Witch Girls Adventures is a table top role playing or “drama diaries” game created by Malcolm Harris of Channel M Publishing. The game is the first of its kind, being marketed towards young girls in the 11-16 age group. Malcolm’s unique and interesting vision behind the Witch Girls Adventures has made the series successful. He’s recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help produce the second edition to the Witch Girls Adventures game called Witch Girls: Book of Shadows. I was able to have the chance to talk to Malcolm about the culture of table top role playing games, and how his game relates to young girls in general.
Ari: When did you become interested in “geek culture” and how has it defined you as an adult?
Malcolm: I was an early reader and I loved to read. In fact, my parents would give me all sorts of books. At age three, they gave me an old middle school science book, and that sparked my interest in science. At age five, my dad brought me an issue of “Superboy and the legion of Superheroes”, and that made me a comic fan.
As I always say, everything I needed to know in life I learned from reading comics. The villainous are often a cowardly lot, stand up for truth and justice, the different despite being helpful are often feared and hated. Never stop learning and always surround yourself with “super friends”
Ari: What are some of the stereotypes that you see surrounding the table top role playing game genre?
Malcolm: Where do I start. Being a black male you get the “Black people don’t play table top RPGs”, yet I’ve played in RPG groups that are all black. “Girls don’t play table top RPG’s”, yet I’ve played in groups were I’m the only guy (did that a lot in college). And my favorite “all Table top gamers are socially awkward shut-ins/ virgins.” That one is so not true. I’ve dated the same awesome young lady for a while, Most of my gamer friends are gamers married to gamers or dating gamers.
Ari: What was the inspiration for the characters in Witch Girls Adventures?
Malcolm: Most of the character types and signature characters I placed in the game comes from research as a writer, I know a lot of female table top gamers so I asked them, what kind of character would you like to have played as an eleven year old. I also observed modern character trends, talked to my niece and the daughters of friends and people I know in the comic and animation business.
My friends in animation told me something that has served me well. Young people like characters that are like them or are what they wish they could be. So my signature characters became just a little of both and I give Players (we call them Stars) a chance to build characters they wish they could be .
Ari: What types of lessons can young girls learn from your role playing game?
Malcolm: Problem solving, self-reliance, The coolness of mathematics, communication and the biggest one…it’s okay to be you. Girls (and boys but more so with girls) are bombarded with the message “You must be this way or else…” instead of “Its okay to be different.” I think role playing games, fantasy and science fiction, comics and general geekery lets a girl know its ok to let her “freak” flag fly.
Ari: What are some of the challenges and pressures you feel that young girls face today? Especially if they have an interest in things such as comics, role playing, and things that are typically “geek culture”
Malcolm: As I stated. There seems to be a conscious (by society and the media) effort to brainwash girls. This includes the early sexualization of girls and the forcing of girls into set gender roles by the media. Sadly this tends to work on a lot of people and males and females expect girls to be “x”, if they are not “x” they are shunned, made fun of or worse.
Being into geek culture means in most cases girls are painting a bulls-eye for ridicule on their head in regular society. It also means in most cases they are not afraid of that ridicule and have made a conscious effort to be who they wish to be.
Ari: Do you find it hard for table top role playing to compete with online or computer based role playing games?
Malcolm: It’s not a competition. If you see yourself as competing against computer games…you’ve lost that war.
Table top role playing games are different. They are games with no limitation on time, money and length. They are exercises in social interaction and storytelling, and if you think they have taken a beating, do your research.
Teens and tweens have filled forums and chat rooms with free form fandom and original role playing, fan fiction, and fanart. Every table top RPG publisher should be saying “Those kids should be playing our games” and figuring out how to make that happen. Some of those kids play computer games, but I’m sure if they had a chance to experience table top role playing, and at least knew it existed they would love it.
Ari: What do you think are the key characteristics that set table top role playing games a part from online or computer based role playing games?
Malcolm: Aside from being cheaper than computer games (Something publishers should tell parents), its literally limitless in scope, story and length.
Ari: What other projects are you working on?
Malcolm: Witch Girls Book of Shadows: The second edition of Witch Girls Adventures our modern magic RPG (We call them Drama Diaries games) aimed at girls 11-16. Nemesis: Modern Mythology, second edition of my very first published game, Nemesis: A perfect world. Nemesis: Modern Mythology is a super hero RPG with a twist. DDF , Drama Dice (Our game system name) Fantasy RPG with a muti-ethnic, non-eurocentric bent.
On the comic front, A Princess Lucinda graphic novel and A comic seres based around the Nemesis superhero world.
Ari: How do you envision the future of comics in the technological age?
Malcolm: We can’t stop the digital comic age. It’s going to happen. I’m not saying print comics are going to die but they will become something of a specialty item. So for publishers I say adapt or get out of the way.
Ari: What advice do you have for young girls who want to break into the comics industry?
Malcolm: Practice your craft, be it art or writing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to show off your work. The only way you will get better is if you know what you need to work on. Also, don’t be your own worse critic. A lot of kids are so down on their work they never try. You have to get out there and take the bruises and jeers if your every going to succeed at anything.