Of Dice and Men

I come from a family of nerds. My father likes to boast about playing RPGs before D&D existed and has been a Klingon for Halloween at least once. My mother introduced me to Asimov On Chemistry when I was 12 and can answer nearly any Jeopardy question ever written. They are involved in medieval reenactment, and raised my sister and I in that subculture as well. So, I have a reasonably legit nerd pedigree. (If you want to be obscenely pretentious about it)

I started playing D&D in college and I was immediately hooked. This book provided me with a history of the game I've grown to love. Sure, I've heard the names Gygax and Arneson thrown around a bit. I'm aware of GenCon and Wizards of the Coast. However, I had never been exposed to the complex and at times quite sad backstory of this this monumental game. Ultimately, it doesn't effect me or my appreciation for the game. I don't idolize the men who created it, anymore than I'd idolize those who created Scrabble (another favorite of mine). It simply adds some context to the adoration and hostility I run across when dealing with other nerds.

Something I found disappointing in the book was the authors genuine surprise at women and people of color playing this game and others. He acknowledges the heavily white-male centered past of the game, but maintains that this is in someway due to the game itself, not the culture behind it.

Maybe men are more attracted to competitive games or more likely to obsess about their hobbies; either way they always constitute a majority of attendees.
— David Ewalt, Of Dice and Men

As most nerds who happen to be women will tell you, we've been here all along. We play the same games men play, we can obsess like the best of them. The difference we're starting to see isn't an influx of women into historically male hobbies, it's an emergence of women into the physical spaces once hostile to them. Conventions and games shops are still largely boys clubs, but women are starting to make inroads.

Additionally, the author has an annoyingly stereotypical view of the the nerd who happens to be female. He assumes that women don't come to this hobby on their own terms, instead being dragged there against their will by their male counterpart. (this is also rather hetero normative of him) 

I wondered if the other women at the table might have arrived via a more traditional route - like a boyfriend who talked them into joining his game.
— David Ewalt, Of Dice and Men

He does go on to say that the DM set him straight about the women in this particular party. All the same, the assumption was made. It didn't cross his mind why the men were in this space, only the women. We still have a way to go before we are seen as natural and welcomed members of the tabletop gaming community. 

In my first campaign, half of the party was female including myself. These days I play with a revolving group of about 6 people (kind of a large party). Our DM and I are both nerds who happen to be ladies. Neither of us were suckered into playing by anyone and neither of us are going anywhere. 

Since I've moved to another state, we only play about once a month or so. It isn't ideal, but it's better than not playing. I'm not sure I'll ever get to the point that David Ewalt has (seeking out games with strangers while on vacation) but it isn't a part of my life I'm willing to abandon either.

We’re the caretaker of something people have put passion and energy into. You know, they could just sit and watch TV or do something passive, but they choose not to, they choose to be engaged.
— Mike Mearls, quoted in Of Dice and Men

I think that what this book does well is communicate the loyalty of the fan base and the relative merits that come from role-playing. You're engaging your mind, solving puzzles, building communication skills, and team-building. These are real world skills, developed in a fantasy world. I think that's awesome. I think that's valuable.

Would I recommend this book? Sure. What I really want to see next is a history of women, people of color, and lgbt individuals in tabletop gaming. Let's shine some light on the diversity of our community. Cuz it's there, we just have to choose to embrace it.