The Destiny Reset Challenge: A Guardian’s Return to Destiny

GuardianCon 2017 was a life-changing experience for me. It reminded me of why I fell so in love with the community and how badly I wanted to give back to it all that it had given me in the first place. It reminded me of why I’d first decided to become an author/Twitch streamer hybrid, and perhaps most unexpectedly, it made me miss Destiny (the game that GuardianCon was founded around) in a way that I hadn’t really felt before.

As some of you may know, I’ve had a rather… fraught history with Destiny. Upon it’s initial release, I found it’s amazing core gameplay undermined at every turn by it’s embarrassing failure to tell an even partially coherent story. A failure made all the more painful by developer Bungie’s outstanding record with video game storytelling in the Halo franchise. However, when Bungie released The Taken King expansion to kick of Destiny’s second year of release, they also reconstructed the entire base-game in a way that fixed roughly eighty percent of the problems I’d had with it, and finally turned Destiny into the game that I’d first hoped it would be. This trend then continued with Bungie’s second and final major expansion to Destiny, Rise of Iron, which further strengthened the game’s storytelling with expanded in-game cinematics and deeper narrative integration with the game’s quest system.

All of which combined to make me extremely impatient for the announcement, reveal, and release of Destiny 2, so I could finally see what the full strength of Bungie could do now that they had so clearly learned from their previous missteps with Destiny. Combine that with the fact that I’d already done pretty much everything there was to do in Destiny (or at least everything that I’d wanted to do), and as much as I grew to love the game and wanted to stream it, I just couldn’t figure out make any stream of it entertaining. For me or anyone else watching.

Enter Angry_Iceberg’s Destiny Reset Challenge.

Prior to GuardianCon, I hadn’t thought to participate in this challenge, as it requires setting up an entirely new account and I just wasn’t all that thrilled by the thought of it. After GuardianCon however, and all the excitement and rejuvenation that came with it, I realized that this challenge is actually the perfect way to make Destiny fun and engaging again, because it robs you of all your previously acquired weapons, armor, and money and forces you to start from the absolute lowest rung of the ladder all over again.

And truth be told? I cannot wait to get started!

Participating in this challenge will be the closest thing possible to going back into Destiny like I’ve never played it before, only now my second first time will be with all of the improvements Bungie has made to the game over the last three years included right from the start. That’s an experience I can’t wait to have, and is why I now plan on having Destiny as part of my game rotation on stream when I’d previously just been planning to wait on Destiny 2 and go through my backlog of PS4 games in the meantime.

So I hope you all will tag along as I tackle this challenge, and if you do, I’ll see you on stream this Friday at 1PM Pacific Time.

Take care. 🙂

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Reflections of a Guardian: GuardianCon 2017

It feels… tacky, for lack of a better word, to describe an event as “life-changing” before you’ve had a chance to actually live your life after it, yet I still can’t think of any words that describe my experience at GuardianCon 2017 better than those two. Because I can already feel the change, the drive, that little extra “oomph” taking hold in both my heart and my mind, and I know myself well enough to know that this feeling is the signal of something much greater than momentary excitement. I know that because it’s the same kind of feeling I had at the end of last year’s GuardianCon charity stream, and that feeling drove me to actually change my life.

So really, maybe it’s not so tacky.

Let’s back up a bit: prior to GuardianCon 2016, I was 26 years old, living with my mother, didn’t have a job, and had basically never worked a normal job, period. I had my reasons for all this, but the point of sharing this is to say that regardless of the reasons, that was the state of my life when the first GuardianCon charity stream went live. Thanks to CaptainTwaz’s suggestions and encouragement, I’d already become familiar with the Destiny community on Twitch, so I knew what this charity stream was all about well in advance: The streamers involved were going to try and raise $200,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the course of a week-long, 24-hour a day marathon stream as a way to not only build hype for the convention, but to use that hype for the benefit of a worthy cause.

What I and basically everyone else didn’t know was just how powerful that hype would get, and how quickly that hype would get there.

