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Zenkaikon 2019: Mental Health

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Last year, we had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Spickerman of Corgi Cosplay. Nicole is a huge mental health advocate who dresses up her service dog, Kiba, in cosplay. This year, we were ecstatic to hear that she was coming back to Zenkaikon 2019.

This year, Nicole did a panel called Fandom Saved my Life with Sam Sawyer, AKA Sincerely Sam. In this panel, they talked about their respective battles with mental illness and how they deal with it at conventions.

This type of panel is amazing in many ways. Not only is it creating a safe space for con-goers who struggle with their mental health, but it is also creating a dialogue about mental health issues within the geek/nerd community.

Opening up this dialogue in these settings helps to normalize mental illness, which makes it easier for those suffering to come forward and seek help. If we as a community can start to actually talk about mental health issues, then not only are we making it comfortable for more people to talk about it, but we’re also helping mental health professionals get a better understanding what helps us.

This panel also brought up a very important point about living with mental health issues at a convention. They gave wonderful advice about quickly identifying a safe space. Both Nicole and Sam made it clear that their booths are safe spaces. If someone is overwhelmed, panicking, scared, they can go to either of them and sit behind their booth until they feel more comfortable.

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We at Real Women of Gaming want to emphasize this as well. If you see myself, CrymsonPleasure or any other member of RWOG at a convention, we will help you find a safe space. If you are overwhelmed, lost, scared, panicking, we will help you get to a safe space and we will make sure that you are okay.

Please pay attention to your mental health at conventions. They are large and loud and can be very scary. Drink lots of water, take your medication, and – above all – take care of yourself by being prepared, avoiding your triggers as much as possible, identifying safe spaces, and having someone you trust with you.

We hope to see Nicole back next year with another Fandom Saved my Life panel, and we hope to see more mental health panels pop up in years to come.

Review: Sacred, Vol. 1 (Manga)

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At Zenkaikon this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Lizbeth Jimenez, the author of the manga Sacred. I was first attracted to her booth because of the artwork hung around it. She creates anime style artwork that’s both adorable and creepy. It’s exactly my aesthetic.

I decided to pick up volume one of Sacred because of it.

What’s it about?
Cecero and Sheko are roommates. Teenagers in the country of Grandome, they live in a dorm and go to school full time as Wizards in Training. Cecero,  the famous son of the great sorceress Lady Alumrion, has a dream that he will prove himself today and receive a gift. The day that follows is horrifying, to say the least, but changes Cecero’s life forever.

What did I think?
Lizbeth Jimenez is immensely talented. Her artwork and witty dialogue bring these characters to life. The story is full of humor as well as darkness.

Cecero is a very low key character. He’s calm and collected, but that doesn’t stop him from trolling his best friend. Despite his status, he’s flawed and real. He’s just a teenage boy trying to get through school.

Sheko is a nervous little thing with something dark and powerful living inside him. He’s too shy to speak to the girl he likes, but will jump into action when his best friend is in trouble. Sheko is who I relate to the most because of this trait.

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As I said before, this artwork is my aesthetic. Cute at times and terrifying at others, Lizbeth Jimenez has a way of showing the macabre within delightfulness. I’m excited to read the rest of the series.

Would I recommend it?
Yes, I absolutely would. Please revel with me in the delightfully macabre and let me know what you think in the comments below!

You can learn more about the manga and it’s wonderful author here. You can purchase the manga here.

Zenkaikon 2019: FOOD

Unfortunately, we didn’t do much by way of food this year, but what we did was absolutely amazing.

Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub

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On day one, we had dinner at Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub. Our experience here last year was phenomenal, so we decided to go back with Corgi Cosplay. This year, we waited over an hour for a table (they told us 30 minutes) before we decided to order our food to go. After a 2 hour wait in total, we were back in Nicole’s hotel room, scarfing down Irish goodness.

Despite the wait (it was Friday at a pub, what did we expect?), the food was spectacular. I ordered Fish and Chips, which was seasoned perfectly. Crymson had Bangers and Mash. I don’t think we spoke at all while we ate. We were starving and the food was just that good. The Dark Side of the Moon desert was to die for, as well, as the chocolate mousse just melted into your tongue.

