Learning about more than gaming

This month, as part of their year-long Journey, my Girl Scout troop is tackling the “Entertainment Technology” patch. Over two meetings the girls will be learning about video game programming with the help of one of our dad’s, a teacher and trainer at our local Microsoft store.

During our first meeting, our girls were introduced to Kodu Game Lab, “a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games.” Using Microsoft Surfaces provided by the Store, the girls (and our 12 year old son who asked to join in) learned basic gaming concepts including game mechanics, designing their game environment, developing action/consequence statements.

Judging from our own children, the first meeting was an unqualified success. Right after everyone left, our son and daughter sat down to design their games in anticipation of the next meeting.

Meetings like this – introducing the girls to something new; letting them see what goes into some of the things they take for granted, and giving them a sense of what is possible for their future – is why I love leading my daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

My happy bubble was popped the very next day when I read about a female video game programmer pulling out from PAX East, a local gaming/comics convention due to threats.

As a woman, a mom, and one who has always enjoyed “geek culture,” I have been following the story of Gamergate with much interest, and disappointment. Who were these people that felt they could, or should, tear down, threaten and abuse these women?

Reflecting on the treatment of Brianna Wu, I recalled a recent story on This American Life featuring author Lindy West. Given the opportunity to speak with a particularly nasty internet troll, she met a man who claimed to like women, despite actions to the contrary. A few things he said really struck me, including this exchange:

Lindy West I asked him if he felt that way because I’m a woman.

Man Oh, definitely. Definitely. Women are being more forthright in their writing. There isn’t a sense of timidity to when they speak or when they write. They’re saying it loud. And I think that– and I think, for me, as well, it’s threatening at first.

Lindy West Right. You must know that I– that’s why I do that, because people don’t expect to hear from women like that. And I want other women to see me do that and I want women’s voices to get louder.

MAN I understand. I understand. Here’s the thing. I work with women all day, and I don’t have an issue with anyone. I could’ve told you back then if someone had said to me, oh, you’re a misogynist. You hate women. And I could say, nuh-uh, I love my mom. I love my sisters. I’ve loved my– the girlfriends that I’ve had in my life. But you can’t claim to be OK with women and then go online and insult them– seek them out to harm them emotionally.

You said it buddy.

I applaud women like Brianna Wu who speaks up against Gamergate and takes on PAX, despite the obvious threats against her life and her career. And others like Lindy West who continue to put their ideas and opinions into the world, even knowing the trolls will continue to come.

And while it may seem like much in comparison, to those women and others, I make this pledge – to raise a man and a woman who know they can do anything, and don’t feel anything but encouraged by the others success.