Characters I love

Continuing along with the theme of nostalgia and self-indulgent blog posts, this week I’m going to do a run down of characters I love. Partially this is to celebrate the launch of the Game Love anthology (in which I have a chapter!), and partially this is because I want to talk about VtM: Bloodlines some more. But first, the anthology, yay!

Photo courtesy of Esther MacCallum-Stewart.
Photo courtesy of Esther MacCallum-Stewart.

You can buy it on Amazon, but beware, it is sandwiched between a few other salacious titles which you might find distracting. I, for one, had to look up what BWWM meant and then I had to stare at the cover of that one book trying to figure out why a leg would be protruding from this gentleman’s head. Why a high heel on a football? So many questions…


But enough of judging books by their cover. Game Love, which many people worked on for a very long time and deserve recognition for their hard work, is finally out and its time to celebrate. So here’s a list of game characters I love.

1. Malkavians in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Not precisely a character, but a possible choice for player-characters. To bring my three readers up to speed, in Vampire the Masquerade (VtM) lore, Malkavians are a bit mad. Of course there are variety of ways this can play out in tabletop settings, but in a digital game? VtM: Bloodlines handled this really well with excellent story writing and environment and NPC interactions.

Take the above scene as an example. On my first playthrough as a Gangrel, I remember running through this flat, turning the TV on and being impressed that the news reporter was talking about current events relevant to the story arc. On a third playthrough with a Malkavian character, I learned that you get something completely different. The TV talks directly to you, and you can talk back!

Similarly, you can get in an argument with a stop sign.

2. The Pyro in Team Fortress 2

What dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty lie behind that mask?

The Pyro is complex, and not just in terms of her apparent instabilities. She is perhaps one of the easiest characters to pick up and play, but she can also be one of the most difficult to play well. Spy-checking, pyro-blasting folks of cliffs, accuracy with the flare gun, knowing when to employ the axetinguisher… These are all skills which take both time and practice. I like that the Pyro class has that type of replay value. Easy to pick up, hard to master. For me, that’s part of what makes TF2 still fun after many years playing.

3. Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins

Oh Zevran… Who doesn’t love you, you saucy minx? From his swoon-worthy stories about being an assassin to his witty repartee, he is perhaps one of the most memorable characters I’ve come across in an RPG. The fact that he is open about his sexuality doesn’t hurt either. Zevran never makes any apologies for who he is, or what he wants, whilst still managing to be caring and sweet. I’d love to see more characters like that.

Okay, so perhaps the sexy-time cutscreens are a bit over-the-top, and DA:O had that whole weird faces thing going on, but still. Zevran. ❤

4. Yoshi in Super Smash Brothers

I think we all know why I like Yoshi…

I like to turn people into eggs and drop them off the edge of the platform. Its just so satisfyingly… gross.

5. Frida in Bust-A-Groove

Since I derailed part of my last post on games I love to talk about characters I love in those games, I have tried really hard to avoid repeats. I didn’t mention Michelle Chang, for example, despite the fact she is totally awesome. Well, until now. But this small mention doesn’t really count. Does it?

I have to repeat Frida though.

Not only does she have the coolest hair colour ever, but she is also a graffiti artist. I guess. I mean, that was her special ability to knockback other dancers during combos. I also liked how she’d create a tropical storm just by dancing. Upon reflection, I might have liked her because Storm was my favourite X-Men character.


I’ve realised a couple things from these last few posts on nostalgia. Namely, that there are many ways we interact with and love games. Some games we love for their characters, some for their mechanics, some for the setting, some for the lore… This realisation is partially what the Game Love anthology is about. People interact with, and love, games in sometimes unexpected ways. Occasionally this is in ways the developers couldn’t possibly have imagined as they were creating the game. I guess that’s a testament to the larger impact games have on our culture overall. We consume, we discuss, we find pixels utterly endearing.

Thinking about all these beloved characters has not only given me the warm and fuzzies, but also made me really want to play some games. So on that note, I’m signing off.

But before I go, for those of you about to jam, I salute you! GL;HF

Until next time,


Utrecht, GameFace, and LonCon3!

Ok, so I am back to Manchester… for a few days. Wow, what a summer! In this post I will try to give a rundown/post mortem of the past 3 events I have been to with plenty of pictures to dazzle the eye.

Utrecht Summer School Games and Play

Working back from the most recent event, the Utrecht Summer School was an amazing experience. Lucky students got to experience 2 weeks of keynotes, workshops, and game jams (which, by the way, had epic results) all related to games studies.

Chiptune + juice + crayons + a Choose Your Own Methodological Adventure book in my workshop.
Chiptune + juice + crayons + a Choose Your Own Methodological Adventure book in my workshop.

I think the key term of the summer school, as started by Frans Mäyrä, was ‘interdisciplinarity’. Many epistemologies, frameworks, and perspectives were represented at the school, but rather than feel overwhelming or stifling, such diversity actually brought a special type of energy. The feeling of walking into the summer school as an outsider who arrived a week late was one of community, eagerness to learn, and a willingness to share.
Well, to share knowledge and beer, of course.

I heard whisperings that the summer school might become a yearly gig. I really hope those whispers become something, because this was a fantastic opportunity for students around the world to connect to one another, build important friendships (which really shouldn’t be underestimated), and expose themselves to other research and other ways of researching games, players, and industry.
Let it be established from this photo that I can indeed stand and talk at the same time.

I think the variety of topics presented, as well as the variety of presenters and their styles, made for an engaging summer school. From the side of an educator and instructor, I think the diversity of keynotes was a brilliant idea which not only illustrates the diversity of games research and methodologies (see Nicolle Lamerich’s post here), but also provides a well-rounded education for students. The specialities of the faculty, along with their unique presentation styles, also meant things rarely got dull. I, for example, jokingly encouraged students to draw pictures of dragons during my presentation if they found the talk boring or too basic. I forgot just how playful game scholars are. I got so many dragon pictures tweeted to me that I began to feel like a certain Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men.

I guess students weren’t too bored though… 😉


Needless to say, I very much enjoyed my time in Utrecht and would love to be a part of next year’s summer school.


On Sunday, 24th August, I was interviewed by GameFace (Fab International Radio) station in Manchester. Whilst most of the questions centred on problematic content in games and representations of gender, we did also have a chance to talk about Superbyte and chiptune. Eventually, you will be able to listen to the interview replayed here, but it is still being uploaded.


Also, FantomenK favourited a Tweet I was mentioned in… so I guess I can retire now. I mean, that’s pretty much the peak of my career, right? The closest I’ll ever get to being a rock star, basically.


Between the tube, the beer, and those fuzzbutt trousers in London summer heat, I nearly died at LonCon3. Okay. So maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But seriously, the furry trousers were fun, but so warm.

This is actually the only full-body pic I have of my cosplay. 😦 Does anyone else know of any?

I decided to cosplay as a Mr. Tumnus-style faun. Because why not? And also because Chaos Costumes started making these amazing fuzzybutt faun trousers and hooves. (I thoroughly recommend you check out her Etsy shop. Such talent, wow!)

Like a deer caught in the headlights.
Like a deer caught in the headlights.

It was super fun clomping around London dressed in such a costume. The best were the reactions from children on the tube. Parents were, by and large, surprisingly cool with their kids coming up and talking to me (despite Mr. Tumnus being infamous for drugging children, ahem). I did get some dirty looks from plenty of people, and there were one or two camera flashes without permission, but for the most part people were respectful. I was actually a bit taken aback at how much people outside of the Con seemed to stare and gawk. I thought cosplay, or fancy dress, or LARP-y type clothes had become almost mainstream by now. Hmm… Oh well. I actually gave my talk in the cosplay, so that was fun. 😀 I don’t have pictures of me speaking in cosplay, which is a bummer, but maybe someone else does? If so, I would love to see it!

Here I am moderating a panel.
Here I am moderating a panel on queerbaiting. Photo credit to Jukka Särkijärvi, who also took the ‘featured image’ at the top of this post.

It is hard to pick a favourite panel at the Con, but mine might have been on queerbaiting (above image). This is because not only was the audience super supportive and respectful, but also because I learned so much. The panelists were extraordinarily patient and articulate in both providing examples and explaining the phenomenon which I, embarrassingly, was unfamiliar with.

The Game Love Game lives!
The Game Love Game lives!

One of the other panels I was fortunate to be a part of involved playing the Game Love Game I designed a couple years ago. It was well received and I was happy so many chose to play it. It is like… a companion game for our book. If you’re interested in playing it, get in touch.


The Con wasn’t all work though. I had plenty of time to play and goof around, as evidenced above. These Jawas were super friendly despite their menacing looks. They made me cover up my Star Trek/Wars t-shirt or they wouldn’t take a photo with me, though! D:

I do not sew... my cosplay.
I do not sew… my cosplay.

And here I am trying to pull my best Eddard Stark expression on the Iron Throne with a pint of cider. I think the cider diminishes the srsns a little bit, but I didn’t have Ice handy. Cider… Ice… there’s a pun there, but I’m not going to make it.

So, I’m sharing these silly pictures for a reason. I think one of the coolest parts about being an academic who studies a beloved media with a large, passionate fan culture is that we are allowed to be fans too. Well, in my opinion at least. For those who saw my talk on qualitative methodology, subjectivity is at the heart of what I do. So… yeah, have some subjectively awesome photos, if I do say so myself.

On a less theoretical note, it is also good to not take yourself too seriously. See below:

Helsinki 2017!
Helsinki 2017!

Thank you!

In closing, I just want to thank everyone involved in Utrecht Summer School Games and Play, GameFace, and LonCon3 for giving me amazing opportunities to travel around, goof around, and spread my research. After the whole experience I feel warm and fluffy, despite the exhaustion.

Until next time,