Happy N7Day, Commanders. This is what Mass Effect has taught me.

*This post contains spoilers for the Mass Effect Trilogy*

I cannot remember the exact day I picked up a copy of the first Mass Effect game, but it was well past its launch date. Funny thing, at the time, I had only played Bioware’s Jade Empire and Dragon Age. I wasn’t interested in playing a science fiction game. It was a genre that didn’t grab me even though I did enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek when I watched them in my childhood. I always enjoyed fantasy more than I did science fiction. If I had a choice, I would choose Flight of Dragons or The Last Unicorn over Alien or ET (though I love the hell out of Last Starfighter). It wasn’t until a friend of mine pushed me to buy the first game. He said if anything, I would enjoy the narrative.

So I picked up a copy and I became a Earthborn, Sole Survivor, Commander Shepard who excelled in the Soldier class. I was confused at first. Who was Nihlus? Joker? Anderson? What was the Alliance? Why are these things called geth rushing me? There was a lot to process in a very short amount of time. I understood mages and dragons, not Turians and Spectres. I was familiar with the culture of Jade Empire merely because it was a culture that is part of what I grew up with. Science fiction was very foreign to me.

I continued my journey as Shepard and it wasn’t until Virmire that I felt my first emotional connection to these characters. The dreaded decision you have to make between saving Kaidan OR Ashley really hit me. I thought I messed up or I missed something along the way and this was my punishment. But no. You could only save one of them. Along the journey, I found myself becoming attached to these characters. I never cared much for DLC, but I purchased all the narrative add ons for ME2 and ME3. I wanted to see more of Shepard and my crew. Every character was developed well. They each had a story, they each had their reasons for being who they are, even the villains. Your morals were challenged and your emotions were tested. I’m not much of a crier when it comes to fictional characters, but I will remember Mordin’s story arc for the rest of my life. I didn’t care much for him when I first met him in ME2, but slowly, I grew to care for him and his quirkiness. In ME3, I cried my heart out. I couldn’t play the game for a good 20 minutes because I was so distraught over the loss of this character, but at the same time, I couldn’t have imagined a more noble ending for him.

It is entirely the characters who made this trilogy for me. The worlds are beautiful, the levels are amazing and the galaxy that the Mass Effect team has created is beyond inspiring. Hell, I felt goosebumps when Shepard was reunited with the Normandy. I love these characters with all my heart. They felt real. Their hardships, their successes, their love, their rage… these characters were perfect because they were not perfect. They made mistakes, they suffered consequences and they felt the impacts of war and their decisions. It is in this that makes me believe that Mass Effect is one of the most best games out there and it will hold up for many years.

Though the trilogy may be over, and we say goodbye to Commander Shepard, I am confident that Bioware will produce yet another string of worlds that we will fall in love with. So I cannot wait for Andromeda.

Last year, I was tasked with creating a video that full encompasses how I, and hopefully others, feel about Mass Effect. It was difficult to describe. But I began the script with “Mass Effect isn’t just a game” and my feelings took over from there.

Thank you, Bioware and thank you to the Mass Effect team for putting in so much energy, time, effort and sleepless nights into these games. Your hard work will never go unnoticed. I adore you all.

I have few memories of Monty Oum, but they are all good and treasured

All of the staff members at Rooster Teeth are so giving of their time to their fans and community that it makes you wonder how they possibly had the energy to add a unique 40+ hour job to their weeks. That can really be said of Monty Oum more than anyone else. I saw Dead Fantasy 2 first before I saw any of his other work. Even now, that video is still mesmerizing and my mind is blown every time I try to process how much creativity and effort it took to make just one of his videos.

Social media has always been a sanctuary for my mind (which is a watered down way of saying I’m addicted to it), so I naturally followed as many RT staff members on Twitter as I could. It wasn’t just their work work that was fascinating but each of them were their own person and had vastly different personalities. When you step back and see them as separate people from their camera embodiments, you see them in a whole different light. Monty in particular, however, was quite the same although it was apparent that he would have hundreds and probably thousands of 140 characters conversations if he could. It was there that I started interacting with him, and I was always surprised when he would respond back. He has admitted on more than one occasion that he wished he had more time to connect with his followers, but he hoped that pouring himself into his work for everyone’s enjoyment helped make up for that.

My first impressions of Monty (prior to personally meeting him) was that he was stoic and robotic. I thought work was all he cared about because it was all he did. But as I observed his work over time, I realized other things about him. He loved to dance, he loved macarons and Cambodian Chicken Stir Fried Curry, he affectionately trolled other RT staff, and holy shit was he fashionable. I went through my Twitter archive trying to find little interactions here and there I had with Monty. And while they were very short and fleeting moments in the grand picture of life, I cherish them. I will not hide the fact that I fangirled a tiny bit at the beginning of our friendship.

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I attended RTX 2012 as a regular attendee. I wasn’t able to see everyone I wanted or get their autographs/pictures, and I missed Monty completely. That was going to change at RTX 2013.  Of course, like every RTX attendee, I was excited to head over to Austin and enjoy the festivities. So when the time came again to prepare for RT related shenanigans:

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I met Monty for the first time at the RT Sidequest charity auction, and I made good on my promise to hug him. I literally ran across the room, shouted his name and promptly glomped him. Part of me was afraid I would trip over something and fall flat on my face, but I was going to see someone I admired and adored, so I didn’t care. During this time, I was becoming more involved with the RT community and even hosted my first RT Vegas event. This community became my family. I saw the staff members as actual friends, fun people I could talk to and have a good time with. I don’t remember what I said to Monty, but he laughed and it was an awesome, genuine laugh. It was then that I realized how down to earth he was. Brilliant mind that he had, he was very easy to talk to. Fellow RT community member BaghdadBean caught the moment and I am beyond grateful.

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RT Sidequest Charity Auction 2013

First impression after meeting Monty was HOLY F*** this guy dresses so much better than me. Everything he had on was utilized to perfection. I don’t even know how he came up with that collaboration, but he was classy and he wasn’t afraid to show it. It was my first time being a Guardian at RTX that year and I was honored to be chosen as part of the PA team. The ongoing joke was that Monty probably had an elaborate outfit for each day of the con. That totally was not a joke when RTX rolled around. I grabbed one final picture with him when RTX officially ended. The staff stayed behind to spend time and talk to all the Guardians when the con closed. It was their way of showing appreciation for all the work that was done over the weekend. My interaction with Monty was short, but unforgettable.

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Fast forward to PAX East 2014, I ran into Monty again through mutual friends and that was the first time I met Sheena. Pictures of them together cannot possibly convey how adorable they are in person. Monty was always private about his romantic life, and it was at that time I saw an affectionate side to him, so it was pretty obvious that Sheena was very special to him. He introduced us, and I remember thinking “wow… Monty Oum knows my name.” It sounds silly, but when someone you highly respect acknowledges you, there is a feeling of elation. I was helping out a friend with a Mass Effect panel and photoshoot, and Monty and Sheena mentioned they would try to stop by the shoot to say hi. They did. RT had a booth at PAX East, so they were busy, but they took the time to chat for a bit. Few words were exchanged due to time, but the gesture remained. In the back of my mind, I thought, “geez, you guys don’t have to take out of your day for someone like me. I’m a nobody” but their actions proved they never saw people in their community that way.

Then came RWBY. The team was always working late, working around the clock to meet their deadlines. There was so much love poured into RWBY, and I think I enjoyed it more than a lot of anime/animated shows out there because I essentially saw it born. I knew the talented minds behind the show and they shared quite a bit of the creative process with us. Later that year, I attended DragonCon, and I was so happy to see RWBY cosplay. RT didn’t have a presence since PAX Prime was happening at the exact same time, but I tried to remind Monty, Miles and Kerry any time I could that their work was appreciated.

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Vine can be found here. The cosplayers were so happy that there was a chance for Monty to see their cosplay even if only via video. I wish Monty was there to see them in person. It was quite adorable. When I think about it, that must be a creator’s ultimate joy, no? To make something and to see people gravitate toward it, embrace it, and display their love for it in various ways.

On to RTX 2014. I was chosen as a freelancer PA, so I helped out staff wherever and whenever they needed assistance. Monty was the only one to cause me a slight heart attack. Basic summary, he had an animation panel to speak at, and he was nowhere to be found. Frantic, I was running around the convention center trying to find him while his PA stayed at the panel room in case he popped up. Head Guardian, SailorTweek caught up with me and asked me if I was okay. Frustrated, all I could yell was F***ing ASIANS! and ran off again. At least that got a good laugh. Finally, Monty text that he was going to panel room. I informed his PA to wait in the back hallways to stand by and minutes pass… she responds she still hasn’t seen him. I poke my head into the panel room, and I see someone in a blond wig sitting in the center of the stage. Apparently, Monty went through the front door. That dude loved to make an entrance.

RTX 2014 was the last time I saw him. It’s taken me a bit of time to write all this. I scroll up, reading the rough draft, and I am grateful to have these memories of him. They are so few compared to the close friends he had, so I cannot even imagine what gems they have to talk about. There will never be another Monty Oum. What he achieved in his short life, many could not achieve in three lifetimes. Not only that, but he encouraged that same type of passion, even demanded it of those he worked with. He was kind and he was also a hard ass depending on what was needed of him. He brought hope to those who were down on themselves, he motivated others when they needed that extra push. Like a sneaky ninja, he would swoop in and bring a smile to your face, then smoke bomb away for a few weeks.

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He had a good sense of humor. Troll that he was…

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He was appreciative when kindness was bestowed upon him even though you kinda wonder what the hell happened to his grammar (I sent macarons to the RWBY team).

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Most of all, he left us all with such an awe-inspiring legacy. His passion is unmatched and his influence on others is impossible to overlook. He brought out the best in everyone around him. He wanted to inspire, to create, to raise the bar each time because he wanted more than the sky’s limit. And in his short life, he achieved that. If you love him, that’s fantastic, if you don’t care for him, most likely, you at the very least respect his work. He is probably one of the most successful people I will have ever known. And he is probably one of the wealthiest. Based on the reports from RT, he was surrounded by those who loved him very much. To me, that is greater than any monetary value one can possess. To be surrounded in love, to do what you love, to be loved for what you do, and to express love to those closest to you… that is a successful life. And beyond that, he may be gone, but thousands of memories of him are being written and they are creating paths for other creative minds. That’s the Oum legacy.

And when he wasn’t tweeting about work, he showed great wisdom.

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One of these days, Monty, we will meet again. And I cannot wait to see what you’ve been cooking up while you were away.

Obligatory Thanksgiving post, but seriously… thank you for being in my life and ultimately saving it

Cliche opening statement: IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN!

Many of us Americans celebrate today differently. Some of us get the old Christmas tree out of storage and set it up, some of us begin cooking for family and friends at 6AM, others prefer to be alone on this holiday, and some of us are camped outside retail stores to get their hands on the best deals. To non Americans, this is just another Thursday.

So for those of us who are enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, I do want to ask you, do you spend the rest of the year being as grateful as you are today? I think it’s safe to say that I’ve hit the midpoint of my life, and there is one thing that I have been determined to do: to leave a legacy. Now making an impact in the world doesn’t mean you have to be someone who has won a Nobel Prize or become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. While that influence is amazing, you can change the world slowly in your everyday life.  Think about your decisions, how you affect people. Your existence has a very far reach whether you realize it or not. Every word you say, every gesture you make, every interaction you have influences people. As today is Thanksgiving, I want you to think about the following:

The people you are currently texting and reaching out to on Facebook/Twitter/other social media platforms… when was the last time you really had a conversation with them? Has it been a while? Why not take some time to catch up after the holidays?

How are you treating strangers?

Are you more focused on presents or people?

Are you more focused on money or family?

What are you most thankful for at this moment in life? Is it different than last year? Why?

Lots to think about, and you don’t have to comment or answer here. Those are questions I hope you take with you through not only today but every day of your life. I have come to a realization in my recent years and I have accepted the nature of my being. I am most happy when the people in my life are happy. The feeling you have now, being incredibly thankful for all that you have, please don’t lose that after the holiday season. Feel that way every day. Don’t take the people in your life for granted; don’t take what you have for granted. Feel this way every day for the rest of your life and you will feel that much more fulfilled.

And I won’t lie, going down this path is not without its hardships. It can be difficult, especially if it is not reciprocated, but trust me when I say that you personally are rewarding yourself to the fullest. Be a good person, be grateful, treat others as you would want to be treated, and be the change you want to see in this world. When you are gone (and we all will be one day), what will your legacy be? What influence will you leave behind in this world? Me, personally? I hope that I will have taught future generations empathy because my personal belief is that the world will be a much better place with it around.

I have met so many people in the last few years, and I cannot imagine my life without them. My life is enriched, it’s more fun, it’s become less empty. I have had many low days and without any regard for themselves, the people in my life have lifted me up. That bond is so precious to me and I will never be able to fully express how thankful I am for it. You guys ARE my life. So thank you.

May you always give thanks, may you always be thanked, and may you always lead a fulfilling life.

Cheers.

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