Monday, August 18, 2008

Embracing My Inner Gaming Wench

So, me and B dropped the kids off with Grandma and Grandpa and took a long weekend in Indy, attending GenCon. For those of you unfamiliar with it, GC is the biggest gaming convention in the world. Gaming as in Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and anything else that would appeal to a predominantly (but certainly not exclusive) male audience that isn't, shall we say, athletically and/or socially inclined but very intelligent. In short, a geek. Contrary to popular belief, geeks come in all shapes, sizes, genders, colors, ages, and backgrounds, and are quite friendly once you get to know them. However, the stereotypical socially awkward physically unattractive young man who still lives at home is still quite prevalent.

I decided to start out by easing into things with a couple of seminars that piqued my interest, Gender in Gaming and Women in Gaming. I learned a great deal and was able to share my experiences with those present and it just energized me to the point I decided to take the plunge, going from "the gal that played because her significant other plays" and find my own inner girl geek and open her eyes to what B has known for a long time.

As I hinted at earlier, the main demographic for this kind of thing is male. And strange things can happen when (gasp!) a girl comes to the male-dominated table for the first time, especially if she's not just the GameMaster's Flavor of the Week (these guys actually DATE? Gee who knew?) and actually has an idea of what she's doing. We ladies can be treated with curiosity, annoyance, even downright hostility. It is not too often that the guys will treat a first-time gal at the table with respect and look at her as an equal. But that is changing. Just as the Women's Lib movement started change in the realms of working outside the home and reshaping women's role in society, the winds of change are beginning to blow in the gaming world. At GenCon this year, approximately one in five attendees were of the female gender. I remember a time around 2000 when I used to go to the MTG prerelease tournaments in Indy, with B and our group of hubby and wife friends. Me and the other two gals from our group would be the ONLY women in a sea of about 300 or so guys. And we felt like we were a sideshow act on display with those brave enough to even come up to us (they're pretty timid to begin with) and marvel at our mere presence there.

Then there's not only the matter of a lack of girl power in the player community. The way that female characters are portrayed is a whole 'nother issue. As much as I can identify with a female character I have created, the only type of woman portrayed in artist illustrations is one with a body that could have leapt off the pages of Playboy or straight out of WWE Monday Night Raw. We ladies understand that yes, it's the nature of the beast if you will, but how's about some variety? How's about some more beefcake to go with the cheesecake? Or a more prominent portrayal of women in full plate armor rather than chainmail bikinis?

Anyhoo, I managed to have a great time at GC with B. There's much more to it than just the games I mentioned. We picked up some new games that are more tilted to the "beer and pretzels" set that we both enjoyed while down there. And I learned more about my own gaming preferences as I opened myself up to what was there. Most importantly, I have a newfound sense of pride in being a girl gamer.

No comments: