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By NightingaleSilva On 14 Mar, 2014 At 11:49 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments
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I remember my very first gaming console: A Sega Master System. I was about 8 years of age when I had received it. That right there was my gateway into the realm of gaming. My favorite games to play were ‘Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?’ and ‘Alex Kidd In Shinobi World’. From there, I got my very first NES and SNES. I was done for after that. Those two systems started what would become a life-long obsession for me. I got those two Nintendo systems when I was about 9 or 10…I’m almost 27 now, and I’m still obsessed with Nintendo, and it’s an obsession that I am proud of and will never quit obsessing over.

Mario Bros. was my first game, then there was The Legend of Zelda. That game is what created the gamer within me. The Legend of Zelda sparked a fire in me so fierce, I could hardly contain it. Still to this day I play the original Legend of Zelda for the NES and all of the ones that came after it. It was the story behind the game, the fantastical world of Hyrule, that drew me in deeper and deeper as the series carried on. Hands down, I can say that The Legend of Zelda is my all-time favorite game series.

As a little girl, you’d expect me to be playing with dolls and ponies. Instead, I was busy adventuring, saving the land of Hyrule, and defeating Mother Brain in Super Metroid. Gaming has molded me to be who I am today. Today, I have found passion in a career that is based around a world I love so dearly: Video Games. I am a gaming journalist for several websites, and as time goes by, I can only hope to branch out further into the world of gaming journalism. I am ambitious, and know that I will reach my goals one day!

So who am I you ask? Well, the name is Felisha, but I go by Nightingale . I am an avid gamer, cosplayer, anime enthusiast, artist, writer, blogger, sculptor, mother, and a wife. I have many responsibilities and many titles. But what is it that defines me as a gamer, anime enthusiast, and so forth? As I’ve mentioned previously in the beginning of this short novel, you see why I consider myself a gamer. I never out-grew gaming, and it never out-grew me.

Life-long Gamer Addict: 

Today, I own a Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U, 3DS XL, and PSP Go. Not to mention the multitudes of emulators and roms on my smartphone. I will always be partial to Nintendo because that is what I grew up with and loved, but I love my many other consoles as well, and game on each and every one of them in my free time.

Part of my gamer set-up!

Part of my gamer set-up!

As a child, video games helped me escape a world I didn’t really care for at times, and helped me sink into a world where I felt I belonged, and where I was most happy. They hold a special place in my heart and always will till the very end.

Anime Enthusiast: 

I didn’t get into anime until much later on in life. I remember my first introduction to it being Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball. Later that moved on into Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain, Witch Hunter Robin, Fullmetal Alchemist, and so many others. Still to this day I watch anime…some of my favorites are Attack On Titan, Soul Eater, Hare+Guu, Elfen Lied, Spice & Wolf, Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, and Rosario+Vampire. I even read manga too! As it is just the comic version of all my favorite animes!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Current Anime/Manga Obsession: Attack On Titan

Current Anime/Manga Obsession: Attack On Titan

 Cosplayer In The Making: 

I have a long ways to go when it comes to cosplaying, with only a few under my sleeve. I think the most elaborate one I did was one of Midna, from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess in her human form. I made everything by hand…I even hand painted all of the intricate designs on her cloak, her sleeves and on her skirt. It took me at least 3 months to complete it all. Someday, I’ll revamp it, making it better and more professional. My last cosplay was Saya Takagi from the anime High School of the Dead, the only thing I hand made from her costume was the pleated skirt…First project on a sewing machine, and I just had to go and make a pleated school girl skirt…

My human-form Midna Cosplay

My human-form Midna Cosplay

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My Saya Takagi Cosplay

Everyday Nightingale: 

Most days you will find me in my comfy pajamas, typing away on my computer while video game sound tracks play in the background, with my 3DS XL at my side. And while doing all of this, I also tend to my baby girl who is almost 2 years old while I’m missing her 5 year old sister who is away at kindergarten. Amidst all of that chaos, I add more fuel to the fire by working some days for my apartment complex, and babysitting three others kids about 4-5 days a week. Luckily, through it all, I have an equally geeky gamer of a husband to keep me somewhat sane through everything I do. I am a busy woman, and that at times gets in the way of my ‘otaku-ness’, but I’m still a super geeky otaku gamer at the end of each and every day!

Everyday Otaku, Nightingale

Everyday Otaku, Nightingale

Whoever said you can’t do what you love for living was dead wrong! I do what I love everyday and make somewhat of a living off of it! I can only hope to continue using my Otaku Gamer wit to get me far in life, and make an awesome living for my two beautiful girls and my loving fellow-otaku of a husband. Peace, love, & Video Games! Nightingale, out!

By otakuman5000 On 11 Jan, 2014 At 11:25 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Interviews, ROG News, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments
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560059_545217922223147_21166582_nI had the wonderful pleasure of being able to interview Leon Chiro, a respected cosplayer throughout the nerd community who has won several awards for cosplays like Dante from the Devil May Cry series, Tidus from Final Fantasy X and Dissidia, Caius from Final Fantasy XIII-2, and the list goes on and on. Today we get a sneak peak into the life of a competitive cosplayer from his humble beginnings, his current works in progress, and everything in between.

ROG: The classic question; we all started somewhere in our cosplay careers. Tell me a bit about that – how old you were, what inspired you, your cosplay inspirations, and what convention you did your first debut.

LC: Ok, so it was 2010…

ROG: Oh, so you’ve only been doing this for a little while!

LC: Yeah. I only started to cosplay seriously when I realized what cosplay was. But my first convention was in 2010. I’m coming from the modeling world, and I was asking myself, “Ok, I love doing pictures, but what if I try to take a character I love a lot and I model with them?” So, I was thinking of doing Tidus because he’s my favorite character ever, and I was thinking, “what if I contacted somebody to see how much this costume would cost?” And they said, “Oh, that’s simple!” And I was like, “… what?” “Cosplay.” “Ok, what is cosplay?” So he explained it and I was like, “Oh. Hm. Sounds like a carnival thing.” He said, “No, it’s more than that…” So he explained it to me. I could never imagine what the cosplay world was. So, I took my Tidus cosplay, I went to the convention alone, and I was a nobody. I didn’t know anyone and no one knew me. That was fine because I was like, “Woah.. where the [expletive] am I?” (Laughter) Someone came up to me and said, “you should enter the cosplay contest [with the Tidus cosplay] because you are very, very good.”

ROG: Yeah, you did a really great job on that. I’m shocked that was your first cosplay.

Leon Chiro's cosplay as Tidus from FFX

Leon Chiro’s cosplay as Tidus from FFX

LC: Yeah, I did Tidus’ first and second version. So yeah, this guy said I should do the cosplay contest. Ok, what is the cosplay contest? Well, it’s like a masquerade. You have to do an exhibition and interpret your character, and I said “oh, sounds cool!” I discovered that I made it to the finals without knowing it. I wasn’t expecting that. A lot of people were surprised because I was anonymous and I came from nowhere, and I arrived in a place that other people have been trying to get to for years. I don’t know what I did… I did it with my heart. That’s the thing – I did my character with my heart.

I have to say that a lot of people started to go against me – “Oh, he’s nobody,” “He only has one cosplay,” “He has too much success” – just people talking bad about me. So I said, “Ok, it’s time for me to do a second cosplay.” I did Dante, and I tried to do the cosplay contest, but I didn’t arrive in time and I had some problems. People still continued to talk bad about me because they were like, “Oh, he’s just doing it for the body” or “He’s just doing it because of the abs.” By then it was 2011, and I wanted to stop because I was like “What the [expletive] is this world?” I’m coming from the modeling world where a lot of people respect me.

ROG: Cosplay is supposed to be fun, and unfortunately there’s a lot of hate.

LC: First of all, it was just supposed to be fun. Secondly, in the gaming and comic world, if I’m winning a lot in a short amount of time, they should be happy for me, and that wasn’t the case. I wanted to stop, so I stopped for two months and I thought about it, and I said, “Ok, there are a lot of haters, but I met a lot of special people and I wanted to do an achievement exhibition for them.” So I entered the cosplay contest, and the winner won a trip to Lucca. I won first place with Dante, and a lot of people were against me because I was doing good. It’s not easy in the beginning and you’re alone and you don’t have recommendations, but I started like everyone else – a nobody. Everything I did, I did by myself.

Leon Chiro as Dante from DMC3

Leon Chiro as Dante from DMC3

I started to get more motivated, and I was like “Ok, you hate me because I’m doing good? Ok.” And I did Tidus from Dissidia, and I started to face more haters, and I was winning every contest I entered. People started to look at me with more respect. I went to Lucca with my Kung Lao cosplay because he’s my favorite character from Mortal Kombat and I won the Best Interpretation Award, which is the hardest award to get. When you win in Lucca, you can say that you’re a professional cosplayer. Winning that award made me really proud of myself, so after I won, that’s when I made my facebook cosplay page towards the end of 2011. So yeah… that’s my story. After my first convention, I won something like 14 in a row, including Lucca. The most important thing was that people were starting to know who I was and that I did good work. That was the main victory. It wasn’t about being popular – it was about being respected. I got a lot of respect for my Caius cosplay because it was very hard. Do you know of Kamui Cosplay (another respected cosplayer in the community)?

ROG: Yes, I recently liked her page on facebook because I saw it on your page. So I watched some of her tutorials on YouTube – they’re really helpful.

LC: To me, she’s the best cosplayer in the world. I had the honor of her complimenting me, and that was really satisfying… someone that big complimented me. I’m also talking to Rick Boer from Ubisoft, who’s the official Edward Kenway cosplayer (from Assassin’s Creed IV), and it feels great to have his respect because he’s such a humble guy. He’s my Assassin’s Creed idol. (Laughter) So that was a long reply for just one question!

ROG: (Laughter) It’s not a problem! How a cosplayer started out is usually a long one. All right, so an editor from ROG and I were talking and we were discussing that cosplaying seems to be mostly female dominated. What do you think about that and how to do you feel taking part in something that’s so female based?

1531739_565873086824297_1431166684_oLC: It depends, because people usually focus on half-naked girls. But for me, they’re appreciating cosplay – they’re appreciating modeling. It’s not the same thing. I’m not looking for likes (on facebook) – I want to earn them. I try to mix the two because I come from the modeling world and I’m doing cosplay from my heart. It’s female dominated because it’s easy to be popular when you’re barely wearing anything. It makes me laugh because girls will be like “Oh, you’re judging me because of my half-naked pictures?” They barely know what they’re talking about, and after you see their page, you’ll see them in bras and barely wearing anything. Girls will get angry and nitpick other girls’ cosplays, but they’re the ones doing sexier versions of a particular character. A lot of girls will judge girls that they can’t be as good as.

ROG: As a girl, I understand that totally. All right, so have you ever been an invited guest to a big name convention? And if not, what would be your dream convention to be invited to?

LC: I’ve been invited to a lot of European conventions, but I still haven’t been to America, for example. It’s unfortunately really expensive to go there.

ROG: Yeah, which is a shame. But, in the same way, I haven’t been to Italy because it’s really expensive. A friend of mine just left for Rome a few days ago and I was mentally cursing her (laughter).

LC: I mean, for me, a lot of people that go to America are really lucky. But even if I was invited to an American convention, I don’t think I’d be able to accept it anyway. I’d love to. I hope one day someone sees my cosplay and invites me over, I don’t know. This year, I was invited to three conventions. I’m taking things step by step. If you reach an achievement, it’s because you deserve it. That’s what we learn growing up. For me, it’s hard to keep up the good work because people love my cosplay, and they have a lot of high expectations. I always have to do my best.

ROG: Sure, it can be a lot of pressure.

LC: No, it’s not pressure. It’s kind of motivation for me. If cosplay was a pressure for me, I wouldn’t be doing it and I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you (laughter).

ROG: (Laughter) Trust me, we all appreciate your work. So, you’re from Italy, which I already said I’m totally jealous of, and you’re jealous of the fact that I live in New York. What would you say the biggest difference between American and European convention scenes are?

LC: I wish I could know about the American convention scene, but I’ve never been there.

ROG: I wasn’t sure if you just meant you haven’t been to New York in particular.

LC: I can say about Italy and other European conventions that there is a lot less competition. There are two European championships, and they’re the EuroCosplay, and ECG, European Cosplay Gathering. In every main convention in Europe, they choose 2 representatives and put them against the representatives from all the other countries.
I’m really proud to say that I’m competing in the world championship for Italy. It makes things harder because the competition gets more and more intense. Sometimes, competition isn’t healthy here because a lot of people are doing all they can to destroy the other cosplayers, with flames, with fights.

ROG: So it’s not good sportsmanship.

LC: Yeah, there was this guy who used to be my friend, and we’re not friends anymore. He always used to come into my job and wanted the basics to cosplays, and he’s good now, but he’s so arrogant. At the first opportunity, after I helped him meet a lot of contacts, he turned his back on me and left, and spoke bad about me. For example, we had a TV show to do and they were going to choose two cosplayers – one male and one female. They called me instead of him and a lot of other cosplayers, and I was happy about that. He wrote to the director of the show and said, “how can you choose that shitty Dragonball cosplay instead of mine, just to make me look bad. I didn’t believe he wrote and the director said, “yes, he did. Do you want to read?” So I read it and I was shocked. I was like “what the [expletive]? I don’t know what I did to him. Maybe he just ate something bad (laughter).” So I began to understand that reputation in Italy isn’t always good because a lot of them aren’t able to be humble and honest to someone else. Cosplay is a hobby, not work.

ROG: Yeah, I was actually talking to the rest of my team a few minutes ago that I truly appreciate you taking the time out. It says a lot about the cosplay community – you being good at what you do and so respected, but you’ll still take the time out for others. I’ve known and met a lot of cosplayers who thought they were better than everyone else and slammed other people. We’re all nerds, we all play videogames, read comics, watch anime – whatever. We’re supposed to be a family, but instead we just shut other people down because someone can’t sew and craft as good as someone else.

LC: There should be a middle ground between those who share the same passion. It’s not everyday that you find someone who understands you. You can’t always talk to others about video games. For example, when I was doing my Tidus cosplay, I had my hair blonde. I wasn’t wearing a wig and I had to face university with blonde hair. People would call me names like fleshlight (laughter).

ROG: That’s awful! I thought it looked great. Who cares?

LC: Yeah, who cares? I can kick your ass whenever I want, so…

ROG: (Laughter) I’d hate to get on your bad side…

LC: (shakes head) Nu-uh. Ok, so I go to school for motor science… what I would like to do with that degree – that future degree. University is a

Chiro's cosplay of Kung Lao won him first place in Lucca.

Chiro’s cosplay of Kung Lao won him first place in Lucca.

cruel world. Not everyone can pay to go to university here in Italy. It’s very selective. They’ll choose the best 200 out of thousands of applicants. Luckily for me, they were extending applications to former athletes. I was a former national champion in athletics.

ROG: What sport were you in?

LC: 100 meters. I was a runner. I’m doing parkour right now because it gives me freedom of expression. I would take my degree, get a passport, and come to the USA. I’m doing this major for personal satisfaction. I want to create my own future and do the things I love. If I can do something with it, that’d be great.

ROG: That’s a great point. Most parents in America – when I tell my parents, “hey, I want to go to school for video game design.” The first question out of their mouth is going to be “what are you going to do with that degree?” There’s no such thing as going to college for something that makes me happy; it’s all about how to make money out of it. Good for you that you go to school for something that makes you happy.

LC: You pay for your time to study. You can’t live anymore because you have to constantly study. School should make you motivated, not miserable. A good teacher isn’t someone who knows everything. A good teacher is someone who can give you those few things during your time at university and motivate you. It’s not a competition of knowledge. Sometimes it could be a former student going through their own frustrations and they pass down to you what they’ve learned in life.

ROG: Great point. So, we’ve all had that one costume that was a lot of fun, and others that were extremely challenging. What costume did you have the most fun making, and which one was the most frustrating?

LC: Caius was the one that gave me the most satisfaction. It’s full of armor parts, and it was great winning because it didn’t show off my body [like how Dante and Tidus did], but I spent a lot of money on Caius. Especially making this (shows Caius’ weapon).

ROG: Wow… how did you make that?

LC: (Laughter) I don’t even know. It’s a bit damaged now. You can say that it looks good, but since I created it, I can say that it’s definitely damaged.

ROG: How long did it take you to make Caius’ cosplay?

LC: Ahhhh… a month. One month, every single day for five to six hours. If you look on my page, I have a work in progress album that you can see. I started with a piece of wood, and then cut the shape, added more layers of wood, and just added things piece by piece. I was covered in sawdust. I had so much sawdust on me that when I went outside, all the dogs kept trying to pee on my leg because they thought I was a tree!

