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Kira Scott, american woman gamer

Original version

dimanche 1er septembre 2013, par Benoît

This interview was published in french inside Chroniques d’Altaride #16 on 2013, September 1rst.

Who are you ?

I’m Kira Scott, blogger for Gaming as Women, organizer of Indie Game on Demand events, moderator of the Story Games forum, and queer cyborg. Oh and I like to play games.

I currently live in Columbus, Ohio, USA. It’s a pretty cool city, with fabulous underground art and design communities, a big LGBTQ community, and lots of green spaces and delicious food. We’re in the Midwest of the US, so we’re a hub surrounded by vast corn fields and cows. People here are really friendly, and I’ve made some great friends. I love it.

How did you discover roleplaying games ? I first discovered roleplaying games when I picked up Vampire the Masquerade in a hobby store with my Dad. I ran my first game for all my girlfriends at a birthday party. Then I started playing Vampire larps in high school and attending conventions. I love the gothic aesthetic, and being creative, so it was a combination of the community of players and the creative challenge that gaming presents that kept me playing games.

How to you actually play ? I have regular game nights with my excellent group of friends about bi-weekly and we play two games back to back from afternoon to evening. We play at someone’s house, and we take dinner breaks to hang out and usually drink beer or wine with the evening game. We actually rotate who in the group attends which games, because we have a bunch running at any given time, people can play more toward their taste and availability. For example, we recently had games of Dungeon World and Monsterhearts running on the same day, but some people liked fantasy so played the afternoon game, and some people liked teenage romance and played the evening game. This works really well for us so we can all get a taste of something we all like with our diverse tastes.

I’ve also been attending conventions like Origins and Gencon since I was 16 (about 15 years !). To me, conventions are a place to try out new games, or games my home group wouldn’t normally play, and hang out with my awesome gamer tribe. I’ve recently loved playing jeepform at conventions, I like how it’s really experimental and artsy and I relate to that alot coming from an art background. I’ve also loved running games designed by queer and women designers, and sexy games, because I think all of those things should be getting more exposure in gaming communities.

My favorite thing in Roleplaying games is when everyone is working together to create interesting stories. I also love it when systems or mechanics work in tandem with the narrative of the game you’re playing. As an artist, I love to see games as works of art. Well built machines that I can use as a tool to tell great stories with people, and that contain everything I need to do just that. So I like a range of games, although I trend toward Story Games and Small Press Games. They tend to be more personal and about fringe issues that I care about. Monsterhearts by Joe McDaldno is one of my favorite games right now because it showcases queer content, gender, and horror, three of my favorite things. It also has a fabulous system built into it that is really accessible and allows you to engage with the content in meaningful ways. And you still get to have conflict and role dice ! That’s the sweet spot for me.

I also have a growing love for Jeepform and LARP. I recently played the US run of Mad About the Boy organized by Lizzie Stark, a post apocalyptic game that features all women characters, and that was amazing. Emily Care Boss is working on a game based on Milton that I playtested at Gencon and it was incredible, I got to play Belial. And the shorter jeepform games like Previous Occupants, the Lady and Otto, and the Tribunal are really great emotional whirlwinds about relationships, oppression, and love.

What did roleplaying games change in your personal or professional life ?

It actually took me many years to be out as a gamer. Which is weird because I was out as queer and kinky awhile before that. There’s something extra taboo about talking about roleplaying games, I’ve found I kind of have to normalize it before I can talk to people about it. Now when I talk about being a gamer, I use Fiasco by Jason Morningstar as an example of the types of games I play, because almost everyone has seen a Coen Brothers movie and can understand a little better what it is I’m doing.

Games have an effect on my personal life in that I really enjoy having multiple avenues of creative stimulation. When you’re a creator, it’s good to jump around from project to project, and stretch your creative muscles in different mediums. So for me, gaming is really great at doing that. It allows my brain to be stimulated creatively in a way that’s different from jewelry and art making.

I’ve been pretty active in BDSM communities for about ten years now, and there’s lots of similarities between the play interaction that occurs in a fetish scene and the play dynamics of a roleplaying game. I’ve found you can easily compare GM/player to Dom/sub roles, setting and framing scenes is similar, and both have a distinct narrative, although with different goals. Gaming is sometimes a great inspiration for some really fun fetish interactions.

I don’t currently work in gaming at all, all of these projects are 100% on my own time from my heart. I work at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Admissions, so my job is primarily talking to high school students about how to improve their portfolio artwork on a personal and college entrance level. I also get to visit high school classrooms all over the US in order to talk to them about art.

My practiced skills in analyzing and critiquing artwork make me a great playtester of new RPGs. I love pointing out strengths and weaknesses for designers with games in progress and giving them ideas to tweak their games. Playing games also informs how I interact in meetings with people professionally. Running a meeting, or holding appointments with people, or speaking in front of crowds, is all very similar to playing and running RPGs. I find they influence each other, skills I learn at work and skills I’ve learned from gaming !

I’m super interested in talking about games and game design too. I’ve been hanging out on forums like The Forge and Story Games for... a long time now, hah, too long maybe. Both of these internet forums have a focus on conversation around game design amongst designers, players, and critics. I learned a lot about roleplaying game design by watching people design their games in public, or ask for feedback on their games from people in order to improve them. There’s so many correlations between the way games are designed and the way art is made so this language is one I understand and love. I love engaging with games on the aesthetic level. It’s easy for me to compare them to art, and analyze and interact with good design, no matter the medium. So that’s what I mean by aesthetic. I think games that have excellent design utilize all the elements of the game with elegance. When the mechanics of the game encourage interactions amongst the players that create and inform the narrative I see perfect system harmonies. These are my favorite games.

