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Game Like a Girl (Part 2)

I got a bunch of great feedback from my last post of the same name, and I decided to extrapolate on it a bit more in a new post.  Thank you to everyone who contacted me with your thoughts through email, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit!  I know I won’t get to everything in a reasonable post length though, so expect more “Game Like a Girl” posts!  I probably won’t do them every week, but I plan on writing about this topic a lot more.  If you have anything you want to say or ask, comment below or contact me somehow.  I loved hearing from everyone!

To go back a little further with my own personal stereotypes, when I was a child, I was a tomboy.  I really liked things like Power Rangers, Pokemon, and Dragon Ball Z.  I felt like being girly and liking these things were exclusive since everyone else that I knew who liked these things was a boy.  I remember being brutally made fun of because I brought my gold Goku that I got from Burger King to school.  I showed my prize to some of the boys in my class who I also knew liked the show.  I still remember what they said to me very clearly:  “Girls don’t like Dragon Ball Z.  That means you’re a boy!”  It’s a pretty lame insult now, but it greatly affected me.  At six years old, I started to internalize the idea that I had to choose one or the other.  I picked acting like a tomboy because I didn’t want to give up the things I loved.

It took me a long time to get over this.  I was in college when I finally had the epiphany that I didn’t have to pick one side.  Now, I do what I want because I enjoy it, not because it fulfills any sort of stereotype or role.  I wear lots of makeup and paint my nails because I think it’s fun to apply it.  I like the color pink because it makes me happy.  I like playing DnD and reading comics because it’s fun.  I like drinking like a dwarf because beer is delicious.  I can survive without these things.  I go out without makeup and without doing my hair all the time.  I can go on without playing DnD or making games.  The problem is, I don’t want to.  I have been afforded many opportunities in my life that allow me to have hobbies.  From these hobbies, I have chosen a few identities for myself: gamer and girly girl (among other things).

It seems really obvious for a lot of people that you can be both, but, in my experience anyway, it is really hard to reconcile that idea in your head.  If I had chosen to be “girly” and not “geeky,”  I would have been insanely turned off by roleplaying games.  It’s entirely wrong, but there is an idea in our cultural consciousness that says games are for boys.  Even packaging that seems pretty nuetral will turn off those of the girly persuasion.  This is where pink and sparkles come in.  It’s playing off of stereotypes, but in this case, it’s a good thing.  Not every game needs to be packaged this way, but games that are could be a nice introduction for potential gamers.  Additionally, they already have a market with girly gamers.

Wizards of the Coast and Shelly Mazzanoble have been using this method for a while now.  In 2007, Mazzanoble wrote Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress, which was published by Wizards of the Coast.  If you haven’t read the book, it’s about Mazzanoble’s journey from zero to gamer.  She’s coming from the other perspective; instead of unleashing her girly side, she’s trying to unleash her gamer side.  It was actually my first introduction to DnD.  I got it, along with a 3.5 player’s handbook and DMG for Christmas.  At the time, I didn’t relate to Mazzanoble, but I read it again in college when I actually started playing DnD and I enjoyed it much more.  It’s a good introduction to what DnD is and it shows how everyone can enjoy the game, no matter what their other interests are.

Mazzanoble has recieved some flack for this.  When I wrote my last post, someone directed me to the blog “Go Make Me a Sandwich.”  I highly recommend reading the blog, but what they were linking me to in particular was a post about Mazzanoble and why she shouldn’t be the voice of women gamers.  I agree with the blog on a lot of points, but I don’t agree that she should be banished entirely.  I agree that Mazzanoble shouldn’t be the voice, but I don’t think anyone should be “the” voice.  It’s putting “girl gamers” (for lack of a better term) into a box that they just don’t all fit in.  Rather, Mazzanoble has every right to be a voice for women who are gamers.

In her blog, Mazzanoble does exaggerate herself so that she blows past being interested in fashion and instead is obsessed to a fault.  She also shows zero confidence in the game and its rules.  I disagree that the first part is a problem.  It’s exaggerated for her audience even though I understand that it’s annoying for others.  I also get why she writes about being anxious.  To me anyway, games are intimidating when you first start to play.  Roleplaying games usually have a lot of rules.  Playing DnD for the first time is super intimidating.  The first time I played, I felt stupid having to ask how to do everything.  The DM assumed I hadn’t read the player’s handbook.  I did, but, since I had never played, it made no sense to me.  I’m highly competitive and I go a little nuts when I don’t feel like I’m one of the most, if not the most, knowledgeable person in the room.  If I wasn’t stubborn and didn’t really like the group I joined, I would have quit because it was “too hard.”

Additionally, I don’t think people should be shamed for being a “casual” gamer.  The community has ruined the word.  Being a “casual” in gaming, as a lot of people know, is a bad thing.  I personally feel like everyone who likes to play games and chooses to identify as such, is a gamer.  There’s no test you need to pass in order to be part of the gaming community.  A few years ago, the fake geek girl thing was really popular.  Anyone who knows me knows that I devour comic books.  I love them.  I especially love Batman.  However, for a while, whenever I wore a Batman (or really any comic or geeky) shirt, I got a quiz.  “Do you just like the Nolan movies or do you actually read the comics?  You read the comics, huh?  Who was Batman fighting in issue blah blah blah blah…”  To a lot of the communities credit, I haven’t experienced as much recently.  The problem is, I still experience it.  A lot of women I know also still experience it.  Instead of being met with disbelief or being thought of as the token girl, women and everyone else who doesn’t identify as being a white male should be met with geeking out over a mutual interest.  If he or she doesn’t know as much about the thing as you, talk about what’s mutual.  See what they like about it.  Who knows.  You could find that they make you look at the game in a different way.

This is barely skimming the surface on something I have a lot to say on.  It’s easy for me to want to drown people in words, so at nearly 1300 words, I’ll cut myself off.

What do you guys think of this?  What is your view on Mazzanoble or casuals?  What topics did I not cover that you would like to read about?

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a writer, editor, and podcaster. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet, was also a writer for Trinity Continuum: Aberrant 2e, and has been published in books and magazines. She is an editor for the pop culture and media website GeekGals.co. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile, produces and performs on Fables Around the Table, and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

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