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, 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 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!

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Shoot NPCs in the Face if I Want to: RDO Call to Arms

Ammo at critical levels, minty and thyme big game meat damn near gone, buffs applied every couple minutes, enemies surrounding the roof where I’ve posted up, I’m in deep shit now. And I love it.

I’ve been leveled up in Red Dead Online for a minute. All the best ammo and weapons. Full health, stamina, and dead eye stats. Ability cards set so I’m damn hard to kill. Players that f@#k with me get they head blown off, several times till they choose to parley or leave the lobby. Even the new Blood Money Crimes posed little challenge. What’s a bored gamer girl to do with all this gear and gold buffs? Well, Rockstar, you done got it right for once (at least in RDO, I know GTA Online is a pampered, spoiled little game)

I woke a little late Tuesday morning and Charles was already on his PS4 as I padded out of the bedroom, yawning and stretching. I asked what he was up to. He said A New Source of Employment missions. Meh, I curled my lip. Wasn’t overly impressed with those re-packaged stranger missions. Then he said the magic words: “And these Call to Arms missions are tough.”

Whaaaaa? What’s that now? Something in the game I’ve never heard of. Wait! It’s update day…could it be? My breath caught in my throat. New content? It’s f@#king Christmas morning! Now, hold on now, Cindy. Don’t get too excited. Remember the first Quick Draw Pass. yawn-a-palooza for the most part. But as soon as Charles loaded into MacFarlane Ranch and wave after wave of pissed off NPC kept trying to murder him I got that sweet shot of adrenaline. Oh yessssss. Let’s do this.

Tried it solo at first, thinking I’d face-tank my way through it like I do every other mission in RDO. Then, it happened. I got my a$$ handed to me. Oh yes! Please hand me my own a$$. Make me try, make me think, make me bring my A game cuz I been coasting far too long. One lost day and night later, we finally defeated one of these beast missions. Granted I’ve been trying to solo or duo it with Charles. Nope, can’t do it yet. We had a very helpful high level and the three of us finally got the damn thing done.

The other cool thing about these missions is that they take place in different locations, each posing a different strategic and tactical challenge. Valentine requires more of a rooftop, pick ’em off approach, Fort Mercer you gotta have a player posted at every corner. MacFarlane Ranch takes a whole lot of running and gunning. Strawberry and Blackwater need a balanced plan of attack with their many avenues of entrance and egress.

Properly armed for bear and loaded with recovery items, waves 1-5, possibly even 6 don’t pose too much challenge and are totally possible to solo for a higher level player. It’s just a lot of killing hordes of enemies and you’ve got your NPC allies to back you up. But as they get picked off in the battle and the enemy brings in heavy artillery (Maxim guns and/or cannons), not to mention those hard-to-kill jerks with the machetes, things get a lot hairier. I’ve made it half way through wave 8 completely solo (in the video above I did clear wave 8 mostly alone, but my teammates were there for the other waves). I am bound and determined to solo one of these beasts before I officially consider myself satisfied. Yes, I’m a masochist. I admit this freely.

I don’t know that I’d recommend this update for lower levels (anyone under level 75) because it might prove overwhelming. However, if you’ve got a couple high level friends or are just a sucker for pain like me, why the f@#k not? Jump on in. It’s great practice for flickshots and running and gunning. And even if you fail, you still get a ton of gold, RDO$ and XP. When we first started these missions I was level 206, in two days time, I’m level 213 which is unheard of progress if you grind the old-fashioned way on this game.

Though I often give Rockstar a lot of crap for treating Red Dead like the red-headed stepchild of their online endeavors, I am woman enough to admit that this time, they done good. I hope to see more cool, challenging updates like this one. It’s so freaking awesome to have to focus and sweat and cuss my way through a mission. Explosive ammo isn’t just for trolls anymore! Yay! Yes, I’ve found a whole new method of anger management.

Don’t get me wrong, based on my last post, while I am happy, happier than I’ve been in decades, I still got lots of frustrations to take out on NPCs (cuz I don’t mess with other players unless they mess with me and I try my best never to take my bad mood out on those I love). But yeah I still got stuff. Little things like the IRS is taking its sweet time “reviewing” my tax return, cuz, you know, they owe me a lot of money. And big things, like it’s my birthday tomorrow and both my parents are dead. It’s not the first year without them, but things were so fresh and raw last year that I didn’t celebrate, I didn’t even think about the fact that it was my birthday. I just soldiered on with probate headaches and ignored the day. In fact, I think it was about that time last year I hit level 100 on RDO. Coincidence? I think not.

But this year my baby daddy (not the guy who tried to kill me, that’s a different ex) and my son want to throw me a party. Charles and I are headed back to WV with his son for the festivities. While having my blended family together for the first time warms my heart, that same heart breaks a little for the people who will be missing. I mean, my parents were the reason for the day after all. Most folks might sit and have a good cry about that, and I might, but really, I prefer to shoot machete wielding a$$holes in the face. Yep, that’s what works for me. Get the bad stuff out and game on.

Until next time, my friends! You know where I’ll be, battling it out in the Old West till I can’t see straight.

When a Grown-up Gamer Girl Falls in Love

Okay, so this whole post might sound a little nuts, but bear with me. It’s kind of about gaming. At least it’s gaming adjacent.

I’m freaking out ever so slightly because…well, I’ve got this feeling I’m not all that familiar with. The sun seems to shine brighter. The touch of a cool breeze feels softer. Birdsong at 6am after I’ve been grinding all night and I’m trying to freakin’ sleep…well, it still annoys me but not quite as much as it used to. I’ve been productive, creative, dancing around the house and singing from time to time. Holy $h!t, I might actually be happy. This is not good.

“Wait, Cindy,” you say. “How is being happy NOT a good thing?” Well, I’m glad you asked. I started this blog and gaming like there’s no tomorrow because I was miserable. Misery and I had become bosom buddies. From about 2017 to early 2021, well, the hits just kept coming. My mother went through a protracted battle with cancer and dementia, I ended a toxic relationship that had lasted way too f@#king long. I then fell into another less than healthy relationship. And then both my parents passed away within two months of each other. Not to mention the fallout out from COVID. That one messed all of us up. I know, I know.

Yeahhhh…Life had knocked me the f@#k out. I still don’t know how I scraped myself off the floor. But I did. And I swore the rest of 2021 was gonna be all about my dreams, my gaming, my writing. And yes, I also swore off men and dating. LMFAO, yep, f@#k you too, Universe. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s what worries me about my current state of being: If I’m happy, will I still feel like writing? If I’m happy, will I still want to gorge on games? I simply don’t know because I’ve been unhappy for so long it took me a hot minute to realize just what the f@#k was going on as the depression lifted. Plus, it’s a happiness I don’t trust. I’ll get more into that in a second.

In many of my posts, I’ve explored the use of games as an emotional outlet. And usually those emotions are negative ones because, really, do we ever feel the need to let out the happy? No, we want to cling to that $h!t like a spider monkey. So what if this sudden ray of sunshine destroys a perfectly good gaming addiction? What will I write about then?

And let’s examine the source of this oxytocin and dopamine soup flooding my neuroreceptors. I’ve met someone whose smile sets my heart soaring. Someone whose kindness and patience bewilders me. Someone who makes me feel like a teenager again. Someone I think I could spend the rest of my life with. Yep…it’s that bad. I’ve fallen in love. F@#k me.

Now you can see why I don’t trust the happiness to last. It’s predicated on trusting another person with my emotions, with my fragile little heart. Okay, without going into TMI territory, the last man I felt this way about almost killed me. That’s not a metaphor or an exaggeration. In a drunken, drugged-out rage, he literally tried to choke me to death. And this was after being together for almost a decade and a half. Fortunately, I do not go gentle into that good night, thank you very much.

However, you can see why I trust games far more than I trust actual humans. While video games often try to kill my character, I can always respawn, at least in newer ones anyway. Video games don’t break your heart. Okay, they do sometimes, I’m lookin’ at you Cyberpunk 2077. But that kind of heartbreak doesn’t make you want to crawl into bed with a fifth of vodka and snot cry until you pass out or choke on your own vomit, indifferent as to which happens. Sorry, that got dark.

If anything, gaming has taught me that it’s the AAA titles you should trust the least. The games with the biggest hype rarely live up to it. And believe me, this guy is the AAA title of men. Yes, he’s that wonderful…or at least the gameplay teaser made him seem that way. If I’m wrong, though, consequences will be far worse than simply wanting to bang my head against the wall as I discover his glitches and bugs. But if I’m right, he’ll give me a lifetime of fulfillment, not just 70+ hours. So there’s that.

I’m more terrified and frustrated than I was fighting that giant spore-ridden uber-bloater at ground zero in The Last of Us 2. All right, all right, I’ll stop with the gaming metaphors. Falling in love again is frightening AF. But it’s also liberating. I’ve finally broken free of the tower I’d sealed myself inside. I’m connecting with other people, not just him. I’m getting $h!t done. I look forward to getting up in the morning (or afternoon as the case may be). I feel more like myself than I have in decades. Big risk, big reward.

None of us has the gift of foresight. If I’m ever going to live…truly live life again, I will have to accept that I may get hurt again. When I met the man of my dreams I was broken and hiding from the world. He listened without prejudice, helped me to my feet, dried my tears, gave me a kiss on the cheek and pat on the ass and said, “Go get ’em, tiger.” And he said this knowing I might not return to him once I rejoined the living. In fact, the fear and panic has gotten the better of me at least a half-dozen times and I’ve bolted like skittish filly. Good thing he’s a bonafide Kansas cowboy…or maybe that should be The Gamer Girl Whisperer. My every attempt to self-sabotage has been met with a gentle smile, an outstretched hand, and the words, “Talk to me, baby girl. Tell me what you’re afraid of.”

If that’s not a person worth taking an Assassin’s Creed sized leap of faith for then I don’t know who is. So I decided go big or go home. Thus the trip to Kansas. I have to find out if this thing is real or if it’s just two very talented writers scripting a love story. Oh, I forgot to mention that, my guy is a writer, too. IMO, a brilliant one, it’s actually the first thing that attracted me. His name is Charles Goetzinger, he’s a big, tough cowboy with a heart of gold and way with words that gets me every time. But the best thing about him is how he loves me for me. That is indeed a legendary find.

While I do worry how this rekindled lust for life will inform my blog and writing going forward, he hasn’t asked me to change a single thing about myself, not even the massive amount of my day I spend glued to my gaming monitor. In fact, he even joins me and plays my favorite games with me cuz he’s a gamer, too. IKR?! I’m telling you, I hit the freaking lottery. When a grown-up gamer girl falls in love with a gunfighting cowboy, it can be f@#king terrifying, but it also can be pretty f@#king wonderful, too.

When a Grown Up Gamer Girl Plays Fortnite…Wait, WTF?

Video credit:

Fortnite, Cindy? Really? Okay, hold on, now let me explain…As those of you who read my blog posts and follow me on social media know, I’m a self-professed introvert and super shy so I always thought MMOs and especially streaming on Twitch was a total no go for me. It’s one of the reasons I write. Safe distance between me and my audience. Don’t get me wrong, I love y’all, just talkin’ to you terrifies me. That’s on me, not y’all, and I’m working on it!

But the cool thing about introverts is that they can be social, when they are around people they are comfortable with, especially a more socially-oriented person who will take the lead. I had just such an experience with my friend and fellow gaming blogger, Ben Magnet.

Ben writes for Old School Gamer Magazine, is a co-host for Fake Nerd Podcast, and hosts his own podcast called Basement Arcade: Pause Menu. He also hosts a Twitch channel. Oh, and he’s working on a kick a$$ manuscript about the history of video games. IKR? Ben is one ambitious and talented dude.

We met on Twitter through the vast network of gamers and writers. We started talking shop and he was kind enough to invite me on to the Basement Arcade: Pause Menu (episode in production, don’t worry I’ll post the link everywhere when it’s ready!).

At first, I was terrified to do the podcast for the aforementioned reasons and I’m always afraid I’m not going to be interesting to talk to IRL. Again, hidden behind the written word, I have time to craft what I’m going to say. Make it exactly right. Or at least what feels right to me, but in person, who the f@#k knows what nonsense is going to fly out of my mouth? I sure don’t. But this is my year to try new things and, you know, re-join the living. So I put my grown up gamer girl pants on, drank a few hard seltzers (don’t knock the dutch courage!), and set an appointment to do the damn thang. Once I started talking with Ben, who has this very professional demeanor and broadcaster-worthy voice mixed with just the right amount of humor, I knew I was going to be okay.

During said interview we discovered that we both had an initial aversion to Fortnite, one he’d gotten over, but I hadn’t. What can I say…old dog, new tricks, and all that. The way Ben had overcome the aversion was to play with an experienced group of friends who guided him to the path of enjoyment. He posited he could do the same for me.

Okay, so when he first threw that theory out there, I approached it as I do most unfamiliar experiences these days: with a dollop of “f@#k it, why not?” tempered with a healthy dash of cynicism. Then, Ben upped the ante and asked if he could stream our Fortnite sesh on Twitch. *Deep breath, Cindy* Sure, f@#k it, why not?

At first, there were a few technical difficulties on my part. First and foremost I don’t think I have the audio set up on my PS4 to record when streaming. My bad, I mean, I am new to this soooo, yeah, lol. I also assumed we were going to load into the new co-op PVE portion, cuz there was no way we were gonna brave the Battle Royale. Wait…what’s that you say, Ben? Oh silly me! Of course we are jumping into the 100 PVP arena on my first go. Umm…okay…surrrre, f@#k it…why not? Lead on, Mr. Magnet!

On our first round we *might* have washed out at 46th, I believe there were wolves with alien parasites involved. I’m not 100% sure, I was still pretty confused at that point and nervous that we were broadcasting. We shook it off and entered another match.

Let me just throw this out there, if you are Fortnite-curious, but too afraid to venture into the arena, there is no better tour guide than Ben Magnet! He broke down each facet of a surprisingly complex game into bite-sized tutorials. There was the weapons grading system, the usual places you can find loot and chests, how to stay away from the freaking purple storm cloud, how to maximize your buffs and most importantly, what victory dance to do should we win. There can only be one and that dance is Gangnam Style. I mean, it’s kinda obvious if you think about it.

With my newfound knowledge of the game something magical happened that only other gamers can understand: I started having fun and getting invested in the gameplay and the world. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Things start clicking and you lose track of time and then suddenly it’s morning and your family is looking at you like, “Seriously, you haven’t slept?” Okay, we didn’t stay on Fortnite that long, but we did get into the “gamer zone” and a few hours simply evaporated.

Not only did the time fly but (and I’m not one of those victory oriented people, I’m totally not) buuuuuut we won seven Battle Royale victories in a row. Yeah, I know?! That $h!t never happens to me. Apparently it was like that for Ben the first time he played with his friends so I think he’s a little lucky and pretty darn skilled.

Not gonna lie, the first few victories, I just hide behind Ben and made it my goal not to be a liability, lol. I did get downed a couple times toward the middle, but my Fortnite partner had my back. But as I got more comfortable, I’m proud to say, I started getting kills of my own. In the last round, I might’ve even kicked a little a$$ when Ben got downed and there were two players on us. I dispatched them, got a medkit and revived my partner, which felt pretty freaking cool. Ben got the last kill that led to our seventh victory and then it was time for Gangnam Style on their graves! Oh yes it was! Okay, Ben did the dancing and I stood there Gangnam-ing internally because I don’t have that emote, but guess what I’m getting ASAP? Yes, yes I am.

So what did I learned from this experience? Even an old dog can learn new tricks. Sometimes it takes a couple tries to get into a game. Gaming with new friends doesn’t have to be scary. And when you are victorious, you better pick the right victory dance! Take it away PSY…

Image credit: Tenor

Who Doesn’t Love a Pirate

Video credit: Assassin’s Creed Black Flag gameplay on PS4

Upon the recommendation of my cowboy and other gamer friends, I finally gave in and purchased Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. Whaaaaa? No, I’ve never played it. I know, I know, but let me explain why.

The other AC games that include naval battles, like Origins and Odyssey, the ship stuff was my least favorite part of the gameplay. It could be just me and my barely average gaming skills, but the aiming and the bracing and the firing, it all felt cumbersome. Definitely not as satisfying as the combat: timing that perfect block to stagger your elite opponent or Sparta kicking a mercenary off a cliff.

And I have gone through the entire AC backlog in the last eighteen months, but when it came time to play Black Flag, I just swooped around it and went for Rogue. Hey, it’s my gamer journey and I’ll skip titles if I want to. I don’t like AC ship battles…or at least I didn’t think I did. I’m woman enough to admit when I am…umm…less than correct. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Two days ago, I gave into peer pressure and bought the damn game. Of course, I love it. The climbing mechanics remind me of the Ezio titles (loves me some Ezio), but the naval battles, far superior to Odyssey. This leaves me scratching my head. Why change the mechanics for later titles? It’s the same question I had for Ubisoft when they scaled back the fighting mechanics from the super cool Odyssey style to the simplified Valhalla style. Why, Ubisoft…whyyyyyyy??? Sorry…I need a moment…

Okay, I’m back. Turns out, Black Flag is so much more than just a bunch of ships firing on each other. It’s a deep dive into pirate life. And c’mon, who doesn’t love pirates? Look at the success of The Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise (loves me some Captain Jack Sparrow). There’s The Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Vegas. And of course there’s the beloved literary classic from which the hotel takes its name. Hell, my most popular erotic romance series featured a cowboy pirate (hmmm…reminds me of someone else I love. Heyyy, Charles 😏).

So what is it about pirates that are so freaking intoxicating. Well, first of all, the wardrobe is *fabulous*. Scarves, earrings, beads, gold chains, over-the-knee boots, flowing lace up blouses. Pirate fashion is fierce. Then, of course, there’s the swashbuckling swordplay. Who doesn’t feel like a bada$$ duel-wielding Persian scimitars or British cutlasses? Yes, there’s something intoxicating about the trappings of a privateer, but I think it’s something more.

For me, it’s the freedom. Wind in your hair, salt spray from the open ocean, no rules but the ones you make and break for yourself. As I rediscover the liberty to be 100% Cindy, no apologies and no diluting my 80 proof personality, I get it. I spent too many years either denying her existence or shying away from adventure because there *might* be consequences.

Yes, we all have responsibilities and adult things we must do. Like doing the dishes and working an evil day job to pay the bills and making sacrifices for those who depend on us. But part of the human spirit yearns to be free. Rebellion is a natural reaction to bonds that hold us too tightly. It’s easy to dream about a life less ordinary and less restrictive and therefore idealize it. Nothing wrong with that as long as you keep in mind, it is indeed a just a dream.

Edward Kenway’s adventures throughout the game are full of daring, liberty, and bad ideas that turn into good stories. We’ve all had those nights 😉 And did I mention his fabulous wardrobe? I think I did. It’s easy to sink into your gamer chair and imagination for a few (or several) hours that you are not bound by the rules of society.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, games give us the opportunity to live out our fantasies in a safe and controlled way. As the historical founder of the Hashshashin, Hassan-i Sabbah, is credited with saying, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” What that means is, once in a while, it’s oh so healthy to embrace your inner Edward Kenway and find the spot on the map of your soul that reads: here, there be pirates.


Photo credit: Circle

When I started writing again after years of stress and loss, I knew I’d have to use social media to communicate my project to the wider world. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. As I’ve stated before, I’m painfully shy. Some of that is natural introversion. Some of it’s learned through pain, heartbreak, and betrayal. Engaging with other people can be scary.

I started posting on Twitter again after years of never opening the app and I didn’t know what to expect. First, most of my followers from my former life are authors of romance and erotica. Would anyone give a $h!t about a middle-aged woman blogging about her passion for gaming? Well, I didn’t start this journey for readers. While truly grateful for everyone who takes the time to read my ramblings, this is my vision. It’s my story. So I put on my grown-up gamergirl pants (well, leggings) and decided to start engaging with other gamers on Twitter.

What I discovered surprised me. Most of the gamers I’ve engaged with on Twitter are the nicest, coolest people I’ve ever met. Yes, there’s the occasional person who just wants to hit on me. And there are others who just want to promote their projects and that’s it. But the vast majority are intelligent and funny and kind and genuinely interested in sharing the joy of gaming.

There are different factions. Some staunch retro gamers. Those that only play on the cutting edge. Some strictly Nintendo. Some XBox devotees and those of us married to the PlayStation. Not the mention the PC players.

There are vast differences in ages, anywhere from teens to those of us who are a *little* more seasoned. You got sweats and casuals. Ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, geographic region…the list of differences goes on and on. But here’s the really awesome part: none of the issues that divide the general pop seem to apply. A gamer is a gamer. All are welcome.

Now there are certain rules: no yucking someone else’s yum and never ever suggest From Software add difficulty levels…kidding, kidding. There really is only one rule: respect for your fellow gamer. The virtual world is large enough to for us all to find our own bliss. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the real world worked that way?

So, I’d like to thank my gamer tweeps for helping this grown-up gamergirl find a place where she feels she fits in. When I returned to Twitter I had somewhere around 1400 followers, a month and a half later I’ve got about 2000. That’s 100 new friends a week. No, it’s not about the numbers, never that. It’s about feeling welcome. It’s been far too long since I’ve felt at home. #GamersUnite. Y’all know how we do 😉

Not So Black and White: Ghost of Tsushima, Kurosawa Mode Replay

When I first played Ghost of Tsushima, I didn’t expect much from the game. The Infamous franchise is good, not great, but good. So when I first heard Daisuke Tsuji’s opening lines and took in the majesty of the first cut scene, my breath caught in my throat. It was then I knew, Ghost was a whole other level of awesome.

From the start, Jin’s internal conflict is set: he’s samurai and has vowed to live by a code of honor unparalleled throughout history. Integrity, respect for your enemy, facing challenges head on with only your skill with a sword to protect those who cannot fight for themselves. It’s a disciplined and stoic way to live one’s life, if not a bit impractical while facing Ghengis Khan’s grandson.

The Mongols in the game have no such code. It’s victory at all costs and they employ a level of brutality foreign to the samurai code. As Jin witnesses these atrocities, he quickly realizes he cannot beat his foes using his traditional training. This conflict spoke to me. How often in life are we all faced with a choice that falls neither in the confines of black or white. It’s many shades of gray as we travel along this journey called life (don’t you dare reference E.L. James, seriously, don’t f@#king do it).

The game takes a deep dive into Japanese culture which is reinforced on this playthrough with the grainy black and white film style graphics. The format pays homage to Kurosawa, a Japanese filmmaker famed for his epic and bloody tales of samurai life. I will say that while the black and white adds drama to an already drama packed story, it is a little difficult to navigate, especially in combat. But who cares, it’s so beautiful, I’d kill Jin a thousand times to experience the game in a whole new way.

As I travel along, in a world that feels foreign and like home all at once, I can’t help but take trips down memory lane. I empathize with Jin. Growing up, we’re all taught our own code of honor that we sometimes must violate for myriad reasons. I was brought up to believe one should be honest, kind, giving, and respectful, even at the cost of my own happiness. Unfortunately, real life hasn’t allowed me to follow that code as much as I’d like. Too often I’ve had to cross lines that leave me staring at a stranger in the mirror. And there isn’t enough soap and water to wash away the feeling that I’ve gotten my hands dirty.

As I take Jin deeper into his heart of darkness, I feel for the struggle that sullies his once clean sense of honor. It makes me feel less alone as I’m disabused of my own innocence and naivety. We all grow up, learn Santa isn’t real and that no one really gives a f@#k about us. The only person who can ever save you is you. Even if you have to become a ghost to do it.

Rockstar, Where’s My F@#king Fast Travel?

Image credit: Red Dead Online gameplay “If I stare hard enough, maybe I can fast travel”

Dear Rockstar,

Why do you continue to break my heart? Actually, it’s my fault because I continue to let you do it. -Sincerely, Cindy.

As soon as weird sh!t started happening in free roam on Red Dead Online, like wave after wave of wolves spawning in places they don’t usually spawn, I knew the update was imminent. it’s happened that way before and I was so excited. There’s been so much speculation about what the Summer update would include.

So, the Blood Money update. Where to f@king start? Let’s start with the positive. The contracts and emerald heist were a great deal of fun. The general missions to earn the newest currency, capitale, weren’t all that different from usual stranger missions, but you know, RDO is like pizza. When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good. They also seem to have fixed the legendary animal spawns in free roam. I came across five just getting from place to place.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe. As I’ve written about before, I’m a spoiled little outlaw. I’ve got the best of the best gear and cosmetics. I love the damn game even when it doesn’t seem to love me. Like right now. I’m loading in and I’m stuck at 90%. For like fifteen minutes. Sigh.

I’ve done every update to completion and beyond. The biggest reward, for me, from the Naturalist DLC was the wilderness camp from which you could fast travel. I abused the hell out of that perk. So last night, as I worked my way through the Blood Money missions, I figured it didn’t matter that Lemoyne is hell and gone from my camp and moonshine shack because I could just drop my wilderness camp and fast travel. Ummm…nope.

To my surprise and dismay, that feature is GONE. I’m hoping it wasn’t intentional and a later patch will fix it (and of course break something else). And don’t get me wrong. I’m not dogging on the devs. I’m sure coding a video game is the same type of sweat shop work situation we all seem to deal with these days. Longer hours, higher metrics goals, less pay and less benefits.

There was some other wonky stuff, such as every flavor of moonshine listing as selling for $75 even if it’s the correct buyer. You do however get the appropriate amount of pay at the end of the mission so it’s more of a typo than a bug.

Also, the surroundings were slow to load in at times. And my horse seemed oddly fragile. Never used so much horse reviver in my entire RDO experience. But all these things I can deal with. Why…oh why, did my fast travel have to disappear? Yes, you can still ride to a FT post, but sometimes those are quite far away. My right thumb is killing me today, lol.

Did I love the update, no. Did I hate it? Nope, wouldn’t say that. I just wonder when Rockstar is going to stop treating Red Dead Online like the red-headed stepchild and let it blossom into its own. Yes, GTAO is their main money maker, but RDO has a solid fanbase. Just once, it’d be nice to be treated like we’re important to the company.

The ESO Connection

Image credit: Elder Scrolls Online gameplay

Okay, how the f@#k have I not played this game until now? Actually, I do know why. MMORPGs aren’t my jam. Or at least I thought they weren’t.

When I started gaming as a kid, it was a solo endeavor unless P2 sat in the same room with you and you had another controller. Positively primitive, I know. That being said, I do love Elder Scrolls Online. Why, you ask? Let me tell ya.

About a year ago, I discovered Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It was one of those games that sort of takes over your life but you don’t mind because the amount of content and solid writing and adrenaline rush makes it worth neglecting your hygiene and loved ones for a couple weeks.

Knowing this, my gamer guy suggested ESO a couple months ago, but like I said I don’t f@#ks with MMORPGs (and no, RDO is not an MMORPG, don’t get me started). But I’m on this journey to explore all the gaming I missed while being a responsible adult so finally, I downloaded it. Bam! It was love at first button click.

I’m like a kid in a freaking candy store. There’s so much content, it’s almost overwhelming. All the loot. All the ways to customize your character’s build. Not to mention the map is massive and let’s face it, size does matter. The costume options are a little hit or miss, but all in all, I think I might have a new gaming love of my life. I can imagine losing months, possibly years, of my life to ESO. But hey, I have no life, so there’s that.

Currently, I’m playing as a nightblade class dark elf, but I can’t wait to explore all the other races and classes. I’m also looking forward to exploring the PVP options. Again, not my wheelhouse because I usually play story games or PVE online. But I will improvise, adapt, overcome. Of this I have no doubt.

What I find most fascinating is the sense of community. The way I grew up playing and how I first approached gaming once I got back into it was like that George Thorogood song, “I Drink Alone,” except I game alone. Well, sometimes I drink alone, but that’s a whole other story.

In a previous post I wrote about Jane McGonigal’s theory on gamer super powers, one of which was weaving a social fabric. MMOs foster a sense of camaraderie (is that really how that word is spelled? Sorry, I’ll focus). I don’t think I’m brave enough to jump into a guild with random people. But I can say gaming in a small group sponsored by gamer guy has opened my eyes to a whole new world.

If I’m honest, I’m a lot less lonely, even though we don’t game in the same room. I’ve been a bit isolated since, you know, my life started imploding about three years ago. Add my severe introversion to the loss of everything I once knew, I’m in need of a little connection. Humans are social creatures after all. Maybe I’ve found a good place to start, The ESO Connection.

White-Knighting…Let’s Talk about It

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There’s nothing more irritating for a gamer girl than a male player who assumes she cannot take care of herself in-game simply because she’s female. But is that really what white-knighting is? I’m not so sure.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course sexism exists in the world of gaming, just as it exists in every facet of daily life. You see it on YouTube all the time. Spawntaneous has made a career out of showcasing how condescending some gamer boys can be. This does not mean every guy who plays video games is a sexist pig, nor does it mean that every time a male player rushes to help a female player that it comes from a place of feeling superior simply due to outward facing genitalia.

Okay, first, let’s talk about what “white-knighting” means. The phrase applies when a male player will jump in to aid or verbally defend a female player, particularly one he doesn’t know (though not always), as though he has shown up to save her like a white knight on his noble steed, regardless of whether she asked for help. Hence the term: “white-knighting”.

So, is it wrong for a man to stand up for a women in a case where she’s in no physical danger? Yes and no. Yes, because it assumes that she needs help which could be perceived as he thinks she’s helpless. But no, because trying to lend a hand is generally a kind thing to do.

Okay, so now that we know what it is and why it may or may not offend someone, let’s look at why it happens. Does it mean the guy’s a condescending jerk? I’m sure in some instances that’s true, but I doubt that’s the only explanation. Not to mention that to assume a man helping out a woman in-game is always white-knighting is sexist in the other direction. Could be it’s just one gamer jumping in to play with another gamer, no gender politics involved.

But when something that looks like white-knighting does occur, I think there are a few non-offensive reasons it happens. It could be that due to the overwhelming majority of gamers still being male, Mr. White Knight would like to play with a female. He’s tired of the sausage fest that is his Saturday Night gaming group and he just wants to hang out with a member of the opposite sex for a little while.

In the case of a man defending a female player from some a$$hat who is saying nasty stuff like, “Why don’t you get off the game and make me a sandwich, b!tch” or “Girls can’t game” maybe this so-called white knight doesn’t want to hear that ignorant crap either. I mean, really, is it so wrong to tell a hateful person to shut the f@#k up?

As for men who game with women they know, such as friends, family members, or their SO, they might be trying to impress her or that they feel genuinely protective. Not because she’s weak, but because they care. My gamer guy BFF does this all the time and I let him because he’s earned the right to rush to my defense by being a true, caring, awesome friend.

In a world where we are ever more aware of how our actions and words affect other people, I think it’s also important to assume that the person stepping on your feelings didn’t necessarily mean to do it. At least until they prove otherwise. Perhaps it’s best to ask a player of any gender (non-binary included of course) if you can jump in or if they need help. That being said, if you ever do come across my characters on RDO or ESO, please assume I got this, because I so freaking do. Just ask my gamer guy BFF.