TOMS Shoes for Gamer Girls (No Painting Required!)

Red Gamer TOMS Shoes © TOMS
Red Gamer TOMS Shoes © TOMS

Most moms are familiar with the comfort and style of TOMS shoes. If you wanted to add your distinctive geek style to your comfy slip-ons, though, you usually had to take the time to paint them yourself.

But not anymore! Continue reading TOMS Shoes for Gamer Girls (No Painting Required!)

‘Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything’ Gets Everything Pretty Much Wrong

Image Courtesy © Disney XD
Image Courtesy © Disney XD

All it took was the promise of seeing Stampy Cat on Disney XD’s newest TV show, Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, and my 6-year-old begged for the free episode currently offered on iTunes. We’re a family that loves to play video games and watches the Disney Channel regularly, so it seemed like a match made in heaven… until we got a sneak peek at the pilot.

Stampy Cat kicks off the episode, as promised, gamely playing the part of an announcer (no pun intended) at the finals of a world gaming championship. No girl gamer shown in the finals, I noticed immediately, but knowing that there was a girl in the regular cast, I was willing to let it slide. But it turned out to be the portrayal of that girl that sealed my opinion: If the pilot is any indication, this is a show that plays on most of the worst stereotypes about gamers.

Image Courtesy © Disney XD
Image Courtesy © Disney XD

Ashley shushes the others for loudly saying that she plays video games, bemoaning that her volleyball teammates will think less of her if they find out. In an age where almost every kid, girl or boy, plays games either on a smartphone or in the world of Minecraft, it seems like an out-of-date attitude for a character to have.

On top of that, Ashley could have served as a strong counterpart to pro-gamer Conor, with smarts and confidence in both herself and her own skills as a “gamer.” Instead, the character my daughter could have identified with (as an avid game player herself) is an easily-distracted ditz. The other gamers have problems with social skills and lack common sense. Is making fun of people who play video games really still a thing?

Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything premieres on July 22 on Disney XD. The channel is more directed at appealing to a young male audience, so perhaps that explains the stereotypes and depiction of Ashley. And, granted, this is a kids’ comedy show, so my expectations shouldn’t be high to begin with. But knowing that there are wonderful female characters on Disney XD’s shows (I’m looking at you, Star Wars Rebels), I can’t simply excuse it away. We’ll stick to Stampy Cat on YouTube instead.

Backward Compatible: YA Romance for People Like Us

Backward Compatible © SDE Press
Backward Compatible © SDE Press

I’ve never been all that big a fan of romance as a genre. I think the biggest problem I’ve always had with it is that is simply doesn’t represent who I am. OK, so that statement could apply to most of us unless of course you were painted lounging naked on a chaise lounge on the Titanic, but if you’re reading a website called GeekMom I’m sure you get my point. Romantic films always seem to be about girls who have a secret desire to have boys propose their undying love in front of the whole school/holiday camp/castle. If you’re like me, then having someone drag you into the spotlight for any reason is enough to trigger a panic attack that will last several days and being crowned prom queen is probably the most embarrassing and cringe-worthy things that you could imagine.

Backward Compatible is a boy-meets-girl romance for people like me. It opens at a midnight release for the 10th installment of fictional game Fatal Destiny X where George (cosplaying as a druid character named Wayfarer) meets Katie (cosplaying Syntania, a scantily clad mage) and soon introduces a cast of characters I felt like I already knew. There’s Lanyon the best-friend who I’m sure was based on one of my high-school friends, Seynar the somewhat arrogant blogger who believes everyone wants to read his opinions of The Desolation of Smaug despite only having 12 followers, and a host of other random gamer types. The plot follows George and Katie’s exploits through both the real world of their new found friendship and also online in FDX as they and their friends team up, gathering the weapons they need to fight the game’s ultimate hidden Boss.

Backward Compatible Cover © SDE Press
Backward Compatible Cover © SDE Press

The book is crammed full of more references than an entire season of Community, and not just the soft-core ones that anyone who’s seen Star Wars will get. The level of obscurity attained inside these pages is enough to impress even the most die-hard nerd. There’s an impressively involved Portal gag, a joke about Christopher Tolkien, and more Python references than you can shake a heavily-laden swallow at; plus the characters even occasionally swear in the Firefly style. At first the constant referencing felt forced, as if the authors were intentionally trying to cram as many in-jokes onto each page as possible, but the style soon settled down and soon it felt more natural. Once you got to know the characters it seemed obvious that they would tell a Denny’s waitress how many pancakes they wanted by announcing that “three is the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be three.”

