Archives: Am Playing

There’s so much world to see.

Reading & Playing

I want to write regularly again, but I have to ease myself into it, gently like.

When I finally had enough of an attention span to read again, the first book I picked up after my dad died was Ready Player One. I figured it would be a good palette cleanser — nothing too serious (in comparison to, say, The Sound and the Fury which is also on my desk) and probably comforting.

I mean, I’m years behind the curve on this one, but it speaks to my soul. And within ten minutes it made me want to put the book down and pick up a game — any game, but preferably something like an old final fantasy. There is SO much love for gaming in this book — everything from arcade cabinets to MMOs. And it reminded me of how much I love them, too.

When my sister left to go home and I was alone in the house, games were what distracted me. But because I was still hurting, I didn’t want to play multiplayer. I just wanted to get lost in worlds that weren’t this one. So I played silly games: Animal Crossing. The Sims. Harry Potter Lego. Now that I’m steadier (and I am steadier; yesterday was a speed bump, a punch in the gut, and today I woke up with a snarl on my lips and moved into being SO mad which feels better) I am playing a little again. Some Dragon Age last night (I picked up my level 6 mage because I wanted to make some different choices; that feels like cheating but man, you don’t get do overs in real life so I’ll take them wherever I can in virtual life). I have chore lists a mile high, but in between I’ll finish Shadows of Mordor, a replay of Windwaker, Dragon Age. I’ll play Mass Effect for the first time. I’ll replay the original Dragon Ages. I’ll play Limbo and Final Age and Tales From the Borderlands on my iPad. I’ll play EVERYTHING, in short.


And I’ll read everything, too. I am a literary omnivore, not embarrassed to read Nora Roberts alongside “high fiction.” While I was on vacation I read a bizarre book called The Place of the Lion, written by a contemporary/fellow Inklings member of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. I had a hankering for cozy fantasy, which isn’t a category that exists. Cozy mysteries, for those among you not trained to be mystery readers by your mothers, aunts and grandmothers as I was, are gently told mysteries taking place in small communities (usually English, although there are a lot of food cozy mysteries that are set in the US). Agatha Christie is my queen of cozy mysteries. I think of the Hobbit and to a lesser extent LotR as cozy fantasies, although neither really is (especially LotR — but honestly any book with that lovingly detailed descriptions of food counts). Harry Potter. Narnia. Redwall. Maybe this betrays me as a lover of young adult fantasy versus high/adult fantasy; I don’t care. Anyway, I picked up The Place of the Lion because of Charles Williams’ associations — and I guess to some extent it fit, but holy jesus there was so much PHILOSOPHY in it. My brain’s not up for that at the moment, and I read it on the plane until my eyes went cross eyed.


(where I did all of my reading at Sar’s Ventura bungalow)

A better success for my vacation reading was At Home by Bill Bryson. I love Bill Bryson books. They’re cozy history/non fiction, ANOTHER category that doesn’t exist. Sure, he might be describing the appalling conditions suffered by the poor during Victorian times, but there’s so much humor and time buffering it that you feel ok about it all.

Another great success was Bridget Jones’ Diary, which is so different than the movie but also great. British chicklit has a special place in my heart since I devoured it in Ireland (along with Terry Pratchett books) and maybe some part of me also just finds british literature inherently more charming; small villages and sprawling London and quiz shows. Always the quiz shows.

Next on my list, on arriving home, was A Brave New World, which I’m reading now. I am almost positive I read it in high school, but I don’t remember it — there’s not a single twinge of recognition (I got to the description of incubator nurses as “lupus colored” with purple skin and coral lips,due to the lighting, and felt SURE I would have remembered that). It’s not a tough read, engrossing, but my brain is definitely struggling to focus. So I’m breaking my no re-reads rule with a favorite Nora Roberts because I’m craving popcorn lit.

Basically, I’m not trying to live in denial, but sometimes it’s nice to escape. And is there a nicer escape than books and video games? No. No there is not.


Sand gravel and a river.

