Guild Wars 2 | The Game That Defines gamergal.exe

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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.

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

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Dj76fCJUYAMeUIm

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!

Backstory

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.

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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.

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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!”

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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?)

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time | The Game That Defines Sheikah Plate

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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.

Well, do we have a treat for you? This time, in every sense of the word! Please join me in welcoming back one of the most creative bloggers I know, Teri Mae from Sheikah Plate! She transmutes dishes from The Legend of Zelda series into real life recipes you can cook at home. I don’t want to say anything, but let’s just say you won’t be disappointed with the end-result of this piece. She’s already composed two amazing pieces (and dishes) for Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds!

Once you finish this piece, you should head over to Sheikah Plate and enjoy some recent posts:

We hope you enjoy this delicious chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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DkFH4ynU8AM8ntk

Teri Mae @ Sheikah Plate

Twitter: @sheikahplate

For my first Hyrule…

Game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
System: Nintendo 64
Release Date: November 21, 1998

1P Start

I’ve learned to be brave.  It’s not a big, bold bravery – one where I stand up to “the man” or “the bully” and win.  It’s just an internal bravery. One that means I’m willing to accept when I’ve made a mistake, and do everything I can to make up for it.

When I heard about this project I was so excited!  Finally an excuse to gush about my love for The Legend of Zelda… again!  But then how do you say the words you feel in your heart? How can you put two decades of love, pain, and growth into a blog post?  How do you sum up the changes in your life that have come because of your favorite thing? And yet this is the insurmountable task Matt has asked us to perform.  And while others have been enthusiastic, eloquent, and impressive in their ability to complete the challenge I have struggled, from day one, to say what I really think and feel.  And at the final deadline I still am not sure if I’ve done enough to express what The Legend of Zelda as a series, and more particularly Ocarina of Time, has done for me.

It starts when I was a kid.  My family, my entire life, had gaming consoles.  Gaming was simply something my family did, be it tabletop or video.  And being an incredibly nerdy family meant that it never occurred to me playing video games for hours “wasn’t something a girl should do”.  But these passions; video games, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings to name a few, meant I didn’t have a lot of friends. Sure, I had my younger siblings who followed me around, but outside of family I was a pretty lonely child.  There were a few friends, off and on, but rarely consistent. We didn’t live in the same neighborhood, parents worked, they moved on, we went to different schools, etc… In fact, I couldn’t keep a friend for more than 6 months for most of my young life.  Which meant I spent a lot of time indulging on the singular pursuits that I loved so much.

I remember dabbling in earlier video games – playing Mario Bros 3 when my siblings weren’t there and trying desperately to get through the stampede level in The Lion King alone.  But my first real video game, the one I finally played, start to finish, alone, with no help, and without watching to see how someone else did it, was Ocarina of Time.

ocarina of time

The graphics were incredible.  The three dimensional world, blocky but still defined, allowed my imagination to soar.  With a relatively open world (it felt like it took forever to travel from Death Mountain to Hyrule Lake) I was able to explore, imagine, and create my own ideas about Hyrule.  It was so easy to imagine myself there! And not only were the graphics incredible, but the story was so inspiring. Here’s this little boy, lonely, with only one real friend, suddenly sent out to save the world with the help of a very new acquaintance.  He’s smart and sensitive, determined and courageous, and, well, cute. And with only his wits and his basic supplies he’s able to gain new weapons, new abilities, and save the world.

And just like that, Link became my hero.  Some kids idolize superheroes, but not me.  I idolized a video game character. He was everything I wanted to be – smart, kind, and brave.  I wanted to be able to solve intense, challenging puzzles in mysterious ruins. I wished that I could have a fairy to help and guide me through challenges.  I wanted everyone in the whole world to like me, just as they all end up adoring Link. I mean, I still remember the first time a girl in Hyrule doesn’t have a crush on Link.  And it’s very recent. That’s how popular he is!  But he’s popular because he helps everyone – he finds the cuccos, takes medicine to other people, plays matchmaker, supports businesses, and fixes entire towns!  And he’s so brave. He always stands up for what’s right. He always pushes to be better, work harder, and fight the bad guy. As a timid, shy little girl I could only dream about that kind of courage.

I ate up every single thing I could about the Legend of Zelda.  I bought every game, usually saving up to purchase it and the new console it was released on.  I played everything obsessively, over and over again, until it was all memorized. And if I got bored, I simply paused, played a different game, and then found myself drifting back toward Zelda after a time.

And as I delved further and further into the world of Link, Zelda, and Hyrule, I didn’t realize then how much the game, and Link, impacted my life.  It’s really only now, looking back, that I’ve seen the influence it had on my development and on me.

puzzles

I didn’t realize how unique it was to be really good, and I mean really good at puzzle solving until recently.  Difficult brain teasers, spatial reasoning, logic puzzles, all these come naturally to me.  And yes, you could say some of that ability I was born with, but quite a bit of it is enhanced and focused thanks to my life spent solving the puzzles within the Zelda universe.  It is exactly the type of thing I learned by exposing myself to really difficult puzzles at such a young age. And it pushed me toward a love of questions and answers that led me to become a scientist – someone who literally solves puzzles for a living.

zelda and link

I learned that being kind is the best way to make friends.  I tried the bragging, boasting routine and I couldn’t even attempt the “cool” factor.  No, when I made friends it was because I was kind. In a high school that thrived on catty, gossiping behavior it certainly didn’t make me popular.  It didn’t even mean I had any close friends – because I certainly didn’t. What it did mean was that I had a lot of general acquaintances. Quite a few people who thought I was great, even if we weren’t close.  And plenty of people willing to say hi to me in the hallways. And as I’ve gotten older, the friends I’ve made that have stuck – the people who are still a part of my lives – have come through kindness. A willingness to help others and serve those around me that I learned through example, both my parents and my hero, Link.

perserverence

I learned the art of perseverance.  As many of you may (or may not) know about me, I’m an incredibly and insatiably determined person.  If there’s something I want to learn I don’t just google it. I research it, the information relating to it, journal articles, books, podcasts, documentaries, classes – the list goes on and on, until I feel I’ve completely mastered a subject.  And I don’t give up and I won’t back down. Just like getting through a LoZ temple – the drive to complete, to overcome, is simply too powerful to just let things fall by the wayside.

brave

And I’ve learned to be brave.  It’s not a big, bold bravery – one where I stand up to “the man” or “the bully” and win.  It’s just an internal bravery. One that means I’m willing to accept when I’ve made a mistake, and do everything I can to make up for it.  One that pushes me to express my opinions, even when they aren’t the popular opinion. And one that allowed me to recognize when things were wrong in my life and seek professional help for my anxiety and depression before they got worse.  It’s the bravery that’s helped me navigate my way back into more of a social life than I’ve had in years. And it’s the bravery that’s helping me finally learn to accept myself, warts and all, and simply be who I was always meant to be.

So, while it wasn’t some big life-changing moment, my life has been irrefutably and undeniably influenced by Ocarina of Time.  This simple game, played by a kid, was able to change the woman I would become. And for that, and so many other things, I will be eternally grateful to my best friend, Link, and Nintendo for creating him.  And, in homage to my first Hyrule, I wanted to create a special meal, inspired by the entirety of Hyrule, to share with you. So here, with some very shortened instructions with but links to the more complex issues (I’m looking at you, roast chicken), I present to you: Lon Lon Ranch roast chicken, roasted Goron garnet sweet potatoes, and fresh Kokiri Forest green salad.

chicken, sweet potatoes, salad

Lon Lon Ranch Roast Chicken

 

 

This one’s the hardest, but also the one most worthwhile!  For more detailed instructions on the pre-cooking bit check out this recipe for my Salt-Grilled Gourmet Meat aka Turkey.  We start by unpackaging the whole chicken, removing the giblets and the neck by checking the cracks, crevices, and insides and taking out anything that looks like it doesn’t belong.  Pat the chicken dry, rub with generous amounts of salt and pepper, and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.  Wash the sage and thyme, slice a medium onion into quarters, and remove the skin from the garlic cloves.  Place these inside your 9×13 baking dish, putting the onions in the corners.

After the brine, rub the entire chicken with room temperature butter, ensuring the entire bird is covered.  Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).  Put your chicken in the pan and put your pan in the oven on the middle shelf.  Close the door and walk away for 45-50 minutes to prep the sweet potatoes!  Continue to bake (with the sweet potatoes – check out that recipe below) until the internal temperature, using an instant read meat thermometer, reaches 165°F (74°C).  Remove the chicken (and potatoes) from the oven, cover loosely with foil for about 15 minutes, and allow the chicken to rest.

Roasted Goron Garnet Sweet Potatoes

 

 

Wash and dice your garnet sweet potatoes (I mean, it could be any potato, but Goron’s eat rocks… so it has to be garnet sweet potatoes, right?  And yes, they do exist.  Cool, huh?)  into large bite-size chunks.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and, with 15-20 minutes left on the chicken, add them to the bottom of the pan containing the chicken and herbs.  Add one pat of butter on top of each pile (in the corners was the easiest place to put them) and bake with the chicken.

When the chicken is resting, remove the sweet potatoes and allow them to rest in their own bowl so they don’t get mushy next to that hot chicken!

Kokiri Forest Green Salad

 

 

It’s pretty to make a chopped green salad – cut or break apart your greens, wash and cut your veggies, toss them all together with your croutons, and drizzle with delicious ranch.  But that’s where this recipe kicks it in to high gear – homemade ranch.  You can easily skip this and use store brand or the Hidden Valley ranch packets (which is wonderful).  Or you can add all the ranch ingredients I listed together, shake it up, and allow to refrigerate for about an hour.  It’ll be thick, creamy, and delicious!

food close up

Lon Lon Ranch Roast Chicken with Goron Garnet Sweet Potatoes and Kokiri Forest Green Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Whole roast chicken with garnet sweet potatoes and a chopped green salad with homemade ranch dressing.


Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2-3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 7 sprigs fresh sage leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion

Garnet

  • 3 large garnet sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp black peper
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter

Chopped

  • 1 head salad greens (I prefer romaine or red leaf lettuce)
  • 1-1.5 cup snap green peas
  • 1-1.5 cup cucumber
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 cup croutons

Ranch

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh italian parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 drop Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Make the ranch by adding all ingredients to a container with a lid and either shaking it or whisking it until it all comes together.
  3. Refrigerate ranch until ready to eat.
  4. Unpack the whole chicken, removing the giblets and neck.
  5. Pat the chicken dry, rub with generous amounts of salt and pepper, and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Wash the sage and thyme, slice a medium onion into quarters, and remove the skin from the garlic cloves. Place these inside a 9×13 baking dish, putting the onions in the corners.
  7. Rub the entire chicken with room temperature butter, ensuring the entire bird is covered.
  8. Put your chicken in the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes
  9. Wash and dice your garnet sweet potatoes into large bite-size chunks.
  10. Sprinkle the sweet potatoes with salt and pepper and, with 15 minutes left on the chicken, add them to the bottom of the pan containing the chicken and herbs. Add one pat of butter on top of each pile and bake with the chicken.
  11. Wash and cut or break apart your greens
  12. Wash and cut your veggies into bite-size pieces.
  13. Toss the veggies, greens, and croutons together.
  14. After 1.25-1.5 hours, check the temperature of the chicken with an instand read meat thermometer. The chicken should reach 165°F (74°C) – if it doesn’t simply cook until it does.
  15. Remove the chicken and potatoes from the oven and put the sweet potatoes into a separate bowl. Cover the chicken and potatoes with foil and allow the chicken to rest. Serve with the salad and enjoy!

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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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StarCraft | The Game That Defines The Zerathulu View

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TGTDU Logo - Copy

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.

Zerathulu has come from the abyss to bring you an amazing first piece of DLC for The Games That Define Us. Each of the four DLC pieces are absolutely incredible, so you all are in for a treat during the first four days of December. Zerathulu is an awesome writer (and future physics teacher) with a focus on discerning indie gaming. Their reviews are top-notch, and we think you’ll enjoy these recent favorites:

These next four days of The Games That Define Us are going to be awesome!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Dkk8740V4AATL_u

Zerathulu @ The Zerathulu View 

Twitter: @Zerathulu

For commonality!

Game: Starcraft
System: PC
Release Date: March 31, 1998

1P Start

Eight years later I somehow found myself in a tiny dorm room with an amazing bunch of like-minded people. It’s absolutely incredible how at university you can meet people from all backgrounds and still have so much in common. All of us were studying either Physics or Chemistry. All eighteen. All vociferous nerds… And all of us were hooked on StarCraft.

It was probably a weekend, because the midday heat was stifling and I was at home, rather than at school. My brother and I were upstairs in our tiny, poster-adorned shared bedroom, and like all brothers in a confined space we were arguing.

“You’ve had it all day, I haven’t had a go yet!”

“Get off, five more minutes!”

“You said that ages ago, it’s not fair!”

“Let me at least get to a PokeCenter to save!”

[sighing] “…fine…..”

*2 minutes later*

“…hey, you’re on a Route now!”

“I’m leveling-up my Pidgeotto, five more minutes.”

I was ten and my brother eight. The Pokemon craze was still in full swing but as you can guess, my brother and I shared a GameBoy Color. It would’ve been fine, but my brother did not know the meaning of the word ‘share’. He took what he wanted, when he wanted. It made no difference that I was older, he knew I was a pushover and knew how to exploit me. Frustrated with myself at not having the courage to do something other than run and tell, I left the room. Sulking my way down the stairs which led straight to the front door I saw a blurry pair of legs through the frosted glass, and seconds later my father walked through.

My dad is the definition of eclectic. He had so many interests that he wanted to spend time pursuing, and had banks of magazines devoted to fishing, photography, birdwatching, DIY, American Football, motorcycles, and so on. Usually he went through phases of being obsessed with spending time/money following one interest, then rotated every couple of months. Recently however he’d found something new, something that already we could all tell was special to him because he was already talking about forming a side-business to make some extra cash.

He had discovered computers.

Instantly noting the look of dejection on my face, he gives me a hug and asks me to give him a hand with something. He tells me he’s just been to the local computer fair and he’s bought some new upgrades for his desktop computer. I watch as he squats down next to the big grey machine and starts removing all manner of wires and chips and things, handing him a screwdriver or cable tie as and when he needed. I remember my ten-year-old brain being both fascinated by the inner workings of the machine, but simultaneously feeling like it may as well be alien technology that I’d never be able to understand. It didn’t help that he kept muttering words like ‘ram’, ‘gig’ and ‘motherboard’. It’s a cliché I know, but it genuinely sounded like another language at the time. After a little while he puts the side of the machine back on and boots the computer up.

I still don’t really see what’s supposed to be cheering me up. But his shopping bag still has one item left in it. As he pulls it out, I see it’s made of dark, glossy card, roughly the shape of a hardback book. On the front is an unquestionably alien face, with no nose or mouth but burning yellow eyes. A mosaic-like pattern covers its otherwise featureless physiognomy. It’s flanked on either side by the face of a much scarier-looking alien, with a grotesquely evil demeanor and razor-sharp teeth framed by a chin that’s tapered to a point, and the face of a human, with large goggles and an unflattering bulbous nose. Above the three faces was silver-grey writing as if wrought in iron, with a faint blue glow. Just one word was written:

StarCraft

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He digs out the disc from the case and inserts it into the drive with a series of whirrs and clicks, beginning the long and arduous process of installing the game. I was definitely a little curious, but the game took forever to install. It just went on and on. I waited as long as I could before heading to the kitchen for a drink. I came back; it was still loading. After what felt like hours (though we all know how differently time travels as a child) my dad gives me a nudge and tells me excitedly:

“It’s done!”

All I can remember thinking was that this had better be good. The opening cutscene did little to encourage me: the graphics were so pixelated and the characters’ accents so contrived that I could barely make out what was going on. But when that stopped and the actual game finally started, I sat up and took note. I watched as during the tutorial my father controlled a little robot-looking thing and ordered it to do tasks, like mining a patch of nearby blue crystals and putting together new buildings.

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Honestly? I had no clue what the point of the game was. There was no main character, no jumping, nothing to collect, no power-ups. I watched my dad quickly progress to the first main level. Some nasty looking aliens, by the looks of them the evil-looking ones from the box art, had been spotted near a human (though for some reason I couldn’t understand they were calling themselves ‘terrans’) settlement, and we needed to move the terrans someplace safe. The mean-looking boss guy put us in contact with the local marshall, a cool and friendly guy by the name of James Raynor.

I remember liking Raynor, he had a cool-sounding voice and he was completely dedicated to helping people in need, even if it got him into trouble with his superiors. But to be honest, I don’t recall much after that in terms of the story. I was just fascinated by the gameplay mechanics; controlling an army of different types of soldiers, ships, weapons and buildings, and using it different ways. I had never seen anything like this from a video game, which might have explained why I never fully got into the game at the time. The next time I saw my dad playing he seemed to be controlling one of the other races, the ones with deep, echo-y voices and super-advanced technology. As I stood behind him and watched over his shoulder he sent a lone fighter to attack a base by himself. To his surprise, the single fighter killed a slew of enemies during his final stand before falling. Unaware of my presence, I clearly remember my dad saying under his breath:

“Cor, he’s a tough little fucker that one.”

Pretty sure that was the first time I ever heard him swear.

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I couldn’t get into it. Not properly. It went on for too long, I couldn’t follow the story, and it was too different to anything I’d seen before in a video game. I lost interest, and my recollection of that period of time ends.

Eight years later I somehow found myself in a tiny dorm room with an amazing bunch of like-minded people. It’s absolutely incredible how at university you can meet people from all backgrounds and still have so much in common. All of us were studying either Physics or Chemistry. All eighteen. All vociferous nerds. All had strong opinions on the distinction between geeks and nerds. All totally in love with then presidential candidate Obama, even though we were studying in the UK.

And all of us were hooked on StarCraft.

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To this day I have no idea how all of us found each other, and how it was that all of us were into the game. As we were getting to know one another and the types of games we enjoyed, as soon as the first person mentioned Starcraft we all took turns to say: “Holy shit, me too!” I wasn’t as enthusiastic as the others, but I remembered the memories of watching my father play which gave me the sufficient impetus to go out and acquire a copy of the game before anyone noticed I didn’t already have one.

It was awesome to bond with my classmates like that, and we spent endless hours embroiled in weekly mini-tournaments among ourselves. I picked the game up quickly, remembering certain units and buildings from all those years before. I never won any of the tournaments (mostly due to one of the others being a God at playing as Protoss) but it didn’t matter, never had I felt so accepted. My school life had been so crappy, so full of bullies and isolation. I even had a teacher who once joined in with the class as they all made jokes at my expense (though to be fair, I was able to do a brilliant job of acting like it didn’t bother me in the slightest). So to go from that environment of assholes and clowns to one full of people that all thought like me…well, it was special. And StarCraft was a huge part of that.

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But more than anything else, I think it was the story of StarCraft and its sequel Starcraft II that made me. It’s unlike anything that I’ve played before or since. The magnitude and scope of the games is breath-taking, on a par with games like the Mass Effect and Final Fantasy franchises. Power struggles, overthrown empires, all-out war, sacrifice, revenge, star-crossed love, redemption, and the ever-present threat of a prophesied apocalypse, all beautifully woven together into a rich tapestry of storytelling.

But what’s key to note is the sheer length of time in between my humble first experiences with StarCraft to the final chapter of this epic saga: Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void. I was ten years old the day my dad pulled the game out of his plastic bag to cheer me up after the argument with my brother. Eighteen years old when my true love for the game was kindled by my coursemates. And twenty-six on the day I finished the last installment of StarCraft II and the story was brought to its incredible, breathless conclusion. A sixteen-year journey, over half of my life, from watching Raynor take his first steps on the road to heroism, to seeing Artanis triumph over the dark God, Amon. From seeing a corrupt and brutal Terran Confederacy morph into Mengsk’s tyrannical Dominion, to a peaceful democracy allied with the Protoss Daelaam.

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And from seeing a lowly Protoss Dark Templar, exiled from Aiur along with others of his kind for their rejection of the Khala, display courage and wisdom in his attempt to unify Templar and Dark Templar alike. It was he who taught the warrior Tassadar how to use Dark Templar energies in his suicide mission which destroyed the Overmind. It was he who used the prophecy to foresee the return of the Xel’naga, and raced to urge the principals in this story: Raynor, Kerrigan and Artanis, to work together and save the galaxy. And it was he who gave his life to free Artanis’ mind from the control of Amon, and allowed him to rally friends and foes alike under one banner to defeat the dark God. An individual of courage, intellect and cunning. A valiant warrior bearing a powerful message of hope, unity, and friendship, with incorruptible morals and the enduring belief of a single, unified Protoss. A being that made the most fundamental impact on me more than any other game character, who helped to shape me and make me who I am today, whose name I would take on not just to honour his legacy but to remind myself of the values that he embodied, and to strive to conduct myself in the manner befitting his name.

Zeratul.

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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.

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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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Spyro the Dragon | The Game That Defines A Geeky Gal

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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

We are officially halfway through the month of November, and it’s been an amazing ride! Welcome to Day 15 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.

The snow is blanketing St. Louis right now, as it is for many other areas, so it’s a very good day to get cozy with a blanket and some coffee and catch up on some pieces you may have missed!

This is a good place to start, as today we’re joined by the Geeky Gal herself, Megan, for her journey with Spyro the Dragon! A close friend and colleague, I’m not even going to try to list all the things Megan has helped Normal Happenings with — not the least of which is our logo and branding! She’s also a wonderful writer, as you’ll see here, so once you’re done you should absolutely check out her wonderfully-designed site:

The next chapter of The Games That Define Us is taking flight now!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

DqrojQJU8AEUKPb

Megan @ A Geeky Gal

Twitter: @ageekygal_

For finding happy places…

Game: Spyro the Dragon
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: September 9, 1998

1P Start

Spyro shielded me from a lot of sadness and pain during that time. I didn’t even realize this in those moments, I just knew I wanted to get to the next world; one more dragon left to release, one more egg to catch, one more hot air balloon ride, and get one more step closer to the happy ending Spyro was seeking.

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Some people can’t tell you the exact moment when they fell in love with gaming. My moment was a cool Christmas morning in Gulf Shores, Alabama, U.S. in a cabin by the ocean when I was almost six years old. I awoke to my mom and grandmother (who I affectionately call my Nanny) speaking in whispers over a pot of steaming hot coffee.

The sun was just beginning to come through the curtains as I stretched and yawned before rolling out of the bed. The smell of coffee led me into the kitchen where my mom and Nanny were still in their pajamas, wrapped in blankets, with their feet in fuzzy slippers. They smiled at me and offered some hot chocolate. I eagerly sat down at the table, knowing that Santa had come the night before, but by tradition we had to eat breakfast before opening any presents.

While drinking my hot chocolate and digging into a bowl of grits, my mom brought over a tin box that Santa had left for me. Inside was a few Pokemon related toys and a note from Santa thanking me for the milk and cookies we had set out for him the night before. I was very worried Santa wouldn’t be able to find us so far from home when mom took us down to the beach for Christmas vacation. It was a magical Christmas already since we’d never had the money to go to the beach before. Santa assured me in his note that he had no problem finding us and that I’d been very good that year. I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe Santa himself had written me such a note.

I quickly finished my breakfast and finally went over to the living room where a big box waited for me. I looked at my mom with my mouth open. “Is this mine?” I couldn’t believe something of this size contained my Christmas present. She said, “It sure is.” I squealed and asked if I could open it now. She and Nanny brought their coffee over to the couch and settled in before giving me the go ahead.

I ripped into the present, excitement flooding my body. I had no idea what could be in such a big box. It was almost taller than me! After getting off the wrapping paper, my mom came over to cut the tape off and help me look inside of it. I can’t remember what all was in the box except for one thing that I still have with me to this day: a Playstation.

My family had always lived paycheck to paycheck. We didn’t always have the best electronics or name brand clothes. My mom did what she could for us. Getting something so “high end” and expensive was truly a treat. I knew how precious the Playstation was.

We pulled it out and set it up on the small living room TV our cabin had. It only took moments to do, but it felt forever for an almost six-year-old. My mom presented the two games that Santa had brought: Frogger and Spyro the Dragon. I really wanted to share my first experience with the PlayStation with my mom so I picked Frogger, and we sat down together to play a few rounds. We laughed and talked, my mom even convinced my Nanny to try it out, as lunch time approached.

Eventually, the adults were ready to move on from the video games and hit the beach outside our door, but I wasn’t quite ready to stop playing. I picked up Spyro and switched out Frogger. I had no idea that the next few hours would change my life so much. As soon as I met Spyro, the cute, sarcastic purple dragon and his dragonfly companion Sparks, I was in love.

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I felt my heart race as I took down enemies, released dragons, and collected gems. Charging through the home world, Artisans, felt like a dream. Breathing fire to defeat gnorcs made me feel powerful. Finding the secret world in Artisans made me feel smart. I was completely immersed in this world, and I needed to see more.

Our Christmas vacation ended, and we headed back home to our small house in the country. Mom set up my Playstation in my bedroom, and I felt so grown up to have such an expensive thing in my own room. School started back, and I focused on my studies, but on the weekends, it was just me and my purple dragon taking down the gnorcs, trying to defeat the Gnasty Gnorc himself. I’d play for hours in my room on top of the daybed that was much too tall for me. My stuffed animals were my audience as the shine had quickly worn off for mom. I tried over and over again to beat levels and bosses. I even remember famously taking my favorite Power Ranger bowl and filling it with ice and cold water to soak my thumbs after a particularly hard boss battle.

Despite such an amazing Christmas that year with a game that I grew to love quickly, I can’t say that I had a happy childhood all of the time. I love my mom, and I know she gave me all that she could, but I had a very tumultuous relationship with my biological father which caused me to experience more sadness than a child ever should. On the Fridays that I found myself at home, still waiting for him to pick me up, I’d load up Spyro and lose myself to get away from the pain in my heart. It was something that affected me for many, many years.

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Spyro shielded me from a lot of sadness and pain during that time. I didn’t even realize this in those moments; I just knew I wanted to get to the next world, one more dragon left to release, one more egg to catch, one more hot air balloon ride, and get one more step closer to the happy ending Spyro was seeking.

I knew I found my happy place in Spyro the Dragon and, eventually, gaming. Spyro helped me escape my childhood sadness and eventually led to my love of gaming now. Gaming became my comfort then and I still turn to it in times of sadness or stress or loneliness. I never felt alone when I had Spyro to occupy my time.

Months of playing Spyro on the weekends finally came to an end one Saturday. I had finally beaten the game. It wasn’t 100% completion (I found the flight levels especially hard), but I was proud nonetheless. I ran to grab my mom and we watched the ending scene and credits together. I was so happy but also so sad to see it end. I still played after that, trying to reach 100% completion. I was never able to do it.

Almost twenty years later, I downloaded Spyro the Dragon from the PlayStation Store to my PS3. I had no idea if it would hold the same magic it did when I was six, but I was feeling nostalgic. When I saw the familiar Insomniac sign held by a gnorc, my heart started racing, just like it had all those years ago when I first put the disc in. I truly lost myself in Spyro all over again almost twenty years later. That weekend, I beat the entire game at 100% completion. The child in me felt a pang of sadness and pride. I beat my favorite childhood game again, and this time, I did everything that needed to be done. Spyro could rest easy this time around.

After putting down the controller and saying goodbye to my favorite sarcastic purple dragon, I thought back to six-year-old me and what she’d think of me right now. I never in a million years thought I’d go to school to learn how to make video games or work on simulators. How crazy is it that a small purple dragon and his dragonfly sidekick inspired a sad little girl to make video games her passion? Thanks Spyro for lifting me up when I was down and giving me a passion for gaming and creating. And special thanks to mom for buying me such an amazing gift that has only fueled my love for gaming since. Six-year-old Megan would be proud right now.

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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. 

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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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Banjo-Kazooie | The Game That Defines LividLightning

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Audio

This is one fun and funky soundtrack!

 

 

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.

Today’s blogger needs no introduction.

Anyway, we’re ready for the next chapter of The Games That… Just kidding, I would never miss an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite bloggers! We’ve been graced with Ellen from LividLightning, returning after writing a wonderful piece for the Hyrule collab! She’s one of the most entertaining bloggers I’ve ever met, and she’s in fine form for this post with her playful, quirky writing style. After you’re done here, be sure to check out these amazing posts:

T-minus three, two, one. We’re launching the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Dkvd2rVUUAAxbvX

Ellen @ LividLightning 

Twitter: @LightningEllen

For silly animal noises…

 


Game: Banjo-Kazooie
System: Nintendo 64
Release Date: June 29, 1998

1P Start

Gah-huk! Ahem. I’ll try to keep the spelling of silly noises to a minimum for this article, but that’s a large part of the what make Banjo-Kazooie so darn special.

One my personal Top 13 list of all-time favourite video games, The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time would be #1, the entire Final Fantasy XIII trilogy would be #2 (yes, I know that’s 3 games… my list, my rules), and just edging out Diddy Kong Racing for the coveted #3 spot would be none other than Banjo-Kazooie!

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Gah-huk! Ahem. I’ll try to keep the spelling of silly noises to a minimum for this article, but dammit, that’s a large part of the what make Banjo-Kazooie so darn special.

Anyway, the cranky bear and sarcastic bird were a large and wonderful part of my childhood. Yep. I was bullied relentlessly in the school system here, and had to go through many a scary medical issue while growing into the somewhat mature adult I am today. Along with many other video games, Banjo-Kazooie’s wacky and whimsical world drew me in, distracting little me from a lot of life’s miserable moments. I’ll never forget the first time I made Banjo punch an adorable bouncing googly-eyed carrot at the base of Spiral Mountain. I was instantly in love with the game after that. I had a blast helping the duo fulfill their ultimate mission: save Banjo’s little sister Tooty from the clutches of the evil witch Gruntilda Winkybunion.

Whoa… wait. Banjo likes punching things and he’d do anything to save his little sister… wow! I can see me turning this into a Banjo-Kazooie and Final Fantasy XIII narrative comparison essay now so I’m gonna stop myself there. Let’s take a trip through 13 of my favourite things about this game instead (I’ll compromise with my inner obsessive Lightning Farron fan).

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I) Banjo-Kazooie is essentially a big collect-a-thon that leads you across various themed worlds hunting down Jiggies, Musical Notes, helpless Jinjos, and Extra Honeycomb Pieces. I had so much fun tracking everything down, and I’ve done it countless times. To inspire me for writing this article (and refresh my terrible memory), I dug out the ol’ N64 and gave the game a very brief revisit. It seems I was able to collect everything in 10 hours the last time I played. I’m impressed with past me!

II) I remember being captivated by the box art as a kid. A big ugly witch looming in the distance, an action shot of our sarcastic heroes grabbing a shiny Jiggy in the foreground, and the game’s title is a super cute font. There’s a reason I tracked down a mint complete in box copy on eBay a few years ago.

III) The mighty Mumbo Jumbo’s magnificent transformations always made me grin from ear to ear. The sorta scary Mad Monster Mansion world was a lot less intimidating when you’re bouncing around as an adorably tiny pumpkin with yellow shorts and a blue backpack, let me tell you. There was also a cheat code that turned Banjo into a washing machine, of all things. Nope! Sorry Mumbo, I’m not washing your underwear.

IV) I mentioned Mumbo Jumbo in my last point, right? Well, as soon as I think of Mr. Mumbo, my brain goes “Eekum Bokum!”, the amusing sound effect my favourite skull-headed shaman friend makes. Kazooie’s “Bree!!” sound effect also comes to mind when I picture the red breegull. All the NPCs make their own silly sounds as the dialog scrolls on the screen too. Those cute sounds really struck a chord with young me. I have to admit, they do annoy adult me a tad these days.

V) The hella whimsical melodies that play in all the worlds are really something special and always get me right in the feelz whenever I listen to the game’s soundtrack today. Each tune just fit the theme of the world so perfectly. Great job in the audio department, Grant Kirkhope!

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VI) Kazooie’s ability to fly was fabulous, even though it was kinda annoying that it cost you a consumable item called Red Feathers. I’ll always remember soaring over the gorgeous island world of Treasure Trove Cove. Especially useful since swimming isn’t advised due to an angry shark…

VII) The invincibility ability was another fun thing to play with. For the cost of Gold Feathers, Kazooie shielded Banjo with her wings, giving you the ability to charge through anything, and also not get shredded to pieces by various things in Clanker’s Cavern.

VIII) If you wanted to really have fun with flying and being invincible, you can totally cheat to get infinite Red and Gold feathers. In certain secret areas of the witch’s lair, you stumble upon Gruntilda’s disgruntled spell book, aptly named Cheato. He’s upset Grunty lost him and will willingly give the bear and bird cheat codes to enter on the sandcastle floor of Treasure Trove Cove.

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IX) When you failed and got that dreaded Game Over screen, the game actually showed you poor Tooty’s fate. I remember laughing in sadness as poor Tooty emerged from Grunty’s machine as an ugly green monster, while a hyper-sexified version of Gruntilda walked away to likely go sign a modeling contract.

X) Click Clock Wood, the game’s final place, was one of my favourite worlds. It was so cool how the area went through four different seasons. It was so much fun just discovering what changed between seasons. I also remember helping a very cranky squirrel there. Conker’s cousin, maybe? Oh and the Banjo Bumblebee transformation was amazing.

XI) Egyptian themes are a thing that has always fascinated me so Gobi’s Valley is another high point in my memory. Traversing the scorching sands, entering the pyramids, and exploring ancient tombs was so exciting!

XII) There were secrets and Easter eggs aplenty in this game. I’m not sure how much time young me spent trying unsuccessfully to get at that mysterious ice key, just out of reach in an area of Freezeezy Peak.

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XIII) Some of the minigames Banjo had to endure for Jiggies were quite entertaining. The biggest, baddest, and best of all minigames, however, was a trivia board game style showdown with Gruntilda before the final boss fight, amusingly named Grunty’s Furnace Fun. I learned so much about the game answering the usually unfair questions Grunty asked of the bear and bird during the event. It took me quite a while to beat it my first time through, but I’ll never forget the feeling of accomplishment when I finally survived.

And there you have it! Writing this has made me realize the nostalgia is heavy with this one. I think all of us gamers have a soft spot for the first games we ever played. Those first moments when we wrapped our hands around a controller, gasping in amazement as the characters on the screen moved when we pressed buttons. Video games will always give us something other forms of media never can: the ability to almost physically interact with other worlds, and to feel like we’re living out the stories of the characters we control. Once that final boss has been crushed, we walk away feeling like the brave hero who just saved their world. For me, Banjo-Kazooie will always be one of those special first-time gaming experiences and I’ll always treasure the many hours I spent playing as the bear and bird.

