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

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

It’s time to pay attention!

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

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


MK Collab

The Premise:

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

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

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

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

The Format:

It will be a simple three-step process:

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

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

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

The Deadlines:

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

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

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

The Contributors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Stardew Valley | The Game That (Re)Defines Me

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Audio

 

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

introduction

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

It is the one, the only…


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


1P Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love in the Hard Times

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

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

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

Every Day an Opportunity

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

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

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What would be the best use of my time?

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

The Future is Beautiful

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

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

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

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

Future Collaborations

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

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

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

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

What Happens Next?

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

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

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

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

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

And The Credits Roll…


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

Power art - Copy (6)


This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Guild Wars 2 | The Game That Defines gamergal.exe

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Audio

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

introduction

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

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

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

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

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

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Dj76fCJUYAMeUIm

Skylar-Mei @ gamergal.exe

Twitter: @gamergalexe

For grand finales!

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

1P Start

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

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

Backstory

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

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

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Getting into the Game

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

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

The Journey Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tougher Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Impact on Gaming

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

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

The Present

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

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

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

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

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TGTDU Logo - Copy

Audio

 

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

introduction

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

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

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

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

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Teri Mae @ Sheikah Plate

Twitter: @sheikahplate

For my first Hyrule…

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

1P Start

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

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

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

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

ocarina of time

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

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

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

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

puzzles

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

zelda and link

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

perserverence

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

brave

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

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

chicken, sweet potatoes, salad

Lon Lon Ranch Roast Chicken

 

 

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

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

Roasted Goron Garnet Sweet Potatoes

 

 

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

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

Kokiri Forest Green Salad

 

 

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

food close up

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

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

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


Chicken

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

Garnet

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

Chopped

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

Ranch

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

Directions

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

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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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Wizard 101 | The Game That Defines Krysanthe

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Audio

 

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

introduction

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

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

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

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

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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DltS0klU0AAdm2p

Kathy @ Krysanthe

Twitter: @Krysanthe1

For the child inside…

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

1P Start

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

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

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

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

I wasn’t amused.

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

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

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

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

Guess what? It didn’t go away.  

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

Advertising works folks.  

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

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

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

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

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

null

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those words meant nothing to me. ZILCH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then something shifted.

null

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

And folks, it opened up my world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption | The Game That Defines Wintendo 64

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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.

Some are great writers. Some are great cosplayers. But there is one who is incredibly talented at both. KT from Wintendo 64 has been a long-time supporter of Normal Happenings, and even contributed a wonderful piece for Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! She is also and extraordinary cosplayer — seriously, her work keeps getting better and better with each cosplay. I was so impressed with her recent Barbarian Link cosplay, so you should definitely follow her on Instagram if you want to be constantly in awe with the creativity on display. As far as writing is concerned, I loved her recent piece on supporting content creators!

KT is covering a game that I consider highly underrated, as most Wii games seem to be. The next chapter of The Games That Define Us is underway!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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DqIi-_iV4AAp1zP

KT @ Wintendo 64

Twitter: @wintendo_64

For overcoming obstacles…

Game: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
System: Wii
Release Date: August 27, 2007

1P Start

Metroid Prime 3 was the first game to show me that a female protagonist can be just as valid as a male protagonist. In addition, she’s a character living with mental illness who is capable of overcoming her obstacles. Whenever you seem to be on your own it doesn’t mean you’re helpless. And even when you’ve lost everything life is still worth fighting for.

Sophomore year of high school was a weird time. Everything seemed scary, and I was just starting to get slammed with the questions and anxieties of college and “what do you want to do when you graduate?”. It was a time when my anxiety and depression would shove me in such a dark place. Often times I’d find myself exploring Hyrule’s vast green fields for a short vacation from reality.

But not this day. I had just beaten Twilight Princess (again), and I wanted to try something new. Looking at all my games, there weren’t many that I hadn’t played. But there was one that was unfamiliar to me. “Metroid Prime 3: Corruption” — the silver words on the side of the case caught my eye and I pulled it off the shelf. I remembered my brother playing the game when the Wii first came out but I couldn’t say I actually knew anything about the game.

I had never played a Metroid game before; the only time I’d seen Samus was in Super Smash Bros. All the lore, story, and everything about Metroid was foreign to me. Boredom and curiosity drove me to give it a try. As soon as the theme music played on the title screen, I was sucked in. It’s a little odd that I game can “define” me despite not knowing anything about it until a few years ago. but Metroid Prime 3 was the beginning of my love for a series I had been missing for so long. The cutscenes, the music, the game play, everything was absolutely perfect.

Shortly after this game sparked my admiration for Nintendo’s fearless bounty hunter, I was inspired to try cosplaying her. I had only seen cosplays of Zero Suit Samus before, but my 15-year-old self set high standards. I was determined to make her Varia suit. Now keep in mind that I had only done one cosplay before and it was only because I had my grandma help me sew the whole thing. This was before I knew what EVA foam and Worbla were and I had no idea where to even begin to look for tutorials. This was also before I got my first job, so I had very little money to put into it. But I wasn’t about to let that stop me. My mom was throwing out an air mattress, when I saw it in the garbage I thought maybe I could use it as my armor? So my 15-year-old self cut the armor pieces out of an air mattress, duct taped them together and spray painted everything. And when I tried it on I cannot begin tell you how empowered I felt.

Looking back at the photos, it clearly looks like it was built by a clueless 15-year-old with no money. But I was so happy back then that I actually built it by myself. I proudly wore it to conventions not caring that I was a walking pile of trash. Literally the cosplay was made out of trash and paper mache. But I did it, I made a cosplay of my favorite video game character despite how impossible it seemed.

Growing up a girl that loved video games, it was such a big confidence boost to be portrayed as more than a girl that needs saving or the useless eye candy. Female representation in gaming has definitely improved over the years, but I think we can all agree that it has been a long and rough road of progress. As much as I love Zelda and Mario games, I got a little tired of always saving the princess. Don’t get me wrong, I love Peach and Zelda and they both have strong moments and are still great role models. But this was the first time I got to play as a female protagonist. Something about seeing this girl single handedly take out alien space pirate bases was so amazing. Reading all the data entries from the space pirates on how they described the orange bounty hunter how afraid they were of her. And it was just her.

Every other game I’ve played the protagonist has friends along their journey, not Samus though. You play on planets that are nothing but ruins overrun with monsters and Phazon, which is basically a disease slowly killing and corrupting everything it touches. It gets a little depressing honestly. Especially in the third one when you finally meet NPC’s that are joining you in the fight, but soon find everyone is corrupted by Phazon and find yourself alone once again. Samus faces so much and has such a tragic backstory and suffers from PTSD as a result, but she never lets fear win.

Samus by herself drove fear into Nintendo’s most terrifying monsters. As I was entering a relatively scary and uncertain part of my life, it was really encouraging to see this character with such a broken past overcome the impossible. It introduced me to a world where a girl who’s lost everything and arguably has nothing left to fight for, is strong enough to continue anyway.

The reason I can name Metroid Prime 3 as the game that “defines me” is actually less about the game and more about Samus. But without this game, I would have never been introduced to this amazing series. Metroid Prime 3 was the first game to show me that a female protagonist can be just as valid as a male protagonist. In addition, she’s a character living with mental illness who is capable of overcoming her obstacles. Whenever you seem to be on your own it doesn’t mean you’re helpless. And even when you’ve lost everything life is still worth fighting for.

Thanks so much to Matt from Normal Happenings for this super amazing opportunity to talk about a game that has meant a lot to me over the years. It’s been a fun and unique experience talking with other bloggers that share my same nerdy passion. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next mission!

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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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BioShock | The Game That Defines Git Gud at Life

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I love the uneasy feelings of this BioShock ambiance mix. 

 

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.

If you’ve never met Michael from Git Gud at Life, you’re going to love this guy. Not only does he have impeccable taste in games — I’m so glad to be featuring a BioShock piece in this collaboration — but he also has this quirky writing style that reminds me of those cool university professors or high school teachers you learned to connect with. GGAL explains things like a teacher would, and yet the whole experience is laced with humor. It’s an unorthodox and awesome combination I would have never expected from a blog! But enough of me describing things. After you get done here, why don’t you check out the new GGAL Post-It series, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Additionally, check out these recent articles:

Without further delay, we hope you enjoy plunging into the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Michael @ Git Gud at Life

Twitter: @gitgudatlife

For scarily profound concepts…

Game: BioShock
System: XBOX 360
Release Date: August 21, 2007

1P Start

BioShock proved to me that games could be something I never even dreamed of. They could be dark, scary gruesome but at the same time beautiful, sophisticated and yes… fun. So BioShock changed me — games were once little more than a way to waste some time. Now they are something more. Games are a form of art.

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To say that BioShock is my favourite game would be an understatement. By the time I had resurfaced from my first ever dive into Rapture, I can honestly say that I was a changed gamer. Now if that sounds a little over dramatic… you’d be right. But that doesn’t make it untrue.

Now to truly understand why this title was so game changing for me, I need to briefly explain what games meant to me before. I’ve been playing games since I was 4 years old and back then, these were games like Spyro the Dragon or Pokemon Crystal. Games were always one of my favourite pastimes and that part of me has never really changed. What has changed however, is the way I look at games. Back then they lived and died by one word: fun. That’s all. They were really no different, in my juvenile eyes, to Lego blocks. They were just a kid’s simple hobby and you could see that in the types of games I would play, namely family friendly platformers. The most violent game I had ever really experienced to that point was The Simpsons’ Hit and Run. Bioshock changed everything.

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I would remember seeing the game’s cover art in stores and being genuinely mesmerised. A monstrous robotic creature with a giant drill for a hand partnered by a creepy little girl holding a syringe. Spyro the Dragon this was not. Now normally cover art like that would put me off, it didn’t really fulfill my “fun looking” criteria. But for some reason I was drawn to the game, and while it would be a couple more years before I actually got my hands on it, my mind was made up; I needed to play this game.

So where does a boy go to see more of a game his parents won’t get for him? YouTube, of course! I would spend hours watching trailers, gameplay and even developer commentary vids. It was through these research sessions that I realised that BioShock was not your average dumb shooter. It had themes… complex ones! It asked questions of politics, religion and philosophy, which for a preteen kid who wanted to be an intellectual was pure gold.

And eventually, the day finally came. After what seemed like ages of begging my parents, they finally submitted… I got BioShock! So, could the game that I had waited ages to play possibly live up to my expectations. Yeah. It actually did. You see kids, back in the golden age of 2007, developers actually shipped games… finished (crazy I know).

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But anyway, back to the story at hand. I fell in love with the game from the second I picked up the controller. From the second I was lost at sea staring at that ominous lighthouse, I was completely engrossed. Then came the inflight movie… now if you haven’t played the game yet, this part won’t make total sense for you, so all I can say is play the damn game! (Or watch a walkthrough, or do whatever you want… I’m just a voice). You see once your character steps foot on the bathysphere you are plunged into the depths of the Atlantic with nothing but stone columns informing you of how many fathoms you have sunk. Then it happens. A slide show presentation featuring a voiceover from the game’s main antagonist: Andrew Ryan, the objectivist Billionaire who founded the Capitalist paradise of Rapture begins to speak (for Objectivist see meaner libertarian [for Libertarian see nicer Republican]).

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Here he explains his vision, a perfect Capitalist society where there would be no interference from Governance, religion or morality. Crazy I know… but then you see the city, an incredible feat of creativity, engineering and art. A metropolis at the bottom of the ocean. This was almost too much for my young eyes, I honestly couldn’t believe that a console had the processing power to put what I was seeing on my screen.

But then reality struck, this paradise was not all it was cracked up to be, the utopia that Andrew Ryan had promised had in fact completely fallen apart. The city was virtually in ruins. Death, drugs and destruction greeted your character on every turn. You were in hell. You were trapped, with the only help being a voice on a short-wave radio. It was the perfect game environment, both beautiful and terrifying. I mean what other game lets you see a whale and drug riddled corpse at the same time? Actually, don’t answer that, but you get my point.

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This game had so much going for it that made it perfect for me. The graphics were better than anything I had ever seen before, the combat, while a bit stiff compared with modern shooters, was creative and for lack of a better word… meaty. The themes were far more mature than any other game I had seen (granted The Simpsons Game was the most adult game I’d played up to that point). And the commentary on the tricky political themes was so incredibly nuanced (can a city as incredible as Rapture truly be a critique on Objectivism). But what really hit me hard was the game’s views on choice. “A man chooses, a slave obeys”. Throughout the game, choice is a major factor for the player. Whether it be the choice combat style, the paths you choose to explore or the infamous Little Sister choice (look it up), choice is a recurring theme. But when the game reveals its big twist (again look it up), you realise that your choices don’t really mean much. In fact, there really wasn’t much choice to begin with. This is a pretty crazy thought on its own, but when you put it in the context of all gaming, or all art or perhaps even all life. This is a scarily profound concept and it was a damn video game that let me experience it. And that was life changing.

BioShock proved to me that games could be something I never even dreamed of. They could be dark, scary gruesome but at the same time beautiful, sophisticated and yes… fun. So BioShock changed me — games were once little more than a way to waste some time. Now they are something more. Games are a form of art. Yeah that sounds a little douchey, but it’s true, they are an art form that pushes boundaries just as well as books, film or anything else. They are one where you have total ability to choose… even when you don’t. BioShock taught me this, and for this I will always be grateful.

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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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Guitar Hero | The Game That Defines Shoot the Rookie

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Nostalgic Guitar Hero bliss… without all the horrendous mistakes. 

