Werewolves, New Artwork, & War, Oh My!

For those of you who follow my blog for my writing alone, consider this Part 6 of “Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf”. I actually tried writing an isolated version of that blog post yesterday, but honestly? So much had gone on over the last week that I just had too much on my mind that I wanted to talk about for it to work. So, here we are today.

I suppose then that the first thing I should address is The Wolf, and whether or not I jinxed myself by crowing about my progress last week. Short answer? I actually didn’t. My pace has fairly consistently leveled out to almost 2,000 words a day when I sit down and commit to the keyboard. Which hasn’t been every day, mind you. Truth be told, it hasn’t even been most days. One of my uncles passed away last week and those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that it knocked me off my game in a very bad way. I was depressed, I was viciously angry, and the last thing I wanted to do was write a happily-ever-after story about reunions with a long lost love. In fact, I almost went back to working on The Demon just so I could have a proper outlet for all the rage I was feeling.

But I didn’t. I stuck with The Wolf and just hunkered down for a few days to ride out the storm. And when the worst of the storm had passed, I wrote all the things. In just two writing sessions, I cranked out nearly 7,000 words, with probably close to another 1,000 added today. At least if we count the complete re-write of Chapter 6’s ending. And with the completion of Chapter 6, as well as the commencement of Chapter 7, I feel quite confident in saying that we are officially passed the halfway point of this story. There are only two more major events left in the plot before the climax begins, and if all goes well, I might actually be able to complete this draft before TwitchCon!

Speaking of TwichCon and other streaming related things, you all may have noticed that this whole website looks a little bit different. That is thanks in large part to the talents of an artist friend of mine known to the internet as CCSpectre. I’ve actually been unhappy with the look of this place for a while, and with the conclusion of The Wolf now in sight, I’ve started thinking about what I’m going to have to do going forward with regard to publishing and marketing it. And the first thing that came to mind was that if I was going to be serious about being a hybrid author/Twitch streamer, I needed a website for the author half of that equation that was a bit more professional that neon designs on black backgrounds. Since my website is called “Quills & Controllers”, I hit upon the “Ink & Parchment” theme pretty quickly, and CC was kind enough to apply that theme to the existing artwork she’d already done for me. The result has been a universal branding update that I feel ties my writing and streaming together beautifully, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

One thing that I could be happier with however, is my streaming. Specifically how and what games I stream. I’ve made no secret of my love for the Destiny franchise, but taking these last two weeks off of streaming has really highlighted for me just how ridiculously fast I blew through the opening content of Destiny 2, and how little enjoyment I was then getting out of it as a result. I was in such a rush to get ready for the new raid that I completely forgot about the things that actually make games like Destiny 2 so much fun for me; exploring new worlds, experiencing new stories, and in general just immersing myself in a different reality for a few hours. By the time I realized I’d done this, I was already so disheartened and disappointed in myself that I didn’t even want to go back through it all on a new character.

Now that’s not to say I don’t want to play Destiny 2 at all anymore. Far from it, in fact. I’m still hugely excited for the PC version’s release, and honestly can’t wait for the chance to have a fresh start with a new character on it. Because this time, I won’t be in a rush to complete the story. I won’t be in a rush to get ready for a raid I won’t actually have enough friends to complete. This time I will stop to smell the roses for a while and poke my curious nose into all the little nooks and crannies of the world, and quite frankly, that’s the part I’m most excited for with the PC release.

That said, there’s still almost a month between now and when Destiny 2 launches for PC. That’d be a painfully long time to go without streaming, but fortunately, there’s another game on the horizon that I’m almost just as excited for.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

That game is the sequel to my personal Game of the Year for 2014; Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, these games tell the story of Talion, a Gondorian Ranger, who is murdered by the agents of Sauron and resurrected by the spirit of Celebrimbor; the elf-smith who Sauron tricked into forging the Rings of Power, and who Sauron later tortured to death in an effort to learn the secrets of the three Elvish rings that Celebrimbor forged by himself. Shadow of Mordor is a great game built upon a thrilling narrative idea, and while it may have stumbled in the delivery of that narrative sometimes, the core gameplay was fantastic. And in every way that matters, Shadow of War looks to expand upon that core gameplay in every conceivable way. Even better, based on recent articles that I’ve read, Shadow of War also looks to be stepping up it’s narrative experience in equal measure.

If you can’t tell, I’m just a wee bit excited for this game.

