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.

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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!

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Wizard 101 | The Game That Defines Krysanthe

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Audio

 

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. 

introduction

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.

The days of November are dwindling, and we find ourselves with just a few more pieces in what has been a definitively epic collaboration. So much talent has been on display from all corners of the blogosphere, and today we’re joined by another such individual. That’s right, it’s the crafty Kathy from Krysanthe! Try saying that three times fast! Kathy is all about making geeky crafts, and she does so in style. If that wasn’t enough, she writes about the creative process behind these works of art. Here are some recent favorites:

It’d also be a great idea to follow her on Instagram!

But today she’s not writing about crafts. She’s writing about one of the most unique games in this collab: the kid friendly MMO Wizard 101! We hope you’re spellbound by  the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

DltS0klU0AAdm2p

Kathy @ Krysanthe

Twitter: @Krysanthe1

For the child inside…

Game: Wizard 101
System: PC
Release Date: September 2, 2008

1P Start

Here’s the magical thing for me about Wizard101: I made amazing friends, many whom I’m still connected with today. I learned that you can trust people you’ve met on the internet. In fact, you can learn and grow with them. Without my Wizard101 friends, I never would have had the courage to begin my online writing adventure, and I never would have started my blog.

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The year was 2009. I was a stay-at-home mom with a two and a seven year old. Although I played video games on the PC and Wii, the idea of playing with other people around the world wasn’t even on my radar.  

One day my seven-year-old daughter came home from school begging me to set up an account for her on Wizard101. I’ll be honest folks, I had not even heard of Wizard101.

After asking all kinds of questions, I figured out that Wizard101 was an online video game. A game filled with magical spells that she could play with her friends.

I wasn’t amused.

My mind screamed…STRANGER DANGER!!! The idea of my seven-year-old princess playing an online game with potential predators just really wasn’t something I thought was appropriate.

As a mom from a conservative Midwestern U.S. town, I lived in a bubble. All I could think of was what could go wrong if I let my baby play… scammers, predators, fake friends or even kidnappers. Oh the horrors!!!

Although I was silently freaking out at all the possibilities, I told her the only rational thing that I could: “I’ll think about it.”

I wasn’t going to think about it.  I was hoping it would just go away like so many things do when you are seven years old.

Guess what? It didn’t go away.  

Those fools at Wizard101 had the nerve to advertise their game on Nickelodeon. So, every time we sat down and watched ICarly or SpongeBob, we were bombarded with Wizard101 commercials.  

Advertising works folks.  

She kept asking to play, and I watched the ads. The ads really made it sound like a kid-friendly game. So after watching the ad for what seemed like the millionth time, I broke down and decided to do some research.

I was quite impressed by what I found by trolling the Wizard101 website and forums. The game creators, KingsIsle Entertainment, were doing everything possible to make this a family-friendly game.  

Anyway, my research found that the parental controls were rock solid.  The chat features were made for kids, to both keep them safe and from being inappropriate.  The game was heavily moderated. As far as MMO gaming goes, Wizard101 seemed like the perfect game for a kid to play.

This resolute mom was breaking down. Before I gave her permission to play though, I decided that I needed to see for myself if it really was a safe place for my kid.

So I downloaded the game to my PC, hit play and started off on my own wizarding adventure.  

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It took me about 30 minutes of game play to realize that this game was going to be safe for my daughter to play.  Then something magical happened, I wanted to keep playing.

I was completely mesmerized by the story. I wanted nothing more than to help Headmaster Ambrose save the Spiral from the evil Malistaire.   

As a huge fan of Harry Potter, I relished the fact that I was an apprentice wizard who cast magical spells on trolls, ghouls and other mythical beings.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the cartoon scenery, the simple controls, and the turn-based game play.  

So, even though I had deemed the game worthy of my daughter, and there was no other reason for me to play. I kept being drawn in by this magical adventure.

At first, I just would play for a few minutes during my son’s nap time. I’ll be honest, I felt ridiculous. I couldn’t get over the fact that here I was, a grown adult, enjoying this silly cartoony kids game. Sometimes I’d jump in game with my daughter and all her friends would ooo and ahhh at the fact her mom was playing “their” game.

Eventually, I hit the end of the free to play area. I was torn. A huge part of me wanted to pay actual money for this game, but the rational part of me couldn’t make sense out of paying $10 a month to play a kids’ video game.  

Not gonna lie folks, I was old school. I wanted to hand the game creators a sum of money and then be able to play that game forever. Monthly fee? Just insane in my mind.

I’m sure you guessed it already, but I broke down and signed up for the membership.  

As I continued to play, I still had no interest in playing with others except my daughter. In fact, I was more annoyed with other players than anything. Jumping into my rounds, casting worthless spells, using the chat to say stupid things, in general messing everything up. In their defense, I knew they were mostly kids, but it still somewhat annoyed me.    

Then one magical day a wizard jumped into the ring with me. We killed the baddies and then moved on to the next set of enemies. This went on for a while, and we chatted a bit as we played. Then, before he had to poof out of the game he whispered to me, “I think you should join the Wise Wizards. They are on Wizard101 Central.”

Those words meant nothing to me. ZILCH!

I was curious enough though to find out what he meant. So after some searching I found a forum called Wizard101 central and on that forum was a group called the Wizened Wizards.   

The Wizened Wizards were a group of Wizard101 players who were over the age of 21. I was in awe to find out that I wasn’t alone, and that there were other crazy adults enjoying this kids’ game.  

I also was beginning to figure out that as a single player playing an MMO, I was missing out on one of the largest parts of the game, the social aspect.  

I was still fearful about the scary place that was the internet, but I knew that there were places in the game that I could not explore without a group. I also figured out something my seven year old daughter knew from the very beginning; that an MMO is meant to be played with friends.

So, I decided to join the group on a whim, and was pleased a punch when I was finally approved. The group itself was bound to the rules of Wizard101 Central, so it was really strict. Just to give you an idea of some of the rules:

  • Only forum and character names were allowed (no real names)
  • No phone numbers
  • No locations
  • No outside voice chats (like discord)

Those rules, which seem crazy to me today, made me feel safe enough to get involved in the Wizened Wizard group.  

I’ll be honest, I had some of the same fears for myself that I had for my daughter.  Somehow I believed that the internet was a scary place filled with the dregs of humanity.  So I had zero intention of letting this game get personal, but I still wanted to find people to play with from time to time.

One of the first activities I decided to participate in with the Wizened Wizards was a Meet and Greet. Since Wizard101 didn’t allow for guilds, this really was the only way for members of the group to connect in the game. The group would meet at a specific location in game and send friend requests to everyone there. 

I went to my first meet and greet not knowing what to expect, and left it with a ton of new in game “friends”.  

Even after joining the Wizened Wizards I still played mostly alone.  I went to meet and greets for the group and from time to time I’d go help someone out that needed it.  

Then something shifted.

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I don’t know if it was the small talk at all the meet and greets.  Or if it was the fun of doing things in Wizard101 in a group, but there was a shift.  I found myself with a group of friends that I consistently played with.

And folks, it opened up my world.

No, we didn’t share personal information, but I knew a lot about them.  Some of them were mom’s like me, there were gaming dad’s, there were even couple’s that played together.   

We did the most challenging and ridiculous things together in game, and we had a blast doing them.  It was a small group of friends, but we never excluded new members to the Wizened Wizards. We encouraged them to play with us.  

In fact, a few of us volunteered to be the ones who did all the screening of new members to the group.  

They were good times.  We played, we laughed, we had fun.   

Slowly, I began to realize that not all of the internet was out to get me, and that the internet was filled with people like me. It was just a matter of finding them.  

Eventually, I started opening up to my inner circle of Wizard101 friends.  I told them *gasp* that my real name was Kathy and I was a stay at home mom with two kids.  Looking back on it now, it seems like nothing, but at that time, to me, it was a big deal.  

As time went on, I realized that we really had a lot in common and that I treasured each and every one of their friendships.

Eventually, we outgrew the Wizened Wizard group.  Their rules were too confining. We started using Skype for communicating, and eventually I started a Facebook group called the Wise Wizards for people who wanted to be able to chat more freely and connect on a more personal level.

As all good things do, it came to an end.  

