Roleplay Games using ‘#Feminism: A Nano-Game Anthology’

Selfie

by  Mirella Machancoses López        A couple of months ago, I received my copy of #Feminism: A Nano-Game Anthology. It took me only two days to read all the games, and I was very excited about testing a lot of them.So, first of all, I needed to figure out how to set up a time and place where we could play. I realised that some of the games are written to be played by only women but others required the presence of men for play to be the most interesting.

The second problem was choosing a space. We (as Producciones Gorgona) don’t have a meeting place so, we needed to find one. After thinking a lot about it, we highlighted the characteristics of the place we need:

  • Two or more rooms (so we can play at least two games at the same time).
  • Intimate
  • Places we could sleep

So, finally, to avoid paying a lot of money, I decided to offer my parents’ house in the countryside. We could sleep there, it was big enough, and it was intimate. In addition, we decided to go for a whole weekend of feminism games, where Saturday and Saturday night would be for women only, and the Sunday the men would be welcome.

And we did so last weekend (May 14-15, 2016). We loved all the games we had time to test. So, I will not focus this review on the anthology as a whole, but on our experiences of running the games we chose.

#Feminism: A Nano-Game Anthology was released in 2016 after a successful crowd-funding campaign. You can read more about it here: https://feministnanogames.wordpress.com/

Reviewing #Feminism: A Nano-Game Anthology

Selfie

Selfie is a game written by Kira Magrana. It’s part of the section called ‘The Digital Age’. We consider it a very good way to create trust and to form a new group (we knew each other but not very well). And it worked quite well!

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The game consists of taking some selfies and trying to guess what feelings we wanted to convey. I’m not going to explain it here (you’ll have to get the amazing book for that). But I want to give you some advice if you’re going to run it.

  • If you decide to use the soundtrack proposed by the author, you can find it already prepared in my Spotify account so you don’t have to make it again.
  • During the game, we discovered that it was funnier if we not only tried to guess the feeling by naming it, but also tried to build the history behind them by using hashtags.
  • We played it with 7 players (not the 3 to 5 recommended in the book), and it worked smoothly. So don’t be afraid to increase the number to adapt to the group you have.

After lunch, we divided into two groups to play simultaneously. Three of us (myself included) played My Sister Malala (me included) and the other four went to the other terrace to play Mum, I Made This Sex Tape.

My Sister Malala

My Sister Malala is a game designed by Elsa Helin. It’s a free form for only three players. In this game, you play one of three Pakistani teenagers who can use the Internet in their schools, and the different lives they experience.  Each of them has two scenes: a Facebook state and its conversation, and a short live-role playing scene.#Feminism – Reviewing the Nano-Game Anthology

We only made two changes to the original design. The first one was starting the Facebook conversation with an actual written status just below the Facebook page we designed in the workshop (we decided not only to describe the photos, but also to draw them). We think that helps to reenact how a real Facebook post is. After that, we continued the conversation orally, as described in the game.

The second change was to the short scenes. According to the designer, all the players have to decide together how the scene will end. In Spanish larp culture, this is a very strange concept. We prefer playing the larps without knowing the ending, going with the flow of events.

So we agreed to adapt it. Before the scene began, the other two players (non-protagonists ) talked about how they would play their characters and how they wanted to finish it. The entire scene was therefore a surprise for the main character, in the same way that it would have been for a real teenager. I think this change worked marvelously.

Overall, I think the design is very solid. The way in which it creates a scale of tension and identification with the different girls was amazing. I totally recommend playing it if you can.

Mum, I Made This Sex Tape

SusannevejdemoThe other four girls played Mum, I Made This Sex Tape, designed by Susanne Vejdemo. I can’t review this larp completely, as I didn’t play it. One of the players who did provided this review:

Four of us decided to play this game due to the topic, which is funny and taboo at the same time. The game is designed for 3-5 players with pre-written characters. One of them is a girl who has made a sex tape and is proud of it but she wants to know the opinions of other female members of her family.

It is a good way to know the evolution of feminism from its beginnings, through the role of the grandmother, until today thanks to the role of the girl. All the characters are strong in their convictions about the way women should live and think about sex and porn.

If you want to play this game, here are some tips:

-With 4 players, it is better to include the aunt rather than the sister. It will be very refreshing and good support for the girl.

-Don’t create tense relationships. Mother and aunt should be sisters, not sisters-in-law.

-We played for 20 minutes and it was too short! We could have played for at least 10 more minutes.

-And most importantly: enjoy every moment and have fun.Janire Roldán

Mentioning the Unmentionables

KajsagregerAfter two hard games, we decided to play something more light-hearted; our choice was Mentioning the Unmentionables by Kajsa Greger. It was the funniest game I’ve ever played, especially the first two parts.

As with the other games, we wanted to play all together, so we adapted the game for seven players. It wasn’t a problem for the two first games (“Vulvas” and “Dying for a cup of coffee”) but it was for the last one (“Just Put Some Salt on It”). Since you have to replay each scene three times, the game can run very long if you play with more than five people.. As the games can be played separately, I highly recommend to playing the first two with more people if you like, but not the third one.

