How Gaming Helped Me Discover My Identity
By: Tayci Stallings
This story was originally published on 21 Ninety!
Growing up, I dealt with a lot of internalized racism — and looking back, I see how the relationships I built and the way I carried myself were affected by this issue. From always having to be Scary Spice with my white friends or trying my damndest to not sound black, I have lived through some sad times, but everything I have been through has made me into the advocate and person I am today.
I’m from a conservative part of California where my high school’s mascot was Johnny Rebel. To this day, I feel nervous driving through nearby towns. I was raised by my white family and though my mother tried her best to raise me as a proud black woman, I somehow didn’t get the message until my mid-20s.
In elementary school I was opinionated and outgoing. I saw myself in the character Hermione, confident and never willing to back down. When I started liking boys, I was sure to tell them. But when I was rejected over and over again, and saw my white friends who had the pick of the litter, I began to doubt myself. By 6th grade, I went from being a tenacious, outgoing child to being a quiet wanderer with no real close friends. Being an only child, and feeling rejected by my father who I rarely saw, made me feel lonely. I felt as if I wasn’t wanted anywhere, so I turned inwards.
My only refuge at the time was The Sims. There I could make myself, my family and friends anyway I wanted. The options were endless so I made my Sim in the image of who I wanted to be instead of who I really was.
It wasn’t until my early 20s that I began to come into my own. My mother introduced me to Fallout 3 where my love of RPGs blossomed. As the internet became more powerful and I talked to other people like me who struggled with their identity, my viewpoint changed. I looked at how I created myself in games and instead, I studied my true features. I grew proud of my wide nose and curly hair.
The more I created myself in games, the more I realized how beautiful I was and that being a black woman is what made me beautiful. I also realized that I was hungry to see myself represented in other forms of media. I ingested anything featuring black women whether it was TV or books and now I only watch media that includes black women.
To me, gaming is what helped me come into my own. It made me to be confident when the self-doubt was eating me alive. And my fight continues, as my own goals are to promote black women and fight colorism. If I can stop one black girl from feeling the way I did growing up in society and instead help her to break down barriers, then I have accomplished a big thing.