Interview with Christina Stiles

First and foremost, tell us a little about yourself, your gaming experience and your writing experience?

I’ve been gaming since I was 12, and I’m in my 40s now. I started with the Basic Set of Dungeons & Dragons. My brother had purchased the game and needed a victim…ah, player. I was immediately hooked—even though most of my characters died horrendous deaths—and I spent way too much time thinking about my characters and the plots going on with them while I was in school. In fact, I’m not really sure how I graduated high school with honors, as my head was definitely NOT in my schoolwork!

I’ve played all the versions of D&D since (though not 4e so much), and I branched out into other games over the years: RIFTS, Savage Worlds, MAGE, Call of Cthulhu, D20 Modern, Traveller, Castles & Crusades, Pathfinder and many others. I admit that I’m mostly a tabletop RPG gamer. I don’t play boardgames, and I’ve only played a few card games. In the future, I intend to branch out to try the things I’ve been missing. I was sitting at Mysticon this past month, hearing people talk about so many different games that I haven’t tried, and I decided then and there that I really should see what else is out there and broaden my gaming experiences.

In terms of writing, I got my first gaming piece published in DUNGEON #61, “Jigsaw,” which I co-authored with Dan DeFazio. I actually started working with Dan after I had sent a letter to him and his co-author about how much I enjoyed their “Is There an Elf in the House?” adventure in an earlier issue. We hit it off well through snail mail, and that was how it all began. It would be years later, when the Open Gaming License came out, that I turned seriously to pursuing more writing. I wrote for the D20 System during its heyday, and I was lost as a freelancer when 4e came out—it just did not click with me. I then turned to writing for White Wolf Studios and Troll Lord Games. I got into writing for Pathfinder through several Kobold Press patron projects. I’ve kept very busy with Pathfinder for the last few years, and it is the game I play the most.

Tell us a little about your other work?

I mostly write games and edit them. I have had two short stories published, and I’ll be working on more fiction this year—some with the NYT bestselling author Faith Hunter. I’ve got a nonfiction book on introducing women to tabletop gaming in the works, and it’s on IndieGoGo right now: Medusa’s Guide for Gamer Girls (it ends March 19th). I’ve had a lot of women from the gaming industry sign on to write something for the project. I’m very excited about this! Just some of the ladies joining me include: Jodi Black, Filamena Young, Amber Scott, Amanda Hamon, Carinn Seabolt, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Jen Page, Ree Sosebee, and many others. I have male contributors, as well.

You do a lot of work for other groups (Green Ronin, Paizo, etc).  How does that differ from your own works?

I’m occasionally much sillier with my own works. For instance, I’ve published the gingerbread golem monster under my Christina Stiles Presents company. I laugh just thinking about that monster! But, mainly, there isn’t much difference. It’s just a matter of my own works being things that I’m passionate about getting out in the world. When I work for others, I’m generally writing something that they have outlined or have a specific vision for.

Describe Medusa for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

I’ve done several women-and-gaming panels at conventions over the years, and this book is aimed at explaining tabletop RPGs to the curious, and it seeks to offer ways to make gaming, a generally male-dominated hobby, more welcoming to women. Plus, we talk about how women can break into the gaming industry, and we talk about ways to introduce kids to gaming.

What made you focus on Gaming for Girls?

Honestly, the lack of seeing very many women gaming at the cons and game stores that I’ve played at. I have SO MUCH FUN with this hobby, and I want other women to join the fun. If they’ve tried the hobby and soon dropped it because they weren’t treated well by the males at the table, I want them to know that they don’t have to deal with people who want to exclude them or treat them as sex objects rather than as fellow gamers. I’ve gamed with way too many excellent male gamers who have been nothing but inclusive and appropriate; such groups are, in fact, more often the norm in my experience. Yet, I hear lots of horror stories about how women have been treated. As a teenager, I had a bad experience gaming with a 30-something GM who behaved extremely inappropriately toward me, in that he was hitting on me. I believe I was 13 at the time. His behavior turned me away from gaming with those other than my family and friends for a long time.

What are you most proud of in this work?

The book is really in concept stage at this point. That said, I’m most proud at this moment that so many people have reached out to me to become a part of the book. Lots of folks—both men and women—it seems, are just as passionate as I am about the subject.

What made you bring in such a variety of other contributors (comic book authors,fans, etc)?

Mainly, I wanted the reader to see how many of us women are out there. Not only are we gamers, we are professionals in the field or have been gaming for a long time. I don’t think women gamers realize that there are women out there contributing to the hobby, and I wanted girls to have some role models. I hope we inspire some ladies to consider entering the industry in a capacity that matches their talents.

What advice do you have for girls who want to game?

The biggest advice I have is this: There are groups out there that are very inclusive of all gamers, so don’t believe that a few bad experiences with sexist gamers are indicative of the hobby; find an accepting group—they really do exist!

Additionally, if you will be at Congregate and want to learn how to play a roleplaying game, come out and game with me. I’ll be there running a few things—possibly Rogue Mage and Pathfinder.