Perhaps some of you already know about Alyssa Bereznak, a writer for Gizmodo who went on two dates with a nice-seeming guy on OKCupid, then returned home to destroy his character online because he happened to be a world champion at “Magic: The Gathering”. Internet reaction was swift (as internet reactions tend to be) with headlines like Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Date Alyssa Bereznak, written by women, no less. Even Gizmodo Australia berated their own co-worker.
This is a remarkable turn of events, if you have any memory of childhood occurring before about 1985, when dissing someone for being a dork was not only unremarkable, it was mandatory. The worm has finally turned, and the geek has indeed inherited the earth, when the whole internet turns against a girl for disdaining fantasy role-playing gamers.
I’m glad I’m here to see it, and enjoy it while I’m still young enough to remember the humiliation I endured at the hands of similarly close-minded yahoos (next stop: absolution for ham radio enthusiasts?) But I think the outrage is slightly misplaced.
First off, Alyssa Bereznak is a chick, and we still expect our women to be less judgmental and more accepting of the weirdoes among us – which has no doubt amped up the criticism of her. Yes, a man would have also gotten a ton of shit for writing something like this, but when a woman does it, we see it as… I dunno, a betrayal of some sort.
I’ve also read a few online defenses of “Magic: The Gathering”, as if Bereznak would have behaved differently if she’d known how cool it really was. My own interaction with MTG was limited to several days at the wifi/arcade/gaming center in Jasper, Georgia circa 2002, where Salem and I would check our email and play Galaga.
Were some of the players morbidly obese and wearing oversize rayon print T’s with wizards on them? Sure. Was the gameplay oddly quiet and arcane? Yep. But were there a bunch of normal teenagers in there, even a couple of girls, escaping their parents and having fun? Fuck yes.
It’s not Bereznak’s criticism of the game that I find most reprehensible, nor her general shallowness of character. For me, it’s her closing statement:
for all you world famous nerds out there: Don’t go after two Gawker Media employees and not expect to have a post written about you. We live for this kind of stuff.
Two things about this. First off, he didn’t “go after” two Gawker Media employees, he merely selected two people with similar interests who ended up working for the same corporate parent company. And believe me, I was a world-class cad with seemingly no moral compass, but even the nicest guy in the world can look predatory if he is observed in the act of dating.
Secondly – and worstly – and neither of those are actual words – this is just another example of a person not living her life for life’s sake. It’s all just part of the package she presents to the social media world. She doesn’t have inner monologues or meaningful experiences, she only has Events to be Shared Later for Social Currency.
People turn to games like “Magic: The Gathering” because they’re missing a magical part of themselves they used to indulge – the lush, anything-goes dreamscapes my daughter lives in right now. I did the same thing with Dungeons & Dragons, and I do it now while inventing stories for our job.
This woman’s crime isn’t that she’s mean-spirited, or that she doesn’t “get” gamers. Her crime is a failure of imagination, a failure to sense greatness. Diving into someone’s else’s passions, no matter how weird they might seem, never fails to stoke your own. This woman is worse than mean; she’s boring.