Reflections on One Amazing Year

Today marks the final day of my first year running Indie Gamer Chick.  I started this site on July 1, 2011, and somehow a year has already passed.  I would ask where the time went, but I already know the answer to that.  It was spent having the best time of my life.  And I mean that.  If you’re looking for a mouthy, sarcastic, atypical Indie Gamer Chick piece, this probably isn’t for you.  However, I’ve been doing this site for 366 days now (stupid leap years) and I think I’ve earned the right to speak from the heart.  Just this once, I promise.

When I started Indie Gamer Chick, I had never really considered doing anything like this.  I’ve always been pretty opinionated about gaming, but I never really thought to air those opinions to anyone.  And then I met Brian, my best friend in the world.  He did what friends do, which is listened to me whenever I rambled about gaming or movies or life in general.  I’m not exactly chatter box, but he made me feel like I could be one, with a lot of practice.  He also encouraged me to find a way to talk about this stuff, and get it out there.  Nobody would probably read it, but it would help me to learn to express myself.  I was diagnosed at age 4 with autism, and self-expression has always been a trouble spot for me.

Around this time, the annual summer gaming drought was in full effect.  I was starving for something to play, and I was actually planning on checking out stuff on Steam.  I don’t remember why, but Brian, his roommate Bryce, and myself were comparing our games for Xbox and PlayStation.  I think we were looking for stuff to play against each other.  And then I stumbled upon Breath of Death VII.  I had an “oh yea, I totally forgot about this.  Xbox has an indie game channel.”  I’m not a huge PC gamer.  I prefer to kickback on a couch to hunching over a monitor.  Breath of Death and I Made A Game With Zombies In It were the only two XBLIGs I had purchased, and it had been quite a while since I had even checked out the channel.

I had been talking with Brian about doing some kind of blog.  I wasn’t sure if I would talk about plot holes in movies or gaming.  That sounds weird but that’s really what the two choices were, since those were the only two subjects I had ever had long, borderline articulate conversations about.  Now while I have to admit that it would have been enticing to talk about how all my favorite movies are completely brain-dead at times, I wasn’t sure it would be something I could talk about at length.  I mean yea, it would have been nice to be able to explain why Minority Report’s villain reveal was the worst of its kind in history.  I mean the fucking dude commits the perfect crime in a society where there are things that accurately predict murders before they take place, which would take an absolute genius level of preparation, and he gets found out by a stupid slip of the tongue?  Really?

I enjoyed working with your husband almost as much as I enjoyed using our infallible system to get away with murder. Oh wait, you didn’t hear that, did you?

But I chose not to talk about stuff like that.  Instead, I chose to talk about video games, specifically Xbox Live Indie Games.  Who knows, maybe Nit-Picky Movie Bitch will show up someday, but for now, my subject matter is Xbox Live Indie Games.  Of which my experience had been two full games and a handful of some of the worst fucking demos I’ve ever played.  Still, I was sold on the idea, so I did what any rational person with no writing experience and a history of would-be hobbies holding my interest for an average of 2.3 days would do: I bought about $100 worth of games.  Oh yea, Cathy, you’re a genius.

My first logo, and the only one I did myself. Yea, not great.

After doing a now non-existent “look at me, I have a blog!” post that I’m fairly sure only Brian and my other friend Sydne read, I turned out my first game review, for a title called The Angry Hand of God.  I wish I had saved the first draft of it.  It was terrible.  I was trying to sound like I knew what I was doing.  I remember reading it with Brian and thinking “Wow, this is horrible.”  And it wasn’t fun to write.  It really seemed like my idea of writing as a hobby was not going to fly.  Thank God for Brian.  He was like “oh come on, you can’t give up after one attempt.  Just try it again, and try to have fun.”  So I shit-canned the previous attempt, cleared my thoughts, and wrote this.  Tactful?  No.  But I didn’t feel like a tool writing it.  In fact, it felt pretty cathartic, especially after I had just burned a dollar playing it.

