Whose Fantasy Is It Anyway? What 2015 Can Tell Us About the Insecurity of Geek Culture

As featured on Medium

GamerGate. It’s a word many in the gaming journalism world have been timid to write for going on 16 months or so.

For those of you lucky enough to have missed it, GamerGate is the heart-wrenching story of some boys who just wanted to play video games, until one day a woman made a video game and some people really liked that game. But these boys didn’t like that game, which made them sad, and so they sent its designer death threats. That woman had sex with people who weren’t those boys who just wanted to play video games, which also made them sad, and so they sent her more death threats.

When some journalists in the gaming world said “hey guys, cut it out”, those boys realized who the true enemy was: corrupt gaming journalists who didn’t want to report the real story. The real story, of course, being that women were making video games that they didn’t want to play and also weren’t having sex with them. So they sent the journalists death threats and said it was all about “ethics in gaming journalism”.

Real talk: many gaming journalists are in the pockets of AAA gaming companies, like when EA paid YouTubers and reviewers to play Shadows of Mordor but included clauses in their contracts that prevented them from voicing negative feedback.

GamerGate isn’t concerned with that. Instead, they’re concerned with small Indie games with female and minority designers who make games about gender or race or sexual orientation. Why? Because GamerGate is far from a cause. It is a symptom of fears rooted in a changing demographic; the same fears behind the rise of the Tea Party or Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Let me give you some other words. Misogynist. Racist. Sexist. Homophobic. Transphobic. MRA. Stormfront. Linger too long in the community that calls itself GamerGate and you will see one thing above all else: the fear that the world is expanding to pander to more people than just young men.

2015 has only furthered those fears.

Since its inception, gaming has concerned itself with the bigger questions in life: can Mario save the kingdom from Bowser and rescue Peach? Can Link save Hyrule and rescue Zelda? Can Crash Bandicoot…well, you get the point.

And with year after year bringing bland reworks of games that are little more than fantasies of the American military shooting people from other countries, it’s easy to see why the outside world might characterize the gaming industry as vacuous and immature.

But as games have developed, increasingly deep storylines and themes have evolved. This process has been mirrored in the movie industry as well as on TV. This year we have seen geek culture cover a much wider array of perspectives, with a number of classic franchises taking a distinctly feminist bent.


Mad Max: Fury Road — a continuation of the gritty post-apocalyptic series — took a radical departure from its usual male-dominated themes to tackle the issues of childbearing and consent in a post-apocalyptic world. Despite a minor MRA protest that the change in the franchise was “emasculating” movies, Fury Road went on to be perhaps the most critically acclaimed of all Mad Max movies.

Marvel’s experiment with TV series’ has proven massively successful. After Daredevil, which was hailed as a massive success, Marvel took a chance on Jessica Jones, a superhero whose origin story is rooted in relationship abuse, PTSD, and the nature of consent.

Featuring a nonchalant glimpse at an interracial relationship in media.

The newest installation of Tomb Raider — once a male fantasy about a scantily clad woman with copious guns — released its second title within the reboot, featuring a younger Lara Croft struggling with PTSD.

And then there was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, featuring a black lead and female protagonist. Of course, in a world populated by aliens and The Force and lightsabers and lasers, it was a black stormtrooper that many were up in arms about, leading to some truly bizarre critiques of the movie.

It’s hard not to see the backlash against these franchises as one and the same as GamerGate: an ugly, knee-jerk, regressive reaction to change. For too long, the fantasy that is geek culture — fantasy and science fiction and video games and comic books — has been defined by exclusivity.

The target audience for geek culture is broadening rapidly. Comic books and superheroes are a mainstream delight, not a niche fandom. The word “gamer” is rapidly becoming meaningless as it starts to include almost everybody. We should celebrate that expansion, not fear it.

I’m Dreaming of a Black Star Wars

As featured on Medium

Dear younger me,

Merry Christmas! You’re what, 10 now? 13? I can’t remember if you’ve just seen the first Star Wars prequel or the second, but I do know the disappointment you feel. You don’t quite know why, but you are certain what you just watched was not Star Wars, not really. Now you’re wondering if you ever want to see another Star Wars movie again.


