Story time! I'll warn you though, it's a love story, and not just about how much I love this silly, bloody game.
Team Fortress 2. It's an FPS (First Person Shooter) game on the PC. It's by Valve, aka the Steam Guys or the Half Life Guys or the Portal Guys and it's really, really good.
Growing up, I was never a PC gamer. I had consoles. I had - have - a lot of consoles. I grew up alternating between Sonic and Mario and never truly engaged in the ridiculous console wars of the 1990s. My first PC game of any merit was Sim City 2000, but the PC was always something for work or, later, the internet, and never really for gaming.
I confess, I hated PC gaming.
I hated the constant upgrades needed to stay relevant. I hated how difficult things were, back then, to run. I hated that you had to install things and change settings to suit your machine. Heck, even on the old Amstrad we had when I was super young, all you had to do was type "run disk" and bam!, you were gaming. PC gaming was a dumb chore and I just never really cared to look into it.
Valve are an amazing company who go all out when they're pushing one of their games, and TF2 of course was no exception. They released videos introducing us to the characters in TF2, which were gorgeous, fully animated shorts. I stumbled across one for the Sniper, and let's just say I was in love!
I realised they'd released a few other videos for the characters, but I kept replaying this one over and over. The humour was perfect, the animation was just perfect and I was just absolutely hooked. I had to try out this game! It suddenly didn't matter that I'd never liked any FPS, or that it was a, ugh, PC game - I had to have it! So, that Christmas I had one thing and one thing only on my wish-list. A new PC. A computer capable of, I dunno, handling video games maybe?
Yep, on Christmas Day, I had purchased The Orange Box (the set of Valve games that TF2 was released with) and by mid afternoon I was downloading it. By Christmas evening, I was playing on an empty server with some friends who already owned it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was in love.
TF2 became my go-to game. It was simple to pick up, as difficult as you wanted it to be and downright fun to be a part of. We explored the servers together and spent far too long on novelty maps like Balloon Race, Convoy and Mario Kart.
Eventually, we stumbled across a server on Wireplay called ctf_vikings, and sure enough the map lived up to its name. Two giant Viking ships formed most of the play area, with planks between the two of them, giant canons that launched you into the sky and a killer fish in the sea. It was dumb and kind of (very) ugly, but there was a community there of regulars who chatted across the teams and it became my nightly hangout - pretty soon I was as regular as any of 'em.
It's funny really, back then I was so unsure of myself with online gaming. I really didn't play games online so the community aspect was something new and exciting to me. I was happy to meet people and chat to everybody on Vikings by typing, but I was well aware of how dumb the internet can be to 'omg gurl gamers' and wanted to avoid that nonsense like the plague. I wanted people to become my friend because they liked me, for me, and not because I was a girl. For weeks, I was a regular on Vikings, helped form our "not a clan!", the PoA (Pantheon of Awesome), and got really friendly with a bunch of people there, but I never confessed I was a girl. I never lied or mislead anybody, it wasn't a purposeful thing. It just didn't come up, really, and I wasn't going to announce it unprovoked. It was, as far as I was concerned, irrelevant. These guys were my buddies. We killed each other and ate virtual sandwiches together. It was great.
Eventually, I was chatting to one of my American friends from Vikings and it just came up that I was maybe kinda actually sort of a girl, and he was absolutely gobsmacked. Gobsmacked, but otherwise unperturbed! I realised then that the reason I'd taken such a shine to the regulars on Vikings was because they, for the most part, actually weren't idiots. We were friends. Maybe only virtual ones who had a friendship formed out of murder and intel capping, sure, but friends nonetheless. The PoA was a Pantheon of Awesome, after all. I 'came out' to the server, that night, by using my voice for the very first time in mic chat. After the initial "a girl on the internet??" joking, everyone settled down and resumed bloody murder. It was perfect.
Vikings became my virtual hang out spot. It was the place I'd spend my evenings when I couldn't be with my IRL friends (most of whom played TF2 with me now, anyway!) Some evenings it really was more a virtual chat room than a shooting game, but it was always daft and fun. Vikings would be the place we'd go when the game had a fun new update, the place we'd try out new weapons and techniques. Sure, we'd go to other servers together, but Vikings was the place we all called 'home'.
And the reason TF2, and especially ctf_vikings, is especially special to me? Well, it's where I met the guy I'm kind of crazy about right now. Somewhen in early 2009, though I don't remember first noticing him, a guy called Cauldron Moose! joined the server. He was an old time regular, apparently, and tells me fondly that the first thing he ever heard me say was "Since when did this become a Sniper pissing contest?" - which is every bit as romantic and fitting as I'd like it to be.
We ended up playing together every night, just like all the regulars, really. When May Expo (London Comic Con) came around, I suggested that he and our other Vikings buddy Wrath should come along and check it out. I think I was cosplaying as the Sniper when Moose turned up, as you do at this sort of convention. The second I saw him, my heart did a little embarrassed flutter, but he was a fair bit younger than me and I was just being daft, so I brushed it off.
In August, we arranged a mini Vikings meetup when a Dutch player came along to London for a short holiday. Truth be told, I think he came over because he had a thing for me, but honestly by that point I only had eyes for Moose. By then, we were chatting every single night, texting each other and staying up until the birds started chirping. We met up again at Expo in October, and again I realised I was nuts about this guy. It was painful! It was this absolutely dumb, pointless infatuation, because there was no way this young, handsome guy would be interested in some older girl he met on TF2, right?
Wrong! Be still my beating heart, in January 2010 Moose suggested he should come visit me (after numerous hints on the subject!) so we arranged a day in Bath to hang out and I went there with my heart on my sleeve, forcing myself to treat this as 'just a friendly meetup' while desperately hoping it would be anything but.
I was terrified. To quote my old Livejournal entry on the subject:
Well, long story short, it was a date. We went to see Book of Eli (awful movie) and mooched around Bath and I spent the rest of the year feeling like the cat that got the cream.
Four and a half years on and we're still together, still rocking the long distance relationship sadly but still gaming together and enjoying each other's company every day. He's the guy I want my future with, someone I just want to share my life with. We've already made some killer memories together, and I aim for so many more, and it absolutely blows my mind that I'd not have even met him had it not been for TF2.
The PoA doesn't really exist anymore, but a bunch of us still hang out every night on Teamspeak, where we all play Wildstar or League of Legends or Minecraft or Starbound together.
And TF2, of course. The game has changed monumentally since I started playing it, with new game modes, weapons and ridiculous cosmetics that ruined the graphical theme goddamn it (rant for another time, man), but Vikings is still there, and we still play there from time to time.
To so many people, TF2 is just a daft 'hat simulator', a cartoony FPS that doesn't take itself seriously. It changed the world for me, though. It got me into online gaming, gave me some wonderful friends and introduced me to the love of my life.
And all because of an Australian
Thanks, Valve! I owe ya <3
Every year my buddy DC celebrates his birthday by way of BBQ, gaming and nerding out! The weather was gorgeous on Saturday, so we were all able to spend the day in the garden, playing games. One thing I always enjoy about this sort of get-together is that it's a great chance to try out new games. This weekend a new game to me was a card game called Sentinels of the Multiverse, here you team up with the other players to take down an ultimate villain. You can choose your super hero team based on complexity to play, and similarly pick a bad guy of varying difficulty. Because Moose and I were entirely new to the game, we had a really easy villain, but I wish we'd had a chance to try someone more difficult because by the time we learned how the game worked, it was over.
While we played Sentinel, other people gathered to play Braggart, a story-telling game where you have to concoct the most extravagant 'brag' to win points. DC had also set up table tennis, so we had a whole bunch of fun stuff going on while dinner cooked.
In the course of the whole weekend, we managed to squeeze in more gaming, including Magic The Gathering, Cards Against Humanity and an amazing social game called Two Rooms and a Boom, where you divide up into two groups and give everybody a 'civilian' (blue) or 'terrorist' (red) card. Among those cards are a 'bomber' card, and a 'president'. The aim is to spend your time in the room trying to work out who is who by revealing cards, card colours or "sharing information" (true or otherwise!) If the person designated 'bomber' ends up in the same room as the 'president', the terrorists win. If they end up in different rooms, the blue team wins.Each round ends by voting 'out' somebody you suspect may hinder your team's chance at winning. It was seriously so much fun, surprisingly stressful, and a really fun way to get people active and chatting.
Life is pretty great lately! I've been working on commissions, finally reopened my Etsy store after closing it temporarily over the past few weeks while my printer was being repaired, and I've got a bunch of awesome things lined up, including my birthday soon (eep!) I don't have a convention now until Manchester Expo in July, which I've never attended before, so I'm spending the next few weeks on catching up on stock, new art and commissions. Oh, and Netflix, of course.
Currently watching: Orange is the New Black (finally, right?)
I'm so behind with blogging lately, but May was a super hectic month (three conventions in one month? Aaagh!) but now I've literally nothing on until our holiday in July so it's time to catch up and get active again!
Last weekend was MCM Expo (gosh, was it only last weekend??), which is now called London Comic Con and it's our largest event of its kind. My dad kindly drove Moose and I up to the venue on Thursday, where we settled in before heading out for the evening in Canary Wharf to meet our buddy Kingsley for a meal and some drinks at the local Wetherspoon. The food prices are extortionate around the ExCel so finding a local Wetherspoon is such a bargain!
After dinner, we went for a lovely walk around Canary Wharf. I've never actually mooched around the place before, and with Kingsely as our guide, we explored.
It reminded me so much of New York in a lot of ways, all new and high rise. Which reminds me, I haven't actually blogged about New York yet! So much to talk about! ANYWAY...
London Comic Con / MCM Expo!~
I had a table in the 'Comic Village' area as usual, but this time Comic Village was huge! It spread down half the hall. Unfortunately, the layout was a little disjointed, and I've heard that some people were split up away from the rest of the tables and didn't do the best trade.
