Top Blokes of 2015

It’s the last week of the year, the time of year where all the people purporting to be journalists fill the hours with Top 10 after Top 10 after Top 10. On one hand, I don’t buy into all that, but on the other hand it’s like a shoe-in for getting more traffic. So with all that in mind, here’s a list of people that are Top Blokes. There’s no hard set qualification goes into this, just a set of people I think should get more recognition, which comes in the form of crudely Photoshopped stamp of laurels.

I’m also deciding this is going to be a yearly thing: each Christmas I vow to pick eight identities that I want to acknowledge in my own special way, eight blokes or shielas that deserve to get a big red stamp. Here’s the Class of 2015…

Noble Kale (@DarkestKale)

With small Melbourne based games developer Hammerspace Games, Kale is the brainchild behind the Scred series, including Quarries of Scred, Quarries of Scred 2, Seas of Scred, and the Doktor Kale’s Constructor series. He’s here if not for his dedication to the revival of the retro art style me and many others of my generation grew up with, then for his policy on purchasing the games: if you’re having trouble making ends meet, he doesn’t want your money.

“Contact me instead, and I’ll give you a copy of something,” Kale spells out on the company website, “I won’t ask questions, I won’t ask for proof. Too often we let ourselves be so afraid of being taken advantage of that we let genuine cases slip through the cracks.

“Your job (or lack thereof) is not wholly representative of who you are. Don’t let your mind start to define yourself purely by your employment status.”

It’s an inspiring initiative, and it’s earned Kale a gong as a Top Bloke.

Hideo Kojima (@Kojima_Hideo)

There are two people that got me into video games; it might’ve been Ed Boon that got me playing video games, but it was Hideo Kojima that made me want to be more comprehensively involved with gaming. Every project he manages has a distinct flavour that’s all his own, between the tackling of social and cultural issues mixed in with moody settings and foreboding scores, highlighted by tense action, and capped off with the sort of mad-as-a-hatter zaniness Kojima fans have come to expect.

This year hasn’t been a great year for the big guy, though. What was supposed to be his magnum opus was hindered by corporate involvement, with the relationship between publisher Konami and Kojima breaking down to such a degree that the Metal Gear doyen was barred from accepting awards for his work on the game. Now at the head of his own development team, Kojima Productions, we can only wish this Top Bloke all the best in the coming year.

Asuka (@WWEAsuka)

Having made a name for herself as the World Famous Kana, Asuka took the NXT women’s locker room by storm with strong women’s wrestling performances, centered around the sort of kicks and strikes WWE audiences would be familiar with from Yoshihiro Tajiri, another Japanese WWE import. But more importantly, Asuka’s being allowed to do her own thing. No longer is the foreign talent forced to play a manservant to William Regal, or get by with a kung fu movie dub gimmick; Asuka’s going out there and putting boots to skulls and working the crowd like she does best. And what’s more? She used to be a games developer. She might’ve kicked Emma’s head off in London the other night, but this shiela’s definitely a Top Bloke.

Patrick Weekes (@PatrickWeekes)

I’ve been a fan of his writing mostly through his work on Bioware’s Mass Effect games, but following the guy’s work and remarks on his career has been eye-opening. Weekes’ open discussion with colleagues and fans about current games culture formed the backbone of an earlier piece here about diversity in RPGs, and Weekes’s ideas take the concept to levels beyond what most consider progressive. Hearing that he’s inherited the role of lead writer for the Dragon Age franchise was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can make of it. Top Bloke.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker (@SouthPark)

There are two directions a long-running animated series can take. There’s the Simpsons way, starting off with quirky, relatable characters and cutting cultural insight and devolving into loosely connected muck kept afloat by guest appearances and paint-by-numbers lowest-common-denominator writing. And there’s the complete opposite: a series that makes fans quickly on swear words and toilet humor, and evolve with the times to become a current affairs pisstaking masterclass that isn’t afraid to also bring a touch of serious commentary to the mix.

South Park is such a show, and Matt and Trey’s latest season is a stunning ten-episode sendup of the radicalisation of political correctness and gentrification. Both are Top Blokes.

Karen Strassman (@KarenStrassman)

I will always say that her voice over work goes criminally underrated. Show the average joe two characters from her CV side by side, and it’ll be hard for most to believe Karen voiced both. From the demure confidence of Dead Or Alive’s Helena Douglas, to the nervous cheer of Persona 4’s Nanako Dojima, all the way to the haughty authoritative snark and outright feral rage of Mortal Kombat’s twin sisters Kitana and Mileena, Strassman has the sort of range most governments expect out of their missile programs. Strassman sits amongst a class of voice talent whose name alone can get me interested in a product, and for that she’s a Top Bloke.

Xavier Woods (@XavierWoodsPHD)

For many, he just might be the only reason people still tune in to Monday Night Raw, and rightly so. I remember years ago watching a highlights show of TNA, and seeing Consequences Creed take on some forgettable Middle Eastern gimmick, and thinking to myself ‘this guy’s going places’. When I’d heard he’d gotten a call up to WWE it was an opportunity well-deserved, and his in-ring work hasn’t disappointed. I will always mark out for a Duat Driver.

But he’s not on this list for his WWE endeavours. He’s here for UpUpDownDown, a YouTube channel that takes chocolatey video games commentary and mixes it with peanut buttery wrestling talent behind the scenes. And I normally friggin’ hate Reese’s. If the WWE’s Vice President for Digital Media Content (“Oh my god!”) is paying attention, seeing this sort of organic content of WWE Superstars chilling in the back and letting their hair down with some video games is terrific, and Xavier Woods is a Top Bloke for giving it to us.

Giselle Rosman (@jazzrozz)

Finally, I want to recognise someone with their thumb in a lot of pies. Giselle is a major support pillar of Melbourne’s games development community, playing a role in the local chapter of the Independent Game Developers Association, being the whip arm of local Global Game Jam events, heading up local dev group Hipster Whale whom you can blame for the mobile game Crossy Road, all without mentioning being a mother.

Following her on Twitter has been exhausting, seeing just how much of her life she pours into these groups and events that benefit everyone in our scene, in some cases at her own expense. And now, on top of all that, she’s a Top Bloke too.

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Posted on December 24, 2015, in Animation, FGC, Games, The Meta, Wrestling. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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