WE HAVE REACHED THE FULL NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS, THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR INTEREST!
I blame my dad for a lot of things; some of them are trivial (i.e. stupid, impossible to style hair), and others are a little more integral to my personality (i.e. being stubborn to a fault). The thing I blame him the most for is making sure I turned out to be a huge nerd! I was raised on a healthy diet of Star Wars, Doctor Who, and all things sci-fi and high fantasy. I was hooked on the nerd lifestyle before I knew what it was. My dad is also responsible for me being an unapologetic feminist; he always made sure I knew I could do whatever the hell I wanted to regardless of my gender. He was perfectly content to play tea party with me or to teach me how to fix up old furniture. Even though he doesn’t always get issues facing women, he always makes an effort to understand.
Despite having played D&D in what he often calls a “misspent youth,” my dad never introduced me to the game. It wasn’t until I met my significant other, The Heavy Metal GM, that I was introduced to table-top RPGs. Needless to say, I’ve been playing ever since.
As a senior psychology major at the wonderful institution that is UMass Boston, I was offered the opportunity to do an independent research study for my thesis. I was working in a lab that does a lot of research on mentoring relationships, and a few people in my lab encouraged me to do my thesis on mentoring relationships in the cosplay community (which is my real wheelhouse). It never occurred to me that I could do research on things I cared about outside of my “serious research interests” in psychology. My thesis was a success and will hopefully be published soon, and also opened me up to doing more research on what we call “connected learning communities.” Which leads us to: why bother studying lady table-top gamers?
1. Connected learning communities are those which come together with a shared purpose and interest, are openly networked, peer supported, and academically oriented. The table-top RPG community fits the bill for this description! Although you may raise your eyebrows at “academically oriented,” you learn skills through playing table-top RPGs that translate to real life. By solving puzzles in a dungeon you increase your problem solving skills and bolster creative thinking; by having to interact with some other humans to achieve your party’s goals, you learn teamwork and gain social skills. All of these things have value in the “real world,” but have yet to be studied quantitatively in gamers.
2. Connected learning communities are also fertile ground for mentoring relationships, which is great, because natural mentoring relationships that form outside of organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters based on mutual interests usually last longer and are of higher quality than agency-based relationships. This means the mentees in these relationships get more out of them, so research on how natural mentoring relationships form is really exciting because it can help us form better interventions for agencies and offer resources for natural mentors in the community.
3. Very little research has been done on table-top gamers since the 80’s and the Satanism scare of that period. (Side note: D&D doesn’t make you more prone to Satanism, RPG players aren’t any different than non-players in terms of neuroticism or Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator personality type. They do, however, have more empathy than non-players. Take that, MADD!) Not continuing to do research is just silly, because people still play D&D and communities are ever-changing.
4. Most research on table-top games have focused exclusively on D&D (other RPGs exist!), and have had either negligible samples of women, failed to recruit any, or deliberately excluded them from their samples. This is a pet peeve of mine as a researcher because it’s REALLY short sighted to exclude people who make up, you know, HALF the world’s population. Just sayin’. If lady gamers’ experiences differ from male gamers, that’s important for us to know how and why!
5. With the rise of the trash fire that is GamerGate, women in gaming have experienced a huge amount of backlash both online and in person resulting in doxxing, death threats, rape threats, trolls popping up in social media feeds with their special brand of vitriol… do I need to go on? And while there is some research that’s been done regarding this new gross faction of the gaming community, most of it focuses on competitive video game RPGs. No empirical research to date has been done on whether or not these attitudes exist within the table-top RPG community, although anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that things are just as bad here.
6. Lady gamers are thus a twice marginalized population; mainstream folks don’t appreciate our niche interests and often scorn us for them (although now it seems like it’s cool to be a nerd???), and men in the gaming community who are supposed to appreciate our interests treat us like garbage. No, not all men, but enough creeps exist to make many of us seriously doubt whether or not we want to risk our sanity and safety to stick around in this hobby. Which, from a research standpoint, means that we would miss out on all of the great benefits that the table-top community has. Ouch.
So, I want to study how much sexism lady gamers perceive within this community, and how they cope with it and maintain their interest in the hobby.
I can’t reveal too much about my hypotheses otherwise it’ll bias responses of anyone who decides to take part in my research, but after analysis is complete (and hopefully accepted to a journal somewhere) I’ll give y’all an update!
If you are a lady gamer interested in taking my study please read on:
Hello table top gamers!
My name is Jessica Cunningham and I am a researcher based out of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. I am currently conducting research on women’s experiences within the table top role playing game (RPG) community.
As a member of the table top RPG community, you have the opportunity to participate in a research study about your perspectives as a female gamer. The study consists of an online survey that should last 1 hour. Participants must be at least 18 years of age and identify as female. You can enter to win one of four $25 Amazon gift cards as a thank-you for participating if you are a United States resident. The link to the survey is here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BHKXBJS
None of your responses will be linked to your name or email address. Please contact me if you have any questions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
FancyDuckie is a 20-something researcher by daylight, and mahou shoujo cosplayer by moonlight! She’s also known to play murder hobo elven clerics with a penchant for shanking twice a week. Also known as “science girlfriend” of The Heavy Metal GM. When she’s not chained to her sewing machine or doing other nerdy stuff, she enjoys watching ballet, musical theatre, pro hockey, and playing with any critter that will tolerate her presence. You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr, ACParadise, Facebook, Instagram, & Wordpress.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.