Gaming without your brother

Category Archives: Opinion

I was updating my HowLongToBeat.com profile with games I got and have just tacked on to my already massive backlog. Mostly this meant adding the PS Plus games I’ve gotten since I bought my PS4 on Black Friday. I realized that I’ve crossed the threshold where I can’t see all of my games on my dashboard any more. As I meandered through my library, I noticed there were a number of PS Plus games that I enjoyed but never finished playing through. It hit me that I never kept playing OlliOlli2, so I started it up and settled in to the tutorials to remembered the first time I tried it.

My friend Paul had told me that it wasn’t on the list of free games that pops up for PS4 because it was one of the cross buys. When I found it and played it, I found him the next day and gushed about how fun it was, and how it was obvious (it a great way) how it was made by people that played Tony Hawk as kids and have since grown up.

One of the most notable features of Tony Hawk is its soundtrack. Alternative to most at the time, or at least the crowd that was playing Tony Hawk, you can talk to most anyone who played the Tony Hawk series in middle school or high school and they will tell you it was ear opening. And I agree – although I didn’t go on to buy the soundtrack or even albums from the featured artists, it made me realize that every genre had something to offer and to shut my fat mouth unless I had actually listened to whatever someone was saying was the best music on earth (instead of being the punk saying that rap/country/metal/whatever sucked).

As I worked my way through the beginning levels of OlliOlli2, those same ear tingles hit me. This, was a damn good soundtrack:

It funky, it’s fresh, it’s underground, it’s perfect to get in a zone to. And I think that last part has particular importance for a game of skill, like OlliOlli2. It has to be something you can grind to (HA) without afterthought. While that’s possible to most music, I think this soundtrack in perfectly suited for it.

The other throwback to Tony Hawk that I found while playing OlliOlli2 was the simplicity of the controls. Tony Hawk never did anything crazy with button combos, you just had to time it all to make it happen. And don’t get me wrong, OlliOlli2 is definitely a more difficult game than any Tony Hawk iteration, but the controls are easy and grok-able. To me, that shows the genius of the developers, Roll7.

All of us that played Tony Hawk as kids think we want to play Tony Hawk again. I personally am looking forward to the new installment that was just announced. But do we really want the same experience? It’ll be enjoyable, no doubt, but I think nostalgia hype will ultimately die as a trend because we all crave something new, something original. If we got a game as straight forward as Tony Hawk, it wouldn’t be as fulfilling.

The hole that gets shot through that observation is that the game is a 2D sidescroller with pixel art . . . and that I think does hail to the nostalgia hype. I don’t hate it, I don’t hate the nostalgia hype, but I there’s definitely a limit. And it’s not out of place, right? If you want a 2D side scrolling skate game, because that will require pixel precision execution of moves and combos, then sure – make it pixel art. Can’t argue with the design choice there.

I still have yet to finish just getting through all the stages. And it is a damn hard game. Don’t get me wrong, you will rage quit. But it’s a wonderful, whole experience – from the music to the combos to the art. If you loved Tony Hawk you deserve to give OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood a chance.

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So my last post was super anti-climatic because I was building my new desktop and was going to start streaming and blogging and being a general badass all summer, and while that is STILL the plan, it’s all been put on hold due to a poopy motherboard. Motherboards, amirite? Sigh. But in the interlude of the replacement being shipped to my apartment, I thought I’d wax eloquent for a minute about why I’ve been MIA for the past 8 to 9 months, and what I’ve been doing.

I posted a while back that my new blogging spot on the ‘net would be at my school-mandated, development blog. Turns out most of that was unintelligible fluff, because it was an assignment, and I didn’t put any effort into it towards the last half of my first semester, and onwards, AND the faculty read it so it has to be pretty vanilla. Not that if I was really burning to say something snarky that would’ve stopped me but it just made it easier to post things like “Boy, what a great week of development on our prototype! We hit some roadblocks, but worked together as a team and overcame that hurdle!” *yawn*

I tweeted a week or two ago the following sentiments (PS I’m back on dat Twitter game FUH REAL) but I’ll expound here: loving video games is not a good indicator of your skill at designing video games. Far and away, the program I’m in pushes really hard for every student to internalize good game design principles. The past few days I was reading a book that my therapist recommended to me that has a lot of information I’m not sure I agree with or not but it did talk a lot about finding what you really want to do, no matter how silly it sounds. It made me think back to a year and a half ago when I applied to this program; did I really want to design games? Or did I just want to be more a part of a medium I love? I ask that but I suppose I already know – no, I didn’t want to design games. I didn’t really think about it, might be a more fair deduction. I saw a program about video games and thought YEAH! Video games! Which is kind of a terrible reason to be so far into school debt, but here I am, so where do I go?

In addition to realizing that designing video games is not high on my life goals list, I also have come up empty on the real employment side of things for the summer. I applied to over 60 internships and real jobs, not just in games but everywhere in tech, and had no luck. 3 interviews, and actually one offer for an internship but it would’ve required me to live in NYC poverty so I had to turn it down. To take a small tangent – while I was trying to decide if I should take the NYC opportunity, I talked to a friend who currently lives in NYC and even though my professors were talking me down from accepting, she was very gently trying to get me to take it. She brought up points like “Do you want to be in NYC permanently? Like is this a stepping stone to being here full-time after you graduate?” and I didn’t know and hemmed and hawed, and thought about her experience which was graduating in Seattle with a fashion degree, moving her whole life in a suitcase to live on a floor while she worked retail in NYC just to be in NYC, to make opportunities happen, and now she’s designing at Ralph Lauren. RIGHT!? I MEAN, COME ON!

After I made the decision to turn down the internship, I felt pretty shitty. After contemplation the past two days, I think what I’m realizing is that I just didn’t want to do that work. If I really wanted to be there, that was an amazing shot and I would’ve taken it. But I didn’t want to be. Which might sound crazy to some of you guys. Which I understand. But getting back to my tweets of insight (personal insight, anyway) there’s a chasm of difference between making a living making video games, and making a living consuming video games. And maybe it makes me sound like a lazy, generation XYwhatever entitled asshole, but I’d much rather make a living consuming video games.

So while I’m unemployed this summer, I figured now was as good a time as any to get my Twitch game off the ground. Talk about making money for consuming games, amirite? I also really want to build this brand, LSG. I really do love it, I really do love the WordPress community I became a part of while I was giving this time and attention and energy, and I have also admitted to myself that no matter how much I might love past supervisors, working for a company is just the pits. So much bureaucracy. And so much putting on pants and being somewhere by 8 am. This summer is the proof that I can make money on the internet and support myself. So Twitch is on my to-do, writing here more is on my to-do list, and podcasting of some kind if on my to-do list because it’s just fun. It’s just so much damn fun, you know? You guys know.

So hello again, my old friends. Ya’ll are magical human beings, ya’ll are badasses. I’ll be seeing you around the internet.


Donate to my Extra Life campaign here!

Why raise money for sick kids? I mean sure, sick kids. That’s a pretty good standalone reason. But it is kind of a random thing to jump on board with. As I was examining my own motives the other day, I remembered when I was hospitalized with Crohn’s disease 7 years ago. Poo talk coming in the following retrospective; you are forewarned.

I was 17, had no medical snafus in my life (or even in my family) until I had 6 weeks of debilitating symptoms. For me, one of the worst symptoms I experience with Crohn’s disease is urgency. I don’t mind going to the bathroom a lot, and I don’t even mind if going to the bathroom is painful, but when I wake up multiple times a night to go to the bathroom, every night, for weeks on end, it starts to feel like your mind is fraying. On top of that, I was incredibly anemic so combined with little sleep, I remember parking my car and closing my eyes to sleep for five minutes before having to go in to school, and skipping classes just to sleep in my car, and getting home from classes and falling asleep on the couch every afternoon, waking up to eat, do whatever homework I needed to, then falling asleep again until the morning.

The breaking point was Memorial day weekend, and after a visit to an walk-in clinic, my parents made the executive decision to take me to the ER. When I got taken back to a room, I remember feeling isolated just looking at the arrangement. There was a single bed in the middle of the room. After some initial tests, the nurse told us that I’d be getting some more tests in the morning, and they needed to keep the IV in me over night. My parents left to get some sleep at our house, the nurses left, and I was alone on an island.

The treatment and care I got at the hospital was phenomenal, I don’t want to knock that. And to be fair, my disease is really minimal. I also had health insurance and my parents were equipped to take care of me. I cannot imagine the hurdles for more care-intensive illnesses, a worse condition, inadequate health insurance, or being any younger and having to deal with what happened.

I know that Primary Children’s hospital, the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, and Extra Life are making the first experiences for kids going to hospitals safe and comforting. I know these organizations are supporting family members and friends to feel empowered and like they can make it through some of the worst times of their lives, and the lives of those they love. I can’t imagine one of my nieces or nephews entering a hospital at any age and feeling isolated and alone, faced with a single bed in the middle of a stark white room. With support, facilities like Primary Children’s hospital will continue to operate and provide the reinforcements kids, families, and friends need in their darkest times.

That’s why I’m involved. That’s why, although I’d never do it for any other cause (and never have), I’m asking for your donations to help kids in their scariest times. If you could change your scariest childhood memory into something warm and kind, would you? We can do that for kids, with a few bucks, no minimum requirement.

Thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to those who have already donated. Don’t worry – the 24 hours of livestreaming gaming on October 25th will be a lot less heavy than this blog post 🙂


Remember when I talked about a game-a-thon for charity awhile ago? It was a terrible, meandering post about just losing meaning in my life a little bit (maybe the post wasn’t so much about that, but in hindsight that’s the attitude it was written in). This is about that.

I recently tried to get more involved in the Rooster Teeth community. It has . . . been going okay, still haven’t worked up the courage to game with anyone on the site even though I joined a couple of groups for that specifically. Slowly but surely! The best connection thus far has been a Salt Lake City group. One proactive site user in the Salt Lake area has started a team for Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, as a part of Extra Life, and I joined!

The link above explains the details of Extra Life, if you haven’t heard of it before. My donation page is here.

Why donate? Why am I doing this?

A) I feel really strongly that all charities should give 100% of their proceeds to who they’re trying to benefit. Check, Extra Life does that.

B) The Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals uses all of its money to let patients stay at their facilities cost free. On the list of noble causes, that’s pretty high up there. They deserve some help for that, doncha think?

C) I get to play video games for 24 hours in a really cool locale, Gamerz Funk.

I understand that part of the challenge of getting donations is that it’s for a very specific, local hospital. The factor that I think could transcend geography is that it’s helping kids, right? You might not know a kid in Salt Lake City, but they exist right? Kids that need help. So if you have a couple bucks and want to encourage me to last the full 24 hours, consider clicking the link above and donating towards my modest $200 goal. The SLC team I’m a part of has a $5,000 goal that my $200 will contribute towards.

Thanks, you know I love you all despite my absence in the blog-o-sphere,

Laurie


“Laurie, why break your silence now?”

“BECAUSE I BOUGHT A WII U and kind of regretted it for a minute or two but now I don’t.”

I’m starting a video game production master’s program (an expensive master’s program . . . ) at the end of August, so I’m feverishly playing through my backlog of “important” games from the past few years to make sure I have an robust vocabulary when it comes to talking about games in my upcoming classes.

Last week I saw an article with Kotaku and the powers that be at Nintendo at E3. The article was pleasant enough, but I was reading a “what are you gonna do when Nintendo fails” kind of vibe underneath all of the journalist’s questions (maybe that’s just me being defensive for what is essentially the embodiment of my childhood). In my indignation I started pricing out the different Wii U bundles available at the moment.

Buying a Wii U has been in the back of my mind since they debuted, and I always knew it was a matter of when not if. My most recent decision had been to hold off and if I were to make a big gaming purchase before school started, it would be a used PS3 to catch up on those exclusives that seemed to hold more critical weight than any Nintendo exclusive. And yet there I was on Thursday evening, standing around a Target electronics section, waiting for a minimum wage employee to unlock the cabinet for me so I could pick up the Mario Bros & Luigi games Wii U package.

Today I was reviewing my finances and realized that a $300 purchase was . . . not terrible but those $300 could’ve been applied elsewhere. And since I bought it, I have played it once, very unsuccessfully with my girlfriend. And it’s not just like I didn’t get around to playing this weekend, I actively chose to finish Tomb Raider (AMAZING GAME) on my PC, instead of sit down with Mario on my Wii U. Why did I just drop a good chunk of  change on this console?

Because Nintendo. And at first I thought it was stupid to justify the purchase by that alone, but now I’m realizing that it’s like doing a solid for a friend. I would do just about anything for the friends I’ve known since my single digit years, and Miyamoto is that friend. I’m positive (as are most industry analysts with a level head) that Nintendo’s dark spell of sales will pass. Zelda will come out. Mario Kart 8 has come out and everyone loves it. The Wii U will continue and I’m positive in a few short years, Nintendo will come up with something else that no one has ever seen, like the Wii remote or the touchscreen gamepad.

And even if they don’t, does it really matter? These are the pioneers of gaming as we know it today. I’m not suggesting that everyone should go out and buy a Wii U but I do know that my brief remorse of supporting a company that fostered as passion that has become my life has faded to nonexistence. After thinking of that, it’s only natural that I throw Nintendo a bone and buy a cool system in exchange (that can control my TV like a remote! COOL!)


This draft was created on 2/23/14. For the record. The record of documenting how often I think about this blog and say “I’ll come back later.”

I applied for the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering master’s program. In non-education-ese that means it’s a master’s program where I learn how to make video games. Specifically, I applied to the track labeled Game Production which means at the end of two years, I should essentially be a Producer, which means I should essentially be a project manager. For the record, that sounds great to me, but I’m sure that sounds terrible to many people. I like organizing and task driving in a benevolent way. The other two tracks are more tradition art or development/programming.

Anyway, I submitted this application on 2/28/2014. With the application, I had to write a statement of purpose. Naturally it went through multiple iterations and the third to last was a coming-of-age, overcoming-obstacle level of dramatic. Because I’m self-indulgent, I’ll post it here.


At the end of my undergraduate degree in 2012, I was a interning as a content writer for a web hosting company in Orem, Utah. I realized that I was going to get a full-time job offer upon graduation, and was relieved to lock in health insurance and a steady income to start paying back my student loans. It was where I had planned on ending up after graduating with an English degree and years of technical support experience – a writer at a technical company. Reaching the final destination of the plan should’ve been elating but despite my satisfaction with where I was, I realized it wasn’t truly where I wanted to be. It was a good job. I wanted a great career doing something I was passionate about – I wanted to help make video games.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching my brothers play their Nintendo Entertainment System. The Christmas my parents broke down and bought me a Gameboy Color with Pokemon Yellow is perhaps the best Christmas I’ve had to date. I was proud to finish my undergraduate degree, but I was more proud of the gaming PC I built on my own a few months later, as a belated graduation gift to myself. The first Dungeons and Dragons campaign I role played through might be in my top five favorite games of all time, despite lacking a screen and controller. I’ve always loved video games and the magic they create but I assumed working in the industry was a pipe dream. After my final college credits were completed in 2012, I realized the least I could do to approach the pipe dream in my free time would be to build a games writing portfolio. And thus, littlesistergaming.com was born.

The frequency of posts has waxed and waned over the past two years but more than just sharing my experience of playing certain games, I became a part of a community. Unbeknownst to me at the time I started the site, there was a thriving, underground band of would-be video game writers who all dream of getting paid to work with video games in one way or another. The 60 or so of us write on our respective sites, read each other’s work, and share, comment, and support other authors through various mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress. The pinnacle of my experience with Little Sister Gaming was being published on VentureBeat for writing about one of the Indie 10 games at that Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Washington, in 2012. The re-published version lacked my voice and style, but having my name next to a piece of writing on a video game website gave me a sense that perhaps working in the video game industry wasn’t as out of reach as I thought.

At the Penny Arcade Expo in 2012, I networked with another aspiring games writer who introduced me to an indie board game developer. Years later, this developer thought of me when looking for a third host for his video game podcast, Go For Rainbow. We have interviewed the team behind Magnetic By Nature, Ellen McLain of GLaDOS fame, Simon Patrick from The New Yorker, and other developers and artists from the industry. I was finally lining up real outlets for my gaming passion, instead of simply gaming as a hobby.

