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I’ve been a fan of Bioware for years. I played KotOR in college and when I discovered Dragon Age: Origins around 2010 I was hooked. It quickly became my favorite game – I hadn’t had a game obsession like that since Kingdom Hearts in high school. It was everything I wanted in a video game – fighting, pretty outfits, making out with hot female assassins and men soon to be king, lots of blood, and some really cool concept art. I was convinced there’d never be another game like it.

In 2014, I went through some major life changes. I was still reeling from the end of a six year relationship, I was living alone for the first time ever (and for a short while, living out of my car), I had just lost my job of two years, and my life was in shambles. I started making bad choices and things were spiraling towards a not very good place for me. I had no idea how to pick up the pieces. It’s times like that when escapism comes in handy and my escape was into video games. My friends Lee and Meg were in the throes of a game called Mass Effect and since it was by the same people as Dragon Age, I figured I’d give it a shot. It took while to get into the first game, but with their constant support and reassurance that it was going to get better, I pushed through. By the end of the first game, I was a fan. I thought it was a good game. Not the best. But good enough that I was curious about the sequel.

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Mass Effect 2 changed everything. From the death of the Normandy SR-1 to the retrieval of one handsome Garrus Vakarian to defending and adopting Tali to making every renegade and paragon decision and making sure that every single member of the team made it through the suicide mission, the whole game was non-stop action and fun and I texted Meg and Lee throughout the entire thing. Their response? Wait till you play ME3.

I thought they had prepared me for how Mass Effect 3 would impact my life, but I was completely and utterly unprepared for the influx of feelings. The hard decisions. The devastation that followed even the best of them. The night I finished, Meg coaxed me through my tears and helped me accept that it was all over. I was a mess. It wasn’t until that very last day that I finally admitted that Mass Effect was better and more important to me than Dragon Age. But it was. Because of Shepard.

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Commander Shepard. Through everything that happened, she remained as steadfast and certain of her beliefs and her morals and her duty to humanity and every living life form. She refused to break. When she was shot, she got back up and kept fighting. She made the hard calls when she knew she’d get shit for it later. She backed up her friends through thick and thin and despite all the darkness she went through, her heart was still good. She was still herself. Still just as fiercely imperfect as anyone, but stronger for all that she’d seen and done. In the end, she always selflessly did the right thing. She was, and is, everything I strive to be. She became a beacon for me when I was lost, alone, and struggling to find my place in a world I had never really navigated on my own. She was a survivor in every sense of the word. And she was me. I was making those decisions. Everything she did was because it was what I would do. And in being Commander Shepard, I learned a lot about who I was. And who I had the potential to become. I saw myself for the first time as someone who was worth it. Worth living a better life for. And up until that point, I wasn’t making the best choices for myself. Commander Shepard was a turning point for me.

I know people will laugh. They’ll shrug it off. It’s just a game. It is. It’s just a game. But it’s also more than that. I became a better person because of this game. Because of Commander Shepard. Because of the writers at Bioware who understand human nature and the choices we are forced to make. The hard ones. Bioware changed my life for the better. I was a fan for a long time. But now I will always be a champion for them and the games they make.

To me, N7 Day is the perfect reminder of how far I’ve come in life. It’s reminder of who I want to be. Today is a day to celebrate the Commander Shepard in me. In all of us. I am a survivor and it reminds me to fight for the things I love. N7 Day means a better life, it means becoming closer to my friends, it means knowing that there’s more out there and that I should never stop reaching for my dreams. N7 means strength. It’s why I have it tattooed on my right wrist. So I can always see it and remember that I am strong. That I can get through anything life throws at me.

So thank you Bioware. For Mass Effect. For KotOR & SWTOR. For all the Dragon Age games. For characters like Liara and Iron Bull, Garrus and Sera, and so many more. Thank you for turning my life completely around when no one else could get through to me. Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for making N7 Day a thing so that I have a day to celebrate that strength every year. But most of all, thank you for giving me Commander Shepard. You have no idea how much I needed her. Thank you.

Happy N7 Day everyone!

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YOU GUYS. I’m stoked up this upcoming game called Everspace by Rockfish Games (the folks who brought to you Galaxy on Fire). It’s a single-player 3D space shooter with rogue-like elements and non-linear storytelling – and it’s absolutely GORGEOUS!

