A Perfect Pandemic Love

The safest approach to dating during a pandemic is to go solo. There’s a faintly depressing paradox here. But I may have inadvertently found the perfect way to love despite distancing.

At a time when pretty much anything and everything can be acknowledged and debated in the public sphere, there’s a part of myself that’s very hard to write about.

I have a love that’s very unfashionable. My paramour and I cannot meet or speak with each other at present and for an indefinite period into the future. There’s no digital or physical evidence of this romance that I can point to, no tagged photos or corny gifts or grand gestures recountable by mutual friends.

I love them deeply and I am as certain of this as I am of my own name. They do not love me — not yet, anyway, or maybe not ever. But the trust and respect I have felt from them for me — the regard with which they held me — was unlike anything I have experienced before or since. Thus this particular asymmetry, which many would consider fundamentally flawed and unstable, actually doesn’t bother me.

This is not a new kind of romantic situation. It’s like having a lover who is off at war in some remote place in the 19th century, or courting someone with the patience born of watching them come to their own conclusions in their own time, except both at once. Every hour that passes is an hour closer to that beautiful day when we’ll meet again in joy and freedom, whenever that may be. But I try not to rely on this future memory too heavily, since it may well not happen. The point of this love, like Life, is the journey and not the destination.

This love used to press into my heart with razor sharp edges that wracked me with hurt, guilt, betrayal, blame, and confusion. With the benefit of time, reason, and understanding, these shards have smoothed into a gentle kaleidoscope, like sea glass in a tumbler. I tamed these feelings out of necessity, since they have nowhere else to go and no one else to harm, but in doing so I’ve also created something beautiful and sustaining. This is the pearl my oyster heart has cultivated, is cultivating now.

The fullness of this love accompanies my steps and soothes my soul. It keeps me from seeking new entanglements — not because of any promises or constraints, but because I don’t feel the thirst and desperation of extended solitude as keenly. The more opulently romantic I feel inside, the more ascetic I become externally. Love is not just in the declarations and the presents and loud togetherness; it’s also in the spaces between, where I think and gather myself in preparation for a new era.

The main guidance I’m left with during this purgatory is to be true to myself. It’s my half of the only thing I have that resembles a pact: they will keep being the person they are and I should keep being the person I am, and when the time is right something magical might happen again like it did for two honest and curious individuals before. There is nothing I could purchase or consume to hasten this process or increase my chances of getting another chance. It’s a capitalist’s nightmare (as is the pandemic).

And so I march on, rendered oddly self-sufficient by wistfulness. I take solace in green landscapes and sunshine because most man-made things pale in comparison to the strange and pure love maturing inside me. Founded as it is on the tenderness of hope mixed with truth, its many layers soften reflected light and make me luminous. Loving this person is nearly indistinguishable now from loving myself. Pandemic or not, I think this is how it should be.

How To Get Superpowers

Superheroes in Antwerp. Photo credit: agracier – NO VIEWS

Let’s look at a classic superhuman power: precognition, or the ability to see the future.

A few years ago, I had just sat down at a table in a Mexican restaurant. The waiter placed a glass in front of me and poured ice water into it. I touched the glass and it was unusually hot — it must have just come out of the dishwasher. I withdrew my hand and waited.

A few seconds later, the glass shattered, turning the table into a mess of water, ice cubes, and shards. I got up calmly to wipe the water off my pants, smiling a little. “I figured that might happen,” I said to my surprised date.

It’s true that, upon touching the glass, I had thought to myself that it would probably break, even though that had never happened before in my experience at restaurants. Some people might think this was a supernatural feat. But others would realize that it was because I had a good enough grasp of physics to observe that the extreme temperature difference between the water and the glass would stress the material enough to fracture it.

We love superhero movies and tales of people who, by virtue of birth or some strange accident, develop powers that help them perform miraculous feats. I grew up watching/reading X-Men and idolizing Jean Grey, who was telepathic and telekinetic (able to move things around with her mind). I thought it would be amazing to be able to read people’s minds, or turn invisible, or zoom around with super speed. I knew, though, that the odds of getting bitten by a radioactive spider or a similar catalytic event were slim. Still, the potential benefits seemed really compelling, so I kept thinking about it in the back of my head.

After decades of observation, research, and physical and mental training of various kinds, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to develop “superpowers” in a more ordinary way because of a certain insight. Superpowers are usually portrayed as defying the natural order in some fashion, as though regular humans are biologically limited to a certain range of abilities and anything outside of that is evidence of some alien influence. However, the actual “rules” being violated aren’t really those of nature, but human expectation. If I could consistently do things that other people didn’t expect, like reading their thoughts or actions with some degree of accuracy and reacting in ways they didn’t anticipate, that would basically be equivalent to telepathy and super speed (minus the cool costumes and special effects). You just have to stay one step ahead of the rest.

In an aikido class, I watched as the head instructor demonstrated how to catch an opponent off-guard. He wasn’t necessarily faster or stronger than your average fit 60-year-old Japanese man, but the way he surprised and took down much larger sparring partners seemed superhuman. One key technique was staying totally relaxed until the very moment he acted. It turns out that humans can unconsciously see muscles tensing, which helps us predict when someone is going to run or punch or what have you because tensing muscles is a precursor to physical action; your eyes detect that someone is preparing to move and you have a fraction of a second to react. But if you shave down that split second by intentionally staying relaxed, it feels to your opponent like the action comes out of nowhere. Likewise, if you’re observant enough to see patterns in the way people think and understand enough of the factors that influence them, you can anticipate their ideas in ways that feel supernatural to them — like you read their mind.

I can’t actually fly like Superman or grow huge muscles on a whim like The Incredible Hulk. But if you strip away the flashy CGI and other Hollywood conventions in your imagination, you might realize that “superpowers” are all around us if we care to look, and are easier to come by than we might think. Whether you use them as a party trick, or to save lives, or to perpetrate evil is up to you, but maybe that’s not the best way to approach it. We’re taught that adhering to the norm is the way to survive and succeed, but it can be very useful to think and behave in ways that people don’t expect, to zig where others zag. It would at least make life more interesting, and I prefer to live in a world where “superpowers” prompt me to recalibrate my own expectations. The more I can acknowledge and learn from the stunning breadth of human ability, the better off I think I’ll be.

What Is ‘Wisdom Forever’?

[I’m 60% of the way to my goal for my GoFundMe! Thanks to everyone who has pitched in thus far.]

My middle name, Jeeyoung, is pretty important to me, which is why I often style my name “Christina J. Kelly” and why I included it in my college nickname “CJ.” It’s the only part of my name that connects me to my Korean heritage, and it translates to “wisdom forever” (智永 in Chinese characters). 

When I was a child and “wisdom” was just a fancy synonym for “being smart,” it felt like a name with great expectations. It meant getting A’s in school and never falling prey to the petty delinquencies pursued by bored and/or traumatized kids in a comfortable Boston suburb. It was invoked by Korean church ladies and older relatives, a temperamental father, and others who have since dissipated out of my life.

After surviving the frying pan of formal education and jumping into the fire of adulthood, it started dawning on me that while I’d generally succeeded in being smart, there was something else to wisdom. It was a more ineffable thing — you couldn’t get a degree in it — and it was hidden in old cliches and greying beards. I carried it around like a dusty plaque inscribed in a long-dead language, incomprehensible but clearly valuable. The “forever” bit was almost as enigmatic, dancing as I was in an ephemeral milieu of startups and futuristic technology. Did anything really last forever? My name was significant but out of touch with my surroundings.

Then 2020 came, with its many undeniable reckonings. I found a new meaning in the phrase that followed me as surely and closely as a shadow, the one that was forged for me personally when I was newly minted in the world yet spoke to something eternal that I couldn’t hope to fully contain. I saw the global climate falling apart, and the overlooked oppression of millions bursting through the facade of the richest country in the world, and a deadly disease that simultaneously isolated humans and forced us to work together. Once seen and understood, I knew I could never return to the blissful darkness of ignorance. This cold wisdom, once attained, was forever.

I’m by nature an optimistic person, though, and I’ve kept searching for a new angle on this topic that wasn’t so bleak in its finality. I’ve come to realize that wisdom isn’t just the awareness of the heralds of doom, but also the capacity to trust that life goes on. It’s possessed by the plants and animals who make their way in an uncertain world with unconscious grace. It’s often resisted by us humans, who fill our heads with strange shoulds and shouldn’ts, made-up things like “power” and “money,” and so on, but I think we all stop struggling and accept it eventually. I don’t have to explain it anymore, because it’s just me. I just have to remember it, and that’s why it’s my name.

Why I Love My Exes

A long-ago work colleague once told me that whenever she broke up with someone, they were out of her life for good. She didn’t want to see them, talk to them, or think about them thereafter. Close the book and MoveOn dot org.

While I understand the logic behind this, it’s never been an approach that works for me personally. It feels like a waste. If I invest an immense amount of time and energy choosing and connecting with and understanding a person as a romantic partner — growing together and individually, learning how to be a team — how does it make sense to ever throw that all away? It would be like refusing to eat the cuisine of a country after I leave, or trying to forget how to write a press release after a high pressure PR job. Sure, there may be some negative associations, but it’s a lot of baby to chuck out for a little bathwater, however dirty it may be.

I do not necessarily recommend this mindset to anyone else, however, simply because it’s an integrated part of the way I approach romantic relationships. Patience has never been an especially strong virtue for me, so over the past 17-odd years I’ve been the initiator in dating more often than not. This grants me the boon of being fairly certain I want to be with the person I’m pursuing, since I’ve already thought things through enough to come to a strong positive conclusion. The major downside is experiencing a lot of rejection over the years, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. 

Breakups are difficult, especially if you tend to put everything you’ve got into a relationship. It’s useful to have a cooling-off period where there’s no direct communication, and I have exes I haven’t talked to much in years, due to residual trauma or growing apart or what have you. But I keep them alive in my thoughts and my life through the things they’ve taught me, which I insist on attributing to them. Favorite shows and video games, friends who have shaped me, places I’ve visited and lived, concepts that expanded my outlook on the world — these came to me courtesy of the people I’ve been in love with, and I have no real desire to separate the sources from their massively beneficial effects. There’s a strange notion out there that a personal passion isn’t “real” if you got into it through your significant other instead of on your own. I can say from experience that this is untrue; my tenure at Blizzard was no less “real” because I originally got into StarCraft through an ex.

I do like talking to many of my exes from time to time, and I’m largely pleased with how they (and I) have turned out years after our respective relationships. The pain points and heartache fade over time, and now I can see that the traits I appreciated in them in the first place are still there and often further developed — thoughtfulness, honesty, integrity, improbable accomplishments, a sly sense of humor, the drive to keep growing and perfecting, and so forth. It’s really cool to have friends like these, but the best part is that I can call upon their facsimiles in my own head whenever I wish and learn something new about whatever situation I’m facing. It’s like having a secret advisory board full of interesting people who care about me and always have something insightful to say.

Every one of us contains multitudes. I think I’ve chosen mine well, and I wouldn’t give them up for the world.

Thanks for getting me to 25% of my fundraiser goal! Check out my GoFundMe page here.

Feeding Teenagers, Feeding the Soul: My Life in Korea

In Pyeongtaek, South Korea, the city I’ve lived in for the past month, the air is alive. Inside the house of my hosts: the gentle thrum of air conditioning and the persistent meows of Zelda, a large and ever-hungry cat. Outside on the balcony: the hum of cicadas and the barking of three dogs who single-mindedly confront whatever bird or squirrel might have wandered too close to their territory. The late summer heat, mitigated by recent typhoons, presses on the wind and makes it dance, celebrated by the wind chimes that hang nearby.

Unlike Seoul, a city punctuated only here and there by cultivated parks, here the straight-backed buildings with their glittering or faux stone exteriors are balanced measure for measure by greenery and rolling hills. The slim trunks of trees meander upwards from slope to sky, silently judging humankind’s uglier industriousness. When I occasionally bike into the center of town to buy fresh produce, I’m grateful for the fancy electric motor that helps me pedal uphill with ease and cuts out when I glide downhill.

Each day in the last couple of weeks has revolved around two main events for me: meditation in the morning and cooking in the evening. For a hot minute I thought I’d try to become a Buddhist nun, so I read a bunch of online texts about Buddhism and the monastic life. I concluded that I was far too attached to meat, sex, and video games to make a real go of it, but the philosophy made sense to me overall. I started a practice of meditating for 20-30 minutes after waking up, usually with a YouTube video by Thich Nhat Hanh or someone like that narrating and keeping me on track. Once I have enough space in my mind to encounter the day, I noodle about the house reading, researching, petting dogs, playing video games, and doing chores until late afternoon.

There are three other people currently in this house with me, all around 17-18 years old. Two are siblings and part of triplets, and their brother is off in the USA with their parents getting accustomed to college life. One is a student from South America who’s been stranded in South Korea for the better part of a year due to COVID-19. We get along quite well and the house is certainly big enough for everyone, with grand comfy couches and TVs that I use for instructional yoga videos and the occasional Studio Ghibli movie. I’m not exactly in charge here or responsible for anyone, being a short term guest, but I am the only one who really knows how to cook (plus I enjoy cooking for other people). So, I’ve put myself in charge of the big evening meal where all of us are awake and in the mood to socialize.

As this idyllic moment in my life draws to a close, I can feel the many experiences I’ve had in the past few months — both fictional and IRL — mixing into a stew of useful lessons and references to draw from. I’ve had more fun doing nothing than I really thought I would, and fun is a great teacher. I have a great deal to share with the world and I’m looking forward to doing so as the need arises.

Check out my GoFundMe fundraiser here!

Education: The New Frontier

[Originally published on Facebook 9/4/2020]

My mother likes to say that my path to journalism started in preschool in Wellesley, MA when I would stand watch at the window at the end of the day and announce the parents who were arriving to collect their kids. This allowed for a smooth and joyful transition as my classmates ran to grab their coats for the journey home. It was information arbitrage at its simplest, and it was gratifying to provide a service that was useful and evoked delight. Since then, although my career has led me to much more esoteric corners of news in the video games and esports industry, I’ve always enjoyed being at the forefront of what we see as possible for humanity and relaying information and stories that herald a future of inspiring potential. I joined ESPN Esports in 2017, six months after the website was launched, where my colleagues and I described the glory of a brand-new kind of sport to a wider audience. The global passion and innovation of esports was too explosive to relegate to obscurity, too relatable to consign to niche online forums and uninformed assumptions about awkward teenagers in basements.

After years of moving around the US and the world to find the best stories and the best opportunities to tell them, I’m currently preparing to move back to the Boston area and shift to a new frontier: education. I’ve spent over a decade of my life breaking new ground in the esports and video gaming industry as a communications professional and an Asian woman in a space notoriously hostile to gender and ethnic minorities. I found success even as I grew increasingly dismayed at the doors closed to myself and others like me. Now, I think the answer is to mentor a new generation whose outspoken awareness of social justice will fully explore the possibilities of a world where anyone and everyone has a fair shot at their dreams, regardless of biological characteristics and circumstances of birth.

I will use the money from my fundraiser to support myself as I find opportunities to reach students, especially those who are interested in my former industry. I want to enrich their passion for games and esports with my unique depth of experience. This will give them the edge they need to pursue their careers in a very competitive field without compromising their visions of a more equitable world. The more young people I can inspire to tell the stories only they can tell through all the tools available, the more hope I’ll feel for a better and brighter tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

BTS and the Evolution of Freedom

An American’s Reflections on #BlackLivesMatter and Lessons Learned in 2020

[Originally published in Revolutionaries 7/29/2020]

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– The New Colossus” (excerpt), inscribed within the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus, 1883.

Freedom ain’t a state like Maine or Virginia,
Freedom ain’t across some county line,
Freedom is a flame that burns within ya,
Freedom’s in the state of mind.
Freedom” (excerpt), Shenandoah, Gary Geld and Peter Udell, 1974.

We stand against racial discrimination.
We condemn violence.
You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter

– Official statement (English ver.), BTS, 2020.

What is freedom, how do you get it, and what does it feel like when you are truly free?

I asked myself this from my former home in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2020, as the US National Guard fired tear gas on peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protesters so President Trump could take a photo with a Bible outside of a church. It was all happening 20 minutes’ drive away from where I was staring horrified at the TV. I was born in the USA and had lived there for nearly all thirtysomething years of my life, but suddenly I didn’t recognize my country.

America was supposed to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The Constitution was supposed to protect the rights of citizens to express themselves through peaceable protest, and the President was supposed to be the No. 1 defender of the Constitution. The 24-karat gold-plated flame in the Statue of Liberty’s torch on Ellis Island was supposed to be a beacon of hope for all the oppressed and downtrodden people in the world.

But in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police and the massive reckoning with America’s institutionalized racial injustice, Lady Liberty’s call for mercy went unheeded. While I delved deeper into the USA’s whitewashed history of anti-Black violence, I was also disturbed by jeering cries of “Corona!” and pointed coughs and sneezes in my direction as I walked around my neighborhood while Asian. The American dream of universal prosperity founded upon lofty ideals of equality and industriousness, it turns out, was hollow and tainted from the start by the hypocrisy of bigotry — much like the Statue of Liberty itself.

The USA was a place and a people, but it wasn’t freedom. We’d dropped the torch somewhere along the way, if we had ever really held it at all. I wondered if anyone out there had claimed it.

At the same time, something magical was happening on Twitter, where I was spending hours and hours a day retweeting #BlackLivesMatter and COVID-19 information. I’d certainly heard of the talented, stylish musical supergroup BTS from RM’s powerful speech at the United Nations in 2018, but at the time I was personally more interested in Korean professional video gaming than Korean music. Two years on, I started seeing anti-#BLM hashtags flood with BTS and K-pop fancams and witnessed the downfall of the Dallas Police Department’s eyewitness app targeting #BLM protesters. It was epic trolling, to be sure, but it wasn’t indiscriminate chaos. I felt a sense of righteous solidarity from a gigantic, global group of strangers who were using hilarious and digitally-savvy tactics to take on bigotry.

Emboldened, I started replying to #BLM naysayers when I saw #BTSARMY (the fan demonym) in popular Twitter threads, knowing they had my back. After years of stifling myself online as a woman of color in the video gaming industry, being advised over and over again to “grow thicker skin” and “ignore the trolls,” I felt like I could raise my voice. Then BTS unequivocally came out in support of #BlackLivesMatter and donated USD $1 million to the cause, which was matched in less than 24 hours by ARMY, and I was floored.

“We will stand together,” BTS wrote, in English and the native Korean of my parents and grandparents, and I nearly cried.

By the time ARMY helped ensure Trump’s noxious rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma was extremely under-attended — a blessing in more ways than one, given the pandemic — I was already in South Korea going through mandatory entry quarantine at a government facility. The events of June 1 combined with the US government’s fumbled approach to COVID-19 convinced me that it was time to explore opportunities elsewhere. I had seen South Korea successfully conduct national elections under COVID-19 and I had family and friends in Seoul, so it seemed like the perfect move.

I was also very curious about BTS.

The Statue of Liberty represented a version of freedom based on American borders and material prosperity, but that was from the late 1800s and I already knew there were additional nuances added since then. I learned the song “Freedom” in choir in grade school, where we didn’t have many Black or Latino students but we had big school assemblies on Martin Luther King Day, so it counted as progressive in the 1990s. In the musical Shenandoah, the song is sung by a Black character amidst a story about the horrors and complexities of the American Civil War; while the lyrics are rather rosy-eyed, they make the valid point that freedom has an internal component that may be even more important than external conditions. In this song, freedom seems more predicated on self-respect and self-worth than a parcel of land and a pile of money.

This is a decent rebuttal to “The New Colossus,” and I do think it’s true that people can feel free (or oppressed) regardless of wealth and social status, but it still doesn’t tell the whole story. You can feel free internally as an individual, but it turns out that if the larger society keeps telling you that you’re less-than and denies you the resources to achieve what you want to achieve, you can’t get very far. As the great Black American poet Langston Hughes (b. 1902–d. 1967) wrote in “Harlem”:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore —
And then run?

What is self-respect if you can’t pursue your dreams? What is liberty if, at seemingly every turn, you hear people say, “This opportunity exists, but only for the right candidate”? There has to be something else to bridge the gap between the promise of freedom versus actual empowerment in society.

I think BTS has the answer, and I think the answer is love.

If “love” feels corny, you can call it “empathy” or “solidarity” or any number of things. Regardless, it’s about having the strength and the vulnerability to see (yourself and) others as beautifully, fallibly human and recognize their struggles as your own. It’s not about wealth or status, and it’s not about telling people to buck up and believe in themselves and all of their problems will disappear. It’s about extending a helping hand across all of the false boundaries that we humans impose on ourselves — race, class, political party, gender, etc. —but without pity or condescension.

The freedom that BTS promises is the freedom that awakens from true partnership and the support to explore infinite possibility.

In “Filter,” the undeniably aesthetic Jimin sings, “Pick your filter … I’m your filter,” offering himself not as the ultimate boyfriend or idol, but as a flexible, empathetic, and very attractive intermediary for the audience to use to discover their own happiness. In “Magic Shop,” the whole band admits that they, too, suffer from self-doubt and bad days, and invites listeners to re-imagine an old fantasy cliche as an inner sanctuary where you can witness the “galaxy inside you” (“네 안에 있는 galaxy”) without distractions. It’s basically therapy, but reinforced in an entire universe of music, story, and global community that anyone with an internet connection can access with no paywall.

The results are tremendous, as anyone who Googles “BTS ARMY” can attest. ARMYs have worked around the clock to get BTS played on the radio and acknowledged by some of the most prestigious music awards in the USA, despite obvious racism in the music industry. Undeterred by being ignored, rebuffed, and mischaracterized again and again by American media, ARMYs recorded reaction videos of themselves screaming with joy at hearing BTS on the radio and sent them to the responsible DJs along with gift baskets (see: BTS and ARMY Culture, Jeeheng Lee).

You can’t pay for this kind of promotional work— I would know, having worked in public relations for esports at the top level of the industry. This spirit may have found its enormous scale through the capitalist machine of popular entertainment, but then grew far beyond it and now pushes its levers to pursue its own dreams. Outsiders can and do dismiss ARMY as a vapid mob, but it’s more like an autonomous, organic collective that consistently reflects upon its own shortcomings and how to wield its power for good — inspired but not commanded by its seven muses.

Digging deeper, an ARMY told me that when BTS members go on vacation and take a break from social media, ARMYs comfort those among them who see the pop group as an emotional lifeline, giving them the support they need to continue accessing their authentic selves in the band’s absence. This is self-soothing and self-validation playing out interpersonally within a body politic of millions instead of one.

Strictly speaking, you don’t need to live in a particular place or have particular characteristics to become who you want to be and do things you want to do. But humans are social creatures who are sensitive to things like love, hate, acceptance, rejection, and the nuances of consent. We are all moths drawn to flames; the question is whether the flame is a bonfire that consumes or a torch that lights the way.

In Seoul, the streets aren’t exactly paved with Samsung phones and BTS albums, but everyone wears masks and I can eat at a restaurant without fear of getting COVID-19. My Korean face and build ensure I don’t stick out, but my lack of fluency in Korean and outspoken American disposition make it difficult to fit in, especially as a woman. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a few ARMYs here about their stories, and while I don’t know if I could share the same passion for BTS’ music per se (I tend to prefer existential folk rock), I feel the echo of their message regardless. I may not have a country to call my own right now, but that doesn’t diminish me. I have a galaxy inside of me and a right to be respected, and there are at least seven men in South Korea and millions more people around the world who believe this, too.

Freedom is not a golden statue to guard, but a creative, loving flame to nurture in oneself and ignite in others, illuminating the world as we all hold our lights aloft, together.

Perhaps someday I’ll bring it back home.

Special thanks to: Julia, Nikki, Jakob, Latoya, the ARMYs I’ve interacted with on Twitter, Revolutionaries, the international competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee community (which is feeling more like BTS+ARMY every day), and, of course, BTS.

Celebrate Our 33rd Anniversary With An All-New Christina Kelly Adventure In South Korea!

Thirty-three years ago today, our founders launched the global brand now known as Christina Kelly to great acclaim, and our mission since then has been to create uniquely compelling interactive storytelling experiences that inspire community and critical thinking in our playerbase. In honor of this milestone, we’re announcing our most ambitious content patch yet – Seoul: One-Way Ticket.

We know our fans love the epic international adventure packs we’ve been releasing in recent years, including Costa Rica: The Search For Sloths in 2018 and South Korea: An (Overwatch) League Of Their Own in 2017. We heard your requests for a more open-world experience that relies on deep mechanics and relationships rather than a main narrative, and our design team has been working around the clock to create an interactive tale that delivers on all of this and more.

Seoul: One-Way Ticket will be deployed to the test server tomorrow, June 11th, and all servers will be offline for about 24-36 hours. After that, there will be a 14-day “quarantine” period (closed beta), following which, if all goes well, the patch will be live on production. Exciting new features include:

  • No end date: For the first time in Christina Kelly brand history, this international adventure chapter will launch without a confirmed end date for the ultimate open-ended, immersive gameplay experience.
  • All-new healthcare system: After much internal debate, we decided that the COVID-19 patch needed rebalancing. S:OWT has a revamped healthcare system that, on balance, should significantly improve individual life expectancy during the pandemic arc.
  • New social and environmental interactions: S:OWT will use the full game engine and not a limited version, unlocking new activities and depths of friendship with recurring characters while introducing a whole new cast and remastered, ultra-high-fidelity maps.
  • New optional missions: There are no required missions in S:OWT aside from Tutorial/Getting Started and a few holdover transition quests. Our new open-world system means that players can optionally pursue major storylines that provide the same legendary tier of rewards as featured previously in required missions.
    • New S:OWT esports-themed missions will satisfy even the most hardcore fan.
    • We are reintroducing the venerable Korean Language Fluency mission, for the fourth time, but with dramatically increased experience boosts, updated learning interfaces, and better intermediate and completion rewards.
  • New lifestyle content: Expansive fashion options paired with an updated tailoring engine mean tons of cute clothes and accessories – that totally fit! As “more authentic Korean/Asian food” has been the #1 food-related community request for some time, we’re also overhauling the entire culinary menu system accordingly (Design Note: we warned you).
  • And much, much more!

Core Christina Kelly content will never be paywalled, and this remains true for our most ambitious expansion ever. For those who want to demonstrate their support for the development team financially, we are officially announcing the Birthday Quarantine Compendium, hosted on Facebook, which will run for 7 days starting on June 10 and aims to raise USD$1400 towards closed beta expenses (Lore Note: the scenario is a mandatory 14-day stay at ~$100/day, courtesy of the Korean government). Again, participating in the Compendium is purely a sign of support and not participating does not affect future core content access.

That’s all for now – thank you to all of our fans, old and new, for their feedback and enthusiasm as we undertake this grand adventure together. Remember to stay safe, stay savvy, and have fun.

Why Aikido is Great for Women

[This article was originally published on Aikido Journal in September of 2019.]

Christina Kelly is an editor for Aikido Journal and has practiced aikido for about a year, currently holding the rank of fourth kyu. She is a professional writer and editor specializing in video games and esports, and has previously worked in editorial at Blizzard Entertainment and ESPN Esports. Her last editorial on AJ was titled “Why the World Needs Aikido, A Millennial’s Perspective.” This editorial was written for a general audience who may not be familiar with aikido.

I’m a woman who has had a lot of experience in female-dominated activities (certain types of dance), male-dominated activities (video games), and roughly gender-equivalent activities (music) throughout my life. I started learning aikido about a year ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a substantial number of women practicing at my dojo, even if, overall, men were still the majority. As I dove deeper into aikido’s techniques and practices, I realized that it’s a discipline that offers benefits that are very helpful for women and it’s also an art where women have advantageous traits.

In this article, I’d like to lay out these benefits and advantageous traits as I see them, so that women have a better understanding of the way practicing aikido can help them achieve their goals. Nothing in this article is intended to judge women or men as a group – or their activities of choice – as good or bad, worse or better. The idea is to acknowledge and address the challenges women face, the skills or experiences that women value, and the various characteristics that gender brings to the table. Much of the information in this article could also be useful to men and gender nonbinary or gender nonconforming individuals as well. Now then, let’s get started.

Continue reading “Why Aikido is Great for Women”

The Calm Before the Storm

[I wrote this after attending the tournament The Big House 8 in a response to a writing prompt from my friend asking for 500 words “on the relative peace and serenity that precedes a turbulent maelstrom of activity.”]

When people think about “the calm before the storm” in a traditional sense, it brings to mind hunkering down in a clapboard house with boarded up windows and flashlights and canned food, waiting for the nor’easter or hurricane to wreak havoc on power lines and traffic signs. The storm is an external elemental force, unknowable and unpredictable, an uncaring outburst from the whims of mother nature, which must be handled with caution and stern fortitude on the part of human beings. In esports, there is no external chaos, because the storm comes from within.

Continue reading “The Calm Before the Storm”