I'll be honest... trade on my end was pretty disappointing too. I did well, don't get me wrong! Had it been any other convention I attend I'd probably be bouncing up and down with joy, but in MCM Expo terms? I took literally half what I usually pull at this convention. I've no idea why! I've heard a lot of people also complaining that it was their worst Expo ever, including some big time dealers. But then, I've also heard from some people that it was their very best.
I guess that's the "joy" of freelancing and being self employed, and dealing at conventions. I've taken Expo for granted as a con that helps me out a lot, but that complacency meant I put a lot of purchases on my credit card (art supplies, table supplies and stock) that I can't now pay back entirely! Ouch. Still, I guess it's a harsh lesson to learn. Each con is a gamble and you can't expect them all to pay off just because they "usually do". Like I say, I did well enough that I feel bad even grumbling, but not London-Expo Well. Oh well!
Aside from trader grousing, the convention itself felt so different this time around! They had larger hall space, which was fabulous, but only half of it was full of stalls and exhibits. They purposefully left the far end pretty empty, save for the MCM eSports stages and some food stalls, which I later learned was a condition of obtaining the extra space cheaply. As a result, it meant a crush down one end of the hall, and sparseness on the other end. I'm not sure if they'll repeat that again in October - having somewhere to run away for some space was a good idea, but it felt wasted to me. Why not expand the stalls across the whole hall?
Another big change was how the ticketing worked this time around. Usually tickets are arranged in some sort of holding pen inside the hall, where people queue. This time, the queue was outside, and it was huge. It spanned from the train station, down past the local hotels and snaked back again up the convention hall. It took hours for people to get through. And the queue was outside for most of it, in May. In England. It was a disaster. Rain and a hail storms wrecked people's costumes. They closed the side doors so even those who already had wrist-bands had to queue in a 're-entry' line. In the rain and hail. Yeah. I am so glad I have a dealers pass. It was a literal multi-pass to the convention and we managed to miss all of the weather problems. I feel so bad for people who spent months on cosplays only to be destroyed in the rain. :(
For me, business aside, however, this was the best MCM Expo I've attended! Friday is always a fun social day for me as I don't sell then, so we had time to check out the convention, play on a few games and grab lunch at The Fox Bar. I wore a sort of casual cosplay as an Aurin from Wildstar, my new favourite thing. Nobody recognised me though :( (maybe a little too casual?).
I had so much fun actually attending events this time around. There was a panel on Wildstar on Saturday that Moose and I attended. During that panel, we learned that there was going to be a special community event that evening in Canary Wharf, funded by the guys at Carbine. Suddenly we had evening plans! And they were amazing.
The community event was a semi-private function held in a bar called Corney & Barrow. They had a projector set up playing Wildstar trailers, and provided free beer, wine and food! It was incredible! Chad Moore, creative director (main lore guy!) at Carbine even bought us all tequila shots at the end of the evening! They even gave us a tonne of Rowsdower plushies and t-shirts!
We also got interviewed by MMORPG about Wildstar and our reasons for playing and they featured a photo of me (and my new Rowsdower plushie!) in the article!
The evening was extra cool because we were joined by Anastasia and her mister, Paddy! Anastasia is an amazing artist I've known a little while now, but we hardly ever find time to hang out socially since we mainly meet up at conventions! They're both interested in Wildstar too so I invited them along and we had a great time! Definitely need to hang out more often socially when we're not stuck behind dealer tables.
Sunday was quiet (Sunday always is), so we had another quick chance to look around the hall before MCM was over for another year. I picked up some Magic The Gathering boosters from two dumb sets they released years ago called Unhinged and Unglued. I also treated myself to a TF2 Balloonicorn plushie and a Poro plushie from League of Legends. I don't often buy things for myself at Expo but this year there were lots of things I wanted to buy. I held myself back a lot, believe me!
Sunday evening was lovely. We had dinner, then Moose and I went for a walk around the ExCel in the dark which always has such a wonderful atmosphere - cosplayers just hanging around by the waterfront. I don't get much "alone time" with Moose at conventions so it was a nice ten minutes of peace. :) We had been told that the bottom of the Fox Bar had been hired out by MCM eSports to stream some League of Legends LCS games, so we headed down there for drinks after dinner. It was great! Speaking of MCM eSports, though, I donated a few prints to them for prizes and goodie bags for the tourneys they were running during the convention! :) I heard they went down well, so that's cool!
Okay, well that's about enough of that for a recap I think! All in all it was a really great convention, and a wonderful con for hanging out with people I don't normally get to spend much time with (Anastasia, Archer, Scifox!) Takings were down, sure, but this must be my favourite MCM so far!
So, to close - here's some of the killer cosplay I saw this con! I didn't take many photos (as usual!) and it's mostly League of Legends (as usual!)
I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a blog dedicated to travel, geeky adventures, vintage style and a little bit of Disney Dreaming! If you'd like to learn a little more about me, click here.