Ever since starting the game, some part of my brain is constantly planning and plotting in Minecraft. Today, when I tune in, it’s thinking of ways to fit five distinct mods into one star shaped building, since we’ve added new people. It had been really bothering me, and while I don’t consider myself a control freak generally, aesthetics in this game DO get to me quite a bit. I was twitchely going mad over the state of our old compound (where I accidentally had my cottage facing the garden and not the center of the compound because I may plan but rarely do I THINK).

We talked about some options — putting a second star above the first at an angle (so, a compass rose) but the issue was overlap with the layers below, plus having points covering up the gardens seemed like a lesson in monster spawning misery.

And then like all great solutions it occurred to me: why not build down? Pluses: involves less building (HUGE PLUS) because we don’t need a basement for every level. Keeps my two mods together so I can easily switch between them. Minuses? I have to fill in a river. Ugh.

I could put my lab in the basement. It would suit. But, it suddenly occurred to me that I could create the night forest I think suits Thaumcraft by putting that on the lower level instead. I’ll need to get a hoe of growth or possibly open the lab floor until my trees grow. But, I LOVE the idea of my witches cottage being hidden away in a forest lit by fireflies in jars. I DO have to think of a way to keep mobs from spawning though, if I keep it dark and misty. Wrath lamps would do it but they’re bright and spendy as fuck. Half blocks could do it but my floor is forest, so …

Actually, if magnum torches exist in our version (and I think they do) that’s a perfect solution.


I forgot to post this last night so let me just take a moment to bitch: I spent 4 hours filling in a river last night. There were other solutions (could have used pumps or sponges) but making them for a one time use would have been a bit foolish since it would have taken the same amount of time and its not a setup I see us using a lot in the future. So, sand and gravel it was.


That said, tonight I get to do one of my very favorite things: build and decorate. Hooray.

Cook, make, build, repeat

It’s moving day in our little Minecraft world. Our current home was too small and too fragmented and I was having panic attacks just looking at it. Yoz suggested a kind of 8 pointed star to serve as our base (with nuclear power front and center, just for the deadly danger); since I’ve been specializing in two mods that means two of those arms are mine all mine.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 3.11.17 PMThis is my little cottage as it stands in our current base; it is ringed with blueberries and raspberries and lit by fireflies and overflowing with taint on the inside  totally safe and not at all dangerous.

Thanks to Chisel and its gorgeous blocks, I was able to give my new home an appropriately fairytale feel; imagine my little cottage transported and COVERED with trees (sakura, amaranth and silverwood) and firefly jars stolen from the twilight forest EVERYWHERE. It’ll look amazing.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 3.10.26 PM

For the AE2 wing, I chose temple block as being as close to lab like as I could get for the moment — but my floors are pure chiseled marble because DAMN. I wish I had a more up to date screenshot, but that will just have to wait.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 3.10.41 PM

But what I’ve mostly been doing is building. Building. Building. And chisel blocks, while lovely, require cooked stone. So mostly this has been my life.



And yet, despite the monotony, I can’t wait to get back to it.


Not tonight though. 3 hours of sleep mean that I can’t…function in an adult way anymore.


Remember Snood? I remember Snood.

I have a confession: the only game I’ve played on my computer for a week has been Minecraft. It’s so SATISFYING.

But I have been playing some other games on mobile. There’s Limbo which (despite all my big talk) I’ve been fighting through again and then there’s the other pick up as you go type games. You know, when you have ten minutes to spare in a waiting room and you can’t concentrate enough to read. It’s been Sparkle, which is an old game that feels very similar to Snood (in the shooting matching balls thing) or that PopCap game with the same mechanic.  I LOVED Snood just like everyone else in my age group. I played nonstop in college. It was our version of solitaire — mind clearing.

I need to play something more meaty, though. Here are the games actually loaded on my iPad, and I’m dithering on what to play next:


Limbo (need lengthy breaks)

Oceanhorn (Zelda for iOS, but missing some of the joy)

Monument (kept on in case of updates)

The Wolf Among Us

Knights of the Old Republic




The Silent Age

Year Walk

Lego Harry Potter 2 (I’m at Sirius’ death and I’m sad)

Tales From the Borderlands

Sometimes, I have to say, a mobile game is exactly what you need. Curled up in bed, distracted and happy and sleepy. I’m going to play Minecraft tonight but tomorrow give it a rest — overloading is bad — and settle in to one of these games. None of them are ten minute games — well, maybe Harry Potter — and I’m not allowed new ones until I finish the old ones, so I need to dive right in.

Also, I need to play Dragon Age again before I forget how to play! I’m desperate to know how the story plays out. Since I’m what, 40 hours into it? I think it’s a great investment for the money — 100hrs of gameplay for $70? Even if it is Origin, I can get into it.

Uh oh, Scooby Doo!

Ok, so my new castle is pretty nice. In fact, check out my quarters! Thanks, Inquisition, this is all paying off.homeThat said, there are things to be done. First step is a quick trip back to the Storm Coast to finish stuff up there. Not a whole lot to say about the situation there; just some madness and a chance to negotiate that we didn’t take up.

next houseI did find my next irl house. Screw you Emer. I’ll take this one — and the rain, and the view.

legitEmer also stumbled upon this very odd place for a snack. The cheese is still there, as well, which is just WEIRD. This game is WEIRD. This is a cliff face about thirty feet up, slammed by wind and water. I mean, that’s where I’d have a picnic, right?

dorianWe also get another chance to see just how annoyed Dorian is — Blackwell’s asked him if the Elder One is “one of yours”. He doesn’t respond well.

Storm Coast as finished as it can be for the moment, it’s time for an extra depressing assignment: off to Crestwood.



Oh what a relief. Just when Emer was thinking she might have to go someplace bright and cheery, we find that we’re still in an AWFUL WORLD. Burn it all down.


We arrive in time to see the grey wardens fighting off a blight attack — we help, and then they skip town. Blackwell, your people are assholes. Just so you know. So, once upon a time there was a town (Old Crestwood) that got drowned by a dam burst. And now there’s a rift down there, so all the dead of Old Crestwood are coming back to life and attacking. Sounds like this is a job for The Inquisitor!



Someone doesn’t agree but Emer doesn’t take orders from signs! Actually, in this case she does — kills some bandits, establishes a base camp, and goes to drain the lake so she can get close enough to the rift to drain it.

Old Crestwood is pretty bleak.

warcrimesBodies just piled together, as the blight had hit already. We burn the bodies at the request of a chantry sister, so their souls can be freed.


There’s also this very odd scene of death. Was he betting with the cheese and cheating and was then murdered by a wedge of cheese? Just. What?

Still, weird stories are the least of our concerns. It’s off to close the rift; through the mining tunnels we go.


Correction: into the spider infested mining tunnels we go. Why. Just, why.

hauntedWe have some terribly worrisome companions in the form of red, miserable ghosts following us. (In the Sims, a red ghost indicates death by fire. Fun fact!)

ScreenshotWin32_0202_FinalThings aren’t so good down here. People died poor, painful deaths.

scratchesWhere hanging might be better than waiting for the water to claim you. No way out.

obviousClever observational skills from my team; we had already found about eight bodies by this point. Good job guys!

oldsAnd here he is, the pride … or rage, I can’t remember … demon. He’s guarding the dwarven halls that lead to the rift. “Oh, look, they’re still lit!” says someone in shock. True, but by WHAT? I can’t figure out what provides the lighting here.

dwarven mysteries

Think those are lanterns? Guess again! Just reflected lights. The dwarves are LOUSY MAGICIANS is what I’m getting at, and I don’t think we can trust them!

Well, another rift, another yawn later and we triumphantly return to town to let everyone know they’ve been saved. Only the mayor is missing! This feels like a Scooby Doo plot!
warcrimesredux“And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you pesky Inquisition!”


I reverted to doing (and failing at) basic math yesterday.

Ok. In order to make a wireless terminal, I need a wireless access point, a dense energy cell and a calculation processor. And I need 4 of those terminals. And those dense energy cells are made up of 8 energy cells which need…

I eventually had to start a list. A pencil and paper list, clipboard in game wasn’t going to cut it. The mod I’m focusing on right now is Applied Energistics, which is the only possible way to tame our MESS of chests and storage. The place is a horror show of chests everywhere, and it stresses me out, so I’m doing the ME system. This involves a server bay, storage disks, and (because I want this to be wirelessly available to people — including me — don’t whine about having to go to the terminal) wireless access terminals. And boosters.

It’s super spendy — tons of redstone, certus, nether, fluix. And we don’t have stable power yet so I’ve been working through a vibration chamber and lava buckets which is about as inefficient as you can get. Yozzy’s been working on a power solution — nuclear, in this case, which will make my life easier. I’ll need to build us some additional storage as well. I need an inexhaustible supply of certus quartz — nether quartz and redstone aren’t much of an issue at the moment.

It’s lego for grownups

Is what Yoz says. I agree, to a certain point — I mean, I think legos are legos for grownups but this has the same texture to play. And despite a massive amount of grumbling as I look at the mats list for yet another finicky little piece, I’m still loving it.

Once I have our storage taken care of, I’m going to move back to Thaumcraft which will eventually give me very good things, once I get past the very early research options. Golems and cool gear and whoo.

I wish I could get more people to play. Modded Minecraft is heads and shoulders above xbox.


With a goat.


So Emer’s stuck wandering the snowy filled wastelands, and considering I’m currently living in the snowy filled wastelands it made me tired just watching her. Somewhere in the mountains, she figures, she’ll find her friends. Wandering through snowy wastes in the hopes of finding someone is just the sort of decision making I like to see in my video game characters. Christ.

Of course, this is a video game, so she collapses at exactly the same moment that her companions find her. All the escapees from Haven are huddling in this tiny camp in the mountains and they’re feeling pretty hopeless about things. A lot of people died, the inquisition leadership are fighting amongst themselves, and Emer’s pretty much had enough with the whole deal.


Mother Giselle, a chantry leader we met earlier in the hinterlands, has not given up hope though. She sings an old hymn that draws everyone together — and to their knees in front of Emer.



But lest Emer take this moment to feel good about herself or the progress of this story or even to smile, Solas comes in like SUCH a buzzkill.

Turns out the orb the elder one has was stolen from the elves. And when that particular fact comes out, the already keen elf hatred is going to explode — unless Emer somehow changes things. Basically the elves indirectly caused the breach. GREAT, that’s just GREAT. For fuck’s sake Solas, why not pile on some more.

dontwanttoWell, now that we’ve been thoroughly depressed, it’s time for some brighter news.

morninghasbrokenSolas brings us to Skyhold. You guys, you gave her a CASTLE. It’s cold comfort for the fact that apparently Emer’s turned into Atlas, the whole world on her shoulders, but you know. Castle. It helps.

youshouldnthaveIt’s a bit of a pit at first, although it improves rapidly between visits. On her first morning there, Emer leaves her bed to find her friends gossiping about her. Jerks.

talkingshitActually though it turns out they are offering her something quite big: the head of the inquisition.

imthebossFinally, some goddam recognition. Emer plays it cool, though, saying she’ll lead for faith. Solas and Sera are pissed — they want her to lead for the elves and change their standing, but all along people have said that Emer’s the herald of Andraste, and it feels cold to turn away from Andraste’s grace for more partisan matters. Once this is all over, she can be the example by which elves are judged; getting others to warm to her now is more important (although in truth almost no one approves of this call, whatever. At least she didn’t say: “I’ll do it for POWER!” which was literally one of the options).

It’s around this time that Emer sits on the throne for the first time. She’s not super psyched about it.


But she’s the leader, and so she has to. First up, ATTACKING. WITH A GOAT. Oh god I loved this guy; I basically let him escape without punishment.



