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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!

Hey look! I remembered how to be an artist!

It’s been awhile since I drew on a daily basis, but I’ve been attempting to make it a regular thing again. Thanks to my awesomesauce friend Meg Smitherman, I’ve been at least doing it weekly. We’ve been doing an accountability sketch thing where we give ourselves one weekly topic and then draw it or sketch it however we see fit. Figured I’d do an art dumb of some of the sketches I’ve been working on for the challenges.

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Topic: Star Wars | Sketch: Asyr Sei’lar, Rogue Squadron

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Topic: Mass Effect | Sketch: EDI

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Topic: Harry Potter | Sketch: Luna Lovegood

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Tiefling Barbarians FTW!

That last one isn’t for the sketch thing – I just wanted to draw up an avatar for my Tiefling Barbarian that my play in our D&D campaign. Her name is Orianna and she’s loud and brash and likes shining things. She’s also very sarcastic and smooth with the ladies. I love her.

I’ve also been doing a little post-it note doodle challenge with myself to try and get the creative juices going in the morning. Usually I do these while I’m on client calls when I’m not taking notes (having my hands moving keeps my mind focused on what I’m listening to – I was a notorious doodler in classes too but it really does help) so they’re pretty small and silly. You can find these over on my twitter account. I try to post them pretty regularly. When I’m not sick. Fighting off a bad cough and cold right now so I’m a little slow.

Will post more art later! Working on finishing that Asyr sketch and the Luna one. Wish me luck!

Obligatory SDCC Post: I Love San Diego!

A little over a month ago I was in glorious San Diego with my fiance, drinking local beer and eating some of the largest portions of food I’ve ever had (like seriously, California you sure don’t know how to portion control – I thought Texas was bad). San Diego Comic Con has been a bucket list item of mine for EONS and finally, after years of trying, I managed to score both of us tickets. And it was everything we could have ever hoped for.

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Comic Con Internation!

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Jake and I at Comic Con!

I didn’t take as many pictures as I wanted – there was just too much to do and look at and I think most of the time I was just walking around with my eyes opened wide trying to take it all in at once (that’s what she said). I had actually hoped that maybe SDCC wouldn’t be as great as everyone says it is so I’d never want to go back, but sadly (happily), this was not the case and I am planning on going back next year because you can’t just go once. It’s like getting a tattoo – it’s now become an addiction. I need more SDCC in my life.

And because I already miss it so much (Was I really just there last month? It feels like a dream.), I am going through all the pictures I did manage to take and I’m living vicariously through Past Nikki and feeling all the feels again. Here. You can feel them with me.

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