THE “GIRL” GAMER: ON THE OTHER SIDE

Gaming Opinions Slider
Names, locations, and affiliations have been changed to keep it civil with those involved. All recaps are personal opinions of the author of this article. Any conversations are direct re-counts from documented interactions. Events occurred over a 15 day period including prep to last login. This experience is 100% authentic.
Skype Convo ​
[8/10/2013 10:39:14 PM] John Doe: “sarah” was like a seed​
[8/10/2013 10:39:21 PM] John Doe: planted​
[8/10/2013 10:39:29 PM] John Doe: and everything grew around it, a lot by itself​
Chapter 1​
It was exactly what you think it is. You never want, you never need. You are never alone. But you are also the last person talked to in a really bad game of Telephone about you. You are the center of drama even when you are sleeping. You are put into positions of leadership without any of the responsibility. You can speak your mind to the point of insults without repercussion. You get quadruple the amount of chances. You get hit on once an hour. You are expected to respond immediately to everything, even if it has little to do with the game. You are required to prove yourself. You are held to a ridiculously high and low standard all at once. You are the center of adornment and despise. It is tiring. It is sexist. It is intriguing. It is all true.​
But we will get into that, first…​

Let me give you a little history about me.

My name is Tristan and I am a Gamer.

I have 5 sisters, so acting girly is nothing new in my world. Shit I have been called gay so many times in my life I consider it a damn compliment.

The first MMO I ever played was Ultima Online.

When I was 14, I remember seeing a girl character in game and immediately I thought it was a girl. What did I know? I was 14 and this was the first ONLINE game, ever. I thought to myself, “I designed my character to be an alternate reality version of me, so everyone else must too. Sir Tristan! Knight of Sosaria!”

Over the years I had “intimate talks” with random strangers on the web. Back when I started playing MMO’s there was really no way to prove who you were. It took as long to send a 12 pixel image of yourself as it does to download a 3 gig file now, our personalities were saved in boxes under our bed, not “Droboxes in the cloud”.

We mostly took each other on word of mouth or a land-line call, if it got to that.

The interesting thing is majority of GIRL characters back then were actually girls. Most guys played guy avatars. Girl characters were very far and few in-between. Guys playing girl avatars was something that took bigger shape around the time EverQuest came out.

I did notice one thing, there is the common conception that girls get treated so much differently in MMO’s. This experiment was to see what that experience was all about and if it really exists. But can “Girl Gamers” exist in the world of Social Networking? A place where all our information is literally a link, Snapchat, Skype videochat, text away?

Ultima Online was the perfect platform for this kind of experiment. This was the game I grew up with and most people who still play are nostalgic for what games today have still failed to accomplish; a game where you can be anyone, anything, anywhere, at anytime, while maintaining the lost art of “suspension of disbelief”. Many of the players are the same age as me, meaning we have a lot of the same interests. If I were to attempt this in the pop culture enriched World of Warcraft, I would probably last 2 seconds with the people there because I do not know how the communities have evolved with communications and interactions. UO is also the one game where, when seeing a girl avatar, your brain associates that person with a girl subconsciously.

So here we go.

Disclaimer:
This I cannot stress enough: I DO NOT CONDONE CATFISHING, I have never watched catfishing show, and only heard of it through social media. I think it is fucked up. All people I had come into contact with who gave me handouts in game during this experiment were repaid as soon as possible. This was also part of the “character” developed for Sarah, my in game avatar. A self sufficient female character. All items were given to me were repaid after I had enough equity to begin playing the market. The ideas was to see how a self sufficient female character would be treated, instead of playing the “puppy dog eyes”. I wanted a “Female Gamer” experience, not that of a mooch. I also wanted to see how men reacted when a female player playing less time than them, surpassed their general income(I am very good at the market game in UO) and could essentially “beat them up” in a virtual world, while still being cute and wearing pink.

I am getting ahead of myself here… so let’s get started.

The Prep

First I had to find a friend who was willing to let me use their photos that are not searchable via google image back search to make an avatar, skype, AIM, and email with the name I chose. I even made sure that if it came down to it they would be willing to write my user name Sarah on an index card and shoot a self shot in a mirror, but I kept this is my back pocket because this had the potential to make it look as if I was fishing for attention. I made sure the person I used a picture of was pretty, but unique or with small “flaws”(glasses, scar, slightly overweight) here and there, this makes them more “real” to those who are looking, but ultimately I just made sure they fit the construct of “Would I date them”). (By the way this is a stupid construct of society, considering I know plenty of really good looking girl gamers, but obviously in a male dominated playground, there must be “something wrong” with a girl gamer.) Regardless for this to go without a hitch I had to make sure to cover all bases.

These days I was not going to sell it on text alone. There are too many voice programs out there and accessibility to cameras. I could dodge the camera thing(call them creepers or act shy, this denial actually intrigues men), but the voice was impossible. I had to find a voice modulator and find the balance for my own voice. It didn’t even have to be that good(I blamed it on a shitty USB headset), but I had to remember to keep my voice at the same pitch. If I get really exited or start screaming, I naturally get higher pitched… problem is a voice program cannot compensate for higher frequencies and I sound like Alvin from the chipmunks. It was very counter intuitive to get lower in timbre when excited let me tell you. As well I had to MAKE SURE to keep my headphones on and not to have background noise, like a TV or something playing. EVERYTHING my mic picked up got processed. So if someone else talked on voice chat and it fed back into my mic… they would have sounded like a girl.

Well now I had all contact info, photos(because THEY ALL ASK), my “voice” to prove it on a ventrillo, teamspeak, or mumble server, and I had a way to be contacted out of game(because this was going to be the #1 way EVERY guy wanted to talk to me).

Having a check list every day was key. Forgetting any of the key technical parts of the setup would have been a disaster.

Time to setup…

My Story

This is the most important part of everything here. I often use movies as examples, because they are not too far off, and use “versions” of real life situations to draw upon. So being “undercover”, the most believable story is the one I believe. When asked personal questions, I used my own life so not to get called out for inconsistencies later on. This made things a bit more personal of course, but as long as I had my “character” in my head and an end goal I could keep it semi detached. There were many times when I just wanted to tell everyone who I was because I started to feel bad. Nay, some people, who treated me fairly regardless of my sex. Which ironically always came down to age/geographic location(I will get into much more detail later on). Of course there are certain things you should NOT being telling people about yourself, but then again, you are not me and going to publish the entire experience afterwards, publicly, with your name attached to it.

Gamers like other gamers, but being a gamer creates certain stigmas. Gamers like to toss the derogatory versions of homosexual out a lot, but in reality, a gay gamer is probably the “happiest” gamer of all, because there is a bigger pool to pick from. So I had to remember, do NOT try to BE a girl. Be you. Be loud, be passionate, but DO NOT use words that most gamers toss around without a care in the world: Gay, fag, etc. If you talked like more of a pirate than them, I lost their interest or ended up being pigeon holed into one group. Talking at their level and playing the game well or even “semi well” I grabbed their attention just by being myself. (there is a great example of that later where a girl I ran across spoke worse than 90% of guys I know and it didn’t go well for her.) You can also see my stance on this mentality in the article: The “Gay”mer.

Ultimately the goal here was to be myself 100% but as a “girl” gamer. Intense, passionate, loud, competitive, and opinionated. I wanted to see how fast it would take me to get from 0 to being able to self sustain. I didn’t want to “date” anyone, but I wanted to play with a group of like minded individuals only difference is I had “virtual tits”. I ended up getting much more.

