ByAna Valens, writer at
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

I went to this year, making it my second time overall and my first as a member of the media. And if you've ever been to PAX East, you know for certain how crazy it is: the convention center is huge, the food is overpriced, there's lines everywhere, and you probably spend more time walking around than actually playing games. But it's still one of the best gaming conventions on the East Coast, and a hallmark of an otherwise stressful tax season.

But there's a side of gaming conventions that isn't talked about much. Yeah, it's a pretty unique experience being a woman at a gaming con. While there are plenty of women that go to them, it's easy to feel outnumbered by the men. And that causes some interesting perks and cons in its own right. If you want to know what I mean (without transitioning genders, that is), here's my rundown.

The Cons

You can smell the testosterone from a mile away.
You can smell the testosterone from a mile away.

First off, you can feel it right away. In lines and crowds, men outweigh women by a fair percentage. When I waited in line for LawBreakers, for instance, I think I saw two other women in line at most. The rest were men, meaning I was basically the only woman in my game. This photo from PAX East 2016 should give you a pretty good idea of what the gender ratio was like there.

So many, many men.
So many, many men.

When I played Splatoon 2 during the press hour at the Nintendo Switch booth, I was also the only girl playing the game. Even my Inkling was a boy. I was all alone in a sea of Man.

Granted, it's not something you notice right away. And a lot of women do go to PAX. But once you're in line for a few minutes, that's when it hits you -- damn, I really am one of the only girls in my entire playgroup. Yikes!

The gender gap becomes really apparent at the hardcore pressers and demo booths, too. My girlfriend loves building computers, so while we were checking out the Zotac and Logitech booths, I began realizing there were a lot more men than women around these areas. It's easy to feel self-conscious waiting for a turn to try out their hardware demos, and I even avoided some panels altogether because I knew I'd be lucky to find another woman in the crowd.

Oh, but these problems aren't that bad at the convention itself. The afterparty is another animal altogether, though. Chances are you'll be hanging out with a group of people at a bar or club when it suddenly hits you -- wait, I'm the only girl here. I'm drinking a lot (as journalists are ought to do), and I don't know any of the other guys here very well. When you're a girl, you can never be too certain, so it's better to call the night in early than stay out way late in a city you don't know with strangers that may or may not have some sick ideas in their head.

The Pros

My girlfriend and I playing Counter-Strike together, a common lesbian dating ritual.
My girlfriend and I playing Counter-Strike together, a common lesbian dating ritual.

Of course, there's some perks involved when there's not as many women at a gaming con.

For instance, going to the bathroom is a breeze. Need to take a quick stop before heading off to a panel? You can literally pop in at any women's room at any time and find a stall. Not kidding. It's actually pretty empty in there, to the point where it's super easy to take selfies.

Whenever I go to the bathroom at New York Comic Con, meanwhile, I'm waiting in line like I'm about to play a Nintendo Switch console. That's right: three hour wait to use one, and you get a pin when you're done. It's a blast.

This was literally taken at 10:50 in an Expo Hall bathroom. Hi, readers!
This was literally taken at 10:50 in an Expo Hall bathroom. Hi, readers!

And on a serious note, people are really chill about the fact that you're a woman at a gaming convention. It isn't the early '90s any more; a lot of women go to gaming conventions, and most people know at least one girl who loves playing games. I've never been sexually harassed or discriminated against at PAX, and the Enforcers do a great job of letting unruly con goers know that BS isn't tolerated. I even held hands with my girlfriend and no one bothered us. Yes, the gaming community isn't perfect, but it's always been a welcoming place for me.

So yeah. Being a woman at a gaming convention can be a weird experience, but most cons are cool. As long as you can stomach being around men for three to four days, it's worth doing. Just remember to use your gut if something doesn't feel right, go with friends, and always have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Otherwise, have a blast, and see you at PAX East 2018!

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Do you have any experiences from being one of the few women at a gaming convention? Share your stories in the comments below.


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