Not abruptly, but slowly. Real life got busier, I had less time to play. Then SWTOR came out which I desperately wanted to play. So I just stopped playing Wizard101. I still administered the Facebook group until it became a more of a group filled with people I didn’t know as opposed to ones that I did know.

Here’s the magical thing for me about Wizard101: I made amazing friends, many whom I’m still connected with today. I learned that you can trust people you’ve met on the internet. In fact, you can learn and grow with them. Without my Wizard101 friends, I never would have had the courage to begin my online writing adventure, and I never would have started my blog. So yes, Wizard101 is game that defined me.  

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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. 

patreon

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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Soundtrack of Hell | Daily Inkling

Write a blog post inspired by today’s Daily Inkling:

Soundtrack of Hell

Difficulty Level:
Normal

Suddenly only one song exists in the entire world, and you have to listen to it over and over again — in supermarkets, car radios, restaurants, etc. The only good news is you get to pick the song. What song do you choose, and why?

Continue reading “Soundtrack of Hell | Daily Inkling”

Crash Bandicoot | The Game That Defines The Gaming Diaries

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Audio

These N-Sane Trilogy remixes of the original soundtrack are seriously on-point. Here is a collection of some of my favorites!

 

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. 

introduction

Wow, we’ve really been getting through these! It’s Day 11 of The Games That Define Us! 

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.

Today we’ve been graced with on of my favorite bloggers, The Gaming Dairies! If you’ve never discovered their personal and creative recollections of gaming, you are really missing out. After reading today’s amazing piece on a game that I have tons of childhood memories with, you should check out these pieces:

Please enjoy this fantastic next entry in The Games That Define Us! 

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Dn9jXE7U0AA8OME

The Gaming Diaries @ The Gaming Diaries

Twitter: @thegamingdiary

For AGOOGAHBOOGAH!

Game: Crash Bandicoot
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: September 9, 1996

1P Start

Childhood and Crash Bandicoot go hand in hand for me. When I think of happy childhood memories some of the best I can think of are my gaming time and Crash.

Let’s journey back to the 90s. I was beginning my gaming journey and this came at the time of the two most exciting gaming consoles for me, the Game Boy and the PlayStation. To be honest, if people guessed the console that the game I was talking about was on it would be pretty split between the two, maybe verging to the Game Boy. However, I’m taking you back to the PlayStation and one of the games that has stuck with me and stayed in my heart and mind all this time.

This game was released on the 9th of September 1996. Back when Bill Clinton was US President and John Major was the UK Prime Minister. Back in the year where Independence Day was one of the highest grossing films, along with films such as 101 Dalmatians, Mission: Impossible, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Nutty Professor. In the UK music charts the Spice Girls were on a roll with Wannabe having held the number one spot from the 27th July to the 7th September. So by the 9th September we were on our way to a new number one which was Flava by Peter Andre and I don’t think I’m the only one who wouldn’t be able to remember that one versus Wannabe. So do you wannabe in the know as to what game made me? Sure if you have read any overall posts or the title to this you may have a clue but hey I can introduce it. That game is Crash Bandicoot.

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I have written about Crash Bandicoot on my blog recently, and the nostalgia of playing the games again for the first time with the release of the N-sane Trilogy. I had written about the best and worst of Crash Bandicoot, again inspired by the N-sane Trilogy. These posts included things that have stuck with me all this time but are not all I want to talk about.

Why is this the game that I come back to when I think of games that mean the world to me? Why this is a game that is permanently entwined with my childhood?

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I came to the PlayStation late in terms of owning it, the PS2 had been released and I got a second hand PlayStation. I had played on a PlayStation at various friends houses so I had wonderful memories of taking turns at levels in games or finding some random games in their selections. I was drawn towards Crash Bandicoot every time I saw it. There was something magical about this game to me. Here was a game that you play as a running, jumping, spinning, box smashing, Wumpa fruit collecting Bandicoot in jeans and trainers who gets chased by boulders and rides wild hogs as well as just running/jumping for the sake of it but it encaptured a little bit of something and everything that I wanted in a game even though I didn’t know it when I first played it. I played some levels over and over at friends houses, which may be why even today I remember some very well. I seem to recall trying to unlock the relics for friends that were struggling with some of them. As much as I wanted to try every level through properly my first experiences, I think, were a random mix of levels, I may have eventually got my own save within one friends memory card but I’m not sure. Remember memory cards? A save was a big thing back then.