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Caius was the most uncomfortable to wear. It’s a lot to put on. I went to a convention and I took three redbulls with me… I have no idea why I did that. When you’re anxious and nervous about getting on stage, I had to have a redbull. But then I was like, “Oh my God, I have to pee. What the [expletive] am I going to do?” I had to remove all the pieces of the cosplay. It took a half hour to put it on and fix it. Thankfully, the Dante cosplay from DMC was the easiest. I just had the coat, didn’t have a wig, and if I got hot, I could take the coat off. It’s hard with the Caius cosplay because he does a lot of movement, and it’s hard to move in his cosplay. I need to improve some things before I compete with it again for the debut of Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns.

ROG: What do you enjoy doing the most – the outfit, the props, or the makeup and wigs?

LC: I hate the wig part. I have to make them in a way that it wont fall apart. When you’re on stage, you can’t have something like that go wrong. I mean, you’ve seen my Vegeta cosplay. It’s really heavy. I love doing makeup, but I love making my accessories. I’m well known for my props. I can get help with my tailoring and sewing stuff. If I have to do something with a coat, I’ll buy a coat and alter it. Come, on, let’s talk about it. I think it’s stupid. If you need orange pants, buy a pair and dye it. There’s no need to make one. I mean, sure, it can be satisfying, but really. Just buy a pair of pants and do what you need. With the accessories, you make it from scratch. I go to the woodshop, get the wood, and I get to work. Or you can use regular household items, like tubes from toilet paper, paper towels, or wrapping paper. Even plastic water bottles.

ROG: Obviously it takes a lot of work to keep your body in such great shape. What’s a typical workout routine for you? I know you’re all about ‘eating clean and training dirty.’

LC: I avoid fast food and processed food. I train 6 days a week. You have a choice between choosing an elevator or the stairs. Just take the stairs. Exercise is making changes in habits like that. People always complain because they don’t get the results they like because they’re not working hard enough. Or they reach their result and people think they can take a break. No, it doesn’t work like that. You have to maintain it. It’s not just your metabolism – it’s about habits. Everyone can be in shape if they wanted to. We have two legs, two arms, and a brain, and we can do whatever we want. I work out a bit less in the winter – one to two hours a day, a few times a week. During the summer, I’m training three to four hours, six days a week. I’m a trainer too, so I have to make sure I stay in shape. I don’t do the gym… I’m usually in the playground. You should see the face of the kids. They’re like “daddy! This guy is stealing our playground!” Well, you’re gunna have to fight for it. Round one… FIGHT!

ROG: (Laughter) Your cosplays are absolutely incredible. I see that your cosplays are all video game-based. Do you plan on doing any anime or movie characters?

LC: I do video game cosplays because video games, in my opinion, are the best ways to release emotion. Video games give you the power to choose, and to be that character. I believe in the power of books, but that’s the power of imagination. It’s still good, but they have limited potential. You can have great images from a movie, but not control. Video games combine the two – the freedom of movement and the wonderful visuals.
I did do a non-video game cosplay. Well, it wasn’t really a cosplay. It was a tribute to Spartacus. I did it for a new amusement park that was opening in Rome. They were doing different eras – Roman, Greek, futuristic… They wanted to do some entertainment with gladiators and they asked me, “do you have a Spartacus cosplay?” I said no, and that I’ll call them once I was done making one. I have a recycle box with material – if I don’t like a piece of armor, I’ll put it in there because I don’t want to waste materials. So I took out the box, and I made that cosplay in 4 hours with just the recycled stuff.

ROG: Care to share what character we should expect from you next?

LC: Sure, why not. I’m planning on doing Lloyd from Legend of Dragoon. I usually like to do characters that are newer, but I want to do some nostalgic cosplays too. So, Lloyd from Legend of Dragoon will be my next cosplay. Next, I’m going to work on Gladiolus from Final Fantasy XV. He is such a badass. I don’t think this cosplay is a secret anymore (laughter). I want to learn more about him before cosplaying him. Adam Jensen, from Deus Ex, is a dream cosplay of mine. I really wanted to do Nathan Drake. I could cut my hair, but I don’t want to cut it just for him. I want to keep my hair longer for some cosplays in progress and future projects.

ROG: I can say for myself that you’re a true inspiration for cosplayers around the world – whether just starting out, or an expert. To those just starting, what would you consider to be the best piece of advice you can give them?

LC: Like I said before, do everything with your heart. If you really love a character, do it from your heart, and don’t care about the critics. Don’t do it because you like it – do it because you love it.

So, there you have it – backstage access to the world of cosplay through the eyes of a professional. I was fortunate to be told some exciting news and future cosplays (I was sworn to secrecy!). Thank you again to Leon Chiro for graciously allowing me his time and contribution, 

You can find Leon Chiro on Facebook at Leon Chiro Cosplay Art and look through the rest of his work. You can also find him on Instagram at Leonchiro, and on YouTube at LeonChiroCosplayArt.

By otakuman5000 On 17 Sep, 2013 At 08:20 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Old School Otaku, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments
Gaming

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You’ve seen it everywhere – news, media, politicians, and parents who all swear on their life that if video games were removed from society, it would end gun crimes, violence, and homicides. Whether or not there is a measure of truth in this, those whose lives have been shaped by video games are thrown to the wayside. Very rarely do you hear a personal testimony of the industry’s goodness, and if you do, it’s because the conversation was prompted.

My definition of a gamer is this: Someone whose life was shaped, molded, and inspired by the gaming industry. While gaming throughout the years has changed me and continues to do so, most of us can agree that there is one game that is held near and dear. For me, that was Final Fantasy 7.

This is my story.

The Musician

I was about 9 circa 1998 when my parents would drag me around to do errands. Whenever I would go to Circuit City or Best Buy, I always bee-lined straight to the musical instruments aisle. I would spend the whole time trying to learn the songs that were built into the keyboard’s library. Eventually, my parents bought me one of my own. To this day, it was the best thing they ever have done.

My older brother would play Final Fantasy 7 and I would always beg to sit and watch him play. I don’t know why, I just really wanted to. He hated the fact that whenever he was playing, I would ask him to watch, and with a disgruntled moan, he agreed. After weeks of doing this, there then came the scene of one of the most memorable cut-scenes in gaming history: Aeris’ death. Mouth agape, eyes peeled open, I watched as Cloud tried to kill her as she knelt in solemn, silent prayer. In one swift motion, from the darkness came Sephiroth with his katana, and without hesitation impaled Aeris. Her arms fell to her sides, motionless, and took her last breath. My mind fixated on the emotional storm that was now raging inside of me, allowing Aeris’ theme to embed itself into my head.

I was depressed for days, and at 10 years old, I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t think about it; I just knew I was upset. My dad tried to cheer me up, but his attempts were met with quiet shrugs. I played piano, but I would just plink them, not knowing what I was doing. A particular key that I hit was the same one that starts out Aeris’ Theme, so from there, I just figured out how the song went somehow. Matching the melody in my head to the instrument in front of me, I learned how to play the song. That was 14 years ago, and it’s because of Final Fantasy 7 that I am a pianist and currently a music teacher.

That was one chapter of my life.Final-fantasy-VII-final-fantasy-vii---158637_500_375

The Artist

Eventually I got tired of watching my brother and cousin play video games. It was my turn. I started Final Fantasy 7 from the beginning and it opened an impossible world that I could escape into when reality became chaotic. Throughout the hours spent on the game, so many scenes stuck in my head like a still image. At night, my mind would drift to the events that unfolded. Not too soon after I started playing the game, I was with my father and I told him I wanted a sketchbook. I never took an art class save for what was mandatory in school, and never doodled anything. It just hit me like a ton of bricks that this was what I wanted.

My father bought me a sketchbook. Nothing fancy – just something you would pick up at CVS. I sat down at my white desk one day, lights off except for my small desk lamp, and drew the back of the Final Fantasy 7 case. I didn’t stop there though; I drew Midgar in the background, and then drew the FF7 logo to try to make it look like a promotional flyer. At 10 years old, no experience, I thought my drawing was terrific.

I continued to make more – Aeris with her arms spread out and the Lifestream covering Midgar, Aeris and Red XIII in the Shinra building before she was about to be eaten, and everyone around the campfire in Cosmo Canyon. Soon enough, I couldn’t stop drawing and my sketchbook came with me everywhere I went. To this day, I still have a giant plastic box with all of my drawings and sketchbooks from when I first started out. My artistic skills have made me a great deal of money and also has become in decent demand within my friends and family.

 

The Writer

I was enraptured by the story. Coming from playing simple and fun games like Sonic and Monopoly for the Genesis to grandeur worlds was something I had never imagined possible. I fell in love with each character and their contribution to the story, all the plot twists, the expositions, climaxes, and resolutions. When I beat a game, I felt accomplished, but I still yearned for more. This is not an uncommon feeling within the gaming community, I began to realize. By the time FF7 was complete, I had moved onto Tomb Raider, Chocobo’s Dungeon, Wild Arms, and Chrono Cross. Every game, every story – everything was always different and I couldn’t get enough.

