It's not weird for girls to play videogames!
September 16, 2013 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Elizabeth Simins is an illustrator and a gamer. The latter wasn't always easy, though, which she illustrates in a four-part comic on growing up as a girl gamer.
posted by gilrain (77 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
I like this.
posted by librarina at 8:02 PM on September 16, 2013

sweet cartoon. I wish her (and her sister) the best.
posted by blob at 8:02 PM on September 16, 2013

I really liked this.

I wonder if her "hiatus" from videogames in high school was a net positive. Is she pushing the idea that it is hobby that is best approached as a conscious choice, as opposed to a necessary, but ultimately empty escape from the crushing awkwardness of a geeky adolescence?
posted by cacofonie at 8:15 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm still trying to learn to be a fake-normal person.
posted by rebent at 8:16 PM on September 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

Good story!

"It hasn't gotten any easier to be a woman in a community full of people who don't believe you exist."

So maybe things haven't changed, which is bad. But she changed. Which is good.

I would be remiss if I didn't note that mefite SaraC is making a webseries called Fake Geek Girls. Episode one is awesome. waaaaaaatch it.
posted by carsonb at 8:17 PM on September 16, 2013 [19 favorites]

That was really great. Thanks for posting it. It was helpful to read, for me.
posted by cribcage at 8:18 PM on September 16, 2013

Wow that was incredible.
posted by mathowie at 8:21 PM on September 16, 2013

I had the strangest experience when I was doing a Summer Shakespeare, I guess about ... 20 years ago?

There was a funky redhead dancer girl doing the show, and we were chatting, and video games came up and she started talking about Doom 2. How she was mad into it and had finished it and had a particular fondness for their implementation of the double barrelled shotgun.

Wow, I thought, unusual yet cool! We talked about Doom 2 for a bit, then went on with our lives.

I saw her six or seven years later and mentioned this and she stared at me blankly. No, she'd never played Doom 2. Nope. Didn't like video games.

To this day I'm both certain I had that conversation and not sure whether I dreamed it.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:23 PM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

(also: that was a lovely strip)
posted by Sebmojo at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2013

whoa, this is umm, literally my whole life. Including the little 16-year-old sister (who plays video games all the time with nary a thought about gender), including the awkward kid clothes and confusion about how to be "cool" and a "girl," including the blonde hair and too-tight (but never too loose) clothes and the black long-sleeved shirt and getting bangs in college and anthropologically studying the ways of normal people for 4-5 years before allowing myself back into geekdom. Eerie!
posted by stoneandstar at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

For me, taking a normalcy vacation definitely feels like a net positive. (And I had the same thought that it "should" be wrong, a desperate denial of one's true self, while thinking always in the present that it was indubitably good.) There are a lot of things that just make life easier, and nerd culture at times eschews them... learning how to fit in doesn't mean giving up on yourself forever, and it yields so much more potential for human connection. Idk, idk. It's like Marjane Satrapi said about keeping your appearance normal so that you can do whatever the hell you want and no one suspects... perhaps a little less consequential.

Oh, and I can't count the number of times I've been told I look too "normal" to be into video games or whatever nerd thing. It's strange!

(Ohh, and including the wanting a friend to just be "me too! me too! me too!" and then realizing things were never really gonna be like that. And working on the college newspaper. Oh, and I'm 24! What!)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:27 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Episode one is awesome. waaaaaaatch it.

posted by The Whelk at 8:29 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did this and I was a boy. I'm not saying I know or can understand all the difficulties that come with being a woman, but feeling like an outsider who's misunderstood and unattractive to the opposite (or same) sex is not really video game or gender specific. I do like that at the end the main lesson was that she gained the confidence to be herself, which hopefully happens to most of us when we grow up.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:33 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Now fully backwards-compatible with the kids who tormented her in grade school!"
Damn that's a clever line.
posted by topynate at 8:46 PM on September 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

Sure, her experience isn't limited to women - a lot of her story resonated with me, too. But that doesn't mean that this situation wasn't made more extreme by gender expectations. It would be more like if you or I were really into knitting or sewing growing up - i.e., solitary activities that are also coded as "wrong" for our gender.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:47 PM on September 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

Paging Sara C to read this
posted by sweetkid at 8:55 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I know that's not how that works
posted by sweetkid at 8:55 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I remember that feeling of wanting to find a friend that Really Understands You. I guess I feel better that I'm not the only one who didn't.

(I blame all the girly novels about Twue Fwendship skewing our perceptions).

You know, it's a valuable life lesson that if you like something unusual, it's just not going to be easy to find a lot of people in real life (as opposed to online) who Get It with you. I mean, I was hardcore into premillenial eschatology, early 70s Christian music, and Anne McCaffrey. I was not going to find any kindred souls in my suburban high school with that set of interests. So over time I learned to find some interests that I could share, and enjoyed my solitary obsessions too.
posted by emjaybee at 8:58 PM on September 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

I really enjoyed Elizabeth's story. It's so different than mine that I feel like the not normal one...maybe it's a slight generation gap? I was always in the arcade with my brother and spent hours playing 8-bit systems with our friends (boys and girls) and never thought it was weird or abnormal. Then came MU*s and newsgroups...never had a problem posting/playing because I was a woman. Sheer luck? I was a volunteer community moderator on Shockrave (still have the t-shirt they sent me!) and was big into Neopets for a while. I even made dorky little games with Flash and GameMaker and learned a lot, and again, never had a problem posting in forums. I'm surprised she couldn't find other women to connect with earlier, especially given how big the fan communities are for Final Fantasy. I would not have thought she was weird at all!
posted by Calzephyr at 9:06 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sure, her experience isn't limited to women - a lot of her story resonated with me, too. But that doesn't mean that this situation wasn't made more extreme by gender expectations. It would be more like if you or I were really into knitting or sewing growing up - i.e., solitary activities that are also coded as "wrong" for our gender.

I realized this more after posting my first comment. Even as a nerdy boy, there was usually at least one other nerdy boy who sympathized. It would have been even harder if those kids looked at me suspiciously too.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:13 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

"keeping your appearance normal so that you can do whatever the hell you want and no one suspects..."
Or what Flaubert said.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:36 PM on September 16, 2013

I would be remiss if I didn't note that mefite SaraC is making a webseries called Fake Geek Girls yt . Episode one is awesome. waaaaaaatch it.

ack, Zelda dude, what a creep

also, awesome, thirding the love for this
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:41 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, I love her stuff. Especially the one about "bad at games" because just yesterday I was re-realizing that my terrible grasp of left, right, and other directions is probably one of the reasons I like RPGs and puzzles over fps games.
posted by jacalata at 9:48 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Calzephyr: "I really enjoyed Elizabeth's story. It's so different than mine that I feel like the not normal one...maybe it's a slight generation gap?"

