Cool Chick of the Week: Donna Nicholson

Name: Donna Nicholson

Birthday: September 1st.  I won’t say the year because, yeah, it was a while ago.  Haha!

From: Born in San Jose, CA and currently living in Reno, NV.  We’ll be heading back to California soon.  What can I say?  I love California, it’s a pretty amazing place to live and I’m more than ready to go back home.

Ethnicity: A cool AND fiery mix:  English, Welsh, Spanish, and Italian.

Background: I was shy when I was young.  I’m not shy at all now, so it’s hard to believe that I once was afraid to tell a waiter what I wanted to eat. I didn’t get into a lot of trouble growing up, I was a good kid.  I did alright in school, I was a Girl Scout. Typical stuff.  Then, one day when I was eight a friend of my parents had us over for dinner. They didn’t have kids, so naturally I was bored.  They decided they’d hook up their Pong console so I could play.  It wasn’t even an Atari!  It was the console that ONLY had Pong on it.  That was the day I became a gamer.

Yes, that’s Donna’s Tattoo 😀

Career info:   As far as video gaming goes, back in 2003 I opened a local business hosting LAN parties and it did well for a few years.  After a while, business slowed down and we were forced to close our doors.  Four years later I decided I wanted to get active in the community again so I, along with my friends Chelle and Alicia, started a video gaming podcast called “Pink and Deadly.”  We had a lot of fun, and we did very well. One of my proudest moments was when we became the number one podcast in the “Games and Hobbies” category on iTunes in the UK.  After a while my co-hosts had to move on.  Without them I didn’t want to continue the podcast, it just wouldn’t have been the same, so the “Pink and Deadly” podcast ended. The website is still around, but it’s not active.  Chelle and I did a reunion show that was well-received, and we plan on doing more.

While I was busy with Pink and Deadly I decided to apply for the Frag Dolls Cadette Academy and was thrilled to be selected for the Spring, 2010 class.  I met a lot of amazing people during that time and that’s where things really starting taking off for me and my career.  The Frag Dolls truly changed my life. Toward the end of my tenure as a Cadette I started working  I’m currently working for them as a Community Manager and co-host of their gaming podcast “Digital High.”  I’m still active with the Frag Dolls as well.  It’s so much fun it doesn’t feel like work!

At one point, Donna had the number 1 Podcast on UK iTunes

Hobbies: Video games, reading, and travel.

Pets: I have three dogs.  A Jack Russell Terrier named Halo (after the video game), a sweet Jack Russell mix (named Ratchet, after everyone’s favorite Lombax, Ratchet, from Ratchet & Clank) and a Border Collie mix named Bella. She is NOT named after the Twilight character!

Ass to Ass!

Pet peeves:  Rudeness, closed-mindedness, and intolerance.

Favorite foods: Ethiopian.  Yes, I know the jokes about Ethiopian food being an oxymoron, but it is AMAZING.  I also love Indian, Thai, and Mexican food.

Favorite movies:  The Shawshank Redemption, Tombstone, Pulp Fiction, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Aliens, and Bagdad Cafe

Favorite TV shows: Game of Thrones, of course!  I enjoyed Homeland. I’m also a bit of a cartoon freak.  I love Archer, American Dad!, and Family Guy. I was a hardcore fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I have all the seasons on DVD.  I met James Marsters — he played Spike —  at San Diego Comic Con. It rocked. He complimented my hair!  I was squealing on the inside, but kept cool on the outside.

Favorite books:  Gone with the Wind, Frenchmen’s Creek, The Lords of Discipline.  Pretty much anything EXCEPT romance novels.  Yuck.

Favorite music:  I like everything.  Seriously, I can go to a party and whatever they’re playing I’m going to enjoy on some level.

Favorite tech:  My smartphone is my life.  Without it I would surely die! 😉

Favorite travel place:  Hmmm.  So far it’s either Paris, France or Edinburgh, Scotland.  It’s too hard to pick one!

Favorite games:  Jet Set Radio Future, Batman Arkham City, the Ratchet & Clank franchise, Halo: Combat Evolved, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 2, and Unreal Tournament 2K4.  I must give honorable mention to Pong — it’s what made me a gamer.

Favorite consoles:  PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, Atari 2600, and of course my PC.

Favorite genre:  Shooters, Action-Adventure, Dance, and Sandbox games.

Favorite generation:  Probably the sixth generation — Xbox and PlayStation 2 era.  When a lot of the community were living at home with their parents because they were still kids, I was a young woman living on my own and simply couldn’t afford to play some of the prior generations.  I played some PC games and Gameboy during the gap.  When the Xbox and PlayStation 2 came out, I had money and could, once again, immerse myself into gaming.