Baby Steps

The basic idea here is to see if starting at 0 as a girl is different than 0 as a guy.

My approach to grab their attention was not to go out there and yell and scream, OMG I AM A GIRL LOVE ME. It was to put out subtle hints. So I went to the forums of the server I wanted to play on and posted an introduction:

[​IMG]

So here you can see where I dropped the subtle hints without asking for stuff.

I was playing into the assumptions each gender has toward each other online and so you will see stereotypes at any given point. This is something I would do, but as a “girl” it gave me much more power to point out or use these stereotypes to my advantage. Ultimately there really is no difference in those that want to play a game, but guys don’t know that.

FIRST AND FOREMOST, an avatar of “Sarah” that isn’t easy to see. Second within the first line my name drop, Sarah. (looking back I realized spelled it wrong haha, surprised this didn’t mess me up.) Next I talked about “The Ex” instead of boyfriend. I let the situation tell the story and imply I am single, rather than just saying it. I mentioned a popular game “WoW” or other mainstream references of games that are “acceptable” by guys in the gaming world. (Yes guys actually judge if you are a girl by what game you play or like) I show I am not that old by saying I had just moved back in with my Mom and that I was self sufficient but currently in need of a little help due to no job. Then I said I was pointed to UO by friends, so I didn’t look too geeky. Maybe it was girl friend, maybe guy friends, most will assume guys, but it didn’t matter as long as it wasn’t my idea.

Next I added in the small “girly” accents. Anywho”oooooo”.

What are girly accents?

=)
lolol
hehe(guys say haha)
Hiya!
Heyyyy! (Adding extra letters to anything reallllly.)
>.< japanese emotes
Acronyms: fuck my life, LMK, ETC

I had to be assertive, the more I was assertive instead of trying to pussy foot around being a girl and being cutsie, the more it was believable. Most guys actually did the cutsie shit for me. I just needed to listen to it and react when they tossed it out. I.E “You are a cutie” to which I could say “Awwww Thanks hun! =) =) =)” You wil see below in some of the conversation examples that most guys really did change the way they talked and took care of the “girlie” talk for me. It is because they were talking to a “girl”. This still blows my mind(haha).

Prove Yourself
Several days later I cemented my identity with the following conversation with John Doe 2.

 

Extra info on The Prep (close)

Even though I seem to know the game I portrayed that I was still getting my ass handed to me, losing items to thieves and dying, but making a joke out of it, being a good sport. The simple change here was not raging like a 14 year old child made me seem like a girl. I know that sounds stupid, but it isn’t the norm for a guy to joke about what others take as serious business. I now have a hook in. They saw I am trying to play the game, but I am also not “that good” so they could come in and “rescue”.

I threw in a couple more comments that reinforce I am a girl but can kick it with the guys(joking about the “perv”). I talked about the “Old Days” in the game and BAM, I now had street cred.

I then tossed the reel and went fishing, throwing in as much information as I could to see if I could pull the “I am a girl, give me free shit” card. I talked about housing, not having one, effort put into finding one, but masking it with other topics and my love for decorating, which was a truth(remember I stick to stories I can backup, I love it). :)

Now just to drive home being a “noob”, I talked about my spell book which was not complete and shitty weapons as being awesome(the tell tale signs of a new player). All of this laid the ground work for someone to say “here take this amazing item” to replace what I “thought” was good.

The last nail in the coffin: I posted my contact info I made prior. I signed the post with my “name” again.

I then sat back and let the playerbase do all the work.

[​IMG]

What happens now?

I had always speculated what might happen or how guys might react to girls who played games, but nothing could have prepared me for the influx of messages I received.

On commentor on the post above nailed it on the head:

[​IMG]

The thread above was getting more replies than most others on the “Looking for Guild” forum page, all in a matter of hours.

I started getting offers to be in every major guild on the server within minutes. Some were extremely nice and accommodating, even offering me starting equity to get on my feet. Then the downside of “being a girl” flooded in.

To which I had to roll with or be eaten alive:

[​IMG]

Being a guy it was really exciting to see all the tells and messages coming in. This was so much different than what we I was used to, it was also quite overwhelming. I could see why a girl might not even want to be a girl in the gaming world. It draws unwanted attention.

This is how I met the first John Doe.

John Doe #1

I did not know this at the time but there is a personality I will call the Bait and un-aware Switch. This is the person who is extremely nice to you, because they “think you are a girl”. They show you the ropes with the hope it is true, but secretly they probe at you with dropped hints here or there to get “more info”. They help you up to the point where they can consider what they have given you an acceptable loss regardless of outcome and then BAM the switch. You are immediately thrown into the deep end of the “has tits, must own” ideology.

I call it the “un-aware” switch, because this person is NOT READY for interaction on any level with someone of the opposite sex, but they have tricked themselves into helping you up until the point where they need tagible proof of “existence”.

John Doe just wanted to “date me in game” and right at the threshold of “belief” he asked for a picture of me in real life. He gave me enough money and equipment to get on my feet(around 15k for those who play the game) at this point. So, I sent him one on my AIM.

The Flood Gates Broke:
John Doe came back into game and began, non stop, saying, “I am not worthy”, “OMG you are soo beautiful!”, “Why are you talking to me!?!?”, the lack of self esteem was creepy.

We went from exploring and enjoying the game to a non stop barrage about me, my looks, my personal life, sex, the constant inquiry for another photo, and everything else I was NOT in a video game to talk about.

For any situation, I would suspect this would be a turnoff to a girl, but alas he kept going. This is where the gaming culture kicks in and some people truly do play video games because their self esteem in real life is not as high as they would like it, and either they use it as a buffer to prepare them, or a crutch. All of which bleeds over to the game. Even though they can embody the avatar of a hero slaying dragons and accomplish Epic achievements, they still get nervous around the opposite sex.

This guy, without asking anything else, gave me full access to his house, bought me a house deed(which was stolen from me), then ANOTHER one to replace that one(not chump change for those who understand economics and the housing market in this game). I had done nothing but the “girl” emotes and sent one inconspicuous photo. I NEVER said anything about dating, g/f, b/f, or real life. I was talking about the GAME the entire time.

Examples of our conversations

—-At this point I was given full access to everything he had, WITHOUT asking for it, and then he logged out letting me have free reign—-

—Conversations that he had with himself, the less I talked the worse it got—-

—-Him asking me for a picture with his name in it, that I ignored—–

This was the first interaction and it was getting really creepy actually. He found my burner Facebook and all sorts of other information on other “Sarahs”. This wasn’t the problem, as it was expected and planned for. But now he kept stopping what we were doing in game to tell me how I was so perfect. He apparently had 2 children and an EX according to his story, which could have been as bullshit as mine, but in that situation and trying to get into a “virtual girls pants” was just too much for me. It was literally IMPOSSIBLE to PLAY the game with this guy. We could be killing a monster and mid kill he would say something like,

“You are soo damn hot.. why do you talk to me”

If I stuck it out with this guy, I would have never actually gotten better in the game, but maintained the role as a subservient of his, with tons of free shit, but nothing to call my own.

