I Refuse to Ride the Hype Train

It really doesn’t matter what form of entertainment media we’re talking about, I am forever and ever behind the times. While that allows me to seek out things that suit my taste at my leisure, it definitely also has drawbacks.

You might think that spoilers are the worst of those, but for me? It’s hype.

I’ve come to realize that once people start talking in terms of something being the best of the best, it starts plummeting on my personal to-do list. The more positive attention something gets, the less interested I become. It’s not because I’m some wacky hipster who couldn’t possibly like something that’s popular, but because there’s a tipping point, and once that point is passed, nothing can ever be as good as it has been made out to be.

Forgive me folks – I’m going to say something now that many folks will find horridly offensive.

Firefly was … fine. It probably deserved a second season, but in no way is it the best TV show ever made. Hell, I don’t even think it’s the best of the Joss Whedon shows. And Serenity? Don’t even get me started on Serenity.

I am fairly certain I would have enjoyed my time with the series more if it hadn’t been a victim of excessive hype. I might have even liked the movie better (but I highly doubt it – that movie just isn’t that good).

Take a moment to catch your breath if you need to. Cuss me out. I get that Firefly is absolutely sacred to a lot of people.

Despite really enjoying reading lists of All Time Best Video Games, I find myself passing over actually playing a lot of those games, despite having ample opportunity. I don’t own The Witcher 3. I’ve never played Portal. I played the first 30 minutes or so of the first Mass Effect, and never cared enough to go back. I still don’t know what Undertale is about, but I don’t feel the overwhelming need to play it.

Of course, despite being unwilling to ride the hype train, I certainly have no issues driving it. I love recommending games, and there are a handful that I find myself recommending over and over. I am single-handedly responsible for the presence of Psychonauts in the Steam library of about a dozen people I know.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing about games (and movies, TV shows, and books) that other people are loving, especially when I know we already have similar tastes. But I also don’t believe the perfect game – and by that I mean the game that’s perfect for every single player – exists.

Do you find yourself riding the hype train? If you do, are you more often pleased or disappointed by it?

Real Life Renovations

Today, I wanted nothing more than to catch up on a few episodes of TV, start poking at the ESO Orsinium event (which started today), and maybe draft up a couple of blog entries.

Instead, I spent the day going through boxes of … if we’re being honest … mostly complete crap. It’s one of the first of way too many steps in getting a room set up to be Nerd Central – a space for board games, tabletop, collectible cards, and miniature painting. The process is dreadful, but having that kind of devoted space is going to be fantastic.

I try to remind myself of how great it’ll be when I’m dusty and tired and can barely string a coherent sentence together, but I mostly find myself looking forward to the weekend, when I can really spend some time getting my game on.

What I’m Playing Wednesday – The Elder Scrolls Online

Since I’m still muddling my way through Gray Matter (a game I thought I’d easily blow through in a day or two), I figured I’d use this What I’m Playing Wednesday to talk about my current “main game” and only MMO I’m actively playing, The Elder Scrolls Online.

Having been a huge fangirl of all thing Elder Scrolls since Daggerfall, there was no question that I was buying this game when it released in 2014. In fact, it was one of the rare occasions that I pre-ordered, splurging for the physical Imperial Edition with the Molag Bal statue and the beautiful book.

I played pretty obsessively for about six months after release, but then money was tight, and time was tighter. I was a guild leader in World of Warcraft at the time, so I stopped my subscription to focus on that. Just a few months later, it went to a subscription-optional model, but I didn’t get back into it for real until February of this year.

Every other time I’d gone back to it, I’d been overwhelmed, unable to remember how to spend my character’s points, and probably spent more time downloading it than actually playing. This time, I decided to start fresh – I deleted all but two of my old characters, and created a new one to relearn the game on.

Now, I have 6 characters that are level capped, and although I occasionally dabble in trials with a couple of them, nothing I have leveled so far feels like the right class for me at endgame.

Recently having had to take off most of a month while my husband recuperated from back surgery and playtime was highly limited, I’ve decided that I’m going to take a step back from my fully leveled characters, and spend some time trying out the magicka specs of the remainder of the classes, and unlike most MMOs I’ve played in the past, I’m genuinely excited to be leveling again.

Despite the hefty amount of time I’ve spent just questing and exploring, I still have oodles of content I haven’t finished, and quite a bit I’ve not really even started. I do keep up my ESO+ subscription, so I have access to all the minor DLCs, and I have purchased all the chapters, including Elsweyr. I still have so much to do.

