• Pokemon Go Banner
    13th, July
    Pokemon Go: The Impact Around the World

    Pokemon Go PikachuIt’s only been a few days since Pokémon Go launched in the U.S.​, Australia, and New Zealand, but there’s no denying its impact and popularity. Droves of people are ​making their way to local parks and churches to stare intensely at their phones while they catch fictional monsters from nearby PokeStops tagged with lures and battling for ownership of the gym across the street.

    This is an interesting phenomenon, but how far does the Pokémon Go impact actually go? Well if this ever growing list of stories is any indication, society wasn’t prepared for this game:

    Criminal Activity and Advisories

    Inconveniences

    Divider

    From the Battlefield

    Pikachu Dance
    It’s hard to predict how long the Pokémon Go craze will last, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, especially since the app hasn’t even launched in certain regions yet (and they’re grieving appropriately). What is possible to say is that video games have reached a new level of notoriety in the public sphere, and while some may find the frenzy annoying, others have been able to deal with their illnesses, PTSD, and anxiety thanks to the app. Whatever the future holds, it’s sure to be interesting.

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  • Overwatch Tracer Pose
    30th, March
    The Sexual Tribulations of an Overwatch Pose

    Tracer Shot

    Something happened on the internet yesterday.

    No, I’m not talking about how we’re all weaker than this grandma who deadlifts 225 lbs (but holy crap lady). I’m speaking of course to the removal of Tracer’s “over the shoulder” pose in Blizzard’s Overwatch. Sparked by a post written by community member Fipps, it challenged the butt-centric shot for being out of character for what we know of Tracer’s personality. It contested that these type of poses make sense for a character like Widowmaker that “is in part defined by flaunting her sexuality,” but for Tracer it reduces her to “another bland female sex symbol,” which is problematic when Blizzard has been doing a good job of creating robust characters so far. Due to this post, and internal reexamining of the character already on some Blizzard minds, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan mentioned they’d be removing that Tracer pose. As you can expect, the reception of this news wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

    Now, a good portion of the outrage is centered on the topic should Blizzard have changed the pose/were they bullied into making this decision for business reasons, to which is part of the larger conversation of us living in a more politically correct world—a fun topic South Park explored brilliantly in their latest season.

    Another portion of this conversation that I’m really interested in is how this speaks to the conflicting sexual culture a woman finds herself in nowadays: The issue of hyper sexualization and the empowerment of women who want to take it all back.

    Too Sexy…

    We live in an interesting time where women are now, more than ever, able to challenge the marketing thrown at us. We fight back against the silly and what’s made our eyes roll a thousand times, mostly because deep down we admit it hurts us on a personal level. This is the marketing that’s made us believe we’re only as good as how we look in a bathing suit—we’re tired of it because we know there’s more to us than that. So we’ll criticize the Tom Ford ads because yo, stop looking at my body parts as a way to sell and pander. With that, we’re now in a place where we can have that type of dialogue in the gaming sphere, something that just a few years ago was possible-ish but let’s be real: we were still in the stages of fighting the good fight of “We’ve existed as gamers all along, thanks for finally noticing!”

    Tomb Raider Polygon BoobsSo now we’re able to question how impractical that armor looks, and why we’d love a Tomb Raider that is more than just an accidental mouse click polygon fetish. And all those comments are worth listening to, like the Overwatch pose debacle.

    And hey, sometimes those comments are valid but developers can choose to stick with what they’d like, because it’s their product and they know the audiences they’re catering to, and that’s okay (Dead or Alive and Dragon’s Crown, to name a few).

    … Not Sexy Enough

    But then there’s the other side of that same coin. The pattern of suppression of sexuality in America that’s partly to blame for the upward trend of hyper sexualization.

    The type of stuff like a classroom assistant being fired for formerly being an underwear model. How depicting women’s pleasure is taboo for fear of showing too much on camera by the MPAA. How sexuality is a weird subject for American parents to broach, but it’s cool to have all that violence and gore in PG-13 movies though. It’s extremely confusing. Oh, and I callout American parents because I think we can all admit we’re weird when it comes to talking about and showing sex compared to our European friends.

    Hence, there are many who want to take back the reigns on all that, and do have something to say when something as innocent enough as a pose is edited out. Because we should be fine with simple forms of sexualization without immediately reacting and fearing it reduces a character to a sex symbol. We should be able to see that it’s a character owning her sexuality without pandering. Jillian Holtzmann in the new Ghostbusters trailer is a good example of this type of sexy.

    Ghostbusters Wink

    But it’s hard.

    It’s hard to ask for the latter when you’ve grown up with hyper sexualized versions of video game characters and the marketing all around us is still some forms of “be pretty to be heard,” so it just feels like it’s just part of the ‘same old, same old.’ It’s hard when you truthfully believe certain design choices are made just because it’s part of the norm, that most female characters are scantily clad or posed sexually so why not just keep doing that, instead of taking a step back to see maybe that’s not necessary. That’s not to say that’s what’s happening with the Overwatch character exactly, but just an (oversimplified) explanation of people’s thought processes to these type of reactions.

