Hello and welcome to Week 12 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I'm fighting off a cold right now, so bear with me as my voice is a bit croaky. Today's character is extra special because I think of her as a flagship of sorts of the entire project. I'm thrilled to present Candace, our FPS (first-person shooter) Housewife!
Candace was one of the first characters I thought of conceptually. As with all of the characters, when I introduced them to the team of writers and illustrators, I changed the names I had in mind to be as culturally ambiguous as possible (hence "FPS Housewife"). But Candace was actually the original name I had thought of for her.
The whole project started out as a huge initiative to create middle-aged and elderly female characters in video games, but a lot of them turned out to be suited for other types of media, so not all of them would be game characters. Candace, however, from the very start, was going to be a housewife who abhors her sons' devotion to video games, then gets sucked into one—along with her sons—and they must figure their way out. I knew I wanted her to have moments in the story where she becomes closer to her sons, getting to know them on a deeper level, comes to understand their passion for video games, and rekindles passion for her own life again.
At some point I decided that her older son would be gay, and his coming out to her would be a non-negotiable part of the story. I thought it would be interesting if the older son was also a sports jock (again trying to break stereotypes, as I mentioned last week). He and his younger brother would play video games together and the younger one would look up to him immensely.
The writer I found for this character was DeNae. I found her through Instagram, while searching #nerdmom. I knew I wanted the writer to be a gamer (or former gamer, just someone that was familiar with the gaming world and basic mechanics of a first-person shooter game), and a mother (so that element of the story would be as authentic as possible).
DeNae, whose online presence is "The Big Bad Mama Wolf", brought Candace to life with her own gaming and motherhood experiences. And I know I keep saying this, but the story she wrote was simply more than I ever could have asked for. We decided together that her husband would be an architect, often staying late at his job but still a supportive and kind father in his own way.
When we were coming up with ideas of what types of terrain and setting we would include in the first-person shooter game, my boyfriend and I had the brilliant idea of each world in the game representing a different room in their house. Ultimately it became each world representing each person in their family. It's never outright said in the story, but the biomes and their character representations would be something like this:
- Ice caverns | Father/Husband/Richard: he may seem cold and distant, but there's a warm, fiery village at the center because he has a warm heart
- Volcano | Older Son/Shaun: he's very passionate and a go-getter type of person; possibly trying to hold in emotions, waiting to erupt
- Jungle | Younger Son/Jasper: wild, free, unpredictable
- Desert + Oasis | Candace: seemingly dry and boring, but brimming with life and vitality upon closer inspection
The illustrator for this character unfortunately dropped out of the project, so the search continues! In terms of racial identity, I want Candace to be half-Asian, half-white (like me!), and I would love to find an illustrator who is either mixed, or any type of Asian. I also want her to have a huskier body type. I suppose she doesn't have to be half-Asian at this point, since there is nothing in the story that indicates anything about her appearance or ethnic heritage. But I just like the idea of having one of the characters be a mixed baby like me! :)
Now here is DeNae, introducing herself and talking about the amazing story she wrote for the FPS Housewife, Candace:
"Hello! My name is DeNae, and I am a stay-at-home mom, blogger, TikTok video maker, convention creator, and all around huge nerd. A lot of people know me for the convention I started here in West Texas called Lubbock Con. And other people know me from Instagram as The Big Bad Mama Wolf.
I started writing when I was younger, but I haven't done it consistently throughout my life. This project really stirred up a lot in me because I was able to get back to my roots of writing. I've been doing my blog for a couple of years now. And while I really enjoy blogging and writing about the experience of being a mom, writing a fictional story about a fictional character was so exciting and something brand new and super interesting.