By only the third or fourth day of the charity marathon, that original $200,000 goal had been utterly annihilated, and the goal was then bumped up to $350,000. A goal that, once again, the Destiny community absolutely destroyed. By the time the marathon was actually over, the community had raised over $500,000. That’s over half-a-MILLION dollars, raised by gamers; a group of people that society has been all too happy to dismiss and demonize as a bunch of lazy, maladjusted, basement-dwelling, socially inept pizza-gluttons that would never amount to anything. That kind of universal disdain seeps into your mind and colors your thoughts no matter how far removed you may be from that stereotype in reality, and watching my fellow gamers prove just how disastrously wrong that stereotype is lit a fire in my heart that I had never felt before.

I realized then that I needed to be a more active member of this community. For me personally, it wasn’t enough to be a lurker or a chatter anymore. I had to do more, I had to be more, I had to contribute more. I had to give just as much back to this community as it had just given me by so spectacularly shattering that gamer stereotype.

I had to become a streamer, but more importantly, I had to make it down for the next GuardianCon.

Regardless of whatever it would take to get there.

And so, just a few weeks after I started streaming, I got my first real job: working as a courtesy clerk for my local grocery store. It wasn’t particularly fun, and it certainly wasn’t glamorous, but my co-workers were legitimately cool people, and I was getting up and out of the house and active in ways that I hadn’t been before. I lost over twenty pounds just by virtue of doing my job and walking around all day. My shyness and severe dislike of interacting with strangers melted away, and my self-confidence rose to levels far higher than they’d ever been before.

In every way that mattered, I felt like I was finally becoming the version of myself that I’d always wanted to be.

All because of GuardianCon 2016.

Which brings us to today: one year later. It’s the first morning after GuardianCon 2017, and the things I’m feeling in my heart are so much more powerful than what I felt after the GuardianCon 2016 charity stream. It’s that same, almost physical need to do something more than I am, only amplified because things aren’t just relegated to computer screen in someone’s office.

Things are now, for want of a better word, real.

Coming to GuardianCon and being able meet people in person, so many of whom I’ve looked up to and admired as examples and inspirations as a streamer, was an experience that was powerful in ways that defy description. When a streamer recognizes you as a name in chat, that’s one thing. But when that same streamer physically shakes your hand and then pulls you into a hug after hearing who you are, that’s something else entirely.

And that’s how virtually all of my streamer-meetings went.

From Angry_Iceberg at the pre-convention WingHouse meet up, through Vibronium and 3vil_Aura towards the end of the first convention day, and every other awesome person in between (ThatTokenGuy, Imqulse, StarlordCap, Jadahawk, and ReleaseTheGamerGirl? I’m lookin’ at all of you!), all those meetings and hugs really drove home the unique point that one of GuardianCon’s founders, King Gothalion, made during a video interview about the convention. “Community means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.”

In more ways than I was prepared for, coming to GuardianCon felt like coming to a gigantic family reunion.

And perhaps explicitly because of that feeling, the reality of the charity half of GuardianCon hit me that much harder. I was not at all expecting an actual St. Jude representative, let alone the Vice President of Communications, to speak at the convention. Nor was I at all expecting or prepared for an actual St Jude patient and his family to make an appearance on that same stage to tell their story. You can talk numbers until you’re blue in the face; when you’re in the same room with a real person that the charity you’re helping to support took care of, and you’re listening to them tell their story, it drives home the flesh-and-blood reality of it all in manner that I don’t even think it’s possible to brace yourself for. I was on the verge of tears for almost the entire length of that speaking event, and that only made me double and then triple-down on my commitment to simply be the Light I so often find myself looking for out in the world.

Because my ultimate take-away from attending GuardianCon was the following:

This is where I truly want to be, this is the work that I truly want to be doing, and this is the community I truly want to be a part of.

This where I belong.

I’ve never felt that before, and feeling it now takes the flames I felt at the end of last year’s charity marathon and turns them into a wildfire. A wildfire whose Light I intend to channel through both my writing and my streaming so that I can use both to help others find their own way through the Darkness.

Because that’s what being a part of this community, what being a Guardian, means to me.

#LittleLights

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Exorcising the Demon: Week 4

So.

