Living a Life on Fire

When you describe something as being ‘on fire’, that can either be really good or really bad. It all depends on the context and the amount of exasperation or sarcasm packed into the sentence.

This is especially true when it comes to life.

I noticed a few weeks ago that I was constantly referring to my life as being “on fire”. What I meant was there are so many things going on all at once that I often feel completely at a loss when it comes to what I should do. The past few months I have felt like I am being pulled in a thousand different directions.

You have experienced that, right? Being torn between who the world tells you that you should be, the person the people around you need you to be, and the person that you want to be? That constant friction between desire in duty? It is a tough place to be.

If you leave your ‘duty’ to follow your dream you face the disappointment and disapproval of those you care about, but if you never allow your dreams to flourish you run the risk of living the rest of your life in regret, wondering what would have happened if you did.

So many people choose to play it safe, sticking with what they know because it is certain. And they spend the rest of their life ignoring that burning desire to do something different, the call to become who they were created to be.

This is something I have been struggling with for a while. The voice in my head tells me that I can never make it on my own, that I need to stick with what I know. Yet the voice in my heart is crying out that I can do this. It may take some time and it will not be glorious at first, but I may just be able to live the life I want.

I don’t want to live my life silently, suppressing that fire inside of me until it eats me alive. I don’t want to be that perfect girl who lives the way the world tells her too.

I want to let that fire loose. I want to live loud. I want to be so unapologetically myself that when people look at me they think “if she did it, maybe I can too.” I know that I was born to create. To craft stories that hold a mirror to the world to show people how things could be. I am done living my life with the thought that I could never make a living doing so. I am going to find my way and I am not going to let anybody stop me.

I know it is not going to be easy, but I am willing to try. This is the kind of ‘on fire’ I want my life to be. I want to live my dream while showing others that they too can live theirs. Too often have I seen other creators struggling with their insecurities, trapped by the thought that they will never be able to live that dream.

The fear that they will never be good enough.

The fear that all of their work is inferior, not worthy of attention.

The crippling pain of knowing their gift will never amount to anything. (which is a lie)

Everyone has a dream. Everyone has a desire to create something to make the world better. And I could geek out about this for HOURS.

That is why I want to create a podcast so I can share my passion and knowledge. I also want to help others share their passion and knowledge.  And I do plan on creating this podcast. I have some work to do to get things ready, but it will be happening sometime this year.

Because I am tired of waiting. I am ready to live my life.

Are you with me?

Dragon Age Appreciation

Since I started replaying Dragon Age Inquisition, I have been on a full-blown Dragon Age kick.

Mass Effect may have sparked my interest in game writing, but Dragon Age is what cemented it. I have always had a thing for fantasy worlds. I mean, I practically grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. I love worlds that have magic in them.

When I started playing Dragon Age: Origins, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew it was a medieval fantasy world, there was something to do with Grey Wardens and darkspawn, and the world had magic. I knew nothing about the story or the tone. My roommate at the time knew slightly more than I did, even though she never played it before.

When it came time for both of us to start a new game, it was an easy choice. I had my PS3, she had her PC. With very little foreknowledge and nothing else to do, we dove right in.

By the time the intro was done I was absolutely hooked. It hit this sort of sweet spot both story and gameplay-wise that I didn’t even know I had. The more I learned about the game (from playing and from researching), the more I loved it.

The craftsmanship

Fun fact that I learned around the time I was playing DA2. The team that made Dragon Age spent 3 years crafting the backstory and the lore of the world before spending another 3 years developing the actual game.

And you can tell.

From the very beginning, you are immersed in this vast, open world that is embroiled in conflict, both social and physical. The decisions you make quickly begin to affect your story as you are recruited into the Grey Wardens. The level of detail when it comes to worldbuilding is astounding.

Throughout the three games, you keep learning more and more about the world, the people, and politics. You get to see life in Thedas from different viewpoints, and the NPCs surrounding you treat you differently based on your background and your race.

The complexity

As I said before, this world is intricate. From the start, there is a lot going on, the world is in chaos, and it is up to you to fix it.

Basically, when BioWare created this series, they were looking to create something dark and full of difficult decisions. They did a FANTASTIC job of this. I can’t count how many times I sat, staring at the TV for a full fifteen minutes, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

Dragon Age 2 was especially good at this. It was a much smaller scale than the other two games. You weren’t trying to save the world, just save your family. The conflict still feels very large and real (and complicated) and you are smack in the middle of all of it. That’s not even counting the number of times I made inhuman shrieking noises when faced with some of those choices. It kills me every time and I love it.

Dragon Age Inquisition ups the ante even more, with you fixing the known world. You have to be very careful with your choices, else Thedas end up more screwed up than it started. And it started with a massive explosion descending the world into chaos.

Don’t even get me started on the Trespasser DLC.

The community

So, the Dragon Age fan community is ABSOLUTELY amazing. Any time I meet another fan, we become instant friends. I know people who could spend hours and hours discussing every aspect of the lore. We also have countless content creators both on YouTube and Archive of Our Own as well as cosplayers, graphic designers, streamers, and more.

Needless to say, the community that formed around this game is vast. Almost as vast as the open worlds of Dragon Age Inquisition. And it is only going to continue to grow as we introduce our friends to the game. Heck, this game has even inspired several women to become game developers.

These fans are dedicated too. The entire community exploded after BioWare released a minute-long teaser trailer for Dragon Age 4. It may not be coming out until 2021, but we are more than willing to wait.

Because we are Wardens, we are Champions, and we led the Inquisition.

We are ready for whatever comes next.

My Dreams for 2019

2018 was an…interesting year for most people. Very little went as I had planned it, so I had to do a lot of learning on the fly and adapting to uncertain situations.

I’m not going to lie, it was tough. It all worked out, though.

I can say with confidence that I am in a better place now than I was when I graduated. I have a good, stable job. I’ve made a lot of connections. I have learned a lot about business, entrepreneurship, and life in general. I honed my writing skills by delving into game writing and completing NaNoWriMo (for the first time in 7 years).

Now I am looking to the new year. And I have plans.

First off, I want to publish blog posts more consistently. I was going pretty steady for a while, but sometimes I get busy and it throws me off. I want to be more intentional about my posting. I want to start working on posts earlier, so that not only will they be done on time but they will be done well.

I also want to write more games. While most of my focus will be dedicated to my work with the writing team for Fallout Cascadia (relatively new project), I want to work on some ideas of my own. Most of these will be simple little games, but they will be good practice. Given my desire to one day work for BioWare as a game writer, I should probably get started somewhere.

Another goal is to finish the first draft of my novel. After NaNoWriMo, I realized that while I had learned a lot about the world and the characters, what I had written was a giant mess. I learned a lot about the world and the characters, but the flow needed a lot of work. I started rewriting it about a week ago and have almost hit 1,000 words. I want to have this draft done by the end of the year.

During Thanksgiving break, I got an idea for a project that I fully intend to pursue in 2019. I want to help authors with their social media marketing, both for themselves and their novels. Whether this ends up being on a purely freelance thing or grows into something more, I’m going to do it. I am still working out some of the details, but once I’m ready to roll I will definitely be sharing it.

I know that I have said before that I would be doing a podcast. Truth is, I still very much want to do one, I just haven’t decided how/what I want to do it on yet. I have a few ideas I am playing around with. I am hoping to have one of them ready to launch sometime this year.

There are a few other things I want to do as well. I want to get better at pixel art to the point where I can create animations. I want to try my hand at graphic design. I want to teach myself how to play piano on the keyboard we for some reason bought a few years ago and never used.

For me, 2019 is going to be a year of opportunity and growth. A year to try new things. A year to chase old dreams.

Whatever this year throws at me, I intend to live life to the fullest.  

What about you?

Analyzing the Story of Uncharted 3

About a month ago I finished replaying the Uncharted series for the 3rd time (1st time streaming). They are still by far some of my favorite games. I had an absolute blast sharing them with people.

One of the questions that kept coming up is “which Uncharted game is your favorite?”

The answer to that one is easy. The 2nd one, Among Thieves. The way the story is framed in the beginning grabs your attention and the rivalry between Drake and Flynn was very well done, with Chloe as their go-between. The villain was dynamic and intimidating. It was great.

A Thief’s End (Uncharted 4) is a close second, being the absolute PERFECT way to end the story. The story of two brothers working together to finish their mother’s greatest work, intertwined with a tale of obsession and the destruction it can create.

Then there is the first one, Drake’s Fortune, that started it all. It did a fantastic job of introducing us to the main cast of characters. The treasure was one whose name everyone is familiar with, the villains had interesting personalities, and the twist was very cleverly crafted. Without its success, the others might not have existed.

The third game, Drake’s Deception, is the least favored of the games. The story was not as strong and some of the animations felt a little weird (but that happens sometimes). It was not a bad game, it just was not as good as the rest of the series.

I have been thinking about it for some time now and after my last playthrough, I have a few ideas on how to bolster the story in a way that would improve the overall experience.

The name is Drake, Nathan Drake.

This game definitely has a James Bond vibe to it. I mean, it starts in a very British bar brawl and some super sneaky tricky spy stuff. The villains, Marlowe and Talbott, are supposedly members of a secret spy organization that has been in existence since the time of Sir Francis Drake.

