Sometime around my 16th year, my best friend started hosting LAN parties. Ten, fifteen, twenty people all in his family’s basement with their computers and their games. I had no idea what that world was and hadn’t owned a console or a shooter in my whole, short life, but I was itching to get in on the action. I already loved the idea of gaming, even if I hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to actually play. It was all the Mountain Dew and explosions and snacks and late nights a gal could ask for. I had to be there.
Just one problem – my family computer was all we had, one of those old, colorful iMacs, and it wasn’t going to any LANs anytime soon. I still went, oggled over Unreal Tournament, and tried to sneak onto computers when their owners fell asleep or needed a break.
Flash ahead to my first year in college. I had my own laptop, and more free time than I knew what to do with. UT2k3 and I became the best of friends. I was hooked – I loved sniping, and sneaking, and headshots, and learning the ins and outs of maps. I played for hours and hours. Christmas break, I was back in my hometown, plugged in for our first college era LAN, and I got shooting.
Did I mention I never used a mouse? I had no idea that shooting using a touchpad was weird. It was just how I did it. At the start of the night I got some curious looks for not unpacking a mouse – I shrugged and carried on. And with every headshot, some of the older guys got more and more agitated. I was an 18 year old girl. The last time they saw me, I didn’t even have my own computer. Now I was holding my own, capturing flags, helping my team and even getting some kills. The good guys were impressed – minorly annoyed, sure, but they thought it was pretty badass and I loved that I didn’t even know I was doing something worth noticing in the grand, gaming scheme of things.
But, some of the guys were pissed. I’m from a bizarrely nice hometown – few of them said anything nasty to me, and it could have been way worse – but they were challenged by a girl, and they weren’t all happy about it.
The years that followed saw me as the only girl in a game shop looking for Magic cards. The only girl in our, admittedly small, Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The only girl in an arcade on my lunch breaks from Radio Shack, with a young prick of an attendant assuring me I wasn’t a real gamer and that there was no way I could beat him in Soul Calibur. (I challenged him to a game. I won.) My adulthood has seen exes who rolled their eyes at my love of Doctor Who, got annoyed when I would raise my voice and demand that Han Solo shot first, and grumble when I wanted to watch Next Gen – yes, again. I’ve been called a fake geek at parties because I can’t possibly like wearing red lipstick and Kratos at the same time. I’d be lying if I said it never got to me. All of my fellow lady geeks know better. But I never stopped loving the things that I love, and over the last few years I’ve been increasingly unapologetic. I love my nerdy little life.
My story isn’t all that unique, but it is my story. I am a woman, I am a geek, and this is where I’ll talk about it.