Crystal from Geek Piñata

Crystal of Geek Piñata

For our Gamer Girl exhibit, I had the pleasure of interviewing Crystal, who runs the Geek Piñata blog on gamer and geek girl fashion.

So, let’s start with the basics.  How did gaming become a part of your life?

When I was 6, my next-door neighbor had a Nintendo and I became obsessed! I would always be at her house playing Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Popeye and Paperboy nonstop. My father saw how much I loved it and eventually got us an Apple IIe with a ton of games on floppy disk for me to play which was a lot of fun. Then SNES came out and my uncle bought it for me for my birthday and of course I loved that too. Gaming stuck and was a part of my life ever since.

Did you face any challenges, like bullying or sexism, in gaming?

I typically avoided and still avoid multiplayer because I would hear the horror stories that other women go through, so I managed to avoid most of it. I did run into some people paying attention to how “good” I was though, and using my skill level as a representation for ALL female gamers. I really love games, but I’m not particularly skilled at certain styles, so it can be frustrating to be used as an “example” that way.

I also wear my Mass Effect N7 hoodie a lot, and I have been asked at least a few times if it was my boyfriend’s hoodie. Another time a guy saw me wearing it, scoffed, and asked me if I “even ever played the game.” Stuff like that gets really frustrating and annoying.

You run a blog on geek fashion — what was your inspiration for this project?

It was always a strong personal interest. I remember one of my first geeky clothing items was a “Body by” t-shirt from Jinx. It said, “Body by” and had a Playstation controller underneath it. It was a men‚Äôs t-shirt though so it wasn’t particularly flattering on me, but I just loved it so much I couldn’t help but wear it out anyway.

I started noticing over time that geeky clothing for women was available via sellers on eBay Рthese were fellow fans taking these geeky men’s shirts and altering them to be more flattering for women Рso of course I bought a ton of them. Then Etsy came out and there was a lot for women available there as well.

I was already shopping for myself, so I figured why not share what I find on my personal social media accounts. Friends started asking me how and where I found these items, and they started sharing them with others. It was then that I decided I should start a blog for women who are interested in such merchandise to find it easier.

How do you find geek fashion to blog about?

I already am searching for this stuff to buy for myself all the time, so I always end up with plenty to blog about. I’d probably blog even more if I had more money to buy all the things I find! Haha.

Also, I’ve noticed there’s some backlash against geek fashion companies, as many don’t provide sizes for bigger girls.  What’s your take on this?  Is there a problem, or is it being addressed?

I completely understand this backlash. People come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so I can see how frustrating it would be if you are a fan of games or other geek culture but can’t wear what is being offered. I’ve seen places like Her Universe start to offer additional sizes, but it’s been a slow process over all. The thing is that businesses that sell geek merchandise are still businesses, and they want to make money. If they don’t know people want it, they probably aren’t going to make it for fear of losing money. It’s important that people continue to make their voices heard via social media to show these companies that there *is* a need, a demand and buyers exist out there.

Why is it important for girls to have spaces that integrate fashion with gamer culture?  What benefits do girls gain from this?

I see integrating fashion with gamer culture being all about expressing yourself. Clothing is something we wear every single day, and it’s fun to wear something that shows the world what you are all about or are interested in. A benefit that I personally see for girls in particular is representation. It’s been a long time since people thought games were for “boys only,” but it’s a slow process and it’s still ongoing to this day. This is just another way to show that yeah, we are here, and we love this stuff too!

What would you say is the best experience that gaming and/or your blog has brought to your life so far?

Crystal of Geek Piñata

Crystal of Geek Piñata

The best experience from both gaming and my blog has been all the people I’ve met through these hobbies! Whether it’s just via online or by meeting up at various conventions such as PAX Primer or SDCC, it’s so amazing to meet people with the same interests and to just geek out over stuff together.

I also noticed that you have a career in web development.  If you don’t mind us asking, what do you do and how did you start?

Before my geek fashion blog, I had a personal blog and I recall not liking any of the templates most of the blogging systems had. In order to change the look of a site though, you have to know some front-end code. I ended up teaching myself because I wanted my blog to look the way I wanted. I kept making websites and layouts over the years and finally realized that these skills are something I could translate to a career.

I decided to go back to school and study Art/Multimedia, which included a more formal way to learn HTML, CSS and some basic JavaScript. A year and a half later, here I am! I am actually moving on to another position soon which includes web development AND design, which is really exciting. In most companies those roles are separated, but I’ve always loved both code and design since they are so closely related. You can’t see a great design on the web to come to life without the support of that front-end code!

What do you hope to do in the future?

I hope that I am still doing what I do now – blogging about geek fashion and working as a designer and developer. In an ideal world, I’d run my own online storefront with geek fashion that I have designed myself! But I still have a lot to learn about running a business,¬†licensing and how¬†patterns work for sewing before I ever dive into that. Maybe one day. 🙂

What advice do you have for girls who want to have careers in gaming and STEM fields?

My advice is to never ever give up. If you love it, pursue it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, and if anyone does try to tell you that you can’t, IGNORE THEM. Also, be proactive! School is great and I think everyone should get an education, but definitely look for additional resources and other ways to learn. Go after an internship. Networking is also important, so if you don’t already know anyone in gaming or STEM fields, get out there and find them. If you don’t know of any events going on in your area, social media is a really fantastic way to find people. Search #gaming or #stem hastags and look at peoples profiles to see what they do for a living. Talk to them, comment on their posts and try to engage in discussion, ask them if they would be open to mentoring you or giving advice.

Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

I am SO happy people like you exist! I grew up an only child for the most part (my little brother wasn’t born until I was 14), so games were and are something very near and dear to me since it was pretty much all I had. Gaming was something that I experienced alone for a long time, so meeting and knowing other women are out there that love games too makes me feel part of a really awesome community. I hope you all feel the same way too. Keep gaming! 🙂

You can follow Crystal on Geek Piñata’s Twitter feed and Facebook page.

-Tiffany Rhoades
Program Developer
Girl Museum Inc.

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