Not Being at Gamescom is Weird (Blaugust #8)

psycheplays-gamescom2013-01-gamescomsign

Today will be the busiest day of Gamescom. For those of you who don’t know (seriously, have you been living under a rock with all of the announcements that have been going out?!) Gamescom is one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world. Last year, it had around 350,000 attendees, which is massive! It takes place in Cologne, Germany.

Now, around about this time most gamers who aren’t there are thinking damn, I wish I was there to soak up the experience! But for me, I feel really weird not being at Gamescom, like something isn’t right.

Why? Because I was working the event in 2012…and 2013…and 2014…Today will be the busiest day of Gamescom. The day that the doors open earliest. And I’m not going to be there feeling the cocktail that is buzz mixed with exhaustion mixed with anticipation for the day ahead. Plus the sheer nerdy but epic feeling of being in a dark hall with bright coloured lights and booming music, with gaming characters everywhere.

So instead of being sad, I will share my favourite memory from Gamescom.

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What to Expect in Your Interviews (Working in Games #3)

Games Industry Job Interview - What to Expect | Working in Games #3
So you’ve just been invited for an interview at a games company. What the heck do you do?! In this post, I’m going to cover things to expect in your games industry job interview. It won’t be a catch-all guide for what to say and what not to say, but it’ll at least give you a fair idea of what you’re facing, so you don’t walk in completely blind!

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It’s OK to be a gamer

Blaugust Day 20: It's OK to be a gamer.

After reading Ben Kuchera’s post “Gaming is not the most important thing in my life” on Polygon, I felt a little annoyed, to say the least. Anyone who knows me knows that gaming is a massive part of my life, and a massive part of who I am. I’ve been told by a few well-meaning people that I shouldn’t allow it to define me as a person, and I don’t think I do, but something about this editorial bothered me for some reason.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that having gaming be the only thing you do with your life is pretty unhealthy, or that letting relationships or careers suffer due to your hobby is a terrible thing. But with that said, I was bothered by the attitude that it’s a negative thing to consider gaming a huge part of your life. Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt that the tone of the article suggested that people who only spend small amounts of their time gaming are not only “better gamers” (because it allows them to experience games differently) but also better, more rounded people. And I think that’s painting it a bit black and white.

Blaugust Day 20: Gaming has opened so many doors to me, and I've met so many wonderful people through it.

Gaming has opened doors to me that would have been closed to me otherwise. I am a successful 25-year-old working in a gaming company where I have met people I love and cherish, where I have grown my confidence and nurtured a passion that I’ve always known I had. I met my fiancé through gaming, and we have been happily together for almost 10 years. As a coworker quipped recently, “The couple who plays together, stays together.” That’s of course simplifying things a lot, but I chuckled and realised that when we hang out, we game. And that’s awesome.

Gaming is stress relief to me. It helps fuel my creativity. When I play a game I enjoy, I am inspired to create things, normally through writing. While gaming may not be the most important thing in my life, it’s one of my greatest passions. I work where I work because I play games, and because I want to make gaming better for other people who play and love them as I do. While I think I’d still be good at my job if I were less of a gamer, my passion drives me and makes me want to make things better. I want to push myself and push the industry to improve.

I get what Kuchera is trying to say, really I do. I don’t think it’s healthy that people feel they’re being personally attacked when someone dislikes their chosen platform or game, and I have received very violent and horrible threats from people when I expressed distaste at a certain MMO many years ago. I know they took it too far. And gaming is not the most important thing in my life. I don’t suppose it’s the most important thing in most people’s lives. But these well-meaning people who tell me how to define myself, and those that say it’s bad to consider gaming a huge part of your life: thank you for your opinion, but I’m afraid that’s all it is. An opinion, right or wrong, doesn’t make me want to change the way I live my life or celebrate this one very big hobby of mine.

Blaugust Day 20: I'm happy to identify as a gamer. Even if that includes wearing Draven make-up.

