Day Z | The Game That Defines Will

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

introduction

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

The zombies. They’re back.

You know what else is back? The illustrious double-act of Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat! That’s right, today we’ve got Will from G.S.R.R. covering a surprisingly modern game. It’s a stark contrast to the previous zombie game we covered all the way back on day five.

Will composes some great pieces for G.S.R.R., so if you survive this piece, you should journey over there. Here are some recent favorites:

Also, be sure to check out Murr’s much brighter piece on Pokémon Red and Blue.

We’ve turned down the lights in order to set the mood. The hunt begins, as well as the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Will @ geeksleeprinserepeat

Twitter: @Will_GSRR

For the adrenaline…

Game: DayZ
System: PC
Release Date: December 16, 2013

1P Start

Since DayZ, survival games have come in droves, some have stuck around but many failed and disappeared, they just couldn’t quite capture that DayZ feeling… I owe that game so much, it has shaped me as a gamer, it is the game that has inspired me to make videos, to write stories about my experiences. I’ve literally made friends for life playing it.

DayZ, just the mere mention of it can spark some very firm views; it’s a game that splits opinions, a game that has been sat in early access for over 4 years. Some say it will never be finished, some say it’s a scam, others claim it to be a unique and incredible experience. Whatever your opinion on it, for me, it completely changed my video game world.

DayZ first existed as a mod to Arma 2; I only played the mod after the standalone version came out back in December 2013. Back then I wasn’t really a PC gamer and only had a laptop that could run a few games that weren’t too taxing on your processor or that didn’t need a super powerful graphics card to run – basically I played Football Manager and that was pretty much it.

Nevertheless, I was excited for the DayZ standalone experience, I wanted to play it and forked out for it on steam when it first released. This was my first ever early access game and my first ‘proper’ video game on a PC in about 10 years. Up to that point I’d been an Xbox owner, all of my serious gaming was done on console. But with the new generation of consoles, my gaming community became fractured. I stayed with Xbox and got the XB1, as did one of my friends, Murr – who I run the site with, picked up a PS4, and our other friend didn’t get anything, slowly but surely our group played together less and less.

But all was not lost, I had another group on the horizon they were PC gamers – one of which was my now brother-in-law. Actually at that point he was the only one I really knew from the group.

So there I was, with my laptop – underpowered though it was, and booted up DayZ for the first time. It ran like crap, my laptop could barely handle running it – it sounded like a jet trying to take off whenever I played it, and there was basically no optimisation at all. I was lucky to get 20fps on it, but I still persisted and I’m glad I did.

One of my very first sessions playing has stuck with forever. I’d spent some time searching around Electro – one of the bigger cities on the coast, and had a decent bit of loot which included a revolver in my backpack. I was making my way to try and meet up with a friend when I was held up by this kid – he must have been about 13. He was trying to make me do this quiz in order to keep my life – kind of like in Monty Python when they’re crossing the bridge. Anyway, he turned his back on me and I was able to quickly equip the revolver from my backpack and kill him before he could kill me – he was always going to shoot me, I’m not dumb.

It was only a brief encounter, but it was my first one that I’d ever had in an open world online game, it was an encounter that was unscripted with a stranger. This was something that I’d never experienced before; my heart was racing because I didn’t know how it would play out. I knew there was a good chance I would die and that I would need to choose my moment to strike perfectly. After it was over, the adrenaline was running through me, I was excited and actually glad that I was alive.

This encounter set a precedent and every time I was playing DayZ things like this would happen often – totally unique and unscripted moments that you just couldn’t really get anywhere else. Remember that up to this point I had either been playing single player games, co-op games, or multiplayer shooter games like Halo, Gears, and Battlefield. In my eyes there had never been anything like DayZ before, nothing that offered this freedom, the potential to meet all these random people with totally unpredictable outcomes.

Over the next few months I played DayZ more and more, eventually to the point where I decided I needed an upgrade in my rig. So I forked out for a new PC powerful enough to run most games.

By this point I also now had 3-4 other people to play DayZ with and we would regularly group together for adventures. During our time playing we had firefights across airfields, made friends with survivors, betrayed other survivors, got betrayed by survivors, saved people, stole vehicles, crashed vehicles, died climbing ladders, lost hours’ worth of loot in the blink of an eye, ‘assaulted’ a place called Green Mountain only for it to end in a massacre. It was incredible and an unparalleled experience.

Before seriously getting in to PC gaming, I played a lot of single player games, I was able to sit down for hours upon hours and plow my way through huge expansive RPG’s, spending tens upon tens of hours exploring every inch of what they had to offer. Nowadays I can barely complete a game that has a campaign of around 10 hours. I just lose interest with so many games now. I have a burning desire to play co-op or online, to play these sandbox style survival games where ‘anything’ is possible. Spending almost 30 hours on Rust one weekend was a joy because it was an experience that only my friends and I had.

Writing my DayZ diaries series on my blog was such a fun experience that again, no one else will ever have. That is what has stuck with me all these years, so many unique and memorable moments with my friends that you just can’t get playing games like Call of Duty or similar.

But it’s not just my experiences that I’ve loved, I’ve also loved watching and hearing about others playing the game, I closely followed a number of YouTubers through their adventures in the game seeing what they would get up to and who they would meet.

Since DayZ, survival games have come in droves, some have stuck around but many failed and disappeared, they just couldn’t quite capture that DayZ feeling. Sure it ran like crap, and has been stuck in development hell for years, but I owe that game so much, it has shaped me as a gamer, it is the game that has inspired me to make videos, to write stories about my experiences. I’ve literally made friends for life playing it.

The experiences I’ve had in that game are unique to the people playing at that moment in time and that’s what makes it so special for me, not knowing what’s going to happen when you next log on to play.

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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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Borderlands | The Game That Defines FTWRuubin

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

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.

There is so much talent on display in this collaboration that it’s amazing. From FTWRuubin, today we have, well, Ruubin! This blogger has mastered the art of humor, and you can’t help but laugh all the way through reading their posts. We’re honored to have Ruubin on board, discussing the quirky sci-fi western shooter Borderlands!

Ruubin recently took on one of my Daily Inklings — my series of writing prompts I publish everyday at midnight!

And here are some other recent favorites!

Give this great blogger a follow — they deserve it! And with that, we hope you enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Ruubin @ FTWRuubin

Twitter: @FTWRuubin

For the masks…

Game: Borderlands
System: PS3
Release Date: October 20, 2009

1P Start

From games like Borderlands, we learn about kindness, that children can be scary but often grow up being reactive to negative experiences in their childhood, and that people can hide behind a mask so we need to look more at the way they treat people instead of the makeup they wear.

Let me sum up the first twenty years of my life as a gamer with one word — casual. I was the biggest casual gamer out there. For the n00bs that have stumbled upon this post and are wondering what in the world that would even mean, a casual gamer is a gamer that plays a few games a year. Sure, I grew up with video games and consoles (Super Nintendo, Gamecube, Kingdom Hearts, Mario Kart, etc.) but my record of ever beating an actual video game was shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.