Donna with Carlos Ferra who is the voice of Dom in Gears of War and Leonardo Da Vinci in Assassin’s Creed II

Celebrity crush or girl crush?  I adore Paul Rudd.  He’s funny, hot, talented — the whole package.  The character Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, too.  He has the brooding good looks I appreciate.  Girl crush?  Yes, I have one!  Harley Quinn from Batman Arkham Asylum/Arkham City.  I guess I like my girls crazy.  Haha!

Tell us something about you that no one would expect: Let’s see.  I use to date a professional bull rider.  I also modeled in my late teens, early 20’s, and even some in my 30’s.  Ah! This is super cool! My mom’s side of the family moved to the US from Spain and settled the city of Santa Barbara, California.  My family’s name, De la Guerra, is prominent there.  There’s fiestas, plazas, and streets named after us!  I’m very Spanish, though I don’t look it.

Donna with Chris and Kelly Brown from The Married Gamers website/podcast.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself very well established in my career in the gaming industry. Right now my focus is working with the gaming community, so probably something still in that vein.  The Head of Community with a gaming company would be nice, but really as long as I’m working in the industry and actively doing Community Management work, I’ll be happy.  I also plan on doing more traveling in that time.  Hopefully at least three new foreign lands and some new destinations in the US as well.

The Videogame culture is rife with stereotypes. As a woman, do you feel that sometimes you aren’t taken seriously as a gamer?

Sometimes, yeah, I feel that I’m not taken seriously because of my gender. It’s unfortunate because if you look at the statistics from sources like the esa,  42% of all players are women over 18 years of age, and adult women make up more of the gaming population than boys under 17.  We’re serious gamers now, whether we’re good or not, and the views toward us haven’t seemed to change.  I’m not sure why, but we need to make the community aware that there are a lot of women playing, and they’re being owned by us in their favorite games and they don’t even know it.

My Gamer Tag is EvilPixieGrrr, which is obviously feminine. As a result I’m automatically pigeon-holed as a crappy player before a match even starts. I remember one time I was playing Modern Warfare 2 on a team that consisted of a group of guys who all knew each other and I was the one random playing on their side.  A conversation similar to this went down:

Dude Number One:  “She’s not gonna do a f*cking thing.”

Dude Number Two:  “Who?”

Dude Number One:  “Evil Pixie”

By the end of the game our team had won and I was their MVP.  I wanted to smugly yell at them,  “I just led our team to victory, AND I’m probably old enough to by your mother.  SUCK IT!” But I didn’t.  I laughed silently to myself with smug satisfaction.  I should have been taken seriously, and if my Gamer Tag had been ambiguous, I probably would have been.

It’s more than that, though.  Women should be taken seriously whether they play well or not.  We shouldn’t be harassed when we simply want to do what we enjoy.

First in Modern Warfare 2 Deathmatch. Yea, I take her seriously!

Video games seem to be primarily aimed at men but I know plenty of women that play games like Call of Duty, Halo and Gears of War. What do you think developers and publishers can do to help promote and acknowledge their female fans?

I see a lot of women say they’d like a playable female character in all games.  Right now I’m managing the Ghost Recon Future Soldier forums at Ubisoft, and I see requests coming from women for a female Ghost character. It’s important to a lot of female gamers to have the option.

For me, I want developers and publishers to use smart, competent, female characters. I always loved Elena Fisher from Uncharted because she isn’t a dumb ass.  I don’t have a problem if the character is sexy, but make them formidable as well.  That’s not to say that we can’t have a funny, ditz in a game (remember, I have a girl crush on Harley Quinn), but we need balance. So, more characters like Elena please!

Donna and MongoBear from the “K.D. 2.0” podcast

Any advice for other female gamers out there?

Don’t let the jerks keep you from doing what you love.  And when I say “jerks,” realize there are other WOMEN who will mistreat you when you’re playing, too.  If you want to find a good core group to play with, check out the PMS Clan or the Frag Dolls Community Game Nights.  They’re in place to give women a fun and respectful group to play video games with.  You also need to make sure you report anyone who is being abusive to you when you play.  The only way we can change the climate is by making sure there are consequences for bad behavior.  Too often you hear people say that the insults are “part of life” but it’s really bullying, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.  Other than that?  KEEP GAMING!

Keep gaming indeed and keep looking good while you are!

Donna is a pretty cool chick who’s not afraid of anything and you can keep track of what she is up to at the following places:

Twitter: @FragQueen

Thanks Donna! You’re awesome!


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