There wasn’t much talk about the organization itself, though. I would love to have focused more on that aspect. What is their purpose? How did they know about Sir Francis Drake’s mission to find the Lost City of Ubar? How did they know there would be something there worth finding? Why do they want it?

It sometimes felt like they were leaning too hard into the James Bond vibe while neglecting some of what makes Uncharted unique. Nate is not a secret agent. He is an explorer, an archaeologist, a historian, and, most importantly, a thief. He makes mistakes. He makes bad puns. He is goofy. I feel like we didn’t get to see as much of that, but that could just be me.

There was also not as much focus on the history and lore surrounding the lost city and treasure itself. The game focused more on the competition with Marlowe and less on what they were hunting for. That could have played a part in why people did not get as invested in the story as they did with the other games. 

Who is Marlowe?

Marlowe, Marlowe, Marlowe. Where do we even begin?

She is very enigmatic, very British, and very lacking in a background. We catch a glimpse of her relationship with Sully in the flashbacks to how Sully met Drake. There is no explanation as to why she needed Sully to help her get the ring, why she wanted it, or even how she and Sully know each other. Throughout the entire game, Sully doesn’t tell us anything about her that we didn’t already know, even though it was pretty clear he knew her well given their embrace during the flashback. We also learn that she knows about Nate and how Sully took him in. Yet we are given very little information on her.

We also have Talbott, who is her second in command and obviously very attached to her, given his anger at her death (spoilers). That is all we know about him and their connection.

I want to know more about their position in the organization as well as their connection. I want to know why they have been sent on what is basically a wild goose chase. What are they hoping to accomplish?

If the ring fits

We know that Drake and Elena were together. They both have rings. They are obviously not together anymore.

I have two questions about this. Were they married or engaged? Some people may say it was married because he had a ring, but sometimes the guy gets an engagement ring as well.

Second, what did Drake do?! Things are definitely tense between Drake and Elena. He screwed things up somehow. We don’t know how long it has been since they broke up. I just want to know what happened!

All in all, it was not a bad game. The puzzles were fun and challenging. The scene with the plane was a lot of fun to play through. The Lost City of Ubar was absolutely gorgeous. And the ending was satisfying as we see Drake and Elena reunited once more. I just wanted more of the story and the culture and the mythos surrounding the lost city and the treasure.

I really did enjoy this game and I absolutely love the series. Analyzing the stories is a great though exercise and a good way to study story structure.

N7 and the Impact of Mass Effect

Happy (belated) N7 Day everyone!

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit of a BioWare fan. Especially Mass Effect. It was the first game series I ever played on my PS3. Can you blame me?

The love started long before that, though. My sophomore year roommate introduced me to the series. In fact, our bonding time included me knitting dishcloths (for Christmas presents) while watching her play Mass Effect. We made it almost all the way through all three games.

It wasn’t until I first played the games for myself that I was hooked. And man did I get hooked.

The music. The storytelling. The characters. The world. It drew me in. Enthralled me.

It was then that I decided that I wanted to write for BioWare. Playing through Dragon Age sealed the deal (more on that later).

I think one of the things I loved the most about it was the power of choice. I got to control the character. I got to control their personality, their morals, how they interacted with the world around them. I was Commander Shepard, and the crew of the Normandy was my family.

I wasn’t just going through the motions of playing a game, I was deeply invested. Even though I had already seen most of it, playing through it myself added more depth and meaning to the experience.

It was my first time ever being able to design my character and choose their backstory. The death of Jenkins hit me hard, as did Nihlus. I wanted to save them, but I couldn’t.

I felt a sense of validation when Garrus offered to help me take down Saren. Then Wrex offered to join after I took down Fist.

I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get to Tali in time, and so relieved when I realized she was going to be okay.

I will never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment when I was made the first human Spectre.

The rest of the journey was a whirlwind of discovery and bonding with my crewmembers (especially Kaidan). Helping Garrus and Wrex right a few wrongs from their past further secured my feelings of friendship towards them. My heart stopped beating for a few seconds during the standoff on Virmire before I was able to get Wrex to stand down.

I will forever regret not being able to save both crewmembers on Virmire.

The second game was even better, with a wider diversity of characters and worlds to explore. Working for the Illusive Man felt a little weird, but the rest of the crew became family. There was a thrill that went through me when they revealed the Normandy SR2 (still does every time). It was tough, though, having to deal with the loss of two years. So much had changed.

The crew I gathered for the suicide mission soon became a second family, populated partly by old friends from the first game. The world became so much bigger.  

When we went through the Omega 4 relay, I could not take my eyes off of the screen. I hoped and prayed that I had not missed any of the upgrades needed to protect my crew, and I breathed a sigh of relief when everyone came out unharmed.

