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!
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!
One of the presents I got for my birthday was a PS gift card and it took me a minute to figure out what to spend it on. “Why?” you ask. “Do you not have a backlog?” Oh but I do. See, that’s part of the problem. There are lots of games both newer and retro that sound good, but not really great. Yes, I learned my lesson with DaysGone and Biomutant that reviews can’t predict what I’ll really get into. Just because other gamers dislike something doesn’t always mean I won’t enjoy it.
There’s a game that’s been on my “to buy” list for a while and there are lots of reasons it’s languished there. One, since it was released last year, the price on it is still pretty hefty. There are few games I’ll pay full price for, it’s got to be a game that starts me salivating every time I think about it. ImmortalsFenyxRising just wasn’t a drool-worthy title. It’s also Ubisoft…and no, I’m not Ubisoft bashing, but they can be a little hit or miss so I wasn’t gonna pay $60 to find out if they got this one right.
Aside from the price, there were also a lot of other games that I had already purchased that needed playing and some new releases that took precedence, such as MassEffect: LegendaryEdition. So yeah, Immortals just kept being pushed down the list until my birthday came. Eight months after the game’s release, a PS gift card and a sale price aligned: it was time to dive into FenyxRising. And my patience did pay off because I got the gold edition for only $40, which leaves me with $10 for RDO or ESO micro-transactions. Yesssss!
Given the reviews which were all over the place and the general lack of discussion about the game in the gamer community, I really didn’t expect much. I was pleasantly surprised when the opening cut scene made me laugh. As I explored further, I discovered the title is a charming good time that can only be described as AC: Odyssey (I mean why would Ubisoft reinvent the wheel?) meets Disney’s Hercules meets TombRaider. It just so happens I love all three of those works of art, so f@#k yeah, the game is fun.
“But Cindy,” you say, “IGN only gave the game a 7/10! How can it be fun?” Well, I had just such a discussion with many of my friends on Twitter. As they pointed out, some gamers consider anything less than an eight unplayable. He doesn’t happen to be of that opinion and neither am I. Also, this isn’t the first time I’ve disagreed with reviewers on a game score. No, Immortals isn’t GOTY material, but I don’t think it’s quite a seven either. Maybe a 7.5 or 7.75…7.6492? Whatever, point being, regardless of the game’s reviews, it is just plain fun.
Another friend on Twitter pointed out that Immortals released hot on the heels of Assasin’sCreedValhalla and WatchDogsLegion so it might have been overshadowed by those heavy hitters. Whatever the case, Immortals is a good bit of fun. If you’ve been sleeping on it like I was, seriously, give it a try. Will it change your life? No…no it won’t. Will it it amuse you during a time of financial uncertainty during this ever evolving pandemic. Yes, it most likely will. I suppose that’s my real point. There’s too little joy in the world today to overlook a diamond in the rough that will make you laugh, challenge you and give you the perfect excuse to ignore the outside world.
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!
Yes, it’s September. And yes, as I predicted, the latest upheaval (albeit a delightful one) gave me pause. So, I did just that. I pressed pause and took a second to re-evaluate my goals and what exactly I hope to accomplish with this blog. For over a year, it has served as my therapy session and an outlet for the madness with which my life had been teeming. Now, though, everything is settling down, mellowing into the warm glow of happiness. I met my dream man. My son is venturing into adulthood with his first few wobbly steps. I have not one, but two places I call home. Everything has gotten comfortable. Waaaaay too comfortable.
This is supposed to be my year to challenge myself, step outside my comfort zone, and yes, I’ve done that on many fronts. As my new normal gets easier to manage, however, it’s tempting to let my writing and gaming ambitions slide. But we cannot have that so I’ve decided to take things up a notch. I created an Anchor account to make my blog posts into podcasts as well. I’ve also created a more regular posting schedule which hence forth shall be Tuesdays and Fridays. Plus, though not exactly gaming related (though gaming features in it) I’ve started writing a new novel. IKR? Inspiration abounds and I’m ready to strike while the iron is hot.
That being said, while I took a teensy break from blogging and writing, I did not take a break from gaming. I’ve been on Elder Scrolls Online and Red Dead Online grinding away. I beat Immortals FenyxRising. Not to mention a second playthrough of God of War. All good things and oodles to write about. Next on my list of games to tackle, I’m thinking Lost in Random and KnightsofAmalur: Re–reckoning (once my beloved is done whooping a$$ on it). Break time is over. It’s time to get serious about playing!
Along the lines of getting serious, I started a Ko-Fi account, just in case you’d like to donate to the cause of keeping a grown-up gamer girl in games to play. No pressure, I love all my readers and am grateful you’ve visited my blog in the first place :D. All the clicks, likes, follows, and subscribes help more than you know. However, if you do feel as though you’d like to help fund my dream, you can donate at https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or via Paypal – paypal.me/cindyjackalopes . But seriously, I’m thankful for each and every visitor I get and each and every person who supports my journey in their own way. Cheers! And until Friday, game on, my friends!
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.
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.
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.
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 Fortnitethat 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…
In my feelings this morning. Big trip. Big risk, big reward. Charles knows what I’m talking about. Heyyy, babyyy. Sorry…I’ll do my best to focus.
Engaging with other content creators on Twitter and YouTube is par for the course, and it can feel like shouting into the void. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not like that. You have something to say and your audience is out there.
Let’s look at my vision. I’m a middle-aged woman who loves gaming, might have a mixed past (so totally do!) and who leaks her feelings on a blog. Who the f@#k wants to read that?! Well, it turns out…a lot of people do. My blog numbers grow every single day and for that…well, I have no words. And that’s saying a lot cuz supposedly I’m a wordsmith…so you know…yeah…totally😏
The voices in my head love to tell me no one cares what I have to say. I know a lot of you feel the same way. (Poet and don’t know it moment…yassss 🤘). But the thing is, even identical twins have different fingerprints. No one else can press their thumb into the clay and leave the same imprint. So leave your mark. Do the damn thing. F@king fight back against the doubt, the fear, the insecurity.
I have as of late and I can say I have no ragrets… (really not even one letter?) Nope. Okay, okay it’s no regrets. My point: You’re gonna fuck up and have ragrets but you’ll never REgret being true to yourself.
So after a self-proclaimed dating/man fast I, of course, met the man of my dreams like a month later. Of course, Universe. Thanks for that 😉 And what makes it so cool is that he’s perfectly fine with Cindy Unfiltered. In fact, he’s more in love with the pedal to the metal version of me. Makes me stop and think, WTF have I been doing all these years?
Well, I know what I’ve been doing. As my banner states, I’ve been trying to make everyone else happy, at the expense of my own happiness. Funny thing is, no one was happy with that situation. Hashtag irony. Yeah….
But the gamers, artists, and musicians I most admire are unapologetically themselves. So that’s who I have to be. And guess what…it’s who you have to be, too. Cuz if you ain’t yourself, then who the hell are you? No RAgrets…just sayin’. Game on, my friends 😊🤘.
Some folks say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives me lemons, I choose to make moonshine. Okay, okay. I know you can’t actually make moonshine from lemons. I mean, not lemons exclusively. At least I don’t think so 🤔. I actually don’t know, but I don’t think they have enough sugar content to ferment… Dammit, Cindy. Focus!
What I’m talkin’ about is that go-to game. The game that’s like an old friend you never get tired of hanging out with, the one that makes you feel better when you’re blue, the one you play after you’ve finished a new game and have no clue what to play next. For me, it’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and of course it’s online incarnation (hence the moonshine reference that I thoroughly botched, but all good, let’s keep moving).
So today I woke up to discover my rebellious pup, who isn’t adjusting well to the changes in my household, had befouled the hardwood floor right outside my bedroom. Cleaned that up and interviewed for a freelance job I didn’t get. Part of me is kinda relieved about that. Writing copy for a large corporation’s pet project is not my idea of a good time. I didn’t really want the job because I need to care about what I’m writing. And let’s face it, I’m not exactly a corporate, stiff white collar kinda gal. I’m a Hulk t-shirt, leggings and puppy dog slipper socks kinda lady, thank you very much. Still the extra money would’ve been nice and rejection always sucks.
Then I got a phone call from one of my most favorite-est (it is too a word!) people. He sounded tired and stressed, which he has every right to be considering he’s been through the wringer himself the past few weeks. The fatigue and melancholy in his voice made me feel helpless because he’s literally a thousand miles away. All I could do was listen and cheer him on as he spent his day putting out fires. Still, I wished vehemently that I could pull a magic wand out of my a$$ and make it all better.
Oh and my son quit his job today because he’s got a cold and seemed quite offended that neither his supervisor nor the store manager gave a crap that he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go home. To my mind, that’s akin to swatting a fly with a Buick and I told him as much. Unfortunately he’s at that age when foolish decisions are par for the course and I have to let him make his own mistakes. No one tells you how hard this is to do, but guess what? It’s really f@#king hard. And this is why Mommy drinks. Kidding, kidding. Okay, mostly kidding.
The last straw was discovering I’d forgotten to take out the trash out last night. Sigh. I even have a reminder set in my phone so there’s no excuse. I dropped the ball, it’s that simple. Oh, and the downstairs AC unit is still acting up, so there’s that.
On a day like today, I needed to spend a little quality time with my VOMA (virtual object of my affection), Mr. Arthur Morgan. Despite the constant threat of peril, there’s something soothing and simple about the time and space he inhabits. The vast open world gives you the illusion of control as you pick and choose from a generous array of quests that don’t feel repetitive, even though they are. Plus shooting bad guys in the face is a fantastic stress reliever, in my humble opinion. Not to mention, the story is so tragic, it makes me think, yeah, my life’s not that bad after all. Yep, RDR2 is my go-to game for all those reasons and perhaps a few I don’t fully realize.
Once my most favorite-est (still insisting it’s a word) person’s busy day wound down, and he said, “You ready to do this, babe?” I plopped my cattleman’s crease hat on my head, took up the controller and replied, “Yep, let’s ride.” And just like that (imagine me snapping fingers), all was right with the world.
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.
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.