P R O L O G U E

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I've never been quite the girl you see in magazines, all sugar, spice, and everything nice. At age six, most girls would find themselves playing with Barbie dolls and playing dress-up with their mothers' outfits. I, on the other hand, was playing with cars and action figures. I guess I can blame my older brother, Nick, for that. I used to follow him everywhere, begging him to let me join in on all the cool things he was doing. Being the kind guy he is, he let me tag along.

When he was ten and I was eight, he got his first videogame console. It was a PlayStation, and I threw a fit when he wouldn't let me go near it, so I retaliated by dumping water over it.

Not exactly my fondest memory—or his.

Now to think of it, I feel sorry he got stuck with a little sister like me. I'll admit, I'm not exactly the most temperate, well-mannered human being on the planet. I say what's on my mind, and I stand up for what I believe in—and I couldn't care less if you were right and I was wrong. I'm stubborn and determined.

My brother, however, was more of the opposite. He was quieter, more reserved, and much more patient than I was.

On his eleventh birthday, I used the money I saved up in my piggy bank to buy him a new gaming console. (Well, with the help of my parents, that is.) Rather than getting him another PlayStation, I got him an Xbox instead, because all the boys in my fourth-grade class had one and it seemed like fun from the looks of it.

At first, Nick wouldn't let me go near his Xbox. He feared that I might destroy it again, so he hid it inside the top most part of his closet, some place far out of reach from me. Disappointed, but understanding why he was doing what he was doing, I didn't ask him if I could play. However, I was in for a real surprise when, three months later, he asked if I wanted to join him in saving the world together.

And so started my gaming addiction.

The first game I ever played with him was the first Battle Ground game. I found it to be the greatest game ever. I loved it with a passion. I was so addicted to it that, whenever my brother wasn't around, I'd sneak into his room to play it. Using his headset, I'd go online and make clans with other people, and then team together to win matchmaking games. My brother was never good at first person shooter games. In fact, before I started sneaking into his room to play Battle Ground secretly, he had a 0.49 kill/death (K/D) ratio. A few months after me gaming, though, I had brought it up to a 1.21. I was that freaking good.

When my brother found out about his increasing kill/death ratio, he was confused. But then pieces of the puzzle started clicking together and he found out about my secret gaming sessions in his room. He wasn't too pleased about that, but he never yelled at me for sneaking into his room to play.

Recall that he's the kind one. He can't even kill an ant.

By the time I was eleven years old, I had gone through all of the Battle Ground games in his gaming cabinet. I had also played most of his other games, too, like Panzer Dragoon Orta or Fable. When I was fourteen years old, I discovered a famous YouTube gamer who went by the name of Recoil Madness. I referred to him as RM, and I was utterly infatuated with him. In my eyes, he was a gaming god who was beast at literally every fucking game his hands touched. He also had a really hot voice, and every time I watched his videos, my eyes—according to Nick—would "glaze" over.

RM was my idol, and I wanted to be just like him. He never revealed his age to his viewers, but for someone who's won three regional Battle Ground competitions in Montana and two national Battle Ground competitions, I'd suspect he's at least a few years older than me.

Noticing how hooked into videogames I was, Nick surprised me with my very own Xbox on my fifteenth birthday. I nearly squeezed the life out of him when I unveiled the gift. I couldn't have loved him more. I was sixteen years old when he left for college, and when he did, he gave me all his videogames. I built up a nice gaming collection in my room. My bookshelf, rather than lined with books and jewelry boxes, were filled with videogames instead. Posters of my favorite games clung to my walls, I had Mario characters sitting on top of my dresser and desk, and little figurines of Mass Effect and Battle Ground characters. I also had a collection of Halo novels sitting on my bookshelf

I'll admit—I was a huge tomboy. My closet was filled with T-shirts, sweaters, and pants. Only one dress hung in the very back corner of my closet, and that was reserved for special occasions where I was forced to dress nicely. There was not a trace of makeup in my room, and I had no desire to paint my nails. At school, I hung out with boys. I barely had any girl friends.

My two best friends were boys, and, just like me, they loved to play videogames, too. Although they weren't as addicted to it as I was. They could go a week or two without them. We always have a gaming night where we'd just sit in my room and play videogames all day.

As much as I loved gaming online with other people, I had to admit that I had some sexist encounters with some immature guys. For instance, everyone assumes I'm a "squeaker," videogame jargon for a boy who hasn't yet hit puberty. I always lashed at them for calling me one, having to explain to them that it wasn't just boys who played videogames. I really hate how people perceive videogames as this "males-only" hobby. People give me weird looks when I tell them I game in my free time. Sexist bastards.

I think one thing that I really hated about being a so-called "gamer girl" were the stereotypes that came with it. For example, many of the guys I met online somehow seemed to think that I was a dumbass who's incredibly ugly and overweight. After all, I'm a girl who plays videogames all day—that must mean I have no life, right? A girl whom basically ignores all her homework and procrastinates a heck of a lot because she's a girl gamer who happens to spend "a thousand percent" of her time in front of a TV?

Uh...one question?

Where the hell did they get that from?

I don't even know where guys would get such stupid assumptions, but they are beyond wrong! In my opinion, no one is ugly. You're only ugly if you act ugly. And also—surprise, surprise! This "gaming-addicted no life" here actually has a 4.0 cumulative GPA and is the running valedictorian of her graduating class.

Sometimes, I feel like guys stereotype girls too much. I can't even play a single round of Battle Ground without having some idiot tell me that I should be in the kitchen making a fucking sandwich. Like seriously? Go make it yourself—that's what your hands are for. God didn't give it to us for no reason.

Initially, I was fine with hearing guys joking about it once or twice, but after hearing it more than a dozen times, those jokes began to grow old and quite offensive.

So just imagine how irked I was when I met Braid On—I mean Brayden—Coleman the year before I started college.

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