Excruciatingly honest memoir from Felicia Day about her quirky childhood, gaming addiction, cultural attitudes online, and life long struggle with anxiety and other mental health issues. She reminded me a great deal of Jenny Lawson in her straight forward presentation of difficult topics and also in her exuberant storytelling style. And, in many other ways, she reminded me of myself.
Being a female gamer is hard. There, I’ve said it. Not only do your female friends not want to play video games with you, but your male friends never really accept you as a legitimate gamer. You’re kind of stuck in this twilight space of “this is what I love to do” but society doesn’t agree that it is appropriate for you to do. Now, unlike the early days of MMORPGs, many more women play video games, and I’m sure that I’d make more female friends if I tried. But, back then in the fall of 2000, when I first got into EverQuest (one of the predecessors of WoW, the game that Felicia played), many more men played female avatars than actual women played. That’s just how it went. I loved that Felicia addressed this female gamer white elephant, so to speak. There are few people who really talk about it, but it’s something that I’ve been dealing with for a long time.
I loved her cheerful attitude, even when things got tough: “My story demonstrates that there’s no better time in history to have a dream and be able to reach an audience with your art. Or just be as weird as you want to be and not have to be ashamed.” pg 19 ebook. That’s a pretty powerful lesson and one which artists and dreamers everywhere should know.
Felicia admits that she has very few hands-on skills, something which I also have in common with her. In this passage, she’s joking about ordering coffee: “…I’m determined to enjoy the liquid indulgences of modern life. Might as well take advantage of it all before the zombie apocalypse. I have no practical skills; I’m fully aware that I’ll be one of the first ones “turned.” Instead of learning motorcycle repair or something else disaster-scenario useful, I’ll order the drink I want until I become a shambling corpse.” pg 17 ebook. I’ve thought about my librarianship skills and book reviewing abilities in that same light. If something catastrophic happens, I’m kind of screwed. I mean, yes, there have been favorable depictions of librarians after the apocalypse (Station Eleven comes to mind) but really, what good could I do for people struggling to survive or myself? While we’re on the topic of librarians, I also enjoyed that Felicia’s first “job” was working for her aunt, a librarian. She said about it: “No job since has left me feeling so well rewarded.” pg 67 ebook. Aww….
Chapter Five: Quirky Addiction = Still an Addiction (How my obsessive personality steered me into a twelve-hour-a-day gaming addiction and an alt-life as a level 60 warlock named Codex) pg 85 ebook, was my favorite. Gaming addiction is an actual thing. I’ve known multiple people who dropped out of college or lost their jobs because they couldn’t stop playing video games. I’ve also known people whose relationships started or ended because of it too. It seems silly for people who don’t have any interest in video games, but it can be as destructive an addiction and as real as anything else- drugs, sex, whatever. Felicia nails the siren call of video games in this passage: “When we graduate from childhood into adulthood, we’re thrown into this confusing, Cthulhu-like miasma of life, filled with social and career problems, all with branching choices and no correct answers. Sometimes gaming feels like going back to that simple kid world. pg 93 ebook. That’s it, really. Do the quest, get the reward, and repeat. Real life is never that simple or straight forward.
Though she felt like she wasted a lot of time, Felicia managed to break free of her addiction and channel her passion into the hugely successfully series: The Guild. I had never watched it, but after reading this book, I binge-watched every episode. She managed to take the culture, friendships, and craziness that is online gaming and turned it into a compulsively view-able series. I loved it. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yourself, I highly recommend it. One of the overarching points of this book, and the television show, is that not only can you overcome hurdles that held you back from the life of your dreams, but you can use the very thing that was the stumbling block to move onwards. Well done, Felicia, very well done.
One last little bit that I wanted to include in this review, because it rang so true for me, was Felicia’s thoughts about her struggles with mental illness. She says: “I couldn’t trust my own mind anymore, which was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. pg 170 ebook. When your own internal filter, your brain, is compromised, you feel like you can’t trust yourself ever again. It’s as simple and as terrifying as that and, unless you go through it yourself, there’s not really any good way to explain what’s happened to you or why you’re so afraid.
If you’ve ever had any struggles with anxiety or mental health issues, you may really enjoy this memoir. Also, if you enjoy online gaming or want to understand one of your loved ones who does, you may like this book. Some read-alikes: Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms by Ethan Gilsdorf, or Just a Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise by Wil Wheaton.
Thanks for reading!