2012 My Sister and Gaming
I’ve played games with women since I was a child. From my sister to friends from school, it was never a big deal. But since I started research for my series, Pen & Paper & Laser Guns, I’ve started to become hyper aware of the dynamics and articles I see about women and gaming. In my groups of friends, women are well represented among the DMs, STs, and other leadership positions. When I went back to my alma mater to run a Sci Fi LARP, I found that about half the players were women.
But there is a lot of material on how women are treated and represented in gamer and geek culture, so that isn’t want to write about. I want to tell a more personal story. About how my sister who has always been a gamer and still plays D&D with my friends over Google Hangouts. And about how a handful of jerks seriously damaged her love for games, particularly miniatures.
When my brother and I started doing martial arts and dance, she followed suit. As soon as my sister could, she was playing games with my brother and our friends. From videos games to D&D; I still remember picking out 3-4 player games just so she could player with us. And when she came to visit last year, we played 4 player Gears of War.
When my friends and I were young, we rode a Fisher Price car into the ditch by my house, and she was there. She snapped her arm in that adventure, but she only kept coming back for more.
I’ve always considered my sister one of my close friends.
But there was a major event in our lives where we left the confines of our geeky friends who played together and went to a gaming store for a Warhammer 40k tournament. This wasn’t our first tournament. We’d gone as a family before, my Dad, brother, sister, and I bringing our armies and doing really well. My brother is actually a nationally ranked 40k player. We got this way by being interested in the game and the mechanics more than the minis. For example, we’ve been playing Warmachine against each other for a little while now, over 20 games. But here is a photo of our 150 point Skorne VS Khador game.
I’m just trying to make the point that my family takes our gaming seriously; play testing multiple strategies with every army before even buying a model. So when we went to this tournament, we had come to win. My brother brought his “Americarines,” Space Marines wearing Red, White, and Blue. My father and I had brought our Imperial Guard and Tau. And my sister brought her cute pink and yellow Tyranid force.
At first glance it’s a cutesy girl’s army, and I should mention at this point that my sister was in 8th grade and blonde at the time of the tournament. She was also the only girl at the tournament. But I didn’t care, I’d played against her before, and her Tyranids were good. We’d play tested them against each of our armies, and this is a fact that will come up later, “You do NOT want to get in melee with Tyranids.”
Her first opponent was a man in his 40s-50s. He had beaten her at the last tournament at a different venue, but he was very nice about it. He was glad to see her come to fight him again. After a hard won battle, she was able to defeat him. After the fight, they were comparing notes, and realized her opponent had used an illegal army. In Warhammer 40k, each player has a set number of points to spend on soldiers and weapons. Her opponent had thought it was an 1850 tournament rather than a 1500-point game. My sister had defeated him even though she was outnumbered and had been defeated by him before. My family and her opponent were all very proud that she had won.
Her next opponent was a boy close to her age. He thought that her cutesy Tyranids were a fun idea, and was completely ok with watching his Necrons savaged by pink alien monsters.
We were going into the final round of the tournament, and during the short break the judges would score painting and assembly for each army based on quality of painting, creativity, and theme, 40k is a miniatures game after all. My brother is a terrible painter, but the judges liked his America theme, so he got an ok score. I’m pretty good, but most of my army was not completed in time for the tournament. Then they scored my sister’s painting. I thought they looked perfectly fine technically, and I felt that her theme was hilarious and creative. The judges did not agree. They said that cute colors on Tyranids was not in “theme” and gave her zero points. My family was shocked. Especially, since her army actually was on theme. She had even come up with a back-story that her Tyranids had landed on and devoured Neopia, a planet of cute little creatures, and their DNA had become a part of the fleet. So not only was there a reason for her army to look the way it did, it was brutal and awesome. Her first two opponents had certainly thought so.
Disappointed, we went into the final round, my sister and I both in the winners bracket. My opponent was related to the store owners/judges and when he discovered I had to leave to go to Prom, slow played me in hopes that I would surrender and leave. I thought that was a pretty jerk move, so I fought him to a draw, just so the game would be over faster, and he would have no hope of winning the tournament. But that is all a story for another time. Note from 2017 Bruce: Deathclock is a great rule in warmachine tournaments and completely solves this problem.
But it meant that only my sister or her final opponent could walk out of the tournament the Victor. Her opponent played a Space Marine Force that made heavy use of Drop Pods, capsules that fall from orbit and allow Space Marines and their Dreadnaughts to get on top of their enemies instantly. His first two opponents hadn’t even seen his men coming before they were surrounded and being shot to death, while their tanks were torn apart by the dreadnaughts. He was going to use this same gimmick to crush my sister; A 25-35 year-old military man ready to drop his men into the middle of a 13 year-old girl’s pink army.
But do you remember the important rule I mentioned early? Don’t let the Tyranids get close to you. His men and their combat machines jumped out of their drop pods into a meat grinder. My sister killed him to the man in just a few turns, while taking almost no losses. He was furious. He called the judges over, claiming that she must have cheated; there was simply no way this young blonde girl could destroy him so effortlessly.
And the judges were on his side! My brother and father came to her aid, at this point I was still fighting to tie my opponent in time for Prom, and the judges tried to find ANYTHING to disqualify my sister. The only girl, 13, blonde, a pink army, they were not going to let her win the entire tournament. Eventually, they could do nothing but declare my sister the winner. We never went back to that store again.
In college, my sister went on to play more 40k, but people she met were so mean that she just stopped. And you know what? I think that’s tragic. I miss playing miniatures with her. I’m just glad that she still plays card games, cosplays, and plays D&D with me. She’ll be cosplaying as Mabel from Gravity Fall at a convention coming up, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
2017 Update: My sister really got into cosplay and teaches English in Japan.