by Petra Jackl
As quoted from that amazing fantasy movie Princess Bride: “Let me ‘splain. No, too long, let me sum up” ... I could discuss the subject of women and gaming at length but will keep this short, well short-sh.
I started gaming when I was 15 years old. It was a time when that term meant only Dungeons and Dragons and nerdy preteen/teen boys hung out in house basements dreaming of damsels in distress and hitting things with swords. Gaming has grown exponentially in the past thirty years and I have witnessed its growing pains and it’s incredible successes. Through it all I have proudly claimed the title Gamer Girl.
I was introduced to D&D by my older brother and from my first dwarf character I became hooked. The appeal of taking on a different persona and doing things I couldn’t possibly do was amazing! Quickly my friends and sister were drawn in and it became our social past time. It taught us how to resolve conflict, social skills and team work without us even realizing it was happening. Our creativity was stimulated and our imaginations soared.
In those days gaming art was woman in chain mail bikinis, gauzy dresses and proportions of fantasy sizes and, right or wrong, it was not questioned. There were not many of us Gamer Girls around and as our late teens and early twenties arrived it became evident to me that slowly this elite group was growing. The positive side of this was never a lack of someone willing to teach you a system or patiently explain the rules, as well as the ability to bring a new dynamic to the game by simply sitting at a table. The negative side was constantly being hit on, not taken seriously, always assuming I would play the cleric and even at times being told girls don’t game.
As time has gone on, gaming has become as increasingly diverse as the number of people that play it has increased. Tabletop role playing fits almost any genre and style you may be looking for. It continues to be played by children and teens and now by CEOs, all professions and even actors. It can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. It has become a multi-million dollar industry being played in people’s homes to creating conventions that span a city.
With growth comes complexity and gaming is being faced with the same problems faced by the world at large: namely, how to handle the rampant sexism that gaming started with. This is not a blog about that but an acknowledgement toward this evolving issue. There are no clear cut answers at this point, but it is something that touches any woman in any environment where she spends time. I find gamers as a general bunch very open and accepting with no or little bias around sexual orientation or lifestyle. They honestly just want to game. Women have flocked to gaming. We no longer exist as just the girlfriend or spouse that sits around while her man games, but as a vibrant member of the party ourselves. It is never spoken any longer that women shouldn’t game and in my experience welcomed and accepted as is their right. Men play women and women play men with more games crossing all spectrums of gender and sexual orientation.
I have grown up gaming with my family and my kids have grown up gaming and I believe we are all better people for it.
Gaming has grown up with me and as we have both matured we have grown in knowledge and depth. Having spent my life as a Gamer Girl it opened my mind and imagination giving me skills and creative thinking I would never have achieved. It has made me a stronger woman and person, giving me a vast array of social experiences and exposing me to people and situations I never would have had otherwise. It has made me a better student, employee and even parent by teaching me patience and how to think out of the box.
As a woman Gamer we have had our trials and continue to stretch and grow in this world no longer ruled by men. While not perfect , tabletop gamers are one of the most accepting, fun, and kind group of people you could ever have the honor of spending time with and I still proudly wear the title Gamer Girl!