Category Archives: Gamer Origins

Video Games and Me: A Personal Gaming/DA:O Retrospective

Adorable_Al

Video games have pretty much always been a part of my life. My father was a computer programmer and we have had a computer in my house for as long as I can remember. I started out playing some of those “edutainment” games, learning as few DOS commands as necessary to start them up. I have hazy memories of time spent with the Sesame Street characters of Letter-Go-Round, which was originally published before I was even born.

At some point in early grade school my brother and I got a Super Nintendo for Christmas, and I promptly forgot all that DOS knowledge I’d acquired. While my parents said it was for us to share (always a great idea with kids who don’t particularly get along, amirite?), even then I knew it was really for my brother. And sometimes for my parents. I remember them staying up until all hours of the night with their friends and family playing Hal’s Hole in One Golf. It puzzled me then and puzzles me now, but man, they loved that game.

But how could the systems and games we had be for me? All the characters you controlled in the games we had on that SNES, and the many more to come, were men: Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong & Diddy Kong, Link, Mega Man, Cloud, Banjo, and even Kirby, who manages to be male even while existing as an anthropomorphized balloon thing. Girls were in the games as objects to be rescued, to scream and be pretty prizes. Perhaps you could occasionally play them as side characters, and sometimes they even showed up as bad ass NPCs in their own right, but they were never the player character in my experience. Continue reading Video Games and Me: A Personal Gaming/DA:O Retrospective

Video Games for Game-Reluctant People

Everybody has at least one of those friends who, when approached with the idea of playing video games, responds with a hearty, “But I’m terrible at video games!” Two people said that to me this week. And I won’t stand for it, I tell you. Won’t stand for it!

I know how this happens. You’re a pre-teen. You go to a friend’s house to play video games. Within the first ten seconds of Super Mario Bros., you walk off a cliff or run face-first into a Goomba. Somebody laughs and takes the controller from you like you’re a total idiot, and suddenly you feel insecure. “I guess I’m just no good,” you say.

Continue reading Video Games for Game-Reluctant People

Casual Sexism Isn’t Stupid. I’m Stupid.

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Am I doing this right? Help.

My favorite part of going to GameStop is when I remove MY PowerUp Rewards card from MY wallet and hand it to the cashier. And he turns to my boyfriend and asks him, “Did you want to use the points you’ve accumulated to pay for this?”

I just stand there smiling stupidly because that’s what I do. I just can’t ever make a decision! It’s so embarrassing. Points? What are those? I’m terrible at math. Is 85,000 points a lot?? How much is that in money?

Continue reading Casual Sexism Isn’t Stupid. I’m Stupid.

The World I Dream For

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Hello, friends. I write you with a heavy heart. I know you are tired of reading about this subject, but it needs to be repeated until it is actually heard. There is a world I want to be a part of and that place is one where I am accepted because of me and not judged because of my gender. Bear with me please. I am one of those women who was afraid for a while to call herself a feminist based on the stigma that is (unjustly) associated with it. I tried out other terms such as “humanist.” Until I realized that wasn’t helping anything I was appeasing people and hiding behind a name out of an irrational fear that that tricky “FEM” would cause such unbearable trouble. One day I woke up and was like “FUCK IT.” It was like a weight was lifted. Until I was approached and asked if I was a lesbian or if I hated men. Of course not. When  I dislike people it is not based on gender, skin color, sexuality, or religion. Most of the time it’s because that person is an asshole. I know you are wondering why is she rambling about this. Well, due to the fact I was born with a vagina, I have encountered some disturbing things when it comes to my hobbies. Particularly in the gaming world.

Let me give you a few examples of what I mean based on my own personal experiences:

  1. More times than I can count, when I have told people of my passion towards gaming, the responses have been off-putting.  “Is this because you are trying to find a new way to get closer to men?” “ What games do you EVEN play?! Farmville? Candy Crush?” “OOOOOhhhh that makes sense. RPGs are for girls” “So was your favorite Final Fantasy the one with all the girls? You know where they had multiple costumes?” This is only a fragment of what was thought to be appropriate to say to my face. Never have I thought to ask someone “Oh, because you have a penis that means you are really into racing games, sports, or cars? Right? Because those are your only interests?”

  2. Online I have joined discussions on games in public forums and been dismissed because of being born a woman. I have had people send me personal messages finding it appropriate to degrade or sexually harass me. Luckily, I haven’t been violently threatened (as many women have) with rape or physical harm. My opinions have been dismissed with “What do you know? You’re a girl!”

  3. I avoid cosplay because I have a fear that if I dressed as some of my favorite characters people would take that as an invitation to cat call or, WORSE, touch me. Only because I dared to show my cleavage, legs, or stomach. Let me be clear IT IS NEVER OKAY TO TOUCH ANYONE OF ANY GENDER BASED ON HOW THEY ARE DRESSED. I have a male friend who was harassed based on a how he chose to cosplay. No deserves to be groped because you have the hots for the character they are portraying. Nor is it okay to slut shame anyone because they altered the costume to what made them feel was more to their taste. It isn’t Slutty Whatever, it is a personal twist on a favorite character.

I could continue on for pages… but no one needs that either. So what I yearn for more playable heroines. How is this harmful? Women gamers take up 48%  of our culture that’s a lot of ladies “pretending to attract men.” Shouldn’t we be heard? Why is it so easy to dismiss us?

I’ve also been so lucky. I have friends who support my hobbies never judging me based on how I look. I have a father who never held me back because of being a daughter. I have a partner who encourages me to be myself. I am truly blessed in this aspect. As well thank every one of them for seeing me as a human. I love you.  Is it so much to wish and hope for a world full of more men like them? I don’t think so.

The History of Gamervescent

Chinese Checkers board back, 1935, J.F. Friedel, Syracuse, NY; board + parts box; large wood pieces
We don’t take kindly to foreign checkers ’round these parts.

A lot of people ask us how Gamervescent got started, and as the official Gamervescent historian, it’s my duty to tell you the story. The whole story.

Gamervescent has been around for longer than you think. It was started by Jennifer Culp’s great-great-grandmother Bernice Culp. A game enthusiast from an early age, Bernice started Gamervescent when she wasn’t tending to the family bee hive (the Culps were bee ranchers who dabbled in gaming).

Of course, video games didn’t exist back then, so she wrote about games like backgammon, cribbage, checkers, and competitive marbles. Every week, readers raced to their mailboxes to read up on the latest gaming news. Here’s an example:

Pals, have you seen the latest new thing? It’s called Lincoln Logs, and it’s the cat’s pajamas. 

And then she ran out of room because Bernice wrote kind of big and post cards are little bitty and required room for a stamp and a proper address.

Bernice loved what she did. Once a week, she handed her stack of handwritten post cards to the mailman who carried them off for delivery as near as next door and as far away as the edge of town. Back then , Gamervescent had a healthy readership of 27 people, including the schoolteacher and the town’s mayor. Each fall, Bernice held a “Game Con” at the general store, and the townspeople gathered around the cracker barrel for a few friendly rounds of Cat’s Cradle and tiddlywinks before heading home to supper. Some creative game fans even dabbled in early cosplay, showing up as Henry O. Pinocle and the cop from Stop Thief.

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Everything was going great for Bernice.

And then…Eula May moved to town.

Eula May Bryan, Bethany Bryan’s great-great-grandmother, was also a game enthusiast. But rather than sending out postcards to her fans, she wrote long, angry letters to her nephew in Branson about how games could be improved. Some of her suggestions included the loser being electrocuted at the end of a game of checkers and Cat’s Cradle played using live garter snakes as string. Back then, people referred to her type as a “firecracker.” Nowadays, she’d be called “mentally unstable.”

It wasn’t too long after Eula May moved to a house down the block from Bernice before she caught wind of all of the Gamervescent goings on about town. And Eula May wanted in. She was new in town, she was lonesome, and worst of all, letters to her nephew in Branson had begun to be returned to her unopened (because her nephew had been killed in the war back in 1916, and nobody told poor Eula May).

One morning Eula May showed up at Bernice’s door with a freshly baked huckleberry pie. She laid out her intention to help Bernice by submitting her ideas in a weekly column. Bernice, polite as ever, told her thank you but no thank you and sent her on home. But Eula May would not be dissuaded.

From that day onward, every week Bernice would drop her post cards into the hands of the postman. He would head down the block to Eula May’s to pick up her mail. She would invite him in for pie, and when he wasn’t looking, she would take the post cards from the mail bag. Eula May would spend the afternoon adding her own game ideas in the margins. Things like “RUSSIAN ROULETTE MEETS HOPSCOTCH” and “WINNER TAKES CUSTODY OF LOSER’S CHILDREN.” The next morning, she’d hand him the post cards “he’d dropped by accident” with another slice of pie and an innocent smile. The postman would then deliver the cards, none the wiser.

By the time Bernice realized what was going on, her readership had gone up to 50, and she had readers as far away as the county seat. Eventually, she just gave up and invited Eula May over every week to discuss games and the week’s content. Gamervescent has been going ever since, now run by Jenn and Bethany, having forgotten the “feud that almost was” almost 100 years ago.

Now you know the whole story.

In Which I Battle Unemployment and Ganondorf

GanondorfMy gaming life started when I was 23. I had just moved home to live with my parents again after spending a year of trying and failing to find a job after college. I spent most of my time in my bedroom, listening to old records and crying about the giant dump that fate had taken on my life. It was the most wrist-slitting two years of my life ever, in case you were wondering or maybe collect depressing anecdotes.

We had never been a gaming household. If you grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, you know that there were two factions of parents during that time: those who were pro-gaming and those who were pro-homework. My parents were pro-homework. My mom swore that we would NEVER, EVER have a Nintendo system in our house no matter how much we cried and begged. Period. Continue reading In Which I Battle Unemployment and Ganondorf