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Jack Gardner
At PAX West this year, I had the chance to meet Kennedy, a Miracle Child from Seattle Children's Hospital. She was at the event with her father, volunteering her time and energy to share her firsthand experiences in one of the many hospitals supported by Extra Lifers across North America. This was something she had done several times over the years after managing to beat the leukemia she was diagnosed with at age 7. The former football player has had to undergo extensive surgeries to repair the damage to her body, but she maintains and spreads a bright, hopeful energy. 
 
One of the amazing things about Kennedy has been her long involvement in Extra Life. Not only has she volunteered at events like PAX West, but she is a member of the Seattle Extra Life Guild. That position has set her up to work with organizations like Wizards of the Coast to both spread the word about the work Extra Life does in hospitals as well as raise money. Back in 2017, she appeared on the official Dungeons & Dragons Game Day stream to play the tabletop game live and help the team bring in as many donations as possible. 
 
Kennedy was generous enough to step away from the Extra Life booth at PAX West for a few minutes to tell her story. 
 
 
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Jack Gardner: So where does this all start?
 
Kennedy: I was about seven. I was playing football at the time. Later in the year, I started having problems with my body. I’d have less and less energy by the minute. I wouldn’t feel that great, and I passed out a couple of times. It wasn’t going… well.
 
We went to the doctor’s one day, they got a blood sample, and we went home. About one or two in the morning, we got a phone call saying I had leukemia. We rushed to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. [They] had everything ready, I got both my IVs in with antibiotics and everything. It’s a bit fuzzy, I don’t remember exactly a lot of it.
 
JG: Was that scary?
 
K: Yes, I was very concerned. Because I was 7, I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. Later on, I got my port in, but I was not the best at, like, blood, needles, stuff like that.
 
JG: Trust me, I’m the same way.
 
K: It’s not my thing. I was definitely not nice to my nurses. Screaming and crying was one of the things that has happened… all the time.
 
JG: I’m pretty good at crying, too.
 
K: It’s one of my specialties. We had problems with my port-
 
JG: And what is a port?
 
K: The port is like this little metal thing in your chest which then you access with a big needle with a little thing inside so it’s easier to get blood transfusions - I had those a lot. We had trouble with that because [the port] was moving all over the place so we had to get it removed and put in a second time.
 
Later, I started complaining about my joints in my hips and my shoulders. We got that tested, and it turns out -I don’t exactly know what it’s called- part of the chemo made the circulation to my joints cut off, so the joints died. It hurt a lot when I walked. I had to use a wheelchair. I started first with hiking canes, then a walker, and then a wheelchair.
 
About… two years later it was my three year mark. We saw this surgeon. His name was Chappie. He was willing to replace my hips because no one else would do that to a 10-year-old. He argued with the board all the time because they didn’t want him to do surgery on a 10-year-old. He moved, so that didn’t happen.
 
A year later, I’m finally done with treatment. My last day, I have a bunch of photos, I had a big sign that said "Last Day of Chemo!" A couple months later, my parents were looking at different surgeons that would do it, replace my hips and such. One popped up, this doctor, he and his other surgeon were willing to do both of my hip surgeries. Just last year, I got both of them done.
 
JG: How old are you now?
 
K: I’m 12, almost 13.
 
I’m going to get my shoulders replaced – we don’t know when, but it’s going to happen soon.
 
JG: Do your joints still hurt?
 
K: My hips don’t hurt – nothing else hurts aside from my shoulders. I can only lift them so far up, and I can’t do a lot of tasks with them.
 
We’re working to do my shoulders. I had leukemia for four years. It was kind of a rough time. I missed so much school. I didn’t even know how I was going to pass, but I had these amazing teachers who came to my house and tutored me. Even though [leukemia] had this bad impact, it gave me this good view on how everyone should live – never second guess yourself and just always do something.
 

 
JG: How did you get involved with Extra Life?
 
K: We are really close with the hospital and everyone in the hospital. It was one of my doctors who said, "Extra Life is a gaming 24-hour thing that you can do. They want to recruit kids and their families to help them out." Me and my dad and my sister applied, so my dad emailed one of the guys and said, “Hey, my daughter had leukemia, and we’re looking at this gaming thing that you have going on. It seems really fun and we would like to help you out with that kind of stuff.” We got recruited – this is my third year coming to PAX and volunteering – so three years ago, they were like, “Hey, we are doing PAX this year, if you want to do it, Extra Life is working there and you can come along." You get a free pass and get some breaks, but you also get to help out children at the children’s hospitals.
 
JG: Do you play a lot of games?
 
K: Yes. I really like video games. Especially multiplayer since my sister likes to play, too. I don’t really have a favorite….
 
JG: I know for me, it is hard to choose just one favorite, but do you have a top three of your go-to games?
 
K: Yes! I am a really old person, and I like Minecraft. That was the first game I ever played in my life.
 
JG: [Laughs] Oh, gosh, you just made me feel ancient!
 
K: It the first one I ever played. It’s a classic – I’d say it’s my favorite. My second one would be… like… little, free games on Xbox. They’re kinda short? I can’t think of a specific one.
 
JG: It’s hard to think sometimes when you get put on the spot.
 
K: Then probably… it’s not a genre, but I like the games where you can see the work people put into the games. Good graphic designs- even a character model where you can tell how much work went into it. I already like the game. Even one scene can change my whole perspective on a game. I really like people who do really good work and design on a game, really good coding.
 