That entire mission was intense and satisfying. Though nothing was as satisfying as telling off the Illusive Man.

The third game was filled with heartbreak. I hated leaving Earth and cannot listen to that song without getting emotional. The whole process of building up the army and uniting the entire universe was tough, but oh so rewarding.

Having to play through Tuchanka and then going immediately to save the Citadel nearly left me in tears. How am I supposed to process the death of Thane when I am still getting over Mordin, who literally just died?

Then there is Thessia. I had no idea what was coming. I never made it this far watching my roommate. The pain in Shepard’s voice….

Don’t get me started on the Citadel DLC.

Long story short, this series was rich with ups and downs and events that I will never forget. That is thanks to the story and how it was told.

The story didn’t control me. I controlled the story. At least to an extent.

This was really powerful. It forced me to think hard about the situation, about what I would do. The game forced me to live with the consequences of my actions.

I honestly think this game made me a better person. It has made me more open-minded, more accepting of those who are different than me. It has also helped me form fast friendships with some really cool people.

The story of the game itself is kind of fascinating as well. BioWare had already published a few successful games, Jade Empire and Neverwinter Nights. They were basking in the spotlight after the success of Star Wars: The Old Republic (a great game). So they decided to take the leap and make something new. An IP that was 100% their own.

That is how Mass Effect was born. Since then a massive fan community has grown around it. It has helped people through depression, through loss, through very stressful times in college *cough cough*.

I also know for a fact that I am not the only woman inspired to become a game dev by these games. I was talking with a former TellTale game dev who is currently working on a new game with Mike Laidlaw, The Waylanders RPG, and she mentioned that she too was inspired by these games. Most of her friends were too.

This leap of faith has had an impact beyond anything the devs at BioWare could ever have expected. Today, people all over the world are celebrating this franchise and what it means to them. People whose lives have been changed for the better. People who have gathered into communities, who have come together to make a difference.

Mass Effect first released in 2007. Now it has a total of 4 games and a huge, devoted fan community.

It’s been one hell of a ride.

The best.

Try Something New

Most of you may not know this, but I work as the managing editor of a local publication. This has been a pretty recent development and I am still settling into the role. The biggest change for me has been an increase in my workload. Also, my schedule has gotten super crazy.

As I said, though, things are starting to settle down and I am finding balance once more. I am living my life and I am thriving.

I am also trying new things. I have picked up a new hobby, an artistic one, and I am really enjoying it.

I think that is something people miss out on sometimes. Doing things for fun. Making things. Creating things. Not every second of every day needs to be devoted to things that bring you profit.

It is okay to do things simply because you enjoy them.

Also, hear me out here, there may be ways you can turn your passion into profit. It may not turn into a fulltime job, but it can become something.

And even if it doesn’t, it can still be worth it. It can help you deal with stress, bring you peace. It can bring a small spark of creativity to an otherwise mundane, repetitive day.

It can also connect you with others who also enjoy that hobby. It can help lead you to your passion.

So, go on out there. Try something new.

Who knows? You may just love it.

Making Connections

Sometimes life is less about what you know and more about who you know. This is especially true in business.
It may not surprise you to learn that I am a people person. While I do enjoy having time to myself, I also enjoy spending time with people. I like getting to know them, hearing their stories. I genuinely enjoy people.
I was introduced to the world of networking not long after moving to Texas. It started when I created my LinkedIn account junior year in high school. A few years later I was introduced to the world of in-person networking events. It took me a while to get the hang of this, but I did.
Online networking is a good place to start because it is low pressure and you have more time to think through what you say. It can be great for those who are more introverted or are not particularly comfortable in large crowds. It also allows you to reach out to a wider range of people than you would be able to in your day to day life.
LinkedIn is a good place to start, as it is a sort of Facebook for businesses. As I mentioned in the social media crash course post, Twitter is another great place for talking to people. Facebook groups can be a great resource as well.
For a long time, I have wanted to be a writer at BioWare. This is still one of my goals in life. Because of this, a few years ago I reached out to a few people there. One was a studio lead writer (who has since moved on) and the other was a creative director (who is still there). I told them about my love for their games and my desire to work there one day. Then I asked them for advice.
I got responses back pretty quickly and ended up doing a Skype call with the creative director. Since then I have benefited from their advice and I still keep in touch with both of them. I have also talked game writing and storytelling with several of the writers there on Twitter.
Reaching out to people on LinkedIn has also helped me land jobs and make some stellar connections.
Joining communities can be powerful as well, but that is a conversation for another post.
All in all, the key thing to remember is to treat people the way you want to be treated. And be confident in yourself. You have a lot to offer the world.
So get on out there and build your network.