The game table, for me and many people I know, is a happy place. An escape. A safe place to be. Somewhere where we can leave the things behind that we want to, and embrace new identities, new experiences, and feel powerful and in control. I have always enjoyed that aspect of gaming, and whether it is video games or tabletop, feeling safe is an important thing for me.
There have been past articles on how to address sensitive topics in your games, as well as building trust as a game master. There is a lot to be said for a GM’s responsibility to create a safe place for players, and even for players to support each other, share the space and make sure that everyone has time to shine. However, there is something I think many players are not aware is in their power, and is in fact their priority, especially female players.
If a player is put into a situation where they are uncomfortable, or is at a risk to be triggered by something, they have every right to step away or not play a game. If they are playing a game where a GM includes content they don’t approve of, they should raise their concerns to the GM. If the GM continues to use the content, for good or any other reasons, the player can still choose not to play.
Not playing a game for personal reasons (aside from schedule) may be frowned upon, particularly as a woman. There are often a lot of negative attitudes or impressions that flare up when people decide not to play a game, regardless of what gender you are – but there are some accusations that really hit home. If you don’t want to play a game because there is a situation that makes you uncomfortable – from past trauma, political preference, whatever – sometimes other players or even the GM might say you’re being oversensitive or accuse you of grandstanding for a cause. Don’t listen to them.
While there are occasionally instances of people being oversensitive, that doesn’t matter. How you feel, how a situation makes you feel, is more important. Even if it’s a matter of just not having fun in a game, there is nothing wrong with saying “no” to playing!
It is important that GMs understand player concerns, acknowledge them, and consider them. If they decide to continue telling the story or playing out the session as planned, that’s their choice. The player has the choice – and the absolute right – to walk away, and no one should blame them for that.
If the game isn’t enjoyable for the player, that ruins the point of the game environment and the game itself. That’s the point of gaming – for everyone to have fun, to feel like they are a part of something, and to have their own space to play.