Then, college happened. And, the very idea of having to embrace this awful thing called “adulthood” was so intimidating to me that my only coping mechanism was embracing the nerd inside me and evolving from a “casual gamer” to “hardcore.” Yup, I didn’t transition from different levels, I jumped straight from being a Charmander to Charizard himself. I ditched the generic “family-style” games like Super Mario and dove straight into defending the Horde in Northrend and saving Pandora as a Vault Hunter.

Of all the games I’ve played, the two that had the most significant influence on my life was World of Warcraft and Borderlands. Life changing events happened while I was immersed in these two worlds. I graduated college. I got married. Started my first “real” job where I have to think about scary things like taxes, health insurance, and retirement. However, a lot of what I learned from life, I learned from video games. Which leads me into the top three things I learned from Borderlands about adulting that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise:

1. Always Be Positive

I know there are going to be a lot of gamers out there that disagree but Claptrap is the most underrated character in Borderlands. As my gaming friends would say, Claptrap is that annoying NPC you wish would just die already, but let’s be real for a minute. Really, Claptrap is just that one annoying person in your group of friends that always has to be optimistic. Someone whips the entire instance? Not to fear, so and so will give us a pep talk about how it’s not about the dungeons we conquer but the time we spend together as friends, and blah blah blah.

They’re not just always there for the group raids or in the discord chat but the one that gives the best pep talks and advice. They’re just there and frankly, if they weren’t, deep down you’d kind of miss them. They are that little bit of hope that reminds you that life isn’t so bad. And, we can’t help but love the Claptraps in all our guilds, friend groups, etc. Sure, they might annoy us but in most cases, it’s better to hear them hammering on about how positive their day was or how delightful the pizza they just ordered is then listen to everyone else breathing through their mics (thank you gaming universe for the push-to-talk button now).

Moral of the story. Sometimes that positive person gets on our nervous. There’s always a brighter side to things but if you really think about it…at the end of the day, we’re just playing a game. It might as well be a positive experience.

2. Children Can Be Creepy

Tiny Tina has some pretty foul language. Tiny Tina is a twelve-year old explosive expert that likes to blow things (and people) up. How creepy is that? However, you have to admit, her names for things are always really funny. I mean, who else enjoyed searching for the badonkadonks (two rockets) in Borderlands 2?

I mean, Tiny Tina is crazzzzyyyy. When I think back to my twelve-year old self, I’m pretty sure I was playing innocent games like Legend of Zelda or playing outside with the kids in our neighborhood. I wasn’t building bombs. However, in Tiny Tina’s defense, she and her family were some of Handsome Jack’s test subjects so I think poking and prodding a child is just reason to make her into an explosive-building warrior. It also shows that the traumatic events children experience truly do impact the way they grow up (#stopbullying). However, it’s because of Tiny Tina and her crazy language that I usually recommend Borderlands to my friends with a slight disclaimer.

3. You Can’t Hide Behind a Mask

Handsome Jack is the villain for the majority of the Borderlands franchise. He‘s taken over the Hyperion corporation, is trying to take over Pandora, and has stolen the credit from the original Vault hunters. However, his mask can’t hide the truth that he’s actually a fraud.

I think in today’s society we often overlook things because we only see the outside appearance. As sad as it is, we judge people based on their beauty. However, beauty works both ways. Sometimes we might overlook someone who is beautiful and automatically assume they are a bad person. We might judge them by thinking they are obsessed with themselves. Instead of judging people on appearance, we need to look more at how they treat people. In Handsome Jack’s case, it’s easy to see through his mask and realize that he’s just a dictator trying to take credit for things he didn’t do.

Overall, I think we often mistaken the value of video games and the impact these stories have on our lives. So many people are willing to point their finger at video games as the cause for today’s violence and negative behavior in the younger generations that they fail to see the influence some of these characters have to enhance the opposite. From games like Borderlands, we learn about kindness, that children can be scary but often grow up being reactive to negative experiences in their childhood, and that people can hide behind a mask so we need to look more at the way they treat people instead of the makeup they wear.

So, my question to you is, what’s a life lesson you learned from a video game character?

❤ Ruubin

P.S. Thanks to Nikki and Matt for letting me participate in this collaboration!

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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.

Image Source via Borderlands Wiki resource. Borderlands is owned by Gearbox Software and 2K Games.

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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Fallout 3 | The Game That Defines Upon Completion

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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.

Their tagline may be “one day we will finish a game,” but my goodness their content doesn’t show it. There sure is a lot of text in italics in this post, an indication of vast cultural knowledge. Today we’re joined by the amazing Khinjarsi of Upon Completion, a fantastic writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of the gaming zeitgeist. You’re going to love today’s piece — it’s insanely detailed and cultural references abound. After you finish here, you should enjoy these recent favorites over on Upon Completion:

Only nine pieces remain, but it’s not the end of the world. We hope you enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Khinjarsi @ Upon Completion 

Twitter: @Khinjarsi_

For the brave…

Game: Fallout 3
System: XBOX 360
Release Date: October 28, 2008

1P Start

Fallout 3 was one of a few things I experienced (since I think games like Fallout are experiences) that helped skew my brain toward a more curious nature. I always tend to be curious about things, but I think Fallout 3 encouraged me to explore those new things, try out new tactics and try something new.

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War. War never changes.

Perhaps not, but I owe a lot to Fallout 3 for changing me. It may seem an odd choice of game to write about in this context, but it didn’t actually take me long to think of a game that has more meaning to me than most. I would love to have written a huge tome about going through a difficult patch and Fallout keeping me going through it. I’ve been through many of those rough patches, and sometimes there is a Fallout game waiting for me at the end of a long, difficult day to shoot things at long range and revel in joining the Legion the Brotherhood. Hell, it would make writing this and taking part in The Games That Define Us a lot easier. But it would also be doing Fallout 3 an injustice. You see, Fallout 3 changed smaller parts of me that have had small but, I feel, important aspects of who I am, what I play, and how I play.

Before I start, I want to put it out there than I prefer Fallout 3 to Fallout: New Vegas. Each have their faults, each have their shining moments. However, Fallout 3 was my first Fallout, and therefore I am biased in two respects. First, that in most cases, the first version of a series you play will likely be your favourite (as another example, I prefer FFX to all other Final Fantasy games, and prefer Persona 4 to the rest). Second, that Fallout 3 had a much bigger impact on me and my relationship with video games. Would New Vegas have had the same impact? Possibly. I’m not here to talk about what ifs. I ask that you just leave your opinions of which is better here (yes, specifically here) and learn a thing or two about me.

Fallout 3 marked a turn in my gaming self. I stuck to fantasy adventure and RPGs for most of the years I was gaming. Occasionally I would branch out into a platformer or point and click. Then I was introduced to the Xbox 360 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (which, yes, I adore). None of my gaming friends back then had dabbled in the Fallout universe either, sticking to brightly coloured fantasy JRPGs or occasional action-adventure games. I had noone to adventure with and noone to seek a recommendation from before I bought the game. We didn’t exactly wander far out of our comfort zones back then.

