My Gaming Nostalgia

Ever really think about what it was in your life that really shaped you into the gamer that you are today? Can you remember the moment? I was recently asked these questions, and it really got me thinking.

I have to admit that it’s very difficult for me to remember one specific instance that really shaped me into the gamer that I am today. If I had to choose, there are two periods of my life that stand out.

First let me say that I’ve played video games since before I can remember, and before that I was an infant lying on the floor watching my older brother play them. (Trust me, there are home videos.) You might think that this makes it hard for me to pinpoint a time that changed me as a gamer, but it really isn’t. You see, I was always Player 2 early on. My parents decided video games were my brother’s thing. He received the systems and games as gifts, and since they were his I was only allowed to play when he wanted me to.

A big turning point for me as a gamer was when I received a Gameboy Color and Pokémon Blue for Christmas. I didn’t realize until much later that the Gameboy was my first game system, and that Pokémon was my first truly solo gaming experience. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. I was too engrossed with actually playing Pokémon. There is even a picture of me at about seven years old curled in my dad’s old grey lounger with my head hung over my new Gameboy. I’m sure my family didn’t get to visit much with me during the time I spent adventuring through Pokémon.

Everyone might be surprised that the most influential moment of my early gaming life was a time that I wasn’t even playing the game 90% of the time. I was watching my brother play through a specific game, and he would let me play the mini-games or do miscellaneous things in the game but never the story. That game was Final Fantasy VII.  I’ll never forget the summer that he got that game. I don’t even think that we really knew how popular the game was, but we literally spent the entire summer playing it. I say we because I was so engrossed by it. The story, the graphics, the gameplay; I always wanted to play, but I settled for the mostly watching. I couldn’t get enough.

This was the summer that we snacked instead of really eating. My diet consisted of nachos, Pizza Rolls, Bagel Bites, and delicious popsicles. I can honestly say that this was when we starting choosing what we now call gamer food. That is, the food that is chosen for ease and convenience. I’m also pretty sure we never changed out of our pajama’s either.

I digress. Final Fantasy VII wasn’t the first in the Final Fantasy series that I had seen, but it was the first that I got to experience more. It was the game that got me hooked on the series, and since I’ve become quite an avid fan. That game, easy snacks, and comfy clothes made up a summer that shaped me the most as a gamer. I found my niche and my passion within the gaming world, and I haven’t turned back since.

It’s nice to look back on those moments, and it was even nicer to share them with everyone. It really makes you think about the things that make you feel nostalgic. I can’t take the credit though. A representative from a company called Man Crates sent me a request to see if I was interested in writing about those key ingredients that shaped me as a gamer.

For those of you that don’t know what Man Crates are, you should — Shame on you. Haha, I’m just kidding. They’re essentially crates that contain a bundle of quality goods for any man in your life. I’m not talking about cheap colognes, ties, socks, and boxers. They also have a new offering where they cover a gift card in concrete to be smashed open by your man — No, I’m not kidding. This company really represents Go Big or Go Home, in my opinion.

Did I mention that all the macho goods come in a wooden crate? Yes, you have to use a crowbar to get these bad boys open. I feel like that’s a manly gift in itself. Give him a wooden crate, a crow bar, and watch as he gets to show off his strength by opening it.

So if that sounds like something you would gift to someone, click their logo below!

 

Man Crates Store

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D.I.Y. Magical Wand Tutorial

I might have moved under a rock for the past month or so, but I promise that it’s not because I didn’t want to write! Life has been hectic, especially when October rolled around. There were several events taking place at my workplace, Halloween, and my boyfriend’s Birthday on Halloween. Add my Barcelona trip planning on top of that, and I was/am a very busy lady. (More on that Barcelona Trip soon!)

So for Halloween, I decided to finally attempt to make my very own magical wand. As you may or may not know, I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I was planning on using it to go with my HP witch costume for Halloween, but I actually didn’t end up attending that party at all. Even so, I am very proud of the wands I made, and I plan to make more in the future.

In honor of the upcoming movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, here is a simple tutorial on how to make magical wands!

Supplies

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  • Wooden Dowels or Large Chopsticks – Wooden dowels are easier to find and cheaper, but you will have to use sandpaper to round out the end and taper the ends. Large chopsticks are harder to find unless you order them online. Wands are generally 9 to 14 inches in length although they can be as short as 7 inches and as long as 18 inches.)
  • Sandpaper – I used general purpose so it took a while to taper the ends, so I recommend getting a rougher grade.
  • Acrylic Paint – I chose a variety of browns.
  • Clear Multi-Surface Sealer – The Krylon sealer that I bought actually took the natural paint gloss away and gave my wands a more matted look. If you want a glossy finish, I’d suggest either looking for a glossy sealer or buy a separate gloss to apply after your sealer.
  • Glue Gun & Glue Sticks – For giving your wand that rugged wood look.
  • *** Optional Marbles/Gems – To press into your wand’s handle. I didn’t do this, but I will share how to add them.

