You know, if you even think of commenting with, “Why would I want to do that?” as a joke, don’t. Just don’t.
If you’re not a jerk, then feel free to read on.
I know in the past, in answer to the question “How do I get women to game with me?” I’ve given the flippant response, “Ask them.” *mic drop* And yes, that’s a good start. I mean, you have to start there.
But it’s only a start.
There are some other things you’re going to need to think about that you may not necessarily have had to consider before.
1. Why? Why do you suddenly want to game with women, POC, queer people or trans folks? Is it because you genuinely feel that they are under-represented in gaming? That you know them and it seems like something they might enjoy if they tried it? Or are you marking off a checkmark on a scorecard called “Good Liberal?” Are you hoping to get laid or some type of cred out of it?
If it is because of the first two questions, then good on you. You go for it! If the latter two? Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not attempt this until you get right with your higher power. If you want to introduce people to this hobby you love so much, then yeah, go for it! If you’re just trying to mark a box or something, don’t. Wait until you actually want to game with people instead of check boxes.
2. What is the make up of your current gaming group, the group you’re inviting them into? Is it all cis, het, white dudes**? How welcoming are they going to be really? Think really hard about the jokes that get told around the table. Are there a lot of rape jokes? Is race a major component of the humor? Does one of the guys have a tendency to inappropriately hit on or touch people of the gender they’re attracted to?
It can be really off-putting to the different person at a table, to be the only woman, the only POC, the only queer or trans person. And then if, while you’re there, you hear people joking about rape, or queerbashing, or race, well, it only goes downhill from there. It’s hard enough to walk into a group of strangers and pretend to be something you’re not (half elven assassin for the win, losers). But when they make you the butt of their jokes, it goes from uncomfortable to a little scary pretty quickly, especially if you also throw in someone with a poor grasp of physical boundaries.
3. What are you playing? What is it you want to run? Is it going to be problematic? Are you inviting someone whose family survived the Holocaust to play a Nazi? Are you inviting someone of African-American descent to play a slave trader? Are the only POCs in the game book villains and are the only women sex objects and rewards for strapping white dude heroes?
I think D&D has been getting better with their drive to present characters with a broader range of skin tones and facial structures, as opposed to having light skinned people, and Orcs, Trolls and Drow. But some games are just straight up problematic. I’d call out FATAL, but the majority of people I know say it’s an unplayable dumpster fire, so why bother? However, Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex is up there, with it’s Confederate astronauts riding dinosaurs. Yes. That last sentence says exactly what you think it did. Look for games where the art is representative of more than white folks, manly dudes and sexy women. Maybe shoot for something with, I dunno, people the same gender, color or sexual orientation as the people you’d like to game with depicted as competent and having agency.
4. Where are you gaming? Is it at the gaming store known for cred-checking women and POC when they come in as customers? Is it at your spooky, Victorian house out of screaming distance of the neighbors down a dark, thickly wooded lane? Is it a gated community that is predominantly white and upper class?
Generally I’d say gaming in public with people you don’t know well is a pretty good bet, unless it’s at the gaming shop where the clerks constantly ask women if they’re looking for a gift for their boyfriend, or who watch POC like a hawk because they think they’ll shoplift. However, your house may not be comfortable either, for the reasons listed above. If it looks like Norman Bates could happily move in, or like their might be rent-a-cops with nothin’ but time on their hands, some people are just not going to feel comfortable there. A lot more bars and coffee shops are hosting game nights, and are not averse to RPG groups setting up shop. Or see if you can get a room at your local library. Also, consider commute time, cost and schedule.
I think that covers the biggies. I could probably keep going, but I think if you consider these four things, that should probably at least get you to a place where you could have a conversation with someone who wasn’t a cis, het, white guy about gaming. Honestly, some of my best gaming experiences have been in groups that were either all women, or majority women. Do not ever let anyone tell you that women are not bloodthirsty hack and slashers. Some aren’t. Just like some men aren’t.
And I was going to try to use a picture of a diverse gaming group to illustrate this, and I could not find one.
*People of Color – people who are not white.
**Cis-gender, heterosexual white men