 

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 we’re joined by one of the nicest people on the internet, Pix1001 from Shoot the Rookie! One of the most encouraging people in our blogging community, she can always be counted on for a kind word or two when writing frustration sets in. Appropriate, then, considering today’s game is all about frustration. You have to check out her two fantastic pieces for the Hyrule collab, one of which had Nikki laughing when she was reading through them for edits. Also, here are a few recent favorites of ours from Shoot the Rookie:

If you managed to survive Black Friday, we hope you enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Pix1001 @ Shoot the Rookie 

Twitter: @Pix1001

For Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, and Orange!

Game: Guitar Hero
System: Playstation 2
Release Date: November 8, 2005

1P Start

Guitar Hero taught me that I can do it, that I don’t have to fear failure. It wasn’t a magic potion but it was a crutch through hard times, and both inspiration and distraction when I believed I was worthless.

The game that defines me…?

What does it mean for something to define me? I pondered this question for quite some time before signing up for this collaboration.

There have been a lot of games that have meant a great deal to me. I have memories going back 30 years of playing video games and many emotions attached to these memories, but whilst they all have value to me, they do not necessarily define me.

So what then? If I am not content to look to nostalgia then the game that defines me must be one that has given me more than just memories. The only game which fits that criteria is Guitar Hero, or more precisely (maybe less precisely?), the Guitar Hero series, for although my adventure with plastic guitars started with the first game, that was just the beginning of a long relationship which is unlike my relationship with any other game.

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It started back in my university days circa. 2005 when my flatmates had the game. I was a bit of a gaming recluse, refusing to play it in front of them for fear of looking stupid. One weekend they went on holiday and I dared to give it a go. No one could laugh at me if I was the only one there right? So I started with the opening track ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll‘ by Joan Jett and proceeded to play through the set-list. To my surprise it wasn’t too difficult and it was great fun. I worked through the difficulty settings, learning as I went, and on my flatmates’ return I was no longer frightened of looking stupid. I’d taught myself how to play and could enjoy it with them.

Inevitably life and Guitar Hero moved on. Guitar Hero 2 came out, quickly followed by Rock the 80’s and then Guitar Hero 3. During this time I moved back to the town I grew up in and spent most days at my partner’s house playing whichever Guitar Hero we were currently working through.

Guitar Hero II Box set

We had few responsibilities. No rent to pay, no serious job. Having always played on my flatmate’s version, it was exciting to get our own copy of Guitar Hero 2 complete with red plastic SG, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been more excited about buying a game than when we got Guitar Hero 3.

The excitement didn’t fade when it came to playing the games either. We would regularly sit up all night taking turns to work through tracks in our separate careers. We kept progressing, even if this sometimes meant hearing a song 10 or 20 times (yes Hangar 18, I mean you), but it was always fun and gave me a real sense of achievement.

There is one night I remember particularly clearly. It was a summer evening, and I’d spent about 6 hours trying to do ‘Crazy on You‘ by Heart, one of the many bands the game introduced me to. Taking our eyes off the waves of coloured notes, we realised that the sun was bursting through the curtains. We downed tools and took a walk, strolling through the lanes in the summer sunshine, reflecting on how the morning’s silence was a beautiful contrast to the night of high volume solos and strumming. It is such a vivid memory because although it was simple, it was also perfect – I got to share this hobby with the person I love.

After some fairly major life events (moving to a big city, undertaking a second degree, getting my first permanent job) and some more installments of the series (including the absolutely dreadful World Tour for which I have never forgiven them), there came a time when the games’ importance to me became something different.

In the summer of 2012 me and my partner moved to Norway. We left our familiar surroundings to go on a voyage into the unknown where we didn’t speak the language or know much about the culture. It was terrifying and exciting.

    

We lived in a beautiful little apartment with a coffee machine and views overlooking a fjord. At night the only sound was that of an occasional owl. There were woods, rivers and beaches all within easy walking distance – so different to the big city life I was used to.

Despite my appreciation of this new-found tranquility, it wasn’t easy getting to grips with having no job and not being able to communicate with people properly. I have never considered anywhere to be ‘home’, I don’t think I belong in one specific place, but here I felt far from the security that the feeling of home provides.

As time wore on I really started to notice how unhappy I had become. Not going to work and not knowing anyone except my partner who worked long hours meant I spent most of my time alone. I’m not a very sociable person, in fact I do my best to avoid most social situations, but I hadn’t realised the extent to which communicating with other people can help ground you

Oslo winter

I became increasingly frightened of going outside, scared not only of ice but also terrified of social interactions because of the language barrier. I tried to learn the language but was too scared to use what I’d learned and speaking English made me feel ignorant. I would sometimes sit for hours trying to work up the courage to walk to the local shop just to buy milk.

