Home Gaming ConTessa – a gaming convention by women

ConTessa – a gaming convention by women

3 min read

 A self-proclaimed hippy love-letter to all things gaming, ConTessa is a free online gaming convention (using Google Hangouts).  The unique aspect is that ConTessa is by women, for everyone.  This means that only those who identify themselves as women (I suppose to be inclusive of transgendered women) are allowed to host a game or panel.

Now, it’s important to note that ConTessa keeps stressing that they are apolitical.  What does this mean?  According to their disclaimer

There are a lot of opinions out there on gender issues, and the subject almost always results in heated discussions and flared tempers. For good reason, too, the stakes aren’t exactly small. We want ConTessa to be an oasis in all of that heat, a place where we can come and just be women who game rather than being women who talk about being women who game. While critical debate has a time and a place and a purpose, ConTessa is none of those. ConTessa is completely neutral ground.

I applaud this sentiment.  However, why do something that separates male and female gamers anyway?  Sure, I understand that gamer culture is still generally male dominated, but it’s not as if women are in the minority as gamers.  Plenty of women game – why do we need to keep on separating ourselves?  It just reenforces the idea that we’re a sad, frightened, angry minority.

 Look, the only reason I decided to write about ConTessa was their tweet earlier



 Like I said, I really applaud the idea of accepting that women are gamers and we don’t need to keep talking about it.  Great.  But then don’t make events like this which seem to promote the concept that we DO need to talk about it and prove how different we are.

 Also, check out their site.  You can use one of their avatars to promote the event – there are a variety of “characters” used to promote the event around the site.  Nice idea.  Except… they completely conform to “gamer girl” stereotypes!  Look at this!


 Sure, girls want to look nice, pretty, cute or whatever.  But c’mon.  What do gamer males use for avatars?  Even if they support their idea, are they supposed to adopt one of these women as their avatar on twitter to promote the event?  Give us some aliens, robots or something.  How about reenforcing the idea that gamers are gamers, regardless of whether or not they have anime eyes and curvy bodies?

 It seems like the organisers are trying to be apolitical, yet don’t realise how innately political it is to have an event purely for female gamers.  It’s like having an event and limiting it by race, or sexual orientation.  As inclusive as it may purport to be, it will always come across as prejudiced.  Will there even be a difference between the types of games or panels a woman would choose to host at this event vs. a different event?

 What do you think of the gender aspect of this?  Am I just overly sensitive to all this ‘girl gamer’ stuff?  Oh, and how about using Google Hangouts for a gaming convention?

Last Updated: June 4, 2013


  1. Umar Kiiroi Senk?

    June 4, 2013 at 13:41

    …Girl Gamers fighting for gender equality in the gaming industry
    ….Makes a convention for females ONLY ……..


    • Admiral Chief Commander

      June 4, 2013 at 14:05



    • Jess Hartley

      June 4, 2013 at 16:40

      It’s not /for/ women only–the convention is /for/ everyone, regardless of gender.

      It’s being run by women, from the con staff to the programing personnel to the GMs. In part, to demonstrate that there are women out there in the gaming industry with those skills, and to encourage other women to step forward and learn/showcase them.


      • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

        June 4, 2013 at 18:06

        I do apologize for my incorrect comment. Yes you are indeed correct. Having read the website, I see they are allowing anyone to attend. Even so, this event is geared towards females, an oasis for women away from all the political heat as they put it. It’s marketed for women . Whether or not males are allowed, there is still a gender divide here. I understand that this is for the uplifting of females, but the bigger issue and solution would be to bridge the divide, uplift mutual understandings, bring women and men together. We are all just gamers in the end and yes females have it tough too, they bare many stigmas, but so do males, I don’t know how much labels I have now. The internet needs to be cleaned up and we should help each other…
        That said. I was misguided in my comment and I do apologize for that


        • ConTessa

          June 4, 2013 at 19:16

          Actually, Umar, that’s exactly what’s happening. 🙂

          The women who run the panels and games are allowed and encouraged to invite anyone in who wants to play or be a panelist regardless of their gender. The result is that we have 18 events on the boards currently, many of which are already full of player signups, and the groups have been of a beautiful mixed gender ratio. Most of the games are about half and half women and men signed up, and while there are panels that are populated solely by women, many of them are also turning out to be incredibly gender balanced with just as many women talking about gaming as men are.

