2016 has been a weird year for me. I really haven’t talked about it at all here and have only mentioned it in passing on Twitter, but I found myself unexpectedly sick back in February and my world got flipped upside down. In less than a year I’ve lost a lot of mobility and have to use a cane (and wheelchair for longer expeditions), I get sick almost constantly, and I ended up unemployed because I could no longer sit up long enough to work. It’s been a really rough and frustrating year, a year of adjustment and acceptance, a year of learning, and a year of escapism from my own limitations. And that escapism definitely came in the form of video games.
So in honor of my year of escapism into the virtual world while I dealt with personal things, I put together a list of my favorite video games of 2016 and some of the games I wish I had been able to play.
What is it: If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Go, you might want to check and see if you’re living under a rock. It’s the most popular mobile game of the year and has gotten so incredibly big that the game has even impacted laws in some cities and states. Basically, Pokemon Go is a GPS app on your phone that encourages you to catch Pokemon in real life. It’s created by Niantic, the same folks who created Ingress, who partnered up with Nintendo to bring us an augmented reality game for Pokemon trainers everywhere.
Why I love it: This game. Oh man this game. So this year was filled with doctor’s appointments and because I’m no longer able to drive due to illness, I had a lot of free time sitting in the car and in waiting rooms. This game kept me going. My husband would even help me de-stress after long afternoons of labs and tests and drive me slowly around nearby parks so I could catch Pokemon. The great thing about this game are the PokeStops and Gyms, which are usually around places where lots of people are. So we’d find one, put a lure on a PokeStop, and just sit there catching Pokemon together. It might sound silly, but it helped bring my husband and I some peace and quiet in otherwise very hectic year. We had “PokeDates” where we’d just get in the car, drive to the nearby park, and hold hands while we caught Pokemon and talked things out. Since I can’t walk much or do a lot of extracurricular things due to my illness, Pokemon Go helped me feel like I could still get out of the house and have fun. Having a mobile game like this that interacts so much with the outside real world is fantastic and I really love this game because of that.
What is it: You might be familiar with Abzu if you’re fan of Matt Nava’s other works. He created the incredibly breathtaking adventure game Journey, which many reviewers called the best game of all time. When Nava left thegamecompany (the company behind Journey), he created his own video game studio, Giant Squid, and Abzu is the first game they’ve released. I like to describe Abzu as an introduction to guided meditation. Nava is a great fan of scuba-diving and has described it as “an extremely magical experience.” He used this inspiration to create Abzu, an adventure game that takes place entirely under the depths of a great and ancient ocean. You are an explorer, seemingly the only one of your kind, but as you discover more and more about your watery home, pieces of a complex puzzle start to take shape.
Why I love it: This is honestly probably my personal favorite of all the games I’ve played this year. There were a few times during this game that I just stared at the screen and watched the beautiful ocean life swim around me and I cried. I’ve honestly never played such a beautiful game. It’s gorgeous. Right down to the intense and moving music composed by Austin Wintory (also the composer behind Journey). There are points in each area of the game where you can actually meditate – it’s what they’re there for. Your character sits quietly on a large stone statue and watches as each species of fish (some current, some now extinct) gently move around you. It’s quick game too if you’re not a completionist like me, though the more things you find, the more the story comes together. There are no words in this game and for some that might be daunting, but for me, it was comforting. You get truly lost in this game and I highly recommend it to everyone. I’m looking forward to replaying this game again and seeing all the things I missed in the first pass.
Pokemon Sun and Moon
What is it: Yes, two Pokemon games. What can I say. For Pokemon fans, Pokemon Sun and Moon is one we’ve been waiting for FOREVER. Nintendo’s newest game in the Pokemon series breaks down the barriers of its predecessors and gives us a jam-packed new storyline, new pokemon, new characters, and a completely new gamestyle. Though the premise is the same – you play a pokemon trainer traveling the game world (Alola) catching pokemon and battling – this game shines with what makes it different from previous installments. Where once we had only a top-down view of most cities, now we have different camera angles. We have avatar customization to make for easier cosplaying (what? I can’t be the only one who thinks this). We even have closer, more responsible, pokemon care! There’s a reason this is the fastest selling game in Nintendo history.