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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Resident Evil 2 | The Game That Defines Hundstrasse

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Audio

One of the best things about this game is how it uses sound design to develop great atmosphere. Add +10 creepy points to this piece. 

 

 

 

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

Things are about to get a little spooky. Don’t panic, but stay on your toes.

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 era of 3D gaming brought with it a wave of creepy, suspenseful horror games. Today’s game is considered an early high-water mark for the genre, and here to talk about it is the always-awesome Luke from Hundstrasse! This guy does so many cool things, and is well-respected by myself and the rest of our blogging community! He also has a thing for creepy games. So, once you get done, sneak over to Hundstrasse for more awesomeness!

No need to fear, the next chapter of The Games That Define Us is here!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Dpk2H51W0AAD7YW

Luke @ Hundstrasse

Twitter: @Hundstrasse

For survival…

 


Game: Resident Evil 2
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: January 21, 1998

1P Start

By today’s standards the emotional content of Resident Evil 2 is clunky and melodramatic, but at the time I had never experienced anything like it in a game; even the word ‘game’ didn’t seem sufficient to describe such an immersive experience.

Spring Yard Zone, Act 2; Sonic runs forward, slows, and at the last moment turns backwards to gracefully freefall into the first halfpipe. As the ground gently curves under him those distinctive red sneakers glide over the polished Spring Yard floor, his legs moving forward whilst momentum drags him backward, up the vertical wall and then into the cool night air. His feet still moving, stare set in grim determination, a true athlete at the peak of his game… game… my favourite moment from that well worn game cartridge, a moment I’d watched countless times play out in the demo cycle through store windows and one where I still feel my own stomach tense slightly as our quilled buddy steps over the precipice. This moment I’d fleshed out in my mind, transposed the 2D graphics in to 3D architecture, an Escher-esque metropolis of bright lights, marble walkways, and gently creaking moving platforms.

… but nonetheless a game; a reality made up of bloops and dings. Get from the start of the level to the end, destroy the enemies, hit the bumpers, watch the score tick up in the top corner of the screen, make a mistake, loose a life, continue? Three acts in a zone, seven zone in the game. Best time, high score… game…

Up until I was thirteen or fourteen this experience defined games for me; levels, score, bosses, get from the left hand side of the level to the right hand side. This all changed one idle weekend when I borrowed my Uncle’s Playstation for the weekend along with a copy of Resident Evil 2.

The were parted by an inescapable destiny. This is just the beginning of their worst nightmare.

The opening cinematic plays; for our two protagonists, Leon and Claire, the slow realisation that the city is all wrong crystallises far too late. They’re already deep in the urban sprawl, the inhabitants merely walking shells of their former occupants, emotionless, unthinking, and, like a hidden current, ready to drag them into oblivion. The car crashes, the tanker explodes and they have been parted.

… and then the player is alone, standing next to the flaming wreckage, the first of the monsters staggering toward them. No points, no power-ups, no health bar, just a character thrown in to a scenario. A world presented for exploration without the interruption of stages and levels, just a seamless story with the player firmly immersed and invested. My young mind’s concept of what a game was had suddenly been shattered; it didn’t fit what I knew a game to be. There was only one goal; keep moving, survive, and escape.

As I ventured further into the city I discovered the famous Raccoon City Police Station but also that this was an experience that made me ‘feel’. Fear and apprehension upon opening every door, sadness as the cinematic loss of Ada, and relief in those first few piano notes of the simple sanctuary theme. By today’s standards the emotional content of Resident Evil 2 is clunky and melodramatic, but at the time I had never experienced anything like it in a game; even the word ‘game’ didn’t seem sufficient to describe what I felt was an immersive Romero inspired experience.

A few months later, that Christmas, I was gifted my own Playstation and copy of Resident Evil 2 – the same copy that still sits in the game drawer under my TV ready to be played at a moment’s notice.

I played it relentlessly, beginning a new scenario as soon as I finished the last, intent on exploring corner of this experience, of Leon & Claire’s story of survival. I discovered that it was a story with more shades than ‘Sonic is good’ and ‘Robotnik is bad’. I found Ada Wong who falls in love with Leon despite her ulterior mission; The blinkered determination of Annette Birkin, a scientist, a mother, and a wife; William Birkin’s genius and insanity; Claire’s quest to find her brother coupled with her compassionate care of Sherry; and of course Brian Irons’ depraved mind. Different characters with different drives interwoven to create an overall plot more complicated than kill bad guys, score points, reach the finish line.

It wasn’t just the plot that was engrossing. Visually the pre-rendered backgrounds provided an unprecedented level of detail to the surroundings and brought the world of Raccoon City to life in a way that I had never experienced before. I spent my time carefully studying these scenes looking for interesting details or clues to the events that had transpired. Even now I have certain areas in this fictitious world that are special to me: The sanctuary of quiet reflection that is the darkroom with glass cabinets of photography equipment and warm red-light glow from the developing area; The secret view out of the RPD front gate with its sense of the abandoned city outside and highlighting the perceived safety of the police station; The fingerprint room, only accessible in the B-scenario, filled with half finished monstrosities.

Despite the obvious horror, this world was surprisingly attractive and full of mystery. At the time I joked that given vast sums of money I would commission the building of a detailed recreation of the Raccoon City Police Station. The joke stemmed from a truth that I often day-dreamed about being in that world and walking the halls of the police station. I had a folder where I collected magazine cuttings about Resident Evil 2, kept my treasured Prima strategy guide, and stored painstakingly transcribed copies of in-game documents. It’s difficult to describe any of this without it sounding like a borderline unhealthy obsession, but this is a piece about the ‘Games that Define Us’, and Resident Evil 2 changed my outlook on interactive media.

I’ll always have time for fast paced, high score racking, power-up guzzling gaming, but it was Leon and Claire that showed me a way to step into another world and I revel in any game that manages to recreate the sense of wonder that I first felt in Raccoon City.

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. 

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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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Final Fantasy VII | The Game That Defines Games With Coffee

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Audio

This game’s music though. 

 

 

 

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

Warning: coffee jokes incoming.

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.

Day 12 of The Games That Define Us features something a little different. Originally this was going to be a DLC post, but through good contingency planning I was given the opportunity to promote one DLC piece into the November parade! This was the natural pick, as it was written by a super-cool blogger and is on one of the most important games ever made.

No need for jitters, Ryan from Games With Coffee is here! This wonderful, highly caffeinated writer is always fun because of his unique and quirky personality. You’ll love his blog, so you should absolutely be following. In fact, after you get done reading this amazing piece, you should grab a piping-hot cup of java and savor these recent pieces!

We hope this chapter of The Games That Define Us gives you the jolt you need to make it through the day!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Ryan @ Games With Coffee

Twitter: @GameswCoffee

For the Coolest Dude In the Universe

Game: Final Fantasy VII
System: Playstation 1
Release Date: January 31, 1997

1P Start

Had Final Fantasy VII not been released in 1997 and had I not rented it in November of that year, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today. However, I’m glad that it came into my life when it did, I’m glad that it’s affected me in a such a positive and uplifting way and I’m especially glad to say that it’s a game that has defined who I am as a person

This story starts in 1997, on a cold November Friday night. On that night, 21 years ago, I first started playing a game that would change my life forever.

In the late 90’s, the town that I grew up in was in the midst of a vast residential expansion, with the suburban sprawl ever creeping northward into the farmlands. With more fertile land being cleared and more homes being built, there was a growing need for retail space. So in 1996, nary a ten minute walk from my home, a brand new strip mall had opened up. It had the necessities that a growing neighborhood community needed, like a grocery store, convenience stores, some fast food joints and other small retailers. What made it different, special even, was that it had an independent video rental store called Ambassador Video, similar to the now defunct Blockbuster, where an enormous selection of movies, music and video games were available to rent. Now, this video store was replaced by a sports bar sometime in the early-2000’s, but at the time when it was open, it was the place to be at for a kid.

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So back to how I started this: on a cold Friday night in November of 1997. My parents let my younger brother and I rent a video game as a reward for doing well in school that week. The two of us argued for a few minutes about which game we were going to take home, before settling on Final Fantasy VII. The moment we got home, we booted it up and were blown away at how amazing it looked.

The first thing about FFVII that differentiated it from games that I played previously was how it started. No tutorial level, no sitting down with the King and him explaining your quest and no cheerful, happy and colourful environment. I was instead thrust into the action in a dark, gritty metropolis, my character jumping off of a train and beating down soldiers armed with machine guns with his giant sword. Following a man with a gun for an arm up the stairs leading to the surface, the spiky-haired individual spoke to a group of three people, huddled in front of a large metal door. The one in the headband asked for his name. His response, in a cool, collected tone:

“…Cloud.”

