Emotions in Gaming: Hit or Miss?

I feel like the color wheel that I learned in primary school may have a few gaps that need to be filled in. I mean, the basics are all there; happy, sad, mad, scared, excited, but there are so many more emotions that life throws at us – depression, anxiety, arousal, the unique hell that is hangry, and the true fear and desperation that grips you after the triple-layer chili bean burrito kicks in 1 hour into a 2-and-a-half-hour road trip.

That particularly exciting pants-shitting incident aside, the point I’m trying to get across is that humans have a lot of emotions (which we don’t always deal with in the healthiest of manners). As an explicit outlet for our creative impulses, the artistic world tries to elicit responses from its audience by tapping into these emotions.

Movies, television, novels, and most of pop culture seem to have this sort of stuff down pat by now, but as a younger medium, it feels like video games are much more hit or miss.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely games that deliver the old one-two emotional gut punch that knocks you off your feet and keep kicking you while you’re down. Hell, I bawled my eyes out during that scene with Aunt May in the hospital in Spiderman and the end of Infamous 2 like everybody else. I rewatched both these scenes prior to writing this and it still brings me to tears.

Yes games have long aspired to reach the emotional heights of their older brethren film and television and now that people are becoming more comfortable with the idea that video games can be art we have begun to see some games reach these lofty goals. The “some” in that sentence is doing a lot of lifting there so let’s unpack.

Where film and television can keep a psychotic death grip on the pacing through the use of leaving stuff on the cutting room floor and only picking the most essential parts (and keeping the rest to add in for the eventual Directors Cut), video games don’t have that luxury.

As a medium where the audience has an unprecedented level of control on the proceedings of the game it’s impossible for developers to ensure the experience is the same for everyone.

As a result the developers can dump all the story into the worldbuilding and crowbar it in as exposition in between gameplay (the original Titanfall being a prominent example). That’s not a story, that’s being dictated to.

When I play games, I don’t want to be told to feel a certain way about the events and what’s happening to the characters just because the developers say I have to. That’s just lazy storytelling or poor planning.

The first time I really encountered this was in the indie game This War of Mine. For those of you that haven’t played This War of Mine, you’re running a survivor’s colony in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world where this war is a big nebulous cloud hanging over everything as you just try to avoid getting swept up into it.

You start out by scavenging and looting abandoned stores and houses, but you can only loot sweet shops for so long. Eventually, you have to graduate from robbing the deceased to robbing from the very alive and armed.

This culminates in a harrowing moment early on in the game when you’re looting an old man’s house, and he catches you in the act. At first, you think he’s going to attack you but then you realize he’s no threat and can only whine as you nick all his stuff.

It was heartbreaking watching as my character stripped the old man's means of survival right out of his withered, bony hands. Knowing that he would surely perish because of my actions made me tear up a little.

That raw emotional goodwill that the game had built up curdled somewhat when a bit later in the game, my scavenger got gunned down raiding a military base. Assault rifles being much more effective than a game of paper, scissors, rock.

I returned to the bunker down one scavenger and the people in the camp flicked their emotional levers from “whining about the lack of food and the existential dread of their situation in life,” to “sad and whining about the lack of food and the existential dread of their situation in life”.

I don’t know why they were so sad. I’d never seen any of them so much as talk to the guy let alone play any soul-bonding sessions of Jenga together. I didn’t have the backstory or the relevant context on their relationship that I needed to care about them.

Compare that to Red Dead Redemption 2 and the (spoiler) death of Arthur Morgan’s horse. I’d watched Arthur Morgan and his horse bond and grow closer as a result of my own direct actions. I’d survived shootouts and outrun bandits and the law from one end of the US to the other on the back of my trusty steed. I’d seen that and had that context so that when I watched my beloved horse stumble and die all those memories and experiences were right there to emotionally break me. I felt the pain of Arthur as he watched his trusty steed leave him.

You can’t just tell someone they’re sad; they have to feel it; they have to absorb those feelings and process them in a way that’s personal to them. Their personal experiences and context inform all of their emotional responses. Let me explain (or try to with the grace of an alpine skier navigating an apartment stairwell during a fire).

I love the Uncharted franchise. I think it's some of Naughty Dog’s best work and it’s a game series that I can always boot up, sit back, and enjoy. The first time I finished Among Thieves (the franchise’s best entry) the tears were rolling down my face just like the end credits. I didn’t even realize why I was crying until after I met Nolan North and told him what happened, much to his understandable confusion (also got some great selfies with him like the one below).

I had just spent a great twelve hours experiencing a great game controlling Nathan Drake through a globe-trotting adventure capped off with an absolute thrilling boss fight that I definitely didn’t squeal like a pig during, and now it was all over. It was all over, and I’d never experience that for the first time ever again.

If the game had then flashed up a message in the sky that said: “Game Over, you be sad now,” all the emotional weight the game had built up would have sucked right back into me like a traumatic reverse childbirth.

A game that I think does this really well is Spec Ops: The Line. It’s the only war shooter that’s made me feel fear, guilt, and physical sickness. As you pilot Captain Martin Walker on his descent through a ruined Dubai, you become less a pilot and more like a witness to the horrible acts Walker commits, acting as the last vestige of consciousness.

The game puts you in horrible situations, gives you choices where the only difference is the degree to which Walker continues to spiral downwards, and gives you the freedom to make that choice. Then the game moves on and leaves you to come to terms with the undoubtedly horrible war crime you committed.

The best part is that the game never sits you down after these acts and explicitly states what emotions the characters are feeling. It trusts you enough to be able to figure it out; mind-blowing concept as that is.

Shadow of The Colossus, The Last Of Us, Red Dead, Bioshock. These games aren’t scared to push emotionally complex themes and ideas on their audiences and just leave them to figure it out for themselves.

For me, that’s what this all comes down to. The emotions we feel don’t come from the games themselves. Sure, the games bring out these emotions in us but ultimately, the emotions come from us and our personal context.

The frustrating thing is that I feel like the majority of the triple-A video game industry just expects that if they throw in enough elements that worked in other games, the audience will magically feel all those same emotions just because they’re there.

It’s like looking at a beautiful sculpture that an artist poured blood, sweat, and tears into, then taking a marble slab and hacking at it with a chainsaw all with the expectation that the end result will stack up anywhere close to the original.

Pure insanity. 

What game gave you a case of the feels? Let me know down below.

Our Journey As Female Gamers Part III - Featuring Maria Kinnun & Jen Miller

I had a great discussion with Maria and Jen about their personal experience with gaming and how their experience had changed over the years as video games evolved.  For Maria, gaming has played a large part of her life from an early age as she and her siblings anticipated the newest releases throughout the years. Jen also got an early start but took a bit of a break from the gaming scene for a portion of her 20s. She has since rediscovered her passion for gaming. 

We talked about the industry shift from marketing to mainly male players to seeing a significant rise of strong female lead characters that we can relate to for one reason or another. We’ll also talk about their experience with streaming and how it can be challenging at times. But at other times, it can be rewarding and helpful to overcome social anxieties and be more comfortable with being vulnerable. 

Let’s get a little history from two more of our fellow Replayers: 

How did you become a gamer and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?

The Amstrad CPC 464 was the start of Maria’s gaming journey.

