Like just about every geek I know Redd Skyy is a connoisseur of myriad hobbies and interests, at heart a gamer, roleplayer, and the first burlesque dancer I’ve had the pleasure to talk with. Continuing our look at our beloved gaming hobby I ask the lovely Skyy about her experiences as a gamer and convention attendee to see if the positive outweighs the constant inundation of horror stories from the larger gaming media. Rather than telling you what I think about it, like some have done, I bring you women who have the real experience and let them tell you themselves. So, without any more gab from me, here’s Redd Skyy!
F&B: Burlesque is an art form a lot of us are familiar with, but I’m sure quite a few aren’t familiar with the subtle distinction that separates it from conventional exotic dancing. Can you give us your take on the difference, and how is ‘nerdlesque’ different from the original art form?
Skyy: While burlesque and stripping have a lot in common, it is the character driven story telling of burlesque that sets it apart from its exotic sister. Stripping and exotic dancing has the ultimate purpose of sexual arousal and pleasure through voyeurism while burlesque, utilizing tease and occasionally removing clothes, focuses on guiding the audience on a journey with the performer. Of course, stripping may have these elements as well. The line is very much blurred between the two arts. I like to think of them as sisters, not twins. They are constantly borrowing ideas and techniques from one another to make their art grow and prosper.
“Nerdlesque” is simply a continuation of burlesque. More modern in execution, nerdlesque takes all of the elements stated above, blends it into a neo-classical melting pot of style and flair, and puts it into the context of a favorite video game character, a super hero/ine, a beloved television series, a popular book or movie series. The topics for nerdlesque are endless! Perhaps, what differentiates nerdlesque the most is that you are taking an idea/concept/thought that has been already created by someone else and putting your own spin on it. For example, Legend of Zelda is a very popular game series. I genderbent the hero, Link, and proceeded to do a reverse strip, i.e. I put my clothes on, instead of taking them off; Lady!Link was getting ready to go on an epic adventure to save Price Zed and rescue Hyrule.
F&B: What got you into gaming, where did it start for you?
Skyy: I’ve been into board games, DnD, video games, tv shows, movies, and comics for quite some time. My mom totally got me into gaming. Her stories of her DnD days solidify how alike we are, haha. My dad would never admit to being a nerd, but we would watch Star Trek together and various other old school sci-fi shows. I’ve been a PC gamer for years, bought a ps2 when I was 16, and gradually worked my way into the console world. I still love my PC though – Baldur’s Gate was my jam back in the day. Now I’m terrible at it. Or perhaps I’ve always been terrible at it.
F&B: You said you shifted from PC to Console, do you have a preference? Why or why not?
Skyy: I gravitate towards PC more often than not. But I think is more my default rather than a preference. I tend to play lots of RPGs, puzzle games, first/third person shooters. I’m not a fan of multiplayer games on either, though, if I had to pick one, I’d definitely choose PC. I find the communities there to be more welcoming than on console. Besides, I can only be called a 10 year old boy so often before they actually figure out that I’m a lady. And then it goes further into the rabbit hole of ridiculous.
F&B: What’s your favorite tabletop game? Video Game?
Skyy: Fiasco. Hands down. That game makes me so happy. Every time my friends and I have played it, there are tears from laughing so much. Messes have been made. I have yet to have a bad experience with Fiasco.
As for video games: the Mass Effect series (does that count as one game? It does now.) impacted me heavily. Like I mentioned, I grew up on sci-fi tv shows (TOS, Farscape, Andromeda, Battlestar, X-Files to name a few) and most were set in outer space. I love the idea of exploration and finding new, exciting things whether it’s a different culture or biology or finding out about yourself. Sci-fi has this excellent blend of optimism for the future while maintaining a realistic outlook on what humanity has done in order to get to where it wants to go. A mixture I often use when studying history.
F&B: What’s taking up most of your gaming time currently? Tabletop or Video? Which game?
Skyy: I managed to get my hands on Dragon Age: Inquisition for half-off and I proceeded to say goodbye to the world. 100+ hours later, I have emerged with my party fully alive, too many codex pages left unfound, and a crick in my back. There is a burlesque tabletop group in the works and I am quite excited to delve into tabletop realms with my glitter family.
F&B: Most anticipated future release, whether tabletop or video?
Skyy: Mmm, that’s a toughie. I have to say the next installment of Tomb Raider. Lara Croft, like a lot of sci-fi/fantasy main stream ladies, inspired me when I was kid. Here was this woman with great boobs shooting up bad guys and getting treasures. Dr. Jones didn’t get to have all the fun! I [am] impressed with the direction Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix are taking this character and I’m looking forward to seeing her grow into the Tomb Raider we’ve come to adore.
F&B: Favorite game character and what drew you to them?
Skyy: All these favorites questions! Makin’ it hard for me, haha! Hmm… Probably Commander Shepard. Shepard is a character that I can keep coming back to and fall in love with him/her at any given time. Plus, renegade Shep is one sexy BAMF.
