The 2019 Normal Happenings Blog Awards: Now Accepting Nominations


  • The 2019 NH Blog Awards will be taking place on February 26, 2019.
  • Five categories exemplifying the best of blogging.
  • Accepting nominations within!

Blogs are great!
Readers are great!
Here’s a great idea!

The 2019 Normal Happenings 
Blog Awards!

We always want to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people in our little corner of the blogosphere! That is what Nice Job Badges are for, after all. So many of you have spurred our desire for crafting excellent blog posts, and we couldn’t have done it without the constant support of our community. From commenters to contributors to Twitter aficionados, it has been a pleasure interacting with each and every one of you.

But sometimes we want to do more than give a nod to great posts during the week. Sometimes we want to do something really big! Normal Happenings started on February 26, 2018, and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate our birthday than celebrating the year’s best of the best. Therefore on February 26, 2019, we will be doing the first annual Normal Happenings Blog Awards!

Here are the categories:

  • 2018’s Best Overall Blogger!
  • 2018’s Best Solo Blog Post!
  • 2018’s Most Creative Blog Post!
  • 2018’s Best Collaboration!
  • 2018’s Kindest Blogger!

Catchy, right? In my estimation, they exemplify the best qualities of blogs and their bloggers, and they deserve recognition of their hard work. Megan from A Geeky Gal has once again graciously volunteered to design some big, fancy badges to commemorate the winners.

This is going to be a collaborative effort. You see, we need your help determining the winners. If you’re like us, certain blog posts from the year have stuck in our memory, defining our life’s journey in some small way. We would like to know what those are for you, so we need your nominations. All nominations will be listed in the awards post, and you will receive a shout-out for your picks!

There are three ways to nominate:

  • The best way is to use the nifty nomination contact form affixed to this post.
  • You can also send Normal Happenings a message on Twitter.
  • If you’d like, you can send us a DM on Instagram.

Please be sure to include the category of your nomination, as well as the needed URL’s so we can read them. Feel free to add why you picked your selections, if you wish. Oh and…

  • Please don’t nominate yourself (or any guest post on your own site).
  • Please don’t nominate any links specifically on Normal Happenings, but feel free to nominate any blogger you like!
  • This is a bit awkward, but please don’t nominate Nikki or me.

I know, I know, that eliminates some good stuff, but I think it’s a good policy.

After compiling all of the nominations, which we will do on February 9, 2019, we will seed the results based on how many nominations they received. If there is a clear and decisive winner, I won’t worry about running a poll and go ahead and slot the winner for the award. If it is remotely close, I will run a series of two-option Twitter polls in a type of bracket format. While Normal Happenings will ultimately pick the winner, there is a very good chance it will be the winner of those polls. Therefore, we highly recommend following us on Twitter so you can be a part of the selection process!

On February 26, 2019 we will announce the winners in a big post! So we hope you are looking forward to this big event! With that, let’s get to nominating!

Reminder of the categories:

  • 2018’s Best Overall Blogger!
  • 2018’s Best Solo Blog Post!
  • 2018’s Most Creative Blog Post!
  • 2018’s Best Collaboration!
  • 2018’s Kindest Blogger!

Nice Job Badges | January 11


  • Posts from around the blogosphere worthy of a “Nice Job!”
  • If you win one, feel free to add it to your post/site with a pingback.
  • In no particular order — they’re all great!

Nice Job Badges

Vol. 2, No. 2 | Prev · Next

Greetings everyone, we hope you’re enjoying the second Friday of the year! Of course, here in St. Louis, we’re on the eve of a major league snowstorm, so we hope it’s nice, sunny, and warm wherever you are. Anyway, let’s kick off the weekend with some Nice Job Badges!

My Personal Life in 2018: It Was The Worst Of Times | Matt Doyle Media

“Objectively speaking, 2018 was the worst year of my life. For all the positives that have cropped up during my creative endeavors, the bad far outweighs it all.”

This is a tough one to start out with. It’s regretful to hear about all of the challenges Matt Doyle and his family have gone through in 2018. Of course as expected it’s a wonderfully written post, but he also deserves a “nice job” for sticking with things, especially creative, when life is hard. Everyone should swing by and leave an encouraging remark. Here’s hoping your 2019 bodes much better for you, Matt!

Home Button’s 2018 Random Awards | Home Button

“Now that I’ve thrown out my Top Ten Games of 2018, I thought it would be fun to throw out other random awards that are relevant to 2018. All of these are just off the top of my head, and will have no overarching rhyme or reason in their choice.”

I admit, this post got a Nice Job Badge for one particular reason: I love the idea of random award categories. Think the Dundee awards in The Office (U.S.). While not completely arbitrary, Daniel also provides a lit of unique video games you should get your hand on if you finds yourself with time to play. Well, except for the “worst game he played in 2018,” which you might should consider skipping.

First Games | AmbiGaming

“Kirby was my first game that was really mine, if you don’t count the creepy Sesame Street game or M.C. Kids. At any rate, I am sure I used to drive my dad nuts when I would play Kirby because I loved the high-pitched trill Kirby made when trying to inhale an enemy.
…and may have imitated it once or twice.”

Long-time followers of Normal Happenings will pick up on why this post got selected quite quickly. Kirby’s Adventure is the first game I ever played, and to see it on this amazing blogger’s list was so satisfying. I, too, attempted to imitate Kirby’s high-pitched inhale squeal.

📣 squeeeeee ee ee eeeeee ee ee eeeeee…

Stay a minute longer | The Rendezvous Club

“Stay, stay a minute longer
I know you’ve got places to be
But my secrets can’t be held back any longer
And my hands don’t like staying cold either”

It takes a lot to get me to emotionally react to poetry, but Thought For Change always has a knack for making me do just that. If I had to sum up this poem in one word, it would be “yearning.” Instead of providing a review, however, who don’t you go check out this brilliant blogger’s piece for yourself. And be sure to follow while you’re there. They’ve always been kind and encouraging to Normal Happenings, and deserve all the recognition in the world.

Create Your Own Conspiracy Theory | McWritestuff

“Are you bored by the truth? Do people always correct your misconceptions with facts? Do you wish there was a way to make up a lie too outrageous to disprove? If that’s the case, then you have been selected by the twelve Alien races to create your very own conspiracy theory!”

Let’s end today’s awards with a brilliant little comedy piece by Twitter savant McWritestuff, who I believe is making his first appearance on the Nice Job Badges list. Apparently, you’re not supposed to but tinfoil when crafting a conspiracy theory, so now what am I supposed to do with the five packages at home? Learn some recipes, I guess. Anyway, so give this wonderfully comedic blogger a follow.

And thus concludes this week’s Nice Job Badges. I trust I’m doing a better job this year of keeping these posts nice and concise. You have no idea how hard it is for me to avoid composing a 2,000 word treatise on the inherent —

No Matt, you must not ramble.

Did I miss any amazing posts deserving of a Nice Job Badge? Let us know in the comments, and we’re happy to put them in the running for next week. And, of course, you can submit Nice Job Badge nominations any time you want on Twitter. You’ll get a shout-out for any posts that get selected for badges. As always, have a great week, and keep on doing a Nice Job at life!

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings.


What a Pessimistically Optimistic World We Weave

💬 Highlights:

  • There is a concerning obsession for pessimism in world slowly improving.
  • While not blind to the problems of the world, I strongly desire to make the world better.
  • Many Normal Happenings features this year will be thematically optimistic.

🎧 Recommended Listening:

Your First Light My Eventide, The Echelon Effect

“What a Pessimistically Optimistic World We Weave”

Season 2, Episode 1

Do you remember back in December 2012, when the world was at least in part convinced themselves that the world was just going to end? That, even after all of the little story arcs in all of our lives, Earth was simply going to blink out of existence. Books and documentaries of both prophetic doomsday and analytical reassurance rivaled each other on the shelves of their media marketplaces. The whole pandemonium seemed a bit childish, especially six years removed from the calamity of never.

Yet, I too became fascinated with the phenomenon, not because I for a second believed the end was upon us — though I was slightly concerned that humans and their propensity towards self-fulfilling prophecy were going to find a way to make it happen — but rather how fully many had accepted their impending fate. I recall several media agencies were positing that these types of people felt, even desired, the end of the world out of a sense of misguided judgement. “How could any reasonable person want the world to end?” I asked myself, the burgeoning activist inside of me immediately interpreting such a sentiment as an unusual form of victim blaming.

Fast forward to the present day, however, and I begin to wonder if perhaps there may be some truth to these end-of-the-world desires after all. I suspected our cultural obsession with dystopian literature would subside a few months after the daily life of 2013 kicked in. It has not; the thrill and joy of living has not ushered in a new golden era of optimism. It is as if, despite the world being at a more positive point than it ever has in human history, society is more obsessed with pessimism than it has been in a long time. And, in the face of so many technological, medical, and scientific breakthroughs, I believe that mentality is harming us. I wish to do something about that, in small or in large — whatever opportunities I’m blessed with to show the beauty of life among the pain so self-evident.

As with all explorations of optimism, I would be remiss without noting that I am not naive to the issues of the world. We’re currently dealing with major battles on two fronts: accelerating climate change, of which we can really only hope technology provides a conduit towards restoration of natural habitats, and sociopolitical pressure that stalls human rights process at a rate I would like to see. These are highly complex issues far outside of the realm of Normal Happenings, but I feel it is important to note that I do not follow blind idealism. Rather, I am the type of person who harnesses that idealism in an attempt to make small portions of the world a better place. All of that is to say, this year in particular for Normal Happenings will focus on unrelenting optimism — a focus on futurism in the context that life can continue to improve on a macro scale if indeed humans are overall good as I suspect.

As the first feature of the year, and a bit of a soft reboot for Normal Happenings, I want this piece to serve as an introduction for the themes you are likely to see this year. It is very brave to be defiantly an optimist in the face of such cynicism, but if others cannot because of culture or experiences, I will. It is my responsibility. I hope you will join me in viewing the world from a more positive perspective. We are the ones making up this amazing planet after all. We deserve to be happy. Our art, our literature, our engineering and architecture, technological advancements and philosophical musings — all of it is beautiful. With the overwhelming effort we put into our accomplishments, we can and will build a future better than the ones depicted in the pessimistic media we love so much. While Normal Happenings will, of course, be about a great many things this year, don’t be surprised if it all comes back to finding ways to make the world a better place. Sometimes the simplest messages are ones that need the most repetition to be understood.

So, let’s discuss. Do you believe there is a lack of optimism in today’s culture. If so, how do you feel about that? And if not, let me know how I can alter my own perspective to see how people themselves are being positive. I would also love some recommendations on some good books, films, television shows, video games, or podcasts that reflect an optimistic perspective. Until next time, may your days be anything but normal!

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content! Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings.


Nice Job Badges | January 3


  • Posts from around the blogosphere worthy of a “Nice Job!”
  • If you win one, feel free to add it to your post/site with a pingback.
  • In no particular order — they’re all great!

Nice Job Badges

Vol. 2, No. 1 | Next

Well hello there! I hope the first four days of your 2019 have been a smashing success! It turns out that we haven’t given out Nice Job Badges since September 21, 2018. Yikes, talk about a great thing getting lost within the holiday frenzy of posts. We’re going to try to do better this year, dedicating Fridays purely to badges. As such, we’ve also removed a lot of bloat from the format, focusing instead on these brilliant writers. No more using badge posts as an excuse for updates — just an intro, five Nice Job Badges, and a brief conclusion.

My 2018: year in review | Geeky Hippie

“Overall 2018 was an amazing year for me, one of big change, self development, more time spent with friends and what felt like gaining a new sense of freedom.”

This week something cool happened! A great blogger I had never met became part of the new Spring 2019 Tracking Shells collaboration! I wanted to show off Sally’s amazing writing skills over at Geeky Hippie. There is not a ton of recent writing, but the stuff that is there is gold. And that site design is absolutely gorgeous! Go follow Geeky Hippie — I predict great things coming from this blogger in the future.

2019 Resolutions | Nerd Side of Life

“I write a lot about how I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. They’re bound to fail and I can never think of anything that I’ll actually succeed at – hence why I never make them. But this year, I’m going to make a good solid attempt.”

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I think that Alyssa from Nerd Side of Life might be one of the most underrated bloggers in the blogosphere right now.

✔️ Blog design: on point.
✔️ Content: cool and informative.
✔️ Writing voice: fun and quirky.

I guess what I’m saying is this Games That Define Us alum deserves more followers. Care to do something about it?

Oh also, this New Year’s resolution post is pretty cool, too.

Video games: stuck on repeat | Later Levels

“I thought I’d have a quick scan to see which titles had made the list [of best-selling games of 2018] and something struck me: almost every single entry was either a sequel or one featuring characters from an existing franchise.”

“Hey, where’s your weekly Nice Job Badge for Kim at Later Levels?” You may be asking yourself this question, but rest assured I never need too much of an excuse to award one of my blogging heroes. Let’s be honest, though, it was the graphs that won me over to this post. For some, flowers are the quickest way to the heart; for others, it’s food. For me, it’s graphs. This is a fantastic, well-researched read worthy of your time.

Also, and this is a big deal. You are requested and required to vote for Later Levels in the 2019 UK Blog Awards. It takes, like, two clicks. But do it!

Mom’s Beef and Broccoli | Sheikah Plate

“As I’ve mentioned before, my mom lived in Taiwan for a few years in her twenties. This means that, not only did she come home with some amazing experiences, but she came home with some amazing small-town, authentic Taiwanese/Chinese recipes. But this one is my favorite.”

You know those films that are so obviously designed from conception to win awards? I don’t know why, but “Mom’s Beef and Broccoli” by the amazingly talented Teri Mae feels like that… and it totally worked! Filled with delicious food and a heartwarming dedication to her mother, I couldn’t tell if the unusual feeling in my stomach was hunger or an emotional reaction to her wonderful story.

Also, we can’t wait to see how she somehow pairs fanciful dining with Mario Kart in Tracking Shells. She’ll probably combine banana peels and octopus ink, somehow.

TWRMradio2019 – “A Year of Music” | The Well-Red Mage

“It’s 2019 and we’re introducing an entire year of video game music! What better way to celebrate the games that bring us together and fill the next 365 days with wonder, joy, and curiosity than by filling it with music?”

