Black Lives Matter: Promoting Our Colleagues and Providing Resources

Over the past week, police departments across the country have responded with violence and brutality in response to protests denouncing the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin and the inactions of other officers of the Minneapolis Police Department. This is just the latest act in a long history of police brutality used to kill innumerable members of the Black community.

I and all of my colleagues that create content here at Ward Games stand in solidarity with those that fight against police brutality, systemic racism, and oppression.

We want to show our support for Black creators in games and games media by showcasing resources that aspiring creators can use, as well as highlighting amazing creators who you can support.

Resources for Black developers and creators

Here is a list of companies and people that are looking to help Black games industry members. Please consider reaching out to one of these organizations if you think they can give you a hand:

  • Humble Bundle has created a $1 million fund for publishing games by Black developers. You can email Humble’s Jenny Graf at for more information.
  • The amazing Game Devs of Color Expo is connecting experienced members of the games industry with Black game developers to provide mentorships.
  • The Black Game Developers database is a great resource to find Black devs across multiple disciplines. Add yourself to this list or look through it if you’re looking to add any of these skills to your team.
  • Patrick Klepek is offering help and networking opportunities for Black games media folks.
  • Kim Belair and Sweet Baby Inc. are offering connections and support to Black devs, aspiring or otherwise. You can email them at
  • Robot Teddy is offering free consulting on business, production, and pitching twice a week for the whole month of June. Email Ranjani Natarajan at
  • Jason Schreier is offering help and advice in games reporting and book publishing.

Follow these folks

If you’re looking for Black creators in games to follow and support, I want to shout out our colleagues who do amazing work.

First, I want to shout out my incredible friend Kahlief Adams who works tirelessly on Spawn on Me to showcase and speak about games as a Black content creator. The most recent episode of Spawn on Me had Kahlief along with Parris Lilly, Blessing Adeoye Jr., Zombaekillz, Pikachulita, and Cameron Hawkins talking about the murder of George Floyd and how the games industry is failing Black creators:

Another important follow: Dante Douglas, who is critical, thought-provoking, and funny, and he’s always tweeting about important causes. I also recommend checking out his game about his time in quarantine, A Solitary Spacecraft.

Mike Williams over at USGamer is one of the most cheerful people I’ve been lucky enough to meet and has made USGamer a part of my game coverage rotation. He is always happy and excited every time I see him at PAX, whether it’s on the show floor or on a panel stage.

Of course, there’s Austin Walker, who constantly does good work talking about the social impact of games. Austin’s voice on Waypoint Radio has definitely helped me find the language to talk about difficult topics within and outside the games industry.

Xalavier Nelson without a doubt possesses one of the sharpest wits in games, and he honestly runs rings around me whenever we get a chance to have a chat. His narrative work on Hypnospace Outlaw and the upcoming An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs is just spectacular.

Josh Boykin is an incredibly kind human being who I got to meet this past PAX East. I loved talking to him about content creation with his work at Intelligame, and I was excited to hear that he was one of the hosts of the Wholesome Direct. He also raised over $13,000 for the Minnesota Freedom Fund last week.

Alisha Wilkerson is a phenomenal illustrator both in and out of tabletop, and you should definitely check out her upcoming book Celebrity Pawtheon.

In our local game dev community in Richmond, Lentz Marseille is an incredibly talented 3D modeler and character artist, and I am flabbergasted that he hasn’t been hired by a AAA studio yet.

And I could not forget my Wardcast co-host Nelson W. Johnson, who I was lucky enough to meet through a mutual friend and knew instantly that I needed to have him on the podcast. He is empathic, hilarious, and I consider his contributions to the show invaluable.

There are even more folks that I’ve only met in passing or know them from their work, but are awesome nonetheless: Shawn Alexander Allen. Tj Hughes. Tanya DePass. Gita Jackson. Chris Kindred. Cicero Holmes. Shareef Jackson. Allegra Frank.

