Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Big Life Event: Credit

Being part of the newly married, the most frequently asked question I'm asked is, "When are you going to have kids?"

Well, I have an announcement to make, (but you'll have to highlight the area after the colon to read it):

Not this year.

Ha, ha. Had you going for a nanosecond, didn't I? I know, I'm a meanie-head.

While John and I won't be spawning any time soon, I do, however, have another life event to relate to you, my wonderful readers.

I got my first video game credit earlier this fall.

Normally, testers in my position (working for a company that makes casual games) don't get credited at the end of the game credits. In the film industry, this would have the union calling for blood, but we don't have a union (not really, anyway), and frankly I'm okay with that.

At Merscom, the head of Quality Assurance keeps tabs on who tested which game and writes a letter of recommendation when we request it, outlining what work we have done for the company. Not sure if this is how it works for other studios, but given what I've heard at IGDA gatherings, I'm grateful all the same. :)

Anyway, my fellow game tester and all-around fabulous online gal pal Meg Stivison clued me in to this about a week ago, and I was so excited. . .I forgot to write about it. You'll have to scroll a bit to find my name, but it's there, under the Merscom, LLC section.

To make things easier, Meg also snagged a screenshot for me. Cuz she's awesome.

Enjoy. :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One addendum to that last post. . .

Did I also mention that Carrie Fisher guest starred in episode 204 of the NBC show 30 Rock as nutjob writer Rosemary Howard? If you've never seen the show, let alone that episode, you're missing out. Go watch it. Now.

No, really. Stop what you're doing, hop onto Netflix (or something similar) and watch it. Not only is the show great, but the work Fisher does in that episode is some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen. I literally laughed out loud, much to Oddball's confusion. (Oddball is my youngest dog, and she likes to sit next to me in my office while I work.)

That is all. You may now return to your regularly scheduled lives. After you watch 30 Rock, obviously.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Carrie Fisher is My Heroine

One of them, anyway.

I can still remember that red-letter day when I became a fledgling girl geek. While we were living in Orlando in the early 1980's, my mother brought home a copy of Star Wars: A New Hope on BetaMAX. (For you embryos reading this, BetaMAX was the competitor to VHS, which in turn was the precursor to DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.) I watched the bejeezus out of that tape until it finally broke apart, if parental reports are to be believed. I nearly died with glee when my parents told me that there were two more movies that continued the story.

Why was I so enamored with this story? Was it the blaster pistols? The 8-foot tall walking carpet? The lightsabre battles? The eventual additions of Muppets? Nope. All those things were awesome (and still are, in my not-so humble opinion), but what really pulled me into the mythos was that, next to my mother, Princess Leia was the most gorgeous, kick-ass female I had ever seen in my (very short) life.

I went through a phase where I wanted to wear dresses 24/7 because the Princess could still kick butt while wearing one. I grew my hair long and while my mother bargained with me to go with a single bun rather than Leia's iconic hairdo from the first Star Wars film, it was close enough that my six-year-old self still felt like a classy badass when she entered kindergarten. This didn't stop my tomboy tendencies, however; far from it. If anything, the whole situation probably caused me to go take my unladylike behavior to a whole new level. I think there's even a photograph somewhere of me stuck on top of the monkey bars wearing some purple number I picked out from the base exchange.

Of course, it wasn't until I got a little older that I learned that the people in movies were actually actors telling a story. It sort of became apparent when I got to the age where I noticed that Han Solo and Indiana Jones looked an awful lot alike. It was at that time that I started wondering what Ms. Carrie Fisher was like as a person outside of those three movies I loved so dearly. As it turns out, she's the kind of multi-faceted person I would want to know personally.

She's written novels and scripts. She's got a wicked sense of humor. She's as open with her pitfalls as she is with her triumphs, and it is that fact right there that really gets me. Ms. Fisher, is so very, very human, and I like that about her. She laughs at herself, loudly and often, and seems to take herself only just seriously enough to get her work done. Some people, though, do not appreciate that particular quality, and seem to think that because she's a public figure she shouldn't succumb to those pesky human problems of weight gain and aging.

Look, people. If memory serves, Fisher is 53 years old and has a kid. I hope to all that is good and holy I look half as good as she does after I have my own children and survive 53 years on this planet. But, rather than rant at you further, I direct you to Ms. Fisher's website. There, she made a post that sums up how I feel about the entire matter perfectly.

The TL;DR version: If you're going to criticize a star's appearance, how about you put your money where your mouth is and post a photo of yourself alongside your words? While you're at it, how about posting your IQ and SAT scores? Fair is fair, after all.

Here, I'll even go first. Carrie, while I have no criticism to offer, these pictures are for you:

This photo is roughly 2 years old, but I look pretty much the same. That's me posing with my friend Chrissy at a late night pirate party during a festival called Pennsic in western PA. Not my most photogenic moment, but you can clearly tell I'm smashed and I'm loving it. OH, and did I mention I tip the scales at 275 in the photo? It bothers me not at all. Why? Because the people who matter couldn't give a damn if I was 300 pounds or half that. See next photo for an example.

This is me at my 27th birthday party, with my husband John. He thinks I'm one of the hottest women ever, chronic thyroid condition and all. That's all that really matters. He loves me just the way I am, and the rest of you nay-sayers can suck it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm fat and I'm awesome. Deal with it. And P.S.--My SAT score was 1150, most of the points coming from the writing and grammar portion. So there.

(By the way, this post was inspired by an open letter written by the ever-lovely Filamena over on her blog a week or so ago.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tardy, but Never Absent

I know, I know! Stop spamming my inbox! I know I haven't posted anything of substance in a while, but things are NUTS over here in Chapel Hill right now. I've been promoted (twice) in the last two months over at GameX, and now that we're *does some mental math* twenty-seven days from opening day and only TWENTY-ONE DAYS until pre-show, things will only get nuttier. Heck, the only time I've successfully remembered to eat on a regular basis is the weekends, and that's only because John won't let me get away with forgetting. He all but chains me to the 360 to make sure I don't overwork myself. (Which isn't all bad; we have upped our GamerScore by nearly 500 points this month. . .)

Anyway, my laptop decided to have a quiet meltdown in the office whilst we were playing games and doing household chores this weekend. This means I have to spend some time backing things up today to make sure I don't lose anything important. (And yes, damn you, my Sims 2 saves count as "important".) GameX files first, then everything else. As such, I'll have to make a proper post sometime tonight. Until then, I'd like to direct all of you to the excellent 30-second television spot NBC10 did for GameX. If you view, please remember to rate it and/or comment. Thanks!