Oh Well-Red… do you even know what you’re getting into? Do you understand the implications of taking-on a year-long project like this? I mean, fine, you probably do. I am a huge fan of long undertakings — coming from a person who publishes a new writing prompt every single day, I understand the planning and commitment it takes to pull off a daily feature without exception. It’s like grinding for XP, but in real life. But hey, at least in this grind, you don’t have to listen to the same repetative music track over and over again.

And that’s that! Did I miss any amazing posts deserving of a Nice Job Badge? Let us know in the comments, and we’re happy to put them in the running for next week. And, of course, you can submit Nice Job Badge nominations any time you want on Twitter. You’ll get a shout-out for any posts that get selected for badges. As always, have a great week, and keep on doing a Nice Job at life!

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful!


To a Father; Love, a Daughter

· Featuring Megan of A Geeky Gal ·

I’m three years old, and I’m holding your hand as we walk towards a baseball field. I feel safe when you hold my hand. I feel safe when I’m in your arms. I wish you’d hold me more. I wish you’d play with me more. I wish you were home more. My world is so small for now, but I know I love you.

I often wonder what you thought about when you and mom planned to have me. Did you think of my first steps? Or perhaps my first word? Or maybe you pictured the same blue eyes you have looking back up at you. Did you ever think that things would be the way they are today?

I’m six years old, and I’m putting on my shoes. I’m turning the egg timer as far as it can go then watching the minutes go by. I re-pack my bag for the fifth time. I ask mom where you are for the tenth time. I count the cars as they go by. I’m waiting for you to pick me up, but you don’t pick me up this time. There’s lots of times you don’t pick me up. I still love you.

I didn’t know then what I know now. Like how you were struggling with addiction and your own inner demons. Still, the pain of you forgetting about me or making an excuse to not see me hurt so badly. I loved spending time with you. Any shred of attention from you, any sign of affection or love, just being with you was enough for me.

I’m nine years old, and I’m feel so lonely. You still aren’t home even with a new wife and new children. I’m an outsider no matter how much I try to be a part of your new life. I don’t come first, second, or third. I come last in your life, but that’s okay. I just want a place in your heart. I still love you.

I was never angry that you remarried. I knew you and mom were better separate even at nine years old. However, my weekends were to spend with you, and instead it felt like a sleepover with kind strangers. I don’t know if making money was more important or if you felt like I didn’t need you around, but I did need you.

I’m thirteen years old, and I’m crying so hard I can’t breathe. You tell me I’m not your daughter, that I’m jealous of your new-new wife, that I am worthless. It hurts so much. A part of me believes you, but I also know that you’re wrong. I just needed you to listen to me. I needed you to believe me. I needed you to be there for me. I have to put up this wall between us now, because I still love you.

My next step mom wasn’t as kind as the first. I tried to tell you about her constant bullying and abuse. This moment of coming to you and telling you what she was doing to me scared me into never coming to you again for fear of having to hear you say those awful things about me again. It also made me second-guess myself, that maybe it was my fault, but I learned that no one ever deserves to be bullied or abused.

I’m sixteen years old, and I’m broken. I’m looking for love in all the wrong places. You taught me to hang onto the smallest affection thrown my way. You taught me that I don’t have to feel safe or loved in a relationship. You taught me that anyone I love can treat me however they want, because I still love you.

Despite being taught these lessons, I still don’t blame you. This isn’t some kind of blame game though I think you’d like to tell me it is. I was looking for someone to make me whole. You can’t make me whole. Relationships can’t make me whole. I didn’t realize that no one could make me whole but me.

I’m twenty years old, and I’m leaving an abusive relationship. He was like you in so many ways. I had hoped he could fix me. I had hoped he could fill the hole in my heart, but he couldn’t. I finally stopped loving him after five long years. I realized so much after leaving him: I don’t have to hurt so much; I don’t deserve to be treated so badly. I deserve to be loved, but I still love you.

My abusive relationship is not your fault. I think you feel some guilt after learning about the abuse I went through, like somehow you could have prevented it. The relationship taught me a lifetime of lessons that will never be forgotten. I came out stronger in the end, and I’m at peace with that.

I’m twenty-three years old, and I’m sitting on your porch with your new-new-new wife. I think our relationship has improved. You’re nicer, happier. I think. I gush about my fiance and our future wedding. I ask you to walk me down the aisle. Isn’t that what every little girl dreams of? You say no. My heart broke again. That’s what I get for letting you in, but I still love you.

I had truly thought that with your third marriage and with my youngest sibling and I becoming so close, that our relationship had improved despite me feeling that I was constantly walking on eggshells around you, afraid to have what little of what resembled a relationship ripped away from me. You shut me down so fast when I asked you to walk me down the aisle that my head spun. I felt like an outsider all over again in your new family.

I’m twenty-five, and I’m asking you to please dance with me at my wedding. You say yes. I pick our song. I call the DJ. I want it to be perfect, because we’ll finally have a father-daughter moment that every little girl dreams of… that I dreamed of. You leave the wedding after I say my vows, never reaching out afterwards or apologizing, just ignoring me completely. When will I learn that just because I still love you, you don’t know how to love me?

After everything I’ve been through with you, I had still held on to hope that we’d have a normal father-daughter relationship. You leaving after my vows and before our dance did not ruin my wedding day. It just taught me not to keep letting you in and to stop begging to have a relationship with you. You don’t know how to love me, and until you show me differently, I will keep my heart safe and my walls up.


Thank you Megan for your wonderful guest post, and of course being so supportive of Normal Happenings. Please be sure to visit her always awesome blog, filled to the brim with geeky musings. She’s also an impressive brand-maker, so if your blog or site is looking a bit flimsy, let her swoop in and save the day!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful!


New Year’s Day Announcement! Join Us for Collaboration #3!

Are you a blogger?
Do you like Mario Kart?
Of course you do!

It’s time to pay attention!

It’s now time to reveal the topic of the Spring 2019 collaboration!
Three… Two… One… Go!

The Next Collaboration!
Tracking Shells: Our Mario Kart Memories! 

MK Collab

The Premise:

This is one I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now. Mario Kart is deeply entrenched in our culture, and yet we’ve found no one who has sat down and collected stories from our frenzied races of the past. So much emotion goes into a race, and those competitions add up to tell some amazing stories from childhood, university, adulthood, and far into the future.

Each amazing writer — that, of course, means you — will select a track from a Mario Kart game upon which to base your recollections. You will not be limited to discussing that track, of course. Instead, it should function as a narrative jumping-off point, allowing you, the writer, to explore tales of Mario Kart to your heart’s content.

As always, there is no need for actual “review” or critique — so many amazing people do that already. Instead, focus on Mario Kart‘s presence in your life, and how it has impacted your reality. These are memories, after all, and should be immortalized with all the narrative wonderment they deserve.

Through Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! and The Games That Define Us, these collabs have become the place for high quality storytelling. I suspect Tracking Shells will be no different.

The Format:

It will be a simple three-step process:

1. You will select one track from any Mario Kart game. Preferably the one you have the most nostalgia for.

2. Using that track as a launching point or central focus, you’ll tell the story of the friendships and memories you’ve made over Mario Kart. Be as creative as you like with this aspect — those who know me know I refuse to stifle creativity.

