Book Review: Chicks Dig Gaming

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I’m a huge fan of the sharing of memories with fellow enthusiasts of geeky stuff. If you’ve got recollections of getting lost in a maze of twisty passages, all alike, I dig that. Or if you never got all the sand out of Kenner Luke’s hollow arm after recreating his Tatooine adventures; or if you can vividly remember the real-world setting in which you finally reached the words, “Well, I’m back,” he said. for the first time, then you’ve got a story I want to hear.

The stories people tell about the things that matter to them and that have shaped them, are some of my favorite things to read, so it’s really not a surprise that I’m giving Mad Norwegian Press’s Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It a big thumbs-up.

Chicks Dig Gaming
is the latest addition to Mad Norwegian’s Geek Girl Chronicles, which includes the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords, as well as books about comics and the works of Joss Whedon. The new book’s thirty-five female contributors bring a ton of talent and a wide range of experiences to the table, and their works are likely to appeal to gamers of all stripes. (You can find a full list of the book’s authors and their chapters here.) Among their inspirations you’ll find a century-old board game about Nellie Bly, LucasArts’ Monkey Island series, chess, Carmen Sandiego, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and LARPing. The book also includes interviews with Paizo Publishing founder and CEO Lisa Stevens, and author/game creator Maragret Weis.

Approaches to the essays run the gamut from straight-up nostalgia to academic criticism to debate to personal gender identity, introspection and insight.

GeekMoms and GeekDads, for example, may take particular interest in Filamena Young’s chapter about bringing up her daughters in a gaming landscape. Linnea Dodson’s “Game Change” explores her discovery of indie and artisan games, and Fiona Moore’s “A Chick Who Doesn’t Dig Games Plays Portal” – well, it’s just what it says.

And you’ll find really good storytelling throughout.

Seanan McGuire’s contribution, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Numbers: A Girl, a Rulebook, and Arithmetic,” includes her recollection of a Wild Cards roleplaying session that’s likely to give goosebumps to any RPGer who’s ever let go of a character in the hardest, best way.

I’ll never forget those games, the sound of ludicrous numbers of dice hitting the plastic gaming mats… and the joy of a teenage girl being reminded of her true and undying love for numbers. It wasn’t an academic setting. It was the right setting, and I am forever grateful to everyone who played with me, GMed for me and put up with me during those occasionally hyperactive high-school sessions.

I was also riveted by Jen J. Dixon’s “Blood on the Hull: Gender, Dominion and the Business of Betrayal in Eve,” which surprised the heck out of me because I don’t know a thing about Eve Online.

In many instances – as tends to be the case with memories that matter – these stories about gaming are really about much more.

Here’s the opening to Mary Anne Mohanraj’s chapter, titled “Refuge:”

I am 12 years old in 1983, playing Wizardry obsessively on my first computer, a Mac IIe, I think. In my faded memory, there are minimal graphics; I think the game was in color, but I can’t swear to it. I am alone in my room for hours, taking comfort in this game. Frustrated with my immigrant parents, whose priorites are so different from my own. I have read countless books, but sometimes those stories only arouse longings they cannot satisfy. Wizardry offers a dungeon to explore, gold and weapons to accumulate, monsters to slay. A sequence of small, measurable tasks that can be accomplished and celebrated. A refuge.

Chicks Dig Gaming is fun, thought-provoking, moving, and entertaining, and highly recommended.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this book for review.

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