Hey, Where’s That Novel Project You Were Working On?

Does anyone remember Dysontopia, my serialized fiction novel project? For a while, I was posting about a thousand words of it every week. It has been a while since I’ve even brought up the topic, so I would imagine one or two of you are wondering if it ran away, took an extended vacation in the Caribbean, or perhaps got sucked into a giant planet-eating black hole. Well, Dysontopia looks nothing like the fragments scattered about Normal Happenings anymore.

When last we checked in, it was undergoing a reformat with the intention of me releasing it chapter by chapter instead of in small portions. But here’s the thing – Dysontopia has blossomed into something really quite special. I don’t want to speak too soon, but reworking this novel has completely shifted its core concept into something that I actually consider particularly unique, mature, and sophisticated as far as novels are concerned. It’s more than just that girl named Sydney, though she still remains the focal point of the work. Don’t worry, I love that character too much for her not to be the main protagonist. Continue reading “Hey, Where’s That Novel Project You Were Working On?”

Borderlands | The Game That Defines FTWRuubin

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


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

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

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

And here are some other recent favorites!

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

– Matthew, Normal Happenings




Ruubin @ FTWRuubin

Twitter: @FTWRuubin

For the masks…

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

1P Start

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

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

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

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

1. Always Be Positive

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

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

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

2. Children Can Be Creepy

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

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

3. You Can’t Hide Behind a Mask

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

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

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

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

❤ Ruubin

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


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.

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


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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“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and Finding Epicness in the Mundane

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Oh yes, the epic movie noise! You may think 2010’s Inception is to blame for its popularity, but rest assured, the signature deep synth base movie “sting” has been around far longer. Star Trek: The Motion Picture from 1979 has so many of them, and it came at a time when the noise wasn’t quite as generic as it is today. I’m all about hearing some suitably epic soundtracks by the late Jerry Goldsmith – and this one could be his best work ever – but the sound effect, for good reason, is very noticeable.


As it should be, because I’d like to discuss finding epicness in everyday life. The biggest criticism for The Motion Picture is also its biggest strength. It’s slow, monotonous, and plodding, just like real life. It takes forever to get anything done, but at least you have time to stop and examine things. There is literally less plot in this film than any of the 50-minute episodes of The Original Series that came about ten years before. Continue reading ““Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and Finding Epicness in the Mundane”