Maria: My parents bought an Amstrad CPC 464. It was a tape-driven computer and had simple games on it. My first ever game was Harrier Attack. Terrible game, but it was the start of a long journey of fun. I pretty much started as that little sister player 2 but carried it on all the way through my life. Since then, I have owned most of the major consoles and have been gaming ever since.  I was often a player 2 sidekick to my older brother, and we would spend many a night battling through games. We didn't have internet or social media, so our game time was our biggest pastime. It just naturally seemed to become a way of life. It was exciting waiting for that new game, that new console. There was always something new on the horizon and something to be excited about. Gaming has been a big part of my childhood and now into adulthood, too.

 

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego for the Tandy 1000

Jen: I started out with a Tandy 1000 computer at my grandma's when I was 3 or 4, playing King's Quest, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. I also played a lot of NES and Sega Genesis when I was a kid. I took a break from gaming for most of my 20s, then I won an original Xbox from Taco Bell and got an original Playstation for Christmas where I played Spyro the Dragon for days. I can’t recall a specific influence, except for maybe watching the movie The Wizard when I was a kid. I was amazed at Super Mario 3, and it's still one of my favorite retro games.

 

What are some of your favorite games you grew up with and why? What kind of gamer are you? Do you like challenges, is it more for the social aspect, do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to them? Has that preference evolved over time? 

Pirates and puzzles in Monkey Island offer hours of entertainment.

Maria: I loved puzzle adventures. Monkey Island was my favorite game for a long time. I loved Pirates and treasures so naturally, I fell in love with the Uncharted series. I have always loved story-driven games and games with exploration. I do like a good old FPS though. It's kinda satisfying just blowing stuff up, ya know!

 

I like challenges in puzzles and mind games, things I have to think about and dwell on. For me, gaming is kind of a way to flex my brain muscles and escape the world for a bit. I like games that are relaxing but I prefer games with a driven story. I tend to get distracted too much when there isn't a goal or mission. Games that require grinding or farming lose my interest after a while. When I was younger I did enjoy more simulation games and builders such as Sim City. As I have become busier in life, my time to game is a little more precious and I am usually looking for something with a quick fix, not something I have to dedicate too much time to. I am also a magpie and like new shiny things so I tend to move on to something different if it seems to give me a quicker fix. I do like survival horror too. I'm a horror geek.

 

The classic combination Mario Bros & Duck Hunt cartridge

Jen: On the original NES I played a lot of Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, but I also loved (and also hated) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were challenging enough, but also fun to play.

 

I feel like my preference has evolved as games have. I started out playing original games for NES, Atari, and Intellivision. Now I mostly play first-person shooters and open-world exploration games. I really enjoy a good storyline but graphic quality is also extremely important to me. Games like The Last of Us and Uncharted are my favorites.

Who's your favorite turtle?

Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?

Maria: I feel like girls have always played games but there was always more of a focus of it being a boy toy. I felt you were the weird girl if you gamed. I played games growing up and was labeled as a "tomboy" for doing so. Video games were something that boys talked about, and girls who played games talked about it with the boys. I knew a few girl gamers growing up but it was kind of a secret passion that they didn't really talk about in fear of being ridiculed by the girl society. Us girls were supposed to play with hair and dolls, not murder monsters and be heroes! It does feel like lately, more girls are coming into the limelight as serious gamers. With such platforms as Youtube and Twitch, girl gamers are coming out more and being seen. It still does seem to be a male-dominated market but I can see that the tables are slowly turning and it is a nice thing to see.

Jen: I honestly didn't pay a lot of attention until I saw memes about "fake girl gamers". I've noticed since then the momentum of getting more female gamers in the spotlight, and it's been really nice to see.

 

Have there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so? 

Ellie from TLOU2 has inspired and challenged the typical strong lead mold for video games moving forward.

Maria: I loved Ellie in the Last of Us. She just felt real to me and someone I could relate to and her way reminded me of myself. The fact that she was a girl and she was a "normal" girl, was refreshing. Her “girlness" didn't really come into play in the way she acted. She never felt like she couldn't do something and was always looking to stand up and fight her own battles. To me also, it helped that her character wasn't sexualized to sell her and make her appealing. Her character was strong. Lara croft comes to mind also but I did feel that the original Lara was made for boys. I still think that it was awesome that game creators took a chance with her to have a female lead do everything the guys could and pave the way for a strong female hero. I also loved Abby in TLOU2!

Jen: Laura Bailey is so incredibly talented in everything she does, Ashley Johnson has always been an amazing actor. Felicia Day...what can I say about her that hasn't been said. And my fellow Replayers who stream, you all inspire and motivate me every day. Please keep it up!

 

 

 

Do you feel that women have been underrepresented as leads in games throughout the years? Have you noticed a shift in recent years? Expand on this. 

Maria: I do! There are a few games I could name where a female was a lead but I feel like that has increased a lot recently. I would love to see more female characters leading the adventures and being cool, just like the guys! I would also like to see female characters being taken more seriously and not just eye-candy. I think we are all a little tired of the skimpy suits of armor for our female characters.  I love that games are moving that way and there are some really good female leads coming into play. I like that a female character isn't just being included as a side character but as the main star. I also love seeing more women in the business too, being the minds behind these games. I would love to see more girls in the gaming industry

Jen: I was extremely excited when Horizon Zero Dawn came out, having a female protagonist in an open-world game like that was incredible. Tomb Raider/Lara Croft has always been a force to be reckoned with. And with Last of Us Part II being driven by the story of two strong, powerful women, made me feel so empowered.

 

Some of us are streamers: 

What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer? 

Maria: Mostly good, I have enjoyed the community that I have met and my experience has been a positive one. I feel that streaming has really helped with my social anxiety and has helped me grow confidence in my brand and myself. It can be hard. With life and everything else, it can be a little overwhelming at times and it can be hard to find the time to be consistent. I often don't feel like I want to stream but I always feel better once I do. It’s good fun!

Jen: It's fun, but also frustrating. I want to share my experience with certain games, but I don't always want to stream. When I do stream, I tend to do full playthroughs. Picking a time where I can get a lot of viewers is difficult due to having so many friends in different time zones.

 

What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things? 

Maria: I like being able to create a brand and have fun with it. It's nice to put yourself out there and have people follow and enjoy what you do. This can be good and bad. Putting yourself out there can make you feel very vulnerable. If you are someone who may struggle with confidence, like I do, this can be a little overwhelming. I love chatting with people in streams, even if I am streaming or watching. It's fun meeting new people and sharing an experience with them. Overall I really enjoy the communities I have found.

Jen: I love having friends come into chat to hang out, or give me advice on a game. It's always nice to have people cheering you on. I love sharing my experience with a game with others. My least favorite are the streams that no one comes to, or no one chats in. I seem to attract a lot of lurkers, but none of them follow or subscribe. It's a little disheartening.

 

Back to gaming:

What is one of your favorite achievements in your personal gaming history you’ve accomplished? A game you’ve beaten, an achievement reached, or a charity stream goal achieved? 

Maria: Over the last year I have really been able to stick through some games to completion and that has been a lot of fun. I have been involved in Charity streams and even hosted them myself. That has been a real rewarding experience. For me, mostly, being able to grow confidence to actually stream is a big deal for me. I have social anxiety and to get to the point where I have put myself out there, exposed, and live has been a really big step for me and one I am proud of.

Jen: After years of not caring, I recently became a trophy hunter. I have a lot of consoles but play mostly on my PS4 and PS5. In just the last few months I've gotten Platinum trophies on 5 different games. I'm currently working on a few more.