I define myself as a creative person, a writer with an incredibly active and vivid imagination, someone who wants to share everything she can with the world. I define myself as someone who wants to make things better. And I define myself as a gamer, someone who loves to lose herself in distant lands and exciting storylines, and draws her inspiration from fighting dragons and overthrowing kingdoms, flying spaceships (or, more likely, crashing spaceships). And y’know what? I’m okay with that. I know that I cannot speak for all gamers, but that’s my point. I can only talk about how I identify, so no one else can determine what is and isn’t “right” for others.

How is defining yourself as a gamer any different than defining yourself as a writer? An artist? A musician? A film aficionado? A bookworm? I think there’s a difference between saying you are one of these things, and saying that one of these things is all you are. And I think this article and its commenters miss that point by a wide shot. It also seems that these people who tell others how they should define themselves often are the first to tell everyone about how full and rich their life is, with all the travelling and skydiving and bungee-jumping they do, while still fitting in family time and a little bit of their hobby on the side. I wonder why it is that they feel the need to share this to anyone who will listen, but crap all over the people who enjoy one thing in particular.

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

Gamescom is over!

Blaugust Day 19: Gamescom 2014 is over! I had so much fun.

Blaugust Day 19: Gamescom 2014 is over! I had so much fun.

Gamescom is finally over for another year, and I have to say despite it really taking its toll on me — as it always does — I’m a little sad to see it done! I had an amazing time, but unfortunately my Blaugust posting slipped as I was working 12 hour shifts every day and just wanted to sleep once I got back to the hotel! Not to mention we didn’t have the best wifi!

I met so many wonderful people; players I’d never met before, people I knew from Twitter, guildmates from Final Fantasy XIV, and even a friend I’ve known for almost 10 years from Gaia Online unexpectedly! Despite working my ass off, I managed to squeeze in some delicious beer and Schnitzel and even get some shopping done in the merchandise hall where I bought myself an adorable Tonberry plushie from the Square Enix stand!

Blaugust Day 19: They even let me go on stage...are they mad?

On Saturday I was on stage to interview Siv HD and Sp4zie, which was a lot of fun. They’re both really great guys; very friendly and naturally funny. They made the Q&A really easy, even when I was panicking a little because there was a lot of people in front of the stage! If you look really closely in that photo, that’s me all the way down on the left wearing the red tartan leggings. I had a blast — no pun intended, which anyone at the League booth will likely understand due to the t-shirts this year! — and I really hope I get the opportunity to do more stage work in the future.

Blaugust Day 19: Goodbye Gamescom 2014!

So goodbye gamescom, thank you so much to everyone I worked with, met and hung out with. I had so much fun, and even though I am absolutely exhausted I’m sorry it’s over! If you’d like to see more photos from the event, check out the Flickr account that I got these images from. I’ve missed a few days of Blaugust in the middle and need to catch up on comments, please bear with me!

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

Convention Hype!

Blaugust Day 10: Convention Hype! It's Gamescom time!

Do you feel that? That tingling feeling going from your nose to your toes? That’s convention hype, and I am practically bouncing off the walls with it! This week is the week that over 340,000 gamers around Europe look forward to literally all year: Gamescom week! As this post is scheduled, by the time it goes live I’ll be on my way to Cologne, Germany for a brief holiday (visiting lovely friends!) before I throw myself head first into Gamescom, one of the biggest gaming events worldwide.

I am so excited. The photo above is from last year, when a community intern and I were asked to hold the photographer’s camera while he signed something for someone, and we decided to steal a sneaky selfie. You can probably see the excitement on our faces.

I’m mentally and physically preparing myself (with beer, games and relaxation) for a week of long days, sore feet and a lost voice. But ultimately, it’s all going to be worth it as I get to hang out with the community that I feel I truly belong in, where I’ve made my career and where I plan to stay for a very long time. I hope I’ll see some of you there!

