Sunday, March 6, 2011

Female Gamer Roundtable, Part 3...

So Loquacious had some stuff to say after seeing the results of the first roundtable, so I told her, hey, you wanna borrow the blog to make some points and ask some questions, go ahead, that's why we're doing this...

so here's Loquacious...

A deeper look – part 1

I ran short of ideas for something completely new this week, but I've been musing on something “recycled” for a bit now. I was motivated to pick it up again after my post Friday. I touched on a cognitive difference in understanding, using and manipulating an entire system, and to some extent I attributed this to gender.

My own comments got me ruminating about gender differences in gaming (again) and caused me to recall the FGRT. I wanted to revisit my responses (as I was uncharacteristically brief) as well as talk a little bit about those that responded as an overall group.

I dropped a note to Zak, and he kindly agreed to let me take over his blog (sort of), so here I am with my unrestrained commentary. These opinions and thoughts are mine. I don't speak for all lady gamers.

In fact, part of my point today is that the female gamer demographic is exceptionally difficult to pin down, even when given the opportunity.

The roundtable was held here- on a massively popular gaming blog, and the post got tons of redistribution across the web. Despite all that, only about 15 women responded to the questions. I noted this on my blog and I think I came across in a way I didn't intend. I didn't mean that Zak wasn't doing a good job of reaching women – in fact, I think the opposite. My point was more one of- why the heck aren't they responding? Out of 600+ followers (which might be a fraction of actual readers); only FIFTEEN women commented? REALLY?

What could be causing this? I know there are active, intelligent and interesting women out there who game. Many of them have their own blogs and are producing compelling and creative content. Folks like 20 Sided Woman, Commissar Carrie, Hurricane Girl/Cami and more are out there with fascinating voices.

Why is it so hard to get them talking; especially to EACH OTHER?

I do wonder how much of the reticence to reply was solely out of respect to the sheer number of questions. If it had been 2, 3, or even 4 questions it's possible there would have been more plentiful responses. It's hard to know, but I'll be reexamining both the questions and replies very shortly, so perhaps some conversation will be rekindled.

One of the things that struck me most out of the replies was that out of the 15 or so responders, only 3-4 of the women GM. While most all of the gals had tried it, not many continued to do so. Is this due to lack of confidence? Performance anxiety? Deference to more dominant personalities? Concerns about balance and structure? Fear of developing worlds, settings or characters that exist merely to fulfill wishes or personal fantasy, rather than exciting places and people? I can't speak for other women, but I know I've been struck by all of these and more. I'm working to change my own personal reticence to run a game, and hope to be up and at 'em within a few months.

I've been blessed to be surrounded by an imaginative, embracing and truly supportive gaming community for as long as I can remember. I've made innumerable friendships that are becoming essential to growing my skillset and developing my talents so that I can be a fantastic GM. I know that not all of female gamers are so lucky, but might want to take a stab at running the show.

What can the gaming community do to help grow creative, evocative and capable female GM's?

I'm more than just a bit intrigued by the possibilities of more communicative and active female gamers, and specifically GMs. I think we'd all benefit from having more women around- and for reasons much deeper than scenery.

In my local meta, I am NOT alone as a lady player. I personally know a good 10-15 ladies who game, and I'm AWARE of at least a dozen more via a LARP community. This particular sense of solidarity has given me a sense of security and protection in some of the games I play. This has allowed me to explore some very dark and non-traditional roles without any fear of imbalancing the game. I've grown out of my "nice girl" confines and become something close to fearless when it comes to playing rougher, darker and more nuanced characters - with a good amount of credit going to the other women around me.

The IDEA that I'm not alone has given courage when it comes to doing things that interest me, that are compelling, and are richer in nuance and voice. All of these points are in effect solely by having women as compatriots in or around the game.

What would it do to all of us in terms of gaming if the head of the table were a lady? Wouldn't we be enriched, challenged, driven and tested more; or at least differently? A woman's view of far-off worlds in action (rather than in print such as fiction) might reveal a lot, and give us much to develop.

I'd love to find ways to address this chasm, and maybe I'll strike on some ideas for myself as I continue on in examining the roundtable. Next week, I'll be looking at the questions a little more closely on my blog; with my illustrious tag full in effect. I hope you'll join me, and even throw some comments my way!


  1. Zak, would you please tag/label these posts as: "Female Gamer Roundtables" or something else appropriate, so they can be easily searched? Thanks.

  2. Eh. Maybe they don't feel the need to speak up, to talk to each other or wave around "I'm a female gamer!" and they would rather just game?

    I for one came over solely because Zak invited me and, as I think he's a generally cool dude, figured hell, why not? But as the Roundtable has become/turned out to be more "girl gamers" rather than "gamers who happen to be girls" frankly my interest has basically tanked. (Whether I misunderstood at the time or the focus has actually shifted -- given the contrast in subjects between the initial slate of questions and subsequent queries, I'm inclined to the second -- is irrelevant to me personally.)

    I'm here in the blogosphere to game and talk about gaming and I don't feel the need to hang it off of my gender or sex, or vice versa. I'm willing to bet a fair few others out there think much the same thing.

