I am a terrible gamer. So terrible, in fact, that I don’t really consider myself a “gamer,” rather, I’m more of a “person who plays one game and that game is the Batman Arkham series and actually I’m not too bad at it.” Batman is the exception to my rule.
However, I enjoy gaming in theory, so in the spirit of my 2016 resolution (be less terrible at video games, stop playing only Batman) I recently picked up Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers at The Copacetic Comics Company in Pittsburgh. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen much buzz about it, even though the book was released in September 2015.
Chainmail Bikini came to fruition after a campaign on Kickstarter funded
its printing. It’s a comic anthology about many things: gaming as an escape, how gender influences gaming, how it impacted a generation. It’s a unique approach to the conversation about women gamers in the wake of GamerGate, focusing on individual storytelling rather than making a singular point. All anecdotes fall within the categorization of “about gaming,” but forty different writers/artists took this theme in different directions. Some stories focus on relationships and sense of community the storyteller developed through gaming while others are centered on how gaming helped the author develop their sense of identity. The stories range from quick and fun to deeply serious in tone with a mix of each, resulting in a tone that isn’t overwhelmingly happy or sad–it is what it is, and more than anything, it is experiences in gaming laid bare.
The two most important aspects of this anthology, perhaps, are its diversity and its definition of gaming. Women of different ethnicities, sexualities, and gender identities are responsible for and are represented in Chainmail Bikini’s stories, proving, yet again, that gaming isn’t exclusively for heterosexual white guys–it’s for everybody.
Something that I hadn’t considered before I read Chainmail Bikini is what makes a gamer. I always think of gamers as men who take things way seriously and yell at consoles, but not all gamers in the anthology play video games. LARPers and tabletop gamers are also represented, and there are references to Animal Crossing and Tamagotchi.
As it stands, I’ve reconsidered my gaming experience. Reading “Let Me Do It” by Sara Goetter reminded me of the hours my brother and I would spend working through Kingdom Hearts and Scooby Doo: Night of 100 Frights (the only games we could agree on enough to play together). “Pocket Worlds” by Anna Rose gave me a sense of nostalgia for the times my mom and I would hunch over at our desktop computer, playing through HER Interactive’s Nancy Drew fantastic computer game series (by my count, we played through an impressive eighteen of them).
The point being: This book redefines gaming. I am perhaps more of a gamer than I thought.
Though it’s not without flaws–some stories are a bit muddled in their art and are hard to understand in the first read–Chainmail Bikini is well worth a read by anyone who is interested in comics, gaming, and/or feminism. I would also encourage men who inhabit these spaces, whether they’re online or physical, to give it a read. It’s worth it just to consider a viewpoint different from your own, because the important takeaway of this book, though not stated in an explicit thesis, is to remind readers that almost everyone has experiences with gaming, because gaming is for everybody.