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Life Is Strange with Katy Bentz (Safe Space Podcast Season 2, Episode 3)

In this episode of Safe Space, Rosie and Mikayla chat with Katy Bentz, aka Steph Gingrich from the Life Is Strange series!

Rosie, Katy and Mikayla are in the foreground on a backdrop of Haven Springs; there are trees, mountains, and a record store

Katy talks about her experiences as a voice actor, touching on the distinction between the games industry and the film industry, and how to handle audition rejection.

We discuss the impact of characters like Steph for the LGBTQIA+ community, and Katy’s experiences playing a character that is so adored within the LIS fandom. Katy recalls some of her favourite moments from recording True Colors, as well as her favourite interactions with the LIS community.

Links

Katy’s Twitter / Katy’s Twitch

Life Is Strange True Colors

Skills utilised:
News

A Celebration of Play Your Way and Mental Health Month

Over May 2022, we celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month with our #PlayYourWay Initiative, asking gamers to play the games that mean the most to them, whilst embracing the discussion around mental health and our connections between our games and how we feel.

We’re delighted to announce that the Safe In Our World community raised over £15,000 from community fundraising, donations and activity to support the charity, its future initiatives and the work we do within the games industry to support the people who work within it!

Throughout the month, we saw so many fantastic creators set their sights on the games that mean the most to them to celebrate #PlayYourWay and raise awareness around mental health. The variety of games that you chose highlighted the individuality of our relationships with games, and how we can celebrate games in so many ways. From community focused horrors such as Phasmophobia (we’re looking at you Hannah…) to wholesome Nintendo adventures to lunchtime Wordfall with the Press Engine team!

Enjoy this clip of Hannah definitely not panicking with Ellie pulling tarot cards in the dark….

Hannah panics in the corner of the Twitch screenshot, where her and Elliejoypanic pull tarot cards in Phasmophobia

Hannah definitely not panicking – screenshot from Lomadiah (twitch.tv/lomadia)

Or this clip of Chimp195 singing Staying Alive playing The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan…

It wouldn’t be fair to also give a nod to some of the forfeits you signed yourselves up for from your community, including Beanboozled (debatably the worst) and so much slime over at Jinjar’s community. So much slime

A huge thank you to the numerous companies and studios that hosted Sarah and Rosie to talk about the charity during Mental Health Awareness Week! We facilitated fantastic discussions, panels and talks about why mental health is so important, especially within the games industry.

Jinjar - bearded streamer in grey t shirt pours lime green slime over his head, previous slime/beans/chaos can be seen on his t shirt already.

Jinjar gets slimed for Safe In Our World (Photo from Twitter: @Jinjar247)

We also saw some physical challenges undertaken from the Safe In Our World community, including Genba Digital’s Team Wolf Run! Check out the team picture below.

10 people lined up jump into a mud river for the Wolf Run

Photo from the @GenbaDigital Twitter Account

The lovely team at Switch Players Norwich hosted a raffle benefitting Safe In Our World, where you can see the excitement unfolding. We saw a wonderful week of variety games from the Grads in Games team, from Harry’s journey into The Last of Us Left Behind, indie games from Dan and Alex’s Minecraft adventure.

Alex celebrates with his arms in the air

Alex defies the odds on Minecraft Chaos stream with Grads in Games

We also saw one of the largest stream trains supporting Safe In Our World, with The ‘Safe In Our Raids’ team ran by Pengy, raising an amazing £3,000 across the 48 hour event. 24 x 2 hour streams, 48 hours of wholesome chaos. We even saw Pengy bustin’ moves with the penguins in the stream summary. Excellent.

Pengy is in a penguin suit, dancing in front of 3 cartoon penguins in celebration of the 48 hour stream raid train event

Screenshot from Pengy’s celebratory stream (twitch.tv/TheRealPengy)

All in all, we’re so proud of our community for stepping up this mental health awareness month to champion our mission and eliminate stigma surrounding mental health. Every person who contributed has our sincere gratitude and thanks, whether you streamed, fundraised, got involved with activities, donated, or showed up to watch it all happen – you helped #PlayYourWay be the success that it was. Thank you.

Skills utilised:
News

Exploring DEI, inclusivity and diversity with Raccine Malcolm (Safe Space Podcast Season 1 Episode 5)

This week we were delighted to have Raccine Malcolm on the Safe Space podcast!