Emer stops to chat with Cole.

stoppedlisteningI mean, that’s what I do when Solas starts lecturing, so I’m not surprised characters do as well. Cole’s an odd duck. If I had done the Templar quest I might understand a bit more, but from what he’s said — he’s not quite a demon, not quite a ghost, but something in between. He can feel and hear what people are thinking — helpful in the case of people who are dying. Still, he wants to put someone out of their misery, and I had a really hard time deciding what to do about that. On one hand, yes, suffering. On the other hand, the person wasn’t asking to die — although they were asking to make the suffering stop. Maybe the braver thing to do would have been to let Cole kill them, but Emer asked him not to — pointing out that no one knows the future and that any number of things could happen.

dorianmadShe also stops to chat with Dorian, who she’s very sad she can’t romance. Dorian’s awesome, and also VERY ANGRY because everyone blames his people for the blight and in fact for this breach since the Elder One is one of them. But like, Dorian, Emer’s an elf. People don’t even bother blaming them for things, they just hate them and kill them and also, remember Dragon Age Origins? They also rape them with impunity. So, you know. I feel your pain, but TONE IT DOWN a bit.

lessthanthreeNext, another attempt at romancing Bull. He has Emer put on a mage disguise and go with him around the camp; we have some invisible drinks with some new recruits, keeping Emer’s identity a secret. He explains afterward that although ideally she’d know every person in her army, it’s useful to at least know a few faces — to realize that these are actual humans, not just a army of people to be sacrificed on a whim. Oh, Bull. I love you. Why won’t you let me romance you.


Meanwhile, I’m getting romanced like mad by this fellow. I mean, check out that dialogue. I might have to give in if Bull doesn’t loosen up a little. He’s a good second bet.

somethingsomethingChecking in on the mission table. HAHAHA, oh scribes. You are the best.

Anyway, it’s time to leave the warm embrace of Skyhold and go out and save the world some more.



The Compleat Forced

I was going to write about Evolve today (according to my self assigned schedule) but I haven’t played it at all this week, to be honest. It’s a game that I enjoy when playing with friends, and everyone’s been sucked into other games for the time being (including LoL, sigh). So instead I’ve been playing my current mainstays: DA:I & Minecraft.

Last night was Frozen Thursday, though, and the first one in a while, so I got to play a little  bit of Forced with Choo. Both of us are completionists in this type of game so we spent quite a bit of time completing the time challenges on a couple of the early levels.

Forced is a great little puzzler/top down fighter. It’s not particularly complicated but it does require precision and teamwork. Choo and I aren’t new to teamwork games — we were rockstars at Portal and we collaborated on Braid. It’s a good complement of strengths and weaknesses and in general we can make each other understand what we want to have happen with very few words.

I find that I get very very sloppy the later the night goes — when I’m tired my brain stutters and stops and, what with the iCape plague rolling around the store I’ve been very tired indeed. Plus, and I’m just going to go off on a tangent here, I’ve been doing that whole standing all day thing and it really, really exhausts me. There’s no anti-fatigue mat and the computer is a little too low for me and also standing all day is very tiring. Weirdly, on day one I feel fine and can stand without a problem, but by the time Saturday rolls around my body aches. It’s a cumulative effect. But it’s good for me, right? Right.

Anyway, by the time we were trying to kill the last boss in 3 minutes there was no hope of me following directions or plans whatsoever. But for the first few, I was more or less on point. Mostly less, but I had a few very good plays. I do panic a lot. There’s a lot of button mashing, which is deadly in this game. This little clip is after about 30 minutes of experimenting to find the right order and to make sure everyone was in the right place at the right time.


Just a total blast.


There needs to be more co-op games, though. Co-op puzzlers are amazing, if you’re working with the right person, but really almost any co-op game is pretty great. MMOs tried, successfully, to capitalize on that with huge groups, but it’s not quite the same as that two or three or four person team. We bought the humble bundle of the week which was almost all online co-op and I’m psyched to keep playing them.




I still haven’t finished Limbo. I’m not sure I ever will. But I stopped letting it keep me from other mobile games, so I finally played Monument.

After two levels:

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.52.39 AM

It’s very different than Braid — but it made my brain work in similar ways, twisted and turned and thinking upside down. Less story driven as well — there is a story, but it’s not the focus. Stunningly beautiful, though, eh?


I finished it up Monday night, closing out the last of the Forgotten Shores pack. There’s a moment where an animate object, a totem, appears to die. I was shocked at the amount of loyalty I felt towards it, the actual sadness I felt about this thing dying. Good games do that, right, but this is a MOBILE game which (with a few exceptions) isn’t a medium known for emotional storytelling.


This one got me though.

The puzzles weren’t hugely difficult — the only long trouble I had was with the very last puzzle in the game, which left me struggling for long enough to consider looking up the solution. But to do so would have felt cheap after all these levels. It was too perfect an experience to sully with cheating.


It’s an impossible game to describe. But it reminded me just how good iOS games can be.

Oh. It’s you.

My Emer’s no fool. She’s closed the breach but she knows — despite of or perhaps because of the dancing inquisition in Haven — things are far from over. She’s 100000000% right.

This young fellow, who we would have met in depth had we done the Templar quest, shows up with some really surprising news.


Someone’s coming to hurt EMER? Are you SURE? But everyone loves her! -_-

Anyway, turns out the Elder One is SUPER PISSED that we closed the breach, that Emer has the mark he was supposed to, that we keep messing with his shit. The inquisition makes a valiant effort against his demons and red templars but sheer numbers and the very small size of Haven don’t add up to a defensible position.

rocksfallingThere’s a plan for a moment — Emer sets off some trebuchets and buries some troops, but there’s a moment where it’s clear the battle is lost and we toddle off for a last stand in the chantry, saving some but not all of the Havenites on the way. I was REALLY SAD about the ones that I didn’t get to in time — I did save the alchemists and a couple of other people, but I missed the barmaid :/ Boo. Emer’s super sad about it.


Also the fact that we’re all going to die. That’s not really happy either.


Just when all seems lost, here comes the game’s early bad guy with his shot at redemption — he’s dying because he fought off a templar, but he knows of a secret path known only to the chantry that will help the people escape. Of course, the forces of the Elder One might be a bit suspicious if the chantry is suddenly empty.

oh meGREAT THANKS COLE. He’s such a ray of sunshine. The answer is pretty clear — Emer’s served this long to save the world, what’s certain death to save everyone versus certain death and everyone else dies too? She’s nothing if not noble.

Outside, we get our first good look at The Elder One who looks like every villain in a fantasy movie, walking out of the fire, hands crackling with power.

ohitsyouAnd like every villain everywhere he spends some very important exposition time telling Emer how much he despises her, how he wants to be a GOD, how she’s going to die. Once upon a time he was a Tevintar magistar (Dorian, also Tevintar, is particularly pissed off about this when he finds out) who entered the fade and became a darkspawn in the blight. He’s imprisoned but escapes because we need a story line  because he’s very powerful. He’s basically done all of this to sow discord and also to restore Tevintar power and also to become a god. He’s pretty clever — he’s infiltrated the templars with red lyrium, he’s stolen the orb of destruction from the elves (Emer doesn’t know this yet, but Solas sure does). And of course, he’s responsible for the mass killing at the consortium that started all of this trouble for us.

wellshitAlso he has an enormous dragon. This is called Dragon Age, remember?

amiturningevilEmer’s clearly got a plan, though, because she’s a heroine in a fantasy tale and no mere dragon and evil man with unimaginable powers can beat her.

elderThe Elder One is super pissed when he figures out what the plan is — she’s going to bury the now empty Haven, and hopefully him with it. Only he’s got a dragon so while she’s able to bury the town and escape, so does he. Sigh.

escapeEmer’s work is never done.

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