PERSPECTIVE — For Black. By Nerds. BlerdCon Is A Sacred Space For Blerds.

By Paul “Tru1P” Holston | @Tru1P | 5:15 PM EST, Fri., Aug. 23, 2019

After the weekend of July 12-14 at Blerdcon 2019, the experience, lessons, and memories all affirm that I am, indeed, a Blerd. 
Growing up, I was that biracial child who knew that he didn’t fit with the crowds, but had a hard time finding my own identity. I was a shy, introverted (but funny), young Black & Puerto Rican boy just trying to figure myself out in Summerville, South Carolina. When I wasn’t going to school, I was immersed into the video game world letting my youthful imagination run wild through the television screen with my gaming consoles and through my mobile gaming devices. You could say I was a video game junkie ever since I first recalled getting my first ever video game: Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo. From then, the love of video games carried me over from Super Nintendo to Playstation 1, Nintendo 64, various Game Boys, Playstation 2, Xbox/Xbox 360 to now the current Playstation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. I could go on and on in compiling every game I’ve played back then, but from 2009-2013 I took a big hiatus on gaming when I went into the military. While I began to slowly get back into it in 2013, it wasn’t until last year that I really re-immersed myself in both the gaming world and went deeper into beginning to educate myself about industry as a whole.
Over the last year, through social media platforms Twitter, Twitch, Discord, and Mixer, I have been able to connect with other Black and People of Color gamers that not only look like me, but all have a universal interest of enjoying video games through The Cookout gaming community organization. It wasn’t until I went to my first gaming convention (at least I consider it to be this type) that was BlerdCon that I realized that being a Black nerd is one of the coolest, most liberating thing that one can be.


If you didn’t know, according to their website, “Blerdcon is an event that highlights and celebrates Blerd culture and creates a marketplace of ideas where sharing that culture can take place with proper context, attribution and positivity in an inclusive environment. Blerdcon is derived from the term ‘Blerd’ which is short for Black nerd. Blerd culture encompasses creatives, fans, producers who are and have been contributing to every fandom, but don’t get the recognition or notoriety. Blerdcon celebrates our connection with LGBTQ, the disabled, PoCs and the international community!”
The entire weekend at BlerdCon this year was full of energy, excitement, love, laughter, and above all, Blackness. Granted, it was also an inclusive space, but to be quite honest, I’ve never seen so many Black anime, comic, sci-fi, and gaming people all in once space. I think the first day I really just observed my surroundings of seeing Black people of all ages be themselves…comfortably. And that’s really important through this small microcosm, compared to the entire peripheral of Nerd culture. The fact of the matter is that you don’t see a lot of the mainstream industry give opportunities for Blerds to truly be themselves in a public setting (and if they do, some Blerds are met with criticism of discrimination, sexism, and/or racism). Conventions can “try” to create these “diversity” spaces in order to check off the list that they’ve included the minority, but in terms of safe spaces, it is us…Black and PoC…who have to create these spaces. Point Blank.
Having the opportunity to not only meet, but spend quality time with over 30 members of The Cookout affirmed that we all are a part of the community for a reason. That reason truly embodies the purpose of the community in being “a safe space for People of Color; specifically for content creators of color to create dope content and help each other.” I look forward to continuing to build these relationships with this community and hope to see us in bigger numbers with each event that most of us are all able to come together to.
In terms of the business side of the convention, while BlerdCon exuded the expectation that it was Blerd-focused, there were some things that I wish could have been a bit better (this is constructive feedback that I hope they can take as such to help make next year even more successful). The two biggest things that puzzled me was a question mark on leaving full details of the panels, such as “Who” exactly were hosting these panels. While most of us who did go to these panels found out who they were while attending, it would have been nice to get their information beforehand to understand who they were and what they do. Also, I would hope that the venue will indeed have to expand in some sort of way next year (which is a good thing!) as for some areas, such as panel locations and community areas, just seemed way too congested at times.
At the end of it all, when walking out the venue and going back home, the entire experience indeed affirmed that I am, indeed, a Blerd. And let it be known that there are many variations of a Blerd…as we are all not the same. What I will say though is being a Blerd is dope. Being a Blerd is cool. Being a Blerd gives the world a little (or in my case a lot) of culture and inspiration for future generations to be who they are. 
In other words…Blerd out kinfolk! See y’all at BlerdCon “Chocolate City” 2020!
https://twitter.com/blerdconDC/status/1156407132343939077
_______
Paul “Tru1P” Holston is a multimedia journalist, photographer, and content creator residing in Washington, D.C. He is an administrator for The Cookout and a down-to-Earth Gamer with a passion on the intersections of Video Games, Race, and Culture. You can find him streaming at mixer.com/Tru1P or twitch.tv/Tru1P.
[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

