Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Women in Gaming

The post yesterday about my niece's all-girl gaming group created a minor nerdstorm, resulting in ~800 page loads in the last 24 hours (a lot for my blog) and a 30+ post thread on the Dragonsfoot forum. While the responses to my post and the Dragonsfoot thread were all completely positive, there were a number of minor comments presenting stereotypes about women in gaming. Mostly along the lines of: why are there so few/none, why do they tend to play elves with cat familiars, and why don't they like killing orcs as much as male players...?

These comments prompt me here to briefly present my own experiences with women in gaming. Basically: The only gender difference I have seen playing RPGs in Southern California is that there are slightly more men than women in the hobby. This includes cons and my local scene in Orange County. This does NOT include game shops or RPGA, which I have little experience with. Pretty much every session I play in - either my own D&D games, Strategicon events, Meetup events, or game parties - includes one or more women. I have seen absolutely no trend in women tending to play different types of characters or in different styles. Interestingly, in both my whitebox and Labyrinth Lord games women play front line brawlers, although we also have clerics and magic users represented. I know several women GMs in Orange County, and at one game party I hosted we had an all-female session of the card-driven Dragonstorm RPG rolling on for many hours. In the last few years I can only recall DMing one game (of Swords & Wizardry) that was all-male. Even back in the early 80s, when I was in junior high, I remember DMing Palace of the Silver Princess and having a girl playing a dwarf with a big axe.

I mean, c'mon dudes, if you want to develop stereotypes, shows like Dungeon Majesty and I Hit It With My Axe would have you believe that ALL D&D players in SoCal are women!

So if this is my experience, why are folks in other areas seeing something different? I don't really know... Maybe it's an urban vs. rural thing, a regional culture thing, or a statistical sampling effect in low-population areas. Or maybe it's just my cyclopeatronic cologne distorting the sex ratios around me...?

 * Dungeon Majesty *


  1. My first D&D campaign that I played in after about a 30 year absence was DM'd by a woman who did a fantastic job (though it was 3.5 and not quite my cup of tea). Out local RPG meet-up group has a good handful of women players. When I was a kid it was mostly us guys but I did play in one session at the local hobby shop with a couple of women ant that was back in '79!

    My current campaign, however, is a wild bunch of guys. I've been trying to get my wife to step into the fold but she's a bit apprehensive. She wants to play but doesn't think the other guys want her there. The next session is Monday and we'll see what happens!

    Oh and Dungeon Majesty awesomely rocks!

  2. @bliss: It would be great if you could get your wife into gaming. The fact that she WANTS to play is the most important first-step. If she feels intimidated maybe you can try easing her in through a cooperative boardgame (like Shadows Over Camelot, Arkham Horror, etc.) or a solo D&D game?

  3. To echo what your saying and maybe to add my own take. I think the interest here too is just the joy that people have seeing younger players get into the game ... especially with the no-fear atttitude that your neice apparently has regarding just making the game she wants to run. Mashing up 2e and 3.5? Wow ... that is daring and cool. Its also a blast of nostalgia too I think ... I'm 35, married, 4 kids ... the oldest is 6. I'm dreaming of the Sunday D&D game that I'm going to run from the time the oldest is say 10 ... until they are out of the house :) Oh sure they'll think its lame ... but weekly D&D will be mandatory. They want cash for dates and keys to the car on Friday and Saturday eve ... they better be at the table for D&D on Sunday ... noon prompt. Anyway ... thoughts like that come to mind so seeing this sparks interest on my part. I'm sure there is the anti-social nerd guy searching for girls who play games thing going on out there as well. Currently in my own home gaming group ... four different girls have cycled through. Its a new day for gaming people ... with games like WoW serving as a gateway ... stuff like Manga being basically mainstream for teens and tweens ... the world they live in vs. the world I grew up in (graduated from high school in 1993 ... I was a kid in the 80s) ... that stuff was taboo. I started with Red Box D&D as a 4th and 5th grader ... and played up until 8th grade. Once I hit high school I joined the jock crowd and that stuff had to go in the closet. I didn't play D&D nor engage in gamer activity again until 2000 (after I was out of college and into graduate school). My generation had alot of hangups about gaming I think ... not all of us ... the cool people weren't afraid to be who they were. I was a shy guy who wanted to be in the "in" crowd so I stupidly conformed. But I eventually realized life is short ... be who you want to be. Fortunately gaming has basically gone main stream ... and geek is chic ... so these days being a gamer is easy and appealing. Women have stormed the castle of gaming and continue to do so. I'm surprised anyone is surprised at an all girl D&D group? In my own home games recently ... I've had nearly a 50/50 mix of girls and guys ... I'm pretty new to my area and have been basically recruiting off the internet ... and that is the mix I've encountered. The D&D of 1983 ... is not the D&D of 2010 ... no sir ... you might be running Old School games that bearded Grognards love and enjoy ... but ... if your recruiting regular gamers off the streets ... you won't be finding fat greybeards ... you'll be finding girls and guys. I rant about that on my blog. IF pen and paper tabletop gaming is going to survive ... we need younger gamers ... we need girls and guys ... we need all sorts of new players. This growth combined with new diversity will not only ensure we old guard can game into old age ... but that gaming will thrive and continue expanding and improving and moving off into yet imagined directions ... anyway just my two cents :)

