gaming

Breaking free(r)

I am the last person who should be writing about breaking free.

I have been separated from my abusive husband for nearly 7 years now, and I am just now taking a huge step to break free(r).

I did kick him out of the house years ago which took a lot of courage. This worked only because I knew he wouldn’t hire a lawyer. I had no legal right to kick him out of his own house, even though he promised he would leave any time I wanted to separate (which was a lie–I asked; he refused).

This weekend I am leaving this house, this town and this state to move near family (and away from snowy winters that isolate me further). I will be near my adult children and three grandchildren.

I will be mere hours away from my very sick mother and wonderful stepdad.

I will be only months away from enrolling in a 4-year college or university so I can finish my bachelor’s degree.

I will have access to unconditional love from my grandchildren (oh, the hugs they can give). My teenager will spend his last two years of high school surrounded by family (he is going to be one popular uncle).

This weekend I load up a truck with those belongings that I consider most precious:

  • kitchen stuff
  • personal library
  • knitting and quilting stuff
  • computer
  • my bed

Strange list, I know.

I have a well-equipped kitchen with old, functional small appliances: bread machine, flour mill, large Villaware toaster oven, 1950s Sunbeam Mixmaster, food processor and my cast iron and stainless cookware. I also have a decent supply of baking pans and dishes. I hope to regain enough strength to bake and cook once again.

Oh, my personal library. We have been separated for years. I packed up my books and put them away years ago because I have been waiting to move for years (and I had difficulty reading anyway — see below). I look forward to the day when all of my books are on shelves (that I picked out) where I can access them whenever I like. The joy!

I knit a LOT! It is something that I can do right now with limited strength and chronic pain. Knitting doesn’t hurt. I am keeping my quilting stuff, again with hopes that I will regain enough strength to make all of my grandchildren quilts.

My computer has been my connection to the outside world. Being isolated for years, the internet kept me sane when I was living in a nightmare world of a marriage to a mean, hateful man. When I got sick in 2006 with Lyme disease and then did not recover, I couldn’t even compose and type an email. I couldn’t write a sentence. I couldn’t read a paragraph.

My computer saved me. I joined an online gaming community. I started to reconnect with other people, nice people. I typed in chat occasionally (and used voice chat a lot).

I started by using my laptop while I lay on the couch (too tired to sit up).

After a few months, I was able to sit at my computer desk. I bought myself an inexpensive desktop computer. I kept hand weights on the desk and gained strength.

Eventually, my doctor ordered physical therapy which got me mobile again. I continued the exercises on my own and regained more strength.

A couple of years later, I found a Lyme-literate doctor who treated my chronic Lyme with antibiotics and supplements. She discovered B-12 and D deficiencies. After a few months on amoxicillin (which keeps my pain at bay but doesn’t seem to help me gain ground), she put me on clarithromycin (Biaxin). After 6 months, I had recovered my hearing, pain was minimal, I could walk without looking drunk, I lost 30 pounds, and I began walking 5-6 days a week. I recovered to about 60% of normal. This was a huge improvement. It was college coursework that helped my brain to heal.

My bed. I know that is a weird thing to put on a list of precious belongings, but there is a reason.

Months before the final separation from my husband, I had moved to the couch to sleep. He moved all night long (restless leg syndrome) and snored so badly that I could not sleep well. I wasn’t missing much. The bed we slept in was a freebie he had gotten from a coworker in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was at least 20 years old. It was bad.

What was really hard was near the end my husband had stopped coming home from work. He said he was going to the church to pray every night, often not getting home until 11 p.m. and even as late as midnight. He would then come home, stomp up the stairs (raised ranch), do his burping thing (he always burped when he came home and walked up the stairs), and wake me up because I was sleeping on the couch. He never offered to give me the bedroom so I could get one good night’s sleep. Not ever.

After my husband was gone, it took me a few months, but I finally made myself clean out our bedroom (with my sons doing the heavy lifting). I got rid of everything that had been ours. I threw away his broken, plastic headboard that he insisted we keep. I threw away that old, disgusting mattress. I got rid of every piece of furniture.

I went to IKEA and bought myself a bed of my choosing. I bought myself a NEW mattress. It was an act of rebellion against the husband-imposed poverty that I had lived in for nearly 20 years.

So, yeah, my bed is precious. It is mine. I picked it out and it is my restful sleeping place. [Amazingly, I began to recover even more of my health when I could get a full night’s sleep without interruption. Go figure.]

Of course, there is room on this truck for my teenager’s computer desk, his books, instruments, computer and clothes. He will get a new bed when we move into our new place.

The only other furniture we are taking is the kitchen table and chairs, the outdoor table and chairs, two IKEA chairs, an ottoman, a Singer parlor cabinet (treadle that I use for all my sewing machine heads – motorized and people-powered), and my coffee table.

Everything else in this house is either cheap, in bad shape or not worth bringing.

This move signals the recovery of a different kind of power: power over my own future.

I am so stressed that I am not sleeping well. I wake up all night long with adrenaline dumps, heart pounding. But I must do this.

I am moving out of a place that has been comfortable in some small part because it is known to a place full of unknowns. Yes, I am scared.

I am moving toward freedom to be myself in my own space.

I am moving.

