Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Was Made For This.

This post has been a long time coming. It's not very often I get a chance to talk about my past. It was easy for me this last year of school to get wrapped up in moment and forget my purpose, what motivates my ambitions and how far I've come in the last 3 years of my life. That being said I think I've made a lot of self reflection.

My social life in particular has blossomed since my first foray into the gaming industry two years ago with the Frag Doll Cadette Academy. It's an experience that really changed my perception of human interaction. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who truly understood me; not online, not the neighbors that inhabited my Animal Crossing play through, but in real life.

At the age of six I was diagnosed with ADHD, and up until my second year of college I had been heavily medicated. I won't go into too much detail, but for the majority of my life I felt betrayed by much of the people surrounding me; I relied on technology: my PC, Gamegear, Xbox 360, DS. These were the brothers and sisters I never had growing up as an only child. Despite being an easy target to land on by the crosshairs of the bullies at my school, I found a distinct love for role playing games, social media, internet, and the online communities that I became a part of in games such as Guild Wars, and using clients like Ventrilo. It was easy to feel like no one understood me in a small but affluently driven hometown in New Jersey, but I sought comfort, release, in such games and mediums. I poured my soul into my my artwork, and let out much of my aggression and anger through my soccer playing, but ultimately it was my experiences exploring the lands of RPGs, as well as the opportunities in which I could come home from a long day and serve a cold dose of headshot to those I played Day of Defeat and Gears of War with that gave me the most satisfaction. However, to say that I felt much of anything at all during this dark portion of my life would've been inaccurate. Come middle school into high school I was on a combination of six different emotional numbing medications. I was insecure about myself, unsure of my own feelings, and completely lost.

Three years ago, after almost completely failing out of college and on the cusp of giving up all together, I made the decision, on my own, against the better judgement of my therapists and psychiatrists to stop taking my medications. For the first time in my life, I truly felt alive. It was apparent to me that I had been given a second chance, both spiritually, and quite literally, after a near overdose in high school had left me with permanent circulatory system damage.

Sitting at home, paints all over the floor, with an xbox 360 controller to the left of me, I found G4TV, Spike, and other television stations that had shows devoted to the purpose of gaming entertainment. I couldn't help but feel like it was my calling. If I was going to do something with my life, it was going to be now. The next step was the most logical of all steps, I would take to the internet, and enroll back in school. It was this way that I stumbled across Twitter, the "Blog Your Way to E3" 1 Up Contest, as well as the Frag Doll Internship that change my life and introduced me to an industry: a community of people that I now consider my home. <3

Since then everything's been such a blur. There isn't a day that goes by I'm not grateful for the opportunities I've been given. This summer, working as an intern for the G4TV Show X-Play was a dream come true. I worked hard for it - I even had a series of bake sales for months so I could get to LA - but in the end it was you: the gaming community, the people who read my blog, or follow my real life questing on Twitter: you make my dreams a reality.

Working on The Indoors Kid's podcast with Kumail for Nerdist Industries this July was one of the most rewarding experiences of my adult life. I got to work with and meet some really incredible (and funny) people. It was really difficult saying goodbye to that, to Los Angeles, to having everything I've ever wanted right there in front of me. But, out of respect for myself, my parents, the future, and the idea that I will one day get to share my story with the world - and trust me when I say I will - I had to finish my last year of school.

Two months away from graduation, it has become evident to me of how completely uncertain life can be - remember that time I lost my car in that flash flood? But I know I am lucky to be here. I am thankful I was given a second chance, at life, and my education. Slowly but surely it's all beginning to make sense. I know I want to work in the gaming and entertainment industry. I know where my skills lie; journalism, social media, comedy, photography. And I know for god damn sure what I've know my whole life: video games and technology have had nothing but positive influence on me and I can't wait to spend the rest of my existence relaying that message.

/// SIGNAL INCOMING: Never give up.

xoxo Ali Baker

Relevant to your interests: @FragDolls, @G4TV, @Xplay, @IndoorKids, @Nerdist


Randall Wong said...

Great Post Ali! I hope you know that you're well supported in this gaming community and we're cheering for ya!


Parker Scott Mortensen said...

I'm happy for you. I hope I have a story like this to share in a few years. <3

Cody said...

You go girl. It was a pleasure having you live in our humble abode for your last week in LA. Would you kindly not forget about us? ^^


Dan said...