F&B: You’ve been to San Diego Comic Con and conventions have been a hot topic among gamers and cosplayers recently. Have you had any negative experiences as a woman at conventions?
Skyy: I think I lucked out in the negative experiences due to my gender at conventions. But I also have a large personality and my RBF (resting bitch face) is pretty epic. People avoid me on public transportation if I’m in full “Don’t.” mode and I’ve shut down many a man for attempting “You should smile!” bull. I didn’t really experience the underlying sexism at cons until Planet Comicon in Kansas City a couple years ago. I was modeling for a local scalemail business and several men (typically older) made very underhanded compliments at the expense of my female form. These comments don’t bother me as boobs and butts are a very big (pun) part of burlesque. But it can wear you out – have you not spent five minutes on the internet? You don’t have to compliment my breasts every instance you see me; I know that I have them. We’re #besties.
F&B: Conventions can be the size of a large city, meeting in a small place for just a couple of days. Do you feel that these negative experiences, whether yours or others, are a symptom of the community attitude or just because there tends to be such a high concentration of people in one place for a short time? Is it just that there are bad people everywhere and when 50K people gather in one place you’re more likely to meet a few of them than outside the convention?
Skyy: I wouldn’t say that every person who makes certain comments are bad, but rather that they are misinformed and not educated enough to realize the negative connotations of their words. When you are in a giant blob of like-minded people, your own feelings become validated and you feed off of one another in that blob. Mob mentalities are a thing. You see other people behaving freely as you would like and it inspires you to the point of “Oh hey, I can do that too!” Conventions for the longest time were a “boys only” club, or at least it felt that way. That “boys only” has been challenged and people outside of that demographic are becoming a part of it. Women, people of color, people of various genders/sexualities are now having a voice in the nerd world. It’s fantastic. Diversity is what makes us human. But when the norm shifts to something new and different, the members of the old order get upset. People are cats – they hate changing things, even if that means a better experience for everyone.
F&B: Have you heard about, and what is your opinion on conventions beginning to add more rules about revealing cosplay at events, i.e. no ‘aggressive cleavage or navels’, whatever that means? Do you think this is a bit too heavy-handed considering the art that accompanies the shows?
Skyy: What does “aggressive navels” look like? That’s a curious image.
Simple: if there should be no revealing costumes or cosplay, then the original character designers shouldn’t have made said characters look that way. I think that’s controlling and further objectifies women. “Oh, don’t show your boobs like the character you are dressing as does. You’re a lady. That character’s a slut. Don’t do that.” It’s demeaning and taking a woman’s control of her own body away from her. Which, in burlesque, the performer is ALWAYS in control of the experience. You see what I want you to see; cosplay is no different. I am giving you permission to look and admire my body. Enjoy the show. You’re welcome.
F&B: Have you experienced any issues with the gaming community related to being a female gamer and can you share a memorable good or bad experience?
Skyy: Online, I usually get mistaken for a young boy. I have a young voice. I remember playing Gears of War with some friends and strangers. The strangers started to give me shit as if I were a boy. Calling me a virgin, telling me that I’ll never get pussy or laid, blah blah, bullshit. Then they figured out I was a woman. Now I’m a slut, I’m gonna suck their dicks, and a whole slew of words that shouldn’t be coming from a 13 year old’s mouth. It completely ruined my online experience of being a super buff space marine with a heart of gold. I had received both ends of the sexism spectrum in a matter of 20 minutes. On the flip side, I made an incredible community of friends via PC gaming. Left 4 Dead built fantastic friendships for me. I even took a 2000+ mile road trip from Missouri to Florida to stay with a couple I met through L4D for a week It was magical. I still talk to them six years later. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
F&B: What advice would you give young women who are worried about sharing their love of gaming, or experiencing negativity because they have?
Skyy: Gaming is a wonderful platform for community. Often times, there are select individuals within a community that don’t agree with the changes that are happening or get their panties in a bunch because they are no longer being catered to. However, this minority voice shouldn’t stop the community from growing and bettering itself. Diversity through inclusiveness provides the foundation for an amazing community. Gaming much like sports, food, drink, brings people together in an environment in which you can have a bit of competitive fun. I have so many wonderful memories surrounding game nights. The majority of people you meet will want to create good memories too. Have fun and enjoy the ride. Your body, your rules, your fun.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Straight forward and honest, and I agree, what does an aggressive navel look like? Developer Mark Kern did a ‘study’ on Twitter, and I did see quite a few that seemed aggressive, none of them made me uncomfortable so I just don’t know how one would define it. Stay tuned for more interviews and chats as we gather more insight into whether gaming is a cesspool of hostile and sexist male dominance, or just another part of the world with its own small bit of darkness. If you want to see more of Redd Skyy’s work you can follow her at https://www.facebook.com/reddskyykc