In early 1998–yes, 16 1/2 years ago–another woman and I gave a presentation at a gaming convention brilliantly called “Women in Gaming.” Brilliant, of course, because it was about women in gaming. I should point out by “gaming,” we were talking about RPGs. Tabletop RPGs. With dice.

I know, it was a really long time ago. I recently found my old hex maps (large and small hexes–you can’t do a decent sprawling combat with anything but the small hexes, but the large hexes are great for small combats) and got nostalgic.

In any case, back to 1998. The room–albeit filled with as many of my friends as possible, because that has always been my strategy for public speaking–was comprised mostly of men. That was to be expected in 1998. Most of my friends packing the room? Men.

Which is why and where I struggle with modern troglodytes who object to women in gaming (of any sort) or who threaten and harass the people who call them on their misogynistic BS.

You see, in 1998, in a room full of people who weren’t all my friends (despite my best efforts), we fielded questions from men who wanted to know how to get more women interested in gaming. What could they do in their games to make them more enjoyable for women? What was offensive? What would not be offensive? What plot lines, what villains, and so on?*

In 1998, I had been gaming for years and had been hit on, inappropriately touched without my consent (that was MY thigh, thank you very much), and generally harassed at gaming conventions. But that was also true in every other part of my life. It wasn’t okay, it isn’t okay in any time, but it was what I’d had to deal with. (I have held exactly one job where I was not sexually harassed.)

In 1998 (and before), the men I met at conventions, whether at that talk or elsewhere, never made me feel less than welcome. (Their games might be boring roll-fests with four-hour combat sessions, but I was still welcome.) They wanted women there. If your game had women players, it was a status thing.

In 1998, a lot of people–men and women–wanted to see more women involved in gaming.

It’s 2014, and here they are.

Which is why I wonder what’s the problem? We’re supposed to be getting better at gender equality, not worse.

I suspect it’s the Internet: it’s very easy for anonymous trolls to snipe and threaten good people. So here’s my plea: if you have a misogynist asshole in your gaming group, shame him. Kick him out. If he posts flaming anti-feminist turds on one of your message boards or on Twitter or on Facebook, block him. Until you let people like this know their behavior is so obnoxious, so reprehensible, and so disgusting that you can’t stand to be in the same room with them, they will continue it.

I know it rocks the boat. I know it’s uncomfortable. But even if you can’t change their minds, you can change their behavior.

There are lots of things I expected by 2014 (I’m looking at you, jetpacks). I really didn’t think still talking about women in gaming would be one of them.


*To the young man who stood up to talk about “amazing resources a woman gamer had put online”–he was referring to me, not recognizing my name, and genuinely looking bewildered as half the room cracked up–I want to thank you for 16 1/2 years of my favorite compliment ever.