          We’re not here to change the world or try to ‘do’ anything other than give women a place where they can take the spotlight and have a lot of fun. Whether it’s important or not, a woman’s experience in the gaming hobby as a whole is more often filled with requests to talk about our experience as women in the hobby rather than the things we like to do, create, and experience in that hobby. ConTessa’s apolitical goal is to give those women an opportunity to enjoy a convention where they can talk about the games and the gaming rather than only being asked to talk about being women who game.

          That said, it may not be for everybody. There are certainly people out there who thoroughly enjoy the political aspect of gender politics, and virtually every other convention on or off the ‘net gives them plenty of space to talk about those things. Our existence shouldn’t be a threat to that experience, and I welcome those women into the convention because I’m sure even they want a break from this time to time as well.

          I’m a bit disappointed in this post, as I would have answered any questions Zoe had prior to posting them. Unfortunately, as this post has deep political implications of the sort that ConTessa is not interested in, all I can say now is what I’m writing here. 🙂

          I do hope that instead of just dismissing the convention off hand, you’ll take some time to look through our events and participate. Registration is open for two more weeks, we already have 18 events on the books, and there are more being planned as we speak. Our only ‘agenda’ here is to have fun.


          • Gavin Mannion

            June 4, 2013 at 19:26

            I love your response and I think you have a noble goal here… I disagree with how you are attempting to achieve it but I am impressed with the goal.

            I can’t speak for Zoe but my personal opinion is that I truly believe, or want to believe, that women are accepted in the gaming industry. Or at least more than in most other industries. The idea that you need to remove yourself from the mainstream audience doesn’t sit comfortably with me and I’d much rather see this sort of event being held alongside your mainstream events. Rather than splitting the community even further and ostracising us male gamers who really want you as part of the community.

            I also believe you made a misstep with your avatars though.. where’s the normal gamer avatars that we can all attach to?

          • ConTessa

            June 4, 2013 at 19:48

            I don’t run any other ‘mainstream’ events. ConTessa has no “group of organizers” or board or anything else. It has me. It was my idea, hatched in my own head. I worked on AAA titles for the video game industry as an engineer for a decade of my life. I knew (and still know) a variety of both sexist men that I worked with and not-sexist men that not only worked with me, but mentored me in my early days. My very successful career currently is in large part thanks to those men eagerly sharing the things that they loved with me.

            But being the only woman in the room wears on someone after a while. I want to know the other women out there, and do things with them, not just for the political reasons everyone carries on about, but for the deeply personal reasons of wanting to be around people who are like you are – no matter what “like you are” actually means. Most of my female friends aren’t nerdy gamers, and I’m constantly wishing I had a girlfriend to run around and do things with. ConTessa, in part, is offering women the opportunity to network with other women just like them, and it’s very much having that effect. Email threads and Facebook threads have popped up where women in the industry are meeting each other and talking and networking and discovering that they aren’t alone. That’s a beautiful thing to behold.

            This convention, while for everyone, is pretty selfish. We don’t really want to change the world or develop an agenda that ends sexism. We just want to give women a place where – for four days – they can be around other women that love the same things that they do. Conventions that focus on the feminist aspects of women in gaming are generally for other people. For people who don’t understand or know sexism. ConTessa is for the women.

            I run a lot of games via hangout and many of them are up on YouTube. I’ve had both men and women come to me and tell me that watching me do this made them less shy when it comes to running their own games and events. That’s extraordinary, and all I did was have some fun. So, all we’re going to do is have some fun and hopefully we’ll convince some other people of just how much fun gaming is and the net will get wider. If not, well, then we’ll still have a lot of fun. 🙂

            As for the avatars – I’ve paid for all of the artwork for ConTessa out of my own pocket. I didn’t have enough money to cover what it would need to create avatars of every shape and size imaginable. I specifically chose a range of nationalities, skin colors, and styles of dress/poses to cover as many options as possible. I created the square avatars in response to several women telling me that they loved the characters so deeply because they seldom see artwork depicting what *they* look like. I put them up there specifically for the women who are identifying with those avatars.

            Everyone else is perfectly capable of making their own avatars. 🙂 I only have so much time and money to go around. I can’t possibly afford to do every possible combination that’s out there. 🙂

          • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

            June 4, 2013 at 20:02

            Thank you very much for your response. I respect your vision and intentions and I understand your reasons..Do not get me wrong. I am not dismissing your event nor do I believe you have an agenda. I have all the faith that you have good intentions. I do not wholeheartedly agree, but I respect you and the event enough to not judge any further.

