All Time, Top 5 Games – High Fidelity Style

Hey, wasn’t this thing supposed to be about gaming? At least a little bit? I mean, I DID name the blog after my favorite first person shooter style. And while I’m clearly not focusing on any one particular part of geekery more than the other, I do feel remiss in my lack of video game substance thus-far. So since I’m too knee-deep in Mass Effect (I knoooow, I knoooow, behind the curve again) to do anything close to a review of the game I’m currently playing, I want to take some time to talk about my top-five games, ever. High Fidelity style, because no one can tell me Rob Gordon didn’t create top-five lists. Now all lists require a caveat, so here goes: These are not what I consider the “best” games ever made. I made zero effort to represent a mix of platforms, styles or release dates. These are the titles that made me a gamer, the ones I look back on with starry console eyes, the ones I go back to over and over and reminisce about with friends. They are the keepers of the special places in my little gamer heart.

So without further ado, my All Time, Top 5 Games:

Final Fantasy X

Nope, not FF7. FFX. With Kimarhi awesomeness and occasionally tacky cut scenes and an ending that absolutely made me cry (#noshame). It deserves not just a place on the list, but the first place on the list, because this was my first-ever console game. More than ten years ago now (shudder) I was a young lass of 17 and my high school boyfriend had a PS2. I’d always wanted to game more, but was never able to have a console and was a tad intimidated to go it alone. So, our great adventure in Spira began. It was incredibly helpful to learn how to play a complex RPG with a kind-hearted guide, who could tell me when I needed to stop and level up, how to navigate the sphere grid, or who I should go see when I forgot where we were in the story because damned if I was going to spend a ton of cash on a guidebook.

Nostalgia aside, this is truly a gorgeous game. The music is fantastic, the world is huge, great villains abound, and the summons are badass. I still go back and start it up again every few years, and the story holds up because it’s an interesting and complicated narrative backed by characters with some emotional heft. The Final Fantasy series as a whole is one of my go-to’s in the “games CAN tell a story, and they can be great, and emotional, and deep” argument. Also I had a screen print of Kimarhi in my dorm room in college because he was my favorite, and don’t even because I know you’re jealous.

Katamari Damacy

I dare anyone not to love a game that starts here:

Honestly. You are dared. This is one of the best, most hilarious, hands-down bizarre games of all time, and the intro lets you know exactly what you’re in for. Katamari Damacy is a game that cannot be spoken about without singing the title, and there are few games that I’ve ever encountered that are just so much FUN. It’s bright and colorful and weird, and the cosmic story of the Prince trying to rebuild the constellations gives you just enough to become even slightly emotionally attached to this psychedelic world. I love a spectacularly violent game as much as the next gal (see the next title) but there’s something about the pure bubblegum of Katamari Damacy that’s just fantastic. Plus, your Katamari gets big enough to roll people and cars and even buildings up and their hilarious screams are just the greatest! Et-hem. Is that weird? I don’t care if it’s weird. You haven’t lived until you’ve rolled up a person into your Katamari. It’s a delight.

God of War

Oh, Kratos. Let me tell you, lovely people, about my favorite pastime in God of War. On the PS2, it was possible, if you moved the analog sticks a specific way, to make it look like Kratos was dancing. And dancing Kratos is the most hilarious thing ever. I kind of hoped some other weird gamer out there had also realized this and made a gif of it, but apparently that was just me. (Comment if you can find one! DANCING KRATOS!) Aaaaaaaaaanyway, I unabashedly love all the God of War games, and even played the hell out of the mediocre God of War: Ascension. Kratos is a badass, and when I’m in the mood for total destruction, no one does it better.

This game just makes sense to me. I’m not always the best with puzzles, but the developer and I must have the same brain-build because God of War just clicks. Plus, I love a good Greek myth, bastardized or no, and the “holy shit!” moments from each game’s intros are some of the most memorable fight scenes I’ve had the privilege to enjoy. As you might’ve guessed, I do think of the God of War series as ending with III; it’s my favorite end-game sequence of all time and there was no where for them to go but down after that, but all of these games are really a joy. If for some weird reason you haven’t played God of War, dance your way on over and hang out with Kratos. He’s real sweet when you get to know him.

Portal

Do I even have to talk about this one? High on the list of the most creative, mind blowing games there ever was, the one that stole the show of the Orange Box and was intended to be a throw-away game? Portal is a stroke of genius, with the psychotic and always-hilarious GLaDOS guiding an unspoken character through the increasingly questionable Enrichment Center. I remember the first hint of “the cake is a lie” that I stumbled upon while struggling my way through some unknown level. That game got dark, and in the greatest possible way. In a word, the thing is inspired. Don’t even get me started on the Companion Cube. (I might have a plush Companion Cube in my apartment as we speak.) For such a short game, Portal was practically perfect in every way, and clearly a labor of love. Also, kudos to Valve for pouring just as much heart into Portal 2, which did the impossible and took the mystery even further without losing a single bit of its shine.

For the record, my favorite GLaDOS quote: “Unbelievable. You, [subject name here], must be the pride of [subject hometown here]!”

Skyrim

I’m ending with one of the greatest games of this console cycle in one of the greatest series of all time. Any Elder Scrolls game is the definition of an immersive experience. Morrowind is still one of my favorite gaming experiences to date, and mostly the reason why I added in some honorable mentions at the close. But I didn’t pick that one, I picked Skyrim, and here’s why. DRAGONS!

Kidding. Mostly. I could devote an entire post to my favorite moments in Skyrim, and the things that made it a spectacular game, but there’s one technical aspect that Skyrim nailed, which puts it ahead of its predecessors. It cracked the transportation system. While gaming surrounded by maps and lists of tasks was part of what made Morrowind great, and the simplistic “click and head on over” system of Oblivion took a solid amount of the adventure out of the game, Skyrim nails it by making the player get to any city on foot or horseback before they can use a quick transport system. It’s the best of both worlds, because once you’re 40+ hours in, the LAST thing you want to do is have to trek from Solitude to Riften AGAIN. That said, nothing can compare to the joy of slowly coming upon a new skyline in Skyrim. I saved whole cities until 10, 20, even 30 hours into my gameplay and it kept the game fresh and exciting. A good transportation system is really what makes it possible to enjoy the brilliance of this game, from small moments taking in the scenery to convoluted, ridiculously brilliant plot twists. (The “A Night to Remember” quest, in particular, is a crowning achievement and one of my favorite moments in any game ever, bar none.)

Plus, selfishly, my character in all Elder Scrolls games has been a lady Nord wielding an axe and practicing magic in her spare time, so I took a great amount of joy in exploring her corner of Tamriel. If, for some unknown reason, you haven’t played this game, please run to your nearest game provider and make it happen. You will not regret it.

Honorable Mentions

Morrowind, Borderlands 2, Arkham City, Unreal Tournament 2k4, LEGO Lord of the Rings

So that’s it! Love ’em? Hate ’em? What are the titles that made you a gamer? Let me hear it in the comments.

Advertisements

Orphan Black: The undisputed champion of sexual identity

I was so late to the game on this one, y’all. SO. LATE.

Only this past month did I marathon Seasons 1 and 2 of Orphan Black, and discover the ridiculous powerhouse that is Tatiana Don’t-Need-an-Emmy-to-be-a-BOSS Maslany. There is so much going on here that when I first thought of writing about it, I couldn’t come up with anything concrete other than fangirl glee.

Great characters (FELIX! Donnie! But mostly Felix!), great production (clone dance party whaaaaaat), great storytelling (Siobhan’s crazy birdwatching extravaganza), great effects (did I mention the clone dance party?!), and general badassery (Sarah’s Clash shirts!) abound. As you can see, there’s still lots of fangirl glee happening here. But I’m settling in and do, in fact, have a thing to talk about. Despite the revelations that came in the second season in reference to the clones reproductive abilities (or because of them? more on that later) every single character on this show is in control of their own body. Every single character has sexual agency, and an identity that includes but is not even remotely limited to that sexuality. It’s incredibly refreshing, and one of these days we won’t need to celebrate its victories because the rest of TV will catch on to the frankly groundbreaking handling of sexuality that Orphan Black boasts, but today is not that day.

(And for the second time in a row here, I’m chatting away with not a care in the world for spoilers. You’ve been warned.)

Something very specific keeps happening in Orphan Black: the LGBTQ cast of characters don’t have “coming out” moments in the narrative of the story. Their sexuality isn’t lauded as their most important character trait, and none of them are even remotely stereotypical. Cosima’s lesbianism is never used as a plot device or a lazy identifier, and she’s steadfast in declaring that it’s not the only thing that makes her an individual in the Clone Club. Her relationship with Delphine is sweet and honest and just as complicated as their closest straight counterparts, Sarah and Paul. And can we talk about Tony?!? Tony, the brilliant transgender clone who happily hits on Felix and takes T on screen. His pronoun of choice is honored with basically no questions and he isn’t put in a position where he needs to defend a damn thing about his identity. Felix shoots Art down when he mixes up Tony’s pronouns, but zero people get villainized. Art goes with it, Felix doesn’t shame him, and no one needs to say anything else about it. This, seriously, is modern TV at its best.

While we’re on the subject of Felix – this man won my heart when he asked Alison’s kids if they wanted to crossdress. Really, I just love him, and as rough as it has been to watch him and Sarah have their disagreements in the second season, it’s more than worth it to see Jordan Gavaris tackle fantastic scene after fantastic scene. His acting is top notch, his character complicated and thoughtful and fun, and I cannot get enough.

Back to those reproductive questions, though. In the second season, we learned the clones aren’t able to become pregnant. Which, makes scientific sense and explains the fascination with Kira, but is also clearly heartbreaking. (Side note: even more props to the writers for never, ever suggesting that Alison’s kids are less than because they were adopted.) Rachel is fixated on her own childhood and successfully kidnaps Kira, which somehow doesn’t read as the oh-so-tiresome example of a nasty female character stealing away someone else’s baby, even though it kind of is. Helena is a trope too – she’s essentially Frankenstein, but she’s not trapped in it. She’s a victim, a monster, a sexual being, killer, a child, and we love her even when we’re terrified by her capabilities.

So how are neither of these tropes problematic? Because every single person on Orphan Black is a complete character. They all grow and change and fight and cry and are in charge of their own damn bodies. This is a show about women whose bodies were not intended to be their own, and who refuse to let that be a reality. Three cheers, Orphan Black. Bring on the next season!

In Defense of Mary Morstan

All of this #221Back hubbub reminded me of something. Or, should I say, some people discussing what they hope happens post-haste in Season 4 reminded me of something. I LOVE Mary Morstan. I’m surely not alone, but somehow she’s turned into a polarizing character in fandom and she certainly has her detractors. And this leaves me all types of confuzzled.

(Obvious Note Time!  I’ll be discussing Season 3 of Sherlock in full. Spoilers, if for some unknown reason you haven’t caught up yet.)

Full Disclosure: I’m not generally a fan of Moffat-written women. I don’t hate him by any means – I will defend Moffat when I think he deserves it and loudly complain when he deserves that too. But, I do tend to find his portrayal of women troubling and simplistic. I’ll save a deep-dive into my schizophrenic views of Moffat for another day and another post, but this all goes to say that when The Empty Hearse premiered on New Years Day, I was beside myself with giggly adoration, not just for Sherlock’s grand return or Watson’s perfect headbutt, but for the character whom I quickly declared the first Moffat woman that I hands-down-from-word-go loved.

Mary is awesome, guys. She just IS. She’s clever and alert and hilarious and not even remotely afraid to have a difference of opinion from the men who surround her. (Which shouldn’t count as something to be lauded, but hey, #lowbar.) I give you: the moment I knew I loved Mary.

My greatest fear about how the writers would handle Mary was that they’d, for lack of a better phrase, Yoko Ono her. How many times have we seen this go down in the public sphere?  Women used to pit the men against each other, used as a tool to be fought over, or fought with, or vilified in whatever fandom they’ve had the misfortune to anger. It’s heinous and annoying and I hate it. I especially hate it when we lady geeks buy into the arguments against these women, which is what seems to happen in some more puzzling sectors of the internets when you bring up Mary Morstan.

So here’s why I’m so confused. Mary doesn’t ever want to break up our very favorite Consulting Detective Team. She brings out the best in Watson and in Sherlock alike. She plays them both with her wedding plans, letting them both think they’re in charge, she folds to Sherlock calling Watson out on the mustache-to-end-all-mustaches, she’s charming and lovely and – oh yeah – she’s a totally badass assassin. She isn’t used as a wedge in their relationship – if anything she lets Watson see how thoughtful Sherlock can be, and lets them be closer emotionally than they imagined with that spectacular Best Man speech. Would that have happened if Mary wasn’t great in Sherlock’s eyes as well as John’s? No. Not it would not.

Yes, she’s a sign of change, which I know can be hard for us nerdy folk to take. And, er, she shoots Sherlock. Yup. She does. She had no choice in the matter, as Sherlock explained and as John came to agree with. Her decision to hide her badass assassins past hurt John. Very true. Find me an honest representation of a marriage where someone doesn’t get hurt. When Sherlock confronts her on her assassin-ie lies, with John hiding in the backround, it’s brutal and all three of them are in remarkable amounts of pain. That said, she doesn’t force John into accepting her again, or manipulate him into deciding to stay. John Watson is a big boy and he made his own decision based on all the love and care that the two of them had in their relationship up to that point. I could go on, but really, here’s the headline:

John loves her. Sherlock loves her. She’s a quality female character with a fascinating past and a ton to add to the dynamic of the show. What’s not to love? I’m the first to fight against a Moffat-woman-failure, and this ain’t one.

I don’t get it. I don’t want to believe it’s because people want Johnlock to happen *that badly* but I don’t know what else it could be. Please, leave a comment and help a girl out if you think you can explain this to me. I don’t think I’ll agree with you, but at least help me understand!

Who owns art? And by art I mean Star Wars

This past weekend, I jumped in the car with a friend to take a quick day trip to Philadelphia Comic Con. While we really just went in to the Matt Smith panel and didn’t explore much else, it brought up a few questions and Deep Thoughts from my friend who’s not quite as familiar with the rest of nerd culture outside of the Whoniverse. A few of those Deep Thought discussion topics included: What makes a nerd? Can people be nerdy about non-traditionally-geek things? And hey, what did happen with Star Wars exactly?

Ah, Star Wars fandom. As I’ve mentioned here in passing, I have a very conflicted relationship with the land of Jedi and Sith. Growing up I adored Star Wars. Posters were everywhere, extended universe books were kept meticulously on my bookcase in chronological order (based on the timeline, of course, not the publishing dates) and my Han Solo action figure was generally much more used than Barbies.  Then it was my Freshman year of high school and *cue dramatic music* The Phantom Menace happened. My issues lay much more with the “improved” DVD releases than Episodes I-III, though like any self-respecting geek I hated those movies with a firey passion reserved for the devastated fan.

Let’s first acknowledge the (IMO excellent) documentary which sums all this up with far more humor and tales of woe than one fangirl could express, which is of course The People vs. George Lucas. If you haven’t seen it, do, and if you have, stick with me while I sum up before we continue with our Deep Thoughts and add some Conflicting Opinions. Yes, Episodes I and II are miserable films. I personally think III isn’t terrible, entirely, but by that time the whole thing was just too far gone. And while those failures might have been enough for many of us to say “to hell with you and this whole Skywalker family saga” that’s really only part of the problem. The problem, oh, the problem, is those bloody remastered DVD’s of Episodes IV-VI.

I get ragey even thinking about it. And frankly, I haven’t been able to watch them in years. So please excuse a gif to express my feelings.

Yup. That. SO MANY FLAMES.

We know how it went down – dear old George slowly but surely made increasingly large edits to the beloved films, starting with remastered explosions and ending with absurd CGI alien dance scenes getting inserted for NO DAMN REASON. FLAMES. (Et-hem. Sorry.) He also made it nearly impossible to get the originals without the “enhancements” he decided to include. Yes, they can be found. But they’re expensive, it’s not even remotely clear which versions are which, and they are made to look as bad as humanly possible to discourage people from buying them.

Time for the Deep Thoughts and Conflicting Opinions. Here’s the thing. He’s allowed. He is. It’s his film, it’s his baby, *cough*it’s his cash grab*cough* , and he can update things as much as he likes. I do genuinely believe that George Lucas thought he was making these movies better. More in line with his original vision. He always said technology wasn’t fast enough for him, and in case anyone doesn’t believe him, see the fact that he started with Episode IV. But what are the moral implications of an artist changing his art after he’s previously closed the book and sent the canisters to the movie theaters?

I do believe films are art. I do believe sci-fi is art, and TV is art, and books are art, and frankly anything created to give our brains an emotional experience or inspire thought and analysis is art. Who does that art belong to after it’s put out into the world for public consumption? Authors can make updates to their books with new editions, and while that’s mostly reserved for nonfiction, there are certainly new editions of poetry and novels coming from past centuries.  As a Lit major I spent a lot of time analyzing the differences from one draft to another. No new edition is worth less than the first, or more, for that matter. It’s different, and worthy of analysis. That doesn’t stop the general art-appreciating public from declaring one version of an artistic product “better” than the rest. (See: The two variations of Hamlet from various folios.) Mostly we all look at these artistic variations and analyze them and debate over their merits. But no one argues that Shakespeare had no right to change his monologue from one folio to the other. And yes, I just compared Star Wars to Shakespeare. Stick with me.  I believe, with let’s say 90% of the analytic bones in my body, that George Lucas had every right to change his art as he saw fit.

It’s not that easy, though. Literary entries can only take the comparison so far. Generations of people, over hundreds of years, have read and noticed different versions of different stories. Storytelling can be living art. But cinema is inherently different. It’s a moment more automatically frozen in time. Plus, there are some things, some huge moments in our society, touchstones of our culture, that take on a life of their own. Star Wars was one of those touchstones. It changed everything. Cinema, sci-fi, effects, storytelling, myth, the concept of a blockbuster. I’d argue that sort of a sea-change didn’t happen again until The Matrix (another entry in the Deep Thoughts and Conflicting Opinions saga for another day). Star Wars is a moment in time that can’t be repeated, can’t be changed. It does belong to George Lucas – but it also belongs to everyone who saw it and was changed by it. Artists always want to make one more switch, one more edit, one more nip, one more tuck. But any artist worth their salt will also tell you there comes a time when you just have to walk away. It has to be done. And part of that is to acknowledge that it’s not just yours anymore. It’s out there, for better or worse, and you have to acknowledge the versions that came before.

Maybe that’s the part that troubles us so much. There’s no sense that George acknowledges the versions that came before. He doesn’t really talk about them, he doesn’t make it easy for us to access them, and as far as he seems to be concerned, they didn’t exist. Only his newer, shinier, truer versions are canon. But that’s just blatantly incorrect. We all know Han shot first. And we all love him for it. It’s not that George Lucas can’t say “hey, actually I made a mistake or have some new fancy technology and I want to change it” – it’s that he can’t stare at us all blankly and say “…what’s the problem?”

So who DOES the damn thing belong to anyway? (And DON’T say Disney, you know what I mean.) I’d say all of us. Including George. But just as much as it belongs to George, it belongs to everyone whose lives it touched. And we all just want to be acknowledged. You can have art without viewers appreciating it, if we want to get particularly pedantic about it, sure. I’m not trying to have an “if a tree falls in the woods” argument here.  Because regardless of who saw it or how many people interacted with your work,  on a more emotional level (which is what art is all about, right?) things aren’t just about who holds the ownership rights. Art gets questioned, and analyzed, and written about, and experienced, and a piece of it does go into every person who views it, for better or worse. That’s what makes it art. It’s complicated and messy and it should be. We all own art, and we all own Star Wars, and that doesn’t mean we all have to agree about it but it does mean that all of our voices, I believe, count for something.

The rumor mill has steadily reported that now that Disney owns the rights, they’ll re-release a proper DVD/Blu-Ray of the original films. I hope they do; I’ll happily pay them money and watch the movies again without all those pesky flames coming out of my face. In the meantime, I genuinely hope George (with whom I’ve apparently decided I’m on a first name basis) has found some peace knowing that the franchise, and any more of those “one last change” temptations, are finally out of his hands.

“Did you just cry at the title screen?” or, why Doctor Who matters to me

This’ll be a long one, kids. Consider yourselves warned.

My Dad was in town recently. I get a lot of geeky habits from both my parents, but Dad is single-handedly responsible for my love of Doctor Who. It’s one of my very first fandoms – in fifth grade, when we were tasked to make a little boat to race in science class, mine flew a flag of Rassilon and I would tell anyone who listened what TARDIS stood for. When the show rebooted and gained popularity stateside, there was a wave of old middle and high school friends coming to me and asking “…hey, wasn’t that that thing you wouldn’t shut up about when we were kids?” Yes. Yes it is.

Anyway, when I was little, Dad would let me stay up late with him on Friday nights to watch Doctor Who on PBS. We would tape them all on VHS, rewatch to our hearts content, and anxiously await the PBS fundraisers that focused on Doctor Who so we could get some swag and tape some marathoned episodes. They imprinted on me in a serious way. Tom Baker will forever be my Doctor, and Sarah Jane my favorite companion. I also have a serious soft spot for Harry Sullivan, and both the Romanas. (For the record, Dad’s Doctor is Jon Pertwee – he watched on PBS too when he was a kid, slightly closer to real-time. ) At the reboot in 2005, again it was Dad pushing me to start watching. I was a stubborn old fan, loudly proclaiming that Doctor Who without spray painted aliens made of bubble wrap was no Doctor Who of mine. He watched and loved Eccleston and Tennant pretty much right out of the gate and tried his best to get me to rejoin the troop. In the days of Netflix DVD’s and not a lot of streaming, he caught me on a break from grad school and sat me down in front of the TV to watch some New Who. Tragically, they were at the Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks two parter. I rarely say any Doctor Who is terrible…. but to this day, I don’t rewatch that ep. So take that as you will. It’s even worse because now I know the next DVD was hiding Human Nature/Family of Blood/ Blink, which I will always defend as the greatest three-ep run in New Who history. But I digress. Finally, just two and a half years ago, I caught Midnight (still one of my favorite episodes) with a friend. And that – that was Doctor Who like I’d never seen it before. I immediately went home, started up with Eccleston, and came into the modern fandom with a vengeance.

I tore through it all, sobbing my way through School Reunion and Vincent and the Doctor, giggling endlessly at The Unicorn and the Wasp and Closing Time. David Tennant is my New Who Doctor, but I took to Matt Smith quickly too. I dove into the fantastic podcast community, google news searched Doctor Who on a regular basis, and was soon talking to my Dad (and anyone else who would listen) non-stop about the goings on and lead up to the seventh season, to a new companion, to the 50th, and to a new Doctor.

This is where things get a little more serious. The timing of my re-introduction into Doctor Who life is really important here. I had come out of a three and a half year relationship, moved apartments, and was in the middle of deciding with said ex if we should give it another go. (We did, for another year and change, before it crashed and burned.) So it goes without saying I was feeling a bit … fragile. Vulnerable. Unsure of myself. Rather desperately in need of something that would give me back the identity and self-assuredness that I had, in so many ways, lost. I already had the childhood memories, deep inside my geeky little soul, that if something was wrong, the Doctor would make it right. That the adventures of one sonic-wielding, two-hearted Time Lord would always be a place for safety and security and an exploration of all things good throughout time and space. Even before getting into New Who, on those worst nights, I would pull up Classic eps with Tom Baker and would always, always feel better when I saw my Doctor’s face in the time vortex of the title screen.  Once I started with New Who, I found that its emotional intensity was exactly what I needed – I could laugh at Ten being spectacular and obnoxious and wonderful even when the stories were dark. Especially because the stories were dark. Because the Doctor kept going, and wasn’t above being heartbroken or lonely or overly dramatic nearly to the point of being insufferable, and that things always ended up OK even when they really didn’t. Ten’s catch phrase, allons-y, became my mantra. So I kept going too, and hearing that phrase in Tennant’s voice always, always made my heart feel better.

Ironically, one of the only times my ex watched Doctor Who with me is what got me thinking more seriously about what Who means to me, and what it has meant since I was 10. Back in 2012, we watched that year’s Christmas Special, The Snowmen, together a few days after it aired. I was already giddy about it because Ian McKellen, and was thrilled to see a new title screen and theme song variation start up. And then it happened. Matt Smith’s face was outlined in the stars around the time vortex. It undeniably referenced Classic Who, and my dear Doctor Tom Baker (and the other Classic Docs, of course), and everything welled up inside me. I couldn’t hold back the tears and went straight for the remote to rewind and watch it again. Next to me on the couch, I heard “…Did you just cry at the title screen?” I fussed and fumbled and tried to explain how a face in the stars of the time vortex was a gorgeous reference to Classic, one that we hadn’t seen since the reboot, and to the intro that I watched over and over as a kid, and how that face in the stars represented so much more. That’s when I started to think about how Who had shaped my life. Since then, it’s gotten to be a more and more influential part of my day to day. Some of you who follow me on Twitter or even know me IRL know that I spent two weeks in the UK over Christmas and New Years this past winter. It’s not an exaggeration to say those two weeks changed my life. It also changed my body – on my last day in London, 3 January,  just outside Piccadilly Circus, I got allons-y tattooed on my foot.

So back to where we started. Dad was in town for work not long ago, and we were walking down Central Park West discussing Capaldi and Verity Lambert and my excitement about going to my first cons (LI Who and Gally, here I come!). I realized that while he knew all about my trip, and my tattoo, and my fandom adventures and he had heard me talk about the history of the show and my favorite episodes and companions until I was blue in the face, he might not really know what it meant to me. How this thing that he showed me when I was 10 changed me entirely for the better. So I told him. I told him that the Doctor was there for me during some of my darkest adult days, showing me a way to be thoughtful and compassionate and make bad jokes in the face of even worse circumstances. I told him how the idea of a hero with two hearts, whose first instinct is rarely violence and who wants to find the good in everything he comes across, kept my spirit up when not many things could. And how it always did, even when I was 10, and how grateful I am that he showed me Tom Baker and always pointed out how the women of Who were so often empowered and strong and fantastic and witty, and chosen for their intellect and independence. And we both got just a little emotional because we’re emotional people who do things like cry at title screens and tell the internet about it.

There are so many other things I could say about Doctor Who, and so many other favorite memories that I could get into and probably will – but those are for another day. Suffice it to say that the title screen of The Snowmen isn’t the only Who title that’s made me cry; like many other Classic Who fans, I cried openly at the 50th with its black and white title screen. And I’m not the slightest bit ashamed of it. I’m deeply proud of everything Who has given me and so many of us around the world. It’s made me who I am today and will help me be a better person tomorrow.

