Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I Finally Started Playing Overwatch! SEND HELP.

I blame all the cosplay, really.

This past year almost every time I didn't recognize an amazing costume, it was from this game "Overwatch." I was intrigued, but once I heard you had to play online - you know, with real live human strangers, I was like, NOPE.

Then some of my friends started playing, and I kept reading more and more about it online, and my favorite artists were posting gorgeous fan art, and THEN I heard about a 2-week free trial on Xbox Live... and the time had come.

 (You can also play on PS4 and PC, if you don't have an Xbox One. You need an internet connection for all of them, though.)

So John and I rented Overwatch from Redbox (Fun Fact: you can rent games from Redbox!) and fired 'er up several weekends back.

About a month later, and I'm helplessly hooked. (HEYO ROADHOG PUN!) It was a bumpy ride at first, though; after the first few days I told John I didn't want to play again EVER, and it took some adjustments before I could really start to have fun with it. So I thought I might throw this review out there, in case any of you are thinking about taking the plunge.

The first thing you should know about Overwatch is it's hella confusing at first. There's a laughably simple "tutorial," then you're on your own in a maze of character and play options. Like most games nowadays, you just have to muddle through and learn as you go. Fortunately it doesn't take long to get up to speed, though.

In a nutshell, Overwatch is a tournament fighting game. You're placed on one of two teams, then instructed to either attack or defend an objective during a timed match. There's no story to follow, no mystery to unravel; you just fight. Obviously this requires FPS (first person shooter) skills, but if you're not great, there are ways to practice outside of the "real" games. More on that in a sec.

The second thing you should know about Overwatch is that you die. A lot. Sometimes over and over and over, in fact. That's not just my lousy hand-eye-coordination talking; everyone dies a lot. It's part of the game. You immediately respawn, though, so dying just means the inconvenience of running all the way back to the fight. Well, that and the frustration of being soundly trounced for the eighth time in a row. :D

Which brings me to the third thing you should know: if you can get past the frustration and rage-quitting stage, Overwatch is insanely fun - and even more addictive.

The secret is in the enormous cast of characters, or Heroes, you can play. You can fight with everything from a bow and arrow to ray guns. You can fly, leap tall buildings, turn invisible, turn back time, or clomp around in an enormous robot mecha. The variety feels endless, and every character has unique abilities to discover, which adds to the fun.

Most players settle on a few favorites and stick with them, but since I'm new I've been switching up my character a lot, just to try them all out. I've been surprised how often I end up really loving a character I wouldn't have picked otherwise, and hating others that are really popular.

The game locations have a lot of variety, too; you could be in a space-age industrial factory, a quaint Mexican plaza, or pretty stone ruins in a German forest. It's all beautiful to look at and incredibly detailed:

As a reward for the battles you gain medals and experience points, plus "Loot Boxes" filled with customizations for the characters. Each character has maybe 20 different "skins," along with different things they can say or do, so collecting all the goodies is a real incentive.
In fact, here's the Bastion skin John's saving up for:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mailbag Show & Tell: Labyrinth Bots, Fairy Crowns, & Super Wonder Wombs!

It's time to dip into my Folder of Awesome Reader Stuff again! This is where I try to save all my favorites of your project photos shared on the Epbot Facebook page, or over on Fans of Epbot if I get permission. So let's check out a little of what your fellow readers have been up to!

First, the Labyrinth/Epbot mashup my heart always wanted:

Look closely; Kristi O. turned them all into bots! AAA! How cute is Ludo with rivets? And I am MELTING over Ambrosius' antennae ears. MELTING.

Even though you shared this ages ago, Kristi, I really DID need it this week. Thank you.

(P.S. Kristi doesn't have an art store yet, but sooooon.)


Here's a brilliant idea from my friend Melanie for displaying all the little toys you can't find a spot for:

 She put them in these stackable glass blocks from Michael's! It's like "Where's Waldo" in real life, right? So fun to look at. (I spy a Doozer!)

Mel has four so far on her desk:

These would be perfect lined up like a backsplash. Ooh, or stacked to make a low divider?

Shanon L. made the most STUNNING fairy flower crown:

Isn't it gorgeous?

Then she goes and makes it sound almost easy:

"So it's actually a metal laser cut mask, and I used a metal saw to cut the bottom half off under the eyes. Then I did a wash of gold over it, added flowers and stuff and tadaa!"  

I've seen these metal masks in costume and craft shops before for just a few dollars, or there are tons on Amazon around the $10 mark. There are so many cool designs, I'm seriously tempted to try this sometime!


Sophie B. is a big Welcome to Night Vale fan, so when she found a decorative microphone at the thrift shop she knew EXACTLY what to do:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Crazy Cute Purses For Your Inner Toddler Grandma

I'm really falling for all the quirky novelty purses out there, you guys. 

First it was the T-Rex purse by Kate Spade:


But even on sale (WAIT IT'S ON SALE??) it's like $227, and the most I've ever spent on a purse is... let's see... maybe $30?

Then I fell into the Betsey Johnson Wonderland of novelty purses:


But while not as pricey as Kate Spade, still kinda pricey, you know? Especially for something that's not an everyday bag.

Which is how I ended up stalking Amazon for crazy cute bags that were mega cheap - or at least under my $30 mark - that still had decent reviews. And I actually found some!

Plus, this could totally be my everyday bag:

Happy rainbow clouds go with everything, right?

Any of you Dizgeeks want to go 'bounding as a Dole Whip? 
Because I have JUST THE BAG FOR IT:

Not digging the chain strap (how is that comfortable?), but at least that's easy to replace.

In fact, after a while I noticed chain straps are everywhere:

Unicorn Tears Cross Body Bag, $22 (Also comes in pink)

But for a purse shaped like a Big Gulp of Unicorn tears? I think we can let it slide.

(A lot of these bags are bigger than they look, btw. If you click through to the listings you can see better size references.)

Here's one Ron Swanson would love:

All it needs is this bacon wallet.

I'm also loving that a lot of these have free shipping. If you have Amazon Prime like I do, then I think most of them ship free. Talk about the cherry on top of your cupcake purse:

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Sucker Punch I Think I Needed

The other week at MegaCon something kind of awful happened, early on Friday. Something that stuck with me, and lingered like a bruise for the rest of the weekend.

Still, I think it's something I can learn from. Maybe we all can? So I'm going to share.

Here's what happened:

I was on the hunt for costumes as usual, when I spotted a pretty girl in a big beautiful gown. I didn't recognize the character, but I zipped over and asked for a photo anyway.

As would happen many times that weekend, the girl's eyes flicked down to my prominent PRESS badge. Instead of getting excited or striking a pose, though, her face filled with fear. Fear, you guys.

"Um, what is it for?" she asked.

"Epbot," I said, trying to give a reassuring smile."It's a geek girl blog."

"Is it... is it one of those Costume Fails kind of thing?"

"What? No! Gosh, no!" I think I actually sputtered, I was so gobsmacked. "I...I only feature cosplays I like, good stuff!"

"Oh," she looked relieved. "I'm sorry, I just... I get really self-conscious."

John, who was beside me, immediately chimed in to say how great she looked - but she still seemed wary as I took her photo. I dug out a card to give to her, and quickly told her about you guys, and how you've formed this amazing, safe community of geeks who only build each other up. I hope I said it right, though, because to be honest, I was pretty shaken.

I wanted to cry, you guys. I wanted to hit things. I wanted this sweet girl to know the world *I* know online - the one filled with awesome people celebrating awesome things. I wanted her to take for granted that everyone was going to love her costume. I wanted to show her in advance how much you guys would like her feathered headpiece, how we ooh and aah over each other here, how we fangirl and act silly and that's all OK.

I've photographed literally thousands of cosplayers, and this was the first time someone thought I wanted to make fun of her.  Or no - scratch that. This was the first time someone said she thought I wanted to make fun of her. But what if others have thought the same thing? What if behind the hero poses and sweet smiles, they were wondering what kind of hate or ridicule was in store for them later online?

It felt like a sucker punch to the gut.

But maybe it was a sucker punch I needed - that we all need. Because we geeks still have a ways to go when it comes to bringing our online cheering into the real world. We can't just hole up in our safe spaces here; we need to get out there. We need to make more safe spaces, online and in real life. And we can't stop - we won't stop - until every geek in a dress, or a suit of armor, or a rainbow unicorn onesie feels only excitement about showing off the things they love.

I'm not going to post the cosplayer's photo here, because she didn't ask for this kind of spotlight. Still, I hope she sees this post, if only because it means she'll get to "meet" all of you. Plus I want her to know that she's made me want to try harder, to look deeper. If I ever do anything good in this community - if I ever make it a little easier to be YOU - it's because I've been there. Heck, I'm still facing those fears, every time I hit "post." Showing off the things we love is scary. Putting on a costume is scary. Sometimes just being ourselves is scary.

