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E is for Events – #AtoZChallenge

April 11, 2013 Comments off

I’m cheating again, so I can get caught up with the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge. I wrote this when I was in Austin, back in 2011. The dates/places have changed up, but I’m still hosting these kinds of meetups. And I face the same challenges regarding inclusiveness in gaming/game events. I will miss my Board Game/Beer Geeks Meetup here in the San Diego area once I’m back in Seattle next month.

I already know I failed my mission just a bit in regards to my recent claim. I promised to write a blog post each day of the week for Speak Out With Your Geek Out, but I failed. But I swear, I have a great reason! Why? I was hosting the Girl Geeks Of Austin Monday Board Games & Brews event! Each Monday night, we have a group of women who drop by the Black Star Co-Op. So, it’s actually combining numerous geek things. Board games, craft beer and sustainable/local foods. And it is a co-op! One of my birthday prezzies to myself will be to buy a membership there. Such fantastic people.

Games we play!

I’ve posted before about why I started the game night. I’m all about supporting ALL people playing games; I believe everyone can find the right games and great people to play with. The difficult part – If you don’t already play games with people, how do you meet people for games? How do you find games? Board games can get pretty expensive; it is hard to justify buying a game if you don’t know anyone who plays them.

I’m an organizer geek; a nexxus. I LOVE bringing people together to do amazing things. I love meeting new people when I host an event and watching people discovering new people. It cheers me to see people make friends, share their info and talk about planning exciting games, dinners or whatever with each other. I like turning people on to new games and new beers. I like to encourage women & girls to play games.

Great Divide Oak Aged Chocolate Imperial Stout

Back to my Board Game & Brews night. Many of the women who come to the game night have never played board games. Or they’ve done family games like Monopoly, Sorry, Scrabble. There is nothing wrong with these games; for many people it is the first taste of gaming & socialization. Yes, even with family!

But many want more. They’re interested in games they see around. They want to not be talked down to or ignored in a game store. They want to do something creative and they want to socialize with other like-minded geeky people. No matter your geeky bent, while you’re doing a geeky activity, you get to learn more about people. You get to meet others who grok (look it up) you.

I’m not great at teaching people to play games. I yawn when reading rules. I am best learning as I play, so I usually stick to pretty easy to explain games that I’ve played a lot. Or some casual card games. Fluxx, Poo, Apples to Apples & Guillotine and many others are easy to teach and easy to learn. Then there are some dice games like Zombie Dice, Cthulhu Dice and some board games like Tsuro and Dixit.

How do you get started with your own group? Meetup.com is fantastic to start in finding a group. Volunteer to host a meetup. Most meetup group owners are DELIGHTED to find more people to host events. I know I am; I can’t do everything and be everyone. As example, we have people who do fiber arts and I do not. So I encourage our fiber arts geeks to host their own meetup event on our same group page.

  • Pick a place you want to host an event. A shop, a pub, coffee shop. Get to know the people working there so they know to expect you.
  • Choose how often and what day you want to do your event. It doesn’t have to be weekly like mine.
  • Get yourself into Social Media so you can advertise your event. Good thing about Meetup.com? You can do so much in it.
  • Show up. Even if no one does, show up. When I first started doing the Monday Steampunk Meetups at the Wayward Coffeehouse in Seattle, I was there at a small reserved table every week. Eventually, one or two would show. And as the word got out, more people showed. I kept up with advertising it on the local steampunk mailing list. Having our small group talk to others at the other local events & conventions, brought more people out. After a few months, there was anywhere from 10-20 people ever Monday. Stick to it and it will succeed.
  • Greet everyone. No matter what else is going on, remember you are doing this for a reason. Make sure everyone is welcome. When you have regular people, you can dub others to be greeters. No one should ever feel unwanted for a social geek event.
  • Have fun. If you’re not, no one else will. You may try and try again, but eventually you’ll get the hang out of it. Sure, epople will “Why don’t we meet on X side of town?” “Why can’t we ever do Y together?”. I always say, “GREAT IDEA! You can put something together and I’ll promote it. Unfortunately, I can’t take on another event, but I want to help you succeed.”. AND MEAN IT.

