Felicia Day's "You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)"
Felicia Day's memoir You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) starts off as a cute, snarky story about how a quirky upbringing turned Day into a nerd superhero; by the end, it's become an illuminating, frank look at the commercial realities, injustices and insecurities that everyone trying to earn a living online must confront.
Felicia Day started out as a math prodigy and violin virtuoso, home-schooled by her oddball mother while they followed her Army doctor father around several postings in the American south. Socially awkward and isolated, Day became an avid gamer and an even more avid participant in online forums for gamers, finding camaraderie and comfort in the early years of the networked world.
After a very early graduation from UT Austin, Day left her family and moved to Los Angeles to find a career in movies or TV, and got stuck in the moderately compensated, soul-deadening world of commercials. When she started playing World of Warcraft to escape the tedium, she experienced a bout of clinical depression that had her stuck at home, playing WoW day and night while her personal and professional life disintegrated.
She overcame her depression and her problems with Warcraft by writing the pilot for The Guild, a super-low-budget, guerrilla web series about a young woman who shared her insecurities and her MMO addiction. The show was an early Youtube success and, when she couldn't find studio backing to continue the series on decent terms, became an early crowdfunding success, too, as gamers worldwide rallied to the show. Independence and success in a heretofore-unsuspected gamer market got The Guild sponsorships, first from Xbox and then from Youtube -- it eventually ran for six seasons.
Day was a success, but her personal life was a disaster. Although she was getting better roles -- you might know her work from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Supernatural -- she was also under so much stress that her hair was falling out, she was suffering from panic attacks, and her acid reflux went critical. Between the misogynist trolls that come with the package for women in public life (especially when it comes to gaming) and her difficulties with perfectionism and delegation, her business was on the verge of destroying her.
Throughout this story, Day's memoir is funny, lighthearted, and sarcastic, peppered with memes featuring embarrassing photos from her childhood and adolescence. But as we come to the chapters detailing the mistakes she made in her personal and business relationships, the telling takes on a brutally frank, confessional aspect. Day's unflinching look at the traps she fell into as a "success" are a welcome addition to the canon of "how I made it" stories, and a reminder that we live our own blooper reels and experience other people's highlight reels.
The final chapter is an essay about Gamergate and her experience with gendered harassment, including multiple doxxings and disgusting, violent sexualized threats, and what that's meant for Day's lifelong view of herself as a gamer. It's a must-read.
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) [Felicia Day/Touchstone]
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