So Candace is this incredible character that Juliana introduced me to. She had an idea of the story already, and whenever she messaged me on Instagram. She found me because of the tag #nerdmom or #gamermom. And she messaged me and asked if I would be interested in the project, and of course, I was like absolutely! Oh my gosh. This is such a cool idea. A story about a mom who gets trapped in a video game with her two sons. And while I do not have teenagers yet—my kids are both under the age of ten—this was such a unique experience, because I got to really get in the mind of someone else who has a different life experience than I do, who's older than I am. But I just felt like it was so important for her story to be told, because at some point all of us reach that moment in our lives, where we have lived probably a lot less fully than we want to. And we need to awoken—that's not a word. We need to be awakened! Our lives need to be shook up. And for Candace, it is this moment where she gets to experience something completely unrealistic and otherworldly, but it has real-life connotations about your relationship with your children, your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with yourself.
And while Juliana had created the character, she left this big opening for me to give a backstory. And I really... Probably wrote too much of a backstory for me. Cause this is a short story, so a lot of you won't even know these things about the backstory. But it was so important to me to create a full character who has a whole life of experiences, and things that lead up to this moment.
It was important for me to know old her husband was, and where they were from, and where they went to school, and how they met. And he's only in the story for the very last few paragraphs, but those things led me to get to know Candace, and I really wanted the readers and the audience to love her as much as Juliana and I had started to. When we started having phone conversations, she would say, "This is how I see this moment playing out." And I was like, that's perfect, because in Candace's backstory, her father used to take her to play video games. It was so cool, because the character that she had envisioned and the character that I brought to life ended up being one and the same. It was just a matter of building that backstory and getting to know her as a fully fleshed out human being.
One of the coolest things that Juliana had wanted for the story was the moment where her son comes out. I don't have that experience. It's an experience that I know is life-changing, and so important. I know my sister and her wife—I've heard their coming out stories, I've heard their friends' coming out stories. They're good, they're bad, they're all over the place. And for Candace specifically, and for this moment in the story, I wanted it to be one of those things where you left feeling good about it. It is a part of life, it is a part of the human experience to have ups and downs with your child. But I wanted that ever-lasting, true love to come from Candace, and for you to really see that in the story. And I really hope that comes across whenever you guys read it. Because I loved writing that scene, and I loved talking to other people about their coming out stories, so that I could make mine as believable in this unrealistic world as possible. I remember when I sent it off to Juliana, I had already cried writing. Whenever she read it and she liked it, it made me feel so good because I wanted to do this character justice.
Even though I am a gamer, as a mom I do not get to game as much as I would like to. And I don't really do first-person shooter games. So I started talking to lots of friends about first-person shooters... I spoke with my husband, I spoke with my best friend Erin, and I was trying to get an idea so that I would get the terminology right! What would be a really cool game for a mom and her teenaged sons to get trapped in? And so I actually created an entire video game world. And I swear, Juliana, we need to get this made into a real game, because it is really fun. Number one. I would totally play it. And it's a lot like Halo, or Destiny. It goes through all of these moments that the characters needed. It goes through emotional highs and lows. And in order for Candace to have that moment at the end where she's like you know what, I can be my own person. I'm not just a mom. She needed to prove herself to herself. Not to anyone else. This was for her. And for her sons. For her to have that relationship rekindled, and re-supported. I cannot tell you how in love I am with these characters and this family, and it's probably because I created this really ridiculous backstory that no one will ever know, but it's in my notebook, and I just really feel like maybe we need to do a sequel or something, cause I really love writing about this family.
So I joined this project after Juliana sent me the information, because I felt like it was so important to have positive representations of females in media. Specifically in areas they might not particularly be portrayed, like gaming. There's a whole lot of gate-keeping, and you know, gamer-gate, and all of this anti-geek girl stuff that's really frustrating as a woman who actively participates in geek culture. So to be able to write a story about a woman who loved video games and lost that passion but rekindles it through an experience with her children was really awesome. I just couldn't turn it down. The whole project is so incredible, and it just has brought together some of the most talented women.
I think in order to find something that has a wide variety of perspectives in one place, even though the internet is so vast, is still really difficult. And Juliana has absolutely found a perfect way to do this, by creating these stories and these characters, and we have a writer and an artist for each from a different place in the world, and a different place in their life. We're all different ages, and races, and we live in different parts of the entire world—we're not just from one country or one area of the planet. This project is going to be so awesome because of that. Because it has a wide voice, but it's all pointing towards strong females. And if we ever needed a time that we needed to hear strong female voices, it's now.
Another reason I really wanted to be a part of this project was because my own grandmother, we call her Grammy, played Diablo when I was in middle school. And when I would tell people that, they would just be flabbergasted, like "My grandma doesn't even know how to use a computer." And I was like oh, well mine plays video games online, in an online gaming community. And so even though it's 2020 now, and that was in the late 90's, it's so important to have that representation, for people to see that there are women who do other things beside just motherhood. And while being a mom is such a huge part of my life, and it's absolutely probably my favorite thing about my life, it's not the only aspect of me. And a lot of women lose that.
And that's why this story was so attractive to me. It was about a woman who loves her children, she loves her husband, she's dedicated her life to her family... But in that moment has lost herself. And a lot of us experience that. A lot of us are experiencing that now, or will experience it in the future. So it's refreshing to see that there's life on the other side, and that you can be a great mom, and still be a great human being, and be your own person, and still love the things you loved before.
I'm so grateful to be a part of this project. I hope that you guys love Candace's story. I hope that you love all of the stories from Wise Not Withered. And more than anything, I hope that you feel inspired to be the best version of yourself and the best female that you can be."
I will now read an excerpt from the incredible story DeNae wrote, titled "Reclamation":
There is a blinding flash of light, an ear piercing squeal and suddenly my arm feels heavy. My whole body feels heavy. This is it. I'm one year from fifty and this is what gets me. A heart attack. But it is not my arm that feels heavy but what's in it. I look down. In my grasp, the most obscenely large gun I have ever seen. And my chest is not heavy but what is ON it. I am covered head to toe in bulky, gaudy, heavy armor. I panic. Where are my sons? I hear gunshots in the distance. I take off running towards the sound. I trip and stumble and drag this beast of a gun. I step through the fog and Shaun is standing there, a look of disbelief on his face, just staring. Jasper, tiny little Jas, is holding a smoking gun and a pile of alien carcasses lay in front of him.
“Dude.” Shaun manages to pop out before we hear more gunfire.
I turn around. An alien hoard approaches and all I can hear is Jasper screeching,
“SHOOT! MOM, SHOOT!”
“Candy! You have to shoot, Candy!”
It's my father. It's 1983. I'm thirteen again and in a mall arcade. He's not yelling but loudly encouraging. My father was a fun loving and highly spirited man. Even when we lost him he never stopped smiling. Even through the pain. Mother always scolded, “Stop feeding that girl fairytale dreams. She should be at the library studying, not playing that techno battle garbage with you.” I loved sneaking away with my father to the arcade for mind numbing fun, greasy pizza and cherry cokes. What was it that he would always say? “Aim with your eyes and. . .” and what? I hear explosions and yelling. The weight of a nearby blast knocks me back into the reality that I'm lost in virtual reality, as I shout, “SHOOT FROM THE HEART!”
“Aim with your eyes and shoot from the heart.”
I don't know what takes over me but I am shooting. This gun weighs two tons but I'm shooting. And yelling and screaming and running, my sons running beside me, tossing grenades and shouting expletives they know they are not allowed to say. Fear is a funny thing. I have never even touched a handgun in my life and now I am mowing down aliens and kicking ass trying to protect my baby boys. Why these sweet boys do this for fun, I do not know, but my adrenaline is driving me. Between the three of us we blow through sixty or more slimy green guys and I see a Humvee in a clearing ahead. The boys instinctively follow me to the vehicle. I am completely out of breath. I have not run in over thirty years. Shaun tries to climb in the driver's seat but I tap him over. He may be grown enough to blow up alien life forms, but he has not passed driver's ed yet. Shaun helps to remove some of my armor so I can drive and Jasper slouches over, exhausted, in the back seat. That kid can sleep anywhere. We manage to get this beast into gear and head towards a dense jungle in hopes of getting a break from explosions and ET trying to kill us.
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! More episodes coming every Sunday—sometimes Monday—until mid-2020!