Both playing and making games can be very fun. But often times it can be hard to feel like you “fit in”. Especially at a gaming convention.
I am very happy with the friends I have made through playing games over the last 10 years. But I remember how difficult it was to break those barriers when I was “the new guy”.
So we wanted to start a series of articles that helps to teach people how they can be more welcoming to others.
You can learn from these even if your hobby isn’t playing games or making them.
In our first post I asked 6 women the following question:
“What would help you feel more welcomed at gaming conventions?”
And here are their answers…
**Note – some of the following women chose to remain anonymous and used fake names.
“I think guys can make girls feel more welcome at gaming conventions by inviting them to play games and offering to teach them a new game.
Sometimes girls are nervous to ask about playing a game if there are a bunch of guys playing it or if it seems like a clique of friends playing together. They may also be nervous just because they don’t know how to play the game.
Be outgoing, guys! Be friendly, smile, and invite a girl to play!”
Favorite Game: Scythe
Hmmmmm. That’s hard to answer. I’m typically in a power position when I go to conventions now so it’s hard to say.
I would say for gaming in general. Just to be inviting to games.
Be willing to teach games and put some of the competitiveness to the side. At least for the first game. Lol.
And not all people are ultra gamers or competitive.
- Not smashing someone the first game.
- Not gloating.
- Not dictating their every move.
- And patience.
I hate to say all that because if a girl is going to a convention, then she is probably already a pretty strong personality. Unless she is going with her significant other.
She is the “heART” director here at Streamlined Gaming
Find out more about Elly here or see her interview here.
Favorite Games – Lords of Waterdeep and Carcassonne.
How can you make me feel more welcome at gaming conventions?
This is a difficult question for me to answer. The demographics for women playing all types of games has changed so much since I was growing up & going to game stores and gaming conventions through the 90’s and 00’s…I was often the only girl of the group.
There seem to be so many more women in gaming now, which I think is great. Though not everything is equal. I see very few women in e-sports in particular. Being a girl at a cyber cafe, LAN or conventions for League of Legends feels more like how things used to be.
General gaming conventions seem much more welcoming all around which I think is great.
My advice applies to guys making girls feel welcome at conventions…but for the most part it’s good advice for making anyone new feel welcome.
- Be Genuine. The people who have made me feel most welcomed at gaming conventions are those that make everyone feel welcome. When you’re the only female in a group it can feel like your gender takes up a bigger part of your identity than you want it to. I want to be treated the same as anyone else. If you ignore everyone and only say hello to women? You might think you’re being nice but you’re singling us out. We notice.
- Listen. Listen to what people are saying and how they are saying it – There are many many types of gamers…but we have little trouble finding others who like the same games we do! It’s pretty easy since gamers love to talk about their favorite (and least favorite) games. If someone starts talking about “Fiasco” and I say I love “GM-Less RPGs, what’s your favorite?” it’s fair to assume I’m not just saying a bunch of letters for fun and I have a fair amount of knowledge.
- Ask. On the other hand…every new gamer has to start somewhere and girls are no different. It can be easy to forget how much we’ve learned over the years. Gamer speak and shorthand are one of the easiest ways to make someone feel left out, confused, intimidated or just plain overwhelmed without even realizing you’ve done it. If you’re trying to make someone feel welcome, before you get on a roll speaking about everything you like ASK them about their own interests and experience. This makes me feel welcome because I feel like I am someone to talk with not talk at.
- Put yourself in their shoes. – If you’ve been a gamer for a long time gaming conventions probably seem a lot more fun than scary. Your friends are there, you don’t have to talk office politics, there’s cool merch and demos everywhere. It can be really hard to see how they could seem unwelcoming at all…being in situations where you are new or unfamiliar can help you gain empathy for other’s situations as well as learn what someone did to make you feel comfortable.
A few years ago a friend introduced me to League of Legends at a convention.
I’m comfortable as a gamer and have a lot of knowledge but I’d never played a “MOBA” before…I didn’t even know what it stood for (Multiplayer online battle arena).
I was surrounded by people who loved the game, and it was essentially like listening to people speak a different language they both knew very well and I had so many questions.
I didn’t want to interrupt to ask why someone would go “Bot lane” when they had just said how lame “bot games” were…they’d already moved on to something completely different and I would’ve just slowed them down.
Another friend brought me to an Anime Convention to help with their booth.
I know almost nothing about anime…it was a really interesting experience for me because Anime, Game Conventions and Comic Con’s share so much in common.
But I was totally out of my element, I had no idea what anyone was speaking about. I still don’t, but I did feel really welcomed by a lot of nice people willing to teach me what they liked about their hobby.
Making people feel welcome is a skill. Some people are naturally good at it but most of us have practice.
The best way to improve starts with honest evaluation of how you’re doing and actively setting a goal such as “I want to make people feel welcome.” Or even “I don’t want to make new people uncomfortable”.
Just being aware of yourself can make the biggest difference without a lot of effort.
Favorite Game – Settlers of Catan
“Well, I have been thinking about it a little and really it gets down to just treating women like they should also be there at the conventions.
Be inviting, don’t shut them out just because they are females.
I also think it is dual responsibility. And the girls need to be confident in what they like also and not let guys knock them down.
But that is a bit tougher unfortunately.”
Marketing and Administration Specialist at New Experience Workshop
See what Rachel is working on at New Experience Workshop’s website
Or their Facebook Page here
Favorite Game – BohnanzaRachel’s Answer:
Okay. So I am not 100% on what to say just because I’ve always felt fairly welcome in game groups, but I’ll do my best!
Overall, I think gaming groups (tabletop gamers especially) are a fairly inclusive group by nature.
Playing tabletop games naturally requires one to accept others in order to grow a group and cultivate a sense of fun and camaraderie among the players.
It’s difficult to be a gamer who alienates others, though I’m sure it happens. However it’s been my experience that most groups are fairly welcoming.
If I had to absolutely pick one thing that I could suggest to the men of a group, I guess I would say that I feel it’s important to be sensitive to feminist issues.
That is to say, I think it’s important to know that there are ways that women have been subtly excluded or degraded in all aspects of life. And that those sort of social mishaps can extend into the board gaming community.
An example of this:
I was once part of a gaming group which met regularly at an IHOP. We would play lots of different games and even with all our varying tastes for board game genres, we all got along fairly well.
One day someone brought a racing game and we all chose characters. One player, we’ll call him Josh, chose a female character, one quite busty and in more of a state of undress than some of the others. This wasn’t a big deal, but he chose a car that didn’t match so I made a comment. “Josh, this character matches that car, and this car matches the one you chose.”
And he said “So? I want to be this color and this character.”
However, the characters and cars need to match in order for the players to keep track of who is playing as which car.
I asked Josh why he didn’t just switch characters if he wanted to be that color car (no skills or really relevant information was tied to the character. It was just a means of easily tracking players as the game was made to suit a large number of people).
He responded. “Because that’s a GUY. I want to look at a GIRL.”
Then, addressing the other men in the room who were listening in he said, “Look, when you build a character in a video game, would you build it to look like you or would you build it to be a hot, bouncy lady? You pick a lady! I don’t want to play the whole game staring at MY backside, I want to look at the backside of a beautiful WOMAN!”
I’m sure many men, and even women, feel this way. It’s alright to want to look at an attractive character. But in that moment I felt more alone more than I ever have in a game group.
Of course, we got on with the game and I just rolled my eyes at Josh’s comment. I know that he meant no harm, and similarly, I don’t suspect many gamers are exclusionary or closed minded. But I do think being an informed member of society is important just in general.
And I find that I am more comfortable in a group where I feel I am allowed to be who I am and will not be treated differently as a female player.
Josh obviously did not think I needed to be sheltered from his comments and, while I do appreciate that I was treated as “just one of the guys,” I was not the only person rolling my eyes.
This same group was also incredibly successful at being a welcoming crowd as well.
Being in a public space, children and families, curious about our group goings on would often inquire and be greeted with smiles, a full explanation, and an invitation to join anytime.
This group had penchant (or tendency) for always adding new members. Including a couple with a breastfeeding baby. The mother would often feed her child in the middle of a game, and not a single eye would stray.
No one stuttered or stared or made mention at all of this generally controversial thing happening in front of us. And seeing this sort of acceptance of a mother’s right to feed her child in the open and in public was a heartwarming sight for me.
These type of things always made me feel that this group of men were decent, kind, and informed.
In short, the most important thing for me in feeling comfortable joining a game group is feeling that my gender is not a restriction, a distraction, a hindrance, or of lesser value than my male counterparts.
Feeling that I am an equal is every bit as important in a game setting as it is in any other environment.
2. Don’t talk down to me. You might be surprised what I do and don’t understand about games.
3. Treat me with respect. If I ask a question, don’t answer it with an attitude. Don’t act put-out that I asked the question.
4. Realize I really want to understand the game and improve my play. Give me time. I wouldn’t be trying to participate if I really didn’t want to learn to do my best.
5. Laugh and have fun together. If you make women feel comfortable, they may participate more often. Since we have a natural instinct to take care of people, you might find us bringing you a drink or snack if you treat us nice!
6. Develop more games with female figures. Most are male.
Some common themes I noticed when asking the participants were:
- Don’t be too competitive
- Be welcoming
- Treat them like you would anyone else
I know a lot of these are common sense. But as a guy, it is good to be reminded of these things so we can create the best environment for girls at gaming conventions.
We would like to continue to find ways to help make playing and creating games more welcoming for all. The best way we have thought to do that is to simply ask others how they would feel more welcomed into the community. Especially those that are already a part of it.
So if you have any questions you would like to be asked, let us know in the comments below.
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