Book review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

4/5 stars.

This was actually another surprise (as in, it wasn’t on The List) gift from J. I had considered the book in the past because I’ve heard good things about it, but ultimately decided against it because although I know Felicia Day I don’t know her work well enough to be a big fan, and I’m also not much of a gamer and was worried there’d be too many WoW-references or other lingo I didn’t get. But, now that it landed in my hands, and I had 3 weeks of holiday (which are now over, *sigh*) ahead…

After getting off to a bit of a rocky start, I did really enjoy this one. I felt as if the introductory chapter was too much of her basically excusing herself for not being famous or old enough to be writing a memoir, a lot of “maybe you don’t know who I am” type of stuff. You wrote the book, I have it – it either means I bought it or someone gave it to me thinking I’d enjoy it – stop trying to justify its existence. She does continue to have this nervous energy which is equal parts exhausting and recognisable throughout the book – but I think it works for her.

It does make the book kind of stressful to read though, at least for me. It’s definitely enjoyable, but wow this woman is like 150% on all the time. Even in her depression she was 150% invested into her gaming addiction. And while it’s definitely also inspiring how she built her company and created The Guild with a few friends in a garage for basically nothing (the first season or two anyway), I get stressed out just reading about how much energy and anxiety went into that. And I find myself thinking “if this is what it takes to follow your dream, I don’t think I have it in me”. But maybe I just need to find the right dream…

Basically this book is the story of Felicia Day’s life, with emphasis on her introduction to the Internet and gaming, and her subsequent history with gaming addiction and how she ultimately learned from that and ended up building her career on it.

Even though Felicia and I are somewhat different people with very different upbringings, there’s a lot I recognise in her story. I too was pretty much obsessed with the internet as soon as I was introduced to it, and I think there’s a very good chance I could have gotten hooked on online gaming (given that I once almost burned our house down because I was busy playing Super Mario Bros. 3), had my mum been more lenient with computer time. As it was, at age 16, I spent all my time online obsessively emailing my ex boyfriend. And then I discovered IRC… So, I can also very much relate to the awkwardness of meeting someone IRL that you have been chatting with online. I definitely met a lot of interesting people that way, but it never really turned out like I expected, and they were always different from what I imagined. I did make some good friends that I first met online, and get a (sorta) stalker. I mean he wasn’t dangerous or anything, just a sad and lonely teenager who had some trouble understanding the word “no”.

Felicia’s descent into gaming addiction was also both recognisable and scary. She was basically at a point in her life where she wasn’t happy with what she was doing life and career-wise, but didn’t know what to do or how to change that, and she filled that void with gaming. Basically how she felt then is how I feel now – I’m just older. So, yeah… Now I just need to figure out how to build a career on reading, watching Netflix and spending too much time on reddit, and I’m good to go.

Clearly Day struggled with depression over a longer period of time, and clearly she also has anxiety issues. This becomes more and more apparent as her tale progresses. I do kind of miss the part about how that developed, as she does reference struggling while growing up, but when she writes about her younger years, it doesn’t really seem to be a difficult time for her. She’s obviously highly strung and has a huge drive to impress/please people, which leads her to study obsessively and get great grades. But I still sort of feel like I’m missing a link. I do get that she doesn’t want to write a sob story though. It’s supposed to be an at least partially humorous account of her life, she needs to give even the darker parts some impression of lightness – which she does quite well. It’s recognisable and it’s sad, for someone who has struggled with similar issues, but at the same time it doesn’t drag me all the way down there. And I definitely laughed out loud on several occasions.

Like Felicia, I really really love the internet. I love the freedom and the opportunities it provides. I have the world at my fingertips and can communicate easily with people around the globe, I can play games, I can learn about almost anything, and I can look at cat gifs ALL DAY. I am of course aware that there are dark corners of the internet where hatred, misogyny and ignorance is cultivated – there always has to be a balance between light and dark it seems. I was still shocked and saddened to read the chapter about Gamergate and how much backlash, hatred and vitriol miss Day faced just for voicing an opinion.

Fortunately the book ends on a positive note, and it seems Felicia is a calmer, happier and stabler person after a wealth of life experiences and some therapy to deal with the most pressing issues. She seems ready to take on the world in a slightly less neurotic and crazy way. She is where I would like to be at some point in the future too. So, maybe there’s hope for me yet?

Felicia Day espouses the old adage “write what you know”, which is what she did to great success (admittedly accompanied by very savvy and committed viral marketing) with The Guild. So that’s what I’ve – sort of – been trying to do for the last week or so (hence the lack of blogs). And then we’ll see if it leads anywhere. And if I can actually muster the energy to be consistent now that I’m back at work..

 

 

 

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