Hah! I remembered to post my Friday Five “Ask Me Anything”! The questions are coming in, so I’ll just get this started.
What do you think is the most misunderstood notion about Community work in the games industry?
That all we do is moderate forums & social media. While Community does these things, there is also so much more to the gig. There’s writing articles & content for the website, collecting community sentiments and reporting to Dev. You also work with fan sites, press, in-game and in-person events. You work closely with Brand, Legal, PR, Production, and a lot of time working with CS. And you definitely spend a lot of time in meetings. There are many layers of Community, with moderators, coordinators, assistant CM, and all, who corral different aspects of all the above. Your job in Community is to support both the player-base and the company’s best interests. You are a very public face, and while you get some amazing interactions, you are also on the receiving end of a lot of complaints, no matter who’s “fault” something might be.
One of my pet peeves is that people think Community is easy. And that people don’t take it seriously as a career path. Oh, and that many companies themselves don’t understand the value of community building. The worst? People who want to be Community Managers because they think they can be a rock star. Your job is to help your TEAM and your players be rock stars.
What is with this Hobbit thing?
As I said in my previous blog post, I knew I’d be addressing this. It goes back to when I was working on Pirates of the Burning Sea. I was dating a lovely gent who lives in Australia. I flew over to visit him, and for my birthday, he booked us a trip to New Zealand. One of the stops on our drive around the north island was at Matamata so we could go on the Hobbiton movie set tour.
I posted pictures from the tour, including the one in my last blog, with me standing in a Hobbit hole doorway. The player remarked about my height, and that clearly, I was a Hobbit. That was in 2006 and I’ve been stuck with people making Hobbit comments about me all these years. I mean, I love good food, good beer, and I’m short. It kinda goes with the territory when yer a nerd. So carry on, you dirty trolls. I don’t mind. BUT, I MUST CONTINUE TO INFORM YOU THAT I AM NOT A HOBBIT.
Do you prefer making up a new character using real paper rulebooks or electronic copies? The followup is: Real dice or electronic rollers/apps?\
I’m old school. I love hardcover rule books and I make characters with real dice. When I was trying to understand D&D 4E, I used the D&D Insider char developer for my Swordmage. Mostly because I could have my spells in a easy to manage form. This was before the Power cards came out. But yeah, I never use .pdfs or other electronic versions. I never use dice rollers. I like pen, paper, pencils, & dice.
Which of your characters has been the most fun to role-play?
That’s a tough one, as I’ve had some great characters in Star Wars Galaxies and in my various tabletop RPG games. I think I’ll go with my main SWG character, Sti-fi Osp-ro. I created her on launch day, June 26, 2003. I spent the next many years creating the character behind the avatar. Like many of us playing, we were happy to be building our own stories in the SW world. Sti-fi changed professions as the battles with the Empire required a variety of skill sets. I started first as a Doctor, who enjoyed dancing in various Cantinas, helping those fighting the good fight feel relaxed so they could start healing properly. Later, “Stiffy” as her city-mates started calling her, became proficient with combat. She excelled in both wielding flamethrowers, and the Gaderiffi Baton. She enjoyed being outside so much, that she decided to take up hunting, as a way to support herself. She picked up some excellent rifle skills, and gained some tracking abilities. She’d spend weeks away from cities and towns, tracking creatures. Sometimes, she helped to camouflage merchants who needed to get to their harvesting machines in dangerous territory.
After being caught up in the war for a very long time, a huge change exploded throughout the Galaxy. It was so horrifying that she gave up any sort of combat at all. She decided to be a merchant & trader instead. She spent a lot of time with fabrics and notions, becoming a known Tailor. Her specialty was creating fashionable uniforms for pilots, musical groups, and dance troupes. When SWG shut down, she was in a great place. She was always considered a great friend, a leader of people, and loyal to the Rebellion. She was happily married to the scoundrel, Agis, and had forged many spiritual bonds with her compatriots from Ryloth.
Would you say that the culture of blogging as a whole has changed since the decline of Livejournal?
I’m not sure, really. I’ve never been hip to a culture of blogging. I’ve always felt that LJ = private (or public) journal and blog = specific topics, whether hobbies or theme. At least, that’s pretty much how I’ve used them. I’ve had an LJ since 2002, I think. I’ve had various blogs through the years; my original one was really just updates to my website. I didn’t think much about writing, other than having a place to document my renfaire travels. I rarely post in my LJ any longer, as I’ve gone back to living in my head all the time. I really should post there more to get my more personal thoughts down. My blog is to mostly talk about what is important to me, gaming and community building. It’s mostly my experiences and thoughts, but it has more of a focus.