            My concerns come from past scars. I’m a very jaded individual when it comes to these type of topics. There are many, like you said that enjoy these political topics very much and I too am at fault for jumping on the bandwagon. I just want more peace in the gaming community. And though I may not agree with the way you are handling the event, I still hope it is a success and whether or not it you want it to change anything, I hope it does. All the best with your event 🙂 I apologize again for any misguided judgement I may have given forth, I am much more enlightened after your response as well.

          • ConTessa

            June 4, 2013 at 20:21

            Believe me, I understand. I started ConTessa because I feel very much the same way. The landscape of the gender wars arguments and the politicization of equality has led me down lots of roads of bitter and I just want to bring the positive back to gaming. That’s why uninformed posts like these are problematic. Nobody from Lazy Gamer reached out to me for an interview request, which makes this post a little bit odd to me.

            Flame wars are bound to happen, but I’ve been working on, publicizing, and talking to people about this convention since January, and the only criticism I’ve gotten has come from people who have decided what I’m thinking without actually asking me to be involved in the process.

            All I ask is this: ConTessa has no goals other than to have fun and to demonstrate to others that gaming is fun. While your gut reaction may be from past experiences, do me a favor and put that aside. Just watch what we do, and just watch what turns out. Leave all of your preconceptions aside and just take a look at what happens. You’re more than welcome at any of our games or panels, and, honestly, we don’t have a single video-game related event yet, which I’d LOVE to see, so if there are any women that are interested in pulling that aspect into ConTessa, come by and create the events!

            ConTessa is important to different women for different reasons, and they are the ones in the power of creating the events, and they’ve made some fantastic events. They have done SO MUCH to restore my faith in humanity and dial down my own bitterness that it honestly chokes me up. Give them a chance, they might do the same for you. 🙂

          • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

            June 4, 2013 at 20:50

            Indeed. The least I could do is give it a chance. Flame wars will always happen like you say. The best we can do is act maturely and intelligently. Your response is a good example of this.Goodluck with everything! And hope it’s fun 🙂

          • gary959

            January 27, 2015 at 17:04

            You’re horrible sexists no matter how you try to frame it. If you want to game, just game and stop hating.

    • Tauriq Moosa

      June 4, 2013 at 16:45

      Second line: “The unique aspect is that ConTessa is by women, for everyone.”


      • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

        June 4, 2013 at 18:06

        Indeed. Apologies for my misguided comment. Above is my reponse


        • Tauriq Moosa

          June 4, 2013 at 22:13

          No worries. Thanks for replying.


  2. Unavengedavo

    June 4, 2013 at 13:43

    “We’ve been busily working on the ConTessa Swag Bag”


    • The_Stubbs

      June 4, 2013 at 16:19

      Swag has been used at cons for years to talk about loot. Check your facts.


      • Gavin Mannion

        June 4, 2013 at 19:18

        yeah but words change.. it now means something different


      • Unavengedavo

        June 5, 2013 at 00:39

        A thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, esp. a story with a funny punchline.
        Make jokes; talk humorously or flippantly.
        noun. jest – fun – jape – gag – trick – pleasantry – lark
        verb. jest – jape – banter – lark – kid – josh


  3. Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    June 4, 2013 at 13:47

    The problem with these events is that it draws a lot of attention and usually bad attention. There will be trolls that will actively seek a way to disrupt this.

    The sentiment is good. The implementation not so much. It seems very feminist for people trying to claim it’s just about the game (and I really don’t mean that in a nasty way I am just bad with words and have no idea how else to put it).

    And no, I don’t have any better ideas so in a sense they are still doing more than anyone else to at least raise a bit of awareness about this sort of thing which I guess is good in its own way.


  4. ElimiNathan

    June 4, 2013 at 13:51

    Meh curvy body avatars ftw


  5. Trevor Davies

    June 4, 2013 at 13:51

    I think the sentiment is nice, having a gaming convention where main point of view is from women, and I hope it works out really well.

    BUT. It’s naive to think that you’re going to avoid a flame war simply by saying you’re neutral. As soon as you express an opinion, there’s almost always an opposite opinion, and someone is guaranteed to get their panties in a bunch (pun intended). Especially given that it’s online, people are way more free with their opinions in a faceless situation. It just needs one “get back in the kitchen” or “all men are bastards” to get the ball rolling.

    Also, that character art… WTF.


  6. CrasH

    June 4, 2013 at 14:07

    I don’t see any issue with it. Neither for, nor against.