JG: What’s a scene that’d be an example?
 
K: My sister plays this game called Undertale. She was playing it one day and I saw the opening scene. I really loved it. It was really well done – I felt it was really great. All the character models, her favorite was the little skeleton dude.
 
JG: The skeleton knight and a cape or the skeleton in the hoodie?
 
K: I think it was the skeleton knight? Yeah, the guy with the cape! I think that’s some really good design, so I think that’s really good work.
 
 
 
JG: You’re here with Extra Life – what’s it like volunteering here and basically being a spokesperson?
 
K: It’s really fun. You get to recruit other people into helping children and children’s hospitals. Plus, you get to have fun while doing it. You sign up and play games for 24 hours. You can play whatever you want, card games, video games. Hanging out with everybody who has been involved with Extra Life, it’s fun having conversations about video games because… I don’t have many friends who are interested in video games. So, it’s fun to talk about different kinds of games coming out or what they are doing later at PAX or what they are going to do on their lunch break. It’s fun to hang out with people who have the same interests as you.
 
JG: Are there any hard parts that you weren’t really expecting?
 
K: I didn’t know I had to talk to people! I thought you just stood there and gave people stuff.
 
JG: [Laughs] That would be nice. Has everyone been good when you talked with them?
 
K: Yeah, most people. Last year, because I was 11… not a lot of people who would listen to me because I was a child. That was pretty frustrating, but… either way, it’s pretty good. [...] It’s cool to have people interviewing me now. It’s kind of weird! [Laughs]
 
JG: Did you play a lot of games when you were going through your treatments and recovery?
 
K: Yes, I would bring my Xbox and leave it connected to the TV in there. I played a lot of different games on my Xbox.
 
JG: Did you like games before that?
 
K: Yeah, I liked games before that. I never used to have any video games or a console or anything, so I’d go over to my friend’s house and then we’d go play. I think that’s why I like playing games with other people because that’s how I started liking video games.
 
JG: Was Minecraft the thing you played the most in the hospital?
 
K: Yes. Oh! I also played a lot of Overcooked. My younger sister got Overcooked for her birthday. We played a LOT of Overcooked. A lot of Minecraft. A lot of free games. There was also a game room where you can grab video games or different kinds of board games that you can grab and bring up to your room.
 

 
JG: What’s been your takeaway from events like PAX?
 
K: I think it’s a really good opportunity for people who want to help support children or just anything? But you can do it in a fun and good way. You are actually interested in doing it instead of just feeling like you have to because you feel bad.
 
JG: Does it make you feel hopeful that so many people are coming by the booth and showing interest?
 
K: Yeah! And really just how cool people will stop by and be like, “how do we get this?” you explain how you do it and they are like, “well, I want to give back, too!”
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
The only thing better than Extra Lifers coming together to support their local kids is Extra Lifers coming together in record-setting ways to support their local kids. Earlier this month, Extra Lifers from across central Canada descended upon Winnipeg to participate in Extra Life North, a weekend-long fundraiser to help the kids in the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. The event came together due to the diligence and dedication of the Extra Life guild leadership in Winnipeg paired with the assistance of Bold Commerce. Seeing Extra Lifers on the news doing good in their communities never gets old. 
 
Stephane Maynard, Bold Commerce's co-founder, appeared on CTV News in Winnepeg to describe the event's mission saying, "Our goal for today is to raise over $50,000. 100% of the proceeds go straight to the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. It helps kids in need who are sick or injured and goes directly to whatever the hospital needs at that time to make and deliver proper care."
 

 
We're thankful for people like Stephane and Bold's Nadia Selby for making Extra Life North possible. The event was originally planned to take place in a sporting arena, but plans for that fell through. Luckily, Bold Commerce was able to step in and offer Extra Life North space in their Winnipeg-based headquarters. That's no small feat, especially considering that Extra Life North was considered by its organizers to be the largest Extra Life event in central Canada to date!
 
Extra Life North surpassed all expectations despite the setbacks organizers experienced. They set a fundraising goal of $50,000 USD. While there was some doubt as to whether the over 235 gamers in attendance would be able to bring in that much, the event decided to shoot for the stars. The total raised by Extra Life North participants now tallies at over $55,000 USD! That's freaking incredible and we are blown away by what Extra Lifers have been able to achieve in Winnipeg. 
 

 
Kirk Veerback, a member of Winnipeg's Extra Life guild leadership, appeared on CBC Winnipeg to talk about the event: 
 
 


In addition to the gamers, Extra Life North featured a number of children who have been through Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba as well as the support of numerous Canadian companies and celebrities. The Royal Bank of Canada teamed up with Olympians Jill Officer (Olympic gold medalist and holder of two World Curling Championship titles) and James Lavallée (Canadian Olympic kayak team member) to get them to Extra Life North.
The two interacted with the kids and even got in on the gaming themselves! Nathan Beaulieu of the Winnipeg Jets even made an appearance, challenging the champions to some of his favorite games. Finally, Winnipeg's most widely acclaimed morning radio host, Ace Burpee, served as the MC for the event, helping to keep up the energy for the duration of the 24-hour marathon. 
 

