Last year I did a review of my favorites games of 2016, so I figured that would be another good way to kick off 2018: by looking back at my favorite games that came out in 2017. In my previous post, I wrote about how my health had started going down hill and I was using gaming as a means of escapism from the stress of my life. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed and my health has continued its downward spiral. I’m now in a wheelchair most of the time and have started having seizures at least once a month, which, tragically, are sometimes brought on by the beloved games I play. Thankfully, I’ve gotten familiar with the pre-seizure aura and sometimes I’m able to stop it from happening. And I can feel when I’ve sat upright and played too much. Gaming isn’t as easy as it used to be, but it’s still the number one thing I use to escape from reality.

2017 was a year of amazing games. I honestly had a hard time narrowing this list down because so many good ones came out but I think I have my favorites in order as well as the ones I wish I had had time to play. So without further ado, here are my favorite games of 2017.

Horizon Zero Dawn

What is it: THE BEST GAME OF THE YEAR! Horizon Zero Dawn is a brand new game from Guerrilla Games, the folks behind the Killzone games. It’s a game that completely steps out of the box for them, and man did they do an EPIC job on this one. HZD is a single player, third person action-adventure game with a few RPG elements rolled in. Some folks market it as an RPG game but it’s really not the best description since there aren’t a lot of choices you can make that impact story elements, but the story that’s already there is an incredibly deep and complex one that seeps into every aspect of the game. It takes place in a post-post apocalyptic United States and you play Aloy, an outcast of her village, who must leave the home she’s always known to save the world and find out who she really is – literally. No one knows who she is and slowly throughout the game, you start putting the puzzle together. The world is huge and filled with machine-monsters that look like robot dinosaurs and the ruins of places that you might recognize from the real world.

Why I love it: There are so many reasons why I adore this game. Aloy herself is a very likable and relatable character, and the world she lives in never ceases to surprise me and keep me on my toes. The gameplay itself is fantastic and easy to understand with clear UI and a very cute tutorial at the beginning that blends right into the story. I adore the almost open world concept and the fact that the game has an ongoing day-night cycle that includes changing weather elements that reflect the real world. Even the tiniest detail brings me joy – the trail of footprints you leave in the snow, the way your feet shuffle realistically through the snow, the small gestures Aloy make when she’s standing still, and the way people look at you depending on where you are. Guerrilla Games did an amazing job making this game feel REAL in a sense that I’ve never felt from other games. And the research that must have gone into making this post-post apocalyptic world as real of a reflection of what could be is insane. To the point that it’s almost scary because man, some of this stuff you learn on your journey sounds way too familiar. Anyway, if you have a playstation, buy this game. It’s unfortunately a Sony exclusive title but to be honest, I love this so much I’d buy a playstation just to play it. (I was already to so in love with this game before it came out, I splurged and bought the limited collector’s edition with the giant Aloy statue and I’m so glad I did.)

Mass Effect Andromeda

What is it: Mass Effect Andromeda is the latest game in the Mass Effect series by Bioware. It takes place roughly 630 years after Mass Effect 3 and strays away from the characters that we had grown and loved from the original trilogy. You’re no longer playing Commander Shepard, instead you play Sara or Scott Ryder, who eventually becomes the Human Pathfinder for the space station Nexus. The other big difference is that we’ve left our own galaxy behind in search of a new place to call home: the Andromeda Galaxy. And leaving our galaxy means meeting all new alien species, some nice and others not so nice, and finding new flora and fauna to study and planets to settle. This is a true RPG like the original series – all your actions and choices impact the story going forward. And once again, many of your companions are romanceable (and important objective for any Bioware game).

Why I love it: I’ll be real with you, when this game first came out it was filled with bugs and glitches and because of that, did not review well with a lot of Mass Effect fans. Despite this, I actually found the game very enjoyable – I love the new companions (especially Vetra and Jaal) and I really adored Sara Ryder (and her VA Fryda Wolff). The story was good to – the idea of going to another galaxy and trying to settle there has all sorts of implications, good and bad, for the original species that make their home there. It brings about a lot of complex questions while staying true to the sort of game Mass Effect is – you answer those questions yourself. Once the last patch for the game went through, Bioware had fixed most of the issues with the first release and I’ve had even more fun playing it a second time. It’s not as emotional as the original trilogy, but I’m also coming from a place where the first games are very much ingrained in who I am so it had some pretty high standards to live up to. It can’t really compete with nostalgia of the original trilogy or with the complete world that Dragon Age Inquisition had created. But it’s still a good game and one I will keep going back to play.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

What is it: Assassin’s Creed Origins is the latest edition to the AC series by Ubisoft. It’s a third person action-adventure game that takes place before all the other AC games – hence the name Origins. You go back in time to learn how the Brotherhood of Assassins came to be and why they are in conflict with the Templar Order. It’s a very immersive game right from the beginning and you find yourself playing a Medjay named Bayek, and his wife Aya as they navigate the Egyptian world of 49 BC. The history of that time is real but the story told is fictional, making for a very interesting and in depth narrative. The gameplay is different from past AC games – it’s more fluid and realistic, and, in my opinion, easier to fight with. Like all AC games, it does have the necessary two worlds – the past and the present. In the present, you’ll find Layla Hassan, a researcher who discovers ancient Egyptian tombs and decides to relive the memories of the past.

Why I love it: I’ll start this by saying I haven’t finished this game yet! But oh my gosh, do I love it. I’ve only ever played one AC game before (Black Flag) so this was a game that was only on my “Want to Play” list because of what I had seen during E3. My husband bought it and I was instantly floored with how different the style felt from previous AC games. I immediately started playing on my own and fell in love with the Bayek, the setting, and the heartbreaking story of these characters. Every interaction you have in this game is very dynamic, from guards to benign NPCs to the animals (OMG THE CATS). Oh and having your eagle companion Senu for “eagle vision” is such a small but significant change from the other games – it makes all the difference to the narrative and to the realistic portrayal of Bayek. It’s so good. Many of the reasons I love ACO are the same reasons why I love Horizon Zero Dawn – the research that went into crafting a fiction narrative in a real world setting is so incredibly impressive. I’m blown away by this game.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

What is it: I had to include a mobile game in this list since I’m on my phone a lot. Pocket Camp is the new mobile Nintendo game for Animal Crossing. It’s cute, adorable, and very easy to play (and it’s addictive). I’ve never played Animal Crossing games but I got sucked into this one because all of my friends were playing. Basically you create your human character (the only human in this world apparently) and set up a community campsite where you can decorate and build lots of things. You then invite the different animal campers you meet into your campsite by raising their friendship levels through bribery (I mean, really, that’s what it is). You give animals things they want, they give you awards, their friendship goes up, and eventually they agree to visit your campsite (as long as their demands for specific “glamping” items are met). Honestly the whole premise is kind of weird, but it works. Somehow.

Why I love it: There are days that I’m not able to play console games or even watch TV because I get sick or my epilepsy is triggered. It’s on these days that I’m on my phone the most (it’s literally the only way I socialize most days) and having a fun and cute mobile game to play keeps my game cravings to a minimum. When I say it’s addictive I’m not kidding. When I first started playing it, I was checking it every two hours because that’s when the campers rotate. I’m not as addicted now but I still play it once a day because Nintendo is constantly adding new characters, items, and events. It makes me actually want to play Animal Crossing on a console for the first time – I never realized what this game was about but it seems pretty cool. And it helps that it’s adorable. I even love the sound effects in the game and I usually always have the sound off on my phone. But the way the characters talk reminds me a lot of Banjo-Kazooie noises and I love it.

Star Wars Battlefront II

What is it: Star Wars Battlefront II is the sequel to Star Wars Battlefront (duh) and it’s even better than the original in almost every way. It has both a short campaign solo story and also it’s more popular multi-player game mode. The single-player story mode has you play Iden Versio, the leader of an Imperial Special Task Force called Inferno Squad. You play the game through her eyes and watch as her perception of the war changes – first with the Rebels and then the Empire. It’s a really strong narrative, and even better if you read the prequel novel Inferno Squad by Christie Golden. The gameplay itself is very straight-forward and very linear – it’s a stark contrast from the open-world concept that is so prevalent in video games now. The multi-player mode consists of eleven planets and features battles from all three eras of the Star Wars movies. It’s a much bigger and robust game than the original Battlefront.

Why I love it: When the first Battlefront came out, my husband and I got to try it out at SDCC and loved it – we’ve played together in Battlefront II and the maps are even better. I first got excited about Battlefront II when Janina Gavankar introduced Iden Versio at E3 last year. A female Imperial Officer as the main character of a full campaign? YES PLEASE. I was hooked. Unfortunately I couldn’t play the entire campaign myself. I got as far as the first dogfight battle in space and ended up having a seizure (this sometimes happens with FPS views). So instead, I watched (and listened) to my husband play the rest of it for me and made me so happy that the Inferno Squad story continued in the way it did after the book. The book left me wanting more, and the video game gave me the conclusion I wanted. I’m a big fan of books supplementing content for movies and games although I know others feel differently. Outside the story mode, the maps of the multi-player games are fantastic – the graphics are unbelievably detailed and beautiful. My favorite is the fight against the droids on Naboo. What a gorgeous setting. This game got off to a rocky start with fans, but I really love where it’s ended up.

Games I Wish I had Played

There’s never enough time in the year to play all the games I want to play. Here’s a few of the games I missed out on (even though some of them I actually own already).

  • Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I mostly haven’t played this game because Jake has hogged the Switch since we got it and has been playing this game constantly. From what I’ve seen, it looks amazing and I can’t wait to get a turn to try it out.
  • Super Mario Odyssey: Another game I actually own already but I just haven’t had a chance to play yet. It looks really good and I’ve been excited for it since E3. Jake has played a little and from what I’ve seen, it holds up to the hype.
  • Night in the Woods: Oh my gosh I want to play this game so much. I just found out it’s coming to the Switch so I’m looking forward to buying another game for our latest family console. The whole story looks so good and possibly heartbreaking.
  • Pyre: I love everything that comes out of Supergiant Games. Transistor is one of my favorite games and I loved Bastion so when I heard they were coming out with another game, I was stoked. I only just recently bought it and I can’t wait to dive in.
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice: This game has gotten such strong reviews and I’ve almost bought it a few times. I recently had a friend play through it and tell me I HAD to play it so it’s on my list for this next year.

Welp, that’s it. That’s my 2017 Gaming Year in Review. I highly recommend all the games I’ve mentioned here, even the ones I haven’t been able to play yet because I have full faith in all of them. Especially Horizon Zero Dawn. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for us. Monster Hunter World, anyone? (The beta was pretty fun.) Bioware’s Anthem is also supposed to be out in 2018 and it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve come up with. But the game that’s got my eye right now and I’m hoping beyond hope that it ACTUALLY comes out? Kingdom Hearts III. Perhaps 2018 is the year they finally give us this game. They say it’s coming, but do I dare believe them? We’ll see.

Happy 2018, everyone!

Happy teN7 Day, Mass Effect Fans!

Happy N7 Day, friends! Or should I say, teN7 Day? Okay so I’m a few days late, but considering Bioware is making this a week-long celebration in honor of their Ten Year Anniversary, I’m still technically on time.

I don’t have much to say that I haven’t already said about these games. Did you know my wedding theme last year was Mass Effect? Or that these games got me through a really tough time? Or that my husband made me a custom Fem!Shep Funko? Yeah Mass Effect is such a big part of my life, I have it tattooed on my body. This month marks 3 years since I finished the original trilogy for the first time (and 3 years since I got that tattoo).

I definitely would not be the same person or be in the same place in life it wasn’t for Mass Effect. It literally changed my life. For good and for better. I’ve started a second playthrough of Andromeda but I’m filled with nostalgia. I think it’s time to return to where it all began. Shepard will always be my Commander.

If you have asked me in the past why I love Mass Effect so much, why this video game has changed my life, why I have the N7 insignia tattooed on my arm, I want you to watch this. Even if you don’t know anything about Mass Effect. This video conveys so much in a short amount of time why these games are so beloved and important to so many of us. Why we follow Commander Shepard, as human and flawed as she is, to the ends of the Universe and beyond.

“I think people keep coming back because it feels like home.”

The moment I heard that opening screen music from the first game, tears came to my eyes. It really is like coming back home again.

PAX South Tickets are on Sale!

PAX South tickets are on sale and I realized I haven’t written about my last experience. So here’s my belated thoughts on my second annual January San Antonio vacation.

I was at PAX South for the first time in 2016. This last January, Jake and I returned. PAX South 2017 was everything I needed it to be and I’m so thankful I didn’t chicken out and not go. I was so nervous because not only was it my first vacation/outing out of the city in a year (I’ve been dealing with a lot of medical issues), it was my first outing in a wheelchair. Like I had mentioned in an earlier post, I can’t walk well anymore and I use a wheelchair to get around. I was nervous because I had no idea how accessible everything at the conference center would be, I didn’t know I’d handle the inability to be in control of my own motion (I don’t have a lot of strength in my arms either so Jake pushed me everywhere), and I was worried about how friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile would react to seeing me immobile.

Thankfully my worries were for nothing; the actual trip was above and beyond my highest expectations. The two main reasons for that were: the incredible PAX enforcers who helped me get my medical badge and made sure EVERYTHING was accessible to me; and my beautiful amazing welcoming wonderful friends who greeted me with open flying tackle hugs. It was a long and exhausting weekend and I paid for it in the following week (I slept a lot), but it was worth it. So worth it. Which is why we are going back for Pax South 2018!! To get myself even more excited about 2018, check out my PAX 2017 photos (and friends) from earlier this year:

My handsome husband & I

PAX SOUTH!

Click here to continue reading this article.

2016 In Video Games

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.

pokemon go

Pokemon Go

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.

abzu

Abzu

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

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.

overwatch

Overwatch

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 and order

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 a good friend of mine 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 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 our fearless leader). 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!

n7day

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 wedding 01

mass effect wedding 02

Mass Effect Wedding 03

mass effect wedding 04

mass effect wedding 05

Mass Effect Wedding 07

Mass Effect Wedding 08

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.

Mass Effect Wedding 09

Of course we had Mass Effect cosplayers at our wedding!

mass effect wedding 12

My Squad. <3

mass effect wedding 11

Me and my bestie Lee who is mostly to blame for this whole Mass Effect obsession. We are trying for our badass Shep faces here. **Trying.

Mass Effect Wedding 10

Garrus & Shep.

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.

mass effect wedding 06

Handfasting with our Xbox controllers.

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.

n7tattoo

Happy N7 Day everyone!

My Dream Loot Crate: Fierce Space Women!

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

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

leiasocks

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

jaylah_

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

liaratshirt

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.

SPACE JEWELRY!

spacenecklace

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

wwmaggs

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?

about-iwd

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.

Mae Jemison

maejemison

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.

Michelle Obama

michelleobama

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.

Jane Goodall

janegoodall

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.

Commander Shepard

shepard

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.

Nellie Jeninga

nelliejeninga

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?

Best Present: Custom fem!Shepard Funko Pop!

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.

femshep01

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.

femshep02

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. ❤

My personal Shepard as drawn by the talented Cheyenne next to my in-game Shep.

My personal Shepard as drawn by the talented Cheyenne next to my in-game Shep.

I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite present on the Citadel. ❤

n701

I’ve been a fan of Bioware for years. I played KotOR in college and when I discovered Dragon Age: Origins around 2010 I was hooked. It quickly became my favorite game – I hadn’t had a game obsession like that since Kingdom Hearts in high school. It was everything I wanted in a video game – fighting, pretty outfits, making out with hot female assassins and men soon to be king, lots of blood, and some really cool concept art. I was convinced there’d never be another game like it.

In 2014, I went through some major life changes. I was still reeling from the end of a six year relationship, I was living alone for the first time ever (and for a short while, living out of my car), I had just lost my job of two years, and my life was in shambles. I started making bad choices and things were spiraling towards a not very good place for me. I had no idea how to pick up the pieces. It’s times like that when escapism comes in handy and my escape was into video games. My friends Lee and Meg were in the throes of a game called Mass Effect and since it was by the same people as Dragon Age, I figured I’d give it a shot. It took while to get into the first game, but with their constant support and reassurance that it was going to get better, I pushed through. By the end of the first game, I was a fan. I thought it was a good game. Not the best. But good enough that I was curious about the sequel.

n703

Mass Effect 2 changed everything. From the death of the Normandy SR-1 to the retrieval of one handsome Garrus Vakarian to defending and adopting Tali to making every renegade and paragon decision and making sure that every single member of the team made it through the suicide mission, the whole game was non-stop action and fun and I texted Meg and Lee throughout the entire thing. Their response? Wait till you play ME3.

I thought they had prepared me for how Mass Effect 3 would impact my life, but I was completely and utterly unprepared for the influx of feelings. The hard decisions. The devastation that followed even the best of them. The night I finished, Meg coaxed me through my tears and helped me accept that it was all over. I was a mess. It wasn’t until that very last day that I finally admitted that Mass Effect was better and more important to me than Dragon Age. But it was. Because of Shepard.

n702

Commander Shepard. Through everything that happened, she remained as steadfast and certain of her beliefs and her morals and her duty to humanity and every living life form. She refused to break. When she was shot, she got back up and kept fighting. She made the hard calls when she knew she’d get shit for it later. She backed up her friends through thick and thin and despite all the darkness she went through, her heart was still good. She was still herself. Still just as fiercely imperfect as anyone, but stronger for all that she’d seen and done. In the end, she always selflessly did the right thing. She was, and is, everything I strive to be. She became a beacon for me when I was lost, alone, and struggling to find my place in a world I had never really navigated on my own. She was a survivor in every sense of the word. And she was me. I was making those decisions. Everything she did was because it was what I would do. And in being Commander Shepard, I learned a lot about who I was. And who I had the potential to become. I saw myself for the first time as someone who was worth it. Worth living a better life for. And up until that point, I wasn’t making the best choices for myself. Commander Shepard was a turning point for me.

I know people will laugh. They’ll shrug it off. It’s just a game. It is. It’s just a game. But it’s also more than that. I became a better person because of this game. Because of Commander Shepard. Because of the writers at Bioware who understand human nature and the choices we are forced to make. The hard ones. Bioware changed my life for the better. I was a fan for a long time. But now I will always be a champion for them and the games they make.

To me, N7 Day is the perfect reminder of how far I’ve come in life. It’s reminder of who I want to be. Today is a day to celebrate the Commander Shepard in me. In all of us. I am a survivor and it reminds me to fight for the things I love. N7 Day means a better life, it means becoming closer to my friends, it means knowing that there’s more out there and that I should never stop reaching for my dreams. N7 means strength. It’s why I have it tattooed on my right wrist. So I can always see it and remember that I am strong. That I can get through anything life throws at me.

So thank you Bioware. For Mass Effect. For KotOR & SWTOR. For all the Dragon Age games. For characters like Liara and Iron Bull, Garrus and Sera, and so many more. Thank you for turning my life completely around when no one else could get through to me. Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for making N7 Day a thing so that I have a day to celebrate that strength every year. But most of all, thank you for giving me Commander Shepard. You have no idea how much I needed her. Thank you.

Happy N7 Day everyone!

Hey look! I remembered how to be an artist!

It’s been awhile since I drew on a daily basis, but I’ve been attempting to make it a regular thing again. Thanks to my awesomesauce friend Meg Smitherman, I’ve been at least doing it weekly. We’ve been doing an accountability sketch thing where we give ourselves one weekly topic and then draw it or sketch it however we see fit. Figured I’d do an art dumb of some of the sketches I’ve been working on for the challenges.

asyr

Topic: Star Wars | Sketch: Asyr Sei’lar, Rogue Squadron

edi

Topic: Mass Effect | Sketch: EDI

luna

Topic: Harry Potter | Sketch: Luna Lovegood

orianna

Tiefling Barbarians FTW!

That last one isn’t for the sketch thing – I just wanted to draw up an avatar for my Tiefling Barbarian that my play in our D&D campaign. Her name is Orianna and she’s loud and brash and likes shining things. She’s also very sarcastic and smooth with the ladies. I love her.

I’ve also been doing a little post-it note doodle challenge with myself to try and get the creative juices going in the morning. Usually I do these while I’m on client calls when I’m not taking notes (having my hands moving keeps my mind focused on what I’m listening to – I was a notorious doodler in classes too but it really does help) so they’re pretty small and silly. You can find these over on my twitter account. I try to post them pretty regularly. When I’m not sick. Fighting off a bad cough and cold right now so I’m a little slow.

Will post more art later! Working on finishing that Asyr sketch and the Luna one. Wish me luck!