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!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-86WpU2f7J_es2gWJSuX-w

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.

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5 Horror Levels Done Right

Horror in video games can be something that is lost quickly. All it takes is for a moment to feel goofy to really take you out of the element and help you lose the immersion that you found yourself in. These five games that I am talking about today may not have been a scary game or horror all the way throughout, but the managed to really rock it on one level. Now keep in mind many of these were experienced as they came out and may have a different feel if played now as opposed to then. No matter the case let me know what some of the ones you thought were too in the comments.

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

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Number One – Timesplitters Future Perfect – Mansion Of Madness

Timesplitters was always a game that brought you to different locals. You may find yourself far in the future, in the past fighting in the jungles, or in this case a haunted mansion in the nineties. The previous two levels of this game had you working with a character much like Austin Powers and had a really light-hearted fun feel to it. That was that about to change.

As soon as you enter this mansion you could tell things were off. The new character to help you out was a teenage girl that was telling you about all the haunted rumors of the house. Sure there are zombies and giant deer corpse creatures, but that wasn’t the spooky part. The children rooms in the house had rocking chairs and quietly sang to you. It was eery because they didn’t have to put much into it to make you feel uneasy, the whole level was a blast and worth a play through on its own.

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Number Two – Half-Life 2 – Ravenholm

When you were told we don’t go to Ravenholm you should have listened. The Half-life games were fun for their oddity about them. From the guns feeling strong and unique to the craziness that was the G-Man, the game had a certain “feel” to it. So when you heard there was a scary level they added in, you had to give it a try. The headcrab infestation that is plaguing this old mining town is horror done right. The first time playing through this for me was on the Orange Box. I had on a pair of great headphones with full surround sound and was into it, the screams the headcrabs had made me wish I wasn’t. Top that with the fact that you didn’t have many good guns at the time and get ready for a level of horror you didn’t expect from the game until you were knee deep in it.

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Number 3 – Halo Combat Evolved – 343 Guilty Spark

The Flood may be known to everyone who hears the Halo name now, but at the time so many of us had no clue. My friends and I didn’t have internet when the game came out and thought it was just cool looking from fighting aliens. My best bud Matt and I had spent the night at a youth group and played the game nonstop throughout and got it soon after to beat the game campaign ourselves. I remember walking through the swamps and thinking how cool all the different locations in the game were. We played on a beach, in a space ship, in an alien control ship and now these swamps, how neat! I was wrong.

The Flood is an enemy that needs to be experienced to understand why they are a horror type enemy. As the ammo runs thin and they continue to sprint at you, your heart races, you ask your friend if they have shotgun ammo left, you run. The flood in lore is such a huge part of this franchise and later on encompasses much more of the games. To bring it all back home you need to start here, you need to fight the enemy that even the Covenant fear and 343 Guilty Spark knows the way. Obviously, he just wants to help.

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Number 4 – Bioshock Infinite – Comstock House

Many people remember playing through the first Bioshock title and enjoying the horror elements it had. The creepy splicers and the Big Daddies stomping around with all that Adam they are guarding you against. Infinite took a different approach, the bright open sky, and sunshine for days. The game has it’s elements here and there like Songbird and effects your rifts soon have, but nothing could prepare you for the Comstock House.

In the element of the game that shows you the worst possible outcome, you learn why you must be there for Elizabeth. You hear the horrors she has to go through and what it ultimately turns her into. The Boys of Silence in this portion of the game reminded me what a scary enemy can mean. The lunatics that are normally docile beings leaping at you like no other when the Boys blare their horn. You want to see a dark future, give this level a play.

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Number 5 – Fallout 3 – Dunwich Building

To be fair I believe any of the fallout titles since three and their own version on the Dunwich Building would have worked. The Dunwich storyline in Fallout follows a strong Lovecraftian horror. In a game that is about Nuclear Apocalypse and how people fair you may think there would be more spooky things. The ghouls may make you jump the first time, but otherwise, the scariest thing is usually if you forgot to save and you die. Dunwich shakes this up with a story of an altar far below the building to Ug-Qualtoth. In normal Fallout fasion, much of what you learn comes from the PC terminals throughout. The descent into madness is a fun read for when you want to feel the horror writing kick in from Bethesda. I personally enjoyed the Dunwich touch in their newest 76 installment the best, but will always remember Fallout 3 for this particular level.

So there you have it, five levels that I believe really kicked you into a horror game. All of these didn’t feel like they would have them until you were there and fighting your way through the masses. I would have loved to save this until near Halloween, but it just kept creeping up into my head to get it typed up. I love games that surprise you with a level that doesn’t fit the mold. Things like how Splatter House reversed you back to 2D at times, it spices it up and keeps each level exciting. Even in the large open world games I always went back to that “level” when I would replay because the lore and flavor were so exciting to experience.

Either way, let me know what you all think. What games shook you up? What ones had a surprise scary level built in? Let me know and I will talk to all of you tomorrow!

Play Games and Be Happy

Shane

 

Feature Photo by Javier García on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplashglenn-carstens-peters-190592-unsplash

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.

Feature Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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.

Habits in Gaming Part 2

So what is it that brings you back to a game? When you are sitting around and get the itch to boot the same game back up again what is it? The drive for the next skin on a gun? Is it knowing that if you run and fetch the pieces needed for the blacksmith that he will forge you a new stronger sword? When you think of getting on with friends for the ten thousandth time on League of Legends what drives you?

Habits in gaming not only formed how we play the games we do but why we come back to them as well. The Cue, Routine, Reward cycle of habit loops are what leads us to become so addicted to certain types of games. It also is what makes normally menial tasks something we still do daily to get to the next level. To help describe some of this let’s look at a game that really increased the desire to return when it dropped back in 2007.

Also, check out Part one here Habits in Gaming Part 1

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare came out with a surprise hit that soon led to an addicting franchise that only recently has started to peter out. Games like Halo, Quake, Doom, Medal of Honor and more had multiplayer in the games tacked in. Sure Halo was sweet when you had your shield and could handle some shots getting into you, but the mechanics could still be put into an average soldier as he stayed out of the fire. So what was it that brought this game into a habit with millions playing it and people diving deep?

When you get a kill in Modern Warfare and any title in the COD series since you get a satisfying little notification that you earned some experience. Get enough and you may gain a level with another satisfying sound cue that shows you are progressing in the game. It even gave you challenges to try to complete in the game such as a certain number of headshots, jumping from a set height or even kills with car explosions. It was a game changer.

Xbox live was huge before with Halo 2 and you had a small ranking system in the title that showed how good you were as a player. Yet, every time you spawned in you looked generally like everyone else and you played the match to your best ability and won or lost. The End.

Role-playing elements in games like a shooter shifted everything up in our habits. From a casual play of jumping on with friends to kill some time, I began to see people saying, “I just need to jump on and get ten more kills so I can unlock this item.” The cue was the game booted up and you saw how you could progress, your routine kicked in playing a ten-minute match in a blink of an eye and soon the reward of the next unlock had you on repeat.

We get into these trends because as people we always want to progress. If you aren’t growing you are dying as so many self-help books proclaim and it is true even in our video games. The desire to be the coolest, most equipped player goes into any franchise. Some games “giving” you everything for “free” such as League of Legends, Magic Arena, or Fortnite. You can, in fact, unlock everything through dedicated play and challenges that give you more of whichever in-game currency each one decides to use. These are games that are normally heavy tied to the skill and the desire to get ahead on them. The cue is the idea you can be the best, your routine puts you into the game and the reward is that satisfaction from when you win.

A hard fought for gank in League and a Chicken Dinner in PUBG gives you a dopamine rush regardless and that’s what we want. Games now have started giving you little wind throughout a match to keep you high on the fun times. A Battle Royal game is not a cake walk to get first place in and many times you come just short of achieving just that. When a title like Fortnite brings in tons of fun little challenges it keeps you coming into the title even if you aren’t winning every match. You finish something and say to yourself, “You know I didn’t win but I got that challenge and ranked up still, what is next?”

fortnite-hero - edited.jpg  There is so much more than I can say on all of this, but I may start to finish it up right here. I want to apologize that this came out a day past when I originally said. No need for excuses, but damn have I been going through some tooth pain hell. The dentist has me on all sorts of stuff right now, but it is on the mend.

