QUESTIONS ABOUT CATHY (aka INDIE GAMER CHICK) AND HER LIFE AS A GAMER
Is Cathy really a girl? Yes. Last time I checked at least.
How old is Cathy? 27.
Where is Cathy from? Palo Alto, California.
What’s with all this Kairi stuff? Kairi was my pen name here for the first few months, but nobody could pronounce it (haven’t you people played Kingdom Hearts?). Catherine is my real name. My friends call me Cathy. So Cathy it is. Also, on the subject of names, it’s just Indie Gamer Chick. No “The” in front of it. Indie Gamer Chick is my name, not a title.
One person does all these reviews? There’s about fifty reviews that were done by other people I brought on, but from here on out, it’s just me. The reviews by others are noted in the author line.
How long has Cathy played games? My first console was the original Playstation, which Santa Claus brought me for Christmas of 1996, along with my first game, Crash Bandicoot. I was seven years old. I got a Nintendo 64 for my 9th birthday, along with Banjo-Kazooie and Mario Kart 64. I’ve been a regular gamer ever since.
What kind of games does Cathy play? Anything and everything. Like every gamer, I have favorite genres and stuff I’m less likely to enjoy, but I do my best to disclose those preferences in my reviews so that my readers can weigh those inherit biases against my opinions.
What does Cathy have against retro gaming? Nothing. But these days, if you are critical of anything, you’re automatically “against” it. My stance on retro gaming is that some games age well, but most don’t. Being old doesn’t necessarily make you good, or better than modern games. I don’t get nostalgic. I also feel I don’t need to play every rinky-dinky game released before my time to qualify as a gamer.
Why does Cathy hate Nintendo? I don’t. Being critical of a company’s products doesn’t mean hatred of them. Just because Nintendo 64 got me into gaming as a full-time lifestyle at a tender age doesn’t mean I must have some sort of loyalty for them. I can speak critically of their products or policies while still being able to enjoy their work when their work is actually enjoyable. Besides that, unconditional love for a game company is not healthy, ya know?
How does Cathy’s epilepsy affect her ability to play games? It means some games are not accessible by me, are too risky to play. But, with caution and medication, I have it relatively under control. My epilepsy developed around the time I was sixteen. I do need to exercise caution and be selective about what games I play, and usually try to avoid titles that rely too heavily on strobe effects. Such things are the most likely to set off a spell. If a game has a limited amount of strobe effects (such as Shovel Knight, which had one stage set during a lightning storm that was high risk for me), I might pass the controller off to a friend or family member to clear that section of the game for me. If I do so, I’ll note that in the review. For more information, read my editorial called “The Epilepsy Thing.”
However, my epilepsy does prevent me from playing Virtual Reality games, such as Oculus Rift. One of the keys to me playing games relatively safely is proper distance from the screen. VR only gives the illusion of depth, but my eyes and my brain will still pick up on the flicker and the proximity even if I don’t realize it. Unfortunately, as a result I can never play any form of VR.
Is there any way I can help Cathy with her epilepsy? My fans are incredible and constantly give me a heads-up on games, movies, and TV shows that feature moments of bright, light strobe effects or consistently pulsing lights. Those are my personal epilepsy triggers. You can keep an eye on my Twitter feed as I often request my readers who are aware of my triggers to screen trailers for me.
You can also make a contribution to The Epilepsy Foundation. The Epilepsy Foundation (Epilepsy.com) is an incredible organization that provides research and education on many different forms of epilepsy. Advancements are happening constantly in epilepsy, and I firmly believe that a cure will happen in my lifetime. It’s not a long-shot. It’s not false-hope. It’s going to happen, and the Epilepsy Foundation will probably play a role in it.
I’m afraid my game might trigger Cathy’s epilepsy. How can I tell if it’s potentially trouble for her? The best way is to send me a video of the spots in the game that you think might cause me problems. Someone close to me will screen it as soon as possible and let you know what their verdict is. In general, it’s bright, pulsing strobe effects that affect me. If you have doubts, it’s better safe than sorry.
Is Cathy available to discuss how I can make my games more accessible for people with epilepsy? Feel free to send any questions to me about my personal experiences with epilepsy on Twitter, but in general I forward all accessibility inquires, epilepsy or otherwise, to Game Accessibility Guidelines. Its lead contributor, Ian Hamilton, is a dear friend of mine who has done more for game accessibility than anyone on the planet. Plus, like me, Ian believes that the creative vision of a developer must come first, which sometimes precludes accessibility. We don’t we anyone is entitled to demand anyone change their game for anyone else. However, if a developer wishes to include such features, Ian is the guy to go to, and he’s always eager to talk to developers. He’s a good dude. Give him a ring.
How does autism affect Cathy? Most people are surprised to learn that I have autism. Probably because autism is so misunderstood and tends to conjure up the wrong image. I was diagnosed with it at the age of four. It has mostly affected me in areas related to socializing and communication. I would like to stress that I’m not disabled and I personally don’t find myself limited by it at all. People who live with autism are all affected in different ways and to different degrees. For gaming, the biggest way it affects me is sound effects and music can cause me discomfort because my brain doesn’t process those things correctly. For that reason, I usually play games muted, especially chip-tune stuff. The vast majority of my reviews do not cover game’s music or sound effects for this reason.
