Followup: Recruiting in Gaming

Yesterday, as inspired by Lugh’s post, I talked about what I consider some of the major barriers to a greater number of women in tabletop roleplaying might be. But what can we do right in recruiting new people of either gender? Having managed to bring a pretty decent number of gamers into the fold, I’ve learned a thing or two about what works.

First, we game where they can see, and be enthusiastic about it. This is how my first D&D group ended up being too big for its DM to handle; I brought in my books to do some character generation at lunch in my high school library, my two or three friends (both female, both writers) looked over my shoulder and decided this looked interesting, then someone I didn’t really know expressed the same sort of interest… and next thing you know, seven people gathering in the corner of the hall at lunch break and completely missing in three rolls out of every four. It helps, of course, if our rulebooks are things we’d be willing to be seen in public with, but even if not, there are workarounds.

Second, we play up the traits that work with what our potential recruits already do. My first recruit in high school, for instance, I met in college through a creative writing club and bonded with over shared interest in conlanging and worldbuilding and references to Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. So when I tried to get her into table-topping (and once I managed to explain to her that contrary to what her parents thought, no, we weren’t learning how to summon demons or anything like that), I explained it as “collaborative fiction—with dice” and emphasized the depth and breadth of characterization that the medium was capable of. If someone’s griping about the linearity of plots in their favorite video game? If they’re fans of a series that you could probably either obtain or whomp up RPG stats for? That gives you an opening (just make sure you’re actually going to give them a shot at whatever it was you dangled). I admit, one reason why I play up the cross-discipline factor in my blog was because of the hope that I’d get a few writer-types who didn’t game… yet. It may even have worked.

In some cases, we can even talk about the benefits of our particular hobby. One impetus for my beginning this blog was my realization of how much I’d learned about showing without telling in the course of the couple years I’d spent running a play-by-IM for a few friends, and for learning to have, and then to work around, characters who thought for themselves. Likewise, one of the reasons behind my solo game was to give its player a chance to get used to completely immersing in one character, so as to open him up to characters who thought for themselves.

Overall, recruiting is recruiting is recruiting, and my best advice for bringing anyone into the game is to not look at them as a gender, but as a person with a collection of interests and as a friend. Observation and flexibility trump pigeonholing any day.

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