The Fangirl’s Guide to Lady Gamers: The Extended Edition

Posted by Sam Maggs

For The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, I wanted to speak the awesomest geeky gals in the biz, all about how their experience as a fan has influenced and shaped their lives. Unfortunately, due to a tight page count and a super-mean editor (just kidding, love you Blair! <3), we could only fit a few interviews into the final book. But there was so much goodness left over that I just had to share their geek girl wisdom with the world.

Today, I bring you some fangirl fabulousness from the wicked women of gaming, including Brianna Wu, Ashly Burch, Kami Fortner, Alison Rapp, Andrea Rene, Soha Kareem, Kristin Lindsay, and Cara Ellison.

Brianna Wu

Head of development at Giant Spacekat games, host of Isometric Podcast on 5by5. Follow her at @spacekatgal.

“You may sometimes feel like who you are is a weakness, but it’s your greatest strength. Never forget that. Figure out what your passions are, and embrace them without apology. If you like to draw comics, spend as much time as you can drawing comics. If you like video games, learn all you can about video games. What’s so strange to me is that the most useful time of my childhood was playing Final Fantasy 6 until I truly understood it. It was reading Sailor Moon manga and being so obsessed with it, I could draw perfect recreations of it. All those skills I developed have paid off in an exciting career.”


Ashly Burch

The eponymous Ash of “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’,” the voice of Tiny Tina in Bordlerands 2, Ms. Pauling in Team Fortress 2. Follow her at @ashly_burch.

“This is going to sound like such a silly sentence, but it's unfortunately true: being a geeky girl is hard. We're constantly checked to see if we're Fake Geek Girls. We're constantly degraded and dehumanized. That's why it's so important for you to be true to you. You know why you love the things you love. You know why that piece of dialogue in that show didn't work. You know why that characterization was lazy. You know how you could replicate that awesome alien makeup you saw. You have incredible knowledge because you're smart, you're intuitive, and you love very deeply. Don't let people convince you that you aren't qualified to be in their industry. You're the most qualified! You understand it implicitly. You belong, and don't ever let anyone tell you that you don't.”


Kami Fortner

2013 Ubisoft Fragdolls Cadet, and caster on Twitch. Follow her at @lovebattery.

“As a child, I was very awkward and unsure of myself. I remember throwing all of my energy into a variety of different subjects: I was a fanatical reader and I would find particular books that I enjoyed and read them again and again until the pages became shreds; I would imagine myself in the universe contained within the books I read; I wrote fanfiction and fantasies in my own head that helped me escape from the mundanity of the real world. When I was about ten years old, I was introduced to Star Wars, and fantasies about the Star Wars Universe filled my head. I was too embarrassed to share these fantasies with my friends and family. Two years later, my family got a personal computer with an internet connection and I spent my time online posing as a 16-year-old female on a Star Wars roleplaying website. It was the first time I realized that other people—adults, even—shared my interests. After participating in online roleplay forums and chats, I became much more outgoing and less concerned with others' perceptions of my hobbies and interests. Around the same time, I began playing PC video games online; I started with Star Wars: Dark Forces II and Half-Life: Deathmatch. Now, video games are my favorite hobby and I have met most, if not all, of my closest friends through gaming online or at video game and comic conventions.”


Alison Rapp

Gamer, writer for Game Informer and Extra Life, and project manager for Nintendo of America Treehouse. Follow her at @mnemosynekurai.

“I think the word ‘geek’ is really nebulous and can mean a lot of things. But if being a ‘geek’ or a ‘nerd' just means that you're really into something and pursue it however you can, well, then I guess my being a geek has made me who I am today and helped me find a dream job. I was a good student in school and my career could have gone any number of ways, but I always joked that the best job for me would be as a Zelda Scholar—just get paid to know a lot about The Legend of Zelda. I grew up low- to middle-income and didn't have a lot of access to the outside world, though, and the idea that there were jobs – much less livable jobs – that would let me just be really smart about something like video games seemed like a pipe dream. But I kept being passionate about the things that I really liked and, instead of limiting myself to things I thought could make me a lot of money, I made my own way. I was told that I needed good research to get me into grad school, so I studied representation of queer relationships in smutty manga. I was told that if I didn't have internship experience that I'd have trouble finding a full-time job, so I interned with Game Informer. I was told that volunteer experience looked good on a resume, so I copy-edited for a retro game site pro bono. I was really lucky to have the resources to be able to pursue those things, though, and I'm grateful that they helped get me as close to my dream job as possible.”


Andrea Rene

Senior Producer with GameTrailers and co-host of GameStop TV​. Follow her at @AndreaRene.

