The 20 Sided Women Project


Hello all, I am d20 Sapphire and I wanted to investigate the situation of women in gaming. I've been going around trying to find people who've been in the community for a while and would love to share their experiences and opinions on the situation of women in pen and paper gaming. My blog can be found here:

I'd love to talk to anyone and everyone with a lot of experience in the community, men and women.

Also, I'm wondering how many people here think women are actually a minority in the RPG community? Most seem to think women are but that's not everyone, and I love hearing back from people.

Thanks anyone and everyone who respond!

I tried to respond earlier but the spam filter was too draconian.

If this works I may try again later on.

Please, feel free to email me: d20sapphire AT gmail DOT com

Ok, after a long wait it looks like the spam filter has died and gone to hell as it were. Where I live, it's mostly girls that roleplay instead of guys. Sometimes, actually, I purposefully go looking for a guy so I can get some testosterone in there lol. I'm fairly certain that women aren't a minority, but a lot of that really depends on the games being played. You won't find as many women in D&D for instance, though they are taking over (!) lol, as you would in WoD. Personally, I'm glad that more women are playing. Not only does it help destroy the stereotype of the nerdy lonely gamer, but it infuses new blood into something that dearly needs it. I think in general women are better suited to the roleplaying hobby than men. They have more social skills and pay more attention to other people, which helps with the whole roleplaying a character thing, and which also helps with the inherent social dynamic of roleplaying, something that many men, especially the nerdy type, generally being more focused particularly on themselves than women, have a harder time with, though men bring things to the table that women generally don't, too.

I recommend reading gamerchick's articles on this site. A good chunk are about her experience as a female gamer, and they're really good. I believe she has a blog under the same name, too, but I'm not sure. Just so you know, I'm a guy myself, but above is my general feelings on the gender situation in roleplaying.

I've always felt that callinga ttention to a thing (even if it's segregation or discrimination, or wahtever) makes it even more real. To be honest, I've never even considered the notion of "women in gaming" because to me a gamer is a gamer. Calling out the distinction calls attention to it, and all of a sudden we have "female gamers" and all their needs. Or "male gamers", and all their needs.

Especially with statements like this, "They have more social skills and pay more attention to other people, which helps with the whole roleplaying a character thing, and which also helps with the inherent social dynamic of roleplaying, something that many men, especially the nerdy type, generally being more focused particularly on themselves than women, have a harder time with, though men bring things to the table that women generally don't, too."

Wow. How much more false could that be? Using generalized statements like that is what creates these perceived problems. Not enough people own their own experience. Rather, they put it out in the third person so they don't have to own it by saying things like "we as gamers...", and "all men..." or "no woman would...". If what you mean to say is "They have more social skills *than me* and pay more attention to other people, which helps with the whole roleplaying a character thing, and which also helps with the inherent social dynamic of roleplaying, something that *I*, being the nerdy type, generally being more focused particularly on *myself* than women, have a harder time with, though *I* bring things to the table that women generally don't, too," then say that instead. Don't lump everyone together and speak for all of us.

Half of almost any discrimination is created by the self-perception of the one being discriminated against. There is no difference between male and female gamers and calling oneself a "female gamer", thus creating that category, is more a root of the problem as anyone doing so has now segregated themself. It's 2009, not 1979.

Not to sound harsh...I just have strong feelings on the subject of self-created discrimination, and you said you wanted to hear from everyone. LOL.

Two points.

First, something is real whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. Ignoring and not mentioning discrimination or any wrong only allows that wrong to continue unabated. Personally, I don't see any "male against female gamer discrimination" but that's just my experiences. However, when speaking in general of anything wrong, I believe very firmly that as many people should know of it as possible so as to help fix the problem. Reality is not something that is changed by our perceptions of it. We can beg and plead with the universe but in the end it will always keep on going, not caring a bit about us. So we have to change things ourselves.

As for the bit about third person. I'm not even talking about myself here. Generally I'm a social guy and hold good conversation. There are inherent differences between men and women and that's simply undeniable. The fact is men are more focused than women (both sexes think differently from the other) and that women are more social than men (of course this is a generality and doesn't apply across the board, but in general it does). I assumed you would judge my intelligence high enough not to assume that I'm a babbling lunatic whose only contact with women has been his mother. You'll have to forgive me for my assumption. I'll have to be more plain next time concerning the fact that I have had many and varied experiences with many and varied women. I'll have to explain I've played extensively with both male and female gamers, hung out extensively with both male and female friends, spent a good deal of time with both male and female siblings and have a healthy relationship with both my male and female parents. And that I've dated women, too. I feel this is at least sufficient to allow me an opinion on general gender characteristics and how they apply to gaming.

