This is the last time

In League of Legends, there’s a ranked ladder. You rise and you fall based not only on your own merit, but your teammates’ skill and your team composition. As someone who is a diamond player who happens to also work on a prolific fan site as her day job, I get a lot people asking for advice on how to improve. Although I don’t think I’m particularly amazing, if people ask for my advice, I give it freely. I critique their masteries, I explain match-ups, and I tell them to always look to themselves for improvement first rather than blame their teammates.

I’ve found that there are two types of people who ask questions about how to improve: those who take my advice and those who don’t. However, there’s also a subset of the latter type. Now, let me tell you, I hate this subset. They don’t take my advice, but worse, it feels like they never had any intention of ever taking my advice. They question it extensively from the start. They begin to argue with it. They begin to tell me I’m not very good. They begin to berate me. It’s almost as if they asked for advice solely to reject it and get upset from.

I can always tell their story. 99% of the time, it plays out exactly as I anticipate: I’ll be Diamond II, they’ll be Silver II, but they will tell me that my Kayle build is bad even though our skill levels are completely different. They’ll tell me that they can’t believe I won’t add Gunblade as an suggested item. They won’t shut up if I reply at all, so I rarely do, because it’s exhausting.

In many ways, they are just like the people who tweet me asking why I want to play as a woman character in a game. The people who ask me why I’m being such a feminist. The people who tell me to focus on the gameplay rather than fluff.

**

I want to set a few things straight before tweets get convoluted and no one gets me.

I love video games. I’ve always played them. I could list dozens upon dozens of titles I’ve played that formed my utter adoration. Here’s some of my favorites who impacted my life immensely: Silent Hill, Parasite Eve, Borderlands, Diablo II, Final Fantasy VIII, Ghost Trick, Left 4 Dead, League of Legends, BioShock, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, StarCraft, Resident Evil 2, Mass Effect 2, Mario 64, Sim Copter, World of Warcraft, Street Fighter II.

You get the point, right?

Well, in case you don’t: the point is I love video games. This point should have also been apparent by how I’ve dedicated my work and free time to them, how I helped make LolKing what it is today and how I work on Wowhead. How I’ve spent almost 7 years in the gaming industry now and how I’m here to stay. Like, I pay my rent through my passion for League of Legends. I have health insurance due to that passion as well. That’s pretty rad.

But the oddest thing happens every single time I have a remotely feminist thought. That all goes out the window. My accomplishments, my personality, my status as someone who really fucking loves games—these qualities these people certainly initially followed me for—are gone.

I can just joke about how Hyrule Warriors has a really ridiculous amount of women characters and how I wish Ubisoft took note and find myself faced with half a dozen people explaining how this isn’t really an issue worth my time and how I’m overreacting.

I can tweet about how cool Lara Croft was and find myself told that she was actually a liability for Square-Enix and how they barely broke profit margins thanks to a female lead.

I can make a remark about how I hope the next GTA has a woman who isn’t shallow, like maybe a bad chick who deals drugs and kills some people—and, you guessed it, I can find myself being told I’m a feminazi.

Just like that. That is how easy it is to discredit someone as dedicated to gaming as me. It doesn’t matter that I 100%’d Grand Theft Auto IV or actually dig the series (well, prior to GTA V anyway)—I now am told I hate Grand Theft Auto and that I’m not a real gamer to them. It suddenly doesn’t matter that I’m diamond in League of Legends or got world firsts in World of Warcraft, either; they’ll tell me I don’t understand how gameplay is more important to games due to my casual nature, even though I’ve illustrated a dozen ways about how seriously I take gameplay. (Seriously though, gameplay matters to me more than story or art or presentation.)

I somehow become this stereotypical fake geek girl gamer to them, someone who plays to get boys worked up and who is somewhat of an airhead. 

All because I wanted to see a bit more of myself in the pixelated worlds I spend so much time in.

Is that really a crime?

The answer is, apparently, yes.