    So was the reaction overblown? Should the original pose stay? Are we being too PC? Is this a case of hyper sexualization or should we see this as an opportunity to take a hold of what sexualization means in our current media? I’m not sure, and I hope I’ve demonstrated that the answers to all these questions isn’t really that simple either.

    UPDATE: Here’s the new pose, which definitely covers off on the “fitting her personality” complaint, while also keeping those accentuated traits from the original pose. As a business call, mission accomplished.

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  • Twitter Keyboard Push
    07th, March
    Weird Social Situations, Thanks to Twitter

    Awkward Social Situation

    Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter; it’s so weird that the impulse to share every thought that pops into our head is a concept we’ve only had for 12 years or so. MySpace and Facebook gave us the opportunity to share our cat photos with close friends, but Twitter came along and changed the game when it provided the option for anyone with a phone or computer to follow your life. And while I do love using the interwebs to vicariously keep in touch with friends I don’t often see–and follow greats like Sam L. Jackson–I’ve noticed that with that luxury we put up with some pretty odd social quirks.

    Awkward Introductions

    About a year or two ago I was at a small gallery opening and out of the corner of my eye I recognized someone. I couldn’t quite pinpoint who she was until I opened Twitter on my phone and realized she’s someone who’s recently started following me, so we’ve previously interacted a bit. Without really thinking it through, I went up to her and with much enthusiasm exclaimed, “Hi! I’m Esmeralda… we follow each other on Twitter.”

    ‘Til this day I can’t quite pinpoint what her look exactly was, but I’ve concluded it was a toss up between disgust and embarrassment.

    She gave me the look, turned around and awkwardly shuffled away. And after feeling slightly offended, I realized that she wasn’t completely in the wrong, because Twitter doesn’t equate to an automatic friendship or even a smooth introduction, even if you follow each other and exchanged a few tweets back and forth. But this is an actual situation that will become more prevalent the more online we are, so I expect to experience more Zoiberg-like shuffles.

    Expectations are Set Too High

    What if the above example doesn’t happen; what if the person does recognize you? Great, now you move on to round 2 of the awkward game, where the person you speak to may not meet the expectations they set online.

    Nowadays people are ‘personalities,’ especially when it comes to social media. You’re a brand, and you play up what makes your brand unique. Sometimes it’s being overly excited, being quirky, a smart ass, funny, etc. So it’s always a bit of a downer when you meet someone who appears one way throughout the year online, to a much more reserved version of themselves in person.

    And I’m referring to the more severe cases, where someone may have just tweeted “HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE WITH @SO-AND-SO!” when in reality both the person tweeting and so-and-so are just staring at their phones, exchanging less than 5 words with one another every few minutes…

    Passive Aggressive Tweets

    These don’t pertain just to Twitter, but they seem to appear more and more on the platform than the others. Whether it’s a “I hate when people don’t reply to emails when I clearly see them tweeting,” to the more direct/indirect talking about someone by name but leaving out the ‘@,’ active passive aggressiveness has evolved from the soft spoken snarks and side glances of yesteryear.

    Forced Follow

    The mute button, a feature introduced to Twitter not too long ago because the company itself acknowledges this is an actual social dilemma: Feeling forced to follow an individual/keep following someone, even when you don’t want to see their status updates on your feed.

    Maybe these individuals tweet too much throughout the day, or you don’t really know the person all that well except for that one time you spoke at a PAX party, or you actually despise this person to your very core but need to keep that network relationship alive.

    Whatever the reason, feeling forced to continue to follow people on Twitter is an actual situation people often find themselves in, which is somehow worse than unfriending someone on Facebook. Facebook it’s because I no longer want to see pictures of your newborn baby who I secretly think isn’t cute, but with Twitter OH HELL NAW IT’S ON BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT I ATE LAST NIGHT SO IT’S VERY PERSONAL.

    #ShitJustGotReal

    —————————

    I’m sure I’ve alienated every person who’s reading this so I’ll make my way to ‘Ello now. Or worst yet, Google Plus (shudder).

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  • Christmas Traditions
    16th, December
    Small Beginnings for My Christmas Traditions

    Christmas Cocoa

    I was having a conversation with my bestie not too long ago identifying what our favorite things are, and once again we landed on something we mutually love: Christmas (that’s why we’re besties). But although we shared the same obsession with the holiday, we had drastically different reasons for making it special—at least on the surface. My friend remembers family traditions she had with her parents, like recording the unwrapping of presents and decorating a tree together.

    I had none of that growing up.