 

Video games have evolved significantly in the last few years in regards to diversity and strong female leads. What more would you like to see from the industry in the future?

Maria: I would love to see more girls in the industry and more game creators, voice actors, animators etc get the credit they deserve for the work they do. I feel like the video game industry still isn't taken too seriously and so often the real talent behind these masterpieces is hidden. I would love for there to be more options and routes to get into gaming, more accessibility, and options for young people to take that step into the industry from a young age.

Jen: I would love to see a show like Retro Replay or Get Good featuring female streamers. I like popping into streams from people like Shannon Woodward, Felicia Day, and Jocelyn Mettler, but I haven't found exactly the content I'm looking for.

 

I had a lot of fun talking with Maria and Jen about video games and how they have become an integral part of our lives when it comes to our entertainment. I learned a lot about them and got to know some of my fellow Replayers better. I would recommend checking out their Twitch channels for some fun content. I am sure they’d love to say “hi” if you stopped by! 

 

Stay tuned for Part IV of our Candid Discussion with two more of our fellow Replayers!

 

Yes, I Live With A Survival Horror Junkie

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Right? Or does he have a problem? How does this work? 

Suppose you live with a gamer. Maybe it's a family member, a roommate, or even a significant other. And because you live with them, you are exposed to whatever games they like to play. This includes the horrifyingly graphic and disgusting games with copious amounts of blood. Oh my god! The blood! It's the kind of games that they play over and over and over again and on harder difficulty each time. 

If this is you, my friend, you just might live with a survival horror junkie.

 

I have never been a fan of games designed to terrify the living daylights out of me. I prefer to play games that let me escape the horrors of everyday life because, let's be honest, most jobs are a nightmare. But since I moved in with my significant other, I have been exposed to some of the scariest, most intense, and squishy (you know, the sounds that zombies make when they chomp on your face) games I have ever seen. He has actually tried to get me to play some of his favorites, including Resident Evil. The old-school pixelated original version of Resident Evil didn't freak me out (that much- okay, the spiders got me). 

*WARNING: Very salty language in the following clip*

I mean, seriously, I told him there’s never anything good behind red doors. And I was right! 

He also got me to play the re-released version of Resident Evil 2, and that was a giant NOPE for me. I tried. I really did. But when there is a massive blood smear leading under a half-opened door that I have to crawl under, no thank you, I would like to live. I stood there so long that he finally took over the controller. 

I guess you could say that I have a powerful survival instinct. I would rather run away from danger! Not into it! Growling and snarling noises? Go the other way! To me, it’s very simple. Not to a survival horror junkie. They run headlong into the most gruesome and disturbing scenes imaginable and watch as their characters die in incredibly awful ways over and over again. And these are the games they enjoy playing! I get it. It's all about the challenge. I think. 

I have had the incredible privilege (I'm holding up my sarcasm sign) of watching him play through things like The Last of Us, Days Gone, The Evil Within, and a slew of Resident Evil games. This is just a small list. There are many, many more. And sure, today's graphics are incredible, and they can do so many things to make everything look more realistic, but must they? I have seen more realistic-looking entrails and body parts that main characters have to slip and slide through to get away from whatever madness is chasing them than I ever care to (I'm looking at you, Evil Within). Never EVER try to eat ANYTHING when the person you live with decides to start playing one of these games. Just DON’T. 

And why would I want to play games that have literally made him scream? The first time he played Phasmophobia (a ghost hunting game) with his friend, they were both screaming. Like girls. For more on those hilarious shenanigans, you can check out my previous article “When Men Scream Like Girls”.

Shana's creation

As much as these games can make me squeamish and blow my blood pressure through the roof, sometimes funny things can come out of it when I am forced to watch some of these horrifying games. While streaming Evil Within, I had asked my significant other to please turn his "butt light" off (the lantern that hangs from the character’s belt) because it attracts zombies. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request. It became a hilarious possible t-shirt idea thanks to fellow Replayer and stream watcher Shana Martin. 

I sometimes have an easier time dealing with these types of games if I am co-oping them with him. We played Dead Space 3 together and I was so proud of myself when I had a headshot on the space zombies (or whatever they are), but those bastards kept coming! Headless! Full spine headless space zombie grossness crawling at me was not what I had in mind for a romantic evening of co-op gaming with the man. 

I have also started playing Phasmaphobia with him and friends, but it is seriously scary no matter how many times I have played it. I've been known to stay in the van to “look for orbs” on the cameras. Don’t judge! I live so I get to keep my money and my equipment to help fund future ghost hunting expeditions. That’s my story and I am most assuredly sticking to it. I have also been known to just guess what the ghost is and drive off with the van when we get a particularly nasty ghost that has killed off the rest of the crew—because I am not going in that house!

I’m sure I will continue to get roped into either sitting with him while he plays or attempting to play with him because apparently, my reactions are “funny.” The small bit of satisfaction I get is that many times my reactions to jump scares actually scare him more than the actual game itself. What can I say? I’m jumpy and we get a good laugh out of it, and it makes for some entertaining streams and content. You’re welcome?

As much as I complain about the awfulness that I hear and see emanating from his screen on a daily basis, I don’t think I would have it any other way. It makes him happy, and the fact that he can share something with me that he is passionate about is incredibly important to both of us. I have learned a lot about the franchises and do get interested in the great stories behind things like the Umbrella Corp, for example. Even if I am watching while my hands are covering my eyes.  

 

What games do you get exposed to that you wish you didn’t? Do you or someone you know live with a survival horror junkie?

 

 

Our Journey As Female Gamers Part II - Featuring Charlotte Merritt & Stephanie Watson

What would it be like to have an extensive gaming experience that spanned forty years? What kind of evolution would be experienced over the course of an entire generation? 

I had the honor of talking with two of our Replayers who have been gaming in one fashion or another for around forty years. I started gaming from a very early age, but I was very curious about what these ladies’ experiences were, considering they had more background knowledge of the earlier systems and have played significantly more video games than I have. 

They have seen and experienced the evolution of the online collective community of video game players. What kind of environment did those first communities foster, and how have they since changed? 

Let’s start with a little history from them to see how things have changed from the early days:

How did you become a gamer and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?

The Commodore 64 was introduced in August 1982.

Charlotte: My father bought a floppy drive for our Commodore 64. Dad liked some games, but he really didn’t lead me to them. It’s more that he introduced them.

Stephanie: I was about 7 or 8 when Pac-Man, Galaga, and other early arcade games started appearing in local restaurants. My parents bought us portable Pac-Man and Donkey Kong games to play at home. It started as something to do at restaurants while my family was waiting for a table or socializing after eating. Later, I started asking if I could ride my bike to the arcade and play. Friends and cousins had PCs with games and Atari 2600 consoles, and I'd try to visit them so I could play there too. Back home, though, my parents didn't buy anything until I was around 15, and it was a Nintendo NES for my brother. I played it a lot, but it always meant having to hang out in my brother's room. 

What are some of your favorite games you grew up with and why? What kind of gamer are you? Do you like challenges, is it more for the social aspect, do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to it? Has that preference evolved over time? 

