I am a geek.

I am a gamer, I am a computer science major who went on to work in various software development companies and academia. I enjoy tweaking game code upon rare occasions (i.e. when I am not otherwise working or writing …. I am also a doctoral student).  I vastly enjoyed MUDs and similar text and ASCII games when I was in college, and I am always on the alert for some creative, serious competition in the world of game development.  I am – somewhat a rarity for the field – female.

I write these things to set the stage for my response to an article the New York Times Magazine ran at the end of July.  When I first started reading Where Do Dwarf-Eating Carp Come From? I was entranced by the possibility of a new, rich game — and game development platform — that could be used to introduce students to game development and modding.  I was ready to send off the article link to my college-aged daughter, who is also a computer science major who likes games and game development.  But as I continued to read the article, I began to be appalled.  Ultimately, I chose not to forward it on to anyone.

I’m still interested in what Dwarf Fortress can do for us; don’t get me wrong on that.  It sounds like a ton of fun that has to wait for AD (after dissertation) along with Rift and Star Wars the Old Republic.

What appalled me was page after page of analysis of the lives – or lack thereof – of the two game developers.  In an era when we can hardly attract young women to the field of computer science and engineering, why do we need to perpetuate the unflattering stereotype of the lonely, socially inept young male software developer as if it were in any way representative of the industry?

I am also an educator these days, interested in getting more women and a diverse selection of men interested in what I consider a very rewarding and interesting field.  Yet, when I have suggested to girls that they might enjoy computer science, I have often run into a long list of reasons why that field wouldn’t suit them, and often at the bottom is the fear of being perceived as a loser (no offense, guys) by association with the field.

Why a publication such as the NY Times would reinforce this stereotype is perplexing to me, especially since it did not seem to me to speak at all to the abilities of the programmers (who cares when they sleep or what they eat, really?) as truly creative individuals who are bucking the trend of flashier and better graphics in order to encourage creativity on the part of their game players.   The game itself and its position as a challenge to the industry would have been a far better story and more representative of the life of the modern, socially-competent, well-paid geek.