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Saturday 23 March 2019

Classic Rant: Kotaku Almost Convinced Me of What Little Influence Women Had on D&D

It's really quite pathetic. Because the fact is, I know that there were women who had very important parts to play, and significant influence, on the early D&D hobby.

But if you read Kotaku's supposed 'feminist' article about how important women were to early D&D, you'd come out feeling like women were inconsequential. The article is ironically entitled "D&D wouldn't be what it is today without these women", and yet when you look for the list of who these 'journalists' managed to get together, ironically you could very easily remove all of them from the history of D&D and the hobby would have been practically unchanged.

Instead of being able to provide an article that talks about the important early contributors to the hobby, what this article does is show us a group of second-tier writers, mostly admitted non-gamers, who did very peripheral products for D&D like maps, choose-your-own-adventure stories, and some art. Stuff which was in no way central to early design. Stuff that anyone else could have done.

I mean, I know, it's Kotaku: everyone who works for them actually hates gaming of all varieties, gamers, and thinks all geek hobbies are The Enemy that needs to be destroyed. But do they really have to be so incompetent they can't make their own title argument!?

It's probably because the person writing the article has no idea what they're doing. If they did, they could have mentioned Lee Gold, who published Alarums & Excursions and had enormous early influence on the hobby. Or Jennell Jaquays, which seems an odd omission, unless Kotaku now thinks that transgender women don't count?

On the other hand, it's more understandable that they would miss out on most of the other important and influential women in early D&D. Because these were not writers or game designers or publishers: they were gamers. Some of them were related to the early creators of the hobby (like Elise Gygax), and naturally that would discount them in the minds of the third-wave feminist author of the Kotaku piece; even though the Gygax women (not in spite of but by virtue of being related to Gary) probably had much more influence on the early hobby than anyone the 'reporter' mentioned in her piece. Others were women like Mary Dale, who had joined with her brother and had an influential early character in Gygax's original campaign.

But to Kotaku these don't count, because they're not the 'strong independent female designers' that they want for their narrative.  Never mind their real influence on the hobby, they just don't fit the story, even if no one actually does because the type of female influence Kotaku wants to 'discover' on early D&D (where there was some hugely influential female game designer as important as Gygax or Arneson) just never happened. So instead, they pick the nearest facsimiles they can get a hold of and try their best to make an untenable argument.  They start out with Jean Wells, who was certainly an important early figure, as their best possible argument, which just shows how weak their argument is. And from there they proceed downward to Margaret Weis, who helped make the shittiest D&D setting in history, long after the influential early period, and was basically a novelist rather than a game designer. Her contribution to the hobby was a series of modules that enshrined railroading and metaplot, causing enormous harm to the game and arguably being one of two markers of the end of the original Old-School period (the other later marker would be the printing of 2e itself, under the supervision of another destructive woman, Lorraine Williams; I'm kind of shocked that Kotaku didn't try to rebrand that hobby-destroying she-harpy into a feminist D&D heroine!).

Anyways, way to shoot yourself in the foot, Kotaku. It's a lucky thing you got it at least partially wrong, because if you were right, it would have meant that women were of absolutely no meaningful significance in the creation of D&D.


(originally posted June 27, 2017) 

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