You Down With GDC? Yeah, You Know Me: A First-Time #GDC16 Attendee

Life Is Strange

One thing I won’t miss about San Francisco at all is getting lost, wandering around at 8 PM with a dead phone before eventually calling a cab and crying when I finally got to my hotel room (look, it was a long day, ok?). One thing I will miss about GDC is, well, everything else. Okay, besides food prices—granted, maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but damn, the Frisco is expensive.

Let me back up a bit. For those who may not know, I was a scholarship recipient of the very first year of I Need Diverse Games scholars for All Access Passes to GDC 2016. Thanks to Tanya DePass and the wonderful people on the advisory board, I was able to get a pass to represent myself in San Francisco.

As a writer and game designer, a lot of my core interests in GDC was the narrative and design side of things. Planning for GDC, I had looked at plenty of talks and shoved them all into my schedule; from one on Life Is Strange and real-world issues (of course I went to that one) to “Don’t Fear the Queer” and the Rez 15-year postmortem. And networking, of course, but that didn’t go nearly as well as I would have hoped or liked. That’s another story entirely, of course.

The first day was one of the most tiring, hectic, confusing days of my life, but also without a doubt one of the best. Despite having to deal with a fear of flying and getting to my flight just as boarding had started, getting lost multiple times throughout the day, and dealing with incredibly exhaustion, it was one of the best days. I got to meet one of my favorite people, Riot Games’ Soha Kareem, and I hung out with her for a bit before my first of five talks for the day, “The Exposition Burden,” which was led by Jennifer Hepler (and was fantastic).

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#GamesThatMade2015: The Most Important Games Released This Year

Read Only Memories

I have a few different games that I want to talk about today. It’s my “GOTY” list, so to speak, but it’s also much more than that. These are some of my favorite games of this year—and in some cases, they are my favorite games of all time—but I want this list to be far more than that. When thinking about doing something for the end of the year on FemHype, I didn’t want to just offer your average “Game of the Year” list where I talk about how rad some graphics and characters are (though there’s definitely nothing wrong with that). I wanted to do something more.

These are five of the games that I consider to be the most important of the year in terms of what they convey, what they cover, and what they end up bringing to the medium. So, without further ado, here are my five most important games of 2015!

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The Social Network: Exploring Love & Loss Through ‘Cibele’

Cibele

For me, the internet has been a place where I’ve experienced some of the most important moments of my life. I’ve made some of my closest friends ever through games, forums, and Twitter. It’s helped shape my social network and my life experiences in one of the most (primarily) positive ways possible, and I’m eternally grateful for it.

This is why I had been anxiously waiting for Nina Freeman and Star Maid Games’ Cibele ever since I first heard about it. The idea behind it was something that felt so real to me—even discounting the fact that the game is a retelling of Nina’s college years. It’s a game with a premise that, in our day and age, feels so realistic—even more than that, it feels sort of like the norm. The idea of going to some website, on some game, and meeting some people and connecting with them is a common occurrence. For a person like me who’s highly introverted, connecting with people on the internet has been my main way of maintaining a social network—of having good, safe, and caring support.

So the idea of a game that’s so highly personal—meant to be emotionally charged and driven—was something that highly interested me, primarily because it was something that was similar and relatable. The whole premise of the game and Nina’s experiences, while not one to one, absolutely resembled experiences I had four years ago when I was just starting out in college.

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Hella Talk: An Interview With Ashly Burch on Chloe Price, Queerness, & ‘Life Is Strange’

Ashly Burch

[Trigger warning: brief mention of bullying, suicide, & sexual assault.]

Life Is Strange means a lot to me with the topics it has covered and the characters it has brought forth. After the release of “Polarized,” the final episode of the season, I was lucky enough to get into contact with the wonderful Ashly Burch who plays everyone’s hella favorite punk: Chloe Price. I got to ask Ashly numerous questions about Life Is Strange, Chloe Price, queerness, and the darker themes of the game, as well as some lighter topics at the end to break things up a bit more.

Ashly can be found on Twitter at @ashly_burch and on PatreonWithout further ado, here is my interview with Ashly Burch!

Sloane: How did you first find out about Life Is Strange and what about it pushed you to audition?

Ashly: Haha, this isn’t as exciting a story as one would probably hope—I received an audition notice from my agency! But I could tell it was going to be a special game even just from the audition sides.

Sloane: If I remember reading correctly, you ended up auditioning for both Chloe Price and Max Caulfield. I’m really curious—after hearing you so much as Chloe, what did you know about the two before the audition?

Ashly: It’s been a long time, so it’s hard for me to remember what was provided on the audition sides—I remember I saw concept art for both characters, and I really loved Chloe’s look. Typically, audition sides will have some background on the character, a brief synopsis of their personality, sometimes an image of what they look like, and then of course the dialogue the devs would like you to perform. I remember reading Chloe’s background and personality and immediately knowing what voice I wanted to give her.

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Episodic Worldbuilding Part 3: Objects in ‘Life Is Strange’

Life Is Strange

[PART 1] [PART 2] [Part 3]

The last two times we talked about the worldbuilding in Telltales’ The Walking Dead Season One and SWERY’s D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die. This time, we’re looking at Dontnod’s Life Is Strange.

Now, you all know how I feel about Life Is Strange. If you’ve ever read my first article or seen my Twitter, you’d know I love Life Is Strange. It’s a very special game to me, and I think a big part of that has been the worldbuilding that takes place in the environment. Life Is Strange is a game that centers around a young adult woman, Max Caulfield, who recently comes back to her hometown after a five-year stay in Seattle to attend prestigious Blackwell Academy and become a better photographer thanks to one of her idols, Mark Jefferson.

Unlike Dontnod’s last game, Remember MeLife Is Strange is very much grounded in comparison. Set in the sleepy (and fictional) Oregon town of Arcadia Bay, things are calm (relatively, at least—not to get into the story) compared to Remember Me’s bustling Neo Paris. And while I did love Neo Paris, there’s something about Arcadia Bay that I can’t help but enjoy. Even as someone who lives in a suburb themselves, Arcadia Bay feels so serene, quiet, and idyllic—a homey place that I wouldn’t mind spending my days writing, making games, and occasionally visiting the local diner for a Belgian waffle.

Also interesting to note: of the three games I looked at, Life Is Strange is the only game that has a fictional setting. The Walking Dead takes place in Georgia, primarily in and around Macon in Episode 1, while D4 takes place in Boston (though, granted, you don’t explore Boston, and Episode 1’s focus is on an airplane).

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