  4. @Lord: Good points! In terms of younger players you are correct that there are probably more gateways into fantasy geekdom than there were 30 years ago. It's all a lot more mainstream too. I watched my niece progress through pokemon, manga, fantasy novels, and eventually she was introduced to D&D through a church group and went nuts with it!

  5. TBH the only people I know who play D&D are my group. I think what was most interesting about your niece playing is her age rather than her gender and those of her mates - it's because she's around the age that most of us were (well me anyway) when we first got into gaming. I'm impressed at their enthusiasm though, if you say it's a regular thing. When I was 16 D&D came after partying and er coursework (yeah right) ;)

  6. I did run a solo game with the wife a while back 1) to get my DMing skill dusted off and 2) give her a taste of a RPG. She did enjoy it somewhat but was a bit lost having never played the game before. I helped her as much as I could but felt having her play with more players would be more beneficial to her gaming experience. I've got some good players and I think she'd have a good time and get a great picture of the game.

  7. Most of my players are and have been male, but I recently started playing in a Pathfinder game with a female player, and have played in a Boot Hill game with a majority female group.

    I don't see many differences, at least not any that have anymore effect than individual personality differences.

  8. Be careful not to make assumptions based on the type of game you are interested in.

    If you were playing World of Darkness, you might have a totally different perspective on gender dynamics.

    Just something to consider.

  9. Zak Sabbath hogs all the female players. Like him, I game in L.A., but have had zero women at the table.

    Maybe I should shower or something.

  10. No Christian, you need a special kind of haircut. You need to watch more of Zak's videos. He has a certain... panache... that only comes from a hairdo like that.

  11. @Greg: I thought about mentioning WoD in the post, but I didn't for the sake of brevity. Sometimes I get the feeling there may be more women into WoD than other games like D&D, but I don't know how accurate this impression is. I'd be interested in hearing you elaborate on what you mean my WoD "gender dynamics".

  12. Funny how every time gender and gaming comes up you get ...

    "Anyone ever notice how female gamers are all ugly?"
    "I bet those girls play elves and pixies."
    "Chicks don't like dice or combat. They're all into storytelling games and lots of drama."

    Inevitably followed by:

    "Why is it that no females ever gamed with me? I guess it's a male-oriented pastime after all..."

  13. I started playing in high school back in 1976. In 1977, I met a young lady and we started "going out" (that was something we did back then). Early in the relationship, I introduced her to D&D. She took to it like a fish to water.

    So I married her. Been 27 years together. ;)

    I've always had girls/women in my groups. Maybe because it was never an all-male group with Deb there.

  14. Honestly, I think more girls would play if they simply knew how to get into it. I got into Dnd because my friend heard a friend was looking for a group...and of course (not to be too stereotypical) the guy looking for a group didn't have many female friends, much less the courage to ask them to play.
    I've been in at least ten different groups and most of the time been the sole female present..I'm DM'ing my first all-female campaign now because I thought girls should have more access to the game.
    I've been pleasantly surprised by how well my players have taken to it. Just like in normal groups, there are the PC's obsessed with power and combat and the PC's who thrive on roleplaying and interesting story arcs.
    I have observed one difference though between male and female players though...they tend to bring better food to gaming sessions :P


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