Confessions of a Girlfriend Gamer
She’s in my head. All the time. Nobody warned me about this.
It started innocently enough — I’d always wanted to try gaming, but it seemed like a guy thing. I was present during one Dungeons & Dragon game back in middle or high school, and it seemed pretty boring — okay, and yes, it is boring as a spectator. I’ve always known gamers — but they were male. All of them. And it didn’t occur to them that a female might want to play — or to me to ask to be included.
Then a friend at church introduced me to Sam. We exchanged email addresses and I learned that, among other things, he was a game designer. He invited me to join their current Werewolf game. Okay, I wanted to get to know him better and wanted to try gaming — and while the whole idea of Werewolf held little innate appeal, it was a chance to do something different. And Sam’s first-ever gift to me was my own little pouch of Werewolf dice, which pretty much set the tone of the relationship.
My first attempt at character creation was disastrous. Help from Sam salvaged the character as much as possible, but I never really got into her head very well. The Werewolf game didn’t last very long for several reasons, but I did get my feet wet a little, and by the time it fell apart Sam and I were definitely involved with each other.
Next we played Mage — and I liked that a lot better. I got the whole character generation thing better, and could relate better to the person I played — I found that Anna “spoke” to me, told me about her background, which wasn’t all as I’d originally thought it was. It had been years since I wrote any kind of fiction, and I’d pretty much forgotten how characters will do that sometimes — inform the writer that she’s just wrong, and it happened like this. The Mage campaign lasted quite a while and was marvelous in that it gave me a chance to get familiar with general RPG mechanics and working with other players.
D&D third edition was being released as the Mage game was wrapping up. I was the only person in the game who hadn’t ever played D&D, and I didn’t really understand why everyone else was so excited. Sam immediately started playing D&D with our kids, and while they loved it, I just wasn’t too interested — it didn’t appeal to me. I couldn’t get excited about playing it. I couldn’t imagine what kind of character I could relate to at all. In fact, Sam did the initial generation of my character for me to a great extent — he asked me to make some decisions, like her name and what she looked like, but he allocated most of the skill points and so on. I liked Mage and understood Anna in that game and I really wasn’t ready to move on when that campaign ended, and I was honestly digging in my heels. I didn’t refuse to participate — quite.
And now, eight game sessions later, that D&D character has grown and won’t get out of my head. I know Tarafëar’s background and what she does outside game time and who her parents were and how they met and — well, she just keeps talking to me. For goodness sake, I woke up with stories of her father’s adventures in my head one day! I want to game more right now! I want to know what happens next! I’m annoyed if we can’t game each week, and I find myself stitching less and less during games (normally I keep my hands busy with needlework unless I’m actively rolling dice) and passing notes with other players or looking up something in the player’s guide to clarify which spell would be best to use in a certain situation.
Now, before anybody starts thinking I’ve fallen prey to some evil trait of RPGs and gotten obsessive, I should point out that I’m still doing all the other normal things in my life — my daughter continues to learn (we’re homeschoolers), the house is still clean, the laundry is still done, I still write other things, I’m still reading several books a week, still training to be a Girl Scout leader, etc.
But Tarafëar is in my head. I know what she looks like. She has a companion (not a familiar) winged cat who happens to be a character my daughter played in past games, and Katie is writing stories about their adventures together when they were very young. I really thought about Anna only in terms of the story we were in at the time and the skills that seemed to be useful in the plot — Tarafëar’s statistics develop more in terms of her as a person, as a whole character. I’m actually writing fiction again for the first time in ten years, and while they’re stories that are unlikely to be of interest to anybody outside our family and friends, I’m writing — which is a Good Thing. And no matter what anybody else says about the infamous girlfriend gamers, I’ve found that I’d be finding a way to game whether Sam and I were together or not — so I guess I’m simply a gamer now, not a girlfriend gamer. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s this masterwork harp that Tara is lusting after and she’s trying to figure out how to acquire it, so I need to go write some more.
Originally published February 22, 2001