Because of that excitement, and because of my badly self-inflicted burnout on Destiny 2, I’m switching things up with the stream for the next few weeks. Things will start with a nostalgic stroll back through Shadow of Mordor next week, and then when Shadow of War comes out the week after that, I’m going to apply the lessons learned from Destiny 2 and take my time to savor the smell of ash and sulfur as we rip control over the Land of Shadow right out from under Sauron’s gaze. Fun times will be had by all in attendance (except for the Orcs and Nazgul), so feel free to tune in via Twitch itself or the embedded player here on Quills & Controllers under the “Twitch” tab in the menu bar. The shenanigans begin next Tuesday at 1:00 PM, Pacific Time.

Now, about that Wolf that still needs taming… 😉

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Clawing Through Concrete to Climb the Mountain

I struggle to think of a time where I felt better, more confident, and more accomplished than I did as I was going to bed last night.

For so long, I’ve felt like I was beating my head against a steel wall, unable to break through to the other side where the reality of my dreams awaited. Writer’s block would lurk around every corner to steal my thunder every time I built up even a modicum of enthusiastic charge, and streaming felt much the same way; a near-Sisyphean task of trying to grab a greased-up bar of soap in endless shower. Every time I thought I’d found a game that I could build something off of, it would slip through my grasp for any one of a thousand reasons. Destiny 1 held nothing new or exciting for me, Shadow of Mordor proved less dynamic and engaging than I thought it would be as a streaming game, and Mass Effect: Andromeda was… well, Mass Effect: Andromeda.

But then, something happened. After nearly a year of active anticipation, and three years of desperate longing, Destiny 2 finally dropped onto my Xbox One and proved to be everything that I’d hoped for and so much more. It blew open door after door of exciting streaming potential. There were adventures to go on, dungeons to plunder, and all sorts of other crazy shenanigans to engage in! For the first time in my journey as a Twitch streamer, I had finally found a game that I *knew* I could dig my hands into and really craft something out of.

And at almost the exact same time, I reached an equally impactful breakthrough with my writing.

My struggle to tame The Wolf and tell the story of it (a story that’s been running wild inside my head for years now) as been one filled with frustration, set-backs, and despair. For no matter how much I loved this story, there seemed to always be yet one more utterly unworkable aspect of it that would thwart even my hardest efforts to write my way beyond it. And yet yesterday morning, as I was still lying in bed no less, my heart caught on to a feeling that my still sleepy brain soon began translating into words. When I realized that those translated words would be the perfect way to finally crack through the writer’s block that had parked itself at the end of Chapter 3, I did the only thing that made sense at the time.

I plucked my phone off the nightstand and started writing them down as a memo, which I then copied into The Wolf itself once I’d finally finished.

So many times the journey to success is described as a mountain climb, but for me the journey didn’t start at the base of the mountain. For me, the journey started on the outside of a concrete wall that wraps around the mountain’s base, armed with only my hands to claw my way through it.

But you know what? I did it.

After nearly seventeen years of frustration, rage, despair and rejection, my point-blank refusal to give up on my dreams has at last broken through the last of the concrete and brought me to the base of the mountain. And to be perfectly honest, after having to dig bare-handedly through what felt like miles of concrete, this climb up the mountain is going to feel like cake in comparison. 🙂

The Light of a Game: A Guardian’s Retrospective Look at the Original Destiny

I had an astounding experience with Destiny last night.

In theory, Destiny 2 is supposed to launch tomorrow. In practice however, thanks to various workarounds and a rolling release schedule, Destiny 2 is basically launching today. As a result, for me at least, last night was my last hurrah with Destiny 1.

And what a hurrah it was.

There remain a number of things I never did in Destiny 1. I never went to the Lighthouse, I never got an Eyasluna, and I’ve never owned one of the many legendary Exotics like Icebreaker of the Vex Mythoclast. However, the only thing I’d never done that actually made it onto my Destiny 1 bucket list was this:

Run through Wrath of the Machine.

Destiny 1’s final raid, the apex of its cooperative multiplayer experience, was something I’d long since given up hope of ever completing. With my old Fireteam having scattered to the winds more than a year ago, I no longer had anyone to run the six-player activity with. And in all reality, that was fine. By the time I’d made it through to the end of Rise of Iron’s story campaign, I was already so primed for Destiny 2 that I largely no longer cared about anything Destiny 1 had left to offer. However, as the actual release of Destiny 2 crept closer and closer, I realized that as much as I just wanted to devour all of the new game’s content, I also wanted to bid a proper farewell to the old game.

