Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Adventures in Gaming - From Video to Tabletop

I've been playing a lot of different games this past year, ever since I bought myself a PlayStation 3. I've been a gamer for a long time, starting with board games as a kid then Dungeons & Dragons along with other role playing games in my twenties. I mostly played video games in arcades, Galaga being one of my all-time favorite arcade games. I played a few games on the computer but never having a good gaming computer I stopped. My first home gaming console came later in 2005 when I bought a PlayStation 2.

The first game I ever completed was Max Payne on the PC. Now with the PS3 I have been gaming a lot lately and not long ago completed a second game, L.A. Noire. Yes that's right, it's been ten years since I finished Max Payne and in that time I've never completed another game.

To be fair I'm not a full-time gamer. I go through periods of intense every day gaming, to maybe playing The Sims or Bejeweled 3 every now and again.

The past few years have been stressful and I've turned to video games as way to relieve the stress. The problem with that is my attention span has shortened. I tend to switch from game to game. I have about ten games that I'm playing. Some are maybe 30-40% complete, others less than ten. Every day I was putting in a different game, even playing thirty minutes or so of several games in a night. That's not how you finish a game. But then, that's not always the goal, is it? Sometimes it's the playing that's important, not crossing the finish line.
Skyrim

I believe that's why I've also been enjoying a lot of free roaming games, like Skyrim and Fallout 3. For those non-gamers reading this, free roaming means you don't have to just follow a linear story-line. You can immerse yourself in the world of the game and do any number of side missions, wonder into a cave just to see what's there, collect things, etc. In those types of games I found myself doing a lot of other things besides the main story-line.

I'm also one of those people who gets fed up when I get stuck. A good example is in Grand Theft Auto 4. The first time I had to ride a motorcycle to chase down a guy in the main story-line, I couldn't catch up to him. I would crash, or simply lose him. Then when I did finally get good enough to catch him I kept getting killed. I lost count of the number of times I tried that mission. I finally just moved on to other games. About four or five months later I went back to it and on my very first try I rode the bike and caught the guy. You can bet I made sure that I saved that game really quick!

After finishing L.A. Noire I started focusing on Mafia II. I'd never played Mafia I, but story wise it didn't seem to matter. There's some debate about which was better. All I can say is I loved Mafia II. I was completely immersed into the story and loved all the cutscenes. I know some gamers hate too many, or too long cutscenes but for me it puts me into the story. It helps get away from the this-button-then-that-button mechanics of the game and "live" the story, as I believe games really should be. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a good I-just-want-to-kill-everything game experience, and for some that's all they want. That's totally cool. For me, I have discovered I generally like when there's more than that.

Yes, I completed Mafia II. My only complaint was that it's too short. There's only fifteen chapters. At some point I'll probably try a couple of the downloadable stories like "Joe's Adventures." I hear there's a Mafia III in the works and let me tell you I am thrilled!
aleco247.deviantart.com

I seem to go from one end of the gaming spectrum to the other. As much as I love the open world of Skyrim, I find I'm drawn more and more into the more story games. I love Telltales The Wolf Among Us. It's the first game I played with episodes, where you are truly a character in the story and your decisions (even as simple as answering a question another character asks you) can have serious consequences. I'm several chapters into Wolf, so naturally I've also started The Walking Dead - another Telltale game with complete immersion into a story. Some people don't like the comic book/graphic novel look and feel of both of those games, and I get that. It's not as realistic I guess, in that regard, but being a comic book lover I enjoy it just the same.

Just recently I purchased Life is Strange. I had been looking at it for a while, but hesitated. Life is Strange is the story of a teenage girl going through teenage girl angst, but with a twist. She can rewind time - short term anyway, like about 30 seconds, but enough to make major changes to the consequences of her actions. After watching a couple of videos about the game on YouTube I decided to give it a try. I love this game! It's a detailed, intricate, interesting story. I've completed two chapters and honestly can't wait to get back to it. For those who've played it, I think the only negative comment I have is the length of time spent in the junk yard looking for bottles. There was no other "scene" that felt tedious like that one did.

Now my life has taken a turn where I'm back to the tabletop rpg adventures of Dungeons & Dragons. I found a local game store that has weekly games. It's been great to actually sit with people, face to face. It's also great to have to use the old imagination, instead of seeing everything laid out for you.

I've played a couple of games on Roll20 - an online virtual tabletop setting. Roll20 is interesting because you have the face to face experience (if the game master allows both video and voice) and you also have the table top (larger portion of the screen), plus you can roll the dice right on screen with 3D dice. It fixes what I had seen as problems with playing online.

(Several months later)

I had almost forgot about this post. I had saved it and set it aside to finish later, and well here we are three months later.

My gaming habits haven't changed too much over the past several months. I'm almost done with both Life is Strange and The Wolf Among Us. The Last of Us can be added as one of my all time favorites, even though I'm far from completing it.

Lately I've been focusing on this cute game I found called Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Lots of you have probably heard of it, but I just discovered it a couple of months ago. I love the simple yet complex mechanics and straight forward story. Half the controller is for the older brother, the other half is the younger brother. You have to learn to move both at the same time and make them work together to get through obstacles while they search for a cure for their ill father. It's a touching story so far.

Our Adventures in Rivenshore
I'm now running a roleplaying game for my nephews. Fantasy AGE is a simpler game mechanic than Dungeons & Dragons and I thought that would be a better mechanic to use for young kids who are ten and under. They really love playing, and have gotten into the actual roleplay aspect, which I love. For me, this game has really brought out my creative side. I've even written a supplement for anyone interested in playing in my little village of Rivenshore. It has the town history, how the kids characters fit into the town, advice on running a game for kids, NPC's and more. Adventures in Rivenshore is free for all game masters who would like to run a game for kids, or are simply interested in a new setting for their own campaign. You can also read about my nephews adventures at rivenshore.blogspot.com.

All this happened in great part to the online show Critical Role. It's a show with voice actors playing Dungeons & Dragons. I started watching it last year and got the bug to play D&D again. I found the D&D Adventure League group at the local gaming store and the next thing I know I'm not only running a game for my nephews, I'm a dungeon master in the local D&D Adventure League group. I believe I have Matthew Mercer (Critical Role's dungeon master) to thank for that.

I never wanted to be a DM. I tried back in the late nineties. I ran a game of Vampire: The Masquerade - badly. But now I find it fun and very creative. Stressful at times to be sure. You always make sure you're prepared but then find yourself creating by the seat of your pants because even with all your prep the players do something you simply didn't anticipate. It's fun.

Gaming, whether a video game or tabletop, has been such a gift to me. Letting me escape my stress for a little while, or completely pulling out all of my creative juices which I find that I need in stressful times of life. I've made friends, become closer to my nephews and it's helping lift me up and keep me sane during this tough time in my life. But even when the stress dies down, as it always does and the next chapter of my life begins, there will always be a game that I'll look forward to, unwind with, or simply enjoy. That's a wonderful thing.

There's more adventures ahead...

I can't wait.





Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fact checking is becoming my #1 pet peeve with the internet


Warning: This is a rant. Read at your own risk.


I wrote a short post on Facebook about fact checking just a few days ago and here we are with all the gun control memes that people are taking as fact. It doesn't matter what side you're on, before you share that meme that says what you feel emotionally, take 30 seconds to do some research. Yes, that's all the time it takes thanks to Google.

As an example, I saw one meme claiming that there was never a gun carrying citizen who stopped a mass shooting. I was curious, so I Googled. Right there I had a dozen articles with some actual facts. (The meme was wrong. See below **)

In the past I've shared a meme or two that I didn't check first, I'll admit it. But there's a big difference between a meme with a quote that cites the wrong author, and a meme stating a supposed fact on a major issue that you're trying to take a stand on. Still, check those quotes. (I know I shared a meme quote one time citing Mark Twain as having said it and found out later that it wasn't him.)

Not every meme is inaccurate. I've seen some that proved to be very accurate. It just seems like the easier it is to find the facts the less people are willing to actually double check anything.

My personal opinion is it's the fast paced life we all live. You're on your lunch break, this meme strikes a cord with you so you share it. I remember a friend of mine - one of the last to join Facebook - said after being on for a few weeks that all anybody did was like and share, there was no conversations. He's right. Again, that fast paced, click one button and move on mentality.

I can be just as guilty. One of the things I love is the Like button, so I don't have to type. Click and move on.

I think the reason why I see this as a big deal is not simply the sharing of inaccurate memes, it's the bigger issue. We as a society have started taking everything at face value. One news blurb from some website and it's taken as fact. Look at all the satirical websites whose articles people believe are true. Why? Because they don't bother to check the source, or google the site that the article was on. (Usually the first thing that pops up is "fake news.") Even the news - you know with supposed journalists - have been guilty of reporting inaccurate stuff because it wasn't researched. It's on the internet. Yep, must be fact.

Where does it lead? How far does it go, how bad does it get before society says enough is enough. Then the question is, how do we fix it?

Looking back I guess we've always been this way to some degree. Gossip taken as gospel. Tabloids selling better than the New York Times. (I don't honestly know if that's true but sometimes it feels like it.) See, if you didn't fact check at least tell everyone you don't know if it's true. Now I want to go Google it, but it's 2:45 in the morning and I'd like to be done soon.

As I stated at the top this is a rant. My thoughts on a subject that can really annoy me. Ultimately it's a little post that will be lost among the billion of other posts. But maybe in my small corner of the world it can start a conversation. Who knows.


**For those curious, in the past 3 decades there have been about 15 or so incidents where the killing stopped because a citizen with a gun stepped in. This comes from about 5 different articles that I opened and quickly read through, plus the little blurbs under the titles of all the others on the first search page. All articles ranged in date posted from 2012 to this past May.



Picture source: pithyponderings.com

Friday, March 20, 2015

Coolest Skateboarding Cat!

This is just too cool.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Life is a journey. Which path fits you?

I found myself collecting pictures of paths and roadways and wondering why. I'm not searching anymore. There is a peace inside that tells me I have found my way. I'm on my path. So what attracts me to pathways? The journey. It's the journey that gives us a life to live. 

Life is a journey. We all have a path to follow. Which path fits you?
















Thursday, June 13, 2013

Water does...

"Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you...

But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone...

Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does..."

~ Margaret Atwood




(via Suzie Plakson - Official Page)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

We Have Permission To Dream

This song touched me. I can't even say why... What was it that captivated me and made me listen to it over and over? 

Since the band is not well known I decided to share it. Maybe it will touch others.

(If you recognize the lead singer you probably watch either General Hospital or Nashville.)

Permission To Dream by Enation



My love when you speak to me
Don’t you beg on the floor
‘Cause you have the right to stand
With your eyes on my throne
There is a road for you
Paved with dreams of your own
I don’t want to hear silence
When I’ve given you the floor
I don’t want to hear the same words
When I’ve called you to more
I don’t want to hear you whisper
When I’ve called you to scream
And in case you didn’t know
You have permission to dream
My love when you feel it rise
Don’t you resist, anymore
‘Cause what you feel is from my heart
And it’s meant to break and restore
I don’t want you to hesitate
When you’ve been called to explore
I don’t want to see you weary
When you’ve been made to soar
I don’t want to see you afraid
When I made you for war
I don’t want you to play the victim
When I’ve given you a sword
I don’t want to hear you whisper
When I’ve called you to scream
And in case you didn’t know
You have permission to dream
What do you want? Tell me
What do you see? Tell me
What do you dream? Tell me