The Austen Effect
I have introduced quite a few people to gaming. I explain what PnPRPGs are and how the work, always try to have newbies observe a healthy group in action before throwing them in, and coach them one-on-one through the character creation process. And to date this has worked pretty well, new gamers come in with a grasp of what is going on around them, a foundational understanding of the rules, the conventions of the genre, and the expectations of the social contract.
But I've noticed a trend which I consider a problem. About half of the women I've introduced to gaming (which I know sounds like I'm throwing down the gauntlet in front of gamerchick, but I'm not) come up with characters that seem to come out of Jane Austen novels:
- characters almost always from aristocratic background, usually with high wealth and lots of posessions
- characters have no combat skills or refuse to use them
- characters have excessive, convoluted backstories, but often real motivation or objective
- players have a passive play style, always reacting, never taking initiative
- player takes intensive interest in exposition and metaplot, to the exclusion of other phases of storybuilding
- players seem fixated on own characters, taking actions and building on subplots that ignore the needs and interests of rest of the group
This is all RP and no G. While I normally push players to take a level of diplomacy, attempt play styles other than hack-'n'-slash, and generally be more well-rounded, Austen Effect players are game-breaking on the other end of the spectrum - a narrativist/simulationist response to the powergaming munchkin. I wish it was just a bad player, a fluke, but this has come up six times on two continents. So,
- Has anyone else noticed this?
- What do you suspect are the causes of this effect?
- What should be done about it when it occurs? (Can anything be done about it? Does anything need to be done about it?)