Charlotte: Some of the games I grew up playing were Police Quest, Doom (1993) specifically, and Twisted Metal. At-home gaming was just coming in when I was a kid. I would say I am an eclectic gamer. I love the social aspect of video games. RPG’s are grand (Ultima Online & SWTOR). Puzzles are my favorite. Uncharted, the entire series is my absolute favorite. I think my preference has evolved as games have advanced.

Stephanie: Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were always favorites, and I got a lot of Super Mario Brothers playtime. I fell in love with The Legend of Zelda on my brother's NES. He got the Nintendo Power magazine for a while, so I would dive into the guides for specific games so I could get past the sticking points that made me rage quit.

I like a combination of puzzles and story-driven missions, and I usually play on story or normal modes. A story will keep me playing if I was really compelled by it or if there are different options for playing the story on repeated runs. Thus, RPGs are often a big draw. I also love achievement hunting and team challenges when I can play with other people. I love going back to play games like Destiny and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?

Charlotte:  For sure. Growing up, my generation's games were marketed to boys. Girls who played them were weird. Thanks go to the younger generation of gamers and streamers who have really helped try to normalize us. I remember so many times in UO (Ultima Online) other players not believing that I was a woman. “Women don’t play games” or “Women don’t know how to do RPG’s.” I was judged a lot by other girls as a teen because I would go home and throw on Doom, instead of reading Cosmo and learning the new makeup tips. Now it’s so nice that thanks to Retro Replay, I have this fantastic group of female gamers around me.

Stephanie: When video games first came out in the late 70s and early 80s, toy stores had no idea where they should put them. At the time, stores segregated toys by target gender (boy and girl). They chose to put them in the boy section and market them to boys. Many girls like me have felt the results of that marketing decision for three decades. Even today, people assume I'm a "he" in online games, even if I'm playing a female character. Fortunately, girls are really starting to come into their own now in ALL KINDS of games, and gaming communities are starting to outright reject people who discriminate against female gamers. I'm all for that, and it's great to see more females proudly calling themselves a gamer without feeling like they have to qualify or distinguish their gender.

 

Have there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so? 

 

Chloe & Nadie don’t look like they need rescuing.

Charlotte:  Lara Croft was a big one. Tough, strong female character. This has now grown to include Elena, Chloe, and Nadine. They don’t need to be “rescued”. They hold their own.

Stephanie: I admit I've mostly played games in which the lead was male just because I found the story intriguing. That said, I love how Star Wars: The Old Republic wrote the female versions of each character class to be equal to their male counterparts in the main plots of the story.

 

Do you feel that women have been underrepresented as leads in games throughout the years? Have you noticed a shift in recent years? Expand on this. 

Charlotte: For Sure. They’ve been insanely underrepresented AND over-sexualized when they are in a game. Yes.

Stephanie: We've absolutely been underrepresented as leads. There has been an effort in recent years to have a female alternative lead in games, but most of the marketing and labels use the male lead. I suppose that's because of their demographic, with males still being the majority of gamers in certain game categories. I appreciate the move that RPG games have made to ensure that the female characters had just as compelling of a story as their male counterparts. And the game stories are also bringing in a lot of diversity.

 

Some of us are streamers: 

What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer? 

 

Charlotte: It’s been fun. I recently became a Twitch affiliate. I have my first subscriber (Thanks Adam!) People have been very welcoming and supportive.

Stef's new setup

Stephanie: It's a fun hobby, and it's given me an excuse to improve my gaming setup at home. It also helps me accept that I'm not perfect (I can't just edit out the rough spots) and that's okay. My streaming schedule has been incredibly limited since 2021 started, though, as I now spend most of my hobby hours editing articles for a website or producing a podcast.

What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things? 

 

Charlotte: I love seeing my friends interacting in my chat. I hate seeing a new name and hitting that second of panic of….are you here to troll or are you here cause I’m playing a game you like? Luckily, I’ve only had to deal with a couple of bots. So I’ll claim a win, so far.

Stephanie: My favorite part of streaming is seeing people who come in regularly, people who have been supporting me and the channel from the start. I love that I can talk to them while I'm playing or cooking or whatever I'm streaming that day. That social part is even better when I can stream with friends, too. 

 

Back to gaming:

What is one of your favorite achievements in your personal gaming history you’ve accomplished? A game you’ve beaten, an achievement reached or a charity stream goal achieved? 

 

Charlotte’s family resulted from her playing an online game and meeting her Prince Charming. Now she is living her “Happily Ever After.”

Charlotte: My 15-year-old son, Troy. I met my husband on a video game (Ultima Online) back in 2002. We married in 2003.

Stephanie: My favorite "old school" achievement is finishing The Legend of Zelda on NES. I've even replayed the game multiple times in the years since when I could find it. My favorite current achievement is hosting an Extra Life team and charity stream. We raised almost $1500 for children's hospitals and the whole team brought so much energy, enthusiasm, and support for each other. It was a joy to be able to host, and I hope we can do it again in 2021!

https://www.extra-life.org/ 

Charity Streams are a great way to pursue your hobby and give back to a great cause! 

Video games have evolved significantly in the last few years in regards to diversity and strong female leads. What more would you like to see from the industry in the future?

Charlotte: Would love to see even more diversity, gender, and race. I would also like to see schools promote the E arts to female students. It’s sad how much more the boys are pushed to them. I feel like if girls had new opportunities in jobs available they would go for more of those classes.

Stephanie: We've already come a long way with female leads and gay representation. I'd like to see more story writers and game producers take that to the next level by having characters who are bisexual, polyamorous, transgender, transvestite, and non-binary. I'd especially like stories to not assume every romance is going to be hetero or monogamous.

 

 I had a lot of fun discussing these questions in further detail in a Zoom chat with six of us female Replayers.

I learned a lot from Charlotte and Stephanie. From the early days of gaming to our current era it seems we have come a long way already in a short period of time. There have already been great strides in diversifying stories and gameplay. In recent years we have seen a significant influx of strong female leads giving us women gamers someone to finally relate to. You can look at a past interview of female replayers here.

 

Thank you again Charlotte and Stephanie for chatting with me and sharing your experience with the rest of us.

Check out their socials!

Charlotte - Twitter: @snapefantasy Twitch: twitch.tv/snapefantasy Instagram: snapefantasy

Stephanie - Twitter: @StephanieDoesVO Twitch: twitch.tv/Jicori Instagram: stephaniedoesvo

 

What other kinds of diversified roles would you like to see in video games? 

 

Early Access: Ground Branch

To begin this article I have to ask you all something first. Have you ever wanted to play a game that had realism, tactics, and with a pinch of unique shooting mechanics? Welcome to Ground Branch, a realistic tactical shooter where you actually have to think like a Tier 1 Operator in order to play this game.

 

WHAT IS SO UNIQUE ABOUT GROUND BRANCH?

 

Ground Branch is not your every day “First Person Shooter”. The game puts legitimate elements together for you where you have to actually think about and how to overcome certain objectives.

Let me give you an example: think of a plane taken over by terrorists and the surrounding buildings. What would your approach be? Do you go in with stealth to take over the buildings before going to the plane? How would you get to the plane without being noticed or getting shot in a wide-open area? What weapon will you take with you? Do you take an M416D CQB or an M16 rifle? Do you want to go long-range and back up your team, or do you want to clear the plane in a close-quarters battle?

These are just some of the questions that you ask yourself when playing this game. Preparation is vital in this, and believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to playing Ground Branch.

