Extra Life 2014: Help me for the big day on October 25

Extra Life Logo_Blue

Once a year, I deprive myself of sleep to do one thing — help sick kids at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. How do I do this, you ask? By playing videogames for 24 hours straight. (Last year, it was 25 hours.)

Extra Life began after the untimely death of Victoria Enmon due to acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January of 2008. When I first heard about this charity, I thought that it was a great way to do something I love and help people that I have no connection to. But, as I continued to promote the cause each year, I’ve found out that I have a closer connection to it than I thought.

I’ve had family lose loved ones at the hospital in the past, and I don’t think I ever would’ve realized that if it wasn’t for this charity. When I went to the first Extra Life Portland guild meeting about 4-6 months ago, the stories I heard about why people participate would make some people cry. Doernbecher was finally working to get people more involved and organized, which I found refreshing considering we raised so much money for the hospital last year. With the help of everyone involved, we’re getting even more people involved at Rose City Comic Con and the Retro Game Expo.

This is where your help comes in to play. I can’t do this without you. Each year, my goal gets a little higher than the year before. This year, my goal is $400. I plan on streaming my play session along with doing a lot of fun stuff on social media. Basically, I want to make sure that if you’re sponsoring me, you get as much entertainment from me as I can offer.

So, I ask you, can you please sponsor me for Extra Life 2014? People are encouraged to donate a dollar per hour for each hour I play, but I appreciated any donation, even if it’s $5.

Do you have any other ideas for ways that I can entertain you and get more donations? Please let me know!

Making time to write, preparing for Extra Life

I’ve written what seems like countless times that I’d write more on the blog, so I’m not going to make any big excuses this time around. When you write for a living, it takes extra effort to write recreationally. I can’t find the quote now, but I remember a sentence I read on Destructoid about writing every day. They wrote something to the likes of, “Don’t have time to write every day? Make time, puto!”

So, here I am. I’m making the time. Lately, my job has been an interesting mix of business communications, press release writing, media list building and event planning. Event planning has never been something I favor in the PR industry, but I’ve gotten better at it over the years. I recently organized a clean-up event for Portland Brewing, and as with most event planning, I don’t think it would’ve been even moderately successful without the help of others. Though it kind of burnt me out, the feedback I got from everyone was really nice.

The most interesting thing I picked up was the elastic band of men's underwear

The most interesting thing I picked up was an elastic band of men’s underwear

Now that the event has passed, it’s time to concentrate on one of my favorite times of the year — Extra Life. Each year, I’ve tried to get a little more interactive with it, especially for the people who sponsor me. I’ll tell you more about what I’ve got planned later on this week, but I’m pretty excited to begin testing it out. Here’s a hint to what I’m going to start using. I encourage you to watch the video below, if you’re curious to know the story of how Extra Life came to be.

Because, I’m going to write more often, my posts will be shorter like this one, but I hope you find it easier to digest.

Be awesome.

Four Inspirational Ways to Make Content Marketing Work for Your Videogame

Public relations is a fun industry to be in, because of all the creative ways I can spread the word about things I appreciate. But, as the profession continues to evolve, we in the PR field need to know how to adapt and provide more value for our clients as well as our own business. What I like about content marketing is how it can solve a problem for someone and also provide extra exposure to a brand. If the brand grows in popularity, community relations can provide publicity for other content creators and for the brand itself.

With E3 2014 being criticized by some as an event that should change as the game industry evolves, the role of PR also needs to adapt to provide more services that benefit their clients. One of many ways to provide benefit for game developers is through content marketing. Here are four ways content marketing can provide value to PR in the videogame industry.

Via Blackbolt

Via Blackbolt

Provide tips and walkthroughs to sharing game content on social media platforms

If you want people to share your game content on social media, begin by showing them how to do it. Xbox’s Major Nelson uses his podcast to provide tips on how to upload and share streaming game content in a segment called “Xbox 101.” Given enough time, guides and walkthroughs may have already been created by others and you merely need to strategically share them on your own channels.

Via ZeldaDungeon.net

Via ZeldaDungeon.net

World location hints and tips

Does your game have a large world filled with lush landscapes, dark dreadful swamps and hidden areas? Most players don’t want a story spoiled, but there are those whose time is limited and would appreciate tips on finding a hidden location or a not-so-well-known weapon to defeat a truly tough adversary. Whether you use YouTube as a video guide, or take screenshots that provide clues to where a rare item is at, these are things that can provide great value for your social media platforms if implemented correctly. People will turn to you for help.