AOL/AIM was the popular thing back in the day, and eventually I found out about chat-rooms. Some nice, some… well, questionable. I found a chat-room called the Dark Chocobo Knights (Final Fantasy X reference for those who haven’t played it), where people would role-play various Final Fantasy characters. For a while, I simply watched and tried to figure out what this trend was all about, and then I picked up on it. I could create my own fictional story with my favorite Final Fantasy character. For years, I role-played with the DCK and other forums, chat-rooms, and websites. Coupled with having a certain aficionado for reading, my diction and syntax within my short stories and poems became strong due to my constant role-playing.

The Jane of All Trades

Gaming shapes character, and I don’t think anyone could doubt that. It has won me a number of jobs due to confidence and my ability to speak, which only came from my ability to write, which only came from role-playing, which consequently was because of gaming. Aggression and competitiveness are prime traits a gamer gains. In addition to everything stated above, I model because I love to cosplay. I developed a love for theater because during my younger years, I took my online role-playing to reality, where a few of my like-minded friends would act in character when we hung out.

fffcd-chocobo-dark-knight

What It Come Down To Is…

… Gaming changed my life. It changed who I would have become if I was never introduced to this world. No words I could ever say would describe how vital video-games were and are to me. Frankly, the person I might have become might have been terrifying because of the different friends I would have surrounded myself with.

For those who agree with the politicians and activists that wish to eradicate gaming from society, please take heed to these words. To take things a step further, the gaming community saved me from breakdowns, freak outs, or worse. It was therapy. When my home was torn apart (as many homes are), I could escape somewhere else instead of covering my ears with a pillow. I made some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for.

To sum it up, video-games literally saved my life.

 

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I wanted to share a very important article from one of the writers on my personal site, Jess Crosby.  Jess is an awesome girl I met at a Dragon Age event, and eventually talked into writing for Nerdy But Flirty. This is her story:

“Most people think time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction, but I have seen the face of time and can tell you they are wrong. Time is like an ocean in a storm. You may wonder who I am and why I say this. Sit down, and I will tell you a tale like none that you have ever heard.”  ~ Prince

Prince of Persia

Originally, this was supposed a simple a+b=c article, but it ended up being a period of reflection and research into not only autism and gaming but, most importantly, into myself.

Imagine: a tiny, stuttering, unfocused child unable to convey any real emotion. Not in an “I internalize everything” way, but in an “I don’t know how to express what I feel or think” kind of way. It’s like pressing A on your controller in Dead or Alive to kick, but instead you punch. Then you hit X and back to see if it blocks, and instead you do the cupid shuffle. So you feel nothing is going right, as you go left! That’s how I feel, all the time, internally.

My brain wiring is all jacked up. That’s the best I can explain it.

I don’t always have control over myself. I have much more control now than I ever have before, but it took a very long time to get here, and I experienced a lot of painful “training sessions,” so to speak.

Button Masher

But what helped me a lot in my quest was video games.

I realized that if I was going to write an article about an aspect of myself that I’ve worked so hard to keep hidden and controlled, I needed to confront it head on and, for the first time in my life, actually accept it – which started my eight-month journey of writing this article.

A Little About Asperger and Rett Syndromes

I have both Rett Syndrome and Asperger Syndrome.

Rett Syndrome

Let me be clear. My form of Rett Syndrome is very mild, and I’ve had SEVERAL doctors argue about my diagnosis. It was a battle between Rett and another disorder known as Turners. My diagnosis began very late in life compared to when a diagnosis is usually even considered. Rett is a “girls only” form of Autism, affecting the X chromosome, and is normally detected early after birth, usually due to physical markers – for example, the shape of the head. (My head is normal, just for your information. I’ve developed rather well physically, despite my misfortune).

I was fortunate to have developed “severe social anxiety” with very minimal outward symptoms other than the build of my body with occasional muscle spasms. I’m a very unique case, but not unheard of. There is no cure for Rett, but I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say that I require no treatment either. Had I been much younger when I was diagnosed, a treatment for my physical growth could have been offered.

Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome attacks my social abilities, and serves as a catch-all for my other “autism-related characteristics.” I mostly have them under control, but occasionally I might let slip and display. Asperger is a highly functional form of Autism. It is diagnosed in people who have difficulty with social interactions, extreme clumsiness, and have repetitive patterns of behavior. I was diagnosed due to my inability to socially interact with the world around me. I’ve struggled most of my life with being obsessive compulsive, germaphobic, and agoraphobic. These were the basis for my diagnosis (but I fit right in with being extremely clumsy, just ask anyone who knows me). There’s no reason yet for why people have “Asperger” so there’s no set treatment, and no “cure.”

My treatment has become my own self-awareness.

Autistic doesn’t mean “retarded.” A lot of people commonly associate those two terms together. Despite being Autistic, I function very well, although it has taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work. It will continue to be both for what I can only assume will be my entire life. So the next time you hear someone call another person “retarded,” I beg of you to stand up and speak against that stereotype. Autism is a difference of mind, and I ask you not to judge us because of that one label.

Life is NOT a realistic rendition of The Sims 3 where you can micromanage EVERY single detail of who you are. There’s no character creation, so you have no say in who are you are when you are born.

Sims 3 Character Creation

Character Creation

Video Games and Autism

Did you know that people who have Autism are more likely to develop an addiction to video games?

My favorite statistic is that “children with Autism play video games on average more than two hours a day, which is double the amount of time their peers spend playing on their computers.” Just because Garrus and I have a good thing goin’ on don’t mean y’all need to get up in my space grill! Geez Tal-louis! Stop watchin’ my clock y’all!

Also, did you know: studies show that people with Autism tend to play more Role Playing Games than First Person Shooters?

I started playing video games obsessively in middle school with Final Fantasy VII. I went through the “I can relate to Aerith” phase, like most girls who play FFVII do. It’s a romantic idea, being Aerith. But what caught my eye with Aerith was what I wanted to learn from her. She was this weak girl, doomed to a horrible ending, but she still took up a staff and stuck it out. She was tough and worked hard. She showed me that delicate didn’t have to mean weak. Weak didn’t have to mean incapable. She was kind and lovable; I wanted to be like her.

Cloud Meets Aeris

Aeris Death

Fact is, with FFVII, I obsessively played the game, and played through EVERY possible line of dialogue, with EVERY character option, and what’s more, I was learning while having a lot of fun!

I was still in my “Press A but get Y” stage of life, but to have the possibilities and outcomes laid out before me in a manner I could control was…sexy. I wanted more of it. I wanted to understand. I hungered to learn.

I played every game I could until I realized I was an RPG gamer rather than a first person shooter player. RPGs offered more of a intimate investment. I had more to learn, more lessons to apply, more opportunities for personal growth, and more stories to invest myself into.

I’ve learned a LOT of lessons from video games that I have never learned in my “reality.” I don’t see it as pathetic, just fact. The idea of having my communication options set up for me and a story planned out was incredibly attractive.

How Gaming Helped

So what did the story lines help prepare me for? Well, let’s see….

I learned about what’s respectable and what’s disrespectful in conversations. And also what would likely get me killed. Conversations don’t have a dialogue wheel that shows patterns of Paragon and Renegade conversational choices.

Dialogue Wheel Example

These conversations have taught me that I want to go the paragon route in my actual life. And not just because I’d look like a creepy satanic human bull if I went renegade, but because even in video games I prefer to be a kinder person who hopes for the best.

Good and Evil

I also know I don’t want to be Princess Peach. I don’t want to be saved all the time. Setting aside the Stockholm Syndrome I truly believe Peach has developed for Bowser, I want to be my own source of strength. I want to be brave, battle my demons, and save myself. I love having my husband come to my rescue, but even he understands the value of letting me work through my own battles in life.

I have learned that life is not a competition, nor is it a solo campaign. I need to socialize, and no matter how difficult it may be for me at times, not only do I NEED to do it, but I can do it!

In the few instances where I left my safe “I game alone” bubble, I dabbled in the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) world. I spent my fair share of time playing Diablo III and Guild Wars 2 (never got into World of Warcraft, but you should look up The Guild on YouTube or Netflix. It’s an incredible web series based on individuals playing in a Guild and what happens when the team meets in real life). MMOs taught me how to co-operate with others, a very difficult challenge for me.

