Private Rooms: Gender, RPGs, & MUDs

Artemis V. describes their history playing RPGs, at the table and online.

CN: Author describes nonconsensual sexual experience that happened virtually while they were underage.

While browsing my usual internet sources, I found myself on On there, the founder posed a series of questions near the end of her article “What Do I Write About?. One thing she asked really stuck with me and I felt compelled to respond. After receiving a reply, I felt encouraged to tell a story.

My first experience playing an RPG (unless you count Rogue on the computer…does that count?) was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I bought it while perusing the computer software section at Barnes & Nobles (does anyone else remember when B&N stores used to have a software section?).

My sister and I always loved games and eagerly cracked it open at home. We found something unlike any other game we had ever seen. There were figures, books, pictures, maps, and numbers. So many numbers, yet also so much freedom. “Make your own adventures” the guidebook said. So we did. She took the role of Dungeon Master and I took Slinker the thief (no girls in this game, unless you count the drow in the Monster Manual). I don my sneaky black cloak and enter the gates of a broken castle, my eyes set on finding treasure and adventure. I meet my first monster three steps in: a horrible gargoyle! Slash slash went my dagger! …nothing. Bite bite went the Gargoyle.

Game Over.

We switch sides. She took the Cleric (also not a girl). She met her first monster: a Gnoll. Bash bash and she won. Roll for treasure: 100. On a d100. Three diamonds, netting her 3,000 gp in the first room. I was so jealous.

Fast forward a few years.

I’m now a freshman in high school. I still love RPGs. My sister and I have played 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons with her friend’s dad as DM. Final Fantasy VIII takes up much of my time outside of school, but I have also discovered text based RPGs called MUDs, Multi-User Dungeons. I spend many of my study periods in the compute lab “studying”. I created a male cleric and it took me some time to get out of the training areas.

I made a few mistakes and got bored of the character once I figured out the game better. I made a new character, and pause when it asks for the character’s gender. For the first time, the question strikes me as odd. For the cleric, I had just typed in ‘m’ because I guess I was used to male heroes. Or maybe because I was afraid? I don’t know. This time I pressed the ‘f’ key. A strange feeling goes through my body: almost like a mixture between fear and relief, I can’t really explain it.

I begin to play my female bard. I spend my study periods questing, getting better equipment and levelling up. I learn how to use the ‘charm’ spell to force NPC to type things into chat. It is hilarious. The other players are friendly and helpful. A few of them are very friendly. Much more friendly than they were to my cleric.

This goes on for a couple months until I was a regular. People cheered when I came online, and I cheered for them. We chatted a lot. I began to private chat with some of them. Some of the private chats became much more personal. I do not give out personal information.

One of my game friends wanted to show me an area of the game I have not seen before. The admins have made a section with apartments that players can purchase with gold. They have a lockable door, and players can use these apartments to sleep when they log off or to safely drop off items that they don’t want to carry around. I thought it was cool he had so much gold. He took me to his apartment. He has customized it with a beautiful description. I told him I think it is so cool. He gave me a flower. I said thank you. He locked the door. He used local chat to say he is happy we could have some alone time. I agreed. We chatted a little more. He asked me a lot of questions about if I liked parts of his apartment. He gave me a cookie item from a Valentine’s day event.

I am young and inexperienced and I do not know what is going on until he emotes to kiss me. I stared at the screen. I had never been kissed before, irl or in a game. I am nervous, but also really curious. I saw no harm in emoting kissing back. Then the emotes traveled south. I was confused and a little scared. I thought I understood what is going on because I have watched movies and heard stories from friends’ older siblings. I feel awkward. This is someone who has been very friendly to me. I feel bad and do not want him to feel the same awkwardness. I feel like this is somehow my fault.

I emote back some kind of response based on what I think an experienced girl would do in this situation. He does not respond for a bit. I sat there staring at the rated R material on my screen in the high school computer lab. He responded by asking how old I was. I type 16 (this is a lie). He was silent again for a time. Then he unlocked the door, said he was sorry, and left. We did not have private chats anymore. I did not tell anyone.

I went back to playing my cleric for a little. People were friendly, but not overly so. There were very few private chats. There were no invitations back to private apartments.

This was only the first experience of many to come. Over the next years, I join other online RPGs, but I begin to see a pattern. Whenever I am a boy, I can hide in the crowd unnoticed. Whenever I am a girl, there always seems to be a group of boys trying to stick their parts into mine. I do not “send pics”. I use the block or mute button when it is available. I stay off of voice chat.

Now I play D&D 5e with a group who is very open to players and characters who do not conform to binary gender expectations. I think I am lucky. But that is a story for another time.

Artemis V. is a writer, designer, and avid tabletop gamer.


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