Geek and Sundry’s Felicia Day Talks Being a Geek, Sexism In Gaming And Her YouTube Geek Week Projects [INTERVIEW]

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Geek and Sundry creator Felicia Day would be the first to call herself a “geek.”

She first started gaming as a little girl and found the virtual world on her computer screen to be an escape from reality. Now at 34 years old, Felicia’s decades of gaming experience have helped spur her successful YouTube career and the popularity of her game-centered YouTube channel Geek and Sundry.

Among her most prominent work, Felicia was the writer, creator and star of the “The Guild,” a 70-episode web series that followed the lives of a gamers’ online guild “The Knights of Good.” After wrapping up the sixth season of “The Guild,” Felicia launched the multi-channel network Geek and Sundry.

The upcoming host for YouTube’s first-ever Geek Week, Felicia caught up with NMR to talk about why she is not a “female” gamer, as well as her upcoming videos, web series premieres and announcements for Geek Week.

In many of your social media profiles, you label yourself as a “geek.” Have you always self-identified as a geek?

Felicia Day: I was home-schooled when I was a kid so I didn’t really know what I was. I kind of grew up in a little bit of a bubble but I knew that I gravitated towards things that I loved. And I loved reading fantasy novels, I loved playing video games, I loved watching movies and TV; those are the things that allowed me to escape and were my primary things I loved doing besides doing theatre, so definitely as I grew older I realized that “Oh I guess I am a geek.” You know it’s only lately, in the last five years or so, that a lot of people used the label with pride, I think, which is an awesome shift because I think it encourages other people to be more open to experiencing things that were previously you got judged for. Right now, I definitely self-identify as a geek and I’m very proud of it.

What do you think makes up geek culture on YouTube?

I think that the online world has given the opportunity for people who love things that are not necessarily mainstream or mainstream TV or movies to be represented. They have a voice online, they have a voice to create a community between each other and they have a voice in video. And video is something that all of us use as a way to entertain ourselves and to congregate around, and YouTube is the perfect platform for that. Gamers are not necessarily a group that has a lot of representation on TV. In fact, “The Guild,” when I tried to pitch it as a television show, everyone rolled it out immediately because it said, “Gamers don’t watch TV,” which may be true, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. The online world knows exactly who is going to watch their stuff, and a lot of gamers are just one click away, so I think it’s really an amazing place to celebrate what you love and find other people who love what you love, and it’s kind of the definition of “being a geek” anywhere, and YouTube and video and social media, those are perfect places to be a geek I think.

What really made you passionate about gaming?

I got a computer when I was a very little kid. My mom had a computer that was handed down from my grandfather who was a scientist, and I always knew that was a way to communicate with people and to entertain yourself. And I’m certainly one of those people who loves to escape; my imagination works overtime, and I love to live in other worlds through video games and books or movies, so video games are something I had, as a kid, as a touch of freedom. I had the opportunity to create myself, create my avatar, live in a virtual world, and I think as a kid you’re always looking to be independent, and gaming kind of gives you the perfect opportunity to do that without your mom chasing you down the street [laughs]. I think that’s why I love gaming, and role playing games in particular where I can create sort of a interpretation of myself inside a game.

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Do you think sexism is still prevalent in the gaming world? Is it something you’ve ever experienced?

I experience things like that every single day. I think that there is definitely some growing pains in the gamer community where a lot more women are more vocal, they’re more participating; almost half of gamers now are women, and even if you discount casual games and things like that, just because you play casual games does not mean you can’t call yourself a gamer. So I think there are certainly growing pains, there is a cultural sort of backlash, but at the same time I love how there is a lot more conscientiousness about representing women in gaming and being more proud of being a gamer versus women’s representation in TV and movies. I think it’s really awesome when you do have these sort of these people voicing concerns about the representation in games because you are going to make a difference if you create a conversation, and if I can be on the forefront and be the object of maybe some people being hateful toward me, there are a lot more people to that one hateful person who will come out and support and then see what I’m doing and perhaps find gaming to be a hobby as well because somebody else is reassuring them that it’s okay to be who you are. I don’t myself identity as a female gamer necessarily because that’s giving the default “gamer” word to guys. I’m just a gamer who happens to be a girl, and if you would like to judge me, that’s kind of your problem because I’m busy doing what I love.

How do you feel like your work on YouTube is promoting this equality between men and women in the gaming world?

Like I said, there are people in my world, like when I was growing up I was very inspired — in a very unspoken way — by women like Nora Ephron and other creators as well as actors like Katherine Hepburn or Julia Roberts. Women who can be leading parts, who can be the creator behind something that you love, and you might not even acknowledge them as a mentor but their existence creates a possibility for you to have a door that you believe to be opened, and I think that the things that I do, I hope that that represents that same thing to other women who want to either get into the video business, start their own company or just merely pick up a video game and start playing it. I think that it’s important to have those people in your life, and if I can be that person to even a handful of women and girls out there and show them that there is a way to be prominent and do things that you might not think are necessarily quote, unquote female things to do, that just basically tears down a wall and just shows you that you can do whatever you want regardless of gender, and if we can overlook gender then we’d all be much more happy I think in the things that we create.

What are you most excited for looking forward to Geek Week?

Well Geek Week is an amazing opportunity to highlight the creators and the content on YouTube that is geek-oriented. A couple months ago they did a really cool event called Comedy Week, and I’m excited to be part of the group that’s being highlighted for Geek Week in August. We’re doing really fun things: We have a day called Fan Friday that we’re sort of curating, and we’re looking to highlight videos all across from all different kinds of creators on YouTube that sort of highlight the sensibility of celebrating fandom. We’re also using the week as a platform to launch new shows and new personalities as well as doing special editions of the shows that we already do, so I will be doing a special “Co-Optitude” video with my brother, “Pokemon Snap,” which is the most requested game that people wanted us to play for weeks and weeks and months of doing the show. Wil Wheaton is doing a special episode of “Tabletop” between Seth Green and they’re playing a “Star Wars” game, so that’s kind of a trifecta of awesomeness right there. We’re premiering a brand new show, an 11-minute, 8-bit-style animated show by “Code Monkeys” creator Adam de la Pena; it’s called “Outlands,” and it is about a group of misfit space travelers whose mission is to find planets and reform them to accommodate more consumerism [laughs] like Wal Marts and Starbucks — really super funny project that we’ll be premiering that week. We’re also going to be doing an epic video that is a spoof on food competition shows; we’ll be doing “Geeky Food Sculpture,” and the contestants will be me and Hannah Hart and Harley from Epic Meal Time along with a couple of very special guest judges. That will be kind of a special video that we’re doing, and then we’ll also be premiering new vloggers from our vlogging channels. We launched a vlogging channel earlier this year called Geek and Sundry Vlogs that featured eight hand-picked talents that I found by searching YouTube for voices that I wanted to represent the network, and we held sort of a community input and submission process all summer — that was 450 entries. We narrowed it down to 30, and we’re going to be announcing the new people at the beginning of Geek Week at Vidcon, and some of our new vloggers will be rolling out and premiering during Geek Week and that’s obviously really tied into our whole fan theme because some of these — almost all of them — are just fans who wanted to submit and join the network, and I’m so proud of all the diversity and all the interesting points of view that we’ll be adding to the channel.

So … you seem to have a few things going on here.

[laughs] A little bit. I think that’s what is really awesome about Geek Week — we’re all very inundated with content all the time on all channels, whether it is TV or movies or web or Twitter. Everybodys’ content is always out there, and the idea that we’re going to make an event about it around themes that we can really wrap our heads around, we can all celebrate something and find new content and rediscover old and have YouTube behind just sort of highlighting the really special things, and I think it’s a great event and I hope they do more of it, and I’m just really proud to be involved.

Check out NMR’s exclusive Geek Week video and coverage here.

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