Bodied is many things: the story of a young woman; an introduction to fighting games and the Fighting Game Community; and a meditation on history and change. From time to time as you read, revisit this page to learn more about some of the book's hidden meanings!

If you like to listen to music while you read, start with the playlist below. It's the main Bodied soundtrack, which also doubles as the themed playlist for Maya, our protagonist.


  • “There is something in a warrior’s dream…”

This line is from “Prime,” a song by the FGC rapper Zaid Tabani. The track was released on the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collector’s Set, and it was also used in the trailer for SoCal Regionals 2013. Tabani’s most recent FGC track, “Wednesday Night,” is excellent. Please support him and his art.

Part I: Fall 2011

  • Adler and Aldo

These two are inspired by (and named after) Statler and Waldorf, the two old guys in the Muppets who sit up in the balcony and talk shit all through the show.

  • White 4Runner

The number 4 and the color white are associated in Japan (and in Bodied) with death, and this is Maya’s first brush with death. Luckily, in the FGC, most tournaments are double-elimination, so Maya survives this first loss and lives to fight another day - but, because this is a “forerunner,” it also foreshadows a second brush with death later on. Where else in the book is white associated with death?

  • Fighting game Illuminati

Around this time, fans, viewers, and even some players believed that some of the top players and tournament organizers were colluding, operating on the basis of inside information, or otherwise cheating the system. Yet except for a few instances of pot-splitting - some of which happened onstream and can still be found archived on Twitch and YouTube - there was never anything even remotely resembling an FGC Illuminati. Still, it’s a fun meme.

  • Two Up

So far as I know, no arcade has this name. A callback to the old coin-operated machine terminology, it’s supposed to represent the inherently social nature of fighting games and the FGC: the first-player start button was often called the “One Up” button, but fighting games aren’t as meaningful unless there are two people involved, i.e., unless there are “Two Up.”

  • “Kimi wa ittai…”

This line is from “Blade, the Thousand,” the third episode of the anime Katanagatari. Katanagatari is a smart, funny, underrated anime that deals with many of the same themes as Bodied. It also has the greatest coming-next-time troll of all time. Please support the artists.

  • Determined to find a match

This paragraph uses all three meanings of “match,” namely: a wooden stick that is used to generate light and heat; a thing that’s similar to (i.e., “matches”) another thing; and, of course, a contest of strength or skill.

  • Red string of fate

The red thread of fate, also known as the akai ito, is an idea that originated in China before migrating to Japan. It was originally (and is still primarily) used in the context of romance or dating, but I figured I could put a little twist on it.

  • el.treyn and Odds

Everyone on team MTA has names with double meanings. For el.treyn, the meanings are the L Train (a New York subway line) and “el rey,” which is Spanish for “the king.” Sanford Kelly was known as the king of New York for some time, and there’s now a NY-area tournament with the same name. el.treyn is a tribute to both of those pieces of FGC lore. As for Odds, his name reflects both his penchant for gambling (an FGC staple) and the breadth of his hobbies, which gives him an odds-and-ends approach to life.

Here's el.treyn's playlist:

  • Cool glow of the monitors

Maya and el.treyn follow the red-oni/blue-oni character dichotomy from Japanese culture, with the red oni (Maya) representing fire, heat, impetuousness, and aggression and the blue oni (el.treyn) representing water, coolness, reflection, and self-control. How many other places in the book can you find Maya being associated with red/fire/heat and el.treyn being associated with blue/water/cold? What other color themes are there in the book?

  • Stream monster names

Most of the names in the stream chat are references to the FGC or the things that inspired the FGC. fiveRingz is a reference to Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings; “09er” is a derisive term for a member of the FGC who only joined around the release of Street Fighter IV (in 2009, naturally); mta_cammy_thighs is a reference to the real-life stream monster emp_juri_feet (EMP being the shorthand for Empire Arcadia, an early NY-area team); RazorsEdge is a reference to pro wrestler Scott Hall (a.k.a. Razor Ramon); and MillyT is a Trigun reference. As for SuperSteve, it just sounds really lame, and every stream needs at least one person who doesn’t get it.

  • Cartoon disco warzone

The characters in this match include Hulk, Doom, and Chris.

