I am Woman, Hear me Roll (my dice)
Overcoming the stereotypes in gaming
by Melissa Walsh

Yeah, I have a set of ovaries, and I play RPG's. The stereotypical image of a gamer as a socially awkward, pimply faced teenager or 30 year old overweight man living in his parent's basement really isn't the case.  I am sure there are players that do fit into that stereotype, but I have met many gamers and very few of them fit the popular conceived notions of what gamers are like.  Recent marketing information has shown that more women buy video games than men. Yet it seems that public image of gaming being a boys club just won't go away. Who is promoting this stereotype?

The notion that girls don't game seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Young girls that show an interest in gaming are often scoffed at, are reluctant to pursue their interest because of the stereotypes or face intimidation by male gamers.  I have talked with many women that have showed an interest in RPG's, but were reluctant to start playing for various reasons.

Part of the problem may be the media, game and toy manufacturers.  Toy makers start marketing toys for girls and boys at a very young age.  Girl's toys are always pink and other shades of soft pastels.  Dresses for barbies, cooking toys, and princess outfits are standard toys peddled toward girls. Boy's toys are colored with dark blues and green and involve army men, cars and guns.  The distinction have become so severe that it is a strange sight to see a boy in the "girl's toys isle" or vice versa.  Parents worry if their son wants a doll or their daughter wants some army men.  When did this occur? Why can't boys play with a doll, be interesting in cooking or like certain colors?  Why can't girls play with action figures that don't have 10 different dresses?

As a young girl, I received Star Wars toys and other "boy" toys from sci-fi loving dad and uncles.  I like watching He-man and hated Barbies. I happily played with my Star Wars and He-man toys until I went to kindergarten and was informed by the others that a girl playing with boy toys was weird and unacceptable. Feeling ostracized and ashamed, I started keeping my toys under my bed, and have a distinct memory of blaming the Millennium Falcon left out in my room on a non-existent male cousin.  I did this to avoid ridicule from my peers.  As I grew older I began to care less about what other people thought, and now proudly flaunt my interest in gaming, sci-fi and fantasy.

Things get tricky from here on out.  I'm not demanding that companies radically change their ways, but  they should just start to acknowledge we are out there. Some companies have made efforts to court the lady gamer. Games like Vampire the Masquerade, that emphasise role-playing over roll-playing, have attracted more women to the gaming hobby.  Some companies have even started interchanging the male and female pronouns when describing player character actions.

The majority of men I have dealt with have no problem with women gaming, but I have come across misogynistic views.  I don't want special treatment. I don't want to be looked down on, but at the same time I don't want to to be put on a pedestal because I am female.  While I'll admit there are differences between the sexes; I don't feel that my reasons for gaming are much different than any man's. Sure, men treat men different from women, women treat men different from other women.  We don't need to act like the gender difference doesn't exist, but shouldn't act like it is a great big deal, because it really isn't.  I'll admit to enjoying chivalrous treatment, but I don't want unfair-good or bad- treatment because of my sex. I'm not wall mold, but don't be afraid to kill off my character (if the dice decree it) for fear of me throwing a temper tantrum (I actually know more guys who throw temper tantrums over character deaths than women!)

I have dealt with outrageously rude comments from male gamers.  Men have assumed I can't DM because I am a woman. Once, when I was talking about teaching gaming and then playing a games, the men I were talking to said, "Oh, so you help people with their character sheets and then your boyfriend DM's?"


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010 © Ladies of Hack/Kenzer & Company

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