You probably don’t have the words to explain your distaste for Jar-Jar Binks yet. Today, I’m going to give you those words. Those words are blackface and minstrelsy.

I really wish I were breaking the space-time continuum for the first time to tell you something else, something bigger. How to avoid dark futures. What to invest in. Whether that girl thinks you’re cute.

But for now, there’s only one thing I can tell you. It’s going to be alright. You think this Star Wars trilogy is your only hope. No. There is another. And it is everything you want and more.

With the prequel trilogy you have been made abundantly aware of something you didn’t even notice when you watched the original trilogy: the utter lack of black characters.


Fine, there were caricatures, like Lando Calrissian looking like he’s the creeper ghost from the Ghostbusters music video, or Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role in every movie: Samuel L. Jackson.

But character depth or development was pretty much a whites-only club for 6 movies. Hell, there were aliens given more screen time than the black characters in Star Wars, which may be fitting as aliens and other species often fill the metaphorical role of people of color in science fiction and fantasy (Nemoidians and Toydarians come to mind).

In Star Wars — and in the bulk of cinema — black characters are far too often one-dimensional. They may have strong positive and negative traits, but rarely are they allowed to change or to grow, relegating them to the role of mentor or sidekick or comic relief.

I’ve made no secret of my hype for Finn in The Force Awakens, and he fully lives up to those expectations. He shows insecurity and conviction, fear and bravery, isolation and camaraderie, and grapples with those traits en route to becoming a hero.

It’s a wild ride, and you’ll love it every minute of it.

Yours Truly,

Older You

The Force Awakens in all of us, even the “nobodies”

As featured on Medium


I’m a Star Wars geek, and I have been for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of watching Star Wars with my first grade class, writing reports on what it meant to be a Jedi, and it was that from which I drew my first coherent life lesson.

You see, by then, I’d already started to internalize the many voices telling me that the worst thing I could be — as a black man — was angry. Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side.

I came to understand Luke over the course of that year, to empathize deeply with him — his journey as a hero, his struggles with the dark side, and yet ultimately, his detachment from the Jedi.

And yet in the face of growing hype around Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the newest trilogy, I’ve tried to hold back, to manage expectations, and to remain calm, because despite the hype, the prequel trilogy was nothing but a massive disappointment.

In contrast, there have been so many other geek franchises — great franchises — to buy into. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings bringing fantasy into modern pop culture. The rise of Marvel as a blockbuster machine. The gritty realism of DC reboots like The Dark Knight. The success of sci-fi shows like Battlestar Galactica and the cult following behind Firefly.

The prequel trilogy wasn’t for me though, not really. That trilogy was about hyping a new generation on Star Wars. But this new trilogy? I can’t get enough of it. I’ve watched the trailer again and again, grinning and whooping and crying. This trilogy aims to deliver on the promises of the original, to culminate an experience that is — to many — generationally defining. It seeks to cash in on nostalgia, but also to fulfill those promises — to exceed those expectations.

And so when Kylo Renn says “I will finish what you started” to the husk of Vader’s mask, I have to wonder: is that his line? Or is it J.J. Abrams’ promise to George Lucas?

And when a group of racist trolls start #BoycottStarWarsVII because it has a black man and a woman as its protagonists, I can’t help but see a larger nostalgic trend. When historically white worlds like Hollywood experience increasing diversity, the pushback from white reactionaries has been strong.

But nowhere has this been more notable than in the world of fantasy and science-fiction. Before John Boyega, there was controversy over a black Spiderman, a black girl in Hunger Games, and now a black Captain America.

And I realize I’m so ready for this Star Wars movie not because it’s a throwback to the old Star Wars, a Star Wars I already loved. I am counting the days until its release because it is for me in a way it has never been before.

The reason for that is John Boyega, the black actor portraying one of the leads, and how damn real he is. Black people aren’t allowed to be people in media, only caricatures. They can be funny or angry. They can be mystical or competent. They can be larger than life or lesser, superhuman or subhuman. But they can’t be people.

And yet when Boyega first appears in the official trailer, dripping with sweat, he has no trait but an all-too-human one: insecurity.

I was raised to do one thing, but I’ve got nothing to fight for.

Aren’t you a little black for a stormtrooper?

Throughout the trailer, he shows a myriad of emotions: fear, shock, resolve. His face — a sweaty, black face emerging from a sullied white stormtrooper helmet— is the new face of Star Wars.

And yet the racist nostalgia for a whiter, more simple Star Wars couldn’t be more wrong. At its heart, Star Wars is a tale about a ragtag coalition of aliens fighting against a dominant homogenous force. We can let Chewbacca in as a protagonist, but a black protagonist? Crazy talk.

Kylo Ren — the new “villain” in this distant galaxy — promises the mask of Vader:

Nothing will stand in our way.

And yet there at least two who will. Finn, who has nothing to fight for. Rey, the female lead, who answers “I’m no one” to her identity.


That is the face of the new Star Wars. The nobodies. A woman. A black man.

I can’t tell you whether the new Star Wars movie will be good, or whether you’ll like it. But I can tell you that — for the first time — I’ll be able to look at that screen — to imagine that world — and to see myself in it.

Happy Father’s Day

Along with my two brothers, I was lucky enough to have a father who never was tied to any ideas of machismo, a man who showed me that manhood lies in the self-reliant capability of adulthood, not in the physical power of muscle, and taught me that that it is appropriate for a man to feel and express emotions and love, to speak my mind and listen to the perspectives of others, to be forceful in support of my ideals and gentle in my treatment of others, and of course, to cook.

Happy Father’s Day, and sorry I couldn’t find a more recent photo!

Fantasy with Friends – Summer 2015 Week 1


Week 1 is over and everything’s looking Gustaf. Rekkles and Huni are paying off big time, and my lower level picks aren’t disappointing either. I didn’t start Mithy (oops) and forgot to sub in Team Liquid (also oops). With those two, I’d have pulled in another 39 points, vaulting me into first place of any team. With those changes under my belt, I’m sitting pretty going into Week 2. Pobelter put up a massive 64 points in Week 1. For now, I’m sticking with the tried and trusted Froggen, but another good week from the Notorious POB will earn him a starting spot. I also have Airwaks and YoungBuck on my bench and will apply them liberally. For now, Dominate and Huni are my starters, but if they have a bad matchup, I feel like I have great subs.

Doublelift, Fnatic, and Hauntzer all put up great points for Geeves, but he needs – and made – drastic roster changes, bringing in Dexter, Hylissang, and Vardags. With Unicorns of Love facing off against Copenhagen Wolves and ROCCAT, he’ll look to rebound next week!


As goes TSM, so goes FUZZYWUZZY. TSM flopped into the ground, and with it went FUZZY’s chances. However, it wasn’t just TSM pulling in mediocre points. Gambit Gaming looked back to their aimless ways, SK Gaming hardly looked like the dominant team we saw last split during the regular season, and Emperor literally didn’t play. Balls should prove a good replacement for Cabochard, but Shiphtur, H2K, and Otter as replacements all seem like desperation moves for FUZZYWUZZY. Until Emperor can hit the field, he’ll struggle to maintain a solid roster.

Aybaran, on the other hand, dominated as Team Liquid played out of their minds. If Team Liquid looks this solid all season and Gravity adapts well to their new jungler, Aybaran is sitting on one terrifying team. However, he’s not sitting on his laurels, subbing PowerofEvil into mid and Loulex into the jungle spot.


Amphialus has to be feeling good after getting a win with the 3rd fewest points. His Origen picks plus YellOwStar all dominated, but the expected star of his team – Forg1ven – looked out of place. He’ll need a rebound from Gambit to be a top 3 team this year. With no roster changes, he’lll be hard pressed to match the upgraded squad of Gentleman Geeves, should Doublelift have another strong performance.

Gentleman Gideon feels in a rough position. Aphromoo and Tabzz put up great points, but Cloud9 managed to lose to Dignitas of alll teams, and I still don’t even know who Steve even is. With so many players from different teams, Gideon needs a lot of different teams to get their shit in order for him to come back this split.


Once again, Melkorthefoul has an unusual roster that somehow does well. Unfortunately, his best position was CLG, and unless CLG plans on going 2-0 every week, those scores won’t continue. He’ll need TSM to bounce back from their rough week 1 to beat out Aybaran, Photosynthesia and me. In other news, even Apollo seems to have forgotten that he was once WizFujiin, and put up monstrous points.

As usual, Photosynthesia is topping the points. Reignover and Febiven and Freeze performed as expected, and Impact and Altec pulled in major points as well. Replacing Gambit Gaming with Origen, can only strengthen the team, and with JWAOW and Soren as subs, I have a hard time seeing this roster outside of the top 3.

Power Rankings

#1 – Photosynthesia: Febiven, Reignover, and Freeze is the most dominant trio anybody has, and the only weaknesses of the squad are JWAOW and Kasing, who have shown great potential already.

#2 – Gentleman Gustaf: My roster has seen huge upgrades since Week 1, and while my power 3 isn’t as strong as Photosynthesia’s, I’m pretty sure my average strength is the best of any team. My main problem is going to come from OG vs FNC weeks. I have subs, but if I sub out the wrong player I will probably lose that week.

#3 – Aybaran: I’m as surprised as the rest of you, but he did it. The only thing keeping the roster from contending for thet #1 spot is H2K’s mediocre play thus far, and with only two games done they could easily take over.

#4 – Amphialus: If Forg1ven and CandyPanda come back strong, this could easily bump up to the #4 spot. Amphialus gets the #4 spot just on matchups; the 1-0 means a loss here still leaves some room.

#5 – Gentleman Geeves: Nothing bad to see her, but only one star pick spells trouble. So many players need to step up here, and there’s only so much time. A win over Amphialus next week is a necessity.

#6 – FUZZYWUZZY: I can’t imagine TSM stsaying down all season with the sheer talent on their roster. I’m hoping they have one more slump week so I can get an easy win, but I expect at least a 4-5 season out of FUZZYWUZZY just on those merits.

#7 – Melkorthefoul: What a scattered roster! With nothing but NA players (and Odamne), there’s a lot of room for crossfire, and I think that will come back to bite his team in the long run.

#8 – Gentleman Gideon: From the waist (Sneaky) down, his roster looks great. Above that, however, it looks more than shaky.


Roster Alerts:

Flaresz is still up for anybody who desperately needs a top laner.

Nien is open. After his dominant performances in Challenger, Nien is worth a pickup for a team missing an ADC. I’m looking at you, FUZZYWUZZY. Trust me, he’s better than Otter. Just…don’t pick him up until next week, k?

Unlimited is not the best support, but he is playing on Copenhagen Wolves, who do nothing but fight fight fight.

Fantasy with Friends – Summer 2015 Draft

It’s that time again! My friends are going toe-to-toe in fantasy, and only the best can win!

Draft Power Rankings

#1 – Photosynthesia

PhotosynthesiaOnce again, Photosynthesia secured a pretty strong roster, ending up with a pretty similar strategy to my own: Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves, Origen, with splashes of Impact and Gambit Gaming. However, I think I should pull the slight edge in a few areas. First, Altec’s “potential” has yet to be realized, and I’m starting to think it never will. Niels is in a similar position, but his first position is his chance to put up or shut up. As well, while I think H2K is a solid team that Kasing has helped to turn around, Mithy was one of the best support in Europe on Lemondogs, while GosuPepper gets to lane with the supremely talented Forg1ven. One of the two should pay off for me. Unfortunately, Freeze should make up more than than that difference, and for that reason I can’t put Photosynthesia anywhere but #1


#2 – Gentleman Gustaf

GustafWhile my power picks (Frogen/Rekkles/Huni) should bring in points, and my sleeper – Niels – may be the most underrated player in the draft, where I’m really hoping to pull in the extra points is with my strong bench. Airwaks, Mithy, and even Pobelter could all be starters on a different roster. However, Team Impulse probably isn’t the strongest choice. I’ll have to shuffle around team picks week-to-week. I think my strong EU focus and Origen “sleepers” should fare well.