“Being a girl in any walk of life will be filled with challenges, but being ‘geek girl’ means your authenticity will be questioned every day. Stay true to yourself and never let anyone tell you that you aren't geeky or nerdy enough. Love what you love, and find other people who love what you love to share it with. Never stop learning by reading everything! It is so important to be knowledgeable, because there will always be someone who is ready to take you down for every little mistake. But you are human, so you will make mistakes. The key is how you respond and move on from those mistakes. Work harder than everybody else. Most importantly: love yourself the way you love your favorite things.”


Soha Kareem

Games journalist, game maker, one-half of the c_ntrollers Let’s Play channel, and cat lover. Follow her at @sokareemie.

“[Being a fangirl] motivates me to be more imaginative with my own writing. There’s nothing more stimulating than being sucked into a world with incredible history and characters. It makes me want to work harder and achieve better things when I read a comic book or play a game that demands my full attention like that. Also, I find that being a geek and really owning it has given me confidence to voice my opinions and be myself. It’s wonderful when you find something you truly admire and respect because it gives you a reason to keep fighting for it!”


Kristin Lindsay

Irrepressible nerd and Project Manager at Penny Arcade Inc. Follow her at @Peeardee.

“This could get really poetic, so I'm going to keep it super real here: there is huge money in pop culture. The electronic entertainment industry is a behemoth and it grows every year. A huge ratio of Hollywood blockbusters are action/sci-fi flicks. Today's rock stars are Youtubers. Bloggers are the new journalists. Software devs were the number 1 job in demand for 2014 (according to Forbes). Pop culture events consistently out-perform other conventions and conferences (take a look at for some impressive stats in nerdy event management). Never despair that being a geek makes you any kind of outcast, or that you have less of a chance of doing something that you love. Being a geek is opening doors, not closing them.”


Cara Ellison

Games writer, transmetropolitan game critic, and columnist for Rock Paper Shotgun. Follow her at @CaraEllison.

“Never fetishise yourself. Because you might not see many other geek girls around you, you might assume that you are special, or men might try to make you feel special for being the one girl who turns up to the Super Smash Brothers party. But the truth is that it's difficult to exist as a geek girl in what is traditionally a space where men get the first consideration. That's why you might not see many girls turn up to game tournaments or to comic cons: people have a weird reaction to us. But there are a lot of us and we hide on internet forums and buy our geek products on Amazon and try to not be visible, because it's a lot easier than having to contend with the consequences of being visible. 

You are not alone. You are actually part of a worldwide sisterhood that adores all of these hobbies. If a guy says 'oh you're special' or 'you're not like other girls because you like X' just remind them that there are hundreds of you and you can go hang out with those girls any time. It might just be that those girls chose not to come here, where they might be hit on or made to compete in a testosterone-y atmosphere.

Never be made to feel less of a fan of something, just because you like something that is considered 'girly'. If you like the video game Barbie Horse Adventures? Good! You like The Sims? Cool! You prefer Animal Crossing to Assassin's Creed? Awesome! Don't feel like being feminine or having an interest in something that is pink and flowery, or liking a game that is non-violent is somehow less legitimate. They are popular for a reason, and the reason is you. You are very valuable, and you can certainly find a community of people who also think they are valuable. And at the same time, you are no less of a girl if you like something that the boys like. I always had more testosteroney tastes than my girlfriends at school and sometimes they would make fun of me for liking boys' stuff and dressing like a boy, but all of that is a totally cool way to express yourself.

Understand that sometimes that, if you want to work in a geek profession, men might make your life difficult, or be slightly hostile to you in a way that makes you feel bad. Things are getting much better, but not a day passes that someone will comment on my work on the internet and the underlying implication is that I have no right to exist in that space. Sometimes it's overtly because I seem like I might be a woman. Sometimes it's not so overt, but upon investigation, it's because I'm a woman. Even male colleagues might not realize that they are forgetting about you or excluding you or undervaluing you, merely because they've been socialized to think that men are more competent. Try not to let it get you down. There are hundreds of badass women out there rooting for you who have experienced exactly the same thing, and we want you to succeed and we can help you succeed. You can always ask us for help or mentorship. We wanted it when we were you and we are desperate to help.

Always remember that you are rad whatever you are interested in, and you have a right to exist, and there are others like you.”

Sam Maggs

Sam Maggs

SAM MAGGS is an Assistant Writer at BioWare and the bestselling author of WONDER WOMEN and THE FANGIRL’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, both from Quirk Books. An authority on women in pop culture, Sam was named “Awesome Geek Feminist of the Year” by Women Write About Comics and has spoken on the topic for The New York Times, Vulture, NPR, the CBC, Space Channel, and more. Her first comic is forthcoming from IDW. Among others, Sam has also been published by Marie Claire, PC Gamer, The Guardian, and the National Post. Sometimes you might see her on TV and movie screens. She loves YA lit, Pacific Rim, Mass Effect, Carol Danvers, and Jeff Goldblum.