But how? To this day, I don’t particularly enjoy the Crucible (Destiny’s competitive multiplayer offering), and the lower level, three-player Strike missions had become so well-worn that they were hardly the blaze of glory I felt my story with Destiny 1 needed to go out on. I thought about replaying through all the story missions, but my fully leveled and geared Guardian would make them all far too easy, and starting a new character meant losing access to all of the endgame gear and abilities that made the game so fun.

But Wrath of the Machine? That’s something that would fit the bill.

So with that as my goal, I took to the community forums on Bungie’s website. Sure enough, there were a number of threads posted by other like-minded Guardians and within a matter of minutes, we had a full six-player team ready to go.

We cut through the raid like butter, laughing and joking with one another pretty much the whole way through. The only time we really had to shut up and get serious was during the final boss, where callouts of enemy positions and other status effects became paramount. It took us a few attempts to get everything right, and at one point we lost a member of our Fireteam to his out-of-game responsibilities. So while we all took a five-minute break, I invited another player I’d met on a different raid a few days ago to join us. He did, and after one or two more attempts, the final boss of the Wrath of the Machine raid lay dead at my feet for the first time.

But as high a point as this was, it wasn’t the true highlight of the night for me.

That point came after the raid, where the six of us gathered together in one of the game’s three social spaces to try and gain an achievement which (according to our consoles) only 1.84% of Xbox Destiny players had actually unlocked. It was an odd activity that involved ringing a series of hidden bells in a specific order with specific timing, and yet just as the final boss in Wrath of the Machine had fallen to us, so to did this challenge. We got our achievement, we sang the Iron Song, and after we celebrated, we at last went our separate ways.

Most of us anyway.

The other player I had invited and I continued to hang out in the social space, and while I decided to climb the mountain that lay at the back of it, our conversations drifted away from the game and towards our mutual, real-life interests. For well over an hour, we talked movies, technology, we told jokes, and even made a brief foray into politics. When we eventually logged off to get some sleep for the coming day, I realized that even in Destiny 1’s final hour, it was still connecting me to people I could easily see myself becoming friends with.


Let’s wind the clock back here a little bit.

When it comes to the Destiny player base, I’m almost as grizzled an ancient as you can find. I’ve been playing the game since the open beta that went live in July of 2014, two months before the full game would ship. I pre-ordered the game soon after, was one of countless Guardians who threw themselves into the fight against The Darkness on Day One, and I have had an intensely hate/love relationship with the game ever since.

I say hate/love because from Day One, and through pretty much all of Destiny’s first year, my relationship with the game was heavily weighted towards hate. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the fact that I’m a writer, I am very much a story-driven gamer. I love the level of interactivity that video games can bring to a story, and if a game doesn’t have a good one, it becomes much more difficult for me to play through it beginning to end. When Destiny first launched, to call its story abysmal would be to insult the horrors that live in the impenetrable black. I will never forget the frustration I felt when the first major character I encountered said that he could tell me of all the history that led up to my characters resurrection… but then never did. Nor will I forget the hair-pulling madness that came over me when another major character said “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.” And what made all of this so much worse was that Destiny’s developer, Bungie, basically set the standard to which I hold all other video game stories with Halo, their previous franchise. To this day, almost exactly three years later, I struggle to articulate the soul-crushing disappointment I felt after completing Destiny 1’s paper-thin campaign.

But even after all that, I still kept playing.

“Why’s that,” you may ask?

Easy. I kept playing Destiny because the actual, moment-to-moment gameplay of it was just. that. good!

Seriously. Being able to seamlessly transition from running and gunning on the ground, to soaring through the air and blasting groups of enemies with massive energy bombs as a Warlock was just so viscerally satisfying that even now, no other game has come close to it. And when I started teaming up with my out-of-game friends to tackle our first Strike missions and the bosses therein, the synergy we found between the three different classes the game offered players was second to none. Combined with the amazingly satisfying core gameplay, the act of teaming together with other Guardians to take down foes that you couldn’t challenge otherwise turned Destiny into a singularly addictive grind for better and better loot.

So I kept playing. Even though there were still parts of me that hated this game to their core for its unparalleled failure of storytelling.

But then, on September 15th, 2015, everything changed.

