Take a walk down memory lane with me as I recount the days since joining Girls’ Game Shelf on March 29, 2019.
The YouTube Channel
Surprisingly enough, it’s not the first time I’ve made a YouTube appearance. Back in college, my friends and I would do voice overs and entire parody scripts of anime shows we enjoyed. I, of course, was constantly typecast as squeaky little girl characters because of my high-pitched voice but that’s how it goes sometimes. Even though my face wasn’t at all involved in the video I remember being so embarrassed! Once our video editor confirmed the upload and I would watch the official cut of the show, waves of emotions and thoughts would come over me. Doubts about my skill, even sickened feelings bubbled up within me whenever I heard myself. But then the comments and likes would flood in, sometimes specifically praising the character I played. The validation was moving and encouraging, so it speaks volumes about the next sections for me.
The Novelty of Film
When Kiki reached out to me about my availability for joining the cast for a couple kickstarter preview videos, I was super excited to get back into content that wasn’t writing. A majority of the experience I love most was loaded into the entire setup before finished products like this or this one. Though I think I was at a slight disadvantage for energy as my journey started with a 7 to 8 hour road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles! I was “smart” and traded in my gas-guzzling SUV for an eco-friendly electric car before the day of filming, so what normally is supposed to be 5 to 6 hours lasted much longer due to charging in-between. But I made it, and it was a blast.
The lights, the camera, and the action are all very real and at any given moment you need to make sure that you don’t let your face go limp. It just takes that one embarrassing, awkward freeze frame due to voluntary pauses or difficulties with internet bandwidth to regret that moment of forgetfulness about your face! Even more difficult to manage is volume control when you speak, as you don’t want to miss crucial moments with the other players but still need to be heard in post-production.
I did much better than I thought I would at this. Being around women who are used to the camera as well as superhuman levels of energy output was an unforgettable experience. I learned a lot about myself, practice some active listening skills, and grew more confidence by the hour — which, by the way, was needed because I turned right back around to the Bay Area after the filming was done that day. Phew!
Deciding What To Write
Producing written content for boardgames seems to fall within one of two buckets: 1) someone wants you to write something for a specific purpose or 2) you’re simply passionate enough after having played a game that you are hungry to write. Some may argue that there could be a third bucket of “Wow the game sucked but I still have to write about it”, but I’m still looping that into point #2 because I am capable of passionately disliking something. Before GGS I was mostly in the second bucket with the Tabletop Crier, with the added benefit of not watching my own language.
What surprises me most about how Girls’ Game Shelf operates is the absolute respect for boundaries and limitations. While we all work hard, there is a mutual understanding between us and AnnaMaria that produces focus that one wouldn’t otherwise have alone. The energy output is infectious, so even if I have to move some things around to meet a deadline for a kickstarter preview all of that grumpiness fades away. There’s also a tremendous backlog of games in the world, so if ever I’m at a loss of what to pick I usually go with the most novel-sounding experience. For this reason, I really appreciate well-thought out box copywriting and rulebook summaries! After that, I just had to decide my format and away I went with this Exit review.
Learning How to Take Photos
My photography really changed starting with my Escape the Crate review. This was mostly due to the generosity of my partner, who offered to let me use his father’s photography equipment for the purposes of the blog. Prior to this I had no experience with anything but point-and-shoot cameras, so with some brief Photography 101 I hit the ground running with the DSLR. Purple seems to be a big thing with us in GGS, so I did end up investing just a little by taking a quick trip to the local arts and crafts store for some purple fabric as a backdrop.
The difficult thing about photography for puzzle games is that I don’t want to include spoilers, and for many games you end up destroying a big chunk of the components. The love for puzzles does help with making those tough decisions on what is best left as a surprise versus something that can give you a good idea of what you’re in for, so I’m grateful for that much. That being said, I now understand why everyone loves a game with 3D components because taking photos of cards is just so boring!
I’ve been going to conventions of some kind for a while, and have been in the audience for panels of my favorite artists so having done two so far — one at PAX Unplugged and one at Dice Tower West — has been a dream! The edges are smoothed out by both Kiki and AnnaMaria’s experience with this sort of thing, and much to my relief there’s at minimum a game to be played.
Playing Werewords at PAX Unplugged was a nice introduction to the whole scene, given I had played the game before. But Wavelength at Dice Tower West was a completely different experience, as we had women with us that were not part of the Girls’ Game Shelf cast or writing crew and on top of that I had no idea how to play the game until moments before the panel! For those of you that were there, if you think I did fine… bless you.
I was at the edge of my seat, watching myself like some out of body experience. So maybe just absolute terror can also be perceived as calm? Like the style of the GGS episodes on YouTube, each player does get to share their brief thoughts about their experience and those were certainly the most surreal moments. Regardless of the size of the crowd, hearing your voice play over speakers around you is one of those novel experiences that I highly recommend for your ego. At minimum, this can be accomplished even at home. Listen to your own voice — it’s therapeutic, really!
The Twitch Channel
Even before Twitch existed, I loved watching my friends play video games. I’m not the most gifted at anything but FPS, so the only way that I could get into some of those deep storylines was to watch other people play. I mostly have my partner to thank for my experience with Twitch, since he’s a moderator for Day9.tv , and has his own art-focused Twitch channel with really cool A/V setup.
For a control freak like me, having technical difficulties ranging from video, audio, Tabletopia navigation and internet connection is just a complete nightmare. Luckily AnnaMaria walked me through everything on my first stream back in March… which you’ll need to subscribe to go back and watch so… there’s my shameless plug for the Twitch channel.
Streaming is by far the most practice you can get with multitasking, because a majority of the fun for everyone is the connection with the community in the chat room. For those who aren’t participating in the chat room, they still want to see a show so you still need to actually be playing the game and competitive too. It’s a fun ride, just as exciting as filming for the YouTube channel but a lot more relaxed in terms of expectations. Everyone seems to be more patient about those technical difficulties and, better yet, I don’t have to think about my makeup.
The Year Ahead
We all know what’s going on with the world and sadly the people, places and things that make up “normal” will need to change rapidly; that includes recreation. We’re seeing some informative content coming out of major news sources about boardgames, and more of us dedicated board gamers trying out digital formats. Not to mention, everyone on the planet is figuring out how to stream themselves live and it’s super entertaining.
That being said, I may even start covering online escape rooms because that’s a thing now, too. Everyone is learning how to adapt and more creative ways to use technology will emerge in the coming months. While the current situation may mean no big conventions for a while, I’m still excited for what this means for us here at Girls’ Game Shelf. I’m even doubly excited for what that can mean for the world of puzzles at home! So, make sure you’re continuing to follow us on the relevant channels and spaces on the web because I am not going anywhere.