The sad part for me, as a guy playing a girl character, was the feeling of complete and total control over another human being. I mean sure I have manipulated my self in and out of plenty of situations before, but this was a new level. This was literally a power handed to me because of the “sex” my avatar was. Women… seriously… you have a lot of power, don’t abuse it. Sure same goes for men, but it is all subjective, and in this situation I was just in awe at how the power dynamic shifted. I noticed the dynamic in reference to my own personal conversations I have had on dating sites and in person with other women. I noticed when it became “too much” and I saw “why”. I also saw why my approach to being 100% myself and open in relationships would freak out woman, it is because of people like John Doe, who literally change everything they are, stop everything they are doing, and do a 180 of their personality to “talk to you”. A non stop barrage of compliments, lovey dovey shit, and a complete lack of conversation about what is right in front of them. The social networking era of “Marveling at a photo of the person and event from 2 hours ago” instead of the person and what you are enjoying right that very second. The classic whispery voice over the telephone, “Hi baby, are you ok… *kiss kiss kiss*”, hanging up turning to your co-workers, and farting loudly.

So not to completely ruin this guys game, I decided to just cut the ties and re-roll another character.

There was really no way to return the items to him since they were all placed and I had no liquid assets at the time. So that basically got me on my feet to start really getting involved in a guild. (If you are reading this John Doe, feel free to PM me and I will be happy to pay you in game for the house(s) you gave me.)

Passing disclaimer:
I am a very open person, before you go looking for information about me or incriminating photos, understand all of that stuff is public domain already, feel free to ask for me in a pink wig, or wrapped in a bow, or half naked showing progression pictures of a workout. Shit I will even add you to Facebook to talk to my Mom if you like. I did not go into something like this not understanding there are repercussions. I would like to thank EVERYONE who was involved but I will get into that more later so not to spoil anything.

Chapter 2

Don’t worry you can’t just pretend to be a girl and go to the lengths you will read here, however as my first encounter revealed you can get a ton of free shit just by having a photo and girl’s name.

The frustrating part is I was hoping this experience and subsequent article would help to allow girls less subjugation when entering a video game because my experience would reveal nothing. If anything it was supposed to be an eye opener to how different and difficult the world of gaming for a female player was and the people they encounter. Unfortunately it only made me want to double check more, for assholes like me.

The Pedestal

The gaming culture is riddled with dicks ready to do all the thinking. When you toss in a manipulative vagina… It is the opposite of the “social acceptable work force” and power shifts unintentionally from those who are barely grasping onto it in these virtual worlds, causing what can be detrimental to any community, if the leadership is not strong.

There were many times during this I just wanted to yell and scream at the officers of my eventual guild to tell them the insight I was getting as this virtual female avatar. I was becoming the unintentional sounding board for every voice in the guild. But I was, as a female, allowed to listen and not talk, more often than not. I mean I could scream louder than any other member and say the truth bluntly and in the face of anyone at anytime, however my voice wasn’t actually being heard. I was heard loud and clear if I had a photo to share, had something cute to say, needed help, but if I expressed logic about inconsistencies in leadership or how things were handled and did not have a male alibi to back me up, if fell onto deaf ears. Like the kitten who bites you when pissed but because it is a cute kitten, I was destined to never be a full grown cat in this stagnant world of gaming. I was told later that officers were telling other members of the guild to “Not go into the same mumble channel as me”, because I had created one called “Sarah’s Oasis”, thus “putting myself into an even more secured position of power”, yet never approached directly about it by any leadership. Rather I was turned into the martyr without ever knowing it. This was a constant approach to me as a female, go around her, talk about her, fight for her, but never talk to her. I will go into the blow ups that happened while I was asleep later on, but the less I said, the more I was the center of the conversation.

There were many times when I just wanted to tell everyone who I was because I started to feel bad. Nay, some people, who treated me fairly regardless of my sex. Ironically this always came down to geographic location(I will get into much more detail later on). The deeper I got the more friendships started forming and I knew I was telling them who I was, sans the “girl” part. On the same hand I know, as a guy, I would have never gotten this close or friendly without that attached “female avatar”, in such a short period of time. It was a catch 22.

The Importance of an Offline Presence:

I kept active on the forums. Without it I was just a random “girl”. But with a presence and show of activity, people literally began to associate the avatar and name into something bigger than it was. I wasn’t even posting randomly, I was posting in the trading forum about game related topics. Regardless, I was getting the attention of a player who had been around for months, not days. People would stop me while I was playing “just to chat”. Some would say

I was never approached with, let’s play something. It was always an intro to getting to know me outside of the game. But these encounters were usually short lived. The minute I expressed my yearn to go PLAY the game, was the minute the guy(s) lost interest. My name was far exceeding my activity and actual importance. Well it was time to leverage this and get past the random encounters by finding a legit guild.

The second try at a Guild versus a boyfriend:

I went back to my over-saturated private messages on the forums. Most private messages were extremely kind and in no way sexist. It was only on public forum posts where the “trolls” would come out with their one liners.(check out the section about “being a guy, being a girl” later on)

One message stood out amongst the others. They mentioned the small things in my original post about my Ex, how we broke, his addiction to WoW, moving back in with my parents, etc. I knew they were paying attention and would have empathy for me being a girl over a guy recruit. They said NOTHING about guild recruitment but about helping me play the game, instead of adding a vagina to their ranks. Promise!

I messaged them back and immediately was asked to meet up. This person was extremely nice, treating me as I should have been treated; a new player in need of guidance. We will call him John Doe 2. John Doe 2 helped me out with some money to get beginner armor, weapons, and showed me around the towns, teaching me the basics of the game. This person was also in a position to help new players, so I figured I would just play with them until it eventually played its course, I was asked for a photo, and then go back to looking for a guild. All of this sounds normal for someone who is supposed to help new players, right? This is where being a “girl” changed things.

The Unexpected Guild Invite

I was asked to get on the server’s mumble voice chat while I was in the newbie dungeon leveling my character and before I was invited to the guild. I knew this was a test. I logged in and made sure to say very little so the voice modulator wouldn’t give me away and I would seem shy(something very difficult for such a vocal person such as myself). BAM, the minute I was CONFIRMED as a girl, I get the message that changed it all:

“Usually I give new players 10k and let them go on their way, but.. do you need a guild?”

I was immediately invited to their guild and instead of leaving me to my own, John Doe 2 stayed with me while I was leveling in the really boring newbie dungeon. He stayed and chatted with me for the whole time. Not on mumble, there were other people in the channel, in the game, so it was a one on one.

I sat in that newbie dungeon for around 5 hours leveling and in that time, I was visited by at least 3 other members of the guild who had seen me say “Hiya” in guild chat.

Mind you this is still only day 3 or 4 of my gaming experience, so my character literally has nothing. I could not sustain by myself. I would have had to farm dungeons for at least 2 weeks straight to get to where i got in the next few hours.

Never alone

This all might sound really weird to a non male gamer, but ask any around, no guy gamer always has someone to play with. 99.9% of the time you will get a definitie NO to this kind of personalization between players. As a “girl” never ONCE had I been alone in my leveling experience in the game. Not once had I been without gear, resources, or help. While I was leveling if I died, I always had backup, if I was looted, I immediately got reimbursed by a guildie. I literally was playing a different version of Ultima Online, the game where losing your gear to a random player or monster is supposed to have an impact as a new player and even some veteran players was completely lost on “Sarah”. Thus I was only gaining. Without loss, my equity rose. I watched other GUYS in the guild die and they got none of this treatment. It was crazy. I didn’t even ask. I just had to say something like, “Well that sucks, there goes all my lootsss = ( “. Bam full equipment pack.