I will be aiming to continue with Blaugust during this week, hopefully accompanied by some photos from the event and tales of my adventures, but there’s a slight possibility that I’ll struggle to keep up so I apologise in advance if that happens! I will reply to everyone’s comments as soon as possible. I am completely overwhelmed and utterly thrilled with the people I’ve been able to meet through Blaugust so far, and it’s only just begun!

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

Twitch acquisition by Google/YouTube?

Is the Twitch acquisition by Google's YouTube going to go through?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, anyone who is familiar with streaming website Twitch knows that there are rumours of a Google/YouTube acquisition for $1 billion. If you’re interested in the back story, you can read the Polygon report, but here I want to talk about my personal thoughts and how this might impact streamers.

Obviously, my channel on Twitch is relatively small, with only 150+ followers so far, as I’ve only been streaming there for a short time. However I am a “Turbo” user, meaning I pay monthly in order to receive certain benefits (such as no ads, custom colours in chat and a different set of emotes) and also subscribe to two streamers on a regular basis. I also have intentions of continuing to stream there more regularly myself, and while I doubt I’ll ever have the viewerbase of some of the people I love there, I still feel it has the potential to impact me as a viewer and streamer alike.

Firstly, there are positive sides to this acquisition assuming it goes through. For example, Google is notorious for having excellent server coverage across the globe, which is something Twitch currently, unfortunately, lacks. It’s no secret that their data centres struggle from time to time with the massive population of European users, not to mention an incredibly poor experience in Oceania. With a Google acquisition, could we expect to see increased stability and better service worldwide?

A lot of streamers are pretty concerned about the bid. YouTube has notoriously not been the most supportive of its content creators recently, making it frustrating for viewers to comment on videos, hassling creators into using their real names on videos (and repeatedly prompting them to do so if they say no), and various issues with copyright claims. If these kinds of issues come to Twitch, this would make the experience of streaming and watching streams extremely frustrating and not at all user-friendly.

However, with all that said, there are just as many streamers — including those with larger viewerbases — who don’t seem at all concerned, and are patiently awaiting more information. On the plus side, the reports explain that talks are still ongoing, and nothing is settled for sure just yet. Also, there are claims that part of the discussions will be on how independent Twitch can continue to operate if they are picked up by another company, which is great. There are plenty of companies out there, especially games companies, that have managed to retain their independence despite being acquired by a bigger company. I’ll withhold too much of my judgement until we get more information, as at least for the timebeing it’s still just a rumour. We’ll see how it goes!

What are your thoughts?
Let me know in the comments below!

Just Sayin’: Season Pass Makes No Sense

Just Sayin': Season Pass Makes No Sense.

What is a “Season Pass”? According to Wikipedia, a Season Pass is “a ticket allowing admission to an attraction multiple times during a certain period (a “season”), often a year or the duration of a sports or performance season,” or, in the world of gaming, “a special purchase available for certain video games, which typically allows the owner access to some or all future DLC for the game for a one-time fee.”

I’m here to say that I think using the term “Season Pass” to refer to DLC content for a video game makes no sense. How do the two ideas above link to one another in any way? The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is that occasionally a video game’s Season Pass will allow players access to all DLC released during a period of time, however here are the problems with that idea:

» There is no such thing as a “Season” unless we are talking about esports/competitive gaming, which DLCs are generally not a part of.

» A Season Pass in sports allows “admission to an attraction multiple times during a certain period”, implying that admission is limited, which it isn’t when a gamer purchases a “Season Pass” for video game DLCs.

» From time to time, a Season Pass will allow players access to all future DLC, in which case it’s not really a Season Pass any more, is it?

Most importantly, perhaps, it’s not very representative of the gaming community as a whole. The vast majority of gamers are outside the US — purely because it’s only one region out of many — and Season Passes are something that exist primarily in the US and aren’t very well known in other regions. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t cater to American gamers, but wouldn’t it make more sense to make these “Passes” more relevant to the global community, rather than just to an arguably small subset of that community? I honestly had to look up what the heck a Season Pass was, and was under the impression that it was going to allow me access to certain content for a limited period of time based on the confusing name. Either way, it didn’t sound appealing, and unsurprisingly I haven’t bothered buying a Season Pass yet.

