After three and a bit years at Allure Media, I'm heading out, but I can't leave without saying bye. While I've been Lifehacker's Deputy Editor since September, I spent a good chunk of my time here writing for Kotaku, and this site will always have a special place in my heart. So before I head out, here are some of my favourite articles I've been lucky enough to be able to write for Kotaku.
I came to Allure Media with a bit of a weird background - a bit of freelance journalism, a bit of filmmaking, a bit of video game development and a whole lot of cosplay. So it's perhaps not surprising that the latter is something I wrote about extensively. One of my very first cosplay stories, as requested by then-editor Mark Serrels, was a bit of a controversial one, but still a great chance to feature some fantastic cosplayers:
Cosplay gets shared around on the internet like the flu at your local convention, but when there's so much out there, what really makes a cosplay worth sharing? When all the contestants in a cosplay competition look so impressive, how does anyone ever pick the best? On behalf of all the cosplayers who go the extra mile for their art, I'm here to help you to develop a refined and sophisticated taste for costumes.
In Australia we're so lucky to have a huge amount of incredibly talented cosplayers, and throughout my time at Kotaku AU I've done my best to give as many of them as I could a little bit of the spotlight:
Australia is full of amazing cosplayers — and that's not a point that's open to discussion. All you have to do is look around at a convention like PAX Aus, or Supanova, and you'll see the kind of quality that our relatively small community is capable of. Like every community, however, some of the people making amazing costumes are too busy well… making amazing costumes to ever seek the limelight they deserve.
Last year we introduced you to five awesome Aussie cosplayers you'd never heard of, and now it's time to meet five more. These are some of Australia's most prolific, most talented and most promising to watch as they do great things this year!
The truly amazing thing for me came when I got the chance to write about cosplay in a way that transcended the 'look at this pretty thing' niche cosplay had occupied for so long. To this day, one of the hardest stories I've had to write was this one about abuse from within my very own community.
A few years ago, I got a message in my cosplay inbox. It was something along the lines of "I am a professional artist. I'm a fan of your costumes and I would like to hire you to model for a series of paintings."
It was paid work being offered — long before cosplayers getting paid to do promo work was commonplace. It was an exciting offer and a much needed financial boost for a broke student. All I had to do was pose in a costume over Skype. Easy, right? Once the Skype call was set up, something started to feel really wrong. The artist claimed 'she' needed to see my body 'for reference'. No, even gym clothes hid too much. It had to be underwear. Or less.
Other topics close to my heart included the issue of cosplayers being underpaid in the industry: and often even unpaid.
If you're at all interested in cosplay then you've probably heard the rumours of so-called "professional cosplayers" — people like Jessica Nigri and Yaya Han who make costumes and fly around the world, presumably making bucketloads of cash from it. Yet the reality is that the number of people actually making a living from cosplay can probably be counted on one hand, for one simple reason — cosplayers are expected to work for free.
Should cosplayers be paid to cosplay? It's a question we've tackled before, and one that just keeps coming up, most recently thanks to the massive PR meltdown experienced by Santa Fe Comic Con after ridiculing an unnamed cosplayer for asking to be brought on as a guest.
I even got the chance to write about cool events that were doing something for the cosplayers who often felt left out in other communities.
Last night, Sexpo Australia handed a staggering $2000 cash prize to the winner of their first ever cosplay competition. The crowd whooped and cheered — in fact, the crowd helped to pick the winner by whooping and cheering. This isn't a cosplay competition like any you've seen before, but it may be just what the community needs.
A lot of my favourite articles are about Star Wars, apparently. It's no surprise, I love everything about it. From encouraging everyone (EVERYONE) to watch The Clone Wars:
Very few things are as universally loathed and shunned by their own fanbase as the Star Wars prequel trilogy. While there were points where you could almost tell what George Lucas was trying to do with Darth Vader's origin story, it was mostly just a mess.
No one expected anything good when The Clone Wars came creeping in, as the dust from the prequels' fallout was still settling. Yet even though the animated show started out just as you would expect, it managed to achieve what the prequels never could.
I've made an argument for why you should watch The Clone Wars, but actually watching it is another thing. With 121 episodes, many of them filler, some of them oddly out of order, there's a certain art to getting the best out of your Clone Wars experience. Here's my list of the essential episodes you should be watching, neatly sorted into chronological order and cut down to only 66 episodes and a movie.
To complaining about the prequels:
Some people, myself included, loved The Last Jedi. A lot of people hated it. That's fine!
Everyone's entitled to their opinions — I hated Rogue One, after all, but I'm happy for those who got enjoyment from it. But when people say The Last Jedi is 'worse than the prequels' I have to question things because really, have you guys seen those movies recently?
I also took the time to have a bit of a cry about the one true goddess Carrie Fisher, and how important her role in The Last Jedi was to me.
I went into my first viewing of The Last Jedi knowing it was going to be an emotional ride no matter what.
And, of course, my ode to the ultimate Star Wars game:
Yes, I'm talking about Star Wars Episode I: Racer, the game that took one of the most pointless scenes in any Star Wars film and turned it into an incredibly successful racing game on PC and the Nintendo 64. With all the Star Wars excitement I recently decided to go back and watch the prequels again. They were just as bad as I remembered, though it did inspire me to dig out my dusty N64 and rediscover what made this game great.
And another thing I love? Horror. I had a blast writing about some of my favourite horror games, and why they're so important beyond just terrifying us.
I'm walking through a damp, dingy corridor and somewhere a woman is crying. The sound makes me nervous but I can't quite figure out why. And then she appears — a female figure, disfigured and indistinct, twitching in a way no human being moves. I stare for one second too long and then she has me — she's in my face, attacking, ripping and tearing my flesh as the screen fades to black. But I'm not playing P.T.
I had a bit of a bitch about the things that disappointed me:
And the things that surprised me:
Mass Effect Andromeda is a huge game. I've played for a little under 20 hours now, haven't progressed too far in the plot, and I feel I could easily play for another 60 hours before I had to return to the main plotline. More than that, I feel like I wouldn't mind playing for another 60 hours without progressing in the main plot. Andromeda may be a new galaxy for humanity, but its world is far from empty.
I wrote about the weird power of sandbox games to create whole new lives:
Reign Of Kings is a medieval-themed survival game that's been in full release for about five months. It's improved since its spotty Early Access period, but still far from perfect. Still, with its odd mix of Game of Thrones-style power struggles and incredibly satisfying building, it's created a world where even bakers can rise to power
But all of these pale in comparison to my favourite article ever, the one that I will never top, my magnum opus. Behold:
It's that time of the year again. Everyone is ranking their favourite games of the year or their most anticipated games of next year, but for Bioware fans — with the last of Dragon Age Inquisition's DLC being released this year — there's only one list that matters: a definitive ranking of all 51* companions from the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games.
It's been a blast, guys, thanks for supporting me and the weird things I choose to write about. Thanks for all the comments that I didn't have to delete, and for all the regulars who I've come to know offline as well as online. I'm not done yet: you'll still see me doing plenty of writing, cosplay and gaming, probably until I'm a geriatric cat lady.
Follow me on Twitter at @_hayleyelise to keep up with what I'm doing next!