REVIEW — EA Play 2019: Here’s Hoping For Bigger Surprises in 2020

By King Ether | @_kingether | 2:00 PM EST, Sat., July 20, 2019

On Saturday, June 8, Electronic Arts opted to do a 3-hour livestream broadcast from EA Play 2019 prior to the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo, also known as E3. The show had a lineup of new games and updates, which included Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Apex Legends, Battlefield V, Fifa ‘20, Madden ‘20 and The Sims 4 throughout the broadcast showcase. 
Continue reading “REVIEW — EA Play 2019: Here’s Hoping For Bigger Surprises in 2020”

Perspective — How Video Games Taught Me to Accept Failure

By Michael “Auronblade60” Williams | @Auronblade60 | 2:55 PM EST, Fri. July 19, 2019
Video games can be hard. 
Certain games like Dark Souls have almost built a legacy around being difficult and overcoming those challenges; However, in the case of most games, they are not built around failure. To fail in most video games is to die and simply respawn. It is a punishment which takes away more of the player’s time or loss of an item or experience. However, in a subsection of games, failure is a part of the process and not the end of the road.
Continue reading “Perspective — How Video Games Taught Me to Accept Failure”

Post #E32019: Top 10 Indie Games Picks For The Upcoming Season

By Jazzmin “BunnieBlue” Windom | @HunnieBunz12:45 PM EST, Fri. July 19, 2019
With the hype from E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) still lingering in the minds of many gamers, all the big name AAA titles seemed to be taking all of the spotlight back in June. Little do some know that every now and then, less-known games pop up and catch the eyes of many through the independent, also known as Indie, genre. Below are my top 10 Indie games post E3:
Continue reading “Post #E32019: Top 10 Indie Games Picks For The Upcoming Season”

REVIEW — Microsoft E3 2019: You Had One Job

By Tashaun “JerzeeBalla” Brown | @JerzeeBalla9:50 PM EST, Tues. July 16, 2019
Every year, gamers across the globe celebrate a holiday in June known as Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3. It’s a glorious occasion that is full of wonder, excitement, disappointment and surprises. This year’s #E32019 received a huge blow when Sony announced that they wouldn’t be attending. That news pushed all the attention squarely towards Microsoft. Of course, there were other companies with products to show off, but Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are the companies we are always most interested in. 
Continue reading “REVIEW — Microsoft E3 2019: You Had One Job”

PRIDE: Tagging Your Allyship

(Photo Credit: Twitch)

By Bokchoi | @a_bokchoi6:50 PM EST, Sun. June 16, 2019
Happy Pride everyone!
For those who many not know how Pride Month came into existence, according to the Library of Congress, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposiums and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.”
Pride is always an interesting month, but even more so with the rise of social media as it is a conduit for voices previously unheard (or only locally accessible) for worldwide broadcast. If you have an internet connection and a keyboard, congratulations, you’ve got yourself a platform.
Thanks to this, even the most nonsensical voices are amplified. Every year, without fail, we see cries for “Straight Pride.” This is ignorance at its finest. In a world where being cisgendered and heterosexual is considered the norm—the default—there is an insistence on having the entire pie to themselves, when there is plenty of pie to go around. It is insulting because Pride is a protest born out of violence, a plea and a stand to ensure our right to exist. Yes, it involves being proud of who we are, but it is also a remembrance of those who came before us to ensure we are persecuted a little less and a condemnation of the violence that pervades our culture when someone is different.
Pride is also unfortunately used as a cash grab. Companies who have never been particularly vocal about LGBTQIA+ rights adorn profile photos with rainbows and fill their platforms with commentary on inclusion. “We see you,” they say, all while toting merchandise that screams “Yas Qween!” and other generic LGBTQIA+-isms they lifted off of a quick Google search. Once it hits July 1st, all of the rainbows and solidarity just vanish because it is no longer profitable. “You’ve had your month,” they seem to say, and then everything is business as usual.
It makes sense though. After all, being an Ally is the new Black; it’s in, it gives you clout, and in a world of woke culture, clout is a highly coveted, social currency. Especially amongst Internet personalities such as Twitch streamers, “wokeness” gives you the ability to build an audience and increases your shot at being an influencer.
Let’s have a quick chat about being an Ally, and the possible performative aspect of it by discussing usage of the LGBTQIA+ tag on Twitch. If you aren’t part of the community, I don’t agree with using the tag.
I’ve seen people using it for “Allyship,” claiming that they’ve created a safe space and are using it to advertise as such.
This leads me to ask: How do you personally know it’s a safe space? If you don’t share that identity and those experiences, how can you claim that you have a safe space for a marginalized community? Marginalized folks know firsthand what needs to be done to keep themselves and those around them safe.They know how to fight for themselves through lived experience. What do you know about the oppression and the violence we face?
Allyship doesn’t equal identity. You can use your platform to help others, but that doesn’t make you LGBTQIA+.
I view tagging as a method for folks to find people just like them. To use the tag, but not share any aspect of those identities, it almost feels like queer-baiting or a way to broaden your audience through inauthentic means. Allies are defined by their actions. Adding a simple tag does not automatically make you an Ally.
You are not oppressed in the same way. Don’t make your Allyship about you. Support the voices that need to be heard. You don’t have to identify as one of us to be an Ally, (that’s the beauty of being an Ally) but to assume a position of being our spokesperson instead of amplifying our voices is centering yourself.
You don’t have to use tags to prove you’re an Ally. That’s just disingenuous and performative.
You may ask while throwing your hands up in exasperation, “So then how can we support the LGBTQIA+ community?” After all, whatever you do seems to be lambasted by the community or labeled as not good enough. Take this article for example; here I am, criticizing the use of something as innocuous as a Twitch tag. Well, this exasperation is mostly due to an assumption Allies like to make. Instead of asking the affected community how to best serve them, most Allies tend to take a stab at what will help, resulting in a lot of showboating and little-to-no actual forward progression. They say, “Hey, I did something!,” in the hopes of hitting that feel-good receptor in their brains. If this upsets you, you may want to reevaluate if you’re truly an Ally. Your feelings shouldn’t come before our rights.
Here’s one suggestion: Instead of using the tag, have panels that indicate that your stream is a LGBTQIA+ friendly place. Have visible rules and actively enforce them. If you notice revolting behavior, such as transphobia or homophobia, strike that hatred down with an intensity as if you were wielding Thor’s Hammer Mjölnir. Boost our voices with your platform, but don’t make it about you.
As for other methods? Ask your LGBTQIA+ friends and family how to better serve them… and not just this month, but all year round.
_______
A_Bokchoi is a jack-of-all-trades artist and content creator based in New York City. When she’s not daydreaming during her 9-to-5, she navigates the waters of adulthood as a Queer Korean-American and focusing on what it means to carry two cultures on her back (while also engaging in weebery and spitting out terrible puns). You can find her streaming at twitch.tv/a_bokchoi.

RECAP — The 5 Most Notable Announcements of the Pre-E3 2019 Press Conferences

By Paul “Tru1P” Holston | @Tru1P3:10 PM EST, Thurs. June 13, 2019

The future of gaming continues to evolve for the next generation. There’s no better place for gaming in the middle of June than at the Los Angeles Convention Center during the world’s premier event for computer and video games that is the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Prior to the official kickoff of #E32019 this week, millions of gamers from around the world got to witness the video game industry’s top companies showcase their newest games and a few surprises that many have anticipated prior to E3.
Continue reading “RECAP — The 5 Most Notable Announcements of the Pre-E3 2019 Press Conferences”

PERSPECTIVE — QuirkCon Gave Me Life At My First-Ever Gaming Convention

By Bianca “Anca” House | @ancaxec5:30 PM EST, Weds. Jun. 12, 2019

Greetings everyone! It’s your favorite Anca, huehuehue.
Anyway, I had a little something to say that I wanted to share with everyone. Well, I have between a little and a lot to say, and it’s about none other than…QuirkCon!

(Credit: www.QuirkCon.com)

Two weekends ago, I embarked on a trip to my first-ever convention (at least in the gaming world, that is). I had no idea what to expect, where I was actually going, who I was going to meet (except for fellow Cookout member Lila, in which, she’s the one who convinced me to go), so I was just out here living my best life and trying new things. So, I hopped in my car and drove from Greensboro, N.C. to Durham, N.C. ready to take on the weekend.
The con was three days long (which I’m assuming most cons are…?), and I have to say: I have never felt more comfortable around so many people. There were people like myself, people who share my culture, my hobbies and so much more! My favorite part, aside from hanging out with the illustrious #CookoutFam, was my stroll through the Vendor Hall. I know there are talented people out there, but I mean there’s some REALLY talented people out there in my own community that I had no idea existed! It was a paradise for People of Color content creators.
One thing that I really liked the most about QuirkCon was its intimacy. It wasn’t too small, and it wasn’t too big, and I didn’t feel overwhelmed at all. I enjoyed every minute while I was there so much so, that my sister (which I also convinced to go to the con, huehuehue) and I stayed out as long as we possibly could, just so we could experience it all.
I know I briefly mentioned hanging out with Cookout Fam, so I shall expound on it more now: I knew these people were dope, but I mean they are genuine and all around wonderful. I mentioned this in a post on Instagram, but I truly and honestly felt as if I’d known the ones that I met all my life. You know how sometimes you have that uncertainty when meeting people in person for the first time after only talking online? That uncertainty was nonexistent. Unfamiliarity, nonexistent. The Cookout is a family that I’m soooo grateful to have found in my search for a place of belonging.

There were some tears at the end, but they were happy tears because I definitely made some friendships that I needed in my life. I’m grateful to God that I was able to experience something like this.
Kudos to the team that made QuirkCon a realization and a dream come true!

_______
With a love for all things IT, Art and Adventure, Bianca “Anca” House is a harmlessly silly & eccentric creative/gaming streamer and the founder of AncaLogy, her graphic design business. Anca possesses a Ph.D in Laughology, earned from the University of Life in 1995. You can learn more about her at www.anca-logy.com, her site that contains links to all her creative & gaming activities. You can find her streaming at twitch.tv/anca_xec.
 

REVIEW — 2018 iPad Pro: A Good Get If You Know What You're Getting Into

By Marcus “MajorLinux” Summers | @MajorLinux | 5:30 PM EST, Thurs. May 16, 2019

Eleven years.
It’s been 11 years since I first set foot into the modern Apple ecosystem, better known as the “Walled Garden.” Back then, I wouldn’t have considered myself a part of that walled garden. I made great strides in avoiding that label. I got really heavy into Linux. I bought, exclusively, Android devices. Then, in 2013, things changed. In the span of six years, I’ve done the following:

  • Bought an iPad Mini 2
  • Bought my wife an iPhone
  • Bought two Apple TVs
  • Bought my own iPhone
  • Bought a MacBook Pro
  • Bought an Apple Watch
  • Took a job that gave me another MacBook Pro
  • Upgraded all the iPhones

All of this has led up to this moment. Because both my iPad Mini 2 and personal MacBook Pro was starting to show their age, I figured it was time to upgrade. But, instead of upgrading both devices separately, I remember there was one device that had the amazing size and portability of a tablet with the computing powerful of a small laptop.That device is the iPad Pro.

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

The model I picked up (pictured above) is the 2018 11-inch iPad Pro. This model has 256 GB of internal storage and is LTE enabled. I picked this up through Verizon and was discounted almost $200 since I was updating my wife’s iPhone 7 to the iPhone XR. I picked up the Smart Keyboard Folio the next day. I also picked up the second generation Apple Pencil later on that week. Due to the time in which I picked up the Pencil, my thoughts won’t cover much of it (even though I delayed writing this to get some quick thoughts using it).
These past couple of weeks have been pretty good, but it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Good

The first thing you notice with this device is that it’s nearly all screen. Now, while it’s not an iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S 10, or even the recently announced OnePlus 7 Pro, for an iPad (or any tablet currently available), it has the highest screen-to-bezel ratio of any tablet on the market. All the front facing cameras and sensors are hidden within the bezel and you might have a tough time finding them.
Speaking of the “hidden” sensors, because you may never know where they are, Face ID works in both landscape and portrait. Also, if you are trying to unlock the iPad Pro in landscape, your hand could possibly be covering the sensors. The iPad will let you know if that is the case, will point to where the sensor is and let you know that it is being obfuscated by something.
Once you’re logged in and ready to work, everything functions similar to an iPhone X in relation to navigating around. One of the best new additions to iOS 11 for iPads are the awesome multitasking features. I missed out on some of these features because they were not available for the iPad Mini 2. Of course, I’m talking about Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture.
While I hardly use Slide Over and Picture in Picture, Split View has been the the absolute best. The second day I had it, I used it to do some routine maintenance on one of my servers while watching the stream pictured above. It was at that point that I wanted to see how far I could push it. Two days later, I sat down and deployed an entire website using nothing but the iPad Pro. In fact, I’m using Split View right now to write this review!

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

Going back to the physical side of things, the iPad Pro is the second Apple product line and 1st iOS product line to use USB Type C. This was definitely super helpful as it finally gave me a reason to break out my old Nexus 6P cables and chargers. As an “owner” of a 2017 MacBook Pro, it’s nice that I’m able to share chargers with it. Also, this is the first iOS device that lets you charge other devices from it, which is very convenient.
Then, there are the accessories. In order to really get some work done on the iPad Pro, you’re gonna need a keyboard. You can pair any Bluetooth keyboard to it or you can get the Smart Keyboard Folio from Apple. It has a really good, keypress feel for a portable keyboard. It also adds PC shortcuts like Alt+Tab, Cmd+Space for Spotlight search, and Cmd+H to get quick access to the Home screen.
And, in my opinion, no iPad Pro can be complete without the Apple Pencil. The Pencil is now in its second generation and only works with the new iPad Pros. For the naked eye, the tracking is flawless. I’ve been using it while at work to take handwritten notes during some trainings and it works really well to capture my actual handwriting as if I was using pen and paper. Pairing and charging are also super simple. All you have to do is magnetically snap it to the side of the iPad Pro.
Now, I hear you all asking: “But it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows, right?”
(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

The Bad

And you’d be absolutely right!
Let’s start off with the Apple Pencil. I’ve had some issues with it when writing. While it does track very well, it doesn’t do it 100 percent of the time. There are times when it glitches out and stops writing. I don’t know if this is a Notes app issue, but I found myself having to back out of the note I was writing in and coming back to a working Pencil.
Sticking with the Apple Pencil, you may want to pick up a carrying case for yours. While it does attach magnetically to the iPad Pro, it’s not a real permanent solution. I was able to shake the Pencil off the iPad, but I had to really shake it. However, the real issue is in transporting the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I feel it would be really easy for the Pencil to come right off. So, you might want to invest in something like the Belkin Case + Stand.

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

(Photo Credit: Major Linux)

Switching gears over to software: There are some big glaring omissions when it comes to iOS on it’s tablet side. The most glaring issue is the lack of mouse support, especially for the iPad Pro. For this to be their professional tablet, it’d be nice to see them add it.
For the hardware they do have, there seems to be some issues with it when combining it with the software. Some applications don’t “respect” the presence of the physical keyboard. There have been countless times where I open an app and the virtual keyboard just takes over a good chunk of the screen.
Then, there’s the UX, also known as the user experience. While I’ve become very familiar with the gestures on my iPhone X, these gestures combined with the gestures that were specific to iPads can become quite a nuisance. There are three different actions that happen when you swipe your finger from the bottom of the screen:

  • Pulls up the dock while in an app
  • Pulls up the multitasking view
  • Goes to the Home screen

This becomes an issue as you’d have to be near perfect in moving your finger (and only your finger, the Apple Pencil doesn’t work here) to get the desired effect.
Then, there’s the overall price. Now, I’m a big gamer, so I’m going to share this little meme to explain my point:

(Courtesy Photo: IMGFlip)

While still coming to grips that the base price for an iPad Pro starts off less than an iPhone XS ($799 (WiFi) or $949 (cellular) vs $999), it’s kind of an intriguing prospect. However, when you factor in the additional costs of a keyboard ($179) and Apple Pencil ($129), it starts to add up. And, no, you can’t use the cheaper Apple Pencil 1st Generation ($99) on the newer iPad Pros. You can do fine without these peripherals, but you can also pick up cheaper laptops with proper multitasking and mouse support.

Conclusion

For someone who wasn’t really setting out to frolic in the “walled garden,” I’ve enjoyed my time with Apple and their products over the past few years. It’s not because I believe Apple is the best. They’re far from it, especially given my beliefs in Free and Open Source software and support for “Right to Repair” legislation. For me, Apple is a company of convenience at a time when I’m spending time supporting other people’s tech and working on big projects and don’t want to be hampered by the client devices I use to work on them.
I know what I’m getting into when I go the Apple route. I know my wallet sure does hate me for it from time to time. There are times I do get frustrated by it’s limitations. However, I know the devices, software and services Apple provides serve a particular purpose. It’s why I still run Linux servers and still game on a way more powerful Windows PC. It’s why I look to Android to assist in serving content in my office.
The iPad Pro is by no means a necessity item for those who won’t portable power. There are other devices for that. For me, it gave me the ability to consolidate some equipment and a new perspective on how I experience technology and the world around me.For its shortcomings, I’m glad I picked up the iPad Pro and am hoping this becomes my new daily computing driver.

_______
Marcus “MajorLinux” Summers is a Linux system administrator and part time content creator from Raleigh, NC. When not consulting on the technical end for The Cookout, he’s either gaming or staring intently in a Linux terminal. You can find him streaming at twitch.tv/MajorLinux.