Why dating “guy gamers” turned out to be a bad idea


Sure, it seems fun at first.

Mostly because it’s comfortable. Every night is like a pajama sleep over that ends in sex. That’s the American Dream. That’s before spending every night in playing League of Legends or Assassin’s Creed gets really, really boring.

I dated a lot of men who considered themselves “gamers”. Why? Low self esteem, mostly. I knew a lot about games and enjoyed playing them. And that interest was a “hook”. Something that men could relate to and feel comfortable talking about. I didn’t feel like my personality and looks alone was enough to generate any real interest (and as a teen I was probably right). My focus was being good enough for them with no question as to whether they were good enough for me.

Now obviously this is all based on my personal experience and my friends. There are always exceptions. However, if you feel you’re the exception to any of this, just feel content in that. I don’t need to hear about it and honestly if you can’t control your impulse to convince me that you’re the special-special than you’re probably exactly the type of guy I’m talking about.  Consider this constructive criticism from the opposite sex. So here are a few observations about dating “guy gamers”…

They lack real world motivation.

I have found that most of the gamers I dated did little else but game exclusively. They were not well rounded people with different interests. Cooking, sports, politics (unless it’s about gaming), art, fashion, music (unless it’s video game remixes), travel, are not as interesting to them as the latest DLC on Steam.  Most of the men I dated never went to college for anything unless they attempted to do something in games. But all attempts fail, inevitably. Everything is too hard, too complicated, they work too much or sleep too little. Excuses abound.

This becomes a problem when you want to go out and do real world things. Take a walk, go dancing, go to the library, go to the beach it’s all just too much effort for a gamer boyfriend. I hope you have a really tight-knit circle of friends because you’ll be seeing them a lot while your boyfriends at home raiding.

They don’t take care of themselves.

You may have a varying level of interest in your health and appearance, but in my experience guy gamers just don’t bother. I’m not saying they’re unhygienic, but they’ve had that gigantic t-shirt since high school. Cargo shorts, socks with holes in them, the dreaded trench coat of Doom. You have to beg them to get a hair cut or just shave every now and again. Try not to swoon ladies. Sure, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but do try to make an effort, lads. It shows us you give at least [1] fuck.

Not to mention their health. They may be your scruffy, Aladdin-esque street rat today. But a lifetime of sitting on their butts and a junk food diet is going to wreak havoc on their bodies in the next 10 years. This isn’t a dig on bigger men as they’re sometimes the most loving and supportive. But add bad skin, greasy hair, breathing problems, and uncontrollable sweating into the mix and…yeah. It’s not cute.

They don’t take any interest in real world issues.

This one is self explanatory. Politics of any kind is unknown to them unless it’s relevant to gaming. They may have read a lot as a kid, but rarely do now. They don’t do much of anything anymore. So once you’ve exhausted the latest gaming news you’re left to contemplate if everyone else’s boyfriend is this boring.

They all say they want to make/write/animate games but never do.

God, this. What does a person who takes no interest in anything except games plan on doing with their lives? Why making games of course. Except the reality is game development is fucking hard, expensive and lacking a lot of the glamour they think it will bring them. Here’s a tip, unless he’s in the actually programming and development phase of the game by the time you’ve met him- he’s probably just a dreamer. The older you both are, the more true that statement rings. Don’t get pulled into his fantasy about how he’s going to eventually hit the big time. Odds are he probably wont make it past drawing concept art.

They’re way more sexist than they think they are.

Strap in, kiddies.

This is a common problem with men raised on a steady diet of “save the princess” story lines. If he labels himself a “gamer” he probably considers himself part of an exclusive, insular community. Of men. Not you, you’re not actually part of that. He’ll say you are- but not treat you that way. Actions > words. Unless he actively addresses the treatment of women in  gamer culture in conversation, there’s a good chance he’s on other side of the fence. The other side being so impossibly self centered he’d never take those complaints seriously.

This usually manifests in one of two ways:

1. ) He’ll put you up on a pedestal. It feels nice at first, getting treated like a princess. Until you realize he’s got you set up to fail. To him you’re like a glorious hot chick trophy to be paraded out to his friends, “AND she plays games” he’ll say in the same tone one might say, “AND it has a cup holder”. Enjoy holding in all your farts for the remainder of your relationship. When you inevitably exhaust yourself trying to keep up he’ll sputter a vague complaint about how, “you’ve changed”. He can’t put his finger on what it is, but the magic is gone. And so goes that relationship.

2.) The other and more common one is he’ll expect you to be “just one of the guys”. This means you need to be covertly female. You need to play games like his friends, eat like his friends, talk like his friends all while balancing being casual and hot. You need to be sexy while also dressing in a way that doesn’t indicate that you’re trying too hard. You need to be bold and swear like a sailor but never EVER call him out on anything in front of his friends. Be attractive, but don’t take too long getting ready or you’ll give yourself away.

And most importantly never ever ever align yourself with other women in gaming. Do not talk about Anita Sarkeesian. Do not complain about the way women are designed in games, always except that the amount of harassment you get online is normal and understandable considering how super sexy you are. Consider it a compliment and shut up.

If you do complain, get ready for a circle jerk of men (including your boyfriend)  interrogating on every detail that will end in you giving up and them laughing the whole thing off.  I know, right? Where do I sign up!?

They think they’re the hero.

What I took away from my experience of dating guy gamers is a consistent theme of being “the special”. He wont say it, he wont even imply it- because the protagonist never does. It has more to do with the way he reacts to situations. It’s as if playing the hero of so many different stories has imprinted this idea of their super specialness. He’s waiting for the adventure of his life to drop into his lap, for someone to swing through a window and tell him only he can fight the alien invaders that are about to conquer Earth.

Or perhaps he’s just so afraid of real world challenges that it’s easier to immerse himself in a world that’s set up to accommodate him. It doesn’t really matter because overall the result is the same for you: a crappy, self-centered boyfriend who treats you like an NPC in his adventure.

It’s not all their fault.

I would love for it to just be that gamers make shitty boyfriends, the end. Easy peesy. But no, we as women play a role in why these types of relationships suck so much. In my case it was because I came into it with such low self-esteem I was incapable of calling them out on any of it. Not that my ex boyfriends would have responded well to that, but not everyone is so lacking in self awareness.

The takeaway here is that it’s okay to have expectations of your boyfriend. Some guys just don’t put forth any effort and you’re not being mean when that doesn’t impress you. It’s doesn’t make you “high maintenance” or “shallow”. Because a lot of gamers subscribe to the idea that you should love them for exactly who they are. Not taking into the account that normal people are driven to grow and evolve- not stagnate on a couch. So the next time you’re on a date and the guy says he’s a gamer, it’s important to remember what all comes with that. Learn from my mistakes, ladies. It’s okay to dump a loser.

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Amazing Princess Sarah Game Review


I previously reviewed a game by Haruneko Games, Akane the Kunoichi. I gave it high praise despite it’s unfortunately sexually objectifying cover art. Amazing Princess Sarah is their latest release.  I’d also like to take a moment to thank the developer for reaching out to me about my criticism,

“Hi, I’m Giovanni Simotti – the one-man-band behind Haruneko 🙂

Thank you very much for the article – your point of view about the game is very interesting, and I especially enjoyed when you talked about Akane as if she was a “live” person, even if there are no dialogues inside the game: her “behaviour” is something I put a lot of care on, and knowing that it “hit the mark” is really an achievement for me.
About the look of Akane on the cover: her non-so-practical look is a small tribute to two of the most famous kunoichi from the history of the videogames – a mix of Mai Shiranui (Fatal Fury / King of Fighters), with a bit of Ibuki (Street Fighter 3/4).
Really there was no attempt to suggest the game would feature sexual or suggestive content inside. Screenshots are pretty clear about it.

However, you’re not the only one who objected about her look on the cover (someone even got offended somehow), so it’s something I’m definetely addressing with my upcoming platform game, Amazing Princess Sarah: I’ve thrown out of the window the cover I made (a few days of work “lost”), contacted a (much better than me) external artist, and let him draw a new cover, “safer” than Akane’s one (and a lot safer than Sarah’s older one, – which can still be seen on my website).”

Pro tip, developers: do more of this. Less “waaah ladies are too hard to render” and more listening to the people you’re systematically under representing.

Amazing Princess Sarah is a classic platformer with enemies you fight by swordplay and hurling furniture. You delve deep into a maze of rooms full of ghouls and goblins in search of your father, King Whatshisname.

The plot is summed up beautifully, as in Akane, without any dialogue: Scary lady stole my dad, git her. I’m not sure I can stop gushing about how much I enjoy this role reversal.  I love being able to play a princess while also saving the kingdom. For all the AAA gaming industry touts their smallest achievements in gender equality, they do not do this. You don’t get to be the pretty princess while also kicking ass, it’s just something the fuckers can’t wrap their mind around. Lucky for us, the indie community has our back.

From the beginning you can tell that Amazing Princess Sarah is heavily influenced by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. That’s fine by me, frankly, I love SOTN. One of the only things that disappointed me about that game was the rumor that you could complete it a special way to play as Maria Renard was just that: a rumor.  ASP gives me a dark, Gothic castle on a stormy night where I can fight skeletons and all manner of ghouls while also having lady parts. Huzzah! It also has a beautiful soundtrack that really helps set the atmosphere of the gameplay.

The gameplay is also classic in that it’s pretty difficult. I’ve clearly gone soft, numbed by a generation of games that pat me on the ass and tell me I’m special. It took me a several days to get past the first level (playing casually), but when I finally beat it I felt a rush of achievement few newer games can match.

However, the game isn’t perfect. But since I’m now confident the developer is an adult who can handle my teensy crtis, I will happily lay them out…

There are a few things in the game that take a dramatic shift in tone. The game itself is one of high fantasy: Gothic castles, icy caves, monsters and mayhem. Yet the menu and intertitles are very modern looking.  Same for the first boss at the end of the Luxury Castle. You’re plugging along in this dark, spooky castle and then…

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Whoa… like… where did that come from? Props for originality though. The fight is challenging and fun, it’s just a minor clash in atmosphere that rubs me the wrong way.  I’ve also  previously wrote about why cover art is so important, which is why I’m very pleased to see the changes from the original Amazing Princess Sarah cover art:

 

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APS_DCWJ_800x600 Revised Artwork for Amazing Princess Sarah

That being said, the original problem I had with the art is still there- just toned down. I think this is a case of the developer sending the original artwork to a professional and asking them to “make it better”. Which they did, the art is beautiful and I would love to see this artist used again. However this paints a portrait of Princess Sarah as an extremely sexual object.

I’m no stranger to the manga art style. I know that over-sexualization is so rampant that it’s easy to overlook the issue entirely. So let me make what I’m saying very clear: her breast are bigger than her head, shinier than her eyes, and exposed in a way that would make it impossible to fight.  And while this seems like a very easy route to male gamers hearts, it actually has the opposite effect. William Usher of One Angry Gamer wrote of Amazing Princess Sarah: 

“I tell you the honest truth, I think the only reason this game pulls in any sort of traffic at all is because of that box art poster. That bombastic bedizen plastered around the protagonist’s buxom body is probably the cause for all the clicks; but I’ll reserve judgment because it just might be for all the amazing gameplay mechanics people were interested in, eh?”

Amazing Princess Sarah is a very fun, well programmed platformer that is unintentionally selling itself short. Because the sexual objectification of the main character sends a very clear message: this is all we’ve got. Smaller games often rely on this tactic to pull in gamer’s attention because they’re not confident in that the game can survive on it’s own merits. But Amazing Princess Sarah CAN survive on it’s own merits.

If I were to speak directly to the developer, and other devs in his position, I would say this: You have real talent.  Female gamers are eager to play any games that don’t treat their women like Playboy models. You have a chance to sweep in and start offering a new type of experience while the AAA game companies are still befuddled and dragging their feet like spoiled children.

In an industry that is stagnant beyond belief the last thing you want to do is fit in.

Conclusion: 4 out of 5 throwing chairs.  I highly recommend Amazing Princess Sarah and eagerly await the anything else by Haruneko Games. And if you want girl gamers to welcome your game with open arms: less boob physics, more hair physics.

 

Halloween Scream is a stormy day dream


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It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, okay. It was day time… and it wasn’t stormy. It was just raining-whatever.

Wrapped in a blanket on a cold and blustery day I sat down on my couch to play Halloween Scream by Bandana Games. This is really the only way to play a game like this. Halloween Scream is a text only adventure game so it takes some effort on the player’s part to get into the mood. Effort I was happy to exert.

You control a nameless protagonist as they venture into Highmoor Manor to investigate the secret life of their deceased aunt. If I were to sum up the game in one word it would be “spooky”. This is my favorite kind of horror, it’s all about atmosphere and the anticipation of what lies in wait around the corner. No blood and guts, no cheap jump scares, and just enough humor to make the whole experience of being scared actually fun. This is a balance that many AAA games don’t grasp.

The game is minimalist and all about exploration, so if you need HD graphics and fighting to enjoy a game, this isn’t the game for you. But it was certainly the game for me. I was able to beat it one evening and I had a blast doing it. This is the type of game you’ll like if you’ve ever said the phrase, “I had to draw my own map, it was awesome.

But the game is not without flaws. The first thing to rub me the wrong way was up until one point, I was imagining myself in the part of the investigator. All of the text prompts refer to me as, “You” therefore I injected myself -gleefully- into the role of the player. It was reading like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Then at some point half way through the game they dropped in, “Besides, you’re more of a lager man anyway…”

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But…but…but I’M the protagonist. Meeeeee!

I admittedly whined like a baby, but it’s not that big a deal. I do wish they had kept it up to the player though. If you’re playing a set character it’s best to say, “You’re Ben Bonaparte. This ladies nephew. Go do the thing.” but if your text says “YOU” let it be me and don’t assume the player is male.  Next time, guys. Next time.

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There were also a couple times where the background was too light in places and it made it hard to read the text. But it was never illegible. The story was fun, interesting, and I spotted a lot of fun references that made me laugh and groan. However, at one point I felt I was at the end of the game, and then it took a sharp left turn sending me totally out of the environment I had been in for the entire game. Although the rest of the game was still fun (and included the draw your own map part) I felt this was a misstep.

In a haunted house story, there are only two characters: the protagonist and the house. The story is encapsulated entirely within that house and that allows for the atmosphere to envelope the player; to trap them in the scenario. Suddenly sending them outside of this environment breaks that atmosphere. I was still good, but not the same.

Despite these minor bumps, I would like to see more of these. Like a lot more. MORE OF THESE.

I recommend Halloween Scream to anyone who likes spooky stories and choose your own adventure books.

Conclusion: 4 out of 5 whining babies.

Akane the Kunoichi and why cover art is important


During a recent binge on the XBox Live Indie section, I downloaded a long list of games that looked interesting. XBox is not exactly a treasure trove of independent developers and many games look like they were ripped straight from Newground.com circa 1999. One of these games, surprised me, Akane the Kunoichi. I say surprised because I had seen this game many times before and skipped over it. But I’ll get back to that…

Akane the Kunoichi by Haruneko games is a side-scrolling platformer where you play Akane, a badass ninja who flings knives through the air at her opponents. The intro has no words but manages to express the premise of game in simple emoticons; bridging the language barrier with ease.

Evil dudes took my love interest. Kill they ass.

Akane-the-Kunoichi

I was surprised at how excited I was to be the girl fighting to save my boyfriend. I was positively giddy at the prospect. And I soon found the game mechanics to be well designed, fluid, and enjoyable. Akane has several special attacks that shoot area of effect knives at enemies, she can also cling to walls and wall jump.  The difficulty ramps up quickly in the second zone, but not to a degree where I feel I’m being cheated. Whenever I die, it’s clearly my fault.

Akana the Kunoichi is a solid platformer reminiscent of older games we loved as kids.  So why did I avoid it for so long?01

The cover art. 

The old saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover” is true enough, however when it comes to marketing it doesn’t hold up.  It’s not a rule I live by, but I do tend to avoid games that use the “huge-tits-girl-in-sexy-pose” (HT/SP) in their cover art. It sends the signal (although sometimes not intentionally) that this game is for a different audience. Namely, horny teenage boys. Nothing wrong with horny teenage boys, but I’m not one.

It also sends out the message that this game is going to be heavy on sexually objectifying the character in question. Costume changes, panty shots, risque posing constantly etc. That’s something I’m not really interested it and it’s also why the cover art for Akane is so misleading. Akane is a straight up hero. When she dies, she doesn’t fall to the ground- twisting herself into the sexiest pose possible before collapsing. She falls straight on her face with a “OOF!” just like a normal person. It’s kind of sad that something so simple is so gratifying, but there you have it. Akane is rad.

This is why cover art is so important in getting your message across. Sexy women ingaming are ubiquitous, especially manga-styled games and I realize it’s so normal the problem probably never crossed their minds. But as a girl gamer, her complete lack of armor around all vital organs is pretty dumb. Get this woman a sports bra, seriously.

Despite this, my first impressions of the game were 100% wrong and Akane the Kunoichi is a very fun game. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves platformers, especially girls who want to save the dude for once.

Conclusion: 4 out of 5 sports bras.

                             lg_boxart lg_boxart (1) lg_boxart (2) xboxboxart21

 

Sailor Moon Fans – Someone Call the Whambulance


As some of you know, I’m a Sailor Moon fan, a pretty big one actually. I recently did a video showing the new designs for the 2014 Sailor Moon Reboot that I’m really excited about. I think they’re very good and I said that much.

With one small critique, I was surprised the line art was so sloppy.Because it’s very sloppy.

I don’t know whether it was resized improperly or if it’s just concept art. But it’s messy and uneven, so much so it’s a little distracting. The video itself is actually very positive, my only real complaint was, “I’m surprised that this made it all the way to debut” given that it is some of the first art we’re seeing for a highly anticipated series. Especially since the poster art was so gorgeous. The degrade in quality is a bit jarring.

Sailor Moon Reboot Art Critique!

I had forgotten that fandoms can get a little…irrational when it comes to critique. Mainly because I’ve actually experienced very little of it myself. So let’s set the record straight: I’m right. I’m not trying to say I’m a better artist than the Naoko Takeuchi, because I never said that or even alluded to it. But some of you have said the reason for the difference is because it’s supposed to “look more like the manga” and “maybe you just haven’t read the manga”. Bitch, please.

Would you like a side by side comparison? Here’s one anyway. Because I’m right. My artist ego doesn’t make it look sloppy. VISION makes it look sloppy.