Socially, even if I wasn’t playing and just in mumble or voice chat, I always had someone to talk to. I did nothing to make this happen, I just had a girls name and “voice”.

Confirmation of my sex only bolstered this.

Now the inevitable private messages started flying for me to send pictures. It was a flood gate. Some people less inconspicuous than others. It was like the forums, either the comments were respectful to the point of “act different with a cutsie whispery voice because it is a girl” or “extreme shock value” comments, from what seemed like a lack of social comfort. Throwing a girl into a “guys world” also seemed to upset some. We will get there.

The minute you are confirmed as a girl, join a guild, and word spreads, you are backed up from that point on. Which might sound awesome, but it turns out to be quite different. The effect it has on your play experience, those around you, and overall perception of your avatar will never be the same from this point on.

I just want to play

This is where it gets really difficult to PLAY the game. Now that I was in a guild and associated with 100’s of other players via guild title, my name spread like wildfire.

“Sarah” was now real.

But real in the sense of, “Omg a GIRL is playing”.

I had multiple members add me to AIM and constantly join the mumble channel I was in. Even though I always had the ability to get a group to play with me, majority of people wanted to talk to me about things that had nothing to do with the game. Some thought they were being sly by talking about a mixture of game related topics and personal questions to get me to give out more personal info. Here are some AIM conversations:

—By this point I was setup with a house, constantly gathered new items to sell because of never “losing” anything, and had a vendor spot for free at the guild house.—

——At this point I was handed one of the Ethy Mounts(I mentioned above) in the game, which cost normally 100k+. I currently had more than enough to afford one myself, but I was still building my equity. As I said before the best way to get free stuff was for me to not ask for it. I literally could just mention something I liked in passing and I, Sarah, was almost guaranteed it within the hour or when they could afford it. As a guy I sort of understand this mentality. I want to buy everything for those I am dating and in a video game where money has no impact on your real life, hand outs are much easier to part with. Problem was I was an idea of a “girlfriend” to way too many people at once.—-

 

While I will say playing with so many people was fun as hell, especially because as my character got better, my skills as, “Tristan veteran player of UO since 1997” came out, so I was able to join the better players hunting, proving my “worth” as a player, not just a slew of emoticons. Problem was, the unspoken guild requirements to maintain such a lifestyle began to get tougher. And the true “expectations” of a girl player started to show.

Expectations and Jealousy

I was surrounded by different people to play with, which in all honesty is FUN and liberating. This makes the game awesome. The problem is if I was not giving the proper OUT OF GAME attention to those who were fronting my spending sprees, I never directly asked for, I started to get Instant Messages that look like this:

Watch the time codes on all of these. (I was in game not paying attention to AIM)

These mini conversations while I was actually playing the game were a norm for me to come back to after playing the game exclusively. Some would go on to themselves for an hour or more. Being a video game, that “do not call for 3 days” stigma of conversation is tossed out the window, and I was considered to be ignoring someone if I was in game and NOT talking to them on a messenger outside the game at the same time.

Then the jealously of other players kicks in. Other players would have to be blind to NOT see that my “week old” character is riding around in the brand new Porsche of the game or decorating a multi floor house. Where is the money coming from? It can’t be that they can actually make money(which I did, but hadn’t spend a dime of yet), someone has to be giving them it. Yes I was being given free shit, what others didn’t see is I was paying everyone back for these items within a day or less. I was actually losing money from the multitude of gifts I wouldn’t have normally bought myself. Regardless, I am extremely good at the economy in this game and I was using the assets I was being given to pawn a hefty profit. I would eventually buy back what they had given me so not to raise suspicions that I had gotten rid of their gifts, but that starting capital launched my trading ability. I had over 2 million in game within 2 days of receiving my first few gifts. This was the side of Sarah’s gameplay I kept to myself. Did people think “the girl” could be making her own way. Never. It had to be a gift. Even when I had a vendor at the guild house, people constantly questioned my “prices”. Workplace sexism 101.

The jealousy didn’t just have to do with items it crossed over to the intangible idea of “time”. If I played with one person more than another or didn’t play as much with the person who might have given me some armor or a handout(regardless of me paying it back), there were surges of jealousy and “strife” toward “Sarah”. In reality, as Tristan, I just wanted to play with whoever was on at the time. To me, “Sarah” opened up the doorway to multitudes of people and personalities to play with. As “Sarah” I was “claimed” in the minds of others. I dedicated a large sum of time to playing too, so I was on longer than a lot of the people who shot those evil glares as they logged off, angry at me for the FUN I might be having, without them.

The first week summation:

The entire experience was the same for the first week. I was given starting capital for a house twice, multiple weapons and equipment, people going out of there way to get and do things for me, even mundane tasks like gathering arrows, bandages, or potions. I never had to technically stop “playing” for anything “in game”. The social requirements were quite different.

At this point I was well established. I had 2 fully maxed out characters, over 4 million in liquid assets(enough on this server to keep you well above comfort levels), and an entourage to play with at all times.

My goal of paying people back for all of the handouts was much harder to execute as a “girl”, much to my surprise.

The culmination of the first week came to a head as a cluster of houses I had been watching since I first got on the server were about to fall(a house that’s owner doesn’t log in for a few weeks will be removed from the server by “falling”, all items in the house drop to the ground for anyone who finds it to pick up.) I had shown this spot to the guild earlier in the week as a show of “good faith” that I believed in them and keeping with the idea of a good cover story being mostly truths, this was done with good intentions. This guild was very helpful to new players and i figured a “Town” of houses in one area for guild members would be an amazing catch for them. As those in the AltTabMe community know, I am all about “Guild Towns”.

Influence

Well I logged on after timing out exactly when they would fall and no one was there from the guild. None of the leaders were on to rally the troops, so to say, to fight for the spot. (anyone can show up and can fight and kill one another until they fall) I spammed guild chat on my other “unknown” character “Triage” since I had room to place a home on that account, but guess what.. no one cared. I immediately got on Sarah and spammed the fuck out of guild chat and immediately got at least 70% of online members to come. Ahh girl power again. Somehow after an epic battle with many other members of the server, we managed to place 70% of the houses. The rest I immediately began talking to to start a bidding war with to buy their plots. We managed to get 99% of them all! Remember at this point I had made enough equity to buy almost anything I wanted in the game, within reason.

Ownership vs Cute Emotes

This is where things began to get tricky. As Tristan, I felt I had done the work here and was overly excited to begin building up the town(even designed our first house costing me a little under a million gold, within the hour), but what was being seen by “high council”(who by the way, did not show up to help procure these houses,follow through on purchases in the area, or build them up) which I learned later on, was an attempt to solidify my place in the guild through ownership of 50% of the houses. I was, in their eyes, trying to lock down the entire area for myself. They even lured me away from the area when re-arranging the houses, so I would not try to steal it out from under them. Things began to get weird and I was non the wiser because I figured this was a huge show of dedication, but the unintentional “girl” attention Sarah was getting via multiple outlets, one being Mumble Voice Chat, where I had made her her own channel called “Sarah’s Oasis” (which could only exist as long as there was someone in the channel to keep it up since it was temp, any user can make their own channel), the fact that the mumble channel stayed active even when I was offline, showed people would just hang out where I was.

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People even thought I was “in bed” with the admins to get my “own channel”. Nope, just a guy who knew more about mumble then them, but due to the “virtual tits” it had to have been a special privlage, and not a functionality of mumble itself.

Add onto that my gun ho attitude toward getting the town up and running and owning majority of the properties(through hard work mind you) had started to turn foul. The High Council started to see the “power” I was getting from what was just under a week of play, fueled, unintentionally by them and other members, and they resented/feared/disliked it.

The power of being a “girl” was now indirectly working against me. My words were now being spoken for me and my actions were being decided.

Not once was I told about these thoughts prior to the big reveal of this article. So every day from here on in, a battle of drama was awaiting me that I was not even a part of. I had only planned to play for a week, but as this all began unfolding, I decided to stick it out for another week to see this new development.

Chapter 3

Favorable Odds

People will always assume that because of the scale of a game, the demographics of its users, “because that is the way it is”, or the way “Sarah” was portrayed is the reason guys flocked to her, of course. The truth of the matter is no matter how many people play the games we play and regardless of their age, we only interact with about 10 people on an intimate level at any given moment. Imagine that multiplied by 3 or more just because of your sex. This automatically turns what could be considered a small scale focus group, into a diverse, ever changing group of people that could exist in any game, at anytime, in any situation. If this was done in Counter Strike, maybe then the odds would be more stacked in “Sarah’s” favor more than they already were due to male/female ratio of the gaming world. I could easily replace the game name at any time in this article with whatever game I am currently playing.

Week 2

At the end of week 1 I had accomplished everything I would ever want to in the game. The perfect plots of land, more money than I knew what to do with, character customizations, and a plethora of resources. So now the goals had changed. The new goal was to see how far I could push the social strings before it all came barreling down. I would use every in game mechanic to push the limits of social acceptability. I would not push the real life boundaries via a slew of “nudez” or other means, I would just play the characters I was given via the game, executing the mechanics of stealing, killing, looting, and the whole other plethora of skills available. All of this spearheaded by being a “girl” avatar. The interesting part was, because I used game mechanics, the harder I defended “their” morals, the more chances I got, but it got messy.

Inner Relationships

Like any “undercover” work, you truly do start to connect with those you are hanging out with. None of the players I met were bad people(except for two, but we will get there). Shit, if anything I got to know them more as a “girl” than if I was just one of the guys. We weren’t just tossing insults around at each other. We were exchanged life stories, we fought side by side, and we worked together with a sense of respect(or so it seemed). I was known by everyone in the guild. I had another character, with a guys name, actually my tag Triage, and when messaging in guild chat on that account I often got ignored and ended up having to ask multiple times for anything. On Sarah, I would get 2-5 response messages all at once. People would hop on mumble to give me more information or explain the answer to a question in more detail.

It wasn’t always about me being probed for information, pics, and virtual marriage. (mostly because I ignored it, and it forced them to talk about other topics) People told me about their real lives, shared interesting bits of who they were, and were more honest than I have seen guys act in a long time. In real life, as Tristan, I surround myself with people who are open and share, this is why my circle of friends is usually very tight, in my gaming communities, I get to know maybe 30% of people on the level of intimacy as opposed to what I was exposed to in UO in a short week period, with about 90% of all people I encountered.

I really had to work at ignoring the pickup lines, the requests for more pictures, and the lude comments, but overall I met some very good people.

The really active players, by week 2, knew the name “Sarah” at this point. The funny thing is I didn’t play the game any differently than I would have anywhere else, as me. But being a “girl” truly unlocked the ability to make “friends” faster without the social intimacy barrier between men(at least in American culture, the difference between a handshake and a hug). I am 100% positive it is because I was a “girl”. Culturally, guys prefer to tell each other to fuck off as a show of intimacy. As a guy there are other ways to get known. In world of Warcraft I was known for my Machinima, in APB my live streaming, and for other games my employment at Blizzard or the AltTabMe community and Podcasts. You can also get recognition for being extremely skilled(not my cup of tea). But as “Sarah”, as a “girl”, I just had to exist.

I am good at this game so that helped to gain acceptance by the more hardcore of the group. The minute I talked and acted like a guy, the minute I was accepted into the fold easier, but I couldn’t forget to curtsy. But I could also tell people to not talk like sailors and they would listen. Something I have gotten a lot of flack for as a guy before.(I.E. The “Gay”mer) Actually that was one of the interesting things about being a girl…

Opinionated

This was something I found both interesting and disconcerting. As a “girl gamer” I could have the strongest opinions I could think of and instead of being met with resistance or opposing ideas, I got a lot of head nods, over bearing acceptance, or lack of any reaction at all. Those who disagreed, shrugged it off in a manner very akin to that of a sexist workplace,

“Oh, the woman is not in the kitchen and saying things? How adorable! Don’t you just want to pinch her adorable opinionated cheeks! Must be that time of the month! Her tits look nice when she is angry.”

I mean I could literally say anything. Not to get ahead of ourselves here, but I was accused many times throughout the week of random shenanigans. Each time I literally got a get out of jail card for almost every single one of my actions(mind you many of these actions were not mine, but the game of telephone I told you earlier I was a part of but never knew until the last person relayed the fucked up twisted message. It was amazing how much shit I was getting away with, while not backing down, actually sticking to my conviction of my actions. I mean I would go toe to toe with leaders of the guild, literally ripping them apart piece by piece. I would lay into them for their lack of proper leadership and the like. The harder I insisted I was right rather than pulling “the victim” card, the more others would take the flack for me. Try that as a guy. No fucking way. You would be arrogant, an asshole, or just booted immediately.

The shift from “friendly to irritated”

The helpful nature of the guild toward new players with some of the members being “Companions”(players who volunteer their time to show other players the ropes via a simple “teleport to new player” ability) and helping others to join UO, when it is such an old game, is inspiring. What they didn’t know was back when OSI ran Ultima Online, I was a volunteer companion. So I was constantly able to use that to help new players I ran across in the guild. Other than saying I had a vagina I was honest about everything and it paid off because I got to meet some really cool people. That attitude made it easy for me to fit in and break some of the stigmas as a “gold digger”. I was able to help out so many new players and get them started on the right track. These actions alone were enough to keep me above water, the water being all the drama that was being created more and more round my avatar by other “guys”. As week 2 progressed I started to visibly see the animosity that was being caused by my avatar “Sarah”. Not from things I was doing, but from the battles others were fighting for me without consulting me. If I was accused of something I was the last to hear about it as groups of players duked it out. It was causing rifts between members and leaders alike. The stories were starting to bleed into one another and facts were turning into a Jackson Pollak.

Before that point, in my experience on the server and with the guild, I think I was “yelled at” once for killing a member when they were not ready. It was a joke and playful from my point of view, but in UO people do not take dying well, even if they will get their items back. He exploded on mumble. This was one of the first times I saw “the power of the Y chromosome”. Two or three other members heard the explosion and all of them were private messaging me that, “he was wrong” and “it was not called for”. They all agreed that in UO death holds a little more weight, but none of them thought the outburst was warranted. So as “Sarah”, I played into the idea of what I used to do when I was yelled at as a child by my father: I recoiled HARD. I logged off mumble, stopped talking to them in game, and went to my house mid scream fest. This is where my eyes were opened to the difference between two guys fighting and a guy and a girl fighting. Immediately I was contacted by members of High Council asking me to log in, telling me he felt terrible(btw I know you are reading this, understand as Tristan I still think you went a little bonkers over nothing haha) and he wanted to apologize. I was blown away. Just through pulling away from the situation, which in the guy world is called “defeat”, I had turned the tables 180 and distilled the situation. He eventually came to me in game where I told the story of my father(remember, the best cover story is a real story yadda yadda…) and he apologized. I felt kinda bad how quickly that turned against him, I apologized too and we went on with our lives. What a strange shift. I had never experienced that before. It is like telling your boss to fuck off because you made an error and having them apologize. I mean I have used the “yell happy things at people” to overcome their berating, but never had I gotten an apology for it. So other than that, everyone was extremely friendly and “Sarah” was having a great time playing in this strange new world of accommodations.

