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Submitting Phase 2 Survey on Gender Experiences in RPG

by Hawke Robinson published Jun 20, 2015 05:05 PM, last modified Feb 05, 2023 12:22 PM
Submitting to the Washington State University (WSU) Institutional Review Board (IRB) the survey for phase 2 on Survey of Gender Experiences in the Gaming Community and/or Industry this week.

Submitting phase 2 of "Survey on Gender Experiences in the Role-playing Gaming Community and/or Industry" to WSU IRB this week, to implement at WorldCon August 19-23. Hoping will receive the waiver and meet the deadline. It will then take up to 10 business days to see if the project receives and IRB waiver. If it does not qualify, then it will likely not make it in time for WorldCon. Fingers crossed it all goes well.

Many thanks to Phyllis Eide, Ph.D., Eva Schiavenato, and Professor Sarah Lynne Bowman for their invaluable help. Especially Phyllis for offering to be the Primary Investigator to make the WSU resources available.

Also many thanks to the earlier guidance for phase 1 from Donna Carolyn, MSW, and Jim Toms, MSW.

Disclaimer: I am an undergraduate student at Eastern Washington University nearing completion of an interdisciplinary degree in recreation therapy, music therapy, neuroscience, and research psychology. This research is not in any way affiliated with EWU. More on my background at:

Besides typical demographics questions, here are some examples of some of the questions asked:

10. Have you ever participated in
  any of the following:

  •  CCG/TCG (collectible/trading card game)
  •  Choose Your Own Adventure Books
  •  CRPG (computer-based RPG, solo, offline)
  •  LARP (live-action role-playing)
  •  MUSH/MUD (text-based online multiplayer)
  •  ORPG/MMORPG (graphical online RPG)
  •  RPG (tabletop role-playing games)
  •  PBM/PBEM (play by mail/email/forum/post)
  •   Wargaming (board/miniatures)


11. What is your perception of gender bias or discrimination against women from:

  • The gaming industry overall? (depictions the gaming of women industry in rulebooks, overall?
     artwork, game options, & other commercial products)
  • Male-identified gamers in the Tabletop RPG community?
  • Male-identified gamers in the Live-action role-playing community?
  • Male-identified gamers in the online gaming community?
  • Male-identified gamers in the CCG community?
  • Male-identified gamers in the gaming community in general?


Possible answers to 11:

  • There is not any bias/discrimination
  • It exists, but is not widespread
  • It is widespread, but subtle & difficult to detect
  • It is widespread & readily apparent.


The following questions are interested in what you believe you have personally experienced and/or witnessed happen.
12.   Been denied an opportunity to participate in a game because of your gender?
13. Other gamers refused to participate in a gaming activity with you because of your gender?
14. Known anyone to be denied the opportunity to participate in a game because of their gender?

 Possible answers for 12,13, & 14:

  • Never / Dont know
  • Once
  • Rarely
  • Sometimes
  • Frequently


15. Have you ever personally experienced:

  • Gender-specific derogatory comments
  • Exclusion from participation because of gender
  • Sexual harassment
  • Other forms of gender bias


Where did you experience:

  • CCG/TCG games
  • Choose Your Own Adventure Books
  • Gaming conventions
  • Live-action role-playing (LARP)
  • Choose Your Own Adventure Books
  • Play By Post (mail/e-mail/forum)
  • Tabletop RPG
  • Wargaming



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Hawke Robinson
Hawke Robinson says:
Jul 29, 2015 11:52 PM
Some interesting comments from people regarding this posting:

Facebook Role Playing Public Radio group: Riley Heffernan: "Wonderful, another self-reported study filled with leading questions and a clear bias towards demonizing the existing community.
Could you not, please? Could we just play our games, and not make everything about politics?"

My Response: "Sorry you feel that way Riley Heffernan. For my part this wasn't started for political reasons at all. I have just been trying to answer a question I had for my own curiosity regarding a discrepancy in my own experiences with RPG. For me it is scientific (and being a gamer, also personal) curiosity regarding conflicting observations.

My experiences with gamers, male and female, have been quite positive, with little-to-no encounters with exclusion or harassment of female players, often averaging about 50/50 male/female players, and being respectful and considerate of each other. That was while I gamed in the 70s & 80s in California, Utah, and elsewhere.

Over the years though, I kept seeing media stereo types in TV shows, movies, etc. claiming there weren't any female RPGers, and that was because all the male gamers were either lechers, or didn't want girls to mess up their boy's club (media's representation).

This had not been my experience with my many groups over the years. I mostly took a break from RPGs in the late 90s to early 2000s to focus on my career.

However, when I moved to Washington in 2004, When I commented on the lack of female gamers in the groups here, and when I did meet female gamers, they (and some male) players kept commenting how terrible the exclusion and/or harassment has been for some women in role-playing gaming and related hobbies. I was surprised by this since it was so contrary to my experiences.

Of course I'm a male, so was I just oblivious?

In late 2012 and early 2013 I began at first informally, then more formally, to ask about player's experiences, and from 164 respondents it was interesting the variance between different gaming communities, and the broad range of experiences reported (or lack thereof in some cases).

For example collectible card games, and MMORPG players reported the highest levels of bias or harassment, while tabletop RPG and LARP were more moderate, but some people wrote about instances of being completely excluded from games because of their gender.

Now that WorldCon is coming to the area, it is an opportune time for a larger sample from a broader geography to see if the reports from the first phase were just an "Eastern Washington / Northern Idaho" thing as some people have conjectured or not.

Later I hope to check in other parts of the country to see if there is any kind of geographic variance."
Hawke Robinson
Hawke Robinson says:
Jul 30, 2015 12:27 AM
Riley Heffernan:" I took a look at the other projects you're involved in, and they're quite admirable. Turning RPGs into a formalized tool for assisting in the treatment of mental health (though the idea gives me concern as to the people who may seek to regulate games if that becomes a reality) is nothing if not a noble goal to strive towards.

My issue with your survey primarily comes down to methodology. That methodology being obscenely unscientific. Self-reported studies, especially one with such a small sample size, are highly susceptible to skewed results. Behaviors that are completely innocuous might have been misinterpreted, or, god forbid, somebody purposefully may lie about their experiences in order to further an agenda, one way or another. On top of this, your questions exclusively target issues of discrimination aimed at women. No mention of other groups, no mention of inclusive behavior, and answers that appear to be very narrow and disallow elaboration: all very much pointing to an ideological bias (which I genuinely hope I am mistaken about). We don't need more unscientific data floating around out there that groups can point to to further their ideologies, regardless of your intent.

A more minor issue: So what if men want their own space? The far more interesting issue is why any attempt for men to claim an exclusively male territory is typically viewed as discrimination, but when women do it it's almost always coined a "safe space". Should an entire industry be exclusively male? Certainly not, women are wonderful to Role-play with, but one table of socially awkward guys who don't want to worry about the complications of a female presence for an afternoon? Men need their own spaces as well sometimes, and we need to be allowed to have those spaces.

I wish you well in your other endeavors, but I do ask you to reconsider this one."