Next Week: The Random Fangirl Live!

I’ve been pretty quiet lately, mostly because I’ve been plugging away at the job search and working on various other projects. Among those projects, however, is a little talk I’ll be giving at Women in Games Boston next week. I already wrote up a description for WIG, so I’ll just repost it here:

In recent years, the transgender community has become increasingly visible, with singers, soldiers, journalists, game designers and more coming out as trans, and trans activists of all ages crusading for equal rights around the world. With numerous trans people involved in the geek and gaming communities, you may easily find yourself interacting with members of this diverse community as co-workers, employees and fans.

This month’s talk will offer a basic overview of transgender identity and a primer on preferred terminology (as well as a few words you should avoid like the plague) before explaining how you can help support your trans co-workers, how you can be the world’s best boss to trans employees, and how you can build trans-friendly and trans-inclusive games. We’ll also touch on games and blogs that can give you some insight into trans identity and the struggle trans people face every day before moving on to an extra-long Q&A to address any lingering questions.

Last I checked, there were still tickets available, and the event is free, so if you live in the Boston/Cambridge area and want to come see me speak, reserve your spot today. We’ll be downstairs at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square from 7 to 10 pm next Tuesday, July 30th, and I’ll be going on at around 8. WIG Boston is a safe, open, accepting space that welcomes women and allies of all backgrounds, whatever their connection to the video game community (developers, students, journalists, fans, you name it), so as long as you conduct yourself according to the party policy, you’re more than welcome to attend.

Want me to speak at your event? Feel free to e-mail me at cassandra dot lease at gmail dot com and I’ll be happy to discuss the details.
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2013 Boston QUILTBAG Gamer Meetup Is A Go!

Just a quick note to let you all know that, yes, there WILL be a QUILTBAG (gay, lesbian, bi, trans, asexual, ally, etc. etc.) Gamer Meetup during PAX East this year! Sorry for the late notice, but I’ve been scrambling to pull this together in the last few weeks and I just got the details finalized. We’re doing something a little different this year and selling tickets for a little under $17.50 a pop — said tickets include an entree of your choice, soft drinks, and dessert. You can find more information on the FAQ page here on the blog or at the Eventbrite page. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, and I hope to see you all there!

Media Mondays: The PAX East Edition

I’m still recovering from PAX, and as I started a new job (yay!) and got some nasty financial surprises (boo!) all in the same day, well…this is going to be a quick one. So, rather than start the conversation I’ve been meaning to have about GCB, or go into depth on some other show or movie or book or what have you, I thought I’d offer up a few quick thoughts on some games I saw and loved at the show.

Let’s start with my absolute favorite game of the show. Go Home Dinosaurs! is the upcoming offering from Boston-based Fire Hose Games, and it is freaking adorable. The basic play reminds me a lot of Fieldrunners (a mobile game from another local company, Subatomic Studios), and, well…at its core, Dinosaurs is a tower defense game, so the basic mechanics are bound to resemble just about every other entry in the genre. You control a small crew of gophers attempting to protect their barbecue from a steadily advancing army of hungry dinosaurs. The dinos follow a specific path, and it’s up to you to deploy weapons along that route to slow, stop and finally destroy them. Along the way, you gather coconuts which you can use to pay for additional weapons.

Sounds simple, right? Well, there are some additional layers to it: first, each weapon covers a different area. It’s not all about size, either – the freeze ray you can get around the second round occupies an L-shaped space; the meteor magnet you get later on occupies a sort of fat-headed T…a 2 square by 3 square rectangle with one square sticking out of the longer side. In between rounds, you get coins (based upon your kills, the resources left on the board, the number of coconuts you still have in your bank, etc.) to spend on new devices and power-ups; this works very much like a trading card game, actually. You build a ‘deck’ of weapons which are then available to you in the quantities you have purchased – provided you have enough coconuts.

