The year is 2002 or 2003. My roommates work at the Block in Orange – an outdoor mall, and I’m the one with a car. We live in walking distance, but sometimes I go hang out there and kill time before I give them rides, or after I drop them off.
I’ve walked by Games Workshop a thousand times. I’ve finally been given a mini to paint for the first time when we were hanging out with a friend, and I had fun even if I was terrible at it. So this random afternoon, I turn to the pretty much empty store and walk in – I’ve heard they have demo miniatures of their games, and I’ve seen some pretty paint jobs in the windows on the figures. So it is time to take my geek to that next level – Wargaming.
“Hi there.” There are two employees in their Games Workshop polo shirts, one of which is intensely focused on the table in front of him where an army is deployed. The one standing up is the one that greets me, so I smile back and start to wander through the store. There’s one non-employee, clearly engaged in mortal combat on the table.
Neither of the Games Workshop guys move, as I walk up to a display case with a beautiful Warhammer Fantasy army, elves if I recall correctly. On the shelf below it is a 40k Ork army, with the vehicles painted red (I would learn later that makes them go faster – just ask the Orks). Finally I walk up to them directly, kind of unsure how to approach the situation, and afraid to interrupt their conversation as well as the battle in progress. “Hi, I heard you teach Warhammer?” Oh – I feel stupid for saying that, and they exchange and equally awkward look with each other.
“Um… Girls don’t play this game,” says the employee not focused on the army. I blink. I am a girl. I want to play this game. I am asking the employee, who’s job it is to sell these miniatures, to help me spend money in his store. And his response is that I don’t? The non-employee looks like he’s about to laugh, but instead goes back to focusing on the game. The one I apparently don’t play.
“What?” is my eloquent response. I can feel my cheeks getting a bit pink.
“Yeah, this isn’t a game for you,” chimes in the employee in battle.
“I see. Okay.” I don’t know how to dispute this. They don’t want me here, so I no longer want to be here. Metaphorical tail between my legs, instead of giving them the tongue lashing they have so earned I go with my typical response – needless to say this is not the first time I have been told girls don’t game – and retreat. I suspect there was a sigh of relief when I did. I also sighed with relief once I was outside and free of the place.
I would never step foot in that store again, even when my roommates or friends would go to pick something up. Somehow there was always an excuse for me to wait outside. But I could always hear the echoes of “Girls don’t play this game,” as I got near, and I could never bring myself to challenge that.
Years later I would have friends get involved with Warmachine (http://privateerpress.com/warmachine/welcome-to-warmachine) and as a gift purchase me a badass army – The Protectorate of Menoth! But the starter set came with a dude for a Warcaster, so they also got me a centerpiece of Feora, Priestess of the Flame. And suddenly I discovered that… girls do play this game. And so I never looked back – Warhammer Fantasy and 40K were left in the dust and Privateer Press was glad to have me.