A Night in the Woods & A Whole Lot of Feels

“At the end of everything, hold on to anything.”

Have you ever started playing a game that you don’t know much about but all your friends keep telling you to play? So you just do without actually looking up what it’s about? That’s what happened to me with Night in the Woods. And that’s also why I ended up crying my eyes out over a really well developed, well written, relatively short and incredibly deep video game.

Night in the Woods was primarily created by three people: Alec Holowka, Scott Benson, and Bethany Hockenberry. In 2013, it launched as a Kickstarter project and reached its goal of $50,000 in just 26 hours. In total, the game received $200,000 in funding and was released on PC, PS4, and Xbox in 2017 and for the Nintendo Switch in 2018. It was when it came to the Switch that I decided to jump on the bandwagon and play this game. I’m so glad I did.

I don’t want to give away anything about this game but here’s a short description. You play Mae, a college-dropout who has just returned home for the first time in a few years and discovers that in many ways, it’s just as she left it. But in other ways… well let’s just say the game takes a pretty surprising turn that leaves you wondering, “Just exactly what kind of game am I playing again?” Paste describes the themes covered as “mental illness, depression, the stagnancy of the middle and lower classes, and the slow death of small town America.” And that’s just a small part of what makes this game so real (despite the fact you’re playing anthropomorphic animals). For a short (I finished it in three days) side-scroller, this game really packs a punch emotionally.

If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw the distressed tweets I made after I finished this game. I was not at all prepared for how much this game impacted me. As someone who deals a lot with many of the same issues Mae has, I found myself uncomfortably familiar with the feelings she struggles with coming to terms with. At times it was like looking into the mirror of a younger me and I can’t say I liked it. But at the same time, the ending brought me comfort and the very real sense that I’m not the only one out there. And I’m incredibly grateful for my friends.

I know it’s only March, but so far Night in the Woods is my favorite game of 2018 and I’m really glad that I was able to knock it off of my To-Play games that I listed in my Fave Games of 2017 post. My initial prediction was correct: this game IS heartbreaking. If you haven’t played it yet, I highly highly recommend you add it to your list. Oh and if you enjoy the game, make sure you play the two mini-games located in the Extras section of the main menu. They add a little more to the main story and they’re just fun to play.

“The beginning is moments ago, the end is moments away. There is no time to forget before all is forgotten.”

Find Night in the Woods on the following sites:
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My Third Annual PAX South Trip!

I went to PAX South both in 2016 and in 2017. And this year was no different from those past experiences: it was wonderful!

Just like last year, the Enforcers were incredibly wonderful and helpful and went out of their way to look out for me and get me where I needed to be at any given time. Even if we were late to something (because sometimes it’s a struggle to get through crowds when you’re in a wheelchair), we were taken care of and I’m so so very thankful to every single person who helped us. This year I even got to meet and give a big hug to Kristin Lindsay, head of the Enforcers and now a good friend. She’s wonderful and her Enforcers are wonderful – they make PAX what it is.

Unlike last year, we were only able to go one day instead of the usual three day weekend. My health has gotten a little worst than what it was a year ago so one day is all I can do now for an event like this. Thankfully, our good friends Claire and Pete let us crash in their hotel room the night before so we drove down Friday night and then got to spend all of Saturday at the con. We have very good friends.

Onto some pictures of our fun time!

Furry Husband and I in our usual selfie pose.

Click here to continue reading this article.

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.

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!