You see, the box of Fallout 3 and the general descriptions and reviews of the game presented this post nuclear apocalypse as a 50 Shades of Brown first person shooter. My past experiences with the likes of Call of Duty and similar titles most definitely turned me off the genre and things that looked like it. At the time this included Fallout. It looked drab, it looked like a hundred other shoot ’em ups at the time, and I was not interested.

A cheap discovery in the local GAME store prodded me in the direction of the wasteland after learning Fallout 3 had come from the same developers as Elder Scrolls. I bought it, and challenged myself to play it for a while after being encouraged by my adventures spent in Cyrodiil. I loved it. It surprised me that I did, and perhaps more importantly it showed me that I shouldn’t be afraid to try games that I may not immediately gravitate to. I sank so many hours into my characters, as I did with my Cyrodiil character. I loved the depth of the lore, the mysteries to stumble across, and the sense of achievement felling Super Mutant Behemoths gave me. I have never regretted picking up a Fallout game since.

So what did Fallout 3 change?

At the core of it, Fallout 3 made me a braver player, and ultimately helped me be a braver person. Not only am I happier to explore games I wouldn’t normally look twice at (I usually give the indie games on PS Plus a go before deciding if they are my bag or not), but it made me braver in the games themselves. Take for instance, Ghouls in the Metro system of the DC ruins.

I’m not the biggest fan of zombie fiction. Partially because I’m not 100% convinced that the zombies are necessarily the real horror (why I liked the first couple of series of The Walking Dead), but also the right ones in the right fiction at the right time can give me the real creeps – Mira Grant’s Feed, Charlie Higson’s The Enemy, Max Brooks’ World War Z.

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In the same way I don’t actively seek out gorilla houses in zoos (yay recurring nightmares about one specific gorilla house at one specific zoo), I don’t actively seek out zombies in fiction, particularly gaming. The ghouls in the Fallout games are the nearest you get in the series to zombies; poor souls who survived the nuclear bomb but succumbed to years of radiation. There are a few friendly ones like Hancock (or perhaps Moira Brown) but generally they want to bite your kneecaps off. The odd one on its own is no real threat, but get three or four, or a Tenpenny Tower-ful, and you’ve had it, and that can be a terrifying thought sometimes. (It’s the same feeling I have with ants, only ants are more real and currently can give me an allergic reaction).

All this makes traversing the mid to late game of Fallout 3 really challenging for me. A huge amount of time is spent in the Washington Metro system where it seems most of the city’s population ran to when the bombs dropped, and where most of the feral ghoul population seems to be now. And so a lot of my Fallout time was spent creepy-crawling around every corner and sniping things from far away. As I got more powerful things got a bit easier and I could deal with the odd surprise attack. The low level ghouls became another mole rat, another skeever to deal with. The higher level ones became predictable bosses I could pick off from a distance, or avoid altogether. I became less intimidated by the challenge and eventually made my way out of the tunnels.

So, how has that changed me?

When I did the first draft of this post, I wrote the following:

“I wouldn’t say this thing with ghouls has massively affected my offline self but it has made a difference in my gaming.”

On re-reading my thoughts, I stopped and wondered if I truly meant this. I say this because I think actually, Fallout 3 was one of a few things I experienced (since I think games like Fallout are experiences) that helped skew my brain toward a more curious nature. I always tend to be curious about things, but I think Fallout 3 encouraged me to explore those new things, try out new tactics and try something new. At the end of the day, if I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t have to continue, and that principle still stands. It helped me strengthen my resolve and ability to reject things I don’t like.

It wasn’t the only game to encourage this, and wasn’t the only thing in my life to do it either, but I think it’s an important part of who I am today. In gaming, it certainly made a difference to how I approach new games I wouldn’t normally try, and even how I play in games I know I will love. I’ve said in many of my posts, I’m a sneaky sort. Bows, sniper rifles and sneaking are my jam and usually how I play my first characters in games like Fallout and Elder Scrolls. Since playing with Fallout 3 and having a go with different builds, I can cope better with sudden close quarter attacks and sudden spoops. I can cope with the zombies in the Elder Scrolls series better and I’m marginally happier in the tunnels of games than I was. Except maybe that one zombie at the start of Elder Scrolls Oblivion which always makes me jump.

Having said all that, I still don’t actively seek out zombies hordes or underground lairs, but I’m much less averse to the Metro system than I was when I started. Mind you, having a Ghoul Mask also helps.

And now, to focus less specifically on Fallout 3 but the series as a whole; Fallout has helped me embrace the 1940s and 1950s culture. You see, since discovering my great-grand-uncle was at the Battle of the Somme and my grandfather (who I sadly never met) was an REME engineer in the Second World War, my dad and I got into visiting 1940s recreation events. There’s a fair few of these in the UK, and after visiting a few, my parents and I now attend at least one a year in outfits of the time. “How does this relate to your experiences in the Fallout universe?”, I hear you ask. Let’s use the music as an example here.

The Fallout universe is set in an timeline where the bombs dropped across the world; our reality and the Fallout reality split shortly after the Second World War. Where our reality sped through the 1950s, 60s and onwards into the world we have today, the Fallout reality embraced the styles and tech of the 1950s and stuck with the Golden Age – think Worlds of Tomorrow meets the Jetsons. Everything from the advertising to the fashion looks like the styles we had in the 1950s. When the nukes were dropped in Fallout in 2077, the radio was still playing tracks dating from that time; the Fallout Wiki lists tracks for Galaxy News Radio from Fallout 3 as dating from 1935 through until 1954, whilst Fallout 4 has tracks that stretch into the early 1960s. Of course, attending 1940s events means we miss out on some of the more rockabilly style songs. Luckily there are still a few, however, that I learned the words to whilst travelling the wastes, and can sing along with whilst sampling the Camp coffee. In particular Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo) by Danny Kaye and The Andrews Sisters and I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire by The Ink Spots. It helped me embrace more of the 1940’s events than perhaps I would have otherwise, and helps me feel more a part of those events.

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I am sure Fallout 3 has impacted me in so many other ways that I don’t notice or am not aware of. I wish I was able to write about all those. Sadly, without being aware of them, I can’t, but I hope this short essay gave you an insight into why Fallout 3 is so important to me and my gaming self; why I prefer it over Fallout: New Vegas, and perhaps why you like the games that you do.

If you found this kind of post interesting, I encourage you to read the rest of The Games That Define Us. It covers a huge range of people, personalities, writing styles, games and eras. Despite the procrastination on my part, I’ve actually quite enjoyed taking part in this massive collaboration, and examining Fallout 3 in a personal kind of way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Fallout, the games you love or what games mean for you, and if you want more of this kind of writing, please do let me know. It takes me a lot longer to get a post out in this style, but it turns out I enjoy 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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Animal Crossing | The Game That Defines Nikki

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From the artist that accompanied Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds!, Vapidbobcat has also made an atmospheric Animal Crossing piece. Soak in this amazing piece of music. 