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With nine days to go, they’ve (thankfully) already hit their goal of $244,285, but they’ve got some excellent stretch goals they’re trying to hit – like support for Mac OSX support, additional languages, and more! One of my favorite things about this game is that you can switch between first person shooter and third person. As someone who gets motion sickness easily, I can’t play FPS games as much as I would like, so knowing that I can switch to third person while playing is a total win for me in this game. Plus, did I mention just how stunning the graphics are?

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If you’re a fan of Star Wars or Mass Effect or any game that takes place in space, this looks right up your alley. I know it does mine and I’m stoked to check this out. Along with the Kickstarter, you can also check them out over on Steam where they’ve already been greenlit!

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Since this has already reached its goal, I’m excited to play this game in the future. Any game where I get to fly around in space has my vote! Thanks Rockfish Games! What are y’all waiting for? GO PLEDGE FOR EVERSPACE!

The latest news in the world of MMOs is that World of Warcraft is finally coming out with an expansion pack that looks worth while. I haven’t played WoW hardcore since college though I still play casually from time to time. However, I haven’t felt that obsession with the game in years and the debrief Blizzard did at Gamescom was the first time I felt a sense of hope for the game in a very long time. I excitedly tweeted about the whole thing on twitter but as soon as the hype died down, so did my interest. I’m sure once it gets closer I’ll get excited again. But while I’m not as excited about WoW as I want to be, it did do one thing for my gaming needs: I got bit by the MMO bug again and really wanted to get back into that world again.

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Fiance to the rescue! Jake had just downloaded Star Wars: The Old Republic and was playing it again and when he caught me looking with interest over his shoulder (a Star Wars MMO?!?! YES PLEASE), he dragged out his old PC, dusted it off, and set it up for me (I’m mostly a console gamer because my Mac doesn’t run games as well). After about 15 minutes of playing, I bought a subscription and I haven’t looked back. I love this game. It scratches all the MMO itches I’ve been feeling including my love of social games – a bunch of our friends are playing too so we’ve already put together a guild and have started running together. It feels like the old days of WoW where I can sign on and know that most likely there’s someone on to play with. I know I’m waaaaaaaaay late to this wagon, but it looks like I’ve jumped in at a good time since the new expansion is about to be released AND I hear that the game has gotten way better in the last year or so from where it had been. PLUS. It’s getting me even MORE hyped for the Force Awakens (YOU GUYS HAVE NO IDEA I’M SO EXCITED). I’ll have to write a full on Star Wars post later otherwise I’ll get terribly side-tracked.

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I’m currently playing a dark-sided Zabrak Trooper named Sh’ehpp (the female troopers are voiced by Jennifer Hale, Voice Actress and Goddess, so of course I named my trooper after my favorite Commander Shepard from Mass Effect), and a light-sided Twi’lek Smuggler named Oolaj’ikki – both of which are on The Shadowlands server if you’d like to join me in my SWTOR adventures. I’ll eventually be making a Sith character but since my entire Guild is a bunch of goodie-goodies, I’m on Republic side. For now…

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Honestly I should have known I would love this game. It’s Bioware. And I was a huge fan of Knights of the Old Republic back in the day. AND Mass Effect is my favorite game (I have an N7 tattoo on my wrist!) and Dragon Age was what got me back into gaming on a daily level. I’ll be writing a heartfelt thank you post to Bioware in the future too because they have done so much in my life and I am so grateful to them. For now though, thanks for getting me back into the world of MMOs and for giving me a new addiction in life. Because I needed another one in my life apparently. Y’all, come play SWTOR with me! If you love Star Wars and video games, this is definitely for you.

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This much-awaited (much, much, MUCH awaited) Kickstarter project is the brain child of my friend Clay Gardner (with gorgeous illustration work by Niko Geyer) and pretty much SHATTERED its goal within hours – JUST hours. It’s called OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game and I am so excited to start playing this game. I love anime, and I love tabletop RPGs, so I feel like this was made for me. And it seems, a lot of people feel the same way. The original goal was $7,500 but at the moment of writing this, they’re sitting pretty at $90,728. Holy crap, right?

“OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game is exactly what it says in the title, a tabletop RPG lovingly crafted to capture the diverse worlds of Japanese animation. Save the princess (or prince!) from a fire-breathing dragon, tackle invading squadrons of giant robots, or find true love amid campus hijinks—everything you need is inside!”

Clay was sweet enough to take a moment of his time and answer a few questions about his awesome Kickstarter campaign. I figure the man behind the project would be able to tell you a little more about it than I can. So let’s start!

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The Interview: with Clay Gardner

01. Tell us a little about your Kickstarter. Where did the idea for it come from and who is all working on it?

I wrote the beginnings of OVA around ten years ago. I was just getting into anime heavily, and I wanted to represent the shows I was enjoying in role-playing form. But at the time, I felt constrained by most games available. Many great and fun systems existed, of course, but nothing seemed to let me create the character I wanted to. Even point-buy systems, which on paper were supposed to open up possibilities, always seemed to punish making cinematic decisions. Having a character good with both a gun and martial arts had very little to do with a character’s effectiveness in the game, but almost always resulted in a crippling reduction in available points. And so too with multiple flashy attacks, or really anything done for the sake of “being cool.” I wanted a game that embraced doing things for the fun of it, and soon, OVA took shape. I released it as a PDF in 2005, with a print run following the next year.

This Kickstarter is for a new, revised version of OVA. The game holds onto the same ideals I had a decade ago but is improved with all the experience I’ve gained in the time between. A brand new layout, art done by a single talented artist Niko Geyer, and many refinements and expansions to the rules make the game better than ever before. It’s OVA as I knew it always could be.

02. What was the hardest part about putting together a campaign like this?

I hope it’s not too much of a cop-out answer, but I feel like getting the whole thing together was the hardest part! By itself, each element was a lot of work, but being able to juggle creating a video, the page graphics, all the groundwork for promoting the kickstarter, and all the text the project required at the same time…well…I’m glad it’s all done!

03. What has the process been like getting OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game together? What came first – stories, characters, worlds, etc? How do you keep it all organized?

Because OVA already existed in some form, working on the new edition sort of jumped between everything in no particular order. I’d spend some time creating a new character, who’d inspire a new rule or revision. Or maybe a new rule would change the way I thought a character should be written. But I think it was always about characters at heart. That is why we play role-playing games, after all, and I wanted to make sure that every part of the new OVA was dedicated to making the process of realizing a character as simple and fun as possible.

As for how I keep it all organized, I tend to jot down all my ideas in text files before introducing it into the actual manuscript. After I had the manuscript more or less complete, I began typesetting the book while making small revisions I felt were appropriate. I guess you could look at each file type like a different draft, with the actual InDesign layout file being my last pass for the text.

04. What advice do you have for others who are thinking about starting their own RPGs or Kickstarters?

Take the time to make your page look as good as possible. While a solid idea will get support based on its own merit, a professional presentation instills confidence in a project and shows that you’re the kind of creator that is serious about bringing a product to completion. Show finished, polished examples of your work in action, and if possible, make graphics that spell out exactly what each of your pledge levels offers.

If you’re kickstarting a game (be it an RPG, a board game, or even a video game) give visitors a way to try it out. Whether you offer a print-in play version, a condensed copy of the rulebook, or just a demo, people appreciate being able to know what they’re getting and not just acting upon a sales pitch.

Oh, and plan to take the whole first day off so you can dedicate it to your Kickstarter. *laughs*

05. And finally! If you were to sit down at a table to start playing OVA, who would be your ideal/dream RPers to play with? Can be anyone, living or dead. Who would they play?

That’s a tough one! If we expand the “anyone living or dead” magic to include breaking language barriers, I think it would be fascinating to play the game with Japanese story-telling greats like Hayao Miyazaki and Osamu Tezuka. And of course Ryo Mizuno of Record of Lodoss War fame. I wonder how he’d feel about OVA’s rules in comparison to systems like D&D and Sword World that formed the basis of so many of his stories?

What characters would they play? Ones from their own tales? New ones whole-cloth? Hard to say…but it would be kind of magical if one of them took up the Game Master’s hat instead!

Keep Pledging for Rewards!

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Right now, the goal is to hit $100k and I fully believe they can do! Let’s help get them there – if they get there, a new reward will open up, and I would love to get my hands on it. So what are you waiting for? Go kickstart this project!