Ninja disclosed in an interview that he does not stream with women to avoid rumors that he is dating them. He said he did not want to put his wife through that experience. I understand his instinct, I respect that he wants to protect his wife. I don’t think Ninja is a sexist, I don’t think he at any point meant to do women harm, but unfortunately he did with this comment. And you know what? THAT’S OKAY! He is human, he can make a mistake, and because it’s been made so public we can all LEARN from this.
Ninja knows women have a much harder time with harassment on Twitch. He knows how much work goes into being a successful streamer because he’s done it himself. I will never say Ninja hasn’t worked hard, BUT he also has not dealt with the challenges that too many women suffer while on Twitch. He is privileged in that he was met with support and acceptance while many are met with threats, aggression and hatred. I think anyone could agree it’s easier to climb a mountain when there isn’t a rabid animal trying to tear you to shreds. His choosing to cut women out of his streams gives the trolls a BIG win. He sits in a place of acceptance with adoring fans and the money that comes with it, and meanwhile he has emboldened the enemies of women. Again, I know he worked for those things that he has, I know he didn’t mean to do this, but he has done harm and it would be great if he and his fans could at least TRY to understand this.
Twitch is a place where money can be made. I know Ninja is first and foremost a passionate gamer, but streaming is also a job for him, that makes other streamers, women included, essentially his work colleagues. He doesn’t HAVE to stream with colleagues who are women but him saying that he refuses to work with women for his reasons would not hold up well in a proper workplace. The reality that men won’t work with women because they feel women are a liability is REAL in today’s job market. Women don’t get hired for jobs because men don’t want there to be rumors, or they don’t want their wives to be jealous. Unfortunately Ninja’s comment runs too close to this issue and so it triggered the frustration of women unable to get hired or advance, ESPECIALLY in the games industry. I can tell you from experience as someone who has worked on games. I know Ninja doesn’t support that bullshit, he was just following his instincts, again this is all okay, but I think the anger toward him is worth studying.
I understand people are screaming and yelling at him and I don’t think that is warranted, but women need allies at the level Ninja is at. He chose to be a public figure, that often signs you up for wars you didn’t wanna fight. It’s not fair, but it’s also not a hidden fact. Streaming with Ninja gives people exposure to a massive audience, him writing off all women cuts off their access to that exposure. So now that privilege is only extended to men and his statement could instill fear in other high profile streamers to avoid streaming with women. Can you really not see why that is sad? Why that would anger women? He claims to be an ally to women, and in a lot of ways I think he has been, but in this particular case he’s saying supporting women is just too much drama and not worth it. Meanwhile, women suffer from fates FAR WORSE than dating rumors in the streaming community every day and they often do not have the support and success that he has.
The first time I attended E3 I was a new journalist under the Sugar Gamers handle with the boss lady herself Keisha Howard at my side. We were determined to see and touch everything, eager to bring back the coveted news from the then industry only expo. Over the years we returned with the same vigor as the industry changed and evolved. It was a rush, press appointments with game developers pulling back the curtain and showing us why we should care about what they’ve done. Even if the game was not of my cup of tea, I always found something to appreciate because the staff was so passionate. After experiencing this so many times I truly wanted to be on the other end.
When I left Sugar Gamers I began my career as a game developer. I spent time in the AAA scene working contract at NetherRealm Studios as a QA analyst (game tester) on Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2. I also worked on and off as a writer on a passion project for Michael Mendheim, the Creative Director at Digital Dreams. The project was Mutant Football League, a spiritual successor to the IP Mutant League, which was his baby back when he worked at EA.
I had started work on the game as a writer during the first attempted Kickstarter which failed. Mendheim didn’t take this siting down, he rallied and came back with another Kickstarter and was successful. After my unsatisfying stint at NetherRealm which resulted in me providing writing work I wouldn’t get credited for, I left. I was feeling pretty defeated and frustrated when Michael contacted me to let me know there was more writing work to be done for MFL. I took a lot of pride in the work I did for MFL (funny how giving someone credit works). I got to write lines for the voice of the top sports games of the nineties, Mr. “BOOMSHAKALAKA” himself, Tim Kitzrow.
We launched back in January which was exciting but came with some difficulties. One being that EA dropped the price of Madden to $17.99 shortly after we launched. So we decided to hit the road and showcase MFL at several different cons and shows. It was a lot of fun to watch people pick up the game and enjoy themselves. I enjoyed showing the game off to big crowds.
However I had been holding out for E3, this is the show I’ve always wanted to be at to show off something I worked on. It felt like my first time. The crowd was huge, there was lots of press. Considering we were a smaller booth stuffed in the back of the floor, we had a lot of traffic. I lost my voice almost immediately because I was howling at crowds of onlookers to talk about the game and of course the big announcement that MFL would be on the Nintendo Switch this fall. We got a nomination from Hardcore Gamer for Best of E3 2018 and the whole team reveled in this together. It felt amazing.
In true E3 fashion, we made sure to hit the town and celebrate what was to our mind a successful show.
I understand now that devs at E3 aren’t just fluffing up their games to the press. They’re celebrating by being able to show off years of hard work and deliver it to the public. There is nothing like watching people get excited for something you’ve been working on for so long. I think that feeling is one that binds indie and AAA developers together. There was this collective high from all the devs, we were all insanely busy, but happy to be swamped with excitement and attention. The high died down as the show came to a close, because we all knew we had to go home and get back to work to make good on all the promises we made and hype we created.
Announcing a major Sugar Gamers collaboration release that you can get right now – featuring the first published work of fiction written by our intrepid founder and leader, Keisha Howard! Specifically, this release focuses on hip hop, cyberpunk, and tabletop roleplaying games (click here to go right to the bundle).
Member of the Sugar Gamers and resident mad scientist, Colin Kyle Kickstarted a tabletop RPG last year he co-created with his brother Cameron (together they form Wrong Brothers Gaming). The game, calledAxon Punk: Overdrive, combines classic cyberpunk with hip hop to project into the future megacities of 2085. There are TONS of cyberpunk games being released these days but hear us out, Axon Punk is genuinely bringing something new and unique to this beloved and controversial genre.
A benefit and limitation of cyberpunk is that it has a strong aesthetic and relatively well established vision of the future. This current vision, as awesome as it can be, is defined in most movies and games by the white male, able-bodied gaze. We knew this before we started working on Axon Punk and wanted to make sure from day one that everyone can express their vision of the cyber future through the game. Cyberpunk is about marginalize people living in a dystopian world full of invasive technology – sounds like something today’s minorities, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and people of color can identify with!
To make sure our cyberpunk future will resonate with our audience, Colin and Cameron began working with the Sugar Gamers before Colin was an official member of the Sugar Gamers. Keisha and the Sugar Gamers helped playtest and develop the hip hop inspired world of Axon Punk. To further involve the voices of women, queer people, people of color, and non-able bodied people in the game, the Wrong Brothers commissioned a collection of original mini-fiction stories set in the world of Axon Punk to be written primarily by members of these communities. For most of the eight authors that contributed to the collection, called The Gonzo Documents, this was their first official publication and we are thrilled to introduce the world to their work.
Among this all-star lineup of authors from the gaming community, we have the pleasure of including the first official published story written by Keisha Howard, the founder of the Sugar Gamers. Renowned game designer, Erika Chappell from Newstand Press, also contributed an incredibly moving story. Erika has produced a wide range of amazing tabletop RPGs, from gritty, emotional roleplay inspired by Platoon in Patrolto her soon to be released anime Magical Girl game called Five Across the Heart. We also obtained the work of Darcy Ross, who recently joined the Monty Cook Games crew and is a Cypher System powerhouse. Darcy’s experience with weird biology lead her to create a very evocative story about “de-extinction, fashion, and resistance” in a flooded archology floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The collection also contains the work of exciting new faces on the gaming scene, such as Chicago local tech expert and aspiring Youtuber and Podcaster, Lonald Howard (podcast he makes with his wife here). Online personality, globe trekker, and first playtester to grab Axon Punk and really run with it, Mika Talley wrote us a wonderful story drawing from her experience theorizing about AI. Artist, podcaster, and longtime Axon Punk playtester, Elvery Tren Peters wrote his story to help develop the historical timeline of the Axon Punk world and the global cyberwars that have ravaged the planet. Artist, video game designer, and fanfiction author, bakayaro onna is positively thrilled to release their first official work of published fiction, which focuses on a cyber music/dance club and it’s disembodied Chief of Security and Surveillance. Finally, longtime friend of the game, cosplayer, queen of literature, and real-life Magical Girl, Emily Reinhart wrote a high-octane adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
If you would like to read these awesome stories and play Axon Punk, the best way is to get the brand new physical gamebook and PDF bundle, now offered through Indie Press Revolution. This bundle includes a physical copy and pdf of the Axon Punk gamebook, a pdf of The Gonzo Documents story collection, a pdf of the Quickstart rules for the game to get you started right away, character sheets, and printable rules cheat sheets for you to reference during play. The game also contains rules to make your own, organic community in the megacities, so you too can have your voice expressed in the cyberpunk future. Get your copy of the collection today!
Hello again SG readers, this is the second installment in my series of interviews with esports professionals that I think you’ll love. Today I bring you one of my favorite commentators from across the pond, Mr. Dan Gaskin. When I met him at Dreamhack Denver, he immediately began talking shop and I received a quite an education so I figured I would pick his brain and share his knowledge with all of you.
RR: Can we get the Dan Gaskin origin story? How did you arrive where you are now in the esports world?
DG: I guess my first true venture into Esports was Halo 2. After loving Halo 1 round a cousins house I picked it up on launch and played so much that I obliterated all of my friends and online modes. I ended up finding a UK Halo group who included some of the top UK halo 1 players at the time. I went to my first social LAN at 13 l, and then they began making their own LAN tournaments called ‘XL’ which I helped staff and compete in.
Ever since then I had dabbled in various games competiting in many tournaments and LAN events including Halo, Gears, FIFA, PES, CS:GO, Forza, Hearthstone.
I was hitting top 3/4 placements in UK Halo tournaments but stopped competing when I went to University to study performing arts. After my degree i picked up Halo 4 and got back on a top 4 team. Halo 5 came around and I was planning to compete again until I was offered the chance to commentate the qualifiers for the world championship back in December 2015. This was where my career began, casting weekly with Simms and invited to Germany to commentate the finals of the EMEA region. I missed out on the world championship that year but I wasn’t too heartbroken because there was so much more ahead of me.
I began doing more games for ESL when they eventually decided to hire me full time. Thus bringing me to where I am today, commentating and hosting for ESL across various esports titles and other companies.
RR: You get to experience esports cultures across the globe, what are the noticeable differences between the different regions, and what stays constant?
DG: The scale of esports varies from culture to culture. We (the UK) are obviously smaller than other countries so audiences and player bases don’t reach the heights of USA, China etc. However Europe as a whole definitely tries to compete.
In terms of gameplay, two of the games I commentate most are Halo and Hearthstone. Halo in Europe tends to be more passive and slow, scared to mess up. Whereas American Halo is lightning fast and taking risks. In Hearthstone Europe dominates because they are more sensible with their deck selections but in China they have weird inclusions that would often just ruin their chances.
RR: What would you say those who are under the impression that the esports community is full of elitism and harassment?
DG: I’d say esports can be just like any other working environment. People still can receive bullying and harassment there are just some not very nice humans in the world. I’ve never experienced it personally but I’m not so ignorant to imagine it cannot happen anywhere within esports just because we all like gaming.
Dan may not get bullied, but he got memed pretty hard, courtesy of Simms.
RR: There’s always a little tug of war between casual and pro players, do you have any thoughts on the matter?
DG: As a commentator we are expected to tailor to both. However statistics would suggest we should be tailoring more so to the casual as more casuals tend to watch than pro players, for a lot of games anyway. Some of the games with less viewership and tighter communities are probably watched by more pro players. You need to just adjust for an audience.
I think it’s important both pro and casual are happy with a game. Sometimes the pro scene is disregarded slightly because they tend to be the smaller player base but I believe with the growth of esports this is slowly changing and developers are more inclined to please the elite.
RR: What teams or organizations do you think are worth paying attention to at the moment?
DG: London spitfire from the Overwatch league are just insane. So I guess Cloud 9 too considering they own the team. Optic of course from either Halo or COD are always good to keep an eye on. Plus I’ll plug my EU boys Infused in the UK are hopefully going to do big things at the upcoming Halo World Championships.
RR: Be honest, do bow ties give you super powers?
DG: Honestly, yes. They actually stop me from ageing.
I want to thank Dan for taking the time to chat amidst his crazy schedule, hopefully I’ll see him stateside soon. If you want to know when to catch Dan in commentator mode or you just wanna see cute dog pictures, Dan’s Twitter is you’re best bet, @DanGaskin.
Sugar Gamers readers, please allow me to introduce you to a woman who inspires me as a Halo fan, the utterly fabulous Lena Sänger. This woman flaunts her abundant knowledge of the Haloverse like no one else. She founded Fist of the Unicorn (fistoftheunicorn.com) which is fun romp through all the games she’s been playing along with a healthy dose of Halo fandom. The site also contains all of her Girls Love Halo interviews with tons of fabulous Halo loving ladies. I’m really excited Lena found the time to geek out with me about my favorite game franchise of all time.
Rebecca Rothschild: What is it about Halo that stands out to you?
Lena Sänger: Most definitely the lore. The Halo story is so rich and exciting. If you only play the games you are missing out, big time. The relationship between Chief and Cortana is so special. Then there is the music. Outstanding work from Marty O’Donnell up to Halo Reach. I mean can you think about Halo: CE and not hear the monks chant in your head? I cannot. Overall the campaign from Combat Evolved is what stands out to me. Every chapter is brilliant and filled with memories to me.
RR: I know it’s hard to pick just one, so can you give me your top three Halo characters and why they make the list?
LS: Chief is first, because he’s Chief. Cortana is second because she’s Cortana. I cannot not pick them. They are what makes Halo my favorite game of all times. The third pick is going to be real tough though. A Flood Form maybe? Halsey? Hmmm…I think I am going with Serin Osman, Chief of ONI. She is a very interesting character since she was part of the Spartan II program with the Chief. She washed out of the program and became part of ONI and the protege of former Chief of ONI, Margaret Parangosky. Her story is told in the Kilo-Five trilogy by Karen Traviss.
Just a small sample of Lena's Halo collection
RR: Can you describe your path to gamerhood? First game you played? First console?
LS: I really became a true gamer in 2002, when my boyfriend introduced me to Halo: Combat Evolved. Until then I had only played classics like Tetris, Super Mario and Indiana Jones.
But my passionate love for games sparked with Halo.
My first own console was a Xbox 360. Besides Halo, I really took a liking to the Riddick games, Fable and Half Life.
RR: How has your relationship with video games changed over the years?
LS: I would say I am still evolving as a gamer. The older I get, the more interested I become in gaming. I listen to gaming podcasts, read articles and watch shows. And the games I play are more varied. I love story driven games like Life is Strange or Fire Watch and smaller Indie games like Valiant Heart or Child of Light. I used to only like FPS. And I still do. OH, I do! But overall I would describe myself as more open-minded.
Told you there was more...
RR: You’re running Girls Love Halo and Fist of the Unicorn. Any future projects or news you’d like to discuss?
LS: Since I have a kid and a job I have very little time at the moment. I am happy if I post one article on my blog every week and play a game now and then. Girls Love Halo is easier to maintain since it doesn’t take too much time to create a post. But yeah, I’d love to be more involved with my blog and connect with other like minded people.
I can’t thank Lena enough for this interview and letting me get to know her a little better. You can find her on Instagram @youcametomelikemasterchief and @girlslovehalo. You can also follow her on Twitter @fistotunicorn.
Columbus, Ohio was home to the North American Regional Finals for the Halo Championship series and it was everything esports fans could hope for. Day one was spent at the Easton Town Center Microsoft Store because there was no room for spectators in the MLG Columbus studio. Some of 343’s finest were in attendance.
I was accompanied by some of my favorite cohorts from the Drunken Halo Podcast community. (From left to right, @Wakazhi_AOT , @Barker3797 , Me, @MendingMercy , @Gunfigter100) There was a 2v2 tournament taking place, Bark and Gunfigter on one team, Wakazhi and myself on another. Wak and I did manage to make it past our first round, but after that it was all down hill.
On day two the MLG studio was opened up and the casters and spectators poured into a very intimate atmosphere. It’s no wonder tickets sold out for this event so quickly, this was a very petite venue for something as serious as the regional finals.
There was a water supply issue where MLG was only giving out water to players and staff. They did give us a food truck, however said food truck did not sell beverages. Despite overhead shots of downtown Columbus, we were not downtown, we were in a desolate commercial building site with nothing near by, luckily we had people with cars to make water runs. MLG also put out a cake, but only for players and staff. I was lucky enough to be given a piece of cake, however I did feel guilty and sad that not everyone could have cake considering how small the crowd was. The MLG Columbus studio is by far the smallest venue I have ever been in to attend an official Halo tournament. It was fun rubbing elbows with everyone, however part of me missed the big crowd and the hype that would have come with it.
Before I get into Splyce taking the rule book for professional Halo success and tearing it to shreds, I wanna dig into some honorable performance mentions.
The wildcard brackets were well worth the watch this year. Standing out was Wise Gaming who showed consistent performances against Mentality and Armada. Everyone on the team is a damn decent shot and Gilkey and Commonly in particular seemed to really understand one another and play to each other’s strengths. Gilkey goes for power and manages to score game changing clutch plays. Meanwhile Commonly is a well rounded player capable of transitioning from leading the charge to strong support in the blink of an eye. I truly enjoyed watching Wise make their mark.
Makin’ Daddy Pznguin Proud
There was no ignoring Reciprocity this weekend and it took a good amount of hustle for this team to place where they did. They managed to make quick work of Renegades walking away with three wins. In their bout with Splyce they wrangled two well-earned victories for themselves. In fact, high on my re-watch list is the series between Splyce and Reciprocity. Even against Tox, Reciprocity executed methodical pushes and gave them a run for their money taking at least one victory with them. These guys clearly focused on taking advantage of power ups and weapons and it paid off.
Pznguin was able to put on quite a show with power weapons, his rail gun shots were absolutely mind blowing for me personally. Meanwhile Royal2 utilized his signature map movement to help keep his team in control. These guys should be proud of what they accomplished, I know Pznguin’s dad is. By the way, if you have the opportunity to sit next to the legendary DADDYPZENGUIN during a Halo tournament, DO IT!
A hot button issue for Splyce was their lack of online practice and scrimming. Instead the team opted for 2v2 and team building. This cast a lot of doubt on the team as tradition dictates practice makes perfect. However, one could tell Splyce had definitely not been wasting their time. When playing Envyus, we were given a chance to listen to both Envyus and Splyce and you could immediately hear the calm, minimalist approach Splyce had for their communications compared to that of Envyus.
Right off the bat Splyce was in the hole, they had to forfeit their match against Renegades which put them in the losers bracket. This meant the team would spend most of this tournament constructing a ladder to climb out. However Splyce said screw the ladder and strapped on a jet pack to blast their way back to the surface to meet Tox for the final showdown.
In the first series of the novel that could be written about Tox versus Splyce, Tox came out on top. It was a close series, but overall Tox was in control and took the win 3 to 1. Frosty and Lethul were looking confident and cocky as they made big slays and power plays. Gee, they almost reminded me of this team that used to wear green all the time, I think they were building a wall or something.
Due to a necessary bracket reset the final battle required back to back series of Tox versus Splyce and the first series shocked the hell out of me. Splyce MELTED Tox, the score was 4-0. Don’t get me wrong the series made for great watching but holy shit was it fast and Splyce had all the wins in their hands. I had seen this before, from a certain green clad team, where you think they’re down but they come back to take the win like it was planned. Not this time, the next series, while again close and full of nail biting action, was all Splyce. In game four of the final series Slpyce had DOUBLE the slays of Tox, now they were just making this look easy and everyone was in disbelief. By game five, you could tell Tox was wide awake and looking for their comeback. Game five was a slayer match and so infuriatingly close, it drove everyone insane, even the casters.
This is not the last chapter in the saga of Tox and Splyce as the World Championship in Seattle is quickly approaching. Congratulations to Splyce for this incredible win and props to Tox for making it a hell of a tournament. I am beyond anxious to see how it all plays out in Seattle.