 

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.

It took work, but I managed to drag Nikki away from writing her thesis long enough to compose this wonderfully nostalgic piece. How could I be so lucky? Not only is my wife an amazing person, but she’s also an incredible writer. She really is brilliant — she can use brevity and free-flowing language to convey feelings in ways I rarely can.

Once you finish up here, please be sure to check out her other incredible pieces here on Normal Happenings:

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

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Nikki @ Normal Happenings

Twitter: @NormalNikki

For friendship…

Game: Animal Crossing
System: Gamecube
Release Date: April 14, 2001

1P Start

Throughout my life, I have always made time for my friends. I am a big believer in keeping your friends close, even when life changes happen. This is why I liked doing things for the characters in Animal Crossing.

Throughout my life I have always had amazing friends, but I want to take it back to the days before I could drive. Back to when I depended on my bicycle to get me around the two neighborhoods that I grew up in. In those two neighborhoods — one being my father’s house in Eclectic, Alabama, U.S., and the other being my grandmother’s house in Montgomery, Alabama — I played outside with my childhood friends until the sun went down. Then I would go in and everyone would go to bed. I, being the night owl that I was (and still am), would stay up. I would often read, journal, or watch a movie well into the night. I was also plagued with horrible nightmares throughout my life, so sleep would usually come in waves for me.

SI_GCN_AnimalCrossing_image1600w.jpg

One day an old friend of mine told me about a game called Animal Crossing and the rest is history. Time would pass ever so slowly in the game, but I would literally play all day. I wanted to pay off my house, I wanted to explore the land, and I wanted to most importantly be there for my friends. My family and real friends would have to tear me away from my town sometimes, but I have a secret.

I am no stranger to hardship, and at times the harshness of my life circumstances made me retreat into my own brain. I think these hardships are why I am so responsible now. Paying off the house in the game taught me that nothing worth doing  in this life is free. Everything requires hard work and time. Being a good friend has always been something that I strive for. Throughout my life, I have always made time for my friends. I am a big believer in keeping your friends close, even when life changes happen. This is why I liked doing things for the characters in Animal Crossing.

I loved the feeling of being able to decorate my house with wallpaper from Sable and Mable’s store because I felt like I was being a good friend to them by supporting their business. I loved delivering packages for the characters, not because it was fun, but because sometimes life is tedious and it is in those moments you can find real beauty in life. When I would see one of those cute animals dance around for helping them out, I couldn’t help but smile.

The monotonous patterns in the game mirror those same cycles in life. If my dad needed me to go with him on an errand I might’ve preferred to stay at home doing anything else back then, but looking back, it was in those small moments that we shared some of the best conversations. I hate to repeat myself, but beauty is found in moments like that.

Exploring the land reminded me that imaginations are vital in life. For example, I would often just run around and explore the game, and I would find the most random things —  old shirts, bouncy balls, and even wallpaper. This is similar to my life because I played outside often. My old neighbor and I used to pretend that we had a treehouse in the middle of the woods. We pretended to chop down wood, look at building plans, and figure out how to put up our pretend “No Boys Allowed” sign. All of these things were made up, but they felt real to me, just like the things in the game were to my character.

Whenever my friends weren’t home, or if they couldn’t hang out with me (we never called it “playing” because we were cooler than that), I would immerse myself into a different kind of world with friends that taught me all about life. Not only did the game itself have moments that taught me about life, but also many of the characters reminded me of people and how to treat and read them.

Tortimer made me realize that respecting my elders is essential to living a good life. If I as a human being can’t admire a person for living out their life well into old age then am I really doing things correctly? Yes, the elderly can be slow, forgetful, and even grumpy, but I like to look for the diamond in the rough. I listen to their stories and think about who they were when they were young. This respect also reminds me of where I will end up if I am lucky enough to live that long.

Rover taught me to listen carefully even when a person can be long-winded. At the beginning of the game you would talk to Rover and he would literally talk forever. I was always rude to him as a kid, but looking back has kind of taught me to be opposite of that towards people that talk a lot. Yes, they can be annoying, but they can sometimes be some of the most helpful people ever. It is also good to know another person’s story. Rover made me get out of my head and listen to him.

Mr. Resetti would often appear on the screen when I forgot to save. He would angrily tell me to always save before turning off the system. He taught me that following the rules and taking the time to think about each day is important because life is something to cherish. If I were to just go to bed and get up every single day without considering how the day went then I would feel like my days were running together.

Finally, Tom Nook taught me that evil can come in a deceptively cute package. It’s no coincidence that he is a raccoon with eyes resembling a mask. Nook wanted all of my money from the moment I met him, and as my debt to him grew, his store grew larger and larger. He seemed to have my best interest in mind when he was selling to me, but in reality he knew that he could make a hefty prophet off of me. In my life, some of the worst people started out as people that I thought were trustworthy. Be wary of the Tom Nooks in your life!

My real friends taught me about life in a very real and sometimes jarring way. Growing up is sticky for any human being, and I appreciate and love everything they have done for me. However, when I needed it most, Animal Crossing taught me life lessons in a much more beautiful way.

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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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World of Warcraft | The Game That Defines Just Geeking By

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Audio

Going into this, I had two World of Warcraft mixes that were so good I couldn’t choose between them. Luckily, I also has two posts on the game — experience the incredible atmosphere of Azeroth.

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.

It’s time for the grand finale of Warcraft Weekend, even if it’s technically a Monday! Our writer today referred to it as a Warcraft Bank Holiday, and I like that metaphor. Speaking of which, taking us to the finish line is the wonderful Heather from Just Geeking By! One of the most charismatic bloggers of the group, she is part of an incredible amount of blogging communities and is a genuine force for doing good. She’s an incredibly creative individual, so you should be sure to experience Just Geeking By for yourself after reading this piece. It’s hard to know where to start, but I would use her recent Geeking By in October post as a good launching point!

We couldn’t ask for a better final piece to Warcraft Weekend. We know you’ll enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

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Heather @ Just Geeking By

Twitter: @JustGeekingBy

For the button-smashers…

Game: World of Warcraft
System: PC
Release Date: November 23, 2004

1P Start

World of Warcraft has seen me from a nervous early 20-something student through to my mid-30’s, and I would definitely attribute it to some of my personal growth. There were tears shed, arguments had, and there were also skills learned and confidence gained along the way.

There was once a little girl that fell in love with the Sonic the Hedgehog animated TV show. At the same time, video games were just beginning to become a household item, with every little boy (and some girls) begging their parents for a Sega Mega Drive. Her cousin would get one first, and surrounded by a bunch of boys, she would try so so hard to keep up — to learn all the key combinations for the fighter games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat that they loved so much. Occasionally she would get to pick her choice, Bomberman, and she would get a chance to feel that incredible delight mixed with frustration as she chased things around on screen trying to win a level.