I frequently had panic attacks and although I tried exercise and giving up caffeine, it just wasn’t enough. I cried a lot and spent a lot of time staring at my phone in the hope someone would call just to say ‘hey’.

Sometimes though when times are bad we find things to attach ourselves to. Sometimes just having something to focus on other than our own loneliness can help us through the worst bits. And thus, there was Guitar Hero: Smash Hits.

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By this point the mass Guitar Hero mania of the early 2000’s had faded, with the it’s (inferior) cousin Rock Band now the more popular choice for most. But somehow Smash Hits, with its collection of songs from previous Guitar Hero games that had been adapted to be played by a full plastic band, was the perfect game for me.

Friday night became Guitar Hero night and we would play through our careers, swapping over song by song just as before. We played for innumerable hours, which culminated in the ultimate Guitar Hero achievement – completing the hardest song in the game – ‘Through the Fire and Flames‘ by Dragonforce on expert. OK, neither of us completed it single handedly, but by utilising the co-op mode with me on vocals and my partner on guitar we eventually got through it. This is my proudest achievement as a gamer. I don’t care if I had the easy part of the co-op bargain, it was teamwork and I cannot imagine being more proud…

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…unless I ever manage to 5-star all the songs in the game on vocals. You see, although it started as Friday night fun, I still had nothing to do during the day, and our combined success with ‘Through the Fire and Flames‘ convinced me that I could try out the vocal career mode.

From that point on many of my afternoons were spent belting out rock hits. I don’t have a great singing voice but I can at least hit the notes, and playing through it on expert was actually easier than I imagined. Once I got to the end I wanted to go back and pick up stars, something which is very unusual for me in gaming.

I sang my heart out and loved doing it. Me and my partner even started playing songs outside Guitar Hero. I could feel the difference in my vocal cords from all the effort I’d put in. In the end I left the game at 234 stars – one short of all of them. The song that eluded me? Killer Queen! Well hey, that Freddie is a hard act to follow!

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It has been several years since we returned from our escapade and I haven’t played a great deal of Guitar Hero since, although I do have Guitar Hero Live sitting half-finished at home, but the fact that I didn’t manage to five-star Killer Queen sticks with me. It reminds me that if I ever find myself in that kind of situation again then I already have something to fall back on. I hope if things were to repeat themselves that I would be stronger or at least better prepared having learned from my experiences, but if not, ‘Killer Queen‘ will always be there.

Guitar hero live

But just as Killer Queen will always be there, I realise now that Guitar Hero is with me every day in the music I listen to. It isn’t just the game that defines me but it has given me the music that defines me. I have always defined myself through music – from wearing band T-shirts to putting gig tickets up on my wall. I’ve found more bands than I can name through Guitar Hero and seen more than 50 songs that feature in the game live, including Through the Fire and Flames. I even have a tattoo of one of the bands I discovered through Guitar Hero.

Most of my favourite games have deep stories with intriguing characters and vivid worlds, but those are things I enjoy from the outside. My journey with Guitar Hero was (or is) about me. It taught me that I can do it, that I don’t have to fear failure. It wasn’t a magic potion but it was a crutch through hard times, and both inspiration and distraction when I believed I was worthless. It has shown me music that feeds every emotion and provided more hours of fun than I can count. It is a connection between me and the people I love, and although it has no story of its own, I am writing my own story through it.

Plus I still have those dreams where you see all the coloured dots zooming past. Green. Red. Yellow. Blue. Orange. “Through the fire and the flames we carry on…”.

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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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Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door | The Game That Defines Adventure Rules

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Paper Mario music is subtle, relaxing… and underrated.

 

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.

Now for the game that represents a big regret in my life — I call myself a Nintendo fan, but I’ve never played Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Admittedly, Nintendo has not been making it easy for me, with Gamecube games rarely appearing as ports or remasters.

Perhaps one day I’ll be able to enjoy this beloved entry in the Mario RPG pantheon, but for now I’ll have to settle for a retrospective by one of my favorite bloggers! It’s Ian from Adventure Rules! A fellow collab-master, Ian is famous for Blogger Blitz, which is an innovative battle of imaginations. If you’re interested, I would start here, and work your way forward in time. Ian was also a brilliant contributor to the Hyrule blog, with his exploration of Clock Town. Basically, Ian is awesome. Here are a couple more recent posts on Adventure Rules I particularly enjoyed:

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S., and we hope you enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Ian @ Adventure Rules 

Twitter: @adventure_rules

For Clippy…

Game: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
System: Gamecube
Release Date: April 22, 2004

1P Start

Fandoms are amazing communities where people with like interests can connect and explore the things that make them happy, and for me that’s exactly what Paper Mario became. Online, I found commonality with other gamers that I couldn’t find with the kids in my local community.

