It is a job of convenience, not my dream job. The economy is bad, and I need something steady and tolerable so my husband can go to school and finish his degree. Finding anything remotely uses some of my skills is a bonus so I feel lucky to get the marketing director job at a real estate.
Okay. That is a self-appointed title. I’m the only marketing person.
In this office, class division is very clear: you’re either an agent or you’re staff. It doesn’t matter if you write the new company database, type letters, or order office supplies, staff is staff. We all get the same raise and the same performance reviews. When you take pride in your work and you want to excel this vanilla attitude toward your job is soul crushing.
One morning I’m asked to create a newspaper ad in about 30 minutes for the Wall Street Journal. After matching fonts, column alignments, and point sizes, and getting a couple of rounds of edits, I discover the ad is an inside joke they want to appear in their buddy’s morning email.
It would feel different if they included me in on the joke, but they didn’t. So instead I feeling like a valuable member of the team, I feel like a commodity.
In third-person perspective I move my avatar in place while the chain link fence slides open. The second I step forward, I know the back of the trailer will open and dozens of zombies will pile out in my direction. In my line of fire are several cars with alarms which, if set off by stray bullets, will attract more zombies from the perimeter and I’ll be surrounded.
“Use the flame thrower. It’s the safest bet.”
I step forward: nudge R1, nudge R1.
I can almost smell the gasoline.
The incoming phone calls have been rolling over to my desk for quite a while. This means the receptionist has been pulled away for some unexpected task. Outside my office I see her frantically working in the copy room. Someone has given her a big project to print, assemble, punch, and sort. If I can help her get this done faster we both can stop the interruptions.
What is she working on?
She’s labeling all the school notebooks for the vice president’s son, and decorating them with a color copy of his favorite sports team.
Clenching my jaw, head down, I return to my office. How does someone in authority get comfortable taking advantage of subordinates like that?
Shootin’ varmints is one thing but, starin’ down a trigger happy cowboy whose intention is puttin’ a bullet in your heart is a horse of a differ’nt color. The citizens shutter the town as soon as we square off in the street. The sun is setting and the only movement is swirling dust, tumbleweed, and a timer in the upper corner of the monitor counting down to the draw.
Three. Two. One!
I holster my gun, turn, and walk into the sunset. One less rascal to terrorize the town folk.
A new candidate for the senior assistant’s position sits across the conference table from me. Unemployment is high so the market is flooded with overqualified, desperate people. More than 300 applicants apply for the job.
The president instructs me, if the candidate passes muster, let him know and he’ll walk by. The woman I’m interviewing is seriously overqualified. She’s been doing this kind of work for a long time, in better places, and for much higher pay. She is gold in this economy and we can get her for a copper. I step out to tell the president I highly recommend this candidate.
He says, “Okay, let me go see.”
In just a few seconds he comes by. “She’s too old. I’d like a gay man or, even better, a young black girl with a British accent. Can we get an intern from the woman’s college?”
So he literally meant he would walk by and look at the candidate. Is this how I got hired? I need a shower.
The demon Mephisto, Lord of Hatred, brother of Diablo and Baal, is resistant to all elemental attacks, launches lightning bolts, casts ice balls to immobilize, and, with a single touch, can drop my life bar to two percent. The plan is for my sorceress to use Freezing Hail Storm to stall the demon while our barbarian hacks at it with a rare, magical axe using Berserker. After each hit I have to move because the demon’s ice ball targeting is quick and accurate.
We enter Mephisto’s den, the Durance of Hate. He taunts us, “My brothers have escaped you! You’re too late, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”
Click 4. Freezing Hail Storm.
Click 4. Freezing Hail Storm.
Suddenly, spell-casting minions surround me and I’m trapped on the bridge!
Click 7. Teleport.
Fail! Not enough mana!
Mephisto thaws but, wait! He’s trapped at the edge of the moat and can’t move because of a bug in the program. He can’t pursue! I can easily kill him from a distance if I can get off this bridge.
I finally thaw.
Click 1. Drink potion.
Click 4. Freezig Hail Storm.
The minions are eliminated!
Now all we have to do is attack, attack, attack, and watch the Mephisto’s life bar decrease to zero.
The sword of Azaroth is mine!
I’m not always the good guy. I’d like to believe I am and, in a crisis, I’d be the hero, but I’m not. My emotions are… intense. Inside I’m a scared little girl who developed a defense mechanism early against failure and humiliation. It protects me but hurts other people.
