I am a gamer, video and tabletop, you name it I have probably played it. I’ve played every platform and every game genre, even cooking games. Mostly, I have always been a D&D player, in all its incarnations, starting with its direct ancestor , “Chainmail”. Being a girl, hidden behind the mask of a boy, I found the idea of role-playing an excellent way to be me without being judged. I didn’t always play females, which would have invited too much attention. But I was able to play them often enough to where it was my emotional outlet. Conversely, I found that my practice at role-playing helped me develop my mask, as the “guy”. I wish I had never perfected that aspect.
I was introduced to role-playing, specifically Chainmail by a friend. I had never heard of role-play and it captured my imagination. I had read fantasy books, I had been reading since I was 2 years old. It hadn’t taken me long to read all the books which held my interest in our little town library. Fantasy books were my favorite, and I was always begging my Mom to take me to the closest mall, which was over an hour away so we could go to WaldenBooks. There I would beg for books piled upon books. I didn’t just grab anything, I studied the forewords and the jackets, I knew how to pick a good book. My poor Mother and later my poor wallet always suffered from these trips. But role-playing was like being inside the book, like writing my own story. My friend asked me if I would like to join a campaign he was starting, based on the Dragonlance books. A few days later on the weekend, I played my first game and met a group of his friends who also had just started. My first character was Tanis Half-Elven, I was not happy about having a male character, but since we had a couple of girls in the group I couldn’t find a way to play the very few player characters that were female. We played every weekend without fail, rotating where we played each time, until we happened upon a house that had been for sale for a very long time. We basically squatted in that house to game, where others probably used it for drugs or to get laid, we used it as our place to game without being told to hold the noise level down. I know, we were weird, this isn’t lost on me.
My first female character was also my first player-made character, which is to say I rolled up the stats and came up with her background instead of a pre-generated character being supplied to me. Her name was Lisbetha Veretas, a play on my favorite name (Elizabeth), a human mage. I was never really interested in playing different races, though I did on occasion. I was more interested in playing a human female and a mage, my two recurrent themes. Female, for obvious reasons, I got to take the mask off for a few hours, well at least let the mask slip a bit. Mage, because I like the idea of magic, I like the thought that though there is a price, you can do almost anything with enough will and study. I played her for almost a year and I loved it. I even had a romance in the game with an NPC, who happened to be male. A few friends made fun of me for this until I explained that I take my “role-playing” very seriously. I was having a rough time in school, dealing with my sexuality as well as my gender issues. I was getting into fights trying to maintain my manly persona, and I didn’t fight well, mostly bluster hoping they would back out of the fight. Sometimes it was fighting a guy that I kept thinking if I were a normal girl he would be trying to have sex with me, not punch me in the face. This makes for a very confusing fight. Gaming made my life a little easier, gave me an outlet.
Over the years, there would be dry periods where I could find no one who wanted to role-play. But those times didn’t last too long and suddenly I would be in a very tight group of people dedicated to playing every weekend. They are the best memories I have of my life, friends sitting around a table or on the floor in a living room, playing D&D or DC Heroes or Cyberpunk, etc. Some groups were better than others, and though eventually they all would fade over time I look upon them all fondly. Of the groups, my last group, was the absolute best, they became my best friends, so much so that I consider them family. They are such good friends that I felt I could tell them the deepest secret I possess. I told my brothers (they all happened to be male) that I was their sister. We are all separated by distance and life now, but I love these men dearly and miss gaming and just hanging out with them so very much.
I prefer role-playing, and I prefer it with a group of friends sitting around a table. But times change and having the ability to sit around a table became limited to non-existent. So, I moved towards MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), like Dark Age of Camelot, WOW, and many, many others. For a while we had a group of people from work who all played. I mostly played female characters then as well. When asked why, I would say something male-driven like, “If I am going to look at this characters backside for hours, I want it to be a girl’s backside”. That would quash most questions. Even those male characters I started with, so as not to throw suspicion on myself, I had those changed to female if possible.
I still play MMO’s and stand-alone series like Fallout, Dragon Age or Mass Effect with female characters, I feel more comfortable and I am able to immerse myself in the storylines. I get to be a bad-ass version of me in these games, like reading a book of a female protagonist that I identify with. In WOW, which I had gone back to, for lack of better MMO’s that actually RP (role-play). I have found that actual RP doesn’t really happen anymore. No one makes a character with a background or develops a persona. They just kill things and level, no more do they sit in a tavern or talk in the square about things going on in the game. They chat in trade chat about RL (real life) politics or religion, trolling each other. I tried to find a transgender guild but was unable to find anyone who could point me to one; rather I got a lot of messages about being a guy. So, the appeal of MMO’s faded and though I still play, I do it solo and don’t join guilds.
Gaming didn’t make me who I am; it helped me survive who I pretended to be until I could stop pretending. It helped me by always having a few friends to lean on, it helped me by bringing a group of the greatest friends a girl could ever have, together. I love my friends and miss them dearly. This is what gaming is really about.