P.S.--In the time it took me to write this post, my oatmeal went cold. Do you know how much cold oatmeal SUCKS? You better know how much I like you people. . .:-P

Monday, August 24, 2009

GameX Announces Steampunk Art Competition

Come one, come all! GameX is proud to announce its Steampunk Art Competition at this fall's show! The Competition is designed for artist of all levels, from Pro to Student!
GameX Steampunk Art Competition is a one-of-a-kind science-fiction/fantasy art contest with an all-star line-up of industry judges in film, animation, games and comics, including top artistic talent from companies such as Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, Universal Studios, 2K Boston, Ubisoft and Turbine. Winning entries will be on display in the Artist Market area at GameX, the new games and media expo, October 23-25 in Philadelphia.

Artists are invited to create an original steampunk-themed artwork piece and submit their art entry online by Saturday, October 10, 2009. Presented by Steam Gear Lab, the GameX Steampunk Art Competition will award one Grand Prize Winner, one 2D Winner, one Digital 3D Winner, and one Physical Construction/Sculpture Winner. The contest Grand Prize Winner and three finalists will receive a combined total $10,000-worth of art tools, software and technology from contest sponsors Alienware, Wacom, Pixologic ZBrush, 3D Coat, Digicel and Faber-Castell.

Twenty art entries will make it to the finals and be displayed on the GameX online contest page, while the four winning works will be on display at GameX, October 23-25. Winners will be announced by Tuesday, October 20, 2009.

GameX is the only show that is backed by NBC media. What does that mean for you? It means your art work could easily be seen by thousands! Get your work seen! Don't miss out on this opportunity to have your talents seen by industry professionals, fans and fellow artist.

Got questions? Contact our team today at for more details.

Go to for complete contest guidelines, rules, prizes and judges!

Deadline to enter is October 10th, 2009.

The GameX Website.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Still Alive

I haven't abandoned you lot, I swear. I spent all of last week glued to my TweetDeck and the E3 feeds, and as such have yet to recover from the eyestrain, the neck cricks, and the damage all that Pepsi Throwback has done to my kidneys.

Seriously, though, that is a LOT of information to digest, and there's still news trickling in that I've yet to read through. I can't believe E3 was only last week. I'm worn out, and I wasn't even there. I can only imagine what it will feel like when I drive out there for the event next year. Good grief. . .

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

1 vs. 100 Live Beta

The One must choose between the Money or the Mob during 1 vs. 100 Live Beta Monday night. (Credit: Video Game
Last night I participated in the (very early) beta for the new MMO 1 vs. 100 Live on Xbox Live. Yes, it is an online version of the television game show, and you're in for a shock: It's actually good.

I admit, I was skeptical that such a concept could work. I mean, a regularly-schedule online game show, with a live host, commercial sponsors, and real-time interaction from console players? I was almost certain it would fail mightily.

Mark this one on your calendars, kids: I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

If you are unfamiliar with the television game show (which has been canceled, apparently), the concept of 1 vs. 100 is quite simple. The One, an individual contestant, competes against The Mob, a group of one hundred contestants who all want the same thing: To outlast The One and take the prize for themselves. Everyone gets the chance to answer the same multiple choice questions, most of which pertain to current events and popular culture. If a member of The Mob answers a question incorrectly, they are eliminated, and the next round begins with whomever is left. This continues until the entire Mob has been eliminated, or the One chooses to take the money and run. If the One answers incorrectly, he or she gets nothing, and what money has been racked up gets split between the remaining Mob.

As with many game shows these days, there are "lifelines" that the One can utilize to help him or her out. This is where the video game begins to diverge from the television show. In the TV version, the One had the following options:
  1. Poll the Mob: The One picks one of the three possible answers for the question, and polls the Mob to see how many of them answered the same way. He or she can then to change their answer if desired.
  2. Ask the Mob: At random, two mob members are chosen, one having answered the question correctly, while the other did not. No one in-game knows which is which. Each takes a few moments to explain to The One why they chose their respecitve answer. Afterwards, the One must choose his or her answer.
  3. Trust the Mob: The One's answer will match the one chosen by the majority of the Mob. In the case of a tie, he or she must choose between the remaining two answers.
In the online game, though, the options differ slightly:
  1. Trust the Mob: This is the only Help option that stayed the same between the two versions.
  2. Trust the Crowd: This works just like "Trust the Mob," only a tally of the most popular answer amongst the Crowd (aka the audience) is taken instead.
  3. Trust the Brain: This one is completely unique. The One's answer will coincide with that of the current highest-scoring player, be them from the Mob or the Crowd.
What else makes this different from the television show is the inclusion of The Crowd, Xbox Live players who get to answer questions right along with everyone else. This is also the player pool from which the One and the Mob are chosen. If my sources are correct, your chances of being chosen from the Crowd for either role are dependent on the number of total questions you've answered, as well as your accuracy and speed. These statistics will be reset each week, which evens the playing field for new players and hardcore fans alike.

For a game that's in early beta, it played pretty well. I only had a few problems with it, though some of them can be attributed to my own idiocy. (More on those later.) The main problem I had was getting into the actual game, because the place was PACKED. It took 15 minutes of constant refreshing, but I eventually got in. You begin in a theater lobby, and watch stats and trivia scroll on a virtual Jumbotron while you wait to be "seated." Groups of four friends can play together, either locally (i.e. from the same living room) or online from your Xbox Live friends list. If you're by your lonesome, you'll just be grouped with three random XBL members. Each player is represented by their Avatar, and while you wait, you and your teammates can watch your virtual selves dance, jump, wave, or applaud, among other things. These movements are tied to the D-pad and the Y button, and while your choices in moves are limited and randomized, I thought this was a quirky little touch that made the game just ever so slightly more fun. Just like you wish you could do something during loading screens and end credits in other games, this little feature gives you something to do during commercial breaks and "stat checks."

You read that correctly: There are, indeed, commercial breaks. However, rather than your normal 2-4 minutes of annoying interruption, these breaks consist of 60 to 90 seconds of sponsorship touting or commentary from the live host. They also serve the function that normal commercials do, which is to give you the chance to quickly run to the restroom or grab a snack from your fridge. Some may find the frequency of these breaks to be irritating, but I welcomed them whole-heartedly, since the game episodes can last as long as two hours.