Step #1: Sand it Down

(If you went with chopsticks, skip to Step #2)

First things first, you need to choose the thickness of your wand. A lot of wooden dowels will come in variety packs. For mine, I went with the medium size thickness since I’m a woman. Men with larger hands may want to use the thicker wands. A good way to determine which you prefer is by holding it in your hand. Does it look too thin? Too large? Also, is it comfortable to hold?

Once you’ve got that figured out, get your sandpaper out. I suggest putting down a tarp or something to catch the wood shavings if you do this inside. You’ll be using the sandpaper to thin down one end of the dowel so that it tapers toward one side and rounding out the tip so that it’s not blunt. To taper it down, place the sandpaper on your hand and then wrap your hand (and sandpaper) in a tight clenched fist around the one end while holding the opposite end with your other hand. Now twist your clenched hand to scrape away. Keep in mind that your hand may get tired and you may need to take a break or switch hands. Also, be sure to rotate the dowel in circles to make sure you are sanding evenly all the way around.

Rounding the tip is a little more difficult. You can do one of two things. Lay the sandpaper on your hand, cup your hand, and press and rotate the tip into the cupped sandpaper. This can quickly get tiring so I improved. I sat in a chair sitting with my legs together, placed the sandpaper in the crevice formed by pressing my legs together, and used both hands to quickly rotate the dowel while pushing it down into the sandpaper. Imagine trying to start a fire with wood and you have the right idea; only I was doing this in my lap.

Step #2: Hot Glue Handle/Designs

Glue time! I was most nervous about this part. I really thought it was going to be hard to make the glue look like natural wood. Ladies and gents, it’s not! I suggest looking at pictures of wands online to get an idea of how you would like your wand to look. You can do rugged, detailed, ringed, ect.

Firstly you’ll want to take up your wand in your hand like you’re about to cast a spell. Hold it comfortably and look at where your hand/fingers end. Give yourself another half inch or so beyond that and mark it lightly with a pencil. This will be where you glue handle/design ends. Unless, of course, you want the design all the way up the wand.

* Tip: Have 2 small glue sticks worth of glue ready if you want to do a full handle.

To start off, apply a larger bulbous glob of glue on the end to form the rounded tip for the handle. You’ll want to do this on any design since the dowel’s (or chopstick’s) other end is still flat. While holding the tapered side in one hand, rotate the dowel in circles applying generous lines of glue on the wood. If you want the natural wood look, apply the glue against the lines you already have, but don’t try to cover all the wood with glue. This creates the natural looking curves, bends, and nooks you would expect from actual wood. You’ll continue this until you reach the point your marked with pencil. At this point, I chose to add another circle of glue to sort of show where the handle ends more prominently.

* Tip: Try to avoid pulling your glue gun away from the wood too far or not at all until your design is finished if at all possible as this causes those little wispy strings of glue. Not only are they a pain for you, but they could stick to the rest of the glue and wispy bits aren’t very wood like or smooth!

The end result will look awkward, unfinished, and ugly even. No worries. That’s what the paint is for.

Note: Some prefer to wait until the glue is just about dry to roll it about in their hands to create that rolling crevice wood look, but I was impatient about waiting for the glue to reach this point to try it and so thus scared I was going to touch the glue while it was hot and burn myself. #wuss

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On the second wand, I did a ringed design. You start again with the bulb on the the flat end, and then do your first and thickest ring where you marked for your “handle” (design) to end. For evenly spaced rings, do your next ring right in between the two end points. The last two rings were then placed between the other points. Ta-da!

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Did I mention that a near essential ingredient to crafting is a deliciously spiked beverage? (For those of you that might have noticed the glass.) — For adults only, of course!

 *** If you wish to use gemstones or marbles on your handle, you’ll want to apply the glue and wait at least a minute or so before carefully pressing your goodies into the glue. That way the glue will still be warm and malleable to situate your shiny just the way you want.

Step #3: Paint Away

This is when your wand starts looking like a wand! Choose your preferred color and paint away. I bought 4 varying shades of brown for my wands. I even swirled some light and darker colors to get that inconsistent color actual wood might be for my first wand. The second I painted fawn per my best friend as it is a gift.

I really love the way my first wand turned out with all the natural looking crevices. The second turned out very pretty too!

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Step #4: Seal and/or Gloss

Time to seal all this awesomeness up so that it doesn’t get damaged. I highly recommend doing this outside due to the fumes and risk of getting sealer on your furniture, belongings, ect. Either way, you’ll need to put down something to set your wands on. I chose foil since I was doing it on my patio.

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Now follow the directions on your sealer! I applied several coats of sealer on mine because I am a tad overprotective. What can I say?

Step #5: Begin Casting!

If you are as impressed and infatuated with your wand as I was with mine, you may walk with it for a while practicing your “Swish and Flick” and annoying your significant other by waving it at them while rattling off every spell you know. I really couldn’t keep my hands off of it for the first few hours! Call me a geek and see if I care!

As you can see from comparing, the finished product is more matte and a bit lighter than the ones pictured above on the foil pre-sealer. I’m toying with the idea of leaving them as is or buying a gloss to put on them. Thoughts?

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Again, everyone, I’m disappeared without a trace there for a while. I will continue to try to make time for these posts.

I hope you liked it!

PS: Click on the pictures to enlarge them for a better view!

PC to Console: Pt. 2

It’s been about a month since I purchased my Playstation 4 in order to play a (MMORPG) game that I originally played on the PC. That game is FFXIV: A Realm Reborn.

Long-story-short for those who don’t know: My PC’s graphics card died on me last year, and so I decided to take the other route with gaming.

Let’s forward to the present where I’ve played on the PS4, controller, and FFXIV for a month, and talk about the pros and cons I’ve discovered. These are purely my opinions and are more in relation to FFXIV gameplay than general MMORPG gameplay.

thumbup  Pros   

  • You have the versatility to sit how/where you want. Couch, Bed, Chair? Sure! I personally game at a desk, but I’m almost always leaning back into my comfy computer chair unless I’m typing. This allows me to game for longer periods of time without getting that tell-tale ache in my neck and shoulders that I used to get from playing on my desktop PC. (My boyfriend might argue that this is a con, haha)
  • Great for hand-eye coordinated folks. This is an obvious one. If you are great at console games, you’ll likely prefer to play an MMORPG on a console. Why? You have 16 buttons on a controller and it’s quite easy to memorize where they are and what they do even when considering combinations. Not to mention, these buttons are all within easy reach without moving your hands/fingers into unnatural positions. The average keyboard has 104 keys alone, and for an MMO you tack on an additional 20+ combinations for Ctrl #1-0 and Alt #1-0. You may not use all 104 keys, but it can be cumbersome to press combinations. I always hated the Ctrl #1-0 and Alt #1-0 combination for actions as you often used your left hand to press these but also needed your lefty for character movement (WASD).
  • It hones your ability to prioritize actions and unclutters your screen. On the PS4, you have what’s called “Cross Bars”. You have 8 separate bars that hold 16 actions each, with an optional +16. That’s 128 actions (+16). However, you can’t see these all at once nor would you want to fill all your space. You have to press certain combinations of buttons (I.E.: L1 and Triangle) to access each bar. When you’re in a pinch, you want to be able to quickly access those actions most needed. That’s when you begin customizing your bars so that have to press less combinations (using less bars) to access those actions. Controller usage, in this way, forces you to become a quicker more efficient player. PC users have the option of putting nearly every action on screen, but that can become cluttered and inefficient. If you have to glance over extra icons that you rarely use, it may take longer to locate that one that you do!

thumbdown  Cons

  • You have to purchase and attach a separate USB keyboard to chat. It’s a minor con, but a con nonetheless. It’s an extra purchase first off, and can be an annoyance if you choose to game away from a flat surface. When I gamed at my couch in the living room it was a pain to balance it in my lap and type, and then move it off my lap when I wanted to sink into my couch; rinse and repeat. Some people don’t mind this, but if you ever gamed on a PC (desktop) it will drive you nuts.
  • You can’t see/access every action as easily on screen. On PC, you are able to set up bars to put practically every action on screen easily seen and accessed. Simply drag mouse pointer and click. On PS4, you can’t. This requires a bit of memorization on your part as a gamer to remember where you put that certain ability and what combination of buttons access it. It also requires some time put into customization and prioritizing to be as efficient as you can with the room given to you. You may find that you don’t truly know what needs to be where until you’re smack dab in the middle of a hectic battle and need it ASAP. If you’re a healer (*ahem* me) then that can be particularly problematic.
  • You are limited to voice chat with other PS4 users. MMORPG’s are a great way to socialize with other players, and nothing beats voice chatting away while you run amuck. Unfortunately, I think there are more PC users than PS4 users. That means that most players utilize programs like Ventrillo and TeamSpeak to voice chat and thus leave the PS4 users in silence. This isn’t too big of a deal if you’re near a table or desk as you can set up via a laptop or similar device, but if you’re a couch or bed gamer it can become pretty inconvenient.

