The Charity Chicken Carry

A year ago, I said goodbye to my friend Ben on the train back into London from Luton Airport.

A group of us had just spent the week in Southern France and Italy. I’d flown straight from the chaos of running the Twitch Stage at gamescom 2017.

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Somewhere that's green…

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It had taken me time to adjust to being abroad for holiday, rather than work, one day bordering on a panic attack as we swam in actual seawater on an otherwise idyllic boat trip, powered by Aperol and a French skipper, (who had casually mentioned jellyfish before our group jumped in). Ben had noticed my fear and paddled towards me, guiding me back to the boat. He was not someone who left his friends behind.

I didn’t realise that the last time I would see Ben would be on that train.

And yet – here’s the thing – Ben was never going to not be around. He lives on at gatherings, in the WhatsApp group his devoted friends created in his memory. In stories, impersonations of his unique mannerisms and phrasings, and in the bizarre newspaper articles we send each other that he would undoubtedly have discovered first for our amusement.

How my boyfriend Matt managed to deliver the eulogy at Ben’s funeral, I’ll never know. It’s available to read online at an initial fundraising page set up last year, and reading it still makes me sway dramatically between laughter and tears.

I’ll never be able to understand the decision of taking away one’s own life, but I know that it is an internal debate that effects so many people. Therefore, I’m planning to hold a fundraiser for Mind (a UK-based mental health charity) in October, and I want to call on members of the PUBG community to get involved.

If you’re a competitive PUBG fan, you may have seen me pop up at various PUBG tournament desks, or brandishing a mic onstage. I love talking about the game at its highest level, and the teams involved.

However, if you’re familiar with my Twitch stream, you’ll also be aware that I’m a horrible PUBG player.

I panic, I wail and scream, I shoot bushes. Oh, and never, ever let me drive. Seriously.

So I thought I’d call on the pro players I get to discuss at events such as DreamHack and WSOE, and see if they’ll give up a bit of their time to try and make me a better player, along with the talent I share the stage with – my chicken dinner count is currently two and during the first of those my computer died mid game, so I wasn’t even there to see it. It’ll be an arduous task for them, so in a way, you’re kind of sponsoring them more than me…

Although the details are still flexible, the action will most likely play out over an eight hour stream on my Twitch channel, while my fellow squad members will be encouraged to stream and do some fundraising of their own (I’ll likely invite Twitch streamers to join also). I’ll be rotating squads every hour. I currently think Saturday 29th September Sunday 30th September may be a good date, but there may be clashes with online leagues, so will be happy to take feedback on whether this date is suitable.

I’m looking for pro players and Twitch Partners who are interested in joining me to get in touch asap – a DM on Twitter or emailing me is the best option. The same for sponsors, or anyone who would like to be involved in some way.

Thank you.

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Dealing with downtime

The Summer so far has been hectic so far…

…Or at least it was, until August. Suddenly I’ve found myself with a few weeks of respite (bar the odd shoot for the Nintendo Labo UK YouTube Channel or episode two of the Omen Esports Report)

After I got back from PGI (PLAYERUNKNOWN’S Battleground’s Global Invitational in Berlin) I was ready to keep running, until one day I wasn’t; I decided to record some voice lines as a favour to someone and then just stop. (And by stop, I mean playing video games offline, rather than on my Twitch channel.) In some ways, I was scared of a pause, in case I decided to extend it. However, I had a Google Keep list to keep up with, and so there were tasks awaiting my attention (“blog” has been written on it for ages).

At the start of this week, fresh from a wedding between two beautiful friends in Ludlow, where for once I managed to avoid checking my social media into the double figures, I felt myself coming down with something… But I also had eaten everything and anything I fancied for the past week; I needed to go to the world’s most strenuous gym class, prep a video pitch and stream. Then an early start on Tuesday for a Nintendo shoot in Britstol. Wednesday was for buying new hosting clothes (my word, the amount of clothes you need for events is astounding), prepping for gamescom and yoga. Sure, I felt a bit wobbly, but I’d just work through it, right?

It turned out Thursday would be for learning my lesson and croakily not being able to get out of bed… so apologising to my Twitch community for my absence, I propped myself up with a couple of pillows and finally got round to editing a vlog from PGI.

I wasn’t enjoying being ill, and yet… something about it gave me an added sense of urgency. Instead of doing the most urgent things on my to-do list, I was mopping up the bits I’d relegated into the unessential zone.

Case in point; it had taken me over two weeks to finally get down to editing and publishing my latest showreel. I had everything I needed – including relatively good health – but something always “cropped up”, until I silently pledged not to stream until it was done. In a way, it reminded me of those development tasks I had in previous jobs where I knew I could get it done, but pushed it back time and time again.