Since we're on the subject of time, let's get back to that matter of my own idiocy. I played for the entirety of Monday's episode, with the exception of the 15-minute waiting period I experienced. In the beginning, I was on FIRE, with a 96% accuracy rating and a speed of .9 to 1.4 seconds per question. As the night wore on, though, my stats started tanking due to eye strain and general fatigue. (Not surprising, given that I was playing from 10:45 pm to 12:30 am EST.) You see, each question has three possible answers, each of which is tied to one of the colored face buttons on your Xbox controller. As time went by, I found myself accidentally mashing the wrong button and getting the answer wrong, even though I had the correct answer in mind all along. I could have opted to leave the game for this reason, but after the trial of getting onto the server to begin with I just couldn't bring myself to drop out. That, and this game is quite addictive if you are a trivia junkie. As it happens, I am.

The other great thing about this game is that it is free to Xbox Live Gold members. Worry not, however, if you don't have a Gold membership. Anyone can play, as long as you or someone you know have an Xbox 360. . .but only Gold members can win prizes. From Microsoft points to fun little gadgets to free Xbox Live Arcade games, all members have a chance to win. For the beta period, though, everyone just gets multiple entries into a sweepstakes, though the top three players do win an Arcade game download. There will be a different set of prizes each week.

All in all, the game is fun, rewarding, challenging, and an absolute blast if you play with your friends. Each region will have it's own content team, and with the ability for players to provide their own questions and comments via email, the trivia is promised to never repeat. I recommend 1 vs. 100 Live for anyone over the age of 15, as sometimes the questions get into risky subject matter like drugs, violence, and the like. My husband and I plan on playing together during the next beta episode, which is this coming Saturday. (Check your Xbox Dashboard for local listings and details, though, as the times vary by region.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Plants vs. Zombies

Name: Plants vs. Zombies
Developer: PopCap Games
Platform: PC
Genre: Casual--Tower Defense
Release Date: May 5, 2009

The Premise: Plants vs. Zombies is the latest release from PopCap Games, the masterminds who brought us Bejeweled and Peggle. Your neighborhood has been invaded by zombies, and they all seem to be gunning for you. The only defense you have against them is your wits. . .and your inexplicable collection of battle-ready garden plants. With the occasional "help" of your neighbor Crazy Dave, you mount a defensive against wave after wave of frighteningly funny undead.

The Gameplay:Your beautifully maintained yard serves as the battlefield, and is divided into a grid within which you place (er, plant) "weapons." Prior to each level, you choose which plants you'll use to defend your home. Your best friend is the Sunflower, who spits out little orbs of sunshine at regular intervals. These little bits of sun are what you use to buy your seedlings. If you run out of sun, kiss your brains goodbye; If a single zombie makes it into the house, you lose.

When a level begins, you're given about 30 seconds to start planting, then a small progress bar appears at the bottom right of the screen. This, plus text and sound cues, lets you know that the zombies are approaching and that you'll need to move quickly to keep up your defenses. When a zombie comes in contact with a piece of vegetation, he chomps on it until it's fully consumed or he falls apart from damage created by cannon fire. Once you've eliminated all the zombies from each wave, the level ends and you progress to the next section.

This may seem a little too easy, but don't be fooled: These shambling schmoes are a lot smarter than they look. Once they realize that daytime battles aren't their strong point, these guys start attacking after sundown. Fog, grave stones, your pool, and a lack of natural sunlight can work to their advantage, and you'll have to adjust your game play accordingly. If you defeat them here, they'll move to your backyard, and later your roof, in order to get what they want. As such, you're forced to change your fighting approach accordingly, which keeps things from getting monotonous.

The Finer Details: With 48 different plants to unlock or buy (defeated foes sometimes drop money as they fall), and 26 types of zombie, you'll probably never play a level the same way twice. In addition to the 50 levels of Adventure Mode, you can play through 20 mini-games, 20 puzzles, and a Survival mode. There's also the strangely compelling Zen Garden, where plants you collect from fallen zombies reside. If you care for them properly, they'll reward you by dropping coins, which you can use to purchase items from the shop your neighbor, Crazy Dave, runs out of the trunk of his car.

The level of humor in Plants vs. Zombies is a lot higher than most other casual games I've played, too. All the weapons and zombies have clever and witty names which add to the fun. There's something satisfying about using a Threepeater and a Torchwood to send flaming peas at the enemy three at a time, or a well-placed Cherry Bomb to take out a whole group of undead at once. At the same time, some of the zombie classes will make you wonder what the design team was smoking. While the Thriller-esque zombies are a no-brainer, who the heck came up with the Zomboni and the Zombie Bobsled Team? (Incidentally, those two are my favorite simply because they are just so incredibly random.) Even the Help section is somewhat comical in nature, as it was written not by the designers, but by the Zombies.

Also, this game has some of the most solid mechanics I've ever seen. Nothing seems contrived, or out of place, the difficulty is well-balanced, and everything works fluidly. The autosave is FLAWLESS. The only time I lost any game progress was during an unexpected power outage. In all, I have but two issues with the entire game. Firstly, while a few plants show degradation visibly (seeing a stoic Tall-nut cry while being eaten is heartbreaking to behold), there's no health indicator for most of them. I somehow prevent one of my Peashooters from being consumed, only to see it disappear in a single chomp from the next zombie that comes along. It can be very frustrating. Secondly, the final boss seems so. . .well, random. And I don't mean that in the "wow, that's clever," sense, either. I won't spoil it for anyone who has yet to play, but his appearance leaves you scratching your head wondering, "If this guy was in charge the whole time, why did it take so long for them to get a clue? And why were the notes they sent me so badly written?"

Even with those tiny flaws, PopCap has created an addictive little game that makes time fly by with disturbing speed and gives you a whole new appreciation for the greenery around your house . Plus, you'll find yourself humming the song from the ending credits for DAYS. . .and yet not be bothered by it. (Speaking of which, said ending credits and song can be seen/heard here.)

The Bottom Line: I installed this game at 9:30 pm on a Friday, and the next thing I knew it was 4:30 am Saturday. That was more than a week ago, and I'm still playing. Best not-quite $20 I've spent so far this year.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Until now, writing reviews for games has been easy: Talk about the mechanics and story, state the pros and cons, give my opinion, publish. Literally, that is how my outlines for such things actually read. (Well, sometimes there's an item on the list like, "Lambast the designer who came up with X stupid idea; try to make them cry." You know, if a game or section really awful.) Now that I have an "official" game blog, though, it is proving to be much more difficult, and I have no idea why.

My personal diatribes over on LiveJournal have far more followers than this little blog (give or take 90, to give you an idea), but for whatever reason I fear letting these particular readers down with lackluster content more than anywhere else. I try to keep things within the "theme," even if only sometimes loosely so (i.e. the "somethin' else" tag), but it feels so. . .confining. The artist in me hates confinement, yet the pragmatist in me can't do without it.

And maintaining multiple blogs is TOUGH, if anyone was curious. Not only do I maintain three of my own, but I maintain one other as a side job for someone else, as well as moderating several communities and lists. I used to update my personal journal every day or at least three times a week. Now? Yeah, I'm lucky if I remember to update once a week, and even then it isn't as if I am reporting anything particularly spellbinding. My friends have been asking if anything is wrong because I've stopped updating frequently. All I can tell them is, "I seem to have run out of words."

In order to better serve my readers, I think it's time I took their pulse. Feedback is a writer's crack-cocaine. What do you guys want to see here?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Poppin' Tags

My life just exploded into a logistics minefield. So much to juggle, so little time. . .

Currently updating the entry tags for this blog, and working on the Plants vs. Zombies review. To tide you over until that is finished, have some Transformers geekery in the form of a flash drive. Thank you BawdyJane (on Twitter) for sharing this little piece of awesomeness. ;)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Game Consumption

Plants vs. Zombies has overtaken my life for the past 2.5 days. I've beat it once already, and now all I want to do is play it some more. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, please go view this video. (Cannot get it to embed today for some reason.)

As my friend Marq said, Japanese pop is much more tolerable when it involves zombies and sunflowers.

My full review of the game is forthcoming. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: FINALLY got the video to embed. My HTML-Fu is off this week.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chocolate Geekery

One of our dogs, Max, has a vet appointment today, so I won't have a more substantial post until later. For now, revel in the awesome bit of related geekery pictured above and described below.

Not to be confused with the game development company that creates games for mass-market casual platforms, Digital Chocolates on Etsy provides specialized chocolate treats for the discerning gamer. When a Twix or a Snickers just won't do, reach for Digital Chocolates. Old school and new school chocolates available. (Warning: Wiimote chocolates do not come with wriststraps. Eat at your own risk.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Library outing was a bit of a bust. I keep forgetting that even though we live very, very close to it, we do not actually LIVE in Chapel Hill and thus cannot use the Orange County Library for free. It would cost $60 a year per person to do so, and rightly so. If someone from another county wanted to use our library I'd expect them to pay out-of-pocket since they pay no taxes in our county. The main reason I wanted to use it was that I can never find the Pittsboro Memorial Library here in Chatham County. I always get lost. Then I remembered what John gave me for our first anniversary this past December: A GPS for my truck.

Yeah, quick-witted and with it, I am. Really.

Anyway, it wasn't a total loss. I did get to bug Chrissy at Barnes & Noble, and John found an electronic copy of Character Development and Storytelling for Games for me to use via the Undergrad Library at UNC. Having a spouse who works in the university system definitely has it's perks.

The Old-Fashioned Way

I'm something of an oddity. I like doing old-fashioned things, but I prefer doing them in modern ways. For example, all the bread we eat here at home is homemade. However, my hands aren't as strong as they used to be so I have my trusty bread machine do the bulk of the kneading for me. The opposite applies, as well. All our dishes go through the dishwasher. . .only to be set up in a dish rack to air dry.

My attitude toward education is the same. New technology is great, but sometimes you can't beat a set of flashcards when getting ready for your next quiz on multiplication tables. Conversely, you can't really learn basic computer skills from books alone. You need that hands-on component (playing with the computer itself) to make it all stick. You really need both tried-and-true techniques and shiny new programs and gadgets to achieve a complete learning experience. About a million notebooks litter the landscape of our home, because I prefer to do much of my planning and writing with good ol' pen and paper. Even the writing I do for this blog is rarely stream-of-consciousness; I typically have a hand-written outline sitting next to me to remind me where I want to go in each entry.

After talking things out with a few of my friends yesterday (thanks, y'all), I've decided to begin my education in game design somewhat old-fashionedly: I'm going to the library. I'm going with the express purpose of setting up my self-taught curriculum using a few books that were suggested to me by folks at TGC. Specifically, this one by Rafael Chandler and another one by Lee Sheldon. I'll add to my curriculum as suggestions come up and as materials become available. I'll be checking out a copy of Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind today, too.

What? Reading fantasy fiction counts as homework in this industry. . .right?

If things go well, I might even head over to Barnes & Noble to pick up a book or two to brush up on my HTML while bugging my friends Chrissy & Autumn at the coffee counter. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Cake Geekery

Taking a break from bread baking means I surf the web for fun food stuffs, apparently. I do not yet own an iPhone, but I know many of you do. This was just too good NOT to share. Again, courtesy of the incredible artists at

Update: New User Photo

I finally have a user photo. For the curious, that was taken around Easter 2007. The puppy with the bunny ears? Yeah, that's my golden-not-retriever, Oddball, at about 5 months old. :)

Have Your Game and Eat It, Too

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I have a bit of a cake problem. I will forsake many things for a slice of exceptional cake. In that vein, I bring to you this wonderful work of art from

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Road Not Taken

Growing up, I despised poetry. Not because the genre itself was boring. No one can read something like The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carrol and possibly say that poetry is boring. No, I hated it because our teachers made out every line to be some sort of code that only adults could understand. To me, poems were stories told in a beautiful style that only a few could master. Symbolism wasn't lost on me, but often I had to wonder, "When is a shoe just a shoe and nothing more?"

It was thanks to writers like Lewis Carrol and Shel Silverstein that I have any love for poetry. If it wasn't for them I would have given up on the genre altogether in my childhood. I bring this up because I was thinking about one of my favorite poems today, while asking myself, "Well, Manda, which way are you going to go?"

Of course, I'm talking about Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. It was one of the few poems I knew by heart for years and years, and every time I come to a fork in the road, figuratively or literally, I hear my 13-year-old self murmuring in my mind, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both. . ."

My current problem is deciding on a single direction to move in and sticking with it. I feel pulled in a multitude of directions all at once and I can see the dozens of possibilities that each path could bring. That's what makes choosing so darned difficult: I keep wondering what I will miss by choosing a particular road. I can promise myself that I will revisit the paths left behind, but as Frost said, "Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back."

Do I plow full-tilt into graduate school? Buy some programs and books and opt to teach myself these things that look like gobbledy-gook when my eyes pass over them? Take art lessons from the cartoonist who lives nearby? Start reviewing video games and hope someone thinks my opinion deserves monetary rewards?

I just don't know.

And the Rock Called Out, "No Hiding Place!"

I finally heard the song that quote comes from a few weeks ago. On a television show, even.

Anyway, I finally left the rock I live under and joined Twitter. Now I can be mediocre and uninteresting on the Internet in a completely different format than usual. Score.

