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Felicia Day Talks the New Season of Her Hit Web Series ‘The Guild’ and the Hazards of Being a ‘Girl Gamer’

Felicia Day Talks the New Season of Her Hit Web Series 'The Guild' and the Hazards of Being a 'Girl Gamer'

If you get on the internet for anything other than email, you would be hard-pressed not have heard of Felicia Day. An actress seen on shows such as “Eureka,” “Supernatural” and “House,” Day is the multifaceted creator, writer, producer and star [as Guild Priestess Codex] of the smash-hit web series, “The Guild.” Achieving longterm success in an online medium known for its short attention span is no small feat, but “The Guild,” which is centered around the lives of a group of gamers involved in an MMORPG, is moving into its sixth season, which premieres on Day’s YouTube channel Geek & Sundry on October 2nd. This level of success is no surprise when you look at the stats — “The Guild” has garnered over 69 million views and several awards, and has launched a handfull of music videos that have Day’s fangirls and -boys bubbling in a hormonal tizzy, which is ironic, because “sexy” isn’t a word that Day would use to describe herself.

“The Guild” is going into its sixth season, which is a great accomplishment considering the often ephemeral nature of the web.

A lot of work has gone into making the show, and for the first two years the show was funded by its fans through PayPal donations. And we have so many great and wonderful fans watching and supporting “The Guild,” plus subscribing to Geek & Sundry — without them, well…

It’s a great partnership you have with your fans. Do you have any season six details to share?

I can definitely say that Codex goes into a new world. She starts working at “The Game,” as you saw from season five’s cliffhanger, and everything takes off from there, including Vork’s [played by Jeff Lewis] new relationship. And we might even go into “The Game” a little bit.

Even though “The Guild” is your baby, do you feel its popularity has typecast you as the “hot geeky girl”?

I definitely don’t think I’m ever thought of as “the hot girl.” I’d certainly say the quirky, shy girl is something I’ve been lucky to put on the forefront of everyone’s minds. I created “The Guild” because nobody was offering me the roles I thought I could do best at in Hollywood.

It’s kind of ironic that people are offering me a lot of roles based on Codex, who I created for myself on “The Guild.” It’s led to a lot of awesome opportunities. On “Eureka,” they wrote the role of Holly for me, which I played for two seasons. She’s a much smarter and more outgoing version of Codex. I was able to play more of the dry hacker type on WB’s “Supernatural.”

Typecasting is something I have to be careful with, since I play myself on Geek & Sundry so much on my weekly show “The Flog.” That’s why I did “Dragon Age: Redemption” last year, so I could do something a little more dramatic and hard-edged.

In the past, you mentioned wanting to do a historical romance film.

[Laughing] I’m resigned to the fact that the corseted history of America is not as exciting as that of Britain. I’m not British, and they very rarely hire Americans to play Brits; it’s usually the other way around.

And now?

I would love to play a girl with some kind of extreme powers. That would be fun. I’d also like to do a sitcom. I think that kind of live performance, in front of an audience, would be a fun challenge.

Gender inequity is also an empirical fact. Would you have had the same journey had you been born male?

It’s a delicate question and I don’t have a 100% answer for you. There is definitely a way in which women are raised to be less proactive, less business-oriented, and less willing to jump into creative no man’s land. I think media has more of an influence on how we perceive gender identity than anything else. We see this with all the princess stuff and the roles that are written for female teens.

At the same time, I was homeschooled and raised outside of those ideas. Contemporary role models weren’t something I was exposed to as much, so I had less interest. I watched a lot of black-and-white movies, read detective novels and gamed with my brother. I think that not being raised in the traditional environment contributed to my perspective, but there were many years when I just sat on the sidelines and was very passive. I wish I had gotten it together earlier, so I could be even farther. It’s a question of exploring the boundaries of who you are and what you’re interested in, in order to find that thing you’ll do no matter what.

Like how you worked on “The Guild” for two years without financial backing?

Exactly. I’ll work 20 hours in a day and not think about it, because it doesn’t seem like work me. What I do now is what I love, which is what everyone should think about doing, whether male or female. I think certain aspects of my being a female may have been advantageous, but it’s interesting that in the past year, I’ve gotten more hate speech and hostility towards my being a girl gamer than I ever have in the five-year history of “The Guild,” which is puzzling to me. It might be a tipping point of women empowering themselves in the world of gaming, which results in a backlash. I’ve never put myself as a “girl gamer,” but rather a person who plays games who also happens to be a girl. But it’s a troubling thing that it’s cool to be chauvinistic and misogynistic. It’s a sad trend that I see.

Where are you seeing that trend taking place?

