My first post is the tale of a girl's semi-awkward "coming of age" in the world of video games--and where it led to.
(I got first post, so I'm officially the coolest person on this blog.) 

Dear Gamasutra Blogosphere (and anybody else reading this post), 

In 1989, the Sega Genesis arrived to the United States. Months later on Christmas Day, so did I. I was the first daughter of my family and second child. Just over a year later, the SNES was released. This machine would be the first I knew of video games on a personal level. It extended its grey and purple hand as it greeted, “Why, hello there, young miss. The name's System. Super Nintendo Entertainment System. My friends all call me SNES. I saw you from across the playroom and thought you'd like to come hang out with my friend Zenith Television and I.”  

Well, it was something like that—maybe without the creep factor. As soon as I was able to, I started playing it. My games of choice ranged from Super Mario World to Mario Paint. I never played any of the games my dad or brother played. I was a casual gamer for sure, and this continued for many, many years. Even still, I was definitely influenced by them. My first—and I think only—imaginary friend was my Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal which I pretended was Mario. We'd have tea together, and Luigi, who I don't think I ever bothered fictionally embodying into any of my stuff animals, would always want to join us but would be immediately scorned by me. 

My Mario streak only continued with the introduction of the N64. My new gaming interests now ranged from Super Mario 64 to Mario Party. Hell, I even played Mario Golf and Mario Tennis. Did I play anything else? Honestly, not that I can remember. I remember a chameleon game, the title of which I can't be bothered to lazily Google, and I remember Pilotwings 64. I didn't play them much. Probably due to the hand injuries I received from Mario Party. (I'm not complaining; surviving long ass games of Mario Party is what I consider my initiation into womanhood.)

About the same time, I was introduced to the world of PC gaming. I knew of its existence from the world of DOS, a world which I never ventured into myself. It was just me watching over my brother's shoulder. Anyway, so I say I was introduced into the “world of PC gaming,” but I'm actually talking about the niche market of girly games made for the PC. Yes, I played Barbie Horse Adventures on the PC, and you know what? I liked it. I also had Barbie Fashion Designer. I could go on a whole tangent/rant about femininity vs. sexism and whatever, but that's definitely a post for another day.

The Playstation was another console in our household at the time. However, I never really played it, as it was my brother's console. I used to watch him play though. My favorite was watching Resident Evil. I thought it was such a cool game, and it looked so real at the time. I loved watching my brother shoot the zombies and walk down hallways. The whole ambiance of the game really stuck with me, but still, I never played it. 

That was my video game experience from birth up until middle school. It was largely made up of Mario and Barbie. These are still big names today, but in terms of games, there was a metric assload that I was missing out on. When I started middle school, I guess I was starting on this whole being-weird-is-cool thing, so I wasn't as concerned with being feminine and popular like I had been through elementary school. Mind you, I had a wealth of friends in elementary school, so it worked. For whatever reason, one that I don't even know, I decided that doing weird stuff was what I wanted, and I became less concerned about having a bunch of friends. It may have been due to switching to a small Catholic school or the beginnings of puberty; I have no idea.

This was when the Xbox arrived. I remember my eyes popping damn near out of my head as I looked at the big black behemoth of a plastic box sitting in my father's living room. (My parents were divorced at this point, just noting this for story purposes.) The first game I played on it was Halo. I can't even begin to tell you how cool I felt with that big, dark controller in my hand. I was playing a game where I wasn't dressing up a doll; the menus weren't overly embellished with pink, and there weren't any girl characters—or at least ones that were in any way like the ones I'd previously come to associate with women in video games, e.g. Barbie and Princess Peach. 

There was only this Cortana A.I. person. She was kind of spunky and sassy, as much as a computer could be. The main character was a mysterious, tough guy in armor. I'm well aware that was nothing particularly new in video games at that point in time, but it was for me. Halo was the introduction of an entire genre for me, the FPS. I had been a girl casual gamer for my entire life, and society has these stigmas about girls playing video games. 

See, if you'll excuse my interruption of the personal narrative for a moment to explain a bit more of my experience, there's a lot of these awkward unspoken rules. At least, there were for me. All of these lines get drawn when parents shove certain kinds of games down kids' throats. When asked, people almost always say, “Yeah, there's nothing wrong with a girl playing with toy trucks, and there's nothing wrong with a boy wanting to play with dolls.” That's a general statement, but I think it's true for a majority of the population. However, when it comes to video games, things seem to change a little bit. That's the way it seems to me. However, it may be different now. 

My parents gave me those girly games because I was a girly girl, but with that came implications that those were the only kinds of games I was allowed to play. There was nothing spoken. My parents never said I couldn't play Resident Evil. They weren't the kind of people who had rules about content, so that wasn't the issue. It was simply just this societal stigma that girls only played Barbie and maybe some Mario games, since those were popular enough to be for both girls and boys. However, anything else was odd and unacceptable, and during my elementary school years, I simply couldn't have that. I wanted to be accepted by the other girls. Would I have been looked at differently if I had? I want to say no, but I know without a doubt that I would have. They would not have understood me. Why do I know? It's still that way today—just not as bad, I guess.

Anyway, that having been said, you can imagine how crazy it was for me to be playing a game like Halo. I loved playing it. I loved aiming a gun and shooting something. I still think it's a fantastic game. I've genuinely loved it since day one, so it's not a fangirl thing or anything. I wasn't doing it because it was a popular game—because it wasn't at the time. It was brand-freakin'-new. I just really, honestly enjoyed the game, and with that, I never looked at the Barbie or Mario games the same. In fact, I really never picked one up again. (I'm just now realizing this, and I'm wondering about it. Once I get some more thoughts on this, I'm sure I'll have something to post about it. Very interesting realization though.)

Then, the next game I played on the Xbox was one that completely blew my fucking mind about what was possible in a video game. I remember first seeing it and being in total shock. It was this huge world full of these people. They lived in houses, their own houses. The houses were all uniquely designed, and you could pick stuff up. You could kill the people, and they would be dead, like really dead. They were all actual people in the game; they had names. You could run around in a huge world for what seemed like forever. There were books in the game with text filling their pages, and there was a whole slew of fantastical, imaginative creatures and plant-life. It was The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. That game remains to this day my absolute favorite game of all time. Halo is a close, close second.

The thing is, I know that those aren't necessarily “the world's best games,” and now there's games that have better graphics, sounds, more content, better battle systems, whatever. It was the impact that those games had on me that made them so bold. These are the games that changed me as a person, and until that point, no form of media had ever had that much significance in my life. (Those two games are the reason I'm on this website and am writing this.) It wasn't until much later that I realized all this though. Back then, I was playing the games because I loved what they had to offer to me, a female casual gamer. It was just a matter of overcoming the stigmas and the but-what-will-people-think-of-me feelings.

I finally got my own Xbox at some point. I remember shitting myself upon the release of Halo 2. It was so amazing to me. The multiplayer for Halo 2 wasn't anything new to me though, since I'd played the shit out of Halo on the PC. (That was my World of Warcraft.) I've actually never been that interested in any multiplayer much at all, and I'm still not. I like cooperative play, but I don't particularly enjoy playing games online against people. I think this is some inherent trait in women, but I don't have the facts to prove that statement; it's just shit I've heard somewhere. It's true for me, but don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the occasional head-to-head shit; it's just not what I look for most in games. I love the single player shit above all.

Oops, bit of a tangent. Anyway, back to my long ass story. Also, in middle school, I had gotten a laptop of my very own. On it, I had my beloved PC versions of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind as well as Halo. I also had Call of Duty and Age of Empires. These were my two introductions into different game genres. Call of Duty was FPS, but it was a WWII FPS, which has an entirely different feel than Halo as an FPS. I loved the game right away. I thought it was fantastic. Age of Empires brought me into the world of RTS's and brought me that much closer to my own OCD nature. I had a blast micromanaging my very own little empire. I wasn't into the strategic, fighting part of the game very much. I actually just liked setting up my city, managing all the resources, and building wonders.

Then, it's all downhill from there—or uphill, I think? In high school, I was totally accepting of the “gamer” identity for myself, whereas before I would never have been. When the Xbox 360 came out, I was really excited, and I couldn't wait to have one. I wanted to play the next Call of Duty game and the next Elder Scrolls game, Oblivion. It was then that I was probably removed from the “casual” gamers category. I wasn't a “hardcore” gamer at the time either. I honestly still don't consider myself “hardcore” though. If pressed, I will say that I'm “semi-hardcore.” Why? Really, truly, it's just that I hate how pretentious the term “hardcore gamer” sounds. I understand that people are proud of their hobbies sometimes, and if they have a certain extensive knowledge, that's great; however, acting haughty about it is ridiculous to me.

I keep embedding mini-rants within this. Mind not my womanish hysteria. Anyway, my life was really in a state of I-have-no-fucking-clue Junior year of high school. It was the summer before Senior year, and I still had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life—much less where I would go for college. I thought maybe I'd be a teacher; it was the only thing I had much of an interest in doing. I was organized and good at explaining things in simple terms. Then, I went to a two-week workshop in making video games that totally changed my mind. I thought, “Why not give this crazy game thing a try?” If it didn't work out, I could still be a teacher.

I made my decision and filled out only one college application. I got accepted since I had great grades and nothing but good remarks surrounding my overall testing history. I'm not going to bullshit you or myself; having a vagina probably had something to do with it as well. That seems to have a pretty good effect on things in this industry—for good and bad sometimes. Again, post for another story.

Anyway, so here I am today. I'm in my second year of school at, as far as you know, Hogwarts School of Gamecraft and Artistry. My major was originally in programming games, but I switched to game design. It's a new major in my school, and it's still undergoing a lot of changes. So far, it's been a little disappointing, but I know it'll work out for the best in the end. I'm a writer, not so much a programmer. I can program, but it's not my favorite thing in the world. I have a great vision for things, and I love writing out a good story. I know it takes a hell of a lot more than that to be a great designer, but that's what I'm doing at school right now. It's also why I'm on this website. 

I'm learning everything I can right now, and it's a thrill ride for me right now. Sometimes I'm shitting my pants in fear for what may come the next. Sometimes I've got my hands in the air waiting for that camera to snap a goofy picture of me around the next bend. Sometimes I'm hanging in midair because the damn ride broke down. It's all crazy, but it's all great. I can't wait until I wedge my foot into the door of the industry. Right now, I'm just sitting outside staring at the door like a dog waiting to be let in from being outside; I will when I learn to not shit on the carpet.

I'll learn one day, but for now, I'm just a girl who's gone from being a creation of a market's stereotypes to a creature who's trying to learn about that very same market to find a way to beat it, some kind of game...?

With that, I end my introductory post to you, dear blogosphere. All the best.

Miss Alicia.

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