Takeuchi’s style was often very free and the lines could shift in width- but it was deliberate. Most of her lines was thin and wispy, giving the scenes as sense of movement that the thick, blunt lines in the new designs fail to capture. The new designs DO look more like the manga and I’m very happy about that. But the line art in these particular images was poorly done. I actually doubt it’s representative of the animation at all given the high standards anime has today.

Plus look at Rei’s leg in the top image…knees don’t do that.

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Fangirl Rewrite: Part 2


Read Part One here.

Jamie stood looking at her counterpart. Lily’s posture was bold and aggressive, flawless. She really was Jamie’s masterpiece.

“I’ll ask again, Jamie,” she leaned in with her arms crossed, “…what are you doing?”
“He.. he wants me.”
“What about Cole?” Lily asked.
“Cole?” Jamie laughed a little. “Is that what this is about?”
Lily cocked an eyebrow. She was waiting for a better answer.
“I mean… Rob Denhart or… Cole Sheldon?” She gestured like she was weighing the names in her hands. “Who cares?” she laughed again.
“Don’t you?”
“Don’t I what?”
“Don’t you care about him?” Lily was maintaining intense eye contact.
“No,” she scoffed, “I didn’t even really like him.” she said to her feet.
Heat rose up in Jamie’s face, she started to panic. Why was Lily here? Asking about Cole of all people?
“You almost slept with him.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t.” she said defensively.
“But-”
“HE COULD HAVE BEEN ANYONE!” Jamie screamed and the noise was deafening. Her words echoed into the distance.

Then silence…

They stared at each other. Jamie stood in shock, she hadn’t meant to say that. Lily seemed startled too.  Like an actor in a play where someone had said something decidedly off-script. Her posture turned inward, she held her arms and turned away from Jamie.

Is that right? Jamie thought to herself. It couldn’t be…

Clouds had grown overhead and rain started to fall gently. The edges of the field began to blur more closely and the low hum grew louder. But Jamie took no notice. She was lost in thought. She remembered that night with Cole, how she had cried so hard she threw up. And the next day when she returned his bag, he wouldn’t look at her. After that she had gone home and written some of her most intense stories about Rob, including the one that drew his response.

It didn’t seem like the actions of someone who didn’t care. And yet she had been right. She had no feelings for Cole whatsoever. He was a dull, fumbling boy with no passion for anything except Counterstrike and comic books.

So why… her thoughts were interrupted by a crash of thunder. It was pouring now. Water was dripping off her nose. She had no idea how much time had past. Jamie strained to see Lily through the sheets of torrential rain. Some distance away, she now sat crouched, hugging herself in the grass.

Jamie came toward her in the rain, “Lily?” she yelled over the thunder.

She was facing away but Jamie could see her arms jerking wildly. The blurred edge was only a few feet away now and hum was making her head pound. The dream was unraveling. Jamie’s shoes were sinking into the mud as trudged over to Lily and looked her. She could hear her crying.

Lily’s face was red. She had clawed her eyes and torn the skin straight down to her chin. Jamie reeled back but her shoes stuck in the ground and she fell into the muddy grass.

Her face… her beautiful, perfect face! Jamie looked on horrified. But having seen her Lily finally straightened up. Her legs had sunk into the mud, she looked like a disembodied torso. She lunged forward and grabbed Jamie’s foot as she began sinking farther. Jamie shrieked and kicked as hard as she could. But she couldn’t shake her. They both sunk deeper as the rain came down until everything went black.

Jamie woke up with a start on the bus.

It was empty. The passengers and driver gone. They had pulled over onto the side of the road into a gas station. She grabbed her bag and walked down the aisle. The front door was open and Jamie stepped down. Something was wrong. The station was empty. It was completely deserted and looked like it had been for years. Two rusty pumps stood in front of a desolate looking office. Weeds had sprouted out of the cracks in the cement.

A cold panic ran down her body, she had been abandoned.

“Hello?” she called out. No response but her own echo.

How long has she been asleep? She pulled her phone out to check the time. 2:37pm. She had been asleep for two hours, meaning she was too far away to walk back.

“Shit shit shit…” she scrolled to her mother’s number, but hesitated. What would she say? Could she even find the words to explain what she was doing? 2:30pm. Her mom would have started drinking at about eleven. She may not even pick up. Even if she did, she wouldn’t be able to drive out here. No, she decided. She stuck her phone back in her pocket.

She looked down the highway. There were buildings in the distance. Not her destination, but probably somewhere she could rest and get some food. Her stomach growled loudly as if on cue.

Screw it, I’ll walk. She picked up her bag and headed out onto the roadside.

I could use the exercise anyway.

Her cheek felt warm as she walked. It must have been from sleeping against the window of the bus. Then she remembered her dream. How Lily had been exactly how she imagined and then so…

Jamie shivered at the memory.

Crazy. She thought. That’s how she looked. Completely mad. And that stuff about Cole? That night had seemed forever ago. Now it felt like it happened yesterday.