If you haven’t yet, please get these people in your Twitter timelines, your Twitch subscriptions, your podcast feeds. Follow them. Support them. Buy their games. Donate to the causes they share. Donate to their Patreons. Drop their résumés to a hiring manager. Work to make the games industry better by raising their voices.

Hold companies accountable

There are plenty of games companies tweeting out their solidarity with Black Lives Matter and protesters, but these same companies also benefit from racism and oppression within their products and platforms. Hold them accountable for actionable change, whether it’s in the form of monetary donations to named charitable causes — not generic funds — or changes in their business dealings:

  • Activision Blizzard voicing their support for protesting against injustice, yet punishing player Blitzchung for voicing support for last year’s Hong Kong protests.
  • YouTube standing in solidarity against racism, yet monetizing — and hiring — content creators like PewDiePie that incorporate racism and bigotry into their videos.
  • Riot Games also standing in solidarity against racism, but has yet to address the toxicity and racism that plagues League of Legends’ community and in-game chat.

And most importantly, hold us accountable. As much as we try to showcase and support Black creators with our podcasts, promotions, and panels, we could always be doing more.

Where to donate

If you’d like to know where you can donate money to help promote Black voices and Black justice, here are a few places you can do so:

These are just a few of the places you can donate to. If you’d like more, I recommend this Polygon article that has a larger list of resources as well as information about protesting, white supremacy, and white privilege.

Best Games Played 2019: Loveliest Follow-up

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2019 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Three years later, I can’t help but feel like I missed something when I played Undertale. It’s surely one of my favorite games in recent memory — the characters, the story, the jokes all come together in a lovingly tailored package. I drank deep of its themes of love and friendship and felt my stone heart soften.

But I was later informed that there were things I missed. That, on multiple playthroughs, more of the world gets exposed to you. The charming fog gripping the world of Undertale dissipates in later runs, revealing the dark machinations that reside beneath.

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Best Games Played 2019: Dreamiest Past

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2019 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Hypnospace Outlaw is a blast from the past.

But not our past. An alternate past, where people don headbands while they sleep to enter the alternate reality of Hypnospace; where folks collect SquisherZ monsters while they drink Grey’s Peak soda and listen to their favorite bands like Fre3zer and Chowder Man. It’s both eerily familiar and wholly different.

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Best Games Played 2019: Quickest Revolution

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2019 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Two years ago, I was raving about the innovation that was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. How it felt so fresh, so new, and how I was so excited to continue to play well beyond the one hundred hours I already clocked in it.

In the intervening time, battle royale empires have risen and fell. When a new game genre emerges — or an old one finds itself reinvented — the market leaders establish their leads early on: World of Warcraft has enjoyed a more than 15 year tenure as the seminal MMO. League of Legends and Dota 2 secured their placement early in the MOBA wars and have remained entrenched ever since. A whole generation of imitators crashed upon these franchises’ gates, and yet the walls held strong.

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Best Games Played 2018: Freshest Storytelling

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Florence is the debut project from dev studio Mountains, headed by former Monument Valley developer Ken Wong. Wrapped in a graphic novel aesthetic, you follow the eponymous 25 year-old Florence Yeoh as she goes about her young adult life. Scenes transition by having you swipe from comic panel to comic panel, sometimes left to right, sometimes up and down. Sometimes, a scene will play out in a single splash screen, with you poking and prodding everything in view to further the story.

Florence takes pleasure in the mundane. You’ll follow her through her day-to-day: tapping and swiping on the screen to shut off her alarm clock, brush her teeth, get ready for work, prepare spreadsheets at her boring office job, and chat on the phone with her mother, who expects so much more from Florence.

If these interactions seem boring to you – that’s the point. Just like in games like Papers, Please, Florence uses the gameplay’s monotony to communicate the inescapable societal systems the protagonists find themselves in. In Papers, Please, it’s about reconciling the fact that your job keeps an authoritarian state in power with the truth that, at the end of the day, you still need to provide for your family. In Florence, the game is about the titular character drifting aimlessly through life, waiting for something to happen.

That something comes in the form of an fatefully-timed dead smartphone battery and a street cellist, Krish. Florence discovers him performing in a park, drawn to his music, but doesn’t try to speak with him. It isn’t until later when crashes her bike and literally flips head over heels that they get a chance to speak. He makes sure she’s okay, they get to chatting, and they exchange numbers to go out later.

Unique gameplay methods are used to convey Florence and Krish’s growing relationship. When you first start getting to know each other, Florence’s speech balloons appear as a dozen puzzle pieces scattered across the screen – her seemingly fractured thoughts that need to be carefully constructed to talk to her new acquaintance.

But as Florence feels more comfortable around Krish, the numerous speech balloon pieces shrink in number and grow in size, clicking together effortlessly. Eventually, you’ll simply be sliding whole dialog bubbles in place, with Florence smiling and laughing as she and Krish grow closer.

They go out together; they meet each other’s families; they eventually move in together, with you tapping on shelves and drawers to make room for Krish’s possessions. But, unfortunately, the same comfort that made talking so easy makes arguing easy too. Stress from life and work boil over, and they lash out at each other. Now you’re swiping dialog as quick as you can, trying to get more words in to win the fight.

They reconcile, but grow distant. There’s a rift between them that never closed, a spark that never reignited.

The game could’ve ended with a picturesque happy ever after, but that’s not how life works. Every one of us finds happiness in something different. Some find it in being with the right partner. Some find it in creating passionate and meaningful work. Some find it being respected amongst their peers. Sometimes, we know exactly what makes us happy; other times, we don’t. Sometimes, as Florence teaches us, what used to make us happy may no longer do so.

Florence shows us that we’re not static beings, born to love and hate the same things through our entire lives. We grow; we change; we rediscover ourselves over and over again. We may not be the same people five, ten, or fifteen years from now, but as long as we chose to live meaningful, kind, and happy lives, we can never go astray.

Best Games Played 2018: Most Majestic

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

I’m probably one of the last people on the planet to play Shadow of the Colossus. Originally released on PlayStation 2 and lauded as one of the greatest games of all time, Shadow of the Colossus is a cultural touchstone that permeated the membrane of all of gaming. For the PS2, the game was an amazing technical and visual accomplishment, with a level of grandeur that still inspires awe in its dedicated PS4 remaster.

I’d watch as hero Wander challenged epic colossi that soared through white clouds, stomped across gray marshes, and dove into pristine waters. A favorite moment of mine was finding the fifth colossus, Avion – a large bird that circled a foggy lake. As I scrambled between stony ruins jutting out of the water, they swooped down to attack me. I leapt onto their wing and grasped at tufts of fur to hold on as Avion ascended back into the sky. As they climbed, I could practically feel the air rush past me as I played, and the orchestral music built to a swell. I raced across the creature’s stony spine to deliver a fatal blow to the head, causing Avion to shriek and crash back into the water.

It was a breathtaking spectacle of grit, passion, and sorrow as I watched the life snake out of Avion in trails of black mist. It was as amazing as people said it was back in 2005.

But just as awe-inspiring – if not moreso – were the quiet moments between these encounters. As Wander tracks his prey, he treks across the forbidden lands – an abandoned place, cold and tranquil. The sky is a persistent pallid gray, casting a spectral glow over everything it touches: ancient groves, crumbling towers, and desolate plains. There’s a natural bridge that connects the northern part of the continent, overlooking a barren cove where one of the colossi resides. It’s a lonely little inlet that reminds you of chilled, blustery days at the beach as the seasons change from summer to autumn.

You cross this bridge several times, as every colossus hunt starts you back at the temple in the middle of the map. It becomes another landmark to guide you on your travels as you and your trusty horse, Agro, thunder across the landscape. The land becomes a character in and of itself, an innocent bystander that can do nothing to stop you from killing its native colossi and stomping through its natural beauty.

Contemporary games are jam-packed with so many art assets that it’s truly a crime that we as players don’t take more time to sit and observe the creations of countless man hours. I believe this is partially an issue of overstimulation, that we can’t decide which high-poly object to focus on, so we focus on none of them. We instead choose to consume the content that the designers have set in front of us and treat the rest like so much needless fluff. Shadow of the Colossus, however, is vast and empty, likely a creative constraint of the hardware at the time, but it forces you to absorb the nature around you on your way to your final destination.

Shadow of the Colossus is a game about being transported to a faraway land with mystical creatures that challenge you to comprehend their otherworldly beauty and size. Everything, from the long treks across the world to the puzzling climbing and combat with colossi, force you to slow down to take it all in, and I will never be more thankful for a game doing that.

Best Games Played 2018: Best Antics

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Before WarioWare came along, Mario’s portly doppelganger was relegated to the Wario Land franchise, an also-ran in the long history of platformer franchises. But Luigi’s voyage into non-platforming waters with Luigi’s Mansion foretold the reinvention of Nintendo’s plumber family, and WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! came to be soon after.

Outside of a few run-ins at the local Target kiosk, I never played it much.

In fact, I never really interacted with any of the WarioWare games. Not Mega Party Game$, not Twisted!, not Touched!, not Smooth Moves, not Snapped!, not D.I.Y. But despite only having briefly interacted with the series before, I was able to recognize this sparkling gem for what it was. With it’s kooky, charming cast of misfits and it’s digestible, addicting microgames, the WarioWare series has been a joy to play from the very beginning. So it’s a good thing that WarioWare Gold is not only the latest, greatest entry in the series, but also a collection of the best microgames from throughout its history, with new microgames added to boot. It succeeds at both reigniting players’ love for the WarioWare franchise while also introducing new players to the wonderful world of Wario and friends.

Wario, ever the scheming trickster, returns home after robbing the town of Luxeville of its prized artifact, a seemingly jewel-encrusted pot. Back in Diamond City, he discovers he’s strapped for cash and decides to host a buy-in tournament of microgame players, giving a portion of the the tournament fees to the winner and a portion to himself, naturally. He once again conscripts his friends to make games for his tournament, which are collected into different leagues.

There’s the Tap League, the Touch League, and the Twist League, each corresponding to the unique control interfaces used in previous entries like Touched! and Twisted! Then there’s the Ultra League, which throws all those aforementioned games into one big pot along with the Blow games played with the microphone. And I thank Nintendo every day for not including a Blow League in this game.

But WarioWare is still weird Nintendo at its best. Every league is broken into five sections, each showcasing a different WarioWare pal with fully voiced cutscenes. Jimmy T enjoys Diamond City’s nightlife; Mona shops for a party dress; 9-Volt and Fronk goof off during math class; and Ashley battles demons in Hell. My personal favorite is the stretch of games hosted by 18-Volt, who challenges newcomer 13-Amp to a rap battle, with each microgame win juiced up with a rapidly increasing beat. Interlaced between these vignettes is the story of Lulu, the self-proclaimed hero of Luxeville, here to challenge Wario and recover her town’s treasure.

These narrative threads between microgames are more than just extra fluff: they endear you to Diamond City’s residents and make the game about more than just microgames. Some storylines are continuations of previous WarioWare games. In a previous entry, cabbies Dribble and Spitz had their taxi upgraded by Dr. Crygor, giving it the ability to travel through space, so their story in WarioWare Gold begins with them zipping through the cosmos trying to defeat an alien armada.

All of these threads converge on Lulu’s ultimate confrontation with Wario, who dons the Luxeville pot, transforming him into Wario Deluxe. With help from the player in one final set of microgames, Wario Deluxe is defeated, and Lulu reclaims her town’s treasure, reverting Wario back into his normal, selfish self. But even after temporarily being a megalomaniacal villain, Wario’s friends still forgive him for his greedy ways, and then he runs away with the tournament’s earnings without paying them. It’s a silly moment to let you know that, in WarioWare, we’re all here to make friends, have fun, and – most importantly – goof off.

Best Games Played 2018: Deepest Dive

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to roguelikes. Mainstays like FTL, Spelunky, and Darkest Dungeon just don’t do it for me. The unforgiving permadeath mixed with sticky, clunky gameplay ensured that I could never engage with them for more than one or two play sessions.

Despite being put-off by the most popular entries in the genre, I’m always on the lookout for one that aligns with my predilections, and every once in a while, I find one that sucks me in.

This happened previously with Rogue Legacy – a game that professed itself as a rogue lite, where the punishment of death was lessened by adding persistent progression. I spent hours churning through Rogue Legacy: building out the skill tree, upgrading character classes, unlocking armor sets, and stomping my way through the game’s castle in an attempt to defeat its five bosses. That never happened, mind you, but the journey is what made it fun. That’s important. A lot of rougelikes make the entirety of the experience solely about what comes at the end, about trying to pull off the single, perfect run that gets you over the game’s stated finish line, and I played a lot of PUBG last year, so I know the rush.

But Enter the Gungeon, like other rogue lites, improves on this formula by staying jam-packed with stuff to do and see on your way to the endgame, attempting to kill the Elder Dragun. After all, if you never see the end, you may as well enjoy the middle. The game plays in the style of top-down bullet hell roguelikes like Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne. Clear a room, move on. What keeps the game fresh is its progression, its exploration, and – most importantly – its weapons.

The Gungeon is where every firearm from history and fiction comes to call home. Glancing through the Ammonomicon, you find amazing armaments like a NES Zapper, a poisonous t-shirt cannon, a shreddin’ guitar, and a lowercase letter R that shoots out the letters B-U-L-L-E-T. You start out with only a fraction of the game’s 200-plus weapons unlocked, and you’ll only ever see, at most, a dozen or so guns in any single run through the Gungeon. You’ll find guns that you’ll naturally gravitate towards and inevitably lose when you die, only to start over and have to acclimate yourself with a new firearm. This is what makes Gungeon so addicting: there’s always some new trick or objective or mechanic to sink your teeth into.

What starts out as a straightlaced roguelike with a seemingly clear objective – kill the final boss – turns into an intricately laced adventure that’s as deep as it is wide. Soon after the game starts, you learn about the Bullet That Can Kill The Past, a rare artifact that the player characters are hunting for, seemingly because they wish to escape some horror from their former life. Building the Bullet requires four components that are scattered about the Gungeon, and each one you retrieve has to be brought down to the final floor, the Forge, and given to the Blacksmith – creating the second persistent objective that the game has to offer.

But there’s more.

You’ll also discover NPCs locked in cells throughout the Gungeon, and once you find the corresponding key and free them, they return to the entryway of the Gungeon, known as the Breach, and offer you aid in the form of purchasable unlocks, hunting objectives, and also elevator repair from the Tinker. The Tinker adds a unique wrinkle to a traditionally linear rougelike structure. Want to hunt for a specific reagent for the Bullet That Can Kill The Past on the third floor, but don’t want to risk dying on the first or second floor? Easy, give the Tinker the required number of resources found in the Gungeon – keys, shell casings, and bullet blanks – and he’ll build you an express elevator that takes you straight to the third floor. But to unlock it, you have to give all the resources all in one go – there’s no persistence here.

And I haven’t even gotten to synergies.

Base Gungeon had passive items that modified your weapons to great effect. Say you have a gun like the H4mmer, an average but reliable weapon, which fires a good amount of bullets quickly and effectively, with the last shot in the clip being a literal hammer. Now, say you also have the Stout Bullets item, which makes your bullets bigger and slower. Now you have a gun that shoots a quick spray of difficult to dodge ordinance. While you have to accept what the Gungeon doles out, you can mix and match your resources to deadly effect. Freezing bullets, healing bullets, electrified bullets, wings that grant flight, homing shots, and more add another layer to an already enormous cake.

But with Gungeon’s 2.0 update, Advanced Gungeons and Draguns, we were introduced to synergies, which are specific weapon and item combos that create completely new enhancements. An example: if you have the Mega Douser – a play on Super Soaker – and the Snowballer ice gun, the Mega Douser now leaves a trail of ice in its wake and has a chance of freezing enemies.

Most games have difficulty with having a single engrossing system, let alone two, let alone five, but Gungeon synergizes all its gameplay together into a symphony of systems within systems within systems, making it a more engaging roguelike than any I’ve seen.

Best Games Played 2017: Best Philosophy

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2017 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2017, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Everything is the latest game from Mountain developer David O’Reilly. Playing as, literally, everything, you possess animals and objects to explore the landscape. From subatomic particles to celestial bodies, you control a plethora of actors within this world to simply wander.

At indeterminate points, recorded lectures of Alan Watts, the British philosopher that studied and lectured on numerous philosophies and religious beliefs – including Zen Buddhism, start to play. He expounds upon topics such as the problems with objectifying your life, or the purpose – or lack thereof – of life itself. In this, Everything instead becomes not an idle distraction as you listen to Watts’ lectures, but a representation of his teachings in interactive form.

There’s no true objective to Everything. There’s an encyclopedia that fills with each being you encounter, but even that provides only the smallest of milestones for you to accomplish. You could easily ignore that mechanic and instead roam the world, absorbing Watts’ zen-like ideals through play.

The game doesn’t even need you to play it. Left idle, the current object starts moving on its own, jumping from vessel to vessel, rolling around the landscape, playing out like a modern, tranquil screensaver. All this is to impart to the player some small glimpse of nirvana, becoming a part of everything and nothing.

Best Games Played 2017: Grandest Adventure

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2017 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2017, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Super Mario Odyssey brings about the first return of a superlative, and it’s an apt one. Odyssey returns Mario to the throes of adventure. After the Wii U’s more structurally confined Super Mario 3D World, Mario is allowed to breathe again.

In classic Mario format, the titular plumber must once again save Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. But instead of the purposelessness that Bowser’s usual kidnappings bring, the Koopa King’s latest attempt comes with a devilish new intent. Similar to Super Mario Sunshine, where Bowser Jr. kidnaps Peach believing she is his mother and wishing to make the family whole again, in Odyssey Bowser kidnaps Peach to force her to become his lawfully wedded wife.

Some may see this unseemly setup as only adding extra color to the same old Mario motifs, but it creates a framework for one of Mario’s greatest adventures. In Bowser’s quest to collect all the assortments needed for a perfect wedding – a dress, a ring, a cake, some soup for the reception, a bouquet of flowers for the bride – he drags Mario in a chase across the globe.

You visit exotic locales from sunny deserts to frozen tundras to landscapes made entirely out of food. While there, you’ll use your toolkit of running, jumping, and hat possession to bound across the map and collect as many power moons as you can before chasing Bowser to the next kingdom. Each world is a dense puzzle box that you poke and prod with your abilities until all the moons come spilling out. Even when you feel like you’ve seen everything a kingdom has to offer, you’ll find that there are still some moons that you’ve overlooked.

The vast kingdoms breathe new life into the Mario series while also remixing classic designs and characters from games past. There’s Pauline, who’s gone from Mario’s original damsel in distress to the prestigious mayor of the Metro Kingdom’s New Donk City. Fans of Super Mario 64 will be happy to hear that numerous references to that entry make their way into the game in heartwarming fashion. Even the water pack mechanics from Sunshine make a brief appearance in the Seaside Kingdom.

All of these set pieces pulled from the franchise’s legacy make this game feel like ur-Mario, the entry that all future Marios will be compared too. There’s a case to be made for that. Instead of making it feel like a bunch of mechanical levels strung together with a threadbare plot, Odyssey’s numerous worlds feel like they’re teeming with life, where Mario can soar through blue skies, swim through vast oceans, and meet new friends. It’s an amazingly charming, breathtaking, feel-good experience.