With Asperger, my brain-to-mouth filter sometimes disappears. Long before I realize it, I say what I’m thinking. I don’t mean any harm, but my brain is busy and my thoughts are unclear even to myself. It’s a difficult process to focus on what I’m thinking.

An example I can try to use is: I’m trying to read through a book at the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog, and my mouth is verbalizing at the speed of Tails. It’s automatic. This tends to make me the socially awkward one of the group.

Sonic and Tails

MMOs taught me the basics of doing group tasks and working with multiple people. It comes down to not being prideful and being willing to share your knowledge and strengths with the group. Owning your weaknesses, so another may benefit the group in the gray area if you can’t. It’s about teamwork – the good of the whole unit.

MMOs have also given me the chance to refine and work on my people skills before putting them to use in the “no save point available” reality. My social skills are better because of MMOs.

Most importantly, I learned that my life does not have a save, reload, or reset option.

No! You can't!

Every decision I make has a repercussion, and I have only one chance to make the decision that I will not regret making. It’s this lesson, and this lesson alone, that has inspired me to fight my fears, to push myself, and to try again when things maybe don’t go as well as I’d hoped or prepared for.

When I was seventeen years old, I found myself admitted into a mental institute. It was the first time in my life that I was tested for Autism, and the first time I had ever been treated as such. Sure, most of my close friends know that my life is anything but “functional.” I spent a lot of my energy on a daily basis struggling with my own inner self-control, battling germ phobias and OCD behaviors…oh yes, I was a regular Adrian Monk (only female).

Monk, cleaning your screen.

Stereotypically, an Autistic person is someone who is stunted in their growth, short-like, who has speech impediments, is a little heavier, and has a more difficult time with school and social settings. You would be the average person in this assumption. But, if you look at me, you would think that I’m awkward, clumsy, forgetful, and at times I’ve had the word “ugly” thrown at me, but in the end, I’m still Autistic.

Jessica Crosby 1

I’ve thought to myself, “Am I really like them?!” I’ve met a lot of Autistic people in my quest for acceptance of myself, and I’ve done the comparison.

I’ve had my share of cruel thoughts, and I’ve passed inappropriate judgements that left me feeling ashamed of myself. But thankfully, I got off my “I’m better than thou” high horse, let myself get to know my peers, listened to their advice, and grew from it.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-three that I was officially confirmed as “Autistic.” It was…not as much of a surprise as I probably thought it was. I was different. I didn’t know why, but I always knew that I was not like the people around me.

Acceptance and Growth

“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune,” said author William James.

Acceptance, there’s a powerful concept. I’ve never been very accepting of myself. Change doesn’t come easy to me. In the time I’ve spent trying to write this article, I’ve made it a point to work on accepting who I am. I realize I’m always telling people, “I like you just the way you are!” and “You’re great just as you are!” I wish I spent more time telling that to myself. But, I got there.

Jessica Crosby 3

My husband, Eric, asked, “When did you become Aerith? Going from who you were, the small scared girl, to being who you are right now?”

I wish I could tell you the moment I decided, “This is it, I’ve had enough, things need to change. I need to accept all this nonsense and move on!” The truth is, I don’t know when the moment happened. It happened so gradually and so slowly that it kind of snuck up on me.

It was partially because of you, Eric. Those two years we spent online chatting before we finally met in person, you didn’t let me make excuses. You awakened something in me that made me determined to see in myself what you saw in me. It was the first time in my life where I was challenged to do things for my own gain.

I started making little strides from there. I’ve seen and lived the crippling effects Autism can have on a person, and I want to be Aerith. I want to be brave, optimistic, and full of a love for life. She may be fictional, but she’s always a constant reminder of the woman I aim to be: kind, caring, capable, brave. I used to not be able to see those characteristics in myself, but in reflection, I feel like I do now. :)

My Life To-Do List

My to-do list in life is short. I didn’t want a lot of things, and somehow, at the young age of twenty-five, I have achieved ALL of them:

1. Accept who I am.
2. Leave the United States.
3. Overcome my Agoraphobia?.
4. Meet my role model in person.

That was it. And I have.

1. I am Jessica Crosby. I’m Autistic, and video games have been a big source of guidance and experience along with valuable life lessons that I have had the honor and privilege of playing and learning. I have two baby teeth and a gap in my smile. I love my red hair and freckles, and all the taunting I endured as a child no longer bothers me. I was a young violinist who lost her way but have discovered a new love for the film and photography industry. I am married to an incredible man who I met on the internet (no lie!). I am a geek, a girl who enjoys video games, and although I’m not the brightest light bulb in the pack, I’m learning to stand out, in a good way. I’m confident, and I know who I am and who I want to be. I’m not a pessimist. I am a realist. I love who I have become, and where I plan to go in life. I accept who I am.

I love my life and who I am!

2. So, remember when I told you I met my husband on the internet? Well, he was stationed in Japan for the Navy, and I was at the time still residing in Maryland. When I FINALLY left the country, it was so that I could go to Japan. It was meant to be a vacation; I would clear my head, work some things out, go home. I fell in love though. You can’t say no to a man who has done as much as he did and continues to do for me. I am in large part where I am because of him. And just for the record, Japan is amazing. You should all go and experience their culture. And their sushi. It’s totally awesome!

TOTALLY WICKED!

3. As far as my Agoraphobia goes, I still get nervous around large crowds, but I leave my house and don’t hide from them. In fact, THIS past San Diego Comic Con, I braved the crowded streets and experienced what the outside of the convention center had to offer. And not ONCE did I break down. I’m still very introverted, and I don’t see that changing, but I am not crippled to the point of staying inside of my home. :) Did I mention that I was dressed up as Aerith at Comic Con?! See adorable picture below!

Aerith Cosplay

(PS – I’m still looking for Optimus Prime, does anyone know who he is?!).

Sarah, Optimus and Aerith

4. I met Felicia Day. For maybe two minutes, and I think all I managed to clearly say was “May I hug you?” But I did it. I waited in line, nearly had a panic attack, and ran out of the building, but I did it!

I was introduced to The Guild, starring Felicia Day, by my husband during a time in my life when I was learning that it’s okay to be a girl who likes to play video games. Felicia was slaughtering the stereotypes of females in the gaming industry. I followed her progress, and she gave me a sense of hope, pride, and acceptance of myself. It didn’t hurt that she has red hair (I have red hair), she plays violin (I play violin)…small things that made me feel like we had some common ground. She’s been an inspiration in my journey of acceptance of my geek self, which in turn has helped me accept other parts of myself that I had not accepted – like being Autistic.

I MET FELICIA DAY!!!! =D

Overcoming Fear

I worried for some time about what might happen if I wrote this article. “What if people find out my secret?” “What if this gets back to my place of employment?” “What if this? What if that?”

The fact that I’m standing where I stand, having achieved the achievements I have, is a testament to my dedication, determination, and the pay off of my hard work and continuous efforts is proof to myself and to the world. If it isn’t, nothing I do ever will be.

I’ve spent a lot of time these last couple months trying to find my voice. I’m still fresh out of the “This is who I am, deal with it or get lost” closet, and I just want to say how grateful I am to everyone who has supported my growth and learning.

My life lately, feels peaceful. I feel like the noble dwarf warden from Dragon Age who, after defeating the Blight, married Alistair, and all my companions have survived, despite my putting them through very difficult battles against deadly foes on a suicide mission to slay an Archdemon! Now, for just a little while, I get to sit back and enjoy the calm. And cake! Oh…wait…

The Cake is a LIE! Dragon Age :)

Today, I work in the professional broadcasting industry. I’m a writer for Nerdy But Flirty, a website about being a gamer and a geek. I live in California with my husband and our two cats. I have friends who accept me, awkwardness and all!

Sarah the Rebel and Jess!

Five years ago, I couldn’t see any of this for myself. Five years ago, I thought I was doomed to hide in a basement, left alone and stuck in fear of anything and everything outside my front door. Five years ago, I had no plan for my future, no goals, and no aspirations. So to say that I’ve changed is an understatement.

Aerith meets Steampunk

Reality has become my game of choice. The characters are of my own choosing. The dialogue, a reflection of my own choices (nothing predetermined). Punch has become A. B has become kick. X has become block, and Y still doesn’t do shit. You know what, some things makes sense now. Finally I’m somewhere I can focus, allowing for growth, and I’m learning everyday.

“Hope is what makes us strong. It is why we are here. It is what we fight with when all else is lost.”
– Pandora, God of War III

paxaus

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Last week I had the opportunity to visit Australia’s first Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX. The event was a huge success and a great experience. In this article I’ll give you a taste of what I got to see and play there!