But feeling poorly… well now I was obliged to not do anything, and it sucked. I’m writing this on Friday, after another day of cold-angst and it still sucks. This isn’t like the old days of being ill, putting on an out of office and shutting out the world. (Freelancers everywhere – I get it now.)

So I made a deal with myself; rest today, and you may very well leave the flat by tomorrow evening. Amazon Prime has kept me firmly on the sofa for all ten episodes of UnReal series one. Running up and down the stairs has been kept to a minimum. By this evening I had decided some gameplay capture for a future video would be fine; but no voice chat. No audience. (And yes, I allowed myself to write this blog – because the only thing I love more than a to-do list, is crossing things off it.)

Hopefully the respite has worked its magic, and I’ll be right as rain tomorrow, or at least by next Tuesday – that’s when I head to gamescom, where I’ll be hosting the Omen Challenge PUBG tournament alongside ace casters wtfmoses and Matrym.

In fact, it’s especially important for this reason; when I decided to give full-time hosting a shot, gamescom was my first “milestone” to mark that I could do this for the long-haul. Being asked to go is a confirmation that I’m on the right path – but I’m also aware it’s one event, and the hard work will never be over… except for this week’s attempted pause – which may have turned out to be the hardest task of all!

Getting started in hosting

One of the questions that keeps reccuring in my DMs on social media is; “how did you get into hosting”.

I don’t tend to reply to message requests from people I don’t know (I have email for that), so I wanted to try and give this topic a bit more space on the blog instead.

I’ve been hosting full-time since I left Twitch at the end of March, so I’m by no means the absolute authority on this – there are a variety of ways people have got into this sort of work, so I reckon the best thing is to explain my personal experience.

At university, I was desperate to work in radio, but ended up not being able to get work experience, so moved into online. However, in my third year a blog I had written about new music and BBC Introducing led me to be picked up to produce and present a show for Amazing Radio, a then-digital radio station. I moved to Newcastle before my official graduation and worked as a producer and presenter. I was let go nine months into the role very suddenly, and ended up heading to London to work at Channel 4 as an online producer. I podcasted and dabbled with YouTube and an interactive platform called Touchcast, but had no idea how to work as a presenter again.

Towards the end of my four years at the BBC, I started trying again. I enjoyed working as a producer on various different bits and pieces, but now I was tempted by presenting again. I’d worked on the BBC coverage of the 2015 League of Legends World Championships and realised how much I loved the idea of working in gaming. I started attempting to talk to my co-workers at BBC Three about the possibility of pitching something about esports, but there was no interest (or perhaps my hints were not strong enough). The BBC Academy were kind enough to take on my interactive video idea Strangecast (a behind-the-scenes interactive look at drama series Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), and let me host a podcast, but I still didn’t have the experience outside of my own external projects (some of which you can see in an old showreel, embedded below).

I needed to leave; and so I did. Moving to Twitch as a producer was such a fantastic experience. I wasn’t thinking of hosting at this point, but more about how to immerse myself within the Twitch community. I started streaming and learning as much as I could about the eco-system of Twitch. I worked with a lot of Twitch Partners to bring them onto our stages, but often didn’t have the budget to hire enough to cover a typical 8-10 hours of hosted content, and so ocasionally I’d pop up onstage to help fill in. Bit by bit, the hosting bug came back. And yet – I loved my job; it paid well, I felt confident and my colleagues were fantastic. Why leave a safety net you enjoy falling into?

I decided to do bits and pieces in my spare time, asking agency Code Red to take me on as a client and writing to contacts to suggest they consider me for gigs. I cobbled together a showreel from my various Twitch stage cameos and waited. Nothing much came my way until I did an interview with GINX TV at gamescom about the Twitch Stage, joking about the pink stain on my bum from the cake I’d recently had to scrape off the stage, post Steve Aoki appearance. A few weeks later I was in their London studio being trialled for live weekly show The Bridge as a co-host; I got the role.

The Bridge gave me the experience (and examples of work) I needed to get my face out there. I’d already built up a network within the industry as a producer, but my work on the show now meant I had video evidence to show I could hold my own on live TV, interview and be part of a general esports conversation. I didn’t get to lead host until earlier this year, covering for usual anchor Frank, but again, that was a huge opportunity to prove my worth in the lead host’s seat. I also spoke to ESL UK about trying to host and they asked me to come and host the ESL UK Hearthstone Premiership Finals in January. It would later transpire that my stage hosting at this show would spotlight me for my co-host role at the PC Gaming Show at this year’s E3.

I’d just completed my most recent showreel when I found out my job post was to be closed at Twitch. After a bit of steady breathing and a quick chat with my Dad, I headed to a generic coffee shop chain to start emailing contacts to make it clear I was ready to work. Then I headed to GINX to co-host my final episode of The Bridge.

Since April, I’ve filmed in London, Bristol, Stockholm, Katowice, LA, Austin, Las Vegas, Berlin and Bath. I’ve covered titles such as NHL 18, CSGO, Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG and a game where you get to play as a shark. Oh, and co-hosted with a duck. But if I hadn’t had to leave my day job, I might not have experienced any of it. I’d be happy, but quite possibly not as happy as I am now. There’s no safety net anymore – but maybe in the end it was less of a net, and more of a wall.

Tips for breaking into on screen esports roles

  • Decide what you want to do; stage or desk host? cast or analyse? What’s your expertise? You could do a bit of each, but then how will you make people see you as the go-to for a particular role? I’ve mostly desk hosted in the past few months, with a bit of stage hosting on the side. Currently TOs (tournament organisers) are considering me where they think I’ll fit in based on my “brand” (see below).
  • Be vocal about who you are and what your “brand” is. Before breaking into gaming, I was asked this by someone during a BBC careers session, and I honestly didn’t know. Now, I think you get a good idea from my showreel – I marry energy and humour with knowledge, am able to control what’s happening during a broadcast (no matter what goes wrong), without it feeling dry, and I can “charm and disarm” my guests.
  • Build a showreel that showcases your values and your versatility. My showreel is due an update, I admit, but what it does do is distill what you can expect from me in less than three minutes – and the latter part is key. Keep your reel to less than three minutes. When I was a producer, I would make up my mind about hiring someone in less than 90 seconds. You don’t need to include all your work in there – feature the work that sums you up best, and shows you in the roles you want to be considered for in the future (ie. stage, desk, casting etc). As a host, I can work across multiple games on stage, and on the desk, and my reel shows that – although my next reel will feature more esports desk hosting, and less consumer roles, as that’s the route I’d like to go down in future.
  • No footage? Make your own work. Some events, such as the recent PGI 2018, will let you co-stream their feed so you can add your own commentary. You can also start a podcast, create and stream a chat show on Twitch, or make YouTube videos on your phone. This will be vital for developing your skills, too.
  • Get involved in the community you want to be part of. PUBG is one of my “first loves”, esports-wise. I’m regularly engaging with discussions on social media about the game, and I stream myself playing it with others, too. Maybe you could stream some scrims or charity events to get some valuable practice and showreel footage.
  • Approach grassroots events to gain experience. I’m not necessarily saying work for free, although money might not be amazing at first (which is another reason why I was lucky my previous job let me freelance on the side, taking annual leave to work). In the UK, epic.LAN and Insommnia are great events to try and approach.
  • Be professional and be nice! Whether working as a producer or presenter, I always try and give back the support I receive. Although esports is growing, the UK community is still small; you can get to know people quickly and make lasting connections. When I work with production teams I’ve worked with before, it’s like family. Always contribute to the team effort; rehearsals aren’t just about your performance, they are also for the benefit of everyone in production too. If you have feedback, think about whether it’s time urgent or would be of more value at the end of a broadcast day, or even the event itself. In terms of presenting yourself externally, I’m really lucky to have people approach me at events for photos and such – I always try and have a conversation, rather than just a seflie when I don’t have to rush off to film; someone has spared time to come and speak to me, so I like to try and find out a little bit about them, even if it’s as simple as “who is your favourite team?”.
  • Be good at what you do, but work towards being better. Now I’m full-time as a host, I’ll stream at home to get to know my audience, write posts like this, produce my podcast, and review footage from events to pick up on any weaknesses – I’ve been working to erase words like “basically”, for example. When I first started out I’d practically dance on the spot, or shift erratically in my chair. Even watching back PGI I can see a few phrases I repeated when reporting and interviewing and I know to be more concious of this – because I was in an unfamiliar role, my lack of experience showed through via habits I might not fall into on the desk, for example. If you’re worried about Twitch chat comments, just minimise chat, and focus fully on the VOD. Twitch chat are not the people that hire you – their support can mean a lot, but just because they think your hair is gross, doesn’t mean it actually is (ahem).

I hope this helps in some way – although my DMs are closed, you can leave a comment below, contact me on Twitter or via email if you have further questions. Good luck!

A fresh start (and a new podcast)!

When I was 22, I was asked to have a meeting before my usual work start time of 11am.

My job was to produce an afternoon radio show, which had been the first show to go from pre-recorded to live on the station, and had been extended to broadcast from 3 to 4 hours each day. I also hosted a weekly hour-long specialist music show.

In the months prior to that meeting, the executive producer had kept information from me and not invited me to meetings with the presenter. I was living in the North and, although I had made friends since my move nine months earlier, in the office I would feel isolated and alone.

In the meeting, the CEO, executive producer by his side, (as well as another member of staff who was genuinely once of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with), terminated my contract. I had moments to get my things and leave; my colleagues were concealed inside editing booths – barely larger than store cupboards – upstairs. I wasn’t permitted a goodbye. As I left, the executive producer followed me; “you forgot your coat”, he said bluntly, proffering a blazer I’d left draped a desk chair that had, until 15 minutes earlier, been mine.

On the surface, I was devastated. But perhaps my subconscious knew I would be ok, leading me over the Tyne Bridge into the Newcastle branch of New Look to vacantly stare at shoes. It was the day before Record Store Day 2011 and my musician boyfriend of the time was due to record a show for the station that afternoon. En-route over the bridge, I called the London-based producer of the show and told him I’d convince the guy to still take part.

I signed on at Byker Job Centre, and ended up becoming a finalist in another radio station’s Primula Cheese recipe competition. (There’s a video evidence out there that has to be seen to be believed.) I enrolled on a last-minute place on a week-long songwriting course, and emailed CVs to people I had interned with. I kept busy, despite often being unable to stop tears forming as I walked down the street.

And then, two weeks after staring at my feet on a doorstep in Gateshead, I walked into Channel 4 as an Online Producer. I would not forget my coat again.

When my role was closed at Twitch three weeks ago, despite knowing exactly where the nearest branch of New Look could be found, I headed to a coffee shop and made a list (god, I love a list), before hosting The Bridge for Ginx TV. The sudden end of something had brought opportunity I hadn’t had back in 2011 – perhaps influenced by my previous experience I’d saved what I could over the years and realised I was fortunate enough to have the luxury of time to think about the future.

My coffee-fuelled to do list was dominated by a couple of things; firstly, I wanted to see where I could go with hosting, and secondly I wanted to start a podcast – and there was no time like the present; my showreel was good to go.

Hosting-wise, I’ve got some projects in the pipeline, I can’t wait to share with you all, including hosting PUBG at Dreamhack Austin, and another project with Ginx TV. And the podcast? My Life in Pixels is now available in iTunes. (It’s also available at Podbean for anyone who prefers not to get their podcasts from Apple.) Episode one features the great Jake Roberts, who spoke to me about his history with games in the same week he picked up a BAFTA Games Award for Best Debut in recognition of his fantastic puzzle game Gorogoa. In future, I’m hoping to speak to more developers, as well as friends from different aspects of the gaming industry. We’ll be chatting about the games that made them want to make gaming their careers.

I’ve been very fortunate in the past few weeks to have had some tremendous support from the online community – from Twitch streamers, audiences and peers. This is something I didn’t have all those years ago, and it’s definitely a key reason why I’m able to see positivity in this experience. So if you’re one of those people who’ve called, emailed, Tweeted or commented, then you forever have my gratitude. Thank you.

Gaming and the gender “BIOS”

I originally wrote this as a speech to deliver at public speaking training at work – but it’s a subject I feel strongly about, so I decided to publish it here.

When I told people I was leaving BBC job to join Twitch, it felt like everyone I told was puzzled; non-gaming natives, they had either briefly heard of the platform, or had no idea what it was.

I say everyone – my mother was horrified. Her highlight of my career so far was meeting Robert Powell and his ridiculously blue eyes (famous of being those of Jesus in the Zefferelli film Jesus of Nazareth) – and artists formerly known as Jesus were unlikely to turn up at gaming expos…

Even those familiar with Twitch seemed confused; “but you do even like video games!?” they questioned skeptically, as people still do today when I tell them what I do.

And I could concede that they’ve got a point – because I don’t like video games. I love them.

From playing Bat and Ball on my nan’s BBC Micro Computer and Alex Kidd on the SEGA Master System, to buying my own PS One from savings (which I’d later dip into to buy a gaming PC and a Wii), video games have always been a constant and consistent part of my life. A former editor of mine back in my Channel 4 interning days even gifted me a Dreamcast he had going spare, given my fanatic enthusiasm for escapist gameplay.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t an occasional bump in the road in this relationship; when I moved to Newcastle for a radio job, with nothing but my Xbox 360  for company, I excitedly began the long arduous journey that is Final Fantasy XIII. 30 hours in, I decided to take a five year break, resumed when the eve of Final Fantasy VX kicked my paradigms into gear.

After I joined Twitch I decided build a PC for the first time and possibly became the first person to upload a video of themselves jubilantly screaming “fucking BIOS” on the internet. It was an emotional moment – firstly because I’d had some Power Supply Unit (PSU) issues, but also because I saw that certain people online reacted to by progress by asking me to – as one charmer put it – “leave PC building to the men”. (To this charmer I simply enquired why his masculinity felt threatened by a woman building a PC.)

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Aside from being desperate to play Overwatch in my own bedroom, after founding team Overlunch with office manager and kickass Mcree Nell, I also wanted the PC to up my streaming game. As you would expect from someone who would shout “fucking BIOS” on the internet, I’m pretty emotional on my channel – it’s a place where I can rage freely and people are more likely to join in than judge. I am accepted as what I am – a fan of video games.

In the wider world however, I am viewed as an anomaly; despite the fact I don’t think I’m at all unusual or unique. I am a “Girl Gamer” or, as some of the gaming community types when they see me on an industry event stage, a “GRILL”. To put it bluntly, I am “other” – just as the singer in a “female-fronted band”, a “female comedian’’, a “girl boss” or even a “male nurse” is. It is this culture of gendered language, where a “gamer” is alleged as solely male, and a female gamer is a “girl gamer”, that makes me appear unusual.

In 2014, the Internet Advertising Bureau surveyed 4,000 UK residents and found that those who identified as ‘gamers’ skewed 52% female. And yes, many of those are playing on their phones, but it’s still relevant. Many women may even play but simply don’t “out” themselves – I’ve spent the best part of a decade showing off my self-proclaimed genius at defeating Final Fantasy X’s last boss Yu Yevon in two moves – and a lot of people, male or female, don’t even know who that is. Until the female audience for gaming is amplified, “hardcore gamer” titles will remain targeted solely to men, and this budding market won’t fulfil it’s growth potential.

Language is one of civilisation’s most powerful tools. When we use it to single out a group, we change their status from the norm, therefore creating a set expectation for them. We expect the England Football team to be a team of men: we expect the England Ladies’ Team to feature a mixture of full and part-time pro players, many of whom earn less in a year than I do playing video games. When I skimmed through Netflix the other day, I noticed it has created a category called “films featuring a strong female lead”; the idea is so beyond acceptable mainstream cinema, it’s had its own genre invented.

When we call someone a “girl gamer”, therefore, we expect them to be less proficient than a “gamer”. When we place that “GRILL” on the stage, we expect them to be there because of the way they look, not because of what they think.

So no, I’m not a “girl gamer”. I’m not a “GRILL”. I identify as a woman who plays video games – a “gamer” – because I believe in creating a world where gendered language no longer exists in order to hold me back.

Now who’s up for a game of Overwatch? 

Are you tube body ready?

Take a look at this advert.

small

Does it offend you? Don’t worry – there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question, I’m just being curious.

Because – unlike what you may have initially thought – I’m not offended by this advert; I’m merely bored by it.

I’m bored by the slim blonde woman. Sent to sleep by the block colour background and statement lettering. Yawning at the implication that not only is the packaging small, but the model is draping herself over the phrase, physically linking herself to it; “think small! Drink our small drink and be small!” Don’t make yourself big, don’t be big and don’t think bigger than this.

After last year’s Protein World “Are you beach body ready?” debate, you would have thought portion ads marketed at women would have learnt a thing or two. Here the ad team must have seen the ban on outright body shaming ads and thought; let’s move the woman left of centre! And we’ll make it seem all about the product, even though there’s a yoga toned model in the corner, by only describing its ingredients and lack of gluten (perfect for the ‘clean’ eating brigade), rather than demonstrating its efficacy.

I don’t want to body shame the beautiful model in this ad, but where are her flexed muscles? Where’s the sweat? The look of intent one gets when someone else has the machine in the gym you keep missing due to poor timing? Where’s the glint of pride earned from surpassing one’s own expectations in the hand weights section?

The answer is not in this advert. It’s in gyms across the country. In parks, in living rooms and community centres. It’s in Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign. It’s even in the recent Adidas Woman campaign where they invited loads of uniformly slim followers to don their three stripes and give thanks for Karli Kloss.

I had a response on Twitter calling out my original tweet about this ad, picking up on protein not being a weight loss tool (I’d argue the visuals of this ad position it as one) and the common ‘would you say this if it was a man in the picture?’.

But here’s the thing – of course it wouldn’t be a man in the picture. It’s a product aimed at women and their tiny lady hands and bags! A print campaign ignoring the fact that – going by my gym anyway – women’s gym essentials often include a hairdryers and a bag big enough to carry that and much more. If it was a male marketed product, the ad minds wouldn’t think small, they’d think huge! They’d focus on strength, power, size, stamina, sweat and inspiration.

The successful women’s campaigns make us feel empowered and part of a unit; we all sweat, we all experience an intense adrenaline rush from reaching our goals. But the goal of this ad is to look like a yoga-toned blonde white woman. And I ain’t buying it.

After all, what’s empowering about thinking small?

How to build a PC: a guide by Frankie Ward

Recently I did something I never thought possible; I built a PC.

Despite what one misogynist visitor to my Twitch stream, women can build PCs – we have hands and brains just like men do (whaddya know)!

However, I would be honest and say that for this individual, PC building wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, so I’ve compiled this handy help guide in case you get a hankering to put your own rig together.

1. After saving for months on end, peruse Amazon and get mind blown by how many varieties of Intel i7 Core Processors are, what a PSU is (power unit, it turns out) and how much wattage you actually need to get the final thing to turn on.

2. Settle for a *slight* shortcut by buying a bundle from a third party Amazon vender called Components for All, featuring the CPU (Intel chip), CPU cooler (a fan), motherboard (brain) and RAM (not a sheep). Realise after buying that this lot is going to be put together by the company, meaning you’re less likely to blow the bloody metaphorical doors off and can just ‘stick it in’ to the case.

3. Order PSU, case, graphics card and settle on hard drive (HDD) because you don’t realise SSDs (solid state drives) can actually work without one. Then buy Windows on a USB stick because Linux would be a step too far.

4. Speak to dad. Audibly sense the disappointment in his voice when he discovers you’re owning something not created by Apple (that could one day end up in his graveyard collection of Macs).

5. Find initial enthusiasm of components arriving wears off very quickly when the various instructions in each box is ridiculously vague.

6. Find internet also ridiculously vague. What’s BIOS when it’s at home?

7.  Put motherboard into case. Get confused by instructions about PCIe. Cry out “What’s a  PCIe? WHY DIDN’T I BUY A PCIe?” Routinely hug the case, partly because of worries about static and the need to ground oneself, partly because everyone needs a bosom for a pillow, and if you haven’t got one a cold metal case will have to do.

8. Discover you own a PCIe in the shape of a graphics card. Spend 20 minutes wondering how to take off PCIe cover from case. Finally have guts to peel metal off while crying about how much this business has all cost, in money and tears.

9. Broadcast a Twitch IRL stream to get advice from lovely community about order of I/O front panel connectors. Then give up for the night.

10. Discover that it would have been an extremely good idea to connect those little front panel cables in the case up to the motherboard before the graphics card went in… Give a moderate scream as the cables keep popping out.

11. Breath a sigh of relief as build ends. Connect up to fancy BenQ screen.

12. Let out a scream of insanity as nothing happens.

13. Realise that part of the motherboard was lacking power. Discover from colleague and all-round life coach Iain that this was due to the 8 point cable from PSU was plugged into graphics card instead and actually this 8 point cable splits into two parts, one of which now goes into the motherboard, with a modular cable used to power the graphics card. Rage that none of this information was included in the PSU instructions box.

14. Try again; lights on front and the graphics card now turn on, as does the CPU cooler, but nothing happens on the screen. Scream. Repeat stage 6 and the latter part of stage 8.

15. In airport on way to Dreamhack Leipzig, speak to lovely man on phone from Components 4 All. He mentions that actually, the problem is probably using the wrong side of the 8 pin split and that’s why the thing isn’t turning on.

16. Get home from work trip, now a massive fan of German Twitch broadcasters and a self-confessed pretzel addict (I’ve gone cold turkey). Switch side of 8 pin in motherboard. Try to boot again. Light turns on, fan turns on… but nothing happens on screen. For once do not panic as nice man from step 15 also mentioned trying to turn on again without the graphics card.

17. Take out graphics card. Plug power and screen in again and switch on.

18. Scream, because this time it works and YOU’RE IN BLOODY BIOS!

19. Get Windows installed, put graphics card back in again, install Overwatch as a matter of urgency.

20. Stream on Twitch from your shiny new PC the first time.

21. Suck a Strepsil and enjoy.

Thanks to everyone who helped me in the painful process of building my PC – you can see it in action on my Twitch channel!

Bring on 2017

Let’s face it, 2016 isn’t going to go down in the Great British Scrapbook (or its worldwide equivalent) as the best days of our collective lives.

For me personally, in the latter half of 2016 a big job change pulled all focus into its orbit. I made the difficult decision to leave the BBC after over four years (and four different roles, including Radio Comedy and BBC Live) for a far different proposition; the social video gaming platform Twitch. I’ve swapped hot desking and getting annoyed about reading about my employer in the Daily Mail, for having a desk to fill with assorted gaming memorabilia and tea leaves, as well as getting annoyed about coverage of my former employer in the Daily Mail.

But it’s not just tea leaves and complimentary snacks (we have LOTS of them in my office, sorry waistline), I’ve also travelled more in five months than ever before; Germany, Amsterdam, Poland, Sweden and er… Birmingham (twice), met some brilliant fellow gaming fans who work darned hard streaming to their audience, worn silly headgear onstage, made friends with a chocobo, and formed my own little gaming community on my personal Twitch channel. As a programming manager, I’m producing stage shows and meeting game developers and streamers and trying to absorb as much new knowledge as possible – which leads me to my ‘to do’ list for 2017. Because resolutions are so 2016.

2017 to do list

  1. Make transition from gaming fan, to gaming expert; I work with the latter and count myself currently as the former. So every opportunity has me ‘sponging’ for more information.
  2. Build a gaming PC – most lunchtimes see me streaming and/or practicing Overwatch in the office games’ room. I stream from Playstation 4 at home, but I’m longing to spend more time on my Tracer time-hopping, Hanzo-dodging skills.
  3. Host some eSports, preferably Rocket League. And get better at playing Rocket League. Just because.
  4. Do some creative stuff; my sister bought me a book about knitting stuff using your own forearm. It’s worth a go, right? Keep your eyes peeled for ‘wool rage’ on my Twitch channel sometime soon…
  5. GIG AGAIN! This makes the list each year. I played set list yesterday at home and realised I genuinely miss it – life gets in the way, and all that.
  6. Move in with Lacey (boyfriend) and get a small dog called Guthlac. (This may be carried over to next year.)
  7. Pioneer “cheese, wine and VR nights”, because I’m determined to “make VR happen”, although it’s looking like it will with or without my help, thankfully.
  8. Do the Youtube yoga thing more regularly again – it’s good for the mind.
  9. Keep up the gym thing – it’s good for the behind.
  10. Go to the cinema more often. My favourite podcast is Wittertainment and I now have BFI membership, thanks to Lacey.
  11. BAKE! Jeez, I used to do this every weekend and now, once a year…
  12. Be kind. To others, and to myself.

This is now on record. So I guess I’ve got no excuses now…

Selling eyeliners is one thing… but surgery? How Transform’s latest ad fails to see below the surface

I’ve been tardy with the ol’ blog recently. I’ll be the first to admit it. I was thinking of writing about my work on the recent Trainspotting Live, or the fact that I’ve just left the BBC after more than four years to start at Twitch tomorrow.

And yet, this is what has compelled me to delay my latest attempt to complete Final Fantasy XIII and only half pay attention to the latest love of my life (Gilmore Girls on Netflix). An advert printed in the back pages of Glamour magazine.

In it, 22-year-old London-based fashion blogger That Pommie Girl describes how her recent “boob job” (and yes, because it is aimed at her readers – women of her age or younger, it actually uses that phrase), has made her “love her body”, something bloggers are known for. They’ll post paid for ads for products with names like “Boo Tea” on Instagram promoting speedier metabolisms and “detoxification”, or 24 products at once for a “natural look” on YouTube. And while I’m not saying this is 100% harmless (the thought of me – with my mountain of loose leaves piled up in the corner of my kitchen – purchasing a tea for anything other than the fact it tastes good makes me shiver), it’s nothing compared to surgery.

This woman has been given a free major uncessary  surgical operation – and in my book, that’s something that’s both invasive and requiring the patient to undergo general aesthetic – and most likely been paid a lot of money to do so; she’s been paid to be cut open, stuffed, and to promote this to her young followers. Lest we forget, there’s a reason why bloggers and social media stars are called influencers. She’s someone people aspire to be. Her lifestyle is what her followers yearn to have. And her lifestyle now involves major surgery so she can like herself.

Let’s face it; a lot of young people aren’t comfortable in their own bodies yet. I have a strong body which I’ve worked hard on (I’m not ripped or anything like that, but I can hold my own in a boxing class) and, at the age of 27, I still check how much my stomach sticks out in the mirror when I wake up. I’m not That Pommie Girl’s target audience, and yet I still bought the aforementioned copy of Glamour because it came with a free Benefit eyebrow gel. (And I already own a similar one from L’Oreal that works perfectly fine.)

I decided to do a Google to find out a bit more and discovered the Advertising Standards Authority have actually banned the TV version of the advert, although you can still view videos of Sarah Ashcroft (the blogger in question), on Transform’s website.

There’s a few disturbing things about the advert, which you can view by accessing the last hyperlink. Firstly, Ashcroft explains that she never experienced anything she’d describe as “pain” (aside from back pain). Not immediately post operation or during the aftercare period.

“In terms of recovery I still couldn’t really believe it. I had geared myself up for a lot of pain when there wasn’t really any at all. I remember feeling incredibly drowsy, but aside from that the healing process was pretty straightforward, with the major inconvenience being a support bra due to the neck and back pain from my new posture.”

Surgery is going to be different for everyone, but this advertorial really does go out of its way to emphasise “no pain, all gain”.

And probably the part I find the most shocking of all, Ashcroft implies that her career has been progressed by the operation:

“It really has changed my life and cliched as it sounds, I feel like a new person with a newfound confidence and love for my body. Now, I can be as experimental as I want to be with my style; something I always wanted and I feel like my blogging has come on leaps and bounds too.”

Breasts “enhanced”, she can now wear different clothes and write better! Us women had better all sign up for surgery so we can have enough confidence to ask for a big enough pay rise to start paying back our surgery loans and wear the contractually obliged high heels, skirt and at least five items of noticeable make up to the office..

This advert probably concerns me most of all because it suggests that we still associate the idea of physical perfection – or a marketer’s idea of it – as a key to success. Why be comfortable with what you have, when the path to success is the physical embodiment of some ideal dreamed up by someone else who managed to make it catch on years ago? Already successful enough to attract Transform in the first place (and no doubt, other businesses wanting to work with her), why would Ashcroft (and a bunch of others profiled on the website) take such a drastic step?

And why – in heaven’s name why – would Glamour run this irresponsible advert? For financial gain? Don’t they have some semblance of a duty of care for their younger readers? It’s enough to make me ignore next latest lucrative freebie issue and pay full price (for a cheaper copycat version of the same product).

Monikh Dale, another featured blogger who Transform have given a “lip enhancement” explains on the site that “I wanted to be the best version of me I could be” – the same slogan that the Army are currently using in their latest recruitment campaign. But don’t get me started on that one, or I’ll never find out if Rory and Jess get together. (Gilmore Girls. Seriously – you need to watch it!)

A look back at the Invictus Games

“You’re so lucky!” my disbelieving friends told me when I explained I was off to Orlando, Forida not for a holiday, but to cover the Invictus Games for the BBC.

The event, which first took place in London in 2014, gives ex-servicemen and women with physical and mental injuries the chance to compete for their country, amongst others like them. Set up by HRH Prince Harry, it’s a massive event, attended by 14 nations – with more likely to join for the third event in Toronto in 2017.

I produced a live blog for each programme, filming extra video interviews and reports from ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, in order to expand the story of the games and get the audience closer to the athletes.

I might not have managed the time to visit any of the Disney theme parks proper, but there was a magical thing that did happen out in the searing heat – the inner Londoner in me, quick to grimace at the sound of tinny headphones, elbowing back aggressive businessmen and occasionally ignorant of my own fortune – disintegrated. Suddenly I could talk to anyone. Byron in the Veteran Services van, spectators, a Dutch tennis coach, athletes I’d read about but never met in person before.

A personal highlight was hosting my first Facebook Live with Invictus host (and Channel 4 and BBC pundit) JJ Chalmers and the People’s Strictly Come Dancing champion Cassidy Little. We spoke about Cassidy’s experiences of learning to walk on his first prosthetic leg and how he and JJ were “blown up” together back in 2011. The two former Royal Commandos were happy to talk about anything and were brilliant, charismatic interviewees.

And yet, surviving my first live presenting gig for the BBC couldn’t come close to the feeling of being at the Invictus Games itself, and the amazing people I met there (JJ and Cassidy included). From the Aussie sitting volleyball captain Brendan Dover and his squad, including Wade Roberts and Dani Moffitt, to Frenchman Franck Gibot, who told me openly and honestly about how Invictus had helped him and his fellow athletes in learning to cope with crippling PTSD.

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I don’t think I’ll ever forget archer Martin Clapton, who had just been awarded a special trophy in recognition of his inspirational abilities – releasing arrows with a mouth tab, telling me in this video how he’d tried to take his own life merely a year ago, but how his sport of choice, and the archery squad had brought him back from a brink. As his team captain Chris MacFayden (pictured below with vice-captain Gareth Patterson) turned and told him – they’re “a family”.

There were also early Paralympic promises in the performances of double above-knee amputee 20om sprinter Dave Henson and lightweight powerlifter Micky Yule. In total, the UK brought home 131 medals – you can find more details on the last Invictus live page I produced.

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#fireworks at the closing ceremony #invictusgames

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Prince Harry spoke at the opening ceremony of the need to address the hidden injuries – the PSTD suffered by many in attendance – and I was amazed at the willingness for people to talk, both to me and each other. It was a triumph of the human spirit. And every time I feel an irritation on the tube, or at work, or even walking down the street, I shall remember; Invictus!