Hi, my name is Alli, and it’s been about five months since my last blog post. I decided to participate in Blaugust, a month long blogging festival. I wanted to briefly introduce myself and give a little update on what’s been going on in my life since my last blog post.
I am not a llama. We’ll get to the llama thing at the end.
Except here’s the thing: not really much has been going on. My daughter is now one and my son is 5 (I used to call him “Indy” here because he was a very independent toddler, but now it’s a very inaccurate name–hopefully he’s just being 5.)
We bought a Switch.
We decided to move to Atlanta, and then we decided to stay in Michigan.
I’m hoping Blaugust can jumpstart a return to blogging for me. It doesn’t hurt that my WordPress subscription renews in July.
Cover Photo by Hugo Kruip on Unsplash because while I’ve pretty much abandoned PC gaming in favor of the Switch, The Sims 4 has llamas now. Llamas!
We had a Super Nintendo Classic: my husband bought it for me as a gift 3 or 4 years ago, and I barely touched it. After the kid and I finished playing Ikenfell, I remembered it. I thought we could give it a try.
He likes it, but holy cow is he bad at it. I thought I was fairly awful–I am 99% a PC only gamer–but he just has no idea what he’s doing. We play Mario Kart and it’s a blessing if he can get through an entire race without wanting to give up. We’ve used it as a teaching tool for persistence: it doesn’t matter if you win, just finish the race. He seems more interested in trying to pick up goodies and coins than winning, anyway.
He also likes the Mario RPG a lot, but it’s single player, so he watches us play. I’ve decided I don’t want to play that with him anymore, though, because I find the jumping puzzles frustrating. (Maybe I need a lesson in persistence.) My husband has played the game a few times already so he’s taken over on that one.
But, I didn’t expect him to be this bad at it. Maybe 5 is too young, or it takes more practice than I thought. I remember my brother picking it up more easily, but I think he was a bit older when he got his first console (Game Cube). His tablet gaming skill doesn’t seem to translate to console gaming.
I feel like this post should come with a recommendation: do I recommend the Super Nintendo Classic for kids? I’m not sure. I want to wait and see how he does when he’s a bit older and can read. And since all the Super Nintendo games are available free on the Switch, it probably doesn’t make sense to buy both.
Cover image via this Polygon article–I don’t think we’ll be entering any Super Mario Kart competitions anytime soon.
In January 2021 I didn’t want to make any big New Years resolutions or set any big goals. We’d just made it through the toughest year of many of our lives, and I was feeling content to just live. I’d also had a baby less than six months ago and started a job within the previous two weeks. It seemed like enough. It was probably more than enough.
I had one thought, though: “I’d like to write in my blog a bit more.”
It’s now mid-February, and I have one published post in 2021. This year had a rough start–remember the new job and baby? Those are big, huge life-changing things. I’m still figuring them out. And in early Feb, I went through a rough point. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of where my head and emotions were at, but I’ll just say it was a bad place. And I knew I needed to make some changes. Here’s what I did what I’m doing to try and take better care of myself:
I take a break after work.
For a half hour or so after work, I take a break. I used to have this thing called a “commute” after work, where I’d spend 20-30 minutes in the car, driving listening to an audiobook or podcast as I drove home. It allowed me to have something that separated work from the family care I’d be doing when I walked in the house.
I’ve been working remotely for over three years now, and I miss the commute. My husband finally told me to take some time for myself in the office when I’m done working. I initially balked. He’s with the kids all day long, and now he should wait even longer for me to emerge from the office so he can do something other than care for them? How is that fair to him?
He told me he could take a break after my break, or later on, and he’d rather have me feel refreshed and actually ready to spend time with the kids, instead of just mentally drained.
It works. After a 20-30 minute break, I’m ready to play with my kids until it’s time to make dinner.
I started therapy.
I’ve known for a while that I’d probably benefit from therapy, but I hesitated. I went through quite a bit of it as a kid and never found it that helpful. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that it wasn’t my idea, and I didn’t have anything I wanted to get out of it. I started thinking that maybe if I did it on my own terms now that I’m an adult, and have some goals in mind, I might get more out of it.
What finally made me pull the trigger was that I realized that as a tiny benefit to this horrible pandemic, it’s all being done virtually. No need to go to a physical office. I can’t tell you now if it’s successful or not, but it is nice to have someone who is being paid to listen to you without judgement.
I started ADHD medication.
I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD twice (this is fairly normal for adults with ADHD who were initially diagnosed as children) but haven’t been on much medication. I was managing it myself.
