Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Queer players of color explore gender, sexuality through role-playing games at NU
by Henry Roach

This article shared 1558 times since Wed Dec 8, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

All of the characters Akbar creates have a similar background: They are intensely asexual, visibly South Asian and around Akbar's age. Sometimes the characters dress like Akbar, too.

Akbar uses these characters for Tabletop Club, a Northwestern University (NU) student group dedicated to playing tabletop role-playing games (RPGs). The most common example of a tabletop RPG is Dungeons and Dragons.

Due to their fantasy settings and participatory structures, role-playing games offer a unique opportunity for people to explore gender and sexuality. However, while many RPG spaces have become more queer-inclusive in recent decades, many also remain predominantly white, causing additional implications for queer players of color. NU's Tabletop Club offers one example of how queer people of color explore gender and sexuality through RPGs.

"I know a lot of people tend to [create characters] very different from themselves, or create opposites of themselves," Akbar said. "I try to create characters like [me] because, being very honest, growing up, I wasn't always the most me publicly. So that's sort of why I got into these games, in that I could create myself more realistically."

Akbar, an NU junior who requested to use a pseudonym in this article since they are not widely out, joined Tabletop Club virtually in March 2020 from their home in Gurugram, a city in northern India. They met other club members through the club's channel on Discord, a communication platform widely used by gaming communities.

Akbar played their first campaign with Tabletop Club once they returned to campus that fall. A campaign is the entire story of a role-playing game. Each campaign entails multiple sessions, which typically run two to three hours per week for a predetermined amount of weeks.

Akbar was somewhat worried, they said, being an international student—they were not white, unfamiliar with the game rules and very confused in terms of gender and sexuality. But the environment was extremely welcoming.

"This is probably an exaggeration, but I haven't met a straight person on the Discord," Akbar said. "So that's great. It immediately became a very comfortable space for me."

There are definitely straight people in the club, somewhere, Akbar clarified; they just haven't met those people yet. Akbar also said they interact with many other people of color in the club.

In Akbar's current campaign, all the players are queer, and four out of the six players are Asian.

"I'm glad it happened this way, because now we're just a bunch of friends," Akbar said.

In addition to forging friendships, playing RPGs has also helped Akbar realize how to label or express parts of their identity. Akbar is asexual, panromantic and nonbinary.

For example, Akbar shared, the first character they created in Tabletop Club used he/they pronouns. At the time, Akbar was still very confused about what pronouns they wanted to use. Now, Akbar uses he/they pronouns in settings where it is safe to do so.

Akbar estimates around 70 people total are active in Tabletop Club this fall. According to Akbar, the club has had the largest number of people ever sign up for campaigns, so much so they had to launch extra campaigns to accommodate all the players. The club is running 10-11 campaigns, each with five to six players, Akbar said. Most of the club's campaigns are designed to finish within one school quarter, so around nine to 10 weeks, Akbar said, though some club members run campaigns for over a year.

Joining Tabletop Club has broadened the horizons of RPGs for Akbar. In India, the only role-playing game Akbar had heard about was Dungeons and Dragons, primarily through Hollywood scenes showcasing the game, for example, in the TV series "Stranger Things" or "Riverdale." But once Akbar joined Tabletop Club, they realized there were many more role-playing games to discover.

Maelea Tan, a sophomore at NU, is one of the Tabletop Club members involved in a game that's not Dungeons and Dragons. Instead, she is playing a campaign for the role-playing game Masks.

In the campaign, Tan plays a Filipino character who uses she/they pronouns and has a girlfriend. "[The] girlfriend's very lovely. I'm like, I'm simping for someone who doesn't exist," Tan joked.

Tan's character is reflective of her identity. While Tan had started to think more about her sexuality and gender identity in high school, she said she didn't really allow herself to really acknowledge or explore those parts of herself until she began college. RPGs have been crucial in that exploration.

Tan first became involved in RPGs over the summer when she played Dungeons and Dragons with four white, queer friends in Blaine, Minnesota, near the Twin Cities.

"In D&D, I can flirt with anybody, which is lovely. And you don't have any consequences for it because they're all fake," Tan said. She began allowing her characters to have relationships with girls. In this way, Tan said, they are able to live the experiences they missed out on in high school because they were pushing away thoughts about gender and sexuality.

Her Masks campaign at NU, which runs entirely over voice channels on Discord, still contains many white players. But the game's background characters are diverse, Tan said, with Hispanic, Latino and Filipino characters represented.

When she began playing Masks, Tan wanted to include aspects of their identity and culture they hadn't fully been able to express until arriving at NU.

Her character's name is Dalisay, and the character uses an alias, Mambabarang, which Tan eventually shortened to Mamba. Creating these names, Tan sought to keep them culturally accurate and relevant, even if that meant she had to explain how to pronounce these names to the other players.

Being a queer person of color in fantasy worlds, Tan said, it's interesting to see how oppressed or stigmatized groups of people, or variations in culture, are represented.

"When I'm in my D&D campaign, it's really, really interesting because I'm playing this character as, Oh, my issue is, people only see me for my value and what I can provide for them in my appearance—[like] Asian people," they said.

In fantasy worlds, Tan added, there's also no precedent for the cultural norms, so having extremely queer characters is "A-okay."

Tan thinks their Masks campaign might continue into next year, though it was originally intended to end in the fall. The extra time to delve into her characters and reflect on how they mirror her life is a bonus, she said.

"It's just really nice to be able to have it very flexible, where you can have these things pulled from the real world to influence the campaign and explore it there, but it's also really nice to be able to take a break from it as well. And sort of see, what are the possibilities and how can I apply these into my real life?" Tan said.

This article shared 1558 times since Wed Dec 8, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

TransLash Media CEO Imara Jones reflects on JK Rowling and 'Hogwarts Legacy' 2023-03-11
- The action role-playing game Hogwarts Legacy has been making big news lately—and it's not just because so many people are playing it. Hogwarts Legacy, inspired by writer J.K. Rowling's wizarding ...

Gay News

VIEWS Reporting on queers of color needs to investigate absence as much as presence 2021-11-19
- Earlier this month, I pitched a Windy City Times article that sought to explore how role playing games (RPGs), such as Dungeons & Dragons, enable queer people of color (QPOC) to explore their gender and sexuality ...

Gay News

SPORTS Blackhawks launch first NFT collection 2021-08-26
- The Chicago Blackhawks announced the team's first officially licensed non-fungible token (NFT) collection composed of 12 hockey character cards and 2,000 digital tickets, all inspired by retro 8-bit gaming graphics. ...

Gay News

Trans, non-binary youth influencers launch book collection with "A Kids Book About" 2021-04-12
--From a press release - Chicago, IL - April 12, 2021 - While many teens took e-learning as an opportunity to level-up their gaming skills, a group of young people chose instead to write a collection of books about their lives. ...

Gay News

Talkin' Tech: Ocasio-Cortez first in Congress to use Twitch platform to 'get out the vote' 2020-10-23
- In what is a first, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used the Twitch streaming platform for gamers to encourage gamers to help her 'get out the vote' before the Nov. 3 elections. She played the game Among ...

Gay News

Infographic shows trends in LGBTQ+ representation in video games 2019-10-03
- Green Man Gaming today released a new infographic that explores the representation of the LGBTQ+ community in video games to coincide with the forthcoming launch of its brand new Pride Run game. The infographic, which uses ...

Gay News

Chicago-based Transit Tees launches LOOP: The Elevated Card Game 2018-10-29
- CHICAGO (October 29, 2018)—Chicago-based Transit Tees, an official manufacturer of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) products that also designs and produces its own local and transit-themed merchandise, is excited to launch ...

Gay News

Temple Professor Helps Launch First Exhibit of LGBTQ Video Game Archives 2018-06-25
From a press release - PHILADELPHIA — June 21, 2018 — For the first time worldwide, the queer history of video games will be explored in a major museum exhibition: "Rainbow Arcade" will open at Schwules Museum Berlin in December 2018. ...

Gay News

Cards Against Humanity Releases Pride-themed Expansion Pack 2018-06-19
From a press release - CHICAGO — Cards Against Humanity announced today a new "Pride Pack," an expansion pack that contains 30 new cards about queer culture. "As a member of the queer community, it means so much to me when ...

Gay News

Huberman named to board of gaming company 2017-05-17
- Ron Huberman—an openly gay man who, at times, headed both Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Transit Authority, and worked in several other official capacities for the city during the Richard M. Daley administration—has been named ...

Gay News

Bill cracks down on Pokemon GO 2016-08-30
- State Rep. Kelly Cassidy introduced a measure to protect sensitive geographical areas from augmented reality games such as Pokemon GO. At the Loyola Dunes Restoration Site in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, a PokeStop had been placed ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Ask Aunt Susan 2014-06-11
- Playwright: Seth Bockley. At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets: 312-443-3800;; $10-$40. Runs through: June 22 The literary plot device of gaming the gamer has remained evergreen since ...

Gay News

Wonka Ball plays 'Gaymes' 2014-05-14
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times - About Face Theatre (AFT) presented its annual fundraiser with a gaming theme, "The Gayme Show!," on May 9 at Macy's on State Street in its event center. The LGBT community turned out in droves, wearing festive ...

Gay News

Drag/gaming venue in Vegas; trans woman pleads manslaughter 2012-05-09
NATIONAL ROUNDUP: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times - Promoted as "the nation's first drag queen-staffed bar and gaming venue," Drink & Drag held its grand opening in Las Vegas May 5, according to a press release. The 22,000-square-foot venue features 12 bowling lanes, billiards, ...

Gay News

"America 2049" Game holds real world event 2011-04-11
From a News Release - Last week global human rights non-profit Breakthrough launched the groundbreaking transmedia gaming event "America 2049" on Facebook which features the generously donated talents of Harold Perrineau (LOST), Victor Garber (Alias) ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.