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Jack Gardner
We are winding down from Gen Con 2019 after an extremely productive time at the year’s largest tabletop convention in North America. We spent the weekend with the wonderful Extra Lifers from the Indianapolis and Chicago areas. Together, we managed to meet and talk with hundreds of people, inviting them to participate in Extra Life.
However, we did more than just talk with con-goers. One of the highlights of the event for us was a portion of the official Gen Con stream starring Extra Life Miracle Child Ethan McKinney, Extra Life’s own Lou Adducci, as well as Funko employee and Extra Lifer Stephanie Straw, with Maya, the community manager for Secret Hitler, acting as the host of the show. Together, the four chatted about Extra Life, Ethan’s experiences going through treatment for his heart condition, and played Funko’s new tabletop board game, Funkoverse. You can watch the full segment on Gen Con’s Twitch archive.
We also had a fantastic panel talking about how to use tabletop gaming to raise funds for children’s hospitals through Extra Life. That was headed by Ivan Van Norman, aka Hydra_Lord, and staffed by Ethan McKinney, Lou Adducci, and Mike Tyrian. Ivan Van Norman, featured on Geek and Sundry, led a panel at Extra Life United earlier this year, and it was a pleasure to work with him again at Gen Con. Mike Tyrian works with Magic: The Gathering, one of the biggest supporters of Extra Life out there. Hopefully panel attendees came away with new passion for gaming for a good cause.
A huge thank you to all of the volunteers who turned out to help us make Gen Con 2019 unforgettable. We couldn’t do these events without your help. It was great being able to hang with you all at the High Velocity Sports Bar during our low-key meet up. This is a phenomenal community and we are honored that you choose to spend your precious time helping us to get money and care to kids who need help.
Let’s take this energy and keep moving forward For The Kids.
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
While the fervor surrounding Pokémon Go has certainly died down from the fever pitch of its launch, the mobile game has continued to rack up downloads over the years. According to The Pokémon Company, the game has officially passed one billion downloads since its launch. The company announced this via a series of videos released to its Japanese YouTube channel. The videos were first noticed by Nintendo Wire. 
Pokémon Go released back in July of 2016 and promptly took the world by storm. People mobbed rare pokémon in public spaces, wandered the streets at odd hours, or even constructed drones to reach inaccessible pokéstops. By September of 2016, the game had amassed over 500 million downloads, but that growth tapered off as enthusiasm diminished. Many people took the downturn in popularity as validation that the game itself was no more than a passing fad. Despite that perception, the game went on to find a steady, long-term base of support among its fans. One of the latest estimates puts the number of active users playing Pokémon Go just shy of 150 million. 
Niantic has attempted to capitalize on this popularity a number of times over the years, with a relaunch of their first GPS-powered AR game called Ingress, an anime series for Ingress on Netflix, and the recent launch of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. All of these have met with moderate success, but nothing on the level of Pokémon Go. 
Much of the unique success Pokémon Go has experienced can be directly attributed to the way Niantic has released a steady stream of updates and new content to the support their mobile title. New pokémon, new ways of battling, more items, and friend support have continued to give life to the game over the years. On top of that, the real-world component of Pokémon Go means that the meet up events Niantic has put together have been huge successes, giving players a new way to socialize and enjoy their shared love of the game. Combine that with the almost universally beloved license of Pokémon and it being the first game of its kind to find mainstream popularity. 
The latest event to come to Pokémon Go celebrates friendship and the ever-beloved tradition of gift-giving. Starting on August 5 at 4PM ET Pokémon Go players will receive rarer Pokémon from gifted eggs - and those eggs will be only 2km eggs instead of 7km! With hatching being so much easier, Niantic chose this event as the perfect time to release the shiny Bonsly variant and Sudowoodo, giving players the perfect opportunity to get their hands on these precious woodland pokémon. Additionally, players will be able to hold 20 gifts in their inventory and open 30 gifts per day. This temporary expansion of gift holding and opening abilities will only last until the end of the even on August 19 at 4PM ET.
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
Pribi, Arakiel, and Sean are left to ruminate on their deeds while accompanying Nyaz the thief on the first leg of their heist mission, a journey that takes them into the uncanny darkness of South Gate's sewer system. 
We Wanted Adventurers is a liveplay Dungeons & Dragons podcast that follows a motley trio of unlikely heroes as they bumble into adventures both big and small across the fantastical continent of Nevarrone. For the uninitiated, a liveplay podcast features an unscripted recording of a traditional tabletop roleplaying game, with all of the goofs and drama that comes with the territory. If you've never listened to the show before, here's a handy playlist to get you caught up.