Bungie released Destiny: The Taken King.

Though this was technically the third expansion Bungie had released for Destiny 1, it was the first one that truly caught my attention and excited me for the possibilities it presented. Not just for all the new content it offered, but for the changes it was making to all of the old content. Heeding the complaints of the player base, Bungie implemented a proper questing system into the game, finally tying all of the disparate story missions together with proper narrative threading. This “Questification” of the base game finally turned Destiny 1 into the kind of game I had hoped it would be at launch, and playing through it all again on a fresh character remains one of my fondest memories of it.

This was the point that I truly fell in love with Destiny, and at the suggestion of one now-famous Wizard, I began exploring the larger community that had sprung up around it.

Before Destiny, I didn’t even know Twitch was a thing. Let alone that it was already so big that people were making their livings off of it. CaptainTwaz suggested I check out KingGothalion, which led to me discovering ProfessorBroman on my own, followed by Soliferum, TheSpazzyProf, 3vil_Aura, Angry_Iceberg, and so many other awesome streamers. And the more time I spent in their respective channels, the more I learned that these weren’t just great entertainers, they were also just flat-out great people. So I started chatting with them, and with other people who were watching them at the same time. Before I knew it, hanging out in Destiny’s Twitch directory became just as big a part of my experience of the game as actually playing the game was.

I even started dabbling streaming Destiny myself; going live for the first time during one of the game’s monthly “Iron Banner” events that I jokingly referred to as “Game of Thorns”, owing to the near-ubiquitous presence of the poisonous hand cannon at the time. CaptainTwaz was even kind and generous enough to whip up some Game of Thrones­-inspired artwork for the occasion!

game-of-thorns-SOFAR

(I still love this image)

Still, as fun of an experiment that was, I didn’t feel any particular drive to keep streaming once the Iron Banner that month was over.

Until nearly a year later, when the Destiny Community Convention charity stream went live.

To this day, even in the wake of GuardianCon 2017, I’m still blown away by how much the Destiny community came together to accomplish that week. I’ve told my version of that story before, so I won’t repeat it at length here, except to say that watching the community raise more than half a million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the tipping point for me. That was the point where I had to become more involved in the community. That was the point where I was no longer content to just sit back and be a passive observer; I had to really dig my hands in and become an active contributor. I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much without even knowing it, and so I made two choices:

1) I was going to start streaming for real instead of as a passing curiosity.

And 2) I was going to go to the next Destiny Community Convention.

These two choices would wind up changing my entire life over the course of the next year. I got a job at the local grocery store (the first real 9-5 job I’d ever had), which pushed me so far beyond my mental and physical comfort zones that my close friends and family still occasionally comment on how much of a change for the better they’ve seen in me as a person. I’m more outgoing, more confident, and I say hi and smile to strangers where previously I would generally bow my head and look away. I even flew cross-country for only the second time in my life, and the first time where I was by myself and not meeting family at the airport on the other side. And I did, in fact, attend the second Destiny Community Convention.

Or GuardianCon, as it is now known.

Again, I’ve told my GuardianCon story before, but it bears repeating that it more than anything else I’ve written about thus far, was a truly life-changing experience. Finally getting to meet all the streamers & designers I’d been talking and gaming with online for nearly two years in person was a truly surreal experience, and it made GuardianCon feel less like a gaming convention and more like a gigantic family reunion. And when that feeling combined with the overwhelming rush of emotions that came with seeing a real St. Jude’s patient and his family walk up onto the main stage to tell their story, that was the moment where I knew I’d finally found my place in the world. I’d finally found where I belonged, and as someone who has gone through their whole life by flying under the radar and skating around the edges as the perpetual outsider, there will never be words for how powerful a feeling that was for me.

And all of this came about through a single, stupid video game that I actually hated for a year.

A video game called Destiny.


I don’t know what the future holds for the Destiny community with the release of Destiny 2, but I do know that I am excited beyond words for its potential. A new game with new mechanics means new players, as well as the return of old ones. It means new content for my fellow streamers and I to explore with our audiences, and it means new experiences for us all to share as a community.

But perhaps most importantly for me personally, it means a new beginning. As a Twitch streamer, it took me a very long time to find my footing on the platform, and I played a lot of games across both console and PC before I did. I found it in a certain game’s open console beta back in July, and I found it again when that same game launched another open beta on PC.

I found it in Destiny 2.

There is so much of that game that already feels like home to me. The competitive experience in the multiplayer Crucible has been re-tooled considerably, bringing it far more in line with other competitive shooters that I’ve played and enjoyed, and the story campaign in just one mission had more plot and character development than the entirety of Destiny 1’s base game. And this is all without mentioning the new raid that will be coming out just a week after launch!

To say that I’m excited for Destiny 2 would be to speak the gravest of understatements, but I’ll speak it anyway just to say that I am so excited to share this next leg of my Destiny journey with all of you, starting right here tomorrow at 10AM Pacific Time. I hope to see you there, and I can’t wait to see what new stories and adventures Destiny 2 holds in store for us! 🙂

Returning to Writing Form

So, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, what I’m about to say is probably something you’ve already guessed at. If you’re not following me on Twitter, I doubt this will surprise you either, given how quiet this blog as been over the last two weeks. And if you’re not following me on Twitter, and this is the first you’ve ever seen of my blog, well… hi, nice to meet you. 🙂

Now, on to the meat of this post.

I’ve barely written anything since coming back from GuardianCon.

I won’t say I haven’t written a word since I came back, but over the last two weeks I’ve written maybe 400 words, and almost all of that has consisted of basic level world building for a handful of new story ideas. Almost none of it has gone towards progress on The Demon (a paranormal YA novel that is my primary writing project), and even that progress has shifted away from writing the novel itself and towards a new synopsis from the perspective of my female-lead. Which has actually been a fantastically positive experience, but now I’m getting side-tracked.

The point is this: My writing life has gotten thrown into such complete disarray that for the last week or so, I haven’t been able to tell up from down or right from left. Because of that, I’ve kinda just let it sit and flounder in favor of my Twitch streaming. That and the brand new Oculus Rift VR setup that I got on sale thanks to Amazon, but again I digress.

Here’s the thing though. Writing and being a writer is so much a part of who I am that if I don’t do it, I start to not feel right. I’ll start to feel a little hollow, a little less like myself, and a little more like a stranger sleepwalking in someone else’s body. That’s how I know I’ve gone too long without writing, and I’ll give ya two guesses as to how I felt when I woke up this morning.

However, this time my lack of writing wasn’t due to any lack of desire or time, as has been the case in the past. Rather, this time my lack of writing was due to the fact that I didn’t even know what to write. Between story ideas I’ve already plotted out and new ones that’ve only just started popping into my head, I’ve got more than a dozen books rattling around in my head and different parts of me want to work on different ones at different times. Between all that confusion and the Twitch/GuardianCon hype and excitement, I just haven’t been able to get my brain back into proper writing gear.

Fortunately, I was finally able to change all that this morning.

There were a couple of factors that contributed to this. Perhaps the most important of them was the fact that I’m no longer under any kind of external time-crunch. When I was working at my local grocery store (hereafter known as The Store), I barely had any time during the day to write. As such, I focused all my writing efforts on The Demon; the novel I thought was most likely to get picked up by an agent/publisher and therefore offer me the quickest way out of my living situation at the time. This pushed all my other writing plans and ideas onto an uncomfortably crowded back-burner. However, now that I’ve quit my job at The Store (long story), that pressure to crank The Demon out the door is no longer there, and my life now actually has room for all these other stories I want to tell.

Another big factor in this is something that I learned about myself through working at The Store: I can be shockingly productive so long as I have an actual list of the things that I need to do. Now, I know to the outside observer this may seem like a “Well duh” kind of thing, but as someone who’s struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder my entire life, this was a revelation for me. Because with the way my brain works, sticking with any one thing for extended periods of time is not only difficult, but actually makes me *less* productive overall the longer I try to stick with it. But if I have multiple tasks that I can bounce back and forth between, then I can remain consistently productive on all of them, and therefore become even more productive in the long run.

So here’s the plan going forward: I’m not going to forcibly restrict myself to working on The Demon until it’s completely done. Rather, I’m going to break that project up into smaller chunks so that I can complete my other, shorter stories in between them. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, this’ll actually allow me to get far more writing work done in far shorter a time frame, and that’s something that I truly couldn’t be happier about.

And naturally, I’ll have much more to say about all these various story projects once I actually start working on them.

