Tina K. Russell

November 23, 2009

The Click and the Dead

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 11:29 am

David Sirlin is a familiar proponent of increased simplicity and usability in video game interfaces. It's a principle he put into practice rebalancing Street Fighter II for Super Street Fighter II HD Remix. At Montreal International Game Summit, he continued the theme with a polemic that used the famous writing handbook The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White to argue that a design must do its best to avoid needless effort on the player’s part.

Using one of William Strunk’s celebrated style rules, “omit needless words,” as a basis, Sirlin took the audience through an entertaining series of case studies demonstrating obvious pitfalls overlooked by many developers.

via MIGS: Every Click Counts | Edge Online.

Hotel Dusk, a game that is very dear to my heart, had one glaring problem that came close to ruining the entire experience (and makes me tepid about the sequel announcement): despite being the most text-heavy game I’ve ever played, you could not press A to finish displaying a block of text. You had to wait for the text to draw itself, letter by letter, onto the screen, at the end of which you completely forgot what you were reading. It was maddening.

Okami made a similar mistake, except only for scenes deemed important by the developers. The thing is, Okami also let you skip entire cutscenes. I never wanted to skip the unimportant cutscenes because I could rapidly advance through the text and read it quickly, but skipping the important cutscenes was always a wicked temptation. That is, a decision they probably made to ensure you paid attention to some cutscenes only made me want to skip those ones. (facepalm)

The moral of the story: little annoyances matter. They can add up to a serious blemish on your game (and one, sadly, that reviewers will generally fail to point out).

September 20, 2009

I Wanna Start a Fight

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Tina Russell @ 12:40 pm

How ought we to respond to fulminations against videogames by people who don’t play them? A great many, of course, may be safely ignored. But when an interesting writer decides to take a passing kick at games, it can be worth digging for the grain of truth in the stereotypical criticism. A case in point: recently, I was reading an article by the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, published in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza last spring, which after a meditative beginning about language and exile suddenly targets videogames, along with TV and cinema – they all purvey, he argues, a kind of Manichean pornography. I quote at length to give the flavour of Bauman’s rhetoric:

‘Surely, compared with the refined artistry of cinema, television, Nintendo or PlayStation, the everyday life in the barracks of the concentration camps or the communist bloc must seem like some abortive creations produced by provincial amateurs and manufacturers of cheap kitsch. These lucky beasts [the kids of today] have known almost from the day they were born that monstrous things are the creation of monsters and sordid things are created by scoundrels, and that monsters and scoundrels therefore have to be exterminated before they get a chance to exterminate us, and that, since those who are being exterminated are the spawn of the devil it must follow that those who subdue them are nothing but angels? So as they sit at their computers with their faces ablush, trying to defeat the electronic monsters at their own wicked game, to respond to their trickery with their own, even more refined, tricks and mow them down in their multitudes before they start mowing down ours, it does not in the least offend their own high opinion of themselves. After all, these electronic monsters ambushed them out of pure cruelty whereas they, on their part, were only trying to save themselves, and while they were at it the rest of the world, from the brutes. Humanity is divided into executioners and their victims, and once the latter finally exterminate the last of the former, we can safely store brutality in one of the deposits of memory (or forgetting) and slam the door behind it’.

via Survival Horror Syndrome | Edge Online.

It’s hard for me to admit, but much of my craving to play videogames is often a desire to pick up a controller and start beating up enemies. It’s so cathartic to flip from your normal life and play a fantasy where you’re a spry young warrior mashing through monster after monster, with no real consequence other than the gratitude and prestige brought by your heroics. “Enemies” (in the videogame sense of endless minion baddies) are such a useful trope that it’s hard to cast them off, even when you know that too many games use them as a crutch.

Of course, what I like most about Bauman’s argument is his reminder that good people can do bad things. Part of why videogames have mined World War II so relentlessly is that it seems like a time when good was good and evil was evil; in the same comforting vein of Pong’s famed instruction “avoid missing ball for high score,” a certain wartime nostalgia creeps into the implied instruction of “point gun at Nazi, shoot.” What do we do when our big enemies these days are decentralized and omnipresent, from Internet-enabled terrorists to flu seasons to killer-bee scares to online predators to Wall Street wheeler-dealers? In the real world, we’re slowly pulling out of Iraq and slowly pulling into Afghanistan, a war we entered with strong public consensus in favor but that now sparks a debate on whether or not we should stay, on whether or not doing good for Afghanistan by staying is even possible. It’s a long way from “if he’s a Nazi, shoot him.”

