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Sometimes, This Guy Doesn’t Play Games

It’s funny that I began this blog to chronicle, if I remember how I put it correctly, my struggle to balance my entertainment life and my real-world responsibilities. I say it’s funny because I spend an inordinate amount of time writing about the video games I happen to be playing. I mean, this is One Guy Plays Games, but come on – real life is important too.

That being said, my real life has taken an interesting turn. To put it bluntly, I ran out of money a few weeks ago. I’ve spent so many years getting scholarships for my education that I haven’t had to schlep at a “real” job for, well, almost four years. I know, I live a pampered life, I don’t know what struggle is, and so on and so forth …

Except, well, I’m still in the center of a burning crucible here. I’m being forged into something and someone completely new. When I get out of this state of flux, I’ll be stronger than, like, Samus and Link and Mario combined.

Seeing that my money would dwindle to nothing sooner rather than later, I began the interesting process of working with a temp agency to find jobs. After proving that my data entry skills suck, I told my representative at the agency that I’ll take just about any job they can give me.

Thus, I became a temporary landscaper.

The assignment, which began as a two-week venture, has now stretched to three weeks and may bite into a fourth week. The pay is strangely high, but that could have something to do with sending a stripling to marinate in the sun and toss big-ass branches into trailers for eight hours a day. Forty hours a week. Full-time work, even when it’s temporary, is grueling stuff.

I’ll start my third week on this job tomorrow, and I have mixed feelings about it. As I said, the pay is great, but man, the work is monotonous and a little painful. My arms are scratched up ’cause I don’t wanna wear long sleeves in the sun. The skin on my face and my arms is tan because, as it turns out, being outside for long stretches of time starts to turn even a nerd like me into something pretty. The love of my life tells me that I’m losing weight, which is a problem because I was already scrawny before I started this job. I’m becoming a weird tan skeleton man …

And I’m making decent money. Yesterday, I sunk a decent chunk of my first paycheck into buying strong primer and painting over the awful sharpie artwork in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. Word to the wise: don’t use permanent marker on walls. Even after working hard all week, I spent my Saturday working hard to fix things I messed up as a youth. I’m feeling strangely adult and responsible, and I’ve only been working a temp job. Imagine how I’ll feel with a permanent gig!

Which brings me to my next point. This temp job is great for getting me quick funds for an emergency, and it’s gonna pay the rent for at least a month or two. Maybe three if I spend wisely. But, you know, I still need a decent job. That might be a post for later though – I’m in the process of finding work right now, and with a month to go before my final year of college begins, I’ve got to start bringing in steady paychecks as soon as I can.

So yeah, life is funky, and a little tedious sometimes, but it’s weirdly rewarding. I like it that way. Keep on living the lives you love, everybody.

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rambling

Shovels and Incantations: Exploring the Darkest Dungeon

I think I may have promised to finish The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so I can write up a more thorough reflection of the game as a whole.

Whoops.

Since I finished Dark Souls 3, I’ve been going to other dark places in my spare time. Decrepit places that creep and crawl with unspeakable horrors and unnameable evils. I do it for the challenge. I do it for the rewards. I do it for Lovecraft. Mostly, I do it because I’m curious to see what’s hidden in the depths of the …

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Still at it with the awful picture compositions … I don’t have a camera so I used my laptop’s camera. Still, the Castlevania vibes are a nice touch, eh?

This game is brutal. Like, one wrong move, one forgotten resource, one neglected weapon or armor upgrade, one debilitating negative quirk, and … your adventurers are gonna be way stressed out and/or they’re gonna die.

The stress mechanic is pretty cool, as it’s a neat way to reflect the harrowing nature of any journey into unknown lands with untamed monsters waiting to devour the first adventurer who stumbles. It goes hand in hand with the torch mechanic, which allows you to light your way as long as you have a steady supply of torches. The longer your quest, the more torches you’ll want to bring. The darker it becomes, the more stressed your adventurers become, unless they’re different and they like the darkness.

So keeping a flame lit is the surest way to battle stress, but there are other factors that bring down your party’s spirits. Food is another realistic aspect of the game, and if your dungeon delvers don’t eat, they can starve and get stressed that way. Naturally, all the crazy fiends and beasts you fight can pile on the stress as well … shit, everything is set to stress you out in Darkest Dungeon.

The good part of all this tough adventuring is the comfort that awaits the end of your travails. There’s a nice little hamlet on the edge of the wilds that serves as your base of operations, and you upgrade it as you dive deeper and discover more treasure.

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There it is, in all its badly photographed glory. I promise I’ll get a good camera so this doesn’t happen again.

Once your hamlet is upgraded to include proper amenities such as a tavern and an abbey, you can send your adventurers to these places to unwind and find peace. There are also, naturally, places to hone your adventurers’ skills and a blacksmith to upgrade weapons and armor. Thus, Darkest Dungeon becomes a drawn-out cycle of adventuring, accruing stress and treasure, heading back to town (if your adventurers survive) to spend hard-earned gold to get rid of stress and purchase upgrades, and using the next hand-picked party of your people to start the whole process over again.

It sounds like a grueling experience, and in ways it is, but nothing beats the feeling of seeing that “Quest Completed” notification as your adventurers lose their minds from stress and one of them is standing at Death’s door while the other three are bleeding and/or shaking because of cuts and the blight, respectively.

They return to town. They haul plenty of loot, and as soon as they sell it, you send them off to different places in town so they can haul their weary minds back toward sanity and good health.

It’s a stressful game, to be sure. But damn, it’s enjoyable, too. I’ll keep on delving. You keep on gaming, folks.

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I Gotta Have That Breath: The Sure and Steady Inhalation of the New Zelda Style

It’s funny how gamers will get locked into rigid templates for the series they love. Exclamations of “It’s gotta have this!,” “It’s not a (insert longstanding series name here) game unless it’s got these,” and/or “It just looks too different” permeate discussions among gamers everywhere, perpetuating the idea that some games just have to meet particular criteria lest they be stricken from the canon.

Of course, many of these criteria are subject to change, depending on who’s talking. For a series as popular and acclaimed as The Legend of Zelda, fan discussions can easily generate more than a few notions of what a Zelda game entails. Naturally, when something new comes along and looks different, brows start to furrow …

And Breath of the Wild, to a decent number of Zelda fans, looks fucking bonkers.

Okay, it’s not that crazy. Before I go any further, let me say here and now that I absolutely love the new game. But, with some of the seemingly drastic changes made to the so-called “Zelda formula,” some folks are saying BotW (as we’ll now call it) is nothing less than a traitorous endeavor, a betrayal of the values that previously held the series together.

Wait, what?

Yeah, let’s get the big one out of the way. In BotW, there are, technically speaking, no dungeons. I mean, there are definitely a good handful of dungeon-like challenges which you may take on, but there are no dungeons in the classic sense. You know, go into a deadly maze of rooms, fight off hordes of violent creatures, and work your way to a weapon or item that allows you to reach a boss and fight it to the death in glorious pixelated technicolor.

So yeah, there isn’t that. However, there are dozens upon dozens of challenges strewn about the land in enigmatic locales called shrines. Every shrine involves at least one of three things:

  1. You have to solve a puzzle to reach the shrine.
  2. You have to solve puzzles inside the shrine.
  3. You have to fight bad dudes inside the shrine.

Most shrines can be found chilling on the good green earth, or the good yellow sand, or the good brown mountains … you get what I mean, they’re everywhere throughout Hyrule. Once you see one, you typically try to get to it, and if you do, you can then go inside it. That’s usually when you do either option 2 or option 3 above.

Sometimes, though, shrines aren’t just laying about, waiting for you to de-puzzle and plunder them – sometimes, you’ve got to make the shrine appear, by solving an environmental puzzle of some sort.

The good thing is, when you deal with these hidden shrines, you usually just ride the fancy Sheikah elevator down into the shrine and snag an easy treasure chest. Bingo! No fighting necessary.

So anyway, shrines are the new thing in BotW. As you find and conquer each shrine, you gather items called spirit orbs that allow you to purchase upgrades to either your health or stamina. Oh yeah! There’s stamina now, and Link can climb just about any surface you find throughout your traversals of the Hylian hinterlands.

That’s good news, right? Link is still there BUT WAIT A SECOND, STAMINA?!

Now now, don’t be hasty. There was stamina in Skyward Sword, and it wasn’t the craziest thing imaginable. The coolest part of BotW, in my opinion, is something I hinted at earlier – the sheer size of the game world.

Yep, I almost referred to the Skyrim effect a little earlier in this post, mostly because I said something like “If you see a shrine, you can get to it” – a little too similar to Todd Howard’s infamous (or maybe it’s famous) remark about Skyrim, which went something like “You see that mountain? You can climb it.” I’m mostly paraphrasing here, but the wondrous sentiment remains: Skyrim was a huge game, and BotW, for what it’s worth, feels even bigger.

“Whaddaya mean, an open-world Zelda game?!” Well that’s exactly what I mean: aside from a small, centralized introduction to the game’s mechanics (an introduction that may still take hours to complete), BotW is wide open for you to explore as you see fit.

Does that mean you can go anywhere following the introduction? Well, yes and no.

You can certainly try to go wherever you’d like, wherever your fancy and your intuition take you, but there will probably be some sort of obstacle to overcome. This can be as simple to accomplish as beating a small gaggle of Bokoblins, or as difficult as trudging up snow-covered mountains with the wrong clothing on and freezing to death along the way.

That’s another thing: the environment affects the temperature, which in turn affects what clothes you should wear, which, of course, affects where you can go, depending on what outfits you’ve found.

“But wait, Chris! Slow down! There are realistic environments that make me sweat or freeze, AND I need to be DRESSED for them?! What is this shit?!”

This shit, my friends, is just one of the many awesome reasons you should give Breath of the Wild a chance. It’s bigger than any Zelda game that came before it, it’s got some interesting ways of immersing you in its huge tracts of land, and the combat is some of the most intense stuff that Zelda has ever offered gamers.

Oh yeah, I probably should mention before I end this piece: all of your weapons will break. You have a large inventory to ensure you carry as many weapons as you’ll need.

Well, there are some of my wacky thoughts regarding the newest Zelda game, and I should say here that I’ve played the game on and off since the middle of March and I still haven’t finished it. I could have challenged the final boss of the game a month or two ago, but I have this thing where I really want to find all the shrines before I beat the game. And Dark Souls 3 was calling. And I was still in school. And damn it, I’ll beat the game within the next week and let you all know how I feel about it. It’s been a deliberate process, exploring and appreciating the latest iteration of Hyrule, and every second has been worth it.

In the meantime, keep on gaming, folks.

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Very Nearly Just a Yearly Thing Now

Okay, so it’s only been about eleven months (give or take some days) since I logged into this site to update, um, whoever may still be waiting and feverishly hoping for my itinerant words. I honestly don’t think that’s very many people, since the art of maintaining connections requires constant attention and, as you know, it’s been almost a year. Anywho, that’s my long way of saying that I know I’ve been gone a while, and I’m very sorry that my words have echoed in my head far more often than they’ve sat all alone online. (All Alone Online: that sounds like a good title for something.)

Since this began as a blog about video games, I should probably jump to that topic, eh? The last time I wrote anything here, I do believe I explained that I had sold nearly every console and video game I owned at the time, aside from my PS4 and my Wii U. Not much has changed since then; I still have just the PS4 and the Wii U, and my old laptop isn’t exactly cut out for modern games, so it’s been pretty slow going in my personal gaming world. In fact, I think I’ve only completed a few games in the past eleven months. Allow me to explain.

I recall that I began Dark Souls 3 all those months ago, and for the few weeks leading up to the fall semester, I put a pretty decent chunk of time and effort into exploring Lothric and solving its strange mysteries (read: hacking and slashing its undead denizens). As soon as school started up again, however, I only played games in fits and starts. To be frank, I only just completed my first playthrough of Dark Souls 3 last week; that’s right, it took me eleven months to slog through the game just once!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really good game, if you stick with it. My problem was one of immersion: usually, my old school way was to play a game as often as possible as soon as I got my hands on it, finishing it in anywhere from a week to four weeks, depending on difficulty, world size, number and length of sidequests (if any), et cetera. What I’m trying to say is that I usually get wrapped up in games for days on end, but with Dark Souls 3, a few factors put a stop to my old ways. Actually, one all-important factor stopped me from gaming as much: I fell in love. I don’t want to go into too many details here, but I’ve been spending a lot of time with a fantastic woman, and the past year has involved a lot of changes for me.

I took more credits in school than I ever had before. I moved out of my parents’ house, finally, and I’ve been acclimating to a more “adult” life. I’m still on sort of a job hunt, so I can make ends meet, but it’s hard to find steady work when all I want to do is read, write, and play the odd video game here and there. Luckily there are some writing gigs out there, and if I manage to snag enough of ’em, I think I’ll be okay on the money front.

All of those little updates are there to say that I’ve just been more busy than I ever have before, which isn’t saying much, honestly – I’ve never been very busy, despite what my tagline up top says. I just like to take my sweet time doing anything and everything, and that stops me from living at the fast pace that seems to be required of “successful” young folks nowadays. I’m not trying to complain, I’m merely trying to explain my own process and the way it doesn’t always mesh with the workaday wheel spinning.

So, yeah, I’ve been learning how to manage myself in a more mature way. I bought myself a copy of The Joy of Cooking back in November because I knew I’d be moving out in the near future and I wanted to work on my cooking skills. I can safely make a good handful of meals now, and it feels damn good. And tastes damn delicious! My mashed potatoes are friggin’ awesome, by the way. If for any reason you find yourself in or around Reno, let me know and I’ll politely shove a plate piled high with creamy mashed potatoes your way. At the table I have. With its matching chairs from Goodwill. I am now the proud owner of presentable furniture – I think that means I’ve made it, but to where I’ve made it, I am not sure.

Well damn, this wasn’t exactly detailed when it comes to video games – I promise you, I have been doing more than slogging through Dark Souls 3, and I think I’ll provide that update in the next post. I finally got around to playing Inside, and that was something, lemme tell you. I tried my hand at text-based adventure games and, well, I didn’t get very far. I didn’t get a Nintendo Switch, not yet, but I did download The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to my Wii U.

So next time, let’s look forward to trying out some Triforce talk, yeah? Keep on gaming, living, and loving, folks.

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