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

Feature Photo by Tim Bogdanov on Unsplash

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Five Games That Remove Gamer Block

I’m sure that many of you have heard of writers’ block, the term that helps sum up the “wall” you hit when no matter what you just can’t put pen to paper. Gamers have a similar case and whether you call it gaming fatigue or block it is there. It is common when it hits you just as you finished up a long title that took hours of your time to complete. The block hitting you with the odd feeling of “what now?” leaving you unmoving. With that in mind, I am going to give you five games that are nice and simple in the way they get you moving again into gaming. It may be that it is simple and just lets you pass an hour and get excited about gaming again, or maybe it will spark a moment that leads you running to finish another title you had your eyes on. Either way, this is what we have in store.

Number One – Minecraft

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The game has always been the equivalent of dumping a bin of legos on the ground and mindlessly building for hours. Well in case you haven’t checked the shelves in a while Legos are expensive as hell now, but good old Minecraft is still sitting around twenty bucks at all times.

A game that you can build Hogwarts or a dirt shack, make a weapon out of diamonds or dig a hole. No matter what your fancy Minecraft can help you kill some hours and get you going on the gaming world again. Try playing with someone and soon you will both have built something together. The beauty of it coming from it is less serious than a title like Ark or Seven Days to Die and yet complex enough to always have you moving in some direction. The updates on it have added so much over the years and I suggest you giving it a look if you can’t seem to find anything else to do at the time.

Number Two – The Legend Of Zelda Breath of the Wild

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It is a game that you can travel to practically every mountain to see and climb it. A game that you can finish quickly if you only want to do the main quest sure, but really shines when you get to just relax and enjoy the beauty of the world that Nintendo created.

Zelda has always been a series that shines on one player going through a quest and saving the princess. Of course the sequel they spoiled slightly at E3 may shake this up a bit, but Breath of the Wild plays unlike any of the other titles before it. It can be turned on the tv and you and a friend can just enjoy the rich environments and what Hyrule has to offer. Or if you are heading out just take it with you! The great part of this title is that there is so much less pressure to continue the main quest in it. You can take your time and get where you want to when you want to. No annoying person constantly reminding you that there is so much other stuff to do. Leaving you with an experience you can enjoy at your pace and help kickstart you back into enjoying games again.

Number Three – Poke’mon Go

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Where I live it is Summer once again and already I see people walking around and hanging out at the local Poke’stops this game has to offer. Some of you may have already played this game religiously or maybe you never took the leap and downloaded the title onto your phone. The game is still alive and kicking and constantly getting more updated content and new Poke’mon added to the title.

The nice part here is there is less commitment to this game than many of the other console or PC titles may put you in. Sometimes when the block hits you hard it is a struggle to even get through a tutorial in a title. This one gets you outside and playing something in minutes. Plus I hear there is this thing called exercise that is kind of attached to it, supposedly that is good for you too?

Number Four – Any Elder Scroll or Fallout Title

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Now you may be thinking, “Wait a minute those are huge games?” They can be sure, but there is also this common misconception with these titles that you have to play the same character all the way through. To be honest, I have lost track of the times I have gone back to a Bethesda game, forgotten who my character was, and then started up a new one on the fly.

Play through as a melee only character in Fallout. Or use a Pugilist in Skyrim, punching a dragon to death is as satisfying as it sounds. Rush to become a werewolf or use only energy weapons. You can make the story in these games, and then end it any time you want to.

I know when I don’t want to watch TV, but don’t know what game I want to play I have booted up one of these. Picked a direction to walk after the tutorial, and then just went that way until I hit the edge and chose to use no fast travel. Play one of these gorgeous open world games like you haven’t ever before and soon you will find a story you have to tell to your friends.

Number Five – Mario Party

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I don’t care if you have to dig out and dust off the old N64, Gamecube, Wii, Wiiu or play on your new Switch. Man, this title has some longevity to it. These games are meant to get you playing with friends, so get with a friend and play. If you have not yet experienced a Mario Party game in your days then bring that up to someone and I bet they help you find a way to get you playing.