**

This is a personal blog post. I don’t really think this will get a thousand billion hits. This is for people who follow me or want to or know me, so they can understand why I don’t think too highly of Rockstar* or Ubisoft right now and why I like to play as a female avatar when I can. Here’s the breakdown:

  • I love games. No, really.
  • I’m a little too into them. I’m competitive. Can’t help it.
  • I value mechanics and gameplay more than story in any video game.
  • That said, I love playing as a woman character when I can. I played as Lilith, I made a FemShep, and you better believe my favorite League of Legends champions are mostly women too. Why? If we’re being super honest, one of the biggest reasons is because I like hearing a woman’s voice when I’m playing as a character. It keeps the immersion for me since, you know, my voice is also a woman’s voice. Another reason is I just dig ladies I can look up to. When I see Aya Brea kick ass and I’m controlling her, I’m not gonna lie, I feel pretty badass for .1 seconds. Just like how you might feel like a total manly stud if you picked up Braum and owned in bot lane in League of Legends.
  • I’m not really that mad. Ever. So I resent (and ironically get mad) when people say I am being uptight or furious or [insert negative emotion here] for making a joke or randomly asking GTA V why it had no solid women characters. Because seriously. All I’m doing is asking, usually without any emotion, why. I’m not raging… and let’s be real here, you probably rage harder about falling out of a division in League of Legends. You know what rage really is and it’s nothing like what I’m doing now. I’m just explaining.
  • I do, however, hate that I had to make this post. But I had to because I lost another 20 followers and had four different guys actually tell me they do not consider gender an issue in the world. One person even said they liked following me, but felt I overreact too much about sexism. REALLY? C’MON BROS. DO BETTER. BE BETTER.

**

When I get that subset of person asking me League of Legend questions, the reason I anticipate that they will be lower ranked than me by several tiers is because of their anger. While they want to get better, they also have an emotional blocker that doesn’t let them take advice thanks to their inflated ego. They want easy answers, not hard advice on what they suck at, and they’ll be upset when the answer is to improve themselves. It’s their anger that’s holding them back from being my ranking, among other things.

It makes sense then that these men who question my gaming skills or my dedication as a gamer are so closely linked in my head to these people asking for tips on how to climb the ladder in a MOBA. Their anger is also palpable. Their inability to listen is also tangible. And they really don’t want to know that the answer is to improve themselves because that’s not what they want to hear. They want a quick fix to make me be quiet and for them to be right.

A quick fix that doesn’t exist.

Whatever. Maybe one day they’ll get up to diamond in humanity. For now, though, I’m done replying to them. It’s utterly exhausting.

I can’t see where you’re coming from, but I can see what you’re running from

Trying to do my monthly update before the holidays get wild. I am really bad at blogging–you know this, I know this, but let’s pretend I’m great at it anyway. Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had in a while, where everything professional and personal went perfectly. I mean, how couldn’t it? A day that starts by watching the sun rise because you didn’t sleep and stayed up to watch OGN to quickly write an analysis about it before heading to your local Starbucks for Chai tea is always a day that’s going to be good. It ended up really great though, with a lot of wonderful work projects coming to a head and some innovation being tapped in totally random sources.

We’re doing some really cool holiday stuff at LolKing and I hope it pans out. If I could share you guys the screen caps of the stuff I’m working on, you’d be so excited. Alas, have to be quiet and stuff.

Writing Stuff

Anyway, speaking of OGN, I wanted to round up all my work at OnGamers so far: 

I try to write one post a week, sometimes two if I have free time. A few posts never made it; I was going to do an awesome analysis of Hearthstone at BlizzCon, but I honestly ran out of time–got it halfway written, never finished it. It turns out sometimes time is an issue when you have a day job.

Overall, writing regularly is really good for my creativity. It is hard to balance a full-time job, like I said, but I have found sometimes in the evenings words just come to me. I hope people who follow me are following my work there, be sure to sign up and let me know how you feel with a comment or two sometime!

Gamer Stuff

I started playing Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 more. I ‘beat’ Long Live the Queen and I’m nearly done with the latest Phoenix Wright. Tonight I’m starting the new Zelda game, Link Between Worlds, and I’m disgustingly excited.

In general, I can get extremely narrow focus with games sometimes so I have been working on that. If I complete more than five new games a year, you know that year was a wild and crazy year for Rhea Monique. So I’m dedicating November and December to gaming, trying to play at least ten different games in conjunction with League of Legends. TF2 and L4D2 were great reminders that I love all kinds of games.