 

CO-OP/SINGLEPLAYER AND GEARING UP

 

If you want to squad up with your buddies and play some good ol’ fashion co-op mode, Ground Branch has you covered! When you start in a lobby, you will be placed in an Operations Center. This is where you can customize your loadout (Will talk more about customization further down!), test your equipment at the shooting range, vote on what map to play/match settings, or customize your character.

I’m gonna be honest here. When it comes to the customization in Ground Branch, I was completely blown away by how much attention to detail there is. When I put together my gun, I used the M416D CQB option(A carbine used for Close Quarters Battle) with a basic holographic sight, foregrip, suppressor, and laser sight.

Customizing my rifle was fun. You can place the foregrip anywhere on the under-barrel. You want it closer to where your magazine is? No problem! You want the sight a little bit further down on the rifle? You can do that!

If you wanna do some sniping but are concerned about getting up close with the enemy, you can put a sight on top of the scope! Just make sure the scope has a flat mount first, then you can put a mini red dot sight with the flat mount.

Let's move on to the character. You will have an encumbrance meter (Weight of gear that you are carrying)for your loadout, so be aware of that when customizing your operator. With every operator, you will have a chest rig or platform that holds your ammo. Now with this, you can put which type of ammo you want in your pouches. It usually defaults to your primary ammo, so I would keep it to that.

The same can be said for the grenades. If you want flashbangs or smoke grenades instead of the frag, you can change that out! I can go on and on about the customization, but I feel like I should leave some of it out so you can experience this for yourself!

Once you have everything you feel is the right fit for your loadout, you will find a briefing room where you can get a strategy going with your team and pick where to insert yourself on the map. The map will only give you two points of entry, so decide where you feel it is best suited for your loadout! When playing with bots, there are only two game modes to choose from. You will have the traditional Terrorist Hunt game mode and Intel Retrieval. You will also have mission settings where you set the difficulty, expected resistance, search time, etc.

 

IS THE GAMEPLAY ANY FUN?

 

The gameplay and gunplay in this game are extensive, so I will do my best to describe how fun it was while keeping it relatively short.

Again I want to reiterate the realism in this game. While going up against bots/other players, a single bullet can and will kill you (Insert Murphy's Laws Of Combat).

While I was playing, I noticed that arm strength is a real mechanic in this game, and if you keep your rifle up at the ready, you will sway a lot more than usual. In this case, I will introduce another mechanic to the gunplay. You can raise, lower, or ready your rifle from the hip before doing a breach and clear. You can even lean left and right out of cover to get a better shot without exposing most of your body.

If you want to go in with some stealth, you can find a panel and turn off the power to a building while your team readies at the door. While at the door, you can choose to open the door slowly and quietly while entering, keeping the element of surprise!

I will be honest, I had a lot of fun playing this game solo but wanted to try it out with a group of random people in co-op. Now I did have fun, but with all games, you will get a lot of people griefing you, but overall I had fun in the end.

Now I know I didn’t cover everything. I did that on purpose because I want you to try it out for yourself and discover what other mechanics are out there in Ground Branch.

So to finish off this article, if you are into tactical shooters where you need to think while playing, I would highly recommend this game. I do need to remind everyone that this game is in early access so everything is still subject to change! Have fun!!

Our Journey As Female Gamers Part I - Featuring Amelia Brown & Cassandre Federowicz

I fell in love with video games when I was about six or seven years old. Video games at the time were a niche hobby and just something to pass the time. Not many people talked about them openly. Video games were what the boys played, but I was a tomboy, so I fit right in.

When gaming online was introduced, the online community was saturated with mainly male players. It was very few and far between when I would meet other women online. When I did, it was a feeling of sisterhood and banding together. It was as if there was an unspoken understanding of the challenges we have faced as female gamers. 

Things have changed drastically since those early online days. Women are now a large majority of online players. Since joining the Retro Replay community, I have become acquainted with many wonderful, diverse women gamers, and I wanted to highlight their stories and journey through their gaming life.

I sat down with ten of these awesome ladies and discovered that some of them had been gaming for close to 40 years while others just recently took to gaming as a hobby. Most of the ladies had been playing video games in one capacity or another their entire lives. Since the years of experience varied between the group, I knew that we would have a great discussion on the evolution of gaming and where we hoped to see that evolution grow. 

Our first segment will feature Amelia Brown and Cassandre Federowicz. Amelia is our youngest featured gamer from Wales. Her experience spans about eleven years. Cassandre, from Rhode Island, USA, started gaming as early as she can remember. Let’s find out a bit more about our fellow female gamer Replayers. 

How did you become a gamer, and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?

Nige & Little Amelia bond in her early years playing the PS1

Amelia: “I would always watch my father play games. I was always so intrigued by what he was doing and always asking questions. Definitely going to have to say my dad was a big influence when it came to gaming as he was a big gamer himself. I also used to watch a lot of YouTube. At the time, a lot of big gaming YouTubers came onto the scene, and I fell into watching a lot of content on YouTube.” 

Cassandre:  “I probably became a gamer because of my mom. She liked games, so she got us playing some “retro stuff.”  It was on a PlayStation 1, but we definitely started playing the older games first. Then, she took me and my brother to Funcoland (which later turned into GameStop) to buy used PS1 games. As I got older and found out my friends also played games, I started playing more regularly. By the time the PS2 came out, I had a pretty decent size collection, and my friends and I would often play together.”

 

What are some of your favorite games you grew up with and why? What kind of gamer are you? Do you like challenges, is it more for the social aspect, do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to it? Has that preference evolved over time? 

 

Amelia: “When I was growing up, I used to love Simpsons Hit and Run for the PS2. That was probably one of my favorites! It was like a kids version of GTA cross with The Simpsons universe, which I was obsessed with when I was a kid, so it was like a match made in heaven! There was a series of games by the Bratz dolls that I adored when I was like 10 or 11, and I feel like I love these games so much because there was a sense of open world-ness to them and what I really enjoyed about this game was how it embraced creativity. You were able to make your own tee shirts and put on fashion shows, and it really did inspire me at one point to become a fashion designer; not gonna lie!

I love a fast-paced game with multiplayer aspects to it, such as battle royales and anything PvP. I'm big into shooter games like Fortnite, Apex, etc. However, when I like to relax, I wind down with slower-paced games such as Animal Crossing,  Pokémon, and Minecraft.”

 

Cassandre:  “I still have the first-ever game I got when PS2 came out. Britney’s Dance Beat (LOL) I don’t think it works anymore but I knew I couldn’t part with it. Besides that Legend of Mana for the PS1, which I also still have, and Final Fantasy X for the PS2. Those were games I played on my own. My WHOLE family would get in on some Crash Bash and Crash Team racing (both of which I also still have )  

 A year ago, I would have said I only play single-player narrative-based games. However, that has definitely changed. Pandemic allowed me to meet new people that I started playing online with. I also started getting into PC gaming which to me is something I never really did before now.” 

 

 

Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?

Amelia: “I feel like a lot more young women are starting to get into gaming which is really good because it gives people a chance to find a new hobby as well as potentially make new friends.”

Cassandre: “Growing up, I was kind of the only girl I knew that played games. My friends watched me play a lot. As I got older, I came across more women gamers. More of the people I knew in person and online played games. Especially in the last year when I started going to school to make games. My program itself is pretty evenly mixed.”

 

Has there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so? 

Horizon, aka Dr. Mary Somers, a charming astrophysicist, voiced by Elle Newlands.