The event showcased everything from tabletop games, indie titles and developers right up to major titles such as Assassin’s Creed IV, Saint’s Row IV and League of Legends. There were also many accessory and hardware manufacturers there showing off their latest headsets, gaming peripherals and super powered PCs. A whole host of international developers and companies showed up for panels and Microsoft even presented their Xbox One with live demos on stage.

PAXAus_5

The standout booths from the show were the World of Tanks and League of Legends stands, taking up a massive amount of space and drawing huge numbers of gamers. The League of Legends booth was packed full for all three days, hosting the first major Oceanic tournaments.

The expo featured a few other major gaming booths from Ubisoft, Nintendo and a Rome Total War 2 theatre – each showcasing new demos and game presentations for many upcoming titles such as Assassin’s Creed IV, Watch Dogs, Rome Total War 2, Saints Row IV, Splinter Cell Blacklist and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Emph Cosplay at the Freedom Fall booth

Emph Cosplay at the Freedom Fall booth

There was a huge focus on indie titles in the main arena – One of the highlights was Freedom Fall, which I previewed and reviewed before the event here. Their booth had a great atmosphere and some brilliant cosplay to publicize the game

Other indie titles of note included Antichamber, Black Annex, Fractured Soul and InFlux. To see the very best of PAX Australia’s indie showcase, view the showcase page here.

One of the best features of PAX Australia, in my opinion, was the huge freeplay and tabletop arena. This big hall held hundreds of consoles ready to run tournaments and also to let people relax and play a game with friends and strangers, creating an awesome atmosphere of community gaming. It also had both a large area for handheld gaming and a large tabletop area, populated mostly with Magic the Gathering games and how to lessons for beginners.

Presentations over the weekend were very exciting – from game developers to media presentations and how-to’s. Famous cosplayers, journalists and big name developers such as Gearbox and Bioware put on presentations and Q&A’s that were full up hours before they began – very popular panels.

Microsoft also took PAX Aus as it’s first opportunity to show off the Xbox One in Australia, drawing record numbers into the main theatre. They presented live demos of a few launch games and walked us through the new controller and kinect.

Paxbone

The last major part of PAX is arguably one of the most exciting – Cosplay. Seeing talented individuals out in awesome costumes was one of the best parts of PAX and there certainly were some incredible ones. Highlights included the huge number of League of Legends cosplays, Borderlands 2 Vault Hunters (and a clap-trap!) and even the Luteces from Bioshock Infinite!

Overall the expo was a great success and I’m very much looking forward to the coming years – bigger booths, bigger venue and bigger games, but for the first time this Expo has been in Australia it was very impressive.

By SarahTheRebel On 2 Aug, 2013 At 09:03 PM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments
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First appeared on www.NerdyButFlirty.com.

I recently interviewed Deja, better known as Jade Aurora. Jade is an artist, model, and cosplayer from Detroit, MI.

Me as Bellatrix Lestrange, Youmacon 2012

Me as Bellatrix Lestrange, Youmacon 2012.

1.) When did you first start cosplaying? What inspired you to start?

I started cosplaying in 2011. What inspired me to start cosplaying was in 2010 when my best friends convinced me to attend Youmacon with them. This was the first anime convention I ever went to. Seeing all those people dressed up in these amazing, kickass costumes is what inspired me to join the cosplay club, lol.

2.) What are your favorite video games?

My favorite video games are Super Smash Bros., Mortal Kombat, and Dead or Alive. I don’t know if this counts, but I am a huge Sims addict!

3.) What’s your favorite anime?

I have quite a few favorite animes, but my absolute favorites are Sailor Moon and Soul Eater. Death the Kid can take my soul any day.

4.) What’s your favorite cosplay memory?

I would have to say that my favorite memory was during Youmacon 2011. I was cosplaying as Princess Tiana, and my friends and I were on our way to a panel, when a little girl and her mother stopped us. The little girl thought I was really Tiana, and wanted a picture of me. It was very heartwarming.

Jade Aurora, Cosplay, Tiana, Youmecan 2011, black, female, cosplayer

Jade as Princess Tiana, Youmacon 2011.

5.) What advice do you have for other girls interested in cosplaying and modeling?

Do what you feel. Cosplay is about having fun. Don’t let race, gender, or size stop you from indulging in your fandom. To those who want to take the path to modeling: be prepared, because it is not easy. The modeling industry can be very cutthroat and catty, and you will hear a lot of nos before you hear yes. And do your homework and always take precautions, because there are people who take advantage of women and prey on their dreams to become models. But modeling can be very fulfilling. You will gain confidence in yourself, and will begin to embrace YOU, flaws and all.

Great advice! You can find Jade Aurora on her Facebook page.

By Sofie Sohan On 1 Aug, 2013 At 09:53 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments
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There is a terrible rising trend in the gaming/nerd community; unwarranted sexually charged comments, passes, and at the worst end of the spectrum, actual assault and rape attempts against the women of our community. I have no doubt for every problem at a convention that has been dealt with, many more undocumented ones spring up to replace them, like a monstrous Hydra. But when you read about what is occurring to strangers, several thousand miles away, you begin to become desensitized to the occurrences. You think,” There’s tons of security. There will be thousands of people. I’m surrounded by my friends. I can fight. I’ll be safe.”

Until it happens to you.

The following events did not happen at a convention, and perhaps that’s one of the most worrying things of all, that didn’t happen with thousands of like-minded people in their midst. This could happen to almost any woman, at almost any time. It started off simple enough. I found myself on the island of Putin Bay, Ohio, located square on beautiful Lake Erie, for their annual Christmas in July celebration, with friends and significant other. I was in the company of many new people, but it was a very Spring Break-esque holiday. Most of them probably did not have the same “nerdy” interests I did, and I was fine with this; nerdiness doesn’t define my personality, just enhances it.

On Friday, I was pleased to meet someone who also had similar interests as I did, and we had a lengthy discussion about things like Star Wars, Mario Kart and the Dreamcast, but I stood by my significant other and made it clear that I was not interested multiple times. I was not attracted to this person, named Jim, in the slightest and there was no flirtatiousness from my end at all. Jim was beyond smitten with me – even going so far as to call me by a different name (Angelica – apparently I’m “heavenly”.) I corrected him multiple times as my name is nowhere near Angelica, but he kept calling me Angelica. I thought that was harmless or perhaps due to intoxication, even up to the point in which we were far from the group and he initiated and captured me into a hug. I hugged back… and then I realized he wasn’t letting go. At that moment I pushed away and he rammed his mouth into my head and kissed me on the mouth.

But this wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.

I immediately telling my significant other and we had decided that in the interest of hospitality, not to break his jaw. We decided to retire in another cabin shortly after. It was fairly cold, but we didn’t want to trouble anyone for a blanket, so we both fell asleep shivering.  Jim had followed us to the other cabin and I was woken up by Jim sitting on the floor, at the foot of the couch, caressing my legs.  He then extended an invitation to come and “get a blanket in his room.” I flat-out refused, and asked him if I could have a blanket anyway. He then said I could only get a blanket if I came with him. At one point he grabbed my hand, and it was at that point that I threatened to break all of his fingers.

peachheader

If I wasn’t sickened to my stomach before, now I felt absolutely violated, and I was scared. I was stunned to the point where I couldn’t speak; I could only try to wake up my significant other as fast and as subtly as possible. Thankfully, we left shortly after. The next day my significant other had interacted with him alone, and he tried to flirt with HER! But he was massively unsuccessful. He still referred to me as Angelica. I have no doubt that his behavior is something more than mere social ineptness, but that is certainly not an excuse.

But through the entire weekend, I couldn’t stop replaying the events in my head, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was somehow, in some strange twisted way, that this was my entire fault. Did he misconstrue my passion for playing as Princess Peach in Mario Kart as some strange declaration of love? I’ve been passionate about video games and other nerd things since I was very young, so young that I was made fun of for having those interests. I still don’t understand “mainstream geek culture.”

And at the end of it all, I honestly don’t care to understand. I don’t have these interests for the benefit of anyone else but myself, and to have those interests used as a simple leverage board for creepy sociopath behavior absolutely floored me. It’s heartbreaking to have the interests that I have loved so dearly, for so many years, used as cheap tactics in order to entice me into a bed.  But what I do understand about geek culture is that as it marches its’ banner to the front of the page, that this behavior is absolutely unacceptable.

