GEN CON EXCLUSIVE: How Can We Make Gaming More Welcoming To Women?
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that by and large, the gaming world is not hospitable to women. Women face accusations of being a “fake geek girl,” are quizzed on obscure and arcane trivia to test their geek cred, or are simply harassed and threatened. On top of that, game design of female characters tends to range from the overly sexualized to nonexistent. This is a great big terrible problem, sure. But how do we tackle this gnarly beast and overcome it? Well, it’ll be hard, but here are some tips we got from the Women and Gaming panel at Gen Con last week!
1. Guys, call out your guy friends.
When you hear one of your buddies make a derogatory remark about a woman or start quizzing a girl to determine if she’s a “real geek” (AKA gatekeeping), say something! It can be as simple as a, “Dude, not cool!” and as non-confrontational as merely asking, genuinely, “Why would you say that?” You can keep it light by trying a bantering tone (“Jeez, bro, do YOU speak Klingon?") or be forceful when necessary (“Look, if you can’t be a decent human being, you are not welcome here.”) The important thing is to not keep silent. If you don’t contradict someone who’s being an a-hole, they’ll assume that they have the tacit endorsement of everyone else, and that is just not true (hopefully).
2. Girls, speak up!
Girls can call out guys as well, but it’s important to remember that the same attitude that makes guys (and some girls!) act this way is the same attitude that will make it harder for them to take criticism from a girl seriously. A better way for a girl to use her voice can be by taking problems in the game industry straight to the game developers. It doesn’t always work, but the more people who are talking about why a game is bad because of a lack of female characters, the more likely it is that someone in the company might listen.
3. Make your money talk.
On that note, don’t stop with writing a blog post, tweeting, or trumpeting from the top of your Death Star. If a game doesn’t have a female playable character when it should, or overly sexualizes female characters that don’t need to be that way, don’t buy it!
4. Create lady-friendly spaces.
If there aren’t friendly groups of people for you to play with, create your own, with the specific intent to create a safe space for beginners and women. Many women want to try gaming, but have never learned, and when they’ve tried to learn, have been mocked for the lack of skill. Most people can tell you that you’re feeling pretty vulnerable when you’re learning a new thing, and when someone sneers and dismissively says “You’re just bad because you’re a girl,” it can cut deep. So when you’re facilitating games, whether its completely via online interaction or if you’re a Dungeon Master of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, make it a priority to not tolerate harassment of women and/or beginners. Try starting a group on meetup.com and see what happens!
5. Get ‘em while they’re young!
Lastly, if you ever have the urge to game with or teach young kids, go for it! People learn ingrained attitudes when they are young, so if you can create an environment where gaming is for everyone, no matter if you’re a boy or girl, you are doing the gaming world a great service, my friend. We salute you!
How do you think we can make gaming more welcoming to women?