Raccine is a communications professional that specializes in empathy-driven, engagement-based community development and management. Multicultural awareness, belonging, DEI, mental health, along with the interconnectedness of communities are some of her deepest interests and driving forces behind her work. We are delighted to have Raccine as a Safe In Our World Ambassador, championing mental health within the games industry alongside us. 

On this episode, we discuss the importance of incorporating DEI into companies and communities, promoting inclusivity and diversity within the games industry and how mental health fits into these topics. We also chat about our favourite mental health related titles, including Raccine’s all time favourites such as When the Darkness Comes and Sunshine Days.

You can check out the episode over at Anchor.FM where we have all of the Safe Space Podcast Episodes ready for you to listen to.

Skills utilised:
News

Lockdown Connections: How Gaming Has Brought Us Together In The Year of Being Apart

How the Video Games Industry united through Lockdown 

 

Nobody could have ever predicted how 2020 and 2021 would play outA pandemic hit the world that would change the lives of everyone in many waysSociety felt like it would never be the same again. 

It wasn’t all darkness, thoughA light shone through as the video games industry took up arms and made it their mission to bring people together, providing new ways of social interaction for gamers and people who have never touched a game in their life. From giveaways and games for carers, to free memberships, events and much more. 

Favourite characters such as Geralt from The Witcher series, developed by CD Projekt Red, spoke to The Gaming Bible and gave hope that things would get better: 

“Stay on the path,” Geralt’s gravelly voice advises me over Zoom. “Things are going to get better. I know they’re bad now, but they can only get better. So stay on the path – and kill those monsters.”   

Chris Baraniuk wrote an article for the BBC that showed games weren’t just a distractionbut how beneficial video games can be in people’s lives, especially during the pandemic: 

For many, games don’t just provide a way of connecting with quarantined friends, they are also alternate universes where the reality of pandemic can be momentarily forgotten.”   

The article also talks about the hit title, Animal Crossing, that launched just as most of the world were heading into the first lockdown. It was a ray of sunshine for many, providing a place for players to meet, explore and hang out in their own wonderfully crafted islandThe game delivered a much-needed escape in such challenging times.  

Then the government realised the opportunity of reaching people through games. They started getting involved with video game companies to put safety messaging about COVID-19 into popular games, such as Sniper Elite, Dirt, Candy Crush and more. In doing so, the plan also showed one of the many ways gaming could be used for good, leading Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, to express his delight in seeing  the UK’s brilliant video games industry stepping up to strongly reinforce this message to gamers across the UK.”  

Gaming for Carers was an initiative that saw many AAA and Indie companies coming together to give free games to those who are working on the front line. It was a way to show a big thank you to NHS staff for going above and beyond, with companies such as Codemasters, Konami and Team17 contributing their games to the cause.   

Another notable organisation helping people stay connected over the pandemic was CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). CALM teamed up with UKIE to offer advice on how to get connected and how gaming could help through the tough times ahead, whether gaming with friends, offline, or watching gaming content via Twitch, YouTube and more.  

England Cricketers used online gaming to pass the time on tour, support mental wellbeing and keep up team rapportCricketer Stuart Broad found it particularly transformative, saying: “Gaming, for me mentally, has been vital.” Talking about the gaming sessions the team have streamed online, his experience was very positive: “There’s no abuse. There’s no agenda [...] It’s all just really positive chat about gaming and good fun, which I’ve really enjoyed. It’s quite rare for social media, to be honest.” 

Some gamers had described Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV as a massive help throughout the pandemicNME’s Alan Wen wrote an article highlighting how the game has been a lifeline for many through these uncertain times: FFXIV has made me feel like I can be with people even when I’m in quarantine. The way the game’s social aspects encourage teaming up with strangers to turn them into friends, the roleplaying scene, and all the amazing people has been incredibly positive.” 

We also asked some of our SIOW representatives how video games have helped them during the pandemic.  

Antonela PounderDirector of Global Community @ 505 GamesSafe In Our World Ambassador:  

“Our ability to go wherever whenever has been taken away from all of us, which I’ve found brings about a feeling of loneliness, even if you don’t live alone. Forming new friendships with others through current friendships has been incredible. We basically now have our own online support bubble where we talk about anything and everything (but try to avoid COVID chat!). Calls almost every evening has helped hugely, whether this be on Discord or using PlayStation parties, as well as engaging in online multiplayer gaming sessions together. Regular communication has been key, whether it be with friends, family and/or colleagues.” 

