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Preview: The 20 Sided Women Project

The 20 Sided Women Project

I investigate the relationship between women and role playing games, and hopefully answer some of the many questions out there.

Updated: 2017-09-05T19:50:11.328-07:00


An Attempt to Start Anew


Would any of you role-playing ladies in the Chicago area like to participate in a group that will hopefully breathe life into this cause again?

I am trying to bring this back while I still have the time on my hands, so I am hoping that people like the idea of a 20 Sided Women Group to meet up and discuss the things that I have barely touched upon on this blog.  If you think this is a fantastic idea and you're in the Chicago area, please find it here and like it so I know I should start up the group!

Thanks for everyone for being patient once again.  I am finding more free time on my hands so I'm hoping to come back to this more consistently.

How to go forward


Hello all,

I am finding myself in a place where I can actually devote more time to this project, but I'm wondering if the interviews are productive at this point.  I am wondering if a survey at first would be good--but how would I do a survey that would actually be honest?  I envision it to be as informative as the Hite report, with probably less controversy.

I'm also wondering if I should see the "relevance" women's studies would have to women in the RPG world.  Start doing some academic research.

But I do have time now to come back to this, I hope.  I'm planning my next step, and you all should get word about it soon.

I Feel I Should Explain The Situation


It's been a long time, hasn't it.

When I stopped consistently posting here, things at my job started to get stressful.  Being the sensitive person I am, the worries of others, and my own worries about even just getting paid on time, let alone if I want to stay at my job, would ring in my head.  The way I cope with a lot of stress is to proceed to relax as much as possible.  Unfortunately, this coping strategy has taken me away from this project, and all the other projects I love.  I have no problem doing more work for something I love when I'm not worried about being employed or having a paycheck.  But when I am worried, the only way I feel "normal" and function well is if I only worry about one big thing at a time.

And unfortunately I did not attend to this project.  And I feel awful about it.  This is something I really want to pursue, even to the point of doing an experiment.  But I've failed to do that.  I'm sincerely sorry.

As soon as I know (which will be relatively soon) how things are going at my job, I will be back on this blog talking about gender in RPGs.  It's a topic I'm not going to give up on.  And all the support I've received from the get go reminds me how important this project is.

I hope to be posting consistently on this blog again soon.


      d20 Sapphire

Question of the Week #12: It's the holidays!


I've been busy with holiday cheer, and my hope of writing more than once a week has not actually happened.  The holidays aren't officially over, and I'm feeling more festive than serious, so here's a not-so-typical question of the week.

What fantastic RPG swag did you receive this holiday season?

Idea for an Experiment


How many of you are familiar with the beautiful tool that is Google Wave?

I started playing a Paranoia game on it, and as I played I realized this would be a great way to experiment with gender in games.  Specifically, if gender is not known, how do people react to each other in an RPG setting?

This is something I hope I have time to pursue, along with all the other projects I listed on here earlier.  If any of you are interested in participating in such an endeavor, I would love to hear in the comments.  I would possibly need someone to help me manage all the data as well as actual participants.

Once again, there are a lot o ideas but nothing concrete yet.  I promise you, this will be concrete in time.  I can't say how soon, but this is something I want to put on the top of my extracurricular list.

Question of the Week #12


Let's get back in gear!

This Question of the Week is inspired by an article that The Boyfriend shared with me.  You can read it here.  It regards to sexuality in video games, and how two-dimensional stereotypes unfortunately become the norm.  Thomas Cross talks about how the video game industry markets to a "general consumer", which is theorized to be a heterosexual white male.

With that part of the article in mind, my question is this:

Do you think that the big RPG companies (Wizards, White Wolf, etc) market to a "general consumer" that is only one gender?  Or is that "general consumer" genderless?

This article brings up some good questions that could reveal some issues that crossover to the RPG world.  But the difference of the mediums must be noted.

Sorry for the absence


I want to apologize for the week and a half without any kind of post.  My hours at work have increased, I need a break from my extracirriculars for that week.

I don't want this to happen again, and I don't want anyone to think I've abandoned this project.  I have not, and this is still very important to me.

Things to look forward to:

An interview from Wolfcon.  Anna working with Black Sun Games was kind enough to interview with me.  I'm going to get that up ASAP.

Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress.  I'm going to break down and buy it now that I have a decent income stream.

The thesis.  I need to read it more throughly.  As much as 300 pages from a philosophy grad student aren't the most exciting thing, it's very important to this project to see what others have discovered about women in RPGs.

And hopefully, so much more.

Thank you all for your patience.  It's good to be back.  

