Lenovo Influencer–what does it mean?

Since announcing my partnership with Lenovo last week I’ve had a lot of people congratulate me, usually swiftly followed by, “but, what does it all mean? And what is Lenovo?”

So as a bit of background — Lenovo (Leh-No-Voh) is a Chinese multinational technology company with offices in Beijing, China, and North Carolina in the United States. Since 2013, Lenovo has been the world’s largest personal computer vendor by unit sales. After buying out IBM’s PC and laptop operations in 2005, Lenovo has since grown to become a world leader making a huge impact through business and enterprise set-ups. The company now offers a full suite of awesome products and services, including mobile (they recently acquired Motorola Mobility).

Lenovo’s Influencer program brings on awesome people that do amazing things from many aspects of life such as gamers, artists, designers and so much more. They then support these people by supplying tech that helps them do what they do even better, as well as giving them opportunities to attend events around the globe.

In return, all Lenovo asks is they continue to do what they do.

The Lenovo ANZ Influencers are an amazing group of about 100 talented individuals across Australasia who are absolutely smashing it in their given fields, including LoriiPopsExpazz_NZ, and Prawln from NZ. I am incredibly honoured to join them, and can’t wait to kick more ass than ever before alongside them!

So–if we get real for a second–becoming a Lenovo Influencer is a mutually beneficial deal. It connects me to a wider family of people doing awesome things, gives me the opportunity to showcase a bunch of stuff I am doing, and in return I’ll be telling everyone about the amazing tech company that is giving me the tools to do great things! Great things like continue working my butt off to grow Leaping Tiger, streaming both gaming and creative content over on Twitch, writingvlogging, and tweeting way too much.


I hope that answers some of the questions you might have had about my life, Lenovo, and the Influencer Program. But as always, I’d be more than happy to continue the conversation in the comments below or over on Twitter!

Turn around, now Switch.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to get hands on with the yet to be released Nintendo Switch console. Thanks to Nintendo AU, we got to play through a Zelda Breath of the Wild demo, race in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, laugh our way through the 1, 2, Switch collection, and showdown in Arms. 

What a day! I'm so incredibly excited for Nintendo's new hardware update – and the hands on experience did not disappoint. The Switch looks even more impressive in person, and confirmed my suspicions that the brightly coloured Joy-Con version is definitely the way to go. The colours on the hardware are so vibrant, and the screen looks fantastic. Holding it in my hands I definitely felt the magic that only Nintendo can bring to life. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was a great choice to show off all the multiple play options of the console. With one Switch console we were able to play one and two player at the TV screen and with the portable screen, as well as single player hand held. Switching (heyoo) between play styles was impressively seamless and speedy! The hardware feels very high quality – as you would expect from a Nintendo product – and playing familiar Mario Kart 8 tracks with the sleek new Joy-Con controllers really showed how far the technology has come since the Wiimotes. They've struck the perfect balance with the screen size – it feels super comfortable single player handheld as the priority should be, and worked just fine for two player Mario Kart. You wouldn't want to play for a long time multiplayer on the portable screen, but it more than serves its purpose as a portable multiplayer machine. Playing with the new Squid Kid characters was also pretty awesome! As is being able to hold an item and keep one in reserve again, thank goodness. 

Another fun example of Nintendo's controller innovation came via 'Ball Count' game which is part of the '1, 2, Switch' collection. It seems simple enough in concept – 2 players compete to guess how many balls are inside their Joy-Cons. Of course, there aren't really any balls inside the controllers, but you would be really surprised how much you will believe there are! The 'HD Rumble' technology is fascinating and although I can't really think of any applications outside the Ball Count game yet, I can't wait to see what comes out of the minds of amazing game developers everywhere... 

But seriously, '1, 2, Switch' was surprisingly fun and is a great collection of party games to showcase the Switch’s capabilities. I also got hands on with 'Eating Contest', which is possibly the weirdest game ever. You place the Joy-Con with the IR sensor in the bottom near your face, and open and close your mouth as quickly as possible to eat as many virtual subs as you can in a few seconds. I can definitely see this game getting strangely competitive on a Saturday night after a few drinks. Quick Draw, the duelling game Nintendo showed off in it's release announcement, was surprisingly technical and would also be pretty fun at a party. Then there's Samurai, the two player game where one person swings a sword and the other tries to catch it... Just trust me, these games are strange and awesome. 

The Zelda: Breath of the Wild demo was the same 25 minute demo we played at E3 in June, where Link wakes up 100 years in the future and wanders around exploring the new landscape he has found himself in. When playing through the Switch dock, the graphics are scaled up from 720 to 900p. I don't think this made a huge amount of difference in this instance, but the game is stylistically beautiful. There is also a slight increase in sound quality, if you're into the nitty gritty sound details! We played through this demo on the Switch Pro Controller, which I didn't really rate to be honest. It was dramatically upstaged by the Joy-Cons in the grip, which were far better quality and much nicer to play with.  

The real game highlight of the showcase for me was Arms. The controls felt so intuitive and fluid, there was not a second that the technology faltered leaving me feeling hard done by in-game. What a stark contrast to the Wii! The game plays with various character fight styles, weights, and hand weapons. The one complaint I have is that the character roster seemed a little small for the game's pricetag... Though I don't know exactly how this demo version compares with the full release. I'd definitely like to see a larger line up and some online play! Otherwise, this demo looked more like a game that should have been bundled into the '1, 2, Switch' collection. 

I didn't stop smiling throughout my whole experience with the Switch. Nintendo has really delivered on the combination of fun and quality with this console. If you have any specific questions, please let me know below and I will see if I have the answers for you either in my brain/experience or from the press information I have on file. 

And REMEMBER, if you're a Leaping Tiger member – use the invite friends button to create a refer link, and receive one entry into our competition to WIN a Switch per friend you successfully refer. 

I hope you found this Switch info interesting, will you be pre-ordering one?
Let's talk more on Twitter!

Inspiring Women of Microsoft Ignite NZ 2016

With around 25% female speakers, It's been a week of pleasant surprises at Microsoft Ignite NZ! Yes, of course, 25% is not enough. However year on year, it's been small steps in the right direction. I know speaker diversity is at the forefront of the organisers' minds, and I've been absolutely wowed by the calibre of speakers at Ignite on the whole. 

Tuesday morning's keynote was fantastic! We had Hilary Barry with a Tshirt gun on stage – brilliant. It was awesome to see so many women on stage presenting, and then to hear afterwards that this had just happened organically! Brilliant. The highlight of the keynote for me was Dona Sarkar, who has been an idol of mine for a long while now. Her keynote was radically inspiring, and set the tone for the rest of the conference. Do The Thing! It's impossible not to be inspired when Dona speaks. I was absolutely honoured to be invited to her Windows Insiders dinner on Wednesday evening, where we got to hear what the group are doing across the country and offer assistance to each other where possible. Such a fantastic community!

I have to be honest, I came into my first Ignite a pretty wide eyed Microsoft n00b. With a background in design, I've been an Apple user virtually my whole life – with very little technical experience at all I might add. When putting together my schedule last week, it was really exciting to see such a strong focus on soft skills, mental health and the less technical side of the tech business. I love working in tech, and I have the highest admiration for the magic developers are able to make. However, my passion definitely lies in the project management, business development, people, social, and creative facets of a business.

With that said, I want to talk specifically about the women of Ignite who have inspired me this week.

First up – and although technically Marcus Radich is a man – I really want to include PageProof here because I was introduced to Marcus' cofounder Gemma Hurst this week, and she is an absolute wonder woman. At the first Ignite session I attended on Tuesday morning, Marcus spoke about scale-fail – a wonderfully refreshing topic to introduce the conference for me! I found myself nodding along heavily and feeling comforted in the fact that behind the scenes, no one has it all sorted perfectly and most of the time, the best solution truly is the one that works for your team. Speaking with Gemma afterwards and throughout the conference was invigorating, she has a passion for her business that is inspiring and unmistakable. I hope I grow up to be half as cool as her!

I was intrigued by Jennifer Marsman's keynote, in which she talked about her initial experiments with Azure Machine Learning in order to build a lie detector prototype which she tested on her husband. Jennifer is a truly fantastic speaker, and her introductory Machine Learning session was my favourite of the entire conference. I was initially a bit intimidated about attending such a technical talk, but Microsoft has built a really slick Machine Learning toolset that can be easily utilised by those without a technical or data science background. This is extremely exciting for a non-codey geek! I love the idea of being able to import data, play around, and make predictions using the simple Azure interface without having to write a single line of code. 

On Thursday morning, I headed along to Mel Rowsell's 'brain hacks for techies'. The strong focus on soft skills at Ignite was truly awesome. Staying calm under pressure and remembering to stay mindful are skills that can make or break a great team, so it's always good to be reminded of that. It's clear Mel has an absolute wealth of insight in this area and it was fantastic to hear her share some easy to implement techniques for staying in control at work. I encourage you to check out her blog!

I was especially excited to hear from Melanie Langlotz and Amie Wolken of GeoARGames, as fellow kiwi entrepreneurs in the gaming industry! They shared a lot of insight into their startup journey, as well as an interesting look at their backgrounds and experience. Augmented Reality (or Mixed Reality...) is a super exciting space in my opinion, and it was a fantastic running theme throughout the conference – especially with the recent HoloLens dev kit release. 

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of ALL the inspiring women of Microsoft Ignite NZ 2016 – just the ones I was fortunate enough to cross paths with this week! If you attended a session by an inspiring woman, please tell me about it below and link to their work. You can check out Channel 9 for some coverage, or keep an eye on the Ignite website for more comprehensive archive in the coming weeks.

A PAX West Adventure: Positivity in Gaming

I finally understand what people mean when they talk about the post-pax blues. Returning to ‘real life’ after four days of gaming celebration is quite jarring! In June I was asked by a good friend if I would join his panel called ‘How We Find Positivity Through Gaming’ — the part of video games I am most passionate about — naturally I jumped at the chance! I soon found myself on a plane to Seattle, heading to my first ever PAX convention experience.

 

I was lucky to be able to spend Friday to Monday at PAX West (formerly known as PAX Prime). And what a weekend it was! The show floor was brimming with gamers excited to get hands on with the latest titles, passionate indie developers showing off their creations, and more gaming swag to buy than I have ever seen before. There were also a ton of diverse panels to attend, and every single one I went to was fantastic. But, the part of PAX I enjoyed the most was catching up with friends, hanging out with people I previously knew only by their screen names, and meeting so many awesome people I didn’t even know existed. Everyone was at PAX to celebrate their love of gaming, and celebrate we did!

It was difficult for me not to compare PAX with E3. Having attended E3 the past 3 years, and this being my first PAX, everything seemed like an opportunity for comparison which I quickly learned was irrelevant. The two events couldn’t be further apart in terms of the impression they left on me as an attendee. E3 is so focused on getting the latest gaming news into the hands of the media, whereas PAX is much more concerned with the players, the community attending the convention, and the connections they make over the weekend.

Our Positivity in Gaming panel went really well. It was awesome to hear more from Stack-Up and AbleGamers, and to openly celebrate the positive influence gaming is able to have on so many people’s lives. The common thread running through the panel was about having a person, or people, around you that ‘speak your language’ and are able to support you. Everyone seeks support and friendship in different ways, and we’re all on the path to finding and growing our own tribe. It was awesome to speak about how Leaping Tiger can operate as a tool to bring visibility to these great causes, get conversations going, and make gamers aware of all the awesome things other gamers are doing around them. The discussion section of our panel got really emotional as audience members shared their stories of how gaming has had a positive impact on their lives — through recovery, inclusion, and connection to their community. Thank you so much to everyone who shared a story!

My heart was so full by the end of the weekend, because I could see a future where our team will be able to create more frequent experiences like PAX, on a smaller scale. No longer will you only get to see your internet friends at conventions — imagine a world where you can discover and meet up with friends like you do at PAX all year round. That’s our vision for Leaping Tiger! The awesome vibe that you get from a gaming convention is what we are trying to build at Leaping Tiger. A welcoming, friendly, inclusive community where everything we do celebrates positivity in gaming.

This post was originally published over on the Leaping Tiger blog.

The Good News and The Sad News

When I finally summoned the courage to quit my job and become a full-time self-employed graphic designer, there was a tiny part of me worried one day I'd have to write the post about why it wasn't working out, letting everyone know I'd failed, and that I was going back to 'normal' life. You can call it self-doubt, or imposter syndrome, or whatever number of things I and most human beings succumb to – I've always liked to call it realism.

But this isn't that post. I haven't had to write that post. And I'm so excited.

There's good news and sad news though. 

For those who are maybe not familiar – for the past 2 years I've worked two full-time jobs. One as the Creative Director and Owner of Hello Miss Potter, producing work for both local and international clients. And the other, as Chief Operating Officer of Leaping Tiger, a tech startup in the gaming industry, of which I am a co-founder. Both these endeavours have required so much energy and provided me with endless amounts of learning, but the time has come where I have to choose between my two passions.

The good news is Leaping Tiger has grown to a point where it's surpassed my graphic design work as the official 'job' in my life. (There's hopefully more I can say about this soon...) And I consider myself so unbelievably fortunate to continue waking up and doing something I am so passionate about, with an absolutely astounding team, every single day.

The 'sad' news is – I am no longer working as a freelance graphic designer. I'm so grateful for the continued support from my family and clients over the past 2 years. Thank you so much for believing in me, working with me, and constantly driving me to do and be better every day. Don't panic, though! I'm not leaving you in the dark. I have a certain number of weekend hours set aside for wrapping up and handing over projects as required. 

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock-n-roll." 
– Shigeru Miyamoto

A Woman in Gaming – and Business

In early 2014, when I was thinking about leaving my job to become my own boss, I anticipated a lot of challenges – but not a single one of them related to being a female in business. I simply saw problems and wanted the freedom to work on solving them. Formally trained as a graphic designer, I was about to leave the corporate world to work for myself both as a graphic designer and as Chief Operating Officer of Leaping Tiger – a yet-to-be launched social gaming startup. (It wasn’t until about a month after I quit my job that I learned the term ‘startup’! )

If I had known how few women there were in the space I was entering, I’m not sure if I would have been more driven to succeed, or scared away entirely! I consider myself extremely lucky that I have always been encouraged to do anything I set my mind to, and have always felt like I could. From the outside, the stats on funds raised and executive positions held by by female founders worldwide are pretty dismal. CrunchBase data shows that around 550 tech companies raised a Series B (second or third round of funding) in 2015; however, only 5% (30) of those had a female founder/CEO. Of course those statistics come straight from the USA, but there’s no denying the gender gap in NZ business too. We have a severe lack of females in governance, and women face inequality on a day to day basis. There are more men named ‘Dave’ on governance boards in NZ than there are women – of any name. I wish that was an exaggeration.

Being in a male/female cofounder partnership with a male CEO has its interesting moments – I’ve been left hanging on more handshakes than I care to remember. I don’t want to make excuses, but it is tough to change the status quo as an early stage founder, where you constantly feel less important than whoever it is you’re meeting with. I consider myself lucky to feel very supported by a network of people I trust, but I can see how this kind of experience can really wear someone down. However it’s not all bad – in my experience, NZ is a mostly encouraging place to be a young female founder. We’ve got a long way to go in demystifying unconscious bias in business, but I do believe lots of young NZ companies are making some big steps in the right direction.

n late 2015, PledgeMe CEO Anna Guenther crowdsourced a list of New Zealand business women. The list is truly inspiring, and makes it clear that female founders are not alone out there! As a first time entrepreneur I have found there is a support network, and the further you lean in the more people are willing to help. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet so many amazing women in tech AND female gamers along my Leaping Tiger journey! Once you start publicly advocating your passions you begin to attract like-minded individuals.

But what about those who don’t feel comfortable identifying with the term “gamer”? Or who don’t want to shout their love of Skyrim across the work cafeteria?

For me, finding friends to play games with has never been easy. It’s never something my core group of friends has had a real passion for, and certainly not something other women in my circles ever discussed either. I got lucky a few times when I was younger finding female friends online through the games I was playing, but it was difficult, and very, very hit and miss. Leaping Tiger is about more than finding someone to complete a level with. Sure, you can use it that way and it’s fantastic, but for me it’s about having somewhere to discover new friends, and make real connections.

Women in games is a massive topic of conversation. To be honest, it’s much bigger than I could even begin to tackle in this article. As a young woman growing up gaming, I was fortunate enough to rarely receive any negative or unwanted attention. Looking back now, I realise I made my online gaming identity androgynous on many occasions, and I now wonder if I truly did that out of choice, or instinct. It has only been in the past couple of years I have begun to investigate and understand the problems that gender imbalance causes, not only in gaming/tech industries but for society as a whole.

Leaping Tiger began as a conversation with my friend (now cofounder) Jordan about the games we both played. Both passionate gamers and nerd culture enthusiasts, we initially just thought it would be cool to easily see someone’s game collection online, and be able to offer them trades. Both working in an in-house corporate marketing team, we spent a few lazy sundays sketching out our ideas for what this website could look like. The more people we spoke to, the more we realised fellow gamers shared our problems. It’s easy to meet people to game with when you’re a kid – everyone’s talking about the latest level they beat! As you move into high school and university it’s still relatively easy, but groups start to segregate off and you’re pegged as either a ‘gamer’ or not. Once you hit the workforce, you’re far more likely to find your colleagues discussing their latest home improvement accomplishments at morning tea than their Friday night kill streak.

At a basic level, Leaping Tiger allows you to instantly discover a pool of like-minded people that are located near by. As you scan the list of players the app offers carefully selected pieces of information – someone’s name, picture, location and their gaming history. The intention is that we provide just enough information to make common ground from, and give players the tools to connect. Whether that translates to an online or offline friendship at the end of the day, we don’t mind – but we’re definitely seeing a massive increase in the amount of IRL (in real life) gaming meet-ups, even in New Zealand! Our vision is to create a social platform that combats anonymity within gaming and helps players establish more lasting connections. In mid-2015 we launched our minimum viable product, a location-based friend-finding app for gamers now available on iOS, Android and web. Players simply “check in” to the game they are currently playing and are able to discover others in their area, send a play request, and chat though the in-app messenger system.

The launch was met with international acclaim, featured on websites such as IGN.com andTechTimes; quickly establishing a community of thousands. However the current application barely scratches the surface of the Leaping Tiger vision. We see a future where local community gaming events and tournaments are commonplace and easily accessible. Now, I want to succeed not only for myself and the passion I have for this vision, but because I truly hope I can inspire someone. Anyone. All it takes is one great example for people – male or female – to begin believing they, too, can do bigger things than they thought they ever could before. 

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This article was originally written for and posted on The Spinoff.

Gaming – Badass Dogs and Getting Lost in Fallout 4

To be totally honest, I was not immediately aboard the Fallout hype train as it left the station following Bethesda’s E3 presentation earlier this year. I was left standing on the platform, wondering what everyone was so excited about. I didn’t understand the appeal of the game at all, having never played any of the previous Fallout titles. Until about 3 years ago I played a very narrow selection of games, and didn’t play them very often (by my current standards at least) and none of the Fallout games had ever really appeared on my radar. Over the past few months I have watched the trailers release, the hype train hit full steam, and heard so many gamers talk about their amazing past experiences with Fallout. The more I’ve seen, the more my excitement has grown, so I’ve decided to write about my first experience with the Fallout franchise.

THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OF FALLOUT IS AS INTRICATE AS IT IS ENORMOUS

THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OF FALLOUT IS AS INTRICATE AS IT IS ENORMOUS

From what I’ve read, I’ve been assured I’ll have no troubles jumping into the series at the fourth title. While each game is built around a similar story premise, they each occur at a distinct time-stamp on the Fallout timeline. For Vault 111, somewhere between 2077 and 2287 an unknown disaster occurred, leading to the deaths of all residents of the vault, except one…

So as I sit here on the eve of the release of Fallout 4, I’m contemplating what I’m expecting from the game, so I can reflect on this once I’ve spent some time in the wasteland. I’m expecting a full bodied RPG, with shooter tendencies. For me, the allure of this game is an in-depth character system, and the ability to play the game as a wide variety of character types. I’m expecting my character to naturally build towards a play-style that I feel at home with. I’m also expecting to feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of items to collect, side quests to participate in, and vast areas to explore.

Oh, and I’m expecting one super, badass dog.

Fast forward a few weeks, and many hours of gameplay later, I am thrilled to find my original predictions hold true! I haven’t played this much of a game for a very, very long time. Fallout 4 has done a magnificent job of capturing my attention, and every minute I am not in the wasteland is spent wishing I was back there. Fallout 4 offers everything I want an action RPG to have; a gripping storyline, enough crafting to please my inner Sims fan, and characters I thoroughly enjoy learning more about. I’m willing to admit I probably spent too many hours building my Sanctuary base, but y’know what, I had a dang great time doing so! And I’m glad I did – I feel so much more invested in that settlement now, and that’s important. I firmly believe enjoyment in an RPG entirely depends how much you’re willing to buy into the story. If you hotfoot it through the game and skip all the conversations, you’re probably not going to care when those story-lines unfold. Building a community, having somewhere to call home, and eventually becoming a leader, are all important elements in Fallout 4.

THE SIMS FALLOUT 4 WAS A SURPRISE HIT

THE SIMS FALLOUT 4 WAS A SURPRISE HIT

As I had been told, there were absolutely no issues jumping into Fallout this far into the franchise. With the exception of a couple of minor gameplay mechanics, I was on my way immediately and was taught most things I needed to know by the game’s short and sharp tutorial phase. To be clear, this is not a game that will hold your hand – plenty of mistakes will be made. But the good news is you learn as you go, and more often than not, those mistakes make your overall story experience better. I’ve learned I need to cook the meat I find (and should have been all along anyway, hello free XP!), I can change my clothes to get a small skill point buff, and I can have my dog wear goggles and a bandana while he helps me fight the evil guys. Badass dog confirmed.

YELLOW SHORTS AND A SAILOR’S HAT FOR A CHARISMA BONUS, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

YELLOW SHORTS AND A SAILOR’S HAT FOR A CHARISMA BONUS, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

The sheer size of the open world of Fallout is at times overwhelming. The game doesn’t demand you travel along the story in any particular linear fashion, which in my opinion is fantastic, as the stunning wasteland landscapes invite you to explore. It’s easy to immerse yourself in the many unique and interesting locations and storylines, each equally as rich and compelling as the main quest itself.

The only source of real frustration for me in the entire game has been the Pip-Boy’s clunky user interface design, which I am willing to forgive as it fits well with the primitive vibe of all the technology throughout the game. Fallout 4 is a fantastic game full of surprises, meaningful relationships, moments of real emotion, and is sure to be a favourite contender for Game of The Year.

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This article was originally written for and posted on The Spinoff.