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Bad Squiddo Games Are Addressing the Gender Imbalance in the Gaming Industry with Realistic Female Miniatures

14 February 20 words: Polly Jean Harrison

 

Thought wargaming was just for boys? Think again, as Nottingham’s Annie Norman is addressing the gender balance in tabletop gaming, selling the largest array of realistic female miniatures in the world with Bad Squiddo Games...

 

Wargaming is often seen as a male hobby. Fewer than 2% of players are women according to The Great Wargaming Survey by Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy Magazine. But 29-year-old Annie Norman is here to change the game, literally. Over the last five years, Annie has built her company, Bad Squiddo Games, from scratch, and now sells the largest collection of realistic female miniatures in the world.

“I didn’t expect the company to last the year,” she says, “which is why I have a strange company name which is really hard to spell on the phone.”

For those who don’t know, wargaming is a subsection of tabletop strategy game where you play through battles using model soldiers, or miniatures. There are two parts to the hobby: the painting of the miniatures and the playing itself. The most popular game is Warhammer, sold by Games Workshop, though there are many others in the fantasy and sci-fi genres, as well as historical games where players re-enact actual battles from the past. This is where Bad Squiddo Games come in, as they focus on women in history; collections include Viking shieldmaidens, Amazons and WW2 “lumber-jills.”

She first decided to make her figures because she “got really angry about it.” Looking online for a female Viking, it blew her mind that "they were either topless or in metal bikinis – and that was the only choice.” Starting off as a curator and vendor of other brands of female minis, last year she took the plunge and began to focus solely on designing and producing her own range through her online store.

Annie got into wargaming when she was ten, after her mum bought her some old Games Workshop magazines from a car boot sale. She poured over the pages to decide what she would buy, until she went to a shop and realised the magazines were so old that none of the sets she wanted were still in production. Nevertheless, she started to paint and play Warhammer before getting into more niche history games.

Annie crocheted herself a bag for her game dice while at university, making some for her friends too. Before she knew it she became “The Dice Bag Lady”, with crafting turning into a full-time job with customers all over the world.

I want people to look at it without the gender hat, and to buy them because they’re cool figures. A female miniature wearing clothes should be a normal thing anyway

Unfortunately, after several years of intense crocheting, her bag shop had to close in 2015 after a series of wrist injuries left her unable to craft. In her final trade show, she took a few female figures to sell. The response she received was so overwhelmingly positive that she continued, and decided to set up Bad Squiddo Games.

The reaction to the company has been astounding, as the business continues to grow and expand on ranges and miniatures it sells. She has a large online community built up around the business, with more than 10,000 followers across social media. Affectionately referring to it as her “cult,” Annie likes to engage with her customers online as an extension of the shopping experience and to see her figures in action.

Despite the great reactions, there have been some negative comments to her business too. When she first started out some people assumed that it was run by her partner at the time and that she was just the face as a marketing ploy: “I’ve had to prove that it’s definitely just me and it’s not going anywhere. That’s what kept me going – spite!” She has received negative comments at shows too. Someone once shouted “Get a job!” at her. But Annie doesn’t let that negativity affect her as it comes from people she simply “doesn’t care about”.

Describing her interests as “guinea pigs and feminism”, at the start of Bad Squiddo, Annie found there was an element of people buying for the cause. They recognised what she was trying to do and wanted to support her in it. As great as this was, she didn’t want to be just the feminist wargamer: “I want people to look at it without the gender hat, and to buy them because they’re cool figures. A female miniature wearing clothes should be a normal thing anyway."

As far as she’s aware she is the only company doing what she does. “I’m slowly and stealthily changing what the tabletop looks like,” she says proudly. “I’ve even got other companies to sort their female miniatures out.”

Emily Ridding, who works at Warhammer Nottingham, has also noticed a recent shift in women joining in the hobby: “It's not 50/50, as much as we’d want it, but we do get a lot more women in the shop than we would have a year ago. It’s not seen to be a men’s hobby because it’s just a hobby for everyone.”

Over the past five years, Games Workshop has released more female-orientated models and story-lines to their games, as well as making their sets generally gender neutral. Whether this is because of Bad Squiddo Games or a happy coincidence, Annie’s not sure, but the community is becoming a far more welcoming place for women.

“I’ve definitely had an impact," she says, "but I don’t know how much of that would have happened anyway.” Either way, industry giants are now working to encourage women and change the attitudes of players, which makes her ecstatic. “Seeing them do that is good as it gets more people thinking about it, and hopefully they buy my stuff too!”

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