The Only Girl At The Table


Part of the reason I asked my question of the week (seen in my previous post) is because for the two RPGs that I participated in at WolfCon I was the only girl.  I have never been uncomfortable in this.  I have a long history of a) being the victim of petty girl politics in elementary school and b) tomboy for the majority of my life.  I am very used to being the only girl in a group.

However I began to notice how girls with different experience could easily be turned off by gaming if they were to be the only girl at a table.  It's not that these men did anything outrageous or wrong, but it could easily make a woman uncomfortable.  I began to realize that I was okay with a lot of things a lot of other women may not be okay with.

One thing is jokes.  Guys are more likely to be very crude in jokes.  I am as well, to be perfectly honest.  It's a family trait.  However, not a lot of people are comfortable with genitalia joke with people they only met a few hours ago.  I have friends I've had for years who still don't like me sharing my crude jokes no matter if I am making fun of them, myself, or some imaginary character I just made up.  I can see a lot of my female friends not liking that at all.

I can also see the assumptions that some of the players make about my character being a problem.  For example, someone referred to my character as the "cute girl" without me even describing my character at all.  Yes, she was a girl, but I wasn't even thinking about her attractiveness level.  In fact, if I were to redo this character concept I would probably make her unattractive intentionally, especially f I was making her for a campaign.  It also makes me wonder if the comment was more about me, or more about the assumption that all girls that game want to be a sexier than their real selves.

Also, I find that when I play a female character in a game, her chances of getting hit on go up exponentially than if I play a male character.  I don't know if its because I mostly play with males, who in turn are more likely to think of flirtatious male characters, PC or NPC. It's just something I've noticed through my years of playing games.

All of this was noticed when I was gaming at WolfCon.  I don't want anyone to think that I was offended or put off by any of this behavior.  I was treated with respect and all players were equal at the table.  These habits were just little things that my scare off the average female who may be interested in gaming and hasn't tried it yet.  That might explain why women have been slow to join the RPG community.

Question of the Week #11


I will be writing about WolfCon in the next coming days, including a great interview I got while I was there.  I also had some great experiences with people in general, and who could not resist a weekend of board games and RPGS.

WolfCon has partly inspired my question of the week:

If you are thinking of joining a game at a convention, are you put more at ease if you know that you are not the only one of your gender?

I will be writing my response to this question soon, but first your opinions.

The WolfCon Plan


Hello all.

As I mentioned before, I am going to WolfCon to get some interviews and to have some general fun.  I was talking with one of the guys who's running the Con and we're going to see if there's a way to get some interest for a discussion group on Sunday.  We'll see if people want to talk there but I'll be taking interviews while I'm there.  Please find me!  I would love to find readers there.

I won't be staying all day at the Con, since it's until 11pm every day.  I'll be there until mid afternoon at least.

I will try tomorrow morning to tell you all how to find me one way or another.  I'll try to wear a "witty" nerd t-shirt of some sort.  I'll take any chance I get to wear t-shirts now that I can't wear them at my job.

Hope to see you at wolfcon!

Edit: For those of you that may be actively looking for me, I decided to go for my "meh" t-shirt today.  I'll hopefully see some of you at con!

Question of the Week #10


The idea for this came from me finding out about Google Wave, and how some people are already using it to run table top RPGs online.

Do you think that it's easier to have player gender matter less when one plays a table top game online rather than in person?

I know many of you haven't had experiences where you gender did matter at the table, but please discuss what experiences or opinions you do have.

Language an indicator?


This is merely a pondering of mine, but it is something I should investigate at a later date.

In linguistics in college I remember hearing about the different ways boys and girls would talk to teach other when they were building up friendships.  Boys would tend to have conversations where one was besting the other.  One would say "I kicked the ball really high!" and another would respond "Well I kicked it higher than you!"  And even another would add "I kicked the ball up to the clouds!"  This was just a friendly conversation that boys had with each other, not super competitive but the idea is still there.

Girls would actually talk about what they had in common.  One girl would mention "My mom has blue eyes" and another in excitement would go "My mom has blue eyes too!"  Very different in the sense that instead of trying to be bigger and better than one another like the boys, the girls try to be very much alike.

Of course these differences don't quite stay that way as everyone grows older, but it started to make me think about what the original Dungeons and Dragons was like.  Characters are constantly on quests to get the best rewards.  Each character is trying to level up to become the best fighter/archer/mage/thief in the land.  Although the players may not be comparing themselves to each other, they will be comparing their skills and stats to other non-player characters they encounter in game, and over time in the campaign these characters may become the expert.