Username amandadadesky over there, if it interests you. That is all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mom, This Blog's For You

Ah, Mother's Day, that one pre-determined day of the year when we tell good ol' Mom how much we care. (I personally believe we don't give our mothers enough credit the other 364 days of the year, but that is a rant for another post.) I've spent this day in years past doing what everyone else does: Flowers. Cards. Brunch. Gold-painted macaroni sculptures. This year, though, I'm going to do something a little different.

Today, I'm going to tell the blogosphere exactly how incredible my mother is.

Over the last few months I have been slowly revealing to people that I am pursuing game design as a career. Once this has been said, many have asked me what boils down to the same question, "How does it feel, being a woman in a male-dominated industry like game development?" Often, I put on my trademark mischevious smirk, and say something cute like, "Not too shabby. It's fun to stand out without trying too hard." Then everyone laughs at my little quip and moves on. I don't do this to be flippant; quite the contrary. I say such things because, honestly, it never really occurred to me that being a woman had much to do with what I choose to do for a living. Why?

Well, because of my mother.

Chief Petty Officer Brenda P. Goldman (aka Mom) retired from the United States Navy with 20 years of service and more than a few commendations under her belt several years ago. She's done everything from training recruits in the art of field medicine to piecing back together the fallen during the Gulf War to creating sick hall protocols that are still in use by the Navy today, if my information is correct. In addition to all that, she raised two children, sent them both to college, took care of all three of my grandparents in their later years, managed to volunteer in the community, and maintain a happy marriage to a fellow enlisted person through thick and thin for 21 years. All the while, she was serving our country in a near-flawless fashion.

Plus, she makes one hell of a rum cake.

(You think Master Chief from Halo is a badass? Well, when he can pick the kids up from soccer practice, look smashing for a cocktail party at the Commadant's house AND save the Universe all at the same time, then we'll talk. Until then, he ain't got nothin' on Mom.)

In all my growing up years, never did my mother ever make a huge fuss about being a woman in the military. Not once. She never expected special treatment. She never complained about the guys being too rough on her. She dished it out just as good as she got it, too, whenever someone was stupid enough to imply that Mom was too weak or too stupid to do something because she was a woman. She didn't get in their face, she didn't complain to her superiors. No. . .she just got even, by being the best damn servicewoman around.

This is pretty much my mother's attitude towards everything. Women can do most anything that men can do, and vice versa. Other than some of the finer details, gender matters not. Men can be nurses, women can be fighter pilots, doesn't matter as long as they get the job done. Naturally, this world view made its way into my psyche. Due to this fact, it wasn't until I hit college that I found out exactly how "rare" female gamers are. People were shocked to find out that I, the girl with the penchant for musicals and mystery novels, was a gamer. It never occurred to me that my sex was supposed to automatically dictate my likes and dislikes.

From the day Dad brought home our shiny new Nintendo Entertainment System to the day my very own Playstation 2 was bestowed upon me, games have been a part of my life. Without thinking much of it, they have been a part of my mother's life, too. I remember staying up late with both her and Dad, playing Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros., then being shuffled off to bed so they could play alone. When I'd wake up in the middle of night to ask for a glass of water, sometimes I would catch her at a critical point in a level, but she'd pause the game and tend to her youngling, anyway. It's what good mothers do, after all, though I wonder how many times I inadvertently caused her untimely demise in-game. . .

Thinking back, it was all so very obvious. Mom played our GameBoy more than us kids did, Tetris and Yoshi's Cookie being her games of choice. She was the first to aquiesce to our pleas for a Super Nintendo, and later the Nintendo 64, after which she played through and beat Super Mario 64 before I had even finished reading the game pamphlet. We were the first kids in our neighborhood to get a GameBoy Color. (If nothing else, that was the first time in my childhood that I was undisputably cool. Thanks, Mom.)

When I got older, I logged on to our family PC to do my history homework, when suddenly Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans began its auto-run sequence and three hours later my homework still wasn't finished. I asked my brother why he'd left his game in the CD drive, only to have him inform me that said game belonged to our mother. Heck, my mother got a Wii a while ago and I still don't have one. It makes me proud and jealous, all at the same time, to tell people that my mother kicks butt at Zelda and Wii Bowling.

My mother is a "casual gamer," though not in the way the term is typically used. Rather than describing the genre of games one plays, it describes the demeanor of the player. In her patented unassuming manner, Mom has been a gamer for most of my life. She never brags about it, isn't ashamed of it. . .it's just something she does. The fact that she's a woman has nothing to do with it. She thinks video games are fun, and she plays them. End of story. No trash talking. No rabid newbie punting. No fuss. Just having fun.

It is for this reason I have been striving to be low-key about my gaming, as well as my transition from soapmaker to game designer. I haven't always succeeded in this endeavor, but no one is perfect. I have also eased up on the trash talking on Xbox Live, because we're all there to have fun. Making someone cry because I beat them during Free-For-All on Call of Duty 4 isn't going to make my experience more entertaining. (Besides, there are 12-year-olds that play that game. I really don't want someone else's mom to report me for teaching their kid new and interesting ways to say, "You suck.")

Anyway, here's to you, Mom. Thank you for inadvertently teaching me how to be a better gamer as well as a better person. May everyone have such a mother in their lives.

Happy Mother's Day. ^_^

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Back on the Air

Toshiba got my laptop back to me in record time. Less than one week from shipping it off to having it returned. It was waiting for me on Friday evening when John and I got back from picking up our three mutts from the vet's office. My friend Jeff and his buddy C.J. signed for it while we were out. (They were working on a Toyota Supra in our other barn when UPS rolled in.)

Thanks, guys. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The One Who Wept

I've been struggling, these last few days. Struggling to decompress from Triangle Game Conference and digest all that I learned there. My thought hamsters (more on them later) are working overtime, sorting, cataloging, and shelving all the information that was stuffed into my brain last week.

Something in particular has come to my attention in regard to a presentation I attended on the second day of the event. Brenda Brathwaite's lecture, "How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design," wasn't billed as a life-changing experience, but then, such things are rarely spelled out so explicitly. Something of an overview of the presentation, it's subject matter, and the audience's reaction can be found over at The Escapist, but frankly, it really doesn't do Brenda or her work justice.

The part that got my attention was in the next to last paragraph:

There were audible gasps in the audience when Brathwaite revealed Train's shocking conclusion; one attendee was so moved by the experience that she left the conference room in tears.

Well, boys and girls, I have news for you: That attendee the author mentioned was me.

Let me explain.

Essentially, this legend in game design was fed up with digital games. Brenda had played three video/PC games in a row that seemed nearly identical in scheme though they were produced by three different companies, and she'd had enough. Being a board-game aficionado, Brenda made the conscious decision to spend a nine-month period avoiding all digital gaming and immerse herself in the non-digital possibilities. During that time, as the article outlines, the opportunity to use a game to drive home the true meaning behind the events of the Middle Passage to her 8-year-old daughter presented itself.

This scenario started the wheels turning, bringing up questions along the lines of, "Why is it more games like this don't exist? Why is it that other mediums, like film, photography, and writing, could tackle the difficult subjects such as Columbine or the assassination of JFK, but making games about them was "just too much?"

Thus, the project The Mechanic is the Message, a series of six board games that deal with some of history's most uncomfortable (and horrifying) subjects, was born.

The piece in the series that has gotten the most attention thus far is one titled, quite simply, Train. During the lecture, the first slide that came up in regard to this piece was all black, with the title hanging in the lower right-hand corner, in white, eerily nondescript type.

A younger part of me, locked away during my teenage years, gasped. "Please, please, please," she pleaded, "let this be a game about the Underground Railroad. Pretty please?"

The next slide was a close-up shot of a black boxcar with its tiny sliding doors standing slightly open, through which you could see little yellow avatars, about the size of your thumb. I recognized that particular shade of dingy, dreary yellow. . .

"Oh, God. No, no, no. . ."

Then the next slide came up, which depicted the whole game board in all its terrible glory. Three train tracks, laid across a shattered window pane, with little black boxcars filled with tiny yellow people. . .

I gasped again, this time audibly. Part of my mind quailed, wanting to tune out the words that were to come next. . .and that was when the aspiring designer in me took back control. After all, I wasn't going to learn anything if I stopped paying attention just because the subject matter was uncomfortable.

"Nope. Definitely not the Underground Railroad. Things are about to get REAL interesting."

As Brenda described the objective of the game, which was to get all your pieces from Point A to Point B, I became misty-eyed. She explained, "You see, I had made the pieces just a hair too tall to fit through the doors easily. Because of this, some players opened up the end of the boxcars and began "stuffing" the people inside to make them fit better." That was when the first tears started silently streaming down my face. And when she said, "It wasn't until someone 'won' that the destination was revealed: They had just shipped all those people to Auschwitz," it was all I could do not to openly sob.

Now, the reason I wrote all this is because I don't feel that the writer at the Escapist truly understands why I was so moved. Well, I should say reasons, plural. The first is the most obvious: The subject matter all of these games deal with is very difficult to face. I married a half-Haitian Jew (I'll give you a a moment to wrap your mind around that), so not only do I feel strongly connected to the events of the Shoah, I have very strong feelings on the slave trade. Always have, honestly. (I took a black gay man to prom and got a shitake-load of flack for it.)

The other reason? I "got" it. I understood what Brenda was trying to teach us: the mechanics are the game, period. Neither a storyline crafted by a Pulitzer-prize winning author nor the highest polygon count in the universe can save your game if the mechanics don't work. Clunky and/or confusing mechanics rob the player of complete immersion into the world you've created, and thus she is cheated out of a "whole" experience. Next-gen technology is nice, but it isn't (nor should it be) the heart of design. In the race to create the most outstanding looking game out there, companies seem to have lost the ability to create the best all-around game. They seem to be going for a category award, such as "Best Musical Score," rather than reaching for the ever-coveted "Best In Show."

Until last Thursday, I had no idea that Brenda prototypes her digital games non-digitally. To me, this was a WONDERFUL revelation. Because I am a writer with no programming skill under her belt, I had become discouraged with finding where I belong in the games industry. Now, thanks to Brenda, I know that the written word is all I really need to create great games. And for that, I am grateful.

To end this post, I will leave you with the words from Brenda's last slide, about working with "taboo" subjects in the digital medium:

"I saw the wide, blue ocean and full possibility space of design. Photographers, painters, musicians, poets, actors, writers can all do it. We can do it, too."

Thank you, Brenda, for showing us the way.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Technical Difficulties

I mentioned this in my personal blog on Saturday, but failed to say anything here. Bad panda, no new games!

My beloved Toshiba laptop is currently in the shop. Understandably, this will make updating anything, especially this blog, slow-going this week. (For the curious, the problem is that the power jack connector finally caved in. This always happens with Toshibas, not matter how gentle I am with the darned things. I had to send it in to Toshiba to have them weld it back in place since doing it myself would have violated what little time there is left on my manufacturer's warranty. Oye.)

Anyway, at the moment I'm at my friend's house using his machine to make this post (thanks, Jeff!), but this is not a guaranteed source of computer access because he has a life and I need to respect that. As it stands, the bulk of my updates this week will be done when my husband comes home from work with his ThinkPad. Hopefully I can barter time on the 360 for time on his laptop.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A New Feature

Some of you may have noticed that there are now advertisements (specifically of the Google variety) being displayed on my blog. I gave the idea a lot of thought and decided that income is income, and while this may not result in me rolling in dough, money in any amount eventually ad(d)s up.

Pun most definitely intended.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Am I, You Ask?

Exhausted. Pleased, excited, pensive, and humbled, too, but exhausted is definitely at the forefront of it all right now.

I'm not sure I can stay awake long enough to write anything of substance tonight. I know I'm behind on my TGC posts, but I cannot say that this surprises me. I was up late almost every night this week preparing various things for the conference, be it tweaking my resume', wrapping up new networking freebies, or printing new business cards. Ask me if I'll ever attend a conference last minute again.

The answer is. . .of course I will. Duh. It's last-minute decisions like these that show you what you're really made of. Impossible deadlines yield extraordinary results. Or, so it's been said.

I started the post concerning Day One's adventures and saved it, so it will actually appear prior to this post once it is finished and published. Just figured I'd tell you guys that.

As it seems I've officially hit the rambling stage, it's time to call it a night. G'night!

UPDATE: Let me clarify this a bit. I would much rather plan ahead and get absolutely everything I can completed before "conference crunch." That would be ideal. For the time being, though, that may not be feasible. Not being familiar with the usual schedule of industry conferences I sometimes don't find out about them until a few weeks prior, and then I have to scramble to get the money together to even register. Only after I complete registration do I feel comfortable finalizing anything with any amount of certainty.

I hope all of that made sense.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tips Gleaned From TGC, Day One

Today was very productive and fun, but now my brain is chock-full of information. I don't think I will make a full post on Day One until Friday. However, I will share with you guys and gals some things I learned today.

1. If you are driving to the conference center, remember to allow time for parking.

Remember my earlier post in which I mentioned that parking downtown was a lot more time-consuming than I thought it would be? You would think that would have been enough to remind me to leave room in my timeline to allow for such snafus. Yeah. . .not so much.

In all fairness, it was my GPS (I call her Bridgit) that caused the bulk of the problem. You see, Bridgit is not a high-end device that gets constant updates on traffic problems and construction zones. She's just a regular, old-fashioned direction-giver. So, when she instructed me to turn right in front of the Marriot City Center and I nearly drove head-long into a chain-link fence, I really shouldn't have been shocked. Thank goodness for good brakes. Apparently, there's construction going on in the area in front of and beside the City Center, requiring that a huge chunk of the street be blocked off. No direct route to get where I needed to be was clearly visible. (And no, ramming through everything to get to my goal a la' Nico Bellick wasn't an option.)

Not being familiar with the location, I had no idea I could drive up two blocks and double back to reach the parking garage directly connected to the City Center. As such, I wound up parking 2-3 blocks away and having to hoof it to the conference in the 80-degree wheather. Between finding another parking garage, searching for a space, making my way to the street below, asking for directions to get past all the construction, and finally getting to the City Center, I was 40 minutes behind schedule and missed my first lecture. I rolled with it, of course, and it turned out to be beneficial to me in the long run, but given that I'm supposed to be one of the people that plans for such problems, it was more than a little embarrassing.

So: If you're not staying at the conference site, pad your timeline for arrival by a minimum of 30 minutes to allow for minor catatrophies like limited parking when planning your daily schedule.

2. If possible, take advantage of pre-registration and
early check-in.

I don't have the final numbers yet, but this first year of the Triangle Game Conference was much larger than anyone anticipated. If I remember correctly from listening to Board members, they were hoping to reach 400 attendees on the outside. In reality, more than 600 people pre-registered, and many more registered on-site when they arrived on Wednesday.

This is HUGE for a first-year conference of any kind. Seriously.

As I said earlier, I took advantage of early check-in while at the TGC Kickoff Party. You see, while this was my first game-industry conference, it isn't my first convention in general. The lines at the registration table at any multi-day meeting are almost always horrendous, and while I do know how to queue up properly I avoid it when I can. Better to just get all of it over with. As it turns out, I was right. Even though I was almost 45 minutes "late," the lines at registration when I walked in were at least 25 people deep at each station, three lines in all.

This may not seem like a big deal, since most people just give their name, grab their gear, and leave, but a goodly number of folks use their face-time at the reg table to ask questions, and even if only half of them do it, that's still roughly 38 people taking more than 5 minutes to get out of the way, and before you know it you've been standing in line for 3 extra hours that you didn't have to. And that's only for the people who pre-registered. It takes even more time to register on-site, so best to avoid all that if you can and save yourself a lot of time and hassle.

To review: Get your registration stuff done before opening day and pick up your packet and badge early if at all possible.

3. Bring pens. LOTS of them.

This isn't something I learned from TGC, but something I tend to do in general. Naturally, having at least one pen in your bag or briefcase is a good idea so that you can write things down in a timely manner, like corrections to the brochure or lecture room changes. This isn't the only reason I'm telling you to bring writing implements, though.

It goes back toward what Darius Kazemi said about making yourself memorable.
I've lost count of how many times I have endeared myself to someone for being Jenny-on-the-spot and having exactly what they needed at exactly the right time. Most everyone loses track of their pens, so even if they had one at the beginning of the day they'll mostly have misplaced it at one point or another. Having extra pens in your arsenal means that when someone needs a pen, you can offer one up and let them keep it. When they ask, "Are you sure I can keep it?" you can say with certainty, "Sure, I've got a spare." They'll remember you as their savior AND as prepared for anything.

If you want to take it even further, have pens made with a condensed version of your business card printed on them. That way, people will REALLY remember you when they steal appropriate are gifted your pen.

Reader's Digest version: The pen can be just as mighty as the business card. Speaking of which. . .

4: Have some sort of business card organizer handy.

There's nothing worse than losing the business card of someone you had a great conversation with. Rolodex, Buxton, and many other companies make handy little wallets of different sizes, colors and capacities to help you with this issue. You may think you will never have this problem, but how many times have you lost track of a phone number scribbled on a piece of paper or a spare $5 bill because you pulled something out of your pocket and that crucial item fell on the floor, unbeknownst to you? For me, that has happened more times than I'd like to remember.

The other advantage of a business card wallet is making the giver feel like you take their "gift" seriously. You're not just idly shoving it in your back pocket or in your purse or bag, which can give off the perception that you really don't care about the card or who it represents. By sliding their card into it's own slot in your organizer, you are saying to them, "Look, I'm giving you the same level of consideration I give other people I take seriously."

To recap: Card wallets are a good idea. (Coincidentally, as of 4/27/09, Office Max has several different of Rolodex business card wallets on clearance. You should go see what they have.)

There are many other tips I have bouncing around in my head, but I feel this is enough for now. A lot too much information to process from the last few days, so I need a rest. (I'm sure you folks do, too.)

TGC Kickoff Party

The kickoff party went fairly well from where I was standing. Er, sitting. It was fun, and a lot less formal than I feared it would be.

I arrived at Buckhead Saloon at 7:15 due to parking issues, but it wasn't a big deal. I got in line to pick up my conference bag and name lanyard, then proceeded into the bar.

As with most "free" parties, beer and wine were free, but liquor was not. Needing a stiff drink to calm down my hyperdrive (I was understandably excited), I said to heck with it and started a tab. Opting for a Midori sour, I sat at the bar, taking in the sights and sounds. It was unbelievably loud in there, but that could just be me. I haven't been to a club or bar in more than a year. Anyway, I didn't immediately see anyone I knew at the meeting, so I looked over my conference packet, noting that while the bag contained a map of the Expo Hall, there wasn't a map outlining the layout of the conference center. Curious. . .

By that time, my drink was gone and I ordered a glass of white zinfandel, since it was free. Here's a tip: If you're a big fan of wine, DON'T order it at an industry event unless the place has an upscale dress-code. The free wine at an event held in your typical bar runs from distinctly average to incredibly awful. This one was average, so I consider myself fortunate. If you have to stick with the freebies (which most of us games-biz newbies do), go with the beer.

Right as I started getting a little bummed that I hadn't successfully struck up a conversation with anyone, I spied another wine drinker amongst the sea of beer enthusiasts. I quickly walked up to the bar under the guise of ordering more wine and started talking about our wine choices. Her name is Alicia and as it turns out, she's not an industry person, but tagged along to the with a pair of her friends, Gabriel and Tobias. I believe they are students at one of our local schools, but I can't be certain because Tobias bought a round of tequila shots for the four of us and things got a little fuzzy for the next hour. Another tip: If you aren't sure you can hold your liquor, DON'T do this. Or at the very least, don't drain your wine glass afterward. Which reminds me, I owe someone a drink. . .

By that time my buddy Marq from Red Storm came up to the bar and things really got rolling. We swapped the usual weekly update, and he began pointing out people I needed to know, like Dana Cowley, the head of our local IGDA chapter, and some people who work for Wake Tech and Wound up getting my picture taken (by one of the people, I think) and then the actual introductions began.

Marq introduced me to Caroline Moore, a composer from Virginia that he met at GDC, and she introduced me to a handful of students she knew at the meeting. Mark Rubianes, Charles Scott-Spain, and A.J. (No explanation of the initials was given on A.J.'s nametag, sorry.) All really cool people, all whom I hope to meet up with tomorrow at TGC.

I stayed out far too late for my own good, but it was lots of fun and I managed not to make a complete fool of myself. I'm pretty sure that's because I avoided being roped into playing Rock Band on the big screen in the game room, but still. Not looking dumb + still having fun = Really Good Thing.

Tomorrow, I'll bring you an update on the first day of the Triangle Game Conference, and my tips for successfully navigating an industry conference. See you then. ;)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Professionalism for the Brain-Dead

The caffeine has yet to hit my bloodstream, so we'll see how far I get before this devolves into something awkward.

As I said in my previous post, every industry out there may have similarities to other fields, but should be treated like a separate, individual animal with it's own unique quirks and qualities. That's all well and good, but what happens if you're in a situation where you have no clue what to expect?

I received an email from my local IGDA chapter inviting me to a pre-conference kickoff party at Buckhead Saloon Tuesday night. Mostly with the goal of securing my conference passes early, I accepted. Of course, many game industry professionals and other local IGDA members will be there. Being ever the social butterfly, this piqued my interest. However, this isn't just any old party: it will be my first official industry-related event, and the idea of making an idiot out of myself while I'm there scares me half to death.

I have never been to such an event that I wasn't in charge of. I have almost no idea how such events work from the attendee side of things. What's the dress code? What do I talk about? What are the "rules" for handing out business cards? Should I eat before I go so I don't get distracted? My industry contacts are currently incommunicado (understandably so, given that we're less than 24 hours away from TGC), so I'm flying blind here. What's a girl to do?

Naturally, I turned to the Internet God (Google) for answers.

Given that this convention is in its inaugural year, searching for TGC-specific advice is a no-go. Searching for "GDC etiquette" yielded many hits, but articles like this one, while amusing, aren't exactly helpful.

This little gem written by Darius Kazemi, on the other hand, is quite helpful. Even four years after he wrote it, people still point to it (and his business card) as an example of what to do when networking in the games industry.

The gist of all these articles: Keep it simple, be distinctive, and for goodness' sake, wear comfortable shoes. This doesn't help me for the kickoff party, per se, but it helps in general. I guess I'll just have to go with my gut: nice jeans, clean, white sneakers and a printed t-shirt.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Introductions Are So Passe. . .

But, short of parading every teacher, friend, and ex-boyfriend I've ever had out on stage for a homespun version of "This Is Your Life," how else are people supposed to get to know me?

So, an intro I shall write.

My name is Amanda, I'm 28 years old, and I live in a barn in the middle of North Carolina.

For the last five years, I have been a professional soapmaker. It happened quite unexpectedly, as I had a 0-4 losing streak with lasting jobs post-college and I needed something to do when I wasn't pounding the pavement looking for work. I made my first batch of soap, sold it to my mother and a few friends, and a thriving sole-proprietorship was born. Between making product, editing my website and Etsy store, and traveling to craft festivals, I was a very busy little entrepreneur.

Unbeknownst to me, I was slowing becoming more and more like my mother (oh, the horror) and her sensitivity to fragrances and scents, natural and synthetic alike, began to manifest itself in me. Around Christmas 2008, the allergies REALLY started kicking into high gear. Between the physical demand of making every product I sell from scratch AND doping up on Allegra 180 and Sudafed every day, I burned out. Fast. I knew that I couldn't be a soapmaker forever. So, I began looking into a career change.

The problem was figuring out just what I wanted to do with myself. When I wasn't scouring cyberspace looking for ideas or filling orders for my website, I played video games. I have a PS2, a DS, a PSP, and an Xbox 360. Plenty of things to keep me busy. I'm something of an eclectic gamer (more on that later), but for the most part I play action-adventure titles. I have two pet peeves when it comes to games: Shoddy plotlines and clunky game interfaces. About the eight-millionth time I got frustrated while playing KoTOR II and Assasin's Creed, I was hit with a revelation: I can't code worth a darn, but writing I can do. Why get mad about crappy video games when I could just write something better?

I have always had a cursory interest in the game development field but given my lack of programming expertise, I settled for a part-time position in game testing and left it at that. Of course, one cannot live on ramen and Dr. Pepper alone, and that was pretty much all I could buy with the money I was making testing games for Merscom here in Chapel Hill. I needed more information on the local game development scene, so I did what comes naturally: I talked to EVERYONE I knew to see if anyone had a clue as to what I was talking about. Eventually, the Universe threw me a bone: It turned out that one of my associates (we'll call him M) worked for Red Storm Games. M gave me his email address after a particularly stirring post-GDC conversation about jumping puzzles and quick-time events and said, "Start firing questions at me, and I'll do everything I can to help you get started. You can do this, if you really, truly want to, but you'll have to work harder because you're a different kind of nerd."

I'm paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea. As a result of M's advice, I joined the International Game Developer's Association, which turns out to be a lot less daunting that it appears. (That, and their dues rates are a lot more reasonable than the ones over at the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild.) And this week, I'll be attending the inaugural Triangle Game Conference here in North Carolina instead of vacationing in Myrtle Beach. (The fact that Myrtle Beach is currently ON FIRE has absolutely nothing do with this decision. No, really, it doesn't.)

So, I begin this blog three days before TGC with the hopes of documenting my adventure in the days ahead. I figured this was as good a place to start as any. I haven't been to a conference or convention in about six years, and that was the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Mobile, AL. While I have an idea of what to expect, I think each industry's conventions are their own kind of animal and should be treated as such.

If nothing else, this should be good for laughs. ;)