When I was a kid, renting games from video stores such as Blockbuster was a pretty common part of my gaming experience. I discovered a lot of games that I wanted to buy by renting them, playing far enough in to fall in love, and then putting them on a Christmas or birthday list later down the line. It was in this way that I discovered the original Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64, and once I got my hands on that game I was hooked faster than a Cheep Cheep in the inevitable Mario Fishing title that’s gonna come out on Switch someday. So when, a few years later, a sequel came to the GameCube, you better believe that game landed the top spot on my Christmas list.

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Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door came out when I was 12 years old. I got it the Christmas of that year so I ended up being 13 when I played it. This is an impressionable time in a kid’s life; early teenager-y is all about discovering your unique identity and learning your place in the world. You begin to settle into what will likely be the core of your personality. Various things will change to be sure – I’m not the same man now that I was two years ago, let alone fourteen – but in some ways we never change. For me, the features that became set in stone during that era were my fascination with storytelling, my sense of humor, and my love for geek culture.

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At age 13, I wasn’t doing too great. Many of us aren’t during that time. For me, my hobbies and interests set me apart from a lot of my peers in school. I lived in a rural community that values rural things: nature, sports, family. Gender roles are rigid, the arts take a back seat to other aspects of life, and education is seen as valuable by some but as an unnecessary luxury by just as many. As a young man who was more interested in music and theater than basketball or cars, who liked to spend time alone instead of talking with other kids, and who loved fantasy and magic, I had a hard time making connections. Gaming helped me to feel like I had those connections with fictional characters, and with Paper Mario I took things to a new level I’d never explored before: fandom.

The term fandom has a lot of connotations, and there are certainly versions of it that are negative. I have encountered individuals within fandoms who make me cringe with their mindless dedication to the thing they love, their unwillingness to see their passion as an opinion rather than a cold, hard fact. But fandoms are also amazing communities where people with like interests can connect and explore the things that make them happy, and for me that’s exactly what Paper Mario became. Online, I found commonality with other gamers that I couldn’t find with the kids in my local community.

Paper Mario made it easy by having such interesting locations and characters to explore. The game’s third chapter, for example, is set in the fighting arena known as the Glitz Pit, a location where creatures of all types gather to face off in battles with all the brutality of MMA and the performative smack talk of WWE. I remember finding communities in forums where people would create their own Glitz Pit fighters and compete in tournaments using fan-designed rulesets. It inspired me to create one of my own, a tabletop RPG based on Glitzville – a project that even to this day I’ll break out and work on from time to time.

Then there are the X-Nauts, goofy flunkies to a powerful and deadly mastermind whose ultimate goal is to rule the world alongside his dark goddess. I once stumbled upon a forum thread where folks created their own X-Nauts – not powerful generals to go along with the leader, but the goofy underlings who simply screwed around and caused trouble in their day-to-day lives. I laughed at the stories as folks roleplayed all sorts of ridiculous scenarios from concerts to dance parties to botched missions to defeat Mario.

In addition to community activities, I loved reading about the thoughts other folks shared about the game’s lore and mysteries. Paper Mario is somewhat simple on the surface, but there are all kinds of deeper details you can dive in to and speculate about as well. What is the true origin of the Shadow Queen and her mysterious servants? Are the cursed chests really the original heroes who wielded the Crystal Stars against her? Would Nintendo ever create a Paper Luigi to tell the full story of his battle against the Chestnut King? Whether it was reading about these theories or just reading more stories about my favorite characters in the game such as Vivian or Prince Mush, I spent many an evening diving deep into the world of fan theories and fan fiction as well as writing my own.

To this day, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is still my favorite video game. The jokes gel perfectly with my sense of humor – in all reality, they likely molded and cemented my sense of humor into what it is today. I love the characters, whose simple concepts make them easy to attach to and whose hidden stories help them to develop beyond one-note partners into fully-fleshed personalities. I love how much story potential there is in the game’s world, whether it’s all the tales of thievery and corruption that could be told in Rogueport, the mysteries that take place on the Excess Express, or the fighters who rise and fall from glory in the Glitz Pit. While I have gone on to consider myself a part of many fandoms, Paper Mario will always be my first and the one which helped me to learn that I could make connections with people other than the ones who happened to be in the closest proximity to me. While it would be many years before I ever decided to make my own voice heard online, it was thanks to The Thousand-Year Door that I understood I wasn’t alone in my passions or interests. When the time came when I had the confidence to create my own space, I knew there would be people out there as passionate about games as I was.

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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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Kingdom Hearts | The Game That Defines Overthinker Y

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Stay a while… you can’t go wrong with Kingdom Hearts 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.

