Monday, October 30, 2017

Fighting "Toxicity" One DM At A Time

A lot of you know John and I are currently addicted to Overwatch, the online mutliplayer battle game. Since I first wrote about it in June we've both gotten quite a bit better, learning, leveling up, watching tips videos, and generally falling headfirst into the fandom.

There's a problem with Overwatch, though, particularly as you reach the higher levels. Something gamers calls "toxicity." We'd read about it, of course, but since neither John nor I use voice chat in the game, we figured we were immune from the nastiness and bullying you hear about in discussion boards and comment sections.

John's more of risk-taker than I am, so after a few months he jumped into the harder aspects of the game: 3 on 3 battles, and even the officially ranked Competitive Play. These are where the serious players come out, and it made John feel good to hold his own with increasingly skilled teammates.

This is more John's story than mine, so I'm going to let him tell you what happened next:

"A couple weeks into playing, I was doing pretty poorly and we lost. All of a sudden, a little icon popped up on the bottom of my screen, showing I had a message from one of my teammates. That never happens. Surprised, I opened it and read, “Why don’t you learn how to aim. You suck.

Ouch. I did my best, the other team was better, no big deal, right? But here was this random person telling me I sucked.

I'll be honest, I didn’t want to play anymore after that. I moped around, I thought about responding with something snide or mean. What, like this guy never had a bad game before? 

A day or two later I shook it off and started playing again, but sure enough, there were more angry messages. Teammates blaming me for our losses, even when I did well, or angry because of the character I chose. (The perils of being a Symmetra main.)

That's when I had a sinking thought: what if ALL private messages in Overwatch are like that? Mean, critical, lashing out? So I did a little Googling, and yeah, they are. That's pretty much all the players use the messaging feature FOR. I guess that’s what they mean when they say a game is toxic.

I decided then and there to be different. I decided that every chance I got, I would send notes of encouragement and praise to fellow players, whether they were on my team or playing against me. 

“You're a great Hanzo.”

“You killed me SO MUCH. Awesome!”

“That was unbelievable. You are so, so good.”

Just short little things, since I'm typing with a controller. A lot of times it's just an "awesome Reaper" - or whatever character they played.
The reactions were amazing, once people got past their suspicion. Everything from a simple "thanks" to returned compliments to friend requests. So many friend requests. Because NOBODY DOES THIS. When you see that message icon pop up, it’s always somebody being mean to you. That’s just the way it is. But because this small touch of kindness was so unexpected, it was so much more powerful."

Jen, jumping back in here.

John and I talked about this over lunch back at Dragon Con, about how sending a positive message in Overwatch was completely subverting everyone's expectations, and whether that was even a good thing.

"You realize just by messaging people you're making them think something bad is coming, right?" I asked. "I mean, that little ding from a DM is awful; it scares the crap out of me."

"Yes," John said, "But people only expect the message to be bad because they've only gotten bad messages, or read that they're all bad. What if they started getting good ones? What if they got so many good ones they stopped expecting DMs to be mean?"

I sat there and thought about all the times I'd already watched John lose a game in Overwatch, all angry and frustrated, then immediately message the person on the opposite team who'd killed him the most times - and tell them what a great player they were. I thought about the day I found him looking blankly at his laptop, game system off, because the first of several strangers had told him he was terrible at doing something he loved.

I sat there in that noisy food court, looking at this guy who'd made the impossibly hard choice to repay evil with good, and marveled. Sure, it's only a game. But it's more than that. It's a tidal wave of angry people lashing out in frustration, ruining people's days, hurting feelings, ostracizing and excluding behind a veil of online anonymity -  and here's my hubby, pushing back, one DM at a time.

I know most of you don't play Overwatch, but you do interact with people online. So I'm issuing a little John Challenge today, to you and to myself: Put more positive than negative into your fandoms, your tribes. Stop yourself the next time you feel like lashing out online, and instead find someone to praise. Give a little unexpected kindness. That's the best kind.

And if you do play Overwatch, let me challenge you to send out a compliment in-game this week. Bonus points if it's to someone you just lost to. (This challenge is also for me, since I've never messaged anyone before!) Let's make it a habit to send out at least one nice note every time we play. Maybe make that your signing off routine, after your last game.

It's not much, I know. It's just a drop against a tidal wave of toxicity. But drops have a way of running together, growing stronger, and forming a flood.

So pass it on.

PS. I found these memes while I was looking for a good Overwatch screenshot, and they made me LOL:

(For you non-players: Anna has healing darts in-game; she has to shoot you to heal you. :D) 


Now let's announce this month's art winners!

My wild card winner is: Max Martin
The winner of the Marvel Roundup print is: Wordwitch
And the winner of the Sailor Moon print is LizSie

Congrats, you three, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!

