To Thine Own Self Be True

To Thine Own Self Be True

It may be hackneyed, I know, and quite honestly, this particular phrase can be digested into a thousand meanings, both for your good and to promote selfishness…  But in spite of those facts, and possibly because Hamlet is my second-favorite Shakespeare play (any guesses which is first?), I still think this quote embodies what I want to talk about today.

To thine own self be true.  Be true to who you are, who you want to be, and what you intend for your life.  This has been the theme of my therapy sessions for the last, oh I don’t know, forever.  And guys, this is the big one, the massive post I hinted about around Thanksgiving.  The post where I finally talk about gaming, shame culture, letting go of judgement, and accepting myself.  So who wants to dive into the deepest recesses of my depression?  ooh, ooh, me!  Cool.  Let’s get going.

Once upon a time, as a child, I didn’t have a lot of friends.  It was pretty hard to be a girl who loved gaming, sports, fantasy, science, and reading and either no one could relate to me or everyone pretended they couldn’t.  Even if I finally found a new friend I’d usually wind up losing them after only a few months when they realized I was way nerdier than they were willing to put up with.  It was lonely.  It was hard.  It lasted until my senior year of high school.  And it helped me develop a desperate need to feel wanted and accepted by those around me and an absolute fear of abandonment.

Cut to years later and I still had that overwhelming need to be liked, wanted, and praised.  Because if people were praising me, liking me, wanting to be like me, and telling me that the things I did were great, then maybe that person would stick around.  And while this is not healthy behavior I was always able to keep it under control because deep down, I knew I was an achiever.  And the constant series of accomplishing tasks and goals in my job, hobbies, and personal life helped fill the gaps left by my loneliness.

But then the baby came.  All of a sudden I was 20 pounds heavier than I’d ever been in my life (and, frankly, as a very tall girl with a medium build I’d never been good on the whole “body image” front), a mother with massive new emotional and financial responsibilities, unable to find time to do the dishes or grocery shop, and without the energy to really excel at any and all projects, professionally or personally.

And at the very moment that I started to lose myself it seemed like everyone else found themselves.  It was the time when my in-laws all decided who they were going to be, where their lives were going, and somehow still had the energy to accomplish everything they wanted.  It was when my sister solidified that her calling in life is to teach others and help them learn as she raised and babysat both her little girl and my son, still finding the time to seemingly have it all together.  It was the time all my friends seemed to “grow up”.  Everyone’s Instagram feeds were full of the “socially acceptable” adventures and hobbies they’d discovered.  It was at this point that my anxiety and depression were uncontrollable by myself alone.  So I found help by seeking out a trained professional and, after digging up so much of the past and pushing so much toward the future, I think I can finally say that I know who I want to be.

While it isn’t the biggest issue I’ve faced, accepting my hobbies and my love for them have been one of the major obstacles I’ve needed to overcome.  You’ve seen the media, you’ve all been watching the news, and the idea that “gaming is bad” is a constant issue we, as gamers, have to face.  Several of the bloggers who I really admire and look up to have done posts on this recently.  One, in particular, stood out so well.

NekoJonez, some of the best emotional support you’ll ever find in a community, ranted about non-gamer’s perceptions of gamers.  When people around me started deciding who their “grown up selves” were going to be I started hearing this a lot more.  Or maybe I’d just never listened before, because I didn’t care that person X didn’t like my choice of hobbies.  When my anxiety started coming to a head I started questioning every single hobby I’d ever had.  Was it too childish?  Did I need to grow up?  Was I supposed to fit in the current culture and live life like literally everyone else on Instagram/Facebook/insert social media platform of your choice?  How could I like games and still be accepted and appreciated?  And even among gamers, how could I exclusively enjoy Nintendo and not be mocked as “childish”?

