I was indirectly taught that video games were for boys

I had no idea I would ever own my own online boutique, let alone own a store that was gaming related. Growing up, I was always given the impression that I wasn't enough of a gamer to be a gamer. I soon realized I wasn't good enough simply because I was a girl.

Growing up as a girl, you have to really prove yourself in order to be taken even the tiniest bit seriously. And when I say "prove yourself", I mean you have to perfectly follow the definition of what it means to be a "gamer girl" in order to somewhat fit in with the rest of the so called gamers. For instance, there weren't gamer boys and gamer girls, there were just "gamers" and "gamer girls". The girls who were deemed worthy of being called a "gamer girl" had to fit a certain stereotype. We had to be slobby like the boys, we had to rage like the boys, curse like the boys, and we had to live and breathe gaming like the boys. If you didn't catch the gist of that, basically we had to be as stereotypically boy like as possible, otherwise we were taken as a joke. We couldn't play Sims, we couldn't play Animal Crossing, and if we were confident in our looks and cared about our appearance, then we were posers. The worst part about growing up in a world like that as a little girl was the fact that there were other girls that didn't take your side. They finally became the stereotype they worked towards in order to gain recognition in the eyes of the boys creating said stereotypes, so they did whatever they could to put the rest of the girls down in order to maintain their title. The funny part is, now that girl became one of the boys. She wasn't seen as a woman, she wasn't dateable, she was one of the boys.
I remember being so hurt that I wasn't one of the boys growing up. Then I asked... why do I even WANT to be one of the boys? 

Eventually I realized how twisted my perspective was. I was bending over backwards trying to be taken seriously, thinking I would have so much power if I was finally considered one of the boys. Was I really being taken seriously if I had to check boxes and take a test for a hobby that shouldn't be gatekept to begin with? Was I really not a real gamer because I didn't want to wear the same cheesy clothes with GTA or COD references that would soon be covered in Mountain Dew and Dorito stains?

The truth is, because of these rigorous and pointless tests growing up, I still occasionally wonder if I'm a real gamer. I'm still learning new things every day. I'm learning about the ins and outs of different consoles, I pick up on new slang, and I'm just now playing games others have been playing since they were in elementary school. I thought about my life and realized how important gaming has been to me for years. My Gen X parents were very into arcade games when they were growing up. I grew up on Asteroids, Dig-Dug, Pacman, all the classics. We played them as a family every Friday night. I got my Game Boy SP for Christmas when I was seven years old, and I became completely obsessed with playing Mario and Sonic. I later got my Nintendo DS and brought it to all my swim meets. I watched my friend play Animal Crossing: Wild World, and I would play more Mario, Sonic, and NintenDogs. I got my Wii when I was in third grade for my birthday, and my friends and I played Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz, Wii Sports, and Mario Kart all night. When I was in fifth grade, I got really into Guitar Hero. I was horrible, but I really enjoyed it. My little sister and I didn't have a great relationship growing up, but we loved each other, and that was clear whenever we decided playing Super Mario Galaxy was our thing. She was always my Player 2. Last but not least, I was super into the MMO Club Penguin. Fair, I don't really consider this a real game either, except yes I totally do.

Sure I didn't play COD, GTA, or other games that "real" gamers played, but did that mean I wasn't a real gamer? I always considered my mom a gamer growing up because she would play arcade games, table top games, mobile games, and she would either play with me on the Wii or watch me play on any of my other consoles. So, why didn't I consider myself a gamer?

Maybe I didn't consider myself a gamer because I would walk into a store like Game Stop and immediately feel out of place. I'd look at shirts that screamed "I can't keep calm I'm a gamer" with a stick figure man holding a controller, or a shirt that said "My girlfriend made me come, I'd rather be gaming", and think wow... I don't relate to gamers at all. I didn't want any of the poorly designed clothes, the pitch black keyboards, and I didn't want the headset directed towards wanna be gamer girls because it was pink with cat ears. I took a Princess Peach plushie, accepted the fact that I clearly wasn't a gamer, and went on my way.

It didn't take me until I was 23 years old with a lot of time on my hands due to Covid to realize I was a gamer this whole time. I lost all three of my jobs during the pandemic and somehow was able to finish school online. Once I had nothing to do but sit around my house I began playing Sims again. And then Super Mario Galaxy. And then Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Until I decided, hey, I really enjoy this game and my creations are good, I should open an account for my Animal Crossing designs. That's when I realized there were people out there who weren't so different from me.

The Animal Crossing community on Instagram opened a whole world of gaming I had never seen before. I saw people posting not only about their game, but I saw posts of people showing off their setups. I saw minimalistic setups, clean maximalist setups, white setups, plant themed setups, all pink setups, you name it. The setups weren't drowned out by the dark RGB setups I was used to seeing growing up. I was completely inspired. I wanted to enjoy playing games in a space like this, a space that felt more like me.

My Animal Crossing account took off and eventually transformed into a boutique for gamers. I loved to design since I was a kid, and now I had so many ideas for designs I wanted to see gamers wearing. I wanted to help change the world of gaming, and I wanted to show younger me that we really can be ourselves and be real gamers.

What's a name for a shop that's clearly feminine so both men and women know this isn't your ordinary shop with typical gaming apparel? Threads & Thistles sounds cute and it suits me well, and "Inventory" adds a subtle gaming touch. Let's go with that. I think it could really be something special.


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