Between back-to-back conventions, helping the housemates out with Steel Rails, and then moving, it’s been hard to find time to actually just…sit and write.
So I guess I’ll do that now.
Anime North was great this year. I had the most minor panic from personal drama at the end of the weekend, but I was able to chill in the staff lounge for the last hour or so and everything was fine.
A huge shout-out to Chibi Lenne, who before the convention asked if I’d like to help judge the skit contest. It’d been so long since I’d judged competitions, and I was more than happy to help out. It was a really great opportunity, and seeing all the entries up close was…inspiring a little. I haven’t been on stage myself in more than half a decade, and for the first time in forever I’m seriously considering getting back into competing. Best in show went to these three, who absolutely killed it.
With my staff duties mostly out of the way for the weekend, I took my time getting ready Saturday. I spent most of the day wandering around with my sister and nephew, helping them out with their Naruto cosplay things. I wore Stevonnie from Steven Universe, which was a lot of fun, and also super comfortable. I spent the evening having casual hangouts, and making plans for Colossalcon the following weekend.
Sunday was mostly unremarkable, as I spent it in civvies. I bought a pair of Siamurai pants, which are amazing. I made the rounds to make sure I saw some people I’d missed throughout the weekend. And then I attended the Awards Ceremony to do my job and hand out ribbons. It was great being able to see some of the winners of the other contests throughout the weekend. I almost feel inspired to actually get my butt back into gear.
I’ve got to post about Anime North and ColossalCon still, which were both amazing, but I am currently in the middle of moving! (Again, I know.)
Additionally, the website is getting some much-need, long overdue revamps, so uhhh idk watch your step (this is the Internet…) and my apologies if it takes longer to find a thing. I think the search function works.
I wanted to write a more official notice regarding commissions in the future. I addressed this on the social media sites, but didn’t make a notice here, and information has also changed a bit since then.
Are commissions closed forever?
Short answer: No, they’re not, but I’m not sure when they’ll be open again.
Long answer: While what I addressed on tumblr is still valid, there is an additional wrench in the life plans that is delaying commissions even longer. Unfortunately, despite getting nicely settled in my home with my awesome roommates, our landlord decided he’s selling the house. My roommates and I are staying together, but it does mean moving again, which means no big projects until we’re settled in the new place. We’re moving at the end of June, so it’ll be at least a month after that, if not later when commissions open again.
The prices will also be increasing to take into account how little I pay myself for labour, and also the added cost of getting materials since I no longer have convenient access to them. I’m still tossing around the idea of making fukus when I have time and just selling them on etsy, but that requires…time. So it hasn’t happened yet.
There’s an experience I failed to mention in my post about PAX East, and I felt that I really owed it to the Diversity Lounge to give it its own post. I’ve worked in the Diversity Lounge selling my wares at three PAX conventions now (South 2016, East 2016, and East 2017), and while I have enjoyed my time selling at the previous two, I feel like I actually took the time to be a part of the Lounge this time. My time spent there was unique to that room, and has made me more determined to become a more active voice for representation in the community.
I’ll preface this by talking a little bit about my own identity, which I am super public about on my less professional platforms such as twitter and tumblr, but less so on my website or fanpage. I’ve been identifying and out as bisexual since 2004. It feels a little silly to me to realize you like girls because of a video game, but seeing Morrigan from Darkstalkers when I was 10 was the first time I’d really considered it. It wasn’t until high school that I learned that bisexuality was a thing and it had a word. Even still, while out, I didn’t become largely vocal about my sexuality until my 20s, when my friend group changed again and suddenly almost everyone I knew was not-straight.
