Trying VR at Revery in Atlanta

Early this month I went to Atlanta to do some in-person work with my team. Since I’m remote, I hardly ever get to see my coworkers. After a day of group work, we headed to a place called Revery. It’s a Virtual Reality bar in Atlanta. I know VR’s been a thing for a while, but I hadn’t tried it yet. Being a lifelong fan of VR-based fiction (hello, Holodeck!) it seemed too primitive to warrant dropping $400+ on a device.

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The VR bar turned out to be the perfect place to check it out. The floor was a bit sticky, but the delicious (and reasonably priced) cocktail I had made up for it. I’d recommend not drinking too much if you’re there to play. This activity requires quite a bit of moving around!

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Marilyn dodges bullets like a pro in SUPER HOT.

We tried out several games, many recommended by the staff. My favorite was probably Fruit Ninja–I used to play that game obsessively on my phone. I could see myself getting really into that one in VR. There are a ton of games to choose from, although selecting one or another was a bit tricky. The staff was always around to help so we got the most of our game time.

The bathroom had some cool lighting, so I took a bathroom mirror selfie: something I hadn’t done in a while!

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If you ever make it out to Atlanta, and you want to give VR a try, I recommend checking it out. More cities might have VR bars, too. It’s a great way to try without having to buy your own device.

Cover Image: Another game we played, Beat Saber, which is like Guitar Hero with light sabers in VR. Image via Dual Shockers.

Alli Tries Albion Online

I tried Albion Online. I picked it from my list of MMOs to try first because I was traveling and it would run on my MacBook Pro.

ProTip: Don’t play a game where you do a ton of clicking on a laptop without a mouse.

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I’ve got a mount already, so that’s cool (that’s me, Plixxa, with the yellow text).

I think I have about 30 minutes of game time in, and that’s enough to know this game’s not for me. Here’s why:

  1. While I like the graphic style, everything looks kind of the same. I’d tolerate this for a quirky indie game, but in an MMO I need more variety. This also means the character creator is boring.
  2. If I wanted to play a game where I just clicked a bunch, I’d play Diablo III.
  3. I got lost in the tutorial area.

Yup. I really wanted to at least get to the real game before deciding this wasn’t for me, but that’s not going to happen if I get lost before I can even get there. You start off the game, like most MMOs, in the character creator. Playing as a woman, you get to pick from various skin colors, hair colors, and faces. All of the faces look about the same, like Lego faces but with less detail. Then you pick your underwear, from a potato sack style garment to extra-revealing. I went with the potato sack.

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You get in the game and you get quests where you go out and gather materials for new things. You don’t pick a class, but eventually you can pick a skill from a choice of two. Oh, goody. Eventually you get a mule. It’s definitely the fastest I’ve ever gotten to ride a mount in an MMO. After a couple more gathering quests, I had to go to some new mountain area. I couldn’t find it.

Sometimes getting lost is good, if you find interesting things, but I just found this tower full of identical mage-types that were easy to kill. I did not find anything that made me sit up a little straighter or want to play more. And so, I logged off for good.

Cover image from Albion Online. I always go for the quaint medieval village concept art.

Confession: I’m Still Not Playing Anything

It’s time to get honest with all of you. I was going to do Blaugust this year, and try some new MMOs, and try to get back into it. But I’ve been too busy. It’s August 7 and I’ve already gone to Atlanta for work and went camping once. I’m camping again–this time in the Canadian wilderness–later this month.

When I’m free I don’t want to play video games. I want to watch TV with my husband or play with my son. I want to curl up in bed and read until my eyelids get heavy. I want to work on personal projects. I was in my hotel in Atlanta and decided to try out Albion Online and I played it for about 30 minutes before I was bored out of my mind and decided to read some Python blog posts instead. I basically decided to do more work instead of gaming.

Now I don’t know what to do with this blog. It was supposed to be “parenting for nerds” with a gaming/MMO bent, but if I’m barely playing games how does that work? I’ve also been thinking a lot about my nerdiness. Yes, I’m a nerd: I write code and help other people write better code for a living. I love Sci-fi, fantasy, and Marvel movies. But am I nerdy enough to write a nerd parenting blog? I don’t take my kid to nerd conventions, I don’t even go to them myself. I don’t like the idea of dressing up. Costumes are uncomfortable. I don’t even like Halloween.

I don’t think I’m having nerd imposter syndrome. No neckbeards have told me I’m “not a real nerd” for some reason or another. I’m definitely a nerd. But I can’t write blog posts about if you should let your kid play Fortnite because I couldn’t get past the starting screen because I couldn’t figure out how to customize my character. I’ll have an idea for something I want to write and it doesn’t fit here. I’ve posted on Medium, but the platform is terrible for writers unless you want to opt-in to their paywall (I don’t). I wanted to write about my long strange career path so I did that on dev.to. I always have this problem, this I don’t know what to do with my online presence existential crisis.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Cover photo by Christopher Flowers on Unsplash. I searched for “existential crisis” on Unsplash and this was the first result.

Let’s Try Something New

I want to try some new (to me) MMOs.

I’m not playing any MMOs right now and I’d like that to change. I haven’t tried every MMO out there, and I was thinking about finally giving Final Fantasy XIV a try when I thought, why not try a few? I’ve worked on compiling this list of MMOs I haven’t and would like to try. Since Blaugust is happening again, I’m going to take that time to try out some games and write up my thoughts. Maybe I’ll even find a game I want to stick with.

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Each new game will be like a little gift to me from me. Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash.

What MMOs Shall I Try?

Final Fantasy XIV – This has been at the top of my “maybe I should try this” game list for a while, so I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. Maybe I’ll be hopelessly lost, but that’s why this is a trial, right?

Albion Online – I love isometric games, okay? Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but I dig it. I’m concerned about this game being PVP-centric, but I haven’t played much PVP and maybe I’m missing this huge piece of gameplay I’ll actually love. We’ll see.

SWTOR – Technically I’ve played this game since beta tested it. But since I was actually testing the game and reporting bugs, and that was many years ago, I think it deserves another visit. I mean, it’s Bioware.

Star Trek Online – This is on the list because I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid. Probably the only game on my list because of the IP. I normally prefer games that are new universes instead of existing IPs, and I can’t think of many IPs that would instantly make me want to play something. Okay, I tried both the Harry Potter mobile games and liked neither of them.

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Riker: one of my first fictional crushes

Black Desert Online – I want to try this game because I think the would looks incredibly pretty and it might be fun to explore. I also heard the character creation is lots of fun. (Is that still available outside the game? It would be great to create a character outside of the Steam two hour reimbursement window.)

Path of Exile – I found this looking at Massively OP’s game column list to see if there was anything on there I hadn’t tried yet. I saw this one. It’s not spectacularly appealing, and if I have to cut a game from my list, this might be the one to go.

Do you play any of these games?

I’d love a tour guide! Hit me up via the contact form, Blaugust Discord (I’m “Alli”), or email (allirense AT gmail) and let me know what you play and you can show me the ropes.

Any Suggestions?

Got an idea for another MMO I should try? My list is getting full, but I don’t want to miss out on something awesome. Here’s a bit about what I’ve already tried and what I look for in games if you have a suggestion.

I’ve previously played World of Warcraft, Secret World Legends, Maplestory, and if you count it–Pokemon Go. I’ve tried Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, ESO, Project Gorgon, Wild Terra Online, and LOTRO. I have no interest in playing City of Heroes, Rift, or any looter-shooters with MMO-like qualities. I tend to be drawn towards games with a more western character style and I like bright colors. I’m fine with isometric and I love stylistic graphics, but I don’t like Minecraft-style voxels.

My main gaming motivators are exploration and story. You can read more about my motivation profile here.