Are you more of a player, a gamemaster or an author ?

I think that GMs are players too ! I like to GM and play games, I think both roles are really satisfying in different ways. I love being the orchestrator of narrative, so as the GM its fun to tie disparate strings of story together in interesting and surprising ways. When I play I also try to find ways to interact with the other players, because to me the stories and relationships I tell with the other players are the most important part of the game.

How would you define roleplaying games ?

There’s so many variations on what a roleplaying game is ! To me, it’s something I get to do with at least one other person, which involves telling stories about characters doing things in a place, and sometimes rolling dice.

And what are your roleplaying projects or desires ?

I recently wrote a micro game called Crash Into You about sex and cars. I was inspired by David Cronenberg’s Crash movie that focuses on morally gray characters who have car crash fetishes. It’s a totally weird game, but what I was trying to capture was the feel of what it’s like to have a fetish. It’s a love letter to objectifying objects. You end up having to create lots of descriptions of your car and your car crashes so that the language itself becomes a seductive mechanic in the game. You’re obsessed with your first car crash, and it literally drives your every move. It’s a bit of an experiment for me, I’m just beginning to design games and figure out my style and processes.

I’ve been working on a Cyborg game forever, that might come out eventually, that gets at the more personal and relational aspects of being part human and part machine. I’d also love for it to focus on gender and LGBTQ stuff, cause those are things that mean a lot to me. I’m also working on a LARP that you can play at a fetish party, where basically you add characters, situation, costuming, and relationship possibilities to fetish scenes. I really love playing new games, new stuff that people create that’s really different and creative and weird. So those are the ones I’m looking forward to playing, whatever weird stuff people create in the next year.

Can you explain in a few words about what are your different websites ?

I currently contribute to a variety of online communities. Gaming as Women is a blog that showcases lots of women in the international tabletop roleplaying game community. The goal behind it is to give visibility to women’s perspectives in gaming communities. Story Games is a forum that focuses on conversation about indie and small press roleplaying games, as well as events and conventions and game theory. There’s often a lot of discussion amongst designers about ideas and processes they use to create games. The Story Games community often meets up at conventions once or twice a year depending on where they’re located. Indie Games on Demand is an event that happens at different gaming conventions, where a bunch of volunteers who are enthusiastic about indie and small press RPGs are able to run these games specifically to introduce people to these less known games. My personal website is Anima Metals, where I sell jewelry that I make that’s influenced by historical spiritual symbols, botanical imagery and skulls. Metal and enamel are the primary mediums I work with, and I love creating wearable artwork.

You blog for ’Gaming as Women’... What’s different in games for the women ? Do you think boys and girls didn’t have the same experience of gaming, especially in tabletop RPG ? What is different because you’re a woman ?

The Gaming as Women blog exists is there’s still a pervasive inequality in roleplaying games and communities regarding gender representation. In US culture in particular, which is the experience and theory I can speak to the most, there’s massive differences in the expectations placed on each gender. One of the reasons feminism and activism is still around is because equality is still not a fact of life, in a multitude of ways. Men and women do not have equal rights and we have certain harmful roles for both genders that are perpetuated by culture and media. If you’re curious about gender and sex scholarship, Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body is the most accessible text I’ve read.

Given these facts about women in culture in general, it’s not surprising that women still aren’t represented well in the majority of games we play. Roleplaying games still often depict art that over-sexualizes women, give women high charisma and low strength because we couldn’t possibly be realistically strong, tell stories with female characters who have little agency, and don’t represent positive and varied roles for women to play. The games are not inclusive. Women feel these representations of our gender frustrating and ignorant. The gender dynamics that exist in gaming communities are often as problematic as the games themselves. If sexualization of women is the norm in the media you’re consuming, then what does that tell the people playing the game ? Many women have had experiences ranging from sexual harassment to small, subtle sexisms that get tiresome to defend against.

For me, when I’m playing a game, it’s pretty simple. I want to be able to play a woman character who is afforded the same opportunities that male characters are. I don’t want to be the only and most exceptional female warrior. I don’t want to have to deal with casual sexism in a medieval setting because it’s supposedly historically accurate. I don’t want to be a damsel in distress, or a caretaker, or a love interest. Avoidance of these basic tropes in games is super easy. The more a game speaks to an understanding of gender equality and the erasure of these outdated tropes, the more I’m compelled to play it !

Along with Giulia Barbano (Turin, Italy) Renee Knipe (Michigan, US), and Kimberly Lam (Canada) and lots of other women in gaming, we try to make these issues visible by writing about them online. A ton of gamers are great and really aware of these issues. There’s even some games that are beginning to get it right. A lot of people, this might be their first encounter with ideas involving gender and gaming. Women are gamers too, and our perspectives are varied, interesting, and valuable. I think it’d be amazing if games were able to move into a more inclusive territory where more women felt more welcome. Keeping this conversation going is part of making that change. Ultimately, that’s what we hope to do on the blog, make positive shifts in gaming culture.

Is Kira Scott your real name or a alias ?

Kira Scott is in fact my real name ! I have many aliases, but if I told you what they were, I’d have to kill you.

  • Name : Kira (a mystical name)
  • Skin : Fae art school "inspiration merchant" (student advisor !)
  • Look : mysterious, mesmerizing eyes
  • Origin : touched with the gift of art making
  • Hot : I love hanging out with people
  • Cold : I sometimes disappear when I’m working on projects
  • Volatile : I know some Muay Thai
  • Dark : I’m pretty goth
  • Strings : I have a weakness for Battlestar Galactica, I’m a huge film fan, I love corsets and body modification, and knowledge of feminism and LGBTQ theories
  • Weapons : my sword collection ! also social media adeptness