I started working at Property Solutions International in November 2012 as a technical writer. I was the only writer, and was hired specifically to document a massive new product the company was rolling out in beta. It was a moving target that few of the employees had a firm understanding of, but clients needed definitive answers in a user guide. I set out to identify my variables, gather the information, liaison with the developers and designers that would be able to answer my questions, and churn out a polished final product as quickly as possible. I began managing that first documentation project, and have continued to manage documentation projects for the rest of the company’s 23 products since then. Recently I’ve been tasked with creating a development roadmap including user stories for an internal software project to streamline all of the technical writer work, including editing software release notes every week. All of this experience to date has accumulated to approximately 2,000 hours of project management experience to apply towards my Project Management Professional certification application.

I purchased multiple books about Agile software development methodology to learn the guiding principles and values behind our continuous software updates, so I could understand why it was important to offer our customers such quick turnaround (instead of lamenting that frequent updates in software meant frequent updates in documentation). I taught myself Adobe InDesign and have begun to learn the Markdown markup language, to improve the deliverability of product documentation and efficiency of updating that documentation. In the past three months, I was promoted to a team lead position and was intimately involved in the interview and hiring process for three more technical writers.

After speaking with students of the EaE program and the University of Utah, I’ve heard first-hand how rigorously the curriculum prepares students in all program tracks to hit the industry floor running. In an effort to be kind, multiple students have tried to scare me away, citing the workload and frenetic pace of projects in the program. Despite their best intentions, these anecdotes excite me more than ever. In the video game industry, I want to be a part of great art. I want to be a part of an experience that people from all backgrounds and all ages can’t get anywhere else. I want to solve problems and facilitate solutions for teams to meet deadlines and break boundaries. It all sounds hyperbolic, or idealistic, but I’m listening to the Journey soundtrack right now and it’s hard to not write soaring words to match the soaring melodies. I have learned in my limited professional experience that my best move is the assist, and my natural position is the organizer, the facilitator, and the researcher. I know in the EaE game production track I can go into industry and deliver games into the marketplace for fans to enjoy and newcomers to discover. Games change lives. Games changed my life. Games gave me something to look forward to as a child and something to aspire to as an adult and I want to learn how to create something that will have the same effect, in the EaE game production track. Thank you for your consideration.


PS I got in! With a much better/more professional, but equally awesome statement of purpose created after this one.

 


I clicked on a Kotaku article the day the Titanfall beta opened, looking for instructions on how to get in on it. I haven’t been following any of the Titanfall hype, except hearing it was about robots and people were generally excited. Skimming the article, I realized that it was an EA title, delivered through Origin. Immediately I was torn. People hate, EA, right? They had done something evil in the recent past, if I wasn’t misremembering . . . but what exactly was it? I honestly couldn’t remember. For a brief second, I thought about googling it or perusing their Wikipedia page but . . . beta sign up . . . giant robots . . . I clicked the link and downloaded Origin. If nothing else, I could get a terrible first-hand experience and raise my voice in a rallying cry to boycott EA yet again.

I loaded Titanfall and it. was. awesome. Seriously incredible. I got the PC beta so I could adjust the FOV to something that wouldn’t make me nauseated. The textures were lackluster, I’ll admit, but the gameplay was so fun. I didn’t play any game type other than Attrition (just kill the other team) but I didn’t even get my fill of playing that, let alone moving on to the other game play types.

Looking at all of the hype, I remember my initial reservation. I haven’t read another account of anyone trying to justify their previously declared hatred for EA with their love of Titanfall. EA reported 2 million unique visitors during the beta. I can’t knock anyone else for going back on their previous lines in the sand – I did it myself. And I don’t even think I have any less integrity for doing so, let alone anyone else (depending on how loudly you yelled about it, I guess . . . ). But isn’t it funny, was all I was thinking about this morning. Isn’t it funny how short our attention spans really are.

People lost their minds over the Origin hatred when it launched. A few level heads pointed out that most people hated Steam when it launched for its spotty service. However since Steam has become ubiquitous with PC gaming, people don’t think about it any longer. And no it looks like people are forgetting Origin and EA’s original evil to enjoy what could be the most exciting FPS in a long time (at least until Destiny launches). It makes me wonder how the tables might turn on EA as a company (especially in light of the Comcast/Time Warner debacle) in the time to come.

Thoughts? General musings? Again, I’m not indicting anyone – I would be indicting myself if I did so (and maybe I should) it’s just interesting the short attention span we all have when something as shiny as Titanfall shows up. Leave a comment, let me know your thoughts about EA, Origin, Titanfall, and whatever else you want.