So the next time I'm out photographing a con, I'll try not to assume every cosplayer knows how awesome s/he looks. I'll try to look up more, compliment more. I'll try to smile more. These are our safe spaces in the real world - or they should be -  and it's up to us to look out for each other.

If you've never been to a con, I hope you'll try one sometime. I hope you'll put on your most obscure geek shirt, or that crazy anime wig that's gathering dust in the closet, and go have fun. Nothing makes a place more welcoming than big smiles and a little silliness. And if you're a little shy or scared or awkward? Well, hey, at a con, so is everyone else. So go ahead and say hi. Compliment a costume. High-five a Deadpool. Take a chance and engage a little. Be brave.

Let's bring what we have here on Epbot and on FOE into the real world.

And hey, if you ever see a pretty girl in a big ballgown and a feathered hair piece, go say hi for me.


I needed a picture for this post so I googled "rainbow unicorn onesie" and it did NOT disappoint:

Saturday, June 10, 2017

This Fan-Made BioShock Doll Is Perfect For Snuggling, May Or May Not Murder You

If you've played BioShock and/or BioShock 2, then you know Little Sisters are anything but cuddly. They're these ghoulish children wandering around with stabby gun-pacifier things, their eyes glow, and they like to cheer on whichever Big Daddy is currently pummeling you into the ground.

But at the same time, they retain a sense of innocence, and - mild spoiler? - are really just victims themselves, waiting to be rescued and turned back into sweet little kids again.

Literally the least creepy screen-grab I could find. I've played both games multiple times, but I'm telling you, some of Google's pics and gifs are friggin' terrifying. Ha!

Which is why Kari Parham's custom Little Sister doll is both brilliant and gives me all the grabby hands:


Granted, my tolerance for creepy dolls is pretty high, but c'mon: this is adorable, right? Don't you just want to squeeze her? And then wake your husband up with her sweet little face RIGHT NEXT TO HIS?

PLUS, Kari made this incredible display for her! 

So perfect it looks photoshopped - but it's not! Kari just set her handmade display (the floor and cage-like walls) in front of the TV to give it that awesome window-to-Rapture background.

And what's the display made of? 

Foam, paper, and paint??

 My mind, it is boggling.

The world's most perfect night light. 

Just imagine the comforting glow of her eyes and blood syringe, lulling you to sleep each night.
 (Eh, John?)

And look, accessories!

I first thought the Big Daddy doll was the ThinkGeek exclusive from years ago (I have one, and it is a prized possession), but no, Kari made that all from scratch! (Wha whaaaa?) She also made the ADAM syringe - aka the stabby blood gun thing - which lights up. Both in a suitcase just like ones seen in the game.

And can we pause to appreciate the paint work and aging on that floor and trim? Because HNNNNNG SO GOOD.

 If the doll seems familiar, it's because Kari modified an old My Child doll from the 80s - remember these?


I asked Kari for the scoop on the glowing eyes, and she told me she sculpted them from translucent clay, then lit them from behind with LEDs. There's a push button in the hair bow to turn the eyes on and off, and the batteries are accessible through the top of the head, which opens up.

If all that sounds complicated, it's because it was. Kari said it took her over a year of trial-and-error - and more than one ruined doll! - to get it right.

But wow, did she.
I can't get over that perfect eye glow. Translucent clay - who knew?  Plus, serious skills on that dress!

Sadly Kari doesn't have a website or page we can follow, but she's working on putting together a Youtube video showing the whole build process, so I'll link that here when she's done. She actually shared all these photos through the BioShock Facebook page, so you can check out her original post here to ask her a question or to give her a virtual high five. (Plus it's a great page to follow anyway, if you're BioShock fan.)

In the mean time, anyone else eyeing old dolls they can retrofit with glowing eyes? Or is that just me?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

MegaCon Orlando 2017: The Best Cosplay, Part 2!

RIGHT. That's enough talk of shoes and feminism and horseback riding.

(Though high fives all 'round: I didn't have to delete a single comment! I love that this group can disagree with each other and still just TALK, y'know?)

 Let's get back to MegaCon! 

Starting with a super awesome, super obscure Toy Story cosplay:

Remember this? Here, I'll jog your memory:

... while also reminding you that Pixar animation has come a loooong way, baby.

Some lovely Leia mashups:

Harley and Poison Ivy!

Two of the actors from Stranger Things were there as guests, which I think helped prompt some pretty incredible costumes:

 How perfect is this Eleven? 