So far, so good–right?

Birthday imminent

So this year, I linked my Amazon wishlist on Twitter–I usually share it with family a week before the event, but I decided to share it in case anyone had wanted to get me something for November 19th.

The response was really overwhelming. People got me everything from nail polish to badass pink keyboard. It was also  humbling and awkward for me. I’m a pretty private person. I would never post for donations, even if I gave services that merited them or super duper needed them (I don’t). It’s just the kind of person I am; I don’t look down on those who do whatsoever, I just feel too self-conscious to do so.

Anyway, since some people remained anonymous, I figured this blog post was the best way to say thank you. Seriously, thank you–to anyone who got me something, wanted to, or is planning to. I got a bunch of packages in the mail today and it was so exciting, I had no idea it’d make me this happy.

Honestly, my birthday is usually a quiet event. I plan surprise parties for friends, I go out of my way to get the perfect present for boyfriends, and I even organize weird surprise Twitter cupcakes for acquaintances. But when the tables are turned, I dodge my birthday. I often don’t tell anyone when it’s my birthday, even my closest friends don’t get any warning because I don’t want to burden people. I haven’t had a party for it in years. 

Suffice to say it meant and it means a lot. It was also an important life lesson that I have little to lose and a lot to gain by letting people be nice to me.

 

You get sadder the smarter you get and it’s a bore

I’ve always had this mentality that I could do anything.  It was hard not to and my generation in particular was imbued with this sense of wonder. In school, generally, I was a big fish in a small pond and it was easy for me to accomplish most things I wanted to academically without any real world practicality. The JavaScript class I got a 4.0 in, the political science class everyone cried about when I gave a presentation on North Korea, the college essays I wrote for others for quick cash in high school. I could code these websites and I could learn French and I could be everything I wanted to be.

But what I really wanted to be was a writer. I wanted to know words intimately and wield them with grace. It took me all of high school and most of college to realize this. And unlike most things, writing was never easy for me and my perfectionism ate me alive. Each word was painful, each memory haunting, and my segues were never perfect. The imagery would be off and sometimes the storyline too predictable.  My words fueled me, but they also stagnated me; reliving the past a thousand ways to see its tragic beauty is ultimately still reliving the past far too many times to be healthy.

So I don’t really write now, fiction or non-fiction. I guess I don’t think it’s healthy and maybe that’s a shame. Once in a while I do and I genuinely love it–it’s like a drug, intoxicating words flowing together perfectly. I would be injected with it daily if I knew how to tap into it. But my body is resistant and knows the cost of writing, the emotions and judgment from within myself, so it only lets it out in small burst. This post, a Hellmode post earlier, and sometimes a deep email or two fired off into the abyss.

Words come and words go. Lately they’ve been gone. 

The thing is, and what no one really tells you until you can feel their distinct apathy and indifference hitting you, is that no one gives a fuck if you can write. No one really cares. No one admires it and no one envies it. You’re just someone who is decent with words. They code applications that can literally write news posts for you and you can form an impacting sentence. To them it’s nothing. You’re nothing. To you it’s everything. You’re everything.

Words come and words go. Lately they’ve been gone.

You have no idea the value of any words. I want to say this so badly, but I don’t. Your words are clumsy, mine are beautiful. Another thing I want to say so badly, but I don’t.

Because no one really cares regardless.

Because I’m just someone who is decent with words.

And lately they’ve been gone anyway.

Youth without youth

Someone just asked people what the best moment of their life was.

I figured writing my top five would probably be really healthy.

  1. Halloween, circa 1997. I was probably a knight; I left my princess phase by age five, quickly becoming enamoured by femme fatales and Jean D’Arcs. My mom got me awesome armor, stage prop dragons to put on my shoulder, and swords and so that Halloween I went as a woman king, a lady knight: tiara on my head, sword in hand, dragon on shoulder. We grew up in apartments and we weren’t rich, but my mom made sure to go to mansion neighborhoods and take me through amazing streets where we got king sized candy bars. The air felt alive, it hurt to inhale from the crisp breeze, and we would run down the streets.
  2. February, circa 2003. First kisses and first makeout sessions are always kind of cool. You feel really grown up. It’s so hard to relate to this version of Rhea, but I remember being on a high all week, reliving the moment in my head and wanting to tell the world.
  3. Resident Evil 4, circa 2005. I had really good friends growing up. We did everything together. But Resident Evil 4, eating guacamole dip and tiramisu, was probably the best gaming experience I’d ever had. We mowed through the game, sitting cross legged on the floor with a couple of us on the couch. It was Spring Break, we didn’t have a worry in the world, and in a moment we weren’t angst ridden teenagers dealing with sex, growing up, high school: we were Leon Kennedy and we were gonna save the goddamn world. College admissions and upcoming AP exams be damned.
  4. Alki Beach, circa 2008. My grandfather died, and that sucked. But the beach was gorgeous and I brought my camera and my text books. I walked for four hours, then I walked more, and I even went downtown on top of it. Eating fish and chips, watching the tide turn, miles and miles away from home–armed with my camera and a lot of heartache. I got some nice photos, too.
  5. Acceptance offer from Wowhead, circa 2011. I lost my job on Christmas and it nearly killed me. Then I interviewed everywhere. For a good month, I feared for everything: rent, career, life. What if I made a mistake? What if the game industry was not my industry? Then I got a job offer from Wowhead, and it felt amazing. The relief made me giddy, the job itself still is amazing to this day. I am fortunate every day for this moment, it was truly incredible. I had never wanted something so badly before.

This hatred is fucking real

I can’t tell people to be nice to each other.

I can’t pretend I was always a saint, either.

I mean, I mostly am now. I wish the best for everyone–I really do. There are people in this world I really dislike, but I don’t wish them bad for the most part. I just want them as far away from me as possible, doing their own thing. Failing or succeeding somewhere in a galaxy far, far away from me.

So sometimes when people hate me and I find out, it still blindsides me, because I think if they got to know me they wouldn’t hate me. I’m sure everyone thinks this about themselves, but I really think I’m a pretty awesome friend. And so like I said, I think if they knew the me that my friends do, they’d like me. If they knew the girl that bought skins for people just because she had some extra RP or the girl who rewrote someone’s cover letter tirelessly so they could apply to Blizzard, they would have a hard time hating me.

I mean I made M:tG cupcakes for someone for Valentine’s Day solely because I wanted them to feel special and realize people cared.

I’m sure people who hate me are reading this right now and eyerolling. They know I’m so pathetic and they know I’m so mean and they know I’m downright horrible, undeserving of everything in my life so far. They have some memory of me that their hatred has distorted, that probably isn’t even true anymore, but they don’t know the difference anymore.

It could be a normal draft mode, where my team beat them, and they think my GGWP was sarcastic.

It could be a simple conversation we had, where they misunderstood a joke, and they think I’m full of myself.

It could be from a meeting where things just got really intense, where they took my seriousness as ire, and they think I’m a “bitch.”

Whatever it was, it sparked the flame that led to the hatred. A flame that still burns strong today.

And so they read my tweets and they seethe at the good days, they laugh at the bad days, and they spend too much time caring about someone who doesn’t care about them. When they see me cap out at Plat IV and they drink it in, even if they’re Bronze or Silver or Gold or also Plat IV. When I quit raiding because I had to go to job interviews all of the country years ago, a couple people who hated me twisted it into how I was kicked out. When I came back with a job at Wowhead, they twisted that into how I’d ruin the website. When I helped get LolKing where it is today, they twisted it into how I was carried.

This is because they genuinely relish in my lack of success in places I fail, accredit any success I do have luck, and take that warm hot messy hate and just bathe in it.

The thing is I don’t hold grudges. If you’re someone who hates me, I probably don’t hate you. I may think less of you, but I don’t hold you any ill will. A large part of this is because a few years ago I realized that it is healthier for me this way. Hold onto an emotion as negative as hate for more than a few weeks and you become its slave; you’re controlled by it. You’re owned by it. You become dark, twisted.

It is so easy to hate. It is so much harder to love. But it’s the hardest of all to be indifferent.

One of the hardest things about becoming more well-known on the internet has been becoming indifferent. I know I’m far from “e-famous,” but the more places my name gets exposed to, the harder it is for me. I falter a lot. Like I said, when I find out someone hates me, it hurts.

But I’m working on it–it hurts less and less now. I guess I’ll always have haters, anyone will, and the more public you are the more you accrue.

Anyway, I know I can’t tell people to be nice to each other.

But I can tell you it is so easy to hate. It’s the Bronze V of emotions. And I mean, I’m done with that shit, so shouldn’t you be too?

Write what you know

I was routinely called a cum dumpster when I played World of Warcraft.

Before that I’d never encountered sexism in extreme levels. I grew up with Mario and Link. I marathoned Street Fighter II with the boys. I played Counter-Strike competitively. I used to stay up late watching Korean pro players dominate in StarCraft. But I had breasts and when that fact became obvious on the internet–well, let’s just say I wasn’t welcome anymore because women are total sluts and drama queens apparently.

Get a thick skin, they said. Get over it, they said. It’s just boys being boys, they said. Don’t be so dramatic about it, they said. People are allowed to dislike you, they said.

So I tried that. They said I was a whore and I said fuck off. It felt kind of great for a while and, with a temporary solution in place, I worked on becoming immune to their insults. I got the thickest skin–it was like that mithril armor Bilbo gets in the Hobbit. Bitch got devalued to the same meaning as idiot. The word rape became the same as going for a walk. And if being told I was probably really ugly was as bad as the insult got, I was actually happy that they didn’t hit anything really personal that would actually sting a bit.

I never realized how sad this was until I started to really follow the Feminist Frequency thing last year. For those who don’t know, she got a lot of insults and a lot of extreme hatred for basically getting a lot of funding on Kickstarter to make educational videos. People made games of her being beat up, told her they’d kill and rape her, and the whole rest of the underbelly of the internet. Her first video released today and it was a pretty great watch–something I really enjoyed watching and learned from.

Unfortunately, it also reminded me of the entire debacle and that’s when I had this realization.

I realized that I had become numb to most internet trolling. I’ve experienced a lot of the abuse she has. And once I realized that, I realized a lot of women probably have experienced degrees of this. Then I realized A LOT of us are probably silent about it because we don’t want to be called names or give our aggressors any power. We don’t really want to look like we’ve let this experience define us, either.

Fuck that.

And fuck them.

It doesn’t define me, but it is a small part of me. It’s also one I’m not going to actively hide anymore: I have a lot of internet haters, primarily male, and almost always misogynistic. And while it doesn’t hurt anymore, they should be ashamed to harbor such disgusting beliefs and such a negative fixation on me.

They should also know that they can’t change the fact that I love video games. Call me a cum dumpster for it and tell me I should be raped and strangled in an alley–it won’t make my love for League of Legends, Left 4 Dead, or other games falter. Video games are amazing and they will continue to be amazing despite the dark side of its culture. They will continue to be amazing despite how sexist they can be. And hopefully in time they will continue to be amazing without the dark side and sexism. Because I think change is coming and I truly think in twenty years or so it won’t be something we just “tolerate” and “deal with.”

Because really, how many times can you be told to not have a feminine online handle? To not voice chat? That you were asking for it because you spoke, because you dated someone you played with, because you posted an online picture of yourself?

Maybe it won’t change in a year. Maybe it won’t change in five years. But it will change in my lifetime. And anyone who has called a woman a cum dumpster and believes that they’re truly above her–that she can’t be an equally skilled gamer because she’s a woman–will be in for a rude awakening when they finally see how much of a tiny, bitter vocal minority they really are.

And maybe if we’re lucky, they’ll learn what it’s like to have to be silenced. And when they complain about how women ruined everything that’s great in gaming, maybe we can just tell them to stop being so dramatic. To just get over it.

To learn that people are allowed to dislike them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do better things. Like do work because I have a job where I work on video game websites for a paid living. Huh… How did scaring me off from video games go for you guys again?

You’re the bomb and you blew up on me

As hard as it is to be the person who stays, it’s also hard to be the person who leaves.