One of the other things to remember is this hasn’t “all of a sudden become unacceptable;” it was also unacceptable when geek culture was a fringe interest. Having the same interests, nerdy in nature or not, is not a justification for unwanted sexual advances, ever. The basic tenants of respecting others have not changed simply because geek culture has suddenly become popular in mainstream media. We just happen to hear about it more often now. We are women, and women are not mythical unicorns. There have been women in geek culture since it’s’ inception, and we deserve to feel like we aren’t going to be accosted or even worse, raped by our peers. And as more men and women join the ranks of geek culture, and we shape entire future generations of geeks to come, we need to nip this deplorable habit in the bud, before it blooms into a poisonous flower.

I’d like to revisit the example of the Lernaean Hydra in Greek  Mythology – a fearsome creature that had multiple heads – as you’d cut one off, two more would spring up in its’ place. It was originally up to Hercules was originally given the task to slay this creature, but now it is up to us. Our Hydra heads are the marks of sexual violence against the women of the geek community. And like Hercules, we must burn the heads of the Hydra clear off so that no other heads can grow back.

C3ladies

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When you hear the word cosplay, the first image that comes to many people’s minds is a waif-like Asian girl. However, anyone who has ever been to a con can tell you that cosplayers come in all shapes and sizes. Despite this fact, many people still hold outdated beliefs on who is allowed to cosplay which characters.

Chocolate Covered Cosplay, also known as C3, is trying to change that perception. These six ladies couldn’t find a community for cosplayers like themselves, so on June 15, 2011 they formed Chocolate Covered Cosplay,a group to showcase and empower the gamer/geek/cosplayer within everyone, regardless of culture, shade or background”.

The six founding members are Ashphord “Ashi-Chan” Jacoway, Ginger Burton, Brittney “Angel Tenshi” Drake, Nivi Pix and sisters Danielle and Deanna McRae.

From left to right: Ginger, Angel Tenshi, PeiPei, Ashi Chan, Danielle

The Mission

“We want to be an inspiration to other women of color who haven’t done that cosplay that’s outside their race” said Ginger.

Often cosplayers of color will find themselves classified as a “version” of a character, for example they will be considered a “Black Melfina” instead of just a person cosplaying Melfina.

“I don’t wanna be a ‘VERSION.’ I don’t want to be a side character. I want to ‘BE’ that character.” said Angel.

These ladies don’t believe that skin color, shape, or size should rein in their imagination.

“I love C3 because it gives me the opportunity to be myself,” said Ashi Chan. “It’s nice to be in a group of women of color who are excited about what you do and there isn’t any judgment; there’s just love and I feel as though we should love each other all the time, because this is the one way we can all be free.”

Changing Minds

C3 often holds panels and discussions focusing on race and gender in the geek community. They hope that these open discussions will strengthen the community as a whole and change perceptions.

“Nerds should have a beautiful community, and we should always uphold that no matter what our race or color or gender is,“ said Ashphord.

Events

June is a great month to catch these ladies out and about, as they will be participating in quite a few events to celebrate their founders day, culminating with their one-year anniversary party June 23rd at Meltdown Comics. The event will feature cosplay items and vendors with the theme of diversity in cosplay.

They also plan to hold another panel at Anime Expo. “Like” C3’s Facebook page to stay informed about their upcoming events.

Meet the ladies of Chocolate Covered Cosplay

Ashphord, “Ashi Chan” Jacoway

You may recognize Ashi Chan from Sony’s The Tester Season 3. She is also well known for her one-woman show “I Wish My Life Was an RPG”  which discusses race and gender as it affected her development as a nerd and for her appearances on season 5 of the Guild and Video Game Reunion. She is also a cosplay artist and model.

Ginger “GNB Cosplay”, Burton

Ginger is the Editor-In-Chief of Otaku Sanctuary Cosplay Magazine. She is also a cosplay commissioner, sewing costumes that have garnered her numerous awards.

Danielle McRae

Voice actor and singer, Danielle voices Hagara The Stormbinder in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Karma the Enlightened One in League of Legends, and Painwheel in Skullgirls.

Deanna, “PeiPei” McRae

PeiPei is a freelance artist and web designer. She has a great webcomic, DeadFingers, as well.

Brittney “Angel Tenshi” Drake

Angel is a cosplayer, stylized artist and cosplay photographer. Check out her amazing work with body paint!

Nivi Pix

Nivi is a self taught photographer, motivational speaker, and model. She is the long-distance member of the team, as she is currently in Nevada!

 

By Charles On 25 Oct, 2011 At 08:24 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments
Death-Note-flaming-wave666-24951397-1051-768

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This editorial is the second of a two-part series. The first half was published on October 17th, and can be found here.

6: Durarara and Baccano!- Because these two shows are essentially the same. Drrr/B! managed to do for me the same thing FMA did back in 2007- they taught me how to have fun again. Much like the earlier series broke me from a glut of heavy mecha series, Drrr showed me that large casts can in fact be a good thing. And B! managed to include a cast so colorful that it was impossible to ignore any of them. But most important of all, these two series were shows I devoured, and devoured quickly. It’s rare these days that I can marathon episodes of anything, but B! took me just 2 days and a long train ride to chain through, and left me wanting more long after it was done.

Now these two series are far from flawless. Both have anticlimactic endings. Both lose track of what they want to say at times. And both jump around relentlessly during the narration, to the point where you can skip an episode and not even realize it until three down the line. But these are small prices to pay for shows with incredible entertainment potential, that will linger with you long after the last episode ends. And make you beg for a second season.

7: Death Note/Hell Girl/Bleach- Wow look, another multiple series entry. Three this time. Well, actually, these chosen three could have been joined by so many more. Because I’m not referencing these shows in particular, but what they all have in common. Aside from good storytelling and suspense. They all have shinigami.

Ai Enma

Shinigami are something of a passion of mine. One of my oldest, and most potent, interests lies in ghosts, monsters, death and the supernatural. So when I got the idea last year to do a panel on Death Gods, it was these series that I turned to first, alongside Gundam Wing, Princess Mononoke and others to look into the phenomenon of the shinigami in Japanese media. Eighteen months, and some 1000 attendees, later the panel , “Dead Like Us,” is one of my most recognized and requested at conventions, and the one that has allowed me to research and lecture on something wholly my own. More than any other recent series or game, the shinigami-based anime have given me the chance to give back to the medium in ways that I never had considered when I started my work back in 2009. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

8:  The films of Hayao Miyazaki- I’m sure a bunch of my readers were wondering when I was going to get around to Miyazaki-sama. Much like the shinigami in the previous entry, I owe a lot to him, in terms of enjoyment, awareness and furthering my own reputation as a lecturer and academic. Unlike the shinigami, Miyazaki has also had a profound impact on my life through the films themselves.

I discovered Miyazaki-sama through Princess Mononoke, way back in 2000, when I found a VHS copy of the dub at Coconuts (remember them?) for $6.99, and recalling the name from an anime club meeting. I watched the film maybe 4 or 5 times that weekend, I could not look away. It was little surprise then, that when Spirited Away came out the following year, I of course made time to venture to the only movie theatre in Queens showing it just to see it. Or that I changed my weekend plans when I found out Howl’s Moving Castle was showing near where I was going to be that night.

Miyazaki-sama speaks to me through his films. Unlike any other anime I have seen (with the possible exception of Usagi Drop), his films have caused me to look at my life and examine who I really am inside. Unlike any other anime, his are the films I watch the most, and share the most. Miyazaki-sama has a gift with storytelling and crafting that is nearly unmatched in the industry. There is little wonder, then, that he is so respected and loved by so many. Watching just one of his films can uplift the spirit and add to the experience of life. Sound a bit pretentious, or idealized? Possibly, but only if you have never seen a Miyazaki film before. Watch just one, and you will understand.

9: Eden of the East and Summer Wars- Seeing a trend here: this list is a lot more than just ten anime. Which, I suppose, is fitting, seeing how hard it would be to distill over a decade of fandom into just ten series or movies.

I watched Eden of the East and Summer Wars over the spring this year, and the thing they share in common, is they blew my mind. Not just enjoyable or entertaining, but literally mind-blowing. Summer Wars had the same effect on me as Mononoke did a decade earlier, making my jaw drop open and forcing repeated watchings over the weekend. Eden was the latter half of the long train rides to and from Anime Mid Atlantic back in June. Both made me think while they were busy rewriting my idea of what anime was. Both got me excited to be a fan and viewer again. Both left me wanting more.

This is what a mind**** looks like.

I suppose what separates these two from other, similar entires into this list (read: Drrr/B!, FMA) is the emotional connections they formed. The other series taught me how to have fun. These two made me think while I was having fun. They others were very open to marathoning. So were these, but I kept noticing more and more things, and making long lists of notes of other things to look into. The others made me laugh. These made me say “Wow!” And that, in the end, is worth mentioning. Because a lot of series are fun. Precious few make you say “wow.”