You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. You can follow the show on Twitter for updates. Let us know what you think of the show! We know that some parts of it are a bit bumpy, but I hope it doesn't get in the way of your enjoyment as we all learn and grow together. Thank you for listening! 
New episodes of We Wanted Adventurers will be released every Wednesday
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Later this week, thousands will descend upon the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis to celebrate tabletop gaming Gen Con from August 1-4. It being the biggest gathering of tabletop gamers in North America, Extra Life, of course, had to be there in a variety of fun and interesting ways!
We will be present at the convention with a booth staffed by incredible volunteers from both the Indianapolis and Chicago areas. We’ll be registering new participants, taking donations, and sharing moments on our social media channels, so be sure to stop by and say hello if you are attending Gen Con!
On top of that general presence, we also have a few events to keep an eye out for at the course of Gen Con. We will be kicking things off with a casual meetup on Thursday, August 1, for Extra Lifers to come together. Register for the event, which will be free to all and held at the High Velocity Sports Bar right next to the convention center. Network, chat, and enjoy yourselves! The event begins at 6:30PM and ends at 9:30PM EDT.
We are incredibly excited for Extra Life and Funko to come together for kids at Gen Con this year. Extra Life’s own Lou Adducci as well as Extra Lifer and Funko employee Stephanie Straw will be live on Gen Con’s Twitch channel! You can catch them live at 12PM EDT on Friday, August 2. The stream will last an hour and will be highlighting Extra Life Miracle Child Ethan McKinney. Ethan underwent surgery on his heart at the age of 7 to treat patent ductus arteriosus, a condition that causes unoxygenated blood to flow the wrong direction. Ethan, Stephanie, and Lou will all be together playing the new Funko Game on the stream, so please tune in if you can!  
If you are attending the convention, we will be hosting a seminar with Ivan Van Norman from Geek & Sundry on Friday, August 2, at 5PM EDT. The seminar features Ivan, Lou, and local volunteers discussing how to use tabletop gaming for good through Extra Life. We’re really exciting to be working with Ivan again after he led an amazing panel on tabletop gaming at Extra Life United earlier this year.
We are all incredibly excited for this year's Gen Con and the awesome people with whom we will be working. Whether you are going to Gen Con or not, there's something for everyone to enjoy from this year's convention. Here's to the year's best four days in tabletop gaming!  
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Jack Gardner
Dungeons & Dragons. D&D. The game of adventurers and storytellers alike. This week, we dive into a cursory overview of the game and talk about what makes it so special. This is the first tabletop game we've featured on the show, one that paved the way for other tabletop gaming experiences as well as some of the most beloved video games ever created. We are very excited to finally talk about a game that has meant so much to us.
Is Dungeons & Dragons one of the best games of all-time?  
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: Bomberman Hero 'Post Hyper Room' by Chris Belair (
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
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Zak Wojnar
Ever since the release of the original Lego Star Wars back in 2005, TT Games' Lego titles have long held the line with an endless suite of family-friendly games designed with accessibility in mind, yet doesn't shy away from tricky puzzles and challenging platforming sections. The franchise had made use of a ton of licenses over the years, from Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter to Jurassic Park and both Marvel and DC. Still, the brand most intimately associated with Traveller's Tales' licensed LEGO adventures has always been Star Wars.
For the latest Lego Star Wars, TT is starting from scratch with a whole new game engine while telling a Lego version of the entire nine-film opus known as The Skywalker Saga. Though previous Lego Star Wars games have covered Episodes I-VII (in Lego Star Wars, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, and Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens), The Skywalker Saga isn't just building new levels on top of the foundation of those games. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a completely new game built with completely new gameplay in mind, and represents the start of a whole new generation of Lego games.
During E3 2019, I got the chance to see a live demo of the game at the Warner Brothers booth, and I came away impressed by what appears to be a true generational leap in technology over previous Lego games. Rather than a central hub world connecting all the movies, like the Mos Eisley Cantina or Dex's Diner from the original Lego Star Wars games, players choose which movie they would like to experience, and are presented with a variety of planets to explore and story missions to play. Thus, planets like Tatooine and Naboo, which appear in multiple films, can appear different depending on which movie is being explored.