If this two-part article is something you liked, let me know in a comment or an email. It is something that I think I want to put a bit more research into but does take a little more time with it not being a just opinion piece. I’ll make sure the posting schedule gets back on track and all is normal again. So until next time, play games and be happy.

Sit Down For A Way Out

When I think Co-Op gameplay I think of a game that can have you play with another as an option. I don’t think before playing A Way Out had I ever seen a title that requires you to have another person and had no single player at all. With that in mind, this Sit Down Sunday is about a title that is a hell of a rollercoaster and a great game to play through on a raining afternoon with someone close by.

A Way Out gives you the option to play as one of two characters, Leo or Vincent. Whoever you don’t choose leaves the roll open to another player, but that role must be filled. Local co-op play was the way I managed this, but if you want to play over PSN or Xbox Live it will let you play with someone else you has the disk and not require you too. That is a cool feature that I have never seen before, although I could be wrong, I think it is first. The reason behind this gambit of giving your game away to two people for every one copy you sell? Well, it is all in the story.

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The screen is split down the middle for most of the game, in sneaking and action sequences it plays just like any other two player game would. However, when the action gets heavy or one character breaks off onto their own you follow just that character. This may seem poor when the other has to just sit and watch, but it plays out like a great action movie. One scene has a character fighting off police down a hall then cuts to the other as he tries to run through an air vent. Each scene is important but takes place in different areas. So by watching the game unfold this way you get the full story every time.

The game goes through a series of locations but begins with a classic prison break out. The who thing takes place around the time of the Vietnam war, so setting up an escape from prison to be a little more believable. Moments when I out loud said, “Why don’t they just taser them” made more sense when I got into the time of the game. From prison break to an island getaway, you will see all the locations and they look great during them with the game rendering everything perfect the whole time through.

The most exciting parts are the beginning with the fun obstacles in the prison and the huge ending. It gives you a jaw-dropping moment that leaves you mad and defeated that you didn’t see it coming. Without going into too many spoilers I advise you to play with someone who you can see their face at the conclusion. I also really enjoyed a scene involving an airdrop that made me remember why I hate heights so badly, much like the protagonist Leo.

There is a fun myriad of easter eggs in the game that lets you go off the path a bit. Along with quite a few minigames, you can compete against the other player for fun. From arcade games to connect four, there are plenty of little quirks throughout to make you smile. It is the little things in the game that makes some of the more cliche parts passable. Sure you have the hard cut guy who is in prison for the wrong reasons, and the nice guy out for revenge but they make their stories believable. You even take time to visit with the families to learn more about their motivations.

If you are an achievement or trophy hunter you will find this game a sweet easy completion. After you complete the story for a good time there is a quick chapter select that you can go back and pick up the ones you missed. Many of them you will find simply along the way. The game has five acts and if you find yourself in a sort of hub area that usually means there is an achievement to be made.

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I think the only time we ever died playing through had to do with a couple of chase scenes that were difficult to understand where to go next. The stealth parts are simple and satisfying and there never were really puzzles too hard to figure out. Even if there were some hard ones, there are two of you at all times.

So if you are looking for a nice title that is quick and sweet and will leave you with something to talk about I suggest giving this a try. I suppose people love getting a rating system on games, and I don’t know what I want to rate mine out of. So if I had to go out of one through five I would say this game is a solid three.

Three on the five-point scale for not ever making you say you hate the game and for being nice and quick. The ending left me frustrated but not because it was in any way bad. It was similar to why I loved the book The Long Walk by King but hated the ending, I wanted more.  Three because, the shooting was nice better felt oversimplified, and the story of what the diamond was could have used a little more.

Without spoiling too much I will stop there. So go out, find somebody, and give the game a playthrough. I’ll see you tomorrow with the second part of Habits in Gaming to finish that up. For the rest of the week expect another top five on Wednesday and another talk about board games on Thursday. Tuesday I’ll leave up to when it arrives. See you then!