To me, this is not a grand social ill but merely a curiosity. I enjoy both sexes because of who those people are in my game. Some men I don't play with, some women I don't play with. When it comes to my table, it's about the people as individuals. But, in general, both sexes bring something to the game that the other sex either can't or doesn't. Of course, as stated previously, this is a generality. This doesn't mean that I think of all men as social losers clinging to their dice and all women as consummate socialites.

If this sounds angry, that's because it is. I don't appreciate my words taken out of context and then twisted in a way to disparage my character. I don't have hidden motives when I speak, in general. I try to just say it like it is. I'd appreciate it if people realized that.

"First, something is real whether you choose to acknowledge it or not."

Still, I stand by my opinion that there really isn't any discrimination towards "female gamers". You yourself admit that you've never seen it, and I think you have a fair amount of gaming experience. There are no longer (and never were in my opinion) "male gamers" and "female gamers". There are gamers...and there aren't. Sometimes a thing isn't acknowledged but is still real. Sometimes it isn't acknowledged because it simply isn't real. If there are men that discriminate against women, that is a case of chauvinism that that one individual probably repeats across his entire experience and likely isn't limited to the female gamers he knows. I stand firm that singleing out a female gamers experience as somehow "different" from a mans creates exactly the rift and difference that is trying to be avoided. I know a lot of black people. One of them plays hockey. He *hates* being called a "black hockey player". He's a black guy...who plays hockey...end of story. Likewise for female gamers. They're no different for their gender. Insisting that they are almost demands they be treated differently, and I personally wouldn't make the time in my group for someone that demands that type of special treatment or extra time. You're at the table or you aren't. Gay, straight, man, woman, black, pikle, sandwich. Who cares?

" as to help fix the problem"

What problem? I still have yet to see any evidence of their being a problem despite being heavily involved in roleplaying, with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of places, for over 20 years. Waving a flag or playing a violin for all the female gamers that have been treated weird (not that you are...) is kinda...well...weird. If I was a female who gamed, I'd be all like, "Yo Can we play now or what?"

"Reality is not something that is changed by our perceptions of it. "

Yes, in fact it is. Believing otherwise is to give away your own inate power to affect the world around you. Perception *is* reality. And by constantly speaking of one social ill or another, we have not drawn more attention as a society to the plights of the downtrodden...we have given those not being downtrodden each an individual niche to hide in whereby they don't have to join the rest of us and be one societal group. We have pigeon holed our culture to death, allowing others to segregate us into our interest groups and demographics so narrow that we no longer have any power as a cohesive whole. Have you considered the possibility that by singleing a group out, you have contributed to their not being accepted as part of the whole? And for those that *are* being downtrodden, we aren't helping them...we're pointing at them and saying "damn, that sucks. Hey everyone! There's a female gamer over here and she's being treated poorly! You can see the injustice inherent in the system!"

"As for the bit about third person. I'm not even talking about myself here."

Really? I think you specifically said, "I think in general women are better suited to the roleplaying hobby than men..."

You can see how starting a phrase with the words "I think..." would lead someone to believe you were talking about yourself and what you think? And as for the rest of that paragraph; if you aren't speaking about yourself, where did you recieve the authority to speak for everyone else? I don't find there to be any intrinsic differences between men and women when it comes to the realm of social skills or paying attention or thinking of others before themselves. As a man, I find that statement to be offensive. I also think it lends more towards what I mentioned earlier about creating a problem by speaking of a social ill that only exists in the mind. Women don't need to be protected or coddled or agreed with. They just need to be treated as equals so we can eventually stop this whole "women do this, men do that" crap that has been infusing our society since who knows when.

Using third person generalities as a conversational tool removes the power of the experience from oneself. It allows someone to speak how they feel without directly owning their part in it. It allows them later to say, "well, I meant in general...I wasn't talking about me". I would normally now add "not that that's what you were doing..." in the spirit of diplomacy; but that is exactly what you *did* do just now, so....I dunno man.

"I assumed you would judge my intelligence high enough not to assume that I'm a babbling lunatic"

I made no comment on your intelligence. If you think that one was implied, perhaps that has to do with how you feel about yourself. Perhaps not. I don't know. I don't care either. I thought we were having an intellectual conversation, and I don't generally do that with people whose intelligence I am in doubt of.

