Being a woman who likes video games can be…limiting. But the stringency might be why seeing the tabloid-esque Elden Ring memes actor and director Emily Faris has been posting on r/GirlGamers feels so exhilarating.
“I felt like I needed to separate gaming from my [professional] life, so naturally, I made a second Instagram account,” Faris told me. “I’m too much of an art school weirdo to solely post pictures of myself — the memes were an organic way for me to fill out my feed.” She started posting the images, which combine FromSoftware’s latest role-playing game with the pinkest, most polar opposite shit as niche meme “offerings” on the r/GirlGamers subreddit a bit over a week ago. They have been stacking up hundreds of upvotes and enthused comments since then, and when I saw them, I was excited by their particular style.
They revolve around celebrity, the pastiche of 2002, and the Real Housewives of New York City (renamed the Real Housewives of Elden Ring in one post). They take Hilary Duff at a shopping spree photoshoot, Matthew McConaughey in the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Anna Nicole Smith doing a Christmas special and map them to runes, streaming, and Merchant Kalé. You can find their rhinestone twinkle more often in the bullet journals of girls with curtain bangs than in the average gamer’s media diet, but that doesn’t make them irrelevant to gaming. It makes them broaden gaming’s scope.
“The meme format is this bizarre internet puzzle,” Faris said. “Being so deep into the world of Elden Ring, I can’t help but want to re-contextualize the world into something more recognisable [to women] yet unexpected.” They seem to say that the stereotypically feminine woman, the one who is exactly like “other girls,” is as likely to play a difficult video game as anyone. And that’s part of the memes’ appeal too.
“I don’t think I would have connected with my brand of nerd if I hadn’t randomly decided to put my creativity out there in a new way,” Faris said.
“I think I’ve considered myself an outsider to gaming culture and the overall community, but still a low-key gamer,” she continued. “I told myself it was a space I didn’t fit into, solely based off of some random idea I had of what makes someone a ‘real gamer.’ But if there is anything these lil’ memes have taught me, it’s that there are other gamers that have the same sense of humour and references as I do.”
Though women themselves know they are, in fact, capable of owning an Xbox, memes and mean-spirited internet discourse often makes us feel like we must either be a “not like other girls” charlatan or a gorgeous ahegao-face-making Twitch streamer.
Both these categories, however, are built at least partially with men in mind. The former separates herself from other women with the goal of becoming more desirable to men, and the latter adorns herself in fishnet stockings and cat ear headphones for the same reason.
Women should be able to say and dress and wear as freely as any other person. But particularly in a historically male space like gaming, it seems necessary to have at least some content or aesthetic or vibe that is made with only women in mind. Otherwise, there isn’t truly space for us. But Faris’ memes are an example of how the average women gamer, bored by tired narratives, is clearing that space and draping it in Juicy Couture.