The Demented Raven, Streamer, Safe In Our World Ambassador: 

“Whenever some of my friends have had a rough day or feel alone, we decide to play video games to brighten up our day. One of these games is Overwatch and it always ends up with wholesome laughs, silliness, banter and pure joys of friendship. Video games have the power to really help people reach out and are a reminder that you’re never alone.” 

Matt Murphy, Genba Digital CEO, Safe In Our World Trustee:  

“I was a child of the ZX Spectrum era, and so Way of the Exploding Fist and Saboteur were my Persona 5 Strikers and Dying Light 2, as I saved my pocket money to buy the latest cassette games. But my love for games never waned over the years even if my access did, as work and now kids became my primary focus. I have a son who is 5 and a daughter aged 3, and so they aren’t quite ready to outwit mummy and daddy at Among Us just yet. But I’ve started to use video games as another way to have fun with my children during lockdown at the weekend when we have a spare hour – especially given the creative challenges facing the social secretary for two small children on a Saturday! Yeah,it’s not the latest AAA, but my son loves it when we both play the Lego Movie game together. It focuses him on teamwork, fine motor skills, problem solving and the fact that you can’t always win – a pretty cool life lesson if you ask me. It’s great for our souls in these stressful times and as long as he can be Emmet then everything is awesome.”

What is clear now is that more and more people in the World are recognising that gaming isn’t just for kids, a waste of time or a bad influence. Through 2020, people realised that gaming was able to help us with our social needs, provide much-needed distraction, and support mental wellbeing. The video game industry saw huge growth during these times, with more households buying consoles to play their new favourite games to escape in, whether gaming on their own or with others online.  

Will gaming be recognised in history for providing such an escape in the pandemic? We hope so. And we’ll continue to shine a light on the wonderful stories that show video games can be a crutch to many in dark times.  

 

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

Safer Together: May Fundraiser 2021

We’re delighted to announce our Safer Together Fundraiser which will take place in May for Mental Health Month.

This Mental Health Month we’re encouraging everyone to talk. Whether it’s to a friend, colleague, or a professional, talking is the first step to getting support, and we believe we’re safer together. 

With that in mind, this March, we launched our first public Discord server: Safer Together, with the purpose of providing a public platform for gamers and industry folk to connect, find players for multiplayer games, discuss games, and be a safe community for all to talk or find resources. 

The Safer Together Fundraiser is looking to raise money for our future initiatives and continuing in our mission to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health within the video games industry and its communities, so that every player and employee feels safe to reach out for help. 

The fundraiser will span the whole month of May, with Safe In Our World All-Star Community streams every day from the 1st – 7th May.


Tiltify Campaign

We’ve now set up the event on Tiltify

If you’re looking to support us throughout the fundraiser and wish to register your own (solo or team) campaign to contribute to the event total, please follow this link to register with the event. 


Support

We’ve curated a list of ways that you could support us:

  • Donations – We are hugely appreciative of any support within the fundraiser itself. 
  • Fundraising – Within the Tiltify Campaign, you can register to create a fundraiser to contribute to main total, whether as part of a team or a solo campaign to support #SaferTogether – whether you’re a streamer, an athlete or anything in between, the opportunities are endless, and we appreciate every single one of you.  
  • Visibility – Any support in boosting our communications around the fundraiser would be greatly appreciated through social media platforms. 

Thank you all so much for the continued support, we’re excited to launch this fundraiser alongside our Discord, and be able to encourage more people to talk. 

Skills utilised:
News

The FGC’s Push for Good Netcode By Chazz Mair

For myself and many others, Fighting games were a means to create connections. The genre born out of the arcade experience multiplayer, side-by-side competition grew even as their homes died out. As the years passed, the experience changed, but the opportunity did not. The arcade cabinet became the console that could be brought anywhere the people wanted to play were, even online.

Over time, that face-to-face experience became what set the FGC aside from other gaming communities. While fighting games have had online playable for over a decade now, the focus had always been on offline, in-person events because the netcode for most of the genre’s most popular titles run on subpar delay-based netcode. Online was a supplement for offline – even the online-only portions of the community practiced and played in anticipation of the next major offline event they could go to.

That doesn’t really happen anymore. The ongoing pandemic meant that every facet of the community had to migrate online – at the time of this writing, it has been about 11 months since I last sat down next to someone to play a fighting game, and there’s no end in But the loneliness I was experiencing wasn’t my own – the removal of many of the community’s sacred spaces in itself brought a sense of community and a renewed fervor for one of the scene’s longest fight – getting good netcode in their games. We were alone together. While we weren’t going to be gathering in person anytime soon, we decided to find ways to play the games we love alone in our rooms, together.

At this point in time, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fighting game that’s released in the last ten years without online play. What’s been tougher is finding one with good netcode. A majority of AAA developed fighting games launch with what is called delay-based netcode, which, in basic terms, means that the strength of the connection determines the speed at which the game accepts inputs. It’s functional but inconsistent. Any jitter in the connection can cause the delay to vary wildly. “I have a friend who I’ve played fighting games with for years. We got each other into playing fighters, and until he moved a couple years ago, most of our fights were local,” Said New Jersey-based Fighting game player, Ranfis Francisco. “He lives just 10 miles from me. He has good internet and uses a wired connection, but has very small spikes in lag. So when he plays a delay based game, the frame delay jumps at random and the input delay is high – but only on his end. On my end, I get a 2-4 frame delay, which is still not fun to deal with because it fluctuates wildly. That might be the worst part of delay-based netcode. The input delay is bad enough by itself, but when it changes unpredictably, it becomes difficult to finish a combo or properly execute anything.” These have been known issues in the scene for over a decade, but offline play’s prevalence enabled developers to sidestep the issue.

The first time I personally heard of rollback netcode was in 2011 with the release of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online edition, a rerelease of a fighting game classic that was powered by GGPO, a completely free rollback network SDK for peer-to-peer gaming. Essentially it lets each player run a version of the game on their home device, while the system creates game states for every possible action. When the game detects an error, it “rolls back” to the proper one. “I live in New Jersey and fought people from California and Cuba with no problems whatsoever. I even fought someone living in England and had a playable experience. I think it’s really cool that I can make training partners with people across the country, even across continents. Going from barely being able to play someone a city over from me to playing people 3000 miles from me is incredible,” Francisco said.

It’s a technology that brings people together, for as small as the fighting game community is, both in its entirety and in the way that it is stretched out across several games. its that small size that makes each match feel so much bigger. Killer Instinct is a 2013 fighting game that stopped development three years ago, but to this day you can still find tournaments for it. In February of 2021, community members collaborated with Twitch to put on KI Lives, an online-only tournament that broke 40,000 viewers, for a game that usually has somewhere in the range of 50 people playing it on Steam any given day.

Netcode is an important barrier that the communities have rallied around to fight – in this online-only era community members and developers are coming together to create ways to play their favorite games together. Fightcade is a long-running emulation service that allows people to play arcade-era fighting games – and while in the past it was a notorious wasteland of moderation, its recently implemented a code of conduct designed to keep the service and community as inclusive as possible. But beyond anything else, it’s completely free, making it a great gateway for people to play these games with those who don’t usually.

Beyond all of the competition, fighting games are, at their core, a unique one on one experience to be shared with others.

I stumbled across Tough Love Arena at its announcement on Twitter in early January, marketed as a free, browser-based fighting game with rollback netcode I remember being flabbergasted that such a thing was even possible. After trying it out for a bit, I brought it to a close friend of mine, one who had always liked the idea of fighting games but never got too deep because they could never find enough people to play with.

Tough Love Arena is a pretty simple game, all things considered, but introducing a new player to the genre and hearing them figuring things out was a special experience that I had missed for almost a year at that point.

The FGC’s small size only bolsters the importance of these small, personal experiences because it’s the community that grows this niche genre. Before esports, all events were grassroots community efforts, and in their absence its fallen upon that same community to keep their games growing. Whether it be in the form of online tournaments, pressing for better netcode or just sharing a game with a friend whose never played before, the FGC continues to fight for the interpersonal relations that make the genre unique.


Chazz Mair is a black, New Jersey-based freelance writer and stand-up comedian who often spends his free time hanging out with friends at the local arcade or staring at toasters. Nowadays, he does more of the latter. An avid advocate of diversity, Chazz hopes to create stories about people who don’t make it to the front page.

 

Skills utilised:
News

The Difference Between Re-Try and Re-Triumph by Ruby Modica

If you’ve worked in any capacity, be it a job or a creative outlet, then no doubt you’ll have experienced the apathetic mindset of being unmotivated. The continuous cry for lack of motivation can be heard in factories, classrooms, offices and even bedrooms around the world, desperate for something to give them the motivation to continue. Yet things are different when we are playing a video game and are greeted by the words ‘GAME OVER’. 

No matter your favourite genre of game, you will have encountered this message at some point. All of that time, energy, mental gymnastics and finger dexterity invested, only to be met with an emotionally detached screen highlighting your failure. But no matter, we just press a little button and keep on going, letting go of the internalised rage and replacing it with yet more gleeful joy and attention.

By pressing retry we have the motivation to continue further on and overcome the obstacles cleverly designed to impede our progress. In those circumstances we find it easy, but when we are met with similar messages of failure in the real world it can seem impossible to stay motivated. But we can still use the experiences we have attained from our video game journeys as a means to find inspiration.

For starters, think about any arcade-style game you’ve played, with distracting colours and leaderboard scores enticing you to try and do better. A modern day example of this format could be Nex Machina, a retro top-down shoot ‘em up. While it makes for a high-octane experience, the speed and difficulty of the obstacles pretty much guarantees a GAME OVER on your first try. This can be frustrating, especially when you are shown the leaderboards containing names of other people who have achieved higher scores than you.

This chaos is comparable to modern day life, with even the most strategic plans going awry in less than a second while others seemingly get by unaffected. But when you give up, you effectively miss your chance to prove what you have learnt from that experience. The only person you need to prove your ability to is yourself. Even if you end up stone dead last, that does not mean you are a failure. 

Herein lies what causes a lot of people to get disheartened with their progress, and it is something we’d all do well to remind ourselves of now and then: you are not ‘other people’. If you are fruitlessly grasping to achieve higher up the “leaderboard” without taking the time to congratulate yourself on your progress, you will always feel empty inside. Each attempt at a new project is not supposed to always be met with a perfect result. 99% of your efforts will be a learning curve more than anything, and with each new discovery comes insight into how you can improve.

Perhaps you improved a skill, learnt a new one entirely, or even managed to do the same thing a little bit quicker. If you’ve tried to attain something multiple times and not succeeded yet, ask yourself: what can be done to make your next attempt more successful? Only you can really determine what you want to improve in, but viewing each attempt as an experience rather than a failure can make retrying that one difficult level seem much more doable.

However, sometimes you’ve re-tried a level over and over without yielding any progress, and are desperate for a solution. So what can be done? Most will agree that asking someone else for help is of great benefit, especially if they have experienced that before. Therefore, another way of ensuring you can stay motivated when facing these adverse circumstances is surrounding yourself with a community full of encouragement and support. 

Most video games are examples of this; no matter their age or origin you can find at least one other person who likes the same game as you. One game considered the epitome of this concept is Undertale, identifying itself as “The friendly RPG where no-one has to die”. Where other RPGs have expendable characters and enemies, Undertale encourages the power of friendship when you and/or your friends are going through struggles. Similarly, just talking out a problem with someone you trust is often enough to calm down and think about things more clearly. It can be daunting to reach out in these times of need, which is why finding a group of like-minded individuals is a great benefit because you’ll naturally have a shared interest. 

Also, a recurring theme is the usage of “DETERMINATION”, which even appears as a motivation to the player upon reaching a game over screen. Every time you lose the game attempts to instil a force of motivation through you. By remembering that a GAME OVER is an invitation to keep playing and better yourself, you can rise to the challenge and keep coming back until you can proudly declare yourself a winner.

Another commonplace example is in the modern era of gaming, where small streamers are doing their bit to combine their personality and video game endeavours in a way that is appealing to others. Despite this, some may feel disheartened due to their relatively small status. This could include a low yield of viewing figures or a tiny community that they wish to expand. It is easily tempting to try and invest their time into a ‘Small Streamers’ community, but these benefits are usually short term.

It is not the size of your community that matters; the connections you make have far greater benefits for you not just as a streamer but as a person. Don’t underestimate the power that a positive word can have to someone who needs it, and by doing so you can strengthen the ties you have in your circle of friends regardless of its size. Making content for a comparatively small number of friends who genuinely enjoy your work will build love and support for what you do. These serve as a greater motivator than tallying up numbers.

By now I’m sure you can tell the difference between re-try and re-triumph: just a little bit of “umph”! Learn the lessons from video games and see every low point as a chance to retry and do even better until you achieve the victories you desire. If you’re feeling in short supply of motivation, reach out to your friends and communities for support and offer to do the same where possible. Whatever the rest of this year has in store for us, don’t give up. Keep on trying and retrying until you reach that goal, and remember to stay determined!


Ruby Modica is an independent content creator, editor and writer.

She loves sharing insight into video games and discovering new things, with a desire to work in the media/gaming industry full time. Most days she is busy at her computer working on her next big project.

LinkTree 

Skills utilised:
News

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