Hello, I’m Donna and I’m a Geeky Organizer.

Speak Out With Your Geek Out – Hosting Geeky Events

September 13, 2011 Comments off

I already know I failed my mission just a bit in regards to my recent claim. I promised to write a blog post each day of the week for Speak Out With Your Geek Out, but I failed. But I swear, I have a great reason! Why? I was hosting the Girl Geeks Of Austin Monday Board Games & Brews event! Each Monday night, we have a group of women who drop by the Black Star Co-Op. So, it’s actually combining numerous geek things. Board games, craft beer and sustainable/local foods. And it is a co-op! One of my birthday prezzies to myself will be to buy a membership there. Such fantastic people.

Games we play!

I’ve posted before about why I started the game night. I’m all about supporting ALL people playing games; I believe everyone can find the right games and great people to play with. The difficult part – If you don’t already play games with people, how do you meet people for games? How do you find games? Board games can get pretty expensive; it is hard to justify buying a game if you don’t know anyone who plays them.

I’m an organizer geek; a nexxus. I LOVE bringing people together to do amazing things. I love meeting new people when I host an event and watching people discovering new people. It cheers me to see people make friends, share their info and talk about planning exciting games, dinners or whatever with each other. I like turning people on to new games and new beers. I like to encourage women & girls to play games.

Great Divide Oak Aged Chocolate Imperial Stout

Back to my Board Game & Brews night. Many of the women who come to the game night have never played board games. Or they’ve done family games like Monopoly, Sorry, Scrabble. There is nothing wrong with these games; for many people it is the first taste of gaming & socialization. Yes, even with family!

But many want more. They’re interested in games they see around. They want to not be talked down to or ignored in a game store. They want to do something creative and they want to socialize with other like-minded geeky people. No matter your geeky bent, while you’re doing a geeky activity, you get to learn more about people. You get to meet others who grok (look it up) you.

I’m not great at teaching people to play games. I yawn when reading rules. I am best learning as I play, so I usually stick to pretty easy to explain games that I’ve played a lot. Or some casual card games. Fluxx, Poo, Apples to Apples & Guillotine and many others are easy to teach and easy to learn. Then there are some dice games like Zombie Dice, Cthulhu Dice and some board games like Tsuro and Dixit.

How do you get started with your own group? Meetup.com is fantastic to start in finding a group. Volunteer to host a meetup. Most meetup group owners are DELIGHTED to find more people to host events. I know I am; I can’t do everything and be everyone. As example, we have people who do fiber arts and I do not. So I encourage our fiber arts geeks to host their own meetup event on our same group page.

  • Pick a place you want to host an event. A shop, a pub, coffeeshop. Get to know the people working there so they know to expect you.
  • Choose how often and what day you want to do your event. It doesn’t have to be weekly like mine.
  • Get yourself into Social Media so you can advertise your event. Good thing about Meetup.com? You can do so much in it.
  • Show up. Even if no one does, show up. When I first started doing the Monday Steampunk Meetups at the Wayward Coffeehouse in Seattle, I was there at a small reserved table every week. Eventually, one or two would show. And as the word got out, more people showed. I kept up with advertising it on the local steampunk mailing list. Having our small group talk to others at the other local events & conventions, brought more people out. After a few months, there was anywhere from 10-20 people ever Monday. Stick to it and it will succeed.
  • Greet everyone. No matter what else is going on, remember you are doing this for a reason. Make sure everyone is welcome. When you have regular people, you can dub others to be greeters. No one should ever feel unwanted for a social geek event.
  • Have fun. If you’re not, no one else will. You may try and try again, but eventually you’ll get the hang out of it. Sure, epople will “Why don’t we meet on X side of town?” “Why can’t we ever do Y together?”. I always say, “GREAT IDEA! You can put something together and I’ll promote it. Unfortunately, I can’t take on another event, but I want to help you succeed.”. AND MEAN IT.

Hell, I’m Donna and I’m a Geeky Organizer.

Categories: Beer, Women Gamers

My thoughts on “Speak Out With Your Geek Out!”