What can I say, Chris from OverthinkerY, today’s featured blogger, is awesome! If there’s one thing you can always count on with Chris, it’s that you’ll be exploring the outer limits of the English language experience through his text. For example, Chris is the first blogger to ever successfully pull off a double-bracketed parenthetical sequence on Normal Happenings. I won’t spoil it for you. If you’re in the mood for more witty wordplay, you should absolutely check out his blog. He’s working on a novel at the moment!

And here are a couple of other recent favorites!

Today’s game is one of the most emotionally influential games ever, so we hope you enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Chris @ OverthinkerY

Twitter: @overthinkery1

For scattered dreams…

Game: Kingdom Hearts
System: Playstation 2
Release Date: March 28, 2002

1P Start

Even though I can admit Kingdom Hearts has its faults, I can’t help but love it, and it strikes me that perhaps loving something in a way that encompasses all its flaws is the purest form of love.

Imagine, if you will, a boy of around nine or ten years of age. He’s into books, cartoons, movies; he enjoys experiencing stories in different ways and regularly coming up with quasi-Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style tales on the fly for his friends. Video games have been around for a while, but this lad’s never really had the opportunity to experience them — to understand what it is that they do. Being an enormous fan of the Harry Potter franchise, however, when the Game of the Film of the First Book is released, he knows he simply has to have it.

Plot twist: that boy’s name was Barack Obama.

Nah, it was me. It was obviously me. C’mon.

This is obviously a knockoff, because it’s not even got the right title. PHILOSOPHER’S Stone. Silly manufacturers.

My first ever gaming experience, then, was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on Game Boy Advance, the console that was at the time just new enough to be exciting and just old enough for my parents to conclude was not stupidly expensive. I had a good time with that game, thinking that getting to actually be Harry Potter was just the best thing, and then I finished it.

‘Where do I go from here?’ I wondered: I couldn’t afford to buy myself more games, and I wouldn’t have known what to get even if I had. Fortunate I was, then, that a shop called ‘Choices’ had just opened up down the road: a store where you could pay two or three quid and actually take a game home with you for a weekend! It was amazing; through that store, I discovered the endless charms of Pokémon Silver, experienced the adventures of Link for the first time with Oracle of Ages, and met Spyro in Season of Ice. I was learning how to play games, how to dive into these worlds and go on incredible journeys, and I was beginning to appreciate that video games could tell stories in ways that other media simply couldn’t. You had beautiful visuals, music, the ability to pick your own way of overcoming obstacles, and that was pretty incredible to me.

During these formative years with my little GBA, I had a couple of friends lucky enough to own a PlayStation 2, something I thought I’d never be able to achieve. Going to their houses to play — well, watch them play, mostly — Dynasty Warriors or Lord of the Rings: The Third Age or even something like the Robot Wars game (surprisingly good, actually) was starting to open my eyes to this new world of possibility: games that were even more beautiful, that had the power to tell even more expansive tales. I’d been saving for a little while to get myself a Game Boy Advance SP (a cute little folding GBA with a backlight, if you can believe such a thing) as an upgrade to my friendly old regular GBA, but I decided in fairly short order that I had to have a PS2 instead. It took some convincing, but my parents eventually agreed that I could have one, not least because my neighbour ran a games store and had a cheap second-hand one.

Anybody remember this thing? There was a version with tribal tattoos, for some reason.

Thus it was that I eventually found myself bringing home a PlayStation 2 for the first time. I imagine my fingers were probably literally shaking as I plugged the thing in, and then – ah.

I didn’t have any games for it.

Right, well then, back over to Choices we go. Not only do they have GBA cartridges, but they have PS2 games and even DVDs too! I miss that store — it was subsumed into Blockbuster fairly shortly after this tale concludes, and is now a charity shop. I scanned the shelves and picked out a title called Kingdom Hearts.

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If you asked me why I picked out that game, I’m not sure I would be able to tell you. The cover was kind of dark, suggesting perhaps a level of maturity that I was eager to achieve, but the back of the box had some colourful Disney characters on it, so perhaps I was drawn to the balance: the idea that I could go above my reading age, as it were, while safe in the knowledge that if it was Disney it couldn’t be that scary. I wasn’t even a Disney fan; I’d seen maybe four or five Disney movies, but not all that many. As for whether the box mentioned that Kingdom Hearts also featured Final Fantasy characters, I don’t remember. I wouldn’t have taken any notice if it had: I had only the faintest conception of what Final Fantasy was, I should think.