    My family never really paid a lot of attention to Christmas. There was maybe a wreath put on the door at some point when I was a kid, but that’s about as far as it went. I don’t really remember Santa being a tale I believed as a kid (though there are pictures). This wasn’t because my parents disliked the holiday or anything, but our families just didn’t make a big deal about it where they’re from. But as I was getting older I began to notice how my friends and society in general would react in December—so much glee—and I realized I wanted that for my family too. I wanted to make the holidays more than just another day on the calendar. So one day in my teenage years I went to a small store and bought all the Christmas decorations I could afford (it wasn’t much). My mom thought the idea was adorable.

    Eventually I brought home a small tree that fit on a table, and I kept reusing it year after year. Because we didn’t unwrap multiple presents or even have a fireplace, I felt like I was still missing something to finish the Christmas motif I’ve seen in movies… until my mom made me realize I was creating my own traditions instead. One year I forgot to put the tree up and my mom took me aside and—in a serious tone—asked, “Where’s the tree? We need the tree! Let’s put up the tree!”

    I realized then that for me, just the process of decorating and seeing how it all came together made me happier. For my mom, she saw how much I needed that so then she needed it.

    When I moved to LA on my own it became less about the decorating. Because I see my mom once a year now, I use Christmas as a time to pamper her with experiences. I also make Christmas cards for co-workers and friends I don’t see anymore but still want them to know I haven’t forgotten. Just recently I’ve started “asking” my team to do Secret Santa because it’s fun dammit! And even with all these different traditions every year, it all stems from the same place in my heart.

    I learned the holidays are as important as the memories you want to associate to them, not necessarily the traditions a family may have. You make it special and you don’t have to meet certain criteria to make it so.

    And everything I do for Christmas I do because of the feeling of accomplishment and togetherness it gives me. Plus, if we’re to ignore the materialism associated with the holiday and the ugly Black Friday beforehand… it makes everyone so much more happier. People are kinder to each other and everyone is less stressed. That’s always the best part.

    My Christmas still doesn’t have the fireplace or big deal with presents, but that doesn’t matter, because Christmas is a time I remember the goodness in everyone and how small intentions (even my own) can go a long way.

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  • Dragon Age Inquisition
    18th, November
    Newbies to Dragon Age, Lend Me Your… Eyes

    Dragon Age Inquisition Horizon

    The reviews and marketing have done its job: I’ll be picking up Dragon Age: Inquisition despite not completing the previous games. Granted, I was pretty set on playing the game once I saw a more extensive demo at E3 this year, which is why I downloaded Dragon Age: Origins to catch up on the story before November. But I didn’t make it very far, so now here I am scouring the Internet to find quick recaps of the first games.

    EA has created The Dragon’s Keep for people like me, but frankly it’s filled with so many names and lore that I have a feeling it all isn’t necessary. It’s hard to follow good chunks of it after awhile. So that’s why I gathered a few links that are necessary to watch/read before venturing into The Dragon’s Keep, as they do a better job of creating a recap of Dragon Age:

    Then this basic rundown by Kotaku does all the rest.

    If you decide to alter the individual decisions, you do so in the Tapestry within EA’s Dragon’s Keep. This link breaks down some of the important choices you can customize there. Good luck!

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  • Writer Ideas
    04th, October
    The Hardest Thing about being a Freelance Writer

    Find Your Voice

    Driving ferraris and attending parties with goody bags full of diamonds are what freelancers are made for, but that’s not the realistic picture of how freelancers actually live. With the luxuries of working from home and setting your own schedule come the hurdles of sporadic work availability and the too frequent non-payments. Though my situation is a bit different where I actually juggle full-time work with side gigs, recently I’ve come across one of the greatest challenges freelance writers face… the constant shuffle of changing your voice.

    From famous authors to popular editorial outlets, everyone has their unique style. That style is the underlying factor that sustains business—it’s recognizable and it relates to the audience interested in what that person or outlet has to say. For freelance writers, finding the balance between what your voice is and integrating the style of whatever publication you’re writing for—unless you’re a popular enough columnist who is given free reign—is an important and delicate feat to accomplish.

    Personally…

    • For quite some time my writing was frank, with bits of snark
    • My writing took a sharp turn into the very exaggerative because that’s what was needed for the outlet I wrote for
    • When I switched to another company I toned down my voice to have a broader intonation
    • As my career expanded I’d write bookish and colloquial articles in the same day
    • I’ve learned casual can signify many different things to different publications
    • Today, there are moments I’m asked to completely adopt the voice of the outlet and abandon my own

    Truthfully this is how a writer develops their own voice, but I will admit there have been a few moments I’ve lost what I thought my style was. There were times I struggled to meet the needs of the outlets I’m writing for while reassuring myself I’m still being represented.

    But that’s okay!