You can imagine I started to get extremely frustrated when I started to see the drama between my character “Sarah” and other members start to pop up, from once again, “just playing the game” or in many cases, “not playing the game”. I was literally spending more time “talking” about my game-play than actually playing and enjoying it now.

Sleeping was the worst choice I ever made.

When I went to bed, it was probably the worst decision I made every night for the 2 weeks I played. If my character “Sarah” was not online, the game of telephone turned into a mass text to everyone I was considered to be “in bed with” and those who felt animosity towards a female avatar. Any and everything that had rubbed people wrong was discussed in the hours of 7 AM – 12PM when I had shifted my schedule to accommodate the gameplay. I would wake up every day after that first week to a new accusation. It came to a point where I couldn’t even argue against them anymore because, and I cannot stress this enough, I wasn’t even part of the actual issue most of the time. People were literally building cases about me, around me, without me.

If I happened to be offline at the time of the indecent, whatever it may be, I was tossed into the hat, and when the names were pulled “Sarah” was always the lucky winner.

There are a few theories here: People were very vocal with me about their opinions of leadership, things they though were fucked up, or things they thought should change. They expressed unabated opinions with Sarah as if I was charging them hourly and they had to get it all out before the time was up. Obviously not being their shrink I would toss in my opinions as well. Problem is, this was a person to person thing. So now you have Player 1 thinking my response to their situation is applicable to something Player 2 and I may have discussed a day earlier on a different topic. Shit, me and Player 2 might not have even talked, but something Player 2 said, triggered the “protective nature” of Player 1. Thus Player 1 and Player 2 unable to come to an agreement, both sticking up for situations that are separated by way too many degrees, standing up for their embodiment of “Sarah’s Opinion”, begin to fight… following me so far? Yeah.. it gets a little existential here. So Player 1 and 2 are now full out beating the shit out of each other. A cop or “leader” shows up. Pulls them off each other and says “Why are you fighting”. Player 1 and Player 2, enraged by the situation and filled with fuel from the fight, turn to the Cop and obviously the name Sarah comes out of both mouths, not even knowing why themselves. Sarah meanwhile is laying in a folder on the desktop, sending out virtual Zzzz’s. Player 1 and 2 have literally just turned their angst into a battle over what might have been nothing into “Sarah”. The leader not knowing the story made up in Player 1 and 2’s minds and not having any communication with “Sarah” for these situations tries to form a solution to quell Player 1 and 2. So eyes opening, “Sarah” has her cup of gigabytes and logs back in after a good “sleep mode”. BAM a different leader who read the cliff notes, who wasn’t present at the actual fight, told through the other leader, a 50th degree of separation, of a situation that was already misconstrued word of mouth, begins the Spanish Inquisition on “Sarah”.

*catches breath*

I hope you followed that, because it was mind blowing to me. I was literally being tossed into “drama” because I was the “cool kid” or in this situation; the “girl”. I swear to god, we had some caveman-anian rudimentary actions going on here because a “girl” was around, beating on chests to defend the “girl”. It is the “trainer” effect. A good trainer will put his client infront of a good looking girl/guy during a workout, because subconsciously they will push harder so to Alpha out. This most basic of human nature was happening in a virtual world.

Start to get put at the center of too many crimes and homeland is eventually going to start wire tapping you regardless of freedom of speech.

Keeping the Facade Alive

There is never a point where I could relax at “being a girl” when in a game. The minute I started to not care anymore, my status got questioned. So I had to do things to solidify it. Luckily for me “Interior Design” was my guilty pleasure! While the other kids were probably playing with Legos as kids, all neatly placed to make castles, I was pulling scrap wood out of house foundations creating the craziest hobo houses in the trees behind my house.(sorry Mom and Dad and pissed of neighbors) Ultima Online caters to this perfectly. The way you “create” in house design is often very out of the box and less Minecraft. This played into the “girl” aspect of things really well. Back when I played the official Ultima Online, majority of the house designers were girls. It only seemed perfect for my cover to spend a lot of time decorating my houses, enough to not waste too much time but far enough to show progress, expertise, and creativity… which apparently equates to “girl”.

So here is my “Kitchen” (made out of tables, benches, and random items all lowered and raised via the Y axis to make counters and kitchen appliances).

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“The Divider”

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I even posted on the forums to sell my interior design skills:

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This pretty much kept me alive, along with making strong connections with multiple members of the guild, kind actions towards new and old guild members, the ability to pay people back, and a self sufficient nature. It allowed for a slew of people that would go to bat for me at any time, specially when sleeping, which turns out was not always good. These same qualities were seen as a threat from the guild leaders and instead of taking advantage of a possible skill-set, the plot just thickened.

Keeping cool and collected

My issue is that as Tristan, my favorite tactic against those mad at me is to keep as cool and collected as possible when the other person is obviously boiling over and about to trip the rage wire, often causing it to get worse. As “Sarah” this tactic had a different effect, it literally caused the other person to apologize time and time again. This was not letting them release the rage, they would bottle it up and wait until I was gone to rage to someone else. Now drama was forming over what “Sarah” thought was finished and carrying over to other people in different situations who also held it in.

So many players used me as a sounding board, I had more information than I probably should have. I was judging the greater picture off the collective thoughts. For those who didn’t know I had all this info, it looked like me trying to “change shit that ain’t broke” or take a position of power/question their authority.

The Straw that Ultimately Broke the Camels Back
(skip if you don’t care about inner drama, I needed this one out there for personal reasons)

So now come the accusations and ultimately the ONE thing that I DIDN’T do, that was the straw that broke the camels back. In order to pay back my debt for the house and Ethy Mount I was gifted, I gave three dye tubs to the guild leader for the Guild vendor house. The monetary equivalent of these items in game well surpassed any money or items I was given, which was perfect, because I had I feeling I was still going to be given handouts and I was tired of keeping tabs on it. Anyway, after I gave them, I had gone to an IDOC(in danger of collapsing house), and stayed until it fell(which means you can take anything that was an item being stored in that house). For some reason, the person I was with, we will call them Pat, didn’t remember me getting extremely excited when I looted the 3 dye tubs from the wreckage after it fell using an auto loot tool called Scavenger, where you can pick an item and if you run by it, you will pick it up automatically, making it easy to procure them faster than other players waiting for the same house to fall. So I immediately went to the forums and posted these items for sale.

And queue epic fail music: These were the same dye tubs as the ones I donated and the ones I donated were either NOT locked down in the house (meaning they disappear into save server bandwidth land after a certain amount of time or they were taken by someone friended to the house that night).

Well put two and two together and anyone who didn’t realize I was successfully pretending to be a girl avatar, prepping for a massive article on the impact of the interactions I was encountering, the amount of planning that had been done to get here, would look at a forum post put up around the time when the 3 items were stolen from the guild and obviously point and scream “SARAH”!!! 