I trundled back down the street with the game in my hands, having acquired possession of it for the next few days. Me, a complete non-Disney, non-Final Fantasy fan, clutching what was actually quite a historically significant crossover between those two titans, without a clue as to what I was in for. My first ever PS2 game, though! I was overjoyed at the idea that I would finally be able to experience a journey on an actual telly rather than a weeny little handheld screen; I didn’t really know or care what that journey was likely to involve, I was just ecstatic in the knowledge that I would get to do it at all.

Getting the disc into the console was, I was relieved to discover, fairly self-explanatory; with that hurdle cleared, I worked out that I had to press X on the PS2’s root menu to open the game, and then we were off.

From the moment the main menu loaded up and I began to hear ‘Dearly Beloved’ for the first time, I knew that this was something completely different to anything else I’d come across in my burgeoning gaming experience. I don’t know how I could have known that; it was a title screen, for heaven’s sake.

Maybe it was just that most GBA games didn’t really have title screens, so I was easily impressed!

Over the next couple of hours, I played the opening sections of the game (taking an awfully long time because I’d never really used a controller like this before), and couldn’t believe what I was seeing, what I was experiencing, what I was doing. The beginning sequence of KH is an exercise in setting the tone: you begin in a dark world, standing on stained glass platforms with an ominous chorus ringing out as a disembodied voice guides you through the first stages. Defeating shadowy foes and making choices that will, though you don’t know it yet, define how the rest of the game plays out, you finally ascend the towers in the blackness and defeat a monstrous being of pure darkness.

Then you wake up on a sunny beach, tropical tunes playing away merrily, and watch as the logo splashes up on the screen, realising that now the game begins in earnest.

 

 …through this…

 

From this…
 …through this…
 …to this!

It’s a truly impactful sequence – certainly it was doing it for the first time as a kid, and I still get shivers now. I felt that I’d touched something huge and terrifying, yet (for now at least) I had overcome it. I knew, though, that despite the holiday feel of Destiny Islands, the darkness would be back.

Looking back, those opening moments stick with me much more clearly than the rest of the game [although there are bits of it forever burned into my brain, thanks to the inability of vanilla KH1 to skip cutscenes (and a remarkable tendency to put the longest ones before the hardest bosses)], and it’s still the point from loading the title screen to defeating the first boss that I tend to think about when I think of Kingdom Hearts. That said, I think it did a lot to define me as a gamer in more ways than just to give me specific moments or memories: it exposed me to the idea that games could be both fast-paced and strategic; to the expanse that is Final Fantasy as a franchise (and indeed to a whole bunch of Disney movies); to the knowledge that video game music is, while its own breed, just as important and interesting and exciting as any other music; and to persistence and ingenuity in overcoming obstacles, however insurmountable they might seem.

Certainly, and as you might be beginning to gather, Kingdom Hearts has influenced my life in wider ways than simply being a game (later, of course, a series) that I enjoy. I can’t actually quantify just how much it’s defined me as a person; through being my gateway into gaming at large, it was the catalyst for what I know will be a lifelong love of stories told in the ways only gaming can achieve. I might never have touched a piano if it hadn’t introduced me to pieces that I’ve come to love; I don’t think I’d have started composing if I hadn’t learned that themes can be intertwined to create a story from nothing but wiggly air (which is all music really is, in some ways!). The courage of the protagonists of this story inspires me, and I often find myself consciously trying to be more like them; I even referred to characters and themes within this series when going through the often difficult transition from belief to non-belief, eventually finding myself on the other side as a proud humanist and, I think, a stronger and kinder person for it. (I know there will be some stories in this collection about people going in the other direction: finding or becoming more secure in faith because of a gaming experience, and I think it’s wonderful that we have this shared sense of affirmation as a result of our love of games, despite our different beliefs.)

Finally, I’m not sure I’d have found the love of writing that I now have – at least, not to the same extent or from such a young age – if I hadn’t started with an ill-fated attempt to write a novelisation of Kingdom Hearts and then realised that I could create my own worlds just as large and as confusing and as brilliant as this one I’d discovered.

I’ll always have a soft spot for this game, and this franchise. I put myself through joy and misery when Kingdom Hearts 2 released: I knew the release date, so walked all the way into town with all the money I could scrounge together in the hopes of purchasing a copy of this thing that I wanted more than anything, but it turned out that it had released in the US, not my native England, so I ordered a copy online from America which naturally didn’t work because I had a region-locked PAL PlayStation 2. It was agony, but Kid Me (looking at the release date, I would have been eleven) would probably have said it was worth it. Even though I can admit KH as a series and as each individual game has its faults, I can’t help but love it, and it strikes me that perhaps loving something in a way that encompasses all its flaws is the purest form of love.

I’m not about to claim that Kingdom Hearts taught me the meaning of love, but if that’s what you want to take away from this, I won’t stop you.

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