I think some of it is also, not sure exactly how to put this, but, like, having nerd role models in your life? Not necessarily gaming nerds or SFF nerds, but if you have adults in your life who are socially competent and well-liked, who have overzealous, childlike enthusiasms for particular things, you have a model that demonstrates how exactly to go about both being a nerd and "fitting in" socially. How to mediate your enthusiasm in social settings without being forced to pretend it isn't there.

While I had a normal level of "OMG I have no friends I'm a loooooooser" angst in junior high and high school, and I was definitely a weird kid, I never really felt that I had to pretend to be normal to be liked or have friends. I had all these adults around me who were also nerds about various things (architecture! TS Eliot! Broadway musicals! Bell ringing!) and had lots of friends and who freely admitted their enthusiasms and liked to talk about them, but could also make small talk and so on. I have a vivid recollection of one time nerding out about something to a very popular, very cute boy whom I knew a little bit, and he looked at me funny and said, "You're weird." And I said, "I know," like it was not really news. And he looked slightly surprised and impressed and said, "Okay." And we continued the conversation and thereafter we were casual friends. So much of being accepted as a teenager is being able to brazen it out, you know? I didn't really think being nerdy about things was negative or abnormal, because I had lots of great adult role models who were nerdy and totally "normal," so it didn't really bother me that people thought I was weird. And since it didn't bother me, people mostly didn't think a lot about it. My weirdness couldn't be used as a weapon to hurt me, since it didn't bother me, and I was generally reasonably socially competent. I was not the most popular child in school, but I didn't feel totally alone and misunderstood on the regular. (Just on the semi-regular as per a normal amount of teen angst.)

I also think some parents try really hard to repress those enthusiasms in their kids because they're worried their kids won't "fit in," when probably in most cases it would be healthier for the parents to help their kids learn to be normal AND nerdy. I think if the message you're getting at home is YOU ARE WEIRD, THE THINGS YOU LIKE ARE WEIRD, IF YOU LIKE WEIRD THINGS TOO MUCH PEOPLE WON'T LIKE YOU, it's really really difficult to go into the world with the sort of self-confidence and self-like that helps make you likable to other people. But a lot of parents don't know how to do that themselves, so helping their children navigate that very complex identity is really hard, especially when popular culture messages are very much about nerdy OR normal, not nerdy IS normal.

I'm kind-of thinking out loud here and groping for an idea so this doesn't feel very complete or thought-through to me. And I'm sure that's not the experience of everyone, and that some people's nerd-related social isolation operates differently, but I think this is sometimes some of it.

(Also what I'm saying is, good comic, enjoyed it.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:57 PM on September 16, 2013 [23 favorites]

I feel age difference more sharply with video games than anything else. My childhood was pretty similar to hers, only I went through it all 5 years or so before, and so all of the references are different--A Link to the Past where she played Final Fantasy Legend III. The weird thing was, unlike the artist I did connect to another kid over video games. It was my mom's friend's kid, Sam, who was two years older than me. We'd been neighbors and best friends at, like, 3 and 5, and then he moved away and moved back as a teenager, when I was eleven or so. He realized I had some RPGS--ALTTP and FF: Mystic Quest, I think, and so he started bringing over games for my SNES when my mom would watch him after school. We'd sit in silence, not doing our homework, and he'd eat all my mom's chips and I'd watch him play. Sometimes I tried to play--I remember I had to stay at his house once while our moms were on a trip and his grandfather took him out early to buy FF:III (US) and he "let" me make a character, teased me for the names I gave the characters ("Gaud" because "Gaudior" a la A Swiftly Tilting Planet was too long) and got impatient because I would panic and just mash buttons when combat came up. It was sort of mutually agreed upon that I was terrible, so I just watched. Then, later in high school, borrowing a friend's dreamcast to play Shenmue or Soul Calibur II with my best girl friend, staying up late at her house to watch her play FFVII or VIII. But I never felt like a gamer. It was this social thing, and often this passive thing. Me, watching them.

But then, college, and here's where what she says really resonates. I'd worked in a video store the summer before and they were getting rid of their store SNES, which I begged off the night manager. It had holes in the casing, and everything was black and white, but I got myself a copy of Yoshi's Island and that first semester, instead of having friends, I beat my very first video game by myself for the very first time. I mean, Sam had beaten my copy of ALTTP and Super Mario World long ago. But I'd never beaten anything by myself. Then I got a copy of FF: VI on emulator and beat that, too. Alone in my dorm room. Crying over the opera scene. I don't know. Christ.

But I still don't feel like a Part of Gaming Culture often. The games I enjoy are so rare, fleeting experiences for me, and when my husband's guild friends ask if I game, he says "no" because they don't mean the games that I play (and I can't hold it against them, or him). But I used to go to sleep dreaming about bob-ombs. I had a subscription to Nintendo Power. I used to compose my elementary school band's sheet music into Mario Paint, and rent Clayfighter at Blockbuster, and scare myself witless playing Maniac Mansion. This is a ramble. I don't know. It's funny, what we hide or deny, what we feel is, or isn't valid, and why.

Nice comic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:13 PM on September 16, 2013 [18 favorites]

I like her self-awareness. It seem to me that she wanted to be both normal/popular and videogame-y; and so in a very young, intuitive, grasping-in-the-dark kind of way, she saw that normality was within her reach and something she had to do first.
posted by bleep-blop at 10:21 PM on September 16, 2013

Not much a video gamer, but definitely a board gamer, and was in to text MPORGs back when I was in school. This essay mostly made me realize how very very lucky I was to go to a giant school-- big enough that it contained not only my best friend/fellow female nerd, but also a whole pile of other nerds and geeks and etc.

Also how lucky I am that none of the things I was was rare enough not to be represented there. (Sadly I think my best friend didn't have quite the same luck, and oh how I wish she had.)

In other news, I also really enjoyed this essay, especially the bits about a bad sense of direction. I have a truly rotten sense of direction, and ever since getting my butt kicked frequently by so many high school buddies in 007 due to getting lost yet *again*, I've kind of wondered if my hatred of FPSs is due to this really terrible sense of direction.
posted by nat at 10:53 PM on September 16, 2013

I really enjoyed Elizabeth's story. It's so different than mine that I feel like the not normal one...maybe it's a slight generation gap?