    Life is all about evolving, so I’m still learning who I am and what that means for my writing. I’ve realized I shouldn’t allow those types of circumstances question my own capabilities, instead I should meet the challenge head on and learn at least one lesson from the experience that I can use to advance my career. I hope other aspiring freelance writers (be they critics or storytellers) who happen upon this post do the same!

    Though there are veteran writers available with more insight, what I can say confidently to new freelancers out there is to take a breath and embrace the edits. Don’t take them personally, grow from the experience!

    That said, don’t feel afraid to challenge edits you feel hinder what you know your voice to be. A good editor will explain in greater detail why they feel their edit was necessary, or find a mutual compromise. That way everyone involved learns from the exchange.

    See every opportunity like a chance to develop into a better writer.

    Be sure to also take the time to write for YOU, even if it’s just in a private journal, so you can learn who you are. And don’t buy a ferrari, unless you want it to catch on fire.

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  • The Walking Dead Seaon 2 Quotes
    04th, March
    I’ve Been Quoted for a Game!

    Below you’ll see a few outlets like IGN, GameInformer, and Machinima… that last one is me!

    I’m so happy that my first endorsement quote is for a video game like Telltale’s The Walking Dead! It feels a bit surreal. I’m also relieved it was used in the right context, given some of the horror stories I’ve read on endorsement quotes.

    The Walking Dead Season 2 Quote

    Here’s the review in question the quote is referencing.

    ————————————————————————————————————————

    UPDATE #1

    I’ve been quoted for another game! This time for the beautiful little story of Aurora in Ubisoft’s Child of LightHere’s the review the quote is referencing.

    ————————————————————————————————————————

    UPDATE #2

    Telltale Games is very kind, because they’ve quoted me again! The review in question is for the season finale of The Walking DeadSeason Two.

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  • YouTube Comments Bad Time
    03rd, March
    Social Experiment: YouTube Comments

    YouTube Conniving

    There’s a reason Twitter feeds like @AvoidComments exist. Comments can range from encouraging or crushing, and no where is that most true than on YouTube. YouTube comments bring in all walks of life, and those walks can be pretty nasty.

    But thanks to an unplanned social experiment, I learned there’s hope!

    I found out that if you respond to snarky comments with kindness, the original commentor takes back their words and apologizes. It worked 9 times out of 10, so far, and that’s not including the individual messages I’ve received on Twitter and through e-mail further lamenting their original post. It’s satisfying to know when confronted with genuine honesty, people revert to good manners.

    The Problem

    When I’m tasked to review games, it’s often just for the written version to be posted on a website. We live in a digital world where people consume video content more these days, which has bumped up my responsibilities to capturing footage and tracking time codes for video reviews. I cover every step of the process except for the voice over, because although I’ve podcasted for a few years, VO is a field I’m not familiar with.

    I’ve always wanted to voice over my own reviews; they’re my words, but often the individual reading them in the video gets the credit instead. Which is why when Polaris asked me to review Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, I agreed I’d cover the VO portion too. Not realizing what I was getting myself into…

    It turns I’m bad at VO.

    The quality of the audio was bad thanks to the openness of my studio and the mic itself. No amount of takes and edits could remedy the sheer nervousness and blandness of my actual performance. It was just… awful, and I knew it the more I played it back to myself. But I had agreed to do the VO, so I recorded it and sent it to Polaris, making sure to note that I completely understand (and actually encourage) not using my VO. They decided to use it anyway, and Polaris’ community let me know how bad of an idea that was.

    The Comments

    I wasn’t ready for what would be said about me. A few of the terms used were soulless, robot, emotionless vegetable, etc. Some thought I needed to be put on antidepressants. Others were afraid I sounded like I was going to hang myself. A number of commentors tried to be positive and said if reviewing games doesn’t work out I can always do relaxation videos and sad documentaries!

    All in all, it was crushing.

    Thankfully, however, the community at Polaris is different than, say, Machinima. While a majority of the comments did mention they disliked my VO work, others made sure to state that it’s okay for my first time. Those people were the ones that encouraged me to leave some comments of my own.

    I decided I should poke fun at myself instead of taking it all too personally, so I left a long comment explaining what happened. The result wasn’t grand: it didn’t change the dislike ratio of the video or stop newcomers from letting me have it, but the few that did notice my comment were very supportive and sweet. In fact, one YouTuber reposted my comment to make sure everyone saw it, stating that it’s nice when someone like me actually interacts with the community.

    The Experiment

    PvZ Comment 1

    PvZ Comment 2

    PvZ Comment 3

    PvZ Comment 4
    As you can see, people can be nice! At least when they’re confronted by the person they’re directing their mean comments to. There was one exception, but he lost steam after I kept replying to him as well.

    PvZ Comment 5-aPvZ Comment 5-b

    Despite the odd experience, I’m happy that out of it all I learned people are nice on the internet, it’s just hard to see past the knee-jerk reaction comments.

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