“Vulvas” is an easy game, but so much fun. We nearly doubled the number of objectives, so we were very happy about it (afterwards, we continued with it all day long when we remembered a new film). For Spanish speakers that want to play this game, we translated the word “vulva” for “vagina” as the meaning in Spanish is funnier (The Spanish  tend to be more open about saying some words, such as “coño” (c***) – and “vulva” is like a high level word for us).

I’m not going to say much about the other two games, as they should be played without knowing the twists they have. However, if you need a game that is funny but at the same time addresses important issues ,Mentioning the Unmentionables is your choice. It is time for women’s anatomies, problems and needs to be called by their true names.

Glitzy Nails

Later, we came together again and decided to play Glitzy Nails, designed by Kat Jones. Glitzy Nails explores the relations between women of different social classes, and how their problems are not only different but also they separated them in the fight for women’s rights.

Drawing made by Sky as we were playing Glitzy Nails.
Drawing made by Sky as we were playing Glitzy Nails.

We decided to make other changes to the settings. According to the design, you must play it at a table, as manicures are done in most Western countries. But, based on our experiences visiting countries in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam and Cambodia, we put out three armchairs for the clients and we did the manicures on our knees. It increases the feeling of humiliation and the differences between the roles. It worked very well (even all of us had pain in our legs the day after).The larp is for 2 or 4 players, but we decided to play with 6 (3 clients and 3 workers). Moreover, as we were 7, two of them played as one (one played the immigrant and the other the executive). Also, it is not a problem to increase the number of players in pairs (2, 4, 6, 8…), I highly recommend not playing it in pairs; it is more interesting if you can play both roles.

For me, this game was one of the better designed in the book. It was well thought-out, well written, and it was even better when we played it. We could totally understand how women lose everything when they leave their native countries to find a new life.

Flesh

Writing about Flesh is, maybe, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Flesh is designed by Frederik Berg, Rebecka Eriksson and Tobias Wrigstad, and it turned out to be  the strongest experience of the weekend –  even a life-changing one for most of us. Trying to write a review without telling personal histories thus becomes difficult.

First of all, Flesh it’s not a larp. It’s more like therapy. And it’s only for women (trans or cis), at least the way we played it. It requires a private space and a certain level of trust between the players. We weren’t exactly sure about how to play it (if we had to do it all together, the timing of each action…).LarpLovesPost-its-300x300

This is why we adapted the game in a way we think it could work. Maybe, when you read it, you will realise we were totally wrong about it. Yes, we admit that.

We played it in turns. Each of us chose a song that really meant something to them so they could – literally – bare their bodies and souls. Once we did that, we wrote on our bodies the problems we have with them, and our strengths. We objectified ourselves to the point of being nothing but a body. After that, the other players erase our writing for us while explaining why it is not important, letting us be only flesh.

It was wonderful, and terrifying. We discovered things about ourselves that we had never realised before. We opened our souls, and let others in. We became broken, but managed to rebuild ourselves in a newer, stronger way.

6066

Writing about 6066 after Flesh is hard, because they are two totally opposite experiences. 6066 is a comedy larp written by Elin Nilsen. We played it on Sunday morning, once some guys and other girls had shown up. Even if it’s supposed to be from 3 to 6 players, there were 11 of us. I think it is a larp that can be scaled up, but I don’t recommend more than 8 (there were too many people for some of the actions).

I have to admit that it was one of the most appealing larps for me. As a PhD in archaeology, I’m personally interested in how you can know a society by the things they left behind. In that way, using a soap opera was a really amazing way to highlight the gender role problems we are leaving behind.

On the other hand, it was hilarious to play. We were inspired by the South American soap operas (the most common in Spain) and we translated the title as: “Amor, Lujuria y Desconfianza”. One of our friends composed the entire song for the credits, and we were singing it for days.

I have to confess that we played it for nearly two hours, but it was so much fun. The mechanic of changing between the soap opera and the students seeing it, and being able to stop, pause and rewind was very well designed. Totally recommended.

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Conclusion

We found all the games of #feminism that we played very interesting. It was a pity we didn’t have more time on Sunday to play more of them (we wanted to test  Catcalling and A Friend in Need with the guys). So we decided two important things: first of all, we’ll have to play them another day;  second ,  the girls will meet once a year, alone, to enjoying this amazing experience. We hope to design our own games next time.

It was an incredible experience for us (the girls who spent the whole weekend). After that, we have become like sisters; we have shared too much to not having real bonds – something special. And that’s something that money cannot buy.

Mirella Machancoses LópezMirella Machancoses López

Mirella Machancoses is an archaeologist, historian and Larp designer from Spain. She is part of the collective Producciones Gorgona, where she has tried to made new formulas to integrate larp and family. She is very into historical background larps, utopias and distopias of any kind.        https://lamiradadegorgona.wordpress.com/


Welcome to #Feminism, an anthology of 30+ feminist nano-games produced by a collective of feminists from 10 countries. matb-1

There are so many feminist games to write, and so little time. This collection is our solution to the problem–we’re writing them shorter, sweeter, and sometimes funnier than we’d be able to if we wrote longer games.

What’s a nanogame?

For our purposes, a nanogame is an analog roleplaying game that lasts less than an hour. Our games are for 3 to 5 players, and are playable with simple tools like paper, pens, paperclips, timers, or other things you can find in the bottom of your bag.

All of the games deal with contemporary feminist issues important to our participants.

What sort of games can I find in the collection?

We’ve got 33 games written by participants from about ten countries.

Agata Świstak/Poland/Flirt

“Flirt” is an attempt to deconstruct the game almost everyone is playing – game of hook-ups, crushes and scoring!

Ann Eriksen/Denmark/Tropes vs. Women

Explore well-known movie clichés and tropes about women in a fun and not to serious way.

Anna Westerling/Sweden/Willful Disregard

A love story.

Cathriona Tobin/Ireland/First Joyful Mystery

Players examine the impact Ireland’s prohibitive abortion laws have on people who find themselves pregnant.

Dominika Kováčová/UK/Stripped

A game about stripping off the stigma.

Elin Nilsen/Norway/6016

In 6016 the only historical source of the 21st century is a collection of clips from the soap opera “Love, lust and lack of trust.”

Elsa Helin/Sweden/My Sister, Malala

A game about freedom of thoughts and ideas for girls in Pakistan.

Emily Care Boss/US/Ma, Can I Help You with That?

A game about family, age and the gendered nature of care-giving.

Evan Torner/US/Something to Drink with That, Sir?

A woman flight attendant performs emotional labor to serve three different male passengers.

Frederik Berg, Rebecka Eriksson, and Tobias Wrigstad/Sweden/Flesh

A physical game about the objectification of women or how women’s bodies are butchered into parts.

Jason Morningstar/US/Shoutdown to Launch

In this game about gendered interruption, a bunch of engineers need to fix a problem with a rocket engine in the dwindling time before launch. It won’t go well.

Sevilla Feminists
Sevilla Feminists

Julia Ellingboe/US/You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

A game about gender, cultural, and ethnic representation in the movies.

Kaisa Kangas/Finland/Lipstick

Sofia is hesitating about whether to wear lipstick for a TV debate on feminism.

Kaisa Kangas/Finland/President

The war-waging Akhaian empire has elected its first female president, a very successful lady general, and feminists with conflicting agendas are trying to draft a press statement together.

Kajsa Greger/Sweden/Three Games About the Body

Dances with Vulvas: A silly warm-up game about the taboos around women’s anatomy.

Dying for a Cup of Coffee: A playful scene about the terror of being deprived of coffee at your workplace.

Just Put Some Salt on It: A story about what happens when you put period stains on your mother in law’s white sofa.

Karin Edman/Sweden/Spin the Goddesses

A kissing game of lesbian witches.

Kat Jones/US/Glitzy Nails

Glitzy Nails is a freeform scenario about intersectional feminism, interactions between women, and nail salons.

Katrin Førde/Norway/First Date

A game about a date gone wrong and a rant about the orgasm gap.

Kira Magrann/US/Selfie

An intimate game about feelings in images.

Laura Simpson/US/Driving to the Reunion

An intergenerational game about four Black women trying to understand each other, as they drive back for college reunion.

Leïla Teteau-Surel and Baptiste Cazes with Laura Guedes/France/Family Planning Clinictopfem_11

A game about women’s health where players will play short scenes from the daily life of a French family planning clinic (inspired by real stories).

Livia von Sucro/Brazil/GIRL: A Game for Boys

A small exercise about empathy, designed for cis gendered men to take a glimpse of what it feels like to be a victim of violence against women.

Lizzie Stark/US/Manic Pixie Dream Girl Commandos

A military unit undertakes its last whimsical mission before retiring to civilian life.

Moyra Turkington/Canada/Tour of Duty

A freeform nano-scenario about the what it’s like to serve and defend as a woman in the US Military.

Muriel Algayres/France/A Friend in Need

A nano-game about street harassment, victim-blaming and friendship. After a bad encounter on the street, can Ella get over victim-blaming with the help of her friends?

Rowan Cota/US/Her Last Tweet

A microgame exploring being a potential victim of a campus shooting event.

Sarah Bowman/US/Curtain Call

A larp about the experiences of a woman in the music industry over the course of four decades.

Siri Sandquist/Sweden/The Grey Zone

A larp about the grey zone between rape and consensual sex in a relationship.

Sofia Stenler and Frida Karlsson Lindgren/Sweden/Restrictions

A non-verbal game on how we are and aren’t allowed to move together, as two genders.

Susanne Vejdemo/Sweden/So Mom I Made This Sex Tape

Different generations of feminists argue it out about sex, porn, and what the main point of feminism really is.

Tora de Boer/Denmark/Catcalling

A catcalling situation feels different depending on whether bystanders support the target or the cat caller.


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