As a lot of the plot follows the characters playing FDX, the gaming talk comes thick and fast (insert countless jokes about grinding at this point). I’m not a hardcore gamer so a few went over my head but even my husband who has never played an MMO, RPG, or anything along those lines in his life enjoyed the book and had no problems figuring out what was going on. Of course a familiarity with that world is going to enhance your appreciation of the book exponentially but most people who’ll pick this book up will have no problems there. Gaming also plays a large part in one of the most traditionally romantic parts of the book, when George writes a poem for Katie. However unlike poems in most other books this one includes the line, “You are the weapon at my spawn point.” It’s a very specific line for a very specific kind of girl, but for the right girl it’s about as romantic as it comes.

I absolutely loved this book. It was about people who represented me and it was set in the real-life world I have inhabited since my early teens. I wanted the characters to be real so I could talk to them and become friends (also FDX sounds pretty freaking awesome). OK, so I’m a married mom and so have left the awkward dating phase behind, but this is still my world. I hope we get another book in the series where we can meet George and Katie a few years on and see how their relationship has progressed. After all, staying up all night to grind and level your character is a lot trickier when you’ve got a baby—just saying!

GeekMom received this product for review purposes.

Win a 6-Month Subscription to Loot Crate Just in Time For Father’s Day!

Loot Crate
Image: Loot Crate

The Loot Crate subscription box is tailor made for geeks and gamers, and now you have a chance to win a 6-month Loot Crate subscription just in time for Father’s Day!

The idea behind Loot Crate is to provide a monthly subscription service specifically for the nerds of the world. Each month you’ll get a new box full of things like shirts, stickers, keychains, gadgets, collectibles, and even blind-box figures with a different theme.

Continue reading Win a 6-Month Subscription to Loot Crate Just in Time For Father’s Day!

The GeekMoms Podcast #19 PAX East and Plague Town Author Dana Fredsti

This week GeekMom Nicole Wakelin is joined by two special guests starting with Dana Fredsti, author of the new zombie novel Plague Town. They talk about her book, zombies, sword-fighting, and her time on the set of Army of Darkness. Later, Jessa Phillips of Good To Be A Geek chats with Nicole about PAX East. They both attended this epic game convention last weekend, never once found each other, but still had a fantastic game-filled time. Tune in to hear all the details!

Subscribe in iTunes, via RSS or direct download

Music by Rebecca Angel

Games, Cosplay, and The Guild at PAX East


PAX East 2012, Boston, Massachusetts, Image: Nicole Wakelin

One of the cons I look forward to most is PAX East because it focuses on all kinds of games. It doesn’t matter if you favor PC, Xbox, or Wii, or board games, RPGs, and card games. If you’re a gamer, then this is your con. In its third year it was even better than ever, despite being held on Easter weekend. Yeah, that was a bummer. It meant packing three days of gaming into two for many of us, but we managed. Who cares if the Easter ham was nearly burned or you completely forgot to put rolls on the table for lack of sleep. We came, we saw, we played all the games!

I got some hands-on time with a few titles that haven’t yet seen the light of day but have me incredibly excited. Rock Band Blitz, due out this summer, was an absolute riot. If you love Rock Band but lack the coordination to play the drums or guitar without embarrassing yourself, then you need to give this one a try. You hold a regular controller and just need to press two keys. That’s it. I didn’t want to hand over the controller to the next guy in line, but he had a wicked looking cosplay sword so I decided to let it go.

Munchkin The Guild, Due Out in May, Image: Nicole Wakelin

There were also a few early release things you could go home with, like the Munchkin The Guild! booster. Yes, I bought one. No, you can’t have it. It’s got 15 cards with all your favorite characters and artwork by Len Peralta, the guy behind the Geek A Week trading cards. They say this won’t be out until May so you just have a bit longer to wait before you can use your +1 Sexterity.

Beautiful Mass Effect Cosplay, Image: Nicole Wakelin

And although I never cosplay, I love seeing costumes that look like they’ve walked right out of a book or screen shots from my favorite games. There was an R2 unit rolling around with two little kids dressed like Leia and Obi Wan that were the cutest cosplayers ever. But some of the most impressive efforts this year were straight out of Mass Effect which makes me wonder, who’s fighting the Reapers if these guys were all hanging out at PAX East?

The GeekMoms at PAX East, Image: Nicole Wakelin

My favorite part of the con? The people. Striking up random conversations while waiting in lines, jumping in to demos with strangers, talking about how much we can’t wait for this or that to be released and which vendor has the best deal on the game we’re about to purchase. The people are what make it all fun. More than any other convention, this one makes me sad when I leave. It’ll be a whole year before I get to hang out with people, who, just for a weekend, are like long lost friends. I’ll be there next year. What about you?

Check out all my PAX East pictures including the complete Munchkin The Guild card set.

Skyrim, You Bore Me

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Game Studios

I am not a good console gamer. Sure, I play board games and card games and I have a wonderful time, but, put a controller in my hands and it’s all over. I’ve tried, really, because there’s nothing worse than being a geek who’s an inept gamer. I hear about the latest and greatest game that sounds amazing and is set in a universe I love, but when it comes out I know there’s no chance I’ll be able to enjoy it because I’ll be too busy getting fragged. That’s why I’m a Backseat Gamer. Continue reading Skyrim, You Bore Me

Extra Life: Play Games. Heal Kids

Extra Life. Be A Hero.

My two girls are turning one of their bedrooms into a restaurant. There is a pink tea cart parked in front of the door with a sign that reads “Please Wait. Not Open.” and I can hear the clinking of their Beatrix Potter tea set. I’ve been given a lovely appetizer tray of Wheat Thins and American cheese slices to tide me over until they open, but I must type quickly because at any moment they will call me for dinner on the bedroom floor. This is part of the fun of being a parent, and a child, but not every family is able to enjoy such simple pleasures.

There are children who fight for their lives every day.  They struggle with the smallest tasks because their biggest challenge is not deciding how to get the crackers out of the high cabinet, but trying to survive.  My youngest has terrible asthma and the most frightening days of my life have been spent in hospitals, watching her struggle for every breath.  It is a horrible ordeal for parents and children.  Our last hospital stay was at Children’s Hospital Boston.  The people there saved my daughter’s life and although I can never repay that debt I can try to help them just a little by being a part of Extra Life.

The idea began in 2008 when the gamers of the Sarcastic Gamer Community decided to honor the memory of Victoria Emmon, a little girl who lost her battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  In her memory, they came up with the idea of Extra Life, a 24 hour gaming marathon.  In the first two years they raised $302,000 for their local hospital (Texas Children’s Hospital) but saw the need to expand their reach.  The event now includes every country on the planet and participants can raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network hospital of their choice.

Extra Life is being held on October 15th, 2011 and I will be playing games for 24-hours straight to raise money for sick kids. I’m playing a week later this year (as a make-up day) since I can’t participate on the 15th, but I’m still determined to support kids who are fighting for their precious lives. You can help by either signing up to participate and support your local hospital or by making a donation at my Extra Life Donation Page. Your donation is tax-deductible and 100% of your gift goes to helping heal kids. The work these hospitals do is worth supporting in any way possible.  All the proof you need is upstairs about to open a restaurant on her bedroom floor.

Give Geeks a Chance

Even Boba Fett Needs Friends, Image: Kristen Catalano

Not every person that calls themselves a Nerd or a Geek has been an outcast. We weren’t all the last one picked for the team in gym or the only one without a date to the big dance. We didn’t all wear thick black glasses held together with tape, or play video games, or read comics, or play DnD. But, for most of us, there has been a moment when we didn’t quite fit in with everyone else.

It might have happened during a show of enthusiasm for something we love. Plenty of people like Star Wars, but get too excited, chatter too much about how you and your friends cheered when the opening credits rolled, and you’ve outed yourself as a geek. Adults will give you a funny look then quickly check themselves (as you check your enthusiasm) and move on to a safer topic. Kids, well, we all know how unkind kids can be to one another.

I’ve learned to ignore the funny look when it’s cast in my direction. Go ahead and laugh as I wax poetic about the Millennium Falcon or the crush I had on Dirk Benedict when he was Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. Roll your eyes when I say my favorite toys were action figures, especially the Spock with a little button on his back that made his fingers split into the Vulcan greeting.