On the topic of genereal gender characteristics; general characteristics of any kind are the *cause* of inter-whatever strife...not a cure for it. How would you feel if I said "black people eat a lot of fried chicken and grape soda and watermelon" or "asians can't drive for shit, but they're good at math". You'd think I was a racist. Yet those stereotypes are based on empirical knowledge, just like yours. I'm not calling you a chauvinist Tzuriel...but do you see where I'm going with this? I've often seen someone bemoan the problems that their intrinsic differences cause in their life, only to then be treated differently because of them in the spirit of a "show of support" from those around them. It has the opposite affect, reinforcing the stereotype even more.

I have a friend that works at a counselling center; there are many women that are treated poorly who end up with men that do it all over again. Equally as common are women that end up with men that feel they need to rescue or protect the woman. They call them White Knights, and they are just as detrimental to the recovery and well being of those women as are the abusers. They reinforce that "yes, you are different because you're a woman and you need to be protected by me and defended by me because I know what you've gone dad did it to my mom" or somesuch nonsense. These women are actually councelled to get with a man that sees them as an equal and doesn't treat them differently for being a woman.

There are an equal number of men counselled at this facility.

Essentially, they are encouraged to seek the company of people that ignore their gender differences in favor of an egalitarian and equal relationship. I believe that it is *that* type of gamer that we should all or woman.

"If this sounds angry, that's because it is. I don't appreciate my words taken out of context and then twisted in a way to disparage my character. I don't have hidden motives when I speak, in general. I try to just say it like it is. I'd appreciate it if people realized that."

Whoa whoa buddy. Calm down. I didn't take your words out of context. I posited a theory for further conversation. I didn't disparage your character either; anymore than you did mine by lumping all men and women together and painting them in generalities for the point of proof. I didn't think you had hidden motives either...I don't even know what that means, nor did I suggest anything of the sort. I, also, say it as I *see* it (I wouldn't assume to know how it really *is*) so can't imagine why you would be bothered by that.

I'd apologize for making you angry, but I'm simply not that powerful as to have done so. Something I said made you make yourself angry. I would apologize for that too...but I still believe everything I said.

Anyways, take it easy brother. You're too young to get mad over shit you read on the internet. *Pats Tzuriel on the back*.

I think it's presumptuous to think that this discussion is about discrimination. Difference does not equal discrimination. I didn't come here to talk about girls being treated unfairly initially. If someone had come to say that, I would've listened, and hoped that no one would tell them that the discrimination is all in their head.

And please, Scott, don't say that stereotypes are based on empirical knowledge, because as a minority a ton of the ones I've heard haven't been based on anything even rational.

I hope that after these long posts I can still get someone to constructively continue the discussion I was hoping to start, and answer a question that has been ignored too long. Are women a minority in the RPG community or is it a perceived minority due to many other factors?

It may have been presumptuous, but I can't help it when I see statements such as "the situation of women in gaming". You've shoved yourself into a corner just by saying that. Difference does not equal discrimination, but I also don't think that there needs to be a difference. I also never said discrimination is all in someones head; I said discrimination that doesn't exist is all in their head.

I also believe it`s naive to think you can bring up the ``gender bias`` topic and *not* discuss discrimination as part of it.

``And please, Scott, don't say that stereotypes are based on empirical knowledge``

Stereotypes are based on *something*. They don`t just get spun up whole cloth from nothing. So what then are they based on...ignorance isn`t the only answer to that question.

That`s all beside the original point though, which was; are women a minority in gaming. The short answer is...yes, they are. Then ones I`ve met that don`t consider themselves ``women in gaming`` blend right in and just become gamers. The ones that insist they are somehow different than the rest of us and expect to be treated differently because of it (yet bemoan the fact that they are) are absolutely a minority.

Act differently, and you will be treated differently. I can tell stories of women I`ve seen in gaming groups that strive to be the ``woman in the group`` and were treated poorly because of it by all the others at the table...including other women. Women (and men) that continually remind others around them of their gender drive me nuts. Same for anyone that plays a race, religion, or any other demographic card to constantly have attention drawn to the fact that they are *different*.

The issue of differences between the genders is very real. Does it need to be applied to roleplaying though; my answer is no, it does not. I generally have an equal number of female players as male players in my group, always have, and I`ve never treated them differently. They have all enjoyed the experience and were grateful to be treated as just another gamer.

My opinion may be at odds with yours, Tzuriel`s or anyone elses for that matter but that makes it no less valid. You said you wanted to hear from everyone, particularily people with lots of experience in the hobby. My view may not prop up your notion that female gamers are somehow different than male gamers, but I have no control over that.

For what it`s worth, I *am* trying to contructively have this conversation, but as is common on the internet the dissenting opinion is painted as destructive. I may not agree with you, but I do want to talk about this.

(you`ll have to forgive my wonky punctuation, my keyboard thinks it`s spanish this morning and is trying to excecise it`s diversity in favor of special treatment)

Scott: After reading and re-reading your first post several times, you came across with what I can only call an intolerant attitude. Tzuriel had the same interpretation and was right to call you on it. You then went to great lengths (literally) to defend yourself and explain you position. Fine, I believe you and all is forgiven. Next time though, consider just retracting the statement as a mistake that you didn't mean to be interpreted that way, apologize for the confusion, and move on.
This is a sensitive sort of criticism, and I've tried hard to do so fairly and non-offensively. If you feel my comments have wronged you in any way, I invite you to take it up with me directly, rather than further distracting from the topic at hand. My email can be found on my blog.

Now where were we?

The question was about the experience of women gamers, and if people think they are really a minority. I am not really part of any active RPG groups anymore, but the groups I see playing at the local gaming store are mostly guys. I think it is likely that a lot of male GM's run their games in a way that is less attractive to women, focusing more on mechanics (mostly combat) than character and story. I put myself in that group as well, though I did learn from from some male GM's that it's possible to run a game that is much better than mere mechanics - they also had more female players.

Whatever; I don't come across passively and make no apologies for my passion. Retracting statements is for politicians, and apologizing is for those that actually feel they're wrong. I've also re-read my first post on this topic a couple of times and see someone with a contrary opinion trying to still be part of the conversation, who then goes on to set the record straight after a knee jerk response to his contrary opinion. If I seem intolerant it's because I *am* intolerant towards people who marginalize themselves through their own self image and then bemoan the fact that they are treated differently. Not that the OP did that. Bbut my comments have been mostly on topic here, except for the ones that are to get people to stop getting on my case and accept the idea that not *every*one is going to spew rainbows from their mouth and agree with each other. Deal with it, this is the internet. People disagree here. Let's leave that alone now, I don't have time in my days to deal with the Internet Tone Police and their sensitivity. Nuff said.


I'll agree that I've seen more female gamers in groups that are more story oriented than rules and combat oriented. I've also seen more ex-actors (males and females), straight up fantasy buffs (again, both genders), and people that haven't really tried roleplaying before in those types of groups. That being said, the crunchiest and most rules heavy player I have ever encountered was a girl. She also came from a statistics background, was a math teacher, and played tabletop battle games long before she got into roleplaying. I think it's more a question of individual preferences and how people came to the hobby than which gender they are. Many of the gamers I've met that came to RPGs from battle games are very cruncy. Those that came from other avenues are very fluffy. I myself am very fluffy and favor the story over the game, though I came from a "gaming since the cradle" background, and when I was younger it was all dungeons and dice rolls and hopefully some treasure at the end of it.

One thing I've found interesting to observe is the types of things that gamers of different genders can get away with. While it sickens's a fact that it happens. A female gamemaster can do things to the female players of female characters that a male gamemaster with the same player could not do. I recall an older episode of The Game Master Show where Erin was describing a scene in her Star Wars game where she had a male gaurd ripping the clothes off of a female character (who happened to be played by a guy, but my comment is about the GM) in order to humiliate her. If a male GM had done that, especially if the player of that character had been a girl, he would likely have upset more than one person at the table. The episode is specifically on the topic of women in games, I recommend giving it a listen. She also goes on to speak about the different ways that women will engage a plot because they, growing up, took different things out of the literature they encountered. For example...knight rescues princess in fairy tale; boys focus on the knight and think about being him, girls think about the princess and how cool it would be to be rescued by a knight. It causes female gamers to approach fiction from a different angle as soon as they have the chance to participate in it (re: RPGs).

I don't really approve of that attitude, as you all know. But if it is what it is, then it is what it is. I've had just as many male players have what most people would consider "female gaming needs" as I have had female ones. In my broad experience with players, the only thing I've learned for certain is that they are all different and every time I make a generalization about any given demographic of them they completely overwrite that opinion when next we play.

Ok, here I go.

First, sorry I didn't reply a long time ago. About right after Scott's second post, life decided to take a shit on me and I had to go clean up. So I was really really busy, and totally lacked motivation to do anything, though I still made sure to do my essentials, such as college and looking for a freaking job. Anyway, things are better now, at least a little bit, and so I can return to my favorite website.