The other day while reading the thesis I talked about earlier, the description of gaming reminded me of what I learned in linguistics.  Is it possible that games like D&D help continue the competitive conversation habits that men had when they were young boys?  I can't say for sure, but I find the connection very interesting.

Sometimes I had become an academic so I could find a way to study this more closely, with actual research papers.  This is definitely one of those times.

Question of the Week #9


I am sorry that the question is late: I am recovering from a very busy weekend from my job and sometimes you need to clear your head of thinking for a while so you can restart it. It's a bit like defragging a computer.

The inspiration for this week's Question of the Week comes from the first part of this article, written in 1998 by Brandon Blackmoor. Blackmoor's article essentially dismisses some of the excuses he has heard for not having female characters in a medieval fantasy setting. If for some reason you find yourself having to argue some of these points, Blackmoor does a great job using history to create strong counter-arguments.

But then you have to decide: even if women fight, is that a rarity in your campaign? And how would one deal with it?

So here's my Question of the Week:

Do you prefer a campaign where one gender adventuring is more "special" or rare to find than the other? Does this enhance the depth or culture of the campaign? Or is the notion of one gender being rare in adventure parties useless?

I would like to see reference to not just medieval fantasy settings, but any other settings you readers have had experience with.

A Thesis I Should've Written.


The only reason I say that is that this thesis I found is essentially an ethnography of women in table top gaming. It's titled ENCOUNTERS AT THE IMAGINAL CROSSROADS: AN EXPLORATION OF THE EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN IN ROLE-PLAYING GAMES written by Christopher J. Dyszelski. It was written in 2006 as Dyszelski's disertation. In his abstract he describes his paper as thus:

Ethnographically, this study documents the history and experiences of women in the
culture of gaming. It presents profiles of a diversity of female gamers and explores historically
the ways that women have established themselves as members of this culture and shaped this
traditionally male dominated hobby. It also examines a multiplicity of opinions about and
experiences of sexism, prejudice, and discrimination of women in gaming.

It sounds similar to what I would like to do with this blog, but I don't want to stop with a thesis.

The plan is to read this chapter at a time and to see what Dyszelski discovered, and see what happens when I do my own investigation. I'll report on my findings, don't worry folks.

Still looking for people for interviews--don't think that I have given up on that! I'm hoping that WolfCon will bring more people to talk to and more opinions.

Question of the Week #8


Sorry this is late, I posted it in the wrong blog. But here is it in all its glory.

Do you think that the female presence in the RPG industry needs to be stronger, or is the presence strong enough?

Please discuss!

More on WolfCon: Happenings and My Involvement


I understand that my last post on WolfCon may have seemed a bit random, but I assure you it has some purpose here.  The weekend after Thanksgiving Thursday I am going to be at WolfCon to talk to people about the 20 Sided Women Project.  I'm talking to the people who run the Con about having an event where I am going to have a general discussion about Women in Gaming.  We're thinking about the format and how it should work, since WolfCon has never had an event quite like that before.

In the mean time, if you are in the Chicago area and would like to play an RPG at WolfCon but don't know how it's working out, you should come to a character creation session for the AD&D game they're running at WolfCon.  It is Wednesday, November 11th, at 6:00pm, at the Great American Bagel on 1248 W. Belmont in Chicago.  Anyone with any range of experience is invited to come make a character to play at WolfCon.

The guys running WolfCon want women gamers to know that they are very welcome and that there will be plenty of RPGs for them.  They really want to make it comfortable for them and want to know how to get more women to their con.  Not only am I happy to help and inform but I do plan to play/run/help out with an event here and there.

I'll post more details on exactly my involvement when things are finalized.

A little something I appreciate about the RPG Industry


I was just noticing that although the RPG community would love to more consistently get female gamers, they've taken a strikingly different route than the video game community.

Let's think about this.  From what I've seen, there is no product specifically designed to attract female gamers to the RPG community.  There are games that do play around with gender, like Kagematsu.  A lot of these games play with societal gender roles.  This is entirely different from making an RPG specifically for women.  There are games that would like to appeal to more female gamers, but it's not quite the same when compared to what video games have done.

Specifically, the video game industry has tried to make games specifically for women.  And when I say women, I should really refer to the preteen to teenage market.  With games that have main characters like Barbie, Mary Kate and Ashley, and Miley Cyrus over the years, it's impossible to say that the industry has entirely neglected the girl market.  But has it actually penetrated the girl video-gamer market?