She kept walking.

… Had she meant it? When she said, “he could have been anyone”? Looking back she had only had a few conversations before, mostly involving school. If they hadn’t been lab partners they probably may have never hooked up.

But why Cole? He was a tall, lanky boy. With a small chin and short blonde hair. But his eyes were green, like Rob’s eyes, she remembered that. Round globes of forest green. She stared into them and something touched her deep inside. Rob’s eyes…

“Your eyes are green, I never noticed before.” she had said. It sounded familiar now that she thought about it… It was a line from a TV show she had seen as a child. It was one of those soft core, romantic skit shows that were always on late night cable. The woman had seemed hesitant at first, even scared. But the gentlemen was persistent enough. She might have gotten in trouble if she was ever caught watching them, but no one ever came in, so she never did. They had shared a moment, and then kissed just like in the show. But the similarities ended there. The woman in the show didn’t get rebuffed and humiliated at school the next day.

She had a feeling that everyone knew. None of them would ever talk to her, so Jamie didn’t know why it mattered. But it did. It mattered a lot. The thought of going back to school and facing all their smug faces for another day made her stomach twist up. Seeing them whisper and laugh.

“Did you hear about Jamie? She couldn’t even make it with Cole Sheldon!” she thought. In a way she almost wished they would say something like that. But the pretty girls never said anything about her.

The pretty girls with their pretty hair. Their goddamn hair! How the fuck did they get it to do that anyway? It’s not that they teased her. They ignored her. The bathrooms at school would be full of them, giggling and gossiping. Jamie would sit on the toilet and just listen to the chatter. They talked about people she didn’t know, shows she didn’t watch. But the moment Jamie would walk out of the stall everything came to a halt. They would smile absentmindedly at her through the mirror and then out the door they went. As far as they were concerned Jamie Ann Bentley was another fucking species. An alien at the watering hole. Fuck them.

Up ahead she could see another gas station, but this one was open. There was a diner attached and it looked busy. Good, she thought. I’ll feel better once I eat and get some directions.

She kept walking.

She wondered if she could turn this little adventure into a story. One only Rob and herself would know the secret of it’s origins. She smiled. How romantic…

Jamie had never written much before becoming part of the Xcute fandom, but once she started she found she loved the whole process. Everything in Storyland had a purpose. Nothing was random, everything made sense. In Storyland, she was Lily von Eades. No one could resist her charms, especially Rob, who had fallen for her in a dozen different stories. More if you counted the one where he got amnesia. Writing soothed her. Whenever a day had been especially bad Jamie would go home and write. Taking the stairs two at a time- bypassing her mom’s couch- she would shut herself away in her room and write. It felt… powerful.

Jamie had made it to the diner called “Pammy’s”, it looked like a 50’s retro place but from the aged look of it, she thought it was authentic. She took this as a good sign. Back when her family would take road trips, her dad used to say old beat up joints were the best.

“Well they’re still here aren’t they, JamJam?” he would say. Jamie missed her dad.

She pulled the glass door open. Red booths with duct tape patches, a rotating display of pies and country music playing on a tinny radio. Another day she might have rolled her eyes, but after the weirdness of the morning she found these All American stand-bys deeply comforting. She took a deep breath and smelled french fry grease. Yes. She thought.

“Booth or bar, hon?”said an waitress with graying hair pulled back in a bun.

“Oh, uh bar please. It’s just me.”

She had a seat at the bar and unfolded the large menu in front of her. Didn’t matter, she knew what she wanted” hamburger and french fries with a Coke.

She ordered and stared at the counter for a while. Her feet hurt, it felt good to sit. She normally took the bus to school and couldn’t remember the last time she had walked this far. Her mind wandered…

The nightmare had felt real. More real then any nightmare before. She could smell the water and grass, feel the wind and rain on her face. When she had woken up she was surprised her clothes weren’t soaked. And Lily… God. She remembered the very real slap when Lily had grabbed her leg in the mud. Jamie had never been so afraid in her life. Why had she done that? She remembered they had spoken, but the details had faded. Something about… Rob?It was gone.

Her food came. A juicy hamburger and krinkle cut fries with a Coke in a tall blue glass. She had never been so happy to see a burger in her life. She tucked in and her spirits lifted.

She had decided to put Cole behind her. The nightmare had just addled her, stirred up her emotions. It seemed ridiculous to be thinking about Cole when Rob was within her reach. Ungrateful, even. She figured she should start rehearsing what she would say when they met.

Jamie looked to her right, an older man sat next to her at the bar. He was slim with dark, graying hair, a bulbous nose. He had left one stool between them. Their eyes met just as Jamie had taken a huge bite out of her burger, she smiled awkwardly and gestured a sorry. He chuckled. She swallowed and said,

“Sorry, just happy to see food. I walked here.”