3. I’ll design and organize them thematically in one volume like I did the Hyrule blog! I already have a design motif in mind this time around, so now all we need are amazing stories!

The Deadlines:

As with the previous two collabs, I’ll design a fun collaboration document we can all use to craft our pieces! This time around, things are pretty standard.

Pieces will be due by Friday, March 1, 2019!
… gotta remember that 9 in 2019.

And Tracking Shells will launch on Thursday, March 14, 2019!
… that’s also my mom’s birthday, but that’s completely unrelated.

The Contributors:

So, here’s the cool thing. I’ve given Returning Champions from the previous collabs first dibs on being part of this event, and amazingly 13 of them have exuberantly volunteered to come back! That’s incredible, especially considering this a far more niche topic than collabs past! I’m going to leave two more slots open for anyone else who wants to return, and I’ll convert those over to newcomer slots if need be.

Speaking of which, I’ve reserved five Newcomer slots! If you’ve never participated in a Normal Happenings collab, now’s your chance to be a part of something wonderful!

Here’s the cast so far, and I’ll be updating this list as it fills. I’ll also be updating with everyone’s track of choice as they roll in. Sign up quickly, as these slots tend to fill up quickly!

  1. Matt @ Normal Happenings
  2. Nikki @ Normal Happenings

    Returning Champions! 
  3. Alyssa @ Nerd Side of Life
  4. Matt @ 3PStart
  5. Ruubin @ FTWRuubin
  6. Shauna @ HideNGoShauna
  7. Amanda May @ Imaginating Life
  8. Justin @ TWOTALL4UFOOL’s Gaming & More
  9. Victor @ The Modern Gafa
  10. KT @ Wintendo 64
  11. Kathy @ Krysanthe
  12. Teri Mae @ Sheikah Plate
  13. Imtiaz @ Power Bomb Attack
  14. Alex @ The Purple Prose Mage
  15. Skylar Mei @ gamergal.exe
    +[DLC Slots for any additional Returning Champions wanting to take part.]

  16. Sally @ Geeky Hippie
  17. The Off-Centred Earth Mage @ The Well-Red Mage
  18. Winst0lf · The Bizarro Mage @ Winst0lf Portal
  19. The Ink-Stained Mage @ The Well-Red Mage
  20. Luna @ GamersUnitedGG

*UPDATE!* We’ve got a full roster! These 20 amazing bloggers will be telling their wonderful Mario Kart tales. Registration is now closed except for DLC posts by Returning Champions. This is going to be awesome!

We can’t wait to see what kind of fun and wonderful stories come out of this collaboration. And with that, we bid you a wonderful 2019 that, we’re sure, will be the best year ever!

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful!


December 2018 Updates: The Path to a Great 2019

Greetings everyone, and welcome back to Normal Happenings! We’re all rested up from our break after dropping the epic collab that is The Games That Define Us! The purpose of this post is to get you all reacquainted with normality after such a huge event, and to lead us into 2019 on a high note!

Clearly there is much to discuss, so much so that, yep, that’s a table of contents. Click to jump to the sections that most interest you, or start from the top! Enjoy!

Table of Contents

👁️ Visual Renovations
🎮 The Games That Define Us
🤔 The Next Collaboration (#3)
👩‍🚀 Project: Dysontopia
📣 Project: Normal Talks
✍️ Daily Inklings
🔮 Future Topics
💙 Guest Posts
🏆 2019 NH Blog Awards
🎁 Patreon & Support

👁️ Visual Renovations

Back to top ^


  • NEW FEATURE: Section and Post Highlights.
  • Accent font change: Cocogoose is out, Geo Sans is in.
  • Each new blog piece will now have a unique but cohesive design.

We have unleashed the power of the block editor in a big way! I know many people don’t like it, and I don’t blame you if you’re having trouble with it. It certainly takes some getting used to, but for a CSS nerd like me the block editor is a godsend!

With a little CSS know-how, the block editor allows me to do cool things like implement a Highlights Block into each post — or in this case, each section! It’s no secret I can be a little long-winded, and it’s also obvious more and more things compete for our attention. The highlights block is the best of both worlds, letting me be both pretentious and brooding while letting the time-strapped among you get on with life quicker. And while it will be a little disappointing that readers of just the summaries won’t catch the nuances of posts reflecting on human nature, hopefully they’ll carry something optimistic with them throughout the day.

Another change I am extremely happy with is that Normal Happenings is changing accent fonts! Yep, Cocogoose is out, and Geo Sans is in! I had been growing increasingly frustrated with Coco as time progressed and this blog blossomed from just another corner of the internet into something wonderful. Coco was so thick, bold, and angular that it was coming across as a tad aggressive, especially in the featured images that make the rounds across Twitter and Facebook. So I sat down with Megan from A Geeky Gal, and in five minutes flat she came up with Geo Sans, a sleek, thin new font perfect for accompanying the elaborate Abuget headlining Normal Happenings. Here’s a point of comparison involving the shiny new header calendar you may have noticed:

The original Cocogoose. Doesn’t look bad, but very bold and difficult to differentiate regarding text width. It kind of feels like it’s screaming at you.

The new Geo Sans typeface, allowing far more variety!

Whew, that feels so much better. The excellent thing about Geo Sans is that I can mess with the kerning — the spaces between letters — to make this typeface look epic, like a movie poster. Ahhh, having this new font to play around with make it feel like Christmas Day, but we must move on.

I fully intend to make each post of 2019 feel like an “event,” and as such it’s going to be very import for me to give each post a unique but cohesive look and feel. With CSS at my side, I know I can do that. It is so worth delivering these types of aesthetically pleasing experiences to our wonderful audience. Essentially, by the end of 2019, I want these pieces to look as good as any editorial feature from major publications.

Feature — you know, that’s actually a very interesting word I really like to describe works on Normal Happenings going forward. I’m going to replace “posts” in the top menu with the term “features.” Much better.

One consequence of an increased focus on design is that it essentially decouples the unity of design and writing found on most blogs, essentially making it double the work. Don’t be surprised, then, if you’re constantly seeing me on Twitter delaying the launch of features until I’m completely happy with them. After all, a rushed work is bad forever.

🎮 The Games That Define Us

Back to top ^


  • Woah, have you seen this epic collab?!
  • It went way better than I even dreamed!
  • Let’s give the writers another round of applause.

As I compose this, I’m sitting here scrolling through my home page. I see 36 unique, creative, and wonderfully written pieces, and I’m amazed at what has been accomplished. I’m also so humbled that 34 amazing people would come together and spend their time forging links to a chain of wonderful art. So, to the contributors, from Nikki and me, we would just like to say thank you for helping make something cooler that we ever thought possible.

There are some rumors of these pieces being involved in some future project, but that is all I am going to say at this time.

So, not only did I want to give one last “woohoo” to all involved, but I also wanted to once more share this miraculous cast of characters, their blogs, and their pieces for The Games That Define Us! You can start at the adventure map, or just dive right in anywhere — there’s no wrong way to enjoy this epic collab.

🤔 The Next Collaboration (#3)

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  • Spring 2019 collab will be revealed on New Year’s Day!
  • Four collaborations a year.
  • Mini ones in spring and fall; big ones in summer and winter.

