Adventures in GeekGirlScouting
Written by guest blogger and GeekGirlCon Social Media Manager Kristine Hassell
When you think about the Girl Scouts, what immediately pops into your head? Let’s be honest… you think cookies, right? I mean, who doesn’t love those decadent Samoas or addictive Thin Mints?
Hopefully when the Girl Scouts come to mind, you also think about their long tradition of confidence building and their efforts to help girls make the world into a better place. So an alliance between the Girl Scouts and GeekGirlCon makes total sense, right? That’s what we thought too. The Girl Scouts of Western Washington participated in previous GeekGirlCon conventions, both in our Exhibitor Hall and in the GeekGirlConnections room. Building on that, some smart folks had another idea…
Back in November of 2014, our Gaming Events Coordinator, Andy Munich, was invited to represent GeekGirlCon in a 24-hour D&D marathon hosted by Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast (WotC) to benefit Extra Life. During his eight-hour gaming stint, he struck up a conversation with Tammie Treibley Thompson, wife of WotC Senior Game Designer Rodney Thompson. During their conversation, Andy learned that Tammie was a troop leader and as they continued to talk, they quickly realized that there was some synchronicity in their ideas–and the GeekGirlScouts were born!
After several meetings, everyone agreed to co-host an evening of gaming at the Girl Scouts Headquarters in Bellevue, WA. The plan was simple: parents dropped off their children for a night of gaming. Parents could stay, but if they did, they had to play the same games that their kids played downstairs! Volunteers guided small groups of girls from pre-teens to teenagers through three separate areas of gaming. The selected games would introduce the participants to a cooperative board game (Forbidden Island), a tabletop RPG (Dread), and the fun of a strategic deck-building game (Magic: the Gathering). After the girls played the three different types of games, some of the volunteers would host a Q&A to answer questions about how they got into their various gaming-related careers.
Andy Munich (Gaming Events Coordinator) helmed the RPG table and created three unique scenarios (medieval knights, superheroes, and vampire slayers) that were randomly assigned to his players.
From WotC, Associate Game Designer and professional MtG player Jackie Lee and graphic designer and MtG player Liz Leo handled the MtG tutorials. Desiree McCloud, also a Girl Scouts troop leader, lent her MtG skills as a representative of the Lady Planeswalkers Society, longtime supporters (and friends) of GeekGirlCon!
King County Regional Program Coordinator Daniel Kissinger was excited for our inaugural event. “The Girl Scouts of Western Washington have been pushing tremendously for STEM-related programs, partnerships, and collaborations,” he said. “Those events have often taken a technology and engineering professional-oriented approach. GeekGirlScouts seemed like a perfect opportunity to expand the scope of our STEM focus. Introducing Girl Scouts to board games, tabletop RPGs, and MtG breaks down the barriers to male-dominated geek culture. Girls aren’t just STEM professionals, they’re geeks and gamers and nerds.”
When asked why this was an important event, Mikey first shared some feedback from one of our amazing DIY Science Zone friends, Dr. Danielle N. Lee. After visiting the gaming floor at last year’s convention, Dr. Lee commented, “I wish things like this existed when I was growing up.” As a longtime gamer, Mikey wanted to “make sure that everyone has a chance to try board gaming in a friendly, welcoming space so they can find out what games are fun for them. Making sure other people have fun is always my prime motivation for participating in events like this. Personally, there’s something incredible in watching people discover the emotional tension and delight that co-op games can inspire, especially for games that may seem like old hat to me.”
As a lifelong role-player and ardent RPG advocate, Andy added, “More and more games act as a gateway to geek culture; and geek culture can serve as a gateway to STEM culture. But while it’s of utmost importance that we raise a generation of girls who value science and technology, I believe it’s equally important that they develop imagination and creativity.”
Before playing in their first RPG, the GeekGirlScouts were given questionnaires to complete. After the evening, Andy said, “The solutions they dreamt up to tackle the situations presented at our RPG table were never less than excellent. Give them a problem to solve and let them get creative; the results were always memorable.”
This event was especially important to Alyssa. “As a gamer growing up, I never had a real community of other girls who shared similar interests as me. This event was so important because hopefully it helped to create a community of girls who have similar interests as well as introduce them to some women who have have made careers of these geeky pursuits! GeekGirlCon and Girl Scouts are on a mission to empower girls–what better way than to teach them the strategy, collaboration and the creativity that comes along with learning board/card games and RPGs!”
Alyssa added that the most rewarding part of the night was “seeing the girls bond over games – especially seeing some of the quieter girls come out of their shell after a round of Forbidden Desert! My hope is always that every girl will find a community where they feel accepted and have fun!”
I attended the event to live-tweet, take some photographs, and mostly observe the fun. It was fantastic to see the girls come out of their respective shells when they played the different games. Some of their attitudes shifted from cautious skepticism to wide smiles and laughter. Hands down, one of the best things I overheard from Andy’s RPG table was a younger girl exclaim, “I’m going to punch that fish.” Trust me, in or out of context, it was an amazing thing to hear.
After our successful event, everyone involved was keen to plan our next event, which just so happens to take place on May 31st. Space is limited but there are a few places left for curious Girl Scouts. Daniel hopes for a “long lasting partnership” and Andy would “love to see a regular series of similar events take place this autumn, leading up to and continuing past GeekGirlCon weekend.”
As I finish writing this post, I am reminded of my own first gaming experiences and the fun that I during my years as a Girl Scout. Like Dr. Lee, I wished there was something like this when I was a kid but at the same time, I’m so excited to be a part of this golden age of gaming. In the last few decades, games of all varieties have skyrocketed in popularity. There are games for everyone and game nights are a great way to bring friends and family closer together. We know that games sharpen critical thinking skills because players are required to think on how to advance while adhering to the game’s rules.
Board games and RPGs foster important social skills like teamwork, communication, and the patience of taking turns. Gamers learn how to plan ahead, strategize, and hone focus. You are attuned to what you’re doing and also what the other players are doing. You think on your feet, which can help you sort your way through problems and make decisions quicker. Creativity blossoms during RPGs and consider all the inventions that could come out of a simple RPG campaign when your intrepid character needs to figure a way out of a predicament.
If you would like more information on how you can volunteer at GeekGirlCon or the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, don’t be shy! If you are simply keen to play some games in an inclusive space, join GeekGirlCon for our family-friendly board game nights at Wayward Coffeehouse! The game nights are absolutely FREE to all members of their Meetup group so sign up here and stop by for some great coffee and great games. You can also pick up passes for our fifth convention here, if you wanted to spend two whole days gaming… and why wouldn’t you?!