My name is Nora Miller. I am practically 14. I mean, my birthday's in October, so I'd say that's close enough.
We'll count it.
I live in Seattle, Washington and I've been playing videogames for about as long as I can remember. Like, I think I started off on the N64 and the GameCube. I remember playing a lot of Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. Though, recently, I've not been playing a lot of games because, I don't know, I just have other stuff. So, I feel bad about, like, "Ah! I should be playing more videogames." Eh.
Why do you feel bad?
Because I feel like I'm a gamer girl! And I'm proud of it! And I've recently just been playing Minecraft and stuff on my phone and Bust-a-Move 4 on a Game Boy Color. [Laughs.] My dad dug this up from the basement and it's, like, covered in dust. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Okay, so, this is going to sound like a silly question.
I love silly questions.
Yeah, there's gonna be a lot of these.
Why do you play videogames?
Because I feel like it's one of the best ways to experience a story, actually. Though, of course, in some videogames the story is pretty simple: Bad guy stole princess, go get princess back, woo-hoo!
But it's actually one of the only ways you can interact with a story. In a movie you're just watching it, and in a book, you're just wasting your time looking at words. I don't like books. [Laughs.] But I also like it because, you know, they're fun. You have fun playing them! It's fun to stomp on bad guys and shoot up cities of innocent people! [Laughs.] Sorry, no, no, no! Don't take that the wrong way.
I totally didn't play GTAIV when I was four years old! What are you talking about?
I did. Totally.
Tell me a little bit about that. I mean, I talked to a 13-year-old boy in upstate New York who wants nothing more than to play GTA. So, you lived his childhood dream and you did it 10 years ago.
[Laughs.] Okay, first thing about the mature thing. Our aunt was over -- my mom's younger sister -- and she asked my mom, "Which one of us do you think is more mature between me and my aunt?" And my mom was like, "Nora." And I was like, "What!? What are you talking about?" Anyway.
[Laughs.] Is this about GTA? It made you more mature?
No, no, no. I don't think so, anyway. So, about GTA.
I was usually just running around, getting the guy different haircuts and feeding him pizza and stuff. And my mom told me she took the game away because I had shot down a police helicopter with a bazooka, but it was actually because I was punching women on the streets in the face because the punch button is also the talk button. But you can only talk to certain people and for the rest of the people it's punching. So I was just trying to talk to them, but I ended up punching them in the face. Oops.
So you were four and you remember that?
No, no, no. This is just hearsay from my mom.
Ah, okay. So, I mean, what do you think about that now at the ripe old age of nearly 14?
Uh, that Saint's Row 2 is better. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] I feel like that's not the lesson your mom was trying to teach you.
[Laughs.] Oh, she was trying to teach me a lesson?
I don't know, I don't know. You tell me. You know her a bit better than me.
I think it is -- I kind of -- I don't know. I would assume that I really liked the game because she also told me that, like -- you know those shopping carts with the car in the front that the kids get to sit in?
I would sit in one of those, and when another kid would drive by, I would make my finger into a gun and go, "Shoot shoot! Shoot shoot!"
You would literally say, "Shoot shoot?"
I would say, "Shoot shoot."
You wouldn't say, "Pew pew?" Or "Bang?"
I would say, "Shoot." [Laughs.]
Okay. I mean, do you feel like you picked that up --
-- from videogames?
You definitely think you did?
I mean, I'm sure you hear what people say, that videogames are dangerous because --
"Oh, they're dangerous! They make kids violent!" [Growls.]
[Laughs.] So, what do you think?
I don't know. I think I was young and I was like, "Oh! It was cool in videogames, so I can do it here."
But I think with, like, teenagers it's better for them to play violent games ‘cause then they're not violent in real life. You know, it's kind of better: "Oh, I can shoot at virtual people instead of real people. Huzzah!"
I don't know.
You think that's better?
Yeah, because you're not actually hurting anybody. You're just making pixels go boom. "Oh nooooo!"
You mentioned you're playing a little bit less. Do you think videogames become too important to people?
You mean, more important than real life?
You may not have really seen it at your age too much.
No, no, no. I haven't actually seen it but I've heard about it. You know, just, like, videos on the Internet being like, "Parents starve their kids because they were playing too much World of Warcraft instead of feeding their actual kids." And it's like, "Seriously?"
What are you saying that to? That they're reporting on it?
No, seriously, that people would do that? Because I've kinda learned from the news -- or what fractions of it I've gotten from the Internet -- I don't actually watch cable -- how stupid humanity can be. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] You really are closer to 14 than 13.
How do you mean?
It's amazing how stupid people can be. I can't think of any examples right now because I'm sleepy and tired and sick.
Oh, no! I didn't know.
No, no, it's okay.
How do you see people act stupid around videogames?
Well, mainly it's people looking from the outside in and being, "Oh, all these kids playing violent videogames, they'll get violent! Whippersnappers!" [Growls.]
Do you see anyone on the inside of videogames acting stupid? Like, people who are really knowledgeable about games?
Well, I think maybe, like, maybe in games where people are more experienced with a game, like, hating on people who are less experienced. Like, you know, "Oh, you noob! You made us lose the game! Agh!" Like, in Call of Duty or something.
Yeah, which I've never actually played or anything.
Did you want to play it?
Not really. Those kind of things are kind of boring. "Oh, war people shooting each other and explosions and manly mans." [Laughs.]
What games do you want to play?
I don't know. I want to get my hands on Mario Maker. That's coming out. That's gonna be cool.
What's cool about?
'Cause, you know, you've been playing Mario your whole life and then, hey! I get to make one? That's awesome!
So you've been playing Mario your whole life?
What's awesome about it?
Just how fun and colorful it is and even though she's a terrible role model, Peach was kind of my role model when I was tiny.
Why is she a bad role model?
'Cause you know, "Oh! I need a guy to save me and I'm being kidnapped and I can't do anything. Pink!"
[Laughs.] I don't remember her saying, "Pink!"
She doesn't. She just says, "Hatcha!" when she hits people.
So, it's funny because -- so, you're the third teenager I've talked to for this so far. The boy I talked to, he said he wasn't really that interested in Mario. And for people of my generation, that's what we would say: "Oh, you know, I grew up playing that. I’ve been playing that my whole life."
Do you have any curiosity about older games? I know that your parents are both really into games, but are you interested or are they pushing you to be interested?
I think I'm a little interested. because, so, like, I can check off, "Yes, I played the original *The Legend of Zelda.*Yes, I played the original Super Mario Bros."
Because -- I think I may have played the original The Legend of Zelda, but just on the Wii Virtual Console. So that kinda doesn't really count?
Why wouldn't it count?
Eh, you know, because you don't have the NES and the tiny controller. [Laughs.]
You're such a purist about it!
I don't know. It's a thing to do!
What's the oldest game you’ve played?
If you're counting the Virtual Console then, yeah, like, Legend of Zelda.
What did you think of it even if you weren't playing it on the correct --
[Laughs.] I understood why people liked it but I didn't really get into it. I've never been able to get into Legend of Zelda mainly because by myself I can never get past the first dungeon. I don't know what stops -- what my deal is. It's happened to me on Twilight Princess, on Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time again.
I cannot get past the first dungeon without an adult's help.
Why do you keep trying the other Zelda games, then?
'Cause, you know, running around the first area is still kind of fun.
Yeah, getting a sword and chopping grass and collecting money. It's just like mowing lawns, I guess?
What do you think is the appeal for people like those games?
The adventure and the mystery and finding secrets and all the items and stuff and the quest to go save Princess Zelda, yay!
What does Princess Zelda say? Is she like Princess Peach?
I spent less time with her, so I don't know. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] That's true.
"Oh, I, uh -- you know, destiny and something." I don't know.
Yeah. Do you feel like you get along with boys who play videogames?
Yeah. Yeah, I do. Usually we talk about different games. Like, they talk about -- oh, what was that one game? Titanfall or something.
What types of things do they talk about with Titanfall?
You know, "I have the 40X giant gun-X ‘deal with it’ gun, and you don't have that. Heh!"
When they're talking about that, what do you think they're really bragging about?
What are you laughing about?
Nothing just, um, guys talking about giant guns? Are they compensating for something? No. Okay.
I wasn't saying --
I know, I know! [Laughs.]
You were laughing.
That was me, that was me.
[Laughs.] But do you think there are things about those types of games -- are girls also interested in them?
Yeah, maybe, because they -- you know, society is like, "Oh, if you do this then you're manly." And then the guys are like, "Oh, I want to be manly! Let's all go do that! Yeah, robots!"
[Laughs.] Has a boy ever told you weren't as good at games as him?
Nuh-uh. But that's because I'm hanging out with the right guys.
Who are the "wrong" guys?
The guys who say that, obviously.
I haven't run into any of them, but I'm special.
Not even, like, in school or something?
Nuh-uh. 'Cause usually I think the guys that would say that to me, we would never get into a conversation about videogames.
I know you play Minecraft online with your friends.
Too much. We play too much Minecraft.
Yeah, I heard that you guys were trolling people on Minecraft a lot, which sometimes can mean you're being mean or you're just joking around with people?
We're pranking them. My friends like to call it trolling it, but trolling is more like cyberbullying territory, which I don't like to think of myself as.
I preferred to be called an evil mastermind, mwuhahaha! [Laughs.]
So what's the distinction? What's cyberbullying and then what is just being an evil mastermind and pranking?
Oh, man, I don't know!
Has anyone you've ever known been cyberbullied through videogames or the Internet?
Like, for me growing up, I used to play Diablo 2 with friends and we had made up this level called The Casino that didn't exist. It was like a glitch you could find by only going through elaborate --
So you would tell people about it and they would go through all the stuff and they're like, "Hey, there's no level!"
Yeah, I mean, that would be our fun. So, was I cyberbullying or was I pranking?
No, that's pranking. Cyberbullying is more like attacking the person. Like, "Uh! You're fat and ugly and you should kill yourself!" You know, that shit.
Sorry, I shouldn't curse.
No, I just noticed you did. That's completely fine.
Okay, good. [Laughs.]
I mean, this is the sort of thing I try to avoid talking about with kids and teenagers because I don't want to make them aware of it. But since you brought it up -- this is a really philosophical question -- why do you think some people take it to that level where they need to threaten someone on a personal level through a videogame or the Internet?
[Pause.] I don't know. I've thought about this. You're not bringing up anything new. I'm not just finding out about this.
Yeah, that's why I'm asking you.
Oh, they have their own insecurities so they project their insecurities onto other people and make them feel bad about it.
So you said you've been thinking about this. Why?
Well, you know, whenever it comes up I'm just like, "You know what? Maybe I should think about ponies for about an hour now."
The question I'm always wondering is that why do people still well into adulthood act that way? Because, you know, when you're into your twenties and thirties don't you think --
You should have grown up by now? [Laughs.]
Well, what do you think?
I woke up about two hours ago and didn't eat any breakfast, huzzah! Okay, I ate breakfast, but it was bread. I had bread.
Bread counts. You're taking care of yourself. That's important.
I don't know. People just don't want to grow up so they just still act immature into their adulthood.
Do you think videogames teach you anything?
[Laughs.] Yeah. Well, I played a lot of Animal Crossing as a kid and I think that was like baby's first mortgage a little bit.
Kinda early to be paying mortgage, but yeah.
You know, you still have to pay off the bank for taking off the loan, but you don't have any time limit, so, instead of working you sell fish at the local market, which also happens to be the place where you pay off your house. Tom Nook, you bastard!
Do you know what a slumlord is? He's kind of a slumlord.
I always thought Animal Crossing was a little strange in that sense, but I agree with you, like, it introduces you to concepts that maybe you hadn't thought of before.
Okay, so you learned about mortgages. But that was when you were a kid. Are you saying --
Nowadays, let's see. Usually it's not for the game itself, it's for online play, with Minecraft. But that's just like, interacting with people just through a virtual means, so it's not really learning from the game.
Sure it is.
But it's more like the people in the game. You know, the real-life people who are currently in the same game that you are.
I'm waving my arms around frantically.
No, I heard it.
So are you saying you're not really learning much?
No, it's more just a fun distraction between, you know, life and school and stuff.
What was your very first videogame that you wanted to buy and you got interested in?
Probably something on the Wii, like Wii Sports or Mario Galaxy or something because I was the last person in my group of friends to get a Wii and I was like, "Oh, God, please parents buy me a Wii!" And they were like, "No!" And I was like, "Dammit! I want a Wii." I would go over and play Wii Sports at somebody else's house and be like, "I want to do this at home now!" [Growls.]
I remember Wii Sports, the first time you swing a controller and you see it move onscreen where you're like --
"Oh my God! What is this future magic!"
[Laughs.] I mean, do you feel that way about the Wii U? Is that also future magic?
Not as much because it's like, "Oh, it's now a Wii but it has an iPad attached to it. Okay."
I mean, how do you feel videogames have changed in the time you've been paying attention to them?
I haven't been paying attention to them long enough.
Have you noticed any changes at all?
Well, you know, mostly I focus on Nintendo products and they never really change. And then when I look over at what Sony and Microsoft are doing and I'm like, "Well, this looks about the same as it did a while ago. Okay."
How do you mean? Like, graphics?
You know, graphics are always improving. And I occasionally have looked at game trailers and been like, "Woah, that looks pretty cool."
You mean the visuals or the games themselves?
The games themselves I haven't really played them and seen how the controls have changed or the gameplay has changed.
Are you not interested in having those other consoles?
It's mostly, like, my parents not being interested enough to buy them. Like, the only PlayStation we have is the first one. And we have an original Xbox and an Xbox 360.
I remember your mom telling me there was a retro game store that just opened in the mall.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
She just told me she felt exhausted just thinking about it.
But those older systems, like even the Xbox 360, what do you notice about them?
There's lots of -- you know Modern Warfares and Calls of Duty and Halos, first-person shooters. Once again, manly manly games.
Do you actually think those are manly games?
I don't know. Certainly marketed as such.
How do you mean?
"Uh, we're here to save the world and explode bad guys! Yeah! Flex muscles."
That sounds pretty masculine to me. Or, I guess, I mean, it sounds like a lot of testosterone. I don't know if it's masculine.
Testosterone! Yeah! [Laughs.] No.
They should just sell them and it comes with needles of testosterone.
[Laughs.] You just get the game box and you open it and it's just, like, a bunch of syringes filled with testosterone. "Here you go, buddy!"
That might happen within our lifetime. You never know.
You never know!
It's just, like, another form of DLC or something?
Who are your three favorite videogame characters?
I have to say Princess Peach.
You don't have to.
No, because she did definitely have a giant impact in my life and I still love her even though, again, she's a terrible role model. Actually, I think I wrote a paper in school about how terrible a role model she was. [Laughs.]
Language arts. We were doing, like, gender biases and other political nonsense and I was like, "Okay! Let's do gender biases in the media!" And one of my plans was like, "Oh, it's especially apparent in videogames because of all these over-sexualized characters and even when they're not sexualized, they still need a guy to come and save them." And then I said, "Well, they are getting better with more playable characters and Princess Peach can kick your ass in Super Smash Bros. Brawl."
What was your teacher's reaction?
I think I got an "A." That class he never gave us the grade when we turned in the paper. Like, it was a miracle if you got it two semesters later. [Laughs.] You just had to check the source every once in a while and then be like, "Oh, okay, I still have an 'A' in this class. I'll just suppose that I'm doing good."
So you never really got any feedback on that.
No, we didn't. And we would complain about it to him. And he'd just be like, "Okay! I promise on the next one I'll give you the grades!" And he just didn't.
Did you talk with your friends or other classmates about your paper?
Well, mostly, I'd hear from across the room, "Oh my God Mr. So-And-So, why won't you give us our papers back?" And he's like, "I swear I will!" Then he just didn't. So I just sat there in the corner laughing
But you said Princess Peach had an impact on your life. How do you mean?
'Cause, still to this day I never think of being feminine as a bad thing and I still try to be kinda girly while being awesome. You know, you never want to think of girliness as not a good thing. That would suck.
Do you feel people say being girly is a bad thing?
Yeah, all the time. Even myself sometimes, but mostly when I'm hanging out with guy friends. Like, I insult them by calling them a girl. Like, really. [Laughs.] I've done that and I don't know if I should feel ashamed about it or not. I probably should. But, you know, whatever.
Depends on the context but that also explains a little bit about how you fit in with that circle of friends.
I have many circles of friends which I act slightly different in each of them.
That's completely normal.
Okay, so, Princess Peach. Do you have two more?
The red knight from Castle Crashers. [Laughs.]
Are you joking?
No. No, I am not. He doesn't have a character, but he's the one that I play as. So, yeah, that's a favorite.
I don't play enough story-based games to get involved with any characters. Oh, wait -- there's this game called Little Inferno. Have you played it?
No, tell me about it.
It's kinda creepy. And, so, all you have is a fireplace and you have money and you use the money buy stuff to burn the stuff and get more money from the stuff to buy more stuff to burn. And that's the entire principle of the game and there's heartbreaking moments. There's a neighbor character who's amazing and I don't remember her name! But she sends hearts in every letter she sends you and it's cute.
And then she -- spoilers -- dies a horrible fiery death. Which is the only videogame character I cried for when they died, was that one. So, there you go. There's my favorites.
What about other characters that tend to pop up in stories in videogames? Like, you mentioned you have to save the princess and stuff, but what do you feel are the types of stories that videogames are typically telling? What do you feel are the things that you keep seeing and seeing and seeing and seeing?
I don't know, really. There's a bunch of "tiny person going up against the government," but I don't really notice as much. Mostly because I'm reading young-adult novels and those pieces of shit are filled with, "Oh, I'm a special snowflake and I have this one true power and I'm going to take down the government because it's corrupt and evil." I just hate it so much.
It's like, oh, the Divergents of the world, all The Hunger Games, all the -- you know, stuff like that. It's just the same thing used over and over again. Like, you know, Maze Runner probably. I didn't pay attention while reading that one. But still.
Who are your two, three favorite characters in books?
Whoever killed the main character in Divergent. [Laughs.]
I don't remember who it was, but I know that they did it and it was amazing.
Because Tris or Beatrice -- she's, just, I don't remember anything about her character. Just that, "Oh, I have issues and I have a boyfriend." She's just a blank slate for someone to project themselves onto, I'm sure, but I just didn't so I was just reading this book with a bland-ass character. I was like, "I don't want to be this person. This person sounds boring!"
So you like the person who took that person out.
[Laughs.] Okay. Do you have another character from a book that you particularly liked?
There's this one series and the first book is called Splintered, I think, and I like the character Morpheus from that because he's kind of this mysterious dark figure who's, again, trying to get the bland-ass character to go into the magical world, but the bland-ass character is like, "No! It's creepy there and I want to stay in the normal world and go to high school." And Morpheus is just like, "You are supposed to be the queen of Wonderland, come back!" And she's like, "No, I want to stay here with my bland boyfriend." Bland boyfriend flexes muscles.
It's like, "Oh my God, you people." So I would just sympathize with that guy being like, "Oh my God, dude? I know your pain."
Are there are lot of characters in videogames you can relate to? Or do you just find yourself getting annoyed like that.
If you don't like a character in a videogame, you can kinda ignore them. But in a book they pop up whenever the story needs them to pop up. But in a videogame, you can be like, "Oh, I don't like this person. I'm just going to skip through all their dialog." In books you can't do that! You cannot skip the dialog in books. I wish you could. That would be amazing.
I don't know, technically you can skip through dialog in movies if you press the fast-forward button, but they kinda say some important stuff so you can't really do that.
Wait, are you saying stories in games don't really matter?
No, no, they matter if they're good and if you play games that are more story-based, which I don't and I should. But then I'm sure you come across games that are like, "Oh, my God, this story sucks. I need to stop playing this." But I just don't play that kind of game.
Why do you feel like you should be playing more of them?
Because I feel like I need more variety in my videogame diet.
Do you like when there's the option to play as a female character in games?
Yeah, I do.
How often do you do that when you're given that choice?
Like, all the time if I get a choice. Yeah.
Because, you know, you can relate to the character more if it's the same gender as you. It's like, "Oh, you're a girl, I'm a girl, we both have boobs, yay! We can relate to each other."
Some guys have boobs.
Those are moobs.
What do you feel tends to be different -- I know you wrote a paper about it already -- about playable male characters as opposed to the playable female characters?
Well, it depends on the game. Like, if it's a "create a character" and you can choose a female, then the people don't react to you any different than if you were playing a guy.
You mean the people in the game world?
The people in the game world.
What sort of reaction characters do male characters get in games?
"You're a dude. I want you to do a thing. Go do it!" And if you're a girl character, "Hey you're a girl! Go do a thing!" You know.
Do you feel pressure to play certain types of videogames?
Not really, no. Mainly because I don't have people in my life who pressure me to do anything.
That means you've made some wise choices with the people around you.
I've made some wise choices, yes.
Do you play games at school? Like, do they use them in the classroom?
No. We use games in the classroom, like, you know, when the teacher's saying something boring in the classroom. We usually play, like, Hangman or something.
You mean, like, on what?
On a scrap piece of paper. We just play Hangman. [Laughs.]
Oh, I was gonna ask -- do you still use graphic calculators in school?
I think we do. We kinda did a mini unit about, "Oh, this is a graphic calculator and this is how you use it." I don't know. We might be using it more next year.
Oh, that's right. As you get into high school you use it more. But a lot of people I knew -- you could get games on them somehow.
I don't really remember how and I never did that. I swear.
But I just remember so much of that in high school. There was a game called Drug Wars, which I guess is similar to Animal Crossing in some ways now that I think about it.
[Laughs.] Just in Animal Crossing, instead of fishing you would cook meth or something and then sell it to Tom Nook.
It's all selling product. That's a great idea for a game, though. I don't think Nintendo would ever go for that, though.
Animal Crossing: The Dark Side. No, I'm kidding!
Eh, why not? Just in time for Halloween?
Where do you get your information about videogames?
The Internet. Like, Let's Players. They start playing Five Nights at Freddy's and then you're like, "Oh hey! This is a thing!"
Do you go to websites and blogs, or is it mainly just YouTube?
It's mainly just YouTube.
Because, I don't know, I just don't find myself searching for new videogames to play on the onlines.
Yeah. I've heard of that.
Have you looked at any of the game blogs and sites or not really?
Not really, no.
You're just not interested.
I just haven't heard people that I know say, "Oh, this game blog is really good. You should go check it out!"
Nobody is saying that?
Nobody is saying that.
Do those videos influence the way you play at all?
Yeah. If I see someone play a game, then I go and play it, I usually follow the same steps that they did.
Is that changing the amount of fun you're having?
It's a little less fun, but it's kinda hard to find just new games just through sheer force of will.
Are there things you hope to see from videogames in the future?
I don't think so, but I'm not a videogame designer, though, so.
What's the worst game you've ever played?
I usually stay away from bad games.
[Laughs.] Again, you've made wise choices.
If you asked me this about any other medium I would've just listed off bad movies and bad books that I've read but with videogames it's just like -- I think with videogames it's hard to find bad ones that you think are good because it's usually just friends, and if a friend finds a bad game, they're not gonna tell another friend about it.
Are there games you play that you don't really talk to your friends that much about?
Yeah. I think so. I don't know. Whatever the heck I have in my Steam library. Like, Poker Night at the Inventory. Let's say that. My friends have no idea that I'm playing that.
Isn't it that Telltale thing?
Yeah, it is. It's awesome! And my dad taught me how to play poker, so I'm decently good at it. [Laughs.]
How many games do you have in your Steam library?
Because a lot of people say, "Oh man, I got a ton of games." And then it turns out they have, like, 20.
I definitely have less than 20 'cause, for one thing, I only recently got a gaming PC, so a lot of these are -- I had to only pick stuff from what Mac had and then allowance, so I can't buy all the games that I want on my PC. Can I check?
Of course you can check.
Okay, okay. I have 24 games in my Steam library.
Does that seem like a lot to you?
A little, maybe. I have Goat Simulator open, of course. That is a great game.
Are you kidding? I can't tell. It's kind of a goofy game.
Well, I like games that are goofy. It's fantastic. It's a masterpiece of a game!
Do you see yourself playing videogames as an adult?
What do you feel like there's a lot of in videogames today?
Working together as a team. Like, Splatoon just came out.
What do you think videogames have accomplished?
Like, for all of humanity or for themselves?
Okay! Well, they've gotten better with storytelling and with visuals there's more cinematic videogames. You can, you know, make characters more detailed so they look more different from other characters. I mean, originally they were all just like one pixel, so, you've definitely gotten better than that. They've gotten better at bringing people together with all of this online play and stuff.
And they've bettered humanity by not just leaving us with bad movies and books? I don't know. [Laughs.]