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.

To Buy Too Soon … Or Not At All

For the first time, the Epic Games policy of trading money up front for “timed exclusivity” has hit me where it hurts. Ooblets, a game I’ve had on my Steam wishlist since January of 2018, has decided to go with the Epic Store on release.

Not having grown up with consoles, I missed out on all the Animal Crossing / Harvest Moon / Rune Factory style games that sounded fantastic. Ever since my 160+ hour binge of Stardew Valley, I’ve been squirreling away these farming & friendship sims in my library, in my various wishlists, and even oh-so-briefly, on my phone.*

I can’t swear that I would have bought Ooblets on day one at full price (that’s a rare thing in my patient gamer world), but I think I might have, and now … well, now I won’t.

And I get why developers are being seduced by Epic Games, I do. The indie game market is beyond saturated, and it’s so hard to tell what’s going to be good, and what’s going to be just more disappointment. So many games are made in between all the other activities of life, and there are no guarantees of remuneration.

So, instead of the anger and the name calling over, let’s be honest, something that affects Glumberland far far more than it will ever affect me, I decided instead to go back through my purchase histories and look at what games I bought too soon.

Now, I don’t begrudge myself anything I paid less than $5 for, even if it sits untouched in my library for years. And I don’t grumble about games that aren’t really my style from bundles where I got at least my money’s worth in things I did want. I don’t even complain about games I bought, tried, and decided just weren’t my cup of tea. It’s the games that I make a conscious decision to purchase, by themselves, either on release or on sale, and never even open up.

So without further ado, I’d like to present Krikket’s Top Ten Fail Purchases.

  • Meeple Station – Purchased January 17, 2019 for $15.29.
  • Planet Coaster – Purchased November 26, 2018 for $18.21.
  • Fallout 4 GOTY Edition – Purchased November 25, 2018 for $19.98
  • Oxygen Not Included – Purchased December 30, 2017 for $14.99
  • Factorio – Purchased March 3, 2017 for $18.00
  • Rift: Starfall Prophecy – Purchased November 12, 2016 for $39.99
  • The Age of Decadence – Purchased March 26, 2016 for $17.99
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter – Purchased March 7, 2015 for $7.99
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect – Purchased September 8, 2014 for $14.99
  • The Wolf Among Us – Purchased June 22, 2014 for $8.49

Please note: calling these fail purchases does not speak in any way to the quality of the games themselves, just how much time has passed with them sitting, untouched, mostly even uninstalled.

The only one I actually regret on principle was the expansion for Rift, since (a) I never went back to the game and (b) they gave it out free about 6 months later. Most of them were games that I felt deserved my meager financial support, and so I was glad to pay what I did for them.

I’m just not sure what happened between clicking the “buy” button, and now. What changed? Certainly not the games themselves (although at least The Vanishing of Ethan Carter has gotten a remaster in the meantime).

Maybe I’ll pick up Ooblets on Day One of its Steam availability. Maybe I’ll wait until it ends up in a bundle. I don’t need to play it right now, and I don’t need to buy it on the Epic Games Store. I have plenty of other things to keep me occupied in the meantime.

*If, like me, you loved Stardew Valley (are there people who didn’t love Stardew Valley???), and you’re looking for some other games to scratch that itch that you can buy right now, I decided to make a little list for you, with links and everything.

  • Verdant Skies – farming and friendship in space.
  • Gleaner Heights – farming and friendship and weird stuff going on.
  • Kynseed – farming and friendship through multiple generations.
  • Staxel – voxel building with a side of farming and friendship.
  • My Time At Portia – farming and friendship with a focus towards crafting.

On My Not-So-Successful Attempt at Streaming

Around the end of last year, I got the itch again. I still had no real idea for a blog, or a video series, or a stream or anything else, but I wanted to do something.

So I did what indecisive nerd girls do – I went to Twitter and posted a poll.

Now, obviously, seven people is barely even a minuscule sample size, but since I’ve never really bothered to grow my Twitter beyond a small corner of the internet populated by people I already like from other interactions, well, I wasn’t expecting much.

