Thursday, September 17, 2015

Android: Netrunner Ladies Night Thoughts

I'm going to jump into the details of this event shortly, but I wanted to give some quick background on myself and our league.

Our Android: Netrunner league, the West Seattle Cyberpunks, is only slightly more than a year old and I've only been the league administrator for just over a year. I started playing Netrunner right around the time the league was formed, in early 2014. One of the things that drew me to the game was its view of the future, which included a beautifully diverse cast of characters. In fact, I'd just completed writing my second novel, set in a near future in which the main character had a job as a 'runner' (no relation to hacking). It was an amazing coincidence and one that pulled me into the game very quickly.

A year later, after finishing an 8 week league cycle, we decided to have a series of one off events mixed in with some casual play and learn to play events for awhile. That's when the idea for a ladies only event was born.

I've been a gamer my whole life and I've been the type of gamer who has almost always played games with my female partners. I also typically play with men who include their partners. So for me, it feels natural to game with women, whether it's a board game or an RPG. Having never played in a league setting (I didn't come from a M:TG background), it felt strange to me that so many men played A:NR, yet so few women. Especially since women are so well represented in A:NR.

Our league has had a few female players over the last year, but two that have been with us almost since the start: Hilary and Emma. Both of them are smart, fun players and I knew that as soon as I thought of the idea, that they'd be the ones to take the reins and handle this right.

Anyway, we had a total of seven ladies show the evening of the event and another three said they wanted to come but couldn't make it. We let them take the leagues main play area (we have a tournament space we regularly play in called the Thunderdome). The boys all played in the cafe.

Everything seemed to go well. We heard lots of laughing and yells over in the cafe. Someone called out, "I'm never playing against Jinteki again!" which made us all laugh.

The next day, I sent out an email to all of the ladies that came to the event and that I had contact information for and asked a few questions about their experience.

There was a mixed reaction as to whether things felt different without the boys present. Some women felt it was exactly the same, other said they did notice a difference in a positive way. No one reported a negative change.

There was a general sense that the more experienced a female gamer was, the more likely it was she experienced what Hilary referred to as 'micro-aggressions' when playing in predominantly male groups. For the most part though, most everyone seemed to think that while this was still the case in the A:NR community, it was less prevalent than in other game circles. (Just a note to fellow league admins out there - in the year that I've done this job, I've had two incidents where female players have come to me to complain. I chose to send out a blunt email that made it clear that there would be zero tolerance for any kind of harassment or discrimination. So far, so good.)

When I asked about future events, most of the women reported that while the event was fun and that they'd attend another similar event, some missed playing with familiar male players or that the level of competition was more significant than the gender of the players. I'll also note here that the ladies got along well enough that there was talk among them of organizing their own separate meetups again.

Lastly, when asked about things that might draw more women to the game, pretty much everyone reported the same thing. That is, just expose more people in general to the game and more women will be drawn to it.

I have to agree. While I think having a ladies A:NR event was a great move and we may do more of them, the best selling point to gender (and racial) diversity in the A:NR community is the game itself. I'm going to call the night a success and I highly encourage any and all female A:NR players out there to work with your local groups and get your own ladies A:NR event going. I think we can all agree, more nets must be run.


1 comment:

Jarry said...

Blargh! I wanted to reflect a little before replying to feedback request, sorry I was too slow!

I agree with a lot of what you said: yes, I've experienced said "micro-aggressions" (and macro-aggressions) in many different gaming circles, but from my limited exposure I believe the A:NR community to be much more welcoming.

I did feel the environment was much different than the typical group though. Almost right away I sensed a sort of freedom to "just be girls", make jokes dudes don't get, and just not feel like I have to prove myself to be a good player or something. That's not to insinuate that anyone in the local A:NR community asks me to or does anything that makes me feel that way, that's probably mostly an anxiety I've picked up from playing in other circles.

Anyways I think it's natural to seek out a group of people that you feel are most like you, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to have a special event for your smaller circle within the larger community. It isn't about exclusion, it's about feeling connected with each other. That sounds sappy, but in light of the big blowup from a few weeks ago, I feel like it should be said.

I really, really enjoyed playing with the ladies and felt so welcomed by Connor and the guys--huge appreciations to you for giving up your normal space for us! You da real MVP. I hope we can set up some more events (for ladies or otherwise) in more central locations so more can attend. I believe Jeniffer said Bellevue... ;-)

Thanks again!!!