So, unpopular opinion time: Season Pass is a stupid title for DLCs. Let’s come up with something better, please.

Just sayin’…

Best of Steam Tags

Steam Tags: View your own recommended tags based on your interests.

Valve recently announced the new Steam Tags, a system that allows gamers to tag their games or search for games by tags. Supposedly, it’s an impressive new way to find what you’re looking for, and to be fair its recommendations so far have been pretty good. For me, I’ve been recommended Indie, Sandbox, Platformer, RPG and Action, which to some extent is pretty accurate (though I don’t feel I’m much of a Platformer, they can be pretty cute and fun!)

Steam Tags: Tag your favourite games.

Steam Tags: Find games by tag, such as all games tagged with RPG.

It’s a pretty simple system; when you view the game in the store, there’ll be some tags that have already been applied to it visible on the right-hand side. You can expand upon these tags, or add your own, as well as agreeing with tags that gamers have already assigned to that particular game.

Some people have come out and condemned gamers for “trolling” by applying what they deem stupid tags to certain game titles, but I honestly don’t see this as a particularly bad thing. I think gamers should have the right to tag things how they see fit, within reason. If you can’t encourage a gamer to write a full review, at least getting them to assign a single word or short phrase to a game they loved or hated has the potential to be incredibly helpful to gamers looking for new games to play, or trying to decide what to avoid entirely.

And frankly? I find some of the “troll” tags funny. Here are some of my favourites I’ve found with a bit of browsing:

The best of Steam Tags.

No prizes for guessing which game “walking simulator” brings to mind (psst, it’s DayZ, though I always called it Running Simulator). Does Steam Tags have the potential to be abused? Of course it does. But sometimes you just have to let the community run off and do its thing, and see what falls out of the tree when they’re done.

2014 in video gaming

An all text post? The horror! Now that 2014 has been upon us for an entire month (seriously, it’s been that long since Christmas already?!) I’m preparing myself for a year of video games. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some great singleplayer or co-op games, especially the latter, so what’s coming up that’s got me all excited?

February

» Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
PvZ was always a bit of a guilty pleasure. I have a Conehead Zombie model on my mantelpiece at home!

» Divinity: Original Sin
I actually picked up this game already in Early Access, but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to it as I haven’t given it much of a chance yet.

March

» Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Any excuse to get me back into playing D3 again! Have you seen my post about the Catalyst Gaming Media giveaway?

» Dark Souls II
Maybe…that’s all I’ll say. I liked the first game (never played Demon Souls) but I didn’t play it for long, so we’ll see!

…and Beyond

» LEGO: The Hobbit
LEGO: Lord of the Rings was the first LEGO game I played and I loved it. I’m looking forward to its successor…or…prequel, depending on how you look at it.

» Firefly Online
I must admit, I’m very dubious, but I can’t resist at least checking it out. Browncoats unite!

» The Sims 4
Another dirty little habit. I’ve loved The Sims series since the first game was released. I ain’t even ashamed.

» Dragon Age: Inquisition
Must. Finish. DA2. First!

» Star Citizen
As a sci-fi fangirl going through a spacey kick lately, I have to admit I’m curious. I haven’t decided if I’ll be playing yet, but I’m eager to see what it ends up being like.

» Serious Sam 4
Oh. Em. Gee. I get struck with such nostalgia. I played this with T and his housemate when he was at college, and I still remember the silly allnighters we had. I didn’t enjoy BFE but we’ll see how this one turns out.

You’ll notice I’ve left quite a few up-and-comers off this list, but for the most part that’s because I’m not sure about a few of them, such as Titanfall and The Witcher: Wild Hunt; both are games I’ve heard great things about, but I haven’t heard much more about the former, and the latter I’m simply too behind in the series to know yet. Others, I’m really not interested in. The Walking Dead is great for story but the control system put me off, and that’s put me off trying The Wolf Among Us, admittedly. That’s probably unfair of me, so maybe I’ll lift my unfounded prejudice this year!