I don’t know if other people see it this way. I don’t actually read many blogs or journals.
You know, we all do our best thinking in the shower. Okay, maybe that’s just me. Seriously, I suppose because I’m not distracted by the internets, the cats, or anything else. Just shampoo & soap, under a glorious shower of hot water. Damn. Now I want one right now. Anyway, I was trying to think of ways to kickstart my brain and make a new habit of blogging. I used to be quite prolific on LiveJournal, back in the days before Social Media. I really enjoyed writing and being part of a journaling community. While I still keep that old journal around, I never actually write in it. The only writing I do is for work, which doesn’t keep your personal writing on task. How could I start a new habit? Of course, it’s making lists. Lists and outlines about all the things I want to say.
Of course, my brain then hit an ADHD bump (as it is wont to do) and I started thinking about gaming. Making and playing games is fun! So how can I tie this together? Well, I can set personal achievements for myself and have rewards for hitting them. And how do I start? Because I love myself and I love to interact with people who love me AND who don’t, I just put it out there on Twitter & Facebook.
‘I am going to write a blog post tomorrow based on 5 questions I receive today. So, ask me anything!”
There. No way to talk myself out of it. On Twitter, I had a couple questions, but Facebook I had a lot. And a good amount of friendly trolling. Just to clear things up ahead of time, I AM NOT A HOBBIT. And that being said, it’s a good idea for a future blog. Why I am teased near and far about being a Hobbit.
At any rate, I picked out five questions between Twitter & Facebook. I’ll do a shout out for more questions again next week!
What advice would you give to someone who is hoping to move to the Seattle area to work in game development?
This is a tough one really, because “game development” is such a broad term. Since I know the person who asked it, I know it’s about video game development. I actually wouldn’t recommend people move to Seattle to work in game development. I recommend moving to Seattle because you want to live in Seattle. It’s expensive to live here, and there’s not as much opportunity as you might think. The locals pretty much LOVE LOVE LOVE their jobs here, so it takes a major layoff to have any openings at all. The few you do see around a lot are for contract work. While this may not seem bad to younger, single folk, being a contractor pretty much comes with zero benefits. This isn’t something specific to the games industry; it’s been that way in tech fields for the longest time. That being said, I love Seattle and I’m happy to be back. It wouldn’t have been as easy to move back here without the support network my husband and I have.
My advise? Make games. Make video games with your friends. Make them on your own. Attend game jams. Make board games. Make card games. JUST MAKE GAMES. It’s much easier to find other people to develop with in cities with a higher level of tech companies, sure. Seattle, Austin, Boston, and the like. But I’d never recommend moving to a city to /find/ work. If you’re good, and you get yourself out there, a company will MOVE YOU if they want you. However, not if you’re junior. Not if you’re QA or other entry level gigs. There are hundreds and hundreds of local people competing with you for those gigs. If you’re making and *launching* your own games, no matter what kind, you’re gaining experience. And that’s what you need to do before you think about moving to a city for a job. If you’ve made the connections, if you turn your love of making games into an indie career, you’ll be able to transition. But don’t count on it. It might be more viable for you to just stay where you are and go indie.
Best and worst about the many places you have lived?
This one is difficult and I’m sure I’ll get many “But Donna, so-and-so is awesome! You just didn’t get to experience the awesome part!”. Really, best and worst is subjective and yes, I like & dislike places based on whatever I was doing in my life at the time. Maybe not fair to those cities, but hey. It’s all about me, right?
- Seattle – I love the gloomy weather. Seriously. When the sun is out, I would much rather stay indoors. Overcast? LET’S GO CAMPING OR SIT OUTSIDE AND DRINK BEER. Might be that it’s just a part of me, since I was born on the Oregon coast. I spent the first 9 years of my life living in Oregon & Washington. I moved back here, finally, in 2006. Went to Austin again for a year, and San Diego for a year and a half. I’m so very happy to be back here. As someone who has lived all over the place, I’ve always been of the mindset that “home is where the heart is” kinda crap. Well, until I moved here and felt perfectly welcome and at ease. I love being taken seriously as a gamer, as a beer geek, and have experienced less misogyny here than other places. Seattle still has a long way to go regarding race; I can only hope it’s getting better for everyone.
