Extra Life 2014: California Edition [LIVE BLOG]

You may be asking yourself why the heck I’m posting a blog here after two long years of silence. Well, things like work, relocating to California and simple laziness got in the way, but I have a renewed passion for writing. And I figured… what better way to kick start my blogging efforts than a live blog of my Extra Life 2014 gaming marathon?

This year, I’m thrilled to have raised nearly $500 for the kids at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in my hometown of Portland, Oregon–all thanks to the help of my wonderful friends and family. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Any of you wondering what the heck you sponsored me to do are about to see me undertake a wild and fun 24 straight hours of video game madness. On my playlist are many classics from the N64, as well as some current gen picks from PS4, Wii U and Xbox One. So, without further ado…

Let’s game!

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12:50pm: A couple of hours in. The coffee and Ruffles are flowing, and we’re dominating Super Mario 3D World. Final secret stage coming up! It’s team Rosalina and Peach ftw…

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2:27pm: In a sugar and potato chip coma but just played a riveting round of Mario Party 2, with deputy Yoshi coming out on top (aka me). My Mario Party track record remains strong, but will there be an upset later in the day when we move to Mario Party 9? Who knows!

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There’s still a long day ahead, and I have a feeling I’ll need to keep the caffeine rapidly flowing, as last night’s Oregon Ducks win over Cal at Levi’s Stadium kept me out way past my normal bedtime (almost 1am, eek!!).

I think my friends and I are going to stick with the Nintendo theme for now, but I’m looking forward to diving into D4 on Xbox One later…

Ok, just kidding. My friend is taking a marathon break, so I’m switching gears to inFAMOUS: Second Son on PS4. I’ve just entered the city of Seattle (in-game, of course ;)), and I’ve been stuck in a particularly sticky spot… Let’s see if I can kick my magic booty into gear!!

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3:36pm: Time for a college football and 3DS break. Go Kentucky, and go Pokemon! Gotta catch ’em all, people.

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4:51pm: Darn. No upsets in the top five yet. And this Alabama-Tennessee game is not off to a promising start. 😐

Time to get serious. The Pokemon hat is on. And I’m moving on to Smash Bros. 3DS. I WILL BEAT THIS DAMN LEVEL NINE CLASSIC MODE.

Weapon of choice: Pikachu.

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6:05pm: Midday coffee has kicked in and we are WIRED. I’ve yet to defeat the final Smash Bros. boss, but I will not be deterred! We’ve shifted to the Giants game while football games are on their halftime break…

The Alabama game has left a lot to be desired, but there have been fireworks, as well as some “illegal touching” in the LSU game, so here’s to a good second half! It’s rare–no NEVER–that I root for the Tigers, but I’m pulling for them in this upset. They just need to hold on to their dang balls!!

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#gogiants

7:34pm: I know people keep poo-pooing Smash Bros. 3DS–particularly after the killer Wii U Nintendo Direct this week–but I still think it’s a rockin’ entry in the series. Sure, there are a few shortcomings, and the controls can be wonky, but I freaking love having portable Smash! You better believe I’m stoked for the more robust console version, but I certainly won’t abandon this one. And I gotta say… College football + 3DS = Extra Life marathon perfection.

7:42pm: I have a visitor…

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My preciousssss

10:10pm: 12 hours in and still going strong! Well…except for this:

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There’s a slight chance I’ve overdone it on Smash Bros. O_o

3:23am: Oh, yes. I’m still awake. I just finished baking a lovely pizza dinner and am now playing Animal Crossing 3DS, whilst watching The Parent Trap. Uh huh, you read that correctly. What can I say? It’s after three in the morning…It seemed like a logical choice!

4:57am: I’ve decided that D4 was meant to be played at five in the morning–particularly when one is on a sleep-deprived caffeine high. It’s weird and creepy, yet oddly awesome. And the fact I have to interact with the game by using Kinect gestures is keeping me awake (for now).

P.S. – I just shoved an owl. And there’s a woman living in my apartment with two different colored eyes. Oh, and she thinks she’s a cat. At least, that’s what I assume, since she keeps meowing at me.

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Pretty much sums up my reaction to everything in this game so far…

7:11am: Heh, 7-Eleven… Just in time to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. I hear a few of my neighbors moving around now too, which means I’ve officially made it to Sunday morning. Only a few hours left!

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Curious about my progress? Well, probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway! 😉 I’ve made it through the prologue and chapter one of D4. SO WACKY. But I’m still in love with the weirdness–though my arms are getting sore from flailing around at people and objects (I was just playing baseball with a mannequin leg). I’m going to take a Kinect break and pick up some Diddy Kong Racing and then another few rounds of Smash.

9:28am: Favorite gamer moment: When you remember where all the “secrets” are in a game you haven’t played in years. ❤

10am: Did…did I make it? What day is it? Who am I?

Words are hard. Games=good.

This wraps another year of Extra Life madness, with my highest fundraising total EVER! Thank you again to all of my supporters. Together, we’ve made a big difference in the lives of several wonderful kids at Doernbecher!

Until next year…PLAY ON. And goodnight!

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Gaming for the Greater Good [LIVE BLOG]

For the last four years, thousands of gamers have joined together annually to play for Extra Life, a 24-hour gaming marathon in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This year, two nerdy girls from Oregon are teaming up to fend off zombie hoards, catch wild Pokémon and kart race across the Mushroom Kingdom, while simultaneously raising money for our local Doernbecher Children’s Hospital – and this is the live blog of our journey.

Starting this morning, we’re playing 9am-9am and tackling dozens of different games across consoles and handhelds. We’ll be checking in periodically throughout the day to share updates on the games we’ve played, the awesomely unhealthy food we’ve eaten and the challenges we’ve faced. Thanks to everyone for supporting this great cause and for helping us raise more than $500 for the kids!

8:55am (10.12): Making final preparations…

9:00am (10.12): Starting off with some coffee and Mario Party 4!

10:45am (10.12): And, the winner of the first round is… Waluigi by a nose! “Eh heh heh, Waluigi’s de wiiinner!” (That’s me btw ;)). We’ve worked our way through one set of Starbucks Double Shots and just cracked open the sour cream and cheddar potato chips… Next up: Wario wants a MP4 rematch. Bring it on!

Sophie said she wants to play in this round too…

12:24pm (10.12): It was a grueling Mario Party rematch, with all sorts of thievery and mischief. It came down to the wire again but ended up being pure luck that decided the winner of this round… Waluigi. Just barely squeezed by with another win. For those keeping track, the score is now 2-0; however, there’s plenty of time left for rematches! We have yet to break out Mario Party 6 and 9, so it’s still anyone’s game.

To change things up a bit, we’re going to tackle some single player games while we enjoy our lunch hour. Heidi will sail the high seas for some swashbuckling action in Puzzle Pirates, while I stay in the Mario universe with some Super Mario Galaxy 2 action – it should be out of this world!

She’s clearly thrilled that I just won again.

Gloating a little…

1:03pm (10.12): A little Mario humor…

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1:18pm (10.12): “Well, there’s my problem. I’m fighting with a stick, not a sword!” -Heidi re: why she’s struggling with Puzzle Pirates
2:10pm (10.12): Time to do the Dew!

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Heidi is in the zone… Brewing some pirate ale, yarg!

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3:19pm (10.12): More than six hours in and we’re still going strong. Well, most of us…

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Quotes of the hour: “I like to bilge.” -Heidi “Gravity is hard.” -Camille
4:26pm (10.12) We’ve collectively decided this is one of the happiest days of our lives. Not only are we enjoying hours upon hours of carefree gaming, but we’re helping make a difference in the lives of kids who need it most 🙂
We’ve devoured lots of yummy snacks and continue to refuel with Dew. 24 hours? Psh, no problem!
New quotes: “Let’s pillage this village!” -Heidi “Sparkle… Sparkle..?” -Camille

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She’s such a happy nerd.
4:51pm (10.12): Now we’re taking it back to 1994 to visit some old friends…

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5:26pm (10.12): Okay, does ANYone else think it sounds like there are screaming children in the mine cart level on Donkey Kong Country?! Heidi says I’m crazy… Pffft.
5:32pm (10.12):“Why is there any angry face in my Cheez-Its?!” -Camille “What? We’re all winners with Cheez-Its!” -Heidi

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Quote update: “We can save after we smash the beaver.” -Camille “Are you guys allowing yourselves to take bathroom breaks?” -Roommate Ali
7:44pm (10.12) We have visitors!! And, since we failed at Donkey Kong earlier, we’re now giving another old school game a try: Super Mario Bros 3!