Allons-y.

Fangirls and Gamer Girls

Fangirl is now in the dictionary. So’s shipping, but we’ll discuss that another day. Most of you have probably read by now that Merriam-Webster recently added a bunch of words to the dictionary, as they do every year, and fangirl is one of them. (In case you were curious, fanboy was entered in 2008. Et-hem.) To their credit, the definitions of fangirl and fanboy are identical, except for gender. But are the implications the same IRL? Of course not.

A lot of us struggle with the word fangirl. It can be tossed around to make us feel diminutive, or condescended to, or dismissed, or all three simultaneously. But frankly, so can fanboy, and I for one will admit to having used the word fanboy in a less than admirable fashion. Mostly when shit talking  XBox/Halo fanboys, which I will forever stand by. I digress.

I’ve never had a conscious problem with other people calling me fangirl, or with calling myself one. I love my fandoms, and I love talking loudly about them. But I do know there’s sometimes an underlying tone when I call myself a fangirl – it’s with a dash of shame, a little too much defensiveness, just enough I’m calling myself this so you can’t throw it in my face. I’ll use it with a headshake if I’ve fallen down a Tumblr hole of David Tennant gifs and I’m ever-so-slightly ashamed of myself. I’ll also use it with pride in reference to my ever-growing geeky t-shirt collection. Sometimes it doesn’t carry any inherent weight one way or the other and it’s just something I toss out. Strangely, I have a very different interaction with the phrase gamer girl. That title’s a point of pride. (Obviously, I don’t speak for every gamer who happens to not be a man. Just my opinions, not a blanket statement, blah blah blah.)  For me, being a gamer girl means I’m taking control of this thing that is typically male and calling it my own, while the word fangirl tends to bring up ideas of teenage obsession and Teen Bop posters hanging in your room. My internalized fangirl shame has whispered that being a gamer girl is empowering, but that being a fangirl means I have to prove that I’m no longer 13.

But we all know that’s nonsense. And for the record, more power to those 13 year old fangirls with posters plastering their rooms – someday they’ll start awesome geeky stuff that we’ll all love. Besides, I was that girl, with Star Wars posters as far as the eye could see, and just because I’m now nearly 29 doesn’t mean I love it any less or any differently. (Full disclosure on my Star Wars fangirl status: George Lucas did a number on it with his revisions and re-releases, but it’s certainly not the fault of my classic old posters or the Han Solo action figure that’s on my desk as we speak.) There are all kinds of fans, boys and girls, and yes some of them are on the superficial side. And sometimes, those “kinds of fans” can make us all just a little uncomfortable.  But so what? As long as no one’s getting hurt or stalked or whatnot, it’s impossible to be a fan “wrong,” and expressing the way you love a thing differently than someone else doesn’t mean you love it any less, or any more for that matter.  It’s just another one of those internal hierarchies that we put upon ourselves to try to draw lines within fandoms and mimic or control the judgement we all get from the “outside world.” It’s nonsense, and those far more eloquent than I have argued why. See: the best possible essay I’ve read about this from Katrina over at Verity! Podcast. I do think it’s interesting to note that, more often than not, we all have a moment when we stop and declare to the world – screw you! Yes I’m a fangirl and that doesn’t mean I’m stupid or childish or single-minded about my fandoms! So there. Harrumph. It’s empowering, and from my little corner of the internet I see a lot of intelligent, geeky women reclaiming and defending fangirls against the masses, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.

The larger issue here is that six year delay I threw out in a parenthetical up at the top. Fanboy went in the dictionary in 2008. Fangirl in 2014. Same definition, ignoring the cultural stereotypes of fanboys versus fangirls, but a six year gap. Women have been geeks for much longer than that, and while there certainly has been an influx of us talking loudly about our interests on the internets these last few years, we’ve been here a long time and the fact that fangirl went in so much later than fanboy is just a sign of how much farther we have to go.

Where it all started

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.