I love video games. I love Dungeons and Dragons, Batman comics, and pirate rap. I love thinking about what it would be like to be a wizard and writing stories about sword battles and orc fights. I care more about the possibility of life on other planets than I care about the “real-life” experiences of celebrities. I am a nerd. I have always been a nerd. And I love it.
Now, if you don’t know me, then this might come as a surprise to you: I’m also a female. *shocked gasps.*
Just kidding. Not about the female thing, but about the shocked gasps thing. Everyone says that that’s an important distinguisher. Everyone tells me that that should be a big deal and that I’ve probably been oppressed or ridiculed my entire life because I’ve always lived outside of gender norms when it comes to entertainment.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t think I have ever had someone mention the fact that it’s weird for me to be a female and interested in nerdy stuff. No one in any of my gaming circles has ever told me to go make them a sandwich (Can’t. Boss fight). I’ve never been asked why there’s a picture of Batman in my bathroom rather than Batgirl. (Batman looks cooler, obviously. Though Barbara Gordon is awesome even after she becomes the Oracle. Still, let’s talk about the various Robins, instead. Dick Grayson > Everyone else). I have never been asked if my epic-level paladin wears bikini mail (She does not. Also, she’s a cleric, you f-ing plebian.)
I’ve always played videogames. Sometimes I think that most of my life has actually been spent in other worlds rather than this one (because let’s face it, sometimes they’re more interesting). It never occurred to me that that was strange until recently when the entire “women in gaming” thing became a series of hashtags and clickbait headlines. Suddenly my favorite way to spend an afternoon became a warzone. Now I talk about videogames or comic books and people applaud. “Good for you for standing up for women! Feminists unite!”
Wait. What? When did my love of nerdy things start being political? Now, for the first time, I’m suddenly conscious of my being female every time I walk into GameStop or whenever I display my gamer tag. It’s somehow morphed from a fun pastime into some sort of political statement. Until recently, no one had ever mentioned anything about me being female and a nerd in the same sentence. It was never a big deal. Now it’s the only important thing.
How has the quest to make something more acceptable for everyone suddenly dampened my favorite pastime? Was I really the only girl in the world who was playing videogames and not ridiculed by it? Am I really the only woman out there that decided to marry her DM instead of being laughed out of the room when she picked up a D20? Do breasts really somehow keep other girls from enjoying comic books? If what I read in the media is true, then apparently my acceptance into geek culture was abnormal.
Which is incredibly alien to me. Honestly, up until recently I was never a female gamer. I wasn’t a fan girl. I wasn’t a feminist. I was just a gamer. Just a fan. Just… me.
A nerd. I’ve always been a nerd. I’ve always loved it. I still love it. And I love that it’s become more acceptable as the years go by. I don’t know if anyone would have talked about the Marvel universe with me in high school, and D&D was openly mocked by the jocks. Now, however, my students fight over who’s the best Avenger and will openly discuss how Ironman in the comics differs from Ironman in the movies. I was asked by my students if I would advise a D&D club after school. Do you know how amazing that is? How much I would have killed for those things back in high school, just so I didn’t have to feel like being a “nerd” was a bad thing? And that was the only bad thing about it back in the day. “Nerd.” Not “female nerd” or “gamer girl” or anything else. Me being a woman never entered the equation. And it was awesome. I was a nerd. One of many, but we all had each other’s backs. We didn’t have to further segment that by throwing gender into the mix. I guess I was the only one who didn’t have to deal with that problem.
Apparently I lucked out and found a niche of happiness in a world hell-bent on destroying that passion for other women. Either that or we’re making mountains out of molehills. Either way, I’m glad I’ve never had to fight for my right to be who I am.
Mostly because I suck at rolling initiative.