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Classic Games (Games) Games

How Women Became Gamers Through D&D 239

An anonymous reader writes: To add some historical context to the currently controversy surrounding attitudes toward women in gaming, Jon Peterson provides an in-depth historical look at the unsurprisingly male origins of the "gamer" identity. It also examines how Dungeons & Dragons helped to open the door for women in gaming — overturning a sixty-year-old dogma that was born when Wells's Little Wars first assumed the "disdain" of women for gaming.
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How Women Became Gamers Through D&D

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  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @06:07PM (#48144737) Homepage Journal

    The idea that there are few women gamers has always been a myth in the first place. Sure there are certain genres where men and boys dominate the demographic, but there are also genres where women dominate the demographic.

    The idea that women "don't belong in gaming" or are "under-represented in the gaming community" is a myth perpetrated by the same kind of childish mentality that thinks "l33t speak" makes one cool and special.

    • I've seen a surprising number of women that see gaming as a "boys thing". That is slowly changing with age, but it is still more prevalent than with men. When I was a kid, only nerd played video games or PnP games. Real boys splayed sports. That has changed now, and it is perfectly acceptable for all boys to play games, and most people are even coming around on male adults gaming. With girls/women, there is still a more prevalent view of it not being "normal" to be in to gaming.

      Funny thing is, it'll come fo

    • The idea that women "don't belong in gaming"

      I've literally never heard anyone say that.

    • This depends on what people mean when they says "gamers". Speaking as someone who owns a shop that sells Tabletop games like Warhammer, Magic the Gathering, D&D etc, men outnumber women about 20 to 1. But then the reverse is probably true for stuff like Candy Crush on facebook. But lumping all that stuff together under the umbrella term "gamers" paints a gigantic gloss stroke over some significant differences. There is a big divide between the stuff that involves "being a geek" and stuff like facebook g

  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @06:14PM (#48144797)

    "Jim Dapkus wrote one of these: he loved the game but expressed concern that it offered little by way of roles for female characters. He complained that a “witch or female counterpart to the magic user is not listed,” aside from the lone illustration in Men & Magic of a “Beautiful Witch.”"

    So women don't want to be a magic user, barbarian, thief, ranger or paladin (all arguably sexless) but... a "witch"?

    O'RLY...

  • by SillyHamster ( 538384 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @06:17PM (#48144829)

    overturning a sixty-year-old dogma that was born when Wells's Little Wars first assumed the "disdain" of women for gaming.

    The quote is "for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books." Nothing about disdain.

    And judging by the gaming friends I've interacted with over the years, the quote holds true for gaming even today. The ratios are close to even in social games (including MMOs), not so much for shooter/wargames.

    • > The ratios are close to even in social games (including MMOs), not so much for shooter/wargames.

      Can you blame them? Hell, I don't either want to listen to some 14 year old f-bomb this, f-bomb that, trash talk and whine about everything and not learn a dam thing about _teamwork_.

      Thank God for private servers, and SourceMod to freeze / slay / ban the little shits.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

        Thank God for private servers, and SourceMod to freeze / slay / ban the little shits.

        This really, really is the answer. The only way some people learn good behavior is by learning there are consequences for bad behavior.

        By the industry forcing all these games to be on company-owned servers, they have inadvertently created this situation. When I first started playing multiplayer games, like Starcraft or Counter-Strike, you didn't run into this kind of nonsense. If you cheated or were a horse's ass to othe

    • overturning a sixty-year-old dogma that was born when Wells's Little Wars first assumed the "disdain" of women for gaming.

      The quote is "for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books." Nothing about disdain.

      Well, it is a put-down for the average girl, since "the more intelligent sort of girl" would be the one who likes "boy's games and books."

      My guess is that they were just looking for a quote to back up their bogus thesis. After all, quotes are like statistics - you can find one to prove anything :-)

      • Well, it is a put-down for the average girl, since "the more intelligent sort of girl" would be the one who likes "boy's games and books."

        Doesn't say that the girls who don't like boy's games/books are dumb. By this standard, every comparative compliment demonstrates disdain.

        "That girl is fitter than most"

        "OMG, you think the average girl is fat?!?!"

        The point of the description is to describe a set of people. It's not making claims about people outside the set.

        • It describes SOME girls - the ones who are "the more intelligent sort" as being the ones who would like "boys games and books."

          The point of the description is to describe a set of people. It's not making claims about people outside the set.

          Or, as you put it, a subset of girls are intelligent enough to be equal to the boys.

          How about putting it into modern-day context: "the more intelligent sort of woman who likes mens stuff such as programming and video games."

          It doesn't pass the smell test. The "description" is an implicit putdown that girls, on average, are less intelligent than boys. After all, only "the more i

          • Let;'s turn it on it's head:

            "the more intelligent sort of boy_ , the one _ who likes girl's games and books"

            You butchered the quote to add an emphasis that wasn't there. It's not that hard to do a search/replace for girl/boy.

            for that more intelligent sort of boy who likes girls' games and books

            Second, the quote is not attempting to describe "intelligent girls", but "the intelligent sort of girl". What difference does it make? The quote does not say any thing about the "intelligent sort of girl" who doesn't like boys' games and books. The author is not saying they do not exist or that they are inferior - they're just not part of his intended audience and so he doesn't refer to

            • Your argument doesn't make sense and is a bit insulting to boot.

