I Had No Idea this Required a License

I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile. Mostly out of lack of motivation. After all, I should be updating the paladin posts. They’re not going to fix themselves. But I got into a discussion with a friend on Facebook last night that inspired me to finish this.


So yeah, for months (or longer?) there’s been this talk of “fake gamers”. Pretty much exclusively “fake gamer” girls, because apparently being a “fake gamer” requires identifying to the female gender. Guys, it seems, do not qualify to be “fake gamers”, no matter how much their eyes glaze over when you bring them to riveting panels about fascinating games, or how lost they become during gaming nostalgia sharing sessions right after they JUST told you how much they love gaming.

Yep, no matter how much boys lie to you about their gaming habits to get into your pants (because, clearly, it is the only reason anyone lies about anything), only girls (sorry, pc people, when I write about gaming, it’s “guys” and “girls”, because “men” and “women” imply being all serious and not fun and I’m against being serious and not fun) can be “fake gamers”.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can address the next issue (and still ignore the main question).

Why do We Care if Someone is a “Fake Gamer”?

Ok. So. As far as I know, being a gamer does not require a license. I mean, maybe I’ve been living an illegal life all these years and am totally a fake gamer because I never applied for my gaming license. Hey, none of the blogs ever mention it and no one asks to see it when I pick up my tickets to conventions. Can’t blame me for not knowing.

Gaming, on it’s own, not gaming for charity which is something different, also does not feed starving children in Africa. It does not stop poverty. It doesn’t even save the whales. It might help a little bit with education, but only for the person playing, not for everyone else. So it’s not like a huge, meaningful achievement.

It doesn’t increase a person’s social status either. While I find social status kinda silly – why does anyone care if my job pays well, whether I’m following my biological obligations to get married and reproduce and if I have a lot of politician friends? – I guess it matters to some. But gaming does not make you more socially acceptable. It actually still sometimes even has the opposite effect.

So, why the hell, are people going around pretending to be, oh I dunno, gaming police or something?

Apparently there’s even this meme on Facebook going around comparing the “fake gamer” to a “what a gamer really looks like/does”.

I can’t say I’ve ever really seen this because I have certain, um, standards when it comes to Facebook friends. But there are a lot of people on the internet who worry about weird things (I worry about weird things too, but not so much whether someone has received permission to call themselves a gamer) so I can believe that there are some who are genuinely concerned about the…authenticity? of gamer status claims.

Think of it as I might, I cannot wrap my head on Why. Why do you care about the credentials the person sitting next you at ComicCon? You’re there to watch and listen to a famous person talk about their work. That’s not a goddamn competition.

And if that person next to you is only there to impress their significant other? What happens then?


Consequences on “fake person”: They’re bored and wasted their time and money.
Consequences to you: … Nothing, really.

So start worrying about your own fun, and less about everyone elses motivation.

It’s the Media, You Say, I’m Sick of Fake Sex Being Used to Lure Me In

Various (and possibly, most) major figures (I was going to say players but that would lead to confusion) in the gaming industry do have a habit of putting a scantily clad human model with body parts that are, um, voluptuous in some places, and, um, dainty in other places next to their product in order to increase sales. Habit that it annoying to, well, pretty much anyone with a soul.

Nobody knows much about these models because their humanity is drowned out by their obnoxious body parts. Understandably, it is frustrating to be served by a pair of disembodied boobs (note, that you’re not allowed to touch) instead of a helpful, knowledgeable sales expert. At least when it comes to making gaming choices.


On a side note, though, this reminds me of a complaint I have about Big Bang Theory. The characters on the show started off as pretty brilliant but eventually devolved to exactly the 2-dimensional idiots gaming companies think they are catering to. This is 2013, people. Gamers like sex like everyone else, but we still live with the times. We’re demanding in 2013. We have a shitton extra needs to go with our sex needs. The media would do well to evolve with us.

Differentiating Freelance Sexy Costumes from the Media

I read a complaint post (can’t remember where) about sexy costume wearers. They were getting labelled as “fake gamers” because apparently the ability to look fantastic in skimpy clothing cannot be acquired simultaneously to the ability to operate a controller, mouse or keyboard.

The whole post (and, really, the internet in general) leads me to believe that sexy costumes (and other revealing clothing) are misunderstood.

That young lady in spandex, the one not hired by a company at the convention, is not trying to sell you anything. The one at the booth is trying to sell you something. This one here isn’t.

