Yes Another Blog

I started a new blog and it’s about knitting! I know there’s probably not a ton of overlap in people who read this blog and people who enjoy knitting, but I figured I’d post a link anyway.

Here it is!

Or you can read the intro post to get an idea of why I started it.

For now I’m still planning on keeping this blog around, although I’ll see how I feel July when its WordPress subscription is up for renewal.

Cover image is a photo of my hand dyed yarn, also the header photo for the new blog (although here it gets very zoomed in).

Revisiting The Witcher 3

I started playing The Witcher 3 back in November and now if my estimations are correct, I’m about halfway through the game. I’m playing the main story and side quests I read about in various “best side quests from The Witcher 3” articles online. This technique is helping me with a trap I often get myself into with open world games where I find myself with a todo list of quests. I feel like I need to finish all of them, and I’m not sure which ones to do first, or which ones are fun and which ones are just “go kill something.”

(I did do a couple of contracts (“go kill this monster” quests) because I needed more gold, as being Mr. Nice Witcher was causing my armor and weapons to wear out.)

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Everything here in disrepair.

When I’m playing the game, I’m enjoying myself, but when I find myself with some time to game, I often have to talk myself into playing it. Few of the quests have had the sort of plot where I really want to know what happens. Plus, a lot of the characters are continually referencing things that happened in the past in previous games, and I have no desire to play those at this point. But for the most part when I play, I enjoy myself.

I also want to finish the game so I can watch the show. I know the show and game don’t have the same plot, but it seems like a good idea in my head and is a good motivator for finishing the game. I think the story might work better for me as a show than a game–we’ll see. Rock, Paper, Shotgun compares the bathtub scenes from the show and the game! It’s hilarious. As in, which would be the better bathing experience (I did think the tub in the game was rather small.)

In other words, I’d say the game is pretty good, and I’ll keep playing for now.

Cover Image from this wallpaper site.

My Top 2 Books for 2019

Last year I picked 10 books. In 2019 I read over 50 books, but I’m only picking a top two. These two books were by far the best two books I read this year, and trying to come up with 8 more to live with them on a list seemed almost insulting. I even gave a few others 5 stars. But these books both entranced me and stuck with me.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

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I picked this book up because I follow Chuck on twitter and I’d read a couple other things he wrote and enjoyed them. I thought I’d like Wanderers, too.

Like is not a strong enough word. This is the perfect book for when you want to engross yourself in something epic. It’s long and winding but entertaining every step of the way. While there are many post-apocalyptic books out there, fewer actually occur during the apocalypse. I think a rapid decay of the world is difficult to write, and Wendig does it masterfully. He manages to include a variety of protagonists all with depth and room for growth. This book covers the end of the world from the first strange occurrence to the shocking end.

I thought Wanderers was going to be my number one book in 2019. How could I read something I enjoyed better? It wasn’t possible. Learn more.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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Until I read Ninth House. Leigh Bardugo wrote one of my favorite YA fantasies, Six of Crows. (It’s a fantasy heist story!) Ninth House is for adults. I’d call it urban fantasy, although it’s set on Yale’s campus and not a major city. It also forgoes a lot of things that are often found in urban fantasy that I’m not particularly interested in: vampires, demon hunters, and explicit cross-species sex scenes. (I’m fine with these things existing, and if you like them, great, but it’s not really my cup of tea.)

I do like creepy magic and secret societies. I love creepy magic and secret societies. The creepier and more secret the better, and this book delivers. Now, a book could be chock full of creepy magic and secret societies and still not be a good read (although I’d probably read it anyway). This book wraps the creepy magic and secret societies around the mysterious death of a woman, a Yale student who can see ghosts, and her mentor who disappears. It also tackles some serious issues.

Here’s the thing about me: I read every night before I go to sleep. That’s how I read over 50 books in a year without really trying. I have to read. I read until my eyelids get heavy and I start to fall asleep.