September 3, 2011 2 comments

I’ve seen the “Speak Out With Your Geek Out” program fly around on Twitter & Facebook, but I hadn’t given it much thought. I promote “Read an RPG Book in Public” and “Read a Comic Book in Public” days, but I rarely actually participate. Mostly because I already do these on a regular basis. It never occurs to me that I would be ashamed or embarrassed at how people perceive my nerdiness; this is the key to feeling acceptance within yourself. You can’t control how others feel about your hobby. What you can do, by being confident in yourself and your hobbies, is bring others out of their shell.

This type of thinking isn’t limited just to gaming or comic pursuits. I find it in the beer geek hobby, too. Especially as a woman who enjoys VERY dark beer. I tend to strike up conversations about beer when I’m drinking something which isn’t seen as “normal for a lady”. It happens with my socks, too. Yes, sock collecting is a hobby. If you don’t believe me, check out Sock Dreams. All my favorite socks come from Sock it to Me.

I believe people are attracted to people who appear to be having fun. Whether the stripey socks, my weird glasses, my RPG books or a dark glass of beer, I always look like I am having a good time with the things I love. When you are passionate about something, in this case geek pursuits, it encourages others to explore their passions, too.

When I sat down to read the article Calling all Geeks: Post about Your Hobbies September 12th to the 16th I became excited about the project.

I then read Speak Out with Your Geek Out by Dorkland and In Which We Prepare to Speak Out… by Jess Hartley.

What struck me about it all, was the positive & passionate love for geek pursuits. This kept standing out to me:

 

SPEAK OUT WITH YOUR GEEK OUT

Sometime during the week of Monday, September 12th to Friday, September 16th post about what geeky hobby you love. Then, tell us why we should try it, too. Leave your fears (and edition wars) at the door. Forget about your latest rant. Tap into that well of positive energy and share in the excitement of all things geek. Let us invite those who would stereotype us to sit at our table and share our interests.

 

The only thing I would change about this would be the last line about stereotyping. I’d much rather focus on encouraging people to engage. If we are only doing this to do a “IN YOUR FACE” to people who would stereotype people with geek passions, it isn’t very helpful. Yes, I understand the message in the quote above. However, there are many geeks who might attempt to use this as a way of promoting “I’m Geekier Than Thou”. Which is also one of my pet peeves.

I think we SHOULD address the ugly side of geek elitism. But that is for another post.

A Women & Girls Guide to Gen Con

August 1, 2011 Comments off

There are scads of blogs out there which offer up fantastic tips about packing, food, safety and such out there regarding Gen Con Indy attendance. I’ll start with listing some of my favorites:

Many people tend to lose common sense when they’re at a convention, especially if it is one’s first big show. The tips above cover health & hygiene, how to be a good Con attendee and other tips. No, I don’t want to hear about your character and neither does anyone else. Just sayin’.

None of that really has much to do with my original thoughts on this blog post. I spend a lot of time talking to women who play games, but never want to attend Gen Con (or other game conventions). I actually don’t do a lot of gaming when I attend Gen Con; I spend the majority of my time talking about games. It might seem odd, I suppose.

However, that is one of the biggest reasons people attend a big convention. It’s not just the shopping for awesome things, but the opportunity to see old friends, play new games and meet new people. Not to mention, start new traditions with these people.

I’m an old pro at conventions; I’ve been attending and volunteering them since I was in high school. Wow. That’s over 30 years! Not just gaming cons, but all sorts of conventions & conferences. The most rewarding and the most frustrating are gaming conventions.

The frustrating part? It hasn’t always been the most welcome environment. Not on purpose, of course. Hardly anyone is intentionally unwelcoming. It is almost like people don’t consider that all the women & girls who attend, would be interested in playing.

I’ve spent many years wandering expo halls, looking for game demos or trying to get a turn at a video game. I run across touchy-feely men. I’ve been told that “girls don’t play strategy games/war games”.

Thankfully, a whole ton of people don’t think this way. While I talk about how I wish more game companies and demo’ers reach out to me like they do to the passing dudes, I have no problem stepping up and being heard and seen.