My gender is a different issue. A few years ago, if you’d asked me, I would’ve told you I was a woman without hesitation. Questioning my own gender wasn’t something I’d really considered. As my friend circle continued to grow, so did my awareness of gender not as a binary but more of a spectrum. People did not have to fit into “man” or “woman.” Last spring I started coming out as a “demigirl” (partially identifying as a woman/girl/feminine, but not wholly). I felt that word pretty much described how I felt in my body and as a person. Kind-of a girl? But also not a girl. More of…not a binary gender. Girl/agender. And it worked, for a while. More and more I found I was just referring to myself as “nonbinary,” or “nonbinary femme,” and that felt more right. And then for National Coming Out Day, I made an Instagram post about being bisexual and nonbinary, and have been coming out (again) since.
What does this have to do with the Diversity Lounge? If you’ve never been to the Lounge at any of the PAX events, it’s a place for those who don’t quite fit the expected demographic of gaming events (cis straight able-bodied white men) to share their creations, events, and ideas. It’s a safe space for those who might not necessarily feel safe in spaces that are heavily dominated by that demographic. It’s PAX telling marginalized people that they are trying to be more inclusive. My role in the Diversity Lounge is usually to sell my things as a queer creator, and (try to) talk to people about LGBT HQ on behalf of Jay Justice when she’s not there. While that part didn’t change, I did also make an effort to talk to other creators in the room, and also to…sort-of exist as an openly queer individual at this event.
What does that mean? For starters, I actually talked to the folks at the Toronto Gaymers, who I’ve seen at a few events but for some reason, despite being from Toronto, I’ve never really approached them or attended their events. I bought a shirt! It’s pretty great. I spoke to the AbleGamers and learned what they’re about, and signed up to be apart of their fundraising initiatives to purchase special controllers for disabled gamers. And I sat behind the table and talked to the people who came by. If you Google the Diversity Lounge, some of the first results are talking about whether or not there’s actually a need for it. I want to respond with a resounding YES. There is no other place at the convention where I saw people of all genders, of all races, of all ages, of varying levels of ability, more or less OUT and comfortable. Maybe on the showfloor someone might hide part of their identity because, let’s face it, the gaming community can be pretty unwelcoming. But in the Lounge, these were their people. They were welcome, they were home. And I felt that connection with so many of the people that walked in the doors. And it was just so good. And so important.
The Diversity Lounge is a necessary and meaningful space. I’d love to see more spaces like it at other conventions. You can’t guarantee a convention is going to be safe for everyone. You can try, and you absolutely should, but unfortunately, shit happens. Give marginalized people a place they can exist without fear of violence.
Travelling 700 miles by bus is a task. I’ve been told that I must really like the event to spend 17 hours on several different buses to attend, but that’s not entirely true. The weekend prior to PAX East, when many of my friends were attending Emerald City Comicon, I was filled with so much longing. The last time I saw many of them was PAX South at the end of January. ECCC is my favourite convention. I love the people, the location (Seattle!), and the event itself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it happen. Instead, watching my friends have a blast through their social media feeds, I became determined to make PAX East work. And I did.
The weekend started with a hiccup, as they do sometimes. Being unable to connect with anyone to hang out with when my bus arrived, I panicked. I immediately wondered if it was worth it, and my brain started working through backup plans. I finished changing at the bus station, deciding that I would check my bags there and wander the city alone, when I received a message from friends who’d just gotten in. I didn’t have to spend the day before con alone.
At the event itself, I spent a decent amount of time on the show floor, looking at merchandise and the demos available. A few that caught my eye that I wasn’t able to play were Rain World, Dauntless, The American Dream, and A Cat’s Manor. I kept eyeing the Brawlhalla booth, which I’d tried at PAX South and absolutely loved, but it was busy every time I went by. Fortunately, it’s free on Steam, so I definitely recommend checking it out.
I attended two panels that weekend: the highly anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda panel, which was Bioware’s return to the convention panel rooms, and Foreplay: Romance in Games which is a crowd favourite (though only my first time attending it).
