Bio: Jessica Hammer

I’m not sure whether I was a role-player before I was a feminist, or a feminist before I was a role-player. Both are pretty fundamental to my life!

Currently, I’m a graduate student at Columbia University doing research on games and storytelling (read: role-playing!) for my doctoral dissertation. I support myself by working as a freelance game designer and consultant on both digital and non-digital games, and by teaching game design to high-school, college and graduate students. I’m a passionate reader and I role-play way too much, but fortunately I can count those things as professional development!

As a role-player, I’m deeply interested in storytelling, and in the ways that game systems can help people to unlock their Super Storytelling Powers! I’m just as interested in the tender and elegaic as I am in the HARDCORE!!!, though I often strive to tie the two extremes together for maximum awesome. I strongly tend toward the free-form, using rules only when necessary to either support players’ creativity or resolve in-group conflicts, though that doesn’t stop me from playing everything from D&D to Dogs in the Vineyard.

As a feminist, I’m particularly interested in the ways that the systems of our society constrain women’s supposedly “free” and “individual” choices. I find myself concerned with womens’ ‘second shift,’ with subtle forms of discrimination (particularly in our educational system), with gendered assumptions about parenting and other caring work, and with the systematic devaluing of femininity.

As a feminist role-player (and game designer in general), I’m interested in how we construct play in highly gendered ways. I’m interested in teaching women to be game designers and game critics. I’m interested in going into non-traditional communities to look for female players, as opposed to expecting them to come into our staked-out spaces. I’m interested in games that authentically represent women’s lives and women’s choices. And I’m also looking forward to ranting about some of things that piss me off!

I believe that play – role-playing or otherwise – is a feminist act. Plus it’s damn fun! That’s why I value the work that goes on here, and why I’m proud to be a part of Lila.

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