  3. @taichara

    Well the first round was me, the subsequent rounds were from other people who felt like saying something.

    I figured: Let's let people talk and see where it goes.

    That's where it went.

  4. I'm glad that Taichara (as a woman) made the comment that me (as a man) would only be guessing at. What I do know is that my wife (comp sci degree from an all women's college) is currently in the other room swearing about how she can't get R2-D2 to land on the ledge properly in Lego Star Wars (she's a video gamer, not an RPG gamer these days) and she informs me she could give [something unpleasant] about what that says of her gender. You'd be hard pressed to get her to answer 5 questions on the subject let alone 25.

  5. @Zak: This is true; it just happened to have went into a venue I myself am not much of a talker for. So it goes --

  6. "swearing about how she can't get R2-D2 to land on the ledge properly in Lego Star Wars"

    Oh, geez. I know exactly what she is talking about. I don't know how many times I've plummeted that little dude into various abysses!

  7. It's so annoying. And he turns into little legos over and over and over and over.

  8. taichara: thanks for coming over! I'm glad to hear what you have to say.

    In person, I'm pretty ambivalent if not downright uncaring about gender and games. I'm not the only girl in my group and so it usually doesn't matter because I play with people I trust, which usually means it doesn't matter to them either.

    Online it does seem to be different and I'm not sure why. I get the "you're a LADY" comment a WHOLE lot when I respond to folks in comments or email, so I figured why not declare it outright.

    I do see that sticking gender in the mix can muddy up the conversations we might want to be having - but at the same time it is interesting (at least to me) to hear what others in the same boat have to say.

    Thanks for bring up a point I hadn't considered!

  9. @loquacious:

    I also have the experience of feeling 'policed' about how I express myself as a gaming woman online. Yes, I'm a feminist and a gamer, but in real life it's not a big deal. Online, though, there seem to be lots of people who want to tell me to shut up or stop whining or stop making such a big deal of being a girl. I really hate it. I don't want to have to pretend I'm not a woman in order to game. I feel like the pervasive attitude is, "Well, if you HAVE to be female, fine, but don't TALK about it." There's a narrow range of ways it's acceptable to be a female gamer in public, and if you don't conform, you're painting a target on yourself. This is why I almost didn't participate in this roundtable - and I'm pretty highly motivated to do so. I suspect there are lots of other women who looked at the roundtable and quietly walked away.

    As for the GM thing, I think it's an awesome topic. I definitely think my players get a lot out of having me at the head of the table, and there are a lot of amazing women out there who could be great GMs but don't get the social support they need. I also think there are some very specific issues facing female GMs, like the fact that men interrupt women more than vice versa (statistically speaking, of course). But if we name and identify those problems, we can figure out ways to solve them!

  10. & there is that horrible clickity clack sound when R2 plunges into the nothing, as the Kamino rain beats down...

  11. @replayable- I am definitively NOT a feminist- I'm much more of a humanist. I want all of us to be equal and have a good time. That's why I ask the questions I'm asking- what's holding a specific group back (and in this case, ladies).

    I do think it's possible the "identify as female first" thing might have been less than ideal. I'll consider that for next session with some of the questions.

  12. @loquacious - I call myself both a feminist and a humanist (among my many other identities). Equality, yes, but I also recognize that some of us have a harder time being treated as human beings than others. I cannot wait for the day I no longer have to call myself a feminist, but I doubt I'll live to see it.

    (Really, over time I've moved more toward an understanding of feminism as 'breaking the unspoken gender roles that confine both women and men' but that's probably a much longer conversation, and not one that belongs here.)

    On a related note: I find it really sad when people who think that women should be treated as human beings don't want to call themselves feminists. I've met a lot of women who hate that word and I just don't know what went wrong. This is not just you, loquacious - I know a lot of women who feel that way. I'm puzzled and really, really saddened by it.

  13. @ replayable- it's a very distinct and deliberate personal choice, for me. I don't hate the word or the movement. My mom & many of her friends are ardent feminists and I certainly see the benefit of having women like them (and you) doing that work.

    However, morally, I can't hold to the idea that ONLY women or ONLY Latinos or ONLY LGBT (or whoever) need advocates. If I'm advocating for anybody, I'm advocating for everybody.

  14. @loquacious - Ah, now that's an approach I can understand and which totally delights me! (The "women are totally equal already" and the "feminists are just whiny" arguments are the ones that baffle me.)

    I agree with your point, but I take a different approach to dealing with it. I only have so much time, energy and money, and there are some issues I have personal experience with while others I am still learning about. I'm much more capable and effective as an advocate for women than I am at advocating for (most) other groups - though I've also been working on issues of race for the last two years as part of my dissertation, so I'm growing more confident in that area as well. But I see my responsibility as a feminist as working for the good of ALL women. If my feminism gets in the way of, say, LGBT rights, then it's my feminism that needs rethinking.

    I apply this same logic to other causes I care about. There are lots of problems in the world, but I can't solve them all. If I specialize in a few (education, hunger, women's rights) I might be able to make a difference. Plus I can go out of my way to boost the efforts of people who are specialized in areas that I'm not, because there are tons of worthy issues I just don't have the resources to deal with. I wish I did.