I didn’t take too many notes during the Mass Effect panel, being totally enamoured with the content they were showing. The game looked stunning. Before attending the panel I was pretty excited for ME: A, but I didn’t have it pre-ordered and figured I would pick it up later. After the panel, my need for this game increased exponentially and I made a note to immediately pre-order it when I returned home. We got to see a bunch of Liam’s loyalty mission, and aside from being visually stunning, it brought back one of my favourite things about Bioware games: the banter. The character interactions between Ryder, Cora, and Liam were natural and entertaining. I have an undying love for witty character banter, and these scenes delivered. I’m so excited to play it myself, having made a single tweet during the panel: “So horny for this one.”
On the flip side, I took a page full of notes during the Romance in Games panel, most of which don’t make any cohesive sense. My favourite part of the panel was the very beginning, during the introductions, when fanfiction snuck its way into the conversation. The door swung open and a booming voice called out a greeting. Mike Laidlaw (creative director for Dragon Age at Bioware) had entered the room in the most dramatic fashion possible. He made his way onto the stage, saying he had one question for Arden, and pulled off his top shirt to reveal, “DO YOU EVEN RIFT BRO?” underneath. He posed triumphantly. The crowd went wild. It was the single greatest introduction to a panel I’d ever seen.
A few key concepts from the panel that I’m able to decipher from my scattered notes include data from a study on the three most important factors of video games to the two binary genders. Men prefer games with elements of Destruction, Competition, and Completion. Women prefer their games to have elements of Collection, Completion, and Customization. This data is important for figuring out where the similarities lie in order to market games to a wider audience. Another concept from my notes is the idea of stress reactions. We’re used to the idea of “Fight or Flight,” but there’s another key decision we make in situations, which is “Tend or Befriend.” You see a lot more video games giving you options that lean to that side, with a little more caring and a little more heart, and it’s really nice to see. “Romance in books is massive, why isn’t it in video games?”
The panelists mentioned a few of their favourite romances and relationships in video games such as Delilah of Firewatch, and the mentor/pop idol relationship in Yakuza 5. Much of the panel was currently playing My Horse Prince, which is a free dating game app where you…date a horse with a man’s face. Kind-of. They also had good things to say about the Kitty Powers Matchmaker series, which I’ve made a note to check out.
The aforementioned Arden is also the writer of Date or Die, which was demoing in the Visual Novel Room. I stopped by and picked up We Know the Devil, after having heard overwhelmingly positive reviews from my friends. And really, at $5, how could I not? They also had Ladykiller in a Bind, which I actually own and have started, and A Normal Lost Phone, which I had actually just received from the IndieBox booth (a monthly subscription box for Indie games, which sounds pretty cool).
I stopped by the Firewatch booth twice, despite having not played it yet (listen, my backlog is ridiculous). A friend of mine was working the booth, which was my original reason for stopping by, and they also had a photobooth. Photobooths are by far my favourite PAX activity, and the best way to get me to stop by your booth. The Assassin’s Creed movie booth also had a greenscreen for photos, which was super cool! The staff working it were super friendly, and even let me get into costume over my bulky Nug suit.
There’s always the moments after the convention where regret sets in, from not enough time spent with people you wanted to see, from the people you missed entirely, from the things you wanted to do but didn’t find time for. But when I look back at the weekend, it was perfect. It’s hard to make all the connections work, and we did our best, and it turned out great. For the first time since my first PAX East in 2012, I felt like I actually attended the convention.
I travelled 700 miles by bus because I was lonely. And it was totally worth it.
I don’t have the highest of expectations for 2017. Let’s be real, the world as a whole is kinda going to hell. I keep looking on the bright side of things though, which is that the complete shock of 2016 being so so bad has prepared me for whatever 2017 throws at me. Go through hell, come out stronger. Nice.
I attended PAX South again this year, and had a complete blast. I mostly hung out with Sam, Mae, and Mike, and it was so chill? No big parties, which I do enjoy sometimes, but lots of dinners and drinks. I wore Pidge from Voltron on both Friday and Sunday, because it was just the perfect casual costume, and the idea of Pidge at a gaming convention brings me so much joy. Sam and I did up our Asari makeup on Saturday for a few hours (mostly for Mike’s panel and lunch). Costumes went over great and sorta made me feel a little more of the positivity I used to get from cosplay. Lots of people yelling out “PIDGE! YOU LOOK GREAT!” And otherwise general good feelings from people being excited to see the characters.
I met some awesome new folk and got to talk a lot about Voltron, Yuri on Ice, and just general queerness in media which is definitely one of my favourite things. Also got to spend more time with people I only met briefly last year, and admire a lot (Hybrid Cosplay – check them out!), and actually played games on the con floor! (I recommend Brawlhalla. It’s easy to pick up and play, and it’s free! It’s on Steam right now and coming to PS4 soon with both local and online multiplayer? Nice.) I picked up some tabletop games I was looking forward to: Simon’s Cat, which I had tested last year, and One Deck Dungeon, which a friend worked on and features five different (ONLY) female characters of varying races.
I stayed an extra day after the con because of cheaper flights, and treated myself to a day out at the San Antonio Zoo. It was really great spending some alone time after a weekend of people, and doing things entirely at my own pace. I took HUNDREDS of pictures which I don’t know if I’ll ever get through, and I got to FEED A GIRAFFE. We took a selfie together.
One of the best con weekends I’ve ever had, and I don’t think I would’ve changed anything about it. I definitely needed that. <3
I promised I’d follow up the last blog entry with some positive notes. Not that it lessens the unfortunate negative impact 2016 has had on my life, but it is good to note things weren’t all bad. So here we go.
January: I attended PAX South in San Antonio for the first time, thanks to my friend Jay. We were vending in the Diversity Lounge, which was also my first time selling my own wares at a table. I learned a lot about what I could improve on for the next time, and really appreciated the experience it gave. I met some other awesome ladies (Chiara and Allegriana), and also got to see Texas.
February: We planned and executed a weekend winter photoshoot adventure. We had a campfire, freezing butts, lots of chocolate, and pizza. I had the best companions for the drive there and back in Amanda and Toast, and every time I listen to Hamilton I still think of our additional commentary. (“I have THREE FRIENDS!”)
March: Through my friends at Skyleaf Creations, I was able to attend the March Toronto Comic Con and see some people I hadn’t seen in a long time. The con itself was meh, but hang outs were always appreciated and excellent, and I also got to wear Imai Cosplay‘s Hawke costume, which is remarkable.
April: Undoubtedly the best month for me. I attended both Emerald City in Seattle for the first time, and returned to PAX East since I’d missed it last year. Emerald City was quite possibly the best convention I’d ever been to, both in terms of the actual con, and in my own personal experience. It was my first time travelling alone and leaving most of my plan to the wind, which was an exhilarating experience. Special thanks to Cara and Emma for putting up with me during the weekend. PAX East was super different in which it felt like I had too much to do because EVERYONE was there. I was once again selling things in the Diversity Lounge (though it was a little last minute), and I actually attended some panels this year. PAX is always something of a a whirlwind, and I am super looking forward to some of the games we have coming out soon.
May: Anime North happened. My sister bought me a pass so I could actually go in, and it was nice to spend so much time with her at a convention.
June: YetiCon! We hiked in the Blue Mountains and that was super rad.
July: Sailor Moon Celebration happened! I equipped the Cosplay for a Cure group with costumes and we looked rad and it was super good. I also finally moved out of my shitty apartment, even if it meant putting my stuff in storage and couch surfing until I found my new forever home. A huge shoutout to Chris and Sarah for hosting me for two months, and for my brother for the month and a half after that while I finished my placement.
September: I attended Tony and Zeena’s wedding, which was beautiful and magical and one of the best weekends I had this entire year. I felt so blessed and things were so good.
October: I finally started my Paralegal placement, which was the last time I needed to complete my diploma. I made my plans to move, and attended the Silver Snail Halloween Party as my sorta last Toronto hurrah before leaving the city.
Novemeber: I finished my placement, and I moved! I live in a house! In a new city! It’s pretty great.
December: I received my diploma, and I graduated with Honours.
2016 has been a whirlwind of emotions. The first half of the year, while still containing the same undertone that infected this whole mess, feels like a whole other lifetime ago. I travelled. I saw friends. It was great.
But, as anyone who follows me on any other form of social media knows, those were some of the only good things to come out of this year for me. 2016 literally started with my mother calling me to tell me about the divorce. January 1st, about 6pm, “Did you see your father’s post on Facebook?” I hadn’t. I’d been sleeping all day. “We didn’t want it to come to light like this but…” The following day brought a phone call from my father. He was devastated. It was a shitty start to what was ultimately the worst year of my life.
I entered my last semester of my program, still keeping cosplay on the backburner, but taking on commissions for some income. I attended PAX South at the end of January…and then pretty much stopped attending classes.
While I make no attempt to hide the status of my mental health, under the belief that talking about it helps to end the stigma toward it (after all, no one has a problem talking about getting a cold), how bad things were apparently still went unnoticed by many people. Since October 2015, I can think of at least 5 separate occasions where I had been seriously contemplating suicide. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 16, and while I had moments of “I wish I didn’t exist,” this was the first time the frightening reality that I wanted to be dead was a problem.
I was in counselling. I had been since February last year, after what I refer to as “my very bad summer” (wherein I had been seeing someone who did not understand “no”, which was right before I started college again in 2014). I was back on anti-depressants for the first time in 10 years. (Fortunately with a doctor who was willing to find the right one for me, as well as offer additional counselling and insight.)
But that was it. My two mental health professionals were essentially all I had as far as “support system” went. My family was in turmoil; my sister and I were also dealing with my father’s mental health issues, as he struggled with depression and suicide. I had been growing more and more distant from my main friend group since “the bad summer,” due to all sorts of reasons both related to my mental health and friend politics that still confuse me to this day. Things were not good. I dropped all but two of my courses, and I barely survived the semester.
I enrolled in summer classes, desperate to get my schooling done since it was the last semester and it was so close. I closed commissions. I tried to focus on schooling. But then…my apartment issue. Between abusive roommates and my manipulative landlord, the mold, the fire hazard, the lack of windows or fresh air, the water damage from the washer overflowing from bad repairs…I needed out. Unfortunately, the freelance work I do on the side had dried up, with promises of contracts being pushed off indefinitely. Making for another stressful semester.
My parents moved out of the province, with one going to each side of the country. I was unable to find a new apartment, and at the end of July, I moved my things into a storage unit and was very fortunate to be able to stay with a couple of friends. I finished the semester, while still struggling to secure my placement to finish my program proper. My mental health continued to decline. My birthday was spent alone and crying. I had to cancel PAX West, despite having my flight and tickets. Things did not improve.
With a mess of email/phone tag, I did finally secure my placement, but not until the end of September, and not starting until mid-October. By this point I had to move to stay with my brother, having overstayed my welcome with the other friends and having no other options. My commute to my unpaid job was an hour-and-a-half to two hours each way from my brother’s apartment, which was taxing. I did finish the 133 hours required for my placement, however, and in mid-November I finally moved into a new home.
Unfortunately things did not get better with the “main friend group” over time. I largely feel lost and alone when I think about my social situation, and the local cosplay community. It’s an odd feeling.
Commissions: While I am mostly settled, I am still unsure of when/if I will be opening commissions back up. In the event that they do open again, the prices will be raised. While I do enjoy seeing how happy and how good everyone looks in their fukus, I unfortunately can no longer afford to undersell myself and my work, and would like to even remotely break even when taking my time into account.
TL;DR: My mental health has been shit. For the first time in my life I no longer have a family home which is super uncomfortable. Depression is no joke. I probably won’t be at any GTA cons next year. Commissions may never open, or prices are gonna go up. I am going to write a happier post later, since there have been some good things, and I want to shed some light on what got me through this extremely trying year.