Video Games

Extra Life 2017 – Fundraising

This Saturday, November 4th, 2017, I will be buckling down for another 24 hours of gaming misadventures, all for the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

I could give you the same schpeel I do every year; this was my home away from home, where I had 4 of my 5 spinal surgeries, where a pseudo-father figure surgeon helped me grow up and hone my sarcasm to its current needle-like state. I could tell you about how the smell of hospitals still makes me nauseous, and that the only way I can go into them is by holding my breath as I walk over the threshold, imagining how I carry a piece of the outside world with me as I go.

I could talk about the hours and hours of x-rays and appointments and surgeries. About sitting awake at night, watching night turn to day and nurses change shifts and fellow patients grow, heal, and leave.

When you turn 18, you effectively ‘graduate’ from the children’s hospital, but you never leave it. Not really. A piece of you stays behind, clings to the shadows. All the kids who walked in and never walked out, all the ones who gave up their innocence to surgeries and experimental treatments and promises to do the best they can.

The Alberta Children’s Hospital was built on the memories and shadows of those kids. Shadows insulate the walls from the coldest of the winter winds, taking the brunt of it so those who are still alive, who are still innocent, get a marginally better chance.

This year’s Extra Life seems a little more melancholy to me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the sensation of pain getting worse over the last year, or realizing that I am so far away from the comfort of those walls now. I’m as much an adult as I was ever a child, and I feel remarkably listless in between the two worlds.

Still, ACH remains my home away from home, even if I haven’t been a patient there in 10 years. The Good Doctor remains a remarkable influence on my life, even though I haven’t seen him since just after I was married.  And the little slice of shadow, that tiny bit of me, still lingers at the hospital, connecting me to it.

On Saturday, November 4th, I’ll be gaming for 24 hours and raising money for Alberta Children’s Hospital.

You can watch the stream here, or donate money directly to my campaign here. All donations over $20.00 get tax-deductible receipts, and any donation over $25.00 will get you entered to win prizes, including a limited edition BB-8 Funko Pop and a Dogmeat Funko Pop.

Every dollar donated goes directly to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Thank you

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Extra Life 2015 or ‘Dammit, Cheryl!’

I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t ready for Extra Life this year. This would be my fourth year doing the annual 24 hour video game marathon, and I had originally given myself a goal of $1500 in an effort to top what I did last year.

But things happen. Life gets in the way. And somehow the increasing strain I was feeling in my back and the constant, reverberating pain that was beginning to eat away at my sense of self and sensibilities left me feeling as if this year I just couldn’t do it. I love gaming, but this year was just one year too many. My body couldn’t handle the stress, my mind was already strained from trying to remain happy under the pressure to be miserable, and now I was working.

But dammit all, Cheryl just had to message me on Facebook, innocently inquiring as to my plans. She unknowingly planted that seed, that tiny idea that was, from her end, innocuous and innocent. Not to me though. My brain, twisted as it is, interpreted it as Kathleen, you are letter yourself and the Children’s Hospital, which you owe so much, down if you don’t do this. Don’t be a big dumb baby.

Shut up, brain. Shut up!

But there you have it. My big dumb-dumb baby brain is back in Extra Life 2015 mode, and with only 2ish weeks left to fundraising I have put myself into one hell of a corner. I won’t make my goal, but I refuse to change it. I said I would raise $1500 and dammit, I will try. I will bribe coworkers, guilt if need be. I will beg family, I will post pictures of my nasty-ass spine and I will describe in vivid detail what it is like to have to take 12 children’s Tylenol instead of suffering a suppository only to then throw up artificial grape flavoured nonsense. It was like vomiting up Hell itself, by the way.

I will do it all in order to remind you folks that every year hundreds of thousands of kids utilize the various hospitals that are part of the Children’s Miracle Network, and that ACH here in Calgary is particularly important to me. It was a second home growing up, and offered me a family I never thought I would need, let alone want.

If you have a dollar, a dime, a quarter to spare, please consider donating, if not to me then to someone else. Maybe there is another hospital closer to where you live, where your own child has gone, or where you yourself had a broken limb mended in your childhood. Support these amazing organizations in any way you can.

Me? On November 7th to 8th (or possibly 8th to 9th depending on my work schedule) I will be playing video games for 24 hours straight. I will live stream it and complete challenges. Full disclosure: It will be all Fallout.

Click here to view my Extra Life page and, hey, maybe make a donation too!

All Hail the Mighty Soapbox

This is my soapbox. That’s why I write open letters wherein I complain to people, places, things. Basically any noun that really grinds my gears. On very few occasions have I ever found myself so truly enraged by something that I felt the need to take it to the streets. Nope, the good ol’ written word is fine with me.

Calgary Expo ran into some issues on its first day today wherein a booth put up a Pro Gamer Gate banner. Now, there are always two sides to the story, but as I have wondered many times, why does a group that insists it stands for ethics in gaming journalism use the title of a group of people that is equated to the harassment of women? I’ve heard it is because they want to stand their ground, that they aren’t their title. This is true, and noble in its own way. My big question has always been “is this the hill you want to die on? Are you so passionate about the term ‘Gamer Gate’ that you are okay with your actual cause being ignored in favor of the attention ‘Gamer Gate’ gets for its bad apples?” No one has ever given me a satisfactory answer.

I guess I just think that when you are passionate about something enough to start a movement, you should probably throw that energy into the movement and not something as simple as the title.

But, that being said, who am I to judge? I just like playing games. That’s it. I don’t care if people are paying for reviews. I usually just go by what looks visually enticing.

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In Which a Grievous Error is Made

My Little sister is the best. She is a bit like a mini-me only she loves math and will probably be Prime Minister some day. It makes sense that she would be influenced by her elder sibling’s love of video games, so when she texted me a month or so ago asking if she should get a PS3 or an Xbox I jumped on the opportunity to educate her.

She ultimately got a PS3 for Christmas (good. I basically told her that she needed it in order to play Final Fantasy VII, which is integral in one’s gaming theory.) I had the best intentions to send her FFVII as a gift, assuming I could send an online copy via the PS Store as a gift (you can’t, thanks, Playstation.) Never mind, I thought to myself, I’ll get her something that I’ve loved over the years. I will force the things I have enjoyed on her!

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An Open Letter to Gearbox Software: “The Pros of Hiring Me, Kathleen Sawisky”

Dear Gearbox Software,

Okay, so my plan to be the next host of CBC’s Q doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I can’t fault them for that, really. I have zero experience with the radio, except that one time that I was on CBC’s Eye Opener with David Gray where he interviewed me about Gamergate. Hey look, an interest in the industry! Bam, right there. CBC will probably end up hiring some ‘National Icon’ like Norm McDonald or the immigrant from that Tim Horton’s Christmas commercial that aired a few years back. You wouldn’t know him. It’s a Canadian thing. Just trust me when I saw it was heartwarming and I have no problem in losing the coveted role of Q Host to him.

Speaking of brilliant satirical writing and high standards, please hire me. Your CEO, Randy Pitchford, recently hinted to the next Borderlands game going into production once a team could be compiled. Let me tell you right now, Gearbox. I am that team. Well, I mean, I’m part of it. I should be part of it. Wait, can I start again?

Dear Gearbox Software,

Please hire me. I know, I know. I’m not what you’re looking for. I’m ‘inexperienced’, and ‘don’t have training in the area’, and ‘Canadian’. I use the Oxford Comma and I have breasts, which I’m pretty sure you’re okay with given how you portrayed Ellie in Borderlands 2. Maybe it’s because Anthony Burch was the writer, but you folks just nailed that game by taking all the clichés and tropes of games and tossing them under the bus. Obviously you folks give at least a partial crap for women gamers and their opinions.

Unless of course you don’t want to talk about the current political environment of video games, in which case let me tell you about me.

                I am in my final semester at the University of Calgary for a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. In my spare time I write essays and open letters to, and about, things and people that annoy or amuse me. I have utilized sarcasm and satire most of my life to deal with the awkward nature and emotional struggles I have faced due to severe scoliosis and chronic pain. I am a delight to be around and people generally like me. Or if they don’t like me, they put up with me. One time this guy I knew didn’t put up with me and the end result was not pleasant for anyone involved. I have a dry sense of humor. So dry, my sense of humor was used as a sponge to soak up after Hurricane Katrina. You see that? I’m not afraid to hit in the sensitive areas. Unless it was too soon, in which case I admire the strength and attitude of the American people under such difficult times.

In my spare time, what little of it I have, I like to play video games (off the top of my head, top five include Earthbound, Final Fantasy VII, Borderlands 2, Bioshock Infinite, and Super Mario RPG). However, I also knit (being Canadian, it is vital I have an unlimited supply of kitschy home-made goods that I may use to keep myself warm with over our long, ten and a half month winters.) I also sing songs about my cat, which are generally impressive only to myself and my husband. I think the cat might be impressed if I stopped rhyming ‘cat’ with ‘fat’, but whatever, it’s not like he cares. This one time I used ‘mat’ instead and he puked up all his food. That might have been a reaction to my rhyming scheme or the fact that he was displeased that he was going yet another day without wet food. In my defense, every time we give him wet food he gets the worst kitty gas. It’s not like we live in a large space, you know? I shouldn’t have to put a gasmask on every time I come home. This isn’t London during the Blitzkrieg. Unless of course that was insensitive. No, just forget I said anything. Can I start again?

Did I mention the chronic pain? Don’t worry, it doesn’t get in the way of me being totally awesome in every way. Plus side, I can legally be defined as someone with a ‘disability’ which probably would have some sort of tax benefit for your company. One of us might as well reap the benefits of it, am I right? Ha ha ha!

Listen, I’m going to level with you. I know I’m not the perfect candidate. You’re looking for someone with experience in the area. Someone with, dare I say, ‘training’. But what is training compared to real world experience? You might be saying to yourself, “Kathleen, it is something. It is, in fact, a great deal of something.” To which I would reply, “Pshaw! Your training is nothing compared to my raw, socially inept wit.” You would probably then proceed to dump my resume into the neatest recycling bin (I care about the environment), and go on with your day (because your time is very valuable and I wouldn’t dare waste it on something as mediocre as my wry sense of humor.)

But, Gearbox Software, your desire for satire, sarcasm, and humor is the very definition of me. If there was some sort of tiny dictionary with those three words next to each other, you would find a picture of me looming over them. Yes, I am young (chances of me dying halfway through a project due to a weak heart are non-existent), and yes, I am Canadian (I am so freakin’ friendly!) Yes, that might mean a bit of extra paperwork for both of us (good things come to those who wait!) and yes, it might mean spending a bit of extra time at your office filling out said paperwork instead of being home with your family (who are totally overrated anyway, am I right?) But Gearbox Software, if you give me this chance, if you take the risk of hiring me as a writer for the next Borderlands game, I promise you that you will see success like nothing you have experienced before. The whole gaming world will be talking about you and how you took the chance on a young woman from Canada who went to the big ol’ States to pursue her dream of being employed while writing dumb jokes for a video game series that is known for its humor.

I am basically the perfect candidate for the position. I come from the Texas of Canada. I already have my own cowboy hat. Okay, no, that’s a lie. I don’t. But I will buy one if required. I’ve been to Texas before, when I was four years old. Granted it was only Corpus Christi, and the only thing I remember about it was the Barbie that I brought with me, but culturally I’m basically already Texan, you know?

Okay, that’s a lie too. Not that I lie compulsively, ha ha ha! Ha… Ha ha.

Having taken up enough of your valuable time, I feel it would only be right to leave you with this handy guide to me. I’m sure by now you’re plenty enchanted with me, so this is really only a cursory list. I look forward to relocating to Dallas next week to begin my career with Gearbox.

Pros to Hiring Kathleen Sawisky:

  • Delightfully enchanting
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Thorough enjoyment of irony and lists
  • Canadian
  • Emotionally secure
  • Lots of silly tee shirts
  • Make delicious bacon-maple candy which everyone at the office will just love
  • Excellent leader
  • Famed for my creativity

Cons to Hiring Kathleen Sawisky:

  • Every November 23rd I turn into a vampire for 24 hours
  • Canadian
  • Really more of a tea drinker than a coffee drinker
  • Difficulties in suppressing rebellious nature
  • Sometimes I cry myself to sleep
  • Okay, I cry myself to sleep all the time
  • Not very good at using the Siren in either Borderlands game. More of a Gunzerker to be honest
  • Despite Communication Degree I sometimes get very excited and talk too fast and trip over my words
  • I take mild delight in annoying others

On Video Game Harassment and Dum-Dums

These things I know to be true:

  1. Online harassment in video game communities exist.
  2. Critics of the culture of harassment have received some really, really disturbing threats that have made them fear for their lives, quit the gaming industry, as well as a variety of other actions.
  3. I don’t know Zoe Quinn and I don’t care about her social life. My only thought about her is “Oh sweet, she made a video game! I wish I had programming skills so I could make a video game!” I also think that about Ken Levine, the guy that made Earthbound, and Naughty Dog, for making The Last of Us.
  4. I don’t know what #GameGate is, and that is essentially because the information I have read has told me it has to do with everything from corruption in gaming journalism to the harassment of women, to how many pancakes bunny rabbits can balance on their heads until they fall off with adorable ‘plooping’ noises.
  5. Harassment is not defined by gender; both victims and perpetrators have and continue to be male and female.
  6. Harassment, and indeed any type of bullying is wrong. Can we all agree that it is wrong? It is wrong.
  7. The issue of harassment is commonly broken down into an us versus them mentality, which is true for those of us that aren’t douchehats, but problematic because said douche hats probably aren’t reading the criticism essays about their attitudes. They’re too busy being douchehats, you see.

And while it is great that we are having a discussion about how awful the harassment is, whether the conversations are politely structured or are reduced to petty name calling, the fact of the matter is that it really isn’t getting us anywhere. Women are still getting death and rape threats, men are still pointing out that they are misrepresented, and those putrid little bastards that take harassment to an extreme level are still… well, harassing.

None of us, none of us needs that around. Life is tough enough out there in the real world without that sort of scum-sucky attitude infecting our time online. So maybe someone can answer me this…

Why are we letting them get away with it?

We’re spending all this time arguing with each other about this and that when really, like I said before, we all think harassment and bullying are wrong. That, at its most basic level, is a problem we should all be concerned with. Because bullies that think it’s okay to make death and rape threats to women, and men, while online are probably just as comfortable telling that teenage girl to kill herself, or that young man that he’s worthless because of his sexuality. Those people are the same ones that think they’re untouchable, that have no concept of consequences and that, when their victims react and, sadly, often act as these threats suggest, don’t get that they actively contributed to the pain, suffering or even death of another human being.

That shit is messed up, man. So why are we letting them get away with it? Why are we making excuses of ‘that’s just the way it is’ or ‘oh he/she is young and doesn’t know any better’?  Nu-uh, I call bullshit. If they are old enough to be online, in an environment like that, then they sure as hell are old enough to be educated about what normal people do and do not do.

Our inaction against these bullies and their harassment, and our focus on each other is exactly what is allowing this sort of attitude to prevail. Wouldn’t our attention and energy be better off dealing with those morons? And no, I’m not suggesting battering them down with vitriol and sarcasm. As much as I enjoy calling them ‘douchehats’, I have to acknowledge that to make a firm difference we need to be adults. As gamers, no matter the gender, we report harassment when we witness it. As moderators we treat every instance of bullying and harassment as if it is the final straw. We show that there are consequences for being a total nob.

Because nothing is going to get through to these people who bully, harass, and troll earnest individuals except real world consequences.

So don’t make excuses for it. Don’t say ‘That’s just the way it is’ or ‘he’s just a kid’ or ‘he doesn’t know what he’s saying’. Make the person know what they are saying. Educate them about their stupidity, and if the trend continues even for a single instance after that, punish them through real world consequences.

I just… it’s so simple. We’re on the same team here, gang. We all want bullying to stop, and when it does, then we can finally have real conversations about gender portrayal and balance and tropes and cliches and who is better, Tifa or Aerith, and why sandbox games are becoming so popular, and hey how about that Bioshock Infinite?

Because I don’t know about you, but I’d love to talk about video games and everything about them, but I’d rather not have some asshat tell me he is going to find and kill me for expressing an opinion.

Also the answer is Tifa, obviously.