“Did you? Grace, bacon cheeseburger, please.” he gestured airily to the waitress. His voice was bright and neighborly. She nodded.

“I thought you looked like you had t a lot on your mind,” he said, sounding vaguely Southern. “Looks like it was just your appetite.” he smiled.

She paused for a moment and drank her Coke.

“Well…yeah, I guess I do. Um, I’m Jamie” Jamie said and stuck out her hand.

He shook it and nodded, “Pete”. When he faced her head on she saw his right eye had a milky cast to it and looked away quickly.

“I’m in here a lot, it’s on my route. Never seen you before. You new to the area?”

“Oh no, I’m just passing through. I’m uh, meeting my boyfriend.” It was a stupid lie. Pete hadn’t given off any of what the girl’s called “creeper signals”, he was old enough to be her dad, but it was just habit.

“He the one given all that grief?” the waitress, Grace, joined them and refilled Jamie’s soda.

Jamie laughed. “Ha, no. That was…forever ago.” she waved her hand dismissively.

She had intended that to be the end of it, but the two paused as if waiting for her to say more. It looked like Pammy’s was the type of place people came to unload.

“We were… on a date. And I guess I got rejected.” Jamie shrugged casually and ate her fries. That was as close as she could get to explaining to two strangers.

“Aw, hun.” Grace patted her hand and Pete nodded thoughtfully. He seemed to understand despite Jamie’s vague description.

He leaned in conspiratorially to them, “When I was about fourteen, I asked this girl out to the movies. Georgeous girl! Annie Nelson, I’ll never forget. I had like her since we were kids. Anyway she said yes, right? I told her I would meet her there. But when she showed up…”

The two women waited for the punchline.

…”I was so scared I hid in the dumpster.”

Grace and Pete erupted in laughter. She slapped the counter and walked away. Jamie smiled.

“She was probably really confused when you didn’t show up.” she said finally. Her voice sounded more strained than she had intended.

“Thing you got to remember about boys is this: they’re jest as scared as you.” he said.

Jamie looked at him for a moment, confused.

“…you think he was scared?”

“Sure, boy your age? Probably nervous as Hell.” he said and ate some fries.

Jamie thought back to Cole’s face. The scared, deer-in-headlights look he got when she pulled out the condom. She had replayed the scene a thousand times in her head and it still made her stomach drop.

Cole…

Her phone suddenly sprang to life with the newest XCUTE ringtone. She pulled it out of her pocket. It was a text, the number was unfamiliar. It was the address of a hotel with the message:

“I’ll be here all weekend. Drop by if you can -RD”

R.D. Rob Denhart! Jamie felt electrified. She couldn’t stop smiling, she had been so caught up in things she had almost forgotten where she was going. She was going to meet her idol, her muse, and possibly her true love. He was going to change her life. But her happiness was short lived.

“Your bill, miss.” a woman’s voice from behind her. Jamie looked up and nearly choked on her Coke.

It was Lily. She was dressed like a waitress and holding a pot of coffee, but it was Lily. Her auburn waves were pulled back in a ponytail, her face was still gashed from her eye to her chin, dried blood had crusted on her cheek. Her cool blue eyes were staring right at her. A fictional character of her own invention. Right there, in the flesh.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

Jamie was frozen in shock. Her heart was pounding so hard she thought the burger she just ate might come up. She jerked herself to her feet, scrambling for her bag as she backed away from the waitress, toward the door, never taking her eyes off of her face. It was frozen, emotionless. Just two blue eyes staring right into Jamie’s soul. Other customers were beginning to stare too. But at Jamie.

Grace called out, “Hon, your bill?”

Pete craned his neck to see what was happening, “It’s okay Grace. I’ll get it.” he called out to Jamie, “You okay, sweetie?”

Lily raised a perfect eyebrow, “Something wrong, miss?” she took a step toward Jamie.

“GET AWAY FROM ME!” Jamie shrieked and she bolted out the door. She ran down the side of the highway, looking behind her as she ran. No one was following her, although quite a few people were looking at her out the Pammy’s front window.

She ran out of breathe quickly and slowed to a brisk walk, but she kept looking behind her. Waiting for Lily to come out of the door. To follow her. Or appear in front of her when she turned back to the road. Lily could contort backwards and scuttle after her like a human crab for all she knew. Nothing would surprise her after what she wad just seen.

Rob. She thought. She could call the number back and have him come get her. Maybe he would send a car. Deciding this was the best option, she felt her pocket for her phone.

Nothing. No way. She thought. There’s no fucking way.

She checked the rest of her pants and her bag too. She didn’t have it, meaning it was sitting on the counter back at Pammies.

Jamie looked back towards the diner window. She thought she could still see the figure of Lily, still holding the coffee pot. Staring back out at her.

There was no way she could go back now.

Why does the Internet hate TumblrKids?


I’m not sure if it’s ever been verified statistically that Tumblr is made up primarily of teens. But that’s definitely the story we tell ourselves.

“They’re just stupid kids. They’ll grow out of it, preferably before they can vote.”

There’s plenty of things to hate online, but the social justice tweens seem to bring a lot of focused ire. Why? We know NAMLBA is still a thing right? Well I have a theory…

They’re obsessed with labels.
When we were younger there was boys and girls, gay and straight. Most of us had very little understanding, if any, that a broader spectrum existed. Now we do and exploring this has been a really positive experience for many. Cis or nonCis? Cool. Trans, gender queer, asexual, pansexual, non-binary etc. We’ve discovered a completely new language to help people feel more accepted in society.

The problem is teens seem to ruin everything. Whenever a group starts to become larger and more accepted, inevitably smaller groups begin to splinter off. The labels obsess over minutia and eventually we get things like “demisexual” to refer to someone who only likes to have sex with people to whom they are emotionally involved. Well grats, kiddo, you’re fucking normal.

(edit: I’ve been corrected on Twitter by someone explaining that Demisexual is someone who can only be aroused by someone who they are romantically involved with. This is however, the way someone claiming to be Demisexual explained it. Which actually shows how much people minced these labels.)

This practice seems bizarre to us because our teen years were all about rejecting labels. At least we thought they were. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

You’ll never convince them they’re wrong
The internet is a double edged sword. On one hand it’s allowed disenfranchised groups to finally have a voice. People of color, trans individuals, and the LGBT community now have a platform to speak out against bigotry. They can also give people an insight into what it’s like to live in their shoes. Visibility matters.

On the other hand, it allows people to cloister themselves within an echo chamber wherein they are never challenged. Allowing naïve and shortsighted ideas to fester into full blown movements. No one is talking to each other, everyone is talking at each other.

You’ll never convince these teens that screaming at people wont solve anything. For some reason this is something one has to come to understand on their own. And most importantly, it’s not really about solving a problem, it’s about the righteous feeling they get from aligning themselves with a movement.

They’re stupid and we know it
One of the most frustrating things in retrospect for a lot of adults is how ignorant we were as teens. The world was a sea of adults telling us we were stupid. The harsh reality being of course that most of us were stupid. We had over-simplistic and self absorbed ideas about the world. But as we grew up, we put away our war drums and found ourselves with a deeper understanding of events. Most of us, at least. Some of us are still beating at “9/11 was an inside job” drum.

It’s really hard to watch someone go down the same road and hit the same embarrassing bumps as you did. They embarrass us by proxy. Especially since the internet allows all of their social justice ramblings to be preserved eternally as a testament of their teenage angst. And that’s really all it is: ANGST.

The self centered angst of the Social Justice movement
I’d like to go on record saying I think social justice is a good thing, nay, a great thing! Bringing attention to people who are under represented is important if we’re going to move forward in society. Calling out bullshit in the media that reinforces racism, sexism and homophobia is good.

What’s not good is co opting a movement and using it like fashion accessory. Appropriating words like “trigger warning” and using them to describe anything that makes you uncomfortable or upset. Demanding everyone accept you for who you are while screaming at everyone else about who they are. Throwing textual tantrums at anyone who challenges you and calling it oppression.

This is where most adults begin to see red.

These kids… these young, mostly white, and despite their best efforts straight kids don’t know anything about oppression. Furthermore they don’t care about actual oppression, the type that you read about in the news. They only care about the madey-uppy oppression that they feel is thrust upon them unfairly.

There must be thousands of Tumblr pages by now but no matter how they spin it, the underlying theme is the same: YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME.

This is where we pull back and reflect.

It’s a phrase we’ve heard before. One we screamed at our own parents. Somewhere down the line we lost sight of the fact that these are kids. Young people who are grappling with the age old dilemma of wanting to be part of a group while remaining different and special. And in their quest to do so will take labels and movements to the most fanatical extreme.

This is why we hate them… because we were them. Sure, it was a different flavor in the 80’s and 90’s, but the fool’s quest for self validation still rings true. I predict that a large portion of these teens will eventually grow up, as we did, and realize how self absorbed and petulant they were being. They’ll keep their core values of social justice and acceptance. But they’ll drop the self centered tragedy and focus on more productive writing.

Most of them, at least.

Just as we have a few stragglers who never really left the teenage cave, they too will have the awkward experience of running into someone from high school whose still on Tumblr calling people “cisfags”. It is an inevitable, surreal experience.

So let us end here on this note, give them their time and space. Yes, they’re annoying. But so were we once. Hopefully we’ll meet again someday. Preferably not on Tumblr.