Sunday, October 5, 2014

The First Female Gamers



Over on Medium, I posted a new and lengthy piece about the first female gamers, and how Dungeons & Dragons managed to win the interest of women where prior wargames had not. The process of making the hobby more inclusive was not an entirely smooth one, as the illustration above might suggest. You can read the essay here:

https://medium.com/@increment/the-first-female-gamers-c784fbe3ff37

10 comments:

  1. Interesting article. A few thoughts come to mind.

    First, as you hinted, when Gary and Don (Kaye) printed 1000 copies of D&D we thought they were absolutely insane. That was a huge print run for anybody but Avalon Hill in 1973.

    Second, the past is a different country. 1974 is a long time ago and I wonder if Gary ever dreamed an off the cuff smartass remark would haunt him.

    Third, Mary Dale's character was an Elf Hero/Magician, I think. Not yet a Hero/Warlock, that much I'm sure of.

    You know, I met both my wives through gaming...

    ReplyDelete
  2. No mention of Elise Gygax? Wasn't she one of the first two people who ever played in Castle Greyhawk?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Although I know that in later years, Gygax sometimes recalled Elise as a playtester, she does not appear on any of the (quite thorough) contemporary lists he provided in the 1970s. The story of the "first two people" in Greyhawk was first recorded in Dragon #302 (2002) as far as I know. That is late enough that, per my method, I don't treat it s a source.

      Delete
    2. Ever think of asking Elise at GaryCon, or is direct memory too uncertain?

      Delete
    3. Oh you know me, I have to do things the hard way.

      Delete
  3. While they my have been in the minority women at the game table has been a reoocouring feature throughout my life.
    When I was a small child my parents would get together with otherr couples and play boardgame virtually evey friday or sauday night(dragging my brother and I with them). They played some traditional massmarket games but they drifted towards Avalon Hill games with Diplomacy being a favorite until my mother won game after game after game. I played wargames at an early age because of such exposure and soon after discovering D&D my first two players were my parent with my mother being trouble from the start wanting to play a Pixie (which really was no problem). Alas my mother ony played a handfu of times.

    Because of gaming I met my first wife (for better or worse) who had been paying sinnce her middel teens with some girls from my town that I knew and was freindly to but never eally socialized with prior to that(darn).

    My second wife I met online dating but oddly enough she knew some of the same people I did thanks to gaming. Her introduction to gaming was in college and she inheritted a big box of games and gaming books from a female proffesor while she was at a woman's college. The proffesor had been playping since the 70's and saw how much my wife was enjoyng RPGs so passed on her game stuff to my future wife.
    I know a little bit of rambling there but I find the social connections of gaming interesting and how so many gamers have treated females as a foreign intrussion to gaming rather curious.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good reading, thanks. Still no Gemignani fan? ; )

    Don't forget the female contingent among the original "Tekumel" gamers back in the day (circa 1950) as well. Not just cosplay eyecandy for the SF cons...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gemignani does get several citations in Playing at the World, and she very nearly got one here. But her situation in Dippy fandom is especially complicated, in part because of her inscrutable handwriting (and grammar). Doing justice to her would require more real estate than I could afford. She would also bring Midgard into this, and its gender composition, which is its own story.

      Original Tekumel is a harder thing to unpack, but I think the mention of the SCA is a good surrogate for several SF fan activities pre-D&D a that probably fall a bit short of being proper "games" - I don't talk about Coventry either, say, although it was also a pseudo-game with female participation. The important bit is just that these communities took to RPGs and that they had greater gender diversity before D&D appeared.

      Delete
  5. I strongly suspect I;m the "Paula" referred to in the article. I was in the MIT Strategic Games Society most actively in the 1971/1972 academic year, and remember playing D&D at least once in spring 1975 there. (Mark Swanson was IIRC being the Gamemaster and there was a talking coin, which also one thought to ask, "Why are you a talking coin" -- which was an enchanted dwarf prince (strange what one remembers years later...)

    ReplyDelete
  6. That should have been "which no one one though to as" [latency -effecting typoes]

    ReplyDelete