I see it taking place on the internet a lot, especially with younger gamers writing YouTube comments. I recently had a couple of videos that invited the wrath of those guys. That sort of devaluation, based solely on my gender, that they decided to do was hurtful to me, because it’s been the opposite of what I have experienced in my career until then. There must have been some sort of catalyst. I think it’s not knowing about the show.

In the internet world, five years is a very long time. And if you stumble across one of my videos without knowing the full context — I write everything, produce, act… I run a company. If someone superficially looks at one video, then they are judging based off of that, where maybe I’m wearing the outfit in my music video, “Do You Want to Date My Avatar.” At the same time, I’ve weathered and heard just about everything, and if I think it’s hurtful, what if it’s another girl who just has one video? There’s this disdain for the idea of a “girl gamer,” which has emerged in the last year, which is odd.

As you come up against these issues, do they influence your characters, such as Codex?

Definitely. Fans of “The Guild” and the shows on Geek & Sundry are amazing. It’s a vocal minority who are attempting to sully the pool. At the same time, what I’m proud of is that people also stand up for each other and don’t allow that kind of bullying to be okay. I’m not trying to paint with a broad brush, but I know what I see, and these issues have influenced the storyline of “The Guild.”

It sounds like you’re a role model giving back to her fans.

The reason we did a slate on Geek & Sundry that had table-top gaming, comics and fantasy/sci-fi literature, and why I do my own romance book club, is not because I was thinking, “Hey, this would be a really great business move.” I see things that aren’t represented by video yet, which serves as a vehicle for socialization on the web, versus passive entertainment. Video is best served as a form of communication. All these shows either celebrate independent creators who make table-top board games, or write a comic or a romance novel, and at the same time, they educate people about options that may enrich their lives.

Every single thing I do is meant to give back to people, so they can find out a little bit more about themselves. That’s part of who I am. I was always fascinated with personality tests, horoscopes and palm reading. I was always thinking, “Who am I?” and it took many years to find the person that I am now. Hopefully, I never stop growing. And that should be the aim for everyone: experience things, learn if you like them or not, and grow.

You were gaming online like it was a job. What was the catalyst that motivated you to start working on “The Guild”?

To quit gaming, I joined a support group with other women who would meet, tell their goals to each other, then come back the following week and report how it went. For several months, all I said was that I was gaming a lot and that I wanted to write something. Finally, the other women told me they thought I should quit talking about writing and just write. After that, I gave myself a deadline. It was midnight on New Year’s Eve, and I did it. It was my willpower that enabled me to do it. You have to be ruthless with yourself. Draw the line in the sand and say, “No matter how uncomfortable it is. No matter what I have to sacrifice or have to turn down, I’m going to accomplish this.” This doesn’t pertain to how I treat other people. It’s how I honor myself.

How did you keep it up?

Uploading that first video and seeing those comments was exciting. Good and bad, those comments drove me through every single video. Just knowing that I could see a comment and know that person was impacted by my video was a rush. If they laughed, I wanted to make that person laugh again. I’d never made a video before and uploaded it. That instant feedback was what got me hooked.

Have you been treated differently as a gamer because of your gender?

I know a lot of the people who run video games, and I know they are circumspect, respectful and very nice people. I also know there are games that market to the young, male demographic, and the developers know that if they put a bunch of scantily clad nuns in the trailer, that sales are going to go up. Television will also try to dumb things down to the same population. On the internet, if a girl is half dressed, compared to a girl showing less skin, it’s going to get more hits.

Is that worth it to you? Say the slavery concept was what drew people in.

This is part of a much larger conversation that I find really interesting, and it’s timely, but not all sexuality should be condemned just because it triggers people. I think looking at people in a one-dimensional way, like a women who is dressed sexy in an online video, and then condemning her outright, is exactly the kind of hate that’s motivated some of the comments on my videos because I might be dressed in shorts or a tank top. This invites girl hate as well. You’re devalued if your sexuality is included as part of “your package.”

This is destructive and hypocritical, because the base urge is to click on that video with the girl sitting down with her boobs out. So now, there’s people trying to tell these business men to not make or market what’s popular. There are degrees, with a very narrow tipping point, to where you are hating on someone for being authentic. People may say that a girl is a “real” geek or a “real” nerd, but once a person says, “Oh, her skirt is two inches too short, so she obviously isn’t real,” then you’re inviting someone else’s metric of “Well, she’s wearing a sleeveless shirt. She’s obviously a slut and doesn’t really like video games.” It creates a trickle-down effect. I get the same vitriol. People will say I’m not serious or a real gamer, because of these broad-scale and granular decision-making processes.

Do you have a favorite Internet acronym?

I use LOL all the time, but I also like TIL – today I learned — because it’s always accompanied by something interesting.

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