The Rabbit & The Dragonfly

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On day two, we visited The Rabbit & The Dragonfly, my favorite place in Lancaster, PA. It’s a Tolkien and CS Lewis themed cafe which just screams Vanri. I’m drawn to it like a moth to flame. They have a new pastry, too. A coffee scone. It’s soft and melts in your mouth, with hints of cinnamon and pure deliciousness. I highly recommend it.

Noodle King

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We had lunch on day two at Noodle King. We all ordered the Combination Pho, which has sliced meatballs, rare beef and pork. It was cooked to perfection. I couldn’t get enough of it. I actually ended up finishing Crymson’s since it was too much for her to eat. They also make a hot sauce in house that is to die for. The flavor is fantastic and it doesn’t make your lips burn – perfect combination. I’m getting a craving just thinking about it.

I’ll drive an hour plus to get good pho, not gonna lie.

If you ever find yourself hungry in Lancaster, PA, be sure to check these amazing restaurants out. You can also find a few more great places here.

Zenkaikon 2019: Cosplay Burlesque

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For the second year in a row, I’ve had the absolute pleasure to attend Cosplay Burlesque’s show at Zenkaikon in Lancaster, PA. I had first heard about Cosplay Burlesque three years ago, after Crymson went to their show and interviewed them at Zenkaikon 2017. I was excited to hear they were coming back so that I could finally see what all the fuss was about.

Last year, Thia the Bard wrote about her experience at their show, being asexual. I want to give a little background on myself before moving forward with my review. I am demisexual. This means that I don’t feel sexual attraction to a person unless I’ve established an emotional connection with them first.

That being said, I absolutely love burlesque. To me, it’s not so much sexual, but rather an art form. It’s an art that promotes and celebrates body positivity, confidence and sexuality. It’s an art that allows the dancer to utilize their creativity and express themselves using physical methods.

Cosplay Burlesque specifically uses pop culture and turns it into something even more exciting. We see characters from shows and movies we know and love.. then we see them dance and take their clothes off.

This year, we were excited by characters from My Hero AcademiaMario, X-MenGame of Thrones, and… The Human Centipede? Yes, Oliver Swisskey did a The Human Centipede act. It’s awesome, though, I promise!

The dancers were all amazing, as usual. The show came together extremely well. Clothes were flying everywhere, laughter and cat calls filled the air, and there was so much T&A that I didn’t know whether I should look away and blush or lean into it and cheer (spoiler alert, it’s the latter).

The MC was witty and really knew how to keep the momentum of the show going. The most memorable acts, for me, were the following (in no particular order): Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones, The Juggernaut from X-Men, Lady Bowser from Mario, Mrs White from Clue, and the doctor from The Human Centipede. Each act brought something new to the stage that could be exciting or concerning, depending on the context.

Though, I must say, the picture of Oberyn Martell’s dead body directly after the act was unnecessary. (I know, Oliver, it’s a palette cleanser, but still!)

What makes this company so intriguing to me is that you have people of all genders, orientations, shapes and sizes exuding so much confidence that I start to feel as though I could do anything. As an overweight woman, my self-esteem is often down in the dumps. I have insecurities out the wazoo. If faced with the option to burlesque, I would run home and put more clothes on. But after a Cosplay Burlesque show, where I see a woman who is my size flaunting her sexiness to a room full of con-goers, my confidence in myself is soaring. I’m inspired. I feel good about myself because she feels good about herself.

Burlesque is so much more than dancers taking their clothes off. It’s a form of expression that can not only make the dancer feel amazing, but also inspire people in the audience. It’s an art that screams out, “You are sexy!” to a room full of people who may have come in believing that they’re not good enough.

Cosplay Burlesque has introduced me to the world of burlesque and I would love to see more. If you have any suggestions for burlesque companies to look out for, please leave them in the comments below!