Inevitably she could never keep up with the boys. She was a button-smasher, she was told. She was not a gamer. She asked her parents for her own Mega Drive and spent a few hours trying to beat the first level of Sonic the Hedgehog. But her confidence was already crippled by then. She wasn’t a gamer. It just wasn’t her thing.

That little girl was me. I spent many years after that convinced that games weren’t for me. I would dabble in a few casual games; we had a fish game that came free with one PC, I could ace the quiz in Encarta and frequently did so, and any little games in DK encyclopaedia CDs I lapped up. When the internet came along and Neopets was created I was a fast fan, becoming a daily player that loved the little games. Those I could play, but I wasn’t a gamer. Not a real one.

I was always acutely aware of this, especially when I started dating a gamer. He tried to get me into games and like many things, he did that wrong. He started me off with his favourite game, Natural Selection. A first person shooter in teams, and while that was something I worked up to in my own time many years later, it was the worst thing to start me on. Deflated, I was ready to give up, and then something happened.

 

 

 

 

 

I still get a chill watching that cinematic. Everyone was talking about it. This new game coming out, and little me the non-gamer had no idea at the time how huge this game was or what it would mean for me personally. That game was World of Warcraft, and it is the game that would define me.

The Start of Something Life-Changing

At first, I had hardly any interest in it. What did I care? It was just another game. I’d watch my then boyfriend play a few games like Half Life 2 and, okay, they were interesting, but since I couldn’t play them they weren’t really anything important. He needed to use my PC to play it at first, so I caught glimpses of him playing it and bit-by-bit I was watching more. The first thing that caught my attention was how beautiful it was; the world was incredible, the creatures were fantastic and the characters looked amazing. I fell in love with the elves and the druids instantly. And then I watched him fighting a random mob, just doing an ordinary quest like you do. As I said, my introduction into video games had been somewhat lacking, and at this point I had no idea that there were so many varieties of fighting styles out there. The idea of turn-based combat, for example, was an entirely foreign concept to me. Here I was watching a fight where you could push buttons and there were cooldowns on abilities! You didn’t need to be fast and know all those fancy pants key combinations because the cooldowns physically stopped you from doing that! I still remember that moment so clearly. It was a moment of clarity, a realisation that I could actually play games. All those amazing beautiful worlds and moving stories that I’d seen and heard about – I could be a part of at last.

I had a character on his account for less than a week before I bought my own account and, as they say, the rest is history. That was one week after the game initially launched, and it is coming up to it’s 14-year anniversary of the U.S. launch, and in February it will be the EU launch, marking 14 years of play for me as a World of Warcraft player and a gamer. But the story doesn’t end there….

A Love Story

Fast forward to the summer of 2007. Newly single, I find myself sitting at a table at my cousin’s wedding when I hear a few words which to a casual observer wouldn’t mean a thing; city, auction house, bank, and talking about dancing on the bridge between them. This sounded familiar to me…

I listened for a few minutes to make sure I was on the right track before I politely interrupted; “Excuse me? Are you talking about World of Warcraft?!”

It turned out that they had just started playing. By then I was a several year veteran that had stopped playing and wasn’t planning on going back. It held some bad memories and of course, was tied closely to my ex. In the next ten minutes talking to this brother and sister something magical happened. Their excitement at just discovering Azeroth for the first time rekindled my love for the game. It pushed away all my doubts about whether I could be a gamer, whether the game was too toxic and whether I should go back. There was no one to stop me now — no little voice telling me it was a bad idea, that I couldn’t do it.

Still, I wasn’t certain. It took me a while to convince myself, and once I had I logged on to a welcome back from a friend with an invite to go to an old raid. By this point the second expansion, The Burning Crusade, had been released in January 2007, allowing players to level up to level 70. That meant that players could return to older content and run it with less people, usually for fun and for loot. It is something that we still do now to collect transmog items, pets and mounts. I’d never done one and so I decided to go along. I had no other plans after all, so why not?

When I’d last left the game I’d also left my guild, and in that new members had come along. Several of them were in the group that night when we headed into Molten Core. I hit it off with them straight away and we had a great time. I didn’t really think anything of it, but I do remember the next morning vividly. It was a Sunday morning and I was sitting in Stormwind, in the Trade District by the auction house trying to work out what I was going to do that day. And I suddenly get a whisper from one of the guys in the group last night, a druid called Gerry. He said that I seemed interesting and he wanted to get to know me more. So, we started chatting.

The rest, as they say, is history. Chris and I have been together 11 years as of October 2018. It was difficult to begin with as there was a long-distance aspect to our relationship with me living in London, England and him being in Glasgow, Scotland. Initially he moved down to London for a few years before we both moved to Glasgow and we’ve settled there. We became engaged in 2010, and while we don’t have a set date for our wedding we both know it’s a done deal. We’re practically married already. We hope to one day start a family of our own, and Chris already has plans to turn the kids into little farming minions. For now, it’s just us and our two cats, Milo and George.

Last year we celebrated our ten-year anniversary, and we both decided to do something special to celebrate it. For years I had an idea for a piece of art in my head for this exact occasional, so I sought out the perfect artist to commission for the job. That was Lady Rosse and I worked with her to bring my idea to life. Unbeknownst to me Chris had the same idea. He went to our mutual friend, and my best friend, Haley, and asked her to help him create a gift from both of them for my Christmas present. I had also confided in Haley what I was working on for Chris, and so she knew exactly what we had both done. As you can see; great minds think alike!

My present to Chris:
Our two main World of Warcraft characters with our three cats; Milo, George and Az (the ghost cat sleeping as he sadly passed away).

Chris and Haley’s present to me:
Our two main World of Warcraft characters alongside my favourite alts (alternate) characters which Chris sneakily asked me one day.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

You would think that giving me the love of my life and the person who has helped me through so much would be enough. However, this game has given me so much more and continues to define me every day. Through World of Warcraft I have met so many amazing people, including my guild Excited State on Aerie Peak EU which is probably the only guild that holds the record for the highest number of PhD’s. The guild name comes from physics because it is literally filled to gills with physicists – listing CERN as your current/former employee on your resume is a norm in our guild. I seriously feel the odd one out at times and I have two degrees and I’m working on a Masters. I actually got congratulated when I started my Masters because I was finally joining the science club 😛 Anyway, if you’ve never spent time with a group of physicists I will let you in on a little secret; they’re completely bonkers! Which leads to some really awesome guild meet ups.

There has been a total of four guild meet ups and we’ve attended three of them. Not only has this game given me the opportunity to visit some beautiful European cities, it’s also given me some great friendships that I treasure. These aren’t just limited to my guild and I count friends among the wider World of Warcraft community too.

As I’ve been a part of this community for so long, World of Warcraft has seen me from a nervous early 20-something student through to my mid-30’s, and I would definitely attribute it to some of my personal growth. There were tears shed, arguments had, and there were also skills learned and confidence gained along the way. My blog, Just Geeking By, for instance started life as a World of Warcraft blog before transforming into a personal blog when I returned to University and then eventually becoming its current incarnation.