Why I love it: I chose Moon (husband chose Sun) and I’m not even gonna lie. My favorite part of this game, other than the new character customization, is the ability to interact with your pokemon outside of battles. I LOVE brushing and petting and feeding my Rowlet. I feel like I’m back in Tamagotchi days or Neopets and this facet of the game just completely wins over my nostalgic side. It’s what I felt was missing in Pokemon. I also love Pokemon Sun and Moon for another reason that doesn’t particular have anything to do with the game. As an early Christmas gift, my best friend from college Kate got me the Nintendo 3DS Galaxy. I’ve never even had a 3DS before and when this one came out, I wanted it so much, so she and Jake surprised me with it while I was sick in bed. It’s been perfect since sometimes it’s super hard for me to sit up and play games on my other consoles. Jake bought me Pokemon Moon to go with it. It’s been my perfect bedside companion for the last few months.
What is it: Several years ago, Blizzard was working on a game that lots of us were pretty stoked about. It was called Titan and was going to be their newest MMORPG and was said to be even bigger and better than World of Warcraft. And then they nixed it. Just POOF. Gone. I, at least, stopped thinking about it because by that point I was fading out of the WoW scene and was realizing just how much money I was putting into that game. So I quit. Then the Overwatch announcement came in 2014. And with it some familiar faces that we recognized from what we saw of Titan. But instead of an MMORPG, what we have now is a team-based first person shooter with a variety of diverse heroes to choose from.
Why I love it: I am the first to tell you I am NOT good at FPS games. I get vertigo and motion sickness very easily so FPS games are not easy for me to play (I tried very hard to play Destiny when Taken King came out this year but my lord that game made me sick despite who beautiful it was). But the battles in Overwatch are relatively short and I can play a handful of them before I can stop. And damn this game is FUN. You have so many fully-formed and established characters to choose from, ranging from distance support to up-close tanks, and it is just a blast to play. The fandom for this community is pretty incredible too. And Blizzard has done an amazing job with marketing and making the game accessible for everyone. While Abzu is my favorite game, I strongly believe Overwatch is the best game that has come out of 2016. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s DIVERSE, and I LOVE so many of the friends I play with. (Special thanks to my friend Kristin for buying it for me for Christmas so I didn’t have to steal Jake’s computer to play!)
War & Order
What is it: War & Order is a mobile strategy/conquest/simulation game made by Camel Games. Basically it reminds me a lot of old Warcraft back in the day and there are tons of similar mobile games like it now. Basically you have a castle and city that you level up by kiling monsters, attacking other players, and collecting resources with the help of other players in your alliance (guild). W&O is very fantasy based so there are orcs, dragons, elves, and randomly spawning monsters and lots of events to motivate you and your alliance to gain power.
Why I love it: To be honest, I would never have looked at this game, except my friend Chloe is very convincing and got a bunch of us to make an alliance with her so she could catch up with her boyfriend (and steal the kingdom from him – we’re still working on that part). I couldn’t be more surprised with how much fun I am having with this game on my phone. It helps that most of us in our alliance are friends of Chloe so we’ve all become fast friends and talk constantly, both in game and out of it. We’ve become known as the friendliest guild in our realm and I’m kind of proud of that fact. We’ve only been doing this for a month or so but we’ve already got a bunch of new members and have made a lot of headway as a growing alliance (thanks to Rob). It’s a cool, social game to have on my phone and in a weird way, it gives me the same social satisfaction I used to get from my WoW guild back in the day. So thanks fellow TrashNoobs! You’ve been making the end of this year a good one.
Games I Wish I had Played
There were a ton of great games that came out in 2016 that I just didn’t have time to play. Here’s a quick list of my top picks that I’m hoping to get to in 2017.
- Quantum Break: Jake played this game and it looked like so much fun and had such an interesting style and idea behind it. I loved watching him play and then seeing the “TV episode” that followed.
- Firewatch: I have been mesmerized by the footage of this game. It looks so beautiful and the story sounds intriguing. This one is on my Steam wishlist and hopefully I’ll have time to playthrough it soon.
- No Man’s Sky: I have been waiting for this game to come out forever. Jake bought it and played it a ton and then I ended up winning my own copy for the PS4. I know the reviews are mixed but it still looks gorgeous and I can’t wait till I have time to actually sit down and play it.
- Uncharted 4: I feel like I’m running out of excuses to play these games. And with the release of Uncharted 4 I’m starting to feel like I’m missing out. Looking forward to playing catch up on this whole series.
- The Last Guardian: Literally the only reason I’m not playing this already is money. Bad timing when it came out. But holy crap I have been wanting and needing this game forever. The previews already make me tear up and I can’t wait to full-blown cry over this story. SOON.
I hope everyone has had a wonderful year of video games. 2017 has a ton of new and exciting titles coming out (MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA!!) and I’m really just looking forward to 2016 being over. I could use a fresh start. Happy New Year everyone!
