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Awesome drawing of me by Jack Maverick!

Hi! My name is Ashley. I like video games, and to write and draw. Sometimes I combine the three. I have a huge knowledge of video game trivia and pop culture trivia in general, and I like to overanalyze things both for fun and for your entertainment.

I also like ducks and koala cookies.

My favorite game genres are puzzles, platformers, and scrolling shooters. I also really enjoy Mario Kart. But I don't like to limit myself, so I'll give anything a go at least once.

Even though my first console was an NES, I grew up mostly on the Genesis. Much of my childhood was spent playing Sonic 2 multiplayer by myself. I would switch the controller after every round and play both characters evenly so that it would always end in a tie.

I am a little shy, so you may have to prod me, but I would love to be your newest friend!

E-mail: stripedbird at gmail dot com
Gtalk: stripedbird at gmail dot com
AIM: odd looking bird
Xbox Live: Horned Child (currently offline)
DeviantArt: CLICK
Facebook: CLICK
Twitter: CLICK

Also, ducks - Duck is now living with a zookeeper in Alabama who can supply him with a bigger swimming area than a bathtub. He is in a better place, free of Zappers and laughing dogs.

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Hello everyone! Hope you're all having a great Saturday so far. I sure have, as I've been sleeping up to this point. Ah, the weekend.

Let's kick things off with one of the commissions I finished earlier on in the week for Dtoider JusticeDude! He asked for a picture of Morrigan hitting on Jill Valentine, and I did my best to deliver. I'm not usually very good with the sexy making, but I think I struck a good balance between hot and totally adorable. I traded this piece for one of his very awesome amigurumi Lolos and I'm so excited about it! He can keep my Ice and Chef Kirbys company.

Next is the second commission finished this week. A mysterious but awesomely friendly fella by the pseudonym of 321 AM asked for a Once Upon a Pixel style first page of a Metroid themed fairy tale. I'm a little anxious to post the completed picture here, so here is a low quality version of just the plain drawing.

Oh, and for the curious, the first page of the "book" goes like this:

Once upon a time,
there was an orphan
girl named Samus.

She lived all alone
until one day, when a
giant bird found her
and took her home.

From that point forward,
the bird people raised
Samus as if she were
a bird person too.

Now here's some game-related doodlings I did in my spare time.

When I'm not drawing my favorite videogame characters, I'm probably drawing weird looking birds.

Last, here is a little insight into my drawing process, and proof that I AM drawing that bearded samurai. Yes, I sketch very messily. I still don't quite have a huge grasp on using a tablet right!

In case you haven't noticed, I draw an awful lot. On top of that, due to some recent happenings, I have acquired a lot more free time, meaning I'm able to draw even more than usual. What does this mean for you? Several things!

1. More illustrated editorials on the front page! Those are always good, right?
2. Enough extra material to do a weekly art post here in the C-blogs! Though I may be getting ahead of myself..
3. The ability to do commissions for you guys!

I have already gotten a few art requests, thanks to the surprising amount of publicity Once Upon a Pixel got, but I would love even more (plus, I already know Yojimbo wants a bearded samurai). I really gotta work out my rates, though.. I have no idea what amount to tell people they should pay for my art. If any of you other artists out there can give me any insight on pricing, I'd sure appreciate it.

Anyway, if you want me to draw something, just email me and tell me your ideas. I will do my best to bring them to life.

To those who have contacted me so far to commission art, I really appreciate every single one of you. I'm still in the process of working on two of them, but here is one that was requested of me earlier this week from a very nice fellow named Zachary. He wanted a picture of himself riding a flying Charizard, and as a big Pokemon nut, I happily obliged. Although I'm more of a Venusaur fan, myself.

Besides that stuff, I've been drawing some art for some upcoming features like I always do. I can't show you any of that till the time comes, of course, but here's a little something that indirectly came out of it. I love these cute little houses for the souls of the damned so much!

This next piece is just a doodle, but I like it enough to share. I got the first Pikmin game a few weeks ago. I have yet to play it (I have a backlog several miles long), but I have always been a big fan of the character design for the series. While fiddling around with different brush tools in Corel Painter, I somehow came out with Olimar.

Moving forward (or maybe backward) you may remember that a while back, I illustrated a feature for Collette called the Videogame Bosses' Guide to Success. I said I would conjure up some wallpapers of the art eventually, so here they are! I've only made two sizes each for the moment: 1280x1024 and 1680x1050. If you need a specific size, let me know -- I'll do it up to the best of my ability and send it your way. There are just too many wallpaper sizes to choose from now, and I got all confused as to which to make because I still recall when 640x400 was an acceptable resolution.

That's it for this week. I'm working on making some cute Snake wallpapers too, so hopefully I will have those ready to share with you next time. See you then!
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Hey guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Podtoid 99 will not be put up until tomorrow at the very least, and a couple of days at the very most. I'm writing this C-blog on behalf of Anthony, who is unfortunately in the hospital for appendicitis. He will undergo surgery later this evening, so if you would like, please feel free to keep him in your thoughts/pray/sacrifice a goat to help ensure that things go smoothly for him.

EDIT: He just left for his surgery, but left me with enough direction to get the podcast up on iTunes. So hopefully, it is there now. If it isn't, then I suck.

EDIT EDIT: Anthony just had his appendix taken out through his bellybutton. Ewwww. But he's drugged up and resting and just fine. He'll be back home tomorrow. Yay!

I figured I would join in on this as well, since I've been looking for something to post in my Cblog for a while! Be warned though, I am a fairly boring person. It was really hard to come up with so many things about myself.

1. I was born with only one nostril. My right nostril was blocked with excess skin, and so I had to have a hole cut out right then and there to ensure that I could breathe. I still have a small visible bump of skin that was not cut away.

2. I have lived in over twenty different homes over the course of my life, and in five different states (North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Arizona) over the past five years. This way of life has primed me for travel, and I am looking forward to where I will go next. I really want to explore the rest of the west coast for the first time.

3. I know a lot of "famous" people. Randall Munroe (of XKCD fame) is one of my best friends. We met while he was still in college. I have visited his apartment and slept in his living room, which is a ball pit with a couch in the middle of it. We also play Mario Kart Wii together on a regular basis. And, of course, our very own Aaron Linde is my even bester friend! <3

4. I love to wear scarves, and do so on a regular basis. It has become sort of a problem since I moved to the desert, but scarves are my "signature", so I can't give them up.

5. There was actually a period of a few years where I actually lost interest in gaming. It started around my freshman year of high school. I had recently gotten a Playstation, but only spent about three months with it before deciding to sell the system and its games for money to put toward other things. I still do not know why exactly my interest in videogames ever dropped, as I cannot see myself without them now, but I can single out the selling of the Playstation as one of those dumb things that teenagers are prone to do.

6. I am a supertaster, which makes me an extremely picky eater.

7. I have loved reading educational material ever since I was very young. It all started when the family got a set of encyclopedias. I read through every one several times and still have a lot of the information I learned stored away in my head. Today, thanks to the Internet, Wikipedia provides me the same joy, and even more useless trivia.

8. Even though most people my age are already finished with college, I am still just a freshman. I have a very hard time deciding on what I really want to do with my life because I have so many interests. My majors have ranged from military nursing to foreign language.

9. I am very shy about what I write and draw because I am the worst sort of perfectionist. I have actually been working on this post for hours. :(

10. I have sustained several head injuries over the course of my life: first, I was dropped on my head as an infant. Then I ran into a wall around age four and split my forehead open (the scar is still there). Lastly, in fifth grade, I fell backwards off of a swing and hit the back of my head on a wooden board. I believe these knocks to my head play a big part in who I am today.

P.S. - I am currently working on getting the images from the Boss Guide made up into wallpapers! Please let me know if there is a certain size you are interested in!

Hello again, robots. I've come to you today to make you an offer. Sadly, times are tough in the land of Ashley, and in an effort to scrape together some cash for an operation that my car desperately needs, I have decided to sell my beloved Nintendo Wii. It's the current-gen console that is worth the most, and I have access to another Wii where I am currently living, so I won't be without one.. still, it was the first console I ever bought all by myself, and the one I play the most currently, so it means a lot to me that it goes to a loving home where it is appreciated for more than just Wii Sports. Which is why I'm here peddling my wares before dropping it off in the frightening hands of internet auctioning.

Ideally, I'd like to get $350 for the whole she-bang, but I'm willing to negotiate or add in little extras to make it worth your money (throwing in one or two of the games shown). As of right now, this is what you will be getting:

- One (1) Nintendo Wii console, lovingly dubbed Audrey III, nearly two years old, kept in pristine condition in a smokeless home, polished every week. And I touched it! That makes it worth something, right?
- Two (2) Wii controllers, though I really hate to give up my extra, I know it sucks to only have one. I have no use for wrist straps, so they are strapless; handle these with care.
- Two (2) Nunchuk attachments, so no controller will be left out (only one pictured because I'm just terribly disorganized and need to dig through things much more thoroughly in a bit to locate it)
- All the shit that's required to plug in and connect a Wii to a television.
- One (1) box!
- One (1) disc of Wii Sports (see Nunchuk comment)

I also have the following channels that I will leave on the console, just for you!:

Internet Channel
Super Mario 64
Gunstar Heroes
Kirby's Adventure
Link to the Past
Lost Winds
Dr. Mario Online RX

If you don't like any of those, you can remove them yourself, but I think they add to my Wii's charm and overall value.

Additionally, I do have some duplicate games, all like new, that I will sell separately (prices negotiable because I don't know how to sell shit):

Wii Play (another thing that's packed up in a box somewhere in another dimension, but I know it's somewhere!)
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Metal Slug Anthology
Resident Evil 4
Boom Blox
Zack and Wiki

Don't feel bad if you have to pass it up, I can very easily sell it on eBay at a much higher price.. but I just wanted to see if anyone here was interested first, because I trust y'all to be good to her. Comment or PM or send me a carrier pigeon if you would like to discuss things and maybe give me money!

Footnote: I also have a 8 GB iPod Nano for sale, but I don't care about it as much. Still, maybe one of yous guys is interested in that also! I can fill it with video game music for you to sweeten that deal.

Everyone is afraid of something. A person's fears can be nearly insignificant, only showing themselves as an unpleasant little butterfly in the stomach from time to time. On the other hand, they can be so intense that they garner control over the things they say or do, and can become an obstacle that can possibly be a hindrance on life.

We as gamers are well aware that in recent years, video games have steadily become more and more of an extension of the real world. The usage of our interests, ideas, and morals as elements of game play has become pretty standard fare. All this considered, it makes perfect sense that our fears can also play a big role in the way our games progress and play. In fact, an entire genre of video games is dedicated to the spooking of its players. These survival horror games are very popular, well-received, and are a great example of a positive use of one's fears to create a unique and immersive experience.

On the other hand, things may work the other way around when fears are put into play. Just as an intense phobia can prevent a person from living their lives to the fullest, they can also prevent the full enjoyment that would normally be had while playing a game. A lot of the time, though, it's not just what is meant to be frightening that is frightening. Some people suffer from irrational fears. I am one of those people.

Horror games have never really appealed to me because I'm not the sort of person who enjoys being scared. This is probably due to the fact that so many things cause me anxiety in real life, the thought of feeling the same way through a game negates the fun that I could possibly have playing it. I have plenty of fears. Spiders freak me out, I despise climbing tall ladders; they are mostly the standard fare. But there is one fear that stands out among the others due to its strangeness: I am terrified to go into water. But not actual water. Only while playing video games does this fear manifest itself.

It is an intense enough phobia to sometimes prevent me from finishing a game that I find absolutely brilliant otherwise, and greatly hinders the quality of game play in many other cases. I find it very odd how I am able to go to the beach and float in the ocean all day, only slightly fearful of having a foot stung by a jelly fish, when there could be dangerous things lurking beneath the waves. But when I am presented with a swimming level in a game, where dangers are present but not actually life threatening, I begin to panic. I often choose to skip swimming levels altogether if it is possible, and if there is no way around getting my feet wet, I feel forced to just give up.

Take Shadow of the Colossus, for example. Undeniably one of the greatest video games made in modern times, and one of my absolute favorites, yet I have never beaten it. Why? Because whenever I edge near the pool containing the seventh colossi, Hydrus, I choke and can't make myself jump in. The anxiety that I feel, looking down at the dark water and not knowing what lies beneath, flusters me to the point where I can not make myself progress any further.

This fear is something that has been with me for a little over the past decade of my gaming life. As much as I despise myself for having developed such a trivial fear that can sometimes ruin video games for me, it is a behavior that I have always found interesting. Prior to writing my story, full of curiosity, I took to the internet in search of others like myself. The quest proved somewhat fruitful, as I managed to discover a few discussions on the topic of irrational fears and gaming. As odd as it may sound to some people, it seems that there are many others whose gaming experiences are affected by irrational fears; certain settings, characters, and even sounds that are not meant to be frightening can somehow manage to trigger feelings of fearfulness. Water levels are apparently one of the most common unintentional fear inducers, though in most cases, it is merely an extension of a person's real-life water phobia.

From what I've found, people are quick to assume that gamers who have a distaste for swimming in games were adversely affected by the early entries in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It certainly seems to be the case for many of them. A lot of children had their first experience with "drowning" through these games, as most characters before Sonic could either hold their breath indefinitely, or were completely destroyed any time they so much as looked at water. But with Sonic, children were presented with a character whose mortality became clear once submerged for twenty seconds. Some thought the accompanying music to be utterly terrifying, some became panicked that the game was secretly counting down their lives the entire time they were submerged, and the rest combined both of these factors into one unpleasant experience that may have very well scarred them for life. This scarring, of course, varies in degree of severity from person to person.

As for myself, Sonic the Hedgehog games were a very huge part of my earliest gaming, and his games were my first experience with virtual drowning. But unlike most others of my kind, his inability to breathe underwater never really affected me at all. So if it is not having death loom over my shoulder once I dive in, why am I so fearful of virtual water, and only virtual water? Perhaps there is no real answer; after all, it is an irrational fear. But there are some past experiences that I have had that could possibly shed some light on the matter.

The most dreaded cluster of letters a dolphin will ever know.

In the first years, things were simple. I often find myself yearning for these old days, where underwater levels simply meant hopping slowly across an ocean blue backdrop, and enemies were clearly defined and placed. I never feared water in those days. The only 2D games whose water levels frightened me, and where I believe my phobia originated, were the first two in a series that took place entirely underwater - the Ecco the Dolphin games.

Ecco was slightly eerie to me from the get-go. The mixture of creepy music and dolphins saying odd things sort of put me off. But I never could have guessed that the stuff my nightmares are made of could begin with such an innocent question, asked by an adorable dolphin no less: "How high in the sky can you fly?" The answer to which, of course, is, "Oh my god why is the sky flashing red and everything being sucked into space?" With a beginning like that, things could only continue to careen downhill. I would soon meet up with such lovable fellows as gigantic trilobites, spider crabs, and sharks, all popping up out of nowhere to rip off my sweet little dolphin face. To a young child who had never before witnessed such, it was pretty unsettling, and I did not like it at all.

Nevertheless, I was filled with the silly, childish determination to progress further into the game, mostly because I had never not finished a game prior to this point in time. I began to experiment on the password screen for easy access into further levels. After a short period of time, and finding that the ridiculous AAAAAAAA code took you to the third level of the game, I entered the dreaded NNNNNNNN - the password that transports you to the level before the final fight with the Vortex Queen. Being a very sheltered eight year old child, I believe that unexpectedly stumbling into something like Welcome to the Machine did quite a number on my mind. I panicked, shut everything off, and never touched the game again. I was only forced to repeat the horror once more after receiving Ecco: The Tides of Time as a Christmas gift a little further down the road. In an attempt to be polite, I hesitantly played a little in front of the relative who had purchased the game for me. As much as I wanted to show my appreciation for the gift, I could not carry on the charade for very long. I got to about the third level before I had to excuse myself, run to my room to try and choke my heart back down my throat while no one was looking.

A few years passed, other games were played, and I had no other scary confrontations with water for a while. I had almost forgotten about the whole Ecco fiasco, until the Playstation, Nintendo 64, and its platformers came along. You may already be familiar with my immeasurable love for such games, and the fact that anything could pry itself between me and them may come as a shock. I do love my 3D platformers, I really do. But this is my dark secret. Every single one has at least one swimming level to muck it all up for me, and because of them, I do not believe I have ever fully completed any of these games entirely on my own. Somehow, these are the games that still affect me terribly, even today. While I would rather not actually play the game, I can watch videos of Ecco game play and only feel slightly unnerved. But I still have so much trouble with three-dimensional water worlds. The addition of depth, combined with the foggy graphics of these games gave swimming levels a much higher degree of unintentional terror. My first experience with this, of course, was Super Mario 64's Jolly Roger Bay. This was the first of two mainly underwater levels in the game, and home to the one true bane of my existence: Unagi the Eel.

I carelessly dove into the blue, eventually making my way down towards the sunken ship. And suddenly, the murky waters give way to a pair of beady little eyes and two rows of teeth peeking out from the ship's cabin. Like the enemies of Ecco past, here was a horrifying creature that had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Something in me snapped at that very moment, something that screamed, "I don't like this!" The same feeling of panic came rushing back, only this time, it hit me even harder. Luckily, the way that Super Mario 64 is structured allowed me to bypass both of the underwater levels entirely, but I can not say that I have ever collected all 120 Power Stars. I don't think I have ever even visited Dire, Dire Docks out of the silly notion that Unagi will reappear; I know he does not, in fact, I know there is nothing like him in the second water stage, but I just can't make myself hop through that picture and take the dive.

He may be a fish out of water, but I like him more this way.

Though most of the stories I recall that fit into the history of my strange phobia involve some gigantic creature that lives beneath the waves, one might think that my fear actually stems from them, and not the water itself. It is a possibility that I have often considered, and I would love to end it there and have the solution as to why I react to water levels in the way that I do. However, there is one special case that makes for a strange twist, and it lies within Banjo-Kazooie.

By the time the game got into my hands, the initial unease I felt for water levels had grown into an actual phobia. Sadly, I must say that I could never fully enjoy Banjo-Kazooie because of all the damn swimming that had to be done in the game. Snacker the Shark got me off on the wrong foot, with his threats to chomp down on me dare I jump into the waters of Treasure Trove Cove. I had panic attacks any time I slipped into the murky waters of Rusty Bucket Bay. Then, of course, there was Clanker's Cavern. The initial time that I swam through the first tunnel of the level and found myself face to face with the gigantic mechanical whale, well, you can probably guess what my reaction was. The usual heart-jumping-out-of-throat, followed by the quick shutting off of the television and console.

Again, I became thoroughly aggravated because I loved the rest of the game so much and wanted desperately to progress further into it. I made several attempts, but fear had such a grip on me that I could not even stand the thought of swimming through that tunnel and facing the rusty giant again. I eventually called upon the aid of an older cousin to complete the level while I sat nearby, eyes tightly shut. He was the only person available who was capable of performing such a task, as neither of my sisters ever really took to gaming and had no interest in the game whatsoever. Unfortunately, my cousin was also quite a mean boy who made use of every opportunity to scare the daylights out of me. After having completed the first task (unlocking Clanker's anchor) he told me that he had made Clanker swim away and the water drain out, which of course was a horrible lie. Being an incredibly gullible child, I opened my eyes to see that he had parked bear and bird directly in front of Clanker's toothy grin. My reaction this time was surprisingly different, much to my terrible cousin's chagrin. I was shocked, but only because I did not feel scared. It seemed that Clanker no longer appeared frightening simply because he had risen to the water's surface. I still did not want to dive down below, but I was at least able to collect enough of the other Jiggies to be able to move on to the next world.

With all of this in mind, let us recap: water is the variable that must be present for fright to occur. Fear keeps its grip on me whenever it, variable one, comes into play. Monstrous undersea beasts, or the possibility thereof, is the second variable. Variable two, in some cases like Clanker's, can exist without the first (being submerged); if this is so, most feelings of anxiousness towards variable two are nullified. But because variable two is partially the possibility that variable two does exist, variable one always contains some degree of variable two. And it all started, perhaps, with a little dash of childhood trauma that happened to snowball into something way larger than it ever should have been. Pretty confusing stuff, but it is me trying to make sense of my own mind, so that sort of thing should be expected.

Everyone has fears, but only a fraction of people let theirs get in the way of the things they love. I, unfortunately, am one of those people. This is all something I have kept to myself for many years, because it is silly, and I know it. But I felt that I had to come out with it to pursue further information. Now that I have shared my story, I end with the hopes of readers sharing their own. Though I poured over any similar anecdotes I happened to come across, my appetite for knowledge on the subject of irrational fears and gaming was barely fed. And so I ask you: Has there ever been anything that you have experienced within a video game that has ever frightened you, but should not have? Has anything ever stopped you from finishing a sub-quest, level, or even an entire game? Have you ever developed a real-life fear because of something in a game, or vice-versa?
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