Since my fellow Geekettes have been entwined in the events — both good and bad — of an overwhelming and wonderful book con, I decided that this week was a good time to review a book I picked up over six years ago.
Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress, a book by Shelly Mazzanoble, was released in 2007 by Wizards of the Coast –– the company behind D&D. I read it when it was just released and I was a sophomore in high school, embarking on my first “real” campaigns amidst the dungeons.
I had played one-shots before, but my party had never really had one overall cohesive campaign. When I bought it, I was fifteen, geeky, gawky, and comfortable being weird. At that point in my life, I had no concept of fashion, no enjoyment for “retail therapy”, and no
desire to be the stereotypical girly girl.
I was more inclined to wear as many quirky hats and buttons as I could pin on, sing Rent songs at the top of my longs on streets, and do the cotton-eyed joe dance in the middle of a crowded cafeteria.*
(*Actual mortifying things I did, and honestly still occasionally do, in public.)
I never really felt comfortable being anything that people considered girls to be– I wasn’t into hair and makeup, I didn’t have a lot of romantic prospects or boys chasing me, I didn’t enjoy the trendy reality shows that classmates really got into. In and out of classes I felt like an outsider, and considered myself abnormal, in a good way. It was just as well that I wasn’t good at being “girly” if I had to comply with all these unwritten rules of the fashion police and gossip gods. I vastly prefer hanging out with older folks, be it my brother and sisters’ friends or my older friends who were either punk as can be or just plain old geeky. Particularly in the group’o’geeks, I felt comfortable and happy in my own skin. I felt like a normal kid, hanging out, watching movies, playing video games, eating pizza and chips and way too much soda… I was invited to parties, not of underage drinking and sexy dancing, but of pillaging the local pirate guild and rescuing an incapacitated mage. Our party had a necromancer, a bard, a meat-shield, a druid, and me– the witty, cunning, stunning, flirty rogue that could use Nimble Fingers to pick your pocket while scoring a great diplomacy check and smooth talking her way into your circle of trust— leading us right to a big pay-off.
I was familiar enough with online role-playing. I love to write and find acting fun, so the storytelling of role-playing games was just natural and fun for me. D&D allowed me an outlet to be creative, have fun, play out fantastic stories with an avatar of myself that I had a fondness for. It allowed me to make and keep friends, gave me a satisfying night of low-maintenance fun and recharging my batteries. Now, my party was made up of three guys and three girls, all of us extensively quirky or nerdy in one or more ways. When I saw this book, though, I thought it would be a cool way to introduce some of my not-as-nerdy friends to geekdom and then kind-of drag them in (like the way I make hardcore gamers out of casuals when we play certain table tops that lead into others and sooner than later they’re hosting game nights of their own)…
I read it, and I was completely baffled. It was not at all what I expected. It was very much an account of someone with a personality and perspective, despite our shared gender, that differed very much from my own. I never cared much about clothes as long as I was comfortable and not mortifying myself. I always looked a little frumpy because I wore baggy stuff and didn’t really care much about my appearance. I was astonished when I read the analogies to shoes and shopping, because those thoughts had never occurred to me. At first I was turned off by the text. I thought it was fluff, a smattering of stereotypes I neither understood nor related to juxtaposed by the typical expectations of the “dorks” that usually fill gaming tables. I was disappointed, because I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear– that there shouldn’t be these straight lines dividing men and women and what they should or should not do.
I didn’t want to talk about my character’s clothing unless it had +5 to dex or increased my constitution (I suck at staying alive sometimes). I wanted to hear “anything you can do, I can do too,” and I wanted it shouted from mountain tops until all women gave gaming a chance and all men embraced them and no one was hung up on crappy excuses like “it’s for old men in their mom’s basement with Doritos-fingers”.
I had had enough of stereotypes and was disappointed to read more within the pages of Confessions.
But I read on. And I’m glad I did.
While Confessions isn’t all I was hoping or wanting it to be, it was still an honest, light-hearted account of one Girl Gamer who can rock the duality of being your stereotypical “girly girl” while still kicking ass, taking names, and having a great time with friends. Maybe this book isn’t for everyone, true, but it does show that, despite my cursory judgement, it wasn’t as shallow as I thought. The point wasn’t that all girls had to do was change what they like and try a game that they thought was stupid— the point was that you didn’t have to give up what you enjoy, what you like, who you are, to enjoy the game because it is SO MUCH MORE than what people think of it as.
So, all in all, if you’re looking for a cute, fluffy, lighthearted read about the juxtaposition of gaming and girldom, and are ready and willing to take a comprehensive look at the relationship between gender stereotypes and things that are “typically geeky”, check it
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons and Dragons:
One Woman’s Quest to Trade Self-Help
for Elf Help.
I’m very interested in reading this, and I believe it may be more my style, and I’m going to try to read it this summer.
Until next time, get down, geek out and game on!