Evolving Normal Happenings: Building the Infrastructure for The Characters That Define Us

We approach the end of August, and there is absolutely nothing on the horizon.

Well, except for one thing.
Just, you know, a gigantic year-long collaboration the likes of which the blogosphere has never soon.
Other than that, nothing at all!

TCTDU

We’ve got huge plans for this project, but we’ve got to get there.

We’re throwing all we’ve got at the year 2020:

  • Feature pieces.
  • Daily Inklings.
  • Modern Designs.
  • Hopefully something very huge I’ve yet to reveal.
  • And of course the cornerstone: 57 incredible pieces for our collaboration.

Right now we are a beautiful city with tall skyscrapers and hip boutique restaurants.
But we have dirt roads and rope bridges.
We need infrastructure.

We’re making the call. We’re moving to a self-hosted platform.

I need all the power of CSS, HTML, plug-ins, scripts, storage space, etc to pull this off. Mad art requires mad power, and I’m afraid WordPress.com simply isn’t going to cut it anymore. Luckily for me, you all are constantly incredible at supporting us on social media, so we’re going to be just fine.

Here’s the deal. I need all the time from now to December to front-load this project. I have to design and write like mad starting right now to pull this thing off. That means I’m pushing all blog posts, all Daily Inklings, all Mario Maker courses — all everything except promoting The Characters That Define Us. I am determined to facilitate making 2020 a year-long thrill-ride of artistic goodness.

How can you help? Just keep being there for us, encouraging us along the way. Keep up with us on Twitter, and share social media posts so others can enjoy this group’s hard work in 2020. And if you want to help us offset the costs, we’d very much love for you to pitch in as a Patreon supporter! We’ll keep you updated on our progress.

You can feel the anticipation rising. The Characters That Define Us — the most ambitious blogging collaboration we’ve ever done — approaches. Let’s do it right.


Did you know we’re part of the best community of bloggers in the world? Now that the Normal Happenings Starry-Eyed Discord is up, we’re having incredible conversations every day! You can join us right now by becoming a Patron of Normal Happenings! Also, $5+ Patrons unlock Snail Mail Inklings and get featured in very special blog posts!

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

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

It’s time to pay attention!

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

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


MK Collab

The Premise:

This is one I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now. Mario Kart is deeply entrenched in our culture, and yet we’ve found no one who has sat down and collected stories from our frenzied races of the past. So much emotion goes into a race, and those competitions add up to tell some amazing stories from childhood, university, adulthood, and far into the future. Continue reading “New Year’s Day Announcement! Join Us for Collaboration #3!”

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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starring

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.

2015-03-05_00002

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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adventure map


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

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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.

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.

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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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Super Metroid | The Game That Defines Power Bomb Attack

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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.

So, what does Zerathulu, yesterday’s writer, and Power Bomb Attack, today’s writer, have in common? They both have blog names inspired by the games they’re writing about in this collab! Today we’re joined by Imtiaz of Power Bomb Attack, a wonderful blogger and super nice guy. I’ve been excited to explore another SNES title, and this is the perfect blogger and game to lead us in that adventure!

Here are some favorites from this awesome blog:

DLC Pack two of four has been installed. We’re ready for the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

DkgBNE_VsAAJvDK

Imtiaz @ Power Bomb Attack

Twitter: @powerbombattack

For the answers under your nose…

Game: Super Metroid
System: SNES
Release Date: March 9, 1994

1P Start

It’s a story about how the young boy known as myself, learned that attention to detail is key in games like Super Metroid. That scanning every nook and cranny or rooms and maps is needed to move forward.

Super Metroid is one of those games that when I think back, holds many dear memories for me. It’s a game that taught me many life lessons, a game that taught me it’s ok to ask for help. It’s a game that when I hear people talk about it’s greatness and accomplishments, I can’t help but feel proud as if I somehow contributed to its existence. It’s why I’d truly call it, my video game…

I could go on for forever about Super Metroid, but this post is to focus on stories I can recollect of my time with the game. One instantly comes to mind. It’s a story about how the young boy known as myself, learned that attention to detail is key in games like Super Metroid. That scanning every nook and cranny or rooms and maps is needed to move forward. This story is none other than…

That Time Super Metroid Kicked My Ass

There comes a point in Super Metroid where you get to Upper Norfair, and need to proceed to Kraid’s Lair. Up to this point in the game, I was proceeding pretty smoothly. I really had to learn my way around Zebes, but never hit any major walls, besides a few mini bosses that terrified me as a child.

Back when I played Super Metroid, the concept of the internet was non existent. If you got stuck, you were screwed. There was no quick google searches of youtube videos conveniently showing you the solution. No Miiverse to post on why Metroid can’t crawl…

Kids these days… Well, I certainly hit my big wall in the game in Upper Norfair. The next area I had to get to was Kraid’s Lair. I had received the High Jump Boots. After that, I searched around and simply could not find my way forward. I went all around areas I had access to over and over again, passing many times by areas I knew I couldn’t get to yet for what felt like weeks on end. It was infuriated.

I felt like I found many upgrades, and ended up learning those parts of Zebes very well. In fact, I perfected the wall jump technique during this time. But I still couldn’t move forward no matter where I looked.

It was only when I turned to a friend of mine. You see, this friend is the one who turned me to Super Metroid. But he wasn’t the expert, he didn’t like the game very much, I sought the knowledge of one greater being than himself… his Father! Yes, his father was a master of Super Metroid. The man finished the game countless times in under 3 hours and got the secret ending. I was blown away how a game this big could be finished so quick, so surely he knew the answer.

I told this… father of my plight. Instead of telling me what to do, or booting up his game, he instead did something very special for me. I only realized what it was when my friend came over with a VHS tape from his father. This tape contained recorded footage of how I needed to proceed, along with some bonus footage or some secret power ups I would eventually run into. Score!

I popped the tape in and eagerly anticipated the big reveal of what I needed to do. Despite being ecstatic to finally find the answer, it’s was sad to find out the answer was under my nose the whole time, and had I simply looked very carefully at my map, I would have found the way…

See that there? Next to the pink room is a blue coloured room on the map?

They are side by side, which must been, there is a secret passage between the two. Laying a couple of bombs reveals that the wall can be broken with super missiles, and voila! The way to Kraid’s Lair is now open.

You see, it was such an easy solution, and part of me kicked myself for not finding it sooner, but was also relieved I was finally able to move on. From here, I was able to take out Kraid and smoothly progress through the game. This moment definitely taught me to really look carefully at my surroundings and map. Never will I hit a dead end again.

You see kids, this is what we had to resort to before the internet. Intimate techniques like this. I sadly have to say, I don’t have the VHS tape anymore, but the secrets it held have definitely cemented themselves in my memory and will never be forgotten. And that is the story of how Super Metroid kicked my ass. I hope you enjoyed it.

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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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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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starring

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

screen-shot-2018-12-01-at-9-42-45-am.png

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 9.39.19 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 9.38.54 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 9.39.27 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 9.39.34 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 9.39.38 AM

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.

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 Sims 4 | The Game That Defines Nerd Side of Life

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Audio

The Sims franchise has legendarily great music. We hope you enjoy this playlist of calm Sim-creation and build music. Feel free to keep it running in the background while you work, play, or read.

 

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 final day of November — the end of regulation for The Games That Define Us! But not to fear, we’ve got four more incredible DLC posts coming up in the first four days of December! These will be followed up on December 5th by the final secret entry.

Thank goodness for optimism. We’ve had so many dark games lately, it’s refreshing to be joined by Alyssa from Nerd Side of Life to finish off November. She’ll be dissecting the latest, greatest game in the most popular life-sim franchise ever made. Alyssa just launched a Patreon, you know, so you should consider supporting a great content creator!

I love her writing style; it’s so fun-loving and quirky, but serious when it needs to be. Here are some recent favorites from Nerd Side of Life:

We’re in the homestretch now. Please enjoy this next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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DppdiPMXcAgEocw

Alyssa @ Nerd Side of Life 

Twitter: @alyssamichelle_

For living a great life!

Game: The Sims 4
System: PC
Release Date: September 2, 2014

1P Start

Even after streaming and playing, The Sims 4 is letting me express my creativity. When I feel like I don’t have any creativity in me, I find myself going on The Sims and building houses and creating families. So thank you Sims 4, for being the best game I could have asked for. You are there for me when no one else is.

1

As someone with two brothers, I’ve been around games my entire life. From playing Mario Kart on the GameCube and to Mario Party on the Wii, my brothers and I were obsessed with gaming. And then I got older and they got into shooting games. I had lost people to play with and the motivation to play. Until I saw The Sims 2 in a Toys R Us sales bin and convinced my mom to buy it for me. Actually, we had to go BACK and buy the base game – the thing I had selected was just a stuff pack. I felt incredibly foolish but needless to say my mother and I went trekking back to find the base game. From that moment in early 2009, I’ve been obsessed with the Sims franchise. The Sims franchise is known for many things – mainly how people use the Sims to kill people.

What? It’s entertaining to watch. Don’t lie and try to say you haven’t attempted it yourself.

I remember that my first family I made in The Sims 2 was just a random couple in some base game starter home. I didn’t play as hardcore then as I did now because I was only 13/14 playing the game. Anyways, my first family was just a husband and wife. I was excited because I had gotten her pregnant and she was about to give birth when just suddenly, out of nowhere, THE HUSBAND DIED. I didn’t kill him or anything, he just, died.

And then I befriended the Grim Reaper. Good times, good times.

Anyway, back to my backstory with The Sims. When The Sims 3 came out I was thrilled because the graphics looked so much cooler and I played it obsessively, until about 2010 when I got a MacBook and everything changed. The game wouldn’t load and it was no fun for me to play anymore. I would try every once in a while and it would just end in frustration and a frozen game. Despite all my frustration with trying to play the Sims 3 I still loved the franchise and followed it religiously, waiting for news a new release and desperately hoping for a better Mac release. I even continued to buy the games and still have them in my Origin account.

That was until the holy grail of The Sims came out. The Sims 4 came out in September of 2014 for PC users only (and boy was I pissed about that) and shortly after for Mac users in February 2015. It was a long couple of months until the release.

4.PNG

I was in class during release time, and had bought the PC version the night before knowing that it would download as Mac when it released – and I also researched about it and discovered that if I bought it the night before, I wouldn’t have to bring my debit card with me to class and I would just be able to download it. Which was a win for me because I wanted to be able to play it right then and there.

Thankfully, that was my last and only class of the day so I spent the rest of my day forgetting about food and other people and just playing Sims 4 in my dorm room. I chatted about it for a little with my then roommate (who is also a gamer – she understood my excitement) and my boyfriend, who just nodded and agreed to keep me happy. He brought me food that day so I wouldn’t have to starve because honestly – I would have.

I swear, there is a point to this. Just keep reading.

Around the time the game released for Mac users, I felt alone. It seemed like all my friends had left me and I was feeling oddly home sick. I didn’t want to be at school and I wanted to transfer out somewhere and just give up on life. I was depressed all the time, but when I had The Sims 4 open, I was satisfied and content with myself.

This is incredibly cliche and cheesy, but The Sims 4 was literally my escape. It allowed me to create myself with another person (usually whatever fictional character I am currently crushing on – at the time Matt Murdock probably, and now currently Kylo Ren and Dan Howell) and live out a life that I knew couldn’t exist. I’d started off married, have a boat load of kids, and then have my dream job and dream house. For those moments that I was in the game, I was truly living the life that I wanted to live.

2.PNG
It became even more fun when my boyfriend would join me and we would make ourselves (and still do – currently we have all daughters in game which makes me laugh) and have children, our dream careers, and he would see me happy and still supports me and my obsession.

After that, it was even more fun when I found a community of other Simmers who loved the game as much as I did. We share Sims, stories, builds, and just build each other up and make each other happy.

For a brief time I streamed playing on Twitch and it allowed me to make so many MORE friends because I could be myself and play something that I adored more than anything else. I made YouTube videos of me playing the game and even though they got no views, it felt nice to be able to share myself playing. (I want to get back into that, but life.)

3.PNG

Even after streaming and playing, The Sims 4 is letting me express my creativity. When I feel like I don’t have any creativity in me, I find myself going on The Sims and building houses and creating families. Sure, I don’t make storylines like some other Simmers do, but I make it what’s best for me. I’ve even started dabbling in CC recolors!

So thank you Sims 4, for being the best game I could have asked for. You are there for me when no one else is.

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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!
become_a_patron_button

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