Monday, March 31, 2014

Girls in Gaming

I've been told that roleplaying and especially dungeon mastering are male dominated worlds. Personally, male DMs are all I've ever played under and when I was younger female players were uncommon. However, over the past eighteen years, I think a shift has begun towards more equal ground. I know that I am in the minority but I currently have two weekly groups where the female players outnumber the males! So, I wanted to delve a bit deeper into this issue and I thought the best way to do this would be to interview two female dungeon masters that I have met over the years and respect. I have renamed them for their privacy.

1. When, where, and how did you start roleplaying?

Mara: I was new to *city*, and knew very few people in the city, especially not anyone who 
           was particularly geeky. I met my first gaming group through some modelling I did                      around town. They were commenting on how few girl gamers they had in their group                and asked me to come along and see if I liked it. I started within a week of that                            conversation and have been gaming ever since, that was almost 10 years ago! What's 
           crazy is because of gaming, and me gaining some confidence through it, I was bold 
           enough to join another group through which my husband and I met!

Nara: I started roleplaying when I was 17 years old in my boyfriend’s basement which I had
planned on doing for a few months at that point. After watching him play and reading the books, I finally decided to join in.

2. What made you want to get into roleplaying?

Mara: It was a way to use my imagination, get creative, and enjoy throwing some dice around!

Nara: I had been interested in roleplaying since I had read the Hobbit as a young child;  
           however, growing up in a small French community and later in a small French school, I 
           didn't know anyone who I could approach to play role playing games.

3. Did you have a girl roleplaying role-model in the beginning? Do you have one now?    

Mara: My only "girl roleplaying" model that I had when I begun was another female gamer in 
           the group, who happened to be a writer and poet. She naturally played a bard, and 
           helped me really feel at ease pretending. I don't know that I have a particular role 
           model now when it comes to gaming in terms of roleplaying, but two people pop to 
           mind - Felicia Day, who I admire particularly in her roles in TableTop because she's 
           exceptionally badass and confidently makes her moves; and Kelley Armstrong - a 
           Canadian author who portrays women as strong kick-butt types that I can relate to.

Nara: I didn’t really have any role playing role models when I was younger. I was more of a 
          graphic novel and fantasy book fan then a gamer. Currently, I don’t really have any role 
          models as a gamer but I am a fan of women like Anita Sarkisian, strong female nerds 
          who are pushing for a more equalized approach to women in our culture.

4. What challenges did you face as a girl gamer?

Mara: I think the one thing that has been frustrating at different times is that there's always
            someone who thinks because you're a woman in the group, they can try their 
            seduction skills on you, in character. I don't game to attempt fake seductions, so it 
            really doesn't fly with me, and it bugs me that they think they can try.

Nara: As a girl gamer I have thankfully faced fewer challenges than most partially thanks to 
          the fact I’m outspoken and unafraid to voice my opinions of things that I feel are unfair 
          or biased. I am also blessed with a wonderful RP group who really don’t see me any 
          different than they are. However, in the ‘virtual’ gaming world I have faced more 
          challenging situations that have turned me away from most MMORPGS and Online FPS. 
          I’m not a fan of being a target because of my gender so I would rather just avoid those 
          situations all together.

5. Was there ever a time that you felt real sexism? Explain.

Mara: Nope!

Nara: Oh real sexism, yes there have been many times. I’ve had to deal with it, in the context of
           gaming less so then in the other sectors of my life; however, even while running female
           gaming events at Con I have run across sexism, such as male gamers expressing their    
           dislike of the fact that we had female only events. With comments like: “Why do girls 
           need their own events? Do their thumbs work differently or something?” I even had 
           someone who was so displeased that he wrote a letter about how unhappy he was 
           about our female only events. 

6. What advice would you or do you give to new girl gamers?

Mara: Forget all of society's rules about what you're allowed to do. Remember when your 
           parents said, "You can be anything you want when you grow up"? You can do anything 
           you want, as whoever you want, in D&D. It's extremely empowering.

Nara: The advice I usually give to new female gamers is, do it! Game! If you are interested in 
          gaming then dive in head first and let yourself fall in love with the awesomeness that is 
          the world of RP. If you come up against challenges, then reach out to other female 
          gamers in our community or just meet them head on. If you have to deal with sexism, 
          then voice your disapproval and let them know you aren't going anywhere because you 
          have the right to be there and enjoy your hobby just like anyone else.

7. What moment are you most proud of as a girl gamer?

Mara: Any moment where I get to try something ridiculous, and it goes well, or the nights of
            awesome role-playing are really good for me.

Nara: I am proud of a lot of my gaming accomplishments, however there are 2 moments that 
          are tied in my mind. The first being when we had our first very successful girl gaming 
          event at Con which was the second girl gaming event, we had excellent participation. 
          The second was the first time my daughter told me she wanted to make her own 
          character and learn to RP at just 2 years old.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome stuff. The diversity of your gaming group and the ratio of male-female players will vary tremendously depending on what game you play and the circles you travel in.

    Just a week ago I witnessed an argument on a gaming blog were a dozen people were defending the old-school D&D Strength limits for female characters, dead serious that it was important and that it should stay in because it's realistic. This of course in a game with wizards and elves.
    Not exactly the kind of guys who I imagine would welcome a woman playing a kick-ass female character.

    I imagine these guys don't play with women very often. They probably also play FATAL.