The young lady is wearing spandex (or latex) for the same reason you have a ridiculously large SLR camera that you don’t even know how to use hanging around your neck. She’s got something valuable she worked hard for, is proud of and wants to show off. Just like you have something valuable you’ve likely worked hard for, are proud of and want to show off. She doesn’t want to sell you her body anymore than you want to sell anyone your SLR camera.

And if you want to be proud of your body, stop eating garbage and start moving. Then you too can wear a skimpy costume that makes people smile.

On the Other Side, Is Being Called Fake Supposed to Hurt?

There was a female gaming convention awhile back (there are gaming conventions for everything, really). They did this survey and an obscenely high % of respondents said they’d been called “fake gamers”.

This has never happened to me before, at least not to my face, so I really had to stop and imagine how I’d feel if that happened.

The only thing that came to mind was “very confused”.

On one hand, as this post suggests, I would be deeply concerned about your emotional health. It’s not healthy to feel so strongly enough about gamer title legibility that you play gaming police. What can I say? I’m a caring person.

On the other hand, I’d be a little “um…ok… *scratches head*” because, really, I’m not here to prove anything with my gaming. I play games because they’re fun. I go to conventions because I want to see, in person, the geniuses who brought my favorite stories to life. I go to meetups so I can hug with MY REAL ARMS the people I have to /hug and *hug* normally. I socialize within different gaming communities so I can get super excited about stuff I love and be responded to with equal excitement. You know, instead of the amused looks I get in my everyday life.

So I cannot grasp why being “real” or “fake”, and, especially, a stranger’s silly opinion of everyone else’s realness, matters. We all have our reasons for gaming or for revolving around the gaming community. As long as we’re not deliberately stomping on someone else’s fun, who cares?

And after all that, I still never touched the great encompassing question of: WHAT THE HELL IS A FAKE GAMER ANYWAY?

ps. If you enjoy this topic, I have reflected, though a tad more seriously, on the notion of gamer/geek identity in the past (part 1 and part 2).

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27 Comments on “I Had No Idea this Required a License”

  1. Stormy Says:

    I have a confession to make.

    I am a fake gamer.

    I play World of Warcraft. I’m sort of good at it…but only sort of. I started my first WoW account and my first characters back in late BC to impress a guy I liked who was a WoW player, and so I could spend more time with him. I lasted a week. I started again in mid-Wrath because one of my political Twitter friends would NOT SHUT UP about WoW, and, well, here I am.

    My last gaming console was an original, first generation GameBoy. I have never owned a PlayStation, XBox or Wii, and I likely never will. My last computer game before WoW was SimCity 2000. I didn’t have a Steam account until about two months ago. I’ve picked around in LOTRO, Rift, and GW2 (and hated both Rift and GW2), and cleared most of Bastion on the “no pressure” difficulty setting. That is my entire gaming history. I have no frame of reference for Zelda, Mario, Mass Effect, BioShock or any of the other big gaming franchises.

    I am a WoW player, but I’m a fake gamer.

    • Ophelie Says:

      You should play Mass Effect! It’s really fun! Heart-wrenching at times, but very fun! You’ll love it.

      I really don’t see how any of that makes you a “fake gamer”, but then again, even after writing this post, I still have no idea what a “fake gamer” is.

  2. Rohan Says:

    Heh, this topic reminds me of Ferraro, the fake female paladin from a couple years ago. She was a popular blogger and forum poster who was later revealed to be using pics of someone completely different. Kind of a pity, actually, as whoever was writing as Ferraro actually had some interesting points. In any case, I’m pretty sure that Ferraro was a fake gamer.

    Back on topic, I think a lot of the animus comes from certain male producers of secondary content like blogs and podcasts. They see female content producers zoom past them in terms of audience, and they feel that the work these women produce is of lower quality. Thus they feel that the audience is entirely a result of being female. Thus these men label the women as fake gamers, implying that their audience is disproportionate to their skill or insight.

    And to bend over backwards to be fair, there is a point. An awful lot of female bloggers/podcasters make the fact that they are female a central point in their blog/podcast identity. Think of how many female blogs use “grrl” or similar in their title. A lot of men see this as the women trading on the fact that they are female.

    (Personally, I think it’s just that being female seems to be central to some women’s identity in a way that being male just isn’t for men. Male identity seems to be less about what you are, and more about what you do. Not to say that is better, because something like job loss ends up cutting at the core identity for a lot of men.)

    In any case, I think part of this issue is that it isn’t really about game players exactly, but about the relationship between secondary content providers and their audience.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Ah, Ferraro! I had always felt the writing style on that blog to be a little off. When it was revealed to be fake, my thoughts were “so it wasn’t just me!” I suppose inventing a persona and actually claiming to be that persona in order to make a popular blog could be considered being a fake gamer. Though, like you said, there were sometimes some good points on that blog, so there must have been a real gamer hidden somewhere in there. I don’t understand why someone would do that. I don’t remember Paladin Shmaladin having adds or merchandise or anything, so there was nothing to gain from the hits, other than bragging rights. Bragging rights that couldn’t even be used without revealing that Ferraro was fake. People do weird things.

      I wonder how much being female really draws in an audience. Sex definitely does sell, so having a half dressed pretty girl (and why do they always have weird hair colours?) reading lines would probably boost numbers. Still it’s just one asset out of many possible assets, so a pretty girl can only go so far without proper content and interesting delivery.

      Women have a bonus too that they draw in an audience of both genders. Men could also do that, but for some reason, not many try.

      I don’t frequent the Youtubers or the higher end gaming websites so I do miss a lot of what happens there. I’ve often felt like the labeling was something more that women do to each other and less something that men do to women. But then, the WoW blogging/twitter community is very female dominated, so the men tend to be less visible.

      But I could definitely see how this kind attitude starts in the media/secondary content providers, and is perpetuated by those who consume that media.

      • Jen Says:

        I don’t know if you’re talking about her or not, but I’m fascinated by Panser’s hair. I wouldn’t dye my hair pink or blue or rainbow, but oh my god do I stare at her hair. (And I’m also very curious about how she keeps it looking so healthy.)

        • Ophelie Says:

          It seems like there are quite a few youtubers with unnatural hair colours, but Panser does stand out the most. Maybe the others are actually copying Panser. I’m not a fan of the pink hair (I like hair that looks natural), but I do have to give it to her – it helps make her instantly recognizable. It’s a good marketing move.

          It does look really healthy. I wonder if her hair is naturally very fair and doesn’t need to be bleached. Either that, or she’s got a talent for colouring, or WoW Youtubing is more lucrative than we thought and she can afford a really good colourist!

          • Jen Says:

            I was really curious, so I googled a bit and he’s a video of her before the pink phase: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYeJjK64VsE
            She definitely bleaches it, so I’m double impressed by how well it looks. And even though she is really pretty without the pink hair, I think she looks better with it.

          • Jen Says:

            Last comment about hair, I swear – she dyes it herself, she has videos up. I’d never do it, because I tried changing my hair color (a bit) and I think I look better with my natural and boring brown… but this is fascinating!

  3. Charlie Peebles Says:

    I suppose I am not a “real gamer” myself, seeing as how I don’t play much of anything outside of old remakes of games (long live Archon!!!) or Blizzard games. “Blizzard Groupie” might be a better phrase for me. But I think I might understand what could be going on here. The “real gamers” consider themselves part of a club or clique. Now that their hobbies are becoming more and more mainstream, they are fighting back against what they see as encroachment on their special status.

    Or they could just be jerks. Either way, tell them to go pack sand.

    By the way, hello again old mentor. Came back from the desert, and now have orders to the land of Japan. Sorry I went dark for a while there…

    • Ophelie Says:

      Hiiii! It’s great to see you back! And you’re off again already? They sure don’t give you much downtime!

      The topic in the post isn’t really one I’ve experienced first hand – been a dorky gamer my whole life yet somehow I missed out on all those rites of passage – just one I often witness and hear about. I wanted to point out how silly it is.

      • Charlie Peebles Says:

        It is rather silly… more people sharing your interests means more people to play with. I remember having to scour communities just to find someone to play Warhammer or M:TG with. Heh, some of the best times I had when when I found 3 or 4 people to run a D and D game with early in my Navy career. Of course… those usually devolved into drinking games, but let’s not split hairs, shall we?

  4. Redbeard Says:

    Thanks for the post, Ophelie.

    Unfortunately, for long time gamers like myself, this isn’t so unusual a behavior. I saw antagonistic attitudes toward girls/women who played RPGs back in the 80s, and unfortunately we as a gamer community still have that subset of people around. Only the problem now is that with video games being more prevalent than before (and this little thing called the internet) it’s a bit more out in the open.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yeah, I really doubt it’s a new problem, it’s just more obvious now, and we hear about it more because people can finally stand up for themselves publicly.

      I don’t know if it’s only men. It seems like men started the “don’t touch my stomping ground!”, but a lot is perpetuated by women too. The whole “what men think I do…what I really do”. Laughing about it is one thing (after all, it is pretty hilarious), but when you take “what men think” seriously, it gets dangerous. Because, really, why do you care what men think? Obviously, if men are being rude, abusive, etc, it is a big deal, but beyond that, I play games because they’re fun, not because I want men to get to know me.

  5. Talarian Says:

    So I have no idea why dudes would care if a lady is a “fake gamer” or not, but perhaps the ladies care because the ladies already have a hard enough time integrating in the community (through no fault of their own) that these “fake gamer girls” are basically just making it that much harder for the “real” gamer girls to be taken seriously?

    I mean, we are talking about a “Do you even lift, bro?” type gaming subculture here, so it’s likely mostly about machismo and the whole backing up your street cred with real achievements, so to speak. So perhaps it’s important to that sub-culture that they can weed out the “fakes” from the “reals”?

    Just thinking out loud here, but perhaps if we were to take a look at this from another angle. If someone were to take a picture of themselves as a hockey player, but they’ve never played hockey in their lives, is that misrepresenting hockey, or is that really just misrepresenting themselves? I think if I were to be friends with someone or date someone, and they pulled that on me, then I’d be wondering what the hell else they lied about to get my attention, but as far as random internet photos goes, who cares?

    Or perhaps it’s just a case of people like to be angry/indignant on the Internet? Some sort of corollary to John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory?

    • Ophelie Says:

      If someone lies to get my attention or to get into my pants, obviously it is annoying. It’s annoying because they’re toying with me, and less because of what they’re lying about.

      Do “fake gamer girls” make “real gamer girls” not taken seriously?

      For that we’d really have to define “fake gamer girls”. Unless you actually play with someone, it’s hard to tell if they do have a gaming history.

      We can take the Frag Dolls, the contestants of the Maxim Gamer Girl contest and a couple of the prettier Youtubers. They’re overly commercialized and sexualized in an unnatural way. But can you be overly commercialized and hypersexual and still like to play games?

      And, are we really so stupid that we base all our impressions of people based on what we see in the media?

  6. Xsinthis Says:

    Excellent post, I love reading these “off-topics”

    I think one of the things going on here is nerds, stereotypical nerds if that makes any sense, are reacting to a changing culture where shows like TBBT are starting to make being a nerd cool (lots of other influences, but I’ll pick on TBBT since you did too). Basically they’re trying to cling on to their identity and force their views of nerds onto society. Nerds don’t have to be overweight basement dwellers, they don’t have to be socially awkward, or weird, and society is starting to see that.

    I’ll admit though I do have trouble sometimes with people calling themselves nerds. A girl I know once said “OMG I’m like, such a nerd, I found that math joke like so funny” (I’m not exaggerating unfortunately), I swear I must’ve rolled my eyes so hard I should’ve been able to see my brain (yes, that one was a hyperbole). If you knew this girl you probably would’ve had an adverse reaction too. I’m probably just proving your point here aren’t I? *sigh* lol

    As a side note…

    “And if you want to be proud of your body, stop eating garbage and start moving. Then you too can wear a skimpy costume that makes people smile.”

    I’ve actually been working on this, been watching what I eat, walking my dog every day (nice brisk, long walks), and have started working out a bit. It’s amazing how good you can feel with some work (I was never exactly fat, but I was never fit either).

    • Ophelie Says:

      The problem I have with TBBT is that it started out great, but the characters became stereotypical very fast. And Leonard, who’s supposed to be the main protagonist, is often a total asshole and his relationship with Penny, supposed to be central to the show, is depicted as based on how him liking that she’s hot and her liking his smarts and how he treats her less badly than other guys. Raj has good moments, but they’re quickly suppressed by a following scene depicting him as a pig. It’s frustrating, these characters have potential but they’re reduced to typical 2-dimensional sex obsessed idiots. (On the plus side, I do find Sheldon’s character has a lot of depth – maybe in part thanks to Jim Parson’s amazing talent, I like that Howard is growing up and I surprisingly like how the female characters are portrayed – though it is disappointing that not one of them is into geeky stuff. I also really like Sheldon and Amy’s relationship. It’s quite possibly the only sitcom romance I can relate to all.)

      I think in the nerd situation, what the girl meant is “I am a nerd at this moment” and not “I am always a nerd”. But maybe, like you said, if I knew her, I might have a different opinion ^_^

      I’m a little harsh in the “stop eating garbage” line. I put that there so the end would flow with the biting tone I wanted for that section. (But as someone who does eat well and likes to move a lot, and who works in the front lines of health care, I am often disgusted when I hear about how some of my fellow gamers eat!)

  7. […] of today’s post: authenticity.  As I’m sure you’re already well aware, both Ophelie and Rohan recently posted on these topics, both of then writing interesting responses to the […]

  8. […] just read the Bossy Pally’s post called “I Had No Idea this Required a License” where she talks about this whole fake gamer (girl) concept that has been a topic of discussion for a […]

  9. Imakulata Says:

    Is this the post you referred to: http://geekout.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/24/booth-babes-need-not-apply/ ? I also read John Scalzi’s response to the previous post (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/26/who-gets-to-be-a-geek-anyone-who-wants-to-be/) I have to admit his post might be a bit redundant if I consider what you wrote but is well written and interesting. (Even though your post is, too.)

    I’m hoping this comment gets through the spam filter, unfortunately I’m not as eloquent as John Scalzi or you and I feel there is nothing I can add to what he and you said.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I think that was the post! I didn’t seek it out for linkage since I wanted to go with my memory of the post and not worry about having to be super accurate when critiquing the main idea.

      The thought I carried home after reading the post the first time was that he was criticizing the oversexualization of women in conventions. While I’m tired of sex everywhere too, I have two problems with that:

      1- If you’re going to ban sexy costume, you might as well ban showing off fancy cameras, fancy phones and fancy cars since they’re also signs of attention seeking behaviour.
      2- While sex is used as a cheap, easy way to attract attention or to sell products, it would stop working if people stopped buying into it.

      • Imakulata Says:

        I agree with your second point – it’s certainly not booth babes who pay to companies to compensate for their loss of sales caused by associating their product with sexy women. It certainly seems odd to me to exclusively blame them for it.

  10. AliPally Says:

    So let me get this right, fake gamers are women who pretend to be gamers when in reality they don’t really play games?

    I can understand that in a way, because I know men who have this fantasy about dating a girl who also turns out to be good at playing ‘their games’. So by pretending to be a gamer it will increase your popularity with men in general, right?

    On the other hand, this also fulfills a stereotypical male belief that women cannot do ‘guy stuff’; women should not talk about or play sports because everyone knows they are no good at it compared to men. Women shouldn’t play computer games that men like because everyone knows only men can be good at them. Calling out women like this is a way of ‘proving’ we are all fake gamers in reality.

    • Ophelie Says:

      There’s a few more dynamics at play too, if you consider “pretending to game as a way to increase popularity with men”

      1- The belief that popularity with gaming men is something worth acquiring – while I find gaming very sexy, I don’t think my non-gaming girlfriends share that taste since they constantly complain about their men and their gaming.
      2- Or the belief that gamers are an easy audience, and if one fails at attracting attention elsewhere, they throw some bait out to the geeky crowd who will chomp it down. Belief that is insulting to everyone involved, but I won’t deny that attention-seeking behaviour happens in gamer circles (whether this behaviour is produced by real gamers or “fake” gamers, I can’t say). However, if idiots stopped reinforcing attention-seeking behaviour, it would stop happening!

  11. Calidyn Says:

    Hey, interesting post!

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this (ever since I discovered the fake geek girl meme). I think part of it comes down to the fact that we quite like to label ourselves (and everything else, really; humans, we sure like our categories and labels…), as a way of constructing or defining our identity. So I can go around saying ‘I’m a gamer’, or ‘I’m a science nerd’ and be reassured that I know something about myself; and something that can be conveyed easily to other people, at that.

    Problem is, some of these labels we like to use are a bit ambiguous. There is no magical check list of twenty games you have to have played to consider yourself a gamer (as you touched on in your gamer identity posts, I think); and you’re always going to meet that person who is more skilled at gaming, or who has played more games than you.

    So how can we be sure that we are who we think we are? How do we prove to the world and to ourselves that we have earned that ‘gamer’ tag that we tack after our name?

    We mock people who we deem have definitely not earned that tag, of course. We point out that we are nothing like -that- fake gamer over there, who has never heard of a BioWare game before. (Or alternatively, who only ever plays WoW and BioWare games – kind of like me, heh). And by denying them that aspect of their identity, we show that we’re fundamentally different, and reinforce it in ourselves.

    So, yeah…


    • Ophelie Says:


      Labels are indeed complex things. We use them to relate to others and to also differentiate ourselves. And I guess we sort of use them on others as a form of social control as well.

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