When I find an unwelcoming environment, I turn my back and look for a welcoming one. A lot of times, people are so engrossed to what they’re doing, they just don’t notice. I get that; we all concentrate on what we’re doing. That being said, if you’re hosting, leading, demo’ing or whatnot, you should reach out to everyone. Even if they’re not your target audience.

On Twitter, someone reached out to the Gen Con Twitter hash tag that they’re bringing their 15-year old niece to the convention. The question was “What shouldn’t she miss?”. I tried to think of anything which would say “15 year old girl” but then thought that she should like the things everyone likes. At 15, she is probably already a bit geeky (or a lot) if she’s agreed to attend Gen Con. So finding something she’d like, will probably be easy.

So. Advice for women & girls? Read the program. Sign up for things you feel are interesting. If someone ignores you, move to the next booth or table. Try something different. Something might not seem welcoming, but when you check it out, it might be the game of your dreams. Tired of games? Check out miniatures painting. Don’t think you can paint? Try it anyway! All the instructors are patient and helpful; you also can take home your model!

Take in a Seminar. Participate in the Zombie Walk. Reach out to the other women & girls who are gaming and find out what they like. While I *loathe* the name “Spouse Activities”, there are some great classes, crafting, tours and more if you’re up for a non-gaming activity.

I could go on and on! If you see me wandering around the con, wave at me and I’ll drag you into all kinds of places!

One final note. If someone touches you inappropriately or threatens you, it is NOT okay. Look for other women, especially anyone wearing the Back Up Project ribbon. I’ll have mine on my badge and I will be handing them out to other women who are interested in helping women back up other women.

If you’re a dude, it is isn’t your personal dating grounds. While people do hook up at cons, it is not appropriate to hug someone you don’t know, or touch them without permission. Don’t be “that guy”.

Gen Con and Indy itself is a pretty darn safe place. Let’s all remember Wil Wheaton’s saying, “Don’t Be A Dick”.

Categories: Main, Women Gamers

Games, Craft Beers and the Women Who Love Them

July 9, 2011 2 comments

I was watching a discussion happening on Twitter which I saw tweeted by @LadiesOCB. The topic? QUESTION: Do we need women targeted beer marketing campaigns? What is the right way to target women, if at all?

My first answer? Nope, we just need good beer to market to real beer drinkers, not pandering the same sexist ways.

A wee light bulb went off in my head and I realized I’m having the same argument about women & games. You don’t need to do anything special for women to play your games. JUST MAKE GOOD GAMES. If you make good games and respect your playerbase, women will play them. There’s nothing magical about attracting girls & women to your games.

The game goes for beer. IF you make GOOD beer, break out of your sexist adverts and don’t “dumb down” beer, women will drink it. Period. Respect your product, respect your audience, no matter who they are and you will be successful. Sure, you won’t make as much money as the top three “American” beers. Craft brewers and indie game developers have a lot in common. They have passion for their product and they want to bring as many people into their world.


I think that products like Chick Beer, are sexist and stereotyping. Women do not need pink packaging and yet another dig about how we should all watch our weight. It’s sexist and insulting to women and to men. If your beer is good, then ALL people will drink it. This beer isn’t a beer for women /made/ by women. It’s a marketing idea that someone created. I mean, “Chick has Beer Cred. We are brewed in Wisconsin by the second-oldest, tenth-largest brewery in the United States.” As a beer geek, I know exactly who’s brewing it and why.

I admit, I am saying this without trying the beer. And I could tear the website claims up over and over because none of it is factual. That really isn’t my point. My original point was to write about how I felt about this sort of marketing and how it is damaging to women. It reminds me of all the times I’ve been told “Girls don’t play hardcore games”, “Women don’t get strategy” “Are you shopping for (insert man of your choice)?”.

Beer Tasting at work, along with MEGAFORCE

Instead of ranting more about all this, I’ll get back to my point. I’d love to interview and write about women who are gamers and beer drinkers. The women who play what they want because they like it. The women who drink Ryes, IPAs, Stouts, Porters…beer across the entire spectrum. There are many women homebrewers, too. I’d love to hear from them.

If you’re interested, drop me an email at DJDanicia AT gmail DOT com. I’ll only use your name/photo if you want to share it with me.