My second review again felt like a wanna-be professional review, Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes.  Only this time I just hit publish.  I’m thinking of retconing that review right out of existence and doing a special edition.  That would require playing the game again though, and I would rather not do that.  Still, I was on my way.  Sure, I averaged only 17 views a day my first week, but I was having fun.  And then about a week after I had started, I got my first feedback from a developer on a game.  It was for A Hard Game Without Zombies.  Not exactly my favorite game, but at this point I was shocked that actual people who didn’t know me were reading me.  Even more crazy was a developer of a game read me.  And considering that I said his game “sucked more than a vacuum cleaner powered by a black hole” he took it pretty well.

Still, I wasn’t exactly taking off.  Then I met this dude named Master Blud, who operated a site called Vintage Video Games TV.  He gave me a couple of tips.  First, I had to get on Twitter, and second, I really ought to take part in this thing called the 2011 Indie Game Summer Uprising.  So I did.  I know Ryan, aka Master Blud, isn’t a huge fan of me these days and probably wishes he hadn’t helped me.  But even so, I’ll always be grateful.  He helped me out when I had no fucking clue what I was doing, and it laid the groundwork for me to take off the way I have.  Heck, he even designed a better logo for me.

So I interviewed some guys, and people started to notice I was around and that my reviews were, for lack of a better term, different from what XBLIG developers were used to.  I started forming friendships with other writers, and even with the guys making the games.  Talk about a shocker.  I had almost no friends growing up.  Now, I have so many that I don’t know how I’m going to go about keeping track of them.  I did have a “Small World” moment when I started comparing notes with Armless Octopus founder Dave Voyles and realized that we had played NBA 2K1 against each-other many times when I was about 10 years old.  I tell you, this shit has been crazy at times.

I ended my first month averaging a couple hundred views a day.  Not bad at all, considering that my first week total was 134.  And it was all uphill from there.  Today, on the final day of my first year, I reached 200,000 page views, and have averaged over a thousand views daily over the last couple weeks.  Although I’m so proud of that, it’s what I’ve accomplished in the relationships I’m building from Indie Gamer Chick that I’m most proud of.  The friendships I’ve made I treasure like they are precious, because they are.

Nate, we have so much in common that it scares me.  You’ve been my ear when I want it, and my friend when I need it.  I love you so much.  I’m glad you’re writing again too.  Don’t go away again.

Alan, you’re so funny and you’ve been an amazing friend to me.  You’re so much better at writing than me too.  Plus you have that sexy British accent that is somewhere between suave and Bond villain.  I think in another lifetime, you and I would have been best friends.  Without benefits.  Shave the beard and we’ll talk.

Tim, I’ve grown to like you so much as a writer, and love you as a friend.  You’ve always been one of my biggest boosters, and I feel like I don’t do that enough with you.  You’re incredible.

Dave, I have so much respect for you.  You’re another guy who has gone out of his way to help me.  You’re a great guy, and I think the world of you.

Cyril, we’ve gone rounds and rounds, but I’m so happy to have met you.  Even if I think you’re flagrantly wrong about everything, and vice-versa.  I look forward to future arguments.

George, I think you’re the guy who “legitimized” me to the Xbox Live Indie Game community.  You did so by calling me the Spawn of Satan, but you did so in such an endearing way that I think people quit treating me like I was here to blow their houses down and instead started seeking me out for advice and support.  Thank you George.  The XNA tattoo is fucking ridiculous though.

Ryan, I know you don’t like me.  I’m probably not what you were expecting when you helped me out.  But you did help me out, and I’ll never forget that.  You can be a really great guy most of the time.  Just take off the Sonic hat.  You look like a schmuck.

