The Evil Day Job

Me in my scrubs, wishing I could be home gaming instead.

Just about every content creator, writer, and artist I know will feel me when I say this: I’m so f@#king sick of my day job (or as I call it the EDJ for short). Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time I really like my job and I love the folks I work with. But spending 40+ hours a week doing something I don’t love, that doesn’t spark my heart and soul…well, it’s just exhausting. And it’s seriously cutting into my time to do the things I love most: gaming and writing.

That being said, some of this indentured servitude is self inflicted. Once upon a time I was a published author. I didn’t make tons of money, but I made enough to consider it a side income. But once again, I had to write about something that…well, wasn’t exactly something I wanted to write for the rest of my life. I wrote erotic romance (AKA chick porn) and while it was fun at first, it got tiring and repetitive. And then my publisher went out of business, but that’s a whole other story.

And yes, I could try to write for a more serious, professional gaming publication. But that would require me to be more serious…and professional. Yeah, that ain’t happening. I love writing about gaming in a very personal way. So yeah. Never gonna make tons of money writing about gaming and I’m sure a hell not a good enough gamer to go pro. And I’m pretty sure no one out there wants to watch a forty-nine year old woman on Twitch. Not to mention I’d probably have to have a whole lot of liquid courage to stream anyway.

I’ve come full circle (see how I did that?), I need the EDJ to pay bills and save for my golden years, but the EDJ cuts into my gaming and writing time. What is a grown up gamer girl to do? Alas, I fear there’s no easy answer to that question.

I have gamer friends who schedule their vacation around a triple A release. Charles regularly stays up too late gaming (I do wish I had the capacity to do that, but Mama needs her eight hours of sleep). We do play just about every evening and weekend, but it’s never enough. Not to blog about gaming the way I once thought I could. I can’t imagine having to come up with videos to post on YouTube or sticking to a streaming schedule. Like I said, I know there are plenty of folks in the same boat.

Adulting is difficult, plain and simple. I suppose the only thing to do, to quote Dory, is “just keep swimming.” Or in my case, trying to balance work and family and dreams. I know how miserable I’d be if I threw in the towel and made compounding pharmacy my whole life. Heaven forbid. And who knows? Maybe my little blog will become something bigger. Can’t know till I try. I just wish I didn’t feel so exhausted all the time. Perhaps that’s my next mountain to tackle. Finding the energy to have it all…if you know how, won’t you tell me, please?

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter @cindyjacks. If you’d like to support my blog with donations you can do so at ko-fi https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or cash app $cindyjacksbooks. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit! Game on, my friends!

Grandma Gamer Girl

Gaming has always been a big part of my family life. My brother and I spent countless hours playing Pong or Tanks on the Atari. My cousins co-op’ed on Super Mario Bros when I’d bring my NES on visits.

I carried on the tradition with my son. We burned through every child-appropriate title on the Wii and Xbox 360 we could get our hands on. Even now that’s he’s eighteen, every once in a while he’ll humor me and invite me to play Fortnite.

Charles and I game together darn near every day with his son crashing cars in the background on BMG Fun. Even my ex-husband (my son’s father) obsesses over his creations on Minecraft. As I said, we’re a gamer family and gaming might be the only thing we all have in common. That and we all love each other, of course.

On March 28, 2022, I became a grandma and I can’t wait to share the evolution of gaming with my granddaughter. Yep, I’m forty-nine, old enough to have a grandbaby and no spring chicken when it comes to video games. What’s that you say? I’m aging beautifully? Awww, thanks! But I see posts all the time on Twitter questioning when one is “too old for gaming”. I say the answer is never.

Yes, I’m aware anyone over the age of twenty-four who still plays video games is labeled an “elderly gamer,” but here’s what I think Millennials and Post-Millennials forget: GenX was the first generation to grow up with video games. Arcades, Atari, Nintendo, and Sega were the staples of our youth. So why would we put down the controller (or joystick for my retro-gaming friends) simply because we hit a certain stage in life?

In Number of Gamers Worldwide 2022/2023: Demographics, Statistics, and Predictions, Financesonline.com states that 38% of gamers are 18-34 years old, but what actually means is 62% of gamers are well into the “elderly” category. 26% of gamers are women 50 and older (close enough, I’ll be 50 next year, lol). So while I might not be the most catered to demographic in grandma gamer girls aren’t as rare as they once were.

Considering I’ve played almost 150 titles in a little over two years, and countless others over a lifetime of gaming, I imagine they’ll have to pry the controller from my arthritic fingers at the nursing home (sidenote: Elliott, if you put me in a home, I’m spending your inheritance…not kidding). By the time my granddaughter is old enough to play, perhaps controllers will be a thing of the past. Then again, maybe not since the age at which folks start gaming these days is getting younger and younger.

It’s amazing to me that what started out as a little pixelated ball bouncing across the screen has given birth to such wondrous journeys suck as The Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Horizon Zero Dawn. I can’t wait to see what the future of gaming holds (yes, I’m praying it’s the Holodeck from Star Trek The Next Generation). And while it’s true gaming can foster unhealthy behaviors and toxicity, it also unites us all in a way little else can. Over the past 49 years, I have not lived one life, but many lives as various characters in various worlds and I’ve loved every minute of it.

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter @cindyjacks. If you’d like to support my blog with donations you can do so at ko-fi https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or cash app $cindyjacksbooks. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit! Game on, my friends!

RIP RDO

Photo credit: RDR2 gameplay on PS4

Two months ago, Rockstar Games announced there would be no more Red Dead Online updates. Those of you who know me, read this blog or follow me on Twitter (@cindyjacks) understand what a loss this is for me. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my favorite alternate reality. And the chance to create my own character in that simpler, albeit much more violent, time…well, I was hooked at once. And now living in Kansas the wild, wild west feels even more relevant. Seriously, look up Cowtown, the replica of old Wichita. It’s totally Blackwater.

Granted, the online version was never quite fully baked. The beta period only offered four story missions and you had to grind like it was your job to level up. Nary a bird flew past me without meeting its death. Hey, they were 10xp each! But there was something about going on , hunting and fishing and embracing the simulation of living off the land. It is my understanding, however, that skinning a deer or rabbit is much more complicated than depicted in the game. Who knew? πŸ˜‚

Once the game left beta though, there were moments of brilliance. The addition of the trader, bounty hunter, and collector roles. The evolution of the trader to moonshiner, the collector to naturalist. The addition of the Call to Arms saved us from complete boredom and frustration with the lack of updates. The world evolved and allowed me to sink deeper into the fantasy of living in the Wild West…but, you know, without the actual risk of dysentery or tuberculosis. Or being barred from owning property cuz I’m a girl, lol.

It got to the point thatΒ  Halloween wasn’t Halloween without the RDO update. Christmas, too. But when the last Christmas “special” coat was nothing more than a black leather coat that looked much like every other black coat in the game, I could see the writing on the wall. The end cometh.

To be honest, I haven’t played the game much since then. I steeled myself for the inevitable demise of RDO. And now that it’s official, I feel as though I’ve lost a group of friends. In a way, I have. Cripps, my beloved Bacchus (he’s my favorite horse), Maggie, the lady with the awesome voice who narrated the cutscenes for the legendary bounties. Even Sean McGuire, who it was lovely to have alive again (oops sorry, mild RDR2 spoiler, my bad).

Granted, Rockstar hasn’t deleted the servers so all those folks are still there for me to visit. I probably will from time to time once the sting of the game’s stagnation wears off. But I’m level 260-something so without new content, there’s not much for me to do other than the same mind-numbing loop of grinding. Perhaps I’ll stalk a 3-star whitetail buck or reel in a massive sturgeon, just for old times sake.

There’s also the Call to Arms to take out the day’s frustration with, but since me and my honeypie have mastered all of them, well, the thrill is gone. RDO has become that lover who doesn’t switch up things in bed. Ya like what they do, but ya wish they’d throw you a curveball every once in a while. Alas, there will be no gimp suits and gagballs lurking in RDO’s closet. Sorry, I took that metaphor too far, lol.

Being the gaming addicts we are, Charles and I have found some substitutes for the gaping hole RDO has left in our co-op playtime. State of Decay 2 has a decent substitute for the Call to Arms. We’ve yet to best Daybreak so that’s on the agenda for this weekend. But having fallen in love with a cowboy and living in a state that is literally part of the Old West mythology, there’s nothing to do but wait for a dev to creat a new Western masterpiece. I suspect it’ll be a very long time before I crush on a game quite so passionately. I suppose time will tell.

My dearest RDO, you will be missed. You filled many a dark day with joy and laughter and headshots. No other game could ever replace you and you’ll be in my heart always. Whenever I sip a little Tennessee whiskey, I’ll pour a some for you in remembrance.

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter @cindyjacks. If you’d like to support my blog with donations you can do so at ko-fi https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or cash app $cindyjacksbooks. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit! Game on, my friends!

Floundering in the Void

Photo: Me and my Freddie

I’m irritated with myself. See, I started this blog as sort of my own therapy session and to talk about gaming. But lately I haven’t been blogging or writing at all. It’s not that I’m stress-free, far from it in fact. But I just don’t feel inspired.

Part of the problem is I haven’t played a game that really moves me to put pen to paper (okay, I don’t really write with pen and paper, but “tap the touch pad” doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been thoroughly abusing my GamePass on my XBox Series S. State of Decay 2, Elex, Guardians of the Galaxy, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, The Outer Worlds, Outriders. The list goes on and on. They’re all good games, lots of fun, but nothing that’s really spoken to me and definitely nothing that’s blown my mind.

Where’s the next The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption 2 or Horizon: Zero Dawn (okay, Forbidden West was pretty bad a$$, too, but where’s the 3rd installment, huh?). I need another fix of that good good, that sweet that nasty that gooshy stuff, but I’m just not finding it. Alas, I fear I’m a junkie chasing down that next great high. As I’ve stated before, I realize I’m low-key a gaming addict and I’m okay with that. It’s far better for me than other temptations.

Scrolling through Game Informer new releases, I don’t feel too hopeful for the last quarter of 2022. Not to say there aren’t some very good games coming up, but I don’t see greatness. That being said, I would love a new release to prove me wrong.

My plan? To continue sifting through past games, looking once again to experience that rush and to get lost once more. Hey, it’s better than dealing with real life, right? If y’all have any suggestions for what I should play next, please leave them in the comments below. See ya next Friday! (I’m serious, it’s happening this time!)

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter @cindyjacks. If you’d like to support my blog with donations you can do so at ko-fi https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or cash app $cindyjacksbooks. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit! Game on, my friends!

Back with My X

Dear PlayStation Four,

The past few years have been amazing and I’ve loved every moment we’ve shared together. You rekindled my love of gaming, got me through many, many hard times, and inspired me to start writing about our adventures together. Despite all we’ve shared, there’s an impediment to real growth our relationship.

I’ve tried being patient. I’ve waited and waited for the PS5 to be available at regular retailers. It’s been over a two years and I can’t wait any longer. it’s time for me to go back to my XBox. And yes, before you even ask, it’s a series S. I know it’s younger than you, my darling PS4. And yes, I won’t sugarcoat it, the improved graphics and load time have a lot to do with my decision. Not to mention that soon, gaming companies are going to stop making new games that are compatible with the old gen. I never meant to hurt you, but I have to move on.

I hope I can come visit from time to time. I hope we can still be friends. I will miss you. With all my love, Cindy

So yeah, I finally pulled the trigger on a next gen console. I waited and waited for a PS5 to be available through regular means. Not judging anyone else, but personally I refuse to reward scalpers by making a purchase from them. Plus the fact that Sony seemed to have no reasonable resolution for the bot-scalper issue offended me as a gamer.

Players should be Sony’s target demographic; we’re the consumers of their product. But they seemed to take the attitude that sales were sales whereas Microsoft addressed the supply chain issues fairly quickly. A year ago, while I was still waiting on a PS5, I purchased an XBox Series S for my son’s birthday on Amazon from Amazon at a regular price. A year later, I bought my XBox Series S on Amazon from Amazon at a regular price. I actually bought two, one for me and one for my boo. Again, that’s something I couldn’t do, even if my opportunity finally came up Sony’s wait-list. And don’t get me started on the wait-list. I was at work when my thirty minute window came up, I missed the email so, yeah. Yeahhhhhh. And yes, the PS5 is listed as “available” on Amazon now. Available by invitation. F@#k you, Sony.

Honestly, I don’t really care which console I play. I don’t buy in to the console war mentality. And really I could game on a PC and forgo the system altogether. But I cut my gamer girl teeth on Atari and Nintendo so I just plain prefer playing on a console.

I wanted to wait for a PS5 because despite the fact that I had an XBox 360 and XBox One, I switched to the PS4 right about the time I found myself with almost two years of nothing to do every day but play. It was the last gift my father gave me before he passed away and in those two plus years I played over 100 titles so switching back to XBox meant re-purchasing my favorite story games and abandoning all my progress on non-crossplatform online games, such as RDO and ESO.

Actually the fact that Rockstar has all but abandoned RDO had a lot to do with me letting go of my hopes that one day Sony would straighten out the PS5 distribution problem. As much as I have a deep sentimental attachment to RDO, there’s nothing to do on the game anymore except grind, rinse and repeat and I’m at a ridiculous level (like 260 something) so without new career paths or new features, it’s just grinding for the sake of grinding. Meh. Not interested. But I digress. Sort of.

As silly as it sounds, I really did agonize over the decision as to whether to go back to XBox. There’s just something sexy about the PS5, but at this point I feel like that guy at the bar who’s been watching a pretty girl dance, chatting her up, buying her drinks all night and then she goes home with another man. Weird metaphor, but I stand by it. Sony teased me with something I just couldn’t get my hands on unless I was willing to support a$$hole scalpers. Like I said, not gonna do it.

But what about the superior graphics and super fast load time, you ask? As much as I agree with the staunch PlayStation lovers as to the superior visuals on a PS5, I don’t have a fancy enough TV to notice the difference. And let’s face it, I’m pushing 50. My eyesight started diminishing ten years ago. Let’s be honest even if I had a UHD 4K HDR monitor, I doubt I have the physical ability to note the super crisp display anyway πŸ˜€ As for the load time, with age also comes patience and the XBox Series S still loads faster than the PS4 so it’s still an upgrade. Not to mention the price point. I got two new Xboxes for about the same price as one PS5 at MRSP.

The bottom line is I will always have a soft spot in my heart for my PS4. It got me through a terrible time in life, but life moves on. I wanted a next gen console and the XBox Series S is what I could get my hands on. For a gaming addict like me, that was the deciding factor. Mama needs her fix πŸ˜„

Too Sick and Tired to Game???

Not gonna lie, when woke up two weeks ago with a fever of 101.5 I was kinda happy. Bear with me, I’m not insane or a masochist (much πŸ˜…). I’m a gamer. And as much as I love my job, it’s put serious limitations on my gaming time. So, when I knew I’d have to be out for a few days, I was excited. I might be feverish and miserable, but what better time to self-medicate with a marathon gaming sesh?

My elation faltered a bit when I tested positive for COVID. It’s a scary, unpredictable disease I’ve spent two years avoiding like, well…like the plague (You’re a professional writer, Cindy, you can do better than that! No, no I can’t right now: keep reading.) But the law of probability caught up with me. I’d finally contracted the dreaded disease. Once I staved off the panic, a beautiful thought occured to me: COVID protocols at work still dictate 10 days at home. Period. I work in healthcare and compound medication (yes, I cook drugs, but not in a Breaking Bad kind of way. It’s all legal, I promise). Because they don’t want us getting patient medication all COVID-y, my employer is kind enough to pay us COVID leave, separate from our PTO. Ten days of gaming and I’m still getting paid? That’s a silver lining if I ever saw one.

But alas, my joy was short-lived. I tried. I really, really tried. I sat at on the sofa, controller in hand, but not only did my whole body ache, my brain wouldn’t work. Contrary to non-gamer beliefs, video games do not rot your mind. Quite the opposite. They stimulate your creative problem solving, your hand eye coordination and your ability to focus and strategize. It’s true. Look it up. I’ll wait. See! Gaming = active mind. But my brain was being assailed by exhaustion and an weird impenetrable fog. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the energy, the mental acuity, or even the desire to play.

Well, isn’t that just a kick in the a$$?! I tried several times during the worst of the infection and just couldn’t do it. I wound up spending the first six days in bed, binge watching Netflix. Even after I felt strong enough to sit on the couch (yes, it was that bad), it took an immense amount of effort to pick up the controller and struggle through some mindless grinding. Finally, around day eight, I started playing again. Even now, that I’m back to work, I don’t really have the energy when I get home to stare down the bull. What the f@#k is this disease?

I did some research and after reading lots of medical gobbily gook, I ascertained that yes, COVID messes with your ability to think. And this brain fog can last for weeks or even months post-infection. Oh what a cruel joke, Universe. Seriously, give me all the time in the world to game and then take away the capacity. Not funny. Not funny in the slightest.

As my recovery inches along (more like millimeters along, but that just sounds weird), I’ve regained some of my usual quick-thinking and problem solving abilities, but I’m still not my “normal” self. I put normal in quotations because normalcy and I don’t have the closest relationship. Even writing this blog post has taken two days when it usually takes about an hour. Maybe two if I include edits and prepping for publishing.

I talked to some of my gamer friends on Twitter and apparently I’m not alone in this struggle so that makes me feel a bit better. But I just want my brain back! Never thought I’d miss its border collie hyperactivity, but I really do. I have noticed since I’ve been back to work and had to do stuff like make a 1% solution from a 10% solution made from a 37% solution, the fog is lifting even faster. I suppose the best thing for my brain is to get back to gaming. Never in my life have I ever had to force myself to switch on the console…switch it off, yes, but we all know that feeling.

The Witcher 3 on newgame plus has helped since it’s something familiar I love. And I just downloaded Spiderman: Miles Morales which if it’s anything like The Amazing Spiderman should prove fast-paced enough to challenge ye ole noggin. Share with me the games you’d play to get your mind back in fighting shape!

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! If you’d like to support my blog you can do so at https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or paypal.me/cindyjackalopes. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit!

Buggin’ Out: Dying Light 2 Stay Human

Photo credit: Dying Light 2 cover art, Techland

SOME SPOILERS INCLUDED IN THIS POST! You’ve been warned πŸ˜‰

I wanted to love Dying Light 2: Stay Human like I loved the first one. And I did love the story because it’s a complex tale filled with difficult choices. Not to mention the choices really do affect your outcome at the end which reminded me of one of my faves: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Unfortunately, the state of the game at release really bugged the $h!t out of me, but I’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s focus on the positive.

So the good stuff about the game: I loved the story. I loved how you could align yourself with whatever group spoke to you the most. I chose the Survivors because I tend to be a “teamwork makes the dream work” kind of softie. I loved the romance you could spark with Lawan. The combat with the infected and bandits was a lot of fun. The weapons and the way you could mod them thrilled me to no end. I mean, who doesn’t want a machete that can set an opponent on fire?!All in all, I loved 90% of this game. But…yes, we knew there would be a but…

Oh…where to start? Perhaps with the blue screen of death that happened at least twice per gaming sesh. Keep in mind I’m not gaming as much as I once did so that translates to the game crashing about every couple hours. Then there were entire cutscenes that skipped through the dialogue. Even the closed captioning skipped ahead so I missed big chunks of what the characters were talking about. Granted, I’m always slow to jump on new games so there were lots of videos out already where I could watch the content I missed. But really? For $60, I shouldn’t have to cyberstalk Aiden just to hear what he had to say to Lawan, lol.

There were other parts of the game that felt a little half-baked like the parkour system. My Aiden died far more from platforming mishaps than those pesky volatiles. That being said, as I’ve freely admitted on this blog, I am a less than stellar platformer so there is that. But games with smoother climbing mechanics such as AC Odyssey and Horizon Zero Dawn gave even my old reflexes far less trouble. I also felt the side quests could’ve been a bit less fetch-y and a little more insightful into Aiden’s character.

I mentioned the bugs and glitches to my beloved who replied, “Yeah, but that’s every new game these days.” He has a fair point and while the state of Dying Light 2 wasn’t as catastrophic as other somewhat recent releases that shall remain nameless (you know the ones that broke everyone’s heart…you know what I’m talkin’ about), it was far from release ready, IMHO. While it’s true that 90% of what flawed this game can and most likely will be remedied by patches and updates. But as gamers and consumers, I think we deserve more for our hard earned money than “Oh, that? That’ll be fixed later.” So endeth the soapbox portion of this blog post.

Yes, yes, let’s get back to what Dying Light 2 did right, which was something I consider paramount to any story game: an engaging narrative that fosters genuine reflection into the human condition. In this case, I couldn’t help but appreciate the double meaning of the game’s title. Of course there is the fact that toward the end of the prologue you’ve been bitten and for the rest of the game, if you spend too much time without UV light or linger too long in a patch of infection-accelerating chemicals, Aiden will turn into one of the nameless and doomed Infected. This does, of course, pose the question: are the Infected no longer human? That is a philosophical and ethical question for another day, but given the way everyone who hasn’t turned in the game slaughters Infected wholesale, we can gather this post-apocalyptic society has decided no. No, the Infected are not human.

But here’s what I found beautiful about the title: Aiden’s journey is riddled with many difficult and thought-provoking choices. Which faction to side with, who to save and who to forsake, which folks are worth helping, and often sacrificing personal comfort and safety for the greater good. Aiden even had the opportunity to fall in love. It’s this interpretation of the title that struck me. How, when the world is a mess and plagued with disease does one fundamentally stay ‘human’. Being human means making tough choices all the time. And in our very real time of plague and disease, there have been moments where we as a society have behaved subpar. I’m looking at you, those who when COVID first broke out hoarded all the toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and ramen noodles. Okay, I’m being flippant about a very serious subject mostly because I don’t want to delve into more serious debate about vaccines and mask wearing. And please, let’s avoid such diatribes in the comments should you leave one. No matter what side of either debate speaks to you, I think we can all agree that though our outbreak was nowhere near as severe as that in the game, our selfishness and drive to put our own needs above the needs of others did show. I can only imagine what would happen if COVID did turn some of us into bloodthirsty, mindless killing machines. How hard would it be to stave off savage and cruel instincts then?

While Dying Light 2 was far from perfect, I think it had enough meat to the story and interesting missions to make it worth playing, even with the blue screen of death lurking around every cutscene. And I am a sucker for games that force the player to make choices with sometimes unforseen consequences. Art imitating life is always a mirror worth gazing into. And let’s not forget the fire-infused machetes. Never forget those! If you’re on the fence about buying it, I’d give you this advice. Wait a couple months for the patches and fixes to come out and then do buy it! Especially in this current round of economic set backs, you can’t go wrong with a zombie tale. At least that’s what the psych experts say…and I tend to agree.

Death, Depression, and Destiny

Photo credit: Destiny 2 promo release, Bungie

Fun blog title…I know. But let’s face it, I’m not the only one who’s lost enough people in past two years to fill a Titanic lifeboat. Oddly, most of them didn’t die of COVID-19. Many passed away because of old age and its related ailments and one beautiful child…well, because, to quote Depeche Mode’s Blasphemous Rumors, I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor. I suppose when I die, I do expect to find him laughing.

All this loss strips away the joy of what it means to be human and I gotta say, I didn’t handle it particularly well. I did what I always do. Instead of writing, talking to those around me who love me, or anything else remotely healthy, I shoved all the pain and anger and fear as far down as I could, went to work, came home, gamed, ate a little, and slept. I did what was expected of me and little else. I know, I know. I do know better than that. I mean, if you read through my other blog posts from 2020 and early 2021, you’ll see I’ve been here before. I don’t know why I can’t internalize the definition of insanity, which we all know is repeating the same action over and over again, expecting a different result.

And as part of my cycle of self-destruction, I threw myself into a game. No, not Red Dead Online. RDO been a dismal disappointment this winter which is a whole other heartbreak. That said, Charles and I did enjoy the holiday Calls to Arms. And I do kinda miss them now that their gone. Hanging Dog Ranch was a pain in the a$$. But I’m getting off topic.

Destiny 2 happened to be the game that got me through this latest bout of depression. I’d never played it before last December. IKR?! Sad, but true. I didn’t expect to like it. I’m not really a fan of MMOs. But this one has a bit of charm to it and it sates the latent fortune hunter with the abundance of loot. Glorious legendary and epic loot! Helmets, robes (my main character’s a warlock), swords, boots, class items, and guns….oh the sweet, violent, satisying, Fallen-mowing, Taken-dissolving, Cabal-exploding, Vex-felling (I promise that’s the last compound adjective) guns.

In addition to the gorgeous array of firearms, each victory makes your character a little bit stronger. There’s something that feeds the soul about going from level 1100 to 1330+. Perhaps it’s the sense of control and progress that’s often lacking from real life, but that can be found in this simple FPS MMO.

Granted, it does fall into the trap that most “free to download” games do. Yes, there’s a lot of content that is free, but the really good stuff is locked behind DLC that can hit the pocketbook pretty hard, especially when purchased all at once. Fortunately, my loving man got me the first two DLCs (Forsaken and Shadowkeep) as a Christmas present so once I’d burned through those, Beyond Light wasn’t too costly to purchase.

With the Witch Queen release upon us, if you’ve never played Destiny 2 and you need something to alleviate the stircraziness of winter or (as was the case with me) a bout of the blues, I say jump in and game on!

Why Does He Keep Losing His F*&king Gun?! Alan Wake Remastered

Early morning mist clings to the streetlights, sun still hiding behind the horizon. Sipping a cup of convenience store coffee that’s better than it should be and listening to love songs as I text my man, I feel at peace. That’s been a rare commodity these days. But one question circles in the back of my brain, threatening my quiet moment: Why the f*&k does Alan Wake keep losing his f*&king gun?!

***A few mild Alan Wake Remastered spoilers ahead! You’ve been warned!***

I know it’s been a while my fellow gamers. Meh…some circle of life stuff’s been going down and it knocked me off balance for a bit. And while I haven’t been writing or hanging out on social media, I have been gaming like a fiend. Last month I burned through four story-game titles: Lost Judgment, Far Cry 6, Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes, and a replay of God of War on hard. Yeah, I’m masochist, but we knew that.

For some reason, the inspiration fairy didn’t hit me with any of those games. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed each of them, but it took Alan Wake and his f*&kwittery to move me to write. And the question remains: why can’t he seem to hang onto a motherf*&king weapon? One would think, other than survival, that would be objective #1. And one has a much better chance of surviving if one isn’t constantly having to scrounge for new armaments.

Yes, yes, yes, I know it’s part of the challenge, that and Alan is slow, stamina impaired, and in no way a bada$$. Which only strengthens my case for holding on to a pump-action shotgun for dear life! Needless to say, the combat in Alan Wake Remastered wasn’t the smoothest or most satisfying. In fact “frustrating as all hell” would be the phrase I’d use. The story, on the other hand, is a quirky, creepy masterpiece. It also gives the player some pretty accurate insight into what it’s like to write a story.

Early on the game pays homage to Stephen King and rightfully so. The premise of the story smacks of The Dark Side, but not so much that it’s predictable. In fact the devs borrowed from a lot of horror greats, such as HP Lovecraft and Clive Barker and then made the story their own. And the iconic last line of the game will stick with you forever, as you pull your hair out wondering WTF it means. “It’s not a lake, it’s an ocean.” I read the devs explanation of it and I still don’t really get the point, though that’s part of its charm.

Speaking of the cryptic ending, let’s talk about the DLC. Okay, I understand that DLC is invariably more difficult than the main game. This makes perfect sense in games such as The Witcher 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn. By the end of those games, you’re character is a total freaking bada$$. You need beefier, more deadly enemies to keep you engaged.

Alan Wake does not have that kind of progression. Why then are the enemies in The Signal and The Writer more copious and more difficult to kill? I mean, Alan still can’t hang on to a weapon to save his motherf*&king life. Literally. I got so irritated with it last night I shut off the game lest I chuck my controller at the TV. Don’t think Charles would much appreciate that. But seriously, Alan had no more health, speed, or common freaking sense than he did in the main game so why…why…WHY?!

Alan Wake will leave you with more questions than answers and sometimes that’s okay. The writer in me loves that the story isn’t tied up in a neat bow at the end. The gamer in me did enjoy the unique challenge of weakening my foes with a flashlight. Yep, you read that right, a flashlight. But the realist in me says if Mr. Wake loses his godd@mn gun one more time, I’m through with him. Okay and I might be tempted to dive into the shmup Charles is playing. I guarantee you his character in Hired Gun ain’t constantly misplacing their arsenal. And Mama needs a brand new distraction.

Eat Like a #Gamer

The other night, on a whim, I posted on social media about my healthy version of Seven Layer Dip and got a surprising response. All my gamer pals drooled over it. Now, you know me. Before I met Charles, my diet consisted of frozen burritos, sour gummy bears, energy shots, and Coca-Cola. I know, I know. I don’t know how I came up underweight at my last physical. Okay, I do know, I didn’t eat a whole lot of anything even when I ate crap, but the anorexic phase of my grief has lifted and I feel like unhinging my jaw like a python and eating large quantities of fat and sugar. Won’t stay at fighting weight for long like that. And let’s face it, it’s too damn hard to take off weight as a middle-aged gamer so I’d like to hang around a healthy 130 lbs. Not to mention my beloved tends toward healthier eating habits so time to make some changes.

But I love my gamer food. Nachos, taquitos, fried mozzarella, bags of chips, large bags of Skittles. Damn, I’m drooling already. Those foods definitely have to go onto the “sometimes” food list. What’s a hungry gamer girl to do?

Inspiration struck when I pulled out my old cooking diaries. Believe it or not, once upon a time I used to eat a very healthy diet and tried my hand at fitness-ing up some old favorites that are traditionally chock full of fat and carbs. I came across a recipe for Seven Layer Dip that won’t lead straight to a coronary. After sharing it with Charles and getting the thumbs up (he had three helpings :D), I thought I’d share it with my fellow gamers.

Layer 1: Lund’s whole grain Spanish Rice (follow recipe on box to prepare)

Layer 2: No fat or low fat refried beans

Layer 3: Morning Star Spicy Black Bean Burgers, crumbled and browned like ground beef (you can also sub some grilled chicken in case veggie burgers just ain’t your thang)

Layer 4: Taco sauce (any brand you prefer)

Layer 5: Half a cup of your shredded favorite cheese (just a sprinkling for flavor)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 mins until everything is hot and melty

Layer 6: Pureed avocado or plain greek yogurt (you’re choice or both, make it an eight layer dip, it’s your dish, do it your way!)

Layer 7: Veggies (shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, minced onion, toss that salad on top)

Makes 6-8 servings

Serve with baked whole grain tortilla chips and voila! You’ve got the perfect food to shovel in your mouth during cut scenes or loading screens. Who says you can’t eat like a gamer and still eat healthy? Game on!

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