crash-bandicoot-15

Then when the PS2 came out, I got my second hand PlayStation. So what game was top of my list to buy? Well it just had to be Crash Bandicoot and its sequels, as well as a very popular Dragon franchise. As much as I had probably played most of Crash Bandicoot, if not all of it, I was so excited to start again. This game just hadn’t grown old. I couldn’t wait to just jump back in and have my proper first attempt as I was playing it through from the beginning all by myself. Get Crash on the go and collect all the gems and relics and go through his platforming adventures. Even though I fell in love with other games on the PS1, be it the Spyro games or the Tony Hawk games or whatever, I was always drawn back to my plucky Bandicoot pal, my go to mate, the game that I could play no matter what. I dread to think how many saves I had for Crash over the years as I know I played it from beginning to end time after time. And yes I mean the three original Crash games when I say that! It was just that game. That one that no matter what you could replay it and still enjoy it like it was the first time.

Childhood and Crash Bandicoot go hand in hand for me. When I think of happy childhood memories some of the best I can think of are my gaming time and Crash.

Playing Crash Bandicoot as a child has definitely influenced some of my loves in games. I still love platformers, even if they can frustrate me for hours, and I am willing to try, try, try again with them. I will play them through again from the beginning at times after finishing them. There was a magic about Crash, a magic that sparked something in me that still exists as a gaming love now. If that isn’t special then I don’t know what else is. It is the game that if anyone asks me what my favourite games are it will always be mentioned, no matter what amazing games are to come this will still be up there for me. It is a game that it didn’t matter when I played it that just made things better, be it forgetting the bullies, forgetting the bad things or just an average day got better. It is a game that comforted me when I needed it.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy_20170707141608

Crash became a friend that I could rely on and he is still there today, somewhere in my heart, reminding me of happy days and the way that games were changing which was exciting to see as a child. Now games have come and gone, got more realistic, longer, more advanced, whatever you want to say about them. However, even now the games that I look to most fondly include this one and I was so excited for the release of the N-sane Trilogy on Xbox One and Switch this year.

Thank you Crash Bandicoot for making my childhood, for giving me happy times, for teaching me that games can be ridiculously hard (though I seem to have forgotten that from the original game but I’m definitely learning it from trying the remasters) but you can always get there in the end.

adventure map


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. 

patreon

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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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 | The Game That Defines Me

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Audio

In my quest for the perfect soundtrack to this post, I discovered one of the finest ambient remix albums I’ve ever heard. Please enjoy this playlist from the marvelous Ace Waters.

 

 

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. 

starring

Dq2rTXAVAAAV1gM

Matt @ Normal Happenings

Twitter: @normalhappening

For all creatures of West Side Island

Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: November 21, 1992

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.

1P Start

Anything is possible with enough planning and determination, but to accomplish my goals I must strive to improve constantly.

screen-shot-2018-11-03-at-2-07-12-pm.png

As you read this, you are breathing. You are thinking, feeling, and experiencing. This is not news to you, who are almost certainly old enough to understand and process the complexity of human emotion. When you were very young, however, the enormity of existence was like an overwhelming light piercing the darkness. The world was so big, and there was too much to process and consider. Time heals you from this predicament; like wading into water slightly cooler than expected, you are surprised as to how quickly you get used to the once-incomprehensible sensations of everyday life.

A funny thing happens as you get older: it takes more to impress you as adolescence fades and adulthood worms its way into your heart. As time begins to close in on you, the years of experience surround you like fractals on a snowflake. However, this is no cause for alarm. Seven, 27, 67 rotations around the sun – those are just statistics, and while I take great comfort in statistics, a number does not define how you choose to experience a life of wonder.

Instead I chose to find happiness in the small things, looking back at them as a trail of breadcrumbs leading me to this point. One of those small things was, in fact, measurably so: 108mm (4.25in) long, 68mm (2.68 in) high, and 16mm (0.63in) wide – the size of a Sega Genesis cartridge. Specifically, that cart that contained a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2: the game that defines me.