Know something I might like? Let me know in the comments!

Cover image via Black Desert Online. That game is just so gash darn purdy!

I’m Not Playing MMOs, But I’m Still an MMO Fan

I love MMOs. I consider MMOs a hobby. I’m not playing any MMOs right now. Last year I played some WOW and tried out the LOTRO legendary server, but neither stuck. Once in a while I’ll get into Secret World Legends for a bit, but does it really count as an MMO if I never see another player? Here’s why I’m not playing any MMOs, even though I love them.

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Empty like SWL. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’d be starting from behind

ESO looks like a cool game. I know a lot of people who play it. But I feel like I’d be starting from so far behind and have to drop so much money on expansions and content to ever catch up. See also Guild Wars 2.

You log in and see people with amazing costumes and mounts and weapons and think it’s going to take me months and months of playing to even get halfway there. I feel tired just thinking about it.

It wasn’t quite what I wanted

Two games come to mind when I think of MMOs that were almost there but not quite: Wildstar and World’s Adrift. Both of those games start with W. Both of those games no longer exist. (Okay, technically World’s Adrift hasn’t shutdown yet, but it will soon. Don’t @ me.)

Wildstar promised bright graphics, fun raids, and not to take itself too seriously. Then it went too far. The graphics were too cartoonish. I could’ve lived with that. The raids were too serious. I think that’s all that needs to be said. I wanted to like the game so badly. I’d leave and come back and feel the same disappointment all over again.

I was very excited about World’s Adrift when I first hear about it, until I got to the part about the perma-pvp. I like PVP, but I don’t want to be forced to PVP. As a casual player, I can’t play something where the hardcores can just come and kill me. It’s not fun. By the time World’s Adrift announced a PVE server, I’d already as much as dismissed the game. And it hadn’t even launched yet.

It’s not out yet

Honestly, the only MMO that’s really on my radar right now that’s not out yet is Fractured. It looks like they’re trying to have a decent PVP and PVE balance.

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It’s all about the balance. Image via FracturedMMO

I even kickstarted the thing, after I said I wasn’t kickstarting video games anymore unless they’re from Red Thread Games. (Ikenfell, will I ever get to play you?)

I am keeping an eye on Crowfall, but it’s not looking casual-friendly enough for me.

I’m just sick of it

And finally we get to WoW. After playing for about a month it started to feel like a chore again, likely due to their lackluster latest expansion. The Vanilla server doesn’t appeal either–I’ve already done all that stuff.

Pokemon Go was my only MMO-like game for a long time until they added so many features it became a chore and wasn’t fun anymore. Wizards Unite just launched and is already bloated, so I’m passing on that one.

I’ve thought about making an effort to try some lesser-known MMOs, but I’m not sure where to start. I think many of them have the same PVP issues as World’s Adrift. The games would have to be, at least, free-to-try so I can see if they float my boat before I invest my hard-earned cash. (Or on Steam so I can get a refund, like I did with Project Gorgon.)

But for now, I think I’ll continue playing vicariously through the Massively OP Podcast, which I’ve been listening to in some iteration for over five years now.

By the way I wrote a post on Medium a while back about working from home. Check it out!

Cover image via World’s Adrift. Their island creator was so cool, I hope other games pick up that idea in the future.

Game of Thrones Parents: Ranked

Being a parent makes me see television parents in a new light: a very judgmental one. I try not to judge parents I know in real life, we’re all going through our own stuff, but fake ones on television are fair game.

Here they are in order, from worst to best. This list contains spoilers from all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.

12. Craster

He “marries” his daughter (they’re North of the wall, so guess it’s technically legal) and then has more daughters. Not a great life for the girls, but that’s not as bad as what happens to his baby boys. Or maybe the boys are the lucky ones. Either way, he’s the worst.

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This list is full of terrible people and you’re the worst, Craster. How does that make you feel?