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Zenkaikon 2019: The Experience

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Those of you who know me know that I’m fairly new to the convention scene. My first convention was just two years ago. It was TooManyGames 2017, a small gaming convention in Oaks, PA. After that, I went big at PAX East 2018 and completely overwhelmed myself. Zenkaikon 2018 was my 3rd convention and it seemed to be just the right size for me.

My experience at Zenkaikon 2019 was a bit different than 2018. Last year, I had more mobility. I was able to go to more panels and peruse more vendor wares. This year, I was the camera person, so I was able to join Crymson for the guest interviews. Both experiences definitely helped me develop a big picture view of all aspects of the con, from the perspective of the press.

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This was probably our best year at Zenkaikon. The weekend went by smoothly. With one exception, the communication between the convention staff and us was impeccable. We had some technology hiccups (it wouldn’t be RWOG if we didn’t), but we were able to quickly assess and adapt. Crymson and I make a great team (and actually had our 7 year friend-anniversary on the Saturday of Zenkaikon!)

We tried to rush to the con on Friday to see the Anti-Bullying panel, but we unfortunately missed it because we got pulled over on the way. No matter, though! We were still there in plenty of time for our interview with Michaela Dietz. We walked around the vendor hall, spoke to quite a few people, waited 2 hours for dinner with Corgi Cosplay, and then ended our night with the amazing Cosplay Burlesque show (review coming soon!).

On Saturday, we rushed again. It’s definitely a pain commuting over an hour each day to the convention center. We ran to our interview with Charles Dunbar, only to find out that he was missing! His handler, Timothy, couldn’t find him anywhere! A few more con staff come in, only to let us know that the schedule that we have is incorrect. Charles wasn’t late, we were all just early. We had the pleasure of not only interviewing him, but also getting coffee with him at the Rabbit & The Dragonfly.

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We went on to interview our friend Nicole, founder of Corgi Cosplay, and get a ton of footage of Kiba doing super cute and amazing things. Crymson then fangirled over Monica Rial, who did her Mey Rin voice from Black Butler. Crymson about fell off the couch, she was so excited.

We ended that night with Night Time Stories with Todd Haberkorn, then Guests Against Humanity where we laughed so hard that we actually disrupted the panel.

Finally, Sunday. Day three. The day that sleep deprivation caught up to us and we giggle at the mere mention of Brendan Urie (long story). We spent the majority of this day in the press room as we interview Laura from the Carolina Manga Library, Oliver from Cosplay Burlesque, Austin Tindle of Attack on Titan, and the amazingly talented artist, Sincerely Sam. We finished the con with Closing Ceremonies, a fun panel where we got to meet everyone behind Zenkaikon and give feedback.

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Overall, this Zenkaikon was fun, informative, and exhausting. We saw a ton of amazing cosplays, ran into some old friends, ate amazing food, and met some wonderful new people. If you’re already planning your 2020 cons, make sure Zenkaikon is on your list!

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The Long Road

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Back in 2013, we honestly had no idea that we’d be where we are today. We were just a bunch of women sick of not being taken seriously in the gaming world. We were tired of seeing the constant barrage of the “fake gamer girl” stereotype. We made a Facebook page to raise awareness that the women who game are real gamers and not just faking it to get the attention of gamer guys.

Today, on the eve of 2019, we realize just how much we’ve grown. We have this amazing website, a YouTube, Twitch and Mixer channels, and a huge presence across social media. We’ve raised thousands for charity, been invited to exciting conventions, and made so many new friends in all of you. We’re incredibly proud of the journey so far, but it’s not over. Not by a long shot.

We wanted to take the time to say thank you to all of you who helped us get this far and continue to support us as we move forward. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for you! We appreciate every single one of you more than you could ever know. To our readers, our viewers, our patrons, our friends: Thank You!

Happy New Year

Now, here’s what we have planned for 2019:

New Content

Keep an eye out for new content on both the website and YouTube. This coming year, we will be featuring games created by women, reviewing new and old games alike, and bringing you the latest gaming news.

Live Shows

The LOST: This Dungeons & Dragons show, run by VelozMuerte, will keep it’s spot on the first Saturday of every month, but will also be claiming the third Saturday! Now you’ll get twice as much!

The Alabaster Forest: Run by Oresan_Fells, this D&D show will hold tight on the second Saturday of every month.

New Seattle Rifts: This exciting City of Mists adventure, run by Oresan_Fells, will continue into 2019 on Sundays at 7pm EST.

Past episodes of all of these shows can be found on YouTube!

Charity

Be Someone’s Superhero: April 27th. This event will benefit PACER’s Anti-Bullying Centers. Real Women of Gaming will be live from the Microsoft Store in the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, PA. Hang out with us on stream and in store!

You’re Not Alone: July 27th. For the fifth year in a row, we are fundraising against bullying! This event will benefit PACER’s Anti-Bullying Centers. We will be live from Uncanny! Comics & More in the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, PA. As usual, there will be giveaways on stream and a raffle in store.

Charities & Champions: September 28th. Back by popular demand, we will be playing Dungeons & Dragons to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia! As always, your donations can affect the game. Help or hinder our players/DM to create the most interesting D&D one shot we can possibly create.

100% of proceeds will go to the respective charities.

We’re so excited to go through this next year with you all. Here’s to a fun, exciting and game-filled 2019!

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Review: Breach

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Publisher/Developer: QC Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: January 2019

I was extremely excited to be invited into the Technical Alpha testing for Breach, a game that is expected to be released in early access just next month. Breach is a third person co-op action RPG that has strong hints of Over-salt… I mean, Overwatch.

What’s it about?

Breach takes place in our world, but the veil between the “real” world and the world of mythology has been broken. You can either play as a Hero – with various class choices – or as a Veil Demon.

As a Hero, you can be any number of classes. You don’t have to stick to the standard balanced party of tank, healer and DPS, though it helps. As a Veil Demon, you create breaches, which summons monsters, and try to defeat the Heroes.

Breach has solo, co-op and versus modes. You can also do a custom mode with just your friends.

What did I think?

Gameplay reminded me strongly of Overwatch, but it was still extremely unique. There are various types of objectives for each area. I am unsure if they’re chosen by the game or by the Veil Demon. You may have to capture a point, defeat all enemies, deliver artifacts to a drone, or collect and deliver monster souls to a drone. At the end of each match is a boss. Either the Heroes can win an objective or the Veil Demon can win an objective.

I started out in solo play to get the hang of it. Even in Novice, this is difficult. You spawn in with 3 bots and you’re up against a Veil Demon bot. The Hero bots will only help you kill monsters, they won’t help you with any of the other objectives. This makes sense, of course, but timed capture objectives are nearly impossible when you’re the only one capturing the points.

I moved on to co-op mode. Four players are up against a Veil Demon bot. These are pretty cookie cutter so far. Each location has a set pattern of objectives.

Finally, I tried versus and we were annihilated. It’s 4 Heroes versus 3 Veil Demons, all played by people of varying degrees of experience. We didn’t even get to the end before we were all downed. Unfortunately, the Veil Demon of that section face camped me, so I couldn’t be revived. Needless to say, I was salty.

I did the Veil Demon tutorial, but I didn’t play a match as one.

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The game was laggy when in areas with other people, but that was to be expected. The server was only up for 3 hours and everyone who was invited to the closed Alpha was logged in. I had no lag in the solo matches. This being the Technical Alpha, I expect that that will be addressed before release.

The graphics are amazing and the gamplay itself was pretty intuitive. The tutorial is short and sweet, basically just showing you the basics before letting you into actual matches.

I like the fact that you can play by yourself with AI on both sides. It seems there’s a bit of a campaign with the solo mode, so you can unlock new areas by finishing the previous area and follow a story. I also like that you can have custom matches with up to five people.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, I really do. As someone who loves these types of games (a la Dead by DaylightFriday the 13th, and Overwatch), I definitely see a lot of potential in Breach. On Steam, it’s labeled as Free to Play, so what’s the harm in taking it for a spin when it’s released? You may also be able to still sign up to be a tester here.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!