When I was maybe 10 or 12, my parents gave me a copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook. I don’t remember exactly when it was, and I’m not sure what prompted this gift as they had never played D&D themselves, but I’m guessing it was probably around the time that the Dungeons & Dragons animated series was on TV as I watched that every week.
While a D&D manual was a pretty awesome gift to give a young girl with an active imagination, unfortunately they couldn’t provide me with the other thing needed to enjoy D&D: a gaming group. I spent ages reading the manual and my brother and I collected lots of dice and tried a few games, but two people (one being the GM) does not make for a very satisfying D&D experience. We eventually gave up trying to play D&D on paper, and moved on to writing vaguely D&D themed text-based computer adventure games in BASIC (most of which I programmed to include cheat codes for me, and ways to imaginatively kill my brother).
I was fascinated by the idea of D&D and similar games, but unfortunately, they did not seem to be something that girls played back then. My female friends had never heard of it and didn’t seem in the slightest bit interested in learning more. My brother was a bit luckier – being both male, and a couple of years younger than me, he eventually found a group of friends in his teens that he could game with. However, girls most definitely did not hang around with their baby brother’s all-boy gaming group either, and all the boys of my own age who might have been gaming were far too shy to talk to girls about it, let alone invite them to join. So it wasn’t until university that I actually had the opportunity to play some tabletop role playing games with a real gaming group. That didn’t last long after graduation, however, as I moved countries a few times and ended up working for a mainly marketing and publicity company whose employees (although wonderful people) tended to look at me like some kind of weird alien when I talked about things like roleplaying games or MMOs. I played some Traveller (a space-based science fiction roleplaying game) for a few years via a remote client with assorted online acquaintances all around the world, but mostly satisfied my roleplaying interests by playing MMOs.
There is a happy ending though; since starting work at SOE, I’ve been blissfully surrounded by hundreds of gaming geeks who enjoy every type of game imaginable. When asked what I did on the weekend, I can reply that I killed a dragon, and nobody will even blink; if anything, they’ll just enquire how, and which dragon. I now have not one but two regular D&D games, and we’ve been trying out the latest edition of D&D. Somewhere in the back of my parents closet, my original first edition D&D handbook is probably still languishing while I run around with a fourth edition rogue and a warlord.
I’m glad that I get to play now, but I do still regret that I didn’t have this much fun back when I first got my original player’s handbook. I know that games like this are slowly becoming more main-stream, and I hope that nowadays there are enough girls who are interested in D&D that they can find friends to play with if they wish. If that’s not the case yet, then hopefully we’ll get there soon!
- Emily “Domino” Taylor