The first video game I remember playing is Ernie’s Magic Shapes on a Commodore 64.
Only I didn’t play it on a color monitor. I played it on a black and white TV. So I didn’t get why, when I told Ernie that the gray square in the air matched the gray square on the table, he told me I was wrong. My dad could tell the difference between the shades of gray, which just meant I didn’t understand why he was so much better at the game than I was.
He bought more games for the Commodore, like the Summer and Winter Olympics, Frogger, and one of my favorites, Dream House.
He also bought a color monitor and an early Texas Instruments computer. For even more games like Q-Bert, Ms. Pac Man, TI Invaders (not Space Invaders), and Donkey Kong with only four or so levels that cycled over and over again. I could probably write my autobiography in video games. Learning reading and math with educational games. Not understanding why my friends in elementary school didn’t have computers. Showing them Commander Keen, Duke Nukem (before he went 3D), and Jill of the Jungle. Not understanding why these things weren’t fun for them. Impressing a boyfriend by solving a puzzle for him from The 7th Guest. Knowing she would be my best friend after we played Fate of Atlantis together.
Shortly after we met, my husband told me that he thought it was so cool that he was dating a gamer. What? I’m not a gamer. Isn’t a gamer someone who plays MMORPGs like World of Warcraft? To be a gamer, don’t you need to have a system newer than a N-64 (my first game system since an Atari)? I balked at the label, but loved that he gave me Imperium Romanum, Black and White 2, and East India Company for the holidays. But I’m not a gamer. I can quit at any time. Let me just finish this battle before I come to bed. Aw shit! Pirates sunk my galleon. Let me build another, then I’ll come to bed. I promise.
I’m not a gamer, am I? When Anita Sarkeesian pointed out the truth of sexism in video games and gamer culture, it wasn’t something I was personally aware of because I’m not in that scene. I was disappointed that my choices for female characters in Mortal Kombat were limited and scantily clad, but not all my games were like that. In my games, women were a governor, a medical student, or a princess on a mission to save her father. The games wouldn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but that’s not the end of the world.
And today I read this:
Really? There are other women like me? There’s a female gaming community? Am I part of it just because I play games? Or do I have to do something else?