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For the Love of Gaming

by Marinda Darnell


Gaming is very natural to a lot of people. Some live for it, others it is a casual hobby. Some can not imagine going a day with out playing a game. While I can and often have gone many days with out playing a game since becoming a Gamer, I still feel that pull daily to sit down and log into a game whether online, a simulation computer game, or sit down with some friends and crack open Blue Rose Role Playing Game (RPG) books or play a game of Tsuro. It is part of my life now, even though it was not always. Some feel the need to game as if they will die if they do not; they breathe it, and crave it. Some even incorporate gaming into everything with their lives, such as their wedding and every day chores. Others are content to play a game once ever month with their friends, or log online a few times a week and play one of the many online games out there. For me, gaming pulls to me not because of the dice on the table, or the feel of my level 50 Wood Elf Fury facing down an Epic monster, but for the people. Solo games have never held me for long. I have to have the human interaction. While I love Sid Meier's Civilization IV, I keep finding myself going back to Ever Quest II and smiling when I log in and am greeted by live people who are hiding behind a mask of a digital character.

Over a year ago, Frances, one of the writers of The Lady Gamer, approached me about starting this webzine. The thought of writing terrified me, but if my doing this helped pave the way for more women to become gamers, well I was all for it. Why this is the case you might be wondering? To long has the world of gaming been dominated by men, and thought of as something to hide from the main stream. All of my friends today are gamers. Seven years ago this was not the case. I as introduced into gaming as I know it by a man who was a casual gamer. He loved Warhammer 40K, and he also loved Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). At the time there were no women who gamed in my friendly local game store (FLGS). This boggled my mind. Through gaming, I have met wonderful people, geniuses. People like Jeff Martin of Dwarven Forge and True Adventures. People like Jordan Wiseman of Wiz Kids. These people are geniuses; some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. And also some of the kindest. People not even part of the industry as well who have a serious passion for life. If seven years ago when I started gaming because of a new game called Mage Knight I would not have met these kinds of people, I probably would not have continued playing the game. Because of the community of people I met, it caused me to want to learn more, and to become a part of this community. This caused me to travel to my first Gen Con in Milwaukee in 2001. From there, there was no turning back. I was a gamer. Since then I have traveled a lot, met a lot of people, and tried a lot of games. Honestly, I can say that while I love the games, it is the people who keep bringing me back. I can go an entire convention with out playing a game, but as long as I saw my friends from around the country, and had that sense of community, it did not matter. It is hard to play most games by yourself, it takes a community.

Many people can go and play against different people every week in tournaments, and never truly know their opponents, and this does not bother them. They are very hard core about their armies, always have the best pieces and discuss strategy, but at the end of the day it was just another game. For me, and many women I know, they want to know their opponents, they want to go home at the end of the day after having played some great games, but also being with friends. It is more social for most of the women that I know then what their win, loss record was. I admit, I like having a pristine win, loss record, and am very competitive (must be the military time I did years ago), but now compared to when I was younger, I can loose a game to someone else, and smile.

The stereotypical male gamer is antisocial, intimidated by a female gamer, especially a miniatures player, and takes a lot to crack his shell. (Note here guys, I said stereotypical. I have met many that are not this way, and have many male gamer friends). Gaming is geeky, it is a taboo for the social elite, and totally uncool for non gamers. Gaming is for antisocial nerds who have pocket protectors and no sex life. Wow, are those last two sentences so wrong. The problem is that this is how the main stream has viewed gaming for a long time. Since women have for many years been forced into certain social roles, there has not been much in the way open to them gaming wise. Gaming became more gender separated, and the stereotype of the single antisocial guy living in his mother's basement with his nose always in a GURPS book developed.

Now you may think I am on a tangent, but really I do have a point. If people wish to involve more women into gaming, gaming itself must become less of a taboo. Gamers must learn social skills like bathing. Luckily over the last seven years I have seen a huge change in the number of gamers that bathe while attending large conventions. "Gamer Funk" is not a dance move for the Safe House dance floor. Not every gamer suffers Gamer Funk, but please, attend Gen Con and tell me what the convention center smells like on Sunday afternoon.

Female gamers are often looking for slightly different things then what male gamers are. One of the key points is society. Does the gamer feel welcome, are they nice people, do they talk to her, are they talking down to her? There have been a few times at the GAMA Trade Show (GTS) that I have felt like the vendors were talking down to me, or ignoring me to talk to the guy behind me about the latest product they have out. When this happens, I make a decision to never spend a penny on their products again. Since GTS 2001 I have not spent a penny on Gamers Work Shop products. Why? Because they assumed since I am a women, I could not be a miniatures player. While female gamers make up a small portion of the gaming world, our numbers are growing, and frankly like any other customer, we hate being ignored. By ignoring us, we are not part of the community. If we are not part of the community, the community suffers since I think most men will agree having a member of the opposite sex playing a game is a wonderful thing.

Over the past seven years I have met a lot of people. Some of them have become very dear to me. Most are men who are married to non-gamer wives. Only handfuls have wives that understand their husbands' hobby, and encourage him at it. Most of the non gamer wives barely tolerate their husbands' hobby. For many of the later, I see unstable marriages (ok not talking all are like this, so donít lynch me) and people who are generally unhappy because their spouses just do not understand the appeal of gaming. Most refuse to even try a simple game like Flux and can not comprehend how a woman could enjoy such games. What these people do not realize is that there is an entire community full of accepting people out there in the world who have common interests, and common goals, who are amazingly supportive of one another. Just because they play games as an adult does not make them less of an adult, it just shows they have an open mind. I can not help but wonder if there had been more women gamers if these gamer men would not have possibly married another gamer and been happier in their lives. Or if there had been more female gamers if their wives would have been more willing to accept gaming even casually and tried to understand something that has always been a social taboo. Over all I think there would be happier people in the world, at least in the gaming community. All of you know the guy in the gaming group who has a wife that counts the seconds until he is home from gaming; the guy who has to be home by 9 every night, and can only game once a month because the wife just does not understand the need for an adult to play games. Then there are the lucky few who marry a gamer, and they do not have to give up that part of their life when they tie the knot. They understand the community. Right now the community is not whole because of the gender imbalance.

Gaming as a community is what has held me after all of these years. Not a single game, not a single product, but the people I have met. Games come and go, but the people are forever. When I go to Origins and Gen Con this year, it will be to see the people who made this a community that I love, not necessarily to play a game. Ok, I admit, I will probably play a game, run a few games, and spend tons of hours, and get very little sleep while there. Why? Because I love this community.

Please note, I use a lot of generalizations in this piece, and this represents my point of view, not necessarily the rest of the staff of The Lady Gamer. This is what gaming is to me, for each person it might be different, it might be the same. That is for you to decide.

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