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman gamer harassed

I have been a gamer since 1980 when I purchased my first Atari console unit. I played Space Invaders, Pong, Circus and many other games for hours.

After purchasing my first PC in 1984, I played DOS games which consisted of text only or the simplest of games with limited graphics.

I purchased other console units for my oldest son over the years and always played games on those consoles (Sony Dreamcast, Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc.).

My next PC had Windows OS which opened up the world of Myst to me and my kids. I bought educational games for the kids and played my own games while my kids sat beside me and helped me solve puzzles from the notes I took.

A decade or so later, I was introduced to the world of MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). I joined the online gaming world and began to meet other online players. Some of them were women, but the majority were men.

In this world, there are men who play female characters and GIRLs: girl in real life.

I have made some real-life friends through online gaming, both male and female.

Within the online gaming environment you find all types of male players: protective types, kind types, gentlemanly types, socially-awkward types, controlling types, cliqueish types, macho types, quiet types, outspoken types, highly-competitive types, profane types and finally the really ugly types which portray a variety of bad male stereotypes: immature, unrestrained, abusive and sexually predatory (these behaviors are not exhibited exclusively by men, though).

In one game that I played for years, a new guild member started sending me private messages which started with this question: “Do you swallow?”

This was in response to the name of one of my characters which was inspired by a butterfly. What I thought was lovely and amazing, a male player twisted and perverted.

I reported him to our guild leaders and he was booted from the group.

This guy had started playing the game after a stint on Second Life, which is not a game at all, but actually an online community with an X-rated section for adults. I guess he thought all online games were populated by the same types of people. He was mistaken.

On other occasions, I have had character names twisted and perverted by male players in public chat (you can tell the guys who watch a lot of porn). I always reported any player who was obviously sexually harassing me. Many ended up banned from the game, not just because of my reports but because these people generally bring down the gaming environment to a low, base level which game developers do not want (especially subscription-based games where female players are valued).

Most recently, I started playing Blizzard’s first-person shooter game Overwatch. This team-based game is crazy fun, with a choice of 22 characters for each short match against other players.

There is attack and defend, capture and escort. After playing a set of matches with a 6-member team, you might find yourself playing the next set of matches with players from the other team. It is always a good idea to be a good sport after a match, a concept that seems to elude many players.

When I created my gamertag for Overwatch, I used a variation of my very female name. It was obvious that I was a female player.

Obnoxious male players have attempted to motivate our team with statements such as: “everyone get your dicks out.”

When I informed him that I didn’t have such equipment, he was not very nice.

Over the next few weeks, I found myself the subject of negative talk if I participated in voice chat and attempted to provide any leadership or guidance to my team. This negative talk was not just from male players, but younger female players as well. I was often teaming up with one of my sons who witnessed the behavior. It was an interesting dynamic.

If a guy offered the team leadership, he was usually rewarded with cooperation and thanks. If a female player attempted to provide leadership, she was often treated badly during and after the match.

When I reported to my other son that a male player had called me a “f***in bitch” after I called him out on his abusive chat, my son was upset but not surprised. As a male player, he was used to seeing and hearing such language. He had not, however, dealt with it directed toward his mother (you know, the argument that sexual harassment and/or assault isn’t a big deal until it could be your daughter, sister, mother, etc.).

I used this experience to try to educate my sons on what women must deal with in a man’s world, as gaming has been primarily male dominated for years. That is changing quickly. More and more women are populating the online gaming world.

I made a decision after yet another male player heaped abuse on meĀ  to change my gamertag to something masculine.

For the last three weeks I have not had a single negative comment aimed at me. Not one.

Male gamers will argue that women who complain about the gaming world are just whining or being snowflakes or SJWs (social justice warriors).

The New York Times article SWSX Addresses Online Harassment of Women in Gaming is a disturbing read which I recommend to everyone.

There are YouTubers who regularly make fun of women who are trying to change the online, console, and PC gaming world so that such games do not perpetuate harmful attitudes, behaviors and stereotypes.

Indi game developers Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, and Anita Sarkeesian, social justice warrior who owns the Feminist Frequency blog and YouTube channel, are the favorite subjects of deniers of misogynistic and anti-femiinist themes in games. These women have received death threats and continued online harassment through Twitter and other forums.

Gamergate is the subject of many naysaying male gamer YouTubers such as Investigamer who mispronounces impartiality over and over (I know, I’m nitpicking) after gaming journalism was accused/exposed as being corrupt.

I understand that male players are just not going to see and understand what women endure in male-dominated environments because they are not on the receiving end of such behavior. I understand this. However, men need to learn to listen to female voices instead of denigrating or atttempting to silence them.

Polarizing men against women in the gaming world is not going to accomplish anything. Men and women must care about ending online harassment especially in the gaming world.

I know what I have experienced. I know that the harassment stopped when I quit using voice chat and changed my gamertag to one that is obviously masculine.

If women must disguise themselves as male players in order to avoid harassment, there is something wrong with the online gaming world.

If a female player challenges a male player because he is being a dick, her voice should be respected. If a gamer chooses to be a dick, he should expect to be called out for such behavior.

It is one thing to be upset during a game and expressing said frustration, it is another to attack a female player with the aim of humiliating and ultimately silencing her.

I have an announcement: men don’t rule the world anymore. You have to share the world with women, and this includes the military, politics, business, education, and, yes, gaming.