Top 5 Spooky Games

Top 5 Spooky Games

Now, I need to preface this with a little confession: I don’t play scary video games.  And there’s a reason for that.  While I love scary movies, scary books, and scary podcasts I can’t seem to play a scary video game.  I have a pretty vivid imagination and that leads to some pretty horrific nightmares and night terrors, even as an adult.  It’s easier to separate myself from movies, books, and podcasts because, while I’m hearing the story, they aren’t quite as immersive as a video game.  I tried a horror video game once… Until Dawn… and it gave me nightmares for a week.  And I barely made it through the first hour or so of gameplay.  So the games I play at Halloween/all year long because who doesn’t love a good scare, are mostly tabletop.  I do list one video game – it isn’t horror but it’s definitely suspenseful!

betrayal at house on the hill

Betrayal At House on the Hill

Easily my favorite game to play at Halloween.  In this tabletop coop you and your group are explorers within a haunted house – but you don’t know it’s haunted.  Based on a series of cards drawn and dice rolled you eventually discover why the house is haunted.  When the haunt begins the combination of cards drawn dictate you toward one of 50 scenarios in which one of the players becomes a “traitor” and the game becomes all against one.  This game is incredible, especially when played with the right ambiance of dim lights, spooky music (I highly recommend Midnight Syndicate – especially the album listed in my Top Spooky Music post), and people who are willing to get into the atmosphere!

arkham horror

Arkham Horror

I love this game so much.  We have a set of friends that we play long, complex games with and they introduced us to this one.  Again, it’s a cooperative tabletop game but this one takes place in the mythical world of H.P. Lovecraft.  There are several scenarios, each involving a new Arkham “boss” monster, including (obiously) one with Cthulhu.  Each of the scenarios brings new challenges to what is already a fairly complex game.  Add in some luck of the dice rolls and an increasing sense of panic to complete the game and you have the perfect creepy horror game for any Halloween night.

the last of us

The Last of Us

Ah, here it is, the one lone, intense video game.  Now, I know this isn’t a “horror” game, but there are moments in this zombie thriller that will get your heart racing.  I’m not the biggest fan of zombie games, or the whole zombie genre, but this one is special.  With epic storytelling and a realistic zombie plague – there is actually a fungus that behaves eerily similar in real life, called the Cordyceps fungus – this game starts out with a creepy overtone.  But add in a few truly frightening moments (anyone remember the hotel basement?) and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect spooky Halloween game.

luigi's mansion

Luigi’s Mansion

Now, this one isn’t scary, but how could I possibly leave out a Mario game about a haunted house!?  This game is wonderful, in the vein of other classic Mario games, but with a few Luigi twists that really make that character stand out.  Add in a few ghosts and some tricky puzzles and you’ve got a great Halloween game you can play to get you or your kids in the spirit of the holiday!

mysterium

Mysterium

Yet another tabletop game based in a haunted house but this one feels a lot more like a version of Clue.  Instead of discovering the murderer of the recently deceased, however, you’re a set of mediums receiving visions through one of the players, acting as the ghost.  Through a series of rounds the ghost must covey their clues to the mediums through basic visions to help them discover the location, weapon, and suspect of their murder.  While this game is a little less creepy and a lot more fun, it’s still a fantastic Halloween game, particularly for those who prefer a their games a little less frightening.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy this one.  Especially if you like a good who-done-it!

Bonus Game

ten candles

Ten Candles

This little gem was introduced to me by our dear friend over at Adventure Rules, Ian.  I’ve just started to get into tabletop RPG and Ian very kindly suggested this as a good introduction.  Now, I haven’t actually played this game.  I keep trying to make it happen but I can’t find people to play with me/haven’t been able to find the time to prep for it.  I’m hopeful it’ll happen before the end of the month.  But from the descriptions, from the way Ian explained it, and the photos, it looks like a truly terrifying game!  Played using candlelight and character sheets that you literally burn, it has all the hallmarks of a good, solid scare.  Just be careful – if you have a good game master you may not sleep that night.