And it was all it took for ten year old me to declare that he was the coolest dude in the universe.

Over the course of that glorious seven day rental period, I never made it out of Midgar. It wasn’t because I was slow at playing the game; far from it. You see, prior to playing Final Fantasy VII, I was without a Memory Card – the device necessary to save virtually every game in the PlayStation library. So, each day I would start the game anew, regardless of if my party died or the amount of daylight I had left to play. Every time I restarted, I continued to fall deeper in love with the characters, the story and the setting. Neither the “scarier” parts of the story, such as facing JENOVA’s headless body in the Shinra Building with the eerie “Who Are You” track playing alongside that high-pitched buzzing that only Cloud could hear, nor the mature subject matter I couldn’t understand at the time (Think Honey Bee Inn in Sector 6), could dissuade me from playing the game. On the last day of my rental period and noticing that I had restarted the game yet again, my dad asked me why I kept starting the game from the beginning? Once I told him about the Memory Card, he and my mom bought one that same day. And so, with Memory Card in hand and eventually my own copy of the game, I continued playing and delving deeper into the game.

Prior to my discovery of Final Fantasy VII, I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) in the second grade. From that point onward, until at least high school, my life was centered around Ritalin, counselors and therapists of all kinds; speech and behavioral, among others. The combination was not only driving down my grades, but they were driving away my classmates as well. I had episodes where I became dark and paranoid of others (thanks to the meds) and I would lash out at anyone and everyone, drawing the ire of bullies who started picking on me for things I had no control over. The kids my age eventually knew full well to either stay away from or mock and belittle the weird and nerdy whitewashed Guyanese kid with the odd, easy-to-make-fun-of last name and behaviour problems. So I turned to the older kids instead, thinking I could be accepted into their group. For a time, I thought I found some actual friends until I learned eventually that they were only using me for their enjoyment, as they played cruel pranks and tricked me into doing things I shouldn’t be doing at that young of an age. Due to all of the above, I started having severe self-esteem issues, something that I’m battling with to this day. I believed whole-heartedly that I deserved what happened to me and that I was a terrible person, which of course was far from the truth. It was here, at this low point of my life, that Cloud Strife, Ex-SOLDIER First Class came into my life and as I experienced his story, I discovered that he and I were similar in many ways.

From that November night onward, I saw that Cloud was everything I wasn’t: strong, cool and confident. He was the kind of man I wanted to grow up to become and I felt so inspired by him. It was in those days, especially between the sixth and seventh grades (arguably the worst of times for me), that I started wishing I was someone else. That I could be Cloud. I used to draw the Buster Sword – Cloud’s iconic weapon – on every surface I could find. I remember that I once had an assignment in sixth grade where we we had to draw the things that define us and tell others who we are. Suffice to say, I put things representative of Final Fantasy VII on this document, like the Buster Sword, Materia and the Meteor from the cover. I would have drew Cloud himself, but (at the time) I was a terrible artist, so it was those three. Seeing the sword on the page was something that greatly worried my teachers; they didn’t understand that this was from a video game that I really loved. So, they brought my parents in for a parent-teacher conference and discussed the problem, believing that I was a violent individual because I drew weaponry. In hindsight, I could’ve tried drawing Super Mario or something to show that gaming was what I was about, but I went with what my heart was telling me; that Final Fantasy VII defined me.

So, combining what I said above with the fact that my grades were terrible, my mom was convinced that gaming was the culprit behind me not doing well in school. Thusly, she confiscated my controllers and hid them around the house with the hope that I would “concentrate” on my schoolwork. I was only allowed to play briefly on the weekends (or whenever I was lucky to find them during the week, but that usually resulted in my mom yelling at me before she re-hid the controllers in a new location). I understood that my mom’s heart was in the right place, but truthfully, I hated school. I was thoroughly disinterested thanks to a combination of my “affliction,” the lack of confidence in me from the educators and my low self-worth, but to a mother – unfamiliar with technology and concerned for her son’s education and general well-being – it was video games that were the main reason. And so, I was only allowed to play Final Fantasy VII roughly one weekend at a time for a whole year, wherein I reached the end of the first third of the story and observed the surprise of my eleven-year old life.

I seem to recall that it was a cold Saturday night, similar to that November of ‘97, when I finally finished the Temple of the Ancients portion of the game alongside my younger brother, who was watching me play. It was here that the game dropped the subtleties and showed major glimpses of Cloud’s true, Sephiroth-influenced persona. He started acting erratic in the deepest parts of the temple, where Sephiroth explained his master plan and I was more than a little worried. ‘What was happening?’ was a thought that was going through my mind during that entire experience, especially when my hero was laughing ominously and saying to “Deliver the Black Materia,” and “Call the Meteor.” Following the Demon Wall boss and Cait Sith’s subsequent sacrifice, the object of our quest – The Black Materia – was finally in our possession… only for Cloud to willingly give it to Sephiroth without any resistance. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe that he did that, or understand why he did it in the first place! From there, more things about Cloud’s true nature beheld itself to me: firstly, beating up Aerith after giving away the Black Materia for supposedly no reason. Next was the dream sequence after he was knocked out, with Aerith ominously telling him of her intentions at the City of the Ancients and Sephiroth saying to Cloud at the end that the two of them must stop her from whatever she’s planning. And finally, reaching the aforementioned City of the Ancients, the location of one of the most iconic scenes in gaming history.

My team, consisting of Cloud, Barrett and Tifa, arrived at the city and we proceeded to search for Aerith before Sephiroth could catch up with her. We ended up finding no trace of her, so Cloud and the gang decided to sleep in a nearby house and strategize for the next day. In the middle of the night, Cloud awakens abruptly, telling Tifa that Aerith is indeed here… and so was Sephiroth. At this point, my brother and I were on the edge of our seat, wondering what was going to happen next. Eventually, we found Aerith, safe and sound and I thought here that things would only look up from here. Cloud went up to the platform where Aerith was praying alone. He approached her, only for a high-pitched whine to go off – JENOVA’s calling card. Cloud started having another breakdown and I could do nothing to stop him. I couldn’t force him back, I couldn’t force him to sheathe his massive blade. He regained control at the very last second, right before he was about to bring his sword down on the flower girl’s head and I was chewing my nails off in stress. I didn’t want to press Circle to continue on with the story… but I did.

And then Aerith died, killed in cold blood by Sephiroth. He descended from the heavens, impaled the Masamune into the vulnerable woman and then revealed a startling truth to my hero; that Cloud was a puppet. I was floored by that revelation, so much so that I immediately died by JENOVA LIFE’s hands/tentacles/whatever – I basically didn’t even put up a fight. My hero wasn’t a hero after all; he gave Sephiroth the Black Materia, he couldn’t save Aerith and he let his nemesis get away scot-free. I didn’t play the game again for a week; partly again because of my mom and partly because I was in shock at what happened in the story. My disappointment only grew when I learned of the full truth at the Northern Crater. Cloud wasn’t really ‘Cloud,’ at all.

He was being led on and manipulated by Sephiroth, in a way similar to when I was led on by those older kids when I was young. To me, it was horrifying to see that the person that I idolized wasn’t who he really was and that he was so easily duped into doing his nemesis’ bidding. He was indeed a puppet; an experimental Sephiroth clone constructed through a combination of injected JENOVA cells, Tifa’s memories of the past and the persona of Zack Fair, the First Class SOLDIER who was really there in Nibelheim all those years ago. All of the memories Cloud had, from joining SOLDIER, to the Nibelheim incident, were falsified and manufactured and it messed him up terribly. It culminated in the fraud handing over the key to their destruction to Sephiroth and I all I could think of was “Dick move, Cloud.”

Fast forward to Mideel, where Tifa and the gang found Cloud, who was catatonic due to Mako poisoning. He washed up on the shores of the sleepy little island town days after Meteor was summoned. I wasn’t sure if I wanted anything to do with him at that point, because he was such a fake, but I was also curious as to what happened next. I was glad that I did as after the Ultimate Weapon fight and Mideel’s subsequent destruction, I learned the truth, both of the events in the Nibelheim incident and the truth about the real Cloud.

The reason why Cloud wanted to be in SOLDIER was to be noticed by others, particularly by Tifa. Growing up, Cloud was always alone; he had no friends growing up and was always picked on for being different from the others. After the incident involving Tifa and Cloud falling off Mount Nibel, which happened after Tifa’s mother passed away, he thought himself weak and that he could never belong, both because he never liked his fellow peers and because he couldn’t save Tifa. At the same time, he was always looking to prove himself in the eyes of the villagers who looked down on him and to Tifa, whom he harboured a major crush for. In essence, the true Cloud was exactly like me. I was also alone, was picked on for being so weird and different and had very little friends growing up. I considered myself a weakling and, in my self-loathing, disliked the people around me for treating me so badly and not caring about me. At the same time, I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be recognized and to not be defined by my grades or my behaviour, but by my character.

After that sequence, Cloud was redeemed in my eyes. Though he never made it into SOLDIER and had considered himself a weakling up until the Nibelheim incident, that same “weakling” took on and fought off the greatest and most powerful swordsman the world had ever seen, before being subjected to brutal experiments that included having alien matter injected into his body. He was catatonic now at two points of his life before recovering and regaining his sanity. He went on to defeat his nemesis again, for the second time. And in the end, he saved the world with his companions. At the end of the journey, I realized then and there that Cloud Strife wasn’t cool because he was strong and tough, but that he was cool because he survived the ordeals of his past and rose above it. He showed that I could do the same; that I could rise above being made fun of, that I could rise above my ADHD, my behavioural problems, my struggling grades and my own weakness and he showed me that I could be a better person.

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Final Fantasy VII did more than just get my life back in order, it also brought me closer to my younger brother. Though he and I played it at the same time, beyond the game we weren’t very close. I actually resented him at a couple points in my life; he was the favourite child between the two of us, probably because he was the model student while I was the perennial screw-up. However, once he started band class and I discovered I had a knack for whistling, we started bonding over the music of the game and we discovered that we had a lot more in common than we thought. Now, the two of us talk about gaming and music on a near daily basis, especially Final Fantasy VII, what with the remake coming out. I even treated him to tickets for the Final Fantasy “Distant Worlds” concert, which will remain as one of my fondest memories of our brotherhood. The best part of that night was when we both collectively freaked out as Nobuo Uematsu – the legend who composed the songs we bonded over – joined the choir on stage for the orchestral rendition of “One Winged Angel!” It was all we could talk about on our ride home on the subway.

It has taken a while and there were some bumps on the road, but I think I’m now at a point where the past doesn’t bother me as much as it did before. Though I also have to give credit to my wife, Usha, for helping me get to this point as well. She has been the Tifa to my Cloud since we started dating in our teens and I wouldn’t have been who I am today without her guidance and support. In the same way that Tifa helped Cloud break out of his shell and spurred on his fighting spirit when he was at his lowest point, my wife has encouraged me to develop my talents, both in my engineering field and my writing hobby. She pushed me creatively and inspired me to work towards my goals, even if they seemed daunting in my eyes.

Finally, I should like to end this by sharing something that Iiago (Mr. Backlog), one of the collaborators of this wonderful project, recently said: “It’s funny, I realised that my enduring love of the game was greatly affected by my life at the time in ways I hadn’t really appreciated until I wrote this article. But that’s life isn’t it? It’s not just seeing/doing/meeting something great, it’s the context of the time and place.” Writing this piece out, reliving the memories – bad and good – and juxtaposing it with my present self has made me realize that his words ring true. Had Final Fantasy VII not been released in 1997 and had I not rented it in November of that year, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today. However, I’m glad that it came into my life when it did, I’m glad that it’s affected me in a such a positive and uplifting way and I’m especially glad to say that it’s a game that has defined who I am as a person. I want to thank Matt from Normal Happenings for setting up and allowing me to jump on this amazing collaboration filled to the brim with such wonderful and talented writers. I want to thank those very same writers for being such an inspirational bunch. And I want to thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read my story. Be sure to check out the the other works my fellow cohorts have written; they are truly an all-star cast of bloggers, each with a story of their own to tell of a game that has defined them.

My name is Ryan. I’m an engineer, a writer, a husband, a father, a friend, a brother, a gamer, a coffee addict and an individual who still experiences some lingering symptoms of ADHD. Final Fantasy VII is the game that defines me and Cloud Strife, the former SOLDIER First Class and fellow former weakling, is the character from that game that has helped me become the man I am today.

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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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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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.

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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


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Pokemon Red and Blue | The Game That Defines Murr

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Audio

Pokemon + Chillstep = Perfect

 

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

We’ve hit double digits, folks — it’s Day 10 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.

We’ve been blessed with both members of the double-act Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat for this collaboration! Today, amazing writer (and new father) Murr is going back in time to the halcyon days many of us experienced — walking around with out Game Boys catching Pokemon. After you get done here, you should definitely check out Murr’s domain over on G.S.R.R., the Geekly Reviews!

Gotta catch all pieces of The Games That Define Us, especially this one! Enjoy!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

DorXgJTUYAE1hBO

Murr @ Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

Twitter: @Murr_GSRR

For Missingno

 

Game: Pokemon Red and Blue
System: Game Boy
Release Date: October 5, 1999 (E.U. …
yikes, that’s way later than everyone else… )

1P Start

Pokemon Red & Blue changed the world for everyone, but it certainly reminds me of one of the greatest times of my life when growing up. It was one of the most magical journeys of discovery I’d ever taken.

Pokemon RB.jpg

Pokemon, it’s the fad that isn’t going away. Sure the popularity and craze isn’t the same heights it was years ago, but you’d be foolish to think that it will ever stop selling millions of copies each new iteration.

I was introduced to Pokemon all those years ago by a neighbour who used to live across the road from me. He was a four years younger than me, but growing up, we’d always hang out after school and do standard stuff kids would do back then. Build dens, ride bikes and occasionally play computer games, either on his SNES or my Master System. I would eventually get a SNES and with it the ‘Super Gameboy’ which allowed you to play Gameboy games on the SNES. Ultimately it was sort of irrelevant before Pokemon, but I digress.

So my neighbour comes home from wherever it was he went with his parents one day, and he comes running over to mine with his Gameboy and this brand new unopened game. It was Pokemon Blue. Genuinely, I had not heard of this game at all. The TV Show hadn’t hit Sky One yet in the UK, or if it had, it hadn’t taken off yet. Pokemon cards weren’t big — it was just the early stages of this phenomenon in the UK. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went all those years back, but it ended up with us digging out the Super Gameboy I owned, sitting in-front of my SNES and playing Pokemon Blue. So to start with I hand the SNES controller over to my neighbour as it’s his game after all. The process starts, the now classic introduction to Professor Oak takes place, along with the silly opening mistake of trying to leave Pallet Town without going to Oak’s lab first. All of this was occurring, and each line of text we read captured our imaginations more and more.

As it was back then, you’d always have to beg the parents if you could have a sleepover, and after hours of not moving from the TV while we were progressing further into Kanto, I do the deed of pleading with my parents, and then my neighbour pleading with his parents if he can stay over the night. They give the green light and we’re good to go. As the night progressed I selfishly ask if I can play and take control. I didn’t relinquish the controller then until the sun began to rise. Each day after school he’d come over and I’d again take control and end up playing the game for him. Four years his senior, I had the right to, right?

Pokemon RB2.jpg

In the end, I knew I had to beg my mum if I could have Pokemon Red. She had already bought it for me for Christmas (I was to find this out years later) and she was actually worried I was ruining the game by playing my neighbour’s version so much — after so much begging and pleading, she gave me my copy of Red early and this is where my journey began.

To this day, no journey has stuck with me more. Of course I’ve played some incredible games that will stay with me forever, but Pokemon Red was something entirely different. It became a sort of way of life for me. With every stupid thing kids believed in, like making wishes when seeing a shooting star or throwing pennies into wells, every wish I’d make was “I wish Pokemon were real.”

As we’re all aware, Pokemon certainly took off in a huge way. I know there are so many people out there that claim to be the biggest fans of such games, and now especially I can completely appreciate that there will be many people that adore Pokemon much more than I do now. But I legitimately think back in the Gen 1 days that I was the biggest Pokemon fan going and I sincerely mean that. As the TV show began to take off, I’d record all the episodes in the morning including the Pokerap. After school I’d come home an re-watch the episodes that I’d already seen in the morning, and then would sit there with a pen and paper and write down the names of the Pokemon featuring in the episode. When the Pokerap would come on, I’d pause it, rewind it, replay it and again write down all the names of the Pokemon trying to build up my own Pokedex of the 150 Pokemon. As I said, the craze was taking off, but the names of all the Pokemon were yet to be discovered, and while yes there was Internet, it was a more wondrous time of discovering these things naturally via other sources.

It got so crazy that my neighbour and I made our own Pokemon RPG in which I would draw out routes and towns and mark encounters with Pokemon on them. I’d created Pokemon player cards with circles representing health points which we’d colour in with pencil when taking damage (so they could be marked out when a potion was used and health was regained). I made cards for the Pokemon that you bumped into in wild encounters so again their damage could be marked down, and if you caught them, you’d attain that Pokemon card and it’d be part of your party. It got so deep, I’d worked out the system for experience gained from battles and leveling up. I’d use dice to give damage from moves and the higher the level the Pokemon you battled, the more the multiplier of damage would be. We loved it — we’d sit there with Pokemon on the TV playing this while playing link player battles and trades with our versions of Red & Blue. There was such a good competitive rivalry there between us.