The self-management worked for a long time, until it didn’t. Remember the new baby and the new job? My responsibilities were increasing. I hit a “I can’t do this like this anymore” wall. I’m now working with my doctor to find the right medicine and dose to help me be my best self.
Rethinking “Self Care”
The term “self care” is popular, but I usually hear it paired with one time things like taking a bubble bath or watching a feel-good movie. These aren’t bad things. But what I’m trying to do, and what I think self care should be more about, is beyond that. I think self care should be about making changes to make your life better. I’m hoping the changes I’m making will help me lead a more contented life.
Like Harry Potter, but you’re angry with how J.K. Rowling has hurt the trans community?
If both of those things are true, I have a video game for you: it’s IKENFELL!
In Ikenfell, you play the twin sister of a witch who attends the magic school Ikenfell. You don’t have magic, though, you’re just an Ordinary. But after not hearing from your sister for longer than is reasonable, you head to Ikenfell to make sure she’s okay. While you’re there, something happens and suddenly you have magic, too.
I started playing Ikenfell by myself in the evening, and it was the perfect thing to play thirty minutes of before getting ready for bed. But then I started playing one afternoon, while the baby was napping and my son was playing on his tablet. I had my headphones in, so he must’ve seen something coming from the office. He pulled in a footstool to watch.
Soon I was reading the dialog and explaining the combat mechanics. My kid even helped me get through a tricky puzzle involving frozen floors and switches that moved blocks this way and that.
The games cute pixel art graphics, unique puzzles, diverse characters, and hilarious bosses (ever fight a blob that likes to steal hats? or a star that wants to eat you?) have captivated both me and my kid. One of the best parts for him is that many of the enemies, after being defeated, will help you out. They were just momentarily in a bad mood and wanted to fight you.
My one criticism is that the fights can get a bit long and tedious. I feel that way about most fights in video games though, so take that with a grain of salt.
The best part of the game? It’s how you save and heal.
That’s right–you pet the cat. Ikenfell is available on Steam for PC and for various platforms.
Cover Image: Petronella (bottom right) is my favorite.
I’ve just finished helping a friend who just found her lover dead in the bathtub, suicide. We’re on the roof of her apartment and she wants me gone so she can mourn on her own, and I’m about to leave when I’m struck by how beautiful the city is in this game.
I enjoy the aesthetics of the cyberpunk genre. Neon pops in a sea of cool grays, rust, and oil slicks. My Cyberpunk 2077 character, V, has a face like mine but cropped magenta waves and know how to load up and fire a sniper rifle.
Unlike most RPGs, I’ve decided to make my character good. Kindhearted. She wants to survive Night City, but not at the expense of everyone else. Even still, she’s not above plowing bullets through the sort of turds who are out killing people for their implants.
It’s probably a given, but this is not the sort of game I’m playing in front of my 4-year-old. This is a wait until the kids are in bed, pop in the headphones, and disappear into another world for an hour before bedtime kind of game. I know there’s been some negative reviews of the game even aside from the glitches, but I’m having a blast. I play on PC and have noticed less than a handful of glitches* in my 16 or so hours of playtime, nothing more than I’d expect. My PC’s good but a couple of years old and not top of the line.
It’s not perfect: I wish I could customize my character’s appearance after starting the game—I’d like to try some different hairstyles. It doesn’t seem replayable. The side quests aren’t very interesting.* I’m not a big side quest person (“the side quests are better than the main quests” is not a game selling point for me) and I’ve mainly been doing them as a way to get a few more eddies (the game’s currency). But it’s got the important things: an intriguing story with a customizable protagonist, a vibrant setting, and combat that doesn’t suck. I’ve also enjoyed changing up my gameplay: I started off doing purely stealthy takedowns, then I got a sniper rifle and started using that. Lately I’ve gotten more into the tech aspect.
I know the game is unplayable for a lot of people, and that really sucks, and part of me is hesitant to write a positive review (if you could call this such) of a game with so many issues: glitches, flashing lights that cause seizures, and the fact that my female avatar is hurled sexist abuse by enemies. As a developer, I’m also sensitive to studios forcing their devs to work long hours to finish a product. I’m not about to armchair-solve the problems in the video game industry (except for the gendered cursing–could’ve made that generic and saved a bit of time, too). I am going to buy games that look fun to me, because there aren’t a lot of AAA games that speak to me these days.