11. Stannis and Selyse

It was hard for me to not put them in the most terrible parent slot because Shireen was awesome: kind, smart, and probably the only 100% decent human in all of Westeros. And then Stannis burns him to death because he’s power hungry and thinks that her death will allow him to sit in the iron throne.

It’s okay to be ambitious, but not okay to sacrifice your children for that ambition, and Stannis does that literally. Most people I know with kids want to achieve their goals to make a better life for their children. But Stannis wants to be king because–I’m not sure, it’s not explained well–but it’s not to make a better life for Shireen.

He’s terrible. And Selyse has her creepy collection of jar babies, so she doesn’t get a pass, either.

10. Tywin Lannister

There’s a special place in Hell for parents overly concerned about their “family legacy” and not the actual well-being of their kids. Tywin went straight there after his son shot him with a crossbow on the potty. Face it, Tywin, two of your kids are in an incestuous relationship. The other one is a drunk until he finds something he’s actually good at–and then instead of supporting him, you sentence him to death. That’s some terrible parenting.

9. Danearys Targarean

The “Mother of Dragons” may be her title, but she’s not the best mom. Sure, she loves her dragons, but she doesn’t show it very well by selling them for slaves and chaining them up in a dungeon. I know, the scene where Danearys trades her dragon for the slaves but then gets her dragon back and frees the slaves is epic. But what if it hadn’t worked? What if the slaver had managed to keep the dragon? That’s a huge risk to take with your child.

As for the chaining: obviously you can’t let your kids burn other kids to cinders, but couldn’t she at least chain them up outside? We later learn that it was chaining dragons that caused them to die out. Way to go, mom.

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She might be the Mother of Dragons but that doesn’t mean she’s a very good one.

8. Randyll Tarly

Tarly is the classic example of a parent who wants a jock and gets a nerd. Actually, he gets both, so you’d think he’d at least be content to let Sam go study to be a Maester while keeping his jock son Dickon around, but no. He threatens Sam and sends him to the Wall–definitely not the ideal place for a nerd.

You could argue that Tarly at least one son he treats well, but he named that son Dickon.

7. Balon Grayjoy

Balon’s probably tied with Tarly. He’s not as bad as the parents who rape, murder, abandon, chain up, and sell their kids. But he still sucks. His kid Theon comes back to him after having probably a better life in Winterfell than he would have on the Iron Isles. And his dad’s just like, screw you, you’re not Iron Born. If I was separated from my son for so many years I probably wouldn’t want to help the people that had him, but I would’ve given him a big hug and welcomed him back home.

6. Lysa Arron

The internet is full of arguments about breastfeeding and when to stop. I’m not going to get into them here, but I think we can argue that kids should be done by the time they’re ten. (Most of the extended breastfeeders I know stopped because their kids stopped wanting to breastfeed anymore–around 3-4. Which makes me wonder what Lysa was doing to encourage this practice.) Lysa has not done a good job exposing Robin to the world and he’s the opposite of well-adjusted. Marrying Littlefinger might be the best thing she ever did for him.

But she’s still fairly high on this list because she at least seems to love him, and she doesn’t try to kill him, chain him, disown him, or send him to the Wall.

Note: I think Jon Arryn is also responsible, but we don’t get to meet him as his death triggers the whole plot of the show.

5. Roose Bolton

Roose seems like a decent parent. He even legitimizes his bastard son Ramsey, which is legitimate. Unlike parents such as Tywin, Tarly, and Balon, he allows his son to be himself.

Except that Ramsey is an evil serial killer. If your kid is an evil serial killer (and we know Roose knows) you have to put a stop to that. Roose could be said to encourage it, even–notably when he sends him to take Moat Calain.

4. Walder Frey

Walder Frey’s always complaining that he’s forgotten by the greater houses–so of course I forgot him when I was making this list. Thanks to my dad (who is such a good parent he’d surely die in the first five minutes of Game of Thrones) for reminding me that Walder exists.

Walder seems like kind of a lazy parent. He forgets his kids’ names, but he has so many of them can you really blame him?

He seems to want the best for his kids, which for him means marrying them off to the great houses. Here’s the thing: Walder’s not a great parent. He should remember his kid’s names because he’s named nearly all of them Walda or Walder. He’s not the best example of loyalty. But he’s not an actively bad parent. So here he is at number four.

3. Cersei Lannister

There’s no doubt Cersei loves her kids and would do anything to protect them. See the scene with Cersei and Tommen on the Iron Throne during the Battle of Blackwater. I think that’s the scene we all started liking her a tiny bit.

I also think she knew Joffery was terrible, but unlike Roose, actually tried to keep him from doing terrible things, like having Ned beheaded.

In Season 3, episode 4, Tywin says to Cersei, “I don’t mistrust you because you’re a woman, I mistrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are. You’ve allowed that boy to run roughshod over you and everyone else in this city.”

Cersei replies, “Perhaps you should try stoping him from doing what he likes.”

That said, I don’t think she’s a great parent, she’s just tolerable enough to get fairly far ahead on this list. For all her best efforts, her kids all end up dead.

2. Sam and Gilly

Given, Sam and Gilly haven’t been parents for very long so there’s ample time for them to mess up and scar Little Sam for life. But they seem to be off to a decent start.

Also, this list is lacking in actually good parents and I wanted to at least have a couple.

1. Catelyn and Ned

How many tragedies could the Starks have avoided if they’d just listened to Catelyn? If Bran listened to his mom and stopped climbing the walls, he’d still be able to walk. If Robb listened to his mom and not married Talisa, the Red Wedding he’d be happily married to Roslin.

Arya is interested in sword fighting, which isn’t an approved activity for noble girls, but Ned still gives her a sword and finds her lessons. He approves of who she is as a person and helps her nurture that side of herself. Imagine what kind of woman Arya could have become if she hadn’t lost her father?

Of course, they aren’t perfect. No parents are. You could say that allowing Sansa to be betrothed to Joffery was a huge mistake, but I wonder if Ned’s research and attempting to oust Joffery in favor of Stannis was partly motivated by wanting to protect his daughter.

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Honorable Mention: Davos. We don’t get to see much of him with his son, but he’s a better parent to Shireen than the ones she was born with.

Cover photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash. Winter is Coming. The rest of the images are via Game of Thrones and HBO.

Maybe Your Kid Doesn’t Need College

This started off as a follow-up post to Why I Choose Curiosity Over Passion on encouraging kids to follow their curiosity, and turned into this: a discussion of whether or not our kids need to go to college.

Spoiler Alert: No, not all kids need to go to college.

I’m not saying college isn’t useful. A lot of careers require college (or more) for good reasons. And enough companies require their employees to have college degrees even if they aren’t useful for the work being performed. (Companies should stop doing this, but parents and students should recognize that it happens frequently.) For some kids, college is the only way out of a bad situation. College can also act as a stepping stone between being a teenager in high school and being a full-fledged adult.

It’s a really expensive stepping stone. According to Forbes, the average college student graduating in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt, which is definitely more than my first salary after college. I went to college because it was expected of me, I didn’t know what else to do, and I’d been told that I’d be stuck in a minimum-wage job at McDonalds if I didn’t go. I didn’t go to college because I wanted a specific career and I knew college would get me there. I went because I was told I could “figure it out after I got there.”

It’s true: the first year (or two) of college can be incredibly helpful for giving students a chance to take interesting classes and follow their curiosities for students that can afford it. But if the student doesn’t know what they want to do by the time their Sophomore year is complete, maybe they should drop out. GASP. I know, I just suggested students should drop out of college. But college is so expensive, and there’s no point finishing a degree you don’t even know you want.

I’m also going to suggest the option of not going to college. EGADS! Baby Boomer parents reading this are freaking out right now. The children of Baby Boomers (like me) were encouraged, even expected, to go to college. For me, the question wasn’t would I go to college, it was where would I go to college. Of my graduating class of 299, 4 students did not go to college.* I believe these expectations lead to graduates with huge debt and worthless degrees they felt like they had to get because it was expected of them. Now that we have children of our own, we’re questioning that “you have to go to college” philosophy.

Here’s the thing about Freshman college students: they have no idea about being an adult. Of course they think they do, because they’ve graduated high school. Say a semester of their college of choice cost’s $20k and their parents can’t afford to pay it, but they have the option of taking out loans. That’s $40k a year. When I started college, I had no idea what $40k meant. It was just this abstract number. Now, I could tell you what kind of apartment or house I could afford on $40k in a few American cities. High schools could help by teaching practical skills like budgeting. Kids could learn what kind of jobs might afford them the lifestyles they want.

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Me in 50 years. Image via AAEC

College students don’t know what it’s like to spend 40 hours a week doing one thing. High school is broken up into 50-minute chunks, and college students usually have fewer classes plus activities and a part-time job. Then you get your first real job and it’s like, okay, I did that for 8 hours, but now I have to do it again, 5 days a week…forever? I navigated my career by seeing other people in my office doing something and thinking, “Okay, next I want to do that. What do I need to do to get there?”

I’m going to encourage my son not to go straight to college after he graduates. I like the idea of a “gap year” or even a year spent working part-time and earning some money for college (or trade school, or starting a business, or getting an art studio) and following various curiosities until he’s really ready to land on something—or not. Because if has a roof over his head (preferably not mine) and he’s fed and happy, then I don’t need him to have a Capital-C Career.

I want him to figure out what his goals are and do what he needs to do to achieve them. I know that will take some time and a lot of following his curiosities. Maybe that’s college. Maybe it’s something else.

*I went to a private school where most students came from middle or upper class families with parents who were paying for their high school education. I realize this number isn’t normal. It does illustrate how affluent families specifically insist on college for their children.

The cover photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash reminds me of these people on Instagram who take incredibly gorgeous and organized class notes. Check out #studyinspiration for some studious eye candy.

Why I Choose Curiosity Over Passion

It was the worst date of my life. After being told I “looked nervous” I was being bombarded with questions that made me wonder if I was being interviewed for the position of preschool teacher. What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite dinosaur? He came in with a new question too quick for me to, in turn, ask him about his favorites. Then he asked, “What’s your passion?”

At this point I wanted to throw my glass of water at him. I’d been on a lot of bad dates, like the one in Arlington, Virginia where the chain smoker wanted me to vote for him on some board–even though I told him several times that I was still registered to vote, and thus would be voting absentee, in Michigan. But this was the first time I’d gotten this angry at a date just for conversing with me.

“I don’t have one,” I said. I didn’t feel like explaining to him that instead of being super amped up about one thing, I was mildly interested in a whole bunch of things. This was the early 2010s, and it was when advice like “find your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life!” was being spewed by self-proclaimed gurus all over the internet and repeated ad nauseam. People were eating it up. I felt like I was different and something must be wrong with me.

As a college student I briefly toyed with being an Elementary school teacher because it was the only way I could see taking classes in everything and having it be actually useful. (I’ll be ever grateful for the summer I spent working at a summer camp that showed me I definitely did not want to be an Elementary school teacher.) In college you get 1-2 years of “no pressure!” before suddenly a switch flips and it’s “OMG you have to pick a major now or you’ll never graduate and you’ll be in college forever and it’s expensive, doncha know?”

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The article I grabbed this image from talks about finding a dream job, and it also says “find your passion” is bad advice.

Much of my adult life has been filled with people telling me to narrow my focus and me digging my heals in with a solid refusal. Sure, I’ll get an English degree, but I’m not going to be an English teacher. I might knit, but I’m going to try crochet, too, and embroidery, and take this hand-lettering Skillshare class, and do Inktober. Blogging? “Blogging is easy, you just need a niche. Find the one thing you’re really passionate about and write…” No.