I’m making the game sound more complicated than it is. Honestly, it’s very intuitive and elegant in its simplicity. It’s very, very, very cute and a hell of a lot of fun. It should be hitting the Chrome Web Store this summer, and I’ll almost certainly be buying it.

Next we have Star Command, a Star Trek-inspired game for iOS and Android devices. I got to try it briefly in the Kickstarter Lounge, and it reminded me a great deal of the classic Dungeon Keeper, in a good way. You control a starship drifting through deep space, marshaling your crew to fend off invading aliens and other menaces. Your crew members have different powers depending on their divisions: the people in red shirts are tactical officers, skilled in offense but quick to die if you’re not careful; blue shirts are medical, able to heal their crewmates; gold shirts are engineering, able to repair and upgrade the ship itself. Sadly I only had a few minutes with the game before I had to head off with my friend Ross to practice for our second Omegathon round, but I can see how it could get quite addicted. I’m pleased to note that the game has been fully funded on Kickstarter and it should be hitting the market later this year.

Speaking of the Omegathon, while Zip-It was the harbinger of our destruction, it’s also an incredibly fun game that I cannot recommend highly enough. It’s quick, easy to learn, tricky to master, and an absolute blast – and it easily fits in a purse or messenger bag, so you can bust it out any time you have a few minutes to spare. It’s a worthy addition to Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice in my collection of line games.

Last but far from least, there were a couple of really fun additions to the Apples to Apples genre of subjective card-matching games. Cards Against Humanity scarcely needs an introduction at this point, but I hadn’t actually seen the game up close before visiting the Kickstarter Lounge at PAX East, so it was new to me. It’s probably best described as “Apples to Apples for horrible people,” and given my somewhat twisted sense of humor, it seems to be right up my alley. Sadly, they were sold out forever at the con, but you can download the game for free on their site and they should have more physical sets available for sale soon.

The Metagame was funded on Kickstarter a year ago, so it’s not exactly new either, but once again, it was new to me. I got to play it in line with Mattie Brice, Amanda Cosmos and a whole mess of others, and it was a lot of fun. Essentially, as with Apples to Apples, you have one set of ‘question’ cards and one set of ‘answer’ cards – except each of the ‘answer’ cards lists a different game, with basic details like the publisher and the year of release, and the ‘question’ cards ask things like ‘Which game feels more like first love?’ or ‘Which game is more culturally insensitive?’. While most of the cards list video games, there are exceptions to the rule…most notably, and amusingly, the Metagame itself gets a card, meaning that the game is a set that includes itself. (…the math nerds got that one.) It’s probably one of the geekiest games I’ve ever played, and you probably won’t fully appreciate it unless you’re a serious gamer or a game developer, but personally, I loved it.

Those were hardly the only games I saw at PAX, of course, but they’re the easiest to sum up and they were definitely favorites. I’ll probably have more complicated thoughts on the others at some future point – particularly Rock Band Blitz, once I’ve had a chance to play it outside of a demo environment. In the meantime, I definitely recommend checking out all of the above. They’re all pretty much winners.

Kicking Ass At PAX East: End of Line

It’s been an incredible PAX. I’ll have a lot more to say on it later – likely tomorrow – but I really did have a blast, and I have a lot of people to thank for it. But to end the suspense here and now, I’m sorry to report that I didn’t win the Omegathon, and barring one hell of a long shot in the random selection, I won’t be returning to the competition next year.

That’s not to say I feel like I failed. I’m disappointed that I didn’t make it to the finals, but here’s the thing: one of my New Year’s resolution was to do everything I could to win the Omegathon. Not to win, per se, but to put up the hardest fight I could. And I and my teammate Ross effing brought it. The second round, where I ultimately lost at Zip-It, was incredibly close. We were down to the last point, I was down to my last letter, and my opponent finished just a split second before me. Ross and I made them fight tooth and nail for every inch, and we gave as good as we got. We may have been defeated, but I’m proud of what we did nonetheless.

And I’m still proud of what we did last year. I was the first woman to ever make the Omegathon finals – hell, I was the first woman to make the concert round. Ross is a three-time Omeganaut, and if anyone else can say that, well…it’s a pretty select crowd. Our story was epic. But here’s the thing: much as we want it to be, life isn’t a story. You can have an epic tale end in disappointment. It would have been amazing to make that comeback and claim that victory. But that’s not how it fell out. Such is life.

I am happy to report that I’m not the only member of the female Omegathon finalist club anymore – my fellow Omeganaut Tina, a.k.a. PorkBuns, made the finals this year and came really, really close to claiming final victory on an absolutely ridiculous tabletop game. She and her teammate also effing brought it, and while they ultimately lost, it wasn’t for lack of trying. The torch is officially passed: assuming she’s returning to PAX East next year, well, maybe she’ll take that grand prize. Maybe it’ll be another female Omeganaut. Only time will tell.

I do know this: victory is inevitable. Someday a woman will win the Omegathon. I know a whole lot of you were rooting for me, and I’m sorry I couldn’t make a little more history. But I tried. In the words of someone I should probably be embarrassed to quote, I tried so hard, and got so far, and in the end…wait, you know what, in the end, it did matter. It mattered to so many of you. It mattered to me. And I am honored by your support, and incredibly grateful for it. Thank you all.

Kicking Ass At PAX East: Your Support Means The World

Well, here we are – Thursday, April 5th. PAX East Eve. Between the Omeganaut dinner I had earlier this evening and the industry party I just got back from, my weekend has honestly already started…but the Omegathon itself still lies ahead.

I am seriously in awe of how much this means to people. How incredibly happy so many of my fellow gamers were to see me make the finals last year. How many people have told me that they’re rooting for me to win this year. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you all, and to ask you to keep the good vibes coming.

Some of you were generous enough to donate to me directly, making sure I’d be able to get stuff to eat and pick up various supplies for the con. I want to take a moment here to thank you personally – Ross, Sarah, Jeanne, and my anonymous donors…thank you, honestly, so very much. That money’s helped a hell of a lot.

But more than that…it really, really helps to know that so many people have my back. Even if you weren’t able to donate, your support really does mean the world to me. And if you find me at the con, and I’m still in the competition at that point…a kind word really will go a long way. You’ve all done so much already that I hesitate to ask for anything more, even a show of solidarity, but it helps. It really does.

You are all amazing. And I hope to do you proud. See you at the con (or, if you’re not going, on the Internet, or around Boston, or whatever). Wish me luck. You all have my love, my best wishes, and my eternal gratitude.

– Themiscyra

GLBTQA Gamer Meetup Update: 3/28/2012

The Writing Wednesdays post will be up later today, but before I get to that, I wanted to take a few moments to pass along some updates regarding the GLBTQA Gamer Meetup:

1. We’ve added sponsors! Pretzel Crisps and Vita Coco have generously agreed to provide samples of their fine products, and VitaCoco will even have brand representatives on the scene. Many thanks to both companies.

2. I’m very, very, very sorry, but preregistration is closed. I’ve literally released every ticket I could, right up to the venue’s maximum capacity, and I can’t release any more. I can’t promise any special favors to anyone who hasn’t already registered. Now, that said, if you missed out, you are still welcome to show up and try to get in. I am expecting that there will be some last-minute cancellations and no-shows. If we have room, I’ll let you into the party. I just can’t promise anything.

3. Let me add a quick related note here: if you ARE registered, please don’t feel guilty about it. Please don’t go thinking you shouldn’t come or that you should give up your spot to someone more worthy. I’ve had a few people say stuff like that to me and it’s really bothering me. Are you down with the GLBTQ crowd? Then you are WELCOME TO COME. Seriously. I am THRILLED at the response to this event. A little terrified, sure. A little sad that I wasn’t able to accommodate everyone, sure. But seriously ecstatic. Even if you’re ‘just’ an ally, this party is for you. And I hope you have a blast. And I will try to do better in the future, as promised.

4. If you’re not able to make this meetup for any reason, GayGamer.net is throwing its own shindig on Saturday night (April 7th) starting at 9 pm at Fritz. I’m actually hoping that I won’t be able to make that one, as (with any luck) I’ll be competing in the Omegathon around that time, but I’d certainly encourage you all to attend. For those of you who really wanted booze at the Friday night meetup, well…there’ll be booze at Fritz! Drink and be merry.

5. Last but far from least: donations. We’ve gotten some really generous ones and I honestly think we’re in a good place. I’m not going to turn down further donations; if we end up with excess cash, well, we can send it along to BAGLY, as previously proposed. But I don’t feel the need to harangue people about it. Which is nice, because I hate haranguing people.

I’m really, really excited for this. I am in awe at the tremendous positive reaction this event has received, and while I plan to spend a couple weeks after PAX thinking about anything BUT meetups, I can tell you that your support means the world to me and I WILL be doing a hell of a lot more with this moving forward. Thank you all. I’ll see you in a little over a week.

Kicking Ass At PAX East: The Campaign Continues

TL;DR: I’VE GOTTEN SOME VERY GENEROUS DONATIONS, BUT I COULD STILL USE HELP! PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

I have some good news, some great news, and some complicated news. The good news is that I got some really generous donations last week from people like fellow Omeganauts Ross and Sophia, and friends and fans like Nate, Jeanne and Sarah, and I’m already over halfway to my original goal! The GREAT news is that I’m set to start a new job after PAX East – I’m not going to say where just yet, but I’m very excited. And the complicated news…well, the complicated news is that expenses have come up and are still coming up in relation to all this, and I could still use your help.

Since I’m going to be working regularly as of next month, I’ll need to get myself a monthly T pass rather than the weekly one. I could use some new shoes and I need to replace my watch strap, which is about to fall apart completely. That’s in addition to the various con expenses I’m still worrying about. So I’ve revised my target amount to $500, and yeah, I could still use some help.

Let me be clear: the initial deal still stands. It wouldn’t be fair to move the football when people have started kicking, so I’ll honor everything I said before. If I hit my original target of $400, I’ll tweet and blog live from the convention center. At higher goals, I’ll add video to the deal. And hell, I’ll tell you what: if I hit $1000 in the next week, I’ll drop all my inhibitions and cosplay every day of the con. During the Omegathon rounds themselves, I have to wear the Omeganaut t-shirt and all, of course, but I’ll make it work outside of Omegathon events. If you’d like to see me wandering around the convention as Jean Grey, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman, well, you know my price.

I’ll also see if I can do something nice for everyone who’s donated. Maybe you’ll get medals. I’ll come up with something when I see the final total.

If you want to help, but you can’t really give money right now – that’s perfectly okay. I get it. Retweeting or blogging about this would be a huge help. The more people I reach out to, the better chance I have of making my goals. Or, if you prefer, you can find me and help me out at the con itself. I may have trouble finding time to eat, so you know what – a candy bar, some chips (I love Lay’s Sour Cream & Onion and Pringles Ranch), a sandwich (I don’t like tomatoes or lettuce, but I really like chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, onion, mozzarella and/or pepper jack) or a Diet Mountain Dew could be HUGE to me at the right moment. Find me and feed me and I’ll be grateful. 🙂 As a huge fan of The Hunger Games, I also wouldn’t say no to a mockingjay pin for luck, say. 😉

Your support – in whatever form it takes – means a great deal to me. If you can help me in any way, I’ll be very, very grateful. If all you can offer is moral support, I’ll take that, too. I am genuinely in awe of all of you. I am stunned each and every time I discover another fan. Thank you all. Each and every one of you. Keep your fingers crossed.