*I played this evening after I wrote everything above. While I was on an interesting side quest, I started having a glitch where I could see NPC skeletons and skulls inside their heads for a brief moment before the rest of their bodies appeared around them, sometimes leaving empty space for a moment where a body part should be. I think more interesting side quests open up as you progress in the main story meeting more characters and gaining street cred. As for the glitch, I’m not sure if it’s the game or my cybernetic implants.
Cover Image: Some promo art. The game makes me miss living in a city.
In the wee hours of the morning on July 13, 2020 I gave birth to my baby girl. I’d gone through a difficult pregnancy: gestational diabetes on top of the normal discomfort of being pregnant and, of course, a global pandemic. I wasn’t certain I wanted a second child, but the moment I saw her face I was completely besotted.
Almost five months later and we have the world’s smiliest baby. She’s so happy and growing like a weed: 93rd percentile for height! It’s been hard having a baby during a pandemic: we haven’t been able to introduce her properly to family and friends. We’ve had to keep her to ourselves.
She’s mostly content and sleeps great. She loves having her belly “eaten” and when her brother makes silly faces. She laughs and laughs.
More changes are coming. I’m starting a new job next week. I’m still in software engineering, but switching industries from e-commerce to cyber security.
We’re approaching the deep, dark parts of winter I usually shudder away from, but this year I’m trying to think about it differently. I have a new job and two beautiful children. COVID vaccines are imminent. Sometimes things need to freeze and thaw to begin anew.
I’m going on a blogging hiatus. Both this and my knitting blog will be taking a break, probably for the next few months. I’m having a baby in the next couple weeks, and want to focus on family and other things for the foreseeable future. I also want to take some time to step back and decide what I want to do with my blogs and my internet presence.
Love to all of you. I will still be on twitter (gaming content will most likely be there, if I have any time to play with a new little one) and Instagram.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Act 3 of To The Moon. It’s the third part of the play-along hosted by Naithin. Now on to the questions!
1. Johnny… Joey… Twins. It seems after the accident Johnny lost his identity to his mother, and became a replacement-Joey. Does it change how you feel about Johnny as compared to your Act 1 impressions?
I spent more time thinking about how this worked than judging Johnny. Johnny gets beta blockers and, from what it seems like, completely forgets he even had a twin. I wonder who’s decision this was. Was it his mom’s? I can’t remember if it said she didn’t get them or if that’s just an assumption I’m making, but if she didn’t get them, does she just start thinking she has one kid and it’s Joey who survived? Did she get her memories erased and thinks she has one kid, Joey?
Johnny picks up Joey’s favorites (pickled olives and Animorphs). I’m thinking that was his mom’s influence. Now, I can’t hardly imagine loosing a child, but I can’t imagine making the choices she does which amounts to erasing the child that’s still alive.
I think I judged Johnny less harshly than some of the other play-along participants, but while this does increase my sympathy for him, I don’t judge him any less. The only thing I really judged him for was not reading the book on River’s condition–and I don’t think that was explained in Act 3. I’m still judging him on that, but he clearly loved River, so I can move beyond that one thing.
2. Eva and Neil have a verbal sparring match on their differing views of contract vs. what they now know (or think they know) about what would make Johnny happier. Outcome of Eva’s actions notwithstanding; do you sympathise with one view over the other here?
Neil’s for sure, but it’s hard for me to answer because I’m against memory alteration as a whole. Even with that aside, we find out that Johnny’s wish to go to the moon was to meet up with River.
This revelation is incredibly emotional. If you don’t see this scene and don’t feel anything, knowing what’s to come, your heart is three sizes too small.
But it’s about River. And in real life, Johnny spent his whole life with River. This request comes from a fragment of a chemically repressed memory. With his real memories, he’s getting what he wanted, but the words of his request are wrong and lead Neil and Eva in a wild goose-chase in the wrong direction.
And yet, I really relate to Eva in the scene where she’s all “I know what to do, just trust me!” and she runs off and does it. As a programmer, I often will think of the solution to something and be unable to articulate it–I’ll need to go and do it, Neils be damned.
Ace Asunder’s post reminded me that Neil said, “We happen to know what he wants better than he does!” I don’t hate Neil for saying this. I used to work for an agency and we very often knew what the clients wanted more than they did. Of course, I’m talking about software and not memories. I think that other people shouldn’t be deciding what memories to put in someone’s head, because other people shouldn’t be changing memories in the first place.