It’s hard to be the estranged daughter. The ex-girlfriend. The former boss. The old classmate. The long lost best friend.

So it would be truly nice, a real kindness, if people could remember that for one minute out of every day. While you’re wallowing in self-pity and vacuous hatred, all I ask is put on a pair of my shoes. Today they are maroon Converses without laces, worn pretty well, with scuffs on the side. They are not the shoes of a murderous person who wants your life to suck and all your efforts to fail. They are just the shoes of a person who made a choice–and unfortunately for whatever reason you were not in it. They are the shoes of someone who is tired of being vilified by people she’s moved on from.

I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same

I have this really weird memory that “One Headlight” always brings back whenever I hear it.

I’m in the car. We’re driving by a cemetery and there are tall poplars lining the road. I have this thing when I go by a cemetery where I hold my breath, because I’m really young and I’m scared if I don’t we’ll die. I don’t know why I started doing it, but I’ve done it for years and now I’m furiously trying to hold my breath and it’s a really long stretch of road. “One Headlight” is playing. It’s eerily beautiful, full of a lot of metaphors and despair. My dad starts explaining the origin of the song and points out lines to listen to. It’s a deep song, he says. He starts with the opening line: “They said she died easy of a broken heart disease, I listened through the cemetery trees.” He explains it’s the funeral of someone and the song writer’s point of view is the man. He tells me how rich the imagery is. I stop listening to him–and the song–because I’m trying so hard to hold my breath. Finally I let it all out, the cemetery goes on forever and lines both sides of the road. I wonder briefly if we’ll all die, like the woman in the song, because I didn’t hold my breath. We don’t, the car moves past the cemetery and its endless poplars, and the Wallflowers keep singing. I grew up a bit that day, because I learned that superstitions are just superstitions and cemeteries are just plots of land where we bury dead bodies.

But I still catch myself holding my breath sometimes when I go by a cemetery.

You knew in five minutes but I knew in a sentence

So, well, it’s 2013.

I’m not really sure how I feel. I think cautiously optimistic is probably the best way to describe my outlook on this year. Last year wasn’t a bad year and I don’t want my lack of enthusiasm to be mistaken for misgivings about last year. I thought a lot about it and I’ve decided it was a good year: I changed people’s lives, I worked out more, I moved on from my childhood abuse, I got my company to invest in League of Legends resulting in LolKing (which has been such a rewarding experience for me–professionally and personally), and I fell for someone which is something that hadn’t happened for five years.

But there’s nothing really tangible to latch onto and define as 2012. I love to organize things by one solid emotion that prevailed throughout the year for some reason. I’m a dork like that. 2011 is the year I got my best job (two years in February!), 2010 is where I moved and stepped out of the abyss, 2009 is my great depression, 2008 is my first job in the gaming industry, 2007 is my 4.0 college year and photography experimental year, 2006 is my hardcore gaming and drop out of college year. These things, they fit neatly in my memory banks in a drawer in the corner and define everything…

So 2012 is just like, well, I lived. And I did pretty decently at living. And that’s cool, I guess, but I’d like more.

I would like to work on the following throughout the year:

  • Work out more, I want to start running daily by June
  • Be calmer, work on my attitude in gaming and other high stress situations
  • Be less critical of myself; analyze when I am being hyperbolic and harsh on myself and then proceed to STOP
  • Start photography again
  • Begin to plan to move, move by 2014 (either out of state, city, or at least to a new neighborhood)

They’re not really do or die resolutions. I mean, they actually are; I want them really badly. But they’re not like “get a job,” “get married,” or anything pronounced. Instead I just want to work on being nicer to Rhea and treating Rhea right, because I think I forget to do that a lot–I think I take myself for granted and don’t see how much I can impact my own moods–and I’m sick of being a teenager emotionally. Like really sick of it, because being perpetually sixteen emotionally is so exhausting, and while it’s really refreshing to acknowledge that, I now need to work on it.

I’ve spent enough time licking my wounds. It’s time to let them become faint scars now. They’ve healed–and this year should recognize that appropriately. Now all I have to do is live it and see.

2012 - Modified Rockwell theme. Background from League of Legends and it's copyright to Riot Games.