2012, Elizabeth Sampat and Lillian Cohen-Moore.
Every time I want to quit gaming—writing games, playing games, writing about them—my friends are there to remind me that bullshit does not last forever. Then there are the friends I’ve bonded with, through the good and the bad, like my brain twin Elizabeth Sampat. Elizabeth works on the digital side of games as her day job, but she freelances on the tabletop side around days spent making games we play with tech, not dice.
I met her a few years ago in the Bay Area over some pretty good Mexican food, and she’s been a part of my life ever since. I’ve bounced ideas for articles off of her, vented about the newest sexism du jour in tabletop, and talked about how much games mean to both of us. Elizabeth reminds me, sometimes daily, that my feminism following me into games is not a bad thing. Questioning standard narratives, trying to write stories that are undertold, sometimes not told at all, are part of most journalistic ethic codes. They’re also things that open up gaming to more people. Elizabeth never questioned my intelligence or my “geek cred,” nor asked me to prove myself. The woman I call my brain twin took me on my word, on her impressions of me and my work. It was refreshing, and sadly somewhat of a rarity. As a woman I’m often challenged in the gaming part of my life, to prove my dedication, knowledge and capabilities. I can go to Elizabeth and be told I’m not crazy when someone is gaslighting me. I can also go to her with obscure, panicked questions about how to deal with the printers I need to work with on books, or how to phrase an idea in a pitch meeting.
Elizabeth isn’t the only feminist I know who works with games, nor is she the only woman I know who is making games. But the past few years have had hard moments, and good friends, those sources of connection with peers, that’s kept me going. They still keep me going. Making these kinds of friendships is hard—it requires putting yourself out there. But I think if we made more of them in gaming, between women, between men, between anyone who wants to make the hobby even better than when we found it—that’s how we get through the growing pains we can see every day in the hobby.
If you’re new to gaming, look for a brain twin. For someone who won’t challenge whether or not you’re good enough to be at the table, but instead challenge you to be a good person when you sit down to the table with others. Hobbies, regardless of what they are, breed incredible passion. They can also come home hand in hand with vociferous, cruel behavior. Whether you’ve been gaming for a few months or most of your life, look for people in this hobby—and certainly elsewhere—who make you want to be a better person. Try to be that person, for other people. Feminism and friendship spread in so many ways, and kindness transmits both.