Take care, everyone. 🙂

 

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. 🙂

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

Controllers: Time Twitches Into A New Schedule

As many of you know, the primary reason I started this blog was because every now and again, I’d start to type a tweet that would soon grow into a thread five or more tweets long. And while Twitter has vastly improved its functionality in this regard since I first starting using the platform, there are still times where I’m just not comfortable with the 140 character limit per tweet.

Now is one of those times.

I’ve been mentioning several times for the last couple of weeks that I’ve been playing with and experimenting with changing my streaming schedule to allow for a better work/life/streaming balance, and after this last week in particular, it’s something that I’m officially pulling the trigger on.

As of now, my new streaming times are Mondays & Tuesdays, 5PM to 9PM Pacific Time.

I know this is going to be a significant disruption for some of you, particularly my international viewers, and I am sorry for that. The only reason I’m making this change is because it actually does allow me to have a better stream/life balance. Streaming in the middle of the day with my previous was putting an enormous strain on me because it allowed virtually no wiggle room in the event that something came up on my side of the screen. Mondays & Tuesdays are my weekends, essentially, and streaming from Noon to 4PM wound up making it so that if I wanted to do anything else with my day, I had to cancel a stream. Not a situation I was cool with.

By moving to a 5PM – 9PM schedule, not only do I get to end my day with awesome people and awesome video games, I have more freedom to not only keep writing on the days where the words just won’t stop flowing, but to also enjoy more of my life outside of being TheGamingAuthor, and that’s important to me.

So I hope you’ll all bear with me through this schedule change, as I know that in the end, it will allow me to be both a better streamer as well as a better writer and in the end, that’s gonna be the best thing for both of us. 🙂

Controllers: Variety is the Spice of Life

So here’s the thing; confident though I am on camera, behind the chroma key and gameplay, I’m still trying to figure this Twitch thing out. 😛

Here’s the other thing; I’ve read all the write-ups on how to succeed on Twitch. I’ve read all the write-ups, heard all the advice, and yet here I am, sitting at my computer with a shrug and going “Eh, fuck it.”

Because here’s the final thing; I can’t be anyone, or anything, other than myself. I can and do strive to be a better version of myself, but once you actually know who and what you are, there’s only so much wiggle room within that.

“How does this all relate to Twitch?” you ask. Simple.

I’m not a single-game streamer.

I actually came to this conclusion at the end of my stream yesterday, after streaming Destiny for two days in a row on top of an extended absence from Twitch in general. Because as much as I love Destiny and want to keep streaming it, I’d started to miss Mass Effect, and I also realized that I didn’t want my Destiny streaming to stop me from streaming the Middle-earth: Shadow of War/Mordor games a little further down the track like I’d planned to. I realized that as much as I wanted to be a Destiny streamer, I don’t want to be a Destiny-only streamer. So while all the articles and write-ups might say that being a single-game streamer is the easiest way to cultivate a following on Twitch, in the words of Arya Stark from Season 1 of Game of Thrones, “No, that’s not me.”

At the end of the day, there are simply too many other games that I love or am excited about for me to be anything other than the variety streamer I truly am at heart. 🙂 So, if you’re following me on Twitch, prepare for a return to the Andromeda galaxy next Monday as we load up Mass Effect: Andromeda once more and resume our adventures as Pathfinder. We’ll swing back by the Sol system with our Guardians on Tuesday (since that’s Destiny’s weekly reset day), and if this trip goes well, we might just have to make it our weekly routine. 😉

So yeah, that’s all I’ve got for you guys this morning. If you’ll be so kind as to excuse me now, I’ve got to go make a mad dash out of my home to make sure I still get to work on time. See ya Monday! 😀

Controllers: My Triumphant Return to Destiny

You know, it’s kinda funny. I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for nearly a week. Yet now that I’ve actually found the time to put fingers to keyboard, I don’t know what to write. 😛

So, failing a subtle introduction, let’s just dive right in!

I doubt it will be a revelation for many of you, but the first game I ever streamed on Twitch was Destiny. Pretty much everything about Twitch for me can trace it’s origin back to this game in some form or another.  It was how I even discovered Twitch in the first place! And it was the community on Twitch that has sprung up around Destiny that inspired me to start streaming the game myself.

However, if you’ve been following me for any length of time on Twitch, you’ll know I didn’t stick with Destiny for very long. And the reason for that is very simple: I’d caught myself trying to be something/someone I’m not. At the time, my only frame of reference for being a streamer were the rock stars like KingGothalion and ProfessorBroman, so I thought the only way to be entertaining on Twitch and amass any kind of audience was to be like them.

Turns out, trying to constantly be someone you’re not is an exhausting undertaking; one that will suck out all the joy and love you once had for something.

The end of this chapter will not surprise you; I stopped streaming Destiny. I realized that if I were ever going to make anything of myself on Twitch, I first had to figure out who I even was as a streamer. Where did my energy level naturally land? How well could I actually balance interacting with chat and playing the game? How much did I want to interact with chat on a moment-to-moment basis? There were a lot of questions that I needed to find answers to, and the only way I could find those answers was by playing other games.

So I started small, and simple. I took a game off my shelf that I’d never played through to completion and decided to start streaming it. That would give me the excuse I needed to finish the game itself, and give me a chance to find my footing as a streamer without the pressure of expectation bearing down on my shoulders. That game was Alien: Isolation, and streaming it proved to be a wonderful experience. I was able to just relax, breathe, be myself, and most importantly of all, actually enjoy the game I was playing.

And to my immense surprise, people actually started watching!

To be clear, it wasn’t like there was no one watching me play Destiny, but in a very real sense, that wasn’t me playing Destiny. That was me acting like I was playing Destiny. With Alien: Isolation, that was pure, 100% me playing the game, and more people were tuning in for that than they ever had with Destiny. That was the moment when I discovered that I really did want to be a Twitch streamer, independent of whatever game I was streaming, and that discovery is what prompted me to take the next big step.

Streaming from a PC.

Up to this point, I’d been streaming straight off my Xbox One. While it was entirely functional, I wasn’t able to have all the same bells and whistles that attract me as a viewer on Twitch. That meant no overlays, no alerts, no nothing. Those were things I could only get by streaming from a PC. So I saved up some money, did my research, and eventually rebuilt my computer almost from top-to-bottom in order to transform it into a dedicated gaming/streaming machine. After that, the only question left was “What game do I stream now?”

The answer, as many of you know, proved to be Mass Effect.

With Mass Effect: Andromeda then on the horizon, and the franchise in general being one of my all-time favorites in the gaming world, streaming the first three games felt like an absolute no-brainer. And in practice, streaming the original Mass Effect trilogy proved to be an overwhelmingly” positive experience. One that resulted in this blog post. However, moving on to Mass Effect: Andromeda as my stream game of choice has revealed a problem for me that I hadn’t anticipated.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a social game. Not for me.

I was able to make the original trilogy a social game because I was already so familiar with it. I already knew everything there was to know about the characters and the story, I already knew how I was going to play said story, and so that made it both easy and fun to share my gameplay with all of you. With Mass Effect: Andromeda, I don’t have the luxury of pre-existing knowledge, and that’s made it difficult for me to stream it with the same energy and enthusiasm that I felt I was able to bring to my streams of the original trilogy.

Now, by itself, this is not an insurmountable issue, and a potential solution has already presented itself to me. However, this issue is not by itself. As of March 28th, it’s been joined by it’s bigger, badder, and older brother: Destiny. 

Prior to Bungie’s release of the Age of Triumph update, I hadn’t played Destiny at all in ages. Not since the first month or so of the Rise of Iron DLC. But when I learned all of what Bungie was doing with Age of Triumph, I knew I had to at least give it a shot.

I was not prepared for what happened next.

I fell hard for Destiny; head-over-heels back in love with a game that I’ve been playing since the open beta. In just over an hour, I was reminded of all the reasons I had grown to love the game so fiercely, and why I’ve kept coming back to it over and over again no matter how many times I drifted away. And thanks to joining in on a viewer raid with Angry_Iceberg, I was reminded of why I wanted to start streaming the game in the first place.

The community.

The Destiny community on Twitch is second to none. Truly. When I stop to think about how many amazing people I’ve connected with through it, I legitimately get a little choked up. To say nothing of the truly mind-boggling charity work the community has done! Raising more than half a million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital? Mind blowing. This community is the reason I’ve been saving every penny I can spare to go to Florida for GuardianCon at the end of June. This community is the reason I ever even thought about becoming a Twitch streamer, and this community is why I’m writing this blog post.

Because I’m going back to Destiny.

People always say that home is where the heart is, and for me on Twitch, that’s the Destiny directory. I love Mass Effect to Andromeda and beyond, but at the end of the day, there’s just no getting around the fact that Destiny is my home. And after so much time on such a lovely vacation, I’m ready to go back home.