Go Ali! I loved your episodes of the Indoor Kids. It'd be great to hear you on it again someday!

revistinha1 said...

You are awesome Ali, makes really happy to know that you didn't give up on your dreams like i did , i can't wait to see what the future holds for you , but i'm pretty sure it will be something BIG. Good Luck!

delo said...

Hey Ali,
I stumbled upon this from FB. I want you to know I saw good things in you in HS, and you know, I kinda liked many of those things. I'm so happy for you, and incredibly proud. Best of luck, I can't wait to see you on the tube or behind it someplace! (ps - I still have the card with the chipmunk in gunsights on it!)

Tracie said...

Truly inspiring post, Ali. You are an amazing girl with so many accomplishments! Can't wait to meet you at PAX East!

Your fellow FDC,
Miss Magitek

Kai Schubert said...

Hi Ali,
stumbled over you on Twitter, most probably through Jane Mcgonigal. Read this last post of you and just want to give you another positive feedback, for we all love those the most:
Go for it baby!

Best wishes from Germany,

John (wobey) said...

Hey Ali,

Thanks for this post! It's motivating for me to hear that someone similar to me is thriving in the gaming industry and in their personal life! As an only child with much older parents (I'm also a fan of The Indoor Kids) it was tough for me to connect&communicate and rely on them for parenting at times. That led to bullying at school and I developed ineffective ways at dealing with stress early on.

I grew up medicated and dulled too. It constantly kept me out of the present moment and in a state of inactivity and fear. Basically zero creativity and a recipe for life long general anxiety disorder. When the meds didn't live up to what the doctors said I turned to self medicating my senior year of high school ('04).

I wont go into detail about that but it took me down a hellish, but necessary, road up until '08. The experience left me callused and severely despondent - but still hopeful and extremely hungry for community. I traveled to Peru to hike and look for community. I found some amazing people but nothing that felt like home. Totally lost and without passion, I turned to the one constant I had throughout my whole life: gaming.

At first I gamed to dissociate from all my repressed thoughts and issues; it quickly became destructive. It was just another drug and I had merely traded addictions. Through therapy I learned to own my shortcomings and my strengths alike: either drop gaming or get creative with it! Then I learned that Felicia Day wrote the Guild out of ambition to overcome/hone her own gaming addiction into something positive. Along with Chris Hardwick and his extreme creative energy that helped counter act his alcoholism, I was now very motivated to find something within gaming culture (and outside it) that I could be apart of socially and professionally. My anxiety had hit a tipping point and I was severely exhausted and a wreck. I knew I either needed to create with all this energy I had or go back to old habits.

A friend told me about PAX Prime last year and I decided to give it a try. DEAR LORD, WHAT THE... IT...it was so beautiful and energizing!!! Haha. I walked away more motivated than I could ever remember in my adult life. I'm not religious but it felt like a blessing. The community of folks and their passion for gaming and the industry I met in those three days has been like Oxygen to me. I had a shit eating grin for weeks. For a change I wasn't anxiety ridden - it was manageable and sometimes non-existent =)! Music had depth again and I had the energy to hike in and out of the Grand Canyon & The Inca Trail. Overall, I was content for the first time in at least a decade.

Since then I've enrolled in school again and I'm working towards a BS in computer science and game design! Programming is meditative for me and I now live in the present moment. Whoda thunk it that playing video games would help me so much??

I still feel like I've put on a pair of shoes that aren't really mine. But hearing about all the hard work you put in on a daily basis and the improvements to your own mental&physical health makes me want to own my shoes a little more every day. Thank you for being so candid, bubbly, and funny. You're awesome.

Keep up the good work - I'm excited to see where you take your career and passions. You'll undoubtedly inspire many other women and men with each step you take!


Anonymous said...

I got to the 3rd paragraph. I couldn't read it. This treads on my own past a tad too much. I've surprised myself by how sensitive I still am to this crap. I'm gonna go watch some game trailers

Mobbdeep5454 said...

Glad you made it to where you are today and can't wai to see the infinite amount of awesome things in the future, oh and gratz on becoming part of Rooster Teeth :)

Steven Westlake said...

Great post! Absolutely amazing and I really admire how strong you are and how much you have done. I hope everything continues to skyrocket upwards for you :D This stuff really hit home for me. I feel you inspire me greatly.

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