Today is N7 Day and if you know me or have stuck around this blog in the couple of years, you’ll know this is something of a personal holiday for me (and many others I’m sure). I’ve written about N7 Day before, how I was led to Mass Effect and what the game and Commander Shepard mean to me. This year, Mass Effect made a pretty important impact on my life in a very big way.
I mentioned it in passing, but I haven’t actually written about the fact that I got married early this year. My husband is an incredibly patient and geeky man who also loves Mass Effect and all things Bioware (he’s the one who got me back into playing SWTOR again). Because we are both huge nerds, we got married on May 4th (Star Wars Day!) and had a small but geeky wedding with friends. Our themes? His was Star Wars (he wore a Star Wars tie, had his lightsaber on hand, and his cake was a life-size BB-8 cake that had sounds and a working lighter – I’ll post his side of the wedding later). Mine, of course, was Mass Effect and it was all over the place. Here are some of my favorite highlights (photos courtesy of our AMAZING and TALENTED photographer Mary Lynn).
Mass Effect helped turn my life around in a time when I wasn’t doing the best. I was struggling to find purpose. Jake and I bonded over our love for video games and he is one of those people who understands the importance and power that a good story can have in someone’s life. He’s a writer, he knows this. So he has never batted an eye over my passion and connection with Mass Effect. He encourages it. He wasn’t surprised at all when I told him my theme for our wedding would be Mass Effect (and I, in turn, knew that he was going to choose Star Wars before he even told me). We get it. I tell him all the time that he’s my Garrus. “There’s no Shepard without Vakarian” is a phrase commonly heard in our household.
I’m so incredibly lucky that Mass Effect has impacted me so much and, in some ways, brought me together with the man I married. (I doubt I ever could have married someone who didn’t like Mass Effect.) He’s always 100% paragon and I’m always 100% renegade so we balance each other well. I’m so thankful to him and the many friends I have made because of this game. I love the Mass Effect/Bioware community. Thank you for giving me Shepard and a ship to call home (whether it’s the SR-1 or SR-2). This game, and these people, mean the galaxy to me.
Today, Bioware is releasing news about their upcoming Mass Effect Andromeda title that is coming out in early 2017. I have been beside myself with joy at the idea of going back into space and becoming a new N7 officer, with new friends, new enemies, and new places to explore. I am at a new place in my life, and I’m curious to see how this new game impacts the new journey I am on. I know it’s going to be a good one. Bioware has never let me down and I can’t wait to see what they have in store.
Happy N7 Day everyone!
Monthly treasure boxes are pretty awesome. I love them. My husband loves them. We both get our own every month. Some people get nature boxes or dog boxes or make-up boxes. I get a geek box. I love Loot Crate because every month has something I’m excited to get. I’m also a big fan of their Firefly Crate because… because Firefly. There’s no other reason. It’s Firefly. But I often wonder, if I could make the ideal box, what would it be?
I mean other than the Mass Effect Crate they already created.
Well, oddly enough, friends from Loot Crate wondered that same thing! What would people love to see in a Loot Crate of their own making? And I’m happy to give them an answer. I know exactly what I would want in a Nikki-themed Loot Crate: FIERCE SPACE WOMEN! Yeah. I said it. Fierce Space Women. Are you surprised? Here are a few examples of what I’d have in my Fierce Space Women Loot Crate.
Garnet Funko Pop
Garnet is my hero and my favorite of all the Crystal Gems in Steven Universe. Steven Universe has quickly become my favorite show in TV. Every theme, every story, every character has been built with love and affection and a deep understanding of human nature and kindness. And Garnet is the epitome of Love and healthy relationships and there is no equivalent in the Universe to who and what she is. I love her with every fiber of my being. She is (they are) the fiercest of all Space Warriors.
Princess Leia Socks
I think when most people think of a fierce space woman, they immediately think of Princess Leia. Or General Leia. She is incredible, strong-willed, and stubborn and doesn’t take no for an answer (unless she wants it). She is and always will be Leia the Huttslayer. (A little off topic, but have you read Bloodline by Claudia Gray?? Best version of Leia to date! It was so good! Please read it!) Anyway, I freakin’ love this illustration and to see it on a pair of socks?! Yes please. What a great way to ground yourself in the reminder of what a great woman can be.
Jaylah Beyond Poster
So I have a lot (A LOT) of feelings about the new Star Trek Beyond movie that I should probably make an entirely separate blog post about, but suffice to say that my FAVORITE thing about the whole movie was Jaylah. I was so in love that directly after we got out of the theater we ran over to my comic book store and I got the Jaylah funko pop (which is why I chose Garnet instead of Jaylah for that one). She is just so perfect. Independent, intelligent, loves loud beats and shouting. She’s just so badass and I definitely wanted to make sure she was on this list somewhere.
Liara T’Soni T’Shirt
Like Garnet, Liara is a fierce female-esque alien from outer space who loves humans (and the whole Universe) and has dedicated her life to saving the galaxy. I have blogged many times about my love for Mass Effect it shouldn’t come as a surprised that I would include someone from the game series on this list. Actually I’m totally fine if we replaced Liara with Tali because I love both so much, but this Liara shirt has been on my list for awhile so she won out. Plus that whole Shadow Broker thing is pretty fierce.
I love this necklace so much and since this is my dream crate, I’m adding it here. Cuz I can. Isn’t this just beautiful? I think every fierce space woman should have some fierce space jewelry (or not if jewelry isn’t your thing, that’s totally cool too!). So even if my loot crate doesn’t have this particular piece of finery, I’d love to see SOMETHING that represents space that I could wear. Maybe a meteorite rock or something? I don’t know. Just something pretty.
Wonder Women Book
Hey, did you know that there are REAL fierce space women?? Yeah, not all of them are in movies or video games. AND THAT’S SO COOL. My awesome friend Sam Maggs wrote this book called Wonder Women that is coming out in October (but you can pre-order it now) and in this book she talks about a bunch of amazing and talented women who have changed the world, including some crazy fierce space women. I think it’d be super important to include something that will remind everyone that women really are kicking ass in space and STEM-related fields.
And there we go! Those are just a few things I would include in my dream Loot Crate box.
What would you include in yours?
Okay so when I saw this Kickstarter flash through my feed on Twitter, I jumped at it. Some of my favorite platformers are on this list and even more that I’ve been interested in. I love indie games and I love when awesome artists draw fanart of their favorite works, so this is a kickstarter I can get behind.
So what is it? Simply put, “It is an illustration anthology dedicated to some of the best indie games released or upcoming. It is our way to celebrate both cool art and cool indie games.” Thirty talented artists have come together to draw illustrations celebrating their favorite indie games which means thirty (and maybe more) gorgeous pieces of art in one game-packed zine. What do they plan to all include in this project? Here’s their list:
- +20-90 artists/games more (depending on stretch goals)
- An extra page per piece with some info on the game and the artist
- A small interview to some of the gamedevs
- Extra pages where the current artists will be able of including a smaller illustration to present another extra game they love
A slew of talented artists that have jumped on board with this project. You can find work from Emmett Rose, Bonnie Mier, Dani Kruse, Guille Garcia, and so many more. You can find the whole list and more updates about the project on their Kickstarter page. There are some pretty awesome reward tiers and some enticing stretch goals (and they’ve already reached one of them)!
Currently, The Indie G Zine is attempting to add a few more games to their line-up, including Cave Story and the incredibly popular (and beautiful) Undertale game. If anyone knows folks from either of those games and can give them a nudge towards this kickstarter, that would be awesome. I know I would love to see both of those games included in the zine. The man behind the Indie G Zine kickstarter is Julián Quijano and he is super passionate about this project and bringing it to the fans. I can’t wait to see the zine in production.
Go pledge now to The Indie G Zine Kickstarter now and follow them on twitter and tumblr for more updates. Supporting this project doesn’t just mean support for the zine – the zine itself will be promoting and marketing some pretty awesome artists AND the games they love. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go!
So for the past few months, my fiance Jake and my sister Madi have been hinting that I would be getting the greatest Christmas present ever, but that it would just be late. I had absolutely no idea what it was. Well I finally got my present today and it was 100% worth the wait because it is the best present in the entire world. In the entire galaxy.
I’ve always been very sad that there is no femShep funko so imagine my surprise when I opened my present and discovered MY VERY OWN CUSTOM COMMANDER SHEPARD FUNKO!! Isn’t she amazing? And they MADE her for me. They discovered that the head of the Rachel from Friends funko pop looked just like my Shepard so they took that head and put it on the maleShep’s funko body. And then painted on my renegade scars. She’s so perfect I could cry. I have such an amazing family.
If you missed it, Commander Shepard is my personal hero so this is pretty much the best thing anyone could ever make me (the bar is now set really high). I still can’t get over how similar she looks to my personal Shepard. I don’t think they could have gotten her any better. My perfect Commander Audrey Shepard. ❤
I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite present on the Citadel. ❤