For the sake of the presentation, my group was shown off a section of Return of the Jedi. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will feature both space travel and on-foot exploration, with both having the appearance of an open-world adventure, complete with seemingly random Star Destroyer encounters in space and a variety of locations to seek and discover on the ground below. On the surface of Tatooine, the major advancements taken by The Skywalker Saga become obvious. While still accessible to young players, the gameplay has clearly evolved. For example, gone are the fixed cameras of previous titles. The Skywalker Saga looks like the Lego games have finally made the leap to become true 3D platformers; it's a logical step for the series, since the most acclaimed parts of titles like Lego Marvel Superheroes and Lego Batman 2 have, indeed, been the fully open-world hub areas.
TT Games have done more than just map the camera to the right analog stick; characters equipped with blasters now play like a straight-up third person shooter, complete with dual analog controls. Gone are the days of tacky lock-on targeting and automated shootouts. The Force Awakens experimented with a cover system and timing-based blaster battles, but it's about time the series really stepped up on this level. Of course, without hands-on experience playing the game, it's too soon to determine how tight and responsive the controls are, or how exciting the gunplay will be, but my brief glimpse suggested things are going well for the game.

Lightsaber combat has been revamped with timed button presses akin to the Batman Arkham games to build combos, while characters proficient with The Force are no longer limited to moving predetermined objects; a brand new physics system allows characters like Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren to freely move objects with real time physics, allowing for more in-depth puzzle solving and combat applications. All combined, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has all the appearances of a genuine, legitimate, fully realized Star Wars game... Only using Lego!
Lego's signature brand of humor remains in The Skywalker Saga, as evidenced by the sight of dancing banthas, though the story progression remains mysterious. It's unclear how closely the story will follow the films, or if the game will feature voice acting from the film actors. On that front, hopes are high The Skywalker Saga can build on the silly, yet sincere, storytelling in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a game which famously got Harrison Ford to utter the phrase "Wookie Cookie."

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga looks incredibly promising, and has the potential to be the breath of fresh air for the admittedly slightly stagnant Lego franchise. Hopes are high The Skywalker Saga lives up to and surpasses its pedigree, especially if its fundamental gameplay changes are to serve as the foundation for the entire next generation of Lego titles. We'll find out for sure when the game releases sometime in 2020, perhaps in time for the home video release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.
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
Summer is upon us, and with the hot days, we all love to have a nice cold ice cream treat to cool off. It's an impulse that brings friends and family together to enjoy refreshing snacks. To honor the tradition, I've put together a fun list highlighting some of the best (and strangest) ice cream appearances in and around video games.  

5. Kirby
Now, can anyone tell me definitively that Kirby is not some sort of ice cream homunculus conjured by the dreams of some eldritch god? Because, for as delightful as the pink puffball might appear, his abilities are terrifying. He has demonstrated the ability to consume his foes entirely only to become strange copies of them afterward. Not only that, but in Kirby Super Star Saga, he demonstrated a mastery of martial arts that was capable of breaking a planet in half with nothing more than his bare hands - or whatever Kirby's limbs actually are. 
Despite being a terrifying force that walks the line between heroic and monstrous, Kirby possesses an unfortunate similarity to ice cream. Fans of the series have picked up on this visual comparison and created enough fan art that a Google search of "kirby ice cream" yields unexpected results. Instead of scenes or screenshots of Kirby eating the ice cream that already permeates his numerous titles, the top results are artistic or culinary recreations of Kirby as an edible dollop of ice cream himself. 
While brainstorming this list, I thought "Oh! Kirby eats cute ice cream! Perfect!" But I guess it's not enough to merely appreciate the cute character eating cute ice cream. We have to imagine Kirby as food, or actually make him into real food, too. I'm not mad, I'm just a little disappointed at how many people want to literally consume Kirby. 