Negra Modelo and Poo, the card game

My NorWesCon Schedule!

April 2, 2011 Comments off

I’m flying back home to Seattle for NorWesCon later this month. I am a pro panelist again and was selected to be on a few panels. Here’s my awesome schedule! I am so excited to talk about these great topics!

Thursday 10pm: Not Just for White Boys Anymore: Beyond Stereotypes

The adventure tale tradition began with stories by white boys, for white boys, about white boys. Times have changed. Can adventure gaming change with them?
Donna Prior, Julie Haehn, Ogre Whiteside, SatyrPhil Brucato

Friday: 10pm: Dude, Seriously…WTF? When Gamers Cross the Line

There is no doubt that gamers are a fun and creative lot, but what happens when poor judgment, or just bad gamer behavior, twist that fun and creativity into something personally offensive? Our panelists discuss the things in a game you JUST. SHOULD. NOT. DO. And what you should do if someone has.
Ogre Whiteside, SatyrPhil Brucato, Donna Prior, Loree Parker

Saturday 1pm: Women in the Gaming Industry

Our all-female panel of gaming professionals discusses the growing presence/awareness of women playing and designing games, and the struggle with working in the industry. If you are a woman interested in working in this industry, our panelists want to encourage you!
Donna Prior, Julie Haehn, Liz Courts, Jennifer Brozek

Sunday Noon: Gaming & Community The panel I submitted! Yay me!

Game communities have grown beyond small game clubs, web forums, and IRC as social networking has integrated with game companies and created even more game communities. Our panelists will discuss social networking and creating a positive community via chat tools, web forums, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and 3rd party news sites.
Donna Prior, Matt Hammond, Liz Courts, Jeff Combos

Sunday 3pm: What Makes You A Fan? (I’m taking the “don’t be a fandom jerk” approach per the bolded part below.)

Books, movies, going to conventions … what is it that makes you a fan versus someone who just really enjoys a particular medium? Is there a difference? Can you be a fan without really liking science fiction and fantasy? Is a fan of one genre different from a fan in another? Is this really a controversy? Take part in a discussion that tries to present all sides.
Jacqualynn D. Duram Nilsson, Donna Prior

A Frustrated Woman Gamer Speaks…

March 19, 2011 6 comments

This is going to be long and rambly. Also, it will be focused mostly on tabletop gaming, as this is really what I love. Which is why it hurts the most, I think, whenever I run into the whole “girls don’t play” attitude, which I ran into numerous times at PAX East. To be fair, I didn’t venture much into the board/card games, RPGs or Minis area. I tried to visit the booths of numerous types of games, but after getting ignored in the majority of video game booths, the minis area and such, it just bummed me out. I had a GREAT time and was so happy that people were interested in our game. THAT is the reason I attended. I was also scoping out other booths for ideas (don’t lie, you do it, too), meeting podcasters & bloggers and talking about our contest. It was when I was out on break or out to lunch, that I became sad. I just didn’t feel like I belonged at PAX as a gamer. As an aside, check out Fat, Ugly or Slutty. This is what women deal with in games, game forums and such. All. The. Time. That being said, 99% of my interactions with fellow gamers are NOT like this. I am not bagging on men for this post, but simply sharing my experiences in gamer culture.

As I mentioned in my post last night, I was engaged by some very smart people on the topic of exclusive vs inclusive in regards to Gen Con vs PAX. It started when I caught a retweet by Chris Hanrahan which said, “PAX goes out of it’s way to be inclusive, whereas much like the rest of our industry, Gencon panders to the base.”.

My response back to that tweet, (copying others in the discussion), was as follows:

As a long time PAX attendee, I would normally agree re: inclusive. Until this year…

I quickly caught up with the conversation and see it was related to this post by Philip J Reed so I wasn’t missing anything. My friend, Chris Pramas, responded to Chris H.’s tweet conversation with, “I love PAX and all, but there is plenty of pandering to their base. It’s just a different base.”. Of course, I replied with, “I agree. I felt like I was at Gen Con the way I was ignored as “girls don’t play games”. So sick of it. ”

I think that people who work in games, specifically board & card games, are sometimes astounded that women (or anyone) would be excluded from gaming, as they’re surrounded by family, friends and fans of their games. These people are from all walks of life. They are inclusive and foster an inclusive environment. However, many other not-so-awesome game developers don’t feel the same way. Some are dismissive, some simply ignore us and some are downright hostile.