We just wanted to remind everyone that the next collaboration will be announced on New Year’s Day — January 1, 2019. I’ll be lowering the stakes a bit on this one. It will be more akin to Hyrule: See the Sights, Hear the Sounds, and will consist of about 20 pieces weaved together into one giant post. I’ll be reserving at least five spots for newcomers, perhaps more depending on the interest of returning champions. However, returning champions get first priory in selecting their topic.

Here is my plan for collaborations on Normal Happenings going forward. I want to do a total of four collaborations per year.

Grand Collabs — large, multi-part epics like The Games That Define Us — are a lot of work, so they will happen in the summer and winter.

Mini-collabs like the upcoming unrevealed Spring 2019 collab will occur during the spring and fall, and will consist of 10-20 pieces combined into one awesome experience.

If they are anything like either of the two previous ones, you all are seriously in for some treats! Ahh, I can’t wait to reveal the next collab topic!

👩‍🚀 Project: Dysontopia

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  • Details on how I’m reworking the story.
  • No longer releasing sections of chapters.
  • Instead releasing complete chapters as they are completed.

Let’s talk about Dysontopia, my novel project. First of all, it’s not dead — not at all. That said, it has evolved, particularly to the point where a serial format no longer works to its advantage. When I first started writing Dysontopia, I was surprised people even cared about it at all. I was shocked that people were reacting positively to it, but of course I was glad they were. While it was on hiatus, however, I came to the realization that it was not telling the story in the best way possible.

You see, I had inadvertently done something. With Sydney Winters, I had created a character I had truly learned to like. She has a unique personality — one not often seen in fiction. I found myself telling her story, until I realized four chapters in I hadn’t even started on the entire premise of the novel.

Dysontopia has what I consider to be a particularly unique science fiction plot that I don’t want to spoil. However, if you’ve been keeping up, there has been exactly zero science fiction elements coming in so fer. It’s just about Sydney.

All of that is to say Dysontopia is being reformatted. The story is the same, but I want to start the novel in media res, splicing in the backstory elements as the are triggered by events in the present.

Consequently — and you’re not going to like this — I will be removing all Dysontopia chapters in the near future. I will also not be releasing them as sections of chapters in the future.

Instead, I’ll be releasing Dysontopia as complete chapters as they get finished. Additionally, I will have no set schedule for releasing them. They will be finished when I, as a writer, believe they meet the quality standards needed to write a great novel. Unfortunately, as great novel — especially a great first novel — cannot be rushed, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

📣 Project: Normal Talks

Back to top ^


  • Planning a new podcast: Normal Talks.
  • Will just be Nikki and Matt having everyday conversations.
  • In the organizing and designing process now.

Nikki and I are working on something truly special that we really think you’re going to adore. We’re code-naming it Normal Talks, though we’re pretty sure that name is final at this point.

The premise is simple. It’s going to be a podcast where we sit down and have everyday conversations! There is far too much insincerity going on in the world, and we want to combat that by just sitting down and having some fun, quirky, chats about life. When it comes to podcasts, we think that’s far more more interesting than all the spectacle in the world!

Who knows, you may even get our responses to all those Daily Inklings floating about. Speaking of which…

✍️ Daily Inklings

Back to top ^


  • Daily Inklings are working very well statistically.
  • Plan to make them seasonally themed.
  • Can now make suggestions on Twitter!

Daily Inklings are doing crazy well in the stats department. Like, as far as everyday view-to-like ration is concerned, these little conversation starters far exceed the big behemoth stand-alone posts. What was once an offshoot of my Super Specific Questions has turned into something wonderful, so let’s expand the concept going into 2019!

I’ll be doing more to make Daily Inklings seasonally themed! I already did that a bit with Halloween, and I’m blending in a few holiday prompts currently, but I’m going to go all in this upcoming year. Expect prompts to be related and connected, as opposed to the currently disparate grab bag of concepts.

More importantly, you can now make Daily Inkling suggestions via DM on Twitter and Instagram! Don’t be shy — you’ll get a link back to your blog and/or social media platform. There are 365 days in a year, so we’re always on the hunt for unique and creative writing sparks!

🔮 Future Topics

Back to top ^


  • Plan to keep video game content limited to collabs for now.
  • Pieces will be even more focused on matters of the human experience.
  • Will bring in more defined topics of futurism, optimistic media, and personal memories.

Just for kicks, let’s take a peak at some titles in our drafts folder. Keep in mind these are just that: draft titles — the end result is rarely the same.

  • Awkward Turtles, Really Awkward Turtles, and Awkward Tents
  • The Shade
  • Let’s Eat Grandma — The Band, Not the Meme
  • Adding to the Substance of the Universe
  • I Believe In Coincidences, But I Don’t Trust Coincidences
  • 2069: Running Out of Numbers

If you’ll notice, there seems to be a topic missing. Video games. Before you panic, don’t worry. I’m not betraying the topic. Video games are such an important topic, I can’t help but write about them. At the same time, though, they aren’t all-consuming to me, and there are so many other things I’d like to write about. I feel like if I constantly talked about video games, it would provide an incomplete picture of a life that so heavily relies on balance.

Therefore, I plan to limit my video game talk to collaborations, where they can be enjoyed conveniently by all involved. I can’t rule out the possibility of video game topics coming up occasionally, but they will be few and far between compared to last year. Besides, if I ever get the urge to talk about deep solo tactics in Shining Force, I know a guy. A very red, very magely guy.

As mentioned earlier, this year will be far more focused on feature-writing. I want to prove to people that blogging can be a wonderful medium for art through both prose and design. And I really want to do my part in making the world a better place through optimism. I have big dreams for Normal Happenings, as I do for the entire human race.

💙 Guest Posts

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  • Opening the floor for guest posts, especially pertaining to life experiences.
  • Links to your blog included, of course.
  • Let me know over Twitter or Instagram.

Last year I was unnecessarily picky about who I let guest post on Normal Happenings outside of collaborations. Let’s be honest, it was mostly just the occasional Geeky Gal stopping by to drop some wisdom on us. I think I’m ready to relax those restrictions.

I know a lot of video game bloggers, so if you wish to write about something other than gaming for a day — perhaps something more along the lines of memories and optimism of the future, you know where to find me. But just in case you don’t, you can message me on Twitter or Instagram.

We’ll talk it over, and if I like your idea, we’ll totally make that guest post happen! Normal Happenings has a fantastic community who would love to hear what you have to say!

🏆 2019 Normal Happenings Blog Awards

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  • Taking place on February 26, 2019 — that’s NH’s birthday!
  • Five categories.
  • We need your help with nominations on Twitter and Instagram!

We would like to announce the 2019 Normal Happenings Blog Awards! We’ll be making a post specifically about this in early January, but we wanted to go head and tell you about it.

Every year on Normal Happenings’s birthday, I want to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people in our little corner of the blogosphere! Therefore on February 26, 2019, we’ll be doing the first annual Normal Happenings Blog Awards!

Here are the categories:

  • Best blogger in 2018!
  • Best individual blog post in 2018!
  • Best collaboration in 2018!
  • Most creative/original blog post in 2018!
  • Kindest blogger in 2018!

We’ll be designing some big, fancy badges to commemorate the winners.