I’m never going to be passionate about only one thing. I’ve tried to squish my round-peg self into that square-peg hole and I’m done. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about being curious instead of being passionate. I loved the book, but this was my favorite part, because it gave me the courage to let go of this burden where I felt like I had to find my One Creative Passion. She says that people who allow themselves to be curious are actually more creative.

Lately I’ve been really into knitting, and all the knitting has made me curious about hand-dying yarn. So I’ve been giving that a try. I’ve also been itching to do a little sewing and maybe make some of those macrame plant hangers. It doesn’t mean I have to stop kitting, and even if I do, I can always go back.

Most of us live in a capitalist society where we need to find something we tolerate enough to spend around 40 hours a week doing in order to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, and support our curiosities. If there’s one thing you love doing and it supports you financially, awesome. If not, that doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It means you’re curious. Let yourself be curious. Who knows what will happen?

Cover photo by Dmitriy Karfagenskiy on Unsplash. Of course I had to use a cat for this.

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Anthem? No Thank You

Anthem. It’s coming soon, people are talking about it, there was a demo, and yet I wish it didn’t exist. Let me explain why.

I primarily play four types of video games: adventure games, RPGs, strategy games, and MMOs. Let’s put aside strategy games and MMOs for a second and focus on story. For me, both RPGs and adventure games are all about the story. The story is my reward. In adventure games it’s more obvious: solve some puzzles, unlock more stories. When I play RPGs, what hits my reward center in the brain is the same: more story. Kill some baddies, do some quests, unlock more story.

Loot and gear doesn’t interest me aside from that it allows me to complete more content and get more of the story. If I could play the entire game with the same armor and weapons I’d be fine with that. Gaining new skills is fun, but also not my primary motivation.

It should be no surprise that I loved Dragon Age: Origins. It was completely story-driven and everything I did unlocked more pieces of the story. I knew next to nothing going into the game; I’d only heard from others that it was good. I called in sick the next day because I had to keep playing. I’d become attached to the characters and I needed to know what would happen next. Someone told me I’d probably also like Mass Effect 2, so I played that. When I finished, I wanted to play the first one to play the story I’d missed. The first one wasn’t as good: the combat was clunkier, but the story was still there so I didn’t mind. I was just killing baddies to get more story. The one part I hated was driving the mako around desolate planets looking for stuff.

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy exploration. I particularly dig it in MMOs. What I hate is being unable to find something specific, which is exacerbated by trying to maneuver a vehicle with difficult controls.

People gave Dragon Age II a hard time, but I loved it. Yeah, the combat zones were all repeated, but who cares? The combat isn’t the point of the game! And the story was good and not your typical fantasy RPG story. Plus Hawke is the best player character since April Ryan. I didn’t love the Mass Effect 3 ending, but it didn’t bother me as much as most people. I still loved those games.

Then Inquisition came out. Before Inquisition there was Skyrim. It was very popular and featured an “open world.” I played it. It took me a while to get into it. I hadn’t played a non-Bioware modern RPG. I found the NPCs incredibly boring and my quest log just filled up with so many quests and I didn’t know what to do. I’d about given up on it when I read somewhere about certain quest lines that were interesting, and after a lot of mods, I finally got into it. When I heard Inquisition was going to be more open-world I was very disappointed. I didn’t want Bioware following trends and trying to make their next game more like Skyrim. I just wanted another Dragon Age game.

The intro started off well enough. We had some returning characters and intriguing new ones. Then we were dumped in this Hinterlands place—and it was an open world and we had 101 things to do there. I didn’t want to do these things. They were boring. I don’t like side quests. They distract from the main story. (Unless it’s Skyrim and the main story is boring and the side quests are more fun, but I’d prefer a brilliant main story and a handful of side quests that tie in to the plot—which I thought Mass Effect 2 did the best.) I found out I just had to do enough to get out of there and unlock more main quest, but I kept getting lost. My objective would be just beyond that mountain that I couldn’t climb over! I’d run around in circles and just get mad at the game. I’d still say I loved Inquisition—there was enough story and character development to make up for all the frustration of not being able to find silly side quest objectives.