Amelia: “Abby and Ellie in the Last of Us 2, Chloe and Nadine from Uncharted: Lost Legacy, and so many other incredible stories that have female-focused characters. However, one that I really connected with when playing was Horizon in Apex Legends. Her Scottish wit and constant puns in the fast-paced battle royale always puts a smile on my face even if I’m losing! Not only this she shows a sensitive side in cinematics when referring to her past and her family before taking part in the Apex games.”

Cassandre: “As a young woman I was basically obsessed with Yuna from FFX and FFX-2. My grandfather drew me a picture of her that I have hanging up in my office. It's from 2004 when I was 11. When I FINALLY was able to afford to buy myself a PS4 it became Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. I put well over 300 hours into that game over a 3-year period. Since then, I rediscovered my love for Tomb Raider and Lara Croft, and found a new love in Ellie and Abby from The Last of Us 2.” 

Cassandre’s grandfather’s drawing of Yuna from 2004, which hangs in her office.

 

Do you feel that women have been underrepresented as leads in games throughout the years? Have you noticed a shift in recent years? Expand on this. 

Amelia: “I do not think women have been underrepresented at all. I feel recently there have been enough female leads in games.”

Cassandre: “When I was a kid, I feel like it was only Lara Croft and Samus. I still play as Samus when I play Smash games. She's my go-to for sure. I know there were more, but the games I was exposed to as being a mostly single-player gamer really only had those two characters as true leads for the longest time. As I said in my previous answer, the emergence of Aloy, the remasters of Tomb Raider, and the second Last of Us game has definitely given us stronger female leads. I also only usually play PlayStation games, so there might be more on other platforms that I don’t know about. I would like to see that change.” 

Ellie & Abby, both strong independent female leads, defied the general female stereotype in The Last of Us Part II, which has won the most awards in video game history.

Some of us are streamers: 

What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer? 

Amelia: “I have adored becoming a streamer. I love my community and everything about streaming in general!”

Check out some clips of Amelia streaming. She is a champ at editing her highlights: 

Cassandre: “I started streaming as a joke. After that, I started doing it more often, and before I knew it, I became a Twitch Affiliate. I kept up with it regularly on a set schedule for a few months. I haven't been able to as much because I work full time and attend school full time as well. In the future, I’d like to have more time to do it fairly regularly.”  

 

What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things?

Amelia: “I absolutely adore streaming, and it's my favorite thing to do when I have a chance! I love being able to share my experiences with gaming with other people who share similar interests and sometimes being able to show my audience games that I enjoy that they may not have heard of. My least favorite thing has to be the stereotyping that happens across twitch when it comes to a quote-on-quote‘ girl gamer’.”

 

Cassandre: “My favorite thing about streaming is the fun I have while doing it. I grew up having my friends just watch me play games anyways so it's almost no different. It took a while to get used to being on camera for hours at a time but once I got past the initial anxiety of it, I didn’t mind it. My least favorite thing is how much money I’ve spent on the setup for it. I didn’t have to do that but I did want my streams to look somewhat different. I still get anxious streaming as someone who's never really been in the spotlight like that before.”  

 

Back to gaming:

 

What is one of your favorite achievements in your personal gaming history you’ve accomplished? A game you’ve beaten, an achievement reached or a charity stream goal achieved? 

Amelia: “Well, I've got a few platinum trophies on the PlayStation for a variety of games but I have to say my favorite trophy that I've earned was my platinum for Minecraft for the PlayStation when I was about 16. My proudest achievement in gaming has to be being able to play at professional level for Apex legends at the age of 17. I may not have won all of the games, but I won one or two in a tournament and I was very proud of those considering I was going against very high-level players. I didn’t even know how to play a couple of months prior to it! I think my team placed about 4th out of 20 teams which we were proud of! Who knows maybe one day I can do it again and we could rank even higher!”

 

Cassandre: “I know it’s lame but I was so proud when I got my first platinum in a game that I spent 200 hours working on. It was for Death Stranding.  Since then, I’ve gone back and worked on a few other games that I found really challenging and eventually got it for them as well. I never thought about achievement hunting before since I was a gamer just for fun, which I still am but now I have fun going that extra mile.”

 

Video games have evolved significantly in the last few years in regards to diversity and strong female leads. What more would you like to see from the industry in the future?

 

Cassandre: “As someone who's eventually (hopefully) going to work in the industry I like what I’ve been seeing in regards to women working in the industry. I love seeing more and more on my Twitter timeline and in articles. It gives me a little extra push for me to work harder to make sure that I end up there as well. That being said, I think with more women in the industry as well as female streamers, female gamers in general, the shift is coming. The hate they receive, I can see, it fuels them. I know it does for me.”

 

 Amelia and Cassandre both had roots in gaming from influence from their parents at a young age which has led them to have a strong passion for the hobby in their current years. It’s inspiring to hear how other women have gotten into this wonderful hobby of gaming and how some plan on making game development their career to bring joy and excitement to the next generation.

 

 Stay tuned for Part II of this Candid Discussion, which will feature Replayers Charlotte Merritt and Stephanie Watson! 

 

Amelia - Twitter: @its_ameliabrown Twitch: twitch.tv/its_ameliabrown Instagram: its_ameliabrown

Cassandre - Twitter: @casswitch2319 Twitch: twitch.tv/casswitch2319 Instagram: casswitch

 

Alison Haislip: The Actress and Gamer On Why Sex Is Funny

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I'm Not a Gamer, but I AM a Replayer!

As I write this, it is the night before the premiere episode of "Level 4!" That's how we refer to the seasons of the show around here. Pretty funny, huh? Since Level 1, I have learned a lot about the expectations that sometimes come from being a Replayer. 

When I get to know Replayers for the first time, I'm often asked, "What console do you have? Are you a PlayStation or Xbox person?"

I typically reply, "Neither. The last time I played a console was when Nintendo 64 first came out." Then I imagine their eyes fluttering like butterflies in disbelief, not about the console, but that I might be the same age as their mom. To be honest with you, I can't believe it, either.

If they do ask why I haven't had a console since the N64, I have to give that same answer I've given countless times before:

"I have cerebral palsy and I'm unable to use the standard controller."

This answer often leaves people at a loss for a moment. I imagine them staring down at their shoes looking for the right response, then eventually raising their head to see a very short woman in a wheelchair before apologizing in a childlike whisper.

Here's me, the non-gamer.

But I reassure them: "Oh, that's alright, I live the life of a V.I.P." When they look at me puzzled, I explain, "I come with my own set of wheels and parking space, not to mention I always have the best seat in the house!" And hopefully, they laugh.

Other questions follow from Shana's Replayer FAQ:

"Well, what games do you have on PC?" - I don't have a PC, I have a Mac.

"Then, if you're not playing games, why do you watch Retro Replay?" - Well, I'm glad you asked! (And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my impression of Victor Sullivan!)

Rob Paulsen, an actor who has given life to such characters as Yakko Warner of Animaniacs and Pinky of Pinky and The Brain, has a wonderful motto about life:

"Laughter is the best medicine, you can't OD and the refills are free!" 

That, my friends and fellow Replayers is the answer... 