Tristan, Brooks, Mike, Daniel, Ian, Shahed, Alex, Jack, Lisa, skinny-as-fuck Mike (the GameMarx guy), Stegs, Matt, Kris, Ryan, Ben, Jesse, James (TEAM ROCKET!), Scott, Mitchell, Brad, Zachary, Sam, MikeB, Sean, Adam, Gary, Michael (too many Mikes.  You guys need to do some kind of Thunderdome thing to thin your ranks), Josh, Mario, Steve, Bill, and some fucking dude who talks like the Incredible Hulk.  I probably missed a ton of people.  Which is kind of cool.  I’ve got so many friends that I’m missing people in my big thank you moment.

My third logo, designed by Nate Graves.

What I really need to do is thank the Xbox Live Indie Game Community at large.  I know I bust your chops quite often, but you guys treat me great and have made me feel so incredibly welcome among you.  I’ve never really fit into anything, so being part of this, even if I’m the one walking around banging pots and calling you guys poo-heads, has meant the world to me.  I guess it’s the idea that I’m being taken seriously that is so flattering.  It makes me want to try harder for you guys.  And I will.  I always will.  You guys bring out the best in me.  I had no idea I was capable of doing something as rewarding as Indie Gamer Chick has been.  I want to thank you guys for making me realize that I could.

And so, one year later, I’m more excited than ever to be part of this.  This has been the best year of my life, and I owe that in part to you guys.  Whether you’re a developer, a gamer, or a fan (holy shit, I have fans!), you’ve all made me feel special.  I’ll never forget that.

My new logo, designed by Tristan of Clearance Bin Review. The “Sweetie” character was redesigned by Brooks Bishop, and it would look bad ass on a t-shirt.

And I’m excited for the future of Xbox Live Indie Games.  People talk about it like the death knell has been in effect for months.  I think its peak hasn’t even been in view.  In my year of being Indie Gamer Chick, I have been so impressed with the talent I’ve seen, and the desire to improve.  I don’t believe any of you have reached your fullest potential yet, and that makes me so anxious to see what games I’ll be playing from you in the future.  No, XBLIG is not dead.  It hasn’t even began to blossom.  It won’t be going anywhere.  I won’t let it.  I can do that.  I’m Indie Gamer Chick.

-Catherine “Kairi Vice”.

June 30, 2012.

PS: I really can’t do that.  Seriously, it’s fucking doomed.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

19 Responses to Reflections on One Amazing Year

  1. John says:

    I don’t ever comment but I always read your reviews to find out what new indie games to play, and not only that, I find myself laughing while reading, thanks and keep up the great work!

  2. Congrats on surviving a whole year! Your reviews were the first XBLIG reviews that I was actually interested in, not to mention being the first WordPress blog I ever subscribed to. You set standards and morales for reviewers, raised the bar for XBLIG developers with your brutally honest feedback and gave the consumers a valuable source of information on all that is XBLIG. I can’t thank you enough for the effort you put into this website Catherine and I’m sure everyone else will agree with me when I hope that this next year of IndieGamerChick will become even more awesome!

  3. “PS: I really can’t do that. Seriously, it’s fucking doomed.” Made me LOL pretty hard 🙂

    Congrats on a solid year! If there’s one thing the indie community needs…XBLIG, PC, and mobile alike…its someone that PLAYS the games being made and gives honest feedback on the experience.

    Keep kickin’ our asses so we can keep making better games 😉

  4. Congratulations, of course! You’ve achieved a lot in just a year.

    Sorry but my bead isn’t going anywhere. I look strange without it. Even people who have asked me to shave it off have changed their minds after seeing me smooth-faced. A bare chin makes me look about ten years old and, weirdly, fat. :/

  5. Tim Hurley says:

    It was a quick year for a lot of us, but a hugely fun and successful one. Congrats, Cathy, on hitting that 200k milestone, and for doing something that means so much to so many on all sides of the industry. I’m still in awe of the amount of games you’ve covered in that span, and to make each one individually funny / entertaining / informative, and keep it fresh each time out, is the mark of a fantastic writer that’s found her voice. Needless to say, Year 2 of Indie Gamer Chick will be even better. Glad I’m here to witness it.

  6. Dcon6393 says:

    What? I whole freaking year!?!?! Wasn’t it just a month or two ago that you started your site? Crazy. I am glad that your site has been a successful venture that you enjoy. That is always the most important things. Sites like yours, Gear-Fish, and Armless Octopus are what encouraged me to start my own blog that ran for a while before this thing called college appeared and devoured my free time like a fat man eats cake. I will always consider your site an inspiration to do whatever I want to do, no matter how much backlash I could receive for doing so. I always enjoy reading your new reviews and such and using this site as one of my main ways to keep up with the XBLIG community while I am off being busy with class and such. I hope that this site continues to grow and that you continue to enjoy writing, as it can become almost a part time job, if not full time for the amount you write. Remember to always enjoy yourself and know that a lot of people look up to you and admire your work that you do.

  7. IndieMario says:

    I’m a Johnny-come-lately to IGC, but it’s already become my virtual morning-cup-of-coffee. Reading your posts not only enlighten with what to (generally not) do in game design – they’re a burst of creative energy straight down the Thalamus!

    I can’t believe it’s only been one year… I mean, you write with the confidence, audacity and authenticity most writers take years and years to develop – if ever. It’s so friggin’ awesome that you discovered this blazing passion for writing, because otherwise I’d have to bleed my eyes out reading Kotaku or one of those other pedantic and equally generic review sites. So, thanks for keeping me from bleeding my eyes out – I owe ya one.

    So what’s my point? You didn’t just survive a year – you fucking rocked the hell outta that first year. Congratulations! And pretty please, with sugar on top (remember The Wolf from Pulp Fiction?) keep ’em coming!

    Mario

  8. CaptBenLWillard says:

    Someone first told me about your column and how you had written a review for a “flight simulator” esque game that I had seen whilst scrolling through XBL (Flight Adventure 2). I previously passed on all XBLIG as a whole for lack of interest and honest reviews…but then I was informed of the way you write and I had to check it out. After reading that review and buying the game shortly after, along with your Dead Pixels and Take Arms suggestions, I was hooked. I just wanted to say thanks for opening up my eyes to the best gaming I have ever been able to experience for 80 MS points. I wouldn’t have ever gotten into XBLIG if it hadn’t been for your reviews…again, thanks.

  9. Adman says:

    I’ll be damned if this didn’t bring a little tear to my eye.

    Recently, I was fooling around with some platformer physics, and I really could hear your critiques in the back of my head. If I could make a platformer with physics that IGC liked, I would be ahead of the game. In that way, you make the community a better place.

    I admire your passion for games, your entrepreneurial acumen, and your quick wit. Here’s to another great year.

    Congratulations!
    Adam

  10. Congratulations on the one-year mark! We’re approaching ours in just a few weeks and not a day goes by that I don’t wish we’d started a bit earlier so that we could’ve been in stride for the Summer Uprising like you were.

    I have a ridiculous amount of respect for your approach to reviews. While I always try to put at least a little positive spin on even the smelliest of turds, you’ve never hesitated in speaking your mind and that’s refreshing and a big part of why people visit here.

    Best of luck in the next year, and I hope we can continue to work together in spreading the indie word.

    • We will be working together. There’s a lot of exciting community events coming up. I also know they’re talking about doing another uprising event, and I know that a community-selected top 50 is in the works. Good times are ahead.

  11. I think you should get an Edward R. Murrow Award for your coverage of this year’s E3, the actual gaming news websites were so boring that I just skimmed through what they wrote, but your writing about it was very entertaining.

  12. congratulations on surviving a year of blogdom. if XBLIG ever bites the bullet, you where very wise in making your blog name ‘the indie game chick” and not the “XBLIG chick” so the entire indie game world is open to you.

  13. Andreas says:

    Congrats on your first year!
    Somehow, you and your site has become the spider in the web that is Xblig. Your blog is one of three blogs i visit every day. Keep up the good work!

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