 
This isn't Extra Life North's first year running, either. Logan Quatamber, the Champion Child from 2016, has been attending the event over the years, watching it grow. Talking with CHVN radio, he explained what he loves so much about it, "It's awesome to see what all the volunteers are doing. It's just amazing what they put on, as far as the Children's Hospital, and what the outcome is. You come here, play games, and raise a lot of money. It gives me a good feeling coming in here ... even though it's a fun time, it's all going towards something and means something."
 
Here's to many more years of changing the lives of children at Extra Life North!
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Final Fantasy XIV has experienced one of the greatest resurgences in modern video game history. Faced with a disastrous launch, Square Enix did the unthinkable and destroyed their world in an apocalyptic event designed to reboot their MMO. A Realm Reborn completely revamped the game and corrected its course, setting it on a path to the massive and enduring success Final Fantasy XIV enjoys today.
 
With three core expansions and numerous free patches continually adding or reworking content, it might just be the most thriving MMO on the market. However, does that make it one of the best games of all time? 
 
To help us answer that question, this week we are joined by friend of the show Kazuma Hashimoto (who you should follow on Twitter: @JusticeKazzy_). He's a long-time player of Final Fantasy XIV, has locked down impressive interviews with members of the development team, and released an evolving review of the latest expansion, Shadowbringers for RPG Site. 
 
Each week on The Best Games Period, we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.
 

 
Outro music: Donkey Kong Country 'OSHA Violation' by Reuben6, Earth Kid, and sleffy (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03971)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well!
 
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod 
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Today marks the day that Gearbox Software releases the latest entry in their flagship franchise: Borderlands 3. Having missed the opportunity to preview the game at events leading up to its release, I decided to reach out to Allison Kurtz, patient treated at Cincinnati Children’s, gamer and Borderlands fan.. As a life-long Borderlands fan, Allison was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about what makes Borderlands so important to her and others. She also had the chance to play Borderlands 3 back in June and was able to talk about the insights she gleaned from her time with the game. 
 
 
Strap in and get ready to Catch-A-Ride with this fun interview that sheds some light on both the Borderlands series as a whole and the recently released game.
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Jack Gardner: Let’s jump into Borderlands 3, a game, I am told, that is created by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games.
 
Allison Kurtz: That is true.
 
JG: It’s coming out on September 13th-
 
AK: And my paycheck comes to me on September 15th, so we are going to ride that two day streak like… sadness…
 
JG: Sadness is one of the names of the horses in the back? That’s a reference you kids get right?
 
AK: Oh, if you expect me to relate to the quote un-quote kids – I’m very sorry. I know of Lil Nas X, but all I know is that he’s gay and that I support him on that front.
 
JG: Supposedly he has horses in the back.
 
AK: Well… supposedly.
 
JG: All I know about Borderlands 3 is that it’s a looter-shooter. I finished the first one, a significant amount of the second one. I loved Tales from the Borderlands-
 
AK: Ah, so you have good taste!
 
JG: [laugh] and then there was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel which… I am not really sure what was going on there…
 
AK: It’s sorta like a Super Mario Galaxy 2 thing? Super Mario Galaxy came out. Good game. This was before DLC packs were a thing for Nintendo, so they essentially made more game that was the length of a game. They called it Super Mario Galaxy 2, and they released that. Pre-Sequel uses the engine and mechanics of Borderlands 2 to make a new game out of what was already there.
 

 
JG: That brings us to Borderlands 3. With that background in mind, can you tell us a bit more about your experience with Borderlands? How did it start? What really gets your attention and gets you excited about Borderlands?
 
AK: That story don’t start off in the happiest place on earth. When I was in 8th grade to freshman year, I was not a happy camper for reasons that are pretty understandable. I was pre-transition. I did not like talking. I did not like being seen. I did not like being heard. So, I would just sink myself into video games.
 
Borderlands 1 was like that for me. Borderlands 1 doesn’t go nearly as wild with the queer content as Borderlands 2. But I played it for hours. I played it for ages and ages. I absolutely loved the mechanics, absolutely loved the gameplay, absolutely loved the design, absolutely loved everything about it.
 
I eventually transitioned and moved on and played Borderlands 2 and it just felt – it’s really hard to explain this – it felt like a world that I had known coming to accept me because Borderlands 2 is when they went buck wild with queer representation. And so that kind of transition that it made along with me resulted in a sort of… I kind of bonded with the game, if that makes any sense? Being in that situation where both things changed it was like, “Hey, same hat. We’re in the same hole here,” and I just felt grateful to have a series that was willing to accept that I exist. Because a lot of the queer representation at that time was new stuff – like people created new properties with queer characters in them. It was really nice to see something I had grown up with embrace queer identities and learn about it as I learned about it.
 
JG: So what in Borderlands 2, you say it had more queer representation, can you talk a bit more about it? What specific parts of Borderlands 2 really spoke to you on that front?
 
AK: The thing is that it’s not front and center. It’s not a big plot point in any sense. It’s just little things like how it is just as common to see a straight couple as a gay couple. Hammerlock has an ex-boyfriend. Some women would talk about their girlfriends, while other characters discussed their different sexualities. It was just… normal. That was really refreshing and honest and helpful to see in a time where I felt like I didn’t have the chance.
 
So that’s how I got into Borderlands and then I just kinda went hog wild on it. I got in because I felt accepted and then the gameplay mechanics – normal shooters bore me which sounds a little harsh, but the customizability of Borderlands along with the humor and very diverse art style and environment really pulled me in. In a way similar to how the fallout games pull me in – at least Fallout 4 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 sucked, but that’s a totally different point.
 