My plan is to take it slow, to kick back and enjoy the story lines I haven’t yet experienced, as well as revisiting some of my favorites. I’ll mostly pass on crafting, and some of the grindier skill lines. I even want to take the time and play through some of the level appropriate dungeons instead of just speeding through them later.

I’m really looking forward to this soft restart, and just enjoy the world of Tamriel more or less on my own for awhile.

Games I Wish I Could Play Again

A GoG.com Appreciation Post & Wishlist

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to take a moment to gush about how amazing GoG.com is for us nostalgic gamers of a certain age. Games I never thought I’d play again, like Shivers, Phantasmagoria, and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom are all available on GoG.com, are DRM free, and most importantly, they just WORK.

My GoG library doesn’t even come close to my Steam library, but I love what they do, and I always check there first when older games make their digital debut.

While I certainly have no shortage of things to play, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about games I played in my teens and twenties that I wish I could spend an evening or two with again.


I’ll start with the ones that you’ve probably heard of – all of these games were either very popular in their day, or have a cult following or both.

Black & White was overly ambitious, and clunky, and is still the best god game I’ve ever played. I certainly never even came close to finishing it, but I spent way too many hours teaching my tiger how to be NICE to people, and not do awful things when I have my back turned – like eating the peasants.

The original Zoo Tycoon was everything a dedicated micro-manager could want in a game. Unlike many people, I didn’t release the lions on my unsuspecting zoo guests – I was too busy trying to figure out exactly how many trees I needed to put into each critter’s habitat to make them blissfully happy. I even took notes. Lots of notes.

The Sims – the original game – was like nothing we’d ever seen before. I mean, sure, it also was one of the first games to suffer from the now all-too-common expac bloat, but at least it pre-dated stuff packs, and I would love to buy it and load it up one more time.

Silent Hill 2 was creepy and terrifying and I just kept playing it because the story wouldn’t let me stop. Now, to be clear, I’d love to play the whole series on PC (despite never having played any of the others to completion), but if I had to pick, it’d be SH2 every time.


American McGee’s Alice maybe should be in the “games you’ve heard of” category instead of the “games you never knew about” one, but I’m continually surprised how many people don’t know that there was a game before Madness Returns, which last I checked, was also pretty hard to get nowadays. I’d love to play both of these back to back – by the time I picked up the sequel, my discs for the original were nowhere to be found.

I never got into Myst, and similar games, but the maddeningly difficult puzzles in Jewels of the Oracle were right up my alley. Sure, some weren’t that hard, but the ones that were? There was no better feeling than finally figuring it out, and collecting that shiny gem for your trouble. While I would be thrilled just to get the original game working on a modern system, I also wouldn’t complain about a graphical remaster, provided they left the puzzles alone.

Virtual Resort: Spring Break – otherwise known as Beach Life – was a fantastic little tycoon game with a rather twisted sense of humor. Changing the type of beer you served led to completely different effects in your patrons, and more than once, success hinged on not letting too many tourists get eaten by sharks.

Finally, I’d love to be able to play Survival: The Ultimate Challenge again. I suspect that it wasn’t a terribly good game, but I really liked the idea of helping a group of … well, idiots for the most part … survive after a shipwreck. This game pops up in my memory every now and then, but I was recently reminded of it while playing Seeds of Resilience, and I’d love to get the chance to see how closely the two really play.


Sometimes, I just browse through GoG.com’s Community Wishlist to see what games others are remember fondly, and I’d love to hear about the games you’d love to see make their digital debut.

The Game of Shame

Post inspired by this Reddit thread from /r/PatientGamers

Have I told you how much I love the Patient Gamers subreddit? Because I really do adore it – it’s such a different vibe from most of the other gaming focused subs. Once in awhile, someone really comes up with a question that speaks to me. This time, it was about Games of Shame.

This is not about backlog. This is a discussion about that one game you’ve played a lot… but never managed to finish. Maybe you love the first half, three-quarters, but you just get so burned out before the end. Maybe the game mechanics change and offer a different experience. Maybe a new chapter starts and the art style for that section sucks. Maybe you just can’t play one game that long. Maybe it just got insanely difficult at a certain point.

Whatever the reason, it’s the game you’ve played partway through multiple times. And you’ll even consider starting it again, knowing you might not finish. What is that game? And why haven’t you finished it?

RavingLuhn

Until the end of last year, my Game of Shame, the most shameful of them all, would have been Psychonauts. I played it back in 2005, bought it on Steam in 2011, picked it up for the XBox about a year later, and played it over and over. I loved just about everything about the game. Everything, right up until the Meat Circus, whereupon I died over and over and over, until I wandered off, frustrated.

But then something amazing happened this past December. I decided to start over ONE MORE TIME, armed with my trusty Logitech F310, and resolved that, this time, I would beat it.

I definitely thought it was unbeatable. Definitely.

It only took me about 13 years, but I could finally take Psychonauts off the top of my Games of Shame pile.


There are probably hundreds of games I’ve bounced off of for one reason or another. I couldn’t get past the first hour of the original Hitman, Fallout, Deus Ex, or Assassin’s Creed. I enjoyed my time with Just Cause 2, but I just … got sick of it. I’ve hidden dozens of games in my Steam library after I played them enough to determine they really weren’t for me. But in all of those cases, there are no regrets.

There are plenty of other games I see myself going back to someday, but that I’m also not terribly upset to not yet have finished. Maybe there’s a little shame, but it’s barely a speck.

Then there are the games that have no finish line. If, like in the case of Tropico 4, there’s a campaign, I might call it finished once I work my way through the scenarios, but I also know that a lot of games in the genres I prefer are never really over. No shame there.

I’m pretty sure that puts Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines firmly on the top of my Shame-pile. Another title I’ve bought three separate times, I failed to finish it for much the same reason as Psychonauts – the last part of the game just soared past my personal skill cap and limits for frustration. However, unlike Psychonauts, recent attempts to play resulted in even less progress than ever before. It feels dated and slow, and the early game seems like a horrendous slog.

I was hoping that news of the sequel would inspire me to give it one last go, but I’m afraid that – with this one – it’s just not going to happen.


Do you have a game that stands out to you as a Game of Shame? What’s stopping you from finishing it?

Getting Lost in Urban Fantasy

I used to be an insatiable reader. According to my GoodReads profile, I read 183 books in 2007 (the first year I tracked my read books online). In the dozen years since then, I slowed way down, although I do occasionally still indulge in periods of binge-reading.

With the fantastic integration of GoodReads and my Kindle, I decided to set myself a moderate reading challenge of 30 books this year, and surprisingly, I’m a little over halfway through.

My to-be-read list is at least as long as my to-be-played list, and I don’t fuss overly much about either one; whatever appeals at the time is what I indulge in. For the past few months, I’ve mostly been drawn to urban fantasy.

Urban Fantasy, as defined on Bookriot.com

Fantasy (and all its many sub-genres) isn’t really my jam. I dragged myself through four and half books of the Game of Thrones series before deciding I’d really just rather watch the show. I am risking any nerd cred I might have by confessing that I find J.R.R. Tolkien fabulously dull.

A few years ago, my husband introduced me to Simon R. Green, and by extension, John Taylor, Suzie Shooter, and all the other denizens of the Nightside. I devoured all the main books in the series, and promptly went back to my murder mysteries, historical fiction, and thrillers.

Recently, however, I decided to spoil myself and get a Kindle Unlimited subscription. It’s an inexpensive little luxury that I can put on hold as financial constraints demand, but it also allows me to try out a bunch of new-to-me books and authors without risk – if I don’t love something, I just return it.

(Ok, for all of you saying “That’s what LIBRARIES are for!” – I agree with you in principle. I love the idea of libraries. I’m glad they’re still a thing that exists. They’re fantastic resources. I also know that I will rack up insane late fees and stubbornly NOT read my books because of the firm return deadline, so it doesn’t really work for me.)

Through Kindle Unlimited, I discovered E. A. Copen and her delightful Lazarus Codex. I’ll be frank; my expectations weren’t high, but the books were, at least for me, a perfect combination of horror and comedy. From the first book to the last, I found myself reading every time I had a spare moment (and sometimes when I didn’t).

As a former aspiring author, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about all the ways that tech and accessibility has changed the face of publishing, but I also realize how much I’m reaping the benefits of those changes. I love having so much fiction available to me at the touch of a “Download Now!” button.

Now I’m hunting for the next great little-known urban fantasy series – I have no intention of waiting years before finding another modern magical world to lose myself in.

What I Play When I Don’t Have Time for Games

A Little Chat About Mobile Games & Thoughts on Mobile Game Monetization


I don’t know who first came up with the idea that “mobile gaming isn’t actually gaming”, but I have never understood it.

I might be persuaded to argue that – generally speaking – mobile games are their own genre of gaming. Sure, there have been ports of fantastic games to all kinds of devices, but the type of game that usually comes to mind when someone mentions mobile gaming is the endorphin slot machine which entices you to sink a whole lot of time, money, or both into it just to keep up with other people playing.

Games like that – they suck you in, even though many of them aren’t terribly good when you take an objective look at them. I mean, I played Farmville during its Facebook heyday, and I got deeply into Mob Wars for awhile. I can’t tell you now what the allure was, I just know I played them (and many other games like them), and I played them regularly.

That said, I don’t think I’ve touched a Facebook game in … at least three or four years, probably longer. Mobile games have taken over that niche, bite size time-fillers when you’re on the go, letting you get a little gaming fix when you don’t have time to play a real game.

I’ve tried many over the years, and a select few have managed to hold their spot on my devices.


What I Play on My iPhone

Since I cheaped out on storage space the last time I upgraded my phone, and since I take WAY too many photos that I often forget to back up, I don’t bother keeping much in the way of games on my phone. Although I occasionally download something for a brief flirtation, there are two games I come back to over and over.

The first game that’s always installed is Two Dots – it seems very simple at first – draw a line between dots of the same color to clear them from the board. Complete a square or a rectangle to clear all dots of that color. Each level tasks you with clearing something, and as you play, more special pieces come into play, and it becomes a satisfying combination of strategy and RNG to proceed. It’s easy to understand and it’s free with in-app purchases (IAPs).

I have never spent any money on Two Dots. Usually, by the time I’m out of lives, I’ve had my fill, and multiple game modes (with multiple life pools) lets me wander over to whatever event is going on at any given time to play more if I wish to, and for me, there’s no satisfaction in buying extra moves with money in order to complete a level.

The second game, which I find myself going back to even more frequently, is I Love Hue and I find myself recommending it often. This is another game that’s free, but contains both ads and IAPs.

Normally, my fascination with ad-based games is short, but once you make any in-app purchase, ads are gone for good. I bought the cheapest “prism pack” for less than $5 over two years ago, and I have never come anywhere close to having to wait for my daily login bonus to continue playing. You spend 3 prisms to play a level, and you get 15 per day regardless of whether or not you ever open the app. I play at least every few days, sometimes multiple levels, and I still have enough prisms to play almost 500 levels back to back.


What I Play On My Kindle Fire Tablet

I change out my tablet games far more often than my phone games, but I have two I keep coming back to, and one that I am currently playing far too much of.

I started playing Codewords when it was free as part of Amazon Underground (which I sorely miss), and when it disappeared from my account – like many other games I picked up the same way – I dropped the $2.99 and just bought it. I was so pleased with it, I talked about it in my game-a-day blog. It’s cheaper than any puzzle book you’re going to find, it has over 1000 puzzles, and they’re replayable. No ads, no extra purchases, $3 well spent.

The Istrys is a supersized package of 3D tile matching games, and another series I discovered through Amazon Underground. Sadly, the single tileset versions of this app are no more, and it appears that all you can get is this greatest hits package. I never loved the music, but it’s easy enough to turn off, and the gameplay (especially the timed version) is something I really enjoy. However, I find myself playing it less and less as time goes on because it’s fully monetized via ads. Even worse, people have reported that when the app switched over to this new version, the versions they had previously paid for were no longer available, which is really not a good look. If the developers could see their way to offering a one-time payment to remove the ads (even if it were on a tileset-by-tileset basis), I’d pony up in a heartbeat, but until then, I’ll play it from time to time, but never more than a game or two in a row.

Lastly, there’s the current time sink extraordinaire, Merge Dragons. A match (or in this case, merge) three collectathon with premium currency and IAPs that I’m a little embarrassed to say I dropped $10 on when I started playing. I’ve beaten all levels currently in game, and I find myself opening it up, cleaning up my camp, and then closing it between huge (and admittedly, mostly rather dull) events that have been coming every weekend as of late. I wish I could tell you why I’m still playing, I think really, it’s something to do mindlessly while watching TV, and I really want it to be more fun than it is.


I’m not sure how it happened, but it feels like over the past few years, mobile games have become a dirty secret. Gamers elect not to connect to their Facebook or Twitter profiles, instead, we play on the go and don’t talk about it. Personally, I’ve never been overly concerned with my gamer cred anyway, but I really think that if some mobile developers moved away from the hamster wheel of IAPs, and offered demos or free ad-supported trials, mobile games would stop being something that people hid, and start being something we recommended to our friends.