Yvocaro Plays: Just Who Is Yvonne?

Welcome to another YvoCaro Plays!

As always, these blurbs are mainly about the video games I’m currently playing. Unedited thoughts spring up in my mind, mostly game-related, sometimes not. Or a random train of thoughts starting with the game and ending somewhere completely different!

If you like these bits of gaming thoughts, you can find the previous ones here.

That Extra Level: Gaming Lady and I

Way back when I started my blog in April 2014, one of the first other bloggers I met online was Isleif. Theirs was the blog That Extra Level. We still keep in touch to this to this day. Isleif made a guest article on our site called Of Backlogs, Game Collections and Playing Pressure.

Isleif told us in the article that they were French-born and bred, yet lived a number of years in Iceland, a.k.a. the least collecting-friendly place in Europe. In the meantime, there’s a game collection to be proud of, and lots were added to it while being in Iceland. A lover of sipping tea while playing games and writing about them. The genre of choice is RPG, and Isleif enjoys listening to gaming YouTube videos while level-grinding. Isleif is a pen name chosen in honour of the Nordic dwelling and Isleif the Open Handed in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

Guest article Isleif

When Isleif asked me to do an in-depth interview, I was happy to oblige! It was published in April 2023, and you can find the original interview here. We had agreed upon eventually sharing it on LadiesGamers as well, so I decided to use this YvoCaro Plays for that. I’ve decided to put the interview in here verbatim, so written from Isleif’s’ point of view. However, don’t forget to check out That Extra Level to read more if you are into “Portable RPG Indulgence, Sprinkled With Extra Treats”!

The Start of Yvonne’s Gaming Journey

Isleif: Hullo, dear fellow gamers! Way back when I launched That Extra Level, I also started following a couple of gaming blogs that struck my fancy. I still follow them to this day; one of these blogs is LadiesGamers, then known as A Lady and Gaming. LadiesGamers changed a lot over the years, going from a cosy, tiny blog to a huge site full to the brim with content and activity; one thing that never changed, though, is the presence of Lady Yvonne Van Geloven at the helm. It’s now time to invite her for a revealing gaming interview! 

Hello, dear Yvonne! I’m so glad to have you here after all these years! The first thing I must ask you is: How did your gaming journey start? The more details, the better! 

Yvonne: Thank you for having me, Isleif! It’s been quite some time since we first met on the internet highway when I found your blog had linked to my blog. Isn’t it special how we never met in real life but kept in contact? It’s all based on our love of gaming, apparently a strong love when you find it late in life, like I have. 

So, you asked how my gaming journey started….Talking about that, I always feel like Sophia from the Golden Girls. Picture this…. It was the year 2006. I was 42 years old and had a little girl who was seven years old. We had gotten her a Nintendo DS, at first with Nintendogs, the Spring before. But now it was the Summer holiday, and she was free from school. As there was only so much time she could spend with her virtual dogs, I promised her a new game. 

I didn’t know anything about games, though. She had a couple of Gameboy Advance games of the platforming kind that didn’t interest me in the slightest. I had played Zelda Windwaker with my husband on our Gamecube, but I was very much content to watch him play. It never occurred to me to be interested in a game for myself. Anyway, back to the store. Knowing nothing about games, we picked her new game purely based on the cover: Animal Crossing Wild World. 

As we are Dutch, English isn’t our first language, and my daughter couldn’t read it. This made for some lovely mother-daughter time, sitting on the couch and playing together. We started the town, met Tom Nook and got all kinds of chores. After a while, she got a bit bored at picking up shells and planting flowers, as there’s only so much you can do in the first days. So, she went off to go do something else, and I did what so many mothers do: I decided to work on it for her. 

Yeah…right…that ended up not being so much for her. I loved it, I couldn’t stop playing. And when she went away at the weekend for a sleepover, I missed the town (and the DS) so much! That’s when I decided to splurge and buy a device and the game for myself. And that was the beginning of it all! The town of Bearpath was born, and it kept me glued to the screen for 1.5 years. Every single day, you have to keep on top of it in Animal Crossing. And what made Animal Crossing even more brilliant? Playing online, visiting each other’s towns and chatting together in a group, especially for grownup fans of AC. 

A Sense of Adventure and Exploration

Isleif: What does gaming bring to your life? Do you feel it’s something unique that nothing else can provide? 

Yvonne: That’s a difficult question. When I was younger, before I had my daughter, I was very much into reading and gardening. Had my own little greenhouse and watched every episode of Gardeners World on the BBC. The gardening centre was my favourite place to be, but in hindsight, I can see I was mainly drawn to the sense of discovery. Finding new plants, growing my own from seed, making arrangements in hanging baskets. Trying to find a special species that Gardeners World had shown.

Of course, seeing them in my own garden was the best feeling, but even then, I wasn’t much into the constant weeding and tidying things. And somehow, it never seemed to turn out like Alan Titchmarch had shown on TV. Weeds were a constant, and no matter how diligently I tried to subdue them, they always won in the end. 

I gave that up when my daughter was born. As every mother will recognize, I had a serious lack of time to spend on hobbies, especially since I also had a job. The only pastime that stayed was reading, as it’s easier to do for half an hour before you turn off the light at night. Reading about other people’s lives, unravelling mysteries and losing myself in a good fantasy story was always lovely. 

Gaming gives me that same feeling of adventure, of discovery and exploration, finding new things and meeting new characters. That’s what I love the most. In a sense, games are my books turned into visual adventures. It’s the right hobby for the right time in my life. And it provided me with friends all over the globe. Something my other hobbies haven’t done for me. Maybe that’s what is most unique about it: finding like-minded people and keeping the contact going. Turning from talking about just games to becoming a part of each other’s lives. 

Isleif: What’s your favourite gaming era? Is there a specific system, type of game or gaming period you’d like to explore more?

Yvonne: My favourite gaming era is always the last era.  I’m not into retro gaming, and I honestly don’t know why I’d settle for lesser graphics when games can be so beautiful these days. For example, I have never gone back to older Animal Crossing games. I always play the last one on Switch, never returning to Wild World or the GameCube version. 

You could say my main draw in a game is the graphics, but it’s a combination of my favourite genre and the graphics. I can honestly enjoy the scenery in a game like Atelier Ryza or Breath of the Wild so much. Just standing at the top of a hill in Hyrule while the sun is coming up and a whistful tune plays….talk about a special moment!

The Gaming Landscape is Changing

Isleif: What do you think of the current gaming landscape? 

Yvonne: I think there’s never been a better time to be a gamer. The landscape is diverse; my favourite genres are finally getting the attention they deserve. Gaming isn’t something just for young adult males anymore. 

Isleif: What is your favourite gaming genre, and what do you love in that genre?

Yvonne: Well, there are several. I love simulation games like Animal Crossing, farming games like Story of Seasons and turn-based RPGs like the Persona games. And what’s even better: combinations of those farming, crafting, and RPG sims. 

I don’t like pressure in games, timers and action-based fighting where I need to be on my toes constantly. Relaxing while playing is important to me, and I love some cute, colourful graphics as well. 

I’ve mentioned Breath of the Wild already: normally, I’m not a big Zelda gamer, but I always have trouble finding out what to do next in normal Zelda games. But the open world and the vastness of the world really struck a chord with me. I think I must be the only gamer who’s enthusiastic about the game for all the wrong reasons! I never even mastered the flurry attack or beat the big monsters.

Isleif: Could you tell us a funny anecdote related to your gaming career? It can be anything! 

Yvonne: Before COVID struck, I had the good fortune to be invited to the pre-E3 events of Nintendo Benelux. Representing LadiesGamers, of course. Though I was very chuffed to be included, and went there straight from work. As luck had it, it was across the road where my office was, where I work in my daytime job. I don’t think I have ever felt so out of place. Can you imagine me, an older lady in my business attire, straight from the office? And the other people: young, very casually clothed, some with colourful hair or piercings and tattoos. Or just what you would expect in a stereotypical nerdy gamer. Aside from me feeling out of place, I could clearly see that the others were thinking, “What on earth I was doing there?”. The next time I went, I brought my daughter and ensured I was dressed to fit in just a little more! 

Yvonne’s Favorite Games

Isleif: Last but not least, can you tell me five of your favourite games and why you love them?  

Yvonne: My absolute favourite of all time is Animal Crossing. And as the last instalment has so many improvements, New Horizons is the best at the moment. The laid-back gameplay, there’s so much to do and to collect and the way you can get as creative as you want to be. It looks amazing, and I’ve always loved how, for example, all appliances really work. But the reason I love this series best is the way you can share in the fun with friends. It has gotten me some very good friends across the globe over the years.

My second choice is the Atelier series, and here, too, I’d like to recommend the last instalments best. Atelier Ryza 2 is absolutely amazing, as is Atelier Sophie 2. Combining the best of synthesizing, exploring, gathering, and turn-based battles is absolutely perfect for me. 

The third must be the Story of Seasons series, and the last game, Pioneers of Olive Town. Farming, mining, crafting, and socializing with the characters in town. I love it, though I must confess that there’s always a moment when I feel that enough is enough. When I feel like I’m turning into a production factory, it’s time to step back. 

The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild is fourth. Maybe a title you wouldn’t expect on my list, but this game really stole my heart. Sometimes, you just have to hear the music, making you want to dive right back in. I’m awful at the fighting. I’ve never managed to get to grips with the Flurry Attack. But the feeling of climbing the next mountain and standing there watching the sunrise to the beautiful music score is so very powerful. I love it for its exploration!

Fifth place is a hard choice for me. I feel that I should mention indie games in general. Over the years of reviewing them for LadiesGamers, I feel there are so many gems made by small studios. Not the big blockbusters, but passion projects that ask us for funding on Kickstarter to help make their vision of a game come true. I’ve backed quite a few, and it’s been a nice surprise every time one was ready for release.

The Blogging Journey

Isleif: Now that we have covered the gaming side, let’s move on to blogging! Can you tell us what kickstarted your blogging journey? Every detail is welcome!

Yvonne: When I was younger, I dreamed of someday being a publishing writer. I even started my own book but didn’t get much further than a few chapters. When I found my gaming passion and couldn’t really talk about it with people in real life, writing about it came easily. After all, if I wanted to chat about my passion with friends and family, they all looked at me as if I’d lost my marbles. Writing about it was easier, and there were a couple of good friends I’d found online who were willing to read what I wrote. 

It started out with thoughts about the latest game I wanted to put onto my computer screen, so I’d have no trouble picking the game up again if I returned to it in the future. With that, the first version of my blogging adventure started. All this led to my A Lady and Gaming blog, which I started in 2014. 

Isleif: We all know blogging requires a lot of dedication and endurance, even when you love it. Were there ever times when you considered taking a long break or even stopping? If yes, how did you manage to overcome these roadblocks? 

Yvonne: This may sound very strange but no, I never had that happen. The thing is, I don’t put any pressure on myself. Especially in those first years when I filled the pages alone, I wrote because it gave me positive energy. If I didn’t feel like writing, I didn’t. No problem, and no need to feel bad. But most of the time, thoughts about gaming jumbled about in my head, and they wanted out. Maybe because in real life, I had a very different job as a finance controller. Much more down-to-earth, analytic, logical, and some would say boring. Writing about my hobby could be done anywhere, even during my lunch break at work! So, in short, no pressure and just let the words flow when inspiration hits! 

Isleif: LadiesGamers sure changed a lot over time! What made you want to bring new writers in? Do you plan more evolutions for your baby? 

Yvonne: You’re right; it has changed. A fellow writer I met through blogging, who sadly passed away a few years ago, asked if I would review some games for him. He had gotten some review codes but hated reviewing games himself. We agreed he would publish the reviews first, and my renamed site, LadiesGamers, could publish it a while later. Eventually, though, the codes kept coming, and I couldn’t handle it alone. This made me think I needed to invite people to write with me, and in 2017, the first writer joined me. 

Nowadays, LadiesGamers is going strong and grows every year. At any one time, we have a team of 8 people who all work on reviews and articles as a hobby, as LadiesGamers doesn’t have any source of income. I say we, as Paula, whom I’ve known since 2016, joined me to manage the site in 2018. It really is too big now to run alone, as I also have a full-time job. Plus, it’s much more fun working on it together. 

We try to keep the site advert-free and have a Patreon page to generate a bit of income. And I hope, in future, that we can keep it advert free and a safe, restful and colourful haven.

Isleif: Can you tell me five of your favourite gaming blogs and why you love them? 

Yvonne: Aside from keeping an eye on your blog, I don’t follow many blogs anymore. Only Matt’s Nintendobound. Yours are the only two that remained; somehow, most of the blogs that I followed when I started out have stopped!

Isleif: A question to sum them all up: Do you feel gaming and blogging made your life better, and how?

Yvonne: It certainly did! It gives me positive energy. I’ve made good friends because of it, and I hope I’ll keep on playing and writing for years to come! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *