Guest Blogger V. Obarski: Gender and gaming

A (admittedly late – sorry!) recap of last summer’s Gen Con from guest blogger V. Obarski. Thanks!

Like many women who attend gaming convention Gen Con, I was introduced to gaming through my husband. But I’ve also attended for more than 10 years, which I believe gives me some solid street cred among the geek set. Or if anything, it’s given me a perspective of how the conventions changed through the years.

A few years ago, when Gen Con moved to Indianapolis, I was interviewed for the Indianapolis Star. Apparently I was so interesting, the reporter started with one of my ancedotes about playing, “Count the people of color game,” in which my friend and I counted minorities attending the convention in Milwaukee. It took us a couple of hours to get up to double digits.

But that was six years ago and it’s funny seeing how much the convention has changed over time. I don’t know if it’s because geekdom is becoming more chic, but there’s definite spots of color at the gaming tables now – it’s not just a sea of white. Even more heartening (as an Asian-American woman), I’m seeing more women of color take up the reins of running games.

Another thing that brought me glee this year was seeing a very out and proud gay gamer contingent. I started seeing them last year. You couldn’t miss the “GAY-MER. +5 TO FABULOUSNESS” shirts. I also had a out and proud GM one night, who ran the game like every other game. In the gaming world, it’s shouldn’t be about what color/gender/sexuality you are. It’s about how you run and play the damn game.

What also amused me is seeing how many families with young children were at the tables. Parents pushed strollers up and down the aisles (although aisle-clogging SUV-sized strollers are not fun to maneuver around). Gen Con obviously recognizes this, judging by all the family-friendly activities they had planned for the weekend and all the games that marketed themselves as family-friendly.

Why do these changes make me cheer? Because for a long time, it has felt like gaming is a “boys-only” club, where any sense of otherness is greeted with suspicion or ham-handedness attempts at political-correctness that degenerate into unintentional hilarity.

Now it feels like I can head to the table, break out my dice and character sheet and get my game on without worrying about someone telling me what to do, talking to my husband instead of me for strategy or saying just something completely boneheaded and stupid, or at worse, flirting with me (not that I would honestly notice — my hsuband noticed the flirting and leering before I ever did. Which shows you how oblivious I am.).

It’s also proof that as a parent, you don’t give up everything and become a “serious” grown-up. You can keep some things like gaming (be it video games, tabletop or something else). There is juggling, but you still can have fun.

I know that someday, we’re going to take my daughter to Gen Con and that it’ll become a family vacation for us (my husband is already speculating as to how soon we can bring our daughter to Gen Con and she’ll have a good time). What’s a comfort is knowing that we can go as a family and even if one of us is on “parent” duty, there’s still fun to be had.

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