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!
The last 24 hours have been a quiet one in our household. Yesterday I broke the news through tears to my husband who then wandered the house repeatedly mumbling “Shit, shit shit. Well shit” to himself before disappearing into the bedroom to take a 3 hour nap (this is how he processes things). I cried myself to sleep next to him. We both idolized Carrie Fisher. The engagement rings we wear around our neck say “I love you” and “I know.” The His/Her towels in the bathroom read the same thing. Images of Carrie as Leia Organa are in every room of our house. Posters, book covers, my favorite coffee mug, even the handmade fleece blanket on our couch. She has been my hero since my dad first watched Star Wars with me when I was a kid. She’s everywhere I look. There’s no escape.
Not that I want one. I want her in my life forever. A constant reminder to be as unapologetically me as possible. Wild, crazy, loud, truthful. A princess. A huttslayer. A general. A queen in everything she did. Her acting made her famous, her words made her inspiring, her personality and boldness made her larger than life. My fierce love for her spirit doesn’t end with her passing. She made it her mission to be honest about everything: her life, her mental illness, her past. She was an open book and never once apologized for it. I want to live like that. I’ll work towards that. To be an advocate like her. To be a beautiful, wise, fierce warrior princess with wit and charm that strike as sharply as a blaster pistol. It takes work. But Carrier Fisher did it all. The galaxy is emptier now without her.
“I laugh a lot, actually. A lot. I’ve gotten to an age where I enjoy my life. I’ve spent enough time struggling with it, and at this point it’s living on one side of the magnifying glass; I stay on the side of making big things appear small. I enjoy myself and I have a lot of good friends, good relationships. You learn to get there. Having gone through a lot of stuff I’ve gone through—I don’t want to do that stuff anymore. I take care of myself best as I can. I do the best imitation of maturity I can possibly muster.” – Carrie Fisher
I will take care of myself best as I can and I will do the best imitation of maturity I can muster. Her legacy will not be forgotten. Thank you for everything, Carrie Fisher. You will always be royalty to us.
EDIT: 12/28/16 8:00pm – Debbie Reynolds, I’ve just learned, miss her daughter so much, she joined her. I’m stunned. I can’t believe how fast people pass. How easy it is for someone to be here and then just gone. My heart and love and support go out to Debbie and Carrie’s family, friends, and fans. I’m looking forward to 2016 being done. This is just. Too much.
I am a woman with control of my own body and the life I lead.
I am a queer cis-female married to a straight cis-male but I love all people and have always been mostly bi/pan/lesbian on any given day. I believe everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.
I am pro-choice and believe that every woman should have the option of whether they want kids or not.
I am a feminist and believe in equality for all people no matter the color of their skin, the genitals in their pants, or the gender (or no gender) that they identify as. I believe everyone should be treated with fairness and respect.
I am Pagan and believe in all faiths and send prayers to my own personal Goddess and Universe. I believe all faiths and religions and beliefs should be respected.
I am chronically ill and suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, and seizures as well as depression and anxiety. I believe healthcare should be accessible for all. I believe health insurance companies need to be held accountable for all the awful things they hold against victims and patients who have no advocates for themselves.
I believe in a progressive education that either teaches all religions equally or teaches no religion at all. I believe education should include the outdoors, the truth about climate change and global warming, and should embrace the idea that all cultures are important and define who we are as human beings. I believe in protecting our Earth for our children and giving them the education and tools so they may do so for their own futures.
I believe in the separation of Church and State and that the Unites States of America should NOT be defined as a Christian government and that “Under God” should not be in our Pledge of Allegiance. I may believe in your chosen God but I do not pledge my allegiance to Him.
I believe that everyone should have the right to own a gun and I believe we need more gun control and tighter restrictions that people must meet in order to buy said gun.
I believe that land should belong to people and not corporations. That protecting people should always come before protecting a company. I believe that corporations and governments need more restrictions on what they can and can’t do to the land and water we depend on.
I believe in democracy and I believe our political system is corrupt.
I believe we would all do better as a species if we all spent a few weeks or months out of the year living off the grid and reconnecting with the Earth. Studying her and loving her and rediscovering all that she has given us. Not tied to wires and phones and satellites.
I believe we should give more money to NASA because we cannot be the only ones in this great big Universe and maybe those others can help teach us to be better at living our lives and seeing meaning in the little things.
I believe everyone should adopt an animal or buy a plant and learn responsibility for another living being.
I believe in trust, faith, and pixie dust. I believe in things we can’t see. I believe in Karma and in reincarnation and I’m not entirely sure but I think this may be the first time I’ve been human because I still get very confused over daily human life.
I am afraid for the future of our world. I am afraid for our children’s children. I am afraid for the Earth and all the damage that is being done for her. I am afraid not enough is being done to save the Great Barrier Reef or the Arctic ice at the North Pole or Antarctica in the south. I am afraid I am only one person and that I am not enough to make a difference in what’s important.
I am afraid I won’t leave a legacy behind and I am most afraid that my name will not be remembered after I’m gone. My name is Nicole Joanna Audrey Jeske and I don’t want to be forgotten.
I write this because I want you to know who I am. I want you to understand what I am fighting for and why today’s election is so important to me. Politics are personal, no matter what anyone tells you. People vote with their beliefs, with their heart.
I am a white, queer Pagan woman married to an outspoken liberal atheist man. I have a Jewish non-binary trans best friend and a beautiful nose-pierced baking pseudo-wife who are my heart and soul. I am made of the Love that surrounds me, it makes my heart continue to beat every day. I fight for these people, for my friends, for my family, for my community.
This election year has been one filled with much hate and contention. I have unfriended and even blocked several people this year on social media. Not for who they are voting for – but because of things they have said or done or posted in the name of politics. Because I cannot abide by hate. I cannot stand by and watch an old friend post a video of lighting a Pride flag on fire and stating they wished they could do this to “the abomination of gays.” I will not remain in ties to someone who posts that trans people should have their genitals mutilated to “show them who’s boss.” I will not continue to be “Facebook friends” with someone who shares anti-Muslim, anti-trans people, anti-gay, anti-POC, anti-equality anything. I cannot be friends with anyone so hateful and hurtful who would actively go out of their way to do others harm simply because they are different.
So I want to you to know who I am. And if you don’t like who I am, and you oppose the things that make me who I am, you are free to distance yourself from me. Chances are, we aren’t that great of friends anyway. I won’t hate you for who you vote for, but if you’re voting for someone because you actively and vocally spew hatred for another group of people you share this Earth with, I will not stand with you.
Today is going to be a very long and stressful day. I’ll be sending out as much Love into the Universe as I can.
Please join me.
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!
Happy International Women’s Day! I’m actually more fond of what they refer to it elsewhere: International Women’s Rights Day, but regardless of what it’s called, this is a wonderful day to celebrate the amazing women in our lives that have inspired and motivated us. I have a lot of personal female heroes. So many that it was really hard to narrow it down so I limited myself to women who are currently still on Earth making it a better place while they live and breathe.
How could I not choose Mae Jemison? She (along with Sally Ride) has been such a guiding star in my love of and yearning for space travel. Mae Jemison was the first African American to ever travel to space PLUS she’s been on Star Trek so she has most definitely boldy gone where no man has gone before (it’s extra cool because she was first inspired to join NASA because of Nichelle Nichols’ character Uhura). Not only is she an intelligent scientists, she’s also a talented dancer, and has founded numerous companies and foundations to advance technology in every day human life. Learn more about Mae Jemison.
As First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has been pretty much everywhere in the past eight years. Her dedication to improving the health of our nation’s children and passion for community gardens have been inspirational. She is one of the few First Ladies to ever directly address the issue of childhood obesity and her “Let’s Move” movement has been a huge success in schools. The Obamas even built the first garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt AND had beehives installed on the South Lawn. Her motivation is astounding and I am constantly floored by all of the projects this woman has going. I am so sad that her time in the White House is coming to an end, but I know that no matter where she lives, she will continue her good work. Learn more about Michelle Obama.
When I was in sixth grade, we had to do an oral book report. Most kids just stood up front and read from a piece of paper. But me? I was already a little ham (and a nerd) – I dressed up as Jane Goodall and did a report on Through A Window, complete with a stuffed Gorilla at my side and lots of crouched over antics impersonating Jane impersonating the gorillas. Jane Goodall isn’t just someone I admire now, she had a very large impact on me growing up. I even ended up going to college to become and outdoor educator like her. Jane Goodall’s books and teachings have opened our eyes to the animals around us and have been instrumental in how we perceive the natural world. Her work is deeply inspiring to me and her words continue to remind that there is still a sense of wonder to be found in our planet Earth. Learn more about Jane Goodall.
Okay so she’s not a real person but I am not limiting this list to just reality. Commander Shepard means a lot to me. Her courage and her commitment to getting things done no matter how hard and long the battle is are an inspiration to me over and over again (no matter how many times I play these games). She’s a reminder to keep going when the going gets tough. She’s a leader and a friend and a hero to not just humanity – but to the whole galaxy. She is fearsome and snarky and always willing to get the job done. She’s there for her friends when they need her and she knows just what to say to piss the right people off. My Shepard might be just who I want her to be, but she’s who I want myself to be too and through her I can model my own action and remind myself of the path that I want to follow through life. She is a survivor and a reminder that I am too. Learn more about my love for Commander Shepard.
Now this is a name that most people probably won’t know. Nellie Jeninga was born and raised in Heerlen, Holland in 1935. Growing up, she and her sister loved to perform and sing and eventually became quite good at it – they were even recorded and had a very promising future. But Nellie was headstrong and in love. In 1958, she threw away her fears and followed her heart to Toronto, Canada to be with the man she loved. She left behind her country, her home, her family and everything she knew for a new continent with people who didn’t speak her language. It wasn’t the last time her stubborn nature would lead her on adventure. In 1961, Nellie, her husband, and their two children moved to the United States, to Wisconsin, in the middle of a severe snowstorm. Settling down in Wisconsin didn’t stop her tenacious thirst for travel though and over the years, they would often pack up the kids and roadtrip around the country. She passed down that wanderlust and bravery to her oldest daughter (another of my personal heroines) who then passed it down to her daughter. Which would be me. Nellie Jeninga is my Oma and my favorite person in the world (that’s us in that picture). She has never let fear stop her from following her heart and she has been the steadfast rock in my life that I can always come home to. I am proud to say I have her bravery to travel and experience the unknown and I most definitely have her stubborness and headstrong nature. Because of this, I have to add her to my list of inspirational women because she has made my life better over and over again. I love her dearly.
Happy International Women’s Day!
These are only five of a very long list of women who are important to me. Others include Sally Ride, Madeleine L’Engle, Amelia Earhart, Annie Oakley, J.K. Rowling, Laverne Cox, Grace Murray Hopper, George Sand, Audrey Hepburn, Ada Lovelace, and so many many more. Thank you for paving the way and making it known that women can do anything they absolutely want! We are strong and empowered and we have a voice. You can find out more about Internation Women’s Day here.
Who are you celebrating today?