The biggest surge in confidence though has to be to my gaming. Gone is that little girl who thought she couldn’t be a gamer. In the past 14 years I have played multiple different games including some that I never thought I could possibly play. The monumental moment for me was when I decided to try Half Life 2, a game I had been told I could never ever play. The day I finished that I was able to let go of a lot of baggage I had been carrying, and since then I can say with confidence:

I am a gamer.
And the game that defined me
is World of Warcraft.

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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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World of Warcraft | The Game That Defines Life of Jan

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Audio

This is one of the most relaxing mixes I’ve ever heard. Despite having never played the title, I throughly enjoyed this melodic journey.

 

 

 

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.

Warcraft Weekend continues, and this time we’ve been graced by one of my faovrite bloggers on the face of the internet! From The Life of Jan, it’s, well, Jan! This blogger wrote not one, not two, but three lengthy posts for Hyrule: See the Sights, Hear the Sounds. Now she’s back with another doozy, and I’ve been so excited to publish it for the world to read. After you’re done here, be sure to head over to her blog and get to know her with her recent Q&A piece!

The middle part of Warcraft Weekend and the next chapter of The Games That Define Us begins now!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Jan @ The Life of Jan

Twitter: @SuperJanGames

For pieces of the heart…

Game: World of Warcraft
System: PC
Release Date: November 23, 2004

1P Start

It was a crazy, expensive, 10-year long rollercoaster of a time that I had with this game, and while I may have ventured away from Azeroth, a piece of my heart will always remain there.

I was just a naive, impressionable 14 year old girl when World of Warcraft was released in the US, in late 2004. At the time, I was a quiet, nerdy band geek, with few friends, and far too many active game files on The Sims 2. Although I owned a handful of GameBoys, as well as my trusty, well-worn N64, and played a handful of various games on a regular basis (The Sims, Zelda, Banjo-Kazooie, Pokemon, and DDR mostly), I hardly considered myself a “gamer” at the time. Most of the friends that I did have were pretty hardcore when it came to both console and PC gaming, and I just didn’t get it. Maybe it had something to do with how they enjoyed torturing me whenever we played together, usually by killing me over and over in Halo 2, or some other shooter game, and it definitely wasn’t fun for me. Aside from a few, select franchises, not many other games had really been able to interest me, or hold my attention, and I couldn’t understand how people could get so consumed by them, and act so competitively.

At the time of World of Warcraft‘s release, I was dating a boy who was definitely what the world would consider a “gamer“. Of course, I mean that in the nicest way possible, because he was a great guy, but he definitely fit a lot of those all-too-familiar stereotypes that come to mind when you say the word “gamer”. In early 2005, when World of Warcraft had been out for a couple of months, my then boyfriend convinced me to make a character on his account (yes, we were ignorant 15 year olds, and hadn’t really paid much attention to the rules in the ToS). I was hesitant at first, because I was the type of person who absolutely abhorred being embarrassed in video games by my friends, and didn’t want this to be a more fantastical version of us playing Halo together. However, my anxiety was eased slightly once I saw all of the customization options, which was always (and still is) something that I loved in the games that I played.

The first character that I ever made was a Night Elf druid, simply because of how beautiful they were. I named her “Deuxfois”. I had no idea what the name meant, just that it was French, and sounded cool, which was all that really mattered to my 15 year old self. I’m pretty sure I used Google translate, or Babelfish, to come up with it. My boyfriend was an Undead Mage, and you better believe that he gave me a hard time about choosing an Alliance character, especially since I had to be on a different server than him, since this was back in the Vanilla WoW days, when you could only play one faction per realm. My first experience in the game was cowering in fear over the idea of killing a very small, very non confrontational boar. I just stood there, totally frozen, and freaking out, while my boyfriend cheered me on to just go up to it and give it a good whack. It took awhile, but that’s exactly what I did. I felt like a total badass. While I would later abandon my little Night Elf, and reroll as a Troll shaman on my boyfriend’s realm, I made many, many other druids later down the road. Little did I know at the time, my small victory over that innocent, passive boar would be the start of an incredible, 10-year long adventure in Azeroth.

High school was hard for me. I struggled with anxiety and depression, had a rough home life, and didn’t have many friends. I experienced trauma, breakups, teenage drama, and all sorts of hardships that would normally have been very difficult for me to get through alone. Only, I wasn’t completely alone. You see, during those four years of high school that I struggled through, I kept playing World of Warcraft. I not only played the game, but I loved it, and I was good at it. I had managed to come out of my shell, and express myself in ways that I hadn’t been able to do before, and it changed me in some pretty obvious ways. My confidence and self-esteem had increased, and I began making friends from all across the country, and beyond. Every night, I was surrounded by these amazing, supportive, like minded people, who I could talk to about anything and everything, while we explored this beautiful, exciting, online world together. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel completely alone.

When I was a junior in high school, I met a boy on World of Warcraft. We were in the same guild together, and people often confused us for one another, because our names were so similar. One night, we got to talking about how funny it was that people were always confusing us, which turned into talking about other games we like to play, and then into more personal subject matter. He changed my life entirely. We spent hours and hours a day talking about life, our families, school, the trials and tribulations of being teenagers, bad relationships, trauma, and everything else in our lives. After a short while, we started texting, then talking on the phone for hours on end. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly, I found myself completely in love with this boy who I had never even met. He encouraged me to embrace life, and be the best version of myself. He made me feel like I was worthy of love, and friendship, and compassion. By the end of my senior year, we were applying for colleges together, which was something that I never saw myself doing. After graduation, I packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my old life, hopped on a plane, and flew to Missouri to stay with him and his family for an entire week, before driving up to Newfoundland, Canada to start school. We had it all planned out, and looked forward to taking on the world together.

Unfortunately, our life together was not all sunshine and rainbows, and I have no one to blame for that by myself. While at college, I continued to play World of Warcraft, while he chose to stop, so he could focus on school. While our relationship was okay for the most part, I spent many days, and many very late nights, playing online. I skipped classes, slept through alarms because I had fallen asleep at 3:00 a.m., and spent a lot of time in my room, instead of going to social functions, getting a job, or making friends. He excelled at all of the things that I found myself failing horribly at. I distanced myself from real life, and I totally immersed myself in this online world, despite the negative impact that it was having on my real life, and how neglectful I was becoming. By the end of the school year, despite being a straight A student in high school, I was nearly failing all of my classes, and my GPA was horrifyingly low. But I kept playing. Because of my grades, and the fact that I was now completely broke, I ended up dropping out of college, moving back to the US, and moving in with a friend, who I had also met online. My boyfriend and I eventually broke up, and I found myself starting over again.