    My wife had her fair share of the “girl gamer” debates with every ego driven kiddie out there and i will admit when I was younger i also had the false image of woman not being that good at games.

    But met my wife and soon realiased their are games I am better at than her and there is just as a long list of games she is better at than me and a few games that we play well together and others we just should not play together.

    Only differance is, that if i fail, i get get called noob and if she fails, people just say… oh girl gamer…
    and i actually think the second is more insulting, one being skill related and the other just being totally bias.

    Accept for those few who want to be known as a girl gamer and have no clue… they are worse than noobs…. 😛


  7. Gavin Mannion

    June 4, 2013 at 14:29

    I get regularly bashed for my opinions on feminism and sexism.. but really these ladies aren’t helping anything by forcing their girl gamers into unrealistic stereotyped avatars..

    It’s just so mind numbingly bizarre


    • Johan du Preez

      June 4, 2013 at 18:16

      +1 I thought I was the only one that noticed it.


  8. Brady miaau

    June 4, 2013 at 15:13

    This is a touchy subject. I know woman who you cannot discuss this with, as they assume you are an *****hole because you opened your mouth. Without listening to what you actually said.

    Gamers are gamers are gamers are gamers are gamers. simple.

    To host an event to draw attention is one thing. What are they trying to accomplish?

    Something like the Black Management Forum, which is actually, technically, open to other races? (in practice I think not, but that is beside the point)


    • Jess Hartley

      June 4, 2013 at 16:45

      My goal in supporting efforts like this is to help encourage active participation by women who may feel intimidated about being a part of the gaming community/industry. Being someone who can say “Hey, I create games, I write game-tie-in novels, I run panels at conventions, I’m recognized for my work in the field, and I’m a woman” is something I can to to encourage other women to feel empowered to participate in the industry in something beyond a consumer manner (if they want to). Many gamers don’t /know/ that there are women who run games, women who make games, women who run gaming companies.


      • Weanerdog

        June 4, 2013 at 17:59

        I have to agree with Brady, I understand your point that you are trying to encourage women into the industry because it may seem like a boys club (I am not in the industry but it is the impression one gets, fair comment or not), however by making it a “only by woman thing” publically it makes a majority of men gamers feel excluded. Now that may not be a bad thing as we are generally arseholes, the generalisations keep coming. Being a convention I think that you would want to have as many patrons as possible. More subtle approach would maybe be the way to showcase your event.


        • Jess Hartley

          June 4, 2013 at 18:38

          Many conventions feature males in all of the perceived positions of power: Male con-chair. Male decision-making department leads (with women in support roles–treasurer, secretary, hospitality, registration support). Male guest speakers., male game-masters, etc… and that means that many women feel not only excluded (as you described “a majority of men gamers” feeling at this one convention) but also unempowered to actually be a part of the industry in a powerful way. If you’ve never seen a woman running a con (or a Fortune 500 business, or a country) you’re receiving the message that that role is somehow inappropriate, unobtainable, or just flat out “not yours”.

          Often, the only times women gamers see women as GMs, guests, and in positions of power on con staff is at events like this, which are specifically organized by women. It breaks the unspoken message that those roles and positions of power are “male only”, and encourages gamers of both genders to see women as being empowered to be in those roles.

          And while I certainly would love for the industry to get to the point where there is no bias on gender, where there is no need to say “YES, women can do these things, women can do EVERY part of a convention, now take that lesson and apply it to other conventions…” — we’re not there yet. So, we’ll demonstrate it, in a visible way, and hopefully soon, we’ll look back at cons like this as “quaint”… “You remember back in the day, when there was enough discrimination, sexism, and cronyism that we actually ran cons just to show other women it could be done?”


          • Weanerdog

            June 4, 2013 at 19:01

            My point is that when you make it a woman only thing, you actually demonstrate that the only reason that a woman is the GM, chair etc is because it is a woman only thing. I am saying organise a con get woman in all the main roles and put on a con, not a woman con but a proper whole hog thing. Organise a con as a woman with only woman in your team but don’t advertise it as that and put on a good show, you are then empowering woman.
            I do understand that it is an anyone convention, but by advertising the fact that it is a woman only organisation thing I feel, my opinion that is, that you make it quant and therefore not actually a serious event thus putting woman down.
            You make it seem that woman could only organise the bake sale and run the marketing department which is demeaning and not true.

          • Brady miaau

            June 5, 2013 at 07:45

            A lot of good points made on either side, I think. Well spoken.