- St. Croix – I lived briefly on the island of St. Croix in the mid-80s. I was a club DJ at the time, and I was sent down there to work a dance club called Hondo’s. I was there 4 months the first time and 2 months the second time. I really wish I had stayed; I kinda liked being away from the hustle & bustle of mainland life. It was easy to get away from the tourists, as the island isn’t the cruise ship stop like St. Thomas is. Sure there was a little, and the Navy dropped by every so often. Still, I could walk a couple of blocks away and have amazing food cooked by the Crucians. I could actually go for a genip and some roti right about now.
- Austin – Oh you quirky little town. I moved to Austin after spending a brief 8 months living in Alaska. I arrived and started working as a bartender/waiter (which is what I had been doing for years), and ended up getting work at Dell. That pretty much changed my life, as I hadn’t known a thing about technology. I discovered I was an excellent diagnostic tech, and LOVED working on hardware. I transitioned to Escalations, Facilities, internal web design, and worked on numerous projects (lol y2k). It kicked off my 14 years working in IT. But that’s not what I love about Austin. I loved that music, good music, was everywhere (mind you, there was a lot of shitty music, too). The food is amazing, the culture is sublime. The town is full of geeks, and is a liberal haven in a sea of conservative leanings. When Heatwave Interactive offered me a job, I was happy to go back to Austin. I was happy to see that a really large sustainable foodie culture had crown since I had last lived in Texas, along with a craft beer culture.
Least favorite places:
- NoVA/MD/DC Metro – I have a lot of people I absolutely ADORE living out in that area. And the Maryland Renaissance Festival is the best fest, hands down. There are lots of place to game, to eat GREAT food. But I swear, there’s something about living that close to the nation’s Capital that makes for an interesting breed of people. Interesting in the not-so-exciting kind of way. I never seemed to really fit in, and I had some really hard times there. Some of it was my fault because I was a horrible person back then. Well, half horrible and half awesome. Moving away, however, helped me regain my awesomeness fully. I made a lot of bad decisions when I lived out there, and it seemed so stifling. It doesn’t take much to get out of the cities, however, to see some gorgeous land. I wish I had seen more of it.
- Alaska – First, I’ll tell you the best. The Aurora Borealis in winter. After getting off work, joining coworkers outdoors, beers shoved into the snowbanks. We’d start a fire and huddle around, just looking up into the sky. It was magical. The downside? There’s not much else to do in winter but drink. Or do drugs. At least, if you’re poor like me, and all the other people who worked around me. I didn’t fit in very well, because well, I looked weird. And I had all these ideas about equality and not hating on the local Native population. The sheer amount of racism, sexism, and well, just…*hate* for everyone not like them? It was difficult. I realized I was drinking to deal with my pain (and sexual assaults). I scrapped up enough money for a bus ticket to Texas, and mom bought me an airline ticket to Seattle. I traveled to Austin on Greyhound from Seattle, stopping along the way to visit family. It was great to sober up.
- I can’t think of a third. I’ve had ups and downs wherever I lived, but those two places were full of tragedy and terribleness.
What was the game that made you the tabletop dice roller you are today? I recently got into them so I’m curious to know.
Yay! This one came from my nephew, so I’m quite happy to go on an on about it. Btw, what are you playing? Want me to send you some stuff? I know, first one is free. Then you are HOOKED.
My story starts all the way back in high school (Grand Prairie, Texas), about 1981. I hung around with the other misfits, nerds, and drama people for the most part. And I never felt left out of anything until some of them picked up Dungeons & Dragons. I wanted to play, but was told “girls don’t play D&D”. Well, I knew nothing of game stores, or even how to find anything like this. I just stewed on it for a few years. Fast forward to 1989. I was living in San Antonio, bartending at Tony Roma’s. I was hanging out with my friend Ted, at a place called Ernie’s. It was the place where all the “river rats” (people who worked in the bars/restaurants who worked the river) hung out after work. ‘Hey, I’ve got some openings in my D&D group. Wanna play?”. I said, “Girls don’t play D&D”. He laughed and told me he had two other women in the group! He handed me The Crystal Shard, and said, “If you like this story, this is the world we’re playing in”. Of course, it was wonderful and I was hooked on the Forgotten Realms.