Friday, October 27, 2017

October Art Roundup: Potter Princesses, Lumiere's Library, & Papercut "Tiny Worlds!"

Time for my favorite art finds this month!

I'm really liking Heather Hitchman's use of line art with just a touch of color:
 She also has full-color works like this:

Her shop has over 140 listings, go see the rest!

 These Potter Princesses by CJ Major are too cute:

Ariel found the Triwizard Tournament egg! Love it!

 And for my fellow Overwatchers, CJ's "flip" posters showing the characters with an alternate skin are suuuper cool:

You can hang them either way! 

Check out Major's Etsy shop to see the rest.


TJ Lubrano from the Netherlands has just stolen my heart with this Hedwig print:

And continuing the book theme, she also has this Cogsworth & Lumiere print that lets you choose from a bunch of different quotes:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Quick Craft: Upgrade Your Dollar Store Swords With Paint & Metal Tape

Helloooo my lovely fellow procrastinators! You're out there, right? Scrambling to put together last-minute Halloween costumes for yourself and/or your Next Generation?


Assuming your last-minute cosplay needs a sword. 

(If not, grab yourself a string of battery-operated lights, an old rotary phone, and go Joyce Byers that shiz. :D)

I'm also here to help with future cosplays and/or nerdy weapon displays, because this metal tape trick (and the painting, of course) has lots of great uses. And full disclosure: while I've used metal tape on things before, I learned this particular application from the man, the myth, Adam Savage. (You *do* watch all of his One Day Builds, right? It's Maker crack, I'm telling ya.)

First, grab yourself a dollar sword from - you guessed it - the dollar store:

Or splurge and get one of the fancier plastic ones from any costume shop.

I like these Dollar Tree ones because they have some gorgeous detailing on both the hilt and the blade:

In fact, the hilt's paint job isn't bad as-is, but that blade? UG. So plastic. Much bad.

Ah, but watch how easy this is. First unscrew the hilt to get that out of the way:

And save the screws on a piece of sticky-side-up tape on your work surface:
(This little trick has saved me many lost screws over the years.)

Now grab a nice long piece of metal tape:
And carefully smooth it over your plastic blade:
See how I'm peeling the paper away a little at a time?

Once the tape's on, trim off the excess & rub the whole blade down with the back side of a spoon. That adds an extra gleam and some great streaky texture to the metal:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

New Magnet Designs & Sale Coming This Tuesday!

I've been meaning to show these to you guys for a while now: remember when I asked what fandoms you wanted to see in our next batch of Epbot magnets? Well, John and I tallied up the most-requested ones, and put together 5 new designs! 

Wanna see?

 Here we go, in no particular order:

You want a revolution? I WANT A REVELATION:

... of our new Hamilton 'bot! I think this is our first pin/magnet to break the "Epbot in cosplay" format, but I just love that Botty silhouette. :D

I have a hunch that this will be our most popular in the new batch:

(I suggested John add the falling tribble, and now it's my favorite part.) 

Next is the happiest colors of the bunch:

Pony 'Bot! (Or Pinkie 'Bot?) John worked so hard getting the word design right on this one, and I lurrrrrve it. (I almost want just the "My Little Epbot" on a pin!)

To be honest this next one is our least favorite of the bunch, but let's see what you guys think: 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

DIY Deco: I Made An Art Deco Headdress!

I've got several projects in the works right now, but I thought you guys might like to see this one I just finished up. It's not a home run by any means, and I'll tell you where things went wrong and what I'd do differently, but I hope this inspires some similar craftiness out there:

I MADE DIS. Wha whaaaaat.

This is probably a good time to mention our Harry Potter Party will have a Fantastic Beasts spin this year, so many of our guests (ourselves included) will be dressing up as 1920's era witches and wizards.

Say it with me, now:


My struggle, of course, is finding ways to make a generic Flapper style a bit more magical. Since the President in the movie is wearing a funky headdress I started there. (Plus I just really like headdresses. :D)

As always I've done this on the cheap, so you could recreate your own for as little as $10 or $15, depending on how fancy you get with the jewelry. The primary materials are stiffened Friendly Felt (much stronger than the floppy kind), glue, and beads.

Close up of the jewelry bit:

The center piece is a combination of elements - I'll show you how they went together in a sec.

In fact, let me walk you through the whole build, starting with this simple mock-up John put together at the very beginning:

This was to test the shape on my face, so the strap is just taped in place.

I knew I needed something pretty spectacular for a focal point, so I went digging through my jewelry drawer of cast-offs. I found this $6 necklace and liked the wings:

I needed it to be gold, though, to match my dress.

We don't have a great gold paint at the moment, so instead John applied faux gold leaf with a little spray adhesive:


Testing the fit:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Jen's Gems: David Bowie, Middle Earth, & Lemon Head Babies!

