“I Want to Play Her!”

Ok, so I stumbled across a fascinating question the other day on the internet and then afterwards discovered that so many other people had found it interesting as well they had turned it into a meme! How interesting! The question has to do with gaming art that makes you go “I want to play her!”. Yes, “her”, because this question was specifically directed at women gamers. Here’s what it said exactly:

Ladies, what RPG covers (or interiors) have you seen that involve a woman in the art that make you say, “I want to play that” or, just as good “I want to play her.” Or that make you feel like it is a game you could like, or be included in by a group of guys you’d never met and whose maturity you didn’t neccisarily know?

The question came from Brand at Yudhishthira’s Dice, and if you go visit him I highly recommend you check out the post right before this one entitled “Why is that woman on her hands and knees?” as well, it’s on a related subject and it’s absolutely brilliant (it’s what drew me to the site in the first place).

As this is a meme, there are rules and stuff, so here they are (I didn’t write them). They come from Official Shrub.com, which I wasn’t familiar with before (and still really know little about), but the link in the last rule goes to a page where a bunch of people who have participated in the meme have linked their posts and you can see what they had to say. It’s kind of interesting.

  1. Copy the text of the original challenge from Yudhishthira’s Dice and give a proper link attribution.
  2. Copy these rules exactly (including any links).
  3. Find images of game covers (interiors are okay, too) that make you want to play the game. Any kind of game — video game, card game, tabletop RPG, etc — is fine. Post them and include a short (or long) explanation on why the image makes/made you want to play the game.
  4. The original challenge is about finding out what women think about how game art is marketed and therefore it is targeted at women. I’d like to keep it that way, please.
  5. You can tag as many or as few people as you want. You do not need to be tagged to participate in the meme.
  6. When you make your post, please post the link on this thread so we can all see what others have said.

Ok, rules and explanation done now, we can get on with the fun part of this exercise! The pictures!

I had a lot of trouble with this. I usually pull character ideas from non-gaming sources when I role play because most gaming art really doesn’t appeal to me, so finding some that did was a real challenge. Michael certainly helped, but his idea of appealing art is not always the same as mine. He did point me to some interesting things I might not otherwise have seen, though, so the help was appreciated.

First Michael pulled out his Eberron books. I hadn’t looked at these much before, since the world itself doesn’t really appeal to me. That said, it didn’t take long for me to find a picture that did! In Sharn: City of Towers there is a double-page spread right after the title page of a big battle in the air around a flying ship thing. On the left-hand page standing on the ship is a woman. She has on a green leather breast-piece and numerous small pouches hang from her hips. She holds both a sword and a crossbow (and a quiver of bolts can be seen on one hip). Her hair is in a sensible short ponytail with braiding around her forehead to keep stray hairs from getting into her face. She looks totally awesome. I would totally love to play her! She appears competent, strong and prepared, just like a good adventurer should be, but she has character. The green is interesting, there is a flamboyant red sash at her waist, she almost has a swashbuckler air to her, although she certainly doesn’t look like a pirate. It’s great.

Polgara the SorceressIn thinking more about images that inspired me, I remembered the cover of Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings. The art is by Keith Parkinson (click on the thumbnail for a bigger image). It’s not exactly gaming art, but he’s a gaming artist much of the time, so I’m going to count it anyway. Polgara isn’t actually doing anything in this image, she’s just standing there with the owl on her arm and staring out at the viewer, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me (usually images that inspire me to play a character are actively doing something). She just radiates competence and power, which up to that point wasn’t really something I necessarily associated with mages (chalk that up to the people I played with). She doesn’t look angry or anything, but you still get the sense that this is not a woman to mess with. I looked at her and knew I wanted to play a wizard like that. I’ve played a number of spellcasters since then, all with that aim in mind (to greater and lesser degrees of success). That look of power has inspired me a lot. I’ve even tried a spellcaster that didn’t have the firepower the back up that look, but affected the bearing and mannerisms as if she did. It’s a great piece of art and certainly made me say “I want to play her!”

After finding these two, I decided that two wasn’t enough, so I went looking for one more. What I found was actually another spellcaster (which wasn’t what I expected, but the pickings were kind of slim, in my opinion). The piece I found was by Tomas Giorello and on page 63 of issue 342 of Dragon magazine. It’s of a woman spellcaster standing proud and tall on top of water with her bright red cloak billowing behind her, arm upraised with an artifact casting a spell. In her other hand is a golden staff and her eyes are fixed intently on something straight ahead of her out of the picture, over the viewer’s left shoulder. Her robes are practical and not billowy and she has what appears to be some type of light armor as well, partially over her robes and partially peeking out under the sleeves. It’s a remarkably practical version of the very impractical wizard garb we always see. At about the level of her hips and knees are the heads of her male, armored companions (two of them), both hip-deep in water. They are looking brave and everything, but they are clearly clustered around her (perhaps she’s casting haste or something where they all need to be close). In the foreground are the backs of two creatures (kuo-toa, maybe?) with spears. The effect is that the woman appears clearly in command of the situation and radiates power. Again, I’d love to be playing that woman, even if usually she isn’t the one in the center, directing the show. It’s a great piece of art with a great woman character and no cleavage!

This was a fun exercise to do. I looked for some stuff in video game art, since my apartment is full of it, but I have to say that what I found more often nauseated me than made me happy, and nothing really inspired me. I hope that changes soon and I’m certainly going to pay attention to it. I’ve loved looking at what other women have said as well. Now I’d love to see what more women say, so I encourage others to try this. Especially Viv and Eva, since I’m guessing they’ll have some interesting answers to this one!


I’ve set up a persistent page for this topic.  I’m going to keep looking for gaming art and images of women that inspire me.  The ones here are there as well as several more that I’ve found since posting this.  More will hopefully be added in the future!  The page is here: http://www.pixiepalace.com/role-playing-games/i-want-to-play-her/

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