Teri Litorco is a miniature wargaming, roller derbying, podcast contributing mother who currently vlogs for Geek & Sundry. I know quite a bit about board gaming, but I was really interested in learning how she got into the world of wargaming. So I asked her!
1.) How did you get into wargaming?
I actually discovered the hobby when I was helping my then-boyfriend (now husband) move. I found a box of stuff hidden in the top shelf of his closet. I initially thought it was his stash of porn, but when I brought the box down, I found a pile of shoddily-painted models. Expressing my surprise in not finding a box full of magazines, but instead a box full of plastic and pewter alien creatures, I exclaimed, “What the hell are these?!?!”
Instead of trying to explain exactly what these models were and what they were for, we took a trip to the local Games Workshop, where the staff just showed me what miniature wargaming was about through a demo game. After that, I was hooked.
2.) So what’s your favorite game?
It’s really hard to pick a favorite game, since I’ve been a gamer all my life. I can definitely point to the most formative games for me. Donkey Kong Country was the first game I ever owned myself – it was gifted to me on my seventh birthday in the SNES bundle. The original Starcraft was HUGELY influential to my sensibilities and inclinations towards miniature wargaming, and it’s a game I still go back to play now.
In terms of miniature wargames, the first love seems to run the deepest, and I started playing Warhammer 40,000 all those years go. While the game mechanics are constantly changing, the universe is so rich and so deep that it never fails to capture my imagination. I’m also currently on a huge Star Trek Attack Wing kick – I grew up watching The Next Generation and Deep Space 9, so the game has a special place in my heart.
3.) What made you decide to start a YouTube channel?
I had taken a bit of a break from the hobby after having my daughter and organizing a few tournaments. As a tournament organizer, one of the things I realized was that my hobby involvement grew beyond just participating; my hobby also encompassed enabling others to enjoy the wargaming hobby.
I was also inspired by my husband and his best friend, Lange, who’d been recording and releasing their wargaming podcast, Jaded Gamercast, for a couple of years at that point. I ‘d always been involved on the back end, but was recently on the show as a guest host (Episode 121: Size Queen) with the boys. After that, I decided I’d just start making my own vlogs. Also, I was a little tired of Nathan taking my ideas and observations and getting credit for it. The joke was that I was always the uncredited producer of JGC, but I wanted to have my own voice instead of talking through someone else.
I wanted to create wargaming vlogs that resembled makeup guru vlogs: haul videos, product rants and raves, and quick tutorials delivered in a friendly, accessible package. I wanted the format to be markedly feminine, while delivering interesting and useful information to a mostly male viewership.
4.) How do you balance your hobbies with being a mother? Do you have any advice for other geek moms?
Any mom who has hobbies realizes very quickly that you end up prioritizing what’s actually important after you have kids, because time is scarce and there’s always more things to do. The best advice I can give any mom is this: make sure that you include yourself on that list of priorities. Investing time into you by giving yourself permission to do things you enjoy separate from your children makes you a happier, more balanced person, and makes you a better, more engaged parent.
5.) Have you ever faced discrimination in the wargame community because of your gender?
I attended a tournament once and was doing rather well and the tournament organizer, a British man, looked to me and said, “You know, girls are usually garbage at the game, but you’re quite good for a girl.” He meant it as a compliment, but I still think of it as insulting.
Miniature wargaming as a hobby is rife with casual misogyny. One miniature wargame’s famous unofficial tagline is “play like you’ve got a pair” and “Little girls. Nancy boys…go home. This game is not for you.”
Women in wargaming aren’t often considered wargamers in their own right. Instead, we’re looked at as painters or hobby enthusiasts. There’s definitely a delineation of the hobby by gender – “crunch,” which refers to the harder aspects of the game, including rules and mechanics, and is masculinized, whereas “fluff, “which pertains to non-game mechanic aspects of the hobby, including adherence to the fictional universe and painting, is feminized. Even when tournament systems reward players for painting or sporting behavior with points counted alongside points earned through gameplay, those scores are referred to as soft scores.
It’s never malicious, but the prejudice toward the female wargamers is definitely present. But I think it’s a product of the marked lack of female presence in the hobby as well, and it’s only something that can be remedied by women being visible and present.
7.) What advice do you have for young girls interested in getting into the world of wargaming?
Do the things you love the most about wargaming, and do them because you love it. You don’t have to love every aspect of the hobby to enjoy the hobby as a whole. Me, I’m not so fond of building models or painting them as much as I am playing games. You can partake in the other aspects of the hobby if/when it appeals to you, but don’t feel intimated by any one aspect or let that prevent you from enjoying any of the other aspects.
Get into gaming through a local gaming store or club. Most folks who play in those environments are very welcoming to newcomers. Unlike some established tabletop RPG groups or online gaming guilds, pickup games with strangers are a mainstay of miniature wargaming and, as a result, the culture of playing with new people is very welcoming. There’s usually also hobby champions for many game systems who will be willing to demonstrate and/or help you with learning the game, so avail yourself of those resources. There’s also a lot of support for folks looking to get into painting and building – help is available both locally and online for those aspects.
Finally, and this is advice I give to all people looking to get into wargaming, pick a game that appeals to you aesthetically (pretty models) and whose fiction is interesting to you (cool universe). The games people most enjoy are ones where they can suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves, and it’s hard to do that if you think the models are ugly and the universe is stupid.
Be sure to check out Teri on Geek & Sundry Vlogs and also on her personal channel! You should also listen to Jaded Gamercast and chat with her on Twitter and Facebook. You can keep up with her hobby progress on her Instagram.