D&D General The Art and the Artist: Discussing Problematic Issues in D&D

teitan

Legend
I was a little surprised looking at old ads for D&D to see that they frequently included women. I don't just mean the one with Gail Gygax but print ads with young women and girls as players and at least one as a DM. They seemed to stop at some point though. I think a girl showed up in one of the D&D VHS games from the 90s.
Gail wasn’t in a D&D ad, Gary’s daughter was in several though.
 

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For the most part, only a relatively few people who weren't the standard "cishet white guys" audience got brought in one way or another. From there, it slowly spread via word of mouth, through friends or college groups. Slowly as in over decades, not just years. For a very long time, maybe you'd have a woman or two in your game, or a black guy, or maybe one of your players would come out as gay. But it was very much a personal table thing, because RPGs weren't targeted or, more importantly, advertised to a wider audience for a long time.

I think it was less of a straight trajectory up, as much as it was hills and valleys along the way. When D&D first came out, my understanding is it was pretty popular. By the time I was aware of the things, the very early 80s, it was culturally relevant enough that there was a TV show, and it appeared in movies like ET. Then by the time I got into it, it had become strictly a nerd thing (for the most part at least it seemed). But the 90s you had white wolf and you had a lot of things in the culture fusing to RPGs. At that time I saw a big surge in female gamers locally. I don't know what the trend was across the country or globe, especially since I live near Salem (which ties very closely to the white wolf fandom). It is possible we had more gamers in general around here for example. But during that time I had a lot of women in my groups, and knew of groups that included a lot of women. I knew female GMs as well. And I remember a lot of the content I was reading was designed or edited by women too (Obviously Margeret Weis of Dragonlance, but also people like Lisa Smedman, Cindi Rice, Andria Hayday and Teeuwynn Woodruff; plus writers for the various Ravenloft novels I was reading: Christie Golden, Elaine Bergstrom, P.N. Elrod, Carrie Bebris (who also edited for game lines), Laurell K Hamilton (many of these people also had things like non-RPG related vampire series that were popular at the time too). It may just have been what I was purchasing at the time, and not a trend, but I noticed less female writers with D&D stuff when WOTC first took it over (again I could simply have missed the names or not bought the books), but I definitely noticed fewer female players at that time (at least with D&D specifically). I do recall people like Jackie Cassada though working on Ravenloft during the 3E period. But in more recent years, it seems there has been more and more women coming into the hobby again. I bring all this up just to point out, it doesn't always go all straight up over time. And some periods were more varied than we might remember (it isn't like I have done a data crunch of this stuff, but I do remember the 90s being a much different time when it came to gaming culture than the 2000s---and I would say different in a better way than the 2000s personally). But I also mention it so we don't lose sight of the women who worked on a lot of the lines in the past.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I was a little surprised looking at old ads for D&D to see that they frequently included women. I don't just mean the one with Gail Gygax but print ads with young women and girls as players and at least one as a DM. They seemed to stop at some point though. I think a girl showed up in one of the D&D VHS games from the 90s.
I kinda feel that might be just a tokenism thing, especially when compared to the amount of cheesecake in gaming books at the same time.
 

MGibster

Legend
I kinda feel that might be just a tokenism thing, especially when compared to the amount of cheesecake in gaming books at the same time.
Maybe. But tokenism is usually an effort to give the appearance of equality and I doubt this was an overriding concern of TSR in the early 80s. Video game ads from around the same time sometimes featured women and girls playing but those disappeared as marketers focused on boys to the exclusion of girls.
 

Maybe. But tokenism is usually an effort to give the appearance of equality and I doubt this was an overriding concern of TSR in the early 80s. Video game ads from around the same time sometimes featured women and girls playing but those disappeared as marketers focused on boys to the exclusion of girls.

FWIW, the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick featured a game group that was roughly 50/50. So, the people who hated D&D saw it as an equal threat to boys and girls.
 

MGibster

Legend
FWIW, the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick featured a game group that was roughly 50/50. So, the people who hated D&D saw it as an equal threat to boys and girls.
I remember the first time I read Dark Dungeons. "What? Okay, I can buy black magic and suicide, but I can't believe you'll ever find three whole women in the same D&D campaign!" I didn't see any significant number of girls in RPGs until Vampire was released.
 

Maybe. But tokenism is usually an effort to give the appearance of equality and I doubt this was an overriding concern of TSR in the early 80s. Video game ads from around the same time sometimes featured women and girls playing but those disappeared as marketers focused on boys to the exclusion of girls.
You can blame Nintendo for that although it wasn't their fault. After the video game crash of 1983 computer shops didn't want to try consoles again; they thought it was a fad and they'd been burned. Nintendo therefore struggled to get the NES into computer/electronics shops - but did succeed with toy shops.

Unfortunately most of the toy shops were gendered and Nintendo had to choose boys toys or girls toys (they weren't big enough to be lego at the time). Nintendo therefore put the NES in the boys toys section - and because it was sold as a boys toy it was advertised to boys. And given the NES was deservedly a smash hit everyone else followed suit.

However for D&D we can go back to the words of one E. Gary Gygax on this website:
As I have often said, I am a biological determinist, and there is no question that male and female brains are different. It is apparent to me that by and large females do not derrive the same inner satisfaction from playing games as a hobby that males do. It isn't that females can't play games well, it is just that it isn't a compelling activity to them as is the case for males.​
When that's the attitude of the person running the show the results aren't surprising.

Edit: Gygax was even clearer about his attitude to attracting female players on Dragonsfoot;
As a biological determinist, I am positive that most females do not play RPGs because of a difference in brain function. They can play as well as males, but they do not achieve the same sense of satisfaction from playing.​
In short there is no special game that will attract females--other that LARPing, which is more csocialization and theatrics and gaming--and it is a waste of time and effort to attempt such a thing.​
 
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MGibster

Legend
You can blame Nintendo for that although it wasn't their fault. After the video game crash of 1983 computer shops didn't want to try consoles again; they thought it was a fad and they'd been burned. Nintendo therefore struggled to get the NES into computer/electronics shops - but did succeed with toy shops.

I won't blame Nintendo entirely. From what I can recall, the toy section of every store was segregated by gender. When I went to K-Mart, Kaybee, or even Sears as a seven year old I knew exactly which aisles to avoid like the plague and which ones had the toys all the cool boys wanted to play with.


I am aware that Gygax said that. I'm not sure how much he was involved creating ads for D&D though.
 

Arilyn

Hero
FWIW, the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick featured a game group that was roughly 50/50. So, the people who hated D&D saw it as an equal threat to boys and girls.
Jack Chick did not think much of women. It's a woman in the Dark Dungeons tract that leads the players astray and a clean cut Christian man who "rescues" our "fallen" girl. This isn't so much males and females playing the game equally as a statement on weak willed females.
 

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