After finishing Ninth House I couldn’t read. I didn’t read another book for about a week. I couldn’t get this book out of my head and I knew nothing else would be as satisfying. I don’t think it’s a literary masterpiece that will eventually be read by disgruntled English 101 students, but it hit every note for me and I absolutely loved it. (We read it for my work book club, and everyone who came to the discussion gave it a positive review.) While it could be read as a stand-alone and it has a solid ending, I still can’t wait for the sequel. Learn more.

Cover photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash. According to the Unsplash description, this is the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale.

Happy Secret Blogger Holidays!

I am frequently tired of “save the world” plots in games. Don’t get me wrong, its nice to be the hero in fantasy, but sometimes you want a more personal story. A story about people, trying to learn about themselves and grow. Sure, you might save some people along the way, solve some issues, retake a throne or two, but at the end of the day, its about the journey, not the destination.

I feel the same way. Can we scale down a bit? Fantasy and sci-fi games give us beautifully imagined worlds, but does every game have to be about saving that world?

I was excited to get Terminally Nerdy as my Secret Blogger Santa recipient. Here’s someone who also cares about stories in games, but is a much more prolific blogger than I am. I’ll definitely be following once this post goes live–I didn’t want to give myself away by following before.

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These Are a Few of my Favorite Posts

The Revival of City of Heroes – An excellent explanation of what happened after City of Heroes was shut down. My husband plays the game and it was interesting to read about the game’s mechanics, since I’ve never bothered to ask said husband.

A Nerdy Moment With: The Outer Worlds (A Review) – This game has been on my radar for a while and I wanted to see Clay’s impressions of the game. Now I’m even more on board–hopefully someone will gift me this one for Christmas or my birthday.

The Camp Halfblood Novels (Percy Jackson, The Kane Chronicles, Magnus Chase, and More): A Series Review – Clay also does book reviews!

TN’s Indie Impressions – Aurion, Legacy of the Kori-Odan – This is the post the intro quote comes from. Clay frequently covers indie games, which is awesome. I’m not sure I’ll play this particular one, but I appreciate all the indie game content.

A Gift From Me

Part of the Secret Blogger Santa prompt is to bestow a fictional gift on your recipient. For Clay, I’ve chosen a Crimson Welpling from World of Warcraft. As far as I know, Clay doesn’t play WoW (I didn’t see it mentioned in the blog) but I wanted to get him a little red dragon companion. For one, I was inspired by the critter Clay is holding onto in his header image. Even though I think that’s not a dragon since it doesn’t have feet. Wyvern? Basilisk? I’m not sure. Clay also mentions a red dragon in his later Bait Shop posts. So why not get him one? And I knew WoW was bound to have a few to choose from.

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Now Clay, don’t tie your Crimson Welpling up like you did with your Wyver-salisk. These little cuties don’t take well to chains. Make sure to feed him, too. He can get very hangry.

I hope you all check out Terminally Nerdy!

Cover photo by Michael Fenton on Unsplash. Happy Holidays!

The Parent Trope’s Top 5 Games of the Decade

Before writing this, I had to decide if I wanted to base this list on games I played from 2010-2020, or games that were released between 2010 and 2020. I ended up going with the release date, mainly because I couldn’t remember if I played Dragon Age: Origins in 2009 or 2010. (I think it was 2009.)

5. The Sims 4

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I didn’t like The Sims 4 as much as The Sims 3, but 3 came out in July 2009. And even though I miss many things about 3, I’ve still enjoyed 4 quite a bit after I got over the fact that it just wasn’t going to have the create-a-style tool. The graphics in The Sims 4 are gorgeous, and even with more limited options I’ve had a lot of fun building various things in the game. Such that I’ve clocked a lot of hours in the game. I don’t know how to check that in Origin, and frankly I’m not sure I want to know.