So, this is me, announcing my return to the world of Destiny streaming in WAY more than 140 characters. I don’t know exactly when this return will take place, as it will require a significant change/addition to my current streaming setup, but it will take place. And for those of you fearing for the future of this author’s adventures in Andromeda, fear not. I will be doing a complete playthrough of Mass Effect: Andromeda on stream, but that will likely take place after I go through the campaign once myself for the full-immersion, role-playing experience that makes the Mass Effect franchise so much fun for me.

I know this is a pretty big shake-up for my Twitch channel, but I hope you all will bear with me as we go through it. Streaming Destiny was always my end-goal on Twitch; I just always thought I wouldn’t reach that goal until Destiny 2 came out. 😛

Speaking of which, have you guys seen that reveal trailer?! 😀

Twitch: I’ve Been Doing it Wrong

This is one of those blog posts that started out as a series of 4 or 5 (or more) tweets in my head, and then I realized that tweet-storms like that were the exact reason I created this website in the first place, so here we go.

I’ve been doing Twitch streaming all wrong.

Let’s back up a bit here before I get too deep into this.

I started streaming seriously in the wake of the 2016 Destiny Community Con charity stream. I was so blown away by what the Destiny community on Twitch had been able to do with that stream that I knew, deep down, that it was a community that I wanted to be a more active part of. I knew, deep down, that Destiny was the game I wanted to stream at the end of the day. As far as I was, and still am concerned, the Destiny Community on Twitch is my home, and it probably always will be thanks in no small part to all the awesome people who live there.

That all said, I think I need to move out for a while.

Like I’ve already said, both in the title of this post and in the post itself just a paragraph ago, I’ve been doing this Twitch thing all wrong. Not because I got into it for the money or the fame, but because I’ve caught myself trying to sprint to the end of a marathon. Because I’ve caught myself trying to emulate other streamers. TheSpazzyProf, Angry Iceberg, King Gothalion… these and others are all awesome streamers and people, but I’m not them, and I’ve caught myself trying to be.

And then there’s also the fact that for me, Destiny itself is in a very weird place right now. Or rather, I’m in a very weird place with Destiny right now.

You see, I hated Destiny when it first launched. I was massively disappointed by it in pretty much every way a video game can disappoint me. The only reason I kept playing it at all was because the core gameplay was just that good. Fast forward to today, and especially with Rise of Iron, it’s become clear to me that Bungie has learned from and fixed basically ALL of the things that used to piss me off about Destiny. The Taken King added a legitimate (and sorely needed) questing system to the game, it added the equally needed (though still imperfect) Infusion system, and then Rise of Iron took all that and then finally put lore and story front and center, pairing almost all of it’s story missions with in-engine cinematics like Bungie had done before with Halo.

In short, Rise of Iron has finally made Destiny the game I was always hoping it would be. And yet, in a weird way, it’s almost too little, too late.

Let me rephrase: Rise of Iron has finally made Destiny the game I was always hoping it would be, but all that’s done has made me exceedingly impatient and excited for Destiny 2.

It’s no secret that Rise of Iron was developed with a relatively small budget and team, and it’s been known for quite some time that the majority of Bungie was hard at work on Destiny 2. So given all that, if Small Bungie can turn out a product as good as Rise of Iron, what the hell has Big Bungie got cooking in its oven? That’s what I really want to know. That’s the game I really want to play, and unfortunately, that means that I really don’t have much energy or enthusiasm left over for Destiny 1.

Which brings us back to Twitch.

I don’t think I’ll be streaming much more of Destiny 1. It’s hard enough trying to entertain an audience by playing a game you yourself are no longer all that entertained by, and the fact that I’ve been trying to do that while also trying to effectively be someone I’m not while on camera? Yeah, that’s just pure madness.

So I think I’m gonna let Destiny sit on the shelf for a while and stream some other games instead. Games that I also love, but that don’t come with quite so much extra baggage. Off the top of my head I can think of three that I’d like to stream. Shadow of Mordor, Alien: Isolation, and the Mass Effect trilogy in preparation for Mass Effect: Andromeda, which I also plan on streaming. So I guess that’s more like six games…

Point is, my stream isn’t going anywhere. The games I play on it might change, and I might become a little (probably a lot) more relaxed on camera, but the streaming will continue.

And when Destiny 2 finally comes out, I’ll finally be able to move back to the community that I call home. 🙂