The State of Games, Episode 60 – The One About Women and Games

stateofgameslogonewIt was time. The female voice had been missing for far too long on this podcast. And, so, I set forth a challenge to three intrepid women gamers: Come on this podcast and get silly. And they did. And it was awesome.

Links to important things mentioned on the podcast:

buncoThe Unpub Network

The Dice Hate Me 54-Card Challenge

The Dice Hate Me 54-Card Challenge Finalists

Ad Magic

Brew Crafters

New Bedford


Mall Madness


Oakleaf Games Blog



Compounded (It’s here! Get your pre-orders in!)

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. (All copies have been hauled away – but we’re hoping to get more!)

VivaJava: The Coffee Game (Almost sold out!)

Carnival (Currently sold out – but we’re hoping to get more!)


And, finally:

The Dice Hate Me Games Newsletter! Sign up for the best in behind-the-scenes goodness from our hearts to yours.

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  2. The State of Games, Episode 53 – The One About The Germans
  3. The State of Games, Episode 51 – The BGG Top 20 and Future of Unpub
  4. The State of Games, Episode 52 – The One About Beer
  5. The State of Games, Episode 56 – The One About Surprises In My Pocket
9 Responses to “The State of Games, Episode 60 – The One About Women and Games”
  1. Eric Leath says:

    Great episode Ladies (and Chris),

    Sorry if I missed this topic/question, but I always hear that more games need to be inclusive of women. While I wholeheartedly agree, would Leslie/Anna/Stephanie say there is a difference between creating a “Universally acceptable theme” and a “Feminist Theme” (apologies if terminology is off)?

    Further, does there NEED to be a separation, and where is the line drawn between designing for women and pandering to them with a theme simply to boost sales of a product?

  2. Lesley says:

    Personally it is just refreshing to have a balance of themes available. No one theme would necessarily cause me to turn my nose up, but it is nice to see a newer approach to incorporate characters and roles, or even the switching of roles. More womanly themed games? Bring them on, but bring on all of the others as well!

  3. Stephanie says:

    That is difficult to answer. First off, I appreciate your interest and sincere thoughts and questions about the podcast. I think I can speak for everyone that participated in saying that we enjoyed it, and we hope others do, too. I hope it sparks friendly discussion and debate. Human nature is fascinating!

    To get to it… I don’t think that more games need to be designed with women specifically in mind… unless that is the audience you would like to target. I don’t think it is any less appropriate for someone to make a game that the majority of women don’t end up caring for than it is to make a game with a specific theme that you know only a limited audience would be interested in – like a superhero theme. You could argue that any theme is universal, but just might not appeal to certain people, women included… and men included.

    I find it difficult to even say that you SHOULD or SHOULD NOT consider women in your game design. It is your design. If I don’t like it, or if I find it offensive, I might not play it. (If it is really good, I still would, probably). It really just boils down to what you want to accomplish as a game designer or publisher. If you want to appeal to both genders, ok, then I am sure there are things you could avoid to achieve that. If you do make a game, and it ends up offending someone, well… that is up to you and how you feel about that. You might not care, and that is ok for you to do. You probably aren’t that awesome of a human if purposely offending someone is your goal. (Ok for aliens, though).

    Lastly, I think you are going to hear very varied responses on women’s reaction to women in games. I don’t personally find villainous or sexy women terribly offensive. Maybe that is even powerful? Maybe it does speak to how women get a tough break? I don’t really know, but I haven’t ever felt victimized, and I probably won’t ever.

  4. Eric Leath says:

    Thanks to both of you for take the time to respond. I guess the idealistic part of me simply wants everyone to have the mindset of “You’re a human being and this is a game, so you should be able to play it.” Realistically, I’m certainly not that naive.

    Biology aside, I guess the most intriguing part of this is seeing how definitions are being built about what “female gamers” are. Do designers and publishers need to take lesbians into account? Do you assume stay at home mothers will like different games than corporate, power suit wearing women? I know women who would feed me to the sharks in Lifeboat without blinking an eye; I also know women who feel bad when they can’t cure a city quickly enough in Pandemic. I also know men to whom these descriptors could be applied, so differentiation in design is a bit lost on me honestly (Again, designing with the idea of “As many people as possible should be able to play this” seems to be in everyone’s best interest IMO.)

  5. Stephanie says:

    Eric, I agree, but I think “building definitions” was quite different than what we were doing.

    I felt like what we were trying to do the opposite and convey is that you CAN’T necessarily pigeon hole women (or anyone) into a certain hobby, mindset, game style, or game preference. We were trying to show how diverse WE are and how accepting of that diversity we are.

    Bottomline, we just wanted to embrace an attitude of avoiding prejudice and stereotypical profiling. Judge on actions and experience, not tropes and internet memes (I love cats I love every kind of cat).

    I apologize if you got a very different vibe and takeaway, but I am glad that it has ignited your curiousity. 🙂

  6. Anna says:

    Eric, I completely agree with Stephanie on this one. Part of the point we hope to make by discussing this publicly is that women who game are as diverse as men who game.

    This diversity should be presented in the way individuals interact with women one on one, but also in game art and elsewhere.

    Example: I have no problem with cleavage. I happen to love my own immensely. The problem arises when women are stereotyped and presented as primarily sexual objects, whereas men don’t seem to have this problem.

    Thanks for listening and commenting!

  7. Eric Leath says:

    Certainly, I didn’t mean to give the impression that SoG was generalizing. my previous post was more thinking our loud in a broad sense; sorry for the confusion. If anything, I liked from the beginning that Anna (and everyone at some point) took offense to any type of categorization.

    For clarification, I think that in contrast to what you did in this podcast, many gamers are simply focusing on biological differences in trying to figure out “What woman want.” I can’t attest to knowing, but I think “Hi, want to play a game” is a good start (and usually ends with me stating, ‘You really kicked my @$$’ at the end).

    Look forward to continuing this conversation and having all of you slaughter me at the new DHMG prototypes in person at Origins 🙂

  8. A.J. says:

    Fascinating discussion. I always hesitate to get involved in gender, race, religion, etc. discussions for fear of being misinterpreted and getting labeled a certain way, but I suppose I will risk it and hope I don’t offend anyone.

    Some thoughts…

    First and foremost my wife is not a gamer, but she does play games a lot more than she used to, but mostly because we are friends with another couple that game. I can say unequivocally that if I stopped gaming or was -God forbid- removed from the picture that she would game far less if at all. I think the same is probably true for my friend’s wife though that is pure speculation on my part.

    So on that note, it was mentioned that women are often being introduced to the hobby through their male counterpart and I am wondering if that counterpart were no longer around if the activity for the woman with respect to gaming would continue at the same level or diminish and disappear. Thoughts?

    To take that a step further, do you think that part of the reason there are more guys is that we OBSESS over our passion and it seems women are much better at taking a balanced approach? Sort of like what Leslie said about having a number of different hobbies she enjoys.

    Finally, could it be just as simple as the bulk subject matter is just geared more toward guys? Predominant themes are Fantasy, Sci-Fi, WarGames, Zombies, etc. While I don’t have empirical evidence, it would seem that media in these genres Movies, books, etc. also have a similar male to female proportion with respect to fans. Or is that just a misperception on my part?

    Thanks for the show. You were all great.

  9. Drew says:

    Good discussion, although it seemed that there were a couple parts that made me cringe towards the end… specifically the bit about “looking too hard for sexism and finding it where it wasn’t intended.” I think that the hardest part of sexism (or any prejudice) to get rid of is precisely the stuff that isn’t intended. Someone that’s just a misogynist, and actively believes that “no women could ever play a complex game like Agricola” is pretty easy to identify and call out… but someone who, when a woman chooses Agricola off the shelf at the store, instinctively replies “Oh, I think we should go for something lighter…” It’s not likely that if you asked them “Are women stupider than men?” that they’d answer “yes” but there’s a very casual assumption there, and that’s the hardest thing to address, because there’s an easy defense of “I didn’t mean it that way.” The person didn’t intentionally do it at all, they just accidentally assumed the other person wasn’t smart enough, and that’s actually more dangerous. Looking for prejudice that wasn’t intended but keeps happening even though nobody seems to be conscious of it is a perfectly valid thing to do. Similarly, people who do say things like “Why are there so few girls here?” could have honorable motives or could just be looking for that hook-up, but either way it’s a casual quip and not a statement made with full intent… but that casualness makes it, in some ways, more offensive and threatening. A full-on misogynist is a pretty offensive person but they’re likely to be easy to avoid… but when relatively “normal” people throw out those kinds of statements without thinking, it’s harder to avoid and probably needs to be addressed… but if you address it, you risk becoming “one of the bad ones.”

    I know that it’s really tempting to try and not take things too seriously, to not call people out when they’re just casually prejudiced. It sucks being labelled “one of the bad ones” because the feminists and social-justice advocates who do seem to go to extremes are very unpopular, an easily mockable caricature… but the opposite is nearly as dangerous. Let things slide too often and you risk falling into the just-as-bad “one of the good ones” status, where people who don’t want to acknowledge that they’re being disrespectful will hold you up as an example… “Well, Drew doesn’t care if I say stuff or act like this, so it can’t be bad.” Groups of “typical” guys with one minority friend can end up doing some pretty cruel stuff without even thinking about it, because of that permissiveness, and the threat of being excluded.

    I dunno, I just think it’s important to talk about, and I’m glad you guys opened up the discussion.

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