Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kickstart This!

I'm just now starting to get into RPGing after never having tried it before in my 40-something years of playing games. Whoa! Is it fun! Anyway, while I'm enjoying my goblin-massacring dwarf healer-fighter hybrid, I've been curious about getting out of the fantasy worlds and looking for things based in the real world.

That's where War Birds comes in. It sounds like a perfect next level RPG for the women's history nerd in me!
Designed by an international team of women writers, War Birds presents fun-to-play, easy-to-run games that let you explore exciting stories you might not have heard before: Striking factory workers torn apart by hatred, or women aviators struggling to find sisterhood and freedom in the skies.These games are designed to give you everything you need to know to run or play them - with no research required.

I was fortunate to be able to chat with the brilliant game designer behind War Birds, Moyra Turkington of Unruly Designs. Seriously, go back this series ASAP!

SRPS: First off... I just have to say again how excited I am for this project! I read Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy when I was in high school and it was an eye-opener to the stories about women during WWII and the integral roles they played. I'm so glad to know there are more and more people interested in learning about the amazing things women have done that has been left out of history books. And more women fighting to put these stories back into the books!

MT: Me too! Gone to Soldiers was a huge early influence on me - such an excellent book! I loved that it not only gave a voice to women in the war, but also to children, and men in other theatres of war and other roles than usually featured in popular media. From there it was the Soviet women – flying aces, snipers and tank brigades! These narratives sharply contradict our social conception of women, and reveal a much more complicated and nuanced version of history that we have been made to understand. They also reveal the modern dialectic of women at war to be extremely limited and untrue. They broaden the fabric of what it means to be a women by revealing we’ve always been more than we've been told we are.

SRPS: What's your background as a game designer? How awesome is it to be able to combine your love for games and your love of history and women's stories? (I know for me, this is the most exciting thing about this project! Finally, a game that hits all my happy buttons!!)

MT: I was a game writer and theorist before I was a designer. I wrote for Tribe 8, and talked about social and emotional agendas on my old Sin Aesthetics blog. I decided to try my hand at design in 2006 with Game Chef and won! I did a lot of locally specific tabletop design for home groups and home games, and then came back to LARP three or four years ago. I have a theatre background, and discovering what they were doing in the Nordic scene hit a real sweet spot for me – closer to interactive plays than sandbox RPGs. I started War Birds in 2012, and haven't really looked back. I've also designed a space labour drama called Run Them Again which won the Jury's Special Prize at Fastaval last year.

SRPS: Why was it important to you to include a team of women writers?

MT: At first, War Birds was a solo project (I think I had about a dozen games on the list!) but as I brought other women in, I found that the stories we were telling got wider, and were being told in different ways than I could have done alone. Also, I think there's a strong similarity between making these stories available and encouraging new women to design them. Both are critical to representation and diversity, and both are hidden and hindered by structural bias. Bringing new women in was a kind of a critical synchronicity to what the project is about.

SRPS: When you play through these games, what are you hoping to get out of it for yourself and your team? What do you hope new players will find when they dig in to them?

MT: I'm hoping that players have awesome, compelling experiences, and that they find a new awareness and interest in the role of women in history. I'm hoping the games challenge the ideas of what we expect war narratives to be. I hope the designers find greater access to confidence in design and publication. I hope others start to design new games like these that I can play. For me personally, this project is a perfect nexus between passion project and political project, and just having it come to fruition will really me very proud.

SPRS: I am already in love with the first two games listed on the Kickstarter (Against the Grain and We Were W.A.S.P.). Can you give us a hint about what else is coming?

MT: Well, Kira Magrann’s Mobilize just funded, which tells the story of how women queer women found community and public expression often for the first time - during the war. Shoshana Kessock has made a very personal game in Keeping the Candles Lit about female Jewish partisans struggling to keep their traditions alive, while fighting against them to fight a genocidal tide. We might just have a little something by Emily Care Boss that is about to be announced: a game that approaches the way that living in war zones affect women's lives over the course of generations. And there's more even beyond that. Since the campaign has gone live, I have heard from other designers pitching new projects, so there might even be a second volume in our future!

Go check out the Kickstarter for War Birds and make sure they get to their last stretch goal!

In addition to this Kickstarter, Moyra is running the Unruly Designs Google+ page, where she's been busy posting stories and photos of some seriously amazing women who played a role in World War II. If you like what we do for the SRPS G+ page, then you'll love adding them to your Follow circle!

If you like the work I do here at Self-Rescuing Princess Society,
please check out my Patreon.

You may also be interested in:

Shout out - Major Tammy Duckworth
In 2004, while studying for a Ph.D. in political science with a focus on political economy and public health in southeast Asian at Northern Illinois University, she was deployed to Iraq. On November 12, 2004, the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. She fought to land the helicopter as safely as possible, which she did.

Happy Birthday - Emily Hahn
You know, as much as I'd like to think I know a lot about women in literature and history, I'm continually surprised by what I don't know. Especially when I learn about a woman in history who lived a truly amazing and adventurous life. For example, Emily "Mickey" Hahn.

Happy Birthday - Jerrie Cobb
A born adventurer, she wasn't content to merely fly. She wanted to soar. And break records. And she did, left and right, and traveled the world doing so. She regularly flew in air shows, and even earned the Amelia Earhart Gold Medal of Achievement while attending the Paris Air Show.


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