#3 – Amphialus

AmphialusAmphialus and I are actually roommates now, so it’s no surprise that he went with a thematically similar strategy to my own. The main difference between our rosters is CandyPanda, and his H2k bench. H2k performed quite well last split, so he should get good value from them. Dyrus, on the other hand, will probably just get camped – TSM being TSM and all.




#4 – Aybaran

AybaranI hate to put Aybaran this high up after teasing his picks over the last 2 splits, but this looks like quite the scary team. However, a lot will be riding on the two Gravity picks, and if Move isn’t an improvement over Saintvicious, those two mediocre fantasy slots will come back to bite him. DiamondProX also makes a great backup jungler in this situation, and while Quas is unlikely to be useless, sOAZ is never a bad thing to have on your team. Personally, I’d start PowerofEvil over Keane, but we’ll see how it plays out. Mostly, if Piglet continues to play like he did in the playoffs, if H2K remains relevant in an improved Europe, if TSM continues their NA dominance, and if Gravity can get off the ground, this should be a beastly rosters, but there are a lot of ifs.



#5 -Melkorthefoul


Melkorthefoul has a very stable roster. Every player at every position is good, but there aren’t any really great ones. Worse, the subs are from Team8, and there’s no real reason to expect standout play from them, especially with their impending roster swap. A lot is riding on Team Impulse having a breakout season, and Meteos putting up better fantasy points than he ever has before. At least the CLG team pick is for the season, and not the playoffs…





FUZZYWUZZYThere’s just something about TSM that draws FUZZYWUZZY in. He didn’t get Dyrus this year, but with 3 TSM members, he’s probably going to get good points as TSM does well. SK should remain good at objectives, and Gambit Gaming likes to fight. However, first-year imports rarely do well, so I’m skeptical about the Emperor pick, and Otter doesn’t make a much more inspiring backup pick. Once again, FUZZYWUZZY will live or die with TSM. Luckily for him, they’re pretty good.



#7 – Gentleman Geeves


Doublelift has been a declining talent for years, and Incarnation is an untested solo queue talent. With those two power picks, I have to feel worried about the team already. While the Fnatic pick should bring in good points, Slooshi and Hauntzer both seem like mediocre picks, and Geeves has no strong subs for them unless Vardags digs deep for hidden talent. I’d like to see Rush starting, and probably Vardags, too, but I don’t see a ton of points coming out of this squad.



#8 – Gentleman Gideon


I have to play the statistical game; Gideon has come in last both splits. While he has two strong supports, I can’t see that making up for a mediocre mid laner with no sub (especially since he won’t start Xpecial and Aphromoo. Maybe trading one of those away for a mid laner would be advisable. After that, I just have one question: why is Steve starting over ZionSpartan? Actually, one more question. Who is Steve?









Surprised by racism? You shouldn’t be.

The scene is all-too-familiar; I am united with friends around some game or movie or conversation of ultimately trivial import when a lull creeps in. The energy drops, and everybody leans back, silent and contemplative. After a moment, somebody – invariably white – pinches a joint between two fingers and raises his arms in a suggestive shrug. “Anybody want to join me?” They gesture around the table to each person in turn.

I have mastered the art of the polite rejection; too firm and I appear to cast judgement, too casual and I invite continued attempts to convince. I raise the first two fingers on my hand maybe 30 degrees and tilt my head down and away, as if gently dismissing an unneeded waiter.

My friends mill about for a moment, donning jackets and shoes before stepping out in the cold, and I am left alone. As an always-fatigued introvert, I have grown to value these periods of solitude, moments of silence in which I can recharge.  But this time, somebody remains, skin tone similar to my own – if perhaps a bit darker – but facial structure marking him as the Central or Southern American I am often confused for.

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