What are you looking forward to in 2014?
Let me know in the comments!

Why I won’t be playing ESO

Why I won't be playing The Elder Scrolls Online. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a massive The Elder Scrolls fangirl. I mean, cried-a-single-tear-of-joy-when-Skyrim-was-announced fangirl. And I’m not even ashamed! But we need to sit down and have a chat about The Elder Scrolls Online or ESO for short.

Yesterday, I heard the news that The Elder Scrolls Online collector’s edition and preorder packs had been released and the community weren’t too happy about them. I looked into it myself and could see why.

As a bit of backstory, while I was at Gamescom last year, I heard that ESO was going to have a cash shop. This in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing necessarily, especially if they only offered cosmetic items, but considering their marketing angle was, “Access all of the game with one low monthly fee!” (Paraphrasing, of course.) They then introduced the cash shop and it just left a bad taste in my mouth, as it wasn’t really aligned with their marketing campaign. But I was still okay with it. Again, cosmetic items are fine, and I am addicted to buying vanity pets!

However, their Collector’s Edition allows an exclusive race, Imperial. And if you preorder? You can play all races on any alliance. The latter isn’t so bad, but locking an entire race with “unique bonuses” to CE? That’s ridiculous. I have enough money to buy the CE, and wouldn’t shy away from it normally, but this just goes against everything I believe in as far as game pricing is concerned. When there are many MMOs out there that are just as enjoyable, if not more so, and for less with no exclusive bonuses, races or classes for CE, why would I want to invest in something I’m not even sure I’d enjoy when I fundamentally don’t agree with what they’re doing?

And so I’ve made the decision not to buy. Of course there will be people out there who will, and that’s great, but I am already fully invested in FFXIV and have no desire to spend all of my time getting into another MMO right now unless it really blows me away, which frankly, ESO? You haven’t really done.

Make love & WAR

Make love & WAR

A few days ago, on 18th December, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning shut down for good. Those of you who know me know that I haven’t played WAR in years, but it’s still an incredibly sad thing to see happen. Why? Because WAR was the first video game project I worked on. My games industry career started in GOA Games Services Ltd., the European publisher for an MMO that will forever stand out in my memory. I feel very strongly that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for myself taking that chance, and for the company taking a chance on me.

There’s a great post by John Drescher called WAR is (still) everywhere that rings particularly true for me. This quote is what really brought it home:

“If you look around the industry today at pretty much any major MMO being developed in the Western market, you will find WAR there. Sometimes, it will be in the games themselves where concepts and ideas that first showed up in WAR have been “gently borrowed”. Mostly, however, it’s in the people making those games. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a major MMORPG team whose leadership doesn’t feature someone who cut their teeth as a developer on WAR. In some cases, HUGE chunks of the WAR team simply set up shop in a new project – old comrades in a new home.”

The Tome of Knowledge really drove achievements into a mainstream requirement for MMOs, where they weren’t so much before. Titles, too, weren’t so big until WAR came along, and now they’re almost a staple in games. Most importantly, though, was the Public Quest system, which you can see iterations of in games like Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV. Were things like these done before? Of course, but not in the same way or on the same scale, and that’s what makes the difference.

Perhaps more importantly, though, you find so many games industry professionals who worked on this game in some shape or form. I was in the customer support team then later the community team. I’ve moved through one additional games industry company before finding myself where I’m at now. Most of the people I work with now are people that worked with me before at GOA, and when I go to conventions like Gamescom, I meet old colleagues frequently just milling about the floor, working or just attending. As mentioned in the post on Josh Drescher’s blog, a lot of us learned skills from working in a tough environment that we’ve carried on to our new roles, and that’s something I’ll always be thankful for.

So thank you, to Mythic, to GOA, and to my fellow WAR coworkers, for what was a great experience and so key in my personal growth. I really do appreciate it, and will never forget it.