  • Orange soda, kid shit/Disney-ass game

This is inspired both by a line in Bruce Lee’s book on Jeet Kune Do and by a story in which Snake Eyez once shut down a mouthy Marvel player by referring to Marvel as “Disney-ass shit.”

  • “Are judge?”

Originally from the chop-socky classic 3 Evil Masters, this line was sampled by the Wu-Tang Clan in “Severe Punishment.” Please support the artists.

  • Darkness begins

Or, more literally: “It is dark one inch ahead of you” (issun saki wa yami).

  • There had to be a mark

At this point in the story, Maya is, like most of us, not significant enough to make a permanent mark of any kind: not in her personal life, not in her work life, not at the arcade. In large part, Bodied is about what it takes to make a mark on the world around you (or to become the type of person who’s capable of making a mark).

  • ...every day the same dream

This is the title of a short art game, which you can play for free here.

  • Stream monster names

Happyjow is a riff on Grimmjow from Bleach.

  • Sun Tzu

This is from the Art of War, as you might expect. Also, Maya’s attitude about sticks and pads is a real representation of the general attitude in the FGC around this time. Until people like NuckleDu and Smug began to play on pads at the highest levels of competition, there was a real bias against pads and in favor of sticks.

  • Maya Angel

A riff on American poet Maya Angelou, who Jasmine would likely have been aware of, albeit only in a vague or distant way.

  • Tribe

This paragraph comes from the Tribe Called Quest song “Scenario.” Please support the artists.

  • Homeless kid

He’s inspired by Akuma Hokura, who really was homeless for a time before he wound up at New York’s Next Level arcade.

  • “We just leave…”

This conversation is a reference point for Maya’s broader story. Adler and Aldo say that, by repeatedly defying social convention, they were able to win a better situation for themselves - but, after Maya’s critical response, they admit that they had to suffer in order to achieve their goal and that they might suffer more before it’s all said and done. Moreover, they’re willing to suffer because the next person to be in their situation will have an easier time of it. This charts Maya’s path as a woman in the FGC: she has to defy the FGC’s social conventions regarding gender, and her defiance costs her more than she could guess, but she succeeds in bearing those costs so that the next generation doesn’t have to.

  • The Maximum Talent Association

“MTA” is also the name of New York’s public transit service.

  • Stream monster names

apple_jax is a threefold name: it’s a riff on a kids’ cereal (Apple Jacks), and it also signifies that the person is a New York- (i.e., Big Apple-)based Mortal Kombat player who prefers to play Jax. TerminatorX is a reference to the DJ from Public Enemy. St4rw1nd is a reference to the main character from the anime Outlaw Star.

  • The jolt of the stick

This incident was inspired by a real-life fight at - and this is true - a tournament called Fight Night at the Break, which is still up on YouTube. In the real-life fight, Noel Brown threw a punch at a guy in the audience who, according to rumor, called Brown the n-word. The best/worst part about the real-life version of the story is that the punchee was wearing a walking boot at the time. (Somewhat ironically and very disappointingly, Brown himself was later banned from Capcom Pro Tour events after sexually harassing some of his fellow attendees.)

  • Stream monster names

madnuG is a reference to the Gundam anime series and also a shout-out to alucarD, a real-life Street Fighter player.

  • The fighting words doctrine, the incitement exception

Both of these are real parts of US law, but, as Lawrence says, neither would protect Maya. The fighting words doctrine allows government agents to arrest or otherwise restrain people who are talking in a way that’s liable to start a physical confrontation, and the incitement exception, similarly, allows the government to stop people from directly encouraging lawlessness.

  • Stream monster names

GlassJawbreaker is a reference to a candy and also a statement that the person in question isn’t afraid to beat up on weaklings.

  • Too much shit for her to swallow

This is a call-back to the conversation with Adler and Aldo about how they managed to get to the arcade early.

  • “The most reckless person…”

el.treyn’s dialogue here was inspired by Jin’s statement to Mugen near the end of the first episode of Samurai Champloo. Like Maya and el.treyn, Mugen and Jin are also a red-oni/blue-oni duo.

  • “Gimme your left.”

In basically all controller setups, the left hand is used to control movement (with a joystick or with directional buttons) and the right hand is used to control activity. el.treyn asks for Maya’s left hand and then tells her that her actions (right hand) are free but that her movements (left hand) are not.


