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. 

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.



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.



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.



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.

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