The years kind of blurred together for a while after that. Although I kept playing World of Warcraft after I left school, there were long periods of time where I struggled financially to pay my rent and my bills, which of course meant I couldn’t afford to play the game either. I had to stop logging in for stretches of several months at a time. My real life was an absolute trainwreck, and everything was fall apart around me, and that bled into my escape. Even when I was fortunate enough to be able to afford my monthly subscription, I often felt that logging in had become more of a chore, rather than a way to escape from the struggles of my reality, which was becoming harder and harder to escape from. By this time, so many of my original friends from the game had moved on with their lives, either quitting the game entirely, or moving to different realms to pursuit new ventures. I had a hard time finding a new place that I fit in, and new friends that I could talk to. I bounced around from realm to realm, from guild to guild, switching back and forth between factions, and leveling up character after character. I had a certain pride, as well as a kind of shame, in how many characters I had managed to level up, but it all felt overwhelmingly pointless with no one to enjoy the game with. I raided, I collected, and I farmed, but it was a very lonely way to spend my life. I felt myself growing more and more isolated, both in the online community, and in real life. I dealt with depression, as well as intrusive thoughts, and felt like there was no place I could turn to to escape my demons anymore.

I struggled with this for several years.

Then, in early 2012, I decided that if I couldn’t find somewhere that I belonged, then I would create a place instead. On February 2, 2012, I published my very first episode of the Something Suggestive podcast. Armed with only a borrowed headset, a hand-me-down computer, some free recording and editing software, and a few other World of Warcraft podcasts as inspiration, I began dedicating all of my free time, and most of my energy, to producing podcast content that was informative, entertaining, and witty. Within a few episodes, I was receiving emails, tweets, and whispers from people in the community who appreciated my show, and wanted to talk to me, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a warmth growing inside of me that I thought I had lost for good.

I hosted the Something Suggestive podcast for a little over a year. During that time, I made friends and connections with people who are still in my life today, with whom I can’t imagine my life without. I interviewed prominent people in the World of Warcraft community, guest hosted on several other, popular podcasts, and created a name, and a following, for myself. I was even approached by two, wonderful people, who offered to be segment creators on my podcast, one for mounts and one for achievements, and even still today, they are two of my closest, most trusted friends, who I can’t even imagine my life without.

Unfortunately, the bigger my podcast became, the more attention I got, and it certainly was not always positive. I received a lot of anonymous, harassing emails and messages, as well some pretty nasty reviews on iTunes, and encountered a handful of people whose intentions were not always kind, including a few instances of stalking, and long-term harassment. At the time, I was one of very few female, World of Warcraft podcasters, and the only solo female host that I knew of, in a time where female gamers still weren’t as widely accepted and listened to as they are now. It was hard. At one point, I was invited to join a new, growing guild by someone who I considered to be a friend. Unfortunately, I came to realise after some time that this fellow podcast creator only wanted to use me for publicity and recruitment. Whatever “friendship” we had ended pretty suddenly, publicly, and very messily, and I ended up leaving the guild, if only for the sake of my own wellbeing and sanity. I lost a lot of so-called friends after that, and my name was dragged through the mud for months.

Shortly after the fallout, I was approached by several other people in the podcast community, who told me about a large community of content creators, listeners, and friendly folks that resided together on one realm. I had heard about this community of people, and their founder, and how they used addons to communicate between the numerous sister guilds. It was definitely cool. Without giving it a second thought, I moved all of my characters to the now well-known Earthen Ring realm, and joined one of the many AIE guilds there. It was a fresh start for me, and it was one of the highlights in all of my 10 years playing World of Warcraft. I had all of my friends beside me, an incredible raid team where I was able to really hone my skills, and a support system of people who wanted to help me succeed, both online and off. I fell in love with the game all over again, and even found new things to fall in love with, like putting together awesome transmog sets, and collecting rare vanity pets. I finally felt like myself again.

Unfortunately, like so many other times in my life, all good things had to come to an end. On April 1, 2013, the final episode of Something Suggestive was posted, hosted by a close friend, and fellow content creator, instead of myself. Just days prior, I was forced to step away from my beloved podcast, and the World of Warcraft community once more, when my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, after four years together. I was given no choice, and had to leave most of my belongings behind, including my computer, one of my cats. I lost my home, and four years of my life. With the loss of my relationship, came the loss of what few real life friends I had made over the previous four years, and I once again was finding myself feeling completely isolated and alone. I had moved so far away from everything familiar and comfortable to be with this man, and now it was all gone. For nearly two years, I lived without a phone or internet. I felt cut off from my online friends, my new fans, my community, and everything that I knew and loved, while living in an unfamiliar town, filled with painful memories. I felt lower than I had felt in a long time, and it was a very scary time for me. I had a lot of dark thoughts, and felt like I had very little to live for. A few weeks after moving into my own apartment, when I was just starting to feel like I could actually get a grip on my life, and try to move forward, I lost my job. And that nearly killed me.

But then, things got better, and my story was given a happy ending. After my breakup, and the loss of my job, I met a wonderful man, who treated me better than I ever thought that I deserved. Even his family welcomed me with open arms. I found a new job, that I absolutely loved, and made new friends. During my two years away from the internet and gaming, I got engaged, got pregnant, moved to a new town with the love of my life, and had a beautiful, little boy. After my son’s birth, I returned to World of Warcraft, where I received an exuberant welcome from my friends and AIE guildmates on Earthen Ring. I played casually, usually while my son napped, or late at night, and spent a lot of time farming for my guild, helping to supply the amazing raid team that I was no longer geared enough to raid with. I’ll admit, that stung a bit, but I wanted to support them. However, despite my warm reception, and the support of my friends, I never could quite get back into the game. I tried to reignite my love for pet collecting, and transmog sets, but it just didn’t click. Too much time had passed, and too much had changed in my life. So, I stepped away from World of Warcraft, one last time, on my own terms.

It has now been three years since I last logged into World of Warcraft, but I often find myself reading up on the new expansions, and all the drama and craziness that comes with them. I watch my friends tweet and post about new mounts, storylines, gear sets, and everything else. I roll my eyes at the politics of the game, and cringe at how much a video game can divide so many people, who are all just trying to escape reality, and have a little fun. I get wrapped up in the hype of BlizzCon every year, and gush over all the photos my friends post, even though I know I will never get to go myself. I retweet all the new podcast episodes, YouTube videos, and blog posts, trying to show love and support to my friends and their endeavors, the way they supported me in mine. It was a crazy, expensive, 10-year long rollercoaster of a time that I had with this game, and while I may have ventured away from Azeroth, a piece of my heart will always remain there.

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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Warcraft III | The Game That Defines The Purple Prose Mage

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Audio

Warcraft III has a pretty chill and ambient soundtrack to begin with, so let’s take it from the top. 

 

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

Welcome to Warcraft Weekend: a collection of three posts all related to this defining franchise.

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.

Upcoming, we have both Jan from Life of Jan and Heather from Just Geeking By recounting their life-long adventures with World of Warcraft. But today, we have the amazing and wonderfully supportive Alex, aka The Purple Prose Mage. This blogger puts out some great stuff, both on his own blog and for The Well-Red Mage! He’s also incredibly supportive of Normal Happenings both on Twitter and his own blog — we are very thankful for this mage’s constant encouragement. Here are a small collection of posts you should check out after reading:

Let’s start Warcraft Weekend, and this next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

DndkPSVVYAAsn5g

Alex @ The Purple Prose Mage

Twitter: @AlexSigsworth

For the humans!