The year 1991 contained the start of Operation Desert Storm and the first Gulf War; the bombing of two London train stations by the IRA; the Rodney King beating; the death of US Senator John Heinz; Germany’s return to formal independence for the first time after World War II; the start of the Sierra Leone Civil War; the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis; the Dow’s first close over 3000; the election of Edith Cresson in France; the repeal of apartheid in South Africa; the publication of the first website by Tim Berners-Lee; the official dissolution of the USSR; the founding of the Wu-Tang Clan; Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign; Barack Obama’s graduation from law school; and, yes, the arcade release of Street Fighter II. These events are important to Bodied because Maya’s story is historical as well as personal. As such, real-life historical events are included in order to give the reader a sense of the way in which history moves incredibly quickly in some respects while, in other respects, it seems to stand still completely.

  • Nila and Carmesi

These are a red/blue pair as well: “Nila” means “dark blue” in Sanskrit and “Carmesi” means “crimson” in Spanish. This is the first indication that, socially as well as politically/culturally, Jasmine’s world is not entirely different from Maya’s world but also not entirely the same. This is the path of history: patterns recur, but they shift as they do so.

  • Castlevania IV, Ninja Gaiden III, Metroid II, A Link to the Past

This is just a fun little countdown: IV, III, II, “A” (i.e., one).

Part II: Winter 2011-2012

  • Pai Mei

Pai Mei is the martial arts master character in Kill Bill 2. He’s extremely powerful, but he’s also haughty at times, and this is what the boys are mocking.

  • Maya-Wan Kenobi

This is a riff on a famous line from Star Wars: A New Hope.

  • Sayainish

Saiyans are a human-like alien species from the Dragonball universe, which is one of the most popular anime and manga universes of all time.

  • “The rise and the fall…”

This line is from “Beat Street Breakdown” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five; please support the artists. el.treyn brings it up because he’s trying to persuade Maya that her inner fire has the potential to give her strength but also the potential to betray her in the end. Unbeknownst to treyn, this line also reinforces the theme of history that runs throughout the book: who will rise? Who will fall? Who will build an empire? Whose world will be left in shambles?

  • “You eat the same piece of cake…”

This lyric comes from “Latitude,” which you can find on Nujabes’s Metaphorical Music record. Please support the artists.

“This is a job…”

If you look up postal service videos on YouTube, you’ll find this one.

  • “FGC Idol…”

The “not a cheap date” line has two parallel meanings. Aldo’s saying that if you try to “take him out” (meaning either on a date or by defeating him in the game) then you’ll pay (meaning either foot the bill or be defeated yourself). Likewise, Adler’s snarky commentary also has two meanings. In rap, “bars” refers to the type of double-meaning statement that Aldo just used, but in fighting games it refers to the amount of special-move meter that a character has. In Street Fighter IV, any character with four bars had access to their super move; in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the maximum number of bars was five. Hence, when Adler says that Aldo is a Capcom rapper, he’s both dissing Aldo (by saying that he’s only capable of a handful of good lines) and referring to the gameplay mechanics of SFIV and MVC3.

  • The third page had a bus pass taped to it

el.treyn’s habit of taking people’s IDs is inspired by the Japanese martial arts practice of dojo yaburi, in which (at least mythically) a successful visiting challenger would take the sign or placard from the dojo they’d defeated.

  • “It is said…”

This short monologue is indeed from the Hagakure, but it’s also featured prominently in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, an excellent arthouse movie that mixes hip-hop, Japanese philosophy, and Italian-American organized crime. Like many of the other allusions in Bodied, Ghost Dog also has historical themes. Please support the artists. In many ways, this speech is the thesis statement of Bodied. We are all born into the constraints that exist in our specific time and place, and we will live within such constraints all our lives. Those of us who are born too early or too late (that is, whose personalities and capacities chafe against the constraints) will suffer, which means that the easiest thing to do is simply fall in line. But for those who believe that the constraints in their lives are unjust, is falling in line even an option?

  • “Dou ya shitte irudarou, onara-”

This does not mean the same thing as what el.treyn just said. 

  • Lee Edwards

The real-life father of east-coast Street Fighter is Eddie Lee.

  • ...talking bobbleheads…

That was Adam Sessler.

