Once upon a time there existed a mythical wondrous and dangerous land, a place filled with brave, handsome heroes and deadly, blood thirsty villains; noble knights, fearless fighters, dashing rogues, devout clerics and wizened wizards, a place where good fought evil, and evil fought good, and the lines between the two were as simple as the alignment one chose at the beginning of the character creation session and such things were almost as important as a high dex score and good stats on your sword or finding those cool tomes that gave you an extra level! And for a long time this was a Mans Land…a place where virgins were sacrificed and villages pillaged and some Great Lord’s daughter was always in peril (and if you were a bad guy, well, she ended up in even more peril, but if you were a good guy, heck, you sooo had a chance at Thank You Sex with the fair maiden)! It was no place for women! It was an ugly world, filled with bloodshed and monsters, rape and destruction, and while there was the occasional unicorn, by in large this mythical realm was designed for and belonged to men and men alone. And they liked it that way. And when you consider often the social standing of the men who came to occupy this mythical world, one can almost understand why they would want a place of their own; a place free from daily real world life and stress and social pressures…a place where they could be mighty knights or feared monsters. You can almost understand why they would not want to share it with anyone who was not like them- in all ways…except for perhaps the very, very occasional unicorn…who maybe, just maybe, might date them.
But then across this mythical land rolled a black and dreadful blight. It settled into the hills and valleys like a mustard gas cloud, it rolled across the battlefields of legend and lore like the Pale Rider and his associates unleashed! It swept through the villages and forever changed the landscape of this once mighty and mystical land. It had many names and faces: White Wolf. Magic the Gathering. CyberPunk. Shadow Run. Consol Games and MMORPG’s…and with it, came…women. And seeing this the unicorns tossed aside their horns and joined with the new-comers, and the new-comers saw the wonder of this mythical land and wished to test it out for themselves. They too became noble knights and fearless fighters, dashing rogues and devout clerics and wizened wizards…or blood thirsty emissaries of death and ruthless tyrants. And while often these foreigner females were social outcasts or vastly different from the norm or the majority like their male counterparts, they were still different, alien, foreign, and often…unwanted in the land. And that was made evident. Even if the characters being played by these bold women were strong and noble, or vicious and deadly, as players, they were forever reminded of the fact that they were different. Told women could not game, or that they were only allowed in because maybe, just maybe, they’d put out. They were mocked or endlessly hit on, subject to crude sexual comments both as players and as the characters they were playing. This forced some from the realm. Others learned to ignore it. Others learned to turn it to their advantage. Others swore it would not drive them out, for they had just as much of a right to explore, play in, and conquer this realm, be it fantasy, gothic, futuristic, designed at a table or pixilated on a screen, as anyone else.
Yet still, the deep-seeded hatred of the intruder exists. You can see it whenever a woman enters the realm. When she sits at the table, her D&D character sheet in hand. When she walks into the Vampire Clan Meeting, game face on. When she strolls into the Magic Tournament like a gunslinger, her proven and well worn deck as familiar in her hand as a lawman’s six shooter. When she sets up her War Hammer Army and glares across the fabricated battlefield at her enemy. When she sits at her PC or Consol, mouse or controller in hand and headset on, knowing her mere voice will mark her as other. You can see it then. She may be good, she may be the best, actually, but she is other, and will be reminded of that in a myriad of ways. She is, after all…a girl…and this is not her world, and all too often, she will be reminded in countless ways of just how much she is not wanted there.
I know this world. I have been roaming its vast lands and high halls for close to 20 years now. I have seen its people, those who founded it and their heirs, the unicorns, and these hated invaders…I am one of them after all. From that first table top D&D game to Cons, Larps, Tournaments, Raids and Strike Forces, I have wandered, as a Knight, a mercenary, a mage…as cleric, a vampire, a werewolf, a Magic Player, a cyberpunk, a medic, a hero, a villain…and as a woman. I know this place well. I have seen it all…and this place? This place I have come to? It is sexist as hell and there is no doubt in my mind a great deal of the men who are also here hate the fact that not only have women dared to tread upon this land, but cannot stand the fact that some of them not only tread, but do so with great authority and skill, and would, by their own hand, be Lords, Kings, and Combatants Most Skilled within the Realm. And they will not let anyone or anything take that from them. Not the unwanted advances. Not the mocking of their skill. Not the rape jokes. Not the undermining of their work. Not the harassment or hate. None of it. They will not give up and go home. They will not be beaten- and that is all the more infuriating. I have seen this first hand as I have wandered and chronicled the goings on of this place, The Realm of the Gamers….and over the next few posts, I am going to share what I have learned. Sexism in Gaming is alive, well, and rampant, and the time has come to expose it all…
*Sidebar: Before anyone says it, why yes, there are plenty of male gamers who are nothing like what I will be discussing here. Plenty. I have had the pleasure of gaming with numerous fellows who were not sexist and just enjoyed playing with whomever, regardless of their biological sex or gender. So these posts, they do not apply to those fellows…but there are enough sexist douchebags in the realm of gaming that it absolutely warrants mentioning and so I am.