Now that the chaos of the previous two weeks has largely abated and my life outside of writing and gaming has started to settle down for the most part, I’ve found myself once again in possession of enough free brain-power to start properly exorcising The Demon again. Although, thanks to a certain movie currently blowing up the box office, that exorcism took a pretty significant detour this last week.

This movie, as I’m sure you’ve been able to guess, was Wonder Woman.

I wasn’t expecting Wonder Woman to be good. After Batman v Superman and especially after Suicide Squad, I was expecting Wonder Woman to be yet another DC cinematic disaster.

It was not.

In fact, I will go on record as saying Wonder Woman is one of the best comic book movies ever made, and I think indisputably the most important one.

Let me explain.

I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice now, and as I was watching that epic “No Man’s Land” sequence the second time, I felt something just click inside of me. As I was watching Diana kick and flip and beat down foe after foe, I realized that as a guy, I’ve been having superheroes tell me throughout my entire life that I too could do things like that. That I too could fight just as hard and just as fiercely as they did. All I had to do was just set my mind to it and not let the odds, however impossible they may seem, get to me. For twenty-seven years, I’ve been having superheroes tell me this, and it’s been such a constant, ever-present influence in my life that I legitimately cannot imagine who or what I would’ve become if I hadn’t had it

And then I realized that if I’d been born a girl, I wouldn’t have.

I wouldn’t have had Spider-Man or Batman or Wolverine. Not at all in the same way that I do now. I wouldn’t have been able to look up to them and aspire to be like them in at all the same way that I have. If I had been born female, I would’ve spent my entire life watching my heroes like Batgirl, Black Widow, Jean Grey, and Scarlet Witch still play second or even third-fiddle to the titans of popularity like Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, despite their own incredible power and skill.

And yet now, finally, here comes Wonder Woman. A literal God-killer in terms of her power level, who plays second or third fiddle to absolutely no one, who kicks more ass and takes more names than anyone else around her, and yet she doesn’t have to sacrifice an ounce of her warmth, beauty, or femininity to do so! After twenty-seven years, if I had been born a girl, I’d finally have a superhero that I could truly and proudly call my own!

As I was watching Wonder Woman fight her way through No Man’s Land and all these thoughts were falling into place in my head, I realized that they weren’t just thoughts, they were the actual lived experiences of women and girls all over the world.

That hit me. Hard.

Hard enough that it brought me to the very brink of tears, and made me realize that as hard as I’ve tried to make my female lead in The Demon a Wonder Woman in her own right, I can still do better. For all the strength, skill, and power I’ve given her, I’ve still allowed Ice to fall into the same kinds of narrative traps that so many other women and girls in fiction fall into.

I can’t accept that. Not anymore. Not now that we live in a world where Wonder Woman exists as a blockbuster motion picture and has shown us all just how far behind the curve we really were.

So for the last week, instead of continuing to finalize The Demon’s backstory, I’ve been going over The Demon itself, identifying as many of the problem spots in Ice’s story as I can, and then fixing or subverting them wherever possible. Because as much as I want Fire (the male lead) to be an example for young boys to look up to, I also want Ice to be the same for young girls.

And until I get her to that point, the backstory for The Demon is gonna have to wait.

Catch you all next week.

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A Different Kind of Exorcism

Last Sunday, I made a choice.

Last Sunday, I made a choice that I can still hear the people in my life telling me was the wrong choice. That it was the stupid choice, the reckless and irresponsible choice, and I know that their reasons for saying so are valid.

I also know that I made the right choice for me.

Last Sunday, I put in my two weeks notice at work.

I made this choice for a variety of reasons, but I suppose the simplest way to explain those reasons is this: If it meant that I would make enough money that I could afford to move out of my mother’s house, back into an apartment of my own, and support myself going forward, I would happily sacrifice both my writing and my streaming. If it meant finally becoming truly financially independent, I would give up on my dream of making a living as TheGamingAuthor with barely a second thought.

But I wasn’t making enough money, and I found myself still having to sacrifice both my streaming and my writing for it.

As you can probably imagine, I found that trade to be… less than ideal.

So I put my notice in.

I made the choice that was right for me while it was still a choice I was able to make.

