Women in gaming is a fraught subject, to the point that when Lugh began a post on the subject, he led off with the expectation that it would be controversial. And yes, it is—particularly when men start writing for other men’s benefit about why there aren’t more women gamers, with the occasional bit of input from a generally-one-of-the-guys female gamer (a category I fall into, sort of), and then that gets into discussions of stereotypes and nature-versus-nurture arguments, and somewhere in there are the (distressingly common) people mentioned in the last segment of Lugh’s article who want to keep the hobby a male bastion and then in walks a woman who isn’t one of the guys and…. where were we? Ah, yes. Recruiting more women into our gaming.
So why do I think we don’t have too many?
I’m going to throw out for a moment the idea that it’s necessarily about an overall generally female non-interest in killing things and taking their stuff—going into that will give me a full blog post. There are other factors, ones that are somewhat less likely to result in people throwing things at each other.
Part of it is that there’s a greater social pressure against being a female geek than against being a male geek, in general. Sure, when we break it things are awesome, but a lot of us really don’t like feel like outing ourselves to the mundanes; I know in college, my rule of thumb was that it would take me at least five minutes to decide whether it was “safe” to tell someone I was a table-topper, and even now it takes me a little work to discuss my blog with my library patrons, despite the fact that they know I’m not the most mainstream of people. Along with that, even within the RPG community there’s a hefty portion of the population that, whether consciously, subconsciously or unwittingly are driving the potential female gamers away. You would not believe how many people I’ve had to go to town on for trying to claim that men were better gamers than women, and my first kerfluffle on this blog, which has since been eaten by my move to this site, involved one of my gamer audience inadvertently confirming the “male gamers are hostile to women” stereotype to a fellow blogger/writer whom I think could’ve gotten into the hobby quite happily otherwise. With those sorts of pressures both from within and from without, who would be surprised when only the diehards are willing to stick around?
Part of it is that many of us end up being rather condescended to when we try to take the first step. People assume we’re going to go mechanics-phobic and practically build our characters for us, explain the game in little tiny words; I was lucky, in that my first group (if you can call it that given that it lasted all of one day) just handed me the book and told me to have fun, and my next few tried to keep their explanations on my level. When all the “tutorials” just feed into the stereotypes… not interested. At all.
Another part is hardly anyone seems to know who to ask (see the geek stigma above), particularly if you’re in a hack and slash sort of style. One of my early GMs—not my first, but the first one who introduced me to character-driven table-topping, and certainly one of the first groups I played in in which the women in the group outnumbered the men—told me to look for “the writers, the musicians, the drama people and the sociology people”, but it wouldn’t surprise me if most of those would be as impatient with a beer-and-pretzels game as I am.
But enough negativity. Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about the fine art of recruiting people anyway.