Habits in Gaming Part 1

Recently I have been reading a book titled The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It is an interesting read going in depth on why we do what we do and how we get into routines. Reading about two hundred pages in so far it got me to thinking about all the different habits in gaming I have developed over the years.

You may think, “Gaming habits, I don’t have any?” When was the last time you looked behind you before advancing when starting a level? When was the last time you grinded before a boss to make sure you got them all the way in case it was a tiered fight? Have you ever kept an enemy alive on a game to gain additional experience on them, or train a move for a character? Ever say just one more game since the experience bar was close? How about making sure for the millionth time that you cleared ALL of the map before advancing.

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplashstefan-cosma-362616-unsplash.jpg

Every single one of these is a habit that you picked up in some game along the way. Maybe one time you looked behind you before moving ahead in a game and there was a chest to help you start out on your journey. I know I personally look at all the achievements on a game before starting so I don’t miss a simple one that may be at the very start of the game. It leaves a feeling of unease for me when I know I could have gotten it so easy. Sometimes having to restart a whole game to feel like I am actually enjoying it. A habit I picked up from replaying too many games early on in the 360 counsel life.

Or maybe, the habit was picked up earlier when I learned there were hidden items and bosses you could get in the Final Fantasy series. I was floored when I learned there was a character named Vincent Valentine in Final Fantasy seven from a friend back in middle school. I had beaten the game maybe a month prior and he asked which main characters I had used to get through, he mentioned his favorite had been Valentine. I had beaten a whole game without a character that you could easily unlock.

https://www.madewithmischief.com/artwork/13/Vincent-Valentine Amazing art done by szynka2496 here of that exact character.1415711721_NX1ux_vincent-valentine.png

It started a trend for myself that I didn’t want to miss a single thing in a game if I could. Sometimes making me be almost obsessive over not missing a thing when I got into High School and playing through longer games. Chapter select and check marks in games that tell you how much of something you have gotten are lifesavers in time and things I am always grateful to see in a title.

I remember another time going through all of the flags in Assassin’s Creed with Altair to find I was missing a single one. I spent hours and hours trying to find it and in the end just restarted the game to use a checkmark system off of an additional website. Just because I grew a habit that a game is only complete when the achievements say 1000/1000. Don’t even get me started on the titles that through in an oddball two-point achievement, looking at your Super Puzzle Fighter Z.

Regardless of what little random quirks and things you have developed over the years these are your habits. I feel more comfortable flying a plane in a shooter with inverted controls, but never when moving the character. A great friend is an exact opposite, we hated trading off games in Halo 2 for that reason. Another great friend has to collect everything in a game. It seems he likes having the resources to make what he wants to make, that makes him do this. He is more apt to play a survival game that he can build and grow on than a quick shooter that you lose your loot upon death. The habits of all these things in gaming also predict which games we inevitably enjoy playing through. Myself having trouble with games I simply can’t beat because there is no end goal.

Some people don’t like games where you lose or die often. Dark Souls and Bloodborne growing a cult following over the intensity of the titles that were so unforgiven. I don’t meet casual fans of this series. I find people all the time who hate the titles because the grind is so stupid to them, others who know all the lore and own every comic that has came out and where to “good loot” is. When you start out on “soft” titles like Mario as opposed to Hosts and Goblins you will naturally waver to what you find most comfortable.

So what brings you back to a game over and over again? What is the habit loop in titles that brings you back the second, fifth, or thousand times to play a match again? What makes you think you have to do your daily or weekly challenges to jump on and knock them out really quick?

Photo by Cata on Unsplashcata-1454814-unsplash.jpg

This is going to be my first attempt at a two-part article. The first coming to you today and the second half finishing up on Monday, with another article coming out Sunday that I’ve already written for Sit Down Sunday. I wanted you to know first and foremost what you were getting yourself into with this little piece of work that I wanted to talk about.

All of that is something I want to touch on come Monday. The loops in games that bring us back time and time again. Until then, drop a like and comment on what type of game habit you realize you have about yourself. I love hearing about all of them and they inspire me to work on my next piece. Remember you can follow me on this site as well or sign up for email notifications.

I appreciate all you awesome people, see you tomorrow.

Feature image is by Drew Beamer on Unsplash