4. Life is Strange

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I like adventure games. Life is Strange is an amazing adventure game. I was completely hooked by this story, and the time travel piece added just the right extra element. I played quite a few adventure games in this decade, but this one has to be my favorite. The plot, the characters, the choices, the incredible length of the thing. It somehow manages to be a classic adventure game and a modern game at the same time.

3. Civilization 6

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Civ 6 was my game of the year last year, and honestly I thought about making it game of the year again for 2019, because it’s that good. The Gathering Storm added many fun new systems to the game that made it exciting all over again. It might even be my favorite Civ game, although I still have a special place in my heart for Civ 3.

2. Don’t Starve

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This is one of my favorite games ever. Top five for sure. If we’re just going by hours played it would probably be number two (after The Sims 3). Let’s not find out, though, because that would be embarrassing. The point is, I love this game. A friend told me about it when it was released in 2013 and then I spent so much time trying not to die.

Don’t Starve made me think I like survival games, but eventually I realized that I don’t. I just like Don’t Starve. I like the artsy graphics that look hand-drawn. I like the little characters and their quirks. I like the weirdness of it all. That’s what I like the best. Running into something and not knowing if it’s going to kill you or if you can chop it down or eat it. Maybe it will make you go insane and start seeing shadow creatures. If it chases you, jump down a wormhole and end up who knows where.

1. Mass Effect 2

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Mass Effect 2 barely scrapes into the list having a release date of January 2010. I played Mass Effect 2 after finishing Dragon Age: Origins and hearing that Mass Effect was “like Dragon Age in space.” It did not disappoint. I don’t know why I started with 2 and not 1, but I loved 2 enough that I went back to play 1.

Mass Effect 1 had overly complicated combat and that terrible mako vehicle you had to drive around on occasion (see why I never got past the 4 hour mark in Mass Effect: Andromeda). But by now I was hooked on this whole universe and I wanted to start Mass Effect 2 with choices I actually made in the first game. Plus, I’d discovered the joy of playing renegade–and I really wanted to be able to recruit Morinth.

This game is, to me, what an RPG should be. Intriguing plot, exceptional characters, smooth combat, and not wasting countless minutes getting from quest point A to quest point B because someone decided all RPGs have to be “open world.” It’s the best. I don’t think we’ll ever get a game quite like it.

Cover image via xbox wallpapers.

Finding Time for Gaming as a Parent

I’m writing this with my almost-four-year-old hanging on my arm. He’s at the age where he wants to spend 100% of his waking hours (and let’s be honest, his sleeping hours as well) with me or his dad. With jobs and other responsibilities, it’s hard to find time to play video games. Gone are the weekends where I used to spend all day in front of the computer, immersed in another world. I still want to play video games, though, and I know I’m not alone. I belong to a Facebook group for parents who like video games. Many of my fellow gaming bloggers happen to be parents as well. We have kids, we want to game, but how do we find the time? I asked the Facebook group for their tips and compiled my own, and the result is this list.

Game With Your Kid

This works best for older kids. Indy is just getting to the age where he’s able to play some basic games with grown-ups. Sometimes we take turns playing fruit ninja on my phone. He spends more time meticulously choosing his blade and background than actually slicing fruit, but that’s fine. He plays Mario Kart with my brother. He’s terrible at it, but he has fun and you have to start somewhere. Nintendo Wii and classic systems and lego games come highly recommended for playing with your kid.

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Not all games are kid-friendly, though. I’ve been playing Witcher 3 and I don’t want to play that with my kid around, much less play it with him. Although, I remember my husband playing Witcher 3 on the xbox while holding our child as a tiny baby.

Game During Nap Time

This works particularly well if you’re a Stay-At-Home-Parent, but there is one important requirement: your kid has to take naps. Indy stopped taking naps at about 2 1/2, and no longer having nap time cut big into gaming time. We miss nap time.

On weekends, we’ve replaced it with…

Game During Screen Time

We give our kid some screen time on weekend afternoons that usually turns into game time for me. The feasibility of this technique depends on your kid’s age, how much screen time you want them to have, and if they’re the sort of kid who will sit happily in front of a screen and not bother you for a few hours. Plop the kid down with some educational games on the tablet and go play some less educational games yourself.

Hire a Babysitter

Babysitters don’t have to just be for going out! Recently my parents took Indy for the weekend and while my husband and I did go out for dinner, we spent most of the following afternoon playing video games. (This might sound like a cute couple bonding experience, but he played City of Heroes in the living room while I played Witcher 3 upstairs.) I played the game straight for about four hours.

Take a Day Off Work

I used to take a day off work whenever Bioware launched a new Dragon Age or Mass Effect game. I know I’m not alone in this technique–a former coworker took a day off for Fallout 4. If Dragon Age 4 ever comes out, I’ll probably do this again. Having a SAHD husband makes me feel a bit guilty about it. This method only works for working parents.

Game While Your Kid’s Sleeping

This technique came up the most in the Facebook group and it’s something we do, too. My husband does group content with his City of Heroes guild Sunday evenings after the kid goes to bed. I don’t game every night, but sometimes I’ll get an hour of playtime after he goes to sleep.

If after bedtime doesn’t work for you, early morning is possible. One person on the Facebook group noted that her husband gets up at 5am to play. I’m definitely not a morning person, but if you are, that’s an option.

Make Gaming a Priority

Before you have kids, it’s easier to find time to game. I remember getting off work for the weekend and having two whole days of nothing to do stretched out before me. Now that I have a kid, I have to be more strategic. If I want to game, I have to keep in mind that it’s something I want to make time to do. After you have kids, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit all your leisure activities into your now much busier schedule. You might have to drop a thing or two. For me, I don’t binge watch TV anymore. I realized it was very time sucking and not as gratifying as gaming or reading.

Gaming might take precedence over other activities, too. One person in my Facebook group said, “We definitely play instead of, like, cleaning, which isn’t the most adult decision we’ve ever made.”

Take a Break

Maybe none of these ideas will work for you and your family, or maybe you’re just too tired and need to prioritize sleep. That’s understandable. Hopefully one day our kids will be grown, the economy won’t have collapsed so we’ll all have ample money to retire on, and we’ll have all the free time in the world. We can move into a comfy nursing home with great wifi and game the day away until our 5pm dinner.

When my kid was a newborn, I didn’t game. I was too exhausted. Having a newborn took every ounce of energy out of me. But eventually he got bigger, started sleeping though the night, and taking regularly scheduled naps. Then I could game again.

Several people in the Facebook group commented that they no longer have time to game, but for now enjoy living vicariously through the group and enjoy the memes.

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Cover Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash. This is not my kid and I don’t own a Switch.

Life Update: Early December, 2019

I thought it was past time for a blog post, so here’s what’s been going on with me and my family lately. Since the last update I did was back in September 2018, I have a few things to catch up on.

The biggest change for our family is that my husband Will became a stay at home dad! This is an old update; we’ve been doing this for about a year now. I don’t remember the exact date. Like all things, there’s positives and negatives. We have to make less money go further, but we also have more flexibility. Since I work from home, it means we’re all home most of the time. That’s been a challenge for me working, so I’m on a waiting list for a local coworking space. I hope one opens soon!

In other big news, we got a puppy! Maebel came to live with us last May. She is a lab mix rescue and while I love her, she’s been a lot for this Cat Person to handle. I realize a puppy pic is required here.

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And here she is now (about 9 months old)!

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And I got an iPhone 11, which means a significant phone picture quality upgrade from my old 8.

This summer, Will and I took a trip with my dad, uncle, and some cousins to Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. We camped, canoed, and picked tons of wild blueberries. It was beautiful.

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In September I went to San Francisco for a conference called Calibrate for software engineering leaders. It was amazing, and I’m sad it’s the last one but happy I was able to make it to attend this one. I stayed an extra day and met up with a friend. Her fiance happened to be joining some clients on their belated holiday party on a boat in the bay. We were invited to join. It was a once in a lifetime experience for someone like me, a Michigander who doesn’t get out to the West Coast very often!

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I haven’t spent a ton of time gaming. I briefly dabbled with WoW Classic, but got bored and gave up. I’ve played some Civ 6 (the Gathering Storm expansion is a lot of fun), Sims 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition (for the third time), and I have gotten further in The Witcher 3. I was thinking about how last year I did a game of the year, but I don’t think I have the heart to do that this year. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and buy RimWorld even though it never goes on sale on Steam [rage emoji]. I know I’d love that game. But I did have my question answered in this episode of the Massively OP podcast, so that’s cool (if only I could pick an MMO to actually try and find a guild in). I showed my kid Indy* Fruit Ninja on my phone and we play that together sometimes!

I’m still doing a lot of knitting and yarn dying, but since I can’t knit yarn as fast as I can dye it, I’ve slowed down on the dyeing front. Here’s a recent skein dyed based on early fall colors and I love how it turned out!

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My husband and dad have been working together to build a deck for our house in the backyard. It’s almost done and they just need to add stairs. We live in Michigan, which means they’ve had to do a considerable amount of deck building in cold and even snowy weather. (I don’t have a photo of the deck. Don’t tell my husband.)

I barely won NaNoWriMo! This is my second win. My first was way back in 2012. (If you don’t already know, NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge in November to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month.) I finished at 50,010 words. The novel is incomplete, and if I’m being honest, I’ll probably rewrite most of it if I decide to continue the project.

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Speaking of challenges, I finished my 50th book for 2019, completing my Goodreads challenge. Book number 50 was Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I highly recommend it if you like real world magic and secret societies.

And that’s it, sort of an early 2019 recap! Bring on 2020!

Cover image taken by me at LSPP in Canada.

Witcher 3 First Impressions: Is it Really an RPG Though?

I realize it’s been months since I last posted, and here I am ready to talk about a game I recently started playing: The Witcher 3. Yeah, I know, it came out in 2015. I’m a bit behind. I bought it on Steam sale for about $7 and decided to give it a whirl. Even though it’s a narrative heavy RPG (something I like) I’d avoided it because I prefer RPGs where I can customize my character or at the very least play as a woman. In The Witcher 3 you’re stuck playing Geralt, an overly-buff, white-haired sword wielder who has a few minor magical abilities.

Playing Geralt definitely feels like I’m in a heterosexual male fantasy: he’s muscular, sarcastic, and has plenty of girlfriends. His voice is deep and grizzled, and I wonder how many packs of cigarettes the voice actor had to smoke before completing his scenes. I rebel by making my Geralt the kindest possible version of himself in his dialog options.

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Geralt. So broad-shouldered. So gravely-voiced.

I play this and wonder if you can really call it an RPG? RPG stands for “Role Playing Game” and while technically you’re playing the role of Geralt, the term RPG is taken from the tabletop gaming world where players create their own characters. Can a game be considered an RPG if you’re forced to play a specific character? Or is Witcher 3 more of an adventure game with combat? Most people wouldn’t call Life is Strange a roleplaying game even though you’re playing the role of Max Caulfield. What makes that an adventure game but Witcher 3 an RPG? Is Witcher 3 an RPG because of it’s fantasy setting? is Life is Strange an adventure game because there’s no combat? I really don’t know–let me know what you think in the comments.

On to better topics: cats in the game, and whether or not you can pet them.

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Early in the game I ended up at a tavern and while questioning in the patrons I found a cat. I couldn’t pet the cat and the cat hissed at me. It might have something to do with my cat eyes. Very disappointing.

Despite not being able to pet the cat and Geralt not being my ideal player character (he does have nice hair and the cat eyes are cool), I am interested in the lore. I’ll try to focus on that as I keep playing.

Cover image via this website. I thought I’d finally found one without a person in it, but I was wrong. Cat photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

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.