It is definitely a generation gap. If you grew up in the eighties, there were tonnes of women in videogames, Roberta "King's Quest" Williams being only the most prominent one and tonnes of games that appealed to women. That was when games were popular but not yet mainstream, when the technology wasn't quite right for realism yet and grown up people didn't play them (allegedly).

If you're a teenager now, you've grown up with games as integral a part of life as e.g. television and everybody playing them, with an industry that at least sometimes recognises that hey, girls play games too.

But that period in the mid nineties to early naughties that Elizabeth talks about, that's when games had become mainstream but the industry was largely content to pretend that only boys played them and even if a lot of women liked Tombraider as a game, the marketing was all tits, tits, tits, so yeah, easy for any girl to think playing videogames is weird.

And as she mentioned, that was also the time when the internet was still weird, but again mainstream enough for parents to know and worry about, whereas if she'd been slightly younger all her friends would've been online, or if she'd been slightly older, nobody would've known much about it but she could've found a home amongst all the other "weirdos".
posted by MartinWisse at 10:57 PM on September 16, 2013 [18 favorites]

That bit about fake geek girls in part 3, especially this bit:

for some people, it seemed, being a nerd, a geek, a gamer was something they could play at whenever the mood struck. When it didn't, they got to be normal.

And being jealous about this? What, now the beautiful people can be geeks too? Noooo!1!
posted by MartinWisse at 11:08 PM on September 16, 2013

This was really good.

I can empathize, but my experience was pretty different. Too. (on preview, I fall into the 80s and MartinWisse's comment resonates with me).

It was a really long time before I realized that women playing games was unusual and started to run into gatekeeping. My biggest role model growing up was my mom, who played ALL THE GAMES. Seriously, all of them. It's how we bonded. The first game designer whose name I knew was Roberta Williams, followed by Jane Jensen. I never had a reason to really talk to people about games because I liked singleplayer ones, or I would just talk to my brother about them. And when I finally did open up more it seemed totally natural that, obviously, my best friend happened to play games too and we'd swap discs. And my college roommate would play JRPGs while I watched. And from 18-20 I was pretty heavily involved in online roleplaying games (the forum post-by-post kind), and just happened to go to 80%-female communities.

I was 21 before I really realized that video games were seen as a guy thing (I can pinpoint the exact moment). But until then, I am so glad I was so naive for so long, because it let me enjoy this hobby for so many years without worrying about being judged. I'd hate to be in the comic writer's shoes dealing with that kind of peer pressure and self-consciousness at that age.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 11:14 PM on September 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I used to shower irregularly and get made fun for it. I am a man and I shower regularly now.
I am cleaner than the author of these comics. My hair is much nicer since I've started showering.

I play a lot of video games but I don't think that's relevant to hygiene. Nor is the fact that I'm male, but this seems to be a gender-oriented post so I felt it was relevant.
posted by Bonky Moon at 11:15 PM on September 16, 2013

One of the crowning moments of my pre-teen life was when I got to play Where in Time is Carmen San Diego (on Sega Genesis) with my first-ever crush. Maybe I was young enough or in a weird enough place that it never struck me as odd that a girl would want to play a video game.

But then again, I was also the kid who read A Bridge to Terabithia and maybe took the fantasy world parts a little bit too literally and, uhhhh...tried to get the other kids in my 5th-grade class to come play "Forest Kings of Gödia" in the small woods behind the school.

needless to say I didn't have a lot of friends
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:18 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I thought the "girls aren't into video games" stereotype died out a long time ago, at least around the time the first Sims game was released 13 years ago? I thought the current stereotype was about girls only playing certain types of games (e.g., The Sims) and not others (e.g., Call of Duty). And then lately there have been games like Skyrim that have broad appeal to both genders.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:27 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a side point, that early drawing of blue building with some trees? In Part 2 when she describes her favorite RPGs?

I'd like to point out that is a building from Final Fantasy IX when you end up in a giant tree in the middle of a desert (it's been a while, so I can't remember ALL the details). I know it so well because I, too, paused the game and drew that building from the tv screen. It was so pretty!

(here's a picture of it in game)

It's nice knowing I wasn't the only one who'd do that!
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 11:28 PM on September 16, 2013

Fascinating, fascinating.

But I had almost the exact same experience, and it had nothing to do with video games.

I had the same socially-awkward, geeky, physically unattractive, and very uncool tween years where I had no clue how to make friends, no clue how to be as cute as the other girls and make boys like me, no clue what would make the cool kids stop teasing me, and no clue how to be normal.

When I was 11-12, other girls took me on, and made me kind of their mascot, and included me. They were pretty and knew how to be cute and normal, but they were also super smart and intellectually-oriented, so it wasn't like I had to pretend to love Backstreet Boys and the mall in order to learn to be a normal girl.

Over years of being friends with these wonderful girls, I learned how to be socially normal. But it wasn't until I became conventionally attractive, around 15-16, that I stopped being treated as generally undatable. I remember this one time, a girl I knew was dating an older boy. She came to me and said, "Chris said something about you today. He said, 'You know, she's actually kind of pretty. Not as pretty as you, of course.'" It was soooooo backhanded, but I was actually surprised thrilled! It started happening like when you're driving south first the first time and you start seeing your first few palm trees. It takes so long and then you thing you might see one in the distance. And then it comes into view and you're like "WHOA! I'm actually seeing a real-life palm tree!" Just seeing them from the car is thrilling.

But none of this had anything to do with video games or any other nerdy interests. I'm about 5 years older than Elizabeth, and I played video games all the time, and most of my female friends did as well (those of my friends who were allowed to, maybe half). This was SNES days. I mostly played with my sister and dad and all of us would have been puzzled if anyone had said it was weird for girls to play Mario Kart.

What Elizabeth went through wasn't universal for videogame-playing girls; I think different towns and schools have different cultures and that makes a big difference.

I DO think it's quite universal for girls who don't grow up physically attractive AND aren't taught good social skills early on and/or don't learn them by osmosis.

The way Elizabeth initially felt about "Fake Gamer Girls?" That's exactly how I felt when I first found out about hipsters!!!

I was like, "How dare these very banal, normal, conformist kids -- kids who act like I am an unbelonging square who is nowhere near as cool as they are when I try to see shows -- go around pretending that they are quirky and odd nerds!!! Wearing weird, dowdy, mismatched clothes to fake being quirky and odd nerds!!! Pretending they like the books that I like, that they couldn't possibly understand, only for the sake of bolstering their image!!! Wearing ugly glasses to fake being as awkward as me!!! How dare they do this when I have spent so much time, effort, and money over the years, trying to hide the fact that I am a quirky and odd nerd and come off as being NORMAL!!! When it STILL feels difficult sometimes to be as put-together, appearance-wise, as a Normal Cute Girl to whom it comes naturally. When I STILL feel sometimes as if people can see right through my facade of being normal!!!"

Uh, yeah. Anyway. So, I think I get it, but I think looks actually play a much stronger role in these things, much of the time.
posted by cairdeas at 11:31 PM on September 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

And being jealous about this? What, now the beautiful people can be geeks too? Noooo!1!

It's like they get all of the good with none of the bad, and they get a free pass from needing to do things that you needed to spend a lot of time figuring out with a lot of angst (in my case, dressing attractively/stylishly vs. the grandma-sweater wearing hipsters!).
posted by cairdeas at 11:44 PM on September 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

subject_verb_remainder: "The first game designer whose name I knew was Roberta Williams, followed by Jane Jensen."

Jane Jensen is NOT a game designer. She is a dominatrix schooled in the cruelest types of torture.

Seriously, cat mustache? I was surprised she didn't get in on the Manhunter: New York. Hell, she even worked for Zynga for a while!
posted by Samizdata at 12:17 AM on September 17, 2013

Big dork, early gamer. Started out in the Apple ][ days.

My opinion on female gamers? "Cool. Female gamer. Now, unlike everyone else I play with, can you actually stay on task during a battle plan? Good."
posted by Samizdata at 12:19 AM on September 17, 2013

This article made me think about my sister's experience of gaming. My sister is two years younger than me, and wasn't considered to be interested in games. The gaming systems which were bought were bought for me: an Atari ST and a mega drive, then later a playstation one and 2. Yet she definitely played games, mostly on my mega drive. It was mine though, in my room, hooked up to a tiny tv. She could play with me, but even then it was usually on something like Sonic 2, where tails would uselessly fly after my speeding sonic. On the PC, we both played Theme Hospital, but only I played mechwarrior. I think we both played Dilbert's desktop games but only I completed them. I remember my parents also bought her some terrible "girl" games, including Catz and Dogz, which were basically screen savers masquerading as games, and some weird dating game which was terrible.

I don't think she feels like she has missed out on gaming or anything, but I do wonder if there hadn't been such gendered assumptions around, whether she'd have got into games more.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:30 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Heh, I'm a girl and was never much of a gamer, but I did like Cannon Fodder.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 3:40 AM on September 17, 2013

(Long, rambling post ahead; apologies in advance)

Thanks for posting the comic; I enjoyed it.

Or, perhaps, I enjoy it now after a little reflection. I guess I'm fortunate. I'm almost a decade older than the artist, so I'll admit I went into it with a bit of the "gee, she thinks she's a trailblazer..." kind of attitude (yes, not attractive; I'm working on it).

As I read on, I kept thinking: "this is not my experience. She doesn't speak for all girl gamers." When she talked about Fake Girl Geeks it sort of struck a chord with me, though I like to think that a part of me was actually glad more girls were playing games now, even if they weren't "real" games.

By the end, I realised she wasn't speaking for all girl gamers. She was speaking for herself, and who am I to judge her for that?

My own experience was different. Sure, I wasn't a girly girl, but many girls around me prided themselves on being tomboys, if not gamer geeks. In addition, my love for video games wasn't something I considered something that made me a pariah. Sure I liked games; which kid doesn't? So the other girls were playing Mario, and I was playing Gabriel Knight and Art of Fighting; just different tastes, right? I still had the required crushes on boy bands and so on.

Jane Jensen, despite being a sadistic dominatrix as mentioned above, was one of the first figures in the game industry that I was familiar with. So I was fortunate in having a female role model from the start.

I only really became aware of myself - or, as the comic put it, came out - as a "gamer" when I met my now husband through our shared interest in a video game.

And I only became aware of myself as a "girl gamer" when I started playing MMOs a couple of years ago.

There, I finally saw what everyone else had been fighting all this time. I became aware of how extremely difficult it was to be a girl gamer. I kept feeling like I had to Do Better, because if I screwed up, I dreaded hearing the phrase: "You suck cos you're a girl."

Again, fortunately, I have not heard the phrase (yet), perhaps because I play a male character. But I'm my own worst critic. I've internalised the sexism. I tell myself I have to be awesome at the game or people will say it's because I'm a girl.

And when I started making my game, The Marionette, it worried me that I have a man as the player character. I told myself that it was fine, the game was about a woman's tragedy. But the feeling hasn't entirely gone away that because I'm a girl, I have to make games about girls, featuring girls, fighting for girls. I should play female characters, etc. etc.

There's more, from twenty years of bottled thoughts, but this isn't my blog and I've written too much. I don't normally make a big deal out of my femaleness, but I thought that this is a good place to add my voice to that of the artist's. I started the comic judging her, but I end realising that she is another voice in a sea of female voices, and that we all have our own stories to tell.

So again, thank you for the comic.
posted by satoshi at 3:54 AM on September 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

It's a lovely comic! I do feel sorry for the Elizabeths though because I also grew up as an arcade and Atari girl in the early 80s and it was not weird for a girl or a woman to play videogames. We weren't pioneers because it was normal. I can't tell you how many rolls of quarters my mother and I burned through at the mall.

Is this the place for me to leave my unfounded speculation that the rise of sports-based games like the Madden franchise caused the perceived gender-split in video games? Having traveled from PONG to Assassin's Creed myself, I feel the marketing for (and the wild success of) Madden and its ilk really drove home the image that video games were for rowdy dudes, even if women played too.

(Garrosh Hellscream, this 41-yr-old lady's coming for you.)
posted by kimberussell at 4:03 AM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

That was a great read. Informative and a little bit sad but then not so much later on. I recall playing nintendo games with both my guy friends and my lady friends. Zelda and Mario, at least in my house, were loved by both genders.
posted by Fizz at 5:18 AM on September 17, 2013

I liked this.

I guess it sounded like a pretty normal story of growing up to me. I'm older than her, so it was D&D instead of video games... And being a nerd never became cool until I was too old to care about it any more... But, yeah, I can totally relate.

I guess it's a bit odd to me that people are proud of being "gamers." I spend more time than I should playing them...I like it...but I guess if I could flip a switch and stop liking it...well, there are obviously better things I could be spending my time on...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:34 AM on September 17, 2013

That comic broke my heart one third in.

