The 2013 Dota 2 International!!!!

Flags were flying in the lobby of Benaroya!

Flags were flying in the lobby of Benaroya!

Ellen and I had the great honor and privilege to attend the Dota 2 International this year in Seattle. It was PRETTY FREAKIN COOL!!!! Valve had Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony, completely decked out for the games and it never looked better. Ellen also never looked better as we peeked into the main concert hall where the games were being played.
My lovely wife, homicidal A.I. GLaDOS, and the voice of Broodmother and Death Prophet for Dota 2 in the Big Room!

My lovely wife, homicidal A.I. GLaDOS, and the voice of Broodmother and Death Prophet for Dota 2 in the Big Room!

We were met by our pal Marc Laidlaw, who has written many of your favorite lines for the games we’re in, and shown around the facility. We got to meet lots of the Valve folks that work so insanely hard to bring out games like Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, Portal and, of course, Dota 2. Animators, game level designers, writers and programers all became TV producers for the Super Bowl of Esports: The Dota 2 International! Wandering around backstage was wild. The staging area for the symphony was cleared of bassoons, violins, tubas and percussion and filled with computers all showing different camera angles on the games.
Ellen gets to talk to one of the stalwart Valve guys who bring the games to life

Ellen gets to talk to one of the stalwart Valve guys who bring the games to life

The teams, which came from literally all over the world, had their own very nice green room (the traditional name for the room where performers can relax before performing: they’re never green) and us Valve folks had the … other green room. With food! Sloppy Joes were the lunch item. I hadn’t tasted a sloppy joe since I was at band camp in high school. These were not your garden variety sloppy joes, however. Very tasty. And a good thing, because Ellen and I needed to fuel up to meet the fans. We were escorted out through a maze of hallways to the lobby again to man the signing table.
Fans ...

Fans …

... fans ...

… fans …

... fans ...

… fans …

and more fans lined up to meet Ellen.

and more fans lined up to meet Ellen.

... and me.  Although I'm not nearly as pretty as Ellen.

… and me. Although I’m not nearly as pretty as Ellen.

People were waiting in line as long as four hours to get our autographs. The fans were wonderful, and had really great stamina! Some of the thigh muscles on them could have held off an attack from Pudge. In fact, they were in line so long that at least one of them had time to create a major work of art.
Fan art created while standing in line to see us.  Who says standing in line is a waste of time?  Not this guy.

Fan art created while standing in line to see us. Who says standing in line is a waste of time? Not this guy.

We were scheduled to sign autographs from 2:00 to 4:00. We ended up staying an extra hour and still didn’t get to see everyone. But several people caught up to us as we moved around the lobby. Chris, another great Valve writer, took us up to the balcony where the press was watching and reporting to the rest of the world how the games were progressing.
The whole world is watching!

The whole world is watching!

We stood right next to the China press box as mayhem was unleashed on the stage below.
Keeping the gamers of China informed!

Keeping the gamers of China informed!

International geeks and nerds vie for dominance in the most bloodless blood sport of all time!

International geeks and nerds vie for dominance in the most bloodless blood sport of all time!

The action was so hot and heavy it made my camera hand shake. The climax of the whole event was the finals. A five game series between Na’vi from the Ukraine and Alliance from Sweden. I got to announce the teams as they burst into the arena. Valve spared no dramatic touches.
The International Grand Finals begin!

The International Grand Finals begin!

I was standing right next to the door as the teams entered in clouds of fog and pulsing lights, led and followed by cameramen streaming it live to the world. The crowd roared their support for each team. The players made their way down the aisles, up onto the stage and into their respective soundproof booths where they could do battle undistracted. Heroes were banned, others were chosen. Strategies were formed, discussed and solidified. The lights went down … Alliance won the first game handily, making us wonder if they would sweep the series. But Na’vi came back strong and took the next two games, forcing Alliance to win the final two to take the series 3-2 and become the world champions.

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | 5 Comments

San Japan in San Antonio: The Riverwalk, The Alamo and thousands of cosplayers!

Ellen relaxes on the Riverwalk after a day of panels and signing autographs

Ellen and I had a great time in San Antonio this August at the incredible fancon San Japan. San Antonio is a beautiful city and San Japan was a great time for everyone! The con was held right next to San Antonio’s famous Riverwalk, which is a wonderful oasis away from the heat of a Texas summer. There are clubs and restaurants and shops all along it’s shores and the nightlife was rockin’. We ended everyday with a peaceful stroll along the river, the shops and trees festooned with lights, the sounds of bands wafting over the water. It was very pleasant and we can’t thank the organizers of San Japan enough for choosing such a beautiful place to hold a con.

As always, the fans were incredible and their cosplay work was outstanding.

What is Ellen doing? Something important, no doubt. And why am I wearing my name tag that way? Intrinsic sense of style?

Ellen and I played a concert, did several panels, including a no-holds-barred exposé of the world of animation, video games, voice work and whatever else we could think of to throw into the discussion at the time. It was irreverent, imprudent, implausible and overall hilarious. The fans laughed even more than we did.

I would accept cake, even hypothetical, rhetorical, or blatantly non-existent duplicitous cake, from this GLaDOS anytime!

Our FABulous and very photogenic con liason, Niki!


All in all, we had a wonderful time at San Japan and a wonderful time in San Antonio. A friendly, convivial and beautifully historical Texas landmark. If you get a chance to go next year I would highly recommend it! Don’t forget to see the Alamo (still no basement, sorry, PeeWee Herman fans), old town and the fabulous River Walk!

Remember the Alamo! (Who could forget it?)

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | 2 Comments

GLaDOS solos MomoCon!

Ellen was a very brave soldier to travel to MomoCon all by herself. Yes, the voice of GLaDOS is a chicken when it comes to travel on her own. Since our meeting 28 years ago I’ve accompanied her on 99% of her trips across Europe and the U.S. That’s the way she likes it!

The Citadel! Er, I mean, The Marriott Marquis

But she survived and had a marvelous time with friends old and new. The very comfortable Marriott Marquis reminded her of the “Citadel” in Half-Life 2, but her beautiful “Chell Bodyguards”, Samantha Skinner and Sarah Tillman, escorted her throughout the Con and took her on necessary bathroom breaks, and were most helpful in organizing the line of friendly folks there at Momo to meet her. I’m glad to say most were interested in my novel, “Dancing With Eternity”, and many bought copies, in fact, all the ones that she had lugged with her in her gargantuan suitcase!

Samantha and Sarah! The wandering Chells

She saw Professors Jeff Chastine and Jon Preston of SPSU (Southern Polytechnic State University) for a bite at Waffle House. She had “Cheese” grits with her waffle.
My Nashville girl knows the correct terminology.
Her friends Amethyst and John took her outside in balmy Atlanta for a beautiful brunch, and she got to meet and eat with artist, Jennifer Sorrell and friends.

GLaDOS is checking out the Waffle Menu, and her pals, Jon, Jeff and Courtney.


Ellen actually met an old friend of mine at Momo, Debby Robic. Ellen thought she was far too beautiful!

Highlights include “The Cake and Cube” by Catherine and Carter, and the “Steam Punk Portal Gun” by Duncan.

Duncan with his steam punk Portal gun!

Thank you to everyone at Momo for being so kind to my Ellen, including Stephen, Chris, Jen, Darius, Seneca, Julia, and too many to list!

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | 3 Comments

Dancing with Eternity wins the ForeWord Firsts Debut Fiction Award

http://www.forewordreviews.com/Something like this doesn’t happen every day. I had a feeling, when I was working on Dancing with Eternity, that I had a special story to tell. I tried to tell it as honestly and as humorously as I could. I wanted to celebrate life even through all the trials and travails that we humans face. I wanted to laugh at us and cry with us, cheer our victories and grieve for our defeats. It is so wonderful for me to have that work recognized. Check out the review, and then buy Dancing with Eternity! Award-winning fiction!

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | 4 Comments

MAGFest!!

Life at MAGFest! A folksy village inside a space age pod.

Ellen and I arrived at MAGFest, Washington D.C.’s music and game festival, prepared for awesomeness and it didn’t disappoint. MAGFest was held at The Gaylord, a hotel wrapped around a theme park on the shores of the Potomac and filled (at least it was this weekend) with somewhere around 5,000 assassins, banshees, warriors and morality cores. COSPLAY was IN THE HOUSE!!! We checked into our comfy room Thursday afternoon and prepared ourselves to meet the fans. I had a Q&A panel at 5:00, but Ellen was called with the rest of the stars later in the weekend. So I showered and dressed and Ellen went to sleep. She would need all the energy she could store up.

My Q & A was a lot of fun. I talked about being a voice actor, working for Valve, Bungie and the other companies I’ve voiced for. The fans wanted to know about my new sci-fi novel, Dancing with Eternity, and how I got into being an author. Someone asked if Ellen and I got into marital fights doing the voices of The Sniper and GLaDOS and I had to tell them no. However, I did say that a night of passion can be ruined when you’re going at it hot and heavy and she says, “This isn’t working for me. Could you do The Heavy?” A fan had me read a letter as The Sniper to Princess Celestia of My Little Pony. For the three people in the world who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vhNWzK_yGA Evidently people who are into both Team Fortress 2 and My Little Pony are called Team Ponies or Pone Forties or Porties or My Little Team Pony Fortresses 2, or something like that. Anyway, the letter I read to Princess Celestia must have been way overdue because everyone was pretty excited about it.

That night Ellen and I went out to hear a great blues band at The Zoo Bar in D.C.

Friday was the TF2 appreciation panel which was lead by Eric Ruth of Eric Ruth Games and creator of TF2 Arcade. Ellen and I were both there. This was the first opportunity for the fans to meet Ellen and it was a party. Afterwards we headed down to our booth to sign autographs and chat. Here are some of the results:

Chell and GLaDOS by Jessi Pascal

"Let Us Sing a Song of Science" by Michael Plondaya (I hope that's spelled right)


At every personal appearance we make we are given art produced for us by the people who love our work. As always, Ellen and I were blown away by the level of skill and talent exhibited by the fans. These two pieces are indicative of what we saw there. If you want to see more of Jessi’s work you can find it here: Geeks Next Comic

Chris Hardwick (center), me (left) and Ellen (right, doing the Macarena, I think), and the cast of The Nerdist

Friday night we went downtown to the 9:30 Club to make an appearance on Chris Hardwick’s hilarious podcast, The Nerdist. It was PACKED to the rafters. Chris and his two sidekicks did stand-up for a couple of hours before the podcast started, so the crowd was definitely warmed up. He saved us for the end of the program and they cheered when Ellen was introduced. It was wonderful to hear. Chris is a wonderful interviewer and I think everyone had a great time. He gave DWE a nice plug, we played GLaDOS’ Greatest Hits and hit the road. We didn’t get home till 2:00 a.m.

Saturday was a marathon. We had the Voice Acting panel at noon to 2:00, Ellen’s Q&A from 3:00 to 4:00, Voice-a-Palooza from 5:00 to 7:00 and autographs, autographs, autographs in between! We signed autographs until 9:00 that night and even so some patient fans had to come to our booth on Sunday because the line never ended. It was exhausting, but what a great experience for both of us. The fans are so friendly and good-natured (some of them were waiting in line for hours and at least one of them was pregnant). If people are worried about computer games producing sociopathic misanthropes and hermits, I’ve certainly never met any. These people are the most fun-loving, positive, creative people I’ve ever been around.

The crowd finds Ellen (Ellen's Q&A)

Ellen finds a turret (is she CUTE or WHAT????)

Wheatley finds a plaid shirt

The Sniper finds love! (Who else would the Sniper fall in love with?)

And I finally find the kind of girl I can bring home to mother.

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | 13 Comments

The Tor.com Reader’s Choice Awards

Vote for Dancing with Eternity on the Tor.com Readers Choice Awards!! All votes are write-ins. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and submit a comment to vote! Vote early! Vote often! All votes must be in by midnight on January 20th!!! I’m not saying that a vote for DWE will solve global warming or stop war, but, let’s be honest, it will.

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/01/vote-in-the-torcom-2011-readers-choice-awards#

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | Comments Off

At MAGFest!

Dates: Jan 5 – 8, 2012 (Thu – Sun)

MAGFest is a music and video gaming festival run by fans, for fans. In more verbose terms, it’s an annual event dedicated to the celebration of video games and video game music. Every year offers 24-hour console, arcade, and PC game rooms, live video game cover bands, a vendors area, and guest speakers from the video game industry and fan scene. It also features a “JamSpace” available to all attendees for impromptu music performances. Numerous other events are scheduled each day.

What makes MAGFest unique is that it’s an event run by fans for fans. There are no corporate sponsors, no over-crowded showfloors, and no top-secret-behind-closed-doors showings. MAGFest is built from the ground up to be a party-like atmosphere with focus on community and fan creations, which creates an environment that no other expo or convention can ever recreate.

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | Comments Off

Ellen gets nominated for a VGA award, Part 3: Into the belly of the beast.

Into the gates of Sony Studios!

Okay, first let it be understood that award shows are to Hollywood as Hollywood is to normal human behavior.  That said, it was still really bizarre.  The thought that kept going through my head the whole evening was, “Reality has LEFT the building.”

As most adventures do, ours started unremarkably, I mean, unremarkably for an event where you all climb into a limousine with your wife dressed to the nines.  I was dressed to somewhere around the six and a halves, but the other Valve guys were exquisitely indifferent to the demands of fashion . . . or were they???  Each had on a sport coat from beneath which sprouted the untucked shirt tails of the devout west-coast proletarian innovator/entrepreneur and the blue jeans legitimized  by billionaire nerds.  The statement they made was unmistakable: We actually do things.  We don’t need to look important, we are important. They made me feel like a counter-revolutionary in my black slacks and moderately expensive belt.  The conversation on the way was laced with sentences like, “Does anybody know what we’re supposed to do when we get there?” and “I hope we’re not too early.  I don’t want us to look desperate.”  All these thoughts were predicated on the assumption that the People in  Charge had a Plan.

As we rolled through the Art Deco gates of the fabled MGM Studios (now owned by Sony) I think we all knew that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  The driver started to look for other limos and someone in a hat motioned us down a narrow alley lined with what anywhere else would be described as shabby warehouses but were actually sound stages.  They were all painted pristinely white, which made them look like shabby warehouses painted pristinely white.

The Red Carpet!

A crowd of people filled the pavement ahead and we knew we had arrived.  Climbing out of the limo I saw a white inflated archway that made me think of the bouncy rooms they blow up for kids at state fairs and strip mall parking lots, but this portentous portable portico led to the Red Carpet!  Which was white, too.  They seemed to have a thing for white.  It was lined with ravenous paparazzi dressed in black who exhorted us to “Look right in here!  That’s it!”  Ellen and I were the focus of dozens of lenses each owned by someone hoping to make a sale to some gaming mag or show biz tattler.  As we moved down the carpet we were guided by a friendly woman toward various people who wanted to interview the voice of GLaDOS.  Ellen was her gracious self, answering questions with freshness and humor sprinkled with her bell-like laughter.   I was very proud of her but not at all surprised.  As we moved toward the end of the carpet our contact with Spike TV found us and reminded us that Ellen was going to be interviewed on the carpet at 4:35, “because (keep this quiet) you’ve won.”  That’s how we found out.  Just kind of standing around on the white Red Carpet with a bunch of other people who were just kind of standing around.

It was 3:10.  Where could we go while we waited for the interview?  Well, kind of nowhere.  We couldn’t go into the studio because we couldn’t get back out.  We couldn’t wait in the Green Room because that was just for paid presenters.  We kind of had to hang there at the end of the white Red Carpet for the next 80 minutes.  So we got to know a couple of the security guards pretty well.  One of them brought a folding chair for Ellen to sit in.  As we watched other people go in it began to become apparent that it was only 58 degrees outside.  I gave Ellen my jacket.  Paid Presenters started to arrive.  I swear I did not see more than three women with inseams shorter than 40 inches or hips larger than 22.  It was like being on an alien planet.  And the shoes!  Nobody and I mean NObody with two x chromosomes was wearing anything shorter than a six inch heel.  These stratospherically-legged women felt the need to enhance their limb length by donning fashionable prosthetics.

Ellen receives her Vector Monkey, the VGA for best performance by a human female

Over an hour and several celebrities later (Ellen had her pic taken with Mark Hamill and got a great shot of Hulk Hogan’s back) we were summoned to a raised circle where she would be presented with her award.  After holding it for a ninety second chat with a couple of attractive young people who presented it to her she had to present it back (not on camera).  Her actual statuette would be engraved with her name and shipped to her at a later date.  The award was just a prop that was used over and over to each person who won.

But we could finally go inside!  We made our way into the cavernous sound stage that was already rockin’.  In the techno-rock din and chaos our seats were not to be found.  We figured, since Ellen had won best actress they’d want her pretty close to the front.  Nope.  Not even the middle.  Friendly but hurried ushers guided us up to the bleachers in the back to sit and wonder how Ellen was going to make it back down to the stage.  We told people that she was a nominee.  They

FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T LET ANYONE GET BORED! The set of the VGAs

replied that they had a plan if she won (we still weren’t supposed to tell anyone).  So we sat and ate some very unfortunate food and avoided drinking Jim Beam and Dr. Pepper in plastic cups (no kidding) while we watched what everyone at home watched: a two hour commercial for future video games with only the briefest and rarest interruptions to present an award.  I believe only three awards were actually presented during the show.  Even though Portal 2 won best PC game, best Multi-player, best performance by a human male, best performance by a human female and best Downloadable Content, a total of five awards, no one from Valve ever took the stage.  No acceptance speeches, nothing but a five second clip in which all the awards Portal 2 had won were listed.

AAAAACK!!!!!! The action never stops at the VGAs!!!

But don’t get me wrong, we had a great time.  We truly did.  It was very entertaining in a sort of apocalyptic-end times-we-don’t-know-what-to-do-but-we’re-gonna-do-it-loud-and-frenetic kind of way.  It was a wonderful, exciting, and absolutely weird experience and I’m so thankful that Ellen and I got to go.  To spend time with our friends at Valve and peer into the heart of Hollywood and the bowels of the entertainment industry was thrilling, unique and unforgettable.  We’re so glad to be back home.

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | 77 Comments

Ellen gets nominated for a VGA award, Part 2: On to L.A.!

Off to Los Angeles!  We flew down with Erik Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton and his wife and Josh Weier and his wife, all Valve denizens who were up for awards, too.  Party plane!  Well, not really.  I mean, it was a 737.  You could barely make your way to the bathroom to avoid disabling the smoke detector.  And we’d been up since five a.m.

Valve (Ellen, Jay Pinkerton, Rhiannon and her husband, Josh Weier) head for Los Angles Century City Intercontinental! (Not pictured: Erik Wolpaw and Jay's wife, Karla)

But they met us at the airport in a Stretch Limo!  With a bar!  And twinkly lights in the ceiling!  And a deferential driver who smelled of tasteful cologne and said things like, “Certainly,”  ”No problem,”  and “Right away”.

We climbed in and headed for the hotel which was on, get this: The Avenue of the Stars!  Go, Ellen.  Go, Ellen.  It’s your birthday.  Go, Ellen.  Palm trees swayed past outside as we discussed who was probably going to win what and why they really shouldn’t, because, let’s face it, Portal 2 was the best game EVER.  But the consensus was that Ellen had a real shot at going home with a statuette.  The guys had drawn lots as to who was going to have to make a speech if this or that award was won.  Valve was up for Best Studio and Portal 2 was up for Best Game, Best XBox 360 Game, Best PC Game, Best Multi-Player Game, Best Song in a Game TWICE (Exile Vilify and Want You Gone), Best Original Soundtrack, Best DLC (I don’t know what THAT means), Best Performance by a Human Male TWICE (Stephen Merchant as Wheatley and J. K. Simmons as Cave Johnson) and, drum roll please, ELLEN MCLAIN AS GLaDOS FOR BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HUMAN FEMALE!!!!  The conversation was a wonderful balance of excitement, high spirits and a kind of profound befuddlement that a bunch of esoteric artists from Seattle would be wandering around in the Great Cultural Wasteland.  (L.A.: Get over it.  You’re the GCW.  Everybody knows it.  Let’s talk about the elephant in the living room.)

The entrance to the Los Angeles Century City Intercontinental

But boy do they know how to build a hotel!  The outside looked like it should be inside and the inside was FABulous.  If there’s anything that makes Ellen happier than staying in a fancy hotel I’ve yet to find it.  But we didn’t have long to enjoy it because we had to get changed for our walk up the Red Carpet!!!!  Ellen had decided on a beautiful outfit that I had bought her consisting of an ankle-length straight velvet dress overlayed by a beadwork chemise and a carved velvet jacket with ornate fringe on the hem and sleeves.  She wasn’t going to be dressed even remotely like any other woman there.  She looked incredible. (Yes, that’s right.  I, the voice of The Sniper in Team Fortress 2, can successfully appreciate, select and purchase haute couture for my wife.  Advice to young male gamers who nurture the hope of having offspring: learn this craft.)  She topped it off with an incredible amber and silver necklace, which I also bought her.

The only important thing about award shows: the outfit!

We all met in the lobby and walked out the door.  It was time to head for Sony Studios and the VGAs!

Elegant, understated and FABulous!

Stay tuned for Part 3!  Into the Belly of the Beast!

 

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ellen gets nominated for a VGA award! Part 1

My beautiful and talented wife, Ellen McLain, was nominated for Best Performance by a Human Female at the Video Game Awards this year for her performance as GLaDOS in Portal 2.  This was fun news to receive.  I mean, how many times do you get news like that?  Not often.  Rarely.  Almost never.  Like, this was the first time for us.  Have any of you received news like this?  Let me know if you have.  How did you handle it?

What made it infinitely more fun was Valve (the company that made Portal 2) emailing us and offering to fly us down to L.A. for the award show!  Yay!  Right?  Yay!  Good news!  Happy news!  Champagne and fireworks!  Dancing in the streets!  Calloo, callay for e’er and a day!  Get this: Ellen didn’t want to go.  She’s surprisingly shy at times and compulsively ethical.  I mean it.  It’s a sickness.  If our representatives and senators felt a tenth the ethical compunction Ellen does we would probably all drive cars that run on pure goodness now and live in a society that produces no waste at all, only a pink cloud of effluvia that congeals into unicorns and laughing babies.  She had a Christmas concert rehearsal that day.  She simply couldn’t let her choir director down.  I suggested that perhaps her choir director would be excited for her and want her to go.  She didn’t want to risk bringing it up to him.  No, no, no.  We weren’t going to go.

Not only that, we had a book reading at Third Place Books in Seattle for my novel, Dancing with Eternity, the Friday night before the Saturday when the awards show was.  (For those of you who have had much better things to do and haven’t gotten the word, I’m an author now and my first sci-fi novel released this September.)  We would never be able to squeeze in a trip to L.A.  I suggested that in these tempestuous times people travel in jet-propelled aeroplanes that transport them a thousand miles in a couple of hours.  No dice.  Wasn’t gonna happen.  The Christmas concert rehearsal, the book reading.  It was all Too Much.

We went out to do some Christmas shopping while I pondered the state of things.  Ellen was just bummed.  Purely and simply bummed.  She works her whole life as an actress and is finally nominated for a prestigious award and she can’t go to the award show because we have to do a reading of MY book and SHE has a choir rehearsal.  Bummed.  Totally.  I thought of what all the announcement had said: the show started at 5:00, the Red Carpet (RED CARPET!!! Just like the Oscars!!!) started at 2:30.  As we perused some books at Magnolia’s Bookstore (and checked how many copies of Dancing with Eternity they had left) an idea came to me.  I walked over to her and said, “I’d just like to see you on the Red Carpet.  That’s all.”  And walked away.

GENIUS!  I could immediately see the gears turning in her head as her over-inflated super-ego warred with her id.  By the time we left the store a plan was being formed whereby she would approach her choir director and test his flexibility in the face of good news.

Of course he was thrilled.  She simply had to go.  The choir would be fine.

Stay tuned!

 

Posted in Thoughts, musings and other dalliances | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments