December 2018 Updates: The Path to a Great 2019

Greetings everyone, and welcome back to Normal Happenings! We’re all rested up from our break after dropping the epic collab that is The Games That Define Us! The purpose of this post is to get you all reacquainted with normality after such a huge event, and to lead us into 2019 on a high note!

Clearly there is much to discuss, so much so that, yep, that’s a table of contents. Click to jump to the sections that most interest you, or start from the top! Enjoy!

Table of Contents

👁️ Visual Renovations
🎮 The Games That Define Us
🤔 The Next Collaboration (#3)
👩‍🚀 Project: Dysontopia
📣 Project: Normal Talks
✍️ Daily Inklings
🔮 Future Topics
💙 Guest Posts
🏆 2019 NH Blog Awards
🎁 Patreon & Support

👁️ Visual Renovations

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  • NEW FEATURE: Section and Post Highlights.
  • Accent font change: Cocogoose is out, Geo Sans is in.
  • Each new blog piece will now have a unique but cohesive design.

We have unleashed the power of the block editor in a big way! I know many people don’t like it, and I don’t blame you if you’re having trouble with it. It certainly takes some getting used to, but for a CSS nerd like me the block editor is a godsend!

With a little CSS know-how, the block editor allows me to do cool things like implement a Highlights Block into each post — or in this case, each section! It’s no secret I can be a little long-winded, and it’s also obvious more and more things compete for our attention. The highlights block is the best of both worlds, letting me be both pretentious and brooding while letting the time-strapped among you get on with life quicker. And while it will be a little disappointing that readers of just the summaries won’t catch the nuances of posts reflecting on human nature, hopefully they’ll carry something optimistic with them throughout the day.

Another change I am extremely happy with is that Normal Happenings is changing accent fonts! Yep, Cocogoose is out, and Geo Sans is in! I had been growing increasingly frustrated with Coco as time progressed and this blog blossomed from just another corner of the internet into something wonderful. Coco was so thick, bold, and angular that it was coming across as a tad aggressive, especially in the featured images that make the rounds across Twitter and Facebook. So I sat down with Megan from A Geeky Gal, and in five minutes flat she came up with Geo Sans, a sleek, thin new font perfect for accompanying the elaborate Abuget headlining Normal Happenings. Here’s a point of comparison involving the shiny new header calendar you may have noticed:

The original Cocogoose. Doesn’t look bad, but very bold and difficult to differentiate regarding text width. It kind of feels like it’s screaming at you.

The new Geo Sans typeface, allowing far more variety!

Whew, that feels so much better. The excellent thing about Geo Sans is that I can mess with the kerning — the spaces between letters — to make this typeface look epic, like a movie poster. Ahhh, having this new font to play around with make it feel like Christmas Day, but we must move on.

I fully intend to make each post of 2019 feel like an “event,” and as such it’s going to be very import for me to give each post a unique but cohesive look and feel. With CSS at my side, I know I can do that. It is so worth delivering these types of aesthetically pleasing experiences to our wonderful audience. Essentially, by the end of 2019, I want these pieces to look as good as any editorial feature from major publications.

Feature — you know, that’s actually a very interesting word I really like to describe works on Normal Happenings going forward. I’m going to replace “posts” in the top menu with the term “features.” Much better.

One consequence of an increased focus on design is that it essentially decouples the unity of design and writing found on most blogs, essentially making it double the work. Don’t be surprised, then, if you’re constantly seeing me on Twitter delaying the launch of features until I’m completely happy with them. After all, a rushed work is bad forever.

🎮 The Games That Define Us

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  • Woah, have you seen this epic collab?!
  • It went way better than I even dreamed!
  • Let’s give the writers another round of applause.

As I compose this, I’m sitting here scrolling through my home page. I see 36 unique, creative, and wonderfully written pieces, and I’m amazed at what has been accomplished. I’m also so humbled that 34 amazing people would come together and spend their time forging links to a chain of wonderful art. So, to the contributors, from Nikki and me, we would just like to say thank you for helping make something cooler that we ever thought possible.

There are some rumors of these pieces being involved in some future project, but that is all I am going to say at this time.

So, not only did I want to give one last “woohoo” to all involved, but I also wanted to once more share this miraculous cast of characters, their blogs, and their pieces for The Games That Define Us! You can start at the adventure map, or just dive right in anywhere — there’s no wrong way to enjoy this epic collab.

🤔 The Next Collaboration (#3)

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  • Spring 2019 collab will be revealed on New Year’s Day!
  • Four collaborations a year.
  • Mini ones in spring and fall; big ones in summer and winter.

We just wanted to remind everyone that the next collaboration will be announced on New Year’s Day — January 1, 2019. I’ll be lowering the stakes a bit on this one. It will be more akin to Hyrule: See the Sights, Hear the Sounds, and will consist of about 20 pieces weaved together into one giant post. I’ll be reserving at least five spots for newcomers, perhaps more depending on the interest of returning champions. However, returning champions get first priory in selecting their topic.

Here is my plan for collaborations on Normal Happenings going forward. I want to do a total of four collaborations per year.

Grand Collabs — large, multi-part epics like The Games That Define Us — are a lot of work, so they will happen in the summer and winter.

Mini-collabs like the upcoming unrevealed Spring 2019 collab will occur during the spring and fall, and will consist of 10-20 pieces combined into one awesome experience.

If they are anything like either of the two previous ones, you all are seriously in for some treats! Ahh, I can’t wait to reveal the next collab topic!

👩‍🚀 Project: Dysontopia

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  • Details on how I’m reworking the story.
  • No longer releasing sections of chapters.
  • Instead releasing complete chapters as they are completed.

Let’s talk about Dysontopia, my novel project. First of all, it’s not dead — not at all. That said, it has evolved, particularly to the point where a serial format no longer works to its advantage. When I first started writing Dysontopia, I was surprised people even cared about it at all. I was shocked that people were reacting positively to it, but of course I was glad they were. While it was on hiatus, however, I came to the realization that it was not telling the story in the best way possible.

You see, I had inadvertently done something. With Sydney Winters, I had created a character I had truly learned to like. She has a unique personality — one not often seen in fiction. I found myself telling her story, until I realized four chapters in I hadn’t even started on the entire premise of the novel.

Dysontopia has what I consider to be a particularly unique science fiction plot that I don’t want to spoil. However, if you’ve been keeping up, there has been exactly zero science fiction elements coming in so fer. It’s just about Sydney.

All of that is to say Dysontopia is being reformatted. The story is the same, but I want to start the novel in media res, splicing in the backstory elements as the are triggered by events in the present.

Consequently — and you’re not going to like this — I will be removing all Dysontopia chapters in the near future. I will also not be releasing them as sections of chapters in the future.

Instead, I’ll be releasing Dysontopia as complete chapters as they get finished. Additionally, I will have no set schedule for releasing them. They will be finished when I, as a writer, believe they meet the quality standards needed to write a great novel. Unfortunately, as great novel — especially a great first novel — cannot be rushed, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

📣 Project: Normal Talks

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  • Planning a new podcast: Normal Talks.
  • Will just be Nikki and Matt having everyday conversations.
  • In the organizing and designing process now.

Nikki and I are working on something truly special that we really think you’re going to adore. We’re code-naming it Normal Talks, though we’re pretty sure that name is final at this point.

The premise is simple. It’s going to be a podcast where we sit down and have everyday conversations! There is far too much insincerity going on in the world, and we want to combat that by just sitting down and having some fun, quirky, chats about life. When it comes to podcasts, we think that’s far more more interesting than all the spectacle in the world!

Who knows, you may even get our responses to all those Daily Inklings floating about. Speaking of which…

✍️ Daily Inklings

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  • Daily Inklings are working very well statistically.
  • Plan to make them seasonally themed.
  • Can now make suggestions on Twitter!

Daily Inklings are doing crazy well in the stats department. Like, as far as everyday view-to-like ration is concerned, these little conversation starters far exceed the big behemoth stand-alone posts. What was once an offshoot of my Super Specific Questions has turned into something wonderful, so let’s expand the concept going into 2019!

I’ll be doing more to make Daily Inklings seasonally themed! I already did that a bit with Halloween, and I’m blending in a few holiday prompts currently, but I’m going to go all in this upcoming year. Expect prompts to be related and connected, as opposed to the currently disparate grab bag of concepts.

More importantly, you can now make Daily Inkling suggestions via DM on Twitter and Instagram! Don’t be shy — you’ll get a link back to your blog and/or social media platform. There are 365 days in a year, so we’re always on the hunt for unique and creative writing sparks!

🔮 Future Topics

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  • Plan to keep video game content limited to collabs for now.
  • Pieces will be even more focused on matters of the human experience.
  • Will bring in more defined topics of futurism, optimistic media, and personal memories.

Just for kicks, let’s take a peak at some titles in our drafts folder. Keep in mind these are just that: draft titles — the end result is rarely the same.

  • Awkward Turtles, Really Awkward Turtles, and Awkward Tents
  • The Shade
  • Let’s Eat Grandma — The Band, Not the Meme
  • Adding to the Substance of the Universe
  • I Believe In Coincidences, But I Don’t Trust Coincidences
  • 2069: Running Out of Numbers

If you’ll notice, there seems to be a topic missing. Video games. Before you panic, don’t worry. I’m not betraying the topic. Video games are such an important topic, I can’t help but write about them. At the same time, though, they aren’t all-consuming to me, and there are so many other things I’d like to write about. I feel like if I constantly talked about video games, it would provide an incomplete picture of a life that so heavily relies on balance.

