Waiting for a coffee at my local café, a fellow customer noticed my Bioshock Infinite t-shirt. How did I know he noticed? Because he was glaring at me with what could only be described as haughty disapproval. My curiosity at his reaction was quickly satisfied when he suddenly and venomously accused: “You probably haven’t even played it”.
Despite the overwhelming majority of my colleagues, readers and viewers being completely accepting of my work in the gaming industry, I meet skepticism about my passion for video games on a daily basis. I’m not even going into the abuse I get whilst gaming online. Once people get to know me they quickly learn I am “legit” – but does this happen to my male counterparts? Sometimes, of course, but absolutely not to this extent. Reasons I’ve been given for my “obvious geek fakery” range from having worked as a model, an actor, and having passions outside of gaming or the “geek world” but the most common by far is my physical appearance and ultimately, gender.
This incredulity at my existence not only in gaming media but even just as someone who simply enjoys gaming has even extended to questions about the legitimacy of the event I described in my tweet. Did I believe I should tweet about the best comeback I’ve ever had to someone accusing me of being a “fake geek girl” – to my face? Without question. I tweet about when I’m watching Adventure Time or when I’ve eaten too much cheese, why not this? Did I have any idea it would go viral? Not a chance. I’m hoping with this post I can clear up some questions asked.
I’ve never been a confrontational person. Standing up for myself in person is something that terrifies me, and I was shaking not only with anger but at the thought of responding to this man. Did I consider just ignoring him? Yes – that’s my usual default in situations like this. That, or just saying something like “Oh, yeah – actually I have. I finished it a few days ago – have you played it yet?”. Trying to turn the conversation into something amicable is something that years of hospitality training ingrained into me. But this man was aggressive and rude, and I’d made a promise to myself recently to never stand for this kind of behaviour, no matter how difficult it was for me.
My first thought was to tell him the ending as a way of proving I’d played it. Why I should even have to aside, the idea he could have a retort along the lines of “you just read a wiki” or “you probably watched it on YouTube” didn’t occur to me – this happened quite quickly after all. As I’d finished the game myself only 3 days earlier, and discussed it in length as a guest on the GameArena Podcast 2 days before, the key points were fresh in my mind. What I ended up (calmly, mind you, despite my anger) telling him was enough to be obvious that I had in fact played the game, whilst – yes – at the same time spoiling it for him if he hadn’t. In the midst of doing so, I realised by the look on his face he mustn’t have finished the game himself.
I won’t lie, it felt fantastic to have someone who was intending to make me feel awful – on my birthday of all days – have the tables turned on him. Does that make me a bad person? You tell me. I collected my coffee, then walked away with the biggest grin on my face, adrenalin coursing through my body. There were only two other customers at the coffee shop, both sitting some distance away, and I’m honestly not sure if the barista overheard the conversation. I do sincerely hope I didn’t spoil it for anyone else. I can’t even begin to describe how proud I was for standing up for myself. I deal with guys like this online every single day, and to be able to get revenge – with dignity – felt unbelievably good.
I could never have predicted what would follow. Within minutes of tweeting the incident I’d received hundreds of retweets (there has been accusations I receive career and financial gain for this – I can assure you that assumption is categorically false). Within an hour I was trending on San Francisco then the United Kingdom, Canada, Melbourne, Australia and finally my hometown of Sydney. Whilst buzzing from the enormity of what was happening on twitter I was contacted for an interview with media news site IT Journo.
It ended up on tumblr and was reblogged by Gail Simone, a writer for the Wonder Woman comic series, of which I am a huge fan. The Mary Sue wrote a story on it. It hit the front page of memebase. Wil Wheaton reblogged it on his tumblr, then responded to my thanking him on twitter. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal, Forbes wrote an article. Imgur posted it. It was added in a buzzfeed and shared all over facebook and instagram. I was inundated with thousands of people thanking me for standing up to that man. I’ve been called a hero, an inspiration, a badass, a liar and a drama queen.
All I did was what I felt was the right thing, in a moment of frustration, brought on by years of being the target of misogyny online – culminating in that one real life opportunity to fight back.
I’m hoping this serves to answer some questions I’ve been asked via twitter and in the comments of articles on other sites. If you do have any further questions I’m happy to answer them here. Also, please – share your stories of similar events – I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been able to manage a killer comeback. I’ll be deleting any Bioshock Infinte spoilers from the comments, so there’s no need to fear scrolling below!
EDIT: It has also come to my attention that Courtnee Draper, the voice of Elizabeth also responded to my tweet! The amount of support I have received is truly amazing, and I can only hope it encourages others to not stay silent in a similar situation.