See also Raph Koster’s “The Evil We Pretend to Do.”

June 29, 2009

Fable II’s ending

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tina Russell @ 10:52 pm

I just beat Fable II. Read on for my opinion on the ending (which avoids specific spoilers):


April 28, 2009

Gavin Newsom and the hedgehog vote

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:32 pm

When I heard that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom was running for governor of California, I was very happy. You see, when the Walk of Game exhibit at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco opened in 2005, with Sonic The Hedgehog among its first inductees, Mayor Newsom spent some time hobnobbing with videogame heroes. (Presumably, he was courting the gamer demographic, which we could call “the question-mark bloc.”) Here is the defining picture of that event, and what I always think of when I hear the name “Gavin Newsom”:


That’s right. Mayor Newsom has his arm around a celebrating Sonic The Hedgehog. You have no idea how happy this photo made me: a politician, one with influence, is angling to be seen living it up with my favorite blue hero. (No doubt Fox News must have thought this made California look weak in the face of videogame threats.)

What amused me the most is to imagine a publicist fretting away at Newsom’s office that morning, pacing frantically and telling Newsom, “you know what you need? We need you to be seen putting your arm around… a blue hedgehog!” (You know, because you have to court the blue hedgehog demographic. You need to show that you care about animal and spectral diversity.) The truth is that it felt like he was doing it for me, for gamers everywhere, telling us that he gets the importance of videogames and modern technology, gets why I would like such a silly and idealistic hero. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but he made me happy that day.

March 31, 2009

Boys and Their Toys

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 4:14 pm

Heather Chaplin spoke at the Game Developers Conference, and boy, did game developers get a well-deserved earful.

To: Heather Chaplin, From: Game Devs, Re: Please Return Our Testes » PixelVixen707
Chaplin used her slot to tell the industry, as reasonably as she could, to grow up. See, she covers the business for the mainstream outlets – she co-write Smartbomb, the single best book to buy anyone who doesn’t understand your “hobby,” and she reports at NPR among other venues. She says this puts her in the role of a “translator,” trying to tell the mainstream why gaming even matters. This also means explaining a lot of big-name games that feature zombies, and aliens, and girls in metal bikinis wielding axes. And while she’s heard the excuses – it’s “a very new medium” – she’s way past accepting them.

Like Wendy slapping around the lost boys, Chaplin patiently but firmly laid down the line. “It is you guys as game designers who are mired deeply in ‘guy culture,’” Chaplin said. The problem isn’t the medium: “You are a bunch of stunted adolescents.” Games avoid any of the things that separate men from boys: responsibility, introspection, intimacy, and intellectual discovery. And “when you’re talking about culture-makers, this is a problem.”

I ate it up. For sure, I don’t agree with her whole rant. I won’t scrutinize her comparisons to rock and roll or film, or wave around any of the games that try to meet the standards she set. And I won’t point out that her frustration probably comes from eight years of telling her dinner party buddies why she’s wasting her time on something that “literate” people still call a toy. I will point out that, as a woman, I may be drowning in toys for boys, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on the zombies and the aliens. Games are by and large a power fantasy, and we only cast them with monsters because our co-workers and family members are too hard to model.

But games should also be more than a power fantasy. It’s eerie how rarely the qualities she ticked off find a place in games. This is important not just to the girls, but to the boys who don’t dream of being a marine or a quarterback. In music, boys can listen to boys who aren’t macho. If balls-out, cock-out rock ain’t your thing, you can listen to Belle & Sebastian. There’s a spectrum of masculinity and femininity, and endless ways for both boys and girls to respond to it. But in games, aggression is the default, and relationships are usually as clumsy as a third-grade dance.

Thank you! Have I mentioned how many times I get excited about a game that’s supposed to let me do anything, but “anything” ends up being limited to kill one kind of monster or another kind? Can games make a point, or entertain their players, without using a sledgehammer? Will they ever make use of the enticing texture of subtlety?

(To be fair, Ms. Pixel Vixen points out counterexamples that Chaplin ought to have mentioned; I’ll volunteer EarthBound, the favorite game of a close friend of mine. Oh, and don’t forget Animal Crossing, the videogame equivalent of a bonsai tree on your windowsill, except it needs hours of your life instead of soil and water. Still, though! Even bad attempts at diversity and subtlety would be better than the millionty rehashes of space marine vs. alien hordes we have right now.)

By the way, I was happy to play the Mirror’s Edge demo. Even if Edge didn’t like it, I might still buy it. (I thought it was fun, so I hope I’ll end up disagreeing with Edge about the full game, too.) I like the idea of a game about running away.

(Oh! How could I have forgotten Katamari Damacy? …And Jet Grind Radio? Okay, there are plenty of examples. Still, game developers! Follow your hearts! Don’t just ape yesterday’s success! We’re already bored with it!)

February 3, 2009

Learning the Tropes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:15 pm

What Do You Mean, It’s Not Didactic? – Television Tropes & Idioms
Right, so you’re looking through the library and come across a copy of Moby Dick. First published in 1851? Wow, if it’s still being published after more than 150 years, it must be good! You’ve heard a lot of good things about this novel, so you eagerly check it out and head home.

Later, you open it up and discover there’s a preface. Might as well read that to get an idea of the context it was written, and so maybe enjoy it even more. You start reading, and naturally the preface begins by summarizing the plot… wait, why are you annoyed? You weren’t planning on reading it for the story, were you? This isn’t just literature, it’s a work of True Art! In the minds of Really Clever Literary Critics, the true worth of a book, movie, or TV series is not in telling an engrossing story with interesting characters, but in allowing people to write long, complex, deep essays on the true meaning of the subject matter, whatever they think that may be. Once the critics have done this sort of analysis, they can objectively declare these works as True Art: it doesn’t matter how much you personally like or dislike these works so long as you understand the deeper meaning behind them. Only ignorant fools don’t understand. Such an attitude may be expressed in several ways:

You can even get away with Completely Missing The Point if you’re a Really Serious Critic who wants to reveal all sorts of Family Unfriendly Aesops inside a work, whether or not they have anything to do with the actual characters or plot. Goodness forbid that the author(s) wanted you to do so. How long will it be before high school/college students are forced to write long-winded essays about the philosophical and socio-religious undertones of Harry Potter? (Answer: Already happened.)

Note that having the plot given away becomes less and less of an issue the older the subject is. Most people who haven’t read, for example, Moby Dick will still be familiar with key plot points due to Popcultural Osmosis. See It Was His Sled.

See also True Art Is Angsty, True Art Is Incomprehensible.

Good God, this website is brilliant! It’s already sucked away hours of my life. It’s a complete listing of clichés that have appeared in (despite the site’s title) every fictional work, ever. All are named, identified, and catalogued. It feels like a certain consumer comeuppance. And, as such tropes are not necessarily bad (as the site eagerly points out), it’s like revealing that the emperor has no clothes—and hey, the emporer’s not that bad looking. He could be Mr. September on the Vainly Deceptive Heads of State swimsuit calendar. (I hope there’s a trope entry for what I just did, going too far on an allusion. You know, like instead of going out on a limb, you’ve staked out a tree for a week as part of an anti-logging public protest, only to find that the threatened tree you needed to protect is a couple meters over and already chopped down. It distracts from the text.)

January 13, 2009

Don’t you know that overambition is waaaaaaay uncool?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 11:16 am

Crispy Gamer – Feature: Critic in Exile: Is It OK to Finally Admit That I Didn’t Really Like Fallout 3 All That Much?
I recently threw caution to the wind and whispered my anti-Fallout 3 sentiment to a fellow game journalist who edits a competing Web site. I was worried for a moment that this journalist would report me to the Fallout 3 Crusaders. I saw pitchforks and lit torches in my future. To my surprise, this journalist’s eyes got wide. She whispered, “You too? Man, I can’t play that shit, either; it just depresses me too much.”

That’s how I learned that I wasn’t alone.

I know of a least a half-dozen writers who included Fallout 3 in their top-10 lists who, I know for a fact, didn’t invest more than three or four hours in the game if that, and still felt compelled to vote for Fallout 3 — let’s go ahead and say it — because it felt like the right thing to do. In the end, it seems it’s not a question of how much critics liked or disliked the game, but rather an issue of not being able to argue with 1. the developers Bethesda proved with the Elder Scrolls series that they know what they’re doing, and 2. the game’s pedigree the first two Fallout games are already well-ensconced in the canon.

As someone who hated Shenmue, I feel this man’s pain. Shenmue was so profoundly overambitious, its gameplay ended up consisting mainly of talking to scores of fake people with dry and absurd dialogue. (“Hey, Mister!” and “I’m looking for sailors” are its legacy.) Shenmue was was so thoroughly saturated with hype and pretense at its release that the press honeymoon and fans’ cognitive dissonance formed an impenetrable shield against anyone who would impugn its “quality.” Shenmue’s action scenes, when present, were clunky. The mystery, such as it was, was thin, and the game was essentially a big-budget, next-gen, ultra-realistic episode of Blue’s Clues wrapped in layers of fluff about searching for your father’s killer (which somehow involves walking around the city asking about calligraphers). It was essentially an unprecedentedly realistic simulation of being bored, which is something I can already do for free. (Plus, the graphics are better.) It wasn’t until the series got an Xbox sequel with a wider audience that game publications woke up and started admitting the game was beautiful and empty. (EGM memorably gave Shenmue II the year’s “Shut Up and Hit Somebody” award, which they made up for the occasion.)

You may remember that my opinions about Fable are similar, but I played that game four years after it came out, so instead of going against the crowd by saying it was disappointing I went against the crowd by saying no, it’s not disappointing, it’s just bad. (It really was.)

All the time I see games try to be ambitious, be movies, be visual novels, be worlds, and I wonder when games will ever try to be games. (Jet Grind Radio and Katamari Damacy come to mind for me as games that relish in being games, as well as Crazy Taxi, Advance Wars… okay, all the games I like, basically. I hear Gears of War makes a similar accomplishment in form, by making the fine details as fun as the broad strokes.) When we try to cover up that aspect, the core gameplay of a work, we’re essentially being ashamed of the medium; if we try to “make games art” by making them more like other media, we’re essentially saying (against our intentions!) that games aren’t art. Games have story, games have visuals, games have voice, games have music, that’s all wonderful. Games do have expansive and beautiful worlds, and that shouldn’t change. Games are art, and that raises the standards we should all have for the medium: that the unique quality of gameplay, what only games have, should be used to tie all those disparate parts together into something greater than their sum.

January 7, 2009

Remembering EGM

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:46 pm

EGM Closed; 1Up Sold | Edge Online
Ziff Davis, a veteran player in games magazine and website publishing, has quit the business, closing long-running consumer mag EGM and selling its games web properties to UGO Entertainment and its parent Hearst.

EGM has been published for 20 years. In the 1990s it increased frequency to twice a month, via EGM2, and has been publishing online sites since the early 1990s. In the last few years, debt-stricken Ziff has closed numerous games pubs including Games for Windows.

This breaks my heart. I knew EGM was in trouble, and that a gaming news outlet that operates but once a month is hardly tenable these days, but… I’ve heard many stories of “I can’t believe this cultural institution I’ve grown up with is gone after 20 good years,” but I never prepared to say goodbye to mine.

I read my first issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly back when I was a little kid. Back then, I only played videogames twice a year; my parents would rent a Genesis and some Sonic games for my birthday, and for my brother’s birthday (which was, fortunately, sufficiently far apart).

You can imagine, of course, that this elevated the Sega Genesis to an almost mythical status for us, a kind of legendary civilization that rises from the water but twice a year. So, if I saw an issue of EGM (especially if it had Sonic on the cover, which was often) on a grocery store shelf, I’d plead with my mom for it. Every once in a while, she’d grant my wish (despite thinking of EGM, with its raunchy game ads and occasional sexy rendered ladies, doubtlessly as part of the American institution of the too-short childhood), and I’d walk home with a cherished knickknack, a kind of souvenir from this legendary civilization.

Actually, first it wasn’t EGM, it was GamePro, and later an issue or two of GameFan. (I still have that issue of GamePro; it was their famous Sonic 2 preview issue, featuring screenshots of several levels that were eventually scrapped. Also, in the pictorials, I wondered who that raccoon next to Sonic was. Even after learning he was a fox, I resolutely refused to believe he had two tails. That’s just silly.) In time, it was all EGM.

EGM had the right balance of snark and professionalism. Unlike other game mags, which featured a colorful cast of fantasy creatures as their supposed editors (GameFan actually did a regular comic feature on the adventures of their intrepid reviewers; barf), EGM used real faces and names… mostly. (When a reader suspected them of being too good-looking, an editor responded, “trust me, if our pictures were fake, we would have found better-looking models.”) They had one exception to keep the fantasy alive: the mysterious, fighting-game-obsessed ninja from parts unknown: Sushi-X.

EGM gave each game four scores instead of one, and you could read what each reviewer thought. The reviewers had their own profiles and short messages in each issue, so you could pick whichever one you felt the most kinship with. EGM ran editorials on the maturing of the games industry, the introduction of violence and sex into the mix, and the undue influence of advertising dollars. (EGM‘s editorials in recent years have been one of the last bastions of defense against the widescale selling-out of the enthusiast press, and its reviews have been refreshingly harsh, refusing to hand out the all-too-common “courtesy sevens” for games that should have tried harder.) You also, as I remember, grew fond of the magazine’s editors, who were all good writers. You felt like you were hanging out at the arcade with them. (In fact, they were the first generation of great game writers, having started at the industry’s outset and laying claim to having played nearly every release “from Pong on.”) I was suddenly interested in playing the incomprehensibly named Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyperfighting, despite not having heard of it before. (I did play it eventually, and I just didn’t get it; those who did can now enjoy the acclaimed remake, lovingly monikered with the equally, endearingly absurd name of Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix.) I wanted to discuss with them why I thought the hero I grew up with (Sonic) was better than the hero they grew up with (some plumber who stomps on turtles). I wanted to sit around with them with pizza, Cherry Coke, and a few rounds of Saturn Bomberman. I was unsurprised when they reported that a sick child, through the Make-a-Wish foundation, chose to spend a day hanging out with the EGM crew. It was a sound choice.

They were heroes to me, breaking through the pomp of day-to-day videogame blather to reveal the creamy insides of compelling gameplay and fascinating, real-time stories. In issue #100, which I think was 1996, they presented a “top 100 games of all time” list, giving recognition to a wide array of games in many genres, all ranked with the rule that no points are awarded for fondness or historical importance; these are the game’s we’d take with us “if we were abducted by aliens.” This was the master list of pure fun, and at the top sat none other than Alexei Pajitnov’s Tetris. (Modern top-100 lists tend to guage subjectively, based on when the games came out; this inevitably results in a useless list topped every time by Super Mario Bros., for its yet-unmatched leap into the future of gaming. Still, Super Mario Bros. came out when the game market had crashed after being flooded by terrible Atari knock-off cartridges from companies desperate to cash in on what they saw as a fad; it’s hard to compete with Super Mario Bros. when it’s being contrasted with the crap that immediately preceeded it.)

The top 100 list gave slots to Sonic 2 and Sonic CD, to my pleasure, and also gave a joint entry to Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Kirby’s Avalanche. It noted that both these titles were localizations of the popular Japanese puzzle game Puyo Puyo, beginning my childhood fascination with the series that would surprise and confuse my schoolmates. The list, to my dismay, included Blast Corps, a game that my brother liked but I did not; he relished the challenge, while I felt it was simply issuing you nearly impossible and uniformly boring challenges, and then rewarding you with even more difficult and boring challenges. (Little did I know that developer Rare’s games would only become even more so over time.) I could win the argument, though: the list also included Ms. Pac-Man, a a pizza-parlor favorite of me and kids everywhere, giving it a better spot.

Issue #102, which I recieved that Christmas in my stocking, introduced me to the world of videogame history; despite some inaccuracy, it was a fascinating look into the formative story of our industry, and it began my interest in the topic. Another issue had the Sonic Adventure cover story, which I pleaded with my mom for, and I then brought it to summer camp to flip through occasionally to comfort myself as well as to use it to inform my fellow campers how awesome the next year would be for Sega, defending the corporate giant from those who thought its hardware days were over following the Saturn’s woes. The story had many odd mistakes, such as saying that the game take place “on Earth, not Sonic’s homeworld of Mobius” (this sort of thing stokes an enormous fan debate, but the long and short of it is that Sonic and friends live on Earth, and it’s called “Earth,” but it’s different from our Earth), and that it took place in South America (really, it contained “the Mystic Ruins,” inspired by a trip to Aztec, Maya, and Inca ruins that the developers took before ever revealing the project). But, I forgave the mistakes, on account of the awesome visual spreads and the fact that I now had something to put under my pillow as I slept, something to remind me of my fandom back home.

Eventually, EGM‘s intrepid marketers selected me to recieve a free subscription (I don’t know what I did!), and so I have many issues saved up from the late 90s and early 2000s, for about two years or so. I fell in love with the “Hsu and Chan” comics that poked fun at the industry’s odd habits and shortcomings. (In one, our heroes, small-time game developers, try to upstage Gran Turismo 2 with an “ultra-realistic driving game” of their own: it includes such realistic touches as the “pounding on the hood and swearing” mini-game and the “try to get one last ride to Vegas outta this jalopy” challenge.) I cherished looks at games like Jet Grind Radio and Skies of Arcadia that would live on to be under-appreciated classics.

I’m sure if I went back and looked at my old issues of EGM, today, my fawning wouldn’t gush quite so freely. The rose-tinted specs would be off, and I’d see the relentless assault of immature ads, the even flow of courtesy sevens, and the excessive lightness of their approach to a serious (and seriously entertaining) medium. In retrospect, and I’ve known this for only a few years now, the real gift that EGM passed onto me was its gift of words.

EGM taught me to talk. It tought me to be snarky. It taught me to be unrelenting in my criticism but forgiving in my outlook. It taught me to laugh at the bad and see through to the good. It taught me to use big words in elegant ways that imply what they mean. It taught me the most important lesson of all: never forget, even and especially when your health is running low, your last save point was an hour back, and you’re about to fight the toughest end boss so far, that it’s all just a game.

Thanks, EGM. In my book, you’ve earned a perfect 10.

December 22, 2008

Maddie and Meowth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:24 am

Awesomed By Comics: R.I.P. Maddie Blaustein
Maddie once told me the story of how she was inspired to fully transition from male to female (and to come out to her co-workers as transgender) by an episode of Pokemon. In the episode “Go West, Young Meowth” her character travels to Hollywood to make it big. There, Meowth falls in love with another Meowth, who spurns his advances. He decides to learn how to speak and to stand upright in order to impress her – but she rejects him for being a “freak.” Meowth was a human trapped in a Pokemon’s body.

That episode was extremely dear to me as a kid! I’m happy to know it was part of her story, her inspiration. We all have lessons to learn from Maddie, certainly.

Meowth was a lovable cat gangster with a gold coin charm on his head and a bad attitude. He’d follow up every Team Rocket “motto” with his signature “Meowth, that’s right!” He had boundless energy and an affinity for bad puns, and was often seen pulling the levers of the latest improbable Team Rocket contraption. For a sample of Maddie’s work on Meowth, see the catchy Meowth’s Party, a GameCube tech demo used as a special musical segment. Maddie, thanks for touching my childhood with your warmth and charm, and my adulthood with your intelligence and courage.

Dear Maddie

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:08 am

Life According To Maddie (According To Me)

Maddie Blaustein died this week. I… I don’t know what to say. She was an accomplished comics writer (I know she did Static, among others) and voice actress, having roles on Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and yes, some Sonic games. She was one of my heroes, and I always dreamed I’d write to her and, because we’re both transsexual, she’d feel a certain kinship and write back, and I’d treasure her response forever.

There’s a huge hole in me now. I guess this is one of those lessons about how now is the best time to do anything, since you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But also, I just lost a woman I’ve had immense respect for, a woman who showed me what I can become. Rest in peace, Maddie… I already miss you deeply.

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