Therefore, I plan to limit my video game talk to collaborations, where they can be enjoyed conveniently by all involved. I can’t rule out the possibility of video game topics coming up occasionally, but they will be few and far between compared to last year. Besides, if I ever get the urge to talk about deep solo tactics in Shining Force, I know a guy. A very red, very magely guy.

As mentioned earlier, this year will be far more focused on feature-writing. I want to prove to people that blogging can be a wonderful medium for art through both prose and design. And I really want to do my part in making the world a better place through optimism. I have big dreams for Normal Happenings, as I do for the entire human race.

💙 Guest Posts

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  • Opening the floor for guest posts, especially pertaining to life experiences.
  • Links to your blog included, of course.
  • Let me know over Twitter or Instagram.

Last year I was unnecessarily picky about who I let guest post on Normal Happenings outside of collaborations. Let’s be honest, it was mostly just the occasional Geeky Gal stopping by to drop some wisdom on us. I think I’m ready to relax those restrictions.

I know a lot of video game bloggers, so if you wish to write about something other than gaming for a day — perhaps something more along the lines of memories and optimism of the future, you know where to find me. But just in case you don’t, you can message me on Twitter or Instagram.

We’ll talk it over, and if I like your idea, we’ll totally make that guest post happen! Normal Happenings has a fantastic community who would love to hear what you have to say!

🏆 2019 Normal Happenings Blog Awards

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  • Taking place on February 26, 2019 — that’s NH’s birthday!
  • Five categories.
  • We need your help with nominations on Twitter and Instagram!

We would like to announce the 2019 Normal Happenings Blog Awards! We’ll be making a post specifically about this in early January, but we wanted to go head and tell you about it.

Every year on Normal Happenings’s birthday, I want to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the people in our little corner of the blogosphere! Therefore on February 26, 2019, we’ll be doing the first annual Normal Happenings Blog Awards!

Here are the categories:

  • Best blogger in 2018!
  • Best individual blog post in 2018!
  • Best collaboration in 2018!
  • Most creative/original blog post in 2018!
  • Kindest blogger in 2018!

We’ll be designing some big, fancy badges to commemorate the winners.

Here’s the thing, though: I have no business deciding the winners, so I’m going to need your help. You can nominate winners for each at any time by sending a DM on Twitter or Instagram! You are free to go ahead and start sending nominations. The only person you can’t nominate is yourself, as it needs to be all-star bloggers that you enjoyed in your community.

Twitter will be the arena of choice this year. I’ll be making the rounds using polls on January until there is at least something of a consensus on the winners of each category. Then the winners will be announced on the date of the Blog Awards post!

🎁 Patreon & Support

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  • Current Patreon formula no longer works for NH.
  • Not going to lock any content behind a paywall.
  • Simplified giving options.

They always say save the worst news for last. Here goes.

Megan | A Geeky Gal
Luna | GamersUnitedGG
AshRose | The Shameful Narcissist
Alyssa | Nerd Side of Life
LightningEllen | Livid Lightning

I need to sincerely and publicly apologize to you five amazing people. I have dropped the ball on this Patreon thing. I’m really sorry. When I made the Patreon, I didn’t realize how many changes would come to Normal Happenings over the following months.

The current Patreon model is no longer symmetrical to Normal Happenings. A lot of my Patreon tiers depended on Dysontopia being delivered in its weekly, serial form — something that is clearly no longer the case. Additionally, Nikki and I want to proceed with the podcast plan regardless of funding. Finally, we think we’re actually quite happy with the WordPress Premium Plan for at least another year — this fancy block-editor as gone a long way towards quelling our hunger for customization.

Over the course of January, I will be simplifying my Patreon tiers. I do not believe in locking content behind a paywall, as art should be enjoyed by all. I want to make Patreon as voluntary and low-pressure as humanly possible.

All five of my current patrons are awesome for continuing to support us despite these growing pains. Thank you. That said, if you choose to contribute between now and January, just know those tiers are going to be changing. If you have any concerns, please feel free to message me on, you guessed it, Twitter or Instagram!

Oh. my. gosh. According to the word count, this update post is north of 3,000 words. This is a mountain of information, and if you managed to read all of it, I am seriously impressed. Anyway, I hope you enjoy all the changes around here. Here’s to a great 2019 — may all your blogging dreams come true. Let us know in the comments what you’re most looking forward to in 2019! And I hope what is sure to be a wonderful year for Normal Happenings will help you view life with more positivity than you would otherwise.

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!


Spyro the Dragon | The Game That Defines A Geeky Gal

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


We are officially halfway through the month of November, and it’s been an amazing ride! Welcome to Day 15 of The Games That Define Us!

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

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

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

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

– Matthew, Normal Happenings




Megan @ A Geeky Gal

Twitter: @ageekygal_

For finding happy places…

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

1P Start

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


adventure map

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

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