I was lucky enough recently to have the chance to interview women who attend the events at my local gaming organization, GASP (Gaming Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania), as well as organizers of GASP. GASP’s recent convention (Fall 2012) had about 20-25% women in attendance, and that is awesome! It’s a good number to start with, and I wanted to see what was being done to include more women in the organization, and how women felt about the organization as a whole – why they came, and why they kept coming back. I’ve got a set of questions below for each woman – Amy Arner, Katie Schraeder, Kate Gill, and Gina Hart – and compiled them into a summary below Don McCalmon is one of the GASP coordinators who I met at GASPcon. I asked Don some questions via e-mail, and his interview will be in a separate post.
GASP has monthly game days on the second Saturday of the month, and holds a small convention later in the fall. They have a ton of board game players, some miniature gamers, and some tabletop RP gamers.
About the interviewees:
Amy Arner is a genealogist by day and as a hobby. She has a husband and has two cats that both require her time and attention. Amy said that she started playing games with her husband, but soon the hobby became her own. She says GASP gives her a good place to meet new friends, and that she enjoys the brain activity from gaming. Her favorite games are Brass, Blokus Trigon, and Agcricola. Her first board game was Railroad Tycoon.
Katie Schraeder is an interactive media developer trying to get into textile design, so she sews and crafts a lot in her spare time. She also started gaming because of her fiance, but like Amy, she found that she really enjoyed the pastime. Her favorite games are puzzle games, euro games, Ameritrash games, RPGs and board games, and she really likes Alhambra and Settlers of Catan.
Kate Gill is an artist who is working as a hostess to support her art at Skullduggery Studios, and plays RPGs primarily. Her favorite games are Pathfinder and the Star Wars Saga. Kate came to GASP after looking online for local game groups.
Gina Hart is a librarian for an engineering company. She enjoys spending time with her pit bull, Otto, and likes games that tell a story like Mouseguard and Fiasco. She also mentioned enjoying Ganakagok – an Inuit setting story game. She said she has always been lucky to find good groups to game with.
I asked the interviewees about how long they had been gaming, and what kind of games they play. Most of the women said that they have been playing games from as young as 5-10 years old – and that’s awesome! They play majority board games, card games, and tabletop games, but Amy and Kate talked about playing video games as well. Katie said her “absolute favorite games are Winner’s Circle and The Sorcerer’s Cave”.
I asked about barriers to playing, and Kate said when she was young she wanted to play, but her mom didn’t want her to play – eventually she started playing computer games, and has been playing tabletop for about 8 years. Gina talked about how she originally started playing Blue Box D&D – she bought the game herself when she was around 10 years old, and taught herself how to play it, in spite of confusion over the lack of pieces. She also got to play games with her teacher and other students early on in school, and was part of a D&D club. Kate talked about attending an event in Morgantown at the Four Horsemen that would have been great, but she found the GM to be a tough person to play with. She said that GMs can make or break a game, so coordinators should keep an eye on that.
Gina talked about how during college she had moved away from tabletop gaming, which seems like a common trend. Moving away from your game groups and having busier adult schedules affected many of the people I interviewed, but they all came back to gaming. Gina wanted to tell more stories in gaming, so she is interested in story games, but currently playing a Pathfinder campaign.
I asked what keeps the women coming back to GASP, and the biggest thing they noted was that the GASP coordinators and players are all very friendly and polite. The coordinators and players invite people into games and meet them whenever they come in for the first time, and the women feel welcome especially in the new open space. Kate mentioned that she likes that there are both one-shots and long-term campaigns, so there is always something to do. The only major criticism was that the website is a little out of date, and it can build a barrier to getting into new games. Katie said that she noticed she stays a little longer each time, so GASP must be doing something right! Gina made the suggestion that making sure there is always someone looking around for players who are wandering at events like the GASP Game Days and GASPcon is a good idea.
Edited: Edited to correct the name of a game and add a link per Petra’s comment. Thanks!