Manda Collis is a manager of the Roleplay Hub Network, where she spends her time helping build a community of online roleplaying games and blogs. She's also an ISBN Manager for Evil Hat Productions and a freelance writer. Busy busy! Keeping up with the challenges of her various roles is a real-life dose of making tough decisions between rocking your character class or branching into multiclassing. I talked to her about the challenges and rewards of being fully immersed in the gaming community.
When have you been distinctly aware of gender or sexuality while gaming?
MANDA COLLIS: Interestingly enough, I tend to play male characters during tabletop games! One of my favorite characters is a total dude-bro who is nearly an airhead and looks like he belongs on the cover of a romance novel. While I'm playing that character it's not so much that I'm aware of gender or sexuality, but I know that by playing a stereotype I'm making others aware of it. I've had quite a few guys at the gaming table comment to me after a session that they understand how girls must feel after seeing me play this completely ridiculous character!
What are the challenges of running a roleplaying forum? What sort of tough decisions have you had to make?
Online roleplaying comes with its own set of norms and issues, but by far the most challenging thing for me has been finding a balance in accommodating players who are interested in our particular forum while acknowledging that not every person on the internet will be a good fit for our community. Many people feel like everything on the internet is accessible to them, so every now and then it is important to remind players that not every game is for every player.
Who are some of the people working in games whose work you follow?
For me, one of the first names that comes to mind is Daniel Solis, who has worked on a number of games such as Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple and Happy Birthday Robot. I really admire the way he regularly seems to be churning up ideas, readily shares them with his audience, and is constantly sharing his ideas and approaches with the public so we can catch a glimpse at how he works. In particular I absolutely love that most of his games seem very "family accessible" while still being perfectly suited for adult play.
I also have been really impressed with nearly everything produced by Green Ronin Publishing, notably the Song of Ice and Fire and Dragon Age roleplaying games. I came from a "gaming background" that was heavily rooted in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, and discovering some of the smaller gems of the gaming world really opened my eye to how games can be played. Fiasco taught me that you can have a really fantastic tabletop experience while largely ignoring the dice. Apocalypse World taught me that there was "more than one way to skin a cat," for lack of a better phrase: the game itself was incredibly unique to play but offered a really interesting system for building other games upon, resulting in gems such as Dungeon World and Monsterhearts.
Why are you drawn to gaming?
I have loved games for most of my life, even as a kid I spent time making my own board games out of poster paper! I love activities that challenge your critical thinking skills. Being able to participate with others and forge new friendships in the process is certainly a bonus.
Where can women look to find mentors and opportunities in the gaming community?
I think social media is an incredibly powerful resource as it gives women and men alike access to conversation with professionals from all over the industry, all with vastly different experiences and connections. I think it's very important that aspiring gaming professionals speak with a variety of women as well—one person's experience may be quite different from another's, and everyone has something different to offer.
What have you gotten out of attending events like game days and conventions?
Oh, gosh—everything! When you play with the same group week after week, sometimes you start to see the gaming community as this amalgamation of what you're used to seeing: if you play with all guys, you start to think that everyone's a dude. If you only run games for adults, it's easy to forget that children play too. Going to special events and conventions really lets you get a clear look at how vast the community is. Gaming isn't something that's exclusive to one demographic of people: it includes everyone. This is something that I find is extremely important to remember, not just in how we react toward others but also in how we approach games as we create them.