In my opinion, it hasn't.  The video game industry has been able to find out what a lot of younger girls like, but they haven't looked at why girls who already like video games like the games they play.

A lot of the games that have a fairly equal distribution or even a majority of female players in the video game market didn't try to market exclusively to girls or women in the first place.  One great example is one of my favorite game lines: the Sims.  Maxis merely went with a concept and ran with it, and without marketing to a specific gender produced a game that ended up having a majority of female players.  People can rattle on theories as to why, but it seems it was partly due to the fact that early on, there was no specific gender in mind for the players.  Well, there was the time when Will Wright decided not to call it Dollhouse because it made it more feminine, so one could even argue that the Sims market was equally targeting both genders.

The Sims model is more like what the RPG community has done: just make a good game and the players will come.  Could you imagine what would have happened if the RPG industry followed the video game model?  I don't even want to think about.

Don't think about it too much either, it might become a question of the week.

Question of the Week #7


Hello Everyone, It's time for another Question of the Week.

Do you think that women are more open about their hobby when it comes to table top RPGs than men, or less so?  Why do you think that is?

Also, sorry for last week being somewhat sparse, I'm working on making sure that doesn't happen again.

Come to Wolfcon V


I am going to Wolfcon this year, and hoping to be able to talk to gamers about women in the industry.  I'm coordinating with them to see if I will do a panel discussion or something else.  Something tells me a panel discussion may not be the best way, but input is appreciated if any of you have any experience with awesome convention running.

Question of the Week #6


The Boyfriend told me that my post yesterday made women sound shallow.  That was definitely not my intention, but I can see how my entry could've been construed that way.  If I offended anyone with it, I'm sorry.  Unfortunately, women and men are very similar with the way they act in social situations, so to say women act one way and men act another is quite misleading.  Sure, there are trends in behavior, but you can never use those trends as a guide for the entire male or female population.

With that in mind, the Question of the Week is a little less focused on gender and more focused on the social interactions in the RPG community.

When is it no longer shallow to disallow a person from playing in your RPG group?  Does it take certain actions, behaviors or habits, something more or something less?

Let's get the discussion rolling.

Geek Social Skills: are they keeping female gamers away?


As my friend Joel pointed out, gamer stereotypes can hurt female participation in the RPG world.  But is it partly due to social skills?One of my faithful readers, F. Douglas Wall, sent me a link to an article titled "Five Geek Social Fallacies", talking about the preconceived notions geeks have when it comes to their social circles.  I'm going to do my own response to the piece. I suggest taking a glance over it first, then reading my opinion on how this could hinder or help women who may want to join the RPG community.#1: Ostracizers are EvilI think this one is a good point.  People should not be afraid to exclude people they do not like.  I feel in my experience, guys are more notorious for adopting this mode of thinking than not.  They're less likely to see the not so redeeming qualities in their friends, even if those qualities mean the friend is actual an enemy or is merely a constant liability. This kind of thinking can keep women away if a certain player in an RPG group is just not fun to play with.  I find when it comes to an RPG group, a woman is less likely to stay if there's one disruptive person in the group than a man.  Men are willing to get the enjoyment of game when there's a player who is clearly a detriment to the playing experience.  Women have a lower threshold when it comes to those situations.  Not ostracizing the person that people don't like to play with anyway will keep new players away in general. #2: Friends Accept Me As I AmThe idea that people who are true friends should accept you as you are can be reasonable.  Little flaws like being stubborn or wearing the occasional tattered sweatpants when going to the grocery store.  However, when it comes to bigger flaws or personality clashes in any group, acceptance gets tougher.  In my group of friends and from talking to either women friends, most of the time women don't have a problem coming together and saying "We actually aren't friends with this person, let's not hang out with them."  It sounds cruel, but it happens and people tend to move on. It may just be my experience, but I find guys are willing to go with tradition just because it's tradition.  A lot of times when a guy finally cut ties of with someone (for better or worse) it's because a woman close to him suggests it's a good idea.  I hate typing that out because it sounds a little sexist and it makes guys sound easy to persuade, but that has been my observation.  It takes a real big fight of huge proportions for guys not to bury the hatchet anytime soon.   This isn't always for the better.  Sometimes it's better not the be friends with someone for everyone's sake.Getting it back to gaming, accepting anybody as a friend causes a person to get a lot of friends who are actually social liabilities, and not a lot of good friends that are mutually beneficial.  Again, new players would not be attracted to playing with that group of people, regardless of gender.#3: Friendship Before AllThis is just social suicide regardless.  There will always be people or situations you regards as more important than others, but good management of time and priorities is key to avoiding this as a problem.  Although a lot of girlfriends of gamers may be suffering from boyfriends who hold true this mantra, this isn't the kind of social fallacy that will prevent many women from joining a gaming group.#4: Friendship is TransitiveThe idea that all your friends should be frie[...]