As the craze continued to take over the world, my collection ever increased. Any magazine that even had a mention of Pokemon in it, my parents would buy for me. When the N64 came out, before any Pokemon game was even announced we were in dreamworld at just how amazing the Pokemon N64 game was going to be. While we didn’t end up getting that dream 3D RPG, we did get Pokemon Stadium that took us to another level of competition with our teams being uploaded to proper 3D visuals. The merchandise was taking over my bedroom, posters and cutouts all over the walls. Figures and plushies everywhere. Magazines piled up.

I can always remember in one of the daily newspapers Sky One included a blue poster with a picture of each of the 150 Pokemon on it in their Pokedex order with their name. This poster lived on the wall next to my head in bed and it was like a ritual every night before hitting the light off to stare at it and memorise more of them in their Pokedex order. That poster lived there for years. Other posters came and went, but that stayed there for as long as I can remember — oh how I wish I still had it.

I even started to get into theories about Pokemon after studying the guides so much. Like shouldn’t the evolution of Venonat be Butterfree, and Caterpie -> Metapod -> Venomoth based purely on their designs. And of course the infamous Cubone and Kangaskhan relation and theory, and the Clefable and Gengar connections. It was all I’d think about. I’d have notebooks full of drawings and scribbles about these silly theories and myths. The TV show would help fuel these notebooks of silliness with some of their unique Pokemon featuring in episodes like the huge Dragonite that came to the lighthouse and of course the infamous Ho-oH appearance in the very first episode.

While the craze continued to grow, so did the amount of Pokemon related stuff I’d carry around. Naturally I’d need my Gameboy with my copy of Red, I’d carry my Pokedex around with me, my folder full of Pokemon cards. I’d keep all this in a case designed to carry the Gameboy and a few games — this case was an official Pokemon one of course. On the front cover of one of the many magazines I had was a blurb of text about how Pokemon had taken over the world. I cut this paragraph out and kept it with me in that carry case at all times. So strange I know, but the impact of this paragraph of text reflected how important I felt that Pokemon had become. I actually have the cutout paragraph on the wall in my office today. This is the paragraph:

While I would go on to enjoy all the Pokemon games after Red & Blue, It was these games that of course started it all. I can’t explain how much these games mean to me. They’ve impacted me even now in my 30s. As silly as it sounds when abroad and seeing wildlife unique to that country or setting, I still think of it as seeing rare Pokemon in their region. Like in Mauritius, seeing sea turtles and octopi, I was just thinking of it as seeing them as Pokemon in their natural habitat and sort of like ‘ticking them off’ a check list having seen them. So strange I know for a 30+ year old to think like that.

I became a father in October of this year, and I’m already getting excited about when my son is old enough to appreciate the Build-A-Bear Workshop in our mall, taking him there and getting him his own Pokemon — I’m hoping he takes after his father and picks Charmander. I shall do my best to encourage and influence him to become the fire type fan that I was and still am, to be honest. In a few days, the Switch will be getting its first Pokemon title, and in terms of nostalgia I can’t wait to get a copy of Pokemon Let’s Go and retrace all those steps that I’m so familiar with in new beautiful presented visuals.

Pokemon Red & Blue changed the world for everyone, but it certainly reminds me of one of the greatest times of my life when growing up. It was one of the most magical journeys of discovery I’d ever taken. It captivated my imagination so much and still does to this day.

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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NiGHTS into Dreams | The Game That Defines HideNGoShauna

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Audio

I believe this is one of the most underrated soundtrack in video game history. Stay and listen a while?

 

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

Happy Friday, and welcome to Day 9 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’re graced with Shauna from HideNGoShauna! This brilliant writer has a whimsical spirit and writing style, and her game choice couldn’t be more appropriate. I’d like to spotlight a series she did recently: Japan memories. She spent three weeks there, and chronicled each day. Travel blogs always get my attention, so to see one of my favorite bloggers crafting one so adeptly was a major treat! I recommend you block off an hour of your life, start at Day 1, and work your way forward in time.

That is, after reading today’s amazing piece of course! We hope you enjoy today’s dreamy entry of The Games That Define Us! 

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

Dp0Dsc3UUAAXlEE

Shauna @ HideNGoShauna

Twitter: @HideNGoShauna

For Claris and Elliot

Game: NiGHTS into Dreams
System: Sega Saturn
Release Date: July 5, 1996

1P Start

The unique creatures, lovely soundtrack, and overall magic of the game really made an impression on me. I remember drawing my own renditions of the worlds in my sketchbook. To this day it’s still one of the most uniquely creative games I’ve played.

In my earliest years, I grew up watching my Dad play video games, and eventually playing them with him. We would sit together on the lumpy futon in the den, peering up at the tiny television. Sonic was one of the first games I remember, along with Mortal Kombat, Ghouls & Ghosts, and a few other favorite Genesis titles.

And Altered Beast of course. WIIIISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE!!!

As I grew, Dad stayed by my side as a guide to the exciting world of video games. Dad was firmly a Sega fan; he believed that Nintendo, while fun, was always a step behind Sega as far as technology and graphics were concerned. As such, instead of having a GameBoy like my friends, I had a Game Gear (which Dad reminded me had colour display several years before Nintendo) and instead of N64 we got a Sega Saturn.

One result of the Sega-mania of my upbringing was that, while I occasionally felt like I was missing out on the popular games my friends were playing (Pokémon, Donkey Kong Country, and Super Mario 64, mainly) on the other hand my consoles were a source of wonder to my friends, and I soon came to love that I had my own special set of magical worlds to peruse.

Occasionally friends would come over to play video games with me at my house and wouldn’t want to leave.

Sega Saturn had a really awesome diversity of games. We would visit our local Cash Converters (used goods) store and eventually amassed a good stack of titles. Some of my favorites were Astal, Bug, Clockwork Knight, Shining the Holy Arc, Sonic R, and Tomb Raider.

Dad would play Virtua Fighter 2 with me often; I only learned many years later that he was letting me win on occasion — as such I feel a bit embarrassed now of all the smack-talk I used to give him after delivering a K.O.

I had a teeny crush on Lion…

Playing the Saturn was the first time I really felt like “I’m a gamer. This is my console.” I was old enough to start beating levels on my own (okay, I did ask Dad for help from time to time) and the Saturn was a precious possession to me. Heck, the thing was even my first CD player, and I delighted in changing the pitch, tone, and speed of my AQUA: Aquarium album with the Saturn.

The game that stands out the most from this time though has to be NiGHTS into Dreams.

320px-Nights_Into_Dreams-title.png

NiGHTS Into Dreams came bundled with a “3D Control Pad” controller that was innovative for its time.

The fantasy stages and bosses in NiD were so creative and strange. The main character, NiGHTS, is an androgynous, elfish being that can fly in a beautiful, acrobatic way.

The entire mechanics of gameplay felt different than anything I’d controlled before, designed to be used with the 3D Control Pad. You could make NiGHTS fly in any direction, forming giant loops to suck up gems and executing sudden turns as you pleased.

The unique creatures, lovely soundtrack, and overall magic of the game really made an impression on me. I remember drawing my own renditions of NiD-like worlds in my sketchbook. To this day it’s still one of the most uniquely creative games I’ve played.

I enjoyed the landscapes in NiD so much that I would often linger on purpose without hitting the checkpoints, forcing NiGHTS to transform into one of the two human characters whose dreams he inhabits. As such, I had the opportunity to walk and run on the ground and get a better look at some of the interesting designs in the game, but before long the egg-clock, bane of my existence, would begin to chase me with its terrifying searchlight.

I hated that clock with a passion. If it caught you in its bright ray, you would “wake up” and fail the stage. As a child I strongly wished that there was an alternate game mode where I could explore the fascinating worlds at leisure without that cursed clock dogging me.

I’ve always had a penchant for baddies, and Reala, NiGHTS’ rival, intrigued me. He was like the evil twin of NiGHTS.

null6.png

I was stoked when a new NiD game was announced for Nintendo Wii some years ago, but it really didn’t capture the magic of the original. I’m not particularly fond of the altered version of NiGHTS that was presented; in the original game NiGHTS doesn’t really speak, whereas the posh female voice in the new game really throws me for a loop (a loop, get it? Like how NiGHTS uses loops to collect energy gems? … )

I’ve often thought that NiGHTS would be fun to cosplay, and that I’d like to design the costume someday — I was so excited when I saw a cosplayer at the Edmonton Expo last year wearing her own handmade NiGHTS costume! I should have gotten a picture with her, ah well. She told me that the headpiece was a pain in the butt to craft, and I totally believe that!

NiD, for me, is a reminder of my happy childhood, a special time when I had nowhere important to be, nothing particular to do, and seemingly all the time in the world to play games on my beanbag chair in my tiny, cozy room. It is one of those magical games that can remind us how video games can be an interactive art form, a format for creativity where dreams can become reality.

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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