So, I decided to give streaming a whirl. I spent a day or two whipping up some graphics, setting up my channel and agonizing over my overlay. I decided to pass on having a main game, and do a variety stream. I figured it was good opportunity to delve into the nearly-forgotten portions of my library and give some screen time to games that people weren’t already talking about.

I wish I could tell you that I failed on scope. No. I failed on tech. I refused to get a webcam, because gaming is my chill time, and I wasn’t going to get all dolled up to sit in front of my computer and relax. I managed to do a whole stream with no sound – something I would have realized a lot sooner if there was anyone watching it. I found myself dreading streaming instead of looking forward to it.

It just wasn’t my medium.

And to be honest, although I like the idea of video game streaming, I don’t even really watch streams. I stopped using Twitch on anything resembling a regular basis when SMITE moved its E-Sports games over to Mixer. I don’t even care much for video walkthroughs or Let’s Plays.

Although I usually have one or more multiplayer games in my rotation, I grew up with gaming being something you basically did alone. If you were lucky, you had people to talk about it with, but it was rarely a social thing in and of itself.

So, on this first day of Blaugust 2019, I’m glad to be back home, with the written word, and oh-so-many delightfully nerdy things to write about.

You won’t be seeing me on stream anytime soon.

What I’m Playing Wednesday – Gray Matter

Gray Matter – Estimated Length 11-15 hours.

Since finishing Danganronpa 2 (and the prequel/sequel anime), I’ve been kind of floundering around, trying to find something else to fill that niche. I soared through both Danganronpa games in a matter of days because I had to know what happened next. A mystery-focused point-and-click adventure seemed like a good choice to keep that story-focused delight going.

Enter Gray Matter, a point-and-click adventure game, written by Jane Jensen (who also wrote the Gabriel Knight series in the early 90s).

Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve played an old school style adventure game, and I had forgotten just how frustrating adventure game logic can be. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter before I was hunting for a walkthrough (which is now just hanging out on my second monitor, waiting for me to desperately need it again).

Over the past few days, I’ve put in about 2.5 hours, some of which was trying to get the persnickety thing to run smoothly and not like a scratched up DVD. After an uninstall – reinstall – reboot loop, I was able to actually watch the opening cutscene, and kind of revel in how glorious the artwork is.

A still of Samantha Everett from the introductory cut scene.

Music and sound, at least so far, is pretty fantastic. Voice acting ranges from decent to really really good. The puzzles themselves are satisfyingly challenging but not obtuse, at least as far as I’ve played, although at least a couple felt entirely too simple. Since your player character is a street magician, I thought the addition of the “magic trick” interface was brilliant, although it initially felt needlessly fiddly, once it clicked for me, I realized it was quite well put together.

I even like the dual story aspect, at least so far. Seeing how (or even if) the stories come together as I progress through the game may or may not change my mind on that one.

Gray Matter also has an interesting progress meter, which would be more useful if it gave you any real way to know what activities encompassed each section title. Since I’m not the type to admonish myself for using a walkthrough, I don’t see myself struggling too much to complete this game.

Gray Matter’s Progress Meter for Chapter 2.

Other than a few niggling grumps (like long cut scenes that aren’t pauseable and are key to understanding the story), so far, I’m content with my choice. It’s certainly not the most difficult point-and-click adventure game out there, and it’s holding my interest.

The Difficulties of Being a Generalist

I’ve always been mildly envious of people who know exactly what they want. Who love a thing so unabashedly and completely that they rarely get distracted. Those people tend to excel in whatever their chosen discipline is – or for our purposes, their chosen hobby.

I am a generalist. I have been a generalist for as long as I can remember. There are so many things I love and adore, I would need ten lifetimes to get even reasonably competent in all of them, and at least half a dozen to even experience all the things I would like to experience.

Yep, that’s a nerd girl problem for sure.

My house is cluttered with supplies for a multitude of arts & crafts projects. The list of movies and TV shows I want to watch is so long and overwhelming, I frequently find myself tossing something on the television that I’ve seen a million times over because it’s easier than choosing from all of the worthy (and perhaps the not-so-worthy) options I haven’t seen. The only reason my TBR pile isn’t scattered over every flat surface is that I went primarily digital years ago.

And then, there’s the video game library.

While that’s not a completely accurate number, it’s close enough for our purposes.

When I started my game-a-day blog back in 2016, I though my library (which was certainly less than 500 games) was unmanageable. And it probably was. Just over three years later, it has become such a mighty and unwieldy thing, I find I do even LESS gaming than I did before. It’s become my “What to Watch” conundrum all over again.

It would be easy to blame deep discounts, and the proliferation of bundle options, but let’s be real. It’s a problem that comes from being a generalist*. I want to play ALL THE GAMES, but honestly, who has time for that?

So I keep building up my digital library at a faster pace than I could possibly work through it, and then, when I have time to play, I frequently find myself suffering from paralysis of choice, unable to commit the precious commodity of leisure time to any one suitor.

I’ve joked for years that my Steam library isn’t a backlog. It’s a retirement plan. It’s a security blanket for the time when time is abundant.

Yet I also understand that there’s a deep flaw in that reasoning – new games will keep being made, put on sale, tossed into the Humble Monthly, and I will keep acquiring faster than I can enjoy. It’s a hoarding behavior I haven’t been able to overcome, and one that’s been enabled by the digital marketplace (because can you imagine having that many physical games – where would you put them???).

In the past year, I’ve tried to remind myself that some games are not for me. I have stopped adding things to my library that are praised for being “fiendishly difficult” – I know my reaction times are not what they were 20 years ago, and they weren’t great then. All the critical acclaim in the world isn’t going to make that any less true, and I’m not here for frustration.

What I want from games is an experience. Challenge my mind. Tell me a story. Show me something beautiful. Make me think. Make me smile. Hell, make me cry like a baby.

I’m ready to play now.

*Ok, time to say what you’re all thinking. The real problem is a lack of self control when it comes to things that are cheap or free. I’m a damn Yankee, and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m 41 years old – I’ve learned to love that part of myself.

Not My First Rodeo – An Introduction of Sorts

Part of me can’t believing I’m jumping into the blog-life again, and part of me wonders why it took so long (and an event like Blaugust) to come back to it.

Let’s ignore for a moment my time on Diaryland, my time on LiveJournal, and a couple brief flirtations with Blogger. Let’s just take a quick trip back through my WordPress blogs.

First there was “So Much WoW, So Little Time” – which was, as you might expect, entirely focused on World of Warcraft. I started the blog in February of 2010, and updated it more or less regularly through the middle of 2011. Not the longest blog-run ever, I’ll admit, but it was certainly an interesting time. I did my share of cute little screenshot posts with just a few words here and there, but I also did some pretty detailed tutorials, and more than a couple really emotional posts about the people and guild stuff and many thoughts I had about the more human side of Warcraft.

I didn’t really get the blogging bug again until late 2015, and hoo boy, I had a doozy of an idea. Thus was born “366 Days of Gaming“, an absurdly ambitious project where I decided to play a different game every day and blog my experiences. Occasionally, that blog made me miserable, but at the end? It was such a feeling of accomplishment. I’m glad I did it, but oh lordy, I would never ever do it again.

But the problem with a blog project with a hard end date is that, maybe, you hit that end date, but you still want to do more. Thus “The Completion Chronicles” was born. Unfortunately, it only lasted about 3 months before I resubbed to WoW and stopped finishing anything else (or playing anything else really).

So, since all of my previous blogs have had a very clear focus, you might be wondering why I decided to just go with Nerd Girl Thoughts this time. Me too, if we’re being honest. Mostly, I’m hoping that a broader focus will give this blog some longevity past whatever happens to be the thing of the moment*. I actually enjoy more broadly focused blogs when I’m looking for something to read, so I’m not sure why I always need to have laser focus when I’m coming up with something to write.

So yeah. Here’s to Blaugust and beyond.

*For anyone wondering, the thing of the moment right now is Elder Scrolls Online.