            Perhaps my view of the world is quite idealistic: the world we live in has few, for example, female engineers. I remember how a female engineer reacted once when a supplier asked to speak to her engineer to verify the part. A German supplier. That is pathetic, as was his “are you serious?” question when informed. But this is the world we live in. I work in IT and engineering. How many woman do I see around me, in positions of power, in our or other firms? SITA (Government) has some woman in power positions, to be fair.

            I used to be a GM / DM and it can be fairly intimidating. The last thing you need is some mental giant out there making snide remarks because you wear a skirt or something like that. Why should woman have their confidence broken down over non game related issues? I have seen this happen in high school.

            So I guess you are saying that while this may not be ideal, the concept is forced on you from the world you live in. Thanks for the well reasoned response, on a subject you are clearly passionate about.

  9. Brady miaau

    June 4, 2013 at 15:15

    And no, I do not think you are overly sensitive to all this “girl-gamer” stuff. In trying to promote, it seems to me these “do-gooders” seem to create their own stereotypes.

    Do you believe you fit a stereotype? I do not know. BUT do you care?


  10. Weanerdog

    June 4, 2013 at 15:18

    Because of the facelessness of the internet, anyone better than me is a pale, fat, no-life living is his mothers basement, worse than me is a 12 year old spotty kid with no co-ordination who is never going to get a girl friend, and well girl gamers all look like the one on the left but with bigger breasts and less clothing. It is not a conscious decision my mind just does that.


  11. Craig Lotter

    June 4, 2013 at 16:24

    Yup, I would go with too overly sensitive.


  12. Volcarthe

    June 4, 2013 at 16:33

    I’m not surprised to see this kind of writing on a website called Lazy Gamer, particularly since that’s the appropriate description for your reading comprehension.

    Please learn the difference between the words “by” and “for.”


    • Brady miaau

      June 4, 2013 at 16:40

      feel better now?


  13. The_Stubbs

    June 4, 2013 at 16:41

    Goodness forbid someone limits an event hosts to a gender that in general gets zero rep at cons. If only you had bothered to read beyond that section and noticed that it was open to anyone to attend.


    • JD

      June 5, 2013 at 17:43

      Oh, the same gender that constitutes a tiny fraction of game sales yet many of its members demand the whole industry cater around them?

      Question: why does the SEXIST Zoe Hawkins assume we assume that female gamers are naked? Because we’re primitive neanderthal males? I wonder why there isn’t “a gaming convention by black people” and “a gaming convention by Jews.” Aren’t they under-represented in the racist antisemitic gaming industry?


      • The_Stubbs

        June 6, 2013 at 14:28

        No. No rational feminist, female or male, has ever demanded that the entire gaming industry catered to them. But not being treated like an after thought, having their gaming cred second guessed and questioned, and generally being harassed by virtue of their gender.

        You MRA BS arguments show just how you refuse to even consider the opposite genders issues because really this is all about how your represented isn’t it? Goodness imagine if men were treated like women for once in the gaming industry.


    • RincemysoulXboxOne

      June 5, 2013 at 18:43

      Well said Stubbs, well said. Here’s a thumbs up to you!


  14. Walker P

    June 4, 2013 at 21:05

    I may be making a mistaken assumption here, but just in case it’s not clear, this online gaming convention is to play pen and paper tabletop RPGs à la Dungeons & Dragons, not videogames. I just got the sense that some people were not clear on that.

    What makes tabletop RPGs different from computer gaming is that somebody has to step up and take the responsibility to be the gamemaster. It requires a lot of confidence and many people, whatever their gender, are not comfortable ever doing it, let alone in front of a bunch of strangers at a con (or through a videoconference at an online con). One of the things that I see ConTessa providing is a place where a woman who has some kickass scenario to share or a burning passion for a specific game system, but maybe never felt comfortable to just offer up a game for people, can now do so, in the context of an event that specifically caters to her as the GM. And if you go to the site, you will see there are already several pretty intriguing looking sessions up there.


    • Sageville

      June 5, 2013 at 14:49

      Yeah, they seem so focused on the gender-bender that they forgot to mention the games.


  15. Sageville

    June 5, 2013 at 11:02

    Hmmm, girl convention, good, fine…. and the games part?


  16. gary959

    January 27, 2015 at 17:06

    Hey, how’d it go? No mention that NO ONE attended! Not as many male gamer haters as you thought – glad you haters are in the minority.


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