              "If you're a gaming girl who's reading the book, essentially you're being complimented by the author as being intelligent."

              Because the implication is, as the original quote made clear, that reading a book is something boys do, or intelligent girls. Notice it does not say "intelligent boys" So boys - generic, as in all boys, It's a "guy thing."

              But the original article is also wrong about gamers, and falls into the trap of sexism by assuming that the original gamers were more than 99% males, because D*amp;D attracted that audience.

              The original gamers go back bef

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

            How about putting it into modern-day context: "the more intelligent sort of woman who likes mens stuff such as programming and video games."

            1. That implies that programming and video games are "mens stuff" (sic), which is clearly not true. Currently half the people playing video games are female, and a few decades ago there were far more women doing programming than there are now.

            2. It implies that "women's stuff", things that the writer thinks women enjoy doing, are more suited to those with a lower IQ. That is clearly nonsense.

            It amazes me how many guys are still suck with these ridged ideas of what it means to be male or female. Women shook

            • 1. That implies that programming and video games are "mens stuff" (sic), which is clearly not true.

              That was my point. It's like claiming that D&D introduced women to gaming, when the facts say otherwise. Risk and Monopoly have all the competitive elements, we all played them as kids, and some of those games took a whole afternoon. About the only way to argue against this fact is to claim that only people playing D&D are "true gamers." The article is simply factually inaccurate by assuming there were no "gamers" before D&D.

  • How Women Became Gamers Through D&D

    Yup, lump them all together as one homogenous mass. They love that.

    • Well, of course they love it -- they're one homogeneous mass, after all. It's only the ones not part of that mass who don't appreciate being lumped together.

    • My guess is that women were willing to take up D&D because it was about creating stories and using the imagination, not unlike the written fiction we prefer to cartoon donkey kongs and little falling blocks that boys seem to like.
  • by Gnaythan1 ( 214245 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @06:41PM (#48145059)

    several marriages have emerged from my gaming group, Lots of dating, I've been running games since I was 13, I'm 49 now. In college, I was running groups that were always co-ed. after college, once I was married, I was running games with a mix of married and unmarried couples. Nowadays I pick my gamers based on whether their kids get along with my kids.

    Retirement is going to rock, a bunch of old fogies, rollin' for initiative.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @07:43PM (#48145597) Journal

      Retirement is going to rock, a bunch of old fogies, rollin' for initiative.

      I was lucky enough to be able to retire (mostly) just after my 50th birthday, and let me tell you, my skills have since gone through the roof. The problem is, that my similar-aged friends aren't into gaming, so I find myself playing with a lot of younger people. It kept me off multiplayer games for a long time. Fortunately, I'm now starting to connect with people who are avid gamers and know how to behave, so I'm slowly getting back into it. I've had to scour the comments sections of gaming sites and then see if I could find their accounts on Steam or Origin. I also joined a good outfit in Planetside 2.

      Now, my main problem is that I play at a time when most people near me are working, so most of the gamers I encounter are half a world away. Thankfully, broadband speeds are such that it hasn't been too much of a problem. Now if I could just learn to speak Finnish or Chinese.

      • I was lucky enough to be able to retire (mostly) just after my 50th birthday, and let me tell you, my skills have since gone through the roof.

        Lucky guy. I'm not the greatest gamer, but I have found when I watch game streams on twitch/ustream I do a similar thing to the sports fans screaming at the TV.

        "Gaaaah! Why haven't you secured your minecraft build spot, that creeper showed up because you don't have torches and walls up! Why are you heading out into that forest at NIGHT! Build a tree farm inside walls so you can get wood safely 24/7. GAAAAH DON"T eat apples, save them!"

        Now, my main problem is that I play at a time when most people near me are working, so most of the gamers I encounter are half a world away. Thankfully, broadband speeds are such that it hasn't been too much of a problem.

        Ditto, I work overnights so I usually play at times that are non-pri

  • To put it simply (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    you don't know what you are talking about. You must be young. Back in the early days of D&D (and I'm talking nearly 40 years ago - so if you relate to that, you are in your 40s, 50s. or 60s), we had plenty of women in our groups (my best friend's mom was even a passionate player) - and it wasn't odd, or revolutionary, or reactionary, it was just normal, that wasn't even a consideration then, and it remained so all the way up to the 90s (and the same was true for comic books, science fiction or fantasy n

  • I have been on the receiving end of plenty of disdain about my gaming, from multiple members of the opposite sex.

    I am male.

  • by invid ( 163714 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2014 @08:53AM (#48148551)

    I was in 3 different long lasting D&D groups in the 1980s. I think most of us would have loved to have girls join, but no girls played with us in that decade. Whenever we got the balls to ask a girl to play they just looked at us like we were crazy, like they would get nerd cooties. I went to a D&D convention in New Haven at that time and I remember there was only one girl out of about 500 guys. She was very popular, with a whole lot of guys wanting to be in her group.

    There certainly was a social penalty for me being a nerd at that time, but I didn't feel I had a choice. I loved gaming and it was part of my identity. At that time, however, I think there was a larger penalty for female nerds coming from the non-gaming community than for male nerds. Any girl joining our very small and admittedly not very attractive group probably would have been marked as a pariah by mainstream social groups.

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