  • four

Here, the story’s thematic connection between four and death is made explicit. Where else is the number four found in the story? Which deaths might fit with those instances? As for the name of the player, it’s printed in a different font because Japanese keyboards often use a serifed English font, thereby making their English text stand out in online and other written contexts.

  • four’s joystick is broken

In reality, this would be an impossible burden. But fighting game players have done the seemingly impossible before.

  • “Eventually, they disowned him.”

Many early fighting game players have stories of being shunned or shamed by their parents for choosing to pursue esports. None of the stories are quite as extreme as this one, but the phenomenon is still very common. This is another way in which the FGC grapples with history.

  • “Treat it like a seminar…”

This lyric comes from “Don’t Believe The Hype” by Public Enemy. Please support the artists.

  • “Basketball players used to practice in their socks…”

This is all true. During the Great Depression, Iowan girls who played high school basketball would practice in their socks. The minor-league baseball team in New Iberia, Louisiana used to light its field on fire to burn off the rain. Stickball Boulevard is also a real street in New York, and it really is adjacent to Maya's post office.

  • ...she’d seen a glimpse of the future

Although Bodied centers on the history of women in the FGC, it’s also set during a period of significant historical change for the community as a whole. All of us are living through multiple histories simultaneously.

  • “How many Knicks players are from New York?”

Jokes notwithstanding, Intuit has a point: at least in the US, fame and wealth often come at the price of being disconnected from one’s origins. For the Fighting Game Community, this is a real cause for concern, because a community can’t be a community if everyone’s goal is to leave the community behind.

  • “Let me live my life…”

These lyrics are from Ice Cube’s “Death.” Please support the artist.

  • “The Buddhists say…”

Odds is paraphrasing Hojoki, a short Buddhist treatise on history and society that was first published in 1212. The original is, “In the stately ways of our shining capital the dwellings of high and low raise their roofs in rivalry as in the beginning, but few indeed there are that have stood for many generations. This year falling into decay and the next built up again, how often does the mansion of one age turn into the cottages of the next.”

  • “We take those, bitch.”

One of the ways in which communities enforce social justice is by shaming or ostracizing people who use slurs or targeted insults. While the FGC has made strides towards reining in the use of racial epithets, we’re still very lax about gendered epithets. This line should make the reader slightly uncomfortable, which, in turn, will hopefully inspire some thought about why the word “bitch” is still so commonplace and whether it still needs to be around.

  • Matrix-style

There’s a scene in the first Matrix in which the group’s leader tests the newcomer by making him jump from one skyscraper rooftop to another. The guys are referring to that scene, both gently mocking Maya’s status as the newbie and implying that she’s going to fail.

  • “...that Jet Li movie…”

Hero, the movie to which R4mb0 is referring, is yet another work of art that has historical themes like those in Bodied. It also has some of the best fight choreography ever put on film. Please support the artists.

  • “AT Field”

In Neon Genesis Evangelion, AT (or Absolute Terror) fields are basically force-fields that the protagonists use to protect themselves from horrific aliens.

  • “...rubber banned...marching banned…”

More wordplay from Aldo: a rubber band can snap, a marching band plays while it walks.

  • “Lawrence told us we can’t swear on the mics anymore”

This was a real change that took place as the FGC moved (ever so slightly) towards entering the mainstream. Profanity used to be entirely common during streams and broadcasts, but now it’s rare or nonexistent.

  • ...but she recovered fast and drew her line in the sand

Throughout the story, Maya learns how to navigate interpersonal conflict by drawing on the techniques she uses in Street Fighter. This is an example: having just learned about spacing and boundaries in the game, she uses that same idea to keep Adler and Aldo away from a sensitive topic.

  • “Please. Smash Brothers isn’t a fighting game.”

As enlightened as he is in some ways, el.treyn’s attitude here is the same type of prejudice that feeds racism, sexism, and so on. Of course, bias against a game is nowhere near as harmful as bias against an entire group of people, but it’s important to remember that this type of thinking is all around us, even in those we look up to.

  • “...a porn site offered to sponsor Adler.”

This actually happened. For a brief period of time, the porn site Brazzers was trying to sponsor players in the FGC.