  

Just to name a few! I honestly enjoyed gaming on PC as well, and I’m not one to take one side over the other. They both have their good and bad points, of course, and it all boils down to a matter of preference over facts. I’m still withholding my judgement until after I am drowning in end-game content.

When I get to that point, I will post a final decision!

I play as Ceren Alstrahl on the Sargatanas server for anyone that’s interested!

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Commas, They’re Important!

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I’m an avid Etsy shopper, for those of you who don’t know.

I found this gem at the Get Your Nerd On shop, and just had to share.

This shop has so many witty prints for geeks/nerds, and if you’re into wall art definitely check it out below.

Use Commas – Poster

Get Your Nerd On – Shop

Here are some of my favorites!

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5 Reasons You Should Be a Potterhead

I’m a twenty-five year old Potterhead. You may or may not know this, but the fact remains. I’m so much of a Potterhead that I reread the series every 3-4 years when I get the itch to. A few days ago, I got that itch and last night I started the first book.

Over the years I’ve spent talking to Harry Potter fans and non-fans alike, I’ve come to realize a few things. For one, people either love it or they don’t want anything to do with it. When I run into folks of the latter variety, I prod. Most responses are, “It’s for kids”, “Too childish”, or they just scoff at it like I should know better, grow up, and move on. (Well, that’s not happening.)

I mention this because my boyfriend was one of those folks. Just the mere mention of the name “Harry Potter” had him shaking his head at me. He thought it was a childish fairy tale of magic, wizards, and unicorns, and that he wouldn’t like it all at. Boy was he wrong.

So we watched (I, rewatched) the Harry Potter movies.  Now, fellow Potterheads, don’t bite my head off. I couldn’t get him to read the books (yet) as he’s a movie buff. The first movie was just a test. When we moved into the second and third, I started to slowly accept that he might actually be enjoying them. Seven movies laters, I had him convinced. He admitted he was wrong and that he actually really liked the story!

Here was someone that dislikes most fantastical things, and he really liked Harry Potter. This made me realize that the impossible is possible, and that there are many wonderful things about this story than just magic and unicorns.

  1. Characters

While the title of this series is, “Harry Potter”, don’t let that fool you into thinking that all you read about is Harry. Harry’s story is at center stage, of course, but his is a story that involves so many characters that you simply can’t and won’t disregard them.

Not only are there many, but they are all of different ages, races, and even species. If you feel as though you won’t be able to relate to the young Harry, you won’t be at a loss. There are as many adult main characters as there are younger ones, and ones in between for that matter. You may very well find that Harry Potter isn’t your favorite character in this series at all!

  1. Story

The story starts out simple, if not magical, enough. As it progresses, however, you are gradually lowered into a story with so much depth and intricacy that your head will be spinning by the end. Harry Potter just doesn’t go off to Hogwarts to learn magic and all is done and well. Trouble is destined to follow him, and it does.

There is certainly never a dull moment, and plenty of high intensity scenes to be found in this story. At the same time, there is a lot of mystery and intrigue. Just as Harry Potter doesn’t understand this new world he’s been thrust into, you don’t either. You learn with him and his closest friends, and it’s that experience that makes you feel as though you are growing with them.

I should also mention that this isn’t the happy-go-lucky story that everyone thinks it is. That seems to be a popular misconception. It doesn’t even particularly start out that way what with a double murder being described in the first few chapters. It isn’t painted with rainbows and glitter, and you’ll find that it progressively gets darker the farther into the series you get.

  1. World

Speaking of depth and intricacy, let’s talk about the world that Harry lives in. The years are 1991-1998, in a world where ordinary non-magical folk (muggles) and magical folk (wizards and witches) live separately. The wizarding world is kept secret from muggles, of course, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t as rich and wonderful as one might imagine it to be. If one is adept at magic, he/she is most likely sent off to a wizarding and witchcraft school. It is here that they learn all there is to know about their world, and it’s not just spells! They learn many different subjects from potions and divination to history and herbology.

After their schooling, they go on to pursue a myriad of occupations available to them. The depth that J.K. Rowling developed when she made this world is no small feat. She left no detail untouched, and it makes it all the more believable.

  1. Love and Loss

If you thought that there couldn’t be anything less sentimental and romantic than the Harry Potter series, think again! This series is full of love and romance in several forms. New love, parental love, first love, friendly love, tragic love; you name it and this series has it! You have so many characters of all different ages all experiencing love in some fashion or another. You have those who’re experiencing it for the first time, and those who’ve been feeling it for decades. There are relationships that develop and end, some that last, and some that you never saw coming!

As for loss, you need only read the first few chapters of the first book to understand that a reoccurring theme within this series is death. It’s not only the precursor to the story, but a part of it as it moves forward. I would definitely suggest that you keep a tissue or two around!

  1. Lessons

I can guarantee that if you read this series, you will end it having felt the important messages left within it. Life and death, power/abuse of power, love, prejudice, freedom, and free choice are deeply entrenched in the whole plot. J.K. Rowling states that she prefers to let themes “grow organically”, rather than sitting down and consciously attempting to impart such ideas to her readers. She doesn’t spell them out for you, but you feel them as you move through the books.

So how about it?

Are you a Potterhead that agrees/disagrees? Were you once apprehensive and now interested?

Please feel free to comment below!

Microsoft to Support “Free” Windows 10 by Charging You for Competitors’ Operating Systems

If you are planning to upgrade to the “free” Windows 10 or own an X-Box with other consoles, please read Level Whimsicality‘s post!

Not all Gamers are Created the Same

We see it all the time. A family with children goes to a public place and the scene is always the same. They walk in, sit down, and almost immediately the parents hand over their smart phones or tablets. Within minutes the kids are engrossed in their favorite games.

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Now I have a lot to say about this type of parenting method, but that’s not what I wanted to discuss. I want to touch on how this may affect the upcoming generation of gamers. Does parents’ habits of handing over their smart phones/tablets shape them into gamers? What sort of gamers are emerging from this?

Let’s start with smart phone/tablet games. They can be as simple as scrabble or as in depth as an RPG, but most kids go for the colorful simplistic games. When it comes to handheld consoles such as the Nintendo DS, PS Vita, ect., there are more complicated games available, but they also remain fairly basic for the sake of kids.

I’ve always said that I would give my children the older consoles to start out. I see so many young kids receiving the latest and greatest for Christmas, and I tend to shake my head at that. I want my children to first game on old school systems at least as far back as N64, if not farther. I want them to experience video games from the beginning, but I also want them learn video games as they evolved like I did.

Retro NES Ad

It actually benefited me to learn video games in that way, and I didn’t realize this until I started playing games with my boyfriend. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that he isn’t much of a gamer. Oh, he’ll definitely pick up a controller to play anything once, but he gravitates toward the old school games that are straightforward. The next generation games, on the other hand, have so much depth they are overwhelming at times. I don’t have the same issue. My skills and understanding of gaming evolved as the games themselves evolved. It’s as if the evolution of gaming guided us gradually into what video games are today, where as his gaming experience has skipped decades of it.

However, now I wonder if I’ve had it all wrong. I want my kids to follow the evolution of gaming so that they wouldn’t be dumped into the depths of next-gen gaming, but what if upcoming generations of gamers are learning this on mobile devices, specifically smart phones/tablets?

I really don’t know why I hadn’t considered this before. My first gaming device was a Gameboy Color. Sure, I used to play on consoles with my brother, but my first true solo play was on the Gameboy. Now look at me! I’ve gamed on console and PC for many years.

We can’t dismiss the popularity or molding skills of handheld consoles, but we as a gaming society are quick to dismiss smart phone/tablet gamers. I think it’s time to acknowledge that they may be a large portion of next generation of gamers!

Renee Giroux-Nix's daughter, Bella, 3, plays games and uses educational apps on her mother's iPhone, in Cedar Park, Texas, Oct. 10, 2010. Just as adults have a hard time putting down their iPhones, so the device is now the Toy of Choice, akin to a treasured stuffed animal, for many 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds, a phenomenon that is attracting the attention and concern of some childhood development specialists. (Ben Sklar/The New York Times) -- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE OCT. 17, 2010.

There is an epidemic of children constantly playing games on tablets and smartphones when their parents don’t want to deal with them in public places and otherwise. In no way do I agree or wish to promote this! Video gaming is a fun and rewarding pass time that should be done in moderation and with breaks, especially when involving children.

Happy Gaming!

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