Being told she doesn't really like games would be BS even if she liked playing Yoshi's Cookie for 10 minutes before bedtime, but it's even more vexing in her case because of how complicated her favourite game is. Final Fantasy Legend III is actually part of a different, less popular, and more experimental series called SaGa. You can change the characters' classes with items e.g. turn a human into a cyborg; there is no level system, so stats increase randomly, and IIRC weapons are degradable.

Having read the rest, that 'fake geek girl' tangent is unfortunate even though she mentions a lot of people only play the newest Madden. It's good that she came to accept and make a living out of her hobby.

My childhood was pretty similar to hers, only I went through it all 5 years or so before, and so all of the references are different--A Link to the Past where she played Final Fantasy Legend III.

Being able to play A Link to the Past on a phone is a sure sign of mankind's progress.
posted by ersatz at 5:53 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not necessarily gaming nerds or SFF nerds, but if you have adults in your life who are socially competent and well-liked, who have overzealous, childlike enthusiasms for particular things, you have a model that demonstrates how exactly to go about both being a nerd and "fitting in" socially. How to mediate your enthusiasm in social settings without being forced to pretend it isn't there.

You suddenly made my childhood snap into focus in a way I had never seen it before. There was a little *snap* sound and everything.
posted by rtha at 6:13 AM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think if the message you're getting at home is YOU ARE WEIRD, THE THINGS YOU LIKE ARE WEIRD, IF YOU LIKE WEIRD THINGS TOO MUCH PEOPLE WON'T LIKE YOU, it's really really difficult to go into the world with the sort of self-confidence and self-like that helps make you likable to other people.

Oh god, this. My parents are very traditional, watch sports all weekend, worry about how you "should" act and dress types. They didn't know what to do with me, and still don't.

I very much had to forge my own nerdly path through life, and it wasn't until college and the Internet that I found my best friends.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:22 AM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

I appreciate her experience, and feel lucky that mine was completely different. I grew up watching my dad play games and eventually started playing by myself - mostly FPS and age of empires. And nobody thought that was odd, although I was a bookish kid too and spent my lunchtimes in the library reading up until the age of around 14. Maybe I just didn't notice or care that people thought I was weird.

It was only when I started using xbox live that I noticed that people treated me differently because I was a girl. The weirdest situations were when everyone was actually very pleasant, but I would slowly realize that the guys were consciously "looking after me." They didn't really believe I could hold my own and would watch my back, or revive me first, or give me the health kit when someone else needed it more.

For me, the best day ever was when I ended up on an all girls team in a left for dead 2 versus match. I truly felt like part of the team, rather than a tolerated outsider.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:33 AM on September 17, 2013

Oh god, this. My parents are very traditional, watch sports all weekend, worry about how you "should" act and dress types. They didn't know what to do with me, and still don't.

My parents divorced when I was an infant and I was raised with my Mom's family. My relationship with my dad was nonexistant (various reasons but all is OK now) so I felt like a changeling because Mom's family all love SEC football and "normal" things and I wanted to read sci-fi and fantasy and play Atari. Until my mid-teens when I started to hang some with my dad (he's a physician but wishes he could be a ninja. Or a dragon. Or both) and the LIGHT WENT ON and it was like I knew where I had come from. Even now, he goes to see Star Trek and the Hobbit with me, gets me Dr. Who DVD sets for Christmas, and he kicks my ass at FPS games - I credit his dexterity to being a surgeon, not being a dude.

I wonder what would have happened had he been in my life more when I was little.
posted by pointystick at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think the fake gamer girl aspect of all of this is interesting. This is all about performing femininity, of course, and the truth is that I never learned to do this in a standard way in middle or high school and was never that interested in that, either. That best girl friend I mentioned--well, she was goth. We bought anime figurines and watched Toonami and played FFVII and listened to Marilyn Manson and though we put make-up on each other, they were weird colors from the dollar store, silver and blue. I did Become Pretty during this period, too--lost a bunch of weight because we were hiking in the woods all the time in our own invisible kingdom (yes, at fourteen). And I got my braces off and started wearing contacts and skirts and tights in bright rainbow colors. It wasn't even like I was conspicuously trying to be not-girlish, though I see a lot of tom boy aspects of myself now. I was just . . . okay with being weird.

The part where she judges other girls for being too casual and too normal about it is funny to me, in a sad way, because frankly to someone like me, they would have seemed indistinguishable in their girl-ness. Not that this all has much to do with playing games, of course. But I guess a lot of it has to do with people who embrace their own weirdness versus people who reject it even as other people are rejecting it, too (because of course, other people will). I'm just so grateful, I guess, that I had allies in weirdness, either online or in meatspace.

They made it a lot easier to be myself.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:21 AM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

I really liked the comic. I like how this kind of arts makes someone else's entirely different experience to mine still emotionally accessible and memorable. And well-explained and good for explaining not just primary facts but also emotional and affective subtleties.

Seems like things got more accessible/the market gets better saturated with a wider diversity of gamers, when consoles (and gaming-capable pre-built computers) become widely available. And when Flash reached enough saturation that folks were basing high quality video games off of it. And when Java became powerful enough and responsive enough to build video games (like Minecraft).

Because I think having to build or tweak a computer specially capable of PC gaming was a pretty high hurdle for anyone to overcome. And it was hard for folks to see the fascination in video games when they hadn't experienced it due to that kind of hurdle.

When I was a growing geek in the 80's it was a sausage festival among the home computer and gamer population. There were certainly women and girls who proved to be exceptions, but there was a vast majority of guys involved in that scene in my experience in the SF/Bay Area.

But I think the Microsoft and Nintendo consoles and the Playstation (and less so, the Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 - it seems to me that Sony's marketing isn't as populist as Microsoft's or Nintendo's) really opened up the gaming scene to people who weren't ultra-nerds.

Another factor that's more recent than the 80's is the formulation of and massive success of games in new genres, like the building/crafting dynamic of Minecraft or the MMOs or the Sim/Management games. I think these also help appeal to a wider diversity of gamers and gaming-interested folks.

The newer generations of players since the 80's needed only obtain a standard, relatively cheap (compared to a computer) console or a cheaper computer for some non-console games and spend $50 or $60 on a new title or less on a used title (or PC game - they tend to run cheaper than console games) and really get immersed right away.
posted by kalessin at 7:55 AM on September 17, 2013

sweetkid: "Paging Sara C to read this"

sweetkid: "I know that's not how that works"

Not here, but it would explain why she just tried to get fuckedcomplany to load!
posted by Room 641-A at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2013

Not here, but it would explain why she just tried to get fuckedcomplany to load!

I don't understand this reference
posted by sweetkid at 8:56 AM on September 17, 2013

I don't understand this reference

On people used to page each other this way.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2013

But I never felt like a gamer. It was this social thing, and often this passive thing. Me, watching them.
Maybe this is why I usually like watching good Let's Plays more than actually playing games. Growing up inspired by their artistic potential (not that eleven year old me thought of it in such lofty terms, but it is telling I think that I never really got into videogames until I discovered Secret of Mana and FFVI/3 and was totally captivated by them as stories/aesthetic experiences to the extent that I got frustrated with their game mechanics and always just wanted someone else to play them so I wouldn't have to deal with that) and having them be mostly a socializing thing, then maturing beyond the line of permanent adolescence drawn around them and not really connecting with the culture surrounding them... That's all left me with some pretty strong, but odd, feelings about games, I guess.

I started reading this comic thinking I was the little sister who was baffled by the idea that girls playing games is weird. Then as I went along, I recognized more and more, and realized I'm probably letting my adulthood color my childhood too much. The gender lines I walked were a little more oblique, but the more I reflect on it, the more I think I had something like a normal girl childhood. Mine was probably a lot lonelier, a lot more precocious, and my health was something that was supposed to be bad but really never affected me (I still don't know if I survived to be a healthy kid later because of all those surgeries, treatments and lunchtimes spent stuck alone in the nurse's office; maybe they helped, maybe they just kept me from socializing, I really can't know).

My interest in videogames came from some of my first crushes. These were the absolute dorkiest guys imaginable. Almost dork stereotypes. They were the older kids who played D&D and read superhero comics. They all loved Nintendo. I thought they were so cool. They were smart! They had interesting hobbies! etc. Ordinary geek culture isn't something that really appeals to me, but I'm still attracted to the type.

Videogames were something I was only casually interested in until I stumbled over Secret of Mana. I'd never really encountered a game before with a full narrative, or such a consistent and beautiful (and decidedly not hyper-masculine; Hiroo Isono's influence managed to make the game all flowers and green and color and sleepy Italian villas without being feminine cliches) aesthetic. That lonely, haunting howl that plays each time you start the game still makes me shiver. The melancholy fadeout of the title theme still makes me ache.

...Yack, I didn't mean to write so much about my own videogame autobiography! Here's where I'm going: as a young child, I had a social group to play games with, and sets of games I could appreciate as, well, art, on my level. As a teenager, I'd internalized the social message that I shouldn't really be interested in games, that it made me a little weird; I started hiding my hobby, but I still had a social group (including girls!) and sets of games that spoke to me on my level. But I also still went through periods where I put all my games away and tried to forget about them. Maybe that's normal? The longest was in young adulthood; I left them in the closet for years. I haven't felt completely comfortable with games/game culture since. Maybe a lot of it is me.

Either way, I liked this comic. It made me feel a lot of things I'd sort of forgotten.
posted by byanyothername at 9:23 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

As long as I'm nostalgizing, a few more personal tangents that I just remembered:

I may as well just confess and say that Xenogears is my favorite game. Favorite anythings don't really make sense to me, but as far as how deeply things left a mark on me, nothing else has ever come close. Part of it is the ambition and scope of the project: its world is a complex web of relationships--personal, political, spiritual-metaphysical--spanning, like, 10,000 years of invented history. Even if it comes out a bit messy, I respect anyone who'd try something like that, especially in a medium that's become so risk-averse. Similarly, Jodorowsky's Dune probably wouldn't have been a good film, but I have to admire the raw vision of it. But part of it may be that I played some of the game with my dad and a friend who's still very close, who started off MST3king it (oh lord) but eventually started asking questions about so-and-so's relationship to this-and-that, or how does that guy remember that other guy if he's so much younger than those events, etc. The kinds of games I like--and the things I like about them--are so different from the norms in gamer culture that that shared love of something is really rare for me. That's probably the biggest reason why I can't get into game culture; at some point, moments like these stopped happening, the people who like these kinds of games stopped playing and these kinds of games stopped being made.

Skies of Arcadia is one of the last games that made me feel whatever magical thing games used to make me feel. Again, the music is pretty haunting and the aesthetic still stands out. I still get glimmers of The Magic or I'd have just shrugged and outgrown games a long time ago, but this was one of the last games to be in itself magical for me. (A few newer games are magical for me, but it's a lot rarer. I chalk it up both to changing demographics/culture and me being older and having more refined taste. Part of it's normal, part of it's failure of the medium to grow.)

This PersonaSama comic captures a lot of the same melancholy in far fewer words.
posted by byanyothername at 9:46 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Man, I *wish* I'd had video game culture to fall back on as a kid. I was more a classic, book-readin' nerd what with the science fiction and such (probably because I was never allowed to have video games at my house, so I never developed the strategic/hand-eye-coordination skills necessary to make them enjoyable) which didn't really appeal to anyone in high school, especially since I experienced the same escapism y'all are describing but actually at school, in front of everyone. Being a grown-up is still like that, it's just that I've...*hem*...noticed that strategic boob placement can win you lots of friends.

If we back up, the broader problem is marginalizing women for any behavior perceived as non-feminine, not just for playing video games. I'll admit that since I've started paying attention to the way I look within the past couple of years, buying expensive clothes, spending an hour in the morning getting my hair to look just right, wearing real, non-drug-store makeup, I get a LOT more respect from everyone -- men and women. On the one hand I wish I'd been privy to this secret as a teenager when it would have served me very well indeed, but on the other...damn I wish I didn't have to wake up an hour earlier every morning just because I dared to be born with two X chromosomes. Or maybe that those born with a Y chromosome would *also* be expected to draw black lines carefully around their eyeballs being extra sure that both sides are perfectly symmetrical but not too visible because then everyone thinks you're a prostitute.
posted by Mooseli at 9:50 AM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

(Also I freaking LOVE her short little piece on Willow, kind of wish she would expand on it.)
posted by Mooseli at 9:51 AM on September 17, 2013

I loved the look of the comic (and LOVE the handwriting), but I couldn't relate at all. Like kimberrussell, I was an arcade & Atari girl - when I was 5 my dad bought an Atari with Pong & Asteroids, and it started a lifelong obsession. I've owned nearly every major console made since then. For 3 years we lived two blocks from a video rental store & I played & beat SO MANY NES games, including ones I'd never even seen for sale new.

I was a popular kid. Not the prom queen, but I had many friends, wasn't bullied, wasn't considered a nerd or geek or weird. I played for hours every day - I also played soccer & volleyball, and ran track. I never hid that I played games, nor was I embarrassed.

EVERYONE played video games. Everyone. Boys, girls, smart kids, losers (here I should clarify that I'm talking about teenage burnouts who could hardly read or spell & didn't care about either. That kind of loser.)

Everyone had some kind of system, even the super broke kids. Maybe because it like a golden age for gaming? (1986-1994 is what I'm talking about, mostly - that for me was age 10-18.) Systems could be purchased used for cheap, same with games, plus there was a huge rental market.

This whole "You play games! But, but, but . . . you seem so . . . NORMAL!" is just bizarre to me. Who reacts like someone is a pedophile because they play videogames? I never experienced anything like that. Did things change that much in only a few years?

I never stopped playing videogames. And I admit, my 7YO son's friends think it's a bit odd that I play minecraft with him, but they also think it's weird that his dad plays. I'm starting to feel a little self conscious for the first time ever, and it's because I feel too old to be playing.
posted by peep at 9:58 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

EVERYONE played video games. Everyone. Boys, girls, smart kids, losers (here I should clarify that I'm talking about teenage burnouts who could hardly read or spell & didn't care about either. That kind of loser.)

Yeah this was my experience, too. I played for a bit and then wondered why we were all sitting in a dark basement instead of being outside or reading a book or something, but yeah no one got bullied or anything for playing video games (or not) when I was growing up.

In fact, the reasons people did get bullied are still sort of inexplicable to me. No rhyme or reason to it, except for the exceptionally overweight kids, and even then not all of them.
posted by sweetkid at 10:23 AM on September 17, 2013

It's like they get all of the good with none of the bad, and they get a free pass from needing to do things that you needed to spend a lot of time figuring out with a lot of angst (in my case, dressing attractively/stylishly vs. the grandma-sweater wearing hipsters!).

heh, I actually just overheard someone talking about the "nerd to hipster transition" and how you could often see it happening when you were scrolling back through someone's Facebook pictures. I think it's probably at least as common as the transition to totally-normal-girl/guy and has a similar impetus behind it.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:47 AM on September 17, 2013

As I remember it, a lot of kids played video games growing up but not a lot of kids talked excitedly about LucasArts adventures and spent a lot of time doodling game levels in their notebook paper, like um, someone I know. Like Eyebrows McGee was saying, I didn't know how to temper my enthusiasm for things with social awareness until high school. (I also eventually dropped the reactionary "you think I'm weird? fine, then I might as well be extra weird all the time!" attitude.)
posted by en forme de poire at 10:51 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: might as well be extra weird all the time
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 AM on September 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

The video game thing in particular didn't especially resonate with my childhood either, but it did remind me of something from middle school. My group of friends, boys and girls, were all really into anime and drawing and video games, but one girl I was friends with was into web design too. Some of the boys, like me, were interested in it too, but she was really good. Like, she actually understood what objects are in JavaScript (at the time I knew them as basically "the things that go before the dot?"), her website was really slick, it had good font choices, a splash page and then a pre-sized popup window when you clicked "enter," a fixed background when you scrolled, an iframe for the main text, and mouseover graphics on the navbar. All things that are verboten now from a stylistic perspective, of course, but that nonetheless took some skill to execute and which were all in all pretty impressive coming from an eighth grader.

This doesn't end up shaking out the way it did in Elizabeth Simins' story, thankfully: the boys in the group didn't shun her or think she was weird. In fact, we kind of regarded her as our local HTML/CSS guru and she was always happy to help the noobs, and when I think back on this period in my life as someone much more conversant with gender issues I feel pretty good about it in general (not that it was a perfect enlightened utopia, because to be honest I was not free of thoughts like "wow it's so cool that you're a girl and into this stuff!"). But...what I wonder, and I guess this gets more at the Fake Geek Girl thing, is what the dynamic would have been like if the knowledge distribution were reversed. Because it also just so happened that the girls in that group were generally better and more knowledgeable about drawing and anime and had been doing it for longer than the boys, and were pretty tolerant of the boys as we learned about it and got more interested in it alongside them. They never called us Fake Geek Guys or criticized us for only recently developing an interest in those things or acted like they were the special keepers of a tradition that we could never hope to master. And, you know, maybe I was just lucky and it was a good group of people, which it was, but still I wonder. When a girl or a woman takes something like that up, she's fickle! Or unserious! Whereas when a boy or a man does it, he's curious! Or versatile! And I'm not entirely sure that we'd have overcome that programming if things had been the other way.
posted by invitapriore at 11:15 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm having an incredibly busy day and can't really participate in this thread and all but:

Man, this is my entire adolescence in a nutshell, but with Star Trek.
posted by Sara C. at 11:27 AM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

What, now the beautiful people can be geeks too? Noooo!1!

I don't mean to take issue with you specifically, MartinWisse, but I think it's exactly that division that is at the root of the Fake Geek problem in geek culture.

As I just said right up there, this comic is my exact adolescence. Extremely geeky middle school years leading to the loss of most of my friends, various attempts to be "normal", and finally mostly abandoning my identity as a Trekkie in favor of other stuff. But still liking sci fi/fantasy, still being a nerd, etc. Just not having that as my main source of identity anymore.

I'm not a Fake Geek Girl. I'm not "the beautiful people". I'm just a human being who likes Star Trek and comic books and video games and Settlers Of Catan and all that stuff. I see the value in having "geek" be a source of identity, and I don't want to take it away from anyone (including myself). But there's no real geek/beautiful dichotomy, and if there is, a lot of geeks are defining it in extremely strict terms, to the point where it's not really useful. I shower daily, therefore I'm not a real geek? I go to bachelorette parties with my girlfriends where we drink gigantic margaritas, like maybe once every couple years, so I'm not a real geek? I mean, what is it SPECIFICALLY about who I am that makes me going to see Star Trek Into Darkness on opening weekend different from the "True Geeks" doing the same thing? Is it that I did it in a skirt?
posted by Sara C. at 11:54 AM on September 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

I go to bachelorette parties with my girlfriends where we drink gigantic margaritas, like maybe once every couple years

If geeks can't do this I don't ever want to be a geek.

Not that I ever was. Unless we're talking about Mad Men.
posted by sweetkid at 12:04 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I like this. Her self-awareness is great. To me it looks like she wanted both "normalness" and videogames, and in the very subconscious murky way young (/most) people make these decisions, she saw that normality was within her grasp and something she had to do first, and so she did it first. I appreciate that she is not sure what, now, is her own internalizations and justifications ("the world works X way because that's the way that justifies the choices I'm aware of having made!"). I realllly like that she has embraced the murkiness of it.

So I like this. BUT I am also kind of rolling my eyes a lot, because her major problem seems to be a propensity to blush. She was able to go the way she did because normality was pretty easily achieved for her. Of course, it would be a normal person thing to do to hide major problems (it's bad to trouble people with your problems!), so... who knows. I shouldn't even be writing this paragraph. I guess I'm saying I like this as a piece of introspection by a young person, but to me this reads less like a triumph and more like someone who is pretty lucky and is navigating some minor difficulties. Not that I want to sad trombone up the joint, just saying what has been going through my mind.
posted by bleep-blop at 2:07 PM on September 17, 2013

Yeah, I kind of agree that the part of the story that deals with "becoming normal" and how she achieved that is sort of glossed over. To her credit, I think that's something that's difficult to explain in a narrative sort of way. As someone who went through a similar trajectory, I don't think it's that it's "easy" for some people to be normal just by putting away the video games.

For me, it was a complex mix of social forces. My world suddenly got a lot bigger in high school, and I developed much wider interests. I got into theatre, music, and the school paper, and those are activities that force you to get out of your own head and meet like-minded people. So rather than having this one isolating interest that consumed all my energy in a way that made it hard to relate to other people, suddenly I had this new peer group and a million potential ways to interact with them. And then at the same time, as people grew up, the bullying popular kid dynamic sort of died out, anyway. The popular kids started drinking and doing drugs and having sex and didn't really care as much about destroying other people's lives. So it became possible to meet other people without the preteen gestapo always on your back.

Also, while I can't speak for Elizabeth Simins, I still often feel like a misfit and "not normal" when hanging out with people who are definitively NOT dorks, despite successfully having friends and stuff post-junior high. This is why I wince at the idea of a hard dichotomy between "geeks" and "the beautiful people", as if everyone who isn't a basement dwelling Otaku is Kim Kardashian or something, and nobody else ever feels like a weirdo impostor.

FWIW, the best thing about the transition from Trekkie to theatre nerd is that now (in my 30's) I make a web series about geek culture and it turns out that's a perfectly OK thing to do. Here's to crossing the streams!

(I didn't get the blushing thing, either. Is that, like, a problem that people have?)
posted by Sara C. at 5:15 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

A quick and bright blush is something that people can have. I don't think it's particularly stigmatized, but they've always seemed very sensitive to it. I think it's caused by emotional fatigue at having to always respond to "Aw, you're blushing!" With an attempt to explain that it's not because you're particularly embarrassed, have a crush, angry, drunk, or whatever, it's just something that happens to you a lot.

If you're already insecure or ostracized for other reasons, I expect it could seem to be a bigger deal than it appears to others.
posted by gilrain at 5:56 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I blush, and it doesn't really bother me at all, but it does telegraph my inner feelings sometimes in situations where I would rather that it not. Like, I'm sure most people have been in a situation where they were really embarrassed but tried to play it off as cool. You're not going to be really fooling anyone if you are beet red. Another example -- I'm pretty sure I've blushed before in one of the few times that I was really, really annoyed at work. That's another one where I would much rather keep my feelings under wraps.
posted by cairdeas at 6:48 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I blushed a lot in high school and still do sometimes--think that episode of Daria where she gets what she believes to be a horrible rash all over her face and chest every time she interacts with Trent. It was actually pretty awful and embarrassing and often would happen when I was talking to boys. Then my friends, usually, would tease me about it and it would get way, way worse and I'd pretty much want to die.

I've learned to ignore it, and it's gotten better. Wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't at least slightly hormonal, what with how perfectly it coincided with puberty and all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:07 PM on September 17, 2013

I don't know whether I blush, but I know that my family used to joke, when I was in puberty, that I turned to stone around pretty women. Having it pointed out to me didn't make me any less statuesque.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:23 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks Eyebrows McGee and Martin for your wisdom. It wasn't something I considered late last night. My parents must have given up early on their attempts to make me normal because I was too incorrigible and didn't let others stand in the way of my fun :-) It's easy for me to forgot that there is parental pressure as well as peer pressure. I can't claim any nerdy heritage or mentors, alas.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:35 PM on September 17, 2013

Great comic, thanks for posting.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:50 AM on September 18, 2013

What, now the beautiful people can be geeks too? Noooo!1!

I don't mean to take issue with you specifically, MartinWisse, but I think it's exactly that division that is at the root of the Fake Geek problem in geek culture.
Oh yeah, it is and it's a completely stupid reaction to be envious or annoyed that other people have no difficulties in being geeky without being mocked for it, or to think that (as Simins points out) these people never had to suffer for it just because they look like they've got it together. But sometimes that resentment still bubbles up.

(Especially if you're just not very good at that whole socialising and being friends thing and nerddom was a safe place where you didn't have to bother with it all but now it has all been changed. Poisonous shit, but I'd be lying if I didn't feel it occasionally.)
posted by MartinWisse at 1:35 PM on September 18, 2013

Like a lot of people, I got into gaming because my (primarily female) friends were into it - D&D in elementary school, Rifts in high school, video games in college ("my" game is Final Fantasy X; I played the ones before it, but X was the first that felt like mine that I was the expert on, and I've played through X and X-2 about four times each). I also gravitated toward female dominated spaces online, as I cut my eye-teeth in Fandom Wank which is completely female dominated, the gender split on Gaia Online was pretty fifty/fifty, and feminism and social justice tends to have a strong core of women.

The last ten years or so of becoming more active in wider, less female dominated communities has been eye opening and honestly sometimes depressing, and I think the concept of a "fake geek girl" is one of the more petty but deeply hurtful things. Recently I heard a woman talk about a man demanding she show her geek cred in My Little Pony, a fandoms he had been in since childhood and which, in retrospect, was my first fandom, and also a product aimed explicitly at girls and women until Bronies began making waves (nothing wrong with Bronies in general, but if any have the gall to cred-check women in this fandom when they're coming in at Gen Freaking Four, it just is maddening).

It's the entire idea of cred checking which bothers me. I'll step if someone else starts it, but I actually think it's really cool when people like the things I like, so this gatekeeping response on the part of some geeks really bothers me - and women do it to; I had a female friend recently talk disparagingly of "fake" geek women and I just bristled.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:22 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

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