4. The Pizza Sundae from Costume Quest
You could be forgiven if you played the original Costume Quest without noticing the Pizza Sundae. Scattered throughout the Double Fine RPG are collectible items known as Creepy Treat Cards. While in the sequel made these items into equippable stickers, the original just had them there as something fun to collect as a sort of in-game achievement system. Completing all three rounds of bobbing for apples at the mall will net players the pizza sundae Creepy Treat Card.
While not terribly exciting by itself, the strange frozen treat caught the attention of culinary creators around the internet. Right now, intrepid cooks can find recipes to recreate the spooky, frozen delicacy. While initially many found the food to be a gross concept, some saw potential in the idea.
One of the most widely circulated versions comes courtesy of Gourmet Gaming, a Tumblr dedicated to food and gaming. The recipe idea pictures the pizza sundae as an ice cream dish designed to look like a pizza. It calls for multiple layers of ice cream and candied toppings. The resulting dish looks like a delicious ice cream cake with the soul of an ice cream sundae and the shape of a pizza. 10/10 would definitely eat despite its origins as an in-game gag. The creation earned so much recognition that the in-game creator of the pizza sundae reached out to Gourmet Gaming to congratulate them on a job well done.  

Honorable Mention: Sonic
This one doesn't really count as ice cream in video games since, as far as I know, Sonic doesn't eat ice cream in any of his games (but don't quote me on that). No, Sonic receives a mention of dubious honor on this list for his iconically derpy ice cream incarnation that inexplicably became a staple of ice cream trucks across the United States. Following the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, these melty boys made their way around the nation.
However, it wasn't until the recently that people began to open up about their deep connections to the frosty treat. The deluge of Sonic ice cream images that followed the initial postings about it confirmed what occasional purchases could not: The Sonic ice cream bar had an unfortunate tendency to melt while making its way from production and into the hands of both children and adults. This led to a disproportionate number of said treats to have the likeness of Sonic somewhat... altered. 
Sonic earns a mention here for how incredibly silly and strange his melted incarnations became. It somehow comes across as both endearing and pitiable. Perhaps that's the secret to the chilly blue treat's longevity as an ice cream truck staple?
3. Vanillite + Alcremie
OKAY, LOOK. We already went over this with Kirby. Nintendo, stop making characters that looks like ice cream! I mean, look at these two Pokémon; they're clearly delicious!
Vanillite has long been criticized for its design being incredibly similar to a soft serve ice cream cone. Each of its subsequent evolutions, Vanillish and Vanilluxe, only serve to reinforce the comparison by turning into a traditional ice cream cone and then a sundae. While hardly the only Pokémon to look like food, something about its association with such a sweet treat really stuck in the minds of Pokémon fans the world over.  
More recently, Alcremie appeared in a trailer for Pokémon Sword and Shield. Many thought that the critiques of Vanillite might dissuade the creation of more edible Pokémon, but Game Freak looks to be doubling down, insisting on putting more ice cream creatures into their upcoming Pokémon RPGs. If anything, Alcremie looks even more like food than its predecessors. It has strawberries in its... hair? Body? What is on its head anyway? Wait, we're probably better off not knowing.     

