some time crafting a short but memorable scenario. I decided to use the new 4th Edition of D&D because of its relatively flat learning curve.

Erin and I made a half-elf warlord named Lydia. The party met in a tavern in the town of Bellingham, with Matt taking the lead and introducing his character, Varrus, to Lydia. After some brief wariness, Erin opened up. She continued the trend of creating pretty characters, but she made it clear that Lydia loved everyone no matter what race they were. As character choices go, it wasn't exactly revelatory, but at least she latched onto an idea and stuck with it. It certainly helped integrate Jason's dragonborn and Janelle's eladrin into a cohesive party.

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