JG: Are you just saying that because you saw Hbomberguy’s video? 
 
AK: First of all, don’t call me out. Second of all, I had that opinion before he posted that video.
 

 
JG: You fell in love with Borderlands 2 and then Tales from the Borderlands released. Did you feel differently about the narrative-focused direction or was it more of the same for you? It is quite a departure from the main series.
 
AK: Okay, this is my embarrassment. It took me a very long time to finish Tales from the Borderlands. I just hadn’t gotten around to it because it was right around when shit started getting crazy with vis-à-vis my transition and coming out and everything. So I didn’t have quite as much time for games anymore since I was literally changing everything about myself and my environment. A lot of games from that time kinda slipped by me. Then I never went back to finish them because we got into 2015 and 2016 and got a ton of crazy genre defining games. Things that changed how we looked at games and took up my attention. Tales from the Borderlands just fell by the wayside… until I went to E3 and spoke to one of the writers for Tales from the Borderlands, Extra Life friend The Only Ryann. What he specifically said to me was, “Did you play Tales from the Borderlands?” and I said I never got to finish it, I got too busy. He gave me the most withering look in the world and he said, and I am quoting, “You’re busting my balls here, kid.”
 
JG: Get called out!
 
AK: Yeah, a little bit! I felt like, yeah, I should probably get back around to that game. Before I left he told me, “There is a sad point in Tales from the Borderlands. Please tweet at me angrily once you reach it.” I definitely, definitely went through with that promise. So I played that and I loved it and it was very nice to see Athena, local gay. Also, the soundtrack for that game kicks my ass. That soundtrack jumped out of my computer and put me in a headlock. In a good way. It’s well suited to the style Borderlands 1 and 2 had set up with musical theming. I especially enjoyed how well the ending fit with the beginning song. You would never guess that it was made by a different studio.  
 
JG: Thoughts on Pre-Sequel?
 
AK: Pre-Sequel is excellent in my opinion. I enjoy it, but I am biased because it contains one of my favorite couples in video games, Athena and Janey. They’re just very cute. It’s basically Borderlands 2: More. It’s just more content and delves into backstory - I mean it is a prequel - but it delves into backstory and shows off new characters that come back later. It’s a game I very much enjoy even though Claptrap… well, I don’t know how I feel about Claptrap. That’s a thing for another day. That’s a thesis right there. Sometimes you’ll be like, “Aww, poor baby,” and then he’ll say something weird and perverted and you’re like, “Poor baby, stay five feet away from me at all times.”
 
JG: So how are you feeling about Borderlands 3 now that we have talked about all the other Borderlands-y things?
 
AK: I am incredibly excited for Borderlands 3. I love their voice acting choices. They have touched on sexuality a lot in the past but they have never really touched gender, so I am very excited that there is a non-binary protagonist who is voiced by ProZD from YouTube and Vine. He’s an excellent fellow and I enjoy his work quite a bit. It’s very exciting to see him in such a mainstream game. Before, the only game that I know of that he was in was 2064: Read Only Memories.
 
 
JG: So the non-binary character and the voice acting excite you. Do any of the other aspects seem interesting?
 
AK: The gameplay itself! It’s very excellent from what I’ve played. I played the E3 demo as Moze, and it was excellent. She rides in a big D.Va style mech which I very much enjoyed. It blends the Catch-A-Ride cars from the past games with a summonable ally. You can climb on the back, turret style, like you’ve been able to with every other vehicle. I very much enjoy that you can customize to the max. If you want to be a brawler or do explosives or anything of the sort, you can do it. It’s amazing how customizable it is to me.
 
The visuals are very excellent. I love how varied the character design is now. In previous games when you fought a bunch of psychos, it was the same psycho over and over again. It was cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi fiery psycho, and cha boi psycho. But now all the psychos are a little different. They have different pants, some of them have hair, some of them don’t. Some of them are actually women now, which makes sense in-universe, but they had never done it before.
 
And the colors. Okay, it has been a couple of months and I did not take notes, but I remember being very impressed by the colors. One thing about Borderlands that I have always adored is in a world of shooter games that tend to keep things muddy, Borderlands has moments where it can get really colorful and wild. The demo I played was one of those areas.
 

 
In addition, the story seems really great, too. You have two villains who are very hateble and very lovable in the same way. They are equal parts… they are that perfect villain where you want to see them succeed and you also want to see them fail. So you love them and you hate them, you love to hate them. They are very well designed, too and they are very excellent.
 
The four main characters are also excellent. I love how they tie into the past of Borderlands. Zane is part of one of the most gosh dang cursed families in Borderlands history because you kill every member of it throughout the series. We know Moze’s past, but I don’t remember if we have seen her in things before. Flak does what I have been wanting for the entire game series and shows us the skags, like, “Here are some nice bois that you can pet and you are expected to pet.” And I’m like yes this is all I have ever wanted! And Amara is a tall, buff GF. That’s all I have to say about her. I said, when I was at the E3 event, “Oh my god, Amara, my lesbian wife!” out loud without thinking about it. The PR person who was showing me the video laughed and then said, “I think they designed her with that in mind.” I honestly can’t imagine any other scenario, but that's because she exudes strong lesbian energy.
 
JG: What’s your take on the story? You said it seemed good – is that impression due entirely to the villains or…?
 
AK: One thing I can speak on is that I love how past characters are returning and they look different. Borderlands 1 to Borderlands 2, there was a time skip there and they look the exact same. Just the same dudes. But Borderlands 3, people look different. Maya, the siren from the second game, she looks different now and you can tell that a number of years have passed. Lilith looks the same, but that’s how it be sometimes. She’s one of the most, if not the most, recognizable characters for Borderlands except for Claptrap. I just enjoy how the world is changing now.
 
 We don’t know too much about the plot beyond the basics being that it has the Calypso Twins as the two villains. They run a cult called Children of the Vault, and they exploit their followers to try and unlock a vault for themselves. Lilith leads the army trying to fight back against them. Though she talks a big game, they have shown cutscenes of her being scared and beaten, so you know that it’s not as easy as she makes things seem. It’s interesting that we get to see Lilith, who is a very strong-hearted, strong willed, strong-in-general individual, get pushed to her limits, and I am excited to see that in full on the 15th, two days after it comes out.
 

 
JG: Anything you hope to see in Borderlands 3?

AK: I hope they show me post-marriage Athena and Janey. That’s kind of a separate thought, but there HAS been a time skip, time has passed! OH, and I totally forgot! We saw Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands in the trailer. Where’s Fiona, my dog? Where’s Fiona? Where’s the love of my life, Fiona? Where have you placed her? If they hurt Fiona, I will personally go to Gearbox and cry. Not to anyone in particular, just to the receptionist. Also, I have a soft spot for any robot that ever exists in any story ever, so Loader Bot better show up. If you tell me Loader Bot died, I will personally die, too.  
 
-
 
A huge thank you to Allison for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me for this silly and insightful interview!
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Today happens to be National Video Games Day! To honor the spirit of the day, we've put together several awesome games that you can play right now for free! These range from being short 15-30 minute experiences to full-blown 9 hour RPGs. These are games that will make you laugh, possibly  You could even play all of them in one day - or at the least within one 24-hour gaming marathon to help sick and injured kids!  
 
Butterfly Soup
 
 
Visual novels aren't everyone's cup of tea, but Butterfly Soup really sets itself up as a must-play with its mix of humor and good-natured sweetness. The game revolves around a group of queer Asian girls who play baseball and bond with one another - they might even fall in love. The story takes about 3-4 hours to complete and features fresh memes from 2017. It's adorable, charming as heck, and features some of the most lovable kids you'll see in games. If you need something gay and wholesome in your day, Butterfly Soup would be just the thing you're looking for.
 
Star Stealing Prince
 

 
Star Stealing Prince stands out as one of the finest RPGs ever made in RPGMaker. It tells the story of a young prince who sets out to uncover the secrets of his future kingdom. What that journey reveals and where it will take both him and his people serves as an incredible rollercoaster of drama. Lead developer, Ronove, poured so much time and care into the story, the visuals, puzzles, and combat mechanics that it's easy to forget that this passion project is free. To top it off, it has some of the best battle music in RPGs, holding its own against even the heaviest hitters in the 16-bit field. It's fantastic, and the tale it weaves will stick with you for years to come.  
 
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist
 
 
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist has an objectively silly name, which should be expected from the Crows Crows Crows, the creators of The Stanley Parable. A Whirlwind Heist cheekily sets itself up as a grand heist game, but something has gone horribly wrong behind the scenes. The people who were supposed to come together to make the game work have all quit or gone on strike, leaving the player free to wander the halls of the production and see how games get made... sort of. With a desperate narrator trying to get everything back on track, this free game provides plenty of laughs. It's exactly what it wants to be, which is a silly, short game about an objectively funny situation. 
 
Escaped Chasm
 
 
Temmie Chan served as the lead artist on Undertale, creating the most iconic visual moments from the game. Back in April of this year, she released a free RPGMaker game called Escaped Chasm. It tells the story of a young girl who flees to an imaginary world to escape from her isolation and loneliness. There are four different endings and each playthrough takes between 15-20 minutes. If you wanted to get more Undertale-adjacent games in your life, Escaped Chasm should definitely be in your download queue. After all, it's beautiful, well-crafted, and free! 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
The angels are angry. The divine sword has been stolen by a couple of young thieves. The machine god's slumber nears its end. Somehow, in the middle of all of it, you've been pulled into a pink car and embarked on the road trip of a lifetime with a handful of unlikely companions. This is Get in the Car, Loser! the new RPG from Love Conquers All Games. Their previous work includes Ladykiller in a Bind and Hate Plus. 
 
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Get in the Car, Loser! to see what it's all about. The aesthetic immediately sets it apart. Vivid, soft colors make the pixel art designs pop in a way I've never seen before in a game. Brilliant pinks are complimented by a splashes of turquoise, white, and the occasional dab of black. It held my attention, communicating its deliberate emphasis on queerness through visual dedication to a palette designed to fly in the face of traditionally acceptable color schemes.
 
This commitment carries over into the character designs themselves. Get in the Car, Loser! features women in its main cast who are beautiful while intentionally side-stepping conventional notions of what beauty. Sam and Grace are elegant despite possessing very different aesthetic priorities in their fashion choices. On top of that, the third member of the party who fought along side the two women was a striking non-binary character named Valentin. Easily my favorite of the three, they were able to dish out damage in a fight, rock a killer nose ring, and give some breezy, devil-may-care responses that I appreciated.  
 