3. Throughout that same exchange, Eva asks Neil to trust her. He clearly didn’t. Did you?
Not in the way you might think. I definitely thought she was doing what she thought was the right thing. Because I could really see myself in that scene, I guessed she wanted to follow the letter of the contract and make Johnny happy.
But, knowing that there’s sequels: I have a feeling Sigmund Corp is up to something beyond just providing people with altered memories. It seems way too benevolent for a company in a video game. It wouldn’t surprise me if Eva knows a thing or two about it, while Neil’s completely in the dark.
4. “He can always find another ‘River’… But he’ll only have one brother.” Again, pretending for the moment you don’t know the outcome of Eva’s actions and what she (suspected) would happen… Do you agree? What about in this context of overwritten memories as opposed to life as it was?
No. It’s not real. The Joey isn’t even real, just constructed from Johnny’s memories. Even knowing the final outcome doesn’t make me think it’s right.
I don’t remember what I though the first playthrough. I wish I did. It would be interesting to see how my thoughts changed since then. I know that this time around, I strongly guessed that Eva’s attempts would be successful and that it meant we’d see River again. I don’t know if this was based on my own locked out memories of the game, or if it’s just my knack for guessing endings.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Act 2 of To The Moon. It’s part of the play-along hosted by Naithin. Let’s get to the questions!
1. When Eva was sitting, thinking about the reasons nothing at all changed in Johnny’s simulated memories — what conclusions do you think she reached? What conclusion did you reach?
First of all, the scenes where Eva and Neil are going through Johnny’s memories and trying to get Johnny to want to go to the moon is hilarious. Particularly the scene where Neil is giving the school presentation, reciting moon facts.
As an aside, having interesting or entertaining protagonists is essential to making an adventure game work for me. See The Longest Journey’s April vs. Syberia’s Kate.
Eva and Neil go through all Johnny’s memories and do what they can to manually implant as many triggers as possible, but Johnny still doesn’t want to go to the moon. It makes me wonder, why does old man Johnny want to go to the moon, anyway? If I grew old and regretted something, it would probably be something I’ve at least spent some time thinking about. Not just something completely out of the blue.
Maybe that’s what Eva’s thinking. They should call HQ and tell them it’s impossible. (Except maybe they want to keep their jobs.) Or, perhaps, there’s something missing in that blocked memory.
2. The block on the youngest memories and the use of beta blockers… What do you think this will be all about?
I think something traumatic happened at that time and the beta blockers were meant to repress that memory. That memory’s going to be the key to understanding all of this, I think. It seems like old man Johnny might have some bits and pieces and feelings from those memories that have leaked through. Somehow, the leaked memories and feelings have him wanting to go to the moon. Maybe he’s confused about them somehow, like he’s getting some lunar influences but it’s not exactly right.
3. What about Neil taking off for a moment while Eva returned with the… ahem… Contained dead squirrel odour? What could have been so important to him?
Absolutely no idea! Despite playing this game before, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t remember a thing except for not being able to get off that horse in Act 1 and there being a very twisty ending.
But, I have to wonder if Neil smelled that dead squirrel and was reminded of something himself.
4. We still have the third act to come. What do you think it will focus on?
It’s going to focus on the blocked memory and it will somehow tie everything up, and blow all of our minds. I remember being shocked and feeling very emotional at the end of the game when I finished the first time, but I don’t remember why.
Maybe they got to me with the beta blockers!
Apologies my answers are so short for this act. It’s been a busy week!
In light of the Black Lives Matter protests, I want to bring to light an issue that’s really important to me: the increased maternal mortality rates for Black mothers. As a pregnant White woman, I’m comfortable knowing that during my birth experience, I’ll be taken care of and listened to and not worry about my own life. I don’t know how Black mothers feel, but I don’t think I would have that same level of confidence in the healthcare system and my own mortality.
Between 2011 and 2014, White woman experienced 12.4 deaths per 100,000 people while Black woman experienced 40 per 100,000 (source). Death is the worst possible scenario, and Black women experience other forms of racial discrimination during the birth process. (More information.)
We have to fix this.
As a pregnant mom, I wanted to share this information and tell you about an organization that’s working to promote Black maternal health. When relating real life to video games (like I often do on this blog) we often see the analogy of White people start on easy mode while Black people start on a higher difficulty, simply because of their race. Can you imagine what sort of high difficulty starting your life without your mother would be?
I’ve decided to support Black Mamas Matter, an organization that seeks to “advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice.” They do this through research, policy changes, and supporting Black moms’ medical care.