So here is the career autobiography of Felicia Day, a media-dubbed "Queen of the Geeks" who first got well known for being on a season of Buffy and then got more well known for creating her own Internet television show (and later, entire Internet channel), and doing a bunch of guest stints on other geeky shows that geeks love. I'm a fan, so I'm biased, but I found this to be very enjoyable. Even though Felicia's not the sort to go into her ah, romantic/personal life, she does go into pretty blunt detail about her weird upbringing as a homeschooled kid in the Deep South who didn't get much socializing done beyond being in plays, taking enough classes to be a geisha, and getting on the rudimentary Internet. She got into college at age 16, double majored in math and music, and then skipped off to Hollywood right after graduation. Auditions generally sucked, but she eventually found an acting niche as a crazy cat lady secretary. But who wants to do that forever?
Anyway, as her career was going not so well, Felicia took up World of Warcraft, which made her feel super better about herself:
"All the exuberance and sense of purpose rubbed off on my real life. I started walking around feeling....happy. A casting director was rude to me, and I thought, Gosh, she probably had a bad day, rather than dry-heave sobbing in the car afterward. A part of Hollywood-defeated Felicia Day was "fixed" by my double life as a tiny little penis-haired gnome."
"Before you say, "Wow, this chick is on a nerd plane of existence I can't relate to" <slams her into a locker>, the thing about a computer game character is that a part of you BECOMES that character in an alternate world. That little gnome Keeblerette was an emotional projection of myself. A creature/person who was more powerful, more organized and living in a world where there were exact parameters to becoming successful. "Kill forty wyverns, get points that make you stronger. Check!"
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. Real-life Felicia wasn't getting more successful, but I could channel my frustration into making Keeblerette an A-list celebrity warlock, thank you very much!"
And that's why Jane McGonigal has a quote on the back of this book endorsing it.
However, after awhile Felicia became addicted to the game and stopped caring too much about life outside of it, which meant that she needed to lay off playing.
"We all have periods of our life where we're trapped, doing something we hate, and we develop habits that have nothing to do with our long-term goals to fill the downtime."
"I'm not blaming the game; I'm blaming my lack of perspective about why I wanted to fill my days with that beautiful, repetitive world. My life was unhappy, and I covered the hurt with a subscription-based Band-Aid. I just couldn't find a good reason NOT to play so much. Dig deeper and take steps to become happier in the long term? Nah, there are monsters to kill. Worry about real life later!"
After she got recruited by her writing instructor (Kim Evey, future producing partner of hers) to join a women's support group, the social pressure (and the fear of death) eventually kind of forced her to start working on her idea for a TV showed based on gaming, which became The Guild. She and Kim and another member of the group got together to produce a few episodes of a season, which took off. Felicia turned out to be good at promotion--she recounts how a Photoshopped "Felicia, Warrior Violinist" flier sold out for her violin recital at college--and the show became a huge hit.
Felicia loves her fan art and saves all of it, and recounts the time when a fan brought her a computer art poster and he was all, "I just drive a forklift at Costco, I'm not creative." She got upset at him putting it down. "Never put yourself down about things you create. That mean voice inside you that says, 'You're not good enough' is not your friend, okay? I used to hear that voice all the time. If I hadn't started ignoring it, I wouldn't be here right now." Then after he left she went behind a curtain and cried."I wept for this guy, who was so vulnerable in front of me, and who, for some reason, felt the need to put himself down when he presented something he'd made from scratch. I don't let people get away with putting themselves down any more. There are enough negative forces in this world--don't let the pessimistic voice that lives inside you get away with that stuff, too. That voice is NOT a good roommate."
However, there's plusses and minusses to becoming a self-made hit--Felicia honestly tells about how she had a big ol' depression/anxiety crash as her career was taking off, having a mental crisis about how she felt like she was going to fail. She had writer's block, felt paralyzed...and the character of Floyd on season six of the Guild is inspired by all of that. It sounds like that eventually led to the end of her partnership with Kim, which is sad. She's recovered since then, but then came becoming a target of The Gate That Women Dare Not Type Online Because Then They Will Find And Kill You, after writing a post about seeing gamer dudes on the street and not wanting to reach out for them as "her people" as usual for fear of getting attacked. So of course she got attacked and doxxed (again, it had happened a year before as well), and she has stalkers and will never feel safe at home again. Joy.
Despite the social horrors of it all, she does make a few good jokes about the situation.
“You don’t generally see hard-core knitters reply to someone who says, “Knitting is cool, but the needles could be made from more environmentally sustainable wood,” with “Oh no you don’t, idiot. My knitting is perfect the way it is, don’t you DARE try to change it. You’re obviously a fake. What’s the diameter of that yarn? Don’t know? Go die in a fire!”
There's also Felicia's Yelp review of the situation:
"I loved the food at this establishment but as soon as I entered, the atmosphere felt a tad unfriendly. A few of the clientele started calling me a "bitch" and a "whore" and several people at one table were watching poo porn and hooting very loudly. They seemed to love their meal, and yet they lingered at their table for hours afterwards, criticizing the owner and the food?
When I mentioned to the waiter, "The fries are a bit greasy," immediately a person at the next table leaned over and started screaming at me, saying, "You stupid C#$%t, how dare you criticize anything? Don't claim you know how to eat!"
I would love to come back, but really, some of the people who eat here are shit."
But here's what frightened her most about the experience:
"was the possibility that this could be the future of the internet. That the utopia I thought the online world created, where people don’t have to be ashamed of what they love and could connect with each other regardless of what they looked like, was really a place where people could steep themselves in their own worldview until they became willfully blind to everyone else’s.
I guess the internet can be both things. Good and bad. And I have been “lucky” enough to experience the crazy extremes of both.
I had to think long and hard about writing this chapter, and I know there’s a good chance I will have more of my privacy violated as a result. There will certainly be another flood of online attacks because of it.
So after all of that, would I speak up again?
Because shame is a very good barometer. The very reason I felt guilty about NOT speaking up is WHY I should have spoken up in the first place."
Wow. You're a better woman than I am, Felicia. She has a good point in closing:
"It’s hard for me to imagine how tha same fourteen-year-old girl might find a place to belong in the gaming world that exists today with strong voices pushing her back, harassing her, questioning her authenticity with the unspoken threat: Fit in the way we want you to or get out. I don’t know if I could handle that kind of environment. Perhaps I would hide my gender. Or just quit games entirely.
But I don’t think those choices are acceptable for anyone. So if my speaking up made one person feel like they belong or prevented one person from stifling their own voice, then it was absolutely worth it.
Because if you can’t be your own weird self on the internet, where can you be? And what would be the point?”
These days, Felicia has sold her company to Legendary Entertainment, where she's chief creative officer.
“Today I work with my company to create and produce shows for the web and television, write things like this book, act in tons of interesting projects, and still tweet and do conventions and stay connected with people in my online community every day. I’ve carved out the perfect job for myself, and the world has opened up to me in a way that I could never have imagined as a weird homeschooled kid writing in that little pink diary.”
I think I'm jealous.
Four stars. I really enjoyed it and found it inspiring and honest.