Afternoon Inqueery

AI: Strange Stereotyping

I was recently having a conversation with a friend about first impressions/near first impressions, and it was amusing to pick apart some of what those had been drawn from.  It reminded me a lot (particularly since we were discussing in context of a roleplaying game) of the age-old observation of veteran tabletop roleplayers (D&D, World of Darkness, Shadowrun, and the like) that they could tell a lot about someone by what kind of character they first chose to play in such a game.

These observations are, of course, varying levels of robust, but it’s particularly interesting to me to think about how some of those judgments happen subconsciously.  In the queer community, we of course spend a lot of time talking about stereotyping regarding one’s gender, sexuality, presentation, etc, but there are obviously a lot of other factors in how we form early opinions about people, some of which are extremely specific to an individual observer.  (Oh, so you read a lot of fantasy?  What’s your opinion on the Wheel of Time series?  Where do you get most of your news?  What’s your favorite movie?)

What kinds of more culturally “minor” details about people contribute strongly to your first impression of them?  What is wrapped up in these associations?  How strong are they?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 3pm ET.

Featured image is from the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition corebooks.

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Dae is a chemical engineering graduate student who aspires to become a mad scientist, but is prepared to settle for being a professor. Her extracurricular academic interests are an ever-shifting list, but currently include temperament psychology, philosophy, transhumanism, and pre-modern literature. She identifies as a bisexual cis-woman, as well as a feminist, humanist, atheist, and roleplaying game enthusiast.


  1. August 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm —

    I judge people negatively for their taste in popular “music.”

  2. August 9, 2013 at 8:18 pm —

    I judge people who don’t play games to win. I… I am very competitive. I will also inquire about preferred games and game collections. I am primarily referring to card and board games. Video games are different, and I am less Judy about them. Still judgy, though.

    • August 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm —

      Haha, I hear you on the competitiveness. Non-competitiveness does not yield an entirely negative judgement from me, but it definitely makes an impression. It also tells me that it will be very easy for me to inadvertently annoy that person. 😛

      “Preferred games” gets really interesting, too, because that in itself will give an idea of how competitive the person is, and what they think they’re good at. I’m also quite fond of “what Magic colors do you play?”

  3. August 13, 2013 at 9:55 am —

    I have a slight tendency to look down on people who drive cars and ‘own’ property. I kind of see them as participants in bullshit, whereas I refuse/am incapable of dirtying myself with such mundane preoccupations. I mean, I’ll probably die young due to my ineptitude, but at least I’m PURE!

    I’m intrigued by “…they could tell a lot about someone by what kind of character they first chose to play in such a game.” Could you expand on this?

    • August 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm —

      Re: Judging by someone’s choice of game character – I’m not sure what your background is, so please forgive if I explain too far, but –

      Almost all such games have some concept of character “classes” or types, and when you create a character you choose that type. Some standard fantasy game classes are fighter/warrior, cleric, wizard, bard, thief, and druid, for instance. Most games have other aspects that get tacked onto that, like race (elf, dwarf, gnome, etc) and sometimes alignment (chaotic good, neutral good, lawful good, chaotic evil, neutral evil…..). It all ultimately comes down to a very similar set of archetypes to choose from, though, across various games, and that’s the basis for judgement. If you tell me your first character was a dwarf warrior, my impression of you differs from what it would be if you’d said elf wizard, or gnome wizard, or… a lot of things. The dwarf warrior answer gives the impression of the player wanting to generally be seen as the down-to-earth, dependable one. The elf wizard brings to mind ivory tower intellectualism, whereas for the gnome wizard, it’s more eccentricity than loftiness. This might seem… somewhat ridiculously detailed for a choice about a game, but because that the first character a person makes is usually some kind of aspirational self-portrait, the impressions are surprisingly robust.

      • August 15, 2013 at 7:52 am —

        Oh, I’m familiar with the nature of the games (Call Of Cthulhu was always my favourite); I was interested in the details of how one might infer player personality from character choice. Thanks for expanding on that. There may well be some truth in this; thinking back, I never had any interest in playing a fighter type. I think my CoC characters tended to be determined proto-feminist flappers 🙂

        • August 16, 2013 at 1:57 am —

          Hah, that’s fantastic! I haven’t gotten to play much CoC, sadly, but I heartily approve of determined proto-feminist flappers. 😀
          One of my best friends (and former GM for Mage: The Awakening) and I talk about this sort of thing all the time, because even after that first character, most of the people in our circle have a pretty solid pattern in what they play. I think, more than anything, that pattern is telling of what the player values. Said friend plays The Decisive, Dependable One unless he’s explicitly trying to take on a challenge. I almost always end up with some sort of iconoclast/individualist (even when I try to make characters that aren’t. My recent priest character is appropriately challenging given my marked distaste for religious belief, but that preference of mine still shows through). One of our other friends is always some form of, as John puts it, “the chaos element.” I am endlessly fascinated by tracking this sort of thing. ^__^

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