Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Great Escape

Hello again and happy New Year!
This is how Mayans thought 2013 would look!

I must apologize to all my friends, family and fans who have patiently been awaiting a new article since my TOP Ten countdown ended in August. I started this project in February, challenging myself to see if I could keep it going for a year straight and hopefully beyond. I failed this challenge and I failed any of you out there who consider yourselves TOP Gaming readers and fans. I am deeply sorry, and I hope once I explain briefly where I’ve been you can come to forgive me and we can push on into 2013 together. I’m looking forward for a fresh start to a new year as 2012 ended up being the worst year in my entire life due to personal tragedy.

Mid-August a woman very dear to me who helped raise me alongside my own parents as one of her own children passed away somewhat prematurely and unexpectedly. She had lived a good life full of love and kindness and warmth but naturally I was sad that she was gone. I took some time off from writing to grieve and to go home to attend services. At that same time my third child and second son was born and although I was sad, he brought me great joy and happiness. He was happy and healthy for five weeks and then one unsuspecting evening my wife found him in our bedroom where he had been napping. His heart had stopped; he wasn't breathing. Although he was healthy as far as modern science can ascertain, he simply closed his eyes that night and did not open them again. I’m sure anyone can imagine, this destroyed the rest of the year for me. It’s only months later that I’m able to function again, reading and writing and speaking of his life and death openly. 

I do not wish to welcome the good, new year bringing all you wonderful people of the internet down into a depression. I simply felt I owed an apology, an explanation and a window into my life and my mindset as I push forward into 2013. My wife and I are coping. My two other children are too young to be too deeply impacted by their loss, thankfully. They are happy and they had a wonderful Christmas. Though my life and my spirit (if you will) have been altered forever, I am settling into what I consider the “new normal” and hopefully I can include blogging once again in my new routine. I felt New Year’s Day was the perfect time to get the ball rolling again. Although it's only symbolic, I am looking forward to starting a new year and leaving 2012 behind me.

This is where we live now!
My wife built us this mansion.

I wanted to take a moment to thank “video games” in general. As I’m sure many other gamers around the world can relate, gaming is an effective way to take your mind off the real world temporarily. While Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, I have video games. It’s safe to say that I have immersed myself fully and unconditionally into gaming like never before because when I am fully integrated into a fake world, the real one gets put on a back burner. I’m extremely excited to tell you all about the wonderful games I’ve played in the last four months, but I’ve played so many that I can only begin to list them here and perhaps break them down for you all sometime in the near future. So consider the following a big “Thank you!” to all the games (and their creators) that helped me get through the final months of 2012. 

Games I Owe a Great Service

Watch out for raptors!
Tokyo Jungle is a truly quirky game. The basic premise is that humanity has simply disappeared and the Earth is re-inherited by beasts large and small. You may play either a carnivore or an herbivore in an attempt to survive in this new age. You start small and work your way up to larger and more powerful animals. You must eat, breed and avoid larger predators as you try to survive on the streets of Tokyo. Successes in survival mode unlock chapters in the story mode. Eventually you discover what happened to humanity and why animals rule the roost.
Equivalent exchange!
Faithful readers may recall that I played through Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale a few months ago. I thought of that as a cheap, trial run to gauge whether or not I’d like an “Atelier” game. As it turns out, I like it very much. Somehow running a fantasy item shop, or alchemy shop in this instance, is extremely fun for me.The characters of this game are cute and endearing and the gameplay is very fun, but the game does lack a depth of story. There is no plot twist. You simply scramble to keep an Alchemy Shop running under threat of closure from the government.

The Mighty Kingdom of Wales!
Crusader Kings II is like turning middle-ages Europe into a riveting historical drama akin to A Game of Thrones (without dragons). You select a nobleman and try to gain titles, prestige, land, and power all while trying to avoid assassination and weakening your family. Your primary focus is to keep your bloodline alive and thriving through a quasi-historically accurate rendition of Europe at the time. I haven't personally ventured outside of Great Britain and Ireland yet, but I have been crowned King of both Ireland and Wales in two separate games.

Nether Pyramid!
A friend of mine had been peer pressuring me to join him in Minecraft for some time. I had a blast playing Terraria so I knew some aspects of Minecraft would appeal to me. I turned to the man who convinced me to play Terraria to see if I’d like Minecraft and as it turns out I do. I now play on a server with my wife and our mutual friend. We’ve built several small homes, a mansion and a Nether base of operations. Current projects include an arena for PVP and grinding out experience on monster spawns and a fully automated farm and ranch for all our food needs.

You die a lot.
FTL is an amazing game. I don’t know how to express how much I adore it. You assume the role of captain and crew of a starship. Each playthrough of the game randomly generates a new star chart for you to explore and draws from a wealth of events to randomly trigger at each destination. The events have varying options depending on crew, systems and weapon capabilities meaning each time you arrive at an event there may be new options for you to explore. The meat of the game is the combat which relies on skill, timing and rerouting your crew and power to various systems. 

  • Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2
I don't remember their names even.
I had no interest in either of these games until a week before they were released. I realized they would be a perfect world to sink into with my wife and just play. I was right and it kept our attention for a while. Looking back on it, I don't remember much. I don't remember much about Pokémon Black, either. For some reason these titles of Pokémon are just glossed over in my memory. I did have fun and I beat the Elite Four, but after that I think I just walked away. I wanted to get into the Tournaments and face off against other region's Gym Leaders, but I fear I never decided on a dedicated team to do so.

I also owe a shout out to internet personality, RenDog, whose “Let’s Play Minecraft” series has helped me get through each and every day. His zest for playing games and optimism about everything is a great comfort to those of us watching and dealing with our own problems. Even through his own personal tragedies this year he continued to post videos on YouTube and let us into his life and world. It was inspirational, honestly, and I understand firsthand how hard it can be to not only push through your grief for the sake of your fans, but also include them in your life. I believe I’ve linked to him before and perhaps I’ll write a full article about his channel in the future, but for now I’ll leave you with a link to his YouTube Channel. I have to warn you to start any of his series from the beginning or you’ll be constantly threatened to have him shove video game objects up your butt-hole. You have been warned.

Thank you, RenDog, and I’m looking forward to all your videos in 2013.


Related Links
ReNDog's YouTube Channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/rendog

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