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

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