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8:43pm (10.12): Sustenance has arrived! And, we’re closing in on hour 12 — halfway there!!! That means it’s definitely time for some Mario Kart: Double Dash. Ohhh yeah.

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10:22pm (10.12): We’ve reached our normal bedtime… Contacts have been swapped for glasses, and now the true challenge begins! It has been great having friends drop in to help keep the energy level high and the laughs flowing. 🙂
Next up: Mario Party 6! Can Waluigi keep up the win streak?

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12:26am (10.13): Waluigi is now at 4-0. I guess I just have a natural talent for Mario Party 😉 We’ve recruited a third person to play though, so the stakes are higher and the mini-games all the more ruthless! Round five? Why yes, I think so.
1:48am (10.13): It’s official. No one wants to play Mario Party with me any more! Time to work off some of that Mario rage (and get the heart rate up) with Kinect Adventures.
We also need to refuel with pudding cups, of course.

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3:08am (10.13): Captain Lubba is currently complaining about how sleepy he is… He can’t even begin to understand the meaning of the word!

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4:11am (10.13): The later it gets, the more often we need to change up the pace. Trying my hand at some Pushmo on the 3DS now, while Heidi returns to Puzzle Pirates. And, since we’re currently not occupying a console, Friends is playing in the background. Late-night goodness 🙂

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7:05am (10.13): The sun is coming up… LESS THAN TWO HOURS LEFT!!!!
7:29am (10.13): Bringing it home with one last round of Mario Party. Let’s see how we do with MP9…

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8:32am (10.13): Wario takes the grand finale win — by a LANDSLIDE. Well played! Now, mini-gaming it for the final 30 min…

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9:00am (10.13): WE MADE IT!!!!! Twenty four hours and dozens of games later, we are officially finished with Extra Life 2012. Thanks again to everyone who supported us along the way. This is a fantastic cause and we’re happy to be contributing even a small amount to these kids. 🙂

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And now… We bid you all good night!

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Geeky Girls: Closing the Gender Gap

I’ve had such a blast blogging for GirlGamer these past few weeks that I’ve completely neglected my personal blog! New content coming this week… for real. In the meantime, I’d like to share my latest GG post, because it covers a topic near and dear to my heart: women in tech. You can also check out the full article here. 🙂

Do you remember the moment you first realized you’re a gamer/nerd/really awesome person? Maybe it was the whirring of the fan when you powered on your first PC. Or the triumphant music blaring as you slid down the flagpole in Super Mario Bros.

For me, it was tearing through the newly minted pages of my first issue of Nintendo Power (R.I.P.) and learning about the magic and the people behind the games I was playing. I thought: I want to be one of those people.

However, like many of you ladies, I quickly realized I was facing an uphill battle.

At the time, it was fairly uncommon for girls to play games – let alone design and code them. Many have attributed the scarcity of women in the tech industry to less female interest in the fields of science, tech, engineering and math (STEM); however, limited access to the necessary tools/education and long-standing gender biases certainly haven’t helped lower the barriers for entry.

Corporate environments across the board remain largely male-dominated and the tech world has arguably been one of the slowest (and toughest) for females to infiltrate…

Until now.

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Although we ladies currently only hold one in four total STEM jobs, we’re gradually climbing the ranks (and slaying a few zombies along the way!). According to new research from MBAonline.com (a go-to resource for MBA students) the number of women in IT jobs increased 28.9 percent from January 2011 through January 2012.

On top of that, 41 percent of computer science majors at Harvard are now women!

Today’s rapidly evolving tech landscape requires a constant stream of new creative talent and out-of-the-box thinking, opening the door for more women than ever before. There are currently 20 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 – a new record, according to CNN Money. No doubt, this number will only continue to rise, as the research from MBAonline.com also shows that companies with three or more female board members outperform those with zero in: return on sales, return on invested capital and return on equity.

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As gamers, we face many stereotypes. As females, we face even more. But just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a girl by her looks. As new mama and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer so aptly stated at CES 2012, “You can wear ruffles; you can be a jock, and you can still be a great computer scientist, or a great technologist, or a great product designer.”

So, when you have your moment – whether it’s designing a game, or just playing it – don’t be afraid disrupt the stereotypes and make your own mark on the tech industry.

**Check out the complete research and infographic from MBAonline.com HERE.

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Looking for a new mobile game?

The recently released iOS game, Jewel Factory, is a solid time waster. Check out my full review over at GirlGamer.com

Let’s Review: Jewel Factory (iOS) – While the name makes it sound like a new accessory for the BeDazzler, Jewel Factory is more than mere child’s play. This game blends sandbox and puzzle elements to create a unique formula, challenging you to build a city and decorate it with the jewels you earn by solving tough factory puzzles. Read more »

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Three games that deserve a remake

After reading a post on Krysti Pryde’s blog the other day listing out three games she’d like to remake, I was inspired to make a similar list of my own. Krysti’s suggestions were fabulous, btw. I’d especially like to applaud her idea for a revamped Pokémon TCG. With the improved connectivity of the 3DS and Nintendo’s growing investment in online play, I think there’s a solid opportunity to bring back TCG with some digital flair. And, let’s face it, who wouldn’t love to immortalize their Pokémon card collection online and trade with people around the world?

As for the games I would most like to remake? These three are my top picks:

1.) Jet Force Gemini (N64)Oh, glory days of Rareware, how I miss thee. While not as wildly successful as the lauded Goldeneye 007 or even Banjo Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini was, in my opinion, a fantastic and highly underrated game from the Rare storehouse. We were such fans in my family, in fact, that my brother and I named our dog after one of the main characters.
(Juno, in case you’re wondering :)) JFG’s graphics were fairly revolutionary at the time, but I think an HD refresh (or a sequel??) could do wonders for the franchise – and help infuse some life back into Rare. I know… It’s not likely given the company is now owned by Microsoft, but think of the possibilities on the 360! With its unique blend of FPS, platform and action/adventure elements, Jet Force Gemini would be a nice change from the tired CoD formula. I’d also love to see some of Rare’s signature multiplayer features – extravagant, yet humorous weapons (can anyone say tri-rockets?), a wealth of both zany and cool playable characters, and complex levels – resurrected and infused with XBL capabilities. Plus, who can resist those cute little Tribals?

2.)  Aladdin (SNES). Yes, this is arguably one of the most frustrating platformers ever created (I can feel my pulse rising just thinking about escaping from the Cave of Wonders). However, Aladdin was a rare Disney adaptation that translated well into the video game world, and I’d love to see it remade for a platform like the 3DS. There has been some debate about the best version of the game, but with the SNES being my first console I feel a certain sentimental attachment to Capcom’s rendition. There was also a charm to the graphics and richness in the soundtrack on the SNES version that the others noticeably lacked. With the animated film locked up in Disney’s “Vault,” now seems like the perfect time to release a little Aladdin back into the world.

3.)  Pokémon Snap (N64). While this one was already re-released on the Wii’s Virtual Console, I think it’s screaming for a Wii U upgrade. The GamePad-as-camera concept is too perfect. It could also serve as an interactive Pokédex and a satchel for all the tools you need to traverse Pokémon Island. It’s likely I’m not the first person to suggest this idea,
but Pokémon Snap seems like an obvious port for Nintendo’s next-gen console and legions of Pokémon fans. It could even be a viable option for the 3DS – I’m envisioning some serious AR card integration.

All of these may just be the daydreams of a nostalgic gamer, but if enough of us speak up we could help introduce some of these classics to a whole new generation of gamers. So… which games would you remake?

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What happened to brand loyalty?

I’ve always considered myself a brand loyalist. There are certain products I generally favor over others in the supermarket and when purchasing various electronics (TVs, cameras, etc.), but it wasn’t until recently that I began to wonder: How loyal am I, really?

While my friend and I were discussing the iPhone 5 launch last week, I told her I had already decided that I wanted one – no, I had to have one. This was before I had read much about the device or its specifications. It was based on pure desire. Desire that I thought was fueled by my loyalty to the Apple brand. Its products are consistent and elegantly designed, so buying the latest generation iPhone seemed like an obvious choice.

However, it wasn’t until I began researching the device that I discovered it was kind of… meh. It doesn’t offer much more than my existing 4S, and there are arguably many alternative phones that evenly match or outmatch the 5. And it was once I started listing all of the reasons to buy a different phone – a different brand – that my friend made the argument: Brand loyalty doesn’t exist.

She feels companies are under the false impression that people establish loyalty to a brand and maintain that loyalty throughout most of their life. Instead, she argues that each generation cares less and less about brands and more about value and what’s cool at a given moment. I have to admit, I disagreed with her at first.

Of course people have brand loyalty, I challenged. Otherwise, companies like Apple and Starbucks wouldn’t constantly have customers lined up out the door to buy their products. But the more I thought about it, I began to wonder: Is it really brand loyalty that causes this behavior? Did I really buy an iPhone because I’m loyal to Apple?

The answer to both questions, I think, is no. I only recently purchased my first iPhone, and it was more out of convenience and a poor experience with Android than any allegiance to Apple. I’ve owned a few iPods over the years and had a Mac in college, but I’ve actually always preferred the Windows operating system. The real reason I owned a Mac (and now an iPhone) over a seemingly more practical and much less expensive option: I was told I should. Much like I’m told I should order my Grande-skinny-iced-caramel macchiato from Starbucks every morning, rather than stopping at a local coffee shop for a normal, human-sounding beverage.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy my iPhone or my caffeine injections from Starbucks, but the reason I like either of those things is not because I’m loyal to the brands. I credit this to both companies creating and selling an entire experience – not just a product. I don’t go to Starbucks because they have the best coffee. I go for the experience of being at Starbucks. However, I don’t exclusively buy my coffee at Starbucks or feel compelled to support the company. I just want to be trendy and feel as though I’m part of something, like everyone else. And that’s where I think the line between brand loyalty and “coolness” has blurred.

These companies have created an element of desire for their products, which I think makes people feel like they are (or should be) loyal to the brand. Credit to the PR and marketing teams. But perceived loyalty and actual loyalty are two different things. Brands have long served as status symbols in our society, but it seems like true brand loyalty is quickly being replaced by the desire to be cool.

While I don’t completely agree with my friend that brand loyalty is altogether gone, I do feel that its definition is changing and that it’s becoming a rare quantity. I think true loyalty comes from those brands that evoke a personal connection or sense of nostalgia – something companies can’t achieve simply by being cool. For me, that company has always been Nintendo. Yes, I’ve been incredibly frustrated with the Big N over the years as a result of various business decisions and product gaffes, but at the end of the day, I know Nintendo means fun. Nintendo to me means late nights playing Mario Kart with my cousins; fierce arguments with my brother over who gets to play the new Zelda first; and many future moments that I’m sure to spend agonizing over Nintendo’s next big risk – until Mario and Yoshi march right back in and put a smile on my face. That is brand loyalty.

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Hello world!

Welcome to tokyo cowgirl! Here you will find my thoughts on a variety of communication- and technology-related topics, ranging from video games and mobile tech to public relations campaigns and digital strategy.

Now… you may be asking yourself, why is this girl covering such a strange combination of topics? Well, as a public relations professional, I often find myself musing about campaign strategies and creative new ways to engage different audiences — yes, I’m one of those people. However, outside of my professional life, I’m an avid gamer and self-proclaimed nerdette who enjoys anime, 90’s nostalgia and lolcats. My personal and professional passions often intersect in amazing ways to inspire different aspects of my life and foster creativity, and here I hope to share some of my discoveries and observations with all of you.

For more on me, please check out my “about” page or follow me on Twitter. And come back soon for my first official post! Subject: brand loyalty.

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