When I said I've watched Retro Replay from Level 1, I mean I watched the very first episode when it aired. Before there was live chat and membership. I remember that night vividly... (insert dream sequence here) 

 

May 10, 2018

I had been in excruciating pain for a little over a week, and it was starting to affect my sleep. I planned to go to bed early, but the knife-piercing pain had other ideas. So I decided to peruse YouTube to find something to distract me. Just as I was about to watch my favorite Twisted Toonz video... (insert angelic choir) in my "recommendations" was  RETRO REPLAY - Amazing Spider-man vs. Nolan & Troy!

Nolan's bad day with Spider-Man.

Now, if you were to ask Nolan about this episode, he would say, "I don't want to talk about it!"  

Newer Replayers might ask, "Oh, is that when he broke the TV?" No, that will happen later.

The episode had me laughing so hard, needless to say, I forgot all about my pain, at least for a little while. It was then I realized that this was something I needed, and gave me something to look forward to every week no matter how bad my pain was. By the end of Level 1, my pain had been managed, and I was slowly on the mend.

 

Level 2 added something new… Live Chat!

At first, I wasn't too sure if I wanted to join in chat because of a lack of video game knowledge. They were all talking about a game called Uncharted and a guy named Nathan Drake. I, of course, had no idea who or what they were talking about. Then when asked, "What's the last game you played?" boy, the reaction I got when I said, "Duck Hunt," made me think that perhaps I was too old to chat with these young whippersnappers!

So, for a little while, I lurked until I found a way to make it fun.

No one paid attention, so I waited…

Someone else typed, "30 mins you guys." That encouraged me to continue.

That did it! I broke the chat… into laughter! For a while, there were some that thought the automated countdown was something Drew enabled in the chat. That, to me, is the greatest compliment.

 

March 15, 2020:  A date I shall always remember…

Nice tail!

That was quite an enjoyable day! I wore a white poet's shirt and black vest with skull and crossbones leggings, and the "pièce de résistance," a fishtail! (Seriously, check out the photo here.) The reason for the ensemble: I am a volunteer with a non-profit, and I was at an event to help raise money for it. (I'll tell you that story later.)

That was my last social event before the pandemic because of the nature of my disability: it puts me in the high-risk category. Solution: self-isolation. Not knowing how long it would last, at first I thought it would be a great opportunity to let the creativity flow, and there's always Retro Replay, right?

 

Level 3 changes like the tide of the sea… and adds Zoom meetings.

By April 2020, Retro Replay was in official lockdown. The hosts of Retro Replay were in their homes, and, through the internet, they showed us some special, never-before-seen content.

Then, one day, I saw tweets from other Replayers: half were sad, and half were angry and the rest were a mixture of both. Later that afternoon I got the email that Troy Baker was leaving Retro Replay. I'll be honest when I read that the first time it was like a punch to the gut. The show for me was my "happy place," and I love both Nolan and Troy like family and always will. At the time, I wondered if the show would survive?  

2020 can just go flush itself down the toilet!

While this was swirling around me, and my days began to blur, a lifeline was thrown to me in the form of a tweet from none other than @watery_tart19 herself, Brandy Brown. "The Happy Hour," as it came to be known, became a virtual hang-out for all Replayers! Ok, so it's not the holodeck in Star Trek, but it's the best we can do. I have met people from all over the country and around the world, something that would not have happened pre-COVID! I can't really tell you what goes on at the happy hour, but… let’s just say they made me their "designated driver!" 

See, I told you I had the shirt!

Why are you laughing? It's true! Look, I have a shirt to prove it!

Despite having the happy hour before the show on Thursdays (shameless plug) as well as Nolan, Drew, PJ, Paul, Stephanie, and Pagan picking the show up by the bootstraps and knocking it out of the park, I still felt stagnate in the pool of creativity. That's when another lifeline was thrown, and this time it came from Nolan North himself via Cameo from another Replayer named Melanie Steiner. Even now, tears are welling… words cannot express how much that video has meant to me. Since that video was sent to me, I have written 5 poems, and 3 have been published! I watch the video almost daily to keep me motivated. Spring turned to summer, then to fall. Sometime in October (it's my birthday, too), I received another video message from Nolan! This time it came from Charlotte Merritt through Retro Replay.

My hope for you, dear reader, is that you binge-watch all 3 seasons of Retro Replay to truly appreciate the show and its growth, and thereby see the growth within the community. Because it’s the people within the community that make the show possible. 

I also hope I was able to convey the love I have for Retro Replay and why I am very proud to say, "I am not a gamer, but I am a Replayer all the way!"

Who out there is a Replayer but not a big gamer? Share your own story in the comments!

 

How The Hell Did We Get Here: The Origin Story Of Retro Replay.

I met Nolan North in the summer of 2015. To be honest, I didn’t know who the hell he was. That was my fault, not his. Alan Tudyk and I were casting the role of a voice actor for episode 8 of Con Man, season one. The episode was titled, Voiced Over and thanks to Nolan, it’s one of the funniest episodes of the entire series.

But Nolan wasn’t supposed to be in Con Man.

Alan had first cast a well-known celebrity for the role. A celebrity whose name I can no longer remember since I can only see Nolan in the role of Jerry Lansing now. Alan came back to the production office and announced that he had changed the name of the character and offered the role to Nolan North after meeting him at a voice over session in Hollywood.

My response was, “Who the fuck is Nolan North!”

Alan was adamant though. Nolan was his man. There was no changing it and I’m glad we never did.

When I first met Nolan on set, it was an instant bromance. Nolan is simply that charming and open. There is no pretense. You know what you get, and man can he make people laugh. Especially, Alan.

Con Man The Series

A scene from "Con Man" Episode 8 "Voiced Over". From left to right - Nolan North, Alan Tudyk, Milo Ventimiglia

Anyway, Nolan went on to crush the role of Jerry Lansing on Con Man for two seasons, and when it was over, Nolan and I wanted to continue working together.

We had to.

We met often to discuss what was next for us. The meetings always involved alcohol, but we did kick around several different story ideas. A lot, actually. Finally, we settled in on the gaming world. At one point, the two of us were in negotiation to secure the animation rights to Uncharted, but when that fell through (not our fault), we decided to make a YouTube show. This show would follow Nolan North around the Naughty Dog studios as he interviewed the people whose jobs you never heard of in the gaming world. For example, the guy who spent his entire day working on Nathan Drake’s facial expression. That’s a lot of time starring into Nolan’s eyes!

I remember having lunch with Nolan and his wife, Jill in LA as we all agreed to move in this direction.

It didn’t happen. And for a good reason.

I went back to my studio and told Drew Lewis about the plans. Drew and I had built a studio in Lake Forest, CA to create content for ourselves and we were currently working on another show called Your Mystical Guide. Drew nodded, said, “cool” and went back to editing. Drew is a man of few words. The next day, however, Drew asked if I “had a minute”, and then proceeded to pitch a new show idea for Nolan. We sat in the office together and he laid out the show we shoot today. Verbatim.

It was a brilliant idea. I went back to Nolan. He loved it as well.

Now, the producer in me had to figure out how to pay for this show. How were we gonna get it off the ground? I wasn’t actually rolling in money when we made this decision. Alan didn’t want to make any more Con Man, I had pissed away my commercial production company, Redbear Films while working on Con Man, and Your Mystical Guide wasn’t the hit it was supposed to be. But when Drew presented me with a set design for the show, I knew we had to find a way to get the money.

We needed to build, and light, a multiple camera set. It wasn't going to be cheap.