If you look closely, you can see she made a purse from a box of Eggos, and the strap is a strand of Christmas lights!

My other favorite:

That's a teenage girl in the demogorgon costume, and I was SO HAPPY when she won her division in the costume contest. To go on stage, she actually popped *through* that fabric wall, and walked sideways with it! :D

 I like that she made the monster head out of fabric, too; almost makes me want a plush Upside Down Monster now. Almost.

Then, of course, there's Doctor Stranger Things:

Give it a minute. Take it all in. :D

Gender-bent Road To El Dorado!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sure, Wonder Woman Is Good... But Let's Talk About Those STUPID HEELS

I did it again, peeps: I let the hype get to me.

With all the rave reviews flooding social media, the smashing of box office records, and friends telling me to get ready to cheer, cry, and generally lose my mind, I went to see Wonder Woman last night with my spirits high, and my expectations higher.

To be fair, maybe nothing could live up to all that.

And also to be fair, Wonder Woman is a good movie - no question. But to someone coming in with no real history with Diana Prince, someone who hasn't seen all the previous stinkers DC's been making (Bats vs Supes? Nuh-uh.) for comparison, Wonder Woman falls just shy of "great."

It has moments of greatness, though: a few scenes that punch through into the movie I hoped for, the movie I desperately wanted. We get to see Diana and the other Amazons kicking butt, and looking gorgeous and fierce while doing it. We get a little laughter and color, a nice change from all the "dark and gritty" that superhero flicks seem to choke on today. We get gods and World War 1 and a ragtag group of misfits taking on the world - only this time, a woman's in charge. HELLZ YES AND THANK YOU PLEASE.

But for all that, the movie drags. There's too much talking, too much flirting with the predictable - albeit adorable - love interest. There's not enough fighting. The Big Bad Guy at the end is kinda laughable. And the worst part - the WORST part - is that our Amazonian warrior goddess, the one raised in a society with no men, the one who spends an entire (hilarious) scene protesting when they put her in a dress, because "how do you fight in this?" - this confident, self-sufficient, powerful role model for girls and women everywhere - spends the entire movie in 4-inch heels.


Not gonna lie: those needless, hypocritical, impractical high heels - featured prominently in every fight scene, but surprisingly hard to find in promo photos for reasons that will soon be made clear - kinda broke the movie for me.

 Preach, Mac Dictionary.


Now I'mma rant a bit. Buckle up.

Look, there's no denying Wonder Woman was made by men, for men. (Her own creator once wrote, "the secret of woman’s allure,” is that “women enjoy submission—being bound.” Um. EW.) But today we're told she is something different. Today she's been re-branded, reclaimed. Today Wonder Woman is supposed to stand for feminism and empowerment, not bondage and submission. We girl geeks rally behind her as the champion for our sex, the chief example in the comics universe we can point to and say, "See? Women can be superheroes, too.

And hey, I'm not saying Wonder Woman can't be sexy. HECK YEAH SHE CAN BE SEXY. The rest of Diana's outfit makes sense for battle, and is totally smokin'.

I'm also not saying wearing heels is bad, because rock what makes you happy, peeps. But let's not delude ourselves: heels are for looks, not comfort or practicality. Which of you straps on stilettos before going for a run? Maybe a kicky pair of pumps for Taekwondo? It's beyond laughable. Add to that Diana is a warrior who's never even SEEN a man, much less cares about attracting one during battle. Putting her in heels is practically character assassination; it literally goes against everything she stands for.

Besides, I defy you to put Gal Godot in flats and tell me she's one IOTA less attractive. So why do it? WHY?

And lest you think this was a height thing: Godot is 5'10. Chris Pine is 6 feet tall. Godot didn't need to be taller. In fact, she wore flats while filming, so she wouldn't be taller than Pine.

Because heaven forbid a leading lady ever be taller than her leading man, right, Hollywood?

 Almost done, I promise.

Of course, Godot also had to wear flats while filming because even pretending to be Wonder Woman was impossible in those shoes. Gal Godot was a combat trainer in the Israeli army, you guys. If anyone could do it, it would be her. But she couldn't. That's how ridiculous Wonder Woman's shoes are.

So get this: they CGI'd them in.

That's right, they went back and digitally added in the high heels; in reality, Godot was wearing sneakers under gladiator spats the whole time. So instead of giving her flat sandals that make sense and look almost exactly the same, the producers spent extra money, time, and who-knows-how-much effort to make the pointed statement that Wonder Woman must wear impossibly high heels while fighting. (I guess we should add that to her list of super powers?)

And here I am, feeling like a traitor, because every review I've seen by other ladies is going on about how different Wonder Woman is, because it was directed by a woman. That it doesn't "serve the male gaze," and that the Amazon's outfits are so refreshingly unsexualized, and I'm like




but of course I can't say that because the movie is rocking my fellow geeks' universe, and I DO want them to have nice things, and I DON'T want to be the one tinkling in the Wonder Woman Wheaties, so to speak.

[plops back down, pats hair into place]

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Jen, CHILL. They're just shoes."

But are they? 

When Gal Godot showed up to the Wonder Woman premier in flats, the internet lost its mind.

Everyone applauded this bold statement for comfort and feminism, apparently oblivious to the fact that the actress was now better equipped to go sprinting through a battle field than her character was. Think about that. Think about the enormous opportunity lost here. About what a coup it would have been for women everywhere if "our" superhero - the one I hope will help usher in a new age of female leads - didn't have to sacrifice her own character integrity for the sake of sex appeal. Think about what an example that could be to kids, to geeks, heck, to cosplayers. (WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE COSPLAYERS??)

Wonder Woman was a good step forward, it was. I love it for every battle scene, for every roundhouse kick, for every time Diana led the charge. I love how many of you were deeply moved and inspired, and I'm beyond thrilled reading all the stories of little girls putting on capes and practicing their punches, and of grown geeks rediscovering their love for a childhood icon. I want more of that, and I know Wonder Woman will help pave the way.

But dangit, they really screwed up with those shoes.

Ok, sound off: who didn't even notice she was wearing heels? Who doesn't care? Who's had their entire feminist perspective shifted by my oh-so-convincing diatribe? [elbow nudge] Eh? EH??

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Jen's Gems: Pandora Eye Candy, Sparkle Purses, & An Exploding Teacup Chandelier

I have more favorite internet finds for you!

Shemayne of Lemon Drop Cosplay, creator of that Transforming Droid skirt I featured in my last Celebration roundup, also made a Transforming DRESS - and wow wow WOW:

I can't believe this hasn't gone viral yet. SO COOL.


Steampunk Tendencies featured an incredible chandelier last week:

It's by Ingo Maurer, a German lighting designer. Naturally I went poking around his other designs, and it seems his most popular motif are these nifty winged lightbulbs:

It looks like they cost $360 online, but you guys, we could so make this.


If you're digging Toddler Grandma Style as much as I am, and you want more inspiration - or just to follow the most delightfully colorful person on the planet - then go follow Team Sparkle:

I don't even know her name, but this woman is amazing. She loves Disney and rainbows and quirky novelty purses, and her photos just make me happy, you know?

 Plus she seriously makes me want to wear more color. Fearless joy, you guys. That's her.

 She doesn't just post outfit photos - there's also lots of Disney and architecture and sweets - but it's all technicolor, all fabulous. Go see.


And while I'm giving you eye candy accounts to follow, if you love Disney, then definitely follow WDW Shutterbug.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

MegaCon Orlando 2017: The Best Cosplay!

MegaCon is Orlando's largest convention, with attendance reaching over 100,000 - and growing. To accommodate the massive crowds, this year MegaCon's new owners relocated to the opposite concourse of the Orange County Convention Center.

Trouble was, this new concourse has a show floor one level down from the main entry floor, and when MegaCon tried this same switch back in 2014, this happened:

People were nearly trampled - and definitely panicked - by the down escalators continually dumping more people into a near standstill of a crowd.

To avoid the same safety issue this year, MegaCon did something rather ingenious:

They made everyone walk outside, around the building, and enter through a large bay door directly onto the lower show floor.

The massive ticketing area.

While this dealt neatly with the bottleneck problem, it did present some new - albeit minor -  problems: 1) it's HOT in Florida, and no one likes a longer walk outside, and 2) the show floor lighting is terrible for photos, since all the sunlight is one floor up. I miss my natural light, y'all.

Still, I did my best, so let's get to some costumes! 

In fact, I'm going to hit you with the cutest cosplay of the con first thing:

BABY GROOT. Eeeee! So adorable!

This Ariel has rock, will travel:
Literally; I watched them roll it along!

Who wants the redhead?
Oh, that's right: WE DO!!
(This makes my Dizgeeky lil' heart so happy.)

The new Guardians of the Galaxy inspired plenty of Yondu love: