essay, video games

Be like Leigh

I was going to write something totally different today. I had in mind to continue the conversation on tragedy. I was going to write more analysis of games themselves. Instead, I could not help but be moved by Leigh Alexander’s piece, “I’m Tired of Being a ‘Woman in Games.’ I’m a Person.“, over on Kotaku.

She had me at this sentence: “I work, you guys.”

But, if there was any doubt, here are her credentials:

“See, I’ve been a games journalist for a number of years now. Currently I am editor-at-large at Gamasutra doing industry reporting most days out of the week; I have a column in Edge and one at this here Kotaku (where I used to be a fulltime editor, fun fact!), I edit Nylon’s games section, and I’ve been in OXM, GamePro, the Escapist, Slate, Variety, Wired and the Onion’s AV Club. In just the last week I appeared on PBS, and NPR just recorded me for a segment on a program about my latest Kotaku piece. I’ve been on CBS, CBC, I’ve spoken at multiple GDCs and on more podcasts than I can count (even drunk ones, uh huh). This past weekend I went out partying for Halloween until 4 AM and then I got up and went to a design conference and I wrote like five articles while I was there. Because this is my job, always, all day and every day.”

It’s very simple for me. She works. Her output, only a tiny fraction of which I’ve ever read, is consistently good and she keeps at every day. If you ever wanted a role model for how to work, day in and day out, as someone covering video games as a living, you could not do better than her. In fact, she is one of my own role models as to how you should approach writing about any topic.

After watching her put out article after article and post after post, I have come to realize the truth of some advice I was given many years ago by one of my favorite Creative Writing professors: “Write. Do it often. Do it even if you do not want to. And, above all, write about your passion.” That is what she seems to follow and that is what I have tried to live up to since beginning to write every day back in May.

Do you know what I like best about her? It’s not that she is a prominent female writer, that she writes about feminism from time to time or even that she is a gamer. All of those things are important, true, but to me what is most important is that she cares about her craft and uses it to express her interests. I’ve been following her blog for a couple years now and even had the opportunity to interview her once for the podcast I used to co-host. In all those experiences, I have learned one thing: She loves games. I don’t know what else you could pull from looking at her work across the many, many places she writes at and for regularly. She loves video games and spends a great deal of time writing about them. But she also writes about many other things.

And she’s free to do that. It’s her prerogative as a person to write about whatever she feels the need to commit words toward addressing. She is not tied down to feminism just because she is a woman or even anchored to just talking about video games because of being a gamer or even her status as a prominent female journalist in the game industry. I prefer reading and writing about video games too. But, just like her, I write about other things when and if I want to. In fact, NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and I’ll be working on another novel — it probably won’t even be video game related!

It bothers me that many people think she is the average or somehow representative female gamer. She isn’t. From the little bit I’ve read of her takes on feminism in gaming, she is not great at analyzing symbols or suggesting alternative narratives. But I don’t read her stuff for that! If I want to see gaming from a feminist perspective, I usually go to Border House or another similar blog who have dedicated staff who faithfully deliver on that and other needed perspectives. Just because she happens to be both female and a well-known games journalist, doesn’t mean that she has to write about the intersection of those two attributes.

I want to issue a challenge out to those who think that just because Leigh Alexander is female, a writer and a gamer — just to name a few labels — that she should write about what you think she should: Do. It. Yourself.

When I see her, or anyone else, say things like the following, I get upset.

Please don’t write me because I’m female and ask me what I think about the next big gender controversy in games. Don’t ask me if I think Catwoman needs to zip her uniform up or about some out-of-context inflammatory quote from someone or other or if it’s “okay” with me if you use this word or that word. I am just so exhausted of these things. Don’t engage in arguments and discussions that are ultimately about you seeking permission for your prejudices or pats on the back for your lack thereof.” (Original emphasis)

Why do I get angry about that? Because giving you her permission is not part of her job and it makes very little sense at all. How can one woman speak for all woman everywhere and forever? How can one female gamer speak for all female gamers? Even if she went out of her way to do that — and she won’t — it would make little difference. She can only write from her own perspective and experiences.

Instead of sending her your ideas or asking her opinion of something, write it yourself. I’ve taken that as my own mantra over the past few months of hard work and have, just in the last few days, grown in audience by a whole order of magnitude just because I was willing — daring enough — to try my own twist and opinion on a topic. Even if that sudden surge in traffic disappears tomorrow, I will continue to write about the things I am passionate about. You can and should do the same.

Be more like Leigh. Write about your passion. If it’s video games and feminism, great. There is a growing need for voices and writers at that intersection. If it’s games and sexuality, there is a need for coverage of that too. Even if it’s just the latest controversy in or near the video game industry, write about that too. But, above all else, write about the things you care about, that move you and that you can be enthusiastic about. She does. I’ve begun to. You should start.