106 Following

Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

Currently reading

The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: Meddling Kids

Meddling Kids - Allyson Brooks, Brett Brooks, Brian Laframboise, Peter Delgado, Marcio Fiorito

This looks like a fairly straight forward, simplified pen and paper rule set. On my first pass through, my thoughts were:

 - I wish they had included a blank character sheet for the kids to fill out, and maybe there is one on the website,

 - Leveling up seems pretty expensive,

 - I like that this seems to value problem solving over violence,

 - I like that most of the rolling involves 3 or more dice - rolling lots of dice at once is fun, and

 - Some of these powers don't exactly seem kid-appropriate - age range listed as 7+.


I flipped through a second time to try to pinpoint my discomfort on the last one. Early on, there is a little pull out text block about how you are welcome to play as a character that isn't the same gender as you because it's all just fun and games. But gendering powers institute heteronormativity into the game in a way this is totally unnecessary and at odds with this sense of fun playtime. The block says "it can be really cool to see what the other gender goes through in every day life," but the only gender differences are in player abilities and sometime overtly sexualized, and the example section shows a female character using one of these powers.


Which is to say, seeing what the other gender goes through (ha, there's just two genders in the make believe land that is exactly like our world, apparently), is portrayed as learning that girls can flirt to get what they want. Just see how Roshandra uses her Flirt ability to distract this boy! Which she can use because he's the opposite gender! Experience how boys are disadvantaged by us manipulative girls! Be sure you learn this lesson, kids.


Obviously, there are no gendered abilities like Mansplainer, White Knight, or Gaslight - wouldn't want kids to gain experience with identifying the forms of manipulation commonly wielded against women.


Flirt is a pre-requisite to Ultra Cute, which are both prerequisites to Total Hottie. Those aren't names I'm making up for the abilities, those are the ability names in the book for 7+. Flirt all you want, children, as long as it's only with the opposite sex. I'm honestly not sure which half of that sentence bothers me more. The part where a seven year old can use their sex appeal to make an NPC "forget whatever they were doing" (the effect of a successful Total Hottie roll), or the part where queer characters are explicitly against the rules. I guess I'm saying fish or cut bait, book.


So, yeah, this game looks like 95% fun and 5% toxic bullshit.