2. Kid Icarus' Floor Ice Cream
Have you ever looked at ice cream that has fallen or dripped onto the floor and thought to yourself, "It's still good. I should eat that?" Kid Icarus' Pit certainly has. Ice cream stands out as one of the handful of food items that appears throughout the course of Kid Icarus: Uprising. When Pit eats those food items, he regains health.
However, very few characters in games seem actively aware of this dynamic quite like Pit. The intrepid angel hasn't appeared in many games, but his 3DS outing, Kid Icarus: Uprising, allowed his plucky and eccentric personality to come to the fore. Moreso than most Nintendo titles, Pit seems to be very aware of the game-like nature of his universe. He accepts the way things are almost without question, leading him to loudly defend his in-game behavior to his allies.
Kids, don't eat ice cream, or food in general, off the floor. Eating ice cream off the floor might be good for Pit's health, but probably wouldn't do much for yours. It might even make you sick! Please, just say no to floor ice cream.  
Honorable Mention: Whatever Ice Cream Sweet Tooth Sells in Twisted Metal
Sweet Tooth is an insane killer. He's also a clown... who drives a demonic ice cream truck. While selling ice cream certainly isn't the goal or even often depicted in the Twisted metal series, there must be some kind of ice cream in that evil truck somewhere. In fact, we do see the goddess Calypso serving ice cream out of it in Twisted Metal: Small Brawl.
Due to the lack of ice cream in the series, Twisted Metal's flagship vehicle and character couldn't earn a spot on this list. However, it's undeniable that Twisted Metal has one of, if not the only, readily recognizable ice cream-related characters. That unique distinction merited an honorable mention on this list. Congratulations, Sweet Tooth, maybe with this award you can turn away from your life as a demon clown and just sell ice cream? 

1. Kingdom Heart's Sea Salt Ice Cream
Ice cream plays a strangely large role in the Kingdom Hearts series. Specifically, the sea salt ice cream flavor brings characters together. The unique flavor stood out to North American audiences following its first appearance in Kingdom Hearts II. Since then, the frozen delicacy has played roles both big and small in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, and Kingdom Hearts III.
Tetsuya Nomura began integrating sea salt ice cream into Kingdom Hearts after visiting Tokyo DisneySea, one of Disney's international theme parks. They served the ice cream there and it got Nomura thinking about how children would spend their time during their summer vacations. Ever since, it became a shorthand way for the series to convey friendship and nostalgia for better times.   
The flavor has been recreated by Kingdom Hearts fans and gaming enthusiasts. Prominently, Rosanna Pansino showed her audience how to make their own sea salt popsicle ice cream treats in a video back in 2014. Her cooking video has taught over 5.5 million people how to make their own version of the Kingdom Hearts ice cream and that's pretty incredible. It would seem that Tetsuya Nomura's shorthand for friendship brought more than just the friends in Kingdom Hearts together - it brought all of us a little bit closer, too.
What's your favorite video game ice cream? 
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!

Marcus Stewart
Take one glance at Terrorarium by Stitch Media, and it’s impossible not to think of Nintendo’s Pikmin. Both games share a similar premise with a lone traveler utilizing an armada of diminutive aliens to overcome obstacles. Terrorarium veers left, though, by encouraging the willful destruction of your cute companions as opposed to building their numbers. The result almost feels like a spoof of Shigeru Miyamoto’s lovable plant buddies that, with time, could become a respectable counterpart. 
Players control the Gardener, an elderly, and perhaps sadistic, woman in command of an army of tiny creatures called Moogu. These cute critters can be gathered together, told to wait, and lobbed at obstacles. Moogu come in a variety of types sporting unique abilities. Gassy Moogu, for example, can inflate themselves to allow the player to float. Spicy Moogu ignite flammable objects such as wood and plantlife. Two types of Moogu can be carried at a time, with additional types coming from eating the fruit of Moogu trees.  

While Pikmin values building items and growing an army, Terrorarium revels in the concept of self destruction. Stages usually require players to sacrifice Moogu, whether it be using them to trigger explosive vegetables or offering a set amount to the end-level tree. When Moogu die, the remaining horde use the corpses to spawn new Moogu. That means you’ll need to intentionally slaughter Moogu in order to get more of them. End-game messages reinforce this theme by teasingly asking the player how many Moogu died for their success or outright calling them monsters. 
Just because death is often the answer doesn’t mean you should completely throw caution to the wind. If Moogu multiply too much, their large numbers will overwhelm the player which leads to Game Over. A meter on top of the screen represents the maximum number of Moogu allowed per stage. Thus, Terrorium becomes a balancing act of skillfully growing and depleting Moogu supply.  

Stages present a series of environmental puzzles to overcome. Some obstacles can only be traversed by the Gardener or the Moogu. One stage featured two routes: one filled with water while the other was a spike pit. The Gardener can cross water but Moogu cannot. Conversely, spike pits are a no-go to players but a non-issue to Moogu. The solution came in having the Moogu wait on the edge of the spiked path while I crossed the water to the other side. I then beckoned the Moogu across the spikes to the end goal. Most of the introductory stages I played were similarly easy and decently entertaining. One of the more devious levels forced me to continually sacrifice Spicy Moogu by tossing them into a long series of spiked logs. Corpses piled up in a hurry, and since Moogu are attracted to corpses, I had to reach the end faster than the Moogu could reproduce.
Terrorarium’s 20+ stages aren’t the most visually interesting (especially compared to Pikmin’s charming “little person in a giant world” theme), but players can build their own in the Maker Mode. The editor puts all of the game’s assets at player’s fingertips with levels being made from scratch or from three presets: Mountain, Dungeon, and Sprint. Mountain stages are designed to be tougher from the outset. Dungeon focuses on more complicated, puzzle-like layouts. Lastly, Sprint levels encourage speedy playthroughs. Creations can be uploaded to Steam Workshop where other homemade stages can be downloaded to play. The easy-to-use tools make slapping levels together a breeze, and players can instantly hop in them for quick test runs. 
Terrorarium taps into some of Pikmin’s magic but seems to differentiate itself enough to stand on its own. The premise has potential, so hopefully the later stages ratchet up the challenge and creativity. I’d also like to see additional types of Moogu added to the final game as there’s only a handful at the moment. 
Terrorarium is currently for sale in Steam Early Access with a release date to be announced at a later time. 
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
Extra Life has had a busy couple of weeks between keeping on top of RTX, VidCon, and most recently San Diego Comic-Con. We were able to set up our booth just outside of the Esports Gaming Lounge in the Marriot Marquis Ballroom. This positioning gave us the opportunity to reach out to the hundreds of visitors visiting the lounge area to participate in open gaming and organized play. The event was sponsored by State Farm, HyperX, Team Liquid, and Mixer with production by Greenlit Content and Rekt Global. The streamed events from the Esports Gaming Lounge averaged about 16,000 viewers per day. 
As you might imagine, the team had their hands full keeping on top of everything. Thankfully, we had the assistance of the San Diego Extra Life guild and their local Children's Miracle Network Hospital, Rady Children's Hospital. From the start of the event until it wrapped up, their hard work brought in almost 400 new participants for Extra Life 2019! The cast and showrunners of SYFY's Van Helsing also stopped by to say hello and learn a bit more about what Extra Life does. It was pretty surreal seeing and talking Extra Life with actors like Aleks Paunovic and Jennifer Cheon as well as showrunner Jonathan Walker. It was crazy exciting! 

Extra Life had a stream going for the duration of Comic-Con that went from 10am - 5pm each day. In total, with the help of our guild members, Extra Life managed to raise over $10,000 USD in donations from the stream alone. Not only that, but we raised a bit shy of $2,000 USD from Mixer Embers, or chat donations, during the stream. Some of the event's biggest donors were State Farm, who generously donated $5000 USD and Team ShackNews who gave $1,337 USD all going to help sick and injured kids across the United States and Canada. All told, we managed to raise over $12,000 while streaming at San Diego Comic-Con and we very much consider that a win. 
Extra Life's Senior Manager Lou Adducci and Extra Life Ambassador Comicstorian both went onto the official Dungeons & Dragons San Diego Comic-Con livestream to talk about tabletop gaming and Extra Life. The official Dungeons & Dragons Extra Life team set a goal of $300,000 USD for its members, and they have already raised over $26,000 USD! It's a great segment that you can watch for yourself. It contains some really interesting stories about Comicstorian playing D&D in the army and how integral the game is to the kids in Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Lou also did a great job talking about what Extra Life does for the kids and what our plans are in the lead up to this year's Game Day.   

A huge thank you to the San Diego Extra Life guild who turned out in force with the support of Rady Children's Hospital. It was awesome seeing you pull together hundreds of strangers by telling them about how they can play games and help kids through Extra Life. We couldn't have done San Diego Comic-Con without you all. You're amazing. 
One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. If that sounds intriguing, learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!

Zak Wojnar
After the 2014 release of Wolfenstein: The New Order, developer MachineGames followed up with a stand-alone expansion, The Old Blood. Likewise, after Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, publisher Bethesda is gearing up for the launch of a new title in the series. While not the Wolfenstein III fans are eagerly awaiting, Youngblood still takes some big risks with the aim of shaking up the status quo for this high concept spin-off.
The biggest addition to Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the inclusion of two player co-op. While the game can still be played solo, multiplayer brings a host of new opportunities for both tactical stealth and chaotic action alike. Wolfenstein has always been strategic and difficult, but Youngblood adds a whole new layer of jolly cooperation to the proceedings. In addition to these new gameplay possibilities, Youngblood also takes big risks with the storyline, being set in Nazi-occupied France twenty years after the end of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. A line of dialogue in the demo says B.J. Blazkowicz is the man who killed Hitler, while trailers identity America as the "Liberated United States," presumably alluding to events from a future game which hasn't officially been announced yet. It's a bold approach, but one with exciting potential for storytelling as the series moves forward.
The E3 floor demo paired me up with a stranger, and we were dropped into a level set on a French city street. Cast in the roles of B.J.'s twin daughters, Soph and Jess, players must fight and sneak their way behind enemy lines while searching for their father, who has gone missing in the region. The demo began with a stealth section, but it only took seconds for my co-op partner to trigger the alarm, so I switched from my silenced pistol to a heavy-duty shotgun, and started blasting Nazis into oblivion with a non-stop hailstorm of large-caliber firepower.

Almost immediately, I was struck by one of the biggest changes to Youngblood: enemy health. While regular enemies can still be dispatched with a few well-placed bullets, bigger baddies (which are frequently encountered) can take a comical amount of punishment before going down for good. Perhaps this was done to emphasize co-op team work, but it comes across as a way to artificially inflate difficulty. Then again, my co-op partner wasn't exactly a world champion Wolfenstein player, so it might not feel so unbalanced when playing with a trusted friend. Still, there's nothing that can justify the obtrusive enemy health bars which make the game look like an RPG and dilute the cinematic presentation which has consistently made Wolfenstein stand out from its peers. One positive change appears to be the new XP system; rather than performing specific (and sometimes obtuse) tasks to upgrade specific abilities, killing Nazis earns XP, which translates into skill points which can be spent on a variety of skills, though the specifics of the skill trees were not part of the E3 2019 demo.
As the demo progressed, me and my partner blasted our way through multiple waves of enemy troops, utterly decimating checkpoint after checkpoint, putting the Nazis in their proper place. dead under the boot of righteous justice. Though I had to revive my companion multiple times, he still came in handy when I needed a bullet sponge to draw the attention of the big enemies while I scavenged for ammo; by the end, though, he started to get a grasp on the game, and we eventually became a well-oiled, two-pronged killing machine.
Alas, the demo came to an unceremonious end at a potentially exciting juncture. We came to a choke point with a mounted laser gun and a sizeable assortment of Nazis down below. My partner dutifully took a position on the mounted gun, and I ran off the bridge, jumping into the fray, prepared to blast my way through the enemy while my guardian angel rained death from above. Midway through my bold flying leap off the bridge, the game froze and the demo crashed to the desktop. Well, that's one way to end a demo!

E3 demos crash all the time, and the builds shown to the press and the public aren't necessarily the most recent. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a promising game with lots of potential, though some of its design choices had me second-guessing the priorities of developers MachineGames and Arkane Studios. Then again, with Arkane, it takes more than a 15-minute vertical slice to make an earnest judgment on the game's quality. Either way, I'm still excited to play Wolfenstein: Youngblood all the way through with a co-op partner by my side to see how the whole adventure shakes out.
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