I received the following questions via these nice folks, so I wanted to talk about my experiences. Whilst my experiences might seem rare, they’re actually not. And haven’t been since the early 1980s when I tried to play D&D for the first time. More on that later The tweets:

  • “That’s so lame and upsetting 😦
  • “So sorry to hear about that. I hope you weren’t ignored at the @SJGames booth. That would make me very unhappy.” (SJG is always awesome)
  • “Any publisher ignoring women because “girls don’t play games” need to wake up. Girls play games!”
  • “Deeply curious about this. Times, places, companies responsible.”
  • “I mostly saw companies (in tabletop) hungry to demo, so, confused.”
  • “I’d also love more details on that, if anything to potentially educate those responsible on their errors.”
  • “Step 1: Introduce the “girls don’t play games” people to girls. Step 2: Girls play games!” (Thanks for the giggle)
  • Absolutely. My experience with unofficial cons at a con is completely different in re: gender treatment.
  • While I may not know you, you are always welcome at my gaming tables at #GenCon. 🙂 (Yay supporters!)

These comments are from people who make games and demo games for people who make games. I also want to spotlight the companies full of people who treat me as a person when I am at a convention. They have the BEST volunteers and whilst I may not have played a demo (ya know, the old ZOMG TOO MUCH TO SEE AND DO) thing, I will always go back and look at product. I have bought product based on how awesome staff/volunteers are to me and to other women (Women talk, yo).

Outstanding marks go to the following companies who’s booths & events I have attended in the past (Not at PAX EAst).

Green Ronin – You might say, “Wait. You know these people”. But I don’t know ALL of them and they don’t all know me. I don’t need Chris or Nicole to be there to be shown all the games. Even before I worked in games, THESE PEOPLE ALL ROCKED MY SOCKS. Every pre-knowing them experience was wonderful. Always respectful and outgoing. I love not being ignored. No chance of that happening with the Green Ronin crew.

Exile Games – My friend, Tombeaux, had introduced me to Exile long before I met anyone there. I walked up to their booth at Gen Con a while back and everyone was friend, helpful and knowledgeable. Staff & volunteers both. The excitement about what they’re doing is infectious and keeps me walking by just to watch them interact with other people. You can learn a lot from watching these folks on how to treat fans and potential fans.

Privateer Press – I had always wanted to play miniatures, but after /years/ of treatment from another company at conventions and their retail store, I was /tired/ of hearing “Are you shopping for your dad/brother/boyfriend? (when I was young) “Are you shopping for your husband or son?”. Privateer Press staff saw me looking at miniatures and said “LET ME SHOW YOU THIS GAME I LOVE SO MUCH AND YOU WILL LOVE IT TOO”. Every contact with a PP staff member or Press Gang member has been outstanding. They’re very patient and helpful, plus I picked up a lot of painting tips. The volunteer Press Gang folks LOVE this game and they LOVE to show others the game, too. ❤ Oh, if you're curious, I'm building a pink/purple/blue Magnus Merc army. I should have 35 points ready for Gen Con.

Steve Jackson Games – I have always felt welcome to the table. I’ve been playing SJGs for years after my first demo of Munchkin. Seriously, these folks and their Men in Black have brought me years of “teh lulz”. Even if they are trying to steal my cookies. They’ve been fantastic when I’ve invited them to conventions and are always full of energy.

Pinnacle Entertainment – I’ve been a HUGE fangirl of Shane and Deadlands for YEARS. Deadlands is my 2nd favourite game setting, hands down. Back in…oh, about 2002..my gaming group decided to run a Deadlands LARP (when no live rules existed) for a small convention in Northern Virginia. They were awesome, answered questions, sent us GREAT swag for prizes. Just generally nice folks. When you’ve fallen in love with a setting and they respond with equal passion, you know it is a match made in gamer heaven. Everyone involved with Pinnacle has been top notch. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a fan girl. They talked to me as a GAMER years before I ever met anyone on the team.

Moosetache Games – I’m sure many people have never heard of them. I was immediately enamored by them last year at Gen Con. I was getting grumpy because no one wanted to talk to me, show me a game, sell me anything. They reached out and said, “Hello, we would love to show you our game, Rowboat. Do you have a few minutes to play?”. Of course, I did. I stuck around and came back a few times, dragging other gamers around to show them the game. I had great conversations with these folks about gaming and how difficult it is for a small outfit to compete with all the big booths.

There are plenty others who have been fantastic. Evil Hat Productions, Cubicle 7, Catalyst Game Labs (CANNOT WAIT FOR LEVIATHANS), Fat Dragon Games. Man, I know I’m leaving people out.

“But wait!”, you say. “You’re not actually talking about what led up to this post.”. You’d be correct. I am a big advocate of positive begets positive and I wanted to highlight that I’ve had HEAPS of positive experiences. But now, I will talk about the negative. If you’re still reading this, I give you props for tolerating my Nyquil-fed blatherings.

So, back in Ye Olden Dayes, when I was in high school, I heard about this game called “Dungeons & Dragons”. I totally wanted to play it. By then whilst everyone was reading boring books, I was reading “Xanth” and “Adept” series by Piers Anthony, the “Saga of the Well World” series by Jack Chalker. Of course, I was facinated by the “Dragon Riders of Pern” series. I was totally in love of the idea of role-playing in fantasy worlds. However, in my bible baptist town, not only was this ZOMG SATANIC, but worse…”Girls don’t play these kinds of games”. I was stunned. The dudes I hung around with in high school never minded me being around before. They treated me the same as they treated each other. No awkwardness or ‘omg girl” type things (Or I was too clueless to see it). So when they wouldn’t let me play, it just reminded me of EVERYTHING ELSE I HAD BEEN TOLD I COULD NOT DO as a girl. In band, I wasn’t allowed to play the drums. It wasn’t seemly for a girl. Flute, Clarinet were my options. I picked up the sax, because it counts as a woodwind instrument. I love the sax but HATED playing it.

I was not allowed to join shop class. I wanted to take wood shop so badly. Instead, my options were Home Ec and Cosmetology. I was used to it by adults, but to be betrayed by my FRIENDS? It was crushing.

By the time 1989 rolled around, I had been through a lot of crap that no one wants to go through. As a survivor, I carried on, determined to try to live my own life by my own rules. This worked out wonderfully in many ways and totally failed in others. I was working on the River Walk at Tony Romas in San Antonio. I was sitting around drinking beer with other “River Rats” (people who worked the restaurants/bars on the River Walk). My friend, Ted, had a D&D 1st Edition Player’s Handbook, DMG (Dungeon Masters Guide) and Unearthed Arcana. *grin* He asked if I wanted to join his group. I found myself parroting everyone I had encountered who told me no. I said, “Girls don’t play these kinds of games”. He blinked and said, “You’re wrong and I’ll prove it”. Turns out, he ran a game which included TWO other women! I fell in love with the Forgotten Realms at that point, hungrily reading up all the wonderful stories written by Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb, Douglas Niles, Troy Denning, Bob Salvatore and more. I’m still trying to run a Maztica game. *sigh*

I subscribed to “Dungeon” and “Dragon” magazine. I read about all kinds of game worlds and companies which existed. I bought a lot of their product. The only negative I could say about my first gaming group is that no one wanted to play outside the Forgotten Realms. Even for Maztica, for which I have mad love. For years, I continued to carry around all my books, finding games where I could and meeting other gamers. I attended a few smaller conventions here and there, getting my first taste of Steve Jackson games by way of a game of Killer. Mostly though, I stuck to my D&D Forgotten Realms. My group had upgraded to 2nd Ed when so much amazing source material came out for FR.

I pretty much got used to the misogynist spewings of many nerds & gamers. Of trying to sit at a table whilst a GM tried to force my characters into a rape scenario. Everyone said girl = priest. If you wanted a mage, it couldn’t be an ass kicking mage (okay, so what mages /were/ kicking ass back then?). I had to be a support class. If I was “allowed” to be any sort of fighter, the DM would try to make her sexy, describing all kinds of sexual situations, sexy armor… You get the picture.

I was in a relationship with a bloke when I moved to the DC Metro area. I joined his game group, but it was a frustrating effort. Whilst nice guys, they were very hack & slash. They didn’t like puzzles, they didn’t like story and no one wanted to run a game. Everyone wanted to play. This is how I discovered Deadlands, and thankfully, the bloke running it was GOOD at it. He had a passion for this setting, so I bought everything Deadlands that I could find. This is the game group who ran the Deadlands LARP and we also ran Delta Green Live. After a while, I became frustrated and stopped playing.

I retreated into playing MMOs. No one could force me into being what I didn’t want to be. I could /ignore anyone who was a jerk. I could find other roleplayers and build communities. So, my first MMO was the beta for The Sims Online. Laugh it up, furball. The beta community was FANTASTIC. Turns out, that I randomly stumbled on to friends I’ve known through renfaires! REAL PEOPLE PLAY ONLINE GAMES! I would have great conversations with people who told me about Star Wars Galaxies beta (shut up, haters). I signed up and got in at the tail end of beta. I played (and still log in from time to time) because of the world, the people and the community. I eventually found the Pirates of the Burning Sea MMO community. Much like SWG, I was the very first player spotlight. I was enamored with online play and was ready to ditch all my books. I simply could not find any good groups.

My life changed in an amazing way. I had a flight and ticket to Gen Con Anaheim. I offered my assistance to the Flying Lab crew in 2006 and volunteered in their booth the entire weekend. I was so excited to actually talk to people who made the games I wanted to play. Instead, I wandered around and no one would talk to me. I was flat out ignored. Looked in the eye and before I could ask a question, they moved on to ask dudes, “Hey, wanna try out this game?”.

The difficult part of this is things like this still happen. Not just at conventions, but at gaming stores. Message boards. You name it. When I moved back to Austin, I showed up for a public board game meetup (on Meetup.com). The guys in the store? FANTASTIC. The people playing? I had a smile, some games in hand and looked to join a game. Instead, I received blank looks or simply ignoring when I tried to ask a question. Now, I know that when people are concentrating in a game, it’s not a good thing to be distracted. However, when you’re talking amongst yourselves and you just /look/ at someone and ignore them? That is something else entirely.

And worse? Two of them were women. Whilst all of what I’ve said is hurtful and sad, there is nothing like how the women who DO get into groups treat other women. All women know that look. They give you the up and down once over and the “Don’t even THINK of trying to drop into OUR domain”. *sigh* We’re supposed to be empowering each other and helping foster the inclusive environment, not projecting insecurities.

So what did I do? I joined Geek Girls of Austin and started my own board game night. I run a very casual games evening at my favourite pub and invite everyone to join. Sure it started with women, but we have men who join us. Men who are not being all creepy and overly touchy. But men who want to play games. The women who show up have always wanted to play games; many play Facebook or console games. They’ve been through what I’ve experienced and no one has ever wanted to teach them to play. They’ve heard, “You are a girl. You would never catch up”. “Our game night is boys only, so we can get away from our wives nagging” “This game is complicated. Have you tried Apples to Apples instead?” (which is a GREAT game). NO one has wanted to teach them to play D&D or show them any other RPGs. Many women I know /own/ games, but have no one to play with. Game stores have pretty much shunned them, or the women have had That Guy show up to “help” them. you know. The one who doesn’t understand personal space. The one who is overly huggy and touchy. STOP THAT GUYS. Hell, STOP THAT GIRLS. Women are just as bad at that overly touchy feely ignoring personal space thing. Just. Stop. It. Now.

So here I am. Standing up for myself. Making fun games happen. Inviting other people to play, regardless of experience. Building a community of inclusive gamers and not tolerating anyone’s misogynist, hateful language or behavior. Games are supposed to be FUN. And dammit, I’m doing to do my best to make sure they are.

And as an aside, we play at 7pm Monday nights at the Draught House. Drop me a line if you want to show so I can save you a seat. It’s $2.75 stout/porters night!

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