Retro Replay Set Mockup

Early Retro Replay set mockup by Alison Scowby and Drew Lewis.

After a quick budget, I went to Nolan who cut me a check for a portion of the cost and I put the rest on credit cards --never a wise thing to do. It worked out for us, but I repeat: never a wise thing to do.

Drew reached out to his long -time friend and production designer from Kentucky, Alison Scowby. After weeks of Pinterest boards and mock-ups, they landed on the basement you know today.

Drew and I started building the set of Retro Replay in Oct of 2017.

Our first episode did not come out until April of 2018. The set was framed with flats from season two of Con Man. I find it ironic that it was the same set built for the episode with Liam McIntyre who now has his own show on Retro Replay: Get Good. We stressed over every detail. The type of plywood for the basement… the lamp…the bar… the only thing we didn’t get was a neon Retro Replay sign for the wall.

We couldn’t afford it.

We began to piece it all together. We bought the couch from a college student using a truck Drew and I rented. We found the TV at a senior care community - another truck rental. I stole the lamp from my bedroom and Drew dragged all his old games and consoles out of storage. Man, he had a lot.

Finally, we were ready to shoot a test. A trial. Anything to get started. We really wanted to begin filming. We called Nolan and set a date to shoot.

A day or two before the shoot, Nolan called me with some reservations. He was worried the show wouldn’t work if it didn’t have guests. He wanted to have someone else on the couch with to talk to.

Enter Troy Baker.

Nolan and Troy arrived on the day of the first shoot. Everyone was excited. Troy suggested using a live audience for the show. At first, there was a little confusion as to what the show would be. I looked at the set Drew and I had toiled over for 6 months and said, “Let’s do a test. Tell everyone on social media you are going live with a new “thing” and if 5000 people tune in, will you do the show?”

30,000 people tuned in to watch Retro Replay for the first time.

We knew we had something.

At this point in the movie, we normally see the success montage: screaming fans, our name in lights, and trucks filled with cash. For us, it didn’t happen that way. It has been a slow build driven by an obsession to make great, quality content, and the desire to make people laugh.

I have one rule on all of my sets. Have fun. Life is too short to spend day after day creating something if it’s not fun. Everyone on Retro Replay takes that to heart and because of it, we have an amazing time with an amazing crew.

But even bigger than that, is our community. We set out on day one to be dedicated to the people who watch Retro Replay. Every decision we make, we do it with them in mind. Will they like it? Does it have value? Is it good enough?

That’s what drives us.

It’s the love of the Retro Replay community that makes us work nights, and weekends, and holidays. That’s what got us here, today. Are we rich yet? Kind of. Not in money (hell, no) but we are having a ball.

 

What It Means To Be Part Of A Community

What is a community? The formal definition of community denotes a feeling of fellowship with others, resulting from sharing common attitudes, interests, goals, and similarities, or having a shared identity. Why do we feel the need to bond over something we have in common? Could it be as simple as saying it’s human nature? When we share a love for something, it automatically binds us together. As we put more time and energy into this pursuit, that bond between others who share this common interest becomes even stronger. In the process, we end up building something much larger than just ourselves, and we end up touching the lives of those around us.

When you become a part of a community, your bubble expands, as does your awareness of others who share your similar interests. You become a part of a whole instead of just loafing around alone. When you have others to share your interests with, to get excited with, then something magical happens. There is incredible energy when people come together and share and build upon a common foundation. Community is about growth and inclusion, always extending a welcoming hand to the newcomer or someone who has a quiet voice.

Replayers chatting in Zoom

Replayers chatting in Zoom just after a Thursday Retro Replay premiere.

Every community has its own essence. That essence is tangible but can be difficult to quantify. It's the human factor, and it changes and evolves with the people in it. It's something we can only feel through exposure. You have to commit time to get acquainted with the community. Some of us are quick to dive headfirst into the deep end, while others are more reserved and prefer to take their time getting their feet wet. Once you're immersed, though, it's time to start the pool party. Does anyone want to play Marco Polo?

I have always said adults are just overgrown children looking to find someone else to play with. We all want to just get along and extend friendship to others. The base of human nature is harmony. That said, to each of us, community can mean something different. It can affect us differently as it evolves and changes over time. Even with its evolution, there will still be a common truth that keeps us tied together. We are all drawn to the common source, like moths to a flame.

Let's talk about the Replayers.

What an interesting, diverse, rowdy bunch of wonderful human beings the Replayers are. I have personally gotten to know quite a few of them, and it's been quite the adventure. We are across the globe, spanning all time zones, looking to have some fun and laughs with our beloved Uncle Noly.

Speaking of Uncle Noly...

Nolan chatting from the office

Nolan North chatting with Replayers from his office.

Nolan North is the man that keeps us all coming back from week to week to watch the new shenanigans. We all love his gregarious, genuine personality. The Retro Replay crew are each gems themselves: without Drew, PJ, Stephanie, Paul, and Pagan, the show would be incomplete. We appreciate what each of them contributes that brings us all together as new content is released. They are the foundation of this wonderful show and this expanding, ever-growing community.

The ringmaster, Nolan, along with the crew, have always made themselves available to the Replayers. This has endeared the fan base to them even more. His including the Replayers in different aspects of the show has been a fun way to shout out the support of the little guys. As a little guy, I would just like to say thank you.

How did YOU learn about the Retro Replay community?

Everyone's story is a little different. I would recommend watching the Replayer Podcast to check out some Replayers' stories about how they found the community. The Replayer Podcast is a great way to put faces to names and to get to know each other's personalities a bit more in-depth.

Retro Replay live chat capture

Retro Replay live chat capture.

Here's a bit about my experience finding Retro Replay:

I am married to Aaron B, a.k.a. the "Loud Guy." We've been in love with Retro Replay since the beginning. We watched the episode every Thursday when it aired like a cute old couple waiting for their program to come on. We didn't discover the community side of Retro Replay until quarantine. Who knew that little live chat tab would open a whole new world of people who were just as psyched as we were about the show?

Everyone in the community that we’ve gotten to know have been quite awesome. The thing that amazes me about Retro Replay is that it attracts such an interesting group of people to come together and have some fun in the name of gaming, entertainment, and pop culture.

From the live chat to the weekly Zoom happy hour before each Thursday episode (hosted by Brandy and Dan), to social media, to Twitch, to making new friends on whatever gaming platform is your preference the options to reach out and connect to others across the globe keeps growing as you get more into the community. (Shout out to times zones.) I feel like Alice who has fallen down the rabbit hole of wonderful gaming chaos. Would you like to join us for some tea?

Nolan showing of a custom-made Team Nolan shirt from the community

Nolan showing of a custom-made Team Nolan shirt from the community.

What does the future hold for the Retro Replay community?

Everything about this community has been overwhelmingly positive. People are excited, people are happy to come together on Thursdays and have a good time. The cast and crew of Retro Replay want to hear our feedback and make improvements, they've been involved and attentive. Retro Replay always seems to have something new to show and share with us. I know us Replayers have just as much to share with each other as well.

Don't hesitate to reach out to us. If you're new here, let us know. If you've been around, but you're shy? We want to get to know you, too. Join us in the live chats, add to the banter. We love getting to know one another, solidifying those bonds of camaraderie. We're all here for a common purpose: our love for all of what Retro Replay has to offer.

Here are some ways you can meet more Replayers and get involved in the community: