Jessica Tolliver, who aptly calls her website Mad Panda, is a tutorial hoarding, creative dabbling, cosplay enthusiast. Her interests are Video Production, Photography, and Graphic Design. As part of BGN’s Women In Gaming series initiated by Lauren Warren, Jessica chats with us about her work in gaming, intersectionality, and her favorite geeky fandoms.
Jamie: Jessica, tell us about your site MadPandaLab.com and what inspired you to create it?
Jessica: So, my alias is Mad Panda—Panda for short. Back when I created the name Mad Panda I found great comfort in the fact that it was unisex. I actually didn’t care for showcasing the fact that I was a woman (Let alone a Black one), because as we all know the film industry is still heavily male dominated. So unless people knew me personally, I wanted my online presence to remain a mystery.
It wasn’t until a couple years later that I really embraced my rare qualities, such as being a black woman pursuing cinema, and wanted to share my journey as I continue to discover who I am. People need to know that, “yes we do exist!” And we’re making moves. It’s rare, but oh so refreshing to hear about the achievements that we’re making in the film industry. As a matter of fact, director Ava DuVernay recently became the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe for best director…in history!
So I wanted to share my story too—which is definitely a story of ups and down, trial and error, hit and misses, and a whole lot of experimenting. That’s where the final piece….”The Lab” Comes in. And that’s Mad Panda Lab in a nutshell!
Jamie: Specifically what kind of tutorials do you create?
Jessica: Thus far, I have written and shared posts both via my blog and facebook, about resources that have helped me immensely in my journey. I frequently post about the best websites, phone apps, books, and software that have improved my craft the most. What’s awesome about the age we live in is the plethora of online tutorials and websites we have at our fingertips to learn video production. I like to think of myself as that “go-to girl” for finding those REALLY good gems. (I have spent an embarrassing amount of time and money on online education.) The “Aha” moment tutorials that leave you mind blown, and I put people on to them.
As for me, no tutorials just yet! I’m planning an editing 101 tutorial. I’ve been editing for almost 8 years, so I get quite a bit of questions on the subject. In my tutorial, I want to show viewers how to edit faster, as well as how to avoid common pitfalls that I experienced as a beginner.
Jamie: Tell us about the work that you are currently doing on Project Violacea
Jessica: My role is head director for the Project Violacea promo videos. We released our first video introducing the concept back in October, and I’m eager to get the ball rolling on our next video, which introduces the antagonists, the MOX hierarchy. Sketches, props and conceptual photos are being passed around amongst the team currently. At this stage, I’m drawing inspiration from what my other team members are creating, and gauging how to communicate the look and tone visually. Project Violacea maintains a dark, gritty cyber-punk theme, so I’m going to have a ton of fun with the cinematography. The entire creative team is amazingly talented, and we each bring something unique to the table. That positive energy really pushed me as I pulled an all-nighter editing it! I can only imagine what creative ideas the Project Violacea community will bring once they can contribute to the story.
Jamie: What is your opinion about diversity in gaming?
Jessica: Diversity in gaming has come a long way. The community is evergrowing, especially with female gamers. I recently read somewhere that the guy to girl ratio in gaming is becoming even, and now women make up almost half of the gaming population. That’s awesome in my book. Growing up, I was considered a tomboy for being a gamer, so I’m glad that it’s more widely accepted, and is no longer considered to be a form of entertainment geared towards young to middle aged men. Hopefully we will see more women appearing in gaming tournaments as well
Jamie: Is gaming a safe space for women with issues of Gamergate and online threats? What are ways we can make this a safe space that is more inclusive?
Jessica: It’s insane to hear stories of individuals moving from their homes in fear due to online threats! No one should have to experience that..
I don’t know the solution to this issue, as it seems it has really gotten out of hand. But I will say that power comes in numbers. I feel it is important for minorities in gaming to voice their opinions and let our presence be clearly known…and have each other’s back! As previously mentioned, statistics are showing that women are making up a much larger number of the gaming population. We’re not going anywhere!
This is also why I appreciate organizations like Sugar Gamers. We are constantly promoting diversity and the inclusion of all gamers regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexuality. And all events held year-round are a judgement-free zone. We just have to keep raising awareness that the love for gaming is universal until all aspects of gaming are judgement free.
Jamie: What is your favorite game and why?
Jessica: Whoa wait, do I have to choose just one? At heart I will always be a retro gamer. Sega Genesis was pretty much my life as a kid, and this is also the time where I became obsessed with Sonic. So, I have to definitely give a shout out to Sonic (Sonic 3 was my favorite). Now, outside of the Sonic franchise, I’d have to say Chrono Cross. For me, it was the first RPG that I spent countless hours on. I loved the characters, OST composer Yasunori Mitsuda did an impeccable job on the soundtrack. That game just took me to another place
Jamie: You’re a cosplayer too which is awesome! Who have you cosplayed as and are you attending any cons this year?
Jessica: I absolutely love cosplaying as women in fighter games, since that is my favorite gaming genre. I have done Chun-Li and C. Viper from Street Fighter, Taki from Soul Calibur, Kitana and Jade from Mortal Kombat. Outside of fighter games, I have also done Lara Croft and Catwoman.
Thus far, I have attended C2E2 and Anime Central this year. I may check out Anime Midwest, and Wizard World lands on my birthday every year, so I think that’s a cool way to celebrate.
Jamie: What advice do you have for women who want to work in the gaming industry, but don’t quite know where to start?
Jessica: I come from the video production industry, but we definitely have similarities as far as being the minority, so I can relate. The best advice I can give is network, network, network. Effective networking is half the battle. Visit conventions, attend events, put yourself out there. Once your work is in the right hands, allow your talent to speak for itself. But that can’t happen unless you network.
Social handles and website
Black Girl Nerds would like to thank Jessica for sharing her story!