spreading threads of thunder

When I was eight years old, I went to Nantucket with my family and my best friend’s family. We took a boat, and on the trip she took out a yellow GameBoy Color, started playing this game you maybe have heard of called Pokemon Blue, and let me try it.

Everything changed.

I’d gotten really bored with television– I hated (and continue to hate) episodic series where any order is as good as any other (I’m looking at you, Nickelodeon). The way kid me described it was that I wanted a movie that I could push along at my own pace. When I started playing that Pokemon game, I’d found what I was looking for: a story that I made happen only through my effort.

My parents were not gamers. They were actually pretty against games, and I had to work my ass off convincing them I’d still do all my homework, agreeing if I fell behind on any chores or assignments or showed signs of being irresponsible that they’d take the game away. They also wouldn’t buy it for me– part of the deal was that if I wanted it so badly, I had to earn it myself.

Which was actually pretty awesome, because it was one of the best and earliest lessons in responsibility I got as a kid: if you want something, you have to work to achieve it and plan how you’re going to fit it into your life once you have.

It was $70 for the GameBoy Color, $20 for Pokemon Blue, so $95 total. I did odd jobs around the house, weeded, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, etc. It took around three or four weeks from the time when me and my parents drew up the agreement to when I finished earning the money for it. Now that I’m older, I think maybe they were banking on the fact that I tend to be very ambitious and start lots of stuff, only finishing the ones I was serious about.

But I was serious about this one. I wanted to have stories whose fates depended on my active input, movies whose endings rested on my shoulders instead of being drawn to some inevitable conclusion. I wanted to be the one who made the endings happen.

And so, that’s what I became.

This isn’t to convince you that I’m a legit gamer. Personally, I think that “legit gamer” status is bullshit– if you play a video game and enjoy it, congrats! Yer a gamer, Harry.

I’m telling you this because I want you to see that this has been a large part of my identity since I was a kid. It’s integral to how I write and how I develop magic systems and build worlds. Part of the reason I do math is that I also see it as a type of game.

And still, I wasn’t going to post this. It’s more exhausting writing about something you dislike than it is to just say “nope, you know what, we’re not going to go there because that is one whole-ass mess of crazy and I’d rather play Animal Crossing and have fun than buy a slice of that, thanks.”

But then I read stuff like this on my timeline:

and I’m like, welp, how can I be silent when it’s exactly what those GG guys want?

My speaking out about stuff like this doesn’t reach a large number of people. I know that. In the long run, writing this post will probably make me more uncomfortable than it will anyone reading it. But that’s okay, because I think I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t state this publicly at least once.

I’m a girl and I play games. And it bothers the hell out of me that my mostly kickass video game culture (because hey, we’re humans and there will always be some level of douchebaggery everywhere) is having such trouble reconciling that people like me exist and both impact and deserve to impact that culture.

And the thing is, I love games and the fantastic worlds within them too much to stop playing. I am going kind of nuts trying to figure out whether I want to buy Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby first (also lol, you have no idea how hilarious it’s been talking about ye olde GBC instead of the 3DS). I’ve already warned my family that around Thanksgiving I’m going to be making my yearly pilgrimage through Persona 3, and I’m forever going to fawn over every member of the Namco Tales series (even though yeah Legendia was kind of odd).

I’ve gone through packs of AA batteries like an alkaline junkie. I barbaric yawp’d and scared the neighbors when my handheld consoles finally switched to chargers. I got asked to beat all the hard levels for my little brother, which I did because I’m good at puzzles and half-decent at being a sibling. I’ve delayed more family dinners with “I’m not at a savepoint yet!” than most people sit down to in a year.

I’ve loved these things since I was eight years old and tromping around on a chilly boat supposedly watching whales, actually watching Charmander fight Brock’s Onix in Pewter Gym.

I’m in it for the adventure and the stories, and that’s not going to change.

But the next time you see that hashtag pop up and you wonder if you really know anyone affected by all this madness, if any of us are biting our nails and delaying pressing post as long as humanly possible because damn it’s gotten terrifying to even identify as a member of this community if you’re female or if it’s all just conflated SJW nonsense, then: hi.

I’m a girl, and I play games.

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