Heads up, this content is 15 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

wiiI’ve always traveled in gamer circles and never been a gamer. I don’t what it is about them, but I love the gamer types — they’re passionate, geeky, focused, funny, creative…. something. Or maybe it’s just that everyone in the world is a gamer except me, and that’s why I always feel surrounded. Regardless, for the last 15 years or so, I’ve always taken the emergence of a video game console or colorful set of 20-sided dice as my cue to leave a party and call it a night.

So I was rather surprised at myself when I bought a Nintendo Wii in January. Maybe it was my rebellion against feeling socially excluded for so long — this Wii is mine, all mine. Or maybe I just thought it would fit me.

I ditched Wii Sports immediately (I hate sports), bought a Wii Fit (which is a nice way to get myself to move when I don’t want to leave my house), picked up House of the Dead and some gun accessories for zombie-killing date nights (way more romantic than you might imagine), and splurged on Super Paper Mario Bros (which I love).

Here’s what my Wii has taught me so far…

#1) I get really excited when I can figure out a strategy on my own. I don’t want to be told how to do things — I want to be given information to work with and make my own decisions. Even if I’m going to come to the same conclusions everyone else did and, really, we could have just saved me an hour just by spelling it out up front… I won’t love it unless I came up with it myself.

#2) I pay attention to feedback when it can help me refine my strategies. Otherwise, I ignore it. Points, music, flashing colors, info bars, whatever… if I recognize that it can help me do something better, it’s on my radar. If I don’t, it may as well not exist.

#3) I want to be able to test and refine my strategies immediately, as soon as I come up with them. A game is addictive to me when there is minimal barrier between “Oh, I think I know what I should have done differently,” and trying that out.

#4) I like kid stuff. I don’t care how much I grow up, I think I’m always going to like something that’s simple, colorful, and pleasantly engaging… as long as I can connect with it without messing with my social reputation too much.  And Wii is cool, so I’m okay.

#5) With my lifestyle, I’m probably going to get RSI. My Wii arm gently informed my mousing arm of this fact. And the RSI is probably going to be because of my mousing arm, not my Wii arm.  And I should probably do something about that likelihood sooner rather than later.  Argh.

Okay, so that last one was a downer. But the rest were really intriguing to me, and I want to apply them to web development and community management somehow.

What patterns have you noticed about your brain in gaming?

Heads up, this content is 15 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

I have a friend who’s bigger than me. He’s in his fifties and has big arms, big legs, and a convex belly that’s soft to curl up against.  It’s Sunday today, so he’ll probably be running 12 miles this afternoon — he’s training for the Alcatraz Triathlon. This would probably concern me (they built that prison on that island so people would DIE if they tried to escape and swim away!!), except that he’s already done it twice.

I have another friend who’s petite, thin, and beautiful. Her arms, legs, and belly are small and firm, and they look like they came straight off an airbrushed magazine cover.   She’s in her thirties, and she will probably be thin and gorgeous her entire life.  She never ever exercises, and she eats whatever she wants.

The idea that body size and body fitness are separate things is a fairly new concept for me.  I grew up thinking that big meant bad (lazy, unhealthy, ugly) and small meant good (active, healthy, beautiful). Unfortunately, at 5’10” with a large bone structure, it didn’t really matter how much I exercised, I was always going to be big.

My mother and I spent a long time being at odds with each other on this subject (we’re now on neutral, mutually-respectful territory, and I should mention she’ll probably read this post — hi Mom!).  She, too, was conditioned by experiences and culture to equate big with bad and small with good,  and she passed some of that on to me.  More than that, though, she believed that exercising makes you happier (it does), and hoped to heal some of my adolescent depression by encouraging me to go to the gym.  Her intentions were in the right place, but when paired with the “big = bad” philosophy, this encouragement just poked more holes in my self-esteem. She was saying, “I want you to love yourself more,” and I heard, “You’re not good enough the way you are.”

I probably don’t have to explain how any attempt to express, “You should go to a gym,” can easily come out wrong.  But it’s worth mentioning that even her attempts at positive reinforcement were thwarted by the screwed up body image culture.  I heard any compliment about my body (“You’ve gotten skinnier!”) as “What you weigh is very important to me.” This further reinforced the big = bad, small = good problem, and reminded me that I’ll always be big. You can’t win at a game with broken rules.

Moving to San Francisco and meeting phenomenal people like Debbie Notkin and Laurie Toby Edison (who put out a beautiful book of artsy nude photos of fat women called Women En Large, and who also write the body image activist blog, Body Impolitic) changed a lot for me. They explained to me that our cultural aversion to large bodies is severely disproportionate to our interest in being healthy, and that a lot of the time the two are completely unrelated.  Debbie and Laurie’s work also helped me unlock another part of my brain that had been shamed into hibernation: I find confident, curvy women hot! Even further?  Big men are hot, too.

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Heads up, this content is 15 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

When I started Genderfork a year and a half ago, I made a deal with myself: I would only attempt to keep it alive if I could keep maintenance work down to an hour or two, once or twice a month.  Even that would be a lot for me, but I figured I could commit to it for a few months and see what happened.

WordPress has a nifty little feature that lets you determine in advance the date and time a blog post should go live.  Flickr has a nifty little feature that lets you blog photos directly from a photographer’s photostream to a WordPress blog (as long as that photographer has given strangers permission to blog their photos).  Some other brilliant creature in the world wrote a script that turns Flickr-to-Wordpress blog posts into drafts instead of live posts.  Between the three of these free gifts from the web, I was able to set up a photo-a-day website where I had legal permission to blog other people’s photos and could maintain it with, literally, 2-4 hours a month of work.  I could ignore the entire project for weeks on end, even though it was still blogging daily.

When I put it that way, it sounds a bit like I didn’t love the project, but the opposite is true.  This was the only possible way the project could have survived.  If it had required more than that from me, it would have gone the way of all my other unrequited time-consuming projects and ended up in a large long tupperware container under my bed.  I’ve learned that once something goes into that bin of lost loves, it never comes out.

The other day, as I was waddling back through San Francisco still carrying luggage from my impulsive trip to Portland, I ended up on a street car next to Emchy, the founder of Queer Open Mic.  I excitedly told her that just this week, I had enlisted some more organizing help for the event, and now the project was much more self-sustaining.  I buzzed about how our new venue, Modern Times Bookstore, has a widely-read email list and calendar, and that they’ve been doing most of our marketing for us without any effort on our part, and packing the show every time.

Still bouncing, I went on to tell her that Genderfork is now run by a team of ten volunteers, and that the team manages the blog content themselves.  All I need to do is some really high-level editing that only takes a few hours a month — I’m back to my original time commitment, only now the website now has four times as much content and an audience of thousands!  

She smiled and said, “You’re good at that.  Making things big and awesome.”

I chuckled.  “No, I’m good at making things that can live without me.  Whenever something needs me, it dies.”