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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top