Let me first go way back to what I wanted to say after Scott's second post. Having just reread all that we both wrote back then and all that happened after I mysteriously disappeared, I feel I have something constructive to add to the conversation. I can totally see where you're coming from, Scott, but presentation is everything. The way you worded your initial post, it seemed to me that you were saying I was chauvinistic, socially inept, and generally stupid. The observations I made in my first post I still stand by because they're undeniably true. I didn't make those comparisons in opposition to myself, but only to my sex. However, maybe I wasn't quite clear in my initial post. I was, of course, speaking in generalizations, and the gender differences I named are true, but very slight. Men are generally more task-oriented than women, and women do tend to have more social sensitivity than men. Is that always the case? Of course not. Are these major differences? No. Women are not unable to complete a task, and men are not social loners. These are just slight tendencies the genders have. And just to be clear, I am very clearly not speaking about myself. I am decidedly not task oriented and actually have far more female friends than male friends. But I also like football, action movies (if they're good) and women (in both the friendly and the sexual sense). So, of course, when it comes to treating men and women differently, I don't. I do use gender as a way to inform my understanding of who they are, but I do the same with class, race and any number of other facets of history and personality. I don't believe that being a man or being Asian or being middle class determines someone's personality, but it is a part of it, and shouldn't be discounted. I totally agree with you, Scott, however, when you say that women and men should be treated equally. I don't believe in special treatment either way. But their gender does inform their actions and their roleplaying. That's all I'm saying. I like playing with all people and all sexes because everyone brings something different to the table. Gender is not an overwhelming factor in someone's personality, but it's definitely a factor.

Now, beyond that misunderstanding, there were a whole bunch more on all sides that aren't really worth addressing. We all came off sounding sexist, presumptious, and intolerant at times, and only because our words didn't adequately express what we were trying to say. I'm not calling for anyone to "retract" what they said, but clarification would be really nice. From the posts here and many other posts on this site, I think it's safe to conclude that no one here is sexist, at least not in a raging, ridiculous sense.

So, moving on.

In response to your latest post, Scott:

Yeah, where we come from gaming-wise and storytelling-wise does a lot for our conception of gaming. However, it's not everything. But I'm sure you already know that. I love the term "fluffy" as applied to story-oriented gamers. It actually reminds me of the comedian Gabriel Inglesias, but that's neither here nor there.

An interesting thing, I totally agree, is how sex affects what we can get away with. I personally avoid sex in my games, because I find it makes the game awkward and uncomfortable. Part of that may have been that the last steady group I played with, including myself, was made up of virgins. But I think that rape is always a very touchy subject and one that should only be brought up with caution and after long discussion with the players, and consensual sex follows closely after that. I should clarify, though, by saying these things mostly only apply when being done to or done by the players. NPCs are fair game as far as that stuff, and should be. A game like Dogs in the Vineyard couldn't survive if the NPCs weren't having sex (or at least wouldn't be as varied and interesting). Anyway, part of my avoidance of sexual subjects is due to the fact that I am male and most of my players were female. I agree when you say this isn't good, and I think it comes from cultural associations. It's long been assumed that when a male artist writes about, or films, or paints a scene of rape or sexual activity, particularly with graphic portrayals, that it's because that's what he wants to do to the women (or man at times) in the portrayal. This is especially true if the man is black. To me, this is part of the negative backlash of the feminist movement. Let me clarify. I'm not saying the feminist movement was bad. I think that it had an undeniably beneficial effect on society and certainly believe that women should have all the same rights and privileges as men do. But there has undoubtedly been a negative side, most of which I believe has been directed toward making men out to be evil. For instance, there's this business about the "male gaze" which apparently objectifies everything it sees. I'm sorry, but that's just bullshit. This is one area we can safely say that, if there is a tendency to objectify things in humanity, it's shared equally by the sexes. It's not as if the male sex is the only sex that has a strong sex drive, that enacts horrible violence, or that dehumanizes others around it. The entire human race has trouble with that, and foisting the evils of our species on the male half is just as messed up as foisting it on the Jews or the blacks or the martians, etc., etc. That's all stupid. But, regardless, it does play a part in our society now and continues to do damage. On the flip side of the coin is exactly what you mentioned, Scott. Due to the common portrayal (in many an infuriating action movie especially) of women as passive, waiting for "The Man" to rescue them, many women have to contend with that ridiculously retarded notion, too. Apparently men are helplessly violent and women just sit around all day waiting for men to be violent about something. Makes me love western civilization (not that gender roles in other civilizations aren't hopelessly stupid, too). So, I think that tendency in gaming comes down to conflicting and stupid values that we still struggle with today. When a guy does something messed up to a guy, it's ok, and same if a girl does something messed up to a girl, but if you cross over to the other side, whoo-ee. Now that's just sexist.

So, yeah, I agree with you in almost every way possible, and I suspect you agree with me, too, but we just got all mixed up back there.

But, back to the original topic at hand. I think women are a minority, but a very large one that is fast gaining on the majority. It probably won't be long before they're either neck and neck with men or have surpassed them in the hobby. Which I think would be awesome.