Because here’s the thing: I know who I am, I know what I want, and I know what I have to do to get what I want. And if the day ever comes where I have to put down my quills and controllers, then I have to know that I’ve already tried as hard as I can to succeed with them, and have failed anyway. Perhaps that’s an overly fatalistic view of the world to take, but it’s one that’s allowed me to drive myself as hard and as far forward as I’ve already come.

On the bright side of things, working this job for the last nine months like I have been has shown me just how far I really can push myself if and when the situation calls for it. It’s shown me just how much work I can really get done in “X” amount of time. It’s taught me how valuable time really is, and how much more efficiently I can utilize it now that I appreciate its value.

It’s given me more confidence and faith than I’ve ever had before that I really can pull this off, and make this dream of mine a reality.

And you know what? Even if I do fail and this dream I have never comes true, thanks to the last nine months of having this job, I now know that I’ll still be able to make something fun and enjoyable out of my life.

So that’s all I’ve really got for you all this week. No real progress to speak of on the writing front. Largely because I’ve spent most of this last week too stressed out to even think about it, but that’ll all change for me very soon. I’ve still got two more weeks of work to do at my job, and then following that I’ll probably take an extra week to *finally* kick back, relax, and catch up on all the other Life-related things I’ve missed out on over the last several months.

So when that all wraps up, I’ll see you all right back here again.

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Exorcising the Demon: Week 3

Well, this week went poorly.

Objectively speaking, that’s probably a bit too harsh of a statement. With how things went in my personal life however, especially with regard to how they affected my writing, it actually feels like an understatement. I went from finalizing multiple BSCs (backstory chapters) a day, to not even one this entire week.

Not exactly the kind of progress report I wanted to be making today.

That’s not to say this last week was entirely progress free, because it wasn’t. As I said before, objectively speaking, I did manage to make some significant progress on finalizing The Demon’s backstory. Particularly with regard to my main characters: “Fire” and “Ice”. As I’ve said before, The Demon is their story. It’s not just Fire’s, and it’s not just Ice’s. It’s theirs together and because of that, the story of how and why they first came into each other’s lives is perhaps the single most important chapter in the entirety of The Demon’s backstory.

That chapter is the one that I’ve been working on this week, and because it’s one of such significance, I’ve been taking an extraordinary amount of care in finalizing it. The events of Fire & Ice’s first meeting are what lay the foundation for who and what they become over the course of The Demon’s story, and in many ways, every BSC I’ve finalized up to this point has ultimately just been the build-up to this one. And making all of that build-up actually pay off has been a monumental challenge. It’s been such a challenge because both Ice and Fire are feeling intensely charged emotions when they first meet, and those emotions (as well as the reactions that occur in the wake of their expression) are not easily translated into simple words. On top of that, I also have to thread the needle of their reactions between simultaneously being believable, being true to their respective characters, and still somehow getting the story to where it ultimately needs to go.

And yet somehow, I still managed to accomplish some of that.

I still managed to get Ice and Fire into the same room at the same time, and perform their first introduction in such a way that leaves Ice exactly where the plot requires them to be, both physically and emotionally.

All that’s left now is to figure out how Fire responds.

And that’ll be my task for this next week. My personal life is still kind of on shaky ground at the moment owing to some job challenges, so I’m not going to try and hammer through this as fast and as hard as possible. Especially with this BSC, it’ll be far better to get it done right rather than fast.

Catch you all next week. 🙂

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Exorcising The Demon: Week 2

I was almost certain this week was going to be a bad one.

I was almost certain I was going to get nothing done with regard to The Demon’s exorcism, because for the first few days of the week, I didn’t!

I chalk it up largely to the fact that I had to shift character perspectives, essentially. While The Demon takes it’s name from one of the main characters, the story itself is actually about both of my main characters, and the struggles they go through as partners. So when I finished one of their individual backstories last week, I couldn’t think of any more efficient way to proceed than to finalize the other’s individual backstory.

And that was a lot more challenging than it sounds.

The reason for that challenge was because these two characters are fire and ice, yin and yang, darkness and light. They come from two radically different backgrounds, and so have radically different views of the world and ways of thinking, so stepping out of one of their lives and into the other required me to spend a few days altering my own head-space accordingly. Not a particularly easy task when you’re still juggling some of last week’s leftover stress.