  • Young Art’s…

Every restaurant in this section is a reference to prominent members of the FGC. Young Art is a nickname for Arturo Sanchez, who plays the Indian character Dhalsim. Mr. N is Marn, a Vietnamese player. Hwanan Sesu is a reference to Poongko, a Korean player famous for getting angry during his matches. J. Storm is part of the Twitter handle for K-Brad, who’s from the south. UltraDavid is a Jewish commentator. Tasty Steve, another commentator, is from St. Louis. Pum Pum City is a meme or catchphrase used by Irish player imstilldadaddy. El Cubano Loco is a player from northern California. Chris Hu, James Chen, and Justin Wong are all well-known Chinese members of the community. And, last but certainly not least, the Japanese Street Fighter legend Daigo Umehara is known for his so-called “ume-shoryu.” Here, that becomes shoyu, the Japanese word for soy sauce. Not only does this section pay homage to some of the people who helped to make the FGC what it is, it also illustrates the incredible cultural diversity within the community.

  • Matchups

While el.treyn’s explanation of matchups extends both Maya’s game knowledge and her understanding of interpersonal conflict, it also stands as a metaphor for history. For example, the first several generations of women in the US couldn’t vote. As such, if they wanted to work towards change, they had to do so using a limited set of tools and methods; that is, they had to “say” different things than modern women can say.

  • Casa Mena

Another reference to a member of the FGC, this time to MenaRD, a Street Fighter champion from the Dominican Republic.

  • HP Shovecraft

This name is a mix of classic (and amazingly racist) horror author HP Lovecraft and the word “shove,” which seems appropriate for someone who plays fighting games. Note, however, that his dialogue is indicated by his government name. Some people are more deeply integrated into the community than others.

  • The dialectical triad

In a certain school of thought, history is a process of thesis (the existing way of things), antithesis (a seemingly direct opposition to the existing way), and synthesis (a way of maintaining pieces of both the thesis and antithesis while reframing the entire point of view). How much of this is visible in Bodied? How much of it is visible in current events?

  • Whodini

The track el.treyn plays is called “Five Minutes Of Funk.” Please support the artists.

  • “...but you’re not a machine.”

In FGC terminology, R4mb0 has taught Maya a flowchart (i.e., deterministic series of rote decisions that dictate her gameplay in every situation). But, as el.treyn says, Maya isn’t a robot that will just mindlessly and flawlessly repeat the same steps. She’s a human being, and she has to either win or lose as a human. This goes for every part of her life.

  • “ a bunch of pussies.”

Here again the use of a gendered insult draws attention to the state of gender relations in the FGC.

  • “You get a script, and you stick to it.”

Rodney has just admitted that he uses a flowchart in his disagreements with Jasmine. In this scene, Maya comes to understand the other flaw of flowchart interactions: even if she could pull off the flowchart perfectly, she wouldn’t want to, and because she wouldn’t want to she’d sabotage the whole thing. Learning the fundamentals is a vital step, but it isn’t sufficient. The only way to truly advance through a struggle is to do so while being true to oneself, which is impossible to do while following a rigid flowchart.

  • The aunties

Sally, Evelyn, Anna Mae, and Regina are the names of my grandmothers and my wife’s grandmothers. Some (but not all) of their characteristics are also inspired by our grandmothers. In a book about history and generational consciousness, it felt right to honor them by including them in this way.

  • “You’re a grown woman now, so it’s time for you to put away childish things.”

This is simply a gender-swapped version of the famous phrase from 1 Corinthians 13:11.

  • “I get what I need…”

Although Bodied discusses religion at several points, it’s not a particularly religious book and it makes no particular claims about the nature of the universe. So, setting aside the question of deities and supernatural elements, what else does Jasmine get from going to church? In particular, how is her situation at church like Maya’s situation at the dojo? How are their situations different?

  • Stream monster names

SaikyoOrigami combines Dan Hibiki’s fighting style, saikyo-ryu, with the nerdy rap group Psyche Origami. DatAsh is a gimmick account that plays off of “dat ass,” a phrase used to indicate sexual appreciation of (usually) a woman’s backside. Ash is the name of the main character in the Pokemon show, so DatAsh uses Pokemon as innuendos.

  • “...the difference between Having Fun and Being Smart.”

The wise man to whom Odds is referring is Hunter S. Thompson. This line also echoes Intuit’s earlier statement that he didn’t want the FGC to change or become more official because he was having fun the way it was.

  • “...the universe is gonna do what it’s gonna do with me.”

Unlike Maya, Odds doesn’t have to worry (much) about systemic oppression or injustice. Given that his parents have money, he doesn’t have to worry about income the way that Maya does; and because he’s a man in the FGC, he doesn’t have to face the static that she gets for being a woman. As such, it’s easy for him to be accepting with respect to the situation into which he was born. Unlike el.treyn (and Maya), he feels no need to change things or fight for a different future. (Trunks is another Dragonball Z reference.)

  • Stream monster names

EnriqueGlacius is a play on Enrique Iglesias, the ‘90s and ‘00s Latin pop star, and Glacius, the ice-themed character from Killer Instinct. St4rw1nd is a reference to Gene Starwind, the protagonist of the anime Outlaw Star.

  • Human Torch, Kaio-ken

These are both instances in which a superheroic character is surrounded by but also strengthened by heat. The Human Torch is a Marvel superhero. Kaio-ken is a technique from the Dragonball universe.

  • The right-hand path…

As before, right is associated with action but not movement (buttons but not joystick) and the left is the reverse.

  • Tiger style vs. turtle style

These are, in fact, the two traditional styles of play on the coasts. Northern California was sometimes said to have developed a third style, eagle, but the dominant two were the east coast (i.e., New York) turtle style and the west coast (i.e., southern California) tiger style.

  • Kyrin Tethron and ophilatry

These two were my friends back when I had a hard time making friends. They were also my very first FGC. Neither of them would talk this much trash.

  • “Like, they sent two up here…”

This means both “they sent two people” and also “they sent Two Up,” i.e., the entire arcade itself lost prestige because of the results.


In 1996, the United States executed Operation Desert Strike, attacking Iraq with cruise missiles; the beloved west-coast rapper Tupac Shakur was murdered; and New York weathered a severe blizzard. As with the 1991 interlude, some of these events are unique while others are familiar, which demonstrates the strange and uneven flow of history.

  • “Some fool kid in Chicago got himself stuck with the gorillas”

This actually happened, and the gorilla who protected the boy was in fact a female.

  • sunset hues

This phrase was inspired by the song “Jetpack Blues, Sunset Hues” by Anamanaguchi. Please support the artists.

Part III: Spring 2012

  • feeling small, halfway between grumpy and bashful

Grumpy and Bashful are two of the seven dwarves (who are all, of course, small).

  • “...nobody picks their own handle.”

This is almost true. Players can try to pick their own nicknames, but the community has veto power.

  • “In search of a new land…”

These are lyrics from the song “Obokuri-Eeumi” by Ikue Asazaki. Her song was featured prominently in “Misguided Miscreants, part 2,” the fourteenth episode of the anime Samurai Champloo, which also deals with the theme of living through a changing era. Please support both Asazaki and the artists who made .

  • ...his goofy prop bets

A prop bet is a proposition bet, i.e., a bet not on the main outcome of an event but on some weird or insignificant feature of the event.

  • Yusim Ahpset

Say the name out loud. It’s not his government name.

  • But she had no role models for mercy.

Just as Maya is limited by the vices and misbehaviors of others, her own vices and misbehaviors are also an obstacle to progress. Although she’s the hero of this story, she isn’t perfect; no one is.

  • “People die in traffic all the time”

Remember that Maya almost did.

  • Blue Thunder

In the classic romantic-comedy/martial-arts manga Ranma ½, “Blue Thunder” is the nickname of the title character’s first rival. As in Bodied, the Blue Thunder in Ranma is pretty much a pushover.

  • ...the storm had arrived

This brief section is storm-themed and uses a linked series of storm imagery. First, before they play, four’s aura feels like storm clouds to Maya. When they start to play, she feels the storm’s presence firsthand. That storm is too powerful for her, so it blows the roof off of her game - and, without a roof, there’s nothing in between her and the sky, so she’s left seeing stars.

  • Elric Clapton

Elric is a character in Fullmetal Alchemist; Eric Clapton is a famous guitarist.

  • “You’re dating someone…”

This is a (near?) universal experience for women in the FGC. But rather than having the question come from a man, it’s a woman who mistakenly asks Maya who she’s dating, which is meant to both (1) demonstrate the possibility of internalizing stereotypes and (2) underscore how lonely Maya’s position is (i.e., how few natural allies she has, being as she is a pioneer of sorts).

  • “They might look different…”

R4mb0’s statement about the diversity in the fighting game genre can be read as a metaphor for people: we may all look different, but we all have something in common with one another, and therefore we all have something to teach.

  • “Did somebody steal something?”

Thefts were, unfortunately, relatively common at FGC events for a few years.

  • Stream monster names

KOF refers to King of Fighters, the popular SNK fighting game franchise. Typically it’s pronounced “kay oh eff,” but here it becomes a play on “cough syrup.” “Cho” is a common Chinese and Korean surname, so ChoNuff is an Asian remix of “sho’ ‘nuff,” a slangy way of saying “sure enough.” CAPITALLETTERS is self-explanatory.

  • OH ****

Note that the chat has now become censored, which it was not before. This is a subtle nod to the continuing march of time and history.

  • The Big Omar vs. ScrapBrain

The Big O is an anime; Omar is an Arabic name. As the stream chat explains, ScrapBrain is a reference to a zone in Sonic the Hedgehog.

  • “...chasing tails”

Tails is the name of Sonic’s companion, who often follows Sonic around through levels, but “chasing tail” also means hitting on women. Hence the reaction from BooPuns in the chat.

  • Stream monster names

Buff_Floors_Nerf_Guns plays on the idea of buffing (i.e., improving) and nerfing (i.e., weakening) fighting game characters by patching their code. put_sideboob_in_sf5 is yet another example of the casual sexism that was (and, in some respects, still is) common in the FGC, and it’s also a riff on the practice of begging developers to put one character or another in their game. JamNiYoukoso means “welcome to the jam” in Japanese and is therefore a Space Jam reference.

  • She saw a blind guy…

These are all references to real FGC people. The blind person is Blind Warrior Sven; the one who plays with his mouth is BrolyLegs; the furry is SonicFox; the Korean player is Poongko again; the prodigy is Noah the Prodigy; the skinny cosplayer is KojiKOG.

  • ATM/MTA/els

An ATM is a banking machine that dispenses money, and, of course, “ATM” is the reverse of “MTA.” An “el” is a slang term for a joint (i.e., a marijuana cigarette).

  • “Much success to you…”

el.treyn takes this lyric from “Nas Is Like.” Please support the artist.

  • ...two forty-ounce bottles of malt liquor…

R4mb0 is playing a drinking game colloquially known as Edward Forty-hands (after the movie Edward Scissorhands), in which the drinker isn’t allowed to remove the bottles until they’re empty. His penchant for this game explains why his name is spelled with a 4 and a 0 instead of an A and an O.

Here's R4mb0's playlist:

  • ...fuzzy white noise

Recall that the color white is associated with death (and, in turn, with the number four).

  • ...she thought he’d be some smug punk…

Smug, Punk, Flash, Snake Eyez, Zeus, CaliPower, and Golden Cen are all fighting game players.

  • Sol O’Cup, Active James

Sol is a character in Guilty Gear. Solo Cups are disposable plastic cups that are famous for their popularity among frat partiers and similar revelers. Active frames are those frames during which an attack can hit the opponent.

  • “Jibun no ibasho…”

This line is featured in episode 24 of Cowboy Bebop, “Hard Luck Woman.” In many ways, Cowboy Bebop is about a cast of characters who are out of their proper time or place. This episode takes that theme in a very literal and extreme direction, which provides the opportunity for one character to utter this understated but touching line. Cowboy Bebop is also well-known among anime fans for the phrase “space cowboy.” Please support the artists.

  • Supposedly it was from MTV, but it looked like it was shot in somebody’s basement.

The rapper here is KRS One, and he spoke these lines on an episode of The Basement. It appears that the show is not for sale, but the video is still available on YouTube.

  • tired of having el.treyn or Odds quote old male rappers at her…

Music is another theme in Bodied. Many characters have distinctive musical tastes, and those tastes inform their characters. If el.treyn and Odds listen to old-school rap, what does that say about them? What do Maya’s tastes say about her? Who else in the story has an established musical preference, and what does that preference say about them?

As you ponder these questions, here's Odds's playlist:


The Great Recession officially began in late 2007. The first iPhone was released in June. That year also saw the Virginia Tech mass shooting, in which a gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 others; yet another US military conflict in Iraq, this time as part of the so-called “war on terror”; LeBron James being swept in his first NBA finals by the San Antonio Spurs; the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; the passage of Mauritania’s anti-slavery law, marking the last country to have such a law on the books (although note that, in the US, slavery is still legal as a form of punishment for a crime); and the sale of a New York City parking space for two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. Once more, these events show the shape of various ongoing histories (military, political, cultural, economic, etc.), and the reader should use them as inspiration to think about history as an active, personally relevant process or force.

  • alphabet run of cheaters and scrubs

In the context of relationships, a cheater is someone who breaks an implicit or explicit expectation of sexual fidelity and a scrub is a mooch. But those words also refer to types of people who betray the values of the FGC: in gaming, a cheater is someone who breaks the rules of competition and a scrub is someone who persistently has no skill.

  • ...judge them without anybody being able to look back and find out who she was, too

This paragraph takes inspiration from lyrics by TLC, Boyz II Men, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Please support all of the various artists.

Part IV: Summer 2012

  • Long Island Joe’s Pizzeria

Long Island Joe is a well-known Italian-American member of the FGC.

  • “Nobody had any softness for me as a kid”

Intuit is likely to be the second-most challenging element of the story for readers. While he isn’t outright abusive towards Maya, he also consistently fails to adapt to her personality or account for her experiences. Yet he also isn’t a villain. Instead, he, too, is someone whose life has been constrained by the historical ideas about sex and gender into which he was born. In this way, his character illustrates one of the many reasons why history advances slowly: two people can suffer from the same underlying social injustice and yet come to treat one another as enemies (or, at least, not as allies). This does not necessarily make Intuit fully sympathetic, but it does complicate both his and Maya’s characters. Here's his playlist, which doubles as the playlist for Jasmine:

  • “That’s a Queen Latifah track.”

The track in question is “U.N.I.T.Y.” Please support the artist.

  • “...the answer lies in the heart of battle”

This is a famous quote from Ryu, the quasi-protagonist of the Street Fighter series.

  • “You cannot escape your own death”

This one comes from Geese Howard, the (regular) final boss of the arcade mode in Capcom vs. SNK 2. By quoting this line, Odds is agreeing that perfection is impossible. Humans will always be fallible, which means that we’ll always have to be open to the possibility of change. When a person learns that they’re wrong, they have two choices: they can either kill the part of themselves that was wrong or they can stubbornly remain in error. Both choices represent a loss of one sort or another, but the better way to lose is to learn and grow, even if it means abandoning the quest for perfection.

  • As in the old Eric B. and Rakim verse…

In “Don’t Sweat The Technique,” they say that “scientists try to solve the context/philosophers are wondering what’s next.” But sometimes those intellectual approaches have to be set aside in favor of something closer to the heart. Please support these artists.

  • ...the LED tips of their fancy new e-cigarettes

Another small moment of historical change: recall that the players smoked traditional cigarettes at the start of the book.

  • EightEqualsEqualsEqualsDee

This is a visual joke of sorts. Type out that series of characters to see it.

  • “But if you’ll die for me, why won’t you live for me?”

Maya is paraphrasing “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill. Please support the artist.

  • There was only one problem: the next time she saw them, they had the exact same conversation all over again

Although Maya has learned that there are many similarities between competing in fighting games and navigating the “real” world, this is one very significant difference: in the “real” world, people don’t necessarily forfeit their power by refusing to change or learn. Even though Maya has successfully defeated her aunties’ attempts to browbeat her into abandoning her authentic life, they’ll always keep trying, and every time they try it will hurt a little. Maya has moved on, but it’s precisely because she has moved on that she has put herself in this position to keep being hurt. Being behind the times can be a burden, as team MTA has discovered in the context of competition. But being ahead of the curve can also be hard - and even dangerous.

  • “She said she just got lucky...and decided to stay, and then eventually she fit in”

How lucky is Maya with respect to her situation? How much should she simply try to fit in? How much should she strive to stand out? Which one has she done more of so far?

The end, and what comes after

In the context of this story’s historical themes, what does Maya’s death mean? Is this a sad ending, a happy ending, or a different kind of ending altogether? Is it even an ending at all? And now that the whole story can be seen in its entirety, which parts take on a different meaning or light?