The board game like feel is sweet, the minigames are quick and fun, and you don’t have to take it seriously at all. Not to dissuade you from doing just that if that is how your playgroup is, but to each their own. Of course just as quickly as I popped Mario Party down it could have been Mario Kart or Tennis or Bros. The list is long and the games are made for you to play them and have fun. Remember that not every day do you need to boot up the Witcher 3 or Red Dead 2 and put in the hours of gaming require to conquer those.

So when the going gets tough and you just burn out on titles that seem to be taking to much out of you, look here at this simple little list. None of these will force you to play nine matches to get the coolest item, or hot drop to get that final kill. Just boot them up, relax, and play some titles for the sake of gaming.

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Lost Sequel

Sometimes you fall in love with a game, book or movie and can barely contain yourself as you hope for more. You may get that sequel or next installment and hate it. It just wasn’t good, didn’t perform how you wanted, even worse it could have ended badly. A tragedy all of us fall into when we get into something. So let’s talk about that.

Recently Game of Thrones ended and a lot of people just were not happy with the way everything turned out. For us old Dexter fans we just shrugged it off and joked about how ours was still worse. This leaves us to a question of what even is a “good” ending and how can you achieve it?

I think a lot of that answer is that you simply can’t make everyone happy. One person will be upset that their favorite person wasn’t the king, the next will find loopholes that were made in the earlier seasons of the show and everything crumbles from there. I get it though. Sometimes the writers just want to be done, I have even had DND sessions where at the end of the three months of getting together the finale of it all is lackluster because I was tired of writing.

You may think things like that don’t hit writers that are paid the big bucks. The director of a hit show making good money doesn’t just ‘get tired’ right?

I think we all lose interest in things and that plays a small part of it. More often for less prominent things like the largest show on television, the real problem turns into funding.

My favorite game that snuck through on the Xbox 360 was a title known as Alan Wake. A story of a writer that falls deeper and deeper into the story. A literal fight of light against darkness and a soundtrack to die for. It resonated well with me in all the right ways. Character development was great and all the people you met were memorable. The town was scenic and the woods felt ominous, I was hooked.

The titles DLC introduced you further into the story and how the writer worked things into the real world. Then a small arcade title came out and added a small bit more to the mystery, but still never a true sequel. It isn’t as far along as the Half-Life 3 joke, but it grows every year. With cameo appearances in titles like Quantum Break us fans are led along like a horse with a carrot. We just want to know what happens!

With games sometimes it is the studios crumble or are bought out and told to work on different things. We all get it, but we can be upset by it too. I think that as fans a large part of what is made is ours as well. We grow it all by becoming fans of the things we love. Adding to the lore with our own stories and theories and trying to keep the cult following going. If you look deep into the history of games you will find games that many had thought were ‘dead’ that keep trucking along because of dedicated fans wanting to see their passion go on as well.

What can we do to try and keep getting our sequels and getting endings that satisfy us?

Support the creators, keep them interested and let them know how much you appreciate what they do. There is a man trying to convert Ocarina of Time into the Unreal engine, that man is a hero of mine. His work is gorgeous and you should support him!

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That is a link to his page.

I could spend days telling you all about things I want to see go on. About the musicians, I want to hear more from. The books that I know have more story to them. MAybe if we all work together as a community we can fight away some of these lost sequels and get into more focus on creation. After all, we all like cool things.

Summer Log

For so many years while growing up summer was the time that I actually got through the bulk of my games. Booting up a lengthy Playstation RPG and enjoying it every night after running around all day outside. The warm of the concrete still on my feet as I let a fan blast nice cool air on me and I fell into my role as Cloud Strife or Sora. Slowly it has turned into a small tradition of mine that every summer I try to get as many games out I can, but one or two always sticks stronger as a memory.

It is crazy as I go over the year and see how many games I have tucked away and gone through. Sometimes it is a quick replay to make sure I have completed every quest or achievement. Then other times I get into one solid game and don’t touch another until I played it to the point I can’t look at it.

Sometimes when you get that chance to play through a game in the summer, the night air drifting in the windows and that 2AM grind as you finish the last levels is just exhilarating. I remember a few years back picking up Dying Light the day it came out but just couldn’t find the time to play through it. Months passed and it sat on my backlog just gathering dust. Finally, I got a solid three day weekend and got a chance to pop it in!

Was it the greatest game I ever played? I wouldn’t say it was, but it made memories for me that I will always remember. Leaping over the rooftops with the grapple hook and running in the dark from the zombies made a mark. When thunderstorms raged outside of my house in Nebraska I delved deeper into the world I was in.

A few years before I learned what a good story really meant in a game when I beat The Last of Us. The game again going into the late hours of the summer nights and the air conditioning kept clicking on as I tried to avoid the terror that was the clickers. Feeling a chill as I played through all the seasons in the game. The finale of the game finishing and me going to get breakfast from Burger King after since it was 7 AM. Now I get nostalgia anytime I get a summer chill from too much AC or I spend time late into the night.

Not that I can force you to play games and honestly that should never be the case. The only thing I can say is this summer I strongly suggest just focusing on one solid game to make a memory out of. For me, I have Rage 2 I know I want to slam through, but I also know I need to beat Horizon Zero dawn. A game that once again has just sat on my backlog and is giving me that itch to play through.

The last little bit here is I know gamer block can be a frustrating as hell thing to go through. When you lose the desire to play games and that is one of your main hobbies it can just suck. We all hit it, I hit it with all my hobbies at a time. It slows everything else down too and suddenly you are scrolling Facebook for another three hours. So if you need to get through the block or that hump you find yourself in, just focus on a single game this summer.

Make it your Summer game, make it a memory and enjoy the season.

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Movement

I can’t lie I haven’t been myself the past week. Personal things have gotten me down and it was an uphill battle even yesterday to get some words written down. All I could bring myself to do over the past few days was work, eat, and attempt to get some sleep. This happens, all of us go through depression or changes and have to give ourselves some extra time to get our momentum going. This article is about the one factor that can get you out of your dark depressive state and really attack life again.

This is about movement.

As in all things I am a gamer and I would like to throw out a simple example to illustrate the importance of getting yourself running and moving.

Level 1-1 of good classic Mario Bros on the NES is something that millions of people have played. Some memorizing the level to the point they know where to hit every jump and how to always get that flag pole to register from the very top. I have also seen people miss the very first jump in that game and say out loud, “I can’t do this I am bad at video games.” Well, Confucius was right when he said, “The man who says he can, and the man that says he can not, are both correct.”

I thrive off of the simple moment of showing someone that in that level all you need is to give the little plumber some movement and momentum and you can more than clear a jump! It is when the new player stops and looks at the hole and then jumps with no movement that they fall down and lose their life.

Now we all stop, things hit us, we trip and fall on hard times. Sometimes you miss someone so much it feels like your heart is ripped from your chest and you find you are at a standstill on the things you normally enjoy doing. None of that will get better until you make a move.

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When I am helping a good friend out of a depressive state I start with the smallest step possible. Something small that they know they need to do and get them rolling. I ask, “Hey did you drink some water today or get a shower in?” Sometimes the answer is no, that is okay, sometimes we just need a little help. I’ll bring their dehydrated ass a bottle of water and get them moving. Suddenly the next day they text me and say, “Hey I showered and already drank two glasses of water, just letting you know so you don’t bother me.” At that point, I’m just happy they started moving since that was half the battle.

It is important since unlike that little Italian plumber we don’t have multiple lives. I like to think we do have a reset button to get the level rolling again at times, but really it is that we can climb out of the hole. Our Platformer known as life is a level that we don’t know how it ends. We may run up against a mean boss that we don’t think we can take, or a jump that is in our minds impassable.

Just take a step back and look at all the power-ups you have gained up to this point. Call a friend, grind, exercise and get what you need. Think of it like picking up your speed, each thing giving you a boost until you soar past that obstacle like it was a breeze.

The importance of movement is hard to describe in a small blog. It is something that I need to and will elaborate on further as I go. It is something that if you struggle with I am always only an email away. Start small friends, brush your teeth, make your bed, then get out and hit the big things hard.

Again, we all get hit with depression. You can let it win, and it will win undeniably. However, you can also fight, and when you fight then the victor is something you can help determine.

Just remember until the next one, play games and be happy.

-Shane

 

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Brick Wall Board Games

On my list of things to do today, I have, write a blog post about a board game called Seasons. Overall the things I have pumped out and written since I started this blog up, none of them have made me hit a brick wall when it comes to getting the words out. So I will be talking about that problem, but I do want to discuss the future of a board game day in general with all of you amazing readers.

Here is the problem.

Tabletop games are a large part of my life and I am around them often. I work with them and they are always there, yet somehow I draw a blank talking about them sometimes unless it is the week or months current demo. I get into my salesman mode over a game when writing when really I just want to talk about why I like it and how it is fun to me.

I noticed this in two places. One was that they are the least read topics out of anything I do. That is fine and somethings will be noticed and others will not. The interest of the readers and having conversations with you is the most important part of all this to me. I think I could easier talk about why Bastion is probably my favorite or second favorite game soundtrack over why Seasons is one of my favorite drafting games.

The reason why I can is that one is a passion. Something that I enjoy talking about and getting reactions from and seeing how you all react to them too. Having someone message me in an email and having it say they picked up a game after I talked about it made my whole day awesome. The other just still makes me feel like I am trying to sell something to you. Which if you saw me during the day at work, that is exactly what my goal would be. I want this blog to be a passion and not just more work.

That leads to the second places that I noticed this problem and that was my blog about Star Realms. I adore that game! It is something that I would gladly play if someone asks me too and enjoy it the whole time through, and yet still I made the thing sound like a sales pitch to my dismay. I felt that I was drifting from what I want this site to be and to grow into and that is a place to talk about games for fun and why we all enjoy them.

I don’t care if you play Minecraft to level out a mountain, beat the Ender Dragon, or to dig a hole. I care that you are happy and having a damn good time during it.

I don’t care if you go out to the movie for the plot, the date night, or the popcorn. I care that you enjoyed yourself and it gave you something to leave with. That you left with more than you brought.

Each time I post I worry that I will waste your time and that is the worst thing that I could possibly do with this site. So I need to really get down to my brass tacks and figure out what I like talking about so you get the best I can provide.

As the site expands and now has twitter and twitch is about setting up and ready to go I think making the time I do post matter more is the most important part. This summer along with my 40-50 hours at my game store job I plan to work another job as well to get a vehicle paid off and to upgrade my car to a newer one. I miss road trips and getting out to see everything, so I want to return to doing that as well. Turns out that is a lot simpler if you have a safe vehicle to rely on.

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Does this mean the end of board game posts?

I don’t think it does really. I like talking about things and at times boardgames will pop up and I will show why I love them, to try to share some of the joy with you. I know there will still be a post about the Game of Thrones boardgame, one that I have dumped hours and hours into. Really what I think the board game side of things will come down to is I will reach out to my network of friends and have someone who writes about them with a passion about boardgames instead. A few people already come to mind and they can hit the topic harder than I can anyways.

With this, I hope today wasn’t a waste for you. Sometimes all this website may turn out to be is a journal of sorts, but I will always be transparent with you guys and let you know what is going on. The other good news is I don’t think I will have any gaps in posting this week as a motivation based one for Friday crept into my mind, and I want to talk about it.

No matter what, go out and enjoy what is there. Play some games and be happy!

-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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