Popeye had it right. I am what I am.

One of the most difficult parts of being a geek, though, is not dealing with the people who don’t get you, but finding the people who do. It’s hard to open up and let someone see who you are with the hope of discovering a kindred soul. There’s no guarantee you won’t get that funny look, although we all hope beyond hope that we’ll get a smile of understanding instead.

We’ve all taken that risk and as a result we have friends we’d otherwise never have met. It’s scary, but it’s worth it. But what if we hadn’t been given the chance? What if you walked in to that room full of cosplayers, or Browncoats, or gamers and they’d all snubbed their noses and not given you a chance to fit in? It’s one thing to be snubbed by everyday people, but it’s entirely different when they’re people just like you.

So the next time you’re hanging out with your friends at a convention, or a movie, or a comic store, and someone tries to join your conversation, remember, they’re taking a risk. You have the choice of giving them a chance or snubbing them because you have the upper hand. Remember though, you wouldn’t be standing their with your circle friends if they hadn’t once upon a time taken a chance on you.

On Kids and Gaming

Mille Bornes Card Game

I spent last weekend tucked away in the New Hampshire White Mountains eating too many s’mores and sleeping in a tent with my family. We made plans for this trip back in April along with two other families and I had been looking forward to it all summer. As the weekend approached, however, the weather started to look less than stellar. My little iPhone ap started showing clouds, and then showers, and then the dreaded thunder and lightning icon. Short of a hurricane (bullet barely dodged) we still planned on going, but with plenty of backup in case we ended up trapped in tents and campers. That backup was enough boardgames to stock a small store.

You see, all three of these families are gamer families. The dads met playing games at our local store and the moms met because of the dads and the kids are friends because of the parents. It’s all about the games. If not for the games, we wouldn’t have had this camping trip at all and we wouldn’t have these wonderful people in our lives.

Our campsite was right along a shallow, slow-moving river and there was a big tree with a rope. The kids were in heaven. First thing every morning they were up and swinging into the river, leaving only when we called them for breakfast. But once breakfast was done, without fail, they asked us to break out the games. The six of them sat there in their soggy swimsuits assembling the pieces of  Lego Heroica and dealing out the cards for Eleminis, which turned out to be the big hit of the weekend.

The kids ranged in age from five to nine so their reading, logic and math skills were completely different. At first glance, you’d think this would be a recipe for gaming disaster, but just the opposite happened. They wanted to play together, so rather than argue about who was playing right or wrong, they teamed up. And they did it in the fairest way possible.

They had an older kid and younger kid on each team so no one was outmatched. If someone got confused, then they explained the rules, or even made their own house rules for handling a situation so that everyone could understand. And it wasn’t just the big kids in charge. They played the game the way the younger kids wanted a few times, letting them decide the rules and just playing along.

That one little Eleminis game was played a hundred different ways last weekend and the kids were happy with every variation. It was the same with Lego Heroica, Mille Bornes, Magic and even Alhambra which they played with the adults. These kids became fast friends, learned how to work together and settled differences all because of the games they played.

We lucked out on the weather right up until the last night when the skies opened, the wind blew and it poured. We had two big canopies covering the picnic tables where we played and kept most of our camping supplies, but the rain blew in sideways and everything got drenched. Everything, except the two games we were playing when the rain began. We grabbed cards and dice and markers and ran full out for the camper where, for the next hour or so, twelve of us crammed in and finished our games. The rest of our gear, well, it’d survive, but the games had to be saved. Soggy plates and napkins are one thing, but soggy playing cards, never!


Ready Player One with Wil Wheaton

Do you call yourself a gamer? Ever played a classic arcade game? How about Dungeons and Dragons? What about growing up in the 80’s or having a healthy appreciation of the Big Hair Decade? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are going to truly enjoy Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It will have you nostalgic for Duran Duran, your old neon socks and acid washed jeans within a few pages.  But even if you aren’t a fan of the 80’s, there is still a genuinely engaging story here that will keep you guessing right through to the end.