But then we got Mass Effect: Andromeda. Which seemed like Inquisition, in space. And the mako came back. My least favorite thing in the entire original Mass Effect trilogy was a big part of the new game. I have 4 hours into my trial on Origin and I keep thinking maybe I’ll come back, but my play time is limited.

All I want is for Bioware to make the kind of game they’re good at. No trend chasing. I don’t love open-world RPGs and I like playing Bioware games alone. By myself. Aren’t video games supposed to be an introverted hobby? I like MMOs because they’re a mix of playing solo and being social. I like RPGs because you can play by yourself. I’m not a trend chaser. I’m not interested in MOBAs or battle royale, and Don’t Starve is the only survival game I’ve ever loved.

This is a very long explanation of why I’m not interested in Anthem to the point of being disgruntled about its existence. While I know there is a story, from what I’ve read, it’s not _about_ the story. Gear collection and customization seems to be a primary goal, which as I’ve said, does not interest me. After the game releases, if the reaction is positive, I might watch some Let’s Play videos and decide if it’s something I want to spend money on, but I’m not feeling optimistic. The flight suits are a turn-off for me: if I’m going to be playing a game that involves just running around fighting things, I don’t want to have to navigate a 3D space. I’m a bad enough navigator in real life. My biggest hope for Anthem is that it flops and Bioware can go back to making Bioware games. It seems more likely that it will flop and Bioware will fold into EA’s all-encompassing bosom. Even more likely that it will succeed and Dragon Age 4 will be an open world RPG focused on multiplayer and crafting where you fly around on a dragon.

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Jetpacks? Power suits? Sounds fun in real life, but more trouble than they’re worth in a video game.

I want _story_. I think video games are the best way we have to tell a story. Better than TV, film, and even books. Because they’re the most immersive, they have the biggest impact. I was thinking recently about the huge emotional impact I felt after playing Life is Strange. I wondered if my feelings would have been as strong if I’d read it as a book. Probably not. A major part of the impact comes from actually being a participant in the story.

Bioware was a major studio actually leveraging the amazing storytelling power of video games. Now their next major game gives story a backseat. Where do we go from here?

Cover image is from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Still a good game, despite all the boring bits.

The Parent Trope Game of the Year 2018

Many of the gaming blogs I read have picked a Game of the Year, and now it’s my turn. The game of the year for The Parent Trope is…

Civilization VI.

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You might not be surprised, since I did blog about the game, or you might be surprised, since this was a game released in 2016. But I have a kid, a full-time job, and a handful of other hobbies. I get behind. I just started getting into playing Fallout 4. I like the idea of the Parent Trope Game of the Year being something parents could play with their kids. My son did watch me play Lord of the Rings Online a bit (I’m still deciding if I want to resub for the legendary server) but mostly he watches my husband play slither.io if anything. “I wanna watch snakes, Daddy!”

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Modeling the snake I knit my son for Christmas, via Instagram.

I like snakes. I knitted my son a snake for Christmas. I find slither.io to be incredibly creepy. I think something about it hits the same switch as clusters of small circles. Ick.

But I digress. I had more fun with Civ 6 than any other game in 2018. Nothing else brought me back to my PC for “just one more turn!” I’m sure I’ll be playing more of it in 2019. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a Civ expansion, but the recent one Gathering Storm appeals to me. I love the concept of the new Civ that starts off on water.

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Runners up are Life Is Strange, Northgard, and The Sims 4. I’m not sure what it says about me and the year I had that I found simulation games particularly appealing. Looking forward to what 2019 brings!

Cover photo by prwilliams on Reddit. It’s the Civ 6 menu background.