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Friday Five – Questions from Social Media

June 28, 2013 5 comments

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.

It might have something to do with this picture.

It might have something to do with this picture.

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.

This helps, too.

This helps, too.

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?

Favorite places:

  • 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.

My first gaming book.

My first gaming book.

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.

Hands down, my favorite beer, Ten Fidy

Hands down, my favorite beer, Ten Fidy.

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.

C is for Cantina Crawl – #AtoZChallenge

April 3, 2013 9 comments

So, yes. Star Wars Galaxies. Love it or hate it (I loved it), there was one part of of this game which really set it apart from others. And that was the Entertainer Classes. You could be a Dancer, Musician, Image Designer, or all the above. The best parts are when we had “Cantina Nights” on various servers and worlds. The epitome of the Entertainer experience, though, was the Cantina Crawl. It is really hard to explain what a Cantina Crawl is about, so I’ve included my favorite Cantina Crawl video, from Javier. He’s the master at these, I swear.

These started on the Bria Server, and the invite was out to all people who wanted to drop by from their on server and from other servers. There would always be a color theme and tone, plus there would be a schedule of Cantina visits spread through the event.

Gorath's First Cantina Crawl, planned out with the help of the German SWG players.

Gorath’s First Cantina Crawl, planned out with the help of the German SWG players.

My home server was Gorath, and I also found a home on Kettemoor. I spent my time between both servers, but mostly on my home server. I was part of an in-game band, called The Kreetles. We were busy almost every night of the week, performing music and dance for roleplaying events and other gatherings.

Rinna in a beautiful light

Rinna in a beautiful light

The more artful of Entertainers planned out elaborate routines, wrote “songs” to go with all the Star Wars music songs they gave us. Like for my Blue Rodian, Honeewoo, I “wrote” lyrics to go with Eiffel’s “I’m Blue”. Sure, that song wasn’t in the game, but you suspended disbelief. Whatever “song” went with the tune/lyrics/dance moves was good.

Bria Crawl - Attack of the Hawtpants

Bria Crawl – Attack of the Hawtpants. Yes, I’m the Blue Rodian.

The Cantina Crawls were a great bonding experience in-game and allowed non-roleplayers to hang out and just pretend to be “bar patrons”. Many didn’t know how to roleplay, but would be the “bartender” or “bouncer”. Didn’t have to say much, but felt part of the whole roleplay/entertainer experience. Heck, we’d even have patrols of Stormtroopers show up to “disturb the peace” and grief everyone who was an alien species.

Nurian, watching over the Gorath Crawl, on the planet Lok.

Nurian, watching over the Gorath Crawl, on the planet Lok.

The success of the Cantina Crawl also led to more silly persuits. If virtual dance/song bar hopping wasn’t silly enough, there were the “Wookiee Crawl” and “Rodian Invasion”. I missed out on the first Wookiee Crawl, where it was literally, Wookiees crawling on the ground, all over the place. I did, however, create the Rodian Invasion! I cannot remember the server we invaded, off the top of my head. But we sure had a blast. No rules in clothing or theme, other than we were smelly Rodians, invading various planets. We danced, we told jokes. Played music and talked in Huttese when we could. Thanks to The Complete Wermo’s Guide to Huttese, we did so brilliantly. All the while, yelling “RODIAN POWER” everywhere we traveled. Many folks on the server couldn’t just instantly change over to a Rodian, but many of them followed us around for the fun.

RODIAN POWER!

RODIAN POWER!

I will treasure my Entertainer friends out here in the Real World(TM) now, with SWG shut down. We still laugh and giggle about the good times we had in the SWG Cantinas. We remember the new friendships and community bonding as we danced and sang across each other’s servers. And I still sometimes “talk” in Huttese. I sure do miss my Entertainer pals, and those who supported our very very sandbox gameplay style.

Zyre & Iago, the wonderful pair who managed The Kreetles. Love you jerks. <3

Zyre & Iago, the wonderful pair who managed The Kreetles. Love you jerks. ❤

C is for Concentration #AtoZChallenge

April 5, 2012 Comments off

Last night I attempted to have a board game night, but instead it was spent driving around and not getting to play games at all. Not that this is particularly interesting, but it did keep me from playing catch up in the Blog Through A to Z Challenge. This means THREE blogs tonight!

My first catch up blog is “C”. Concentration. I have a very hard time with it.

Tonight, I was pretty happy to be cuddling up to some delish chicken & garlic pizza and some tasty chocolate stout. I was all set to write my blogs, when I was distracted by a friend’s comment on Twitter about Draw Something A bunch of my co-workers and, well, everyone I know practically…is playing it. I quickly abandoned my blog and installed the free client.

2 hours later, I’m back at my blog, waiting for friends to respond to my games & challenges. I might have said on Twitter, “I has a delicious beer. I just downloaded “Draw Something”. I think I’m just going to draw penii (penises?).”

So here I sit, distracted by the game and my friends are sending me wacky drawings. I completely forgot what my original “C” topic was going to be and I’ve got no clue what I’m going to write for “D” and “E”.

Pardon me whilst I draw a monkey with a banana for Ken.

Categories: Geek Culture, Video Games

Where I yammer on about Indie Video Games.

September 25, 2011 2 comments

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that I support Indie Games. I love them, even if they’re not a game I’d normally play. Yes, I get MORE excited if I have played it or seen it and /want/ to play it. I don’t own a console (really) but I do see a lot of great games which drive me to WANT one. So, most of the games I recommend are on the PC (or your computer of choice). Here are the top games I love or I am looking forward to seeing soon.

Cogs – I first fell in love with Cogs a couple of years ago when I found it on a random “steampunk games” search. I was looking for steampunk-themed games to showcase at the first Steamcon Seattle and fell in love. Lazy 8 Studios founder Rob Jagnow is a smart guy; a very nice one, too!

His passion for creating accessible good games is quite apparent when you meet him. I’ve been able to watch Cogs jump from being PC only, to being developed across many platforms. I have a pretty short puzzle fuse, as it were. But I enjoy that Cogs can be played a variety of ways. I’m much less likely to succeed in a time challenge than one based on moves. Some puzzles are very easy for me (gears & chimes) and some are downright impossible (anything with steam pipes). Still, I fail the puzzle, but I still feel that I’ve succeeded. This is a smart and beautiful game. Please buy it on as many platforms as you can.

Machinarium – I also found this game whilst researching Steampunk games. Machinarium is a point-and-click puzzle game. Now, I’m not normally a point-and-click kinda of gal; Machinarium changed my perception of this style. It is much more than just pointing and clicking. There are a lot of mini-puzzles and certain sequences you have to figure out to move the story along. And the story? Adorable.

Whenever I play, I am always immersed into the story of the little robots. It’s all done with thought bubbles and pictures to convey the feelings of the robots and how to move the story along. My favorite part is the mini-game which you find when you want hints. As a big fan of the Defender & Stargate arcade games, I was tickled to find this wee mini-game. Seriously, just get this. It is fantastic.

Osmos – I’ve seen this style of game before, but I am not sure I have seen one as beautifully done as this. The music is sublime. Hell, sometimes I’ll start the game and just listen while I’m working, doing chores or whatnot. I don’t think I have the words to quite describe why this game is so compelling. Or maybe I just did.

 

I first saw Osmos at PAX Prime in 2009. Every time I walked by the booth, I was drawn in by the beauty of the game and the soundtrack. One of the things I have enjoyed most about the game is that I have to SLOW DOWN. There’s no race to absorb the motes (mostly) and the slow & steady approach is actually the better one. I’m such a crappy gamer, so I just stumble through games, trying to beat them into submission. This game has helped me relax and focus into playing the type of game I don’t normally play. Which has carried over into the games I DO normally play.

Choice of Games – I first discovered these folks when I finally upgraded to a smart phone (Android,’natch). I wasn’t really feeling a lot of the games out there and was unsure I wanted to /pay/ for games on my phone (I have since changed my mind about that paying part). At the time, they only had one game out, Choice of the Dragon.

Well, I love stories, choose your own adventure AND DRAGONS. It was a perfect fit. I loved that I could promote the game via social media. Also, I loved that they also respond well to constructive criticism. Not only that, they take the discussions of gender and get input from their community! As Adam Strong-Morse writes in his post Gender in Choice of the Dragon

We discussed the treatment of gender extensively as we were planning our first game. I self-identify as a feminist, and I’ve worked to promote equality for the LGBT community in my non-gaming professional life. So I started off with a firm commitment to the idea that our games had to be good on gender issues.

Each game have made has been an improvement on the last. I love what they’re doing so I encourage you to buy their games on Amazon.com.

Winter Voices – Winter Voices is an episodic RPG, told in 7 stories. This is a game you will really love or just not like at all. At least, from what I read in the reviews. This is one of those games I talk about when I’m blathering on about “mechanics don’t matter as much as the story”.

When I am playing, I don’t notice the mechanics some have criticized. I’m drawn in by the story, the music, and the art style. Winter Voices is up to episode 4, which you can buy in numerous places. The game is dark. The tale is dark. The music is dark. And my old elder goth self loves it.

SpyParty – How did I find SpyParty? I stumbled across this article, The Next Smart Video Game Only Lets You Kill Once by Stephen Totillo on Kotaku. What is SpyParty? “SpyParty is a spy game about human behavior, performance, perception, and deception.”

SpyParty is a game for nerds. Game dev nerds. Truly. Chris Heckler’s blogging on the SpyParty site is a luscious treat for design nerds. I am one of the 707 and cannot WAIT to get my hands on this game. Note: The screenshot below is prototype. Not finalized art.

I love watching videos of people playing this game. You can find heaps of them on Youtube. One of the other things I enjoy in the videos is that the audience doesn’t “cheat” for either player. They’re just as immersed as the people playing. This game will take concentration and paying attention to human behavior. Yes, Chris, please let me know when I can throw money at you.

B.U.T.T.O.N. – Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now – I saw this game at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in the Independent Games Festivalarea this year and was in tears laughing at everyone playing. Of course, I did feel sorry for their neighbors because it was pretty invasive to the games on their left & right. You know, watching this game in action is way better than reading me blather on about it.

 

NIDHOGG – Another game which captivated my attention at GDC in the Indie game area. I want to throw money at this game, too! I loved watching how the crowd reacted while people played each other. When there was a particularly good (or bad) move, the crowd would cheer or let out “Aww man!” type shouts. Lots of clapping & cheering on both players. And, as a game ended, people were happy to pass off the controllers to help others play the game. THAT is what I love about people who play games, make games and promote games. Whilst you may be disappointed in the human race in the gamer space at times, this was a great collective supportive group of folks. I loved it. Pictures don’t do this game justice, it’s all about the music and action.

 

I think I’m running out of steam (no pun intended). Here are links to some other games I love or am looking forward to playing.

There are so many more great indie games out there. Next time you are looking around for the latest and greatest, think about supporting some very creative & talented designers, programmers, artists, musicians and everyone else it takes to make games.

Categories: Video Games
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