It wasn’t until my brother-in-law, an absolute saint, metaphorically sat down with me (we were on the phone), and had a long chat about the fact that he has struggled through, and come out the victor, in these exact issues that I started to feel like maybe I was going to be okay.  Maybe other’s impressions of my choices and my life didn’t matter.  Maybe loving something, even if other people don’t approve, was more important than being who I was “supposed” to be.  By sharing his advances in determining how he wanted to play games and the benefits he derived from them, and the emotional and physical support he and his wife have showered on me, I gain confidence in my own struggles with this perception of gamers and, ultimately, of myself.

It’s a tough road, guys.  There’s so much out there telling you that you’re unhealthy, lazy, wasting time, childish, promoting whatever gaming is supposed to be ruining nowadays, addicted, a part of the problem with society, missing  the fullness of life, not enough of a gamer, not the right kind of gamer, not playing the right things, etc… Whatever mean thing someone can think of, trust me, they will.  If they can shame you into feeling like you’re not good enough, hey, maybe you’ll change and validate their lifestyle.  It’s so hard not to buy into what they’re saying.  They have the support of the current societal norms on their side, after all.  How can we overcome this bombardment on our personal choices?

So, while I don’t need to go into all the gory details, let’s talk about how I’ve learned to cope with these fears and stressors.  Because ultimately, this post isn’t so I can tell you all my personal life stories.  It’s to help others who may be feeling the same fears and thoughts.  Who may be going through their own young, mid-life crisis.

There is NOTHING wrong with your hobbies.  Gaming or otherwise.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing to continue gaming, or choosing new hobbies, or heck, doing both!  Nostalgia Trigger, a fantastic blog you should definitely follow, wrote an incredible post about a year ago talking about these very things.  Gaming is a hobby, it isn’t a lifestyle.  And so is every other passion and pursuit you turn to.  Yeah, it can consume you, it can be your number one thing, but it doesn’t define who you are, what you stand for, and your value as a human being.  It’s a hobby.  And it’s just fine to fall in love with your hobby.  Everyone has them.  And no one hobby is better than another.  So accept yourself, accept your hobbies, and be happy that you’ve found things you love to do.  Not everyone has.

Just because you found something (or somethings) you’re passionate about at a young age doesn’t make them childish.  It makes you lucky.  4 out of my 5 favorite hobbies are things I adored as a child.  Gaming is one of them.  My entire family are gamers, it’s something we did as a family, something we pursued on our own, and something nearly all of us have continued as we’ve grown.  Just because it’s something I did as a child does not make it childish.  I’ve had decades of loving who I am and enjoying one of my favorite hobbies.  That’s years longer than so many people.  How lucky am I?  Decades of refining my tastes, discovering my niche, and really knowing what’s worth my time and what isn’t.  That isn’t childish, that’s maturity.

Stop the comparison, take away the judgement.  One of my biggest problems is that I judge myself incredibly harshly.  I compare and, instead of being jealous, I simply find some way of turning that comparison into a criticism of who I am/am not.  I find ways to devalue myself based on these perfect boundaries I’ve decided I have to fit inside.  Well guess what?  No one is perfect.  Which means I constantly break those boundaries and rules and, when I do, I leave myself open to me saying some of the meanest things anyone has ever said of me.  Do you have this problem?  Are you, quite literally, your harshest critic?  While it’s 1000% easier said than done, stop the criticism and take away the judgement.  Everyone makes mistakes, you face problems you can’t overcome or set-backs that completely take you away.  But instead of turning it into a rant about the horrible, terrible human being you aren’t, take away the judgement and make it about accepting you for your faults and the growth that you achieve when you fail.  No one achieved anything through perfect success.  It’s only through failure that we learn.

So what if so-and-so thinks you’re silly for gaming?  Instead of taking what they’ve said to heart simply accept any critiques that may be true and throw the rest in the garbage.  Don’t use it as fuel on your fire to be harsh and unkind to yourself.  Instead of judging ourselves on whether we spent 6 hours doing playing a game or 6 hours doing any other hobby, simply accept that you did something that brought you pure joy and move one.  Instead of allowing someone’s belief about how you should spend your time ruin your night simply brush it aside and do the things you love.  Accept that you are who you are and leave the judgement where it belongs-nowhere near you.

