I have been a part of the games industry or gaming culture. I started in my early teens, trying to be a part of a hobby that didn’t really want me there. I tried going to conventions, already collecting games, tarting with the Swedish versions of various kinds. I’ve never been much of a joiner, but I did find my people after a few years. My people were a small group of players/ friends/ boyfriends/ girlfriends called Döda Karaktärers Sällskap, Dead Characters Society. Yes, it was definitely a rip off of Dead Poets Society. Oh Captain, my Captain.
But belonging almost never stretched farther. Whenever I tried, I had to give up my convictions or my identity.
My convictions were and are that everyone deserves representation in both text and images. Presenting this to an almost overwhelmingly male audience was less than successful. I was – in short – mocked, derided and called stupid. This still happens. Or happened, should I say, when I tried to be a part of almost any community online.
Innocent questions – what I thought were innocent questions – and statements with quite a bit of research behind them were also mocked, derided and called stupid.
I’ve never managed to belong without suppressing my need for diversity and inclusion. This hasn’t only been true for gaming culture. it has also been true for the gaming industry.
Giving up my identity was mostly about internalizing a hell of a lot of misogyny. Girly things were stupid. Girls were stupid, except me, of course, because I wasn’t really a girl.I was one of the boys. This meant suppressing anything feminine about me. Not wearing make up, perfume, jewelry… it all went away in favor of being more “like a man”.
The only – only! – problem is of course that I am not a man, and I don’t identify as a man, nor do I really want to be one of the boys. I want to participate on my own merits, but I’ve had to hide myself, and it’s never on my own merits. It is on the merits I am granted by the men I work with.
I love nail polish on my toes. I love jewelry. I make jewelry. I have stopped wearing both after commentary from co-workers. “I didn’t think you were that girly!” “Are you turning into a girl now? Does this mean you’ll stop/ start/ do something considered negative and female now?” where you can fill in pretty much anything that’s considered “female” and “bad” in those sentences.
I’ve stopped because in the end I can only fight on one front and I chose culture over my personal needs.
I still think it is important that people know, though. This world is made for men, and I’ve spent more than half my life immersed in a culture and industry that isn’t really interested in anything but men.
I’ve gotten to the point where I’m wondering why I do this to myself, but I have no answers.
I have a few bookshelves full of games, instead, and not really anyone to play them with.