But! That is where the good news finally begins, because once I did get my head-space readjusted, just about everything started falling and clicking into place. I finalized five backstory chapters in three days, and that was with making some very significant changes to two of them. I even almost made it to six backstory chapters finalized, but quite frankly just ran out of time before I could get there. Either way, the individual backstory for Main Character #2 is now complete as well, and I caught myself the other day almost wanting to skip over the rest of the backstory and get a head start on writing The Demon in full.

I know better than that however, and with the individual backstories now wrapped up, the time has come to begin finalizing Fire & Ice’s history as a team. What brought them together, what kept them together, and what damn near tore them apart before The Demon even began. That is going to be some tremendously juicy stuff to write, and barring a sudden hurricane of free time and inspiration, it’ll probably take the next two weeks to properly finalize it all. Either way, it’s sure to be one hell of a literary ride, and I’m sure my Twitter postings over the next seven days will reflect just that.

Catch ya next week. 😉

Side note: I’m almost certainly going to start refering to my main characters as “Fire” and “Ice” from here on out in these posts because as soon as I wrote it the first time, I realized that not only are those words the perfect encapsulations of who they are, but it’s also just a lot more fun than my previous plan of designating them MC#1 and MC#2.

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Controllers: Having to Pump the Twitch Brakes

Here’s the problem with going full-speed ahead with something: when obstacles inevitably pop up, you don’t have time to adjust course before you hit them. And because you’re going full-speed, when you hit them, you hit them hard.

That’s what finally happened to me last week.

A bad day turned into a bad few days, which in turn transformed into a psychic avalanche of stress and negativity because I’d hit a massive obstacle with bone-crushing force, and it’s still got me limping a little bit as I’ve stumbled through the last 48 hours.

A little over three weeks ago, I thought I could get a head start on making my dream of writing and streaming full-time (and making a living from it) a reality if I just pushed myself hard enough. I was convinced that I was strong enough to turn this journey into a sprint instead of a marathon, and so I poured all I had and more into that sprint, thinking that I could close the distance from where I was to the finish line in just a few short months.

Then reality stepped onto the road in front of me and I was already going too fast to dodge around it.

I’ll spare you all the bloody, gory details of what happened during that collision, but just like I had with The Demon almost two weeks ago, this collision forced me to confront a painfully harsh truth.

I can’t keep trying to sprint this marathon.

Writing a novel is a slow process, building an audience on Twitch is a slow process, and I’d been trying to do both of those as fast as inhumanly possible while simultaneously working a traditional job. The amount of stress and pressure that was putting on me was more than just insane; it was stupid. It was stupid because I knew better, and because I was warned by a very good friend in advance that burning myself out would be a very real risk if I really did try to go all-in on being TheGamingAuthor the way I was talking about it. But, as has historically been the pattern with me, my excitement and my enthusiasm trumped my logical rationality and sent me careening into a mental car crash that I hadn’t braced myself for.

So what does this all mean?

It means that I’m gonna be pumping the brakes a little bit on my Twitch streaming. I made a promise to myself a long time ago that if I ever got to the point where my streaming was causing more stress than it was happiness, I would pull the chute on it and never look back. Now of course, the reality of it is that I’ve met far too many incredible people and had far too many incredible experiences with those people quit Twitch entirely. I know myself well enough to know that even if I tried to, even if I said out loud and publicly that I was going to, I would still find myself clicking that “Start Streaming” button again in (at most) just a few months time. I know this because it’s the same thing that happened with my writing, several times as a matter of fact. And yet here I am, still writing.

So here’s what’s going to happen going forward: I’m still going to be streaming, and when I do it’ll still be on Mondays and Tuesdays, but they will be streams of whim and opportunity rather than necessity. That is to say, I will only be streaming if and when I properly feel like it, and not because I feel like I have to do it in order to achieve some sort of pre-determined goal. I know that’s essentially basic-level advice for anyone who wants to even start streaming, to do it because you love it and not because you want (insert want here), but that’s still a stunningly easy thing to forget.

So here’s to not forgetting, and to having even more fun on stream than we’ve had previously, even if we’re not streaming as often.

Cheers. 🙂

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