Digital Changeling

March 31, 2013

The Phantom of the Fake Geek Girl: Why do Geek Women Believe in Her?

Filed under: Comics,Costuming,Feminism,Games,Mythos,Programming,Steampunk — Eva @ 11:01 am

The storm of “fake geek girl” articles seems to have abated but in the heat of that I got into an interesting conversation with @koboldstyle I want to write about.

 Why do geek women attack other geek women?

To answer that question, I have to back way up to when you joined a geeky hobby for the first time (sorry, this does presuppose geeks are reading this).

What makes you identify as a geek? Do you love a particular subject like anime, comics, or tabletop RPGs? Have you spent weekends at conventions or reading fan sites? How about long evenings glued to your computer learning the intricacies of a programming language or discovering the possibilities of open source projects for the first time? When did you first realize that particular part of geekdom was a part of you?

When you started out learning about and loving the geeky things you love, did anyone tease you because you were new? Maybe because you didn’t quite know everything yet or got something wrong? Did anyone assume that you weren’t a geek because of how you looked or talked or the username you wore?

Not everyone experiences this kind of hazing when they join a geek community, but a lot of people do. Many parts of the geek community are defined by knowledge and when you’re perceived as not knowing, people can be vicious.

Now imagine the knowledge tests and teasing didn’t stop when you proved your knowledge the first time. Imagine that every time you met new geeks they assumed you were an outsider. So you prove yourself and prove yourself… and prove yourself… and there’s just no end to it. Your old friends understand you, but every time you meet someone new you have to start all over again.

Gentlemen, this feeling is familiar for a lot of geek women. It happens to them, over and over and over. I know you’re thinking, “I would never do that to a fellow geek,” but what if you didn’t see them as a geek to start with? What if they’re “just a girlfriend that tagged along” or “just hanging around because they want to date that one guy”? Are you sure your internal geek-identifier isn’t ignoring people it should give the benefit of the doubt to?

Back to the ladies. You’ve spent your time proving again and again that no, you aren’t “a pretty face trying to snag a boyfriend” and no, you aren’t “a girlfriend who tags along.” Where do these stereotypes come from and why do you have to deal with them? You start to think, are there women out there who are “a girlfriend who tags along”? Did they create that stereotype?

And then you get mad. “What the f**k!,” you think, “Why do I have to deal with the fallout from what those stupid posers do?” “Why can’t they get the hell out of geekdom so I don’t have to deal with this stereotype anymore?!?”

 You’ve walked into a trap. Are there any posers out there? Probably a few. Are there enough of them to justify the stereotypes? Not a chance in hell. But you’ve accepted that the stereotype must be true. If so many people assume it’s true about you, how can it not have a basis in fact, right?

Not all geek women go down that route of logic, but a few do and that’s how we end up in a place where women write articles about how fake-geek-women are ruining geekdom and how the posers should all get out. That’s is how we end up with women devaluing other women based on how they entered hobbies (so what if you’re the girlfriend of a geek? how does that make your interest in something geeky invalid?).

I’m not blaming anyone for believing what they’ve been told over and over. If you’re told anything often enough you’ll believe it. But right now women are accepting second class citizenship in many parts of geekdom. That’s not where I want to be.

Men, don’t do this to geek women in your life. Assume we’re inside the club instead of constantly making us prove ourselves. Women, don’t do this to other women either. Question the things that geekdom tells you about yourself and your gender.



If you’re wondering what the whole “fake geek girl” kerfuffle is, here’s some reading material.


Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away

The Girlfriend and The Geek

 Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be

Confession: I’ve been a girlfriend

“Oh, You Sexy Geek!”: “Geek Girls” and the Problem of Self-Objectification

The Girl Geek Community is Hidden, Ever Wondered Why?

August 16, 2010

Investigating in Cthulhu Mythos RPGs

Filed under: Games,Mythos — Eva @ 1:41 pm

This year at GenCon I had tickets to two Trail of Cthulhu games. I also played two Call of Cthulhu games. I enjoyed all four games and the contrast between them made me think a lot about game design and about how to present mysteries.

Trail of Cthulhu has a couple of design motivated decisions regarding how you find clues. Basically, if the clue is something that you need to advance the plot, and you have the relevant skill, you find it. No roll. You just find it.

There are more nuances for using skills to find more information and accomplish things, so this isn’t the only mechanic in the game. It is the mechanic that’s most relevant to how you investigate mysteries. The decision to handle evidence this way was described to me repeatedly as an attempt to avoid having to fudge rolls to “give it to you anyway” or risk the story running into a brick wall.

I realized while I was trying to describe the games to my friends that in the two CoC games I played at the con, exactly that situation happened repeatedly. The Keepers struggled to find plausible justifications  to tell us things, or fudged rolls, or gave us all a chance to roll, raising the probability that someone in the group would succeed. It was often silly and frequently not convenient for the Keeper or good for the story.

In those games, two Keepers were fighting the system to run the kind of game they wanted to run and two were not. This suggests to me that the ToC solution is the right one, at least for those four games.

A few months ago I read Justin Alexander’s essay describing the Three Clue Rule. I really like this essay. It describes some of the issues that arise from the failure of clue finding in mysteries and offers a different strategy to cope. The fundamental premise is, Game Masters are too clever when they plan mysteries. We should be including many, many clues for the players to find, at least three for each revelation they need to make to move forward in solving the mystery. Players will miss or misinterpret some, but they will eventually get where they need to be. I like this idea and it’s helped me in my own games.

There’s one thing in the essay that I don’t agree with. He mentions that the ToC system (GUMSHOE) lets you apply skills to just get deductions and use mechanics to solve everything. Possibly the Keepers I played under were doing it wrong, but all three times that I’ve played all we got was clues. How we parlayed that into solving the mystery was up to us.

We didn’t apply Collect Evidence in ToC and get the killer’s name written on the wall in blood, we got something like a bizarre painting, a strange black feather, a crumpled paper bearing a telephone number, or maybe even an invitation to a “church” party the next day. ToC guarantees that you will find clues to move you forward in the plot. They don’t have to lead you to understanding or solving the mystery.

I actually saw a failure of the three clue rule in one of the ToC games that I played. The Keeper gave us plenty of clues that kept us moving and discovering new things. However, there was a crucial thing we needed to realize in order to end the game in a “win” state and we did not get three clues for that crucial insight until it was too late. We weren’t screwing around. We were trying to stop bad things from happening. We just didn’t have the information we needed, so we did the wrong things.

ToC mechanics didn’t protect us from that failure. The Keeper is still the one who needs to have insight about which clues to provide to the players so they have a chance to solve the mystery.

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