On Single Player Games

I love the feeling of sleeping in on a day off in the summer. Booting up a game system when you do finally pull yourself out of bed and hearing that opening sequence from “Sega” to whatever that loud whoosh is that Xbox has. The sun is warmly shining in through the drapes, so you close them up, you look at your backlog of games, pop one in and get to dive deep. Makes it even better when your version of sleeping in is seven in the morning and you get a good solid run at a game before anyone else bothers you.

It is times like this when I am delving deep through the wastes of New Vegas or fighting my way through Rapture once again that I realize how important it is to get time to yourself in games. What used to be the only way to play games is slowing becoming the odd way to play them. Some people even waiting to play titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 until multiplayer was implemented because that was all they cared about.

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Now the nature of my job and who I am gets me out and talking to people constantly. I like what I do, I like hearing what makes people happy and get them to open up about their passions, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the alone time. The fact is that when I get to play a single player game it is still a unique experience all to myself. Something that as I grow older I appreciate more because the things you want someone there for are that much worse alone. I can’t tell how many times I just don’t want to go out and grab a bite to eat when everyone else is busy, so I just cook at home instead of going solo.

I like being ten hours in and deciding I want to do a side quest for no reason. I like spending an hour on my characters customization, even if I fully know I will cover the same face with a helmet for the whole game. The feeling that there is no pressure in a game is big to me. Whenever a large game comes with multiplayer you have the problem of people progressing at different rates or one person not wanting to play when you do, and the whole thing can fall apart so fast. It is always a sickly feeling of betrayal when you load up your characters again and one of you is ten levels over the other.

Can you a person for wanting to play more or less than the others in their group?

Single player titles give you the option of doing everything at your pace. Developers are seeing great titles like God of War 4, Breath of the Wild, Spider-Man, Horizon Zero Dawn,  or even Ori and the Blind Forest and realizing how powerful they can be. How you can sell so much of a game on the story and gameplay elements that you give to one person instead of the focus on letting everyone in.

Recently I went through Rage 2, a solo title that I think could have only been played that way. Your character is a big badass that obliterates every enemy he/she runs into a grandiose fashion. You see a large mutant, well you have a rocket launcher that splats everything and can double jump into his face to use it. The “power” your character exhibits is special because only you can do it. You feel badass, so if you were driving by a bandit hideout and another player was wiping them out faster or better than you it would take away from that cool factor you have. It needed to be a single player game and I think they did great in keeping it that way.

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In fact, Diablo 3 is a game many people only play multiplayer, but one that I have put so much more time in solo. I like when my demon hunter or monk is wrecking a whole room full of enemies in seconds and feel like the game moves too slow with multiple heroes in the same lobby. The power levels again being so over the top that you feel like your hero is just a sidekick at times.

Multiplayer smash up games like gauntlet were great at keeping people even. Titles like Modern Warfare 2 were groundbreaking at making you feel like the champion of a team in critical moments. League of Legends can only ever be a good game when you have full teams going at it because the bot games are just too simple. I love the multiplayer games too and I know there is always going to be a place for them, this rant is coming to an end and I just don’t want everyone thinking I am attacking a component I do enjoy.

I think more than anything this was a short love letter to the single player games out there and to help implore developers to keep it up. When a new shooter comes out like Black Ops 4 and they decide to omit a campaign from it, they do take away something players enjoy. It is a simple fix on both sides. For the consumer, we just pay attention and don’t invest if it is lacking a component you enjoy. For the developers, I say do whatever makes your title the best title. If the new Poke’mon game simply can not have all the little poke’mon in it because they can’t fit it in, I understand. Same goes for Animal Crossing, take your time Nintendo, make it good!

I think the nostalgia of a good JRPG is calling my name now. I got that itch and it is a nice warm summer day, I think I’m going to squeeze away for now and work through something on that backlog of mine.

Until next time all,

Shane

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5 Self Care Tips From Gaming

You may not think mental health often when you think of video games. How can something that is just a hobby to so many people end up being helpful to your everyday life? Well after years of gaming I have picked up five simple traits that have helped me that I try to apply every day. Some may come as second nature, others a large change to your day to day life, regardless, the goal here is to maybe impart one thing that will help you with your very own self-care.

Number One – Save Your Progress

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Journaling at the end of the day is something that you can do to really help your mind shake off all the dirt and grime. A lot of mornings I wake up roll over and journal a little bit to whatever was on my mind over the night. Things that you normally wouldn’t think of in the day sometimes pop in that head over the night in your dreams. Then when you get through all the long slog of the day you write everything out and it helps to give you a good perspective on what you have done and what you need to still do. Little things tend to add up from this, such as I wrote down what I was eating for a solid week and suddenly I was dropping pounds before I knew it. All that from just getting pen to paper.

Number Two – Grind

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When you focus on a task and repeat it until you master it you will get ahead. Other people will see those wins as luck or happenstance, but it is directly related to the time you put into it that you get back in success. When a large boss stands ahead of you in a video game you grind out what you need if you can’t beat it. A game that comes to mind for me was Bloodborne. When I was trying to finish the chalice dungeons up I just couldn’t get a few of the bosses to drop down. I would come close, a hit away, damage short, or my health just wasn’t there. I spent a solid five hours justing grinding through some of the other dungeons, listening to metal music as I went, determined to finish those bosses. When I returned they fell easy! Sure I overleveled more than I needed to but I wanted them done, and in life, if you want to make the hard things easy you have to grind.

Number Three – Equip The Best Gear

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Many times I have heard that the two things you invest in are a good pair of shoes and a good bed. If you aren’t in one then you are in the other so invest wisely in both. In a video game sometimes you go for what looks cool on the character instead of what hits the hardest of is actually effective. I see people do this in real life with getting things that are bad quality and in the end spending more on the same item over and over. Take the time and save up for what you really want or you will always spend more on the worse version. Vehicles, clothing, healthy food versus ramen for days, buy the best gear and use it. The extra money put in will normally repay itself tenfold.

Number Four – Heal The Party

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You never know when the next battle is in life. When you ignore the small things that add up on you suddenly they become not so small. I have too many times in games not used a potion because I think it isn’t enough damage or not a big deal and then suddenly I am loading up an old save hours behind. You have to go around and do the small things, you have to brush your teeth, shower, get to the gym and see the damn doctor if you are hurting. When you don’t heal the party suddenly things just start snowballing down and you will be regretting that you didn’t “use your potion” sooner.

Number Five – Hard Mode

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Yes I know I wrote Are You On Hard Mode? not too long ago, but it is slowly becoming my mantra. Take the hard road in life and everything will start to be more to you. When you fight all the way to the top of the hill the view is better than the flat road. You get better loot when you fight harder enemies and you are the only person who can set your difficulty at the beginning of your adult life. Tutorial mode finishes and you get to see the world how you want it too.

All of these Self Care ideas are things that I have mentioned or talked about before, but I want to always try to help you push forward. I like to surround myself with people who like to go the extra step, people who want to fight and do the hard things. If you are ever struggling and wanting to get further ahead just send me a message and I will always try to help if I can. I know things look grim at times but follow these five and aim ahead and things will get better.

– SCH

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Life Is A Platformer

Don’t miss that call it could be important! Did you make it to your work on time? Did you remember to eat so you had enough energy to make it to the meeting with the boss? No matter how you look at it everything in life can be translated into a video game. In this case, it is all 2D.

That call could have been making it over the jump in a level that led to failure if missed.

If you didn’t complete the level in time you fail, same goes for missing work or an important family event.

Don’t get that mega mushroom and I’m sure you won’t have an easy time with the endgame boss.

I know that a lot of people see every day as a challenge and an uphill struggle that makes you stretch and get there. Taking a moment each day to see things in a different light, or a more lighthearted one even can change how everything goes.

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I mentioned in Starting The Day With A Win that I have a routine I try to do in the morning to get the ball rolling and really get pumped for what lays ahead. I tell myself that mission one is making that bed. Mission two is power up with food so you can take on the day. The biggest tasks that I look at remind me so much of how life is like a platform game than possibly any other.

Things in these games, like Mario, Sonic, Braid or even Never Alone are simple to start and they progress harder through the respective levels. So many people have stormed passed level 1 -1 of the original Mario Bros. How far have you gotten without the continues? Have you actually gotten to the right castle before and saved the princess?

I like to think of all the different stages you have in life as different levels you can have. Each year is marked down as a long level, each month, day, or even sometimes minutes if its a really hard moment. I set my goals up based on these different timepieces and in my journal write down all the big obstacles I have coming ahead of me. In my year goals, I have twelve months I have to get through so my level time is defined, what bosses sit at the end and how much of the special item do I have to collect?

In an example, this year I know I am getting debt free. I am getting a newer vehicle, jumpstarting my online presence in writing, and completing all my backlogged video games. There are so many other things on the list as well, but let’s save you some time here loyal reader.

Many of those things listed can be completed with one thing. Money. So my coins from Mario or golden rings from Sonic are defined as dollar bills in this case. I then add up my total cost for everything I want to accomplish and get that down too. Then I divide it all out and see where I sit as I break it down into tinier levels. After all, a day level isn’t going to be as hard as the whole year, and as long as I hit the daily goals it builds into completing that larger goal.

So I know what I have to collect in the level, then I start out with my fear setting. The large obstacles that I can run into. Tim Ferris has a lot to say about this topic through TED talks and his books. I advise both if this is something that interests you. With the fear setting, I am able to understand the obstacles and adequately prepare for them before hand. I know that after two weeks of dieting or three weeks of working two jobs I will hit a wall. I have been there, I have failed, and I learned more about the level. Writing down and mapping the level out helps me know when I have to jump before I even get there. Now I am finding my hand reaches for the water before even thinking about the Pepsi because I can’t complete the level otherwise.

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Complete the obstacles, collected the items and already you are almost done with the level, you just have the boss at the end. This is where you put your largest most blatantly hard task you have. In day levels for me, it’s usually getting to bed on time. Something that I lose a lot, but it teaches me the next day when I wake up how important that is to do. My devious weekly boss is staying in budget. Something I struggle with daily, but I know I have to do to get by. That yearly boss that I hate looking at is my physical fitness. Sure I can save money and pay things off, but it is easy to ignore what is in front of you.

Make the boss yourself and have your own Dark Link battle. It isn’t pleasant, but it needs to be done.

Life is simply a platformer that you make and build. Construct your level, find and prepare for the obstacles, and take down that boss. Only you can do it. There is no Obi-Wan coming, you are your only hope, but you also know the only path there is to take. After all, you are the one crafting your game.

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A Big Thank You

As of my last post, I have officially done twenty of these blogs. I know for many that may not seem like a large number, but it is a great start to something big. Instead of doing my normal review or post about games like I do I wanted to take a single day to talk about the future of this site and where I want things to go. As always any input from you is greatly appreciated and taken to heart. With that, every single like and share you give goes such a long way too so thank you.

Now for the longest time, I had tried to get a blog started to be efficient in my day to day writing. Recently I began this one and have gotten into the swing of things and enjoy what I am doing and talking about what my passion is. The group of you guys and girls that have been following and liking the pages makes me want to rush home after work every day and get another one of these up and sent for you all to read.

Now reaching people across the country with some of my latest posts and across the world even with a few! I’ve really begun to get a rush from the act of writing again and can’t wait to see how big this will thrive.

I’ve noticed that two types of posts get a lot more traction than any of my others do. Those are the top five reviews and motivational posts. Reviews of games are read too but seem to get less traction. There is nothing wrong with that as people will always read what they want to read and I am starting to see what some of those things are.

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I have laid out a long list of what I want to see each and every month from this website and blog. Videos and Podcasts are something that will not happen for some time yet but will prevail through. A few times people have asked me to go live on Facebook or Twitch and that setup won’t take me long. Any help or suggestions here are again appreciated.

Since writing has again taken deep root in my heart I want to also start to bring some of my book ideas to life again. Things ranging from fantasy to old war fiction, I have a ton of great things I want to tell. I plan on releasing these slowly through the year and will look into means that may have Patreon or Amazon for ebooks along the way. As always these things do take time and I enjoy the work I do for a living and am there forty to sixty hours a week without fail. So I will follow my daily goals on typing up words towards these stories and all of you here will be the first to know.

A quick segue. I hope you all understand what reading this really does mean to me. This morning I was able to practically hop out of bed and get rolling with everything. It lets me know that I can do something that I’ve wanted for ages and get some feedback on it. As I’ve written before in The Culture I believe that gamers are some of the best people out there. We don’t bash others who enjoy our same hobby and can form lifelong friendships without ever even meeting face to face. Some people met the love of their lives over games and others have gained true character strength by getting through a challenge in a title they never thought they would.

So really all I ask as this short Tuesday update hits is what would you like?

I have a top five ready to go for Wednesday again and more motivation for you soon. If you like these give me a shout. Send me a message anytime and I will get back to you all. If you see me on Xbox or one of the many gaming platforms feel free to drop in and chat. Tell me what games make you happy and help add more to my list of games to play.

Until the post, tomorrow, remember play games and be happy.

Shane

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Starting The Day With A Win

During college one of the largest games to launch was Halo Reach. So many of us at the college and all over the world would log in each and every day to get our time in on a title that was unlike any of the others that came before it. The gunplay was great, the story was a beauty and the daily challenges made you want to get in there, get that exp, and get ahead. A few of us got to the point that we would wake up and the first thing that we would do in the morning is knock out those few challenges really quick, so we knew even if we didn’t get back on that day, we still got the bonuses.

It started a trend in my gaming that has helped me beat a ton of games but also advance further in my life. The idea behind it is a simple one and something that I see more and more when it comes to morning routines. For many, this task is making your bed when you first get up, but the premise is starting the day out with a win.

When you get to the point that you wake up and get a lot of small things done first you start to build up a certain momentum as you go. The larger more difficult things in your mid-day feel like less when you have already knocked out ten things on your to-do list. For me a lot of how I beat a game is before I go to bed I tell myself, “Just play until you unlock an achievement.” This type of play has kept me progressing through a ton of them and of course if I enjoy the game I just keep playing.

My mornings now when I am on my schedule consist of the little wins like making the bed, a shower, brushing the teeth and drinking lots of water. During this time I also like to load up a few different games as I move around in the morning to get a daily login in bonus of a challenge just from turning the game on. Elder Scrolls Blades gives a daily that I hit quickly every morning, Fortnite is much the same. I also like to turn on Arena, League of Legends and Gears of War 4, just to get the bonuses. Many times I don’t really play through the game during this time, instead reading a book as it loads or listening to a podcast as I grind out a quick match victory.

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It may sound silly to some to make games have these “chores” of a sort, but then when I do want to hop on and really play I have maintained being ahead.

A good friend when I told him of these routines said it made it sound like games are a task now and they are just money grabbing for your attention. All of the things I do for these dailies are again free. So it then goes back to what I mentioned earlier, starting with a win. To help explain some more, you have to understand that I am in no way at all a morning person. When insomnia lets up a bit and I do manage to doze off I am a pain to wake up. The alarm blares and I hit snooze and nothing ever seems to get accomplished.

However, when you hear that alarm and say, “Well let me punch in the daily really quick.” You wake the brain up for a reward, as soon as I log in on Blades and get the free item I am up and moving. Soon it is the bathroom and then back into the room to make my bed, I turn on League and finish up my emails. Quickly my morning that I don’t want to do turns into a productive few hours before I get into work and the money-making side of things.

Days that I know will be hard flash by when I know I already got to enjoy my morning. If I don’t want to exercise I like to do it in between matches of a game. I tell my self twenty push-ups or whatever it may be and then I can play again. If you lose you double it.

The point of this short sweet post is to let you know that you can easily start your day with a win too. Make that bed, read that chapter, or beat that game. Focus on dailies in a video game to implement them into your day to day life and let your hobby work for you.

Remember that winning the day is just a series of decisions you put yourself through, and you can accomplish anything.

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Couch Crashing Fun

I think that it was the fifth time that we had started this level. The tall grass an indicator of the level of difficulty we would soon have thrown at us. The panda bears could throw giant tornados at you after all. Yes you heard me right, and I just as easily could have mentioned giant barbarians, a catfish the size of a house, deers with diarrhea or oh so much more. This game is real and it is Castle Crashers, the Sit Down Sunday game for this week. ,

Although not a recent title to come out it is one that always leaves you with a good smile as you manage to sit down and play with another. The game doesn’t ask for much from you, get in there and save the princesses, that is all. Yes, plural because the king has four daughters after all. So what kind of wacky crazy game is this you may ask?

Well at its core it is a hack and slash adventure. You can allocate skill points into some different things such as how hard you hit, how hard you can get hit, your speed or archery and last your magic. Most are self-explanatory, but magic does change for each character giving you some variety on the characters that you choose. For instance, the Red Knight shoots lighting as to the Green Knight who puffs out a cloud of acid.

The real charm of this game isn’t that it is just another hack and slash or that it is as difficult as the creators previous game Alien Hominid, but the humor. The art is simple and allows for a lot of over the top set pieces that lead you against absolutely insane enemies at times. In a similar game, you may be in a boss battle and fight a large barbarian, not one the size of a catapult, oh and you also fight a giant battering ram now that I mention it. The bosses are quick and sweet and make you laugh the whole way.

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As you and whoever you play with progress you also unlock little animal orbs that follow you around and give you some added bonuses. Like moving through the water faster or the orb may go and pick up coins for you. Plus you unlock more weapons and what game would be complete without that.

When The Behemoth released this game initially in 2008 I played through once, loved it and set it away in my game log as a complete title. Years later I found myself sitting beside others laughing at things that flew over my head at the time and screaming at them when they continued to take all the damn health potions. On top of this, the game has garnered a 10/10 on steam since then, and it isn’t an easy accomplishment to make that many gamers happy.

I believe you can get this title for ten dollars or less these days and if you are simply trying to find a game to play with someone that is less than the price of a single movie ticket in some states. The only downside you may have is that a beatemup title can, of course, get repetitive at times. Anyone who has played through a Gauntlet title knows that after killing the first ten goblins the next thousand really does feel the same. For some, that may be a deal breaker, and for others, that is just more reason to keep playing.

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If you are looking for something with a little more meat on it you may want to hold back and give Diablo 3 a try. A game I want to touch on at a later date, but for the quick arcade fun that this game provides I don’t think you can find a better value. All I ask if you do say yes to this game is you have to give their next title a try as well. Battle Block Theater had me laugh so hard I was in tears the first time, but start out with this title and see why these guys always know how to bring you a good time.

Also remember, the princess kiss is totally worth it.

Are You On Hard Mode?

Sometimes all it feels like you are going through is hard mode. Things don’t go right at your job, your car breaks down, the dentist messes up, not even thinking about the money side of things. These make it more and more difficult to go back to it the next day and keep slugging through. You start not seeing the light at the end and only the never-ending grind.

Hard mode has a special place in my heart, my life and in videogames. A true love-hate relationship that leads to everything I do, including this blog I like to write.

In life, I tend to have horrible bouts of insomnia from time to time. Some weeks it hits and I don’t get any sleep at all or barely an hour or two. Not that I am complaining about this necessarily, just a fact of life. These fits of insomnia always come to me when I start to feel like I am not getting enough done. When I start saying to myself, “Why didn’t you finish that book, beat that game, sell more product, or get that business proposal to your friend.” Things add up, that is life and I think when you cruise through on easy mode these things will weigh onto you.

My easy mode is a day where I don’t have to work, get to eat out the whole day and drink a monster or two.  Realistically I prefer days like today where I did work, got all my tasks done, drank only water and am settling down feeling like I accomplished what I wanted to. Each day is a reset of the previous and you chose the New Game startup each time. When you feel sick and can barely lift your head it makes sense when you want to hit that Easy mode button and cash in on a simple day. It is something we all feel and I think that as I get older I contest with it a bit more, tasking myself to strive more to be happy and not just content.

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In gaming, I think I bore through games way to fast when they are easy and a cakewalk. I’ve seen gorgeous games fall flat because they have no challenge and games that aesthetically make your characters face look like a potato be titles that I love. The feeling like you actually went through a challenge goes a long way.

A lot of times when I am bringing up my top ten games of all time I talk about Dead Space 2. A title that I am sure many have played through, but also one that holds a dear part in my heart. The game has a difficulty mode called Zealot that truly was brutal and only allowed three saves for the whole game. The reward if you managed to finish this was an achievement worth I believe fifty points and a special item for future playthroughs that killed everything in one hit. The real reward was the satisfaction of beating something that was truly a challenge and the moments when every bullet mattered. One part you slammed through space at high speed and any collision was instant death. When you managed to do this perfect and you landed at the next spot, it was like nothing else.

Even quick little tasks like the Mile High Club achievement in modern warfare was extremely satisfying. Something you managed to beat in less than a minute, but took a ton of tries to actually accomplish. These are things that you remember as you go because they were not accomplished immediately. Again, talk to anyone that beat Through the Fire and the Flames on Guitar Hero 3 and ask them if they did it their first try.

The goal of this blog post is not to get too philosophical on you, but to try to bring to attention your personal life level. Take a second when you can and truly assess yourself and ask, “What mode am I on.” What more can you be doing to actually level yourself up and get ahead?

If you are a character in your own personal game what level are you really? What do you think your max level can be? Why aren’t you there yet? Have you not ground out enough side quests or defeated enough enemies that lay in your way? Side quests could be things like going to the gym, eating healthy, or finally scheduling a damn dr. appointment. Enemies can be any challenge in your life that you don’t want to face, but need to. We all have them, so find those struggles.

After all, life can be as easy as you make it, but the harder the mode, the better the loot.

 

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