• Dear Gaming As Women: Blind Characters

    by and  • November 21, 2012 • Dear GAW • 1 Comment

    Welcome to the latest installment of Dear Gaming As Women! We invite our readers to asks us anything – and we’ll do our best to offer informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining answers. In today’s letter, a reader wonders about interpreting blindess:

    Dear GAW,
    A friend of mine was talking about a character he created for a tabletop RPG.  The character happens to be blind, so my friend says he always closes his eyes when he is in character.  For some reason this bothered me, but I couldn’t quite explain why.  I left it at that, but it made me wonder: how do we create characters that are awesome and interesting and, most importantly, different from ourselves, but make sure to be respectful of people with different perspectives than us?

    - Jen

    Elin – I don’t find that he closes his eyes problematic by itself, it’s about how and why he does it. Does he close his eyes as a “funny” thing? That is probably not funny at all and quite disrespectful. But if he closes his eyes to better be able to get into the sensory world and perspective of someone who is blind? Then it might be really respectfully done and be a way to really try to explore how blind people experiences the world a bit differently.

    The most important thing for me, to be able to play someone different from ourselves in a respectful way, is to do it in ways that aren’t just reproducing our biases and stereotypes about people. Take a look at Tyron Lannister for example: that character is a complete bastard, but he is a great character. He is a complex, fully fledged character, who is treated with respect. He defies the stereotypes our society has about little people, yet at the same time the series doesn’t make light of the problems little people can face in society (ableism, stereotypes about little people, not being seen as conventionally attractive, etc).

    Avonelle - I have a few questions related to the discomfort you describe in relationship to his proclamation.  I was playing through all the ways I’ve seen similar situations handled by players over the years, and I came up with a couple of scenarios.

    Blind Blackface – You can’t paint your skin and know what it’s like to be African.  You can’t put ear plugs in and know what it’s like to be deaf.  You can’t emulate the effects of mutism by simply not-speaking.  And certainly, if such an exercise is purely for entertainment, or worse, comedic value, I understand being uncomfortable.  Perhaps a conversation about how being blind isn’t funny and closing your eyes and groping around dramatically is dismissive?

    Heartless Disregard – I can deal with somebody roleplaying a limp or an amputation or other limitation when it’s done thoughtfully and regard to those who live in that reality.  I don’t have the same comfort level when the roleplay becomes a caricature, or when it fails to explore the actual challenges faced.  Play somebody with a disability, sure.  Those citizens of the real world are contributing cast members in our daily life – let them be part of our play life.  But don’t abandon the schtick when it gets inconvenient.

    I suggest assessing where you are coming from in your objections – if he’s being callous, say so.

     

     


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    About

    Elin Dalstål is a game designer, larp organizer, and former gaming club board member. She started larping and playing roleplaying games in 2002. She lives in Luleå, Sweden and has held seminars about gender and roleplaying at Luleå University of Technology and the Luleå Pride parade. Elin views roleplaying games as one art form that can be expressed in different kinds of media, be it larp, tabletop, freeform playing over the internet or in some other yet-to-be-explored media. She is also an crafter, digital and traditional artist and own a fluffy dog.

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    At heart, Avonelle is a larp player, designer, writer who happens to run gaming conventions.

    http://www.dexposure.com

    One Response to Dear Gaming As Women: Blind Characters

    1. avatar
      November 21, 2012 at 20:07

      When playing my blind character, I keep my eyes open- none of the blind folks I’ve seen have closed their eyes outside of sleeping- but make a point to focus on some unoccupied corner of the room, just to make IC interaction more realistic.

      Closing one’s eyes seems to be kind of a weird way to go about things.

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