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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I talked about motivations for blogging, today I’m talking about motivations for gaming. I’ve taken the Bartle test (I’m an Explorer) and the Quantic Foundry Motivation Profile (I’m Calm, Spontaneous, Relaxed, Deeply Immersed, and Creative!). Given my results and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a list of my own motivations for gaming.
When I’m playing video games I like to be surprised. One of my favorite gaming moments was playing Don’t Starve. If you’re not familiar, it’s a survival game with stylized graphics and a creepy atmosphere. I didn’t expect it to be my cup of tea, but a friend raved about it and it was on sale for five dollars. I hadn’t gotten very far and was exploring when I came across a chest. I opened it and it suddenly became winter, but inside was a bunch of treasures to help me survive the season. Woah! My reaction was “Holy crap, what is happening?”
Exploration for exploration’s sake doesn’t do it for me. I need a reason to explore. In Don’t Starve, if you don’t explore and collect things you need, you’ll die. The reason might be that you’re trapped in a giant virtual maze and need to find the way out. Or perhaps you’re looking for clues to solve a mystery.
I love a good story. I like reading them, hearing them, writing them, but most of all playing them. Here’s another gaming moment. I was playing Dragon Age: Origins for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect from the game, but I met the character Alistair and he was sarcastic and funny. I thought to myself, “This character is awesome! I hope he sticks around for a while!” You know what ruins a good story in a video game? Bioware clearly forgot: Pointless. Side. Quests.
I have yet to find a game that successfully blends story and exploration. The closest I can think of us Skyrim, but I had to force myself out of a “I have this list of quests and I must go do them” mindset to enjoy that game. Firewatch comes to mind. I remember moments where I felt like I was exploring, but the game was linear. Myst perhaps; but I don’t remember the story of Myst. I remember the puzzles. I used to want this: a game where you explored and it told a story. I’ve begun to think that every game that tries this fails. I’d rather have one or the other.
The Sims 3 is my favorite Sims. I like the creation part of the Sims games: outfits, houses, public places, etc. The Sims 3 let you be meticulous about design elements with the create-a-style tool. It broke my heart when it wasn’t in The Sims 4. (I’ve still been playing 4 because the graphics are so pretty.) I haven’t really found another game that scratches my creative itch.
This is where the programmer in me comes out: I like to solve puzzles. I like to figure out the best way to win. I’m not into making spreadsheets to determine the best stats for my WoW character. I prefer trial and error: If I do this, will I get more points? What does this weapon do and is it effective for my play style? My favorite way to find out is to try it.
What motivates you to play video games?
Strategy is why I’ve been playing Civ 6, but if you want to know why I often quit halfway through the game and start over, look back to Exploration. Cover image from the very beginning of one of my games. What’s out there?
You create your Sim family and purchase them a one-bedroom, poorly decorated house. You give them entry level jobs. They had to work, do their jobs, get promotions, and eventually you can update the house…
Yeah, right. You create your family and without hesitation, pop in the money cheat. Now they’re rich and you move them to the biggest and create them the your amazing fancy dream house. I can’t imagine playing The Sims without the money cheat. Sure, I’ve played some families with limited means and tried out the legacy challenge, but it’s way more fun building houses with indoor swimming pools.
Then I send them to work anyway because they can only swim in their indoor pool so many times before it gets boring.
You want a job? Just go on your computer and get an entry level job in the field of your choice. Your requirements for a promotion are clearly laid out. No applications and cover letters, no “it’s who you know, not what you know”, and no office politics.
Bonehilda is a skeletal butler that your sims could purchase and the only buyable item in the game that stood out to me when . She came with expansion packs for Sims 1 and 3. She was the best thing in the Sims 3 Supernatural pack, which I otherwise found rather mediocre. Unlike human butlers, she doesn’t have regular human needs. If you buy multiple Bonehildas, they’ll team up and work together. If they run out of things to do, they’ll train your dog. How awesome is that?
There’s one other buyable item: I remember Sims 3 had a teleporter. Since teleportation is my hypothetical superpower of choice, I’d take the device.
Click to Redecorate
Tired of blue walls? Click! Now they’re purple! Drag and drop a giant painting on the wall. Replace your sofa with just a few mouse clicks. Even if you pay for painting, furniture delivery, and art installation in real life, you still have to wait for the professionals. In the Sims, you can try a different decor style every day.
Change your Look
In real life if you decide you want to loose weight, you usually have to follow a diet and exercise plan. It’s hard. It takes a long time. It’s difficult to maintain. In the Sims, all you have to do is exercise a few times and boom, you’ve lost weight. If you want to gain weight, that’s easy, too. Just eat when you’re already full a couple times and off you go.
Changing your hair is easier, too. A major hair change in real life requires a trip to the salon. In the Sims, you just need a trip to your nearest mirror.
Talk to Strangers
Making friends as a grown up in real life is hard. Making friends in the Sims is easy. Step 1, go to a public location and chat up some strangers. They won’t find this strange at all. They’ll be happy to stand and talk to you until one of you needs to use the bathroom. Step two, tell a lot of jokes. Funny interactions boost relationships. You can go from complete strangers to friends in one or two days. Then you have to maintain the friendship, which is a lot more like real life: spending time with the other person.
Sim life would be pretty awesome. But it would also take you about a half hour to go to the bathroom. It’s way easier to set fires in your kitchen. Ghosts and vampires are real. I like being able to cook more than 5-20 different dishes. I’ll take real life for now, but if someone could come up with a way that I can redecorate my house by clicking and dragging my mouse, that would be awesome. I’d have my art hanging on the walls instead of just leaning up against them.
Question: If you grew and butchered a cow plant, would the meat be vegetarian?
Cover image from the Sims 4 Outdoor Retreat pack. I want to go to there.
Happy Blaugust! I’m so excited to be part of this terrific community of bloggers. If it wasn’t for this event, I’d still be overthinking the whole blogging thing. This blog would not exist. You wouldn’t be reading it. My fiancé and I wouldn’t have started playing World of Warcraft again. (Yeah, after more overthinking we decided to give it a go. We rolled a couple level 1 Goblins just for fun. Let me know if you want to play with us!)
The concept of the initial Blaugust was to write one post every day August. Blaugust Reborn has different goal tiers. I’m aiming for 15 posts. I could do more, but I’m a parent, and I have a full-time job. Sometimes writing a blog post during my lunch break isn’t what I want to spend it doing. I don’t particularly like doing thing-a-day style challenges. 15 gives me enough days off in case something comes up but I’ll still get the Silver award. If I write more, awesome. If a catastrophe happens and I end up writing less, oh well.
Lucky for us, I already have a plethora of post ideas bumbling around in my head. Stay tuned for thoughts on topics such as:
Nerding out when you’re in a relationship with a Jock
Why “nerd” is a way better term than “geek”
Protecting your data online
Kids and online bullying and harassment
Adventure game recommendations
Parents in video games
Learning to code
How parenting has changed since we were kids
Pictures of my cats
Screenshots of my adorable shoblin
If you have a suggestion of a topic that intersects parenting and technology, please send me a note. I’m also looking for stories and insights from parents of older kids. When do you give them a cell phone? How much should you monitor what they’re doing online? As a parent of a 2-year-old, these are things I’m thinking worrying about already.
I used to be ashamed of it, too, because I was generally ashamed of being a nerd. I started because a friend showed me the intro video, and then I got my boyfriend at the time to play with me. I was a human warlock. We found a small guild and hung out with them mainly letting them bring us through low-level dungeons. It was all good until the guild leader started to get a bit weird.
We moved to DC and after a while got the itch to play again, so we switched servers and joined a casual RP guild, which unbeknownst to us was run by another DC-area couple. My happiest WoW memories were during this time. We met up with the guild leaders a few times and I became a guild officer. It was during vanilla and Burning Crusade and I remember having a lot of fun running Karazhan. It fell apart when my relationship ended.
When I felt the itch to play WoW again, I felt strange about going back to my old guild. In retrospect, it probably would’ve been fine. But instead I joined a different RP guild and had fun with them for a while running regular RP events and raiding in Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm.
I left them to start a new character, Horde-side, with some friends from work. That didn’t last very long, but I remember it fondly. I think this was around the time of Mists of Pandaria, and that whole expansion completely turned me off from the game.
When Warlords of Draenor came out, I thought I’d look up the old guild from Burning Crusade times. They were still around and had decided to get back into WoW after spending some time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. I played for a few days. I wasn’t having fun. I apologized and quit, saying to myself:
This time it would be for good.
But now there’s a new expansion coming out and the hype train is trying to get me on board. What’s making it hard to resist is that I haven’t been able to find another MMO to occupy this WoW-shaped hole in my gaming life. This is really the topic for a whole different blog post, but I’ve tried Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online, LOTRO, SWTOR. I play The Secret World: Legends, but I play it as a single player game. Here I am, days before a new expansion, and I’ve got it bad.
I’ve got The WoW Itch.
I’ve missed it. I’ve felt like playing in the past, and always pushed it back with the thought “Nah, I said I’d quit for good.” With Blaugust starting, I’ve had the idea that I could try it for Blaugust and see how it goes. If I’m still having fun at the end of the month, I’ll continue. If not I’ll quit (for good for really for realz this time).
It would give me something to write about. It would be fun. Right?
If I play again, I want to play Horde. I’ve always loved Goblins in the game and never played one.
Would my fiancé want to play with me? Maybe, he’s been playing Diablo III every night for a while now.
My old character is still on my old guild’s roster, but as I said before, I want to play Horde. Even if I play Alliance, I’m certainly done playing a warlock.
Would I be able to find a new guild?
Would it be a complete waste of time?
Some of my fondest gaming memories come from playing with my little brother. He’s 8 years younger than me, and I’d often let him shoot or fight while I moved the character around on the screen. What I don’t really remember is how old we were when we played together, and I’d like to know, because I’ve been wondering:
When will I be able to play games like this with my 2 1/2 year old? Could we start now?
Currently the only game I ever play “with” him is Pokemon Go. I’m not counting pushing him around in the stroller while I visit PokeStops. He likes to watch me do maintenance tasks like transfer and heal my Pokemon. (We refer to them as Pokemans at home, but I’ll spare you all.) He likes to click on the Pokemon so they do their little action and spin them around on the screen. It’s not much, but he becomes quite whiny when it’s time to be done, so I’m not inclined to do it with him very often regardless of how much he asks to see “Poke-Hands.”
Should you let your toddler watch you play video games? Would this allow you to get a bit more gaming time in and bond with your kid at the same time, or would it just be frustrating for both of you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if this might be worthwhile.
Can your toddler handle watching without participating?
The latest episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Massively OP, not only MENTIONS THIS BLOG (!!!) but includes one of the hosts (Justin) discussing playing games while his kids watch. My child is not ready to handle this yet. I mostly play on the PC, and he can’t deal with being around someone on a computer without wanting to use the keyboard and mouse himself. This is completely understandable. He’s a toddler, and to him a keyboard is just a slab covered with buttons. How could he possibly resist?
You might get away with giving your toddler a spare keyboard or controller so they think they’re playing, even if their button smashing doesn’t actually do anything. You’d have to be sure they wouldn’t realize what was going on, or just want to use your controller for no other reason than it’s the one you’re using.
Is the content appropriate for your toddler?
I leave it up to individual parents to decide what content is appropriate for their children. If you really want to play something super violent and you don’t want your kid exposed to that kind of content, you might want to wait to play that particular game after they go to bed. Check your Steam list and determine if there’s anything you want to play that you feel comfortable playing in front of your kid.
Are you concerned about screen time?
Disclaimer: I’m not a pediatrician, psychologist, child development specialist, or parenting “expert” so if you’re concerned about screen time, I highly encourage you to do your own research. That said, I think if you’re actively engaged interacting with your child while you’re playing, it seems like more quality time than sticking them alone to zone out in front of a TV show.
In my personal experience, my toddler becomes a mini tyrant once the TV or phone is turned off. This discourages us from wanting to give him any to avoid the affront to our ears when it’s time to stop.
Do you just not want to?
In the podcast episode, Justin talks about how his kids issue instructions at him when he plays The Sims. Maybe you don’t want this. Maybe you want to make your own decisions and not have a high pitched voice telling you what to do for once. Maybe you just want to play your game by yourself.
I’m passing on playing video games with my son for now. I think it will be something fun we can do together when he’s a little older, when he’s not ripping the keyboard out of my hands and throwing a tantrum when it’s time to put it away.
For those of you with toddlers, do they ever watch you play video games? How does it go? For those with older kids, how old were they when you started gaming together?