Nostalgia in a Flat Cap

Jan 4, 2016 by

Fallout 4 companion Piper Wright

Piper Wright

I haven’t played Fallout 4 yet, but with the game out since November, between screenshots and articles, I’ve seen most of the companions. Piper Wright caught my eye, but I couldn’t figure out why she appealed to me so much. She’s attractive, with a certain air of presence to her; a determination in her eyes. Her dark, shoulder-length hair is topped with a flat cap. Appropriate for a journalist who goes around asking questions and interviewing people if she’s your companion, and grants a perk that lets you be more persuasive and grant access to new areas. From these basics, I guessed that she’s curious, maybe a little restless in the way the curiouser minds generally are. Yet, there was something else, something more drawing me to her whenever her image passed across one of my social media feeds.

One day, it dawned on me. It was her hat. My dad frequently wore flat caps when I was a child. I remember him wearing them, just like my grandfather did. There was one in particular, a brown herringbone tweed one with a single snap to attach the top to the brim, that I decided to wear myself. Dad noticed and gave it to me. That hat accompanied me through a couple of changes of address, classes where I wore it as intended, classes where I wore it with the snap undone.

To the poetry workshop I attended at sixteen, wearing a cream sweater, my flat cap on backwards, thinking it looked funny with my glasses, the frames not particularly suited for my face. How, in the words of a cute boy, the cap, glasses, and my long, wide sleeves made me look like a “real writer”. That same cute boy and I later had three phone calls. We read each other our poems. Me on the other end, no longer costumed as a real writer in those moments. The date we both agreed to was undone by differences in beliefs. He wanted to bring me to a church event. I had already left religion. I remember his last name and his brown eyes. Our reason for parting, it was fair, but I still felt the tinge of adolescent insecurity; the fear of judgment. I didn’t tell him the entire reason. Yet, I was still a real writer, with or without my cap on backwards. The words always demanded passage into the world, as they still do. Though I don’t think I wore the hat backwards after that.

I remember wanting to write for a newspaper, wishing so hard for a word processor as a child. I got my grandma’s old manual typewriter first. The slightly concave keys smoother than anything I knew, clear and shiny. Moving the carriage back, learning to use carbons and correction tape, a tangibility to leaving indentations in the paper behind; traces of authenticity. My words, they existed. I could feel them. I’d mash the keys with my small fingers until they throbbed, making sure all was clear. The word processor I received a couple of years later was more forgiving of my eagerness. The keys soft, a muted breath instead of the hard, metal clacking that left my hands ringing.

Drawing out newspapers, truly zines I intended to write and distribute, but never did. Not for lack of trying, but the nearest copy machine was 10 or 25 cents each, and we were poor. I still drew them. I wrote stories, typed them up, clipped them out and taped or glued them into the layouts I spent time creating. I thought I might be headed for the newspaper one day. Maybe I’d even wear a flat cap like the generations before me. Like newspaper reporters in a forgotten age. Like my dad. Like a character in a game from 2015 but set centuries in the future. Like Piper, who draws me in.

Piper’s hat is worn, it shows the damage of the Wasteland and the effect of time. I still don’t know all that much about her, but the combination of her long red coat and that hat make her adorable in my eyes. Her appeal is partly in a sense of nostalgia, anachronistic in the setting and year of Fallout 4, and unapologetically so. Piper, I’ve learned from friends playing, approves of when the player character chooses kind options. I knew I would have to look more into Piper, even before playing the game. It began with her hat.

Piper’s hat fills me with long-ago dreams. Piper’s hat fills me with curiosity. Piper’s hat fills me with warm nostalgia.

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Rising Above Gatekeeping: Games Belong to All

Apr 28, 2015 by

FemHype Kiva Bay comic

Humans and other animals enjoy play. Let’s focus on humans for the moment, though. “Playing” is not something you grow out of and it’s not something you have to do in a certain way, at a certain time, or to have a certain experience. More people seem to have realized that video games aren’t something one grows up and magically stops liking as if some prerequisite of adulthood. I like to think we’ve made some progress when it comes to our thinking about games, gamers, and how we participate and interact, as well as matters of access to those games, but this isn’t always clear.

It’s a week where some were confused or disappointed by seeing eSports broadcast on ESPN2, but this is only one symbol of change. Yesterday, FemHype published a comic by Kiva Bay (and Sam Slater) about her experiences with homelessness and how the ability to play games occasionally, plus see gaming Let’s Plays, shows, and coverage, helped her get through the days and feel better about life amid those struggles. Yet, the idea of identity came into play, and worries about not being accepted as a gamer since she didn’t have the opportunity or means to play most of the games she came to care about and experience virtually through others. The comic spoke to me since, while I’ve never been homeless, I did grow up poor with my mom, who has MS. We relied on her disability payments, as well as food assistance and even sometimes the church pantry in order to get by. One thing my mom and I shared were video games.

Yes, we had consoles, but they were often a gift from a family member as a combined birthday and Christmas present that required lengthy periods of saving up. When it came to games, we had a couple for each console. Sometimes we borrowed games from my great aunt, who kept an NES for her charges to come play (she was a teacher). My mom and I would browse used games on the shelves at E.B. and sometimes get one if we could afford it that month. Sometimes, Mom would drive us to an arcade and give me eight quarters. Those quarters meant the opportunity to get out there and enjoy some games, often with other kids. That was multiplayer. Other times, we would manage $2-3 for a rental.

When I began writing about games and even getting people to pay me to do that, there was a voice deep inside that peeped at me about my experiences, that my gaming history was “broken” or that my experiences, my insight, were inferior because of rentals not always giving me enough time to finish games, for missing out on games many consider classics, for having holes where other people’s console or PC gaming experiences were. We had consoles that we held onto for a long time since that’s what we could afford. I pushed that nagging little voice down, but it did undermine my confidence for a while.

In addition to humans liking to play, we also generally like to feel like we belong, that we can relate to others in this vast weird experience we call life. A few billion of us share the planet right now. A shared passion is a powerful thing, and when it comes to gaming, that’s true as well. Yet, it pains me that other people sometimes personify that little nagging voice that I’ve had to deal with –except this time, they serve as gatekeepers, as rule makers, or even as the gates themselves. There’s enough room to listen to one another and not disparage what we each like, what we connect with, or how we play. And even if people can’t access the games others play, they can still be passionate about those things. How about we stop looking for ways to disqualify people or to stop attempting to qualify them in the first place? It is tiring and exhausting to see people attempt to police others’ identities, on any front.

Games are something that have been part of my life since I was about three. A friend recently mentioned that she felt it shameful that she had never played games in several popular series. I told her, as we chatted over dinner, that everyone starts somewhere, and that there was no shame in it. I’m glad to see people discover games, whether that’s through active play, video, or even if someone discovered Heroes of the Storm via ESPN2.  People have different experiences, with many aspects of life, and making others believe it’s shameful not to have played something, it’s counterproductive to connection. Connection, including sharing our experiences, it’s one of the things I enjoy most about the power of games. They appeal to our human need to play, and in turn, give us one way to relate, open our eyes, learn, and care.

Connection is what I saw in that comic, and it reminded me of that nagging voice that even pops up still, once in a rare while. However you arrive, your experience is valuable. Welcome.


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