Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Royal Ground Coffee

Living in a crazy town like San Francisco, you find yourself surrounded by caffeine addicts. Being the drinking town of the west, a hub of finance, and well land of the weird insomniacs, coffee is our lifeline. We are Seattle's best friend, which is probably why Seattle and San Francisco have the same vibe. In any case, coffee is our brown gold and we crave it like zombies crave brains, we're coffee zombies.

Royal Ground Coffee is a coffee zombie's friend. Coffee, breakfast, hot and cold sandwiches for vegetarians and meatagetarians, wi-fi, and a laundromat. It's not a beatnik place, or a place for suits, it's just a neighborhood coffee shop, the place you go to relax in before and after you get wasted. It's like the snuggie of coffee shops.

Walking into the place, it has a very open feeling from the high ceilings, it doesn't feel cramped, nor does it feel yuppy-like. The menus are done in chalk, a sign of any good establishment, and there's a lot of good options for beverages and deli sandwiches. I highly recommend the Cafe Mocha due to it tasting more chocolatey than most mocha coffees your's truly has had in a while. The Chai is also nice, even though I think there's no such thing as bad chai unless it's made from asses and dirt.

As for other amenities, there's free wifi, which gets ridiculously heavy use; a laundromat directly connected to the joint; and the crown jewel of any establishment, a crazyish owner and a sweet and sassy barista. It's as homey as D clown.

Royal Ground Coffee is located on the corner of Fillmore and Pine St. You are encouraged to tip heavily, TIP HEAVILY.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Frag Dolls: Heartbreakers and Lifetakers

If I could describe the Frag Dolls as anything, I would use the term Badass Chicks. Employed by Ubisoft, the Frag Dolls are a group of female gamers who compete professionally in tournaments, market and promote Ubisoft games, and are at the forefront of promoting female gamers as a whole. Easy on the eyes, busier than a bee, and deadly with the controller, these girls do it all including earning the distinction of being the first all female team to win a pro circuit tournament when they won first place in the Rainbow Six: Vegas tournament at CPL (Cyberathlete Professional League) 2006.

The Frag Dolls circa 2008

I recently had the opportunity to interview Brookelyn of the Frag Dolls. Brookelyn was one of the original members of the team and continues to promote women in the gaming industry today as part of the team. I thank Brookelyn and the rest of the Frag Dolls for the opportunity.

The lovely Brookelyn

#1 - The Frag Dolls have the leader of Clan PMS as one of their members. Does that ensure a very close relationship with the members of Clan PMS (i.e. when recruiting new dolls, promotion, etc.)

Not necessarily with PMS alone, every girl that supports us and tends to be more active in our forums will definitely outshine over candidates. I would consider spending time at our events and around our forums an advantage. It allows us to get to know the girl in more depth. We have the opportunity to see her skills and personality vs. a girl we know nothing about, other than her application herself. With that said, this by no means determines the outcome. Example: Former Frag Doll Calyber- we knew nothing about her, but fell in love with her resume, video and gaming skills. We disappointed a lot of our friends, but we knew in our hearts Calyber was a perfect match for us.

#2 - As employees of Ubisoft is there more demand and pressures to be great at the "company product" when competing in tournaments with Ubisoft games in them? (I.e. if you're not good at Rainbow Six Vegas 2, you're fired!)

Ubisoft has always been great in supporting us, win or lose. They would never fire us for not being the best, especially because they know how much hard work we put into training for these tournaments.

#3 - The Frag Dolls have been around for several years, do you feel it's easier to for people to accept a female professional gamer now that there are more female gamers in general, or harder because of the perception that most female gamers are casual gamers?

So much easier! Each year that goes by, I see more and more women becoming competitive in gaming. I remember my first year playing competitively for MLG, it seemed like the girls that did attend the event were just there to support/watch their boyfriends compete. It blows my mind how much girls in gaming have grown. When I first started with PMS (Pandora Might Soldier’s) there was only 10 members- 4 ½ years later, it’s over 500. Crazy huh? I’m really close with a lot of the girls in PMS and I have been competing with them for years. I know firsthand how competitive they are.

#4 - The Frag Dolls seem to combine a gaming team, with a marketing team, with a community management team. Which of those aspects seem the hardest?

I think the marketing side was more of a challenge for me. I was very anti-social before becoming a Frag Doll. Having to do interviews, press, and TV were all very scary for me at first. The marketing side of Frag Dolls has given me the tools to grow in this industry. I have learned so much! It has made me more confident, knowledgeable and strong.

#5 - Valkyrie and former doll Calyber are both on WCG Ultimate Gamer. Does this mean we'll see more Dolls in the future installments of that show?

You're not going to get any spoiler’s outta me. I will say…I love the show! Finally, a well produced gaming show that allows the main stream audience to see all aspect of competitive gaming. Did you watch episode 2 yet, when Valkyrie went head to head with Kelly Kelley (Ms. Violence)? It was so intense!

#6 - How would you feel about competing against your teammates in a tournament if it was nothing but singles matches?

We do it all the time in practice. It is way more challenging, because we have played together for so long; we know exactly what they’re going to do before they do it. As far as competing against them on a professional level, I would hate every moment of it! We have to compete against PMS all the time during Major League Gaming tournaments. It’s always sad when you have to knock out your friends.

#7 - With the number of lady gamers in the world growing each year, do you think Ubisoft would ever turn your team coed if we reached a point where the gamer population was half women or more?

I personally don’t think it will ever go co-ed, but I do think people will be seeing us sub in players for upcoming tournaments. Frag Dolls is a part-time job, and sometimes we have different events happening in our life that doesn’t allow us to compete with the team at the moment. To ensure the remaining of the girls get to compete, we will and have subbed players in, boy or girl. It just depends who works best with us as a team.

#8 - The UK Fragdolls and the French Fragdolls were recently disbanded, any word on why Ubi decided that?

I’m not sure about why the UK and France Ubisoft offices decided to disband the team. From what I read in their farewell blog, it seemed that they were headed off to exciting new adventures. That is one great thing about being a Frag Doll; so many opportunities come our way. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them was working for NASA now. :P

#9 - Any fun stories you'd like to share from traveling around the country competing and promoting?

There is just too many to share them all. I’m very easy when it comes to being entertained. I’m originally from Wichita, Kansas, so even going somewhere like Kentucky or North Carolina was fun for me. I did get invited to attend the Golden Globes this year. I got to teach celebrities how to play Ubisoft titles. It was amazing!

#10 - (The Fluff Question) As a group of fairly attractive gamer girls travelling around the country, how often do people ask you guys out/propose to you guys?

Not as much anymore. In the beginning it seemed like all the time, but now that more and more girls are gaming we aren’t considered rare treasures as much anymore. This is fine for me; I get shy with that type of attention.