It's Monday, you need these smiles.


Last week Neil Gaiman shared one of the sweetest things I've read in ages, but it wasn't written by him. It's by Paul Magrs, who in turn is recounting a story HE heard from one of his friends. Mild spoiler, it's about David Bowie, and you're going to love the Goblin King even more after you read this.

Take five minutes and go read what happened here.


Regal Robot shared a few photos from a magical place in Switzerland called The Greisinger Museum, and LOOKIE:

This is the museum entrance. Wha whaaaaaaat. Even better: most of the museum rooms are underground.

And check out the staircase leading down!

As you may have guessed, The Greisinger Museum is dedicated to all things Middle Earth. It opened in 2013, and you can find more photos and info on their website.

It does my heart good, knowing places like this exist.


This little girl Groot spotted at the Knoxville Fanboy Expo is giving me life:

I can't stop staring at her perfect Groot feet!  (Watch 'til the end to see the big smile under the mask.)

One more convention vid, this time from New York Comic-Con. I think I've watched this half a dozen times now, because strangers being silly together just makes me happy:

Friday, October 13, 2017

Halloween DIY Roundup: Let's Make All The Things!

It's prime Halloween craftin' time, guys and ghouls! So let's plumb the dusty Epbot archives for some of my favorite tutorials to get those creative sparks flying.

First, let's talk COSTUMES. 

For easy last-minute accessories I've made a lot of fun stuff with cheap ol' craft foam, like this steampunk/post-apocalyptic respirator mask:

Again, all craft foam, though it looks more like real leather than the one I *made* with real leather!  Grab the free template and read the full tutorial here.

These foam wings are perfect for would-be dragons, bats, and other figments of your imagination:

I'll walk you through making your own here.

How about some foam bracers for your battle armor?

I've got the free downloadable templates (including the rose design!) here. You can modify these for all sorts of armor, or just throw them on with a battle-ready Belle or Alice outfit.

If you're rocking more of a Snow White vibe this Halloween, then you NEEEEED this poison apple:
The green glow is so intense it almost looks white here, but trust me - it is VERY green. I'll show you how to make it for just $3, right here.

How about a quick dollar store ray gun build?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Best Overwatch Cosplay of Dragon Con 2017

I realize most of you haven't had your lives consumed by Overwatch, the online multi-player game John and I just can't quit, so I thought I'd put all my favorite Dragon Con Overwatch cosplay together in just one post. This way you Overwatch muggles can feel free to breeze on by, while I and my fellow addicts can all go ERMERGERSH together and dish about the Halloween event that just dropped, because HOW ARE THERE STILL NO NEW ORISA SKINS, and what is Mei supposed to be, and how awesome does Eichenwalde castle look now?! :D

I originally planned to show you the best cosplay I found of every single Overwatch character - because oh yes, I *FOUND* every single character - but to quote Inigo from Princess Bride, "No, there is too much. Lemme sum up." 

So these will be the best cosplays I found overall, regardless of character.

Starting out with a bang and BWEEEE, because LOOK AT THIS BASTION:

His light even changed from red to blue!

I seriously didn't think this character could even be cosplayed, so I stood around gawking for ages. It took me several minutes to realize the cosplayer's eyes are fully exposed - see them? Because of Bastion's head light it was especially hard to see into the neck area, so that's a brilliant design strategy, right there.

Two more:

The weathering, the clean lines, the puppetry-aspect for the long arms - I am just so, so impressed.

I love this Zarya so much I couldn't pick a favorite photo - so you get all 3: 

Seriously, this IS Zarya.


There were several excellent McCrees around, but this one was my favorite. Not only were the details NAILED, he also went the extra mile with the best light-up effects:

Monday, October 9, 2017

DIY Skull Sconces For Halloween And/Or Your Guest Room

I'm back with more Dollar Store spookery! This time we're taking two plastic shields, skulls, and battery tealights...

... and turning them into a pair of creepy wall sconces!


Admit it, these would look great in the guest room. Over the bed. When your in-laws visit.

(This is as close to gore as I get for the holiday, btw - though I was going for more of an "old and dusty" look.)

Also I really struggled with these pics; my back room is so dark! Which is great for ambiance...

 ...but not so much for photos. :D

Since I already had the tealights, hot glue, and craft paints, both sconces cost me less than $5 to make. Oh, cheap crafts, how I love you.

I'm sure you already get the general gist of how everything goes together, but let me walk you through the nitty gritty.

In addition to the skulls, shields, and lights,

- a craft blade
- hot glue & gun
- craft paint in brown, black, red, & bright orange
- a heat gun or hair dryer
- nips (or small scissors)

First, flip the shield over and cut off the strap and plastic rivets holding the dragon emblem on: