How to Get Girls to the Gaming Table – and Keep Them Coming Back

October 14, 2009 | | Comments 17

This is the first in a series of guest posts from independent game publishers on Today’s post comes from ArielManx of  Please make her feel welcome and I have more guest blogging on deck in the upcoming weeks, so watch this space!


A few weeks after my husband and I joined the local gaming club, one of the male members came up to our game table to see what we were playing.  Upon noticing me – the token girl at the table – he started going on and on about how awesome it was to see a new girl at the club, and that the club definitely needed more estrogen, and that the next time I got together with all my girlfriends at the salon (he actually said “hair club”, but I’m going to assume that meant “salon”) I should mention the gaming club and try to get some more girls to join.

I believe the fellow had had a few beers by this point, and I have no doubt that his heart was in the right place.  But had I not already been a content and confident gamer-girl, happy to be at the club and at the game table, I might have run away after that “welcome”.

The question of how to get more girls into gaming comes up anywhere gamers congregate – at game tables, at cons, on internet forums.  I think the more important question is, once you get a girl to try gaming, how do you make sure she wants to keep at it?  Let’s assume that you truly, honestly want to introduce the women in your life to the great world of gaming – if you just want to get some girls at the table so you have something pretty to look at while you’re rolling your dice, this blog post is not for you.

Let me make the disclaimer that I do not, and cannot, speak for all women.  There are plenty of women out there who I don’t understand either, so don’t be discouraged, boys.  I can only speak for myself and my own experiences, and what I’ve observed with the other ladies I’ve gamed with over the years.  So here’s some food for thought on successfully getting girls at the table and keeping them there, happily (and honestly, most of these things can be applied to male gamers, too).

1.)     Don’t treat us like novelties.

Yes, the majority of gamers are men, but the gap is narrowing.  There were a lot of women at the last two cons I attended.  Plenty of women play computer or console games, which opens the door to tabletop play.  And as much as we probably all hate to admit it, books like Twilight have opened many women’s eyes to fantasy and horror, and a fair number of them want a more substantial story.  There are also more women in the industry – for example, our small game company (4 Winds Fantasy Gaming – boasts a female co-owner, and two-thirds of both our artists and contributing writers are female.  So it’s really not that odd anymore for women to have a spark of interest in roleplaying games.

That spark will sputter and die if a woman is made to feel like a novelty.  Don’t make a huge fuss over the fact that she’s female.  Just think of her as any other new gamer, and make her feel welcome.  Roll out the welcome mat, but don’t throw rose petals on it, you know?

2.)    The Old Boys Club concept might have to go.

Personally, I’ve always been one of the guys.  I grew up playing rough and tumble with my male cousins, and then entered a scientific field when I went to college.  I’m used to hanging out with guys more than girls, and I’m remarkably difficult to offend.  Not all girls are like me.  Any gamer –guy or gal – who feels uncomfortable at the game table will not want to come back.

If game night has long been your Guys Night Out, you may have to make some adjustments to make it more female-friendly.  This is going to vary depending on the female in question.  One universal recommendation I can make – for the love of all things holy, clean the bathroom.  Guys generally have no qualms peeing into a questionably clean toilet.  If I gag at the state of your bathroom cleanliness, I will not be coming back, no matter how awesome your game is.

3.)    The game has to be fun for everyone (or, get to know your players)!

I don’t buy into the concept that girls like different things than guys do when it comes to gaming.  I’ve known girls with no interest in combat, but I’ve also known girls who relish hack-and-slash like nobody’s business.  Some girls don’t care for the diplomacy and strategy aspects of roleplaying, some thrive on it.  For as many girls who want an in-depth plotline, just as many would rather not have to keep track of which NPCs are connected and how.  And all these things apply to male gamers as well.

If a male gamer at your table was really struggling with playing a wizard and keeping track of his spells, you wouldn’t deduce that it was because he was a guy.  You’d realize maybe he wasn’t good with details and would find a way to make it easier for him, even if that meant rolling up a new character.  If the female playing a paladin is freezing up every time she has to speak for the party, don’t assume it’s because she’s a girl.  Talk to her about it and find out what would work better for her.  Maybe she and the guy who’s having no luck with the wizard can trade characters and it’ll be better for everyone.

This will take some trial and error, but if you can find a way for everyone – male and female alike – to build a character they enjoy playing, they’ll like the game and want to keep coming back every week.

4.)    Don’t force it.

We’ve all seen the girl who games only because her husband or boyfriend does, and she looks like she’d rather be anywhere else but at the game table.  Nobody should be sitting at the table if they don’t want to be there.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how accommodating you are, no matter how much help you offer, a girl just won’t catch on and get interested in gaming.  That’s OK.  It’s no fault of hers, or yours, it’s just how it is.  Don’t make her feel like she has to keep playing (“If you quit, the party won’t have a spellcaster anymore, and they’ll be doomed!”).  Making her feel guilty might keep her at the table, but she won’t be happy, and what good is that for anyone involved?

So, the next time you’re trying to get a gal interested in gaming, keep these suggestions in mind and see if they help.  I’d love to hear your experiences or any other comments on this topic.

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About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.