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Vol. 2, Issue 2
November 16, 1999
Birth of a Gamer:

Are you sure you want me to do this?

by Heather "elki" Haselkorn

My original intention was to stay as far away from loonygames as possible. It just wasn't my scene, I didn't understand any of it, and I just didn't care enough to, say, get pissed off about Lara Croft. But I eventually found myself actually reading loonygames and wanting to play some of the games that were mentioned in its articles. On the whole, I thought it was very well done, even though I still had no idea what was going on. Heck, I even wrote in to the mailbag and won a t-shirt.

So when loony called me and asked if I wanted to take over the "Birth of a Gamer" column, my first response was yes. Followed by, "Are you sure you want me to do this," as though I'd break the server or something. I guess part of my reaction was because after months of being surrounded by his surreal world, I sort of wanted in. I'd also finally have a legitimate reason for spending hours in front of my computer for "research" purposes. And of course, I can't deny the fact that I'm a pretentious English major who just wants her own byline. Regardless of my motives, here I am, writing what I hope will become a regular column about gaming from a non-gamer's perspective.

This column isn't really giving birth to a gamer; it's more like a "rebirth." Up until the last couple of years of high school, I played lots of games, mostly badly, and solely on consoles. When I was four years old my dad bought me an Atari. Actually, I think he really bought it for himself, but he told my mother it was for me and my infant brother. I spent hours playing Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, you name it. I kept buying games for that thing up until I was about twelve. I still quiver at the memory of my mother throwing it away when we moved to a new apartment. How I mourn the loss of my precious Pong!

Anyway, said Atari was eventually replaced by the NES. From then on I realized that the only two games I'd ever be good at were Super Mario Bros. and Tetris, which I now have again, thanks to my Game Boy Color. Anyway, I played these games to exhaustion. I think that this was also about that time (correct me if I'm wrong--I probably am) that the wars began and new consoles seemed to be coming out in droves at exorbitant prices. My parents couldn't justify shelling out the money to buy these for me--they said I should spend my time doing other things.

You can imagine my ire when they bought my brothers a Sega Genesis later that year. Video games weren't an appropriate pastime for their tree-climbing, baseball-playing, mud-stained daughter, yet my brothers could take out all their aggression on a television screen any time. This was the first time that I realized there was a double standard when it came to video games. I don't think my parents meant any harm. They were probably looking out for my best interests, and trying to steer me toward "girl" activities that were more socially acceptable. I almost hit the roof when they bought my brothers a Super NES as well, but I eventually gave up the battle and settled into getting my ass whooped by a six-year-old.

My gaming days began to wane during high school and finally came to an end after my freshman year of college. I moved into my own apartment and had to choose between buying games and eating. Since starving to death would obviously not have been a good thing, I chose to eat. I spent the next three years virtually gameless and clueless, and the gamer in me died. Do you hear the violins? Do you feel sorry for me yet? It's a sad story, one of the saddest, I tell ya. But it does get better.

In the beginning of my senior year of college, I met our illustrious editor, loony himself, in a history class. I thought he was insane. I thought he was completely out of his mind. I thought he was having a hell of a lot more fun than me. I mean, there he was, carving out a career for himself, doing something that most of us just do for fun. I was amazed that people could actually devote their entire lives to developing, playing, and writing about games. And that was just what they did for a living--after that they went home and played more games! Adult men (and they are mostly men) spent their entire lives doing this.

Once again, the double standard struck me. Where are all the women? Sure, I know some women who love to play, but I've heard enough of loony's stories about male-dominated LAN parties to wonder what happened to the other half of the population. How many other women were told when they were younger that they should find something more appropriate to do with their free time? Things are a bit different now, as it seems to be more acceptable for girls to play video games and to learn how to use computers for more than just typing papers. But that's about ten years too late for me, and for many other women in their twenties and older.

I have to wonder, in fact, if it's any coincidence that the "Birth of a Gamer" column is being written by a woman, and that the person who did it before me was also a woman. This isn't due to deliberate reinforcement of old stereotypes about how women can't play games. Rather, it kind of turns out that way by default--how many men in my age group can say that they've never played a video game? So I guess it makes sense to have a woman write this column, because it's much more common to meet women who are new to gaming.

When loony asked me to write this column, it was because I was the only person he knew who really could write it. My hiatus from gaming means that I've missed out on so much development that I might as well be starting from scratch. And it's true...some of the stuff I've been seeing is absolutely amazing. I used to be able to pick up a game and know exactly what to do with it. Now I'm so busy just taking in what's on my screen that I have to remind myself to actually play the darned thing.

I don't really have a plan for how I'm going to write this column. I'm assuming I'll just get a bunch of games, play them, and write what I think. If you don't like my rantings, well, sorry. I tend to get very opinionated, like it or not. If you think I'm a complete idiot, you're probably at least half-right. If my references are dated and my terminology is, well, nonexistent, you'll just have to forgive me. And I tend to digress into flowery prose that leads nowhere. But hey, I'm a pretentious English major, and now I have a byline. And yes, Lara Croft's perky breasts really do piss me off.

-Heather "elki" Haselkorn actually enjoys this.


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