The Architecture of a Soul

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I often imagine my life as a bar chart; as I said, statistics comfort me. Charts are the source code for my life, something thematically appropriate as I program the CSS for this collaboration. I have learned that, if there is something I don’t like about who I am, I often just need to reallocate sections of my chart to accommodate my goals. For example, right now physical activity is a segment of my life which I am steadily working to increase for the betterment of my future. But like the half-life of chemical elements making up the microscopic world, nothing is ever truly gone. Hidden are the memories sometimes, sure, but never gone — even as I write this, childhood memories of being fascinated by standing between two mirrors flood my brain. I would often contemplate if those refracted images went on forever, and how many I could count before losing the ability to envisage just one more layer.

With such an active imagination and curiosity, those few pixels of my life between where Sonic 2 begins and ends may not seem like much, and indeed there are certainly things in my life which comprise far more real estate. I am an adult now, not the shy kid who came home everyday to his grandmother’s house, popped in a copy of Sonic 2, and started barreling through Emerald Hill Zone. But the residual effects of my experience with this game means that tiny portion will never blink out of existence. Sonic 2 will always reside there, sandwiched somewhere between my love for the science of cooking, my peculiar interest for the 1960’s marionette show Thunderbirds, my determination to remember all the song titles on Sufjan Stevens’s masterpiece, Illinois, and my obsession with filling up all available character spaces on Twitter. (Five characters left? Inconceivable!)

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I can close my eyes and play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — every track, every zone, every branching path memorized in acute detail. I did it, in fact, before writing this piece. My mobile phone (with a brilliant copy of the game, interestingly, downloaded on it) far away in another room, I rested on my bed and pressed the power button on the Sega Genesis of my mind. Zoned in, I gripped the familiar Genesis controller as I would in a dream or a trance. The ubiquitous SAYYY-GA chant, love it or hate it, greeted my ears. The sparkles and chimes, unique to the title screen, soon broke the black – Sonic and Tails jumped into the frame like total goofs, and before I knew it I was off to the races. Removed from my much more pleasurable life with an amazing wife (plus two cats), intriguing education, good career, deep spiritual life, and pursuit of writing, I would make a good Sonic 2 speedrunner.

Inadvertently Speedrunning Life

As a kid, through repeated playthroughs, constant mistakes, and critical failure, a pattern began to emerge. Sonic 2 taught me, more than strict parents or a highly, highly challenging social life, that nothing ever comes easy.

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At first, unable to comprehend the finer mechanics of game design, I looked at this as a curse. I comprehended that the goal was to make it to the end of the act as quickly as possible, but it took an enormous amount of practice to dodge all of the enemies, an intelligent grasp of the physics of the game to build a sustainable pace, and a lot of good luck throughout each run. Why didn’t they make the game easier? I constantly asked myself this as a nine or ten-year-old, without noticing all the while I was shaving seconds off of my total time.

Those questions paralleled very similar ones in my own life. Why must individuals constantly go to blows with each other just to get what they want? Why couldn’t we live in a utopia where people are free to explore their naturally artistic hearts unrestricted? I was starting to get to the age where I noticed nature’s constant competition, while at the same time I was learning the skills needed to be competitive. At some point — I feel like I may have been doing a quiz in my fourth grade classroom — my daily adventures through Sonic 2 and my real-life desire to learn collided and I had a revelation.

Anything is possible with enough planning and determination, but to accomplish my goals I must strive to improve constantly. This realization marked when I became stupidly good at Sonic 2 — imagine an eleven-year-old blasting through each act of the first three zones in under a minute. I would consult online guides, which were still in their infancy — usually text-based on GameFAQs. I would use debug mode to analyze each branching path, attempting to crack the code of how to access a new, faster, section of the course. I would doodle sketches of the levels in class, planning with architectural precision how to bypass a slow section as quickly as possible.

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Something else happened as well, something wonderful. The attitude of knowing that anything is possible translated one-to-one into real life. I began applying the lessons I learned to all aspects of daily experience. I viewed every math problem and every multiple choice quiz question as an obstacle to overcome, as if in a video game. By fifth grade, I was reading at a twelfth grade level, understanding the works of Bradbury, Tolkien, and Rowling with great cognizance. And, while I struggled mightily with the social aspects of life as a child — it would take until university to unlock that part of myself — the gamification of obstacles is an element of my childhood that has only been strengthened and fortified in the present.

My parents would often laugh at me as I desperately tried to explain that video games improve lives. My dialectic discussion of how they helped improve spacial orientation, reaction time, and problem solving skills — Sonic 2 is a master class in all three — must have sounded outlandish coming from a child. I do not necessarily blame my parents for this short-sightedness, as culture often passes off new technologies as harmful. However, I do wish they had cross-referenced my perfect grades with my passion for becoming remarkably efficient at games for my age.

Pulled Into Focus 

My dad once said, “you have got to stop living in this ‘Sonic-world’ of yours.” I’m forced to disagree, the “Sonic world” gave me my sense of aesthetics. It may seem a little strange, but there is one final feature of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that defined my life: this game is drop-dead gorgeous. It does not even matter that it the game will be celebrating its 26th birthday this month, it will always be one of the most aesthetically appealing games to my brain which so fondly values geometric precision and vibrant colors.

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These are not glamor shots or tech demos, but rather screenshots of the original game. In modern games, I’m completely unconcerned with spectacular graphics, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 far exceeds any game that had ever come before it. Still, it’s not the technical impressiveness of the graphics that I adore so much. Rather, the style is what blows me away. As a child, the exhilarating speed and gameplay of Sonic 2 defined me. But as an adult, the graphical style of the masterpiece is what truly adds to the substance of my life.

Some may say all of the bright colors look gaudy at first, and removing myself to become an independent observer, I completely understand why. When not invested in the game, the constant input of colors can be overwhelming in a very similar manner to the aforementioned blinding light that pierces the darkness. That sensation quickly subsides, however, as you rub your aching eyes and truly invest yourself in the experience. I am a graphic designer by trade, and the straight-line geometry and color coordination that went into the game continues to impress me. Each stage has little details and patterns that fit together like an unforeseen art piece. The skill in which the visual elements of this game are assembled always put my mind at ease and gave me a strong sense of stability when I had few other sources.

My final takeaway is this: those pixel size portions of your life on your bar chart mean more than you know. It may not seem in the moment like something so non-essential as a video game can be instrumental in providing foundations in essential elements of identity, but until you scale that mountain and look down from above, you don’t realize how important your little adventures are. You envision the things you’ve accomplished in life spread across the landscape below, and with them you see the assemblage of small things which bring you to those milestones. When I look down at my life, I see a tiny amount of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in most of the things that have happened to me. Therefore, because of how influential the game is to my development to this point, I would not trade those lightning-fast romps across West Side Island for the world.

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adventure map


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Baby Curls

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– By Nikki –

When I was a little girl, my mother would tell me that the small curls gathered frizzly around my face whenever my hair was in a ponytail were call baby curls. She thought they were pretty, and she loved them. I guess she called them baby curls because they reminded her of the hair that I had as a baby. Despite my mother’s love for these curls I hated them with a burning passion.

Whenever I looked in the mirror as a kid I would see a literal mane around my entire head. It looked like I had shoved my finger into an electrical outlet. I would go to school and see girls with pretty, straight hair. I would catch myself becoming envious of these girls, and I would often compare myself to them. My mother was always saying that I was a natural beauty, and that I just needed to enjoy being a kid.  While all of her ideas were practical, and important for a young girl to think about, things like being a natural beauty bored me to no end. I wanted to be cute and girly, but my mom just wanted me to act my age. Continue reading “Baby Curls”

My First Video Game Was a Masterpiece | A Kirby’s Adventure Retrospective

Recently I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without video games. So, when asked what my very first video game was, there is no better answer.

Kirby’s Adventure.

I am the person I’ve become in small part because of this one game.

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World One: Unidentified Flying Puffball


The year, 1996. On a small farm in rural Southwest Georgia, miles away from a town of any reasonable size, in a modest house was a Nintendo Entertainment System connected to a small TV. This farm and small house belonged to my grandparents. Continue reading “My First Video Game Was a Masterpiece | A Kirby’s Adventure Retrospective”