Game: Warcraft III
System: PC
Release Date: July 3, 2002

1P Start

I wrote this entry with the theme of nostalgia, to be forever reaching out to that idealised time long ago of things which seem better because they’re gone; Like Gatsby, wanting to repeat his heroic past but without the complicated problems that made it very unheroic.

The problem with the real world is things often suck. It’s our friends that make it bearable. No one comes into the world predetermined. We’re all blank sheets of paper. The people that we meet, everyone, contributes something to that tract. Most of us aren’t self-defined. How could we be without context? It’s the other people, and what they write on our page that creates our identity. Therefore, our most important responsibility in life is to maximise the people who have only good things to write, and to minimise everyone else. If playing video games with someone is a part of that process, then it’s a fundamentally good thing. That’s why Warcraft III is such an important game to me – because it brought me closer to another person.

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Sure, we had already been friends for years but – just as doctors engage in a lifelong education about their field – that kind of relationship requires constant sustenance in order to mean anything. Warcraft III is a game that I’d play with Christopher Lee of short.Parse every Friday. It wasn’t a school night, and we were already together. It was just the easiest way to do it. He has no siblings, so I was always something of the brother he never had. That had been very clear to me as we became friends in nursery. Which meant Friday was our day.

When you meet up in the same form room for five days consecutively, it eventually becomes a bit of a debriefing about what’s on that day’s agenda in the kind of self-serious way that only children could do. On Fridays, whenever there was nothing else of note, what was guaranteed was that both of us would be meeting up at the school gates and then proceeding to walk through the neighbourhood to his house. I can still remember the route as well as I can remember the route back to my own house, as I’m sure most of us can. At that age, our overworld map is like a triangle: my house, school, friend’s house.

Back then, things were simpler. Before we went our separate ways to only be able to travel to each other by train whenever we get the time, which isn’t that often. When we arrived, there was the usual order of business: getting drinks, often a cherry cola or a special brew of his devising, which was basically a cup of tea with some chocolate in it. Then, after gossiping about whatever had happened that day, we’d get to it. Our LAN party. I was in the study, he was in his bedroom. Without headsets, communication between us consisted of talking loudly with the doors open, our voices carried across the landing. Yet we made it work, as you do when you’re committed to something with no convenient alternative.

He’d play as the undead, and I as Human, because that’s what I am – logic which I know sounds rather silly now, because everyone playing it is Human. I was never very good at playing the game, so I’d find ways of compensating. If this were a fighting game, his strategy would’ve been to apply the best moves whereas mine would’ve been to press any buttons and see what happens. That’s why I’d spend most of the time emptying my gold mine as quickly as possible. Any buildings I constructed were selected on a cycle system. I figured that, rather than building whatever was necessary at the time, if I built an equal number of each, I’d never run out. This strategy doesn’t work, and my application of it demonstrates my fundamental misunderstanding of real time strategy games.

Instead of learning to value victory as the positive result of a game well-played, I was more interested in victory as its own result that would indicate a well-played game by its own nature. Therefore, rather than focus on a particular principle of play – like, oh, say, military strength? – I preferred to make as much as I could of everything. Because surely that would make me superior in every way, right? Wrong, because every decision to invest in something was also a decision not to invest in anything else, which meant that, despite having a balanced abundance of all buildings and units, I didn’t have an abundance of the right buildings and units. By giving everything the same value, I’d overestimated my economic plan, making defeat inevitable. Beating me at this game isn’t an achievement, because most gamers could. The fact that my opponent was a skilled strategist was irrelevant, because my own choice to super-inflate my economy had brought defeat upon myself anyway.

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Every now and again, I like to rewatch a gaming video we made. It was Halloween 2012, and I was playing as the Orcish Horde for the occasion. Due to our inability to play in the same room, we recorded a commentary post-match style, each with our variation of events. Most of it consists of him explaining where I went wrong, which was even more accurate for that night because I had no idea how the Orcish Horde operated or what their buildings did or what their units were for. That video is not only extremely cringey – because I was 16 years old at the time – but also features outdated cultural references (this was back when the UK No. 1 single was Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris featuring Florence Weltch, a song that I can’t even remember). That’s why that video is for just me and him, although I showed it to Geekritique, and he thinks that it’s a good video if only for the posterity of seeing how I’ve changed.

I suppose that’s true. As much as we still stay in touch online, we’ll never be able to get back that part of our lives when all that mattered was whether I could get my homework done. There was more time back then. Even if we were able to reunite someday and have another Warcraft III LAN party, it wouldn’t be the same. It’s not just a game, it’s what it represents. We know that. Games aren’t really code and physics engines. That’s just the development stage but it isn’t what makes them. No. Games are made of our memories of playing them. It’s all very well knowing the controls and lore, but that’s all primitive recollection and hand-eye coordination. When we play them and they enter our brain, they’re filed into memory.

Memories create the consistency that gives everything context: what something is and what it means. That’s why Warcraft III isn’t just a game, it signifies the end of the school week. It’s payoff to getting to the end of Friday. It’s the part of my life back then that was actually worth living. We both share the same experience of the same game, which thus has the same unique meaning to each of us. The more unique the experiences you share with someone, the closer you become to them. Azeroth is a virtual place we went together because it was better than reality, and it’s where I left my heart.



But as it turns out, the story isn’t over after all.

Some time after finishing what I thought was the final draft of this piece, Blizzcon revealed Warcraft III Reforged, a remastered rerelease. It is essentially the same game, visually updated for modern video gaming standards, as it should be – adapted to the present without losing a sense of what it fundamentally is. It could not have come at a better time.

WC2

I wrote this entry with the theme of nostalgia, to be forever reaching out to that idealised time long ago of things which seem better because they’re gone; Like Gatsby, wanting to repeat his heroic past but without the complicated problems that made it very unheroic. Of course I reflect upon my time playing Warcraft III with a sense of wonder but I wouldn’t actually want to return to that time in my life; the whole point of what Wacraft III means to me is that it was something of a diamond in the rough.

One may tolerate a world of humans for the sake of some Orcs. Of course, none of this occurred to me until I started actively thinking about it. This series has unlocked a lot of complex memories from within, and connecting with them has been like connecting with that past for the first time since I sealed it away. In doing so, did I create Warcraft III Reforged? Did I manifest it into reality with the power of desire? If spelling is to cast a spell, then are my words truly magic? Am I more of a mage than I believed? There is no doubt in my mind that this was meant to be. I thought that I was writing about the end of something. Perhaps it’s actually the beginning; a call to action or lighthouse in the fog, showing me the light, the way back to where I used to be, in the hope that, if I just stretch out my arms further, if I just run faster, and if I, too, can remain adapted to the present while remaining true to who I fundamentally am, then one fine morning, a time and a life that I once lost could be found again.

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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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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starring

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!

Capture

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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starring

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.

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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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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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