When a Gamer Girl Takes a Break

Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

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 Fenyx Rising. 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 Knights of Amalur: Rereckoning (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!

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.

My Go-To Game

Image credit: Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay on PS4

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.

Avid Gamer vs. Gaming Addict

Image credit: Screenshot mind-diagnostics.org

As I’m almost two years into my journey to embrace my long lost gamer girl self, I wonder is this behavior healthy? I stumbled across a blog post regarding gaming addiction and if I’m honest with myself, I fit *some* of the criteria. Not all of it. Does make me wonder though…are jokes I make about games being like heroin for me a little more true than I thought?

I do spend an inordinate amount of time gaming. Some of it’s for pleasure and some of it’s so I have something to write about here. I don’t, however, allow games to disrupt my interpersonal relationships. I spend time with my son. I make time for friends. And when I had a SO, gaming was part of our relationship so I might’ve gotten off easy on that account.

So wherein does the boundary lie between an avid gamer vs. a gaming addict? Pardon me, a person with Gaming Disorder. Heaven forbid we use direct language these days. If it’s too harshly named no one will cop to having it, right? Sound logic…poor overall societal outcome. Focus, Cindy.

When has someone careened over the cliff of enthusiast into the chasm of WTF-dude-you-spent-how-much-on-your-MMO-gear? Apparently, when the gaming starts to alter your behavior and your sense of morality. Basically, if you regularly steal, cheat, lie, or shirk responsibility to game, then you’ve got GD.

Image credit: Screenshot mind-diagnostics.org

Just to be sure this was the case, I took a pop-psych quiz. I mean, internet quizzes are law, aren’t they? I scored a measley 3 out of 11, mostly because I use games to escape reality but I’m not gonna make a withdrawal from my kid’s savings account to buy one. Makes me feel as though I’m not enough of a sweat. And in what world is 3 out of 11 moderate risk? Oh, the world trying to make us all feel as though there’s something wrong with us.

I do feel as addictions go it’s not as bad as it could be. I doubt a gamer under the influence ever got behind the wheel of a car and killed a family on a Sunday drive, at least not IRL. You don’t see gamer girls holding signs that read: Will f@*k for RDO$. I promise, I’m not making light of Gaming Disorder. I’m just saying that given the choice between crack and the resulting behavior and video games, I’ll take the games every day and twice on Sunday. I mean let’s not be so dismissive of someone going through actual physical withdrawal from heroin or cocaine or nicotine.

Can gaming have an adverse affect on your relationships? Sure, if you allow it to. Okay, I gotta say this because I’ve been holding it in for two days now and I didn’t address it on Twitter because I’m not that live-out-loud kinda person. But I saw a tweet from a young woman that said (and I’m paraphrasing) that a woman was right to break up with her gamer BF because he engaged in gamer behavior. Let me see if I remember the gist: She went to her job and you were on that game, she came home and you were on that game. She ate alone and slept alone and woke up alone.

Okay, two things to say about that. One, did you ever think of joining him on that game? I bet he’d be thrilled to play with you. If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my left shoe. And two, if his gaming is that prolific, it had to be a pre-existing condition. You didn’t notice it before you moved in, sweetheart? Just sayin’.

It’s not so terribly different than being in a relationship with an artist or a writer. An artist will ignore you while they paint or sculpt. A writer won’t welcome you when you interrupt their flow, they’ll most likely bite your head off. But there is no Art Disorder or Creative Writing Disorder. Those are seen as art forms so no questions asked. I’m here to tell you gaming can be an art form. I’ve experienced it and I’ve witnessed it.

Can you overdo anything? Yes, yes, you can. Is the fantasy world more appealing than the real one. Well, duh. Is GD real? Probably, but then again maybe not, as we rush to WebMD to self-diagnose. As much as you think there’s something wrong with you, the fact is: Life. Is. Hard…and it’s a pass or fail test. Do what you gotta do to get through the day 😉

What Do You Mean I Don’t Have Explosive Ammo? Red Dead Replay

Gameplay from Red Dead Online

Someone I care about very much told me he’d never played Red Dead Redemption 2, story mode…at least not all the way through. Well, that’s just not acceptable. Friends don’t let friends NOT play RDR2 story mode!

After much gentle persuasion (like nagging him incessantly), he finally acquiesced and installed the game. Actually, I found out later this was a very kind and ingenious plot to distract me from Father’s Day since my dad’s passing is still pretty fresh. What an awesome friend! IKR? And loving this game as much as I do, I was happy to start my 3rd replay and have a twelve hour parallel gaming sesh.

Aside from being absolutely in love with the tragic hero , Arthur Morgan, I also spend a lot of time of Red Dead Online. Yes, the portrait of the Old West painted by the game can be dark, disturbing, and at times kinda gross–par for the course for Rockstar– but I still love roleplaying in it.

While I’m not an outrageous rank online, like 396 or something crazy like that, I’m a respectable 188, which means I’ve got all the good guns, best horses, fully upgraded passive abilities, and all the cool perks like explosive ammo. I’ve become accustomed to playing at a certain level. I’ve also gotten lazy and sloppy.

I face-tank most online missions because I can. I’ve got more minty big game and thyme big game than I know what to do with. Plus I heal when I’m in Dead Eye. Cover shmover, I say. Yes, a good old-fashioned headshot will still take me out, but most of the NPCs aren’t skilled marksmen or markswomen…um, markspeople?

Anyway, starting back at the ground floor with a brand-spanking new Arthur, I learned just how lazy and sloppy I’d gotten. Taking cover suddenly became important again. As did flick-aim for headshots because Arthur’s beginning revolver sucks. And you’ve only got regular ammo. Regular ammo, ugh. I’m not saying I need explosive ammo, but at least express. Throw me a frickin’ bone here, people.

No more portable fast travel with my wilderness camp. Nope. Gotta get back in the groove of tapping X in time with my horse’s galloping if I want to get anywhere without taking all day. And Arthur’s starter horse, well, he’s no big beautiful Breton like my Bacchus.

Yep, I’ve been a spoiled little outlaw and I’d stop challenging myself. At least on Red Dead. So tonight I decided to undertake some 3 and 4 star Legendary Bounties solo. Some went great, some not so much. I think it’s in the times we fail as gamers that we learn the most.

This got me thinking about life in general, as gaming often does (hence the blog). Every experience teaches us something. While we can learn a great deal from success, we learn much more by trying, failing, learning from the failure and attempting to solve the problem a different way. That’s how we grow, learn new skill sets, and become more well-rounded human beings.

So, yeah… challenging myself more as a gamer (still not going the Sekiro route, ain’t nobody got time for that). As for life, don’t usually have to go looking for adversity there. Life has a way of punching you in the gut, perhaps repeatedly, and as you struggle to get back up, sometimes the most beautiful opportunities present themselves. Like a friend who will play your favorite game with you all day because you’re sad.

My New Old Man…Geralt of Rivia

Two days in a row I\’ve gotten out of bed, brushed my teeth, done a couple chores and did a little yoga. This is massive progress. And I know I said I wouldn\’t do, but I will attribute this resiliency to one man: Geralt of Rivia!
Just Kidding. I would hate to insult the friends and family who have been so very supportive. However, this is a blog about my gaming journey.  So I decided to take the advice of a wonderful friend with similar trauma: \”THE WITCHER 3 helped me tremendously when I was so down I felt I couldn\’t get back up.\” Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.
It has to be THE WITCHER 3 THE WILD HUNT. So first I had to forgive CD Projekt Red for the CYBERPUNK 2077 debacle. But as wiser folks than I have said: Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.
And what a gift it was to start a long put off New Game+. Yesterday, I sunk so deep into Geralt\’s world I felt I was actually in the tub with him at Kaer Morhen. And what cisgender, heterosexual female wouldn\’t want that?
I\’d forgotten how rich and beautiful the world of THE WITCHER 3 could be, but yet so dark and menacing at the same time. And there\’s so many main quests, secondary quests, and Witcher contracts, not to mention all the cool, weird stuff in Geralt\’s world that one hardly has time to be sad. No better panacea, I promise.
It also helps at bedtime that I can watch Mr. Henry Cavill depict an absolutely stunning Geralt on Netflix\’s THE WITCHER. I\’m taking the deep dive, following The Path, and maybe…just maybe I\’ll find myself along the way.
So, I ask those hardcore gamers out there: What do you play when your heart is breaking? What games keep you off the ledge? I hope you\’ll share my journey and your own as well. \”Like\” and subscribe, please please please 🙂