Sunday evening, about four o’clock, Mandee, AKA Instagram’s nookaxcola, and I navigate our way down I-4 in Orlando. It’s the end of a productive weekend, the sun is setting orange and gold between the buildings downtown, and Mandee honks as we’re unceremoniously cut off. We’ve just had our usual excursion to Florida Mall, throwing us back to the time when we worked at Universal together and spent our paychecks on t-shirts at Hot Topic because we have no impulse control to speak of.
But we’ve come a long way since then; Mandee now has a successful gaming page on Instagram, pushing a little over 12 thousand followers, and writes regularly for a start-up tech company out of Orlando.
I start my interview recording with an awkwardly loud “Hello.”
My friend replies, “Hello, Lauren.”
LB: So, I’m here with Mandee of nookaxcola (Mandee cackles) on Instagram. Check her out there. Okay, my first question for you Mandee, what got you into gaming?
MM: Um, actually my parents got me into gaming, ‘cause they—probably when I was five or six they brought home the Super Nintendo and it was like the old, old clunky Super Nintendo, and they got a bunch of awesome games for it like Frogger and all that stuff, so that was probably the beginning of it. And I would say, um, throughout my entire life my friends have been huge influences too, ‘cause most of them play games so that was like a huge way to hang out, we would just play games, play Smash Bros, play anything, really.
LB: Nice. What is the first game you remember playing?
MM: The first game I remember playing…wow…probably Frogger, actually, probably Frogger. And then the Super Mario Bros. series on the Super Nintendo, that was fun.
LB: What’s your preferred console?
MM: (a sigh, then a laugh)
LB: We talked about this earlier.
MM: PS4. Yeah. Yeah, and it’s not really anything to do with, like, one being better than the other, it’s just the matter of the fact that I’ve just grown up with a PlayStation, like, I’ve just always had a PlayStation, pretty much, uh, probably when I was ten, I think, my parents brought home a PS2 for me and since then it’s just kinda been that way. Like I jumped right from the N64 to the PS2 and I never really looked back.
MM: (another laugh) I still play Nintendo, Nintendo’s great, the Switch is amazing. But if it comes down to, like, straight up consoles versus something you can walk around with, like the Switch you can, but, I—PS4. Yeah.
LB: Since you have multiple consoles, what’s your favorite game from each console that you own?
MM: So these are more so exclusives, like, console exclusives. Um, for the Switch it’s Breath of the Wild, easily. There’s a reason it got, like, five thousand awards and Game of the Year.
LB: Yes, good.
MM: (a laugh) Uh, favorite PlayStation exclusive is probably, um…originally I’d probably say Kingdom Hearts but that’s no longer a PlayStation exclusive, so I’d say Horizon Zero Dawn. Um, Uncharted series is also amazing, but if I had to pick a favorite, yeah, there’s just something about the Uncharted series that just does it for me. For Xbox, Halo.
MM: Yeah, that’s the big one. That’s probably the reason why we bought the Xbox in the first place, was Halo (a laugh). So yeah, Halo (another laugh).
LB: So, what do you think was the best game of 2017, and/or your favorite of the year.
MM: Best game of 2017? (blows a raspberry while thinking)
LB: That you played.
MM: That’s tough.
LB: Give me, like, a top five.
MM: Okay, top five…uh, okay, so, in no specific order between one and two, because I can’t decide, Breath of the Wild, then Horizon Zero Dawn, um, then Uncharted 4, um…wow, I feel like I’m forgetting a game that I played that I really loved…oh, Assassin’s Creed. Assassin’s Creed for sure. Actually, Uncharted 4, I think, was not 2017, I think it was 2016—
LB: That’s okay, we’ll put it in there.
LB: That’s fine, it counts.
MM: Uncharted 4, Assassin’s Creed, and then, I guess Destiny 2. Like, I had some issues with it, but it was a fun game. I like the fact that I have something else I can play with friends.
LB: What were your issues with Destiny 2?
MM: Similar issues that people pretty much had with Star Wars: Battlefront II, was that, like, it kinda has a lot of pay to win content to it, which I’m not a fan of—
LB: Wait, real money?
MM: Yeah, like real money. Like, Destiny 2, y’know, they were better with it than, I’d say Battlefront II was, but I think that, there’s still like a lot of heavy advantages there to buying certain things in Destiny 2, so that was my only issue with it. Oh, that and I think that they could have been a little more creative with the side quests, added more story in there, ‘cause the side quests kinda felt like they were redundant. Still a great game, I just wish there was more to expand on, I guess.
LB: So, since you have such a large, up-and-coming presence on social media, particularly in the gaming community, do you think they benefit each other at all, gaming and social media?
MM: Yeah, yeah for sure, I think they fuel one another, in a sense. ‘Cause there’s a lot of people, there’s a huge community, if you will, on social media, that, y’know, when I post something I know—and there are probably people out there that absolutely hate me because then when they see other people playing the game they want the game—so it definitely fuels people wanting to buy more games, and also, the community feeds off each other, like, it’s a pretty great community, the game community on social media, um, people love to talk about games, and discuss the games, and see what every one’s playing, so, y’know, whatever most people are playing, people are gonna want to play, so I think they walk hand in hand in certain things, it’s inadvertent advertising in a sense, but it’s also a fun place to talk about games. So, it’s nice, it’s a nice little corner.
LB: Any advice for someone starting a gaming blog or Instagram?
MM: Any advice to that is, uh, content, content is huge. Basically just have good content, people like clean images, they kinda like when you follow a certain aesthetic, if you will, with that one, and it’s something I’ve noticed. And just personally I just love that too, when people follow aesthetic, or something.
Probably more than anything, my biggest tip here is to try and create a network of people who will support your page, because that really helps, and you can support each other and it’s great to get the word out on one another and to kinda create a community around things, like I was fortunate enough to create a network around a bunch of different people, and supporting them, really, it’s creating a network through supporting other people who are doing the same exact thing as you and want the same thing as you. So, it’s like when you have that support, you build that support, you’re going to be much better off there. And, definitely a lot of liking, search hashtags you like in particular to gaming, things that interest you, and like those posts, things that you genuinely like, like ‘em, maybe follow that person too, y’know. That kinda gets people to be like, oh, who’s this that’s liking my stuff? And then they look into your stuff, and sometimes follow.
LB: Very cool. So, what are your thoughts on women in gaming?
MM: Um…my thoughts on women in gaming…
LB: We also talked about this earlier.
MM: Yeah, we were talking about this earlier. Um…it’s…an interesting subject, ‘cause I feel like—
LB: This is kinda broad.
MM: No, no—
LB: I mean this question, this question is broad (we laugh).
MM: But it’s an interesting question because, um, women in gaming, I feel like, it’s kinda silly because when the question’s asked it’s kind of fueling the whole thing that we are a minority, and I mean, I guess maybe in a sense we are, but I think that the “girl gamer”—if you will—community is getting larger, it’s huge, particularly in mobile, like, there’s just a sh*t-ton of women gamers out there, and that a lot of people don’t realize that, they think that girl gamers are unicorns, essentially, like they don’t exist, like they’re not really there—no, no, they’re literally everywhere. They’re playing on their 3DS—
LB: Hello, that’s me.
MM: (a laugh) Playing their 3DS on a train, y’know, or whatever, they’re carrying around their Switch, going home and playing Xbox or PS4, or PC even, y’know, they’re everywhere. It’s… and I think that the numbers are only going to keep growing. It’s not something that should inhibit women from picking up a game, like, there’s a huge female community.
LB: That stereotype of the “fake geek girl” just enrages me.
MM: Yeah, that pisses me off too, it’s like, oh you can’t—and also that’s another thing, let me touch on that too.
LB: Let’s talk about that.
MM: Yeah let’s talk about that, that whole thing pisses me off too because I think that people can do and be anything they f***ing want.
MM: You can be whoever you want, and game.
MM: Be whoever, y’know, aspire to whatever goals in life, and still game.
LB: Let people like things.
LB: That’s my take on it, just let people like things.
MM: Let people like things. Sure, here and there, there’s people out there, pretending to like sh*t that they don’t actually like to get attention, or, yeah to get attention from that, person, that special someone—
LB: You don’t have to do that. That’s my message, you don’t have to do that.
MM: Yeah, you don’t have to do that. But also like, go easy on one another. Why don’t we all just get along, man?
LB: Yeah, for sure.
MM: But, for real, let’s just accept each other, enjoy the things that you want and don’t give a f*** about what other people are doing, and what they think you’re doing, what they think about what you’re doing.
LB: Don’t be gatekeepers of things.
MM: Yeah, exactly.
LB: There are no rules.
MM: There are no rules.
LB: There are no rules, you don’t have to be a certain way to like a certain thing.
MM: That’s the beautiful thing about living in America, there are no rules, pretty much, we’re free as f*** to an extent.
LB: Okay, let’s get back on track, we have three more questions.
MM: Oh, okay.
LB: Where do you think gaming will go in 2018?
MM: I think a lot of it’s gonna go VR. VR, AR, however you want to—Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, whatever you want to call it, it’s going that route for sure. We just recently—even theme parks, we just recently checked out the Star Wars—
LB: That’s my last question, oh you bitch.
MM: (a laugh) Oh, okay, alright, so I won’t go into that—Or you could just keep it at AR/VR, it’s definitely AR/VR, I would say, like, it’s going that way, it’s already going that way, like, that’s going to be huge, people really want to be immersed in things and that’s kind of the perfect way to do it. It’s fun, they’re still developing it but I think over time it’s only going to get better and more life-like and scare the crap out of us.
LB: I’m already terrified.
MM: (another laugh) Okay, what’s the next question?
LB: Games you’re most excited about launching in 2018? Upcoming games this year.
MM: Red Dead Redemption 2, God of War actually is number one, I would say. God of War, then Red Dead Redemption, I already got the two games I really f***ing wanted this year—
LB: Which are?
MM: Shadow of the Colossus and Monster Hunter. Those were huge.
LB: We just bought that today. I was there, I witnessed it.
MM: Yes, I just bought Monster Hunter, should be amazing. What else? I feel like I’m forgetting one that I’m really, really excited about.
LB: What did we just see today? Bayonetta?
MM: Bayonetta looks—yeah, that’s gonna be nuts.
LB: My last question is, I heard you went to Star Wars VR Experience [Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire Hyper-Reality Experience], tell me about that.
MM: That was amazing.
LB: I was there too.
MM: (a laugh) It’s a lot of fun with friends, I strongly recommend doing it.
LB: What was the first thing we did?
MM: The first thing we did when we got our guns was shoot each other.
LB: Of course.
MM: It was a lot of fun, part of the experience is having these backpacks that had, like, the whole, I guess, VR system set up so that whenever you were shot your backpack would vibrate, or your chest piece would vibrate and that was nuts, and fun, and hilarious, because I’m pretty ticklish.
LB: We stood in a room and shot each other for a while.
MM: And we were all Stormtroopers, that was awesome. Hands were sometimes disappearing, and it was really funny, because they’re still working out the kinks there, I guess.
LB: We tried to hold hands and our arms fused together.
MM: Yeah, it was amazing though, it was so fun, I want to do it again. I wish it was longer, but I understand why it’s a certain time, like, you can only get so many people through, y’know, you gotta be able to get a good amount of people through a day.
LB: There were a good amount of rooms to go through, though; it was extremely varied.
MM: Yeah, it was good, it was varied, you got to shoot things, you got to solve puzzles, like, it was cool.
LB: It was great. So, our second instinct after shooting each other was to give each other the finger.
MM: Yes, absolutely.
LB: With our Stormtrooper hands.
MM: Absolutely, I definitely flipped Corey off. At first I didn’t know who I was flipping off but it was fun because they flipped me off back and it felt really endearing and amazing.
LB: (a laugh) That was great. What else can we talk about? About the VR Experience, that’s like all I want to talk about all the time.
MM: It was just great—also the fact that they had a certain point where you could actually physically feel the heat, like when we—at a certain point—
LB: Yes, uh, going into Mustafar, you feel the heat on you, and it got very toasty because I wore a sweater, I don’t recommend wearing a sweater, I got extremely sweaty.
MM: Amazing. It even smelled of something a little bit, a little funky. So, they definitely played with your senses as well, it was too cool.
LB: Oh, yeah, it was completely immersive, one hundred percent.
MM: Ten out of ten, would recommend.
LB: I thought I was going to get disoriented, and I did not, it was good, it was all good.
MM: All good.
LB: All good, I think that’s it.
MM: Thanks, thanks for having me, Boisvert.
LB: ‘Thanks for having me’ I’m in your car.