*face palm*

So yes.. Sarah, the person who DONATED the items and JUST got 3 more, would steal them, and immediately post an incriminating forum post about it. “Sarah” would have had to be a real dumb ass to do that by the way. But unfortunately I couldn’t come out and tell them about the much bigger secret I was successfully keeping. So all I had was my word, and the lack of backup from someone that was at that IDOC with me, PAT who was soo damn consumed with getting those dragon heads. So this one never left me and my “girl bestowed pedestal” in a position to get slowly getting chipped away at.

BACK ON TOPIC

Take the previous example and the amount of times “Sarah’s” name was coming up as a cause for “drama” and well, the investigation began.

Chapter 4

Had I stayed in the shadows, contempt to just leech off others, not been vocal, and stuck to a picture and textual experience things would have stayed at a very stagnant baseline. Pretty things and empty social experiences. This was not how I chose to experience this, as “Sarah”, nor was it possible being who I am as Tristan, so let’s talk about

Damage control

Other than random accusations there was every now and again someone who picked up on the fact that I was using a voice changer. Basically anyone born after 1998.

But before I get into that I think I need to address something that is missing:

OTHER GIRLS:

Every now and again other girls would come into the Mumble voice server, friends of friends or just a straggler, but most the time a girlfriend of another guy, probably, from the sound of it, to spend more time with their addicted boyfriend. I usually wouldn’t talk on mumble when this happened because girls are smarter than guys when it comes to how to interact with one another. I knew I would be called out quick for the voice modulator. Regardless, I made an effort with every girl, in the game, the spend some time with, play with, and perhaps work on houses with etc.

Every girl I encountered expressed interest in playing together while others were around but the minute those guys left, the cold shoulder was given. It was given with vengeance.

Girls would sometimes join Sarah’s Oasis Mumble channel but after seeing others talking and playing with me, immediately leave to their own channel. All I can think of, not being a girl myself, but having sisters and watching them bicker at one another, is because I was established already, had that “girl” attention monopolized, they felt like it was a competition to be friendly with me. As if they would only get second hand attention. It was crazy.

The girls were actually the rudest to me than any other players and this was NOT because they figured out I was a guy, from what I could see. It got catty. It even exploded into name calling behind my back for having the channel in mumble and usually being grouped with more than one player at any given time.

I felt like I was in junior high as a prepubescent teen. It was the strangest experience, although not really very surprising. There is a reason most of my girl friends say “I have more guy friends than girls”. Something culturally hardwired there, exacerbated by the “treatment” in video games.

It is as if girls expect this kind of treatment and when there is another girl there, they get competitive. Like real life.. different breed. I am not a girl though so I won’t go into what I think too much, just my surface reaction is that they disliked me very much.

Hide Spoiler

At the end of everything I had a chance to talk with one of the girls I encountered, and she explained to me, that “Sarah” was just too bubbly for her. She had experience with people like that, and disliked it in the past so she chose to ignore her. She also gave me a thumbs up on the voice modulator haha. We are still talking abd playing together, but apparently now my girlishness and love for interior design is more tolerable.

Girls don’t fart and Damage Control

Then there was the special case scenario. The players known as Lowincome and Dasher, also known as Grandmaster Tamer and My Loot Bro took this to a different level.

Lowincome is a guy, probably mid teens. Kid was on point when he heard my voice. Called it out immediately. Problem was, voice changer or not, I had made friends in mumble, established myself, and he was the “new guy”. Multiply that by me being the “girl” and you have a lot of guys that started to go to bat for me about how he treated me. I took swift action to play damage control before he kept at it or so I thought by banning him from my private mumble channel(privileges you get when you make your own channel).

Dasher was Lowincomes friend and they decided not to back down, however they were not actually that bright. I was already gunning for them, being a threat to my identity. I was just waiting for them to fuck up and oh man did they fuck up.

They began stealing from guild mates without permission on multiple occasions, posting slanderous things on the forums about “Sarah”, and making multiple mumble logins such as “I am going to kill you bitch” and “Sarah is a whore” when I would kick them from my channel via alternate logins. If that wasn’t enough, which it wasn’t, I finally had had enough and decided if they wanted to harass me out of game, I would harass them in game. Since we were guilded via an Alliance, it allowed me to kill them at anytime without repercussions(game mechanic wise). I am good at killing in this game…

I thought this would be enough for them and perhaps they would back off. Other guild members actually helped me. No, they decided to live stream the massacre. Then after broadcasting it, post it, and send it to the guild leader.(Luckily majority of me talking into a shoddy voice changer wasn’t part of that recording) Problem is, being in that generation of social immaturity, they didn’t realize how this ONE video was more incriminating as a “character witness” to who they really were, than anything I could have ever done to them. This video actually got them immediately removed from the guilds.

I hate to subject anyone to it, but here is the video, NSFW at all.

Dasher and Lowincomes original Stream since removed from their twitch, archived here for safe keeping.

And if that is too much for you here is the wonderful REMIX I made of it:

https://soundcloud.com/tr1age/dasher-and-lowincome-being

They even went as far as petitioning the Admins of the server about it all because they were banned from mumble for harassment of “Sarah”. That didn’t go too well for them either.

Regardless of “Sarah” actually being a girl or not, them knowing or not, I am glad I was able to expose these two for the childish delinquents they are. The world comes with repercussions kids.

So this is a case where the age old “Girls don’t fart” played a role in how Dasher would be viewed after this explosion. I see random players on the server still telling them off randomly. It was a cluster fuck, but it was also damage control that worked out in the favor of “Sarah”. I don’t condone the recording or what she said, but I also heard the same, if not worse from guys I played with quite often, and laughed off. The difference in which a female is treated when raging versus a man was startling. I wish both were held to the same accountability that Dasher experienced for their words. It was a cluster fuck, but it was also damage control that worked out in the favor of “Sarah”.

This was the only time I was ever questioned past my excuse of a shitty USB mic, for using a voice changer, thankfully.

Ironically the real girls on the server…

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…get more flack for announcing it, than the subtle softer approach I took with Sarah.

Being a guy, being a girl:

There were many moments where being a girl “character” made conversation a lot easier. I could be myself the whole time, not worry about “the social game” because as a girl I literally controlled “the social game”. Maybe this is only the case as a guy playing a girl, understanding “the social game” from the other side, gives you more control. That was some inception style interaction there.

It was absolutely refreshing to go toe to toe with the smart ass guys too. Being a guy I knew exactly what to say to make the other guys react with an “OoOoOo burned you!”, and when they were acting like children, it was nice to bring a little emasculation into the mix, especially after all the shit I had experienced up to this point.

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Did anyone treat Sarah as an equal? Depends on Geography…

Actually, yes. Anyone who was not from America treated “Sarah” as an equal. The European culture is not as tit obsessed as we Americans are. Being more open with sexuality and those of the opposite sex(for both male and female), the sight of a breast or a “girl gamer” doesn’t trigger the fuzzy feeling in their pants to verbal spew. They judged me on personality and if we had fun playing the game together. So much so that a few of them aware of what I am writing still wish to play together, regardless of being a “girl”.

There was one diamond in the ruff too, one player, was just a kind soul to mostly every person he ran across in the game. He even spoke kindly to murderers after he killed them. I don’t know if it was because he was an ex/current military pot head and this caused him to take things a bit “slower and in stride” or he literally was just the embodiment of a renaissance knight transplanted to the body for a 2013 inhabitant. Either way it was welcome, when he could remember what he did the night before that is.

Cliques and Time

Cliques form in any guild no matter what you do to try to prevent them. As a girl or guy, I can say from personal experience, you don’t have to worry about picking any one group of people to play with. You can chill with the crafters, the pvpers, the PvErs. However, as “Sarah”, even if I couldn’t hold my own with one specific groups play style, they would have me come along no questions asked. They even helped me get better. As Tristan, the guy, and being in situations were I was newer and unable to handle myself self very well, I would be booted to the floor or others would not want to play with me. As a guy I would never be accepted into “special activities” as a trainspotter. As “Sarah” however, I could form very close relationships with people in every kind of group without ever pledging to one clique. With one addendum: I had to keep up with the mass of private messages. If I couldn’t give everyone who believed they had a chance to get into my pants, the attention they think they deserved, then there was no hopping around from group to group, otherwise I could enjoy the diversity! I had to be very careful too, because if I forgot this and fucked up and someone died or lost items, I got the full blame and often they would rage. This is what ultimately took down “Sarah”.(that and the lack of vetting later photos through a reverse search engine, an intentional trail of breadcrumbs if you might, to see if people would question continuously or just for “first impressions”) Enough people were not getting the 1 on 1 attention they felt they deserved, so they started to dig more to prove the “girl” story as a falsity.

No amount of prep is enough for a woman scorned!

The Reveal

After 2 weeks of being in the center of all of this as “Sarah” I started to doubt my ability to
A: Properly recount my experiences
B: Do it in a way without pissing off every person I had come in contact with.

I felt like I had betrayed so many. I had grown close to these people, regardless of their constant attempts at getting into my “pixelated panties”.

I was ready to just leave it all and call it a bust, I even said my goodbyes in the kindest way I could after the drama piled up enough for me to be removed from the guild. Right then, mumble’s text to speech started spouting link URLs. The Spanish Inquisition of “Sarah” had begun. The URL to the burner Facebook was said in the robot mumble voice, a personal Flickr URL, a personal website URL, the constant barrage of new information they had found via text to speech sounded something like the end of a Colombo episode

“Just One more Thing, You’re wanted for MURDER!”

The breadcrumbs left behind were actually still being investigated to see if the trail lead to the key to my chastity belt!

At this point I was so relieved that they “knew” I decided to cut through the mumble text to speech spam and finally let “Sarah” free. Mid sentence to all the leaders I flipped the “voice morphing” software switch to off.

I could not have prepared for what happened next:

More laughter ensued.

I talked as fast as humanly possible to explain my intentions to those who had taken me in. I told them about this article and why I had done it all. I truly did respect majority of the people I encountered so I wanted them to understand why it all happened to the fullest extrent, still thinking I would not be writing it.

Then it happened.

As I took a breath between my diatribe of explanation and compliments toward them all as fellow gamers, I heard much to my surprise:

Every single person in that channel was, to my surprise, relieved! It turns out the character “Sarah” I had created was not the only one feeling the “drama” and “pressure” of everything that was happening. Throwing “Sarah” into that guild had literally made a rift between leaders, members, and players outside the guild alike. Unpredictably, all the attention “Sarah” garnered during her sleep, was giving many of the members restless nights as well.

Sadly this only bolstered the problem more, because I was no longer a “girl” they could blame it on the “fake idea of the girl” and not take responsibility for it themselves.

I think if there was anything small I could give those who had been a part of this was using the power “Sarah” was given by all of those around her, to help the leaders of the guild to get their stories straight in the long run. It allowed for a unified front against her. Talking to them that night and subsequent nights and hearing their excitement to read this article gave me the re-invigoration to actually follow through and write it.

Here are a lot of them:

[​IMG]

I said to them, “I was actually really dreading telling you all about this, like one of those undercover movies, where the undercover cop falls in love with the bad guy, and then shit hits the fan.”

To which the response was,

Some of the other comments were along the lines of:

More laughter.

The final conversation was recorded but I have decided to not post it here to keep everyone’s voices from being revealed. I tried to pitch shift it down as an homage to “Sarah’s” voice modulator, but it just sounded terrible and hard to listen to. Those quotes above are directly from that conversation and from the main members of the guild.

I want to thank everyone who was involved for being such good sports about it. I don’t know how anyone could have come out of this without new friendships, self reflections, and a new understanding of what the gaming culture is capable of and how far it still needs to go, as more and more people accept it into their lives.

It isn’t being a girl gamer that is the problem.

I understand why there is a “prove it” mentality when it comes to being a girl in the gaming culture, but the reasoning for it is 100% misguided. It wouldn’t be necessary at all for this “checksum” if guys didn’t automatically turn every girl that plays a game into an object to be worshiped. Not only is it making their experience jaded, but it is putting those girl gamers into situations against their own control which will ultimately ruin a game for them. Sure just like some guys, some girls might welcome the extra attention, but as is for all things, it gets old quick.

Overall, I was playing the game directly in front of me, the bi-product of being a “girl” caused others to make their choices, which ultimately shaped “Sarah’s”. They made the choice to follow me around, play with my characters, or help out in whatever situation it was. Playing games as a girl, is like nothing I ever expected yet everything all at once. They kept me from ever wanting, from ever needing. I was never alone. But I was also the last person talked to in a really bad game of Telephone about myself. I was the center of drama even when I was sleeping. I was put into positions of leadership without any of the responsibility. I could speak my mind to the point of insults without repercussion. I got quadruple the amount of chances. I got hit on once an hour. I was expected to respond immediately to everything, even if it had little to do with the game. I was required to prove myself. I was held to a ridiculously high and low standard all at once. I was the center of adornment and despise. It was tiring. It was sexist. It was intriguing. It was all true.​

Ultima Online is still the only game, to date, where you can be anyone you want to be, go anywhere you want to go, and play anyway you want to play. To that regard, this game continues to give me experiences that are new and introduce me to people who are wonderful to know. I remember saying when I first heard of the game, “Oh my god” I said, “I need to make a tavern! I want run a Tavern!” 2 years later I had one up and running with people coming in just to have a drink and relax! 15 years later, I am a girl, with her own town, a good guild, and a bunch of new friends.(Not to mention lingering extended S’s and use of the word “like” that was added to my vernacular to pull off the voice mod better.. ssssigh)

A special thanks:
The server played on was UOForever.com. This server has got to be one of the most well run, organized, and properly setup unofficial servers for Ultima Online I have EVER played in my 15 years of Ultima Online. The staff are professional, the playerbase is a mixture of new and old, and the balance of danger versus reward is spot on. The updates are a perfect mix of the good and the bad from OSI. Not everything is perfect obviously, but that is some of the appeal to UO. The players make up for any shortcomings and are always what made UO. This server has attracted the cream of the crop. If you have never played or have played before but no longer, I highly suggest checking it out. They have an easy 1 click installation. Look me up, I plan on continuing my time as “Sarah”, though without a voice modulator, and a little less intensely; fuck my sleeping schedule is messed up. (This is of course if the admins don’t absolutely despise me after writing this and ban my accounts. But that is what makes this server good in my opinion, the admins do not interfere with player related issues beyond game mechanics. Don’t see that a lot. No handouts.) I plan to continue with the guild as they have said they will still have me and they are a good bunch of people(we will see what happens when they read the final chapters of this). I would love to welcome any new players to the Town that we will hopefully build for new and old players alike!

Creator of AltTabMe for over 10 years. Lover of non techy tech reviews, ranting, being extremely opinionated, and all things artsy. Loves Unicorns and Butterflies.

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