The staff job was a long, difficult struggle for five years. I’d like to say that the joy of my husband accomplishing his dream and having a steady income was enough to get me through every day, but I felt every injustice and wanted to fight for the respect I deserved, the respect everyone on the staff deserved, as a human being, as a woman, and as a qualified professional.
Did I want to use a flame thrower on my co-workers? Absolutely not! I don’t know in how many ways I can be clear that at no time did I fantasize about harming my co-workers in any way. Gaming did not introduce that idea to me nor promote it. I have a motto, “No one is pure evil except Voldermort.” People might be jerks but most offenses are not intentional and not the sum of the person—we are all human beings. Being professional and a decent is my desired modus operandi and is an incredible challenge in the face of disrespect, condescension, and degradation.
In real life (IRL) it’s often impossible to get the experiences I can in gaming. Playing a virtual hero I can fight injustice and win. Gaming is a level playing field where everyone has to follow the same rules. At the end of some IRL days, I just need a win—for mankind, for womankind, for myself. It makes tomorrow easier to wake up to.
Fighting for what I think is right is one of the big reasons I like the Mass Effect franchise so much. At one point in the game you can choose whether to put an entire species on a path to extinction. Genocide is monstrous to me IRL. In the game I’m able to fight for that ideal.
In the climactic battle of Mass Effect 2, it was devastating when a valued, virtual team member dies but glorious when we won the moral victory, securing the right of the Krogans to procreate.
Several years ago I went through a personal crisis. One thing that helped was Stasi Eldredge’s book, “Captivating”. Learning about me turned out to be reeducation in what it is to be embodied as a female. The revelations about me during that period marks a pivotal time in my life. I’m a woman but I saw womanhood as being dangerous and painful. There was nothing I could do about being a woman so, instinctively, I created survival mechanisms to make sure I won any battle or, at least, left the other guy bleeding more than I.
What I learned is not earth shattering but it gives me the freedom to be a woman. Eldredge’s book postulates that femininity desires three things: to be part of her own adventure, to be chosen, and to display beauty. Now, these are very big ideas and Eldredge takes a whole book just to introduce them. The ideas ring true to me but fulfilling those leaves a lot to be desired.
Growing up as a woman I thought my choices for adventure were limited: have children, raise a family, keep a home, be a good wife. This all sounded very dull to me. I didn’t want children, so what’s left? Cleaning and cooking for a man? I want to be loved and in a relationship but my role in that sounded like losing my identity.
Adventure to me is crashing through glass ceilings, taking the corner office, and vacationing in exotic tropical locations. This is an acceptable adventure for a man but not for a woman.
For one reason or another, some of our adventures are simply unattainable–either because of physical or financial handicaps or just being born at the wrong time. At different points in time I wanted to be the archeologist, a Blue Angel pilot, a movie star, and a super model.
In gaming, I have the potential of experiencing all of these adventures and more. No, it’s not the same but it’s not nothing either.
When my virtual team mate, Jack, died in Mass Effect 2, I was angry and sad because I hand-picked and groomed my team for victory.
In Civilization V I get very Sally Field when my people are so happy there’s a “We Love the King” day because I want people to be happy and successful.
In Batman: Arkham Asylum I get a real thrill climbing to the highest steeple, looking down fearlessly, and diving off head first, gliding all the way to the ground because, IRL, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have the courage to jump.
Tomorrow morning I may run late for work, leave my coffee sitting on the roof of my car, stand in line at the DMV for an hour, get a ticket rushing back to work, forget my lunch, sit in a two-hour meeting about ‘synergy’, or make the same editorial change for the fifth time because the client can’t decide which shade of blue they want. But when I get home, I can protect my brain with pea shooters, track down bandits through the wilds of Gaptooth Ridge, and keep my squad of soldiers alive while we eliminate the extraterrestrial Chimera threat to the human race.
Today I feel the safety and freedom of being a woman like I never have before. I’m chosen by my friends and family. I display beauty in my personal style, my art, my job, and how I treat people. And gaming offers me an accessible resource for quenching my female soul’s thirst for adventure.
This is an article I submitted to Mad Norwegian Press for their upcoming Geek Girl Chronicles: “Chicks Dig” series on gaming. It didn’t make the final cut for the book so I thought I’d post it here this week.