Monday, August 09, 2010

"You Play Pretty Well": In which Angie K discovers the community of gaming

Hi. My name is angie k, and I'm a gamer.

(Waits an appropriate amount of time for “Hi angie k!” from the crowd.)

I've been a gamer since I was a kid, but I haven't always gone by that label. I never really embraced the term “gamer” until I went to my first Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in 2008. By all accounts it “sucked”; the lines were long, there was NOWHERE to sit down, there were “too many” people, the concerts were “too full” for me to see the stage, etc. I put the word “sucked” in quotation marks because my first PAX was anything but sucky. Yes, the lines were really long and my feet hurt and I never got to play some of the games because the expo room was packed, but at PAX I found out that there was a gaming community out there and I wasn't alone.


Community is actually what got me into gaming in the first place. I didn't have a home console when I was a kid, and all my gaming was restricted to playing Duck Hunt (I hate that dog!), Paper Boy (I hate that car!), and Super Mario Bros. (I hate that turtle!) at the roller rink or local arcade. Arcade gaming, for me, was a solitary experience. I have always been shy, so I never made friends at the arcade. Yes, my friends, I had to play “The Simpsons” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” by myself. It was sad. But once, when I was ten, I felt what it was like to be part of a gaming community.

My mother had taken me to the local Pizza Hut for lunch. I grew up poor, so going to Pizza Hut was a twice a year experience for me. I remember this Pizza Hut like I was there yesterday. I can still see the brown brick walls, the red pleather seats, the yellow and orange stained glass light fixtures, and the two arcade games in the corner by the pick up counter and salad bar. My mother had given me a quarter and I wanted to play whatever game was in the corner (I can't remember now what game it was). I was hovering near the game, waiting for my turn and watching two boys play. One asked me to play his game while he went to get more change from his parents. I lost his game, but his friend watched me play and said that I "played pretty well." I was ten and it was the first time I was complimented on playing video games. When I gave the console back to the first boy I continued to watch. Eventually his friend asked me my name and, when I told him, said that it was pretty. After a while, the boys got off the game to let me play, but not before the first boy handed me two of his quarters. To this day, I'm not sure why he did it. Maybe he was thanking me for watching his game. Maybe he saw I only had one quarter to use and he felt bad for me. I'll never know. I played my quarters, lost, and gave the cabinet back to the boys. On the way out of the restaurant I waved to them, my fellow gamers, and they acknowledged me. I had never had a fellow gamer talk to me and be that nice to me. I can still smell the pizza. I have never forgotten this moment.

I like to think that it was that moment, that one instance of a boy (which was synonymous with “gamer” at the time in my town), being nice to me when I wanted to play an arcade game was what made me stick with it. Some gamer saw that I was “one of them” and acknowledged me. Up to that point games were just things I did to pass the time; after that games became a way to build a community.

Now, granted, not everyone in the over-arching “gaming community” feels all “kumbaya” about the gaming community. I've seen my share of racism, sexism, homophobia, pointless debates about who's “really a gamer” (hardcore vs. casual), etc. It's not a perfect community, but then, no community is. This is why I was excited to see Pretty Gamer start up. “Here's the community within the community that I've been looking for.” I thought when some folks on my Twitter stream started talking about article ideas for this site. I might have gotten a little misty-eyed when I read eye-shuh write, “This site is for all the female gamers, nerds, and geeks out there who ever thought they didn't have a voice. And this site is for all the male gamers who support us, and feel the same pressures that we do.” Games are important, and so is the community of gamers. There's a lot work to do to make sure all gamers have an equal voice, and sites like this are a way to make the first step.

Now, I was excited when I saw the first posts on Pretty Gamer, but I'll be honest, the first time I heard the name I cringed. “Good lawd, I bet there's going to be pink. And if there's more than three posts about Hello Kitty anything I am going to die.”

You see, “pretty” has come to be defined as “insignificant” to me. It's a meaningless word that we use when we don't know what else to say and don't want to assign any importance to the word it's describing. “Oh, what pretty flowers. Oh, what a pretty little girl.” A pretty gamer? Gamers aren't pretty! Gamers kick ass and chew bubble gum (and they're all out of bubble gum)! Even dictionary.com defines “pretty” as:

1. pleasing or attractive to the eye, as by delicacy or gracefulness: a pretty face.
2. (of things, places, etc.) pleasing to the eye, esp. without grandeur.
3. pleasing to the ear: a pretty tune.
4. pleasing to the mind or aesthetic taste: He writes pretty little stories.
5. (often used ironically) fine; grand: This is a pretty mess!
6. Informal . considerable; fairly great: This accident will cost him a pretty sum.
7. Archaic or Scot. . brave; hardy.

See! Pleasing. Attractive. Delicate. Graceful. Blah, blah, bl – Wait, what? Hardy? Brave? Hells yes! Well, I guess I could be a hardy gamer, a brave gamer, an... attractive gamer. I mean, maybe I've been harsh on the word “pretty”. “Pretty” seems like a pretty cool word. “Pretty” can, apparently, be many things.

Who says “pretty” has to be insignificant? Not me. Not anymore. I can't say I've ever called myself pretty, but there's always a first time for everything.

Hi. My name is angie k, and I'm a Pretty Gamer.

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic story! Great intro post. :)

    So, I am totally guilty of being one of those people that's like "Blah blah you're not a gamer if you only play bejeweled! blah." I think it's mostly because I'm bitter that casual games sell more, make more money, and therefore had a much higher focus from developers for a while. I do think that's started to take a turn back though.

    Also, for the record, I am definitely a delicate flower. (Note to writers/readers: This statement may not be refuted under Omegabat Law 1.23 A)

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  2. Love it! I love this post. I also played that Simpson's arcade game alone. I hear where you're coming from. Thanks for sharing. :)

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