Ready Player One tells the story of Wade Watts, a high school kid in the year 2044. It’s a nasty future that lies just around the corner for all of us and like most people, Wade desperately wants to escape. He does this by spending as much time as possible living in the OASIS, a huge virtual reality landscape where you can be anyone and anything as you explore thousands of planets. Now the genius behind it all, James Halliday, has died and left behind the ultimate Easter Egg.  Find it, and his company and fortune are all yours.

Wade and thousands of other “gunters” must solve clues left behind by the eccentric Halliday and find three virtual keys that open three virtual gates. The best way to figure it all out? Obsessively studying Halliday’s life and his fixation with the 80’s. Wade and his fellow gunters become scholars of the man and the decade of his youth in this pop culture filled sci-fi adventure turned cyber-quest with very real world implications. Oh, and if I haven’t convinced you yet, guess who reads the audio version? That’s right, the one and only Wil Wheaton.  This book hits shelves today so go pick up your own copy and join the quest in Ready Player One.


GenCon Indianapolis RoundUp

Gears of War Board Game

If you like board games, have a bag with more dice than you could ever possibly need at one time, and have considered adding on to your house just to store it all, then GenCon was the place to be last weekend. This was the 44th year for GenCon Indianapolis “The Best Four Days in Gaming” and it was overflowing with games, games, games!

Held in the recent remodeled Indiana Convention Center, this convention boasts four days of demos, previews, and panels but more importantly, around-the-clock gaming. Once the exhibit halls close for the evening, gamers spill out into the rooms, hallways and hotel lobbies around the center and game throughout the night. You’ll find people at the bar playing Magic, clusters of folks around tables in the lobby with the latest board games spread out in front of them and rooms with all-night tournaments in the convention center itself. The only problem with all this gaming goodness is that you go to sleep in the wee hours of the morning knowing that you are, without a doubt, missing out on something.


The exhibit hall floor was filled with booths selling dice and the ubiquitous kilts as well as those demoing the latest and greatest in games. Fantasy Flight Games had a huge series of booths where you could play pre-release games like Gears of War (which lucky con-goers could buy on the spot) and the recently announced Star Wars X-Wing miniatures game which isn’t due out until sometime next year. At Privateer Press you could get your picture taking with a giant Warjack before getting in a demo, and at Wizards of the Coast you could take in Neverwinter and play a live-action round of Dungeons and Dragons complete with costumed monsters to slay.

If you’re a gamer and you missed GenCon this year, then you need to consider putting it on your itinerary next summer. With the newly remodeled convention center, this convention is sure to grow and improve and I can’t wait for next August. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see what’s about to come out in the world of gaming, get your hands on some titles early (to make your friends jealous) and have a ridiculous amount of fun despite a complete lack of sleep.

(Check out my Total Fan Girl Facebook page for photos of all the GenCon action!)

This Geek Mom Pwns N00bs

I love video games. Strike that. I love GOOD video games. The distinction is especially important right now because starting Friday, I’ll be at PAX East for three solid days of VG-playtime.

For those who haven’t heard of it, PAX East is a big-deal video game convention where game developers large and small descend on Boston to ply fans and the press with exclusive demonstrations and freebies. They hope we’ll provide the buzz necessary to launch their latest releases like viral videos.

As a gamer and a discerning person, I’m happy to draw attention to good games. Of course, the question is: How do I identify a good game? No two gamers are likely to answer that the same way because the criteria by which we judge games are strongly influenced by the context of our opinions. Who we are and what we want and expect from games, in other words.

Over the course of the coming week, I’ll be reviewing the games I play at PAX East. Ahead of the event, I expect some disappointments. Most video games are clones of each other – pale imitators trying to be the next Mario Bros, Pole Position, World of Warcraft, or Doom. Most video games are made without women in mind. Where there are playable female characters at all, I expect to find highly sexualized vixens, and any non-player characters will probably be poorly nuanced damsels in distress. Like television shows, most of the video games designed for kids (and women) are vapid time sinks and I expect to see many examples of that sad trend at the convention.

All that said, I anticipate some pleasant surprises. PAX East is where game developers go to make their best impressions on the masses, after all. Some of the art will be dazzling, some of the puzzles will bedevil me, and some of the jokes will not be offensive. And for all the weak-minded joystick jockeys out there who may argue that my reviews won’t matter because I’m just a girl? Watch out. This Geek Mom Pwns Noobs*.

*To Pwn Noobs is to completely obliterate your opponent in any event where there is competition.