Chris Christensen: Gaming Industry Woman


I stopped by GamesPlus in Mount Prospect to see if any of the gaming sages there would be able to help the 20 Sided Women Project, and the wife of one of the employees, Chris, was happy to respond.  She had spent some time in the gaming industry in the 80's and shared a little bit of her experiences in an email to me.

When I joined Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE), I was one of only three or 4 women in the entire industy, so I stood out. Here are some quick thoughts off the top of my head (referring to how men treated me in the industry):

I never had to buy a drink at conventions :)
I had endless dating opportunities (in fact, I met Rett at a game convention) :)
I had many industry job prospects to choose from :)

Ok, all kidding aside:

1. I was treated with a lot of respect. I was the sales mgr at ICE and folks listened; the job demanded respect and I just assumed it.
2. Retail owners, when I visited their stores all over the country, would close the store for lunch & insist on taking me to lunch to talk business. In my current job, that would never happen.
3. I was the only woman and the youngest, initially, at ICE w/8 other employees (all men). One of them was very macho and chauvinistic, but I held my own and proved I could do the job. He even started to rethink his thoughts on women as a result (a big achievement I claim).
4. During my tenure, sales went from about $1-$5 million/yr (one of the best in the industry at that time)
5. Except for the one fellow, ICE had pretty progressive men working there. I never had to fight off a scantily-clad woman on the cover type thing. However, during this period, one of the covers that came out of FASA (of Battletech fame) was of a naked woman. The print run had to be recalled because retailers refused to shelve it. Had I worked at FASA, I would have fought that cover.
When I started at ICE, I had never played a rpg. I insisted that I was a sales person—I didn’t need to know how to play. The bossman conned me into “gametesting” Middle-earth Role Playing, which he insisted was an easier version (not as challenging as Rolemaster). Hah. Anyway, I recall rolling an E-Crit on the old game chart and my character died from a massive concussion. I could say I was so traumatized that I never played again—but that’s a lie. I played a few more times (and didn’t die), but I haven’t played an rpg in at least 12 years.

Thank you Chris for your insight!

It looks like from this, even in the 80s during the RPG boom, that being a woman in the RPG industry wasn't really a detriment, like it is perceived to be in many other industries.  Of course, I'm only saying this talking to two women who were important in the industry at two different times... as more investigation continues we'll see how consistent this observation is.

Question of the Week #5


I really loved reading last week's discussion, I hope to get another one just as good going.

Question of the Week
How much have you seen video games affect female participation in your table top RPG community?  Has the affect been positive, negative, or no affect at all?

And look out tomorrow for another exciting post.

Kagematsu: Encouraging Cross-Play


A friend of mine told me about this game a while ago called Kagematsu, which in the rules requires cross play. I think here is the latest website I found for Kagematsu, but on this wordpress blog are rules from 2007, before the game became published.

This game reminded me of the cross-play post I made earlier this week.  In the rules, there is one lone warrior wandering through the village that is played by a woman.  The rest of the characters, regardless of gender, play women who try to get the warrior to defend the village.  The question is why would the creator have the woman play the lone, wandering warrior?

I have a theory.  This game is very dependent on a romance story line, and seeing if that story line succeeds or fails.  Women are generally perceived to be more inclined to romantic notions.  Just think at who the entire romance novel market is geared to, and which gender is expected to like random flowers, chocolates and other similar affections.  Maybe this creator thought it would be easier to get to the love story element of the game if the person being desired really understood what makes a man desirable.

As I said, this is only theory.  I would love to see what you readers think.

A Letter to the Gaming Industry


Filamena Young, who I had interacted with before on the blogs, forwarded me a new blog on wordpress called A Letter to the Gaming Industry.  If you click the link you'll find an open letter to the gaming industry on the opinions of women in the RPG community focusing on how they are treated.

It is important, as the minority in a community, to know how a community reacts to you, and how to react to the situation at hand.  It seems the open letter addresses those kinds of concerns.  I think it's crucial to at least have an open discussion about how women are treated in the RPG community and how we feel about it.

I encourage you all to check out the other articles that are featured on this blog if you are interested as I am about the subject.  They're all short but interesting reads.

Also, a quick thank you for all of you who have been sending me very interesting links.  I'm looking them over and trying to post on all that I've received so far.