‘Where My Ladies At?’: An Inquiry


For years I have frequented game stores all over Kentucky, and found a plethora of different men and women who enjoy this grim dark hobby of ours. Everyone I’ve come across takes great pride in their army, and spends countless hours painting it. Many of these people also enjoy playing the game itself and spend months, if not years, learning the rules and strategy behind it. However diverse the player base has been where I have frequented, it all ends the same when I go to major tournaments, which begs the question…. “Where my ladies at?”

I have been playing Warhammer 40k for a few years, and only became competitive this year when I packed up my Eldar and hit the road to Adepticon 2015. When I got there I noticed I was the only woman playing. The only one. I had never met another woman as competitive about learning the game as me, but I still knew women who played for fun. Still though, I had imagined that another lady in the United States would have shown up to one of the biggest 40k tournaments in the world. I went on to play my matches as normal, and inquired to each opponent about the lack of female attendance. Most answered, “There are usually one or two women who come each year.”

Thinking this was just an outlier, I thought not much more of it. Fast forward to NOVA 2015; my fiancé and I decided to fly up to D.C. to compete this year. Again, I was the only woman, and again – I got the same answers. Same situation when we drove down to Alabama for Redstone Rumble. So where are the rest of us? Did the Hive Mind call and I didn’t get the memo? Why are there so few women who enjoy the game, but many who love the hobby? And how can we make Warhammer 40k a more inclusive atmosphere for both sexes to encourage more ladies to join the fun?

I began my investigation with the manufacturer itself, Games Workshop. As we know, Games Workshop is a modeling-first company and does not actively participate in the competitive tournament scene. They market the hobby, which arguably more people I know are interested in. It could be questioned that seeing as they don’t market competitive play, that could be a factor in why so few women play competitively, but if that were the case, neither would men. Years and years ago, video games were marketed solely towards men. This didn’t stop women from picking up a control and shaming their male counterpart. Now, according to various surveys, women make up half (yes, half) of the video gaming market. So the manufacturer can’t be a major determining factor when it comes to our lack of competitive representation. My realization of the video game market trend led me to realize that perhaps this was a cultural pattern. Perhaps wargaming is just another taboo for women to participate in.

Being a former GameStop manager I copped a lot of questions I’m sure every gamin’ girl has heard in her life…

“You’re a girl that plays games? Are we talking Dark Souls and shooters or the Sims?”

“Quick question: Who’s Zelda? The boy or the Princess?” “Wow! You know!”

“Can I talk to your manager? Do you know anything about (insert game here)?”

“You sure you’re in the right place? The Mary-Kay Convention is down the street.”

I’ve heard these questions countless times, and honestly, they’re not necessarily genre specific. I’ve heard these questions more than I’ve heard prank calls for Battletoads. When I started war-gaming, I heard them some more, but in more frequency and in obvious variation from the aforementioned examples. I’ve never been questioned on fluff, but I am constantly challenged on the rules and strategy.

Two things I’m very familiar with, and usually end up being correct about. Quite often, I’m not taken seriously, but I revel in it. Nothing takes an opponent by surprise when they expect a bunny, and get an alligator. However, it’s not very welcoming after a while. We as women are looked at like unicorns at major events. While at Adepticon 2015 I was approached by vendors, congratulating me on achieving in adversity. I was approached by a drunk man, who shall remain nameless, and invited to a strip club. I was approached by a cosplayer who questioned where I learned to play, and if my boyfriend had taught me. I’ve been emailed several times by tournament organizers thinking I was someone’s wife, and they were missing his list. I’m not the best player, and although very few confrontations were flirtatious they still made my personal social anxiety crank up to 11. As someone who takes medication for severe anxiety disorders, it can get overwhelming; however, I’ve never let it get in the way of a good game. It all appeared innocent, but it also happened in high frequency. So how can we all make this environment more welcoming?

My most recent venture in competitive 40k led me to Redstone Rumble, which is a tournament based in Huntsville, Alabama. I got my usual misunderstandings and comments, but I found the environment very welcoming towards both genders. Although I was the only woman there, I didn’t feel too out of place. The camaraderie was exceptional, and my anxiety was left at the door it seemed. This posed a very good environment that I believe everyone in every major tournament should strive for; I mean, there was a competition for who could drink the most; what’s not to love?

We need to treat each other as players of the hobby, and not as outliers in a community. Encourage your partner to play, and try not to handle too much at once. This game is very dense with information, and frequently changes. Encourage competitive play, and how it’s actually very fun. I love taking trips around the United States with my fiancé to compete. The tournaments themselves are fairly laid back, and not as intimidating as I first thought. But just like the video gaming industry, we will someday dominate the wargaming industry!

룸알바 Probably not.