Content from the game for other uses

It might seem like common sense to provide things like custom images for desktop computers and mobile devices, but there are other assets from a game that can be just as useful for extending the experience from the device into popular culture. Phil Fish did that when he had Disasterpeace create the soundtrack for his unique puzzle platformer Fez. The developers of Borderlands released a handful of sound files that could be used as ringtones for your phone, and they also created one of the most memorable memorials I’ve seen for a fellow fan who had passed away. If it’s created organically and authentically, content like this can take your game from just a product to a fan favorite.

Via Dekuwa

Button presses and combo tips

If your game utilizes complicated button presses, then this is something that people can utilize to improve their own skills. Sometimes a fighting game will provide a full tutorial utilizing one character, but not with others. This is the perfect time to provide tips for how the player can succeed with additional characters in the line-up. If your game is a third-person brawler, it might be worthwhile to provide tips on how to utilize items or skills, along with intricately timed button presses, to finish off a difficult opponent in short time.

These are only four ways to provide content to spread out the life of your game from a digital interactive product to much more. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, the content you provide along with the careful sourcing and distribution of community content can spread the word about your game.

Happy Mother’s Day to All of the Great Mothers in Our Lives

Old school upload for Mother's Day

From left to right: Kathy and my mom, Teresa; my cousins Cody, Haley, and myself in a fresh red shirt.

Next year will mark 10 years since my mom passed away. It’s something I didn’t even think of until a recent conversation I had with my friend Ian. The first couple years after her death, I was bitter whenever the holiday rolled around. Commercials and strangers badgering me not to forget my mom on Mother’s Day, the one day I’d rather have anything top of mind but my mom. But, with loss comes growth and I realized something I’ve never really considered before: Mother’s Day is the day for all the great mothers in your life. I wanted to pay tribute to a few of the great mothers in my life.

My Mom

My mom was one of the best people in my life. She wasn’t perfect by any means, but she sacrificed what little she had for me and always provided one of the things you can never take for granted – love. She was the person who bought me my first videogame console with her tax return: the Nintendo Entertainment System. A console that I have such a love and hate relationship with, I tattooed the controller on my body. She was the one who’d call me almost daily to the point of annoyance just to talk. It was annoying then, but I miss it now. I’ve been asked before about how I turned out as well as I have and I firmly believe it was because my mom always showed me love.

My Aunt Kathy

Throughout my childhood, there were a few times when unfortunate circumstances would occur. My aunt Kathy and uncle Jim were usually there for us, letting us stay in a spare room in their house. I’ve always had a close relationship with my aunt and uncle, but it was after my mother’s death where I realized how great of a relationship it was. Kathy has helped me during some of the toughest moments of my life and has instilled in me a sense of responsibility for my actions. She never forgets a birthday, always calls me just to check in when she hasn’t talked to me in a while, and never forgets to pack me a stocking during the holiday season. I’d easily consider her a second mother.

Kathy, Jesse and Yaicha

Afternoon beverages with Kathy and Yaicha

My Soon To Be Mother-In-Law

I’ve met the parents in all of the relationships I’ve had in my life. Many of the mothers were very nice, some probably just tolerable of our relationship. It wasn’t until I met Yaicha’s parents that I learned something new: When you begin a relationship with someone, you also begin a relationship with his or her family. Yaicha’s mom has been there for us countless times. Whether it’s the big things such as being the subject of one of my photojournalism projects and letting us stay in their spare room to save money for moving to Portland, or the little things such as making me a zombie graveyard birthday cake, Kathy has been there for me and for us. She’s a mother that I appreciate more than words can say.

So, take a moment today and appreciate the mother in your life. Let them know how much they mean to you.

Twitter Lists: 3 Tips To Help You Stay Updated In Any Industry

Twitter Lists Image

There have been countless articles on the web about how to use Twitter lists – including a guide from Twitter – so I’m not going to give a Twitter 101 on what they are; however, I did want to write about a small reorganization I made to a growing list of Twitter profiles I previously had in one list, and show how you can use these three tips to help you stay updated in an industry you’re passionate about.

By breaking up my “Video Gaming” list on Twitter into three better-organized lists – one for media in the gaming industry, one for media outlets, and one for game developers and publishers – I can utilize Tweetdeck to organize my lists into columns that display the most recent tweets on those lists. This gives me an easy-to-read command center for staying updated with individuals and companies in the industry.

You too can employ this simple resource, and you don’t even need to follow them in order to add them to a list. It’s a good tactic to use when you don’t want to blow out your ratio of follows to followers.

1. Media
By following media active on Twitter that you’re in contact with – or want to be in contact with – you already have a personal touch to the next email you send them. It’s an easy way to find out if he or she is on vacation or if they’re working an additional beat. Plus, it’s an easy way to stay in touch with someone without asking something of him or her.

Tip: Give your list a name that will make someone happy he or she has been put on it. My gaming media list is called “You Make Gaming Awesome.”

2. Websites
Many websites that have Twitter profiles tweet way more than the average person does. While it’s easy reading headlines in tweet format, it can clog a Twitter feed when mixed with people in the media.

Tip: Use this list to read more about websites you aren’t too familiar with, as well as websites you already know. It’s also a great way to track media on the fly or to bookmark articles that sound interesting, but you can’t read at the moment.

3. Creators
This column is a little more nimble when it comes to who you’d place in it. I have one that’s just for companies that develop and publish videogames, but you can adjust it to have tech companies, restaurants, book publishers, and more. The point of this list is to stay knowledgeable about potential clients, because they might need help with a future project whether they know it or not.

Tip: Show these companies some love by retweeting some of their posts to help spread their reach – it’s an act of goodwill that may pay off in the long run.

Whether you like skateboarding, cars, food, or videogames, Twitter is a great place to find tons of information on broad subjects. These three simple lists will help you stay organized and expand your knowledge of the subject you’re passionate about.

Do you use Twitter lists in any interesting ways?

Jesse’s Top 5 Videogames of 2013

2013: Another year almost finished and another year full of fantastic games. As I look back on my year in gaming, it became clear that I did a lot of catching up this year with many games released from 2009-2012. However, the games I did play from 2013 thrilled me, humored me and left me with a sense of awe at how imaginative a story could be told through an interactive medium. These are my top five videogames of 2013 in no given order except for the number one spot.

5. Puzzle & Dragons (iOS | Android)

Puzzle and Dragons

This mobile title from GungHo Entertainment hooked me from the start after reading about it on Destructoid. The puzzle-like aspects of Bejeweled mixed with the leveling up process similar to Pokemon had me logging in every single day since I’ve owned it. For not spending a dime on this game, I’ve gotten more than my fair share of entertainment from it and while it’s not deep in storytelling (in fact, I haven’t seen any actual story in it), it has an entertaining formula that can keep you logging in 50 days straight. Note: Technically this game was released in North America in Nov. 2012, but I gave it some leeway due to its platform.

4. Gone Home (Windows | Mac | Linux)

Gone Home

I heard how good this game was from multiple game writers and critics who, unfortunately, slightly spoiled the premise of the game for me. Regardless, the story told in this game isn’t often found in videogames, especially in 2013 — a year with an unusual amount of games filled with violence. Gone Home’s storytelling worked because of how you’d unlock each room set inside an eery house replete with nostalgic items from the ‘90s. This was one of the most memorable games I played during Extra Life and the end of the game left me with goosebumps.

3. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (Xbox 360 | PS3)

far cry 3 blood dragon

Part of catching up from 2012 was getting to play and finish Far Cry 3, which was a phenomenal game in itself. The Blood Dragon DLC took the fundamental gameplay elements of Far Cry 3 and turned it into a neon tinted world filled with cybernetics, dragons, and cheesy 16-bit interludes full of macho behavior you’d see in a movie like Predator. Sure, the leveling up process may have been simplified for this title, but the humor and the music made this game a top contender for 2013. I’m listening to the soundtrack as I write this and recommend “Blood Dragon Theme” and “Power Core” (Spotify) for some rad early ‘80s synth and power drums. Play this game.

2. Grand Theft Auto 5 (Xbox 360 | PS3)

grand-theft-auto-v

The prolonged console cycle of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 brought about the annualization of more games than I’m used to, many of which could’ve benefitted from a break between years. When I think back to Grand Theft Auto 4, it kinda’ blows me away that it was released back in 2008. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise to me that Grand Theft Auto 5 broke entertainment sales records with its expansive open world, unique soundtrack and introduction of three playable characters, each with his own quirks, strengths and weaknesses. This game isn’t perfect — there doesn’t seem to be one strong female lead in the whole game — but what Rockstar did was polish everything that was rough about Grand Theft Auto 4 and they took you deep into a world you could explore for weeks on end.

1. Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360 | PS3 | Steam)

Bioshock-Infinite

The first Bioshock is still one of my favorite games on Xbox 360. Bioshock 2 didn’t live up to the same feeling of vulnerability that I had in the previous game, but seeing through the eyes of a Little Sister fascinated me and it’s still a moment I remember vividly. Bioshock Infinite took me to the colorful and saturated world of Columbia only to realize that everything isn’t as quaint as it seems. The shooting mechanics and the vigors weren’t as balanced as I remember them being in Bioshock, but the introduction of the sky hook made zipping through the areas invigorating, while the story left me dumbfounded and awestruck.

So there you go! I admit that I missed out on some great games from 2013. From what I’ve been told, The Last of Us is quite a remarkable game, but I don’t own a PS3. Papers, Please slipped through the cracks for me, but one I’ll have to play soon. Tomb Raider was a lot of fun and almost made the list. Rayman Legends is a beautiful platformer that I still want to play at some point. Got any other game recommendations? What were your favorites?

Project inspiration: Using Tumblr for promotion

Xbox Insider Tumblr

Always trust the thoughts you have as you wake from a good night’s rest. Last month, I executed on an idea I had after a restful night of sleep and that idea was brought to fruition through my voracious appetite for reading videogame news and my love of promotion. I set out on a project in my spare time where I’d publish news about Xbox on the social media platform Tumblr.

Read on for why I began this project and how these tips can help your own blogging:

1. Finding an audience through SEO

Initially, I made it a point not to tell anyone about this profile nor would I promote it through any other social media platforms. (I ended up telling a few close people over the course of the month, but they weren’t damaging to my results). The reason for this was to see what audience I could attract through the use of search engine optimization on each of the posts. The results were rather surprising.

The post below is a great example of the structure I use along with the SEO tags at the bottom of the image. Notice how many notes (likes and reblogs) it’s gotten. Use keywords in the article as well as any similar ones you believe a person might use when searching for content. Ask yourself what you’d search for to find your post.

Tumblr SEO example

2. Showcasing your knowledge on a subject

I started an Xbox focused Tumblr because I like gaming on Xbox, but it was also great timing being just a couple weeks out from the launch of Xbox One. Consumer appetite for news of the product was in high demand and I thought the timing would be perfect for a blog of that nature. Using the news websites I have on my Feedly RSS and daily email newsletters, I began promoting Xbox news from enthusiast and mainstream news outlets.

3. Gain experience with analytics

Tumblr has built-in analytics, which displays how many times people have liked and reblogged a post as well as new followers, total followers, biggest fans and your top post. I also used bitly links for each of the posts to track how many times people would click through to the article. I was rather surprised with the amount of interaction that took place over the last month. To date, I’ve published 101 posts and have gained 145 followers through just using SEO. Not every post had a bitly link on it, but out of the 90 I’ve used, they’ve been clicked on 191 times from people in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

Tumblr analytics

4. Tumblr makes it easy and cost-effective to run a blog

The structure I used for publishing posts worked fantastic for Tumblr. The website’s format of publishing was perfect for displaying photos and videos through image URLs and embedded code. The short writing structure of headline, descriptive content, web link, and notation of where I sourced the content from was quick and easy to read, but it was even easier to write, thus making it a cost-effective strategy for my time.

5. It’s helpful to web content producers

Whether you write or produce video on the web, it’s clicks that count. One of the delicate balances to working in public relations is your relationship between your client and the media. By directing people to a writer’s post or by having them watch a video to gain another view, I’m helping people in the media get more eyes on their labor of love. It’s my small way to give back.

Overall, I’ve found Tumblr to be a great platform for easily managing a blog as well as for gaining an audience. This publishing structure can be used for many different industries and brands and is a phenomenal way to show a solid example of your knowledge on a subject.

If you were to start a Tumblr blog today, what subject would you focus on?

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way by Microsoft, Xbox, Tumblr or any other brand. If you’d like to see more examples of posts, head to http://xboxinsider.tumblr.com/.