10: Gundam Seed- This was the Gundam that changed Gundam for me. Prior to Seed, I had a love for Wing and it’s military-rebellion storyline. I thought G was quirky with it’s take on tournament fighting. War in the Pocket made me cry. And 0083 had some beautiful suit designs, but was over too fast. Then came Seed, and a whole new world opened up to me.

Seed rewrote what Gundam should be, at least from my point of view. Beautiful suit designs, interesting characters, and a story that was close enough to the UC to nostalgic, but different enough to still be compelling. Seed brought Gundam into the 21st century, and set the bar for what could be accomplished in a Gundam series. Dual narratives, counterplots, intrigue and self-discovery- these were what Seed set out to do, and did wonderfully. And while the series (and its sequel, Seed Destiny) left a sour taste in the mouths of some veteran fans, it brought new fans into the series with its flash and flare. I doubt I would be the Gundam fan I am now if not for Seed.

This is my list. What’s yours?

By Charles On 17 Oct, 2011 At 09:40 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Tales of Real Otaku | With 2 Comments
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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the games that changed my life. Not the best games, or the most popular ones, just the games that held specific meaning for me as a person and a gamer, and how they shaped my gaming life. Today, I wanted to write a second installment to that, a sort of follow-up piece for another major force in my fandom participation. Because gaming, while it is a big part of my life, is not the only part of my life. I take part in a lot of activities and interests, all of which shape and form who I am, and influence where I go.

So, for today, I am once more listing influential things in my life. This time around, I’m focusing on the anime that made me who I am.

It all started here, sub not dub.

I got into anime way back in 1997, when a friend of mine lent me a copy of “Dragonball Z: The Dead Zone.” Prior to this, I had an inkling of what anime was, but aside from unintentionally watching shows like Voltron back in the 80s, I hadn’t given it much thought. Dragonball Z changed that. I can’t say how many times I watched “Dead Zone” over the next few months, but it was enough to wear out to VHS I had copied it to. I spent a good 3 years waking up extra early to watch the Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon dubs in syndication. I remember actually paying attention in Spanish class so I could stumble through the Telemundo broadcast of “Duragonball Zeto.” And for maybe 2 years, this was all the anime I knew. And I fell into it hard.

Dragonball Z was the first, the gateway into the wide world of anime. And that is the last time I will mention it in this list, because while it was my first, I also outgrew it very fast. The repetitive nature of the episodes, the constant theme of “get stronger, defeat opponent, find stronger one” got old fast, especially as I entered college and found other fans like me. Dragonball opened the door, and after I ran through, I left it behind. There was so much more to discover out there, and I had all the time in the world (at least theoretically) to find it.

Some of the entries on this list are new. Some are movies. Some contain multiple titles. There is a reason for this: sometimes its not the individual series that impacted me, but how it related to others I was watching at the time. Sometimes it’s the animation studio or director that holds the power. So there are definitely more than 10 anime listed on here, but in the end, all of them managed to do the same thing- they shaped who I am today. And, as always, ignore the numbering system. I didn’t rank them in any particular order.

1: Rurouni Kenshin- This was the first show I discovered after Dragonball. Much like its predecessor, this was loaned to me in subtitled VHS format. But the similarities end there. Whereas DBZ is a beat-em-up shounen fight show, Kenshin was so much more. An introduction to the tumultuous Meiji era, when Japan modernized itself rapidly. A study in psychology and the creation of heroes and villains. A moral drama about penitence and forgiveness. It contained a lot of elements DBZ lacked, but which make anime so unique, and enjoyable. And that made me want to watch it more. I recall marathoning the entire Kyoto arc in a weekend. I remember quite vividly discussing the historical accuracy of one Hajime Saito. I also know I spent a lot of money buying a few volumes of this on DVD at the end of Freshman year in college.

These days, I tend to avoid the show. Kenshin the anime lacks a lot of what Kenshin the manga contained. Indeed, the manga had the same impact on my written consumption as the anime did on my viewing. I don’t own any volumes or DVDs anymore, long traded away to make room for new series. But the mark left by Rurouni Kenshin on my anime viewing remains. Had I not started watching this show, Dragonball might have been both the first, and last, anime I ever watched.

And yes, Ed Elric is indeed short.

2: Fullmetal Alchemist- This is without a doubt the biggest anime of the past decade. It has one of the largest, most devoted fandoms attached to it. Two series and an amazing manga title later and people still talk about the misadventures of Edward Elric and Roy Mustang. It made Vic Mignogna famous. And Travis Willingham too. FMA’s impact stretches past that of any others, crossing boundaries and pulling more fans in all the time.

None of this mattered to me in 2007, when I bought the DVDs after Anime Boston. It was an Anime Music Video that introduced me, and while I was aware that the show had nothing to do with the trailer it was attached to, I wanted to see what this interesting show was about. So, on my way home from work, I stopped by the anime shop and grabbed the entire series. I think it lasted me a week.

Fullmetal Alchemist taught me to have fun. Unlike the Gundam series I was used to watching at the time, I didn’t need to deconstruct it. Watching 4-5 episodes before going to sleep every night wasn’t a drain on my brain, as they moved fast, were paced perfectly, and practically begged for advancement. FMA was easily the most accessible show I had seen at the time, and was deep enough to hold my interest, but open enough not to linger past my watching time. It was the first show in a long time I could pick up and put down easily, but still enjoyed enough to re-watch later on. It embodied the notion that anime, first and foremost, has to be fun, or its not worth watching.

And, like Kenshin, the manga is better.

I want this to be me.

3: Usagi Drop- This show ended maybe a month ago. It’s the most recent one on this list. But why is it on here? Simple- it showed me that anime is more than just “kid’s stuff.”

Now I am not saying that anime as a medium is childish, because it’s not. Unlike Western animation, anime crosses boundaries and appeals to a wide range of people, from children to teens to professional adults. But out of all the series I have watched, Usagi Drop might be the most mature. Not in terms of subject matter or content, but in terms of story, and how that story related to me.

I just turned 30 this year. And with that came a lot of new conflicts and questions about where I’m going in my life. Like a flipped switch, suddenly the things that never bothered me before suddenly seem more important. Things like family, work, moving on and being an adult- I spent my 20s ignoring them, and now I feel like I can’t afford to.

Which is exactly where Usagi Drop comes in. The same issues I ponder over are the ones 30 year old protagonist Daikichi does. Only he has a “daughter” thrown into the mix. Growing up and becoming a real family man are major issues for him. Responsibility to more than just himself is a major theme, revisited every time he encounters a new conflict with little Rin. This show gave me the chance to look at myself, both from inside and outside, and see that life might be complicated, but not overwhelmingly so. And when one needs to finally put away childish things and be an adult, it’s not so bad.

It also makes me want to have a daughter, but that’s a whole other story…

Es unos ganador, or whatever…

4: BECK Mongolian Chop Squad- Not a lot of people know this, but for a good chunk of my 20s, I worked in the music industry, as a DJ, promoter and eventually a talent scout for a small independent record label in New York. And during that time, music was the be all and end all of my life. I bought 2-3 albums a week, went to at least one live show every Friday night and spoke at a lot of music conferences. Also during that time my love of music, and my influences and tastes changed wildly.

The reason I mention this is because when I started watching BECK earlier this year, a lot of those memories and emotions came back in droves. Watching Koyuki grow from awkward teen into musician was something I was privy to many times, and I recognized a lot of the pitfalls he and the band were going through trying to break in an increasingly more competitive business. While I did not see myself in Koyuki, Chiba, Ryusuke and the others, I understood what they were going through, and it made the series all the more real to me. The inspirations for their songs, and the chosen songs themselves, added to the experience, and made BECK a show I watched through three times in quick succession.

While this series did not alter my life in any way, it did remind me of a time when my life was changing and growing by leaps and bounds, and made the lessons I learned then even more potent and memorable.

Best. Anime. Ever.

5: Monster- Whenever I get the chance, I tell people about this series.  In an age when half the scripted shows on television are crime procedurals, Monster stands both with them, and above them, telling a story full of suspense, intrigue, philosophy and the nature of righteousness. And it tells itself better than any live-action American show can.

Monster redefined what anime meant to me. I was used to these shows being fantastical, set in implausible locations and full of unlikely creatures. Monster is none of these. It is a story with believable characters, perfect pacing and enough meat to keep it going for 74 episodes without a “clip show” or bit of “filler” at all. It showed me that anime itself is a medium, but one just as varied and capable as any other. The fact that this show could have been scripted and been just as good shows through repeated veiwings. It is a drama on par with anything “real,” and perhaps far better.

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