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Game Like A Girl: What Does It Mean To Be A Gamer?

Dungeons & Dragons and Critical Role Twitter blew up yesterday over accusations of gatekeeping and the question “who is actually in the DnD community?”

In a long Twitter thread, fans of DnD argued how genuine shows like Critical Role actually are while simultaneously declaring that the only people allowed to have an opinion on DnD are those who have played at least once. On the most superficial of levels, this basically makes sense: DnD is a game, therefore, fans must be gamers. However, with the success of Critical Role and the rise of DnD in pop culture in general, this distinction begins to break down in a big way.

In this particular thread, several people made a relatively common argument that Critical Role is scripted (it isn’t) and, therefore, bad (to each his, her, or their own, but I enjoy the show). Still, even within this argument, since the cast of Critical Role has played at least once, they are Legitimate Gamers and have all the say in what goes on in the community. Even if one believes that Critical Role is entirely scripted and doesn’t count as “real DnD, there is plenty of evidence that the cast played an entirely improvised game before the show went on the air.

Saying that only Legitimate Gamers are allowed into the DnD community is just a bad argument. Letting people enjoy cool things is nearly always better than stopping people from enjoying cool things. Moreover, this is dangerously close to the prejudice that runs rampant through the gaming community already.

For the entire history of gaming, gamers have fought over who is real and who is fake. This has led to rampant sexism, racism, and prejudice against LGBTQIA+ people. For whatever reason, people often think of gamers as white, male, straight, and cis. Any gamer outside of that description might be met with suspicion or outright hostility. From the beginnings of being a “gamer” as an identity, these people have been pushed to the side.

The answer is to just acknowledge that there’s not one way to be a part of the DnD community. If a person has interacted with the game on some level (by playing, watching, etc) then they are a part of it if they choose to be. Doing a witch hunt for gamer cred is a waste of time that it better spent fixing the deep-rooted prejudices within gaming and fan communities.

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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