Blogger Blitz Finale: One Thousand Strong

Blogger Blitz Finale: One Thousand Strong

Okay, folks.  This is it – the Blogger Blitz Finale.  And after some intense writing, researching, and last-minute editing, I actually have a story I’m really proud of.  Is that weird to say?  I’m not sure I’ve ever truly been proud of something I’ve written, but this time I really am!  I can’t believe that this challenge is almost over.  I’ve learned so much through this.  Ian, as always, blows me away with his creativity and his ability to push boundaries, and, with the help of the other guest bloggers, of course, really brought out my creativity.  These last challenges have been harder than I thought I was capable of accomplishing and yet, I’ve been able to do it.  So thanks to Ian and his magnificent competition for helping me stretch myself a little bit and open up to a world I wasn’t sure I was capable of being a part of!

And, with that emotional introspection, let’s get on with the show!  As always, I want to acknowledge my challenger, Michael over at Git Gud at Life.  His submission to this post can be found here.  And if you haven’t read his past submissions, go do it.  They’ll blow you away with their unique writing!

And then a HUGE thank you to Ian at Adventure Rules, where the results of this competition can be found on Friday!

Here is the prompt for the final:

Anyone can take on a single enemy. Taking on a dozen or so enemies isn’t really that tough either. But fighting an army of 1000 monsters born of the darkness left behind when a human body is deprived of its heart – now THAT’s scary! But that’s exactly what our lovely antagonists will have to do in this event if they plan to make it somewhere very important – the venue for their best friend’s wedding.

Villains keep strange company, so really it’s only natural that they would hang out with someone who thought a monster-infested canyon would be a cool place to tie the knot. As the best friend, your chosen bad guy (or gal, or gender-non-binary person) is obviously expected to be in the wedding. But to get to the front of the crowd, you’ll have to fight your way through one thousand Heartless, beings that feed on the darkness inside of hearts – and there’s a whole lot of dark hearts at this wedding!

Luckily, you’re not alone. One of the most iconic parts of the Battle of the 1000 Heartless in Kingdom Hearts II is the series of cameos from previous allies who show up to kick some tail and help you make your way through the Heartless army. In the Blogger Blitz championship, these partners are the characters you’ve defeated in battle! You can include in your post cameos from the two opponents you defeated directly, as well as the character your semifinal opponent defeated, giving you a total of three characters to partner with when taking on the Heartless menace.

And, without further ado, let’s get on with the show…


Ugh.  If he weren’t my most faithful servant, the actualization of my precious sword, I wouldn’t bother with this stupid wedding.  I need to focus on the death of the boy called Link.  Even now, years after my last setback, I feel my hatred and malice for him growing, becoming more refined.  That boy, who has overthrown my plans again and again!  HOW?!  He, the holder of the most worthless piece of the Triforce?  Power and Wisdom, and then “Courage”.  That simple brat continues to best me with courage…

I need a new strategy.  I need to focus, not gallivant off into the sunset to watch Ghirahim marry himself.  The invitation was ridiculous. 

Please, my Master, attend this precious moment, where pure beauty and finesse shall marry the only possible match – itself.  I, Ghirahim, request the presence of Ganon, the reincarnation of Demise, at this joyful union of me to myself, at the Breach of Demise Canyon at sunset.

ghirahim

How could anyone possibly take seriously the sharing of power in some kind of “union”.

Sigh

And yet… he is my most faithful of servants, the very blade I wield in the fight against the goddess.  I must attend.  His deference for me, even the place he has chosen, in homage to me.  I suppose I can give him a few moments of my time.  Especially if it means he will be better focused in the future.

I stand, stretching to relieve the cramping in my muscles that remain from a night of plotting.

It feels like a few weeks only have passed since I reveled in the Forbidden Fortress, enjoying an evening of my triumph.  And yet, years have passed.  Enough time to have been defeated again and again by that brat.  No… never defeated.  Merely slowed down.  He is simply putting off the inevitable.

I quickly dress in my best robes and, as I pass the dresser, hesitate slightly, my eyes passing over the cards of all the previous villains I’ve recently been in contact with.  I quickly pocket all three, knowing that, if any problems arose, I could easily call on those pathetic weaklings to take the brunt of the issues.

After all, there’s no one better at manipulation than Ganondorf, wielder of the Triforce of Power.

I release a shrieking call and a gargantuan black stallion comes whipping up the trail to my hiding place.  I mount, and with another shriek, send the stallion along the way to the canyon known as the Breach of Demise.

breach of demise

Mere hours later I slow to a trot, suddenly wary of the unnatural darkness settling in.  The canyon is within sight, but, with an hour left till sunset, the shadows playing across the land are unsettling.  I know that my own creatures, the Bokoblins, Moblins, even Lynels, wouldn’t dare harm their King.  So what is making that soft scratching noise where the shadows are deepest?

I dismount, creeping closer to the nearest rocky shadow, and am surprised.  A creature unlike any I’ve ever seen crouches, half-hidden in shadow.  His yellow eyes shine bright and the antennae which are just visible wave slightly as it shudders.

heartless

Is this some new being I can harness to my will?  Something that will give me an edge in the fight against Link?

The creature shifts its weight, making a soft padding sound.  I stiffen and quickly glance around as I hear that same noise echoed countless times.  Peering into the darkness settling around me I see hundreds… no, at least one thousand of these creatures, their strange yellow eyes glinting in the shadows they’re hiding in.  I throw my hands to my side, calling my purple ball lightening and ready to attack when I pause.

Yes, I could defeat this swam myself.  I am Ganondorf, the most powerful being to ever live.  But when have I ever been the first to take the brunt of an attack?

I slowly back into the light, hand slipping into a small pocket, and bring out the cards I so brilliantly brought along.  Each card bears a single name: Sigma, Marjolaine, and Xehanort.  Selecting the first of the cards I use my considerable skill to summon the first of my opponents to my side.

Let’s see how these creatures of darkness handle a man of metal and code.

As an arc of purple lightning flashes across the sky Sigma, the enemy of Mega Man, appears at my side.

sigma

“Ah, Sigma.  Delighted you could join me” I say, a slight smirk on my lips

“Ganondorf.” Sigma says dispassionately, “Why have you brought me here?”

“You see, Sigma, knowing how… desperately you enjoy researching new, insidious ways to bring down your robot friends I thought I’d invite you to share with me the discovery of a new species.  And look,” I gesture around the landscape, “there’s plenty for the both of us.”

I fold my arms and watch as Sigma stares me down, wary of any help.

“What could possibly be in this for me?”

“Oh, Sigma, I thought you were more intelligent than that” I see his eyes narrow at the insult.  “You see, I don’t know these creatures.  They are completely new to this land.  And you, Sigma, you can interface… compute… even understand animals.  If you do this for me I’ll ensure that, when you share your knowledge, I send you back home with a few of these monsters.  You can utilize them in your next fight against your nemesis.  If they’re new to him, won’t they be more difficult to defeat?”

I see Sigma processing this information.  After a moment he nods once and begins to tread softly toward the darkness.  I continue to watch, but as I do so I notice something slightly disconcerting.  As the shadows lengthen the creatures move from their hiding places, keeping to the darkness, moving slowly toward Sigma and myself.

I see Sigma pause, just slightly out of reach of the nearest creature, then see his hands whip out, attaching long metal cords to the creature.

“They are searching for… hearts.  They consume hearts, breeding from the darkness found within them.  I cannot see where they originate from.  Some land full of anthropomorphic animals dressed in ridiculous clothes.  But I… I cannot… I…”

Sigma’s voice slowly fades away and he begins convulsing slightly.

“Sigma?” I shout.  “Sigma, what’s going on?”

There’s no response.  He slowly turns to looks at me, eyes changing to a luminescent yellow.

“I have no heart” he dispassionately intones.  “But I do have a body.  Easier… to… possess”

I quickly summon a ball of lightning as Sigma throws himself at me and blast him to the ground.  He shakes and sputters, the electricity frying his circuits.

Useless…

With a simple incantation and another flash of purple lightning I send him home.  Quickly removing the next card, noticing that the shadows are deepening, I summon Marjolaine.

marjolaine

“Yes?” her sultry tones echo slightly as she materializes.

“Marjolaine, I bested you in the last competition.  You know what I’m capable of.  Together we can destroy these monsters, keeping just one or two for ourselves.  Apparently they consume hearts.  I’m sure you’ve got plenty of hearts in your world just itching to be destroyed for the… well, the fun of it.”

“I do enjoy games” she croons, finally turning to face the swarm of monsters straining to reach us.

I hear her gasp.

“So many…”

“I would have thought someone like you would be itching for a fair fight?”

“I can only destroy so many with a bow” she spits at me.  She pauses.  “There may be a way.  I can stun them.  Every one of the enemies within the sound of my voice, for a short period of time.”

“So what are you waiting for?”

She glares at me, venom in her eyes.  Then she opens her mouth and begins to sing.  The song is haunting and as the shadows finally reach where we stand the creatures, running at us, are frozen.  I laugh.  It’s so much easier to defeat an enemy when someone else does all the difficult work.  I begin blasting the creatures with my ball lightning, turning and spinning to reach all I can see.  After several seconds I pause, looking back, waiting for the woman to spring into action and join me.  But she merely continues to stand, singing her song.

Wait…  In performing her best ability against a swarm of monsters she’s… completely useless herself?  What a worthless companion.  Do I have to do everything myself?

I let out an angry roar, lightning arcing from my fingers, stretching out and destroying the remaining creatures within my vision, their bodies vanishing into puffs of smoke.  I hear the padding of hundreds of feet as more creatures attempt to take their places.

Turning swiftly to Majorlaine I snap my fingers.  Her voice cuts off and she vanishes back into the useless world I stole her from.  Chest heaving with frustrated breaths I pull out the last card.  With an angry bellow and one last arc of lightning I summon the man to my side.

xehanort

He appears, looks calmly around him, and his face cracks into an evil grin.

What?

“I see my plan worked… This world, so full of people with so many hearts and so much light, was just itching for a cleansing.  A balance, if you will…”

My eyes narrow as the realization hits me.  This man planned this attack.  He wanted me to invite him here… to MY realm?!

“Do you truly think you can take over my kingdom?  Steal from me what I’ve earned, what I deserve!?  DO YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE A FOOL OUT OF ME?” I shout, my rage building inside.

“Of course.  Sending one thousand of my Heartless to your kingdom, on the eve of your pathetic puppet’s wedding?  Why, this worked out better than I could have imagined.  You fell for my plan.  Like the simpleton I always thought you were.”

I scream in rage, malice building inside me as he lets out a cold, mirthless laugh and his minions begin to surround me.  As I glance around me, preparing for battle, I notice that several have stopped stalking me and have, instead, merely sat upon the ground.  Odd…

“I am Ganondorf, the most powerful, the most evil of all beings.  I, the reincarnation of Demise the Demon himself, can NOT be overruled by a worthless, pathetic master of a simple sword.  I cannot be defeated!”

As my echoes die out the creatures, Heartless, Xehanort called them, all stop and slowly turn away from me and toward their master.

“Enough of this!  Attack!”  Xehanort cries, pointing the tip of a long key at me.  I brace myself but the attack never comes.  I see my enemy glance around, a look of fear replacing the triumph.

“NO!” he cries “I am most evil.  You bow down to me!  I am your master!”

“Most evil, you say?”  I chuckle.  It has finally dawned on me that these Heartless, born from darkness, must gravitate toward true evil.  And I know exactly whose heart contains the most evil.  “It seems that your gamble was… mistaken.  You should have known better than to mess with a Demon King.”  I lift a finger and point at the trembling form of my adversary.  The Heartless begin padding toward him at a run, rushing to consume the man they once served.  Xehanort lets out a shriek of terror before raising his Keyblade and vanishing, like a coward.

I chuckle again, triumphant in the knowledge that I have a new monster to let loose on the world.  What is the goddesses chosen hero to a swarm of creatures born from darkness?  I call my noble steed and set off toward the canyon and my servant’s wedding, my horde of Heartless trailing behind me, confident that I, Ganondorf, will soon conquer this world.

ganondorf

Blogger Blitz Semifinals: Movie Marauders

Blogger Blitz Semifinals: Movie Marauders

Well, everyone.  I can’t believe it happened, but happen it did.  I actually won the Blogger Blitz Round 1!  I honestly don’t know how this keeps happening.  The other competitors are so good I could swear I won’t make it out alive.  And yet, I do… Somehow I do.

But while I may have been excited at my last triumph this next one scares me to death.  Not only is the prompt incredibly vague and difficult, but my competition is out of the this world!  Athena, over at AmbiGaming, will be pitting her villain Marjolaine, against me and Ganondorf in the weirdest challenge of them all.

It’s Friday and work this week has been pretty hectic – another upstart hero tried to stop your tyrannical rise to power, the royal heir escaped your wicked clutches, and cosmetic microtransactions were just announced for your favorite video game franchise. Luckily, you’ve got a relaxing weekend planned with your buddies, a movie night complete with snacks, decorations, and total surround sound. At least, that was the plan.

Just as movie night is about to get started, your villain realizes discovers that a pack of wererats broke into the cupboard and ruined all the snacks! Now you have to figure out where to quickly obtain more snack food before your friends arrive. Panicking, you look out the window of your beachside castle and see a faint ray of hope: a beach party taking place right outside! All you have to do is steal all their party stuff and bring it to your own party and the night is saved.

Bloggers have a lot of creative freedom with this event. Who’s throwing the beach party? How will the villain approach the party to steal the goods? Will the wererats just let this slide? With so many options available, there’s no telling what will happen in this kooky Blogger Blitz event!

Guys, I didn’t even know where to begin with this one.  I really had zero ideas until very, very recently.  I’m still not even sure how I feel about my response.  But sometimes you just have to push Publish and hope for the best.  And with Ganondorf’s amazingly complex, roundabout way of thinking, what could possibly go wrong?

Rules, as always, can be found at the site of our wonderful host, Ian, at Adventure Rules, and the results of today’s challenge can be found there on Friday!


… and yet, I wonder if the problem really was Link, this hero of the winds.  Perhaps the elements and waves themselves rose against my ascent.  It’s the only thing that makes sense, after all.  Link, an upstart nobody from that tiny island, could never have bested the great Ganondorf, without help from a power nearly as great as me.  I’ll ensure that my next attack is more carefully planned.  Perhaps a foray into a realm where I control the elements, somewhere Dark, will ensure victory.

Ganondorf looked up from his post, stretching, and clicked “Publish”.  Without those pesky monkeys to thwart him, publishing his memoirs had become significantly easier.  It’s always the same, he thought, if I want something done correctly, it must be done myself.  He stood and strode through his personal sanctum and into the drawing room, mindlessly glancing out the windows at the rocky shores of his Forsaken Fortress beachside castle.

forbidden fortress

“I suppose I have the consolation of uninviting those pesky Moblins who failed me from tonight’s party.  How disappointed they’ll be to know that I and my faithful servants will be watching past highlights of my rise to power and fame without them.  While all have failed me in the past, some have, at least, died for me.  Those few souls, the ones who deserved reincarnation through my mighty power, shall be there.  Now, let’s see… food, prepared by my hands, and four hours of film should be enough to throw the best party this forsaken land has ever seen.  Muwahahahaha!”

As he continued to pace Ganondorf glanced out the furthest window, and paused.  There were lights on the beaches visible through that window.  He strode over, fury building inside him.

“The audacity!  Throwing a party on my beach mere days after destroying my plans.  Who could possibly be so bold?”

Ganonforf squinted, straining his eyes.  He let out a frustrated growl.  It was impossible to tell at this distance.  He let out a wild screech, calling his faithful Helmaroc King to his side.

“Go!” he said. “Bring me news of those invaders on my privacy.”

helmorac king

In a burst of wind and wings the Helmaroc King took flight, streaking into the distance to reconnoiter the pinpricks of dancing firelight.  In his rage, Ganondorf paced through the drawing room and into the kitchens, venting his anger with well-placed kicks at the furniture.

As he entered the kitchen a flurry of activity caught his attention and drew his focus.  Large, black figures scattered into the shadows.  Ganondorf lit the candles with a burst of magic.  He gasped in horror.  It was gone.  All of it was gone.  The monster cakes, monster curry, and monster stew – all vanished with the black shapes, only purple crumbs and grains of rice remaining.  At the sound of his gasp wererats poked their noses back into the kitchen, creeping from their hiding places in triumph.  Letting out a scream of frustration, Ganondorf threw his arms forward, purple arcs of lightening shooting from his hands, scattering the wererats like leaves in a wind.

“I WILL NOT HAVE THIS PARTY RUINED!”

With his outburst of energy he began to calm.  As his chest heaved and his breathing slowly became controlled he could feel the formation of a plan beginning.  To punish all those who threatened his night of wallowing in past successes was utmost on his mind.  As he stood, wheels turning, grasping for a plan to bring vengeance and destruction to his enemies a fell call rang out above him.  His faithful bird, the Helmaroc King, was swiftly descending toward the castle.  Ganondorf swept out onto the ledge and waited, patience an attribute well-developed through centuries of being sealed in the Sacred Realm.

“Kaw, KAWWW kkkaw, screech, kaaw cacaww”

“I see…” mused Ganondorf.  “Those fools truly believed I had gone.  Me.  The most powerful sorcerer Hyrule has ever known…  This affront deserves a special punishment.  No, no, death is too good for these miscreants.  I’ll have to think of something truly clever for this… Oh, and there are some wererats around the castle, attempting to destroy my evening.  Dispose of them.  They should make an adequate dinner for a keen, clever beast like you.”

ganondorf

And as Ganondorf trailed off into silent thought an ingenious plan, fully formed, broke through.  He smiled and chuckled.  Yes.  Yes!  This will gain me all I deserve – their food and the ruin of their party! Hmhahaha…

***

Out along the beaches the party was raging.  Pirates, Koroks, and Rito were all present, reveling in the demise of their hated enemy.  Cakes, pies, and tarts stood in a long array at a table near the fire.  The Koroks and Rito had even brought along harps and violins and music and laughter echoed across the beach.  The Evil King was gone!  Their homes and friends were safe!  What could possibly be go wrong?

All at once the sound of oars sound brought the music to a screeching halt.  A large raft was winding its way across the shores, dragging behind it a massive form.  Everyone huddled together, fear rushing across their faces, a few screams erupting.  Could he possibly be back?  Could he have escaped the doom the Hero of Winds had inflicted?  They watched with baited breath as the shape loomed closer, hardly daring to move.  When it finally touched ground near their fire a gasp went up from them.  A man lumbered out, tall and menacing in the half-light.  He moved into the firelight and a collective sigh of relief escaped the group.  It was only the Traveling Merchant.

“My friends!  Don’t be afraid.  It is I, Munfrnmahan, and I’m merely your humble, traveling merchant.  As I was searching the castle of the Evil King for trinkets to sell I heard the festivities from your party.  I’ve come to help brighten it.  As I was searching I found a machine that’s beyond compare.  A puppet used by Ganon in his evil attempt to destroy our very own Hero of Winds.  Seeing, with your own eyes, the scars and wounds of its battle with that… great… hero, is truly magnificent.  I’d love to share with you the experience of standing within the beast and beholding the awesome power of the Hero of Winds.  However, such a long journey has exhausted me beyond compare, and in my career food can be scarce and difficult to come by.  If you would be willing to give me, say, one pie, cake or tart, in exchange for each person entering the marionette I could say that my time was well spent in search of such treasures of victory!  What say you?”

puppet ganon

As he had slinked closer to the firelight a few partygoers noticed some strange differences between the Traveling Merchant they had known and this new merchant.  But as he pulled Puppet Ganon into the light all eyes were on it, and even those predisposed to be suspicious gave way to the awe of witnessing the might of their hero.  A murmur of agreement rippled through the crowd and, as the Merchant quickly set up the marionette to its full towering height, a rush of grabbing hands flew to the food table and began shoving every last treat in the direction of the Merchant.  To have a chance to view the beast Link had destroyed first-hand?  That was something no one could pass up.  As the merchant slowly placed pie after tart after pie onto his raft he chuckled quietly, mirthlessly, to himself.

After a few moments of shoving nearly every partygoer was inside the puppet, touching the gaping holes left by the Master Sword and scrambling over each other to see through the puppet’s eyes.  When the very last Rito feather and pirate cutlass were inside a sudden blaze of purple light blinded the horizon.  A deep, cold laugh sounded and a scream of panic erupted from the party.

wind waker ganon

“You fools!  Did you truly think I was gone?  The great, powerful Ganondorf?  I not only have your food, but I now have you, trapped inside this massive, disappointing servant.  In fact, so disappointing, I had no problem doing this!” And with a snap of his fingers the outer layer of the puppet disappeared, leaving behind a towering, puppet-shaped cage, locking every person inside.

“And now, for the greatest revenge of all.  You, and your miserable band of revelers, will join me at the most incredible party of all time.  A memoir to me and my unspeakable triumphs, 4 hours of food and film showing my rise to victory and Hyrule under my rule.  And thanks to you, I know this party will be a success.”

***

Sometime later, after using his considerable magic to move the cage across the beach and into the castle, he sat back and laughed.  Ah, yes, he thought.  His enemies forced to witness his triumphs from their self-inflicted cage while his sycophants witness his triumph!  What could possibly be better than this…

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!

Triforce Heroes and the Power of Nostalgia

Triforce Heroes and the Power of Nostalgia

Sorry for the major posting today but guess what, readers?  It’s another collaboration post, but this one is, dare I say, even bigger than the last one I was involved in!  This series, put on by NekoJonez, is a nice retrospective on everyone’s (or at least my) favorite series: The Legend of Zelda.  In his article you’ll find links between blogs, sharing all the amazing posts by other bloggers discussing each of the LoZ games.  I am so glad and grateful to be involved in this article because, as you all know, I’m a little obsessed with Zelda… Just a bit…

I get to talk about Tri-Force Heroes!  I’ll be taking you through my favorite part of the game: the nostalgia.  This is something Nintendo really tapped into in order to make the game a massively enjoyable multiplayer experience.

triforce heroes

Triforce Heroes, for those of you who never played it, is a multiplayer game for the Nintendo 3DS handheld consoles.  The game was created to improve on the limitations of the GameBoy Advanced Four Swords multiplayer game, which required a lot of finagling to be able to play with others.  Utilizing the built-in WiFi and capability to interact with people all across the globe, Nintendo was able to recapture the enjoyment and excitement of a multiplayer Zelda game in a much more user-friendly way.

Once you start playing Triforce Heroes it seems like Nintendo wanted to recapture a lot of past feelings.  The nostalgia factor is incredibly high while playing, with nods to previous characters, abilities, and artistic styles throughout the game.  It may seem like a simple move to include these little hints but it sure made all the difference for me!  As a bit of a stickler for story the idea of saving an entire kingdom from a “fashion emergency” put me off right from the start.  I was skeptical about the fun I would have playing a game that not only cut out Zelda and Hyrule, but also cut out any semblance of a real story.  But every time I came across another nod at the Zelda series I felt excited, happy that I understood the reference, and eager to continue playing.  For me, that was the real masterpiece of the game.  Nintendo’s ability to capitalize on our love of these characters is what keeps us coming back for more!  What are some of these references, you might ask?  Here, let me show you…

First, let’s talk about concept and artistic style.  This game is heavily based off of the art and world of A Link Between Worlds.  In an interview with Polygon the developer, Hiromasa Shikata, explained that it was A Link Between Worlds that really sparked his interest in creating a multiplayer Legend of Zelda game.  So, naturally, the game would have plenty of elements of LbW throughout it.  The enemies we encounter in each of the levels, the 2D-but-actually-3D visuals, and the stepped terraces and environments are each elements that hearken directly back to LbW.  And, if you know anything about LbW you know that this hearkens back to A Link to the Past, one of the first Legend of Zelda games and a favorite among fans.  So right in the initial development is a double-hit of nostalgia.

In Triforce Heroes Link is able to enter a realm of Doppel’s, which are character’s he inhabits in order to complete levels on his own.  This ability ensures that players can complete the levels they need to even when other players aren’t available.  Shikata, who helped develop Spirit Tracks, explained in his Polygon interview at E3 in 2015 “That element [the ability to control phantoms] really intrigued me and brought out the idea that I wanted to try multiplayer as well.”  So, if we read that correctly (and trust me, we did) Link’s ability to play and inhabit other characters is a direct link to Spirit Tracks.

But we can’t just spend the entire article talking about development, can we? There’s far too much to see and remember to focus just on that!  We’ve already talked about how the art style was heavily influenced by LbW and ALTTP but it seems the character’s were, as well!  There’s no need to go in depth on the enemies, who are a perfect match to the enemies found in LbW.  Did Match Master and Doppel Master look strangely familiar to anyone else?  Yep, to me they looked and reminded me exactly of Sahasrahla from A Link to the Past.  Sahasrahla, the wise old sage, is a perfect match up to the Masters, who are supposed to be guardians of the gates to the outer drablands.  This character, who is able to communicate with Link in ALTTP makes perfect sense as the Masters, who would need to communicate with outside Link’s to create matches.  And then there’s the Street Merchant, a perfect match to the one found in LbW and ALTTP.  This character even makes a little nod when he first shows up at having “seen” Link before… possibly in another world?

And then there’s the outfits.  So many of them are reminders of the characters and things we loved from LoZ games.  Shall we list them?  I think we should, just for the fun of it.

costumes

There’s the Goron garb and Kokiri tunic are a perfect match to those races from Ocarina of Time, while the Zora garb comes straight out of LbW and ALTTP.  Was anyone else reminded of Dodoh from Skyward Sword with the Rupee Regalia outfit?  And Linebeck from Phantom Hourglass and the Fierce Diety armor from Majora’s Mask shows up in the DLC. The Tingle outfit needs no introduction and in a game without Zelda the legendary dress was sorely needed to remind us of her.  The Timeless tunic, from the original Legend of Zelda, is the perfect little nod to the one that started it all, changing all the music to 8-bit sounds throughout the entire game.  And, in a fit of inclusion Nintendo added the hammerwear, a perfect match to the Hammer Bros. from Mario and the Cozy Parka looked very similar to Ice Climbers from Smash Brothers.

But now for my favorite nostaglia moment of them all – the music balls in the waiting room.  I decided, when I was asked to help contribute to this awesome collaboration, to replay a little of the game.  While it held up (mostly) from when it was first released I got stuck in an awful lot of waiting rooms.  It seems like there are fewer and fewer people playing, which means waiting for matches can take quite a while.  And while I waited for a team to show up I spent what amounts to hours playing with the music balls.  If you haven’t played the game you can run, full tilt, at the wall and a music ball (looking like a beach ball) will bounce down from the ceiling.  If you’re able to keep the ball off the ground using your sword you get to hear all the classic Kondo tunes that make Legend of Zelda great.  There’s something, it seems, from nearly every game, and each one brings to mind exactly how much I loved that game and makes me want to play it again.  It was like a few perfect minutes remembering things I loved and still loved from every single game.  I would even get a little upset when my match would begin and it would prevent me from playing with the music balls…

Nintendo created an incredible franchise when they developed The Legend of Zelda.  They created memorable characters, places, stories, items, and music to immerse us in a world we can continue to visit again and again.  In Triforce Heroes, where they needed to create a different type of story and a different type of gameplay, Nintendo capitalized on the elements of LoZ that really capture our hearts, making it another classic we will continue to revisit as time passes on.

Featured Image Credit: Pieter-Jan Casteels https://zoef.deviantart.com/

 

 

Blogger Blitz Retrospective

After something that has been pretty blog-consuming over the last month or two I wanted to jot down some feelings I’ve had throughout the entire competition.

First and foremost – a HUGE thank you to Ian at Adventure Rules for dreaming up the perfect competition.  His creativity knows no bounds, his pictures have been spectacular, and his enthusiasm really caught us up in his excitement.  The work and effort that went into something as big as this cannot be understated and we all owe him a lot of gratitude for pushing us outside our comfort zones.

Secondly – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other competitors in the Blitz.  It’s been so fun to get immersed in a community and really feel the encouragement and support of everyone.  The stories and writing have truly inspired me and I’ve learned so much from what they’ve done.  It’s been a blast to trash talk or encourage by turns and exciting to see how creative everyone is.  I’ll really miss the constant interaction that this experience has brought.

Third – A competition would be nothing without our judges and it feels like these one’s have really upped the bar on blogging competitions!  Their insight, interest, and extensive knowledge have really broken down these entries in a way I’m surprised at.  They took their duties very seriously and it’s been impressive to read their logic on announcement days AKA Fridays.  What a task and we were lucky enough to find people worthy of it!

Fourth – I’ve always known how much Link means to me and what he’s helped me get through in my life, but it’s nice to be able to revisit him in so much detail and really express my love for the Legend of Zelda series.  And it’s strengthened my resolve and determination to 100% BotW, which is no small feat!

And lastly – I want to talk a bit about my journey through this process.  Each time I’ve won I’ve been surprised.  Once I read the competitor’s entry I am confident I don’t stand a chance of winning.  Luna’s entry on the Joker was clever and so well-written.  She really knows that character and her details really blew me away.  And then came Luke’s moving story about Claire and her heart-wrenching decision.  Each Friday, when I read the results, I felt like there had been some kind of mistake.  There was no way I actually beat those guys.  And frankly, despite making it to the finals, I still feel a little like my place here is a fluke.  I may have gotten one or two elements better, but their entries were so inspired I just don’t feel worthy of winning.  It’s been a learning process for me to accept the idea that I may have done something right.  I’ve had to learn to accept my advancement and have tried to come to terms with my place in the final.  I’ve never had a lot of self-confidence and I’m more used to making excuses for why my thing “got lucky” than accepting the fact that it might actually be good.  So along this journey I’ve been trying to accept the idea that what I created may have actually had merit.  It may have actually been a worthy entry.  And that’s where I’ve grown.  I’ve grown as a writer, of course, but I’ve grown emotionally and mentally, as well.

So Ian, judges, and fellow challengers, thank you.  Thank you for teaching me and encouraging me.  Thank you for the confidence boost this has been and for the community you’ve given me when I’ve definitely needed it.  No matter who wins the competition tomorrow it doesn’t matter – because I’m definitely the real winner because of all of you.