It’s taken me a full and solid year to finally start comprehending some of these facts.  I love video games.  I love tabletop games.  I’d rather spend every night of my week watching Overwatch League than anything else.  I’m obsessed with the Legend of Zelda and have an entire shelf of LoZ games and books to prove it.  I’m proud of the fact that one of my son’s favorite things is Mario.

It’s okay to love yourself.  It’s okay to be yourself.  You don’t have to look like person X, because you never will.  You’re not them, from your DNA to your beliefs.   So stop trying.  Just accept who you are, pants size and everything.  It’s okay to enjoy gaming.  No one person’s hobbies will ever be better than another’s.  They are a portion of all the wonderful things that make you who you are.  They shape your ability to change your world.  The world needs gamers, and hikers, and readers, and sports enthusiasts, and every other possible hobby.  Because those things help build a civilization that works.  Embrace the differences and accept yourself.  Because you are, and will always be the very best at being you.

Secret Valentine: Reaper Interactive

Secret Valentine: Reaper Interactive

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  Now, having said that I have to admit that me and my husband rarely, if ever, celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We never have (after the first embarrassing year we were dating and he ignored me completely as some kind of prank he and his friends concocted) and we probably never will.  Living in a college town for most of our relationship completely turned us off of going on dates with 1000 of our closest friends.  Having both birthdays in the same month means that yet another holiday to spend money on for gifts is not happening for budgetary reasons.  And being a complete matter-of-fact scientist means I’m not really the romantic sort (luckily, neither is he!).  However, one thing I really do love about this holiday is the fact that everyone seems just a little bit nicer to the people around them.  I always find ways to be more appreciative of those I care about and the people around me on days like today.  And with that in mind I wanted to take place in Adventure Rule’s newest community challenge: the Secret Valentine.

He took everyone who signed up, and (I’m guessing) randomly drew names from a pot to determine who was getting whom.  It was then the blogger’s job to go to their secret valentine’s blog, read their articles, and write a few kind words about them.  I was given the wonderful blog of Reaper Interactive, where the amazing @ReaperActive reigns supreme.

copyright

This is actually a blog I hadn’t read before.  I follow him on social media but hadn’t delved into his blog.  But boy am I glad I did!  This blogger is a delight to read.  He thoroughly researches his topics and is able to provide good, meaningful advice in his series articles.  For example, he wrote an article called Legals 101: Copyright and Fair Use Policy in which he delves into how bloggers, particularly game reviews can legally use images and stills from games.  He discusses copyright infringement, copyright do’s and don’t’s, and how to apply that to our blogs.  Having spent a lot of time researching copyright for my Etsy shop, and being very good friends with a lawyer who takes an interest in copyright, I was incredibly impressed by his knowledge and his ability to turn something very complex into something relatively simple for people looking for answers.  I think everyone should read this article if you’ve never thought about the legality of how you use someone else’s work.  I can’t wait for the rest of this series!

social media

He also has a great little article on traffic to your blog.  In Blogging 101: Why Your Blog May Not be Attracting Views he delves into some of the greatest mistakes we, as bloggers, can make.  These things tend to keep us away from the big views and out of the spotlight we, usually, so desperately want.  Now, a lot of times these kinds of articles are general, non-specific advice where the author is trying desperately to have something to contribute to a major blogging conversation.  Not Reaper, though.  As always with his 101 articles he swoops in with some actual, thought out advice to help people figure out a few minor tweaks that’ll make positive changes in their blog immediately.  These articles are so well-researched I really can’t say enough about them.

kindergarten

 But the main focus of Reaper’s blog is his game reviews.  Now, I’ve said before (maybe not here, but definitely said it) that I don’t really read game reviews.  I’m paranoid about story spoilers and I’d rather waste money than read them.  However, Reaper is a solid non-story-spoiler-reviewer.  And after giving in and reading a few of the reviews I love his layout.  He starts with some basic description of what the game is and then every header hits a major point people look for in a game review: Analysis, Features, System Specs required, etc…  He even provides a content warning for articles that may have some non-kid-friendly information.  My absolute favorite of his reviews is Kindergarten Can Be Fun.  It made me laugh really hard and was interesting enough that, were I PC gamer, I would definitely consider buying it.  While he’s a PC game reviewer and I don’t really play PC games (except Overwatch… little bit obsessed with that one and I hate it on PlayStation) his reviews would be top of the list if I were looking for a great new game to waste time on when I should be working.

But what it really boils down to, guys, is that Reaper is a definite blog to check out.  His humor, style, and research all make for fantastic articles and really, he’s a great person to interact with on social media!  Hey, it’s why I wound up following him on Twitter before ever reading his blog!  Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Reaper, and your amazing work!

Quick Poll and an Update

Hey, everyone! Sorry about the whole two-week-in-a-row-without-a-post thing… I’ve been trying to get one together but life keeps getting in the way. To make up for it, get ready for double recipe week! I’ll be posting two awesome recipes (and trying to get a couple in the back burner for weeks I’m swamped) this week!

And second: let’s take a poll. I’ve noticed a lot of you feel like you aren’t skilled enough to attempt these recipes. I think it would be cool to teach you, and therefore give you the confidence you need, to be skilled enough at these recipes! So I’m considering starting a twitch stream, where once a week I’d make a recipe and the instructions and details would be posted here a few days later. Thoughts? Let’s take the poll to find out! And please leave a comment or two if you have some thoughts or suggestions!

Unique Blogger Award!

Unique Blogger Award!

Alright, guys, it’s the end of the month and I haven’t posted a “Gaming Thoughts” post yet for the month of January.  So you get a blog overload this week!  But this is a fun one.  You see, NekoJonez nominated me for the Unique Blogger Award!  Yay! Fanfare, Confetti, and Balloons!  Jonez is, in all honesty, one of the nicest and most supportive bloggers out there.  And his blog is a beauty to read.  He delves deep into games to write riveting reviews and seems to always find games I’ve never heard of!  Which is a blast because it helps expand my horizons.  If you don’t already follow NekoJonez, please go do so right now and enjoy his blog as much as I do!

And now for the award.  Jonez provided we the nominees with three questions and asked us to answer them.  I thought long and hard about my responses, especially because the first question gave me so much trouble!  But I finally figured them out.

Question 1: If you were able to erase all memories from one game to be able to fully experience it again, which game would it be and why?

legend of zelda majoras mask

My first reaction to this question was Ocarina of Time.  But then my gut started to wrench and I panicked.  My childhood, my life, has been shaped by that game and my memories of playing it as a kid.  Everything about me is formed by my adoration for Link and Legend of Zelda.  And I realized I couldn’t possibly give up those memories, even for the amazing experience of getting to experience it, brand new, all over again.

But it didn’t take long to come up with the answer I do want to give: Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask.  I had been playing OoT nearly nonstop for 2 years.  When Majora’s Mask was released I was ecstatic, thrilled to play another LoZ game.  I honestly can’t remember if I bought it myself or if my parents caved and got it for me (or, more likely, “the family”).  I remember going downstairs on a Saturday morning, opening the packaging, and literally sitting there and playing through the entire game in one day.  I would stop for bathroom breaks and food but otherwise I was glued to that TV.  When I finished it I was disappointed.  I was disappointed at how easy it had been, at the fact that it had only taken me, on a first run and having never read a manual, 13 hours to beat that game.  And I’ve never played it again.

I know it’s people’s favorite game, that it has high acclaim, and a pretty strong following.  People even claim they like it more than Ocarina of Time (the heathens!).  But I have never been able to dump the sour taste my barely-twelve-year-old mind had when I finished a LoZ game that quickly.  I’m sure I was just too young to understand the depth of the story and the complexities of gameplay that mean everyone loves it so much.  And I’d love to have the ability to do it over again.  Experience it fresh.  Having thought a lot about this the last few weeks makes me think I’m going to give it another go this year and try and capture whatever I missed as a child.

Question 2: If you were allowed to help in the production of a game, which role would you take on and why? The role of producer, voice actor, writer, designer…?

budget tempate

This one’s an easy one.  Craft Services!  Right?  Game production has craft services, the amazing people who cater the film, I mean, game… set, I mean studio… Maybe not.  Blast.  Probably not.

While I wish I could say I was super creative and had amazing story ideas/musical composition abilities… I don’t.  What I do have is an incredible attention to detail, mad budgeting skills, some past experience, and an absolute love for a good spreadsheet.  And even if she didn’t know it, LaterLevels in a recent article about game production Dream Teams, pegged the exact position I would take in the production of a game: Producer.  You see, my husband is a film producer, which gives me a bit of an edge.  I know what the position is and what is needed for it.  I’m also incredibly conscientious about money and finances.  I overlook our personal budget nearly every day and, as I like to say it, “do the math” on basically any purchase or financial whim that comes in to my head.  And my scientific background really pushes me to check out the details of how a system works and ensure that all the cogs are rolling along.  So I think that’s what I’d be best at…

Question 3: What is one of the earliest video game memories?

the lion king

My earliest video game memories are of Aladdin, The Lion King, and Sonic and Knuckles on our Sega Genesis.  I would wake up at an obscenely early time on Saturdays to play one of these three games.  As a kid I remember thinking the stampede scene in The Lion King was the most difficult level on any video game ever.  We had an unfinished basement where my parents had set up a small TV with the game systems and my little brother, sister, and I would sit down there, wrapped in blankets, and play until my parents got up, realized where we were, and would force us to come up and do our chores.  Oh, to be a child again…

And now, here are the rules for the nominees:

  1. Display the award. (See above).
  2. Thank the individual(s) who have nominated you and include a link to their blog. A little promotion for their blog is also welcome.
  3. Answer the questions asked by the individual who has nominated you.
  4. Nominate an arbitrary number of bloggers and have them answer three questions you put forth to them.

Here are the questions:

  1. If you could only listen to one game soundtrack for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?  And then pick one track from that soundtrack, which would it be, and why?
  2. Pick one villain to be the main playable character in a new game series.  Which character would you pick and why?
  3. What is one dead IP or game that you’d love to see resurrected and why?

And here are the nominees:

Video Games Nebula

My Passion for Gaming

Gamers United 

Insert Memory Card

Quite frankly, it’s rough going after Jonez because he nominated a significant portion of the people I would have nominated, who then nominated nearly all the rest.  And while it’s awesome that everyone is getting a chance, it leaves me woefully unable to nominate more…  But don’t worry!  I think I found a few who have been skipped!

Comprehensive Gaming

Guys, I know this isn’t the recipe you were looking for. The holidays definitely got the better of me both physically and emotionally. And while a recipe is coming (I just have to write the post) in the meantime I wanted to share a link to an incredible in-depth look at gaming costs vs playtime vs enjoyment. This post is found on Complicate the Narrative, a blog dedicated to analyzing gaming and applying literary theory to it.

You can find the post here

It’s a long article, but guys, it’s totally worth reading.

I highly recommend chatting with the author in their comments about their experience but if you want to chat here I’ll direct him to it.

My favorite excerpt and my take-away message is this:

After forcing myself to look this closely at the time and money I spend on games, I’ve decided that in the end, the best games do only 2 things: entertain and inspire. The second a game is not doing at least one of those two things, stop. Seriously, just stop. Examine why you aren’t entertained or inspired, then watch out for those patterns in other games, and don’t play those games. Don’t buy them, don’t start them, don’t give them any more attention than they deserve.

This year I’ve really questioned gaming and whether I should, as some put it, grow out of it. I’m planning a pretty long post about overcoming my fear in regards to those sentiments soon, but this conclusion by Paul is the conclusion I’ve made. Gaming brings you joy and can inspire and teach. Find the games that make you feel that and then it’s never a waste of time!