QUESTIONS ABOUT INDIE GAMER CHICK
How do I get my game reviewed at Indie Gamer Chick? I choose which games to review on my own, based on what games catch my attention on their marketplace page. I no longer take review requests, but it’s still probably a good idea to alert me about your game on Twitter.
All games reviewed at Indie Gamer Chick are paid for by me out of my own pocket. Please do not send me review tokens or codes, as I do not accept them, nor will I use them or redistribute them. They’ll just go unused unless you give them to someone else.
Why does Indie Gamer Chick not accept review codes/tokens? My policy from the founding of Indie Gamer Chick is that I pay for all the games I review. While I have no ethical objection to critics taking review codes, I feel that I should pay what my readers pay. That it would be weird for me to take a game that I didn’t pay for but tell my readers they should pay for it. There’s an old saying: lunch always tastes better when someone else buys it for you. It’s true. Also, I’m lucky enough to have a large gaming budget and taking a free game that I could pay for would be kinda cheap, don’t you think?
What exceptions are there to the no-freebies policy? The only exception I still have is if a game is released across multiple platforms, where the developer feels each version needs to be played, instead of one platform covering every version accurately. In this case, I’ll purchase one copy of the game and request review tokens for other platforms. However, in general a play-through on one platform I would hope should accurate cover all other versions across all platforms
In the past, if a game had online multiplayer, I would accept one or more review codes to distribute to a friend so I could test the online multiplayer without having to buy multiple copies of it. These days, I have multiple friends who are game critics. If I wish to cover a game with online-multiplayer meant to be played with people you know, I can ask them if they’re playing it as well, or have them request a review copy. If the game is meant to be played with strangers, but the game isn’t established enough to have a robust amount of players, I might request review codes to be distributed to friends and online followers on Twitter to assure a full online experience. The copy I play will always be paid for by me. However, this will only happen after I’ve tried and failed to find a full lineup of opponents during days one would expect high traffic.
My game is finished and its release date is coming up. We’re trying to secure early reviews. Can we send you a review token? In the past, I did allow this. When I did, I always paid for a copy of the game the week it released whether I enjoyed playing it or not. However, too many games went through too extensive last-second patching that it rendered a good portion of my playing up to that point obsolete, and required me to play through again. So I’ll probably never do an early-review code again. However, if you’re really, really sure that your game is finalized by time you’re ready to send out the codes, contact me and we’ll talk about it. If I do take the code, I’ll still purchase a copy of the game the week it’s released.
When a PC game is pay what you want or part of a bundle, what do you pay for it? I pay whatever the average price is at the time of purchase. Maybe more, but never less. I mostly stick to Steam for shopping anyway.
What’s Second Chance with the Chick? It’s a no-questions asked second look at a game. Updating games with patches is now a major part of the gaming industry. We’ve all put a disc in our Xbox or our PlayStation and had to wait while it updates. Indie games are no different. Because most of the games I play are new releases, stuff often gets overlooked by developers. That, or non-bug-related flaws in the game end up getting corrected. In the interest of fairness, I will never turn down a second review of a game if a developer requests it. The only rule is, the game has to have been patched since my original review. If you’re a developer that had a game reviewed here and you want a second chance, just contact me. No request will be turned away, but this is a one time only offer for each game. Make sure when you request a second chance, the game is exactly where you want it to be.
Why aren’t your reviews more objective? I get this one a lot, and I don’t really understand the question. I think that’s because the people asking it don’t understand what objective means or what the nature of a review of something is. All reviews are subjective personal opinions. There are no exceptions to this. A “review” which contains no subjectivity based on the personal enjoyment of the writer is in fact not a review. Instead, it would be a summary of what the game contains. If a person attempts to write a review based on how others might feel about a game, without factoring their personal enjoyment of the game into their writing, that person’s conclusion would have to be agreed upon to be accurate by all other writers and readers. If anyone disagreed with it, that would mean the writer’s subjective personal opinion factored into their conclusion, and thus their review would be subjective and not objective. But, again, all reviews are subjective. Indie Gamer Chick is a review site, with reviews based on my subjective personal opinions. There is absolutely no objectivity in my reviews.
Why don’t you offer more constructive criticism? I get this one a lot too. I do offer constructive criticism. Like with objectivity, I don’t think constructive criticism means what you think it means. Criticism that is not constructive would be like saying “this game sucks, that’s all there is to it!” I don’t do that. I cite specific things I personally find wrong with the games I play. Some people seem to believe constructive criticism means some kind of balance of positive things and negative things to say about a game, or downplaying negative aspects so as to not hurt the developer’s feelings. That if I say five things negative about a game, I must find five things positive to say about it, or else the criticism is not constructive. That’s not practical, nor is it always possible. Sometimes, it’s believed constructive criticism must offer specific solutions for problems with games. That’s also not what constructive criticism means.
I’m not a game developer and I don’t always know what the answer is. It’s possible there is no solution for specific problems in games because of the nature of game design. Not every play mechanic or concept works. While I’m sure it’s not fun to read that someone didn’t like parts of your game, with my reviews both developers and gamers should know what specific parts of a game I didn’t like. A developer can use those to improve their work, or not if they so wish.
The game you just slammed only costs a small amount of money. What did you expect for that price? Thanks to indie gaming, you can buy a lot of good games for a low price. Pricing is not supposed to be reflective of quality. To say that people on a small gaming budget shouldn’t expect quality games for their money is snobbery.
You do realize that most of these developers are first-timers with no experience? Of course I do. I’m not cold-hearted. But retail gaming isn’t an elementary school science fair where everyone gets a ribbon just for showing up. People who believe first time developers should not be held to any standard are essentially advocating that a really bad game by a newbie indie developer be recommended over a really good game by an experienced indie developer, because, gosh darn it, the newb tried their hardest!
Sparing a first time developer from full, honest feedback is unethical, patronizing, and actually kind of cruel. Any developer of any experience level who has potential will want full feedback on their game, positive and negative, so that they can grow and maybe someday be at an elite level. I’m sure it hurts to put a lot of time and effort into a game and not have it be well received, but if you’re a first time developer, you’re just starting. You will get better, but that road will be rockier and longer if you’re not willing to accept feedback.
Can Cathy play-test my game for me? Can I send her a build of my game? No. I’m not interested in being part of the development process. I’m strictly here to do game reviews.
Do you play demos before you decide on reviewing a game? No.
Why don’t you have review scores? Because I think they’re useless. I explain in detail here.
Why don’t you review mobile games anymore? My previous reviews for iOS or Android games didn’t receive a lot of interest. For devs looking for a good App Store game critic, my friend
Does Indie Gamer Chick review student projects? Yes, as long as it’s on one of the platforms I cover, and if it’s a game available to the general public. If it is, I’ll never turn away a student project.
Can I add you to my Steam/Xbox Live/PlayStation Network friends list? No. I get over a dozen requests every day for this. My friends list is just for my real life friends, or for game developers when we need to link up to troubleshoot problems with games.
Do you have a Twitch channel? Sorta. Indie Gamer Chick TV, but I don’t really use it a ton anymore.
Does Indie Gamer Chick do news, previews, or press releases? No.
Does Indie Gamer Chick interview developers? Not anymore.
Will Indie Gamer Chick plug my Kickstarter? No.
Can you do a feature on our project on your blog? No.
Is Cathy interested in writing for our site? No. I would prefer to spend any time I have to write contributing to my own site. I’m always flattered when someone offers, but I’m also never interested.
Can I reprint a review or editorial from Indie Gamer Chick? I want to keep everything written by myself exclusive to this site, so please don’t copy or re-post anything done by me. If you need just a line or two for a blurb on your website or for promotional material, that’s fine, but not the full review please. If you want to re-post a Tales from the Dev Side editorial, contact the developer. If they say it’s okay, I have no problem. It’s their article, not mine.
Can I advertise at Indie Gamer Chick? I don’t take general advertisements, but you can sponsor the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard or Review Index. Here’s a supplemental FAQ for how that works.
Can I run a contest at Indie Gamer Chick? I don’t do contests anymore.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LEADERBOARD AND THE SEAL OF APPROVAL
What is the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval? It’s an award I give to any game I enjoy signifying that I personally enjoyed the game and would recommend it to others.
How does a game get the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval? I have to enjoy the game more than I dislike it. It’s that simple. A game doesn’t even have to be a “good game” for me to have fun with it. As long as I have more fun than not, the game wins my Seal of Approval.
What if a game is well produced and liked by most people but you didn’t like it? Then it doesn’t win my Seal of Approval. The Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval only represents that I personally enjoyed a game and would recommend it to others.
What is the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard? It’s my personal ranking for all the games I’ve reviewed at Indie Gamer Chick that won my Seal of Approval.
How do you determine the ranking order? Once a game wins the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval, I go to the Leaderboard and compare it to others on the list. I typically start in the center of the board and compare the new game to one of the other ranked games, asking myself if I would rather play the new game or the game already on the board. I keep doing this until I find a spot where I would rather play the game above it, but not the game below it. It’s pretty accurate. However, that opinion can shift based upon reflection or a game receiving its Second Chance with the Chick.
Why is a certain game ranked below a different game that’s clearly better? The Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard is my personal rankings, based on nothing else but my own personal opinion.
But seriously, you think that game is better than the game I like? As with all reviews and editorials at Indie Gamer Chick that I write, the Leaderboard is based on my personal preferences and not what everyone else thinks.
Will you ever do an Anti-Leaderboard where you rank the worst games? No. Although I can be harsh on games, I don’t want to be a bully. I think doing such a list would be a bully move. My goal at Indie Gamer Chick is to find the best games and promote them. Although I might occasionally reference a previous bad review, to outright spotlight them for the sake of piling on more insults would be horrible. That’s not what I’m about.