 
The UI in Get in the Car, Loser! builds upon all of this. While I found it a bit tricky to navigate at times, it presents a visually pleasing collection of menus and sub-menus. It reflects the color palette and presents up-close icons of the major characters. With a few snazzy UI design choices, the unique implementation and presentation of the battle system turns into a breeze to navigate and understand.  
 
Those battle mechanics at play are really entrancing, too. Get in the Car, Loser!’s battles take place in real-time, so the faster you can input commands and make plans, the better your party will fare. Essentially, there are three different configurations of abilities and each configuration assigns a party member to a button on the controller. As the player inputs commands, each character will do their move, whether it is an attack or a heal or something else. This puts each character into a cooldown – that can be skipped by moving ahead into the next configuration of abilities. Attacking charges a meter that enables the player to use the powerful Sword of Fate. The sword does a good amount of damage, and it also fills a meter that stuns the affected enemy when full. This attack also resets cooldowns, starting the party back at the first configuration of abilities.
 

 
This means that there’s always something to be doing, as fast as you are able to do it. Once I got into the groove of combat, it began feeling more like a rhythm game than anything else. It felt good to play in the satisfying way certain JRPGs can hit that unique sweet spot with timed attacks, like in Super Mario RPG.
 
I got so into the battle system that when I came up against a boss intended to teach the player how to run away, I opted to try fighting it instead. I managed to get down a series of moves to chain the boss down in stuns as much as possible, hit a couple heals on the party, and then stun it again. I battled the creature until it lay inert at my feet. The developers were actually so impressed with that feat they drew me a sketch of Valentin.
 
I would be remiss not to talk a bit about the inventory management system. That’s right, you didn’t read that wrong; the inventory management in Get in the Car, Loser! is actually worth talking about. In order to counter-act that strange tendency JRPG players have to hoard resources, Get in the Car, Loser! actually comes up with a use for extraneous items. Players can sacrifice redundant items in order to boost the powers of useful items. This unlocks additional information about each item to teach players about the game world while also making abilities in the different battle configurations more potent. It’s great and I wish every RPG did something similar to this.
 
 
Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time with Get in the Car, Loser! I’m definitely going to be picking it up when it releases sometime next year. It’s so boldly different than anything else in the space right now. I need to see where this road trip goes.
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Naomi N. Lugo
Dragon Ball Z stands as an indisputable legend in anime. The show first aired in Japan from 1989 to 1996. The same year it ended in Japan, Dragon Ball Z began its nearly 300 episode-long run in North America. To this day, it remains the most beloved period of Dragon Ball's long and storied history.
 
Through the show, we meet Goku. Goku is a Saiyan, an alien race bent on destruction and domination. However, Goku approaches the world a bit differently. Due to a head injury as an infant, Goku forgot his destructive mission to conquer Earth along with his Saiyan name, Kakarot. The event helped him become a gentle-hearted, if forgetful, child. Despite his sweet nature, Goku's Saiyan heritage and love of battle makes him a formidable opponent in a fight, a trait he honed as he got older. He’s a dope and sometimes veers into bad dad territory at times, but when it comes to fighting, Goku has a one-track mind. The fight comes before anything else, a fixation that sometimes becomes a glaring flaw. He always seeks to become stronger, not out of a desire to conquer or destroy, but to surpass his own limitations. Goku definitely qualifies as a complicated character with shortcomings and weaknesses, but there’s no denying he is a hero. 
 
For all of its superpowered insanity, Dragonball Z feels like home. During the Z era of the Dragon Ball story, we saw Gohan, Goku’s son, grow up, epic sagas against iconic villains and plenty of solid character development. While problematic at times (Master Roshi ahem), the story of self-sacrifice, bonds, and pain just resonates. When we watched Dragon Ball Z, we wanted Goku to succeed and save everyone - and something about that big-hearted dofus made us believe in him. 

We’ve known for a while that Bandai Namco had an RPG adaptation of Dragon Ball Z in production under the working title of Dragon Ball Game Project Z Action RPG. Now we know its full name, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (so much easier to say compared to the game’s production title). The game will follow in the footsteps of the manga and anime, a tall order for such an iconic franchise. After spending time with it, we can confidently say this recreation of the Z series aims to do its source material justice while adding a flair all its own.
 
 
In addition to the finalized name of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, the E3 trailer runs through some of the pulse-quickening events that occur throughout the story arc dealing with Goku’s most recognizable foe, Frieza. The first few seconds of the trailer show a quote from Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama to reassure fans about the faithfulness of the game. “This game brings the Dragon Ball universe to life, and I’m sure fans will truly be able to take a deep dive into the world,” said Toriyama, “I hope you enjoy the game!”
 
As of Aug. 20, we also got the Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot - Gamescom Trailer. The trailer shows a focus on the relationship between Gohan and his father Goku and fittingly shows the fight with another super villain of the series Cell. 
 
This isn’t the first time Bandai Namco has dipped into games based on iconic anime franchises. The company previously took on Naruto with their popular Ninja Storm series. Those games also retold the story of Naruto while incorporating fighting gameplay designed to match the kinetic energy of the anime. From what we’ve seen, that same formula appears to be at the heart of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot with gameplay and visuals designed to emphasize the insane power of combatants in the Dragon Ball universe. 
 

 
While the critical and fan reception of the Ninja Storm series might help defrost even the most cynical anime-fans’ hearts, the fact that Kakarot incorporates light open-world elements broadens the horizon of the in-game universe. This design decision allows fans to experience the small, personal moments from Dragon Ball Z. Things like gathering food for Goku’s ravenous appetite and flying around on the Nimbus Cloud alongside Piccolo find themselves fully realized in this game. The attention to detail on display in the world impressed me.
 
During the demo, I found myself genuinely captivated by the flying mechanic. I dove and soared across a land that felt like home. Bandai Namco explained that there were things to do aside from fighting. New, never-before seen quests and characters inhabit the Earth alongside familiar characters (or familiar faces that never appeared in the original run of Dragon Ball Z). While the main story will remain faithful to Dragon Ball Z’s canon, the side missions will open the door to unexpected reunions and moments that Bandai Namco hopes will delight fans and newcomers alike. 
 
The preview build allowed me a limited amount of time to play around in a small portion of the world. The timed demo concluded with a showdown with Raditz, the first major villain of the Frieza Saga. As a Dragon Ball fan, I’ve seen Goku progress from an over-powered, reckless toddler to a god-like, but still reckless, adult. In my battle against Raditz, the fledgling power that Goku had at his disposal felt just right. Being able to strike that delicate balance makes me excited to build up the Goku I know via the intriguing RPG style presented to us in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. 
 

 
As a Dragon Ball Z fan, I tear up thinking about all of the intense and genuinely heart-aching moments of the anime. We grew up with Goku and constantly see his universe teetering on the brink of destruction, everything hanging on the outcome of one more fight. We, the audience, feel the pain as his son’s heroes are ripped away and the understanding dawn on him that the true price of being a hero is sacrifice. The epic Dragon Ball Z builds around Goku/Kakarot and generations of his family fighting to become the heroes the world needs stands as a work of pure magic.
 
Fans have witnessed the absolutely epic fights in Dragon Ball Z, but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot wants the player to viscerally feel that magic as well.
 
The name Kakarot signals a set up for a series of games. Hear me out. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has squarely positioned itself early on in Goku’s story and clearly focuses on Goku. Now for a little speculation on my part. We’ll see Dragon Ball Z: Gohan, Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta, etc until they finish up the entirety of Dragon Ball Z’s iconic run. If this turns out to be true, I will be one happy Dragon Ball fan.
 
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot doesn’t have a set date but it is expected to release in early 2020 to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. 
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
We are very proud to say that Extra Life North will be this weekend! The event will take place in Winnipeg at the Bold Commerce headquarters from September 7-8. With the backing of dozens of organizations, Extra Life North has been created to be a focal point for Extra Life in Canada. All of the money raised at Extra Life North will go to Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. 
 
Extra Life North has been organized largely by Nadia Selby, Bold Commerce's culture and event specialist. The event will be held inside Bold's impressive headquarters which can accommodate over 235 gamers as well as support volunteers, spectators, and special guests. Between September 7th and the 8th, the gamers who registered prior to this week will be doing their own 24-hour gaming marathon in order to help the kids of Manitoba. 
 
While the gamers play and raise money, plenty will be going on in and around Bold Commerce HQ. Ace Burpee, the most popular morning radio host in Winnipeg will be lending his talents to the event. The host will MC the event with 103 Virgin Radio Live broadcasting from the gaming space. Additional guests will be spaced throughout the day. One such guest will be Nathan Beaulieu, defenseman for the Winnipeg Jets, will be on hand to compete against a number of the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba's Champion Kids (in video games, not ice hockey). The media on hand will even get in on the competition, too! To top if off, the Royal Bank of Canada Olympians will be joining the fun. Jill Officer, an Olympic gold medalist and holder of two World Curling Championship titles, and James Lavallée, a current member of the Canadian Olympic kayak team, will be making appearances throughout the event.
 

 
Spectators will be allowed into the event to watch the gaming action, talk with volunteers, and see the celebrities. Doors open for spectators on Saturday at 11:30am and close again at 6pm. Doors will reopen on Sunday at 9am and remain open until 1pm. 
 
After everyone checks in and gets settled, Extra Life North will kick off with a brief opening ceremony hosted by Ace Burpee. Gamers will begin playing for the kids at 1pm. Food will be provided throughout the event for gamers and volunteers. Special events will help break up the gaming sessions, like Champion Kids challenging others to video game competitions and a variety of yet-to-be-revealed side games. Miracle Kids and their families will also be sharing their stories periodically throughout the days. It'll be a great time to be there for gaming or just to watch! 
 
Extra Life North has set a goal of raising $50,000 USD over the course of their event. That might seem like a tall order, but thankfully the event has the support of 25 wonderful sponsors. Bold Commerce, of course, gave the event space and helped organize it. Flocker, a platform that helps streamers and influencers to design merchandise, membership programs, and take donations, is helping to elevate Extra Life North's stream to the front page of Twitch. The Royal Bank of Canada also pitched in to bring high-profile guests and eyeballs to the event. Dozens of others are helping to provide food and supplies as well as other forms of support. 
 
Our community coming together to make Extra Life North a success leaves us so hopeful about the future of Extra Life. While the registration for Extra Life North has closed, you can still participate in Extra Life along with the gamers in Winnipeg or plan your own events for Game Day on November 2nd. Join us and help kids in your local area today.
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
This past weekend, gamers from all over the world traveled to Seattle, Washington to attend PAX West, one of the largest gaming conventions in North America. Of course, where there are gamers there are also Extra Lifers! Extra Life turned out for PAX West in a big way, coming to the event with a booth, a panel, and moving stories from the kids themselves.
 
The dedicated Extra Life booth has become a staple of events around the United States and Canada. For PAX West, we were set up in a nice corner between two of the major convention halls on the 4th floor of the Seattle Convention Center. The location afforded a degree of protection from the overwhelming noise of the show floor proper, allowing the amazing volunteers from the Seattle Extra Life Guild to have amazing conversations with con-goers. 
 
We were fortunate for PAX West to have a miracle child ambassador from Seattle Children's Hospital. Kennedy and her father volunteered at the Extra Life booth, sharing their stories with people who stopped by to say hello. Not only that, but Kennedy was able to tour the show floor and experience one of the most amazing events in gaming. Their help was invaluable in demonstrating the good that Extra Life does in the lives of those it touches. 
 
In total, over 700 people decided to sign up to participate in Game Day! That's freaking amazing! This year, Extra Life's Game Day takes place on November 2, so make sure that you've also signed up over on Extra Life.
 

 
To top off the booth experience at PAX West, we were able to reveal a special collaboration with gaming chair manufacturer DXRacer. They graciously gave us an incredible version of one of their chairs decked out in Extra Life's colors and the iconic gaming controller with wings. We decided to put the chair up for auction to raise some additional money, so please check out the eBay page and place your bids before the opportunity disappears forever in only a handful of hours! 
 
A big thank you to KontrolFreek for taking on the task of organizing an Extra Life scavenger hunt, as well. PAX West attendees could obtain a card at KontrolFreek's booth and then needed to visit Astro, Gunnar, and Extra Life's booth to fill it up. Once filled, the card could be turned in for a chance to win a prize that changed daily. KontrolFreek organized all of the partnered organizations to support this event and deserve all our love and gratitude. 
 
Finally, Extra Life was included in an official PAX West panel. The talk, titled Gaming for "Charity: Inspiring Through Play," provided an informed look at how to engage communities effectively to gain charitable support for a good cause and how that scales depending on the size of a person's audience. The panelists included Extra Life ambassadors TheOnlyRyann and Deejay Knight, I Need Diverse Games' Tanya DePass, Twitch's Jon Brence, Child's Play's Erick Blandin, and Extra Life's very own director of community Lou Adducci. It was inspiring to see people turn out to listen to all of these talented and important voices in the industry tell stories about their experiences and share their expertise. 
 
With PAX West in the rear view mirror, TwitchCon 2019 approaches! On September 27-29, the streaming community will gather for their yearly celebration of their primary platform. Extra Life will be there with the customary booth in order to represent Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, but we will be bringing back one of our most popular event spectacles: The human claw machine! DonorDrive will be hosting a charity streaming area called the DonorDrive Charity Arcade. Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has been selected as one of the premier charities that the arcade will raise money for during TwitchCon. Attendees will be able to grab free prizes as they dangle above a pit of mystery prizes, suspended by a huge claw machine. Don't miss us if you're planning on attending!
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game released last year to an eager cult following. The developers at Worm Club infused an immense amount of charm and character into the low key adventure-comedy. The story fittingly followed a detective, who happens to be a frog, called in to investigate the strange events unfolding on a mysterious island. Frog Detective managed to capture hearts and minds with its unique sense of humor and commitment to leaving every player with a smile on their face. 
 
Almost a year later, Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard has appeared in the wild with a fresh demo at PAX West. The game will continue the story that began in the previous game while presenting an all-new mystery. A welcoming ceremony gone wrong. An invisible wizard. A a town full of suspects. The amphibian sleuth will need to put all of the clues together to find the one behind it all. 
 
We were able to talk with Grace Bruxner, one half of the team working on Frog Detective 2, to get some insight into how her indie project became a reality. Bruxner detailed the origins of the project, a unique blending of nostalgia for murder mysteries, specifically Agatha Christie's work, and a desire to put games into the world that she would want to play. The overriding goal of Frog Detective as a series is to foster what Bruxner called "subtle joy," experiences that prioritize small smiles and sensible chuckles.
 

 
The sense of humor required to walk the slim line between full blown guffaws and courteous acknowledgement of a witticism that Bruxner uses to bring out the heart of Frog Detective 2 comes from her experiences doing stand up comedy. The experiences she had during her years as a comedienne honed a unique and low key style that informs her work as a game developer.  
 
When asked about the artistic inspirations for Frog Detective's singular style, Bruxner gave a small smile. "I missed a couple 3D modeling classes," she quipped before going on to explain that her professor in university had emphasized finding the joy in modeling rather than achieving technical proficiency. Grace showed me examples of her earlier work that all embraced her central design aesthetic of putting smiling faces on every kind of creature. She referenced her previous games as interactive dioramas, scenes and spaces that people can explore. They all embody her central idea of spreading joy. From their visual design to their stories or layouts, all of her work has been built on making sure those who encounter it will smile. 
 
 
Believe it or not, the financial backing of Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard might just be one of its most interesting components. Worm Club has become one of the first components of a mentoring and funding project called SUPERHOT PRESENTS. The developers behind Superhot approached Worm Club with an offer of support for future Frog Detective games after they encountered and loved the first Frog Detective game. In a statement released prior to PAX West, Bruxner described the deal thusly:
 
 
Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard will be launching on PC in 2019.
 
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

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