Here’s the thing, though: I have no business deciding the winners, so I’m going to need your help. You can nominate winners for each at any time by sending a DM on Twitter or Instagram! You are free to go ahead and start sending nominations. The only person you can’t nominate is yourself, as it needs to be all-star bloggers that you enjoyed in your community.

Twitter will be the arena of choice this year. I’ll be making the rounds using polls on January until there is at least something of a consensus on the winners of each category. Then the winners will be announced on the date of the Blog Awards post!

🎁 Patreon & Support

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  • Current Patreon formula no longer works for NH.
  • Not going to lock any content behind a paywall.
  • Simplified giving options.

They always say save the worst news for last. Here goes.

Megan | A Geeky Gal
Luna | GamersUnitedGG
AshRose | The Shameful Narcissist
Alyssa | Nerd Side of Life
LightningEllen | Livid Lightning

I need to sincerely and publicly apologize to you five amazing people. I have dropped the ball on this Patreon thing. I’m really sorry. When I made the Patreon, I didn’t realize how many changes would come to Normal Happenings over the following months.

The current Patreon model is no longer symmetrical to Normal Happenings. A lot of my Patreon tiers depended on Dysontopia being delivered in its weekly, serial form — something that is clearly no longer the case. Additionally, Nikki and I want to proceed with the podcast plan regardless of funding. Finally, we think we’re actually quite happy with the WordPress Premium Plan for at least another year — this fancy block-editor as gone a long way towards quelling our hunger for customization.

Over the course of January, I will be simplifying my Patreon tiers. I do not believe in locking content behind a paywall, as art should be enjoyed by all. I want to make Patreon as voluntary and low-pressure as humanly possible.

All five of my current patrons are awesome for continuing to support us despite these growing pains. Thank you. That said, if you choose to contribute between now and January, just know those tiers are going to be changing. If you have any concerns, please feel free to message me on, you guessed it, Twitter or Instagram!

Oh. my. gosh. According to the word count, this update post is north of 3,000 words. This is a mountain of information, and if you managed to read all of it, I am seriously impressed. Anyway, I hope you enjoy all the changes around here. Here’s to a great 2019 — may all your blogging dreams come true. Let us know in the comments what you’re most looking forward to in 2019! And I hope what is sure to be a wonderful year for Normal Happenings will help you view life with more positivity than you would otherwise.

Help us make amazing designs, better collaborations, and even achieve our dreams of podcast and video content. Consider becoming one of the amazing patrons of Normal Happenings. We would be forever grateful!


Goodbye Lucy

– By Nikki –

I have always felt my emotions so very deeply. I think I inherited that trait from my father. He is a sensitive and empathetic man who says very little to most. In many ways I am similar to him. We both hate confrontation, we both hate showing others how we are really feeling, and most importantly we both hate feeling.


My best friend Lucy passed away last night. She had a baseball sized mass in her stomach, and our options were very limited. Now she’s gone and I hate what I am feeling. I want to numb all of this out and distract myself from these emotions.

Like my father, I hate dealing with grief. When my mom died I watched him go numb. It is a painful thing to see a parent go through. However, Lucy came into my life just a year later. I watched her eyes open and she grew into a majestic cat. Throughout many of my life milestones she was there for my successes and failures.

Once I married Matt we were all kind of inseparable. We did everything with that little kitty. Last night, similarly to when I watched her enter this world, I watched her leave this world. Her eyes went blank and her life was gone in an instant. I called out her name and she was gone…

Currently I am having so much trouble with adjusting to her being gone. I thought I saw her last night in her favorite spot. Her meows that I became so accustomed to hearing are still echoing through my head. I want to go numb like my dad did when we lost my mother — and I did for a while — but that would be a disgrace to my little feline family member.


Brené Brown says that going numb is almost like a double edged sword because other emotions and thoughts also get dulled out:

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
— Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

In other words, if I choose to run away from what I’m feeling and dull everything out, I am going to also blur out the positive aspects that Lucy had in my life. Future and current relationships can be affected negatively if I choose to not feel what I’m feeling. For a while I will be upset, and watching my beautiful girl leave this earth and sink down into death will haunt me for a long time, however I am choosing to miss her and to never ever forget her.


She was such a special light in many of my family’s lives. Now I will try to just remember the good times, and remember that what I had with her was special. To have known my girl from the moment she entered this world until she left is quite special. I most certainly wish that she were here for all of my other life milestones, but if she were she would be in so much pain.

She was losing her independence fast, and she was prideful girl who deserved dignity. If she were here she would be suffering, and I have to keep telling myself that. I just hate that the end of her life came so quickly. I most definitely didn’t think that I would lose her last night.

My Lucy girl is gone now, but I will never forget her, nor will her death ever not sting. I miss her terribly, and I don’t know how to end this post because I don’t want her to be gone. Last night I hugged her tight and told her goodbye, and when I left her lifeless vessel I kissed her one last time. So I guess this is my long way of saying goodbye. Goodbye my beautiful girl.



Related: A Loss For Words | Daily Inkling

Stardew Valley | The Game That (Re)Defines Me

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The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 


We’ve been looking to the past with most of these pieces. Sure, we’ve looked at how these games connect to the present, but with the possible exception of wonderful pieces on modern games like Will’s DayZ rumination or Alyssa’s Sims 4 recollection, most of the pieces for this look to the past for insights on the present. As the sites transitions back to normal Normal Happenings (not a typo), I wanted to look at the one game in my library that I can use to look to the future. It’s a relatively recent game – one with personality, distinction, and insights on life.

It is the one, the only…

Game: Stardew Valley
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 6, 2016

1P Start

What would be the best use of my time?
It was a common refrain in the Valley, until one day something fascinating happened. I started asking myself this question in real life, and it changed everything.


Irrepressible optimism. That’s not the kind of thing I’ve always had to the degree required to fuel my motivation for life. In fact, much of my brooding in the past reflected disenchantment and cynicism. Irrepressible optimism is a learned skill. I’m going to be quite honest, to live life in a consistently positive manner presents a huge number of challenges, especially in a world so seemingly unbalanced in favor of negativity.

What I mean is that the consequences of negative events seem to far outweigh the fleeting effects of sanguine happenings. If there is balance to be found, it is in the possibility that negative events happen far less frequently than positive ones, but it is difficult to convince a person experiencing a mountain of very costly, very adult situations of this notion.

It seems assured, then, that the world is indeed a negative place filled with suffering to some extent or another. And yet, despite appearances, I’m an irrepressible optimist. Seeking this buoyant type of life has lead to more fulfillment than I’ve ever experienced, but I require tools to maintain that optimism. I’ve tried my best to build around me a fortress of positivity — relationships, education, and media all conducive towards making a dark world a little brighter. 

There are plenty of games that resonate with me on an emotional level, from the classic adventures of puff-balling my way across Dreamland in Kirby’s Adventure to the modern cinematic characterization of Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn. We see fingerprints like this all over this collaboration. There is not a single entry in this collection in which a person actively hated the game that defined them. That’s because sometimes a beautiful symbiosis occurs when you love a game — that title begins to integrate itself into your life as part of your identity.


Stardew Valley is one of those engines for me. It’s no secret I absolutely adore the game, but it means so much more to me than an escapist romp through a farm town. The game has become an integral part of my experience as a human being.

Love in the Hard Times

I think one of the biggest reasons Stardew Valley is so important to me was completely out of the developer’s hands. Timing is everything, and the game landed on the Switch for me at just the right time. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. However, traditionally this cliche evokes images of two people discovering how frustrating it is to live with each other constantly. Not so with us — Nikki and I had almost a decade of dating experience backing us up, so we were pretty well-prepared for what to expect.

No, what confronted us was far more insidious than simple situational adaptation. The Dark Cloud of mental illness cannot be defeated by swords and shields, and we both carried with us a storm of family, cultural, and religious trauma. I believe mental illness is the true final boss of life, and Stardew Valley arrived deep into our protracted conflict with the Dark Cloud.

As many others have expressed, video games provide an adequate refuge from dealing with the constant pressure of real life. Though in the past I worried that using video games as a form of escapism would lead to addiction, that never happened with me. Instead, I simply began to look forward to my short daily commutes into the Valley. Rain or shine, they awarded me an opportunity to alleviate the challenges of real life and offered a glimpse into a future free from this mess. When struggling in a mental capacity, there can be nothing healthier than a little escapism.

Every Day an Opportunity

In Stardew Valley, you’re offered a choice, even if you’re not making them on a conscious level. The halcyon days go by quickly in the Valley, simulating the perception of time as aging sets in if left uncontrolled. As in real life, there no way you can get everything you need to done in a day.


It’s raining in the fall, so can go explore the mines without fear of losing my harvest. It’s sunny in the spring, so I should harvest some salmonberries! Snow has blanked the ground in winter, so I should try to find some artifacts for the museum.


What would be the best use of my time?

It was a common refrain in the Valley, until one day something fascinating happened. I started asking myself this question in real life, and it changed everything. You’ve probably seen this blog transcend from periodic posts to routine (hopefully high-quality) content. It happened in other aspects of my life too, but I credit my time in Stardew Valley for this paradigm shift. I am hoping it can help me conquer my fitness goals heading into 2019.

The Future is Beautiful

While it may seem cursory due to existing as a video game, the choices you make in the Valley uniquely impact the future. Every decision made has a butterfly effect, impacting life in unforeseen ways.


I used to be scared of the future, envisioning scenarios in which catastrophe could spirit us away from the life we’ve dreamed. I used to be terrified of death, but even that doesn’t cause incapacitating dread as it used to. I am here to make the most of my time — to live and love, and to try impact the present and the future for the better. I am, after all, an irrepressible optimist, and the future is full of beautiful choices. Let’s make it all it was meant to be.

This is, umm, not a baby announcement. It’s just a good example of future choices.

If Sonic the Hedgehog 2 defined my childhood, Stardew Valley defines my adulthood. Sonic 2 is the game that defines me. Stardew Valley is the game that redefines me.

Future Collaborations

Many of you have been asking about future collaborations on Normal Happenings.

Going forward, I plan to facilitate four collaborations per year. Big, month-long, epic ones like this are hard (but very enjoyable) work, so I only plan to do two per year. One will be in the summer, the other in the winter. I already have an idea of what the winter collab next year will look like, but as of now summer is completely up in the air.

In the in-between, spring and fall, I will be putting on mini-collaborations, similarly formatted to Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! If you want an idea of what to expect, that’s currently your go-to publication. I call the collaborations “mini,” but they’ll consist of ten to twenty pieces, weaved together into a one-post grand experience.

I intend to revel the identity Spring 2019 collaboration on New Years Day — January 1, 2019. Past contributors will get first dibs, but I definitely intend to reserve at least four or five slots specifically for newcomers.

What Happens Next?

Next, I’m taking a break… just for about a week or so. I just want to unplug and normalize after posting for 35 days straight. Doing so will refuel my creativity in the long run. I’ve got a drafts folder full of great ideas for posts, as I haven’t been able to craft any “normal” pieces for quite some time.

I’ll still be on Twitter, albeit probably a bit less than I have been for the past two months. I’ve got a collection of Daily Inklings scheduled to post as well, so this place will still be plenty active. I intend to be back in action on Monday December 17 with an important update post on Dysontopia and the Normal Happenings Patreon, so stay tuned for that.

And on that hopeful note, we’ve reached the conclusion of the most epic thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of facilitating. I want to thank all of you by name:

Thank you Megan, Ian, GG, Kim, Jan, KT, Moses, Victor, Shauna, Heather, Alyssa, Luke, Justin, Chris, Pix1001, Will, Murr, The Gaming Diaries, Amanda, Alex, Ruubin, Khinjarsi, Matt, Kathy, Mr. Backlog, Michael, Ellen, Ryan, Zerathulu, Imtiaz, Teri Mae, Skylar-Mei, and my beautiful wife Nikki for making this all possible! You all have done more than I ever dreamed.

And of course, thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read our thoughts. Always remember that you are awesome!

And The Credits Roll…

WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form.

Power art - Copy (6)

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!

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Guild Wars 2 | The Game That Defines gamergal.exe

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TGTDU Logo - Copy


The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 


Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Welcome to the very last piece of The Games That Define Us
or so you think.
I’ll be saving all of my long-windedness for tomorrow because I don’t want to take away from this amazing piece!

Speaking of which, today we’re joined once more by an incredible blogger. You might not have heard of her, and if not you really need to follow her awesome blog. It’s Skylar-Mei from gamergal.exe (which is just an incredibly well-done pun)! A brief look at her blog shows that she is all about some Guild Wars 2, and so it’s logical she will be going into detail about her affection for the game in today’s piece.

After you finish here, be sure to check out her Guild Wars 2-themed 30-day challenge, as well as her wonderful answers to my Super Specific Questions!

Is this the final chapter of The Games That Define Us? It’s a secret to everybody.

– Matthew, Normal Happenings




Skylar-Mei @ gamergal.exe

Twitter: @gamergalexe

For grand finales!

Game: Guild Wars 2
System: PC
Release Date: August 28, 2012

1P Start

Guild Wars 2 has gotten me to delve into many other games since that I never even thought I’d be interested in and for that alone I will always be grateful. It was also there for me at the time I needed an escape the most and provided well needed comfort when I was at my lowest.

After spending the last 5 years and almost 3,000 hours in the world of Tyria, Guild Wars 2 is probably the ‘Game That Defines Me’ the most. As well as the game impacting my real life self, it has also encouraged me to branch out and explore other titles in the gaming world. I would like to thank Matt at Normal Happenings for allowing me to join the project alongside all these incredible writers, and also to all the contributors for making me feel so welcome!


Video games were never really a part of my life growing up. My parents weren’t interested in them, I was a lot younger than all my close family (with a younger brother myself) and no one in my friends group was that bothered either. In fact, I’d probably experienced the most out of anyone… and that was barely anything.

It wasn’t until I was halfway through college that I really got a feel for gaming. Here I met my boyfriend which was the turning point for my gaming experiences. He’s always had video games as part of his life growing up so his interest in the topic sparked my curiosity. A year later we left for Uni together and this is where Guild Wars 2 entered my life.


Getting into the Game

I was first introduced to Guild Wars 2 in 2013. Although I’d dabbled a bit in the past year with my boyfriend’s guidance, gaming was still fairly new to me. I’d heard this game mentioned a few times over the past year, but I had no idea what to expect. My boyfriend ended up purchasing a copy of GW2 to play with his brother and after recommending the game to me, I was able to try out his Ranger. I instantly felt a connection within the first half an hour of playing which spurred me on to buying my own copy of the game.

At this point, I only had a laptop. Even though it had decent specs with a GeForce GTX720 graphics card, it didn’t run the game brilliantly. This didn’t stop me though. Looking back at the screenshots now makes the visuals seem pretty poor, but at the time I thought it was incredible.

The Journey Begins

The first character I created was Tani Sassafras, a Sylvari Mesmer, accompanying Lichen Deathcap (my boyfriend’s Necromancer) on adventures throughout Tyria. We started in The Grove and began exploring the neighbouring lands at a steady pace. Even though I was running the game on my laptop, I was amazed at how pretty the world looked (you’ll be able to tell the difference with my screenshots) and I was taken aback to how large Tyria actually was. I’d never seen a game this big before.


Over the next few months, I made a few other characters but settled with my Human Necromancer, Alessa Demon, as my favourite alongside my boyfriend’s Guardian, Geralt Thunderwrath. As we explored more of Tyria, I was constantly surprised by the game as we experienced new features and mechanics.

I particularly remember the first time we stumbled upon Shadow Behemoth. Seeing a huge group of people fighting a gigantic, monstrous creature in the middle of an otherwise deserted swamp was definitely a memorable experience; I remember thinking “Oh wow, that’s a lot people!”


Venturing further into the higher-leveled areas, we stumbled upon larger events such as Triple Trouble and Tequatl. If Shadow Behemoth blew my mind, then these events surely caused my brain to splatter all over the nearby walls… (How on earth did I manage to put up with that ugly zoomed in HUD for so long?)


I was really amazed to see so many people in the same place at once as I was so used to playing single player games with local co op at the most. I tried to participate in these events as much as I could to earn all the achievements. Triple Trouble was especially difficult to complete unless you managed to find an organised world and even those wouldn’t even go to plan sometimes. However, it gave such a great sense of achievement when it all went successfully, and of course there was the loot!

My boyfriend and his two brothers also played frequently so we decided to set up our own Guild and began to do Dungeons together. Every weekend was spent playing each Dungeon in turn for months on end until we realised that some of the paths needed a 5th player to progress. This was incredibly disappointing as we just needed an extra body to stand on the 5th button to open a door, so for this reason we never actually managed to complete them all. It was unbelievably frustrating to be defeated by something as simple as standing on buttons.


Over the next year, my party members became less interested so we delved into PvP for a while to freshen things up. Maybe this is where my love of Smite developed from, but I felt like I actually got pretty decent at playing a tanky, life-stealing Necromancer. We also gave Fractals a go, but only ever got to stage 20 after the changes due to infusions… ugh.

Then, along came Heart of Thorns, the first expansion for GW2. I feel like this expansion had the most impact on my gaming life and was where I spent the majority of my time. Unfortunately, as my Guild mates had lost interest, we didn’t purchase the expansion until a few months after release. This is something I will regret for the rest of my GW2 days as I missed out on a lot including the beginning of Raids, a part of the game I never managed to get involved in due to my late arrival.

On the other hand, this is when I acquired my true gaming partner… my PC. Due to how much I played GW2, I’d pretty much melted my laptop. I had to take breaks every half hour due to my laptop overheating which left me feeling irritated. That’s when I decided to invest in a high spec gaming PC, and it has by far been the best purchase of my life. There’s no stopping me now, gaming just got serious!

The Tougher Times

As time progressed, I spent more and more time by myself on the game. For an MMO, it was shame to play alone but I’ve never been one for making friends. After completing the HoT story and map completion, my boyfriend also abandoned the game, leaving me alone in our Guild. I didn’t stop there though and this led me to create another character, a Human Thief named Ivanna Karasu (my main character).


During our third year at Uni, we had a majorly tough time and I handled it pretty badly, resulting in losing my confidence along the way. I found it hard to remain interested as the Uni had let us down on so many occasions, but it was especially difficult at the start of the third year. I ended up being ridiculously stressed out with the constant conflicting information from our tutors so I had very little motivation left.

Guild Wars 2 was my escape during this time. As I wasn’t leaving the house much, roaming across Tyria made me feel like I was going out to explore the world. There would be occasional instances where I would interact with others and by completing events/achievements, I grasped a sense of purpose. Playing the game gave me something to focus on, even if it was for the wrong reasons.


After I left Uni and moved back home a year later, I hit an ultimate low and my confidence was still yet to return. GW2 helped me to escape the real world but also provided normality whilst everything else around me was changing. I’d spent the previous two and a half years in Tyria, a world I was familiar with and the place I was most comfortable. I was tremendously thankful for the stability the game provided when everything else in my life felt like it had been flipped upside down.

With Uni finished, I was unemployed for a couple months before starting my job so most of this time was put into GW2. I did the majority of the original Living World achievements, map completion across multiple characters and Cursed Shore Champ Runs. These runs were my favourite. Every Friday and Saturday night, ‘The Professror’ led a huge squad on this popular Champ Train in search of the best loot and extremely rare precursor weapon drops. I participated in this event every week and I got to recognise some familiar faces. The group was so welcoming, making me feel at ease and I regularly stayed up into the middle of the night because I felt like I was finally involved in something.

Inspired by this Champ Train, I later decided to buy my own Commander Tag and started off doing Mad King’s Labyrinth runs during Hallowe’en, which then led on to Leather Farm runs in Lake Doric. I found that I really loved leading a group of people in such a positive community. I did these runs regularly for a few months which helped to build back my confidence by sharing tips and knowledge about a topic I was so invested in, something I was very grateful for.


Impact on Gaming

Path of Fire (GW2’s second expansion) was released just over a year ago now. I was so happy GW2 was getting a further update, the main deal this time being the mounts. I played an awful lot again during the first few weeks of release to complete the story and explore the vast map areas. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as I got. Personally, I found nothing especially exciting about these new areas and the content they provided. HoT gave me such a buzz and I just didn’t have the same connection this time around which was rather disappointing.


I completed the PoF story but I’m still yet to finish everything in the Crystal Dessert. For now, I feel like I’ve seen and experienced everything I want to but I’m sure I’ll go back to revisit the areas at a later stage. I’m also still currently without the Griffon Mount but at least this is giving me something to work towards when I do log in every now and then. As materials have decreased in value over time, it’s become much harder to farm for the gold you need to purchase items. It’s a shame, but things are always changing in MMOs.

The Present

I still regularly follow Guild Wars 2’s updates, events and story progression, but I rarely have anything else to do with the game anymore. I find it difficult to enjoy the general content I used to play daily, maybe because earning ‘in game’ money takes so much more effort than it used to, and most of the player base are invested in the PoF maps these days. I guess I’m just stuck in the HoT’s era.


Guild Wars 2 has gotten me to delve into many other games since that I never even thought I’d be interested in and for that alone I will always be grateful. It was also there for me at the time I needed an escape the most and provided well needed comfort when I was at my lowest.

I originally started gamergal.exe to create Guild Wars 2 guides with the view to help others out with their adventures. Without this game’s influence, I probably would’ve never even started this blog in the first place and I wouldn’t be where I am today. Now, that’s a scary thought.


adventure map

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