Sugar Gamers play better together

By WilliamPrentiss

Female geeks populate the basement of Galactic Force Toys, 3240 N. Clark St. The room is their Mecca. Four high-definition TVs hug the walls.  The largest is 60 inches of pure digital display. A gamer puts a “Dance Dance Revolution” mat to work, her bare feet mercilessly owning the floor. The 4-inch black heels to the side of the dancing queen are Keisha Howard’s. She is a woman—and she is geek.

This celebration in Galactic Force was held on Feb. 13 in honor of the Sugar Gamers founder’s birthday. Howard created Sugar Gamers as an organization where girls can enjoy their inner geek freely.  All niches are welcome, whether a woman enjoys a steady diet of anime, cosplay, comic books, “Battlestar Galactica” or all of the above.

“There’s a lot of women who are business women and mothers and fashionistas that all have a little nerdy quirk to them, and this organization provides an outlet for that,” Howard said. “Yeah, I’m nerded out, but I’m not sitting on the couch stank and crusty lookin’ all the time. I like going out and I’m a social person.”

Sugar Gamers has held several events since its founding in August 2009, and many more are planned for the future.  Turquoise Cox is a longtime member and proudly calls herself a Sugar Gamer. Cox said she plays mostly multi-player games, but the guys she’s played with outside of the organization have been less than kind.

“Girl gamers are really far and few between,” Cox said. “I play video games that require you to play with other people, and guys aren’t very receptive to playing with girls. I’ve been called every curse word in the book when they found out I was a girl.”

Cox remembers getting hassled in one particular game of “Grand Theft Auto IV.” She was told lewd things after asking the other players to be quiet. Cox needed the calm to aim her sniper rifle, which was aimed at the players fighting amongst themselves around the skyscraper she was standing on. However, she said she got the last laugh after putting the guys down one by one and speeding away in a car she stole from one of them.

Howard said the focus of Sugar Gamers is to give women an atmosphere where they can talk about their hobby without guys hitting on them. Men come to their events, but Howard said the organization’s ultimate goal is to provide a place for lady geeks to be themselves. She said she has found guys she can talk about her geekier interests with, but too often things turn sour when they try to make a move on her.

“A lot of times it might go over into the wrong way,” Howard said. “That’s why I wanted to make a female-oriented group because I can talk to other females about my interests without worrying about them trying to seduce me later. It’s nice.”

Mike Sullivan was in attendance for Keisha’s birthday.  The computer engineer said he’s not a huge gamer because of the time investment games require, but would like to see more of them in a social setting. He said women usually stand out in both the engineering and gaming world.

“It wouldn’t make a difference to me,” Howard said. “To gamers, I could see that being a big deal. In the gaming community in general, I think there tends to be a mystique about it—when they get into things many women don’t normally get into.”

Marc Heller, Galactic Toys owner, met Howard before her birthday party. He said he thinks Sugar Gamers is a great idea because gaming shops like his are usually frequented by more guys than girls, but his store is really trying to attract a wider variety of customers.

“We have a lot of female customers for everything we do—board games we sell, video games, everything,” Heller said. “It’s a welcoming environment for girls, especially for girls that want to come in and haven’t played ‘Magic’ before. Gamers sometimes get a little aggressive.”