So last night I was at dinner with Sam and my brother, and my brother and I were reminiscing about the days when we had the Commodore 64 and I was completely obsessed with a video game called Below the Root. I couldn’t remember that much about it—my brother said, “There was something with a cape,” and I remembered that you could get the ability to read people’s minds, and there was this whole elaborate underground (“below the root,” obvs) world involved, but that was about it—so I looked it up on Wikipedia this morning and it all made sense.
(Balk, this is where it gets really nerdy. Just warning you.)
First of all, it was meant as a sequel to a trilogy of books called the Green Sky Series by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, who was one of my favorite authors growing up. (She also wrote The Egypt Game, The Changeling, and the Headless Cupid, among many others.) If I knew that when I was 7, I’d forgotten it.
Second of all, it’s completely not surprising that I would be into this game, because it was totally a video game for a hippie child, and probably more so a hippie girl. There was no violence, and if you hurt or killed someone in the game your character lost all his or her magical powers; the few weapons in the game were used for things, like, cutting through vegetation and such. You could choose to be a child and children had special powers. And all the characters were vegetarians.
Finally, for a kid with an overly active imagination, it was perfect—a really thoughtful, complicated game that was more intricate than anything else on the market then. You were on a quest, and you had to progress through various levels of spirit power, solve any number of mysteries, gain the trust of other characters, etc., in order to advance.
Anyway, all of this is also in way of saying that Stephanie Rosenbloom’s article in today’s Times about teenage girls online annoyed the crap out of me today. She writes: “Research shows that among the youngest Internet users, the primary creators of Web content (blogs, graphics, photographs, Web sites) are not misfits resembling the Lone Gunmen of “The X Files.” On the contrary, the cyberpioneers of the moment are digitally effusive teenage girls.”
This is NOT SURPRISING. Girls have always been interested in stuff online that is less about shoot-‘em-up games (though I also did really enjoy playing G.I. Joe when I ws little) and more about self-expression and creating different representations of themselves on the Internet. A couple weeks ago Virginia Heffernan wrote about her early days on the Internet. I really wish, in 2008, that people would stop thinking it’s SO surprising that girls play video games or go online. It’s archaic and lame.