I came over to meet folks, make a character, and started to learn how to play. It was AMAZEBALLS. I created Aubrey Bloodmane, Ranger & follower of Sune. And we had a major campaign. I was in LOOOOOOVE. We later transitioned to 2nd Ed AD&D, but we ended up using a mishmash of the rules, because the STORY was the most important part. And, there was a lot of great lore coming out for the Forgotten Realms. I tried to get the gang to play Spelljammer, Dark Sun, and Maztica, but we always stayed in Faerun, playing in the various cities and settings. My favorite source book was Forgotten Realms Adventures, and not because there was a WOMAN IN FULL PLATE ON A WARHORSE on front.
Since then, I’ve played all sorts of games, from Shadowrun to Deadlands (OMG I LOVE DEADLANDS SO MUCH BLING BLING). I’ve played homespun adventures & worlds, but I’ve not ever had the same experience as I did on my very first campaign. Ted was a most excellent DM and I loved our games. We even had other “River rats” who would come by his house after work and *watch* us play, because we all got into character and built an amazing story.
This is why I love tabletop.
My 9 year old son wants to be a professional gamer. Advice?
First, we need to narrow down the question. Does this mean, someone that plays games competitively like in tournaments? Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, or video games like Call of Duty and Starcraft? Or, do you mean /work/ in the games industry. These are two very very different things, making games and playing games. If it’s the former, I’d say, just don’t. It’s hard. It’s a very very hard life at times. Thousands of people try to be professional competitors. It’s no different from being a pro musician, pro chef, a pro golfer, or chess master. Very few people actually have the skill or mindset to do it. It takes a LOT of time. Here’s a quick look at some steps to think about for pro gaming. The 10 Steps to Becoming a Professional Gamer.
If you’re talking about someone who makes games, all you need to do to become a professional game maker is…make games and then sell them. But really, you need to back up. Do you want to be an artist? Designer? Programmer? Engineer? Animator? Producer? There are so many jobs that fall under “game developer”. My advice? Be the best whatever it is you want to be. Because if you decide to be a game designer and hate writing and spreadsheets? You’ll *hate* it. Want to be a games programmer? Love programming. These skills will take you to all kinds of industries more stable, and that pay better. Sure, you get to make games, but you also have the same issues that anyone with a job will have. Working in games is no different, really, when working at a major publisher. You still have rules and corporate policies. And you are there for a job, not to play games all day. I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways for people who say they want to make games. You have to remember that this is a business.
All that being said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There are some amazing creative people I get to interact with every day, and as a Community Manager, I get to meet lots of people with a passion for the games we make.
What made you a beer connoisseur?
Good beer! Okay, I’ll take a step back. Just like I keep doing with everything else. When I was in high school, the drinking age was 18. And for the record, I’m not advocating underage drinking. It’s one of the stupidest thing I ever did when I was young. That said, I started drinking beer but I really hated it. I more enjoyed wine and hard liquor. I drank plenty of the top “American” beers* for years, but because it was all ‘WHOOOO DRINKING”. I figured that I’d never enjoy beer, but it was a cheap way to get a buzz back in the day. And then…I had my very first Anchor Steam. I realized beer didn’t have to taste like the stuff I had been drinking. I started drinking a lot of imports such as St. Pauli Girl Dark, Fuller’s London Pride, and Watney’s Red Barrel.
I later started working in the bar business when I was a DJ. I started learning more about imports and drank them when I could afford them. It wasn’t until I moved to Alaska and discovered Alaskan Brewing, that I realized that Americans were making great beer. That was 1991 and I was pretty much an Amber drinker. When I moved to Austin in 1992, I started hanging out with my now ex-husband at a place called JW Rovers in Round Rock. We decided to join the Beers Around the World club, which meant you had to drink 99 different beers on their extensive beer list. With over 200 different beers available and all the seasonal rotations, it was quite easy to do.
And I haven’t bought a regular “American” beer from the “Top 3” brands since then. My favourite styles are Imperial Stouts, Chocolate Porters, English Bitters, Belgian Quads, and I like to be smacked in the face with a SUPER SUPER HOPPY IPA. I don’t like sweet beers, and I’m fond of German Rauchbiers.
So there you go. My first Friday Five. I’ll be asking for another round of questions next week.
*I use air quotes around “American” beers a lot, because the top three so-called “American Beers” are no longer American owned. Coors is Molson Coors, so it’s really half-American and half-Canadian. And that varies based on who you talk to. Miller is owned by British-owned SABMiller. “Bud and other AB beers are now owned by InBev in Belgium.
What do I talk about?
What have I said before?
- March 2017
- November 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- December 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- August 2014
- July 2014
- March 2014
- December 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- October 2012
- July 2012
- April 2012
- February 2012
- November 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
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