Listening – Watching – Reading – Playing Jan 2018

ListeningMy playlists are currently all peppered with Birdtalker, a Nashville band formed in 2012 by husband and wife team Zack and Dani Green. Over time they added friends and acquaintances until resembling the five-piece band that recorded the single “Heavy” in 2016. I’ve always loved Heavy, it’s a happy sounding and feeling song but it’s got hella emotional layers — my kinda jam. I only recently listened to the full six-song EP that includes such new favs as “Graveclothes” and “Blue Healer”. Seriously, I never get tired of them.

WatchingI’m actually watching so many things right now but my main binge of the last few months has been re-watching all of the Marvel Netflix shows. It started with Daredevil and quickly spiraled into an obsession that led me down a crazy comic reading binge. Now I’m re-watching Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage and basically chastising Claire Temple at every available moment for not calling Matt. Claire, call Matt!

I also recently watched “The Shape of Water”, a fabulous film that took me right back to the first time I saw Pans Labarynth. It’s dark, original, it’s got oodles of heart and ample character. Just like what you expect from a good Guillermo Del Toro film. Plus it’s stunning, did I mention it’s stunning?

Reading 1I’ve recently joined an informal book club and although we’ve yet to meet up, we’re all busy reading The Power by Naomi Alderman. It’s considered a science fiction book, although nothing like the sci-fi I usually read (which tends towards space opera and hard sci-fi). It’s about women developing a previously defunct power that allows them to wield electricity, leading to them becoming the dominant gender. The book has a really odd structure to it, it’s framed as a fictional retelling of history in a world in which women have always been the dominant gender, and the author is speculating on what would have happened if men had been the dominant gender first, and women had to overtake them with this power. Honestly, the framing is a little confusing at this point (I’m about a third of the way through) and I’m really interested to see how that narrative device impacts the overall story. It reminds me just a little of the framing in William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. If you’ve seen the film you remember the grandfather is reading the book to his grandson, in the book version it’s a historical novel so the grandson — William Goldman — believes the content of the book is entirely true. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but it completely changed how I read the story as a kid.

playingI’m actually on a bit of a break from video gaming. The last game I played was Dragon Age Origins, one I have actually never completed. I did get further than ever before this time, but then Daredevil happened and I got woefully distracted. I’ve finally created a warden that I really like though, so I know I need to go back and finish her playthrough!

What are you listening to, reading, watching and playing this year? Let me know what’s good in the comments!


Tell women they’re beautiful.

Hi all, this past week we celebrated International Women’s day and I had a blast.

On this most auspicious of days, I like to take time to celebrate the women in my life who have supported and lifted me up in my own times of struggle. It’s funny, this marks the first year that I’ve gotten in on the festivities — I mean really gotten in on them — and I chalk that up to a powerful year of pouring into women around me and having them pour into me. I have truly seen the difference one person can make on a life this year, how encouragement and support can help us face life’s challenges with vigour.

One of the things I hear and see most often on a day like IWD is how we need to build up the women in our lives by shifting the focus from appearances. It’s hard, ladies are conditioned their whole lives to compare themselves to others physically and to be their hardest critics when they look in the mirror — I absolutely agree that we need to be reminded just how intelligent, wise, empathetic, strong, capable, tenacious, and brave we are. Especially especially young women. This is my own corner of that soapbox. When girls are small I think they need these messages tenfold. Tell those little girls they are capable and brave, stop the cycle of self-comparison and beauty standards when they are small — that is how you make the most impact on societal norms.

That said, once we’re already adults — it’s kinda too late. At this point, do not forget to remind your friends that they are also the most stunningly beautiful people you have ever encountered. And this is no lie, no hyperbole.

Have you ever looked at someone you’re kinda in love with (platonic or otherwise) and wondered at how the sunshine warms their face and cups the curve of their cheek and sparkles in their eye, dancing in their hair like a halo of fire? How sweet and special every freckle, each dimple? How magnificent their natural smile, how good it makes you feel when they laugh?

We don’t see ourselves that way.

Other-worldly love selves kjewellwrites

When we look in the mirror it often isn’t when a ray of golden sun is alighting just so, it’s under the freaky fluorescent bulbs of the changing rooms or in the dimly lit basement bathroom. We don’t see our otherworldly love-selves.


So yes, tell the women in your life about all of their amazing qualities. Don’t leave anything out. Tell them how inspired you are by their bravery in the face of challenges. Tell them how you’ve seen them struggle — even fall — and get back up again, and how courageous they were to do it. Remind them that they are kind and compassionate. Remind them of all those less traditionally feminine traits too, the ones you love — like being defiant in the face of authority, being willing to stand up for others, being passionate about weird things like rocks and video games. How their passion makes them cooler than cool.

But also give them a glimpse, if you can, into how you see them. Give them a glimpse through the love goggles, because you see your mother and your grandmother and your sister and your best friend (and your wife and your girlfriend and your aunt… ) differently than anyone else.

You see what truly makes them beautiful, and they sometimes can’t.


Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn, released February 28 by developer Guerrilla Games (of Killzone fame, a series of first person shooters), is an unspeakably beautiful and staggeringly epic third person action RPG.

I’ve had the pleasure of being able to play Horizon extensively this past weekend and I have enjoyed it immensely. If you are simply wondering if this game is worth the money, check it out friend. You won’t be disappointed. Some further considerations below.

Continue reading

Take the Pledge: To Do No Harm

In 2011 I graduated school and stepped off into the real world to become “a communications professional”. More than someone with a basic understanding of spelling and grammar, communications is a career that spans the breadth of society. We’re everywhere, writing both the copy on the cereal boxes and the words that scroll up in front of newscasters and television personalities.

I’ve often espoused the importance of diverse and inclusive writing in popular media, something I consider to be an ethical responsibility. I have seen, without a doubt, the enormous impact of well-written, diverse stories. When someone who has been marginalised by society sees themselves represented in popular culture — and done well, without resorting to stereotyping — it can be a life-altering experience. It’s validating, people have told me, to have your existence acknowledged.

It's validating
Elizabeth shared this thought with me in a previous interview for Why Diverse Games

Although popular culture has often been my soap box of choice, the recent US election results have shown me that picking just one soap box simply isn’t enough. Yes, I believe that through representation in film, TV and gaming we will see a change in our society — but what can we do today?

Continue reading

KOTFE: The Battle of Odessen

So the final chapter of Knights of the Old Republic has come, and somehow, I expected it to feel a little more … final.

First, my review: I liked this chapter. Thoroughly. Unlike some of the previous chapters, some which felt like stalling and some which felt like three hours of walking in circles, and even unlike the previous chapter which had all of the action and plot moments I craved — but delivered nothing of the romance I longed for — this outing provided both the action and character development to sate me.

There were lots of character moments and moments of reflection, and the game didn’t make me grind through a million sky troopers to get to Arcann. It provided some minor bosses to slow me, but not frustrate me – and it even pulled out some new fighting mechanics to make the final showdown seem fresh.

KOTFE battle of odessen

What it did not do, however, was provide a thorough wrap up to the previous sixteen chapters. At the end of the chapter, some things have changed and there are some nice revelations, but when I zoom out I see that all of the same players are in the game and not much has changed for my character directly. I expected a little bit more of a shake up in the final chapter to help me feel like I’m progressing.
After the chapter is completed there doesn’t seem to be any new things to do around the base either, which was a bit of a let down as we wait for the new DLC.

Continue reading

KOTFE: The Gemini Deception

Finally, a chapter worth playing.

Forgive me for forgetting — or at least ignoring– the fact that chapter 14, Mandalore’s Revenge, preceded this one. The only thing 14 gave us was this adorable creature:

Torian Cadera mandalores revenge.jpg

I admit I had no idea he was a returning character, I am even more excited to continue my new bounty hunter play through.

Ultimately, I’m more interested in skipping ahead to Chapter 15: The Gemini Deception.

Continue reading

GDX Edmonton Highlights: Narrative in Games

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Sunday at Game Discovery Exhibition Edmonton, (GDX). It was a mad crazy weekend, followed by an insane week so I’m sitting down now to write some thoughts about the conference.

The second panel I was able to attend was the Narrative in Games panel. Moderated by Matt Dykstra, the panel included Bioware lead writer Patrick Weekes and lead editor Karen Weekes, Beamdog writer Andrew Foley and Madsoft writer Corina Dransutavicius.

It’s always a pleasure to attend panels that bring writers together! I took a lot away from this one. General take away on how to break into the game writing world — go find Dave Gross, who was the pivotal connection that got Patrick and Andrew their jobs.  Actual take away, go join writers groups, stay connected with other writers.

Continue reading