Adventure Map | The Characters That Define Us

This. Is. Big.
Like really big. 

The Characters That Define Us is a monolithic collaborative project involving more than 50 accomplished bloggers across the internet.

I couldn’t be more proud to call these fine writers my blogging family. Thank you all for helping make this epic writing project across the timeline of video game characters a reality.

By coming here, you’ve chosen to embark on an ambitious journey, serving as a conduit for deep introspective analysis. We have got a truly mammoth all-star cast of bloggers here, and there is no doubt in my mind that we’ve creating something awesome!

This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video game characters exist as companions on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the individual who we feel most defines us.

This is a complete audiovisual experience, filled with graphics, music, and plenty of nostalgia. Please enjoy each piece, and let us know via comments or social media how these characters make an impact on your life.

This adventure map will serve as a guide through each day’s pieces – a table of contents, if you will. We recommend reading each post in order, as they are arranged by style and publication date. However, feel free to dive right in to your favorite games. With these incredible bloggers, you simply cannot go wrong no matter where you start. And with that, let us begin The Characters That Define Us!


Yuna | A Geeky Gal

We grew. We learned and overcame our circumstances. We managed to keep being true to ourselves while becoming stronger and putting ourselves first for the first time ever.

Mar 29


Roger Wilco | Musings of a Nitpicking Girl

Thank goodness for heatwaves.

Mar 30


Master Chief | Hear Dave Write

Or: How Mike died (repeatedly) from dysentery.

Apr 27


Peter Parker | The Reel Anna

Having access to the news and the internet is often a great benefit, but it can be overwhelming when we see how many people are hurting and in need of help all across the world.

Apr 28


Claire “Lightning” Farron | Livid Lightning

Regardless of what’s happening around you, the battle for a better tomorrow is always fought inside of your own soul. Thanks to Lightning Farron, I’ll never be hopelessly alone with my battle again.

Apr 29


Player One | Mr Backlog

In 1983, video game characters tended to have one, very important thing in common – there weren’t any. You see, the hero was you.

Apr 30


Barbarian “Barbie” Link | Wintendo 64

Barbarian Link defines me by serving as a reminder that my best is enough. Even if I’ve done better before or could do better in the future.


Alternate Shauna | HideNGoShauna

Upon reflection, I discovered that even the fictional narratives that I’ve taken up in an alternate form of self in video games has contributed to my personal narratives in positive ways.


Ratchet | Shooting for the Stars

I didn’t realise Ratchet is the embodiment of my personality and my mannerisms and I didn’t know how much he made an impact on my life until I write about him. Thanks to the Ratchet & Clank series, it taught me what it means to be a friend.


Leia Organa | Nerd Side of Life

We need characters like Leia to look up to because she shows you that you can be more.


Barsen’thor | Krysanthe

I am the warden of my own order. I call it my family. Everyday I make choices that affect their lives.


Luigi | Rachel from Double Jump

Luigi has always been there when I was afraid or lonely.


Mae Boroski | A Geek Girl’s Guide

I saw so much of myself in Mae, with what she was experiencing and feeling, and it was enlightening to see that in a video game.


Miles Edgeworth | Kris from Double Jump

The path may be twistier than you originally pictured it would be, but you’ll get there.


Stanley | Michael Merlino

This is the story of a man named Michael.


Herobrine | Alex Sigsworth

Who is Herobrine? Well, it’s complicated. You see, there is no such character as Herobrine. He was never in the game.


Sylvanas Windrunner | Ruubin from My Life as a Quest

Which characteristic is more important to you: loyalty or honesty?


Jaina Proudmoore | Heather from Just Geeking By

What could I possibly have in common with the blue-eyed perfect blonde mage? As it turned out, quite a lot.


Lara Croft | NekoJonez

Without Lara Croft, there wouldn’t be a NekoJonez today. The Tomb Raider franchise has been quite important in my life.


Tifa Lockhart | Mystic Nerd

Oh yeah, she’s definitely a pure badass with some of the strongest attacks and power-ups in the game. But unlike other female fighters in games, she has a beautiful heart.


Aloy | The Gaming Diaries

Having the courage, confidence and self-belief to go out into the world, and into the sacred land, and do whatever needs done even if it is terrifying is inspiring.


Nahyuta Sahdmadhi | Ian from Adventure Rules

To let go without moving on is to give up – to move on without letting go is to live in resignation and disappointment.


Ryo Hazuki | Murr from Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat

Thanks, Ryo, for making my first serious proper job be as fun as you’d made me believe it was in Shenmue.


Nepgear | Pete from MoeGamer

When times get tough and the very way my brain works threatens to overwhelm me, I think of Nepgear.


Jin Kazama | Triform Trinity

That while we all have our demons within, it is possible to fight to overcome them.


Sephiroth | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

Even though I’ve grown more nihilistic in my old age, I don’t let my cynicism become a silencing factor to the idealism of youth.


Cait Sith | The Well-Red Mage

No wonder I’m a cat person.


Reyn | Shoot the Rookie

He is resolutely and unashamedly himself at all times, and that is how I want to be.


Shulk & Rex | Lodestar_Valor

If Shulk were an IRL friend of mine, he wouldn’t stop short of getting between me and my problem, and not getting out of the way until I learn to move on.


Lilith | Midnight Mountain

Everything I was told my whole life seemed to crash down before my feet. I, on a much smaller scale, was like Lilith in that moment.


Dixie Kong | Max, The Wandering Mage

She introduced me to a world that broke what I thought were the rules. We did not have to be the damsels in distress. Peach could save Mario. Zelda could fight back against Ganon. I could save myself and others.


Coco Bandicoot | Melody from Ficcaholic

When I was working out the differences between boys and girls, Coco came along and proved that girls could be good with computers.


Samantha Traynor | AmbiGaming

She was like a breath of fresh air, not only reflecting my own traits back at me, but also reflecting back traits that I aspire to have, or to develop further.


Vivi | Hungrygoriya

His story is sweet and sad, and completely relatable for someone like me that that feels the throbbing void that mortality leaves in its wake on a daily basis.


Geralt of Rivia | Winst0lf

He’s an absolute unit, and that is why he is definitely the best video game protagonist of all time, even better than that silent scientist bloke or even the dude that glides about firing magical arrows at octopus-ish spider robots


Murray | Later Levels

Everyone has it in them to be a powerful evil force and a harbinger of doom, regardless of who and what they are.


Commander Shepard | Geek. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat

I’m the one who controls what he says, who he treats badly and who he helps. As a result he becomes a character that is almost unique to everyone that plays the game.


Skull Kid | Meghan Plays Games

Skull Kid brings to life things that only exist in nebulous thought. And it all started with a mischievous, nameless little imp.


Kratos | Daniel from Epic Drop

Maybe it is defending Kratos that drew me closer to him, maybe it is the anger we both had trouble controlling, or maybe it was the fact that both of us are bald.


Hanzo Shimada | DL McGowan from Lost in Reverie

Hanzo is the epitome of self-loathing, falling into a dark mental space following all the ugliness with his brother and family. Despite that, though, he never stops trying to find redemption and overcome himself.


Red | Andrew Turnwall

Maybe this essay isn’t all about Red. It’s about the world he helped create. About the safe harbor he helped me find.


Magikarp & Gyarados | Brink of Gaming

To me, Gyarados is a model of perseverance and determination: something I’ve had to work at regularly in my own life, as well.


Olgierd von Everec | Alex from McWritestuff

Is he the villain of the story or a tragic anti-hero? Olgierd is nothing more than the janitor of our own hearts. Our hearts of stone.


James/Dad | Phil from Later Levels

Who wouldn’t want him for a dad?


Knuckles | Justin from TWOTALL4UFOOL

Would I be my own man/person or would I just follow the crowd? My mom never wanted me to be a follower.


Tails | Matt from 3PStart

Would I be my own man/person or would I just follow the crowd? My mom never wanted me to be a follower.


Sonic | Ryan from Games With Coffee

I’m gonna find my own way, and take a chance on today.


Edgar Roni Figaro | J.R. from Kith & Kin

Much like Edgar’s world, mine changed as well, but not for the worse. This facilitated a change in me, one that is still going on to this day.


Regina | Pixie Poison

While her discipline and composure is stronger than most, she is still unabashedly normal.


Kreia | DeiSphia

As a mentor Kreia often challenges the players actions, positing alternative solutions to the ones the player has chosen.


Sora | Nana Marfo

Sora sticks out as one of the most positive characters in video game history, and this magic makes special to many.


Roxas | Chris Durston

I’m not gonna be defined by Roxas, or by anyone other than me.


MJ | Nikki (Normal Happenings)

If I would’ve had this version of MJ as a kid, I would have wanted to be her instead of Spider-Man, and that is why she is such an important character to me.


One more remains…

Cait Sith: The Character That Defines The Well-Red Mage

AUDIO

We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.


INTRODUCTION

Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!

When The Well-Red Mage comes to town for a collab contribution, it’s always a special occasion. Today is that day! In case you’ve been living under a rock, Red runs the coolest blog on the block, filled with contributions from many mages, upon which I count myself as one.

Back in March he organized the largest Mario collaboration ever made, the Super Mario Multiverse collaboration! The number of participants dwarfs even The Characters That Define Us, and I was proud to be a part of the festivities.

Also, some have spread wild speculation that Red and I may be plotting something up after Normal Happenings wraps up. What a strange notion…

Please, enjoy today’s piece from a fantastic blogger. Red, take it away!


1P START

“Something bothers me. I think it’s your way of life. You don’t get paid. You don’t get praised. Yet, you still risk your lives and continue on your journey. Seeing that makes me… it just makes me think about my life.”
-Reeve Tuesti

You never forget your first.

For some, that was Atari or C64. For others it was the NES or Genesis. Mario or Sonic. Still for others it was a Call of Duty, a Game Boy, or the floss, these entry-level experiences, and I mean that with zero ill will toward the phrase. Why be ashamed of the very things that were simple and accessible enough to welcome us into gaming with open arms? Just because we’ve “outgrown” some of these games (we cling to adultishness as if “adult” meant “quality”) doesn’t mean they weren’t there for us in our past. How could we have come inside in the first place without the door?

Final Fantasy VII is a game which some folks might be tired of hearing about, but the flat fact of the matter is that it represented a gateway for many young players into the world of RPGs. As we near the release of its remake, a new generation has the opportunity to be welcomed in themselves, just like many of us were in 1997.

I wasn’t a part of that group in ‘97, but I respect what FFVII did for people, and what it will do next year all over again.

In the mid ‘90s, I was already engrossed by RPGs. JRPGs, to be precise. Breath of Fire and Breath of Fire II, EarthBound, Final Fantasy IV and VI, Final Fantasy Adventure and Legend and Pokémon Red/Blue, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, and of course Chrono Trigger were my bread and butter. With the PS1 came Final Fantasy Tactics, Grandia, Legend of Dragoon, Vagrant Story, Chrono Cross, Breath of Fire III and IV, and Xenogears

Sometimes I wonder why I liked RPGs so much. They weren’t my first. Neither Chrono Trigger nor Final Fantasy VII were my first. Yet at the time all I wanted was longer and longer games, with tons of random battles, dialogue to chew through, equipment, treasures, and experience points. Something’s changed in me since then: maybe it’s the amount of time I have now for gaming. I have access to more games than ever but I find myself gravitating to shorter and more manageable experiences. Ah well. That’s what nostalgia writing like this is for.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

My then healthy and robust affection for RPGs only deepened with the advent of the PS1. And at the center of this new three-dimensional universe of role-playing games sat the emperor of them all, Final Fantasy VII.

At school, friends and I discussed the game, critics in miniature heatedly debating Aeris vs Tifa, how to get a Gold Chocobo fastest, secret summon materia, and all sorts of hoaxes making their rounds, as well as the social-cultural ramifications of a game which seemed to be in the home of every kid I knew at the time. I spent time at school sketching characters like Sephiroth and Cloud, or custom characters resembling them, on the backs of my math sheets or on the insides of my desk where the skin-headed bully who sat across from me couldn’t see them. After school, I scrawled between sums and word problems: the Buster Sword, the Highwind, the cast, the cities, the scenes, each neatly copied from the pages of my Brady Games strategy guide, all while the first soundtrack I ever purchased pumped “Anxious Heart” and “Cosmo Canyon” into my ears.

Squaresoft’s ecological epic had etched itself into my consciousness, and then deeper into obsession. Few games had bitten me so hard. The world of FFVII seemed alive to me, a refuge I didn’t know I needed from difficult family splits and the oppressive heat of the tropics. My endless summers were spent at the beach at day catching whatever I could for dinner, and in my room at night, lit by the cheesy blue Christmas lights I left strung up to pretend they were black lights while I suffered and triumphed alongside Cloud Strife, Ex-SOLDIER, for the umpteenth time.

But for all the incredible characters that FFVII featured, my favorite was not shared by my classmates. Sephiroth and Cloud had many enamored fans. Tifa was of course a furtive favorite among many a schoolboy I knew. Aeris had her own dedicated club, mostly girls, as I recall. Red XIII and Cid were popular with older kids. Even Vincent was there for the classmates that wore black and didn’t look you in the eye.

My favorite was Cait Sith, named after a Celtic feline spook.

Why?

Cait Sith doesn’t get as much spotlight as the other characters. He’s an oddball, a goof, his official description uses the word “dopey”, and the way that he forces himself into the party seemingly without reason makes him seem somewhat irrelevant. He was a mechanical black cat with a gilded diadem and a crimson cape, who used a megaphone as a weapon (somehow), and he rode astride his faithful steed: an oversized moogle brought magically to life that looked constantly at the ready for fisticuffs.

What?

These were actually the reasons why I loved the character. I really can’t wait to see what he’ll look like in the eventual remake (if they include him at all)!

The developers of FFVII were so sloppy… you can totally see the zipper on this thing!

I loved that he was non-human. I loved that he was a cat. I loved that he was a fortune-telling machine. And as I played the game (spoilers), I loved that he was secretly controlled by a member of Shinra named Reeve. Robots, more than ninja or pirates, were near and dear to my heart growing up, and discovering that this adorable, awkward cat character was a spy robot bumped him way up my list.

I learned that Cait Sith had some ulterior motives for joining the party. It’s not that he wanted to see the fortune be told, really. He needed to keep tabs. Nobody knew that he was Judas, the traitor, the wolf in cat and moogle clothing. He later betrays the heroes of the story by stealing their keystone to the Temple of the Ancients and taking Barret’s adopted daughter Marlene hostage (this is when I stopped using him in my party for a bit).

Cait Sith’s story doesn’t end there, though. You’d think, given his cartoonish appearance and apparent irrelevance to the plot upon recruitment, that he wouldn’t get much development in the game. But he does. The thief and the kidnapper later helps Tifa and Barret escape from Shinra in Junon. He even turns on his heel and spies on Shinra, providing information crucial to the team.

“But he’s just a robot”, I hear you say, naysayer.

That’s true, but behind Cait Sith is a man. As the man controls the machine of the cat, so too the cat’s destiny controls the man, and the vulnerable Reeve eventually has his cover blown. It is Reeve, not an algorithm but a human heart who plays Benedict Arnold one last time and betrays Shinra, bites the hand that feeds him. It’s Reeve who in Cait Sith goes to fight Sephiroth at the conclusion of the narrative. In doing so, Reeve turns his back on his future, his career, his peers, and his financial well-being, all for AVALANCHE, the group he was meant to harm.

It’s this working “real hard” that gives the character his redemption: his willingness to make up for or resolve past mistakes, rather than simply feel sorry for his piteousness. That’s exemplary.

I know I have a stuffed animal body, but I’ll work really hard!

Cait Sith represents a mind at conflict, albeit one whose story unfolds partly off-screen. Despite the fact that he is a fortune-telling plushie with a megaphone riding a fat moogle, he is also one of the most human characters in the game: flawed, at odds with himself, daring in the face of tremendous consequences, willing to atone. Certainly, he is less sure of himself than Aeris, less dedicated than Barret, less pure-hearted than Tifa, less loyal than Nanaki, yet less confused about who he is than Cloud. He’s sneakier than all of them. He is a character who knows his part and plays it deliberately, but also knows when it’s time to switch sides when his private denouement arrives.

Cait Sith reminds me of other interesting characters who stand out in their respective, redemptive stories: Sydney Carton deceiving everyone to do something “far greater” by swapping places with a condemned man rather than waste his life away in a bottle; Jean Valjean suffered immensely and couldn’t escape his past, yet he set aside his own life to pour into another’s; Edmund Pevensie chose Turkish Delight and a wintry witch over his own brother and sisters but turned to fight against that great evil in the end; Ebenezer Scrooge learned charity and true happiness through confronting his own hideousness at the hands of apparitions; Darth Vader rebels against the tyranny of his emperor for the life of his son; even Cecil Harvey, to stick within the context of the same series of games, shed the shadowy mantle of the dark knight and took up the role of the paladin. I mentioned Judas earlier, the infamous kissing traitor, but Cait Sith is more the Peter of the story, the one that denied the Christ but was later forgiven, whereas Judas went out in despair and hung himself, barring all chance of absolution.

When skillfully told, the redemption story is a powerful one.

It is, at least to me, something of great interest because I think that characters resonate the more human they are, that is, the more real they are. Literature has been around long enough, or storytelling itself certainly has, that our civilizations have developed methods for scrutinizing and studying literature, and we understand that character development is crucial whereas underdeveloped characters risk harming the narrative they are embedded in. Even worse! A character that’s two-dimensional, a cardboard cutout, a stereotype, a mere cliché, fails the reality and the complexity of what it means to be human so much that such a cast member can bring the whole story down, if they’re central enough. Those sorts of characters aren’t enough like us, aren’t enough like me; they pale in comparison to individual human value and depth.

Creating real characters involves creating human characters, roles which have nuance, internal conflict and confusion, and actual flaws. This affords them things which they need to overcome. Now, you may not like Final Fantasy VII, but from a purely narrative standpoint, Cloud is a more effective protagonist (literately) than the Warrior of Light from the first Final Fantasy. Why is that? Because Cloud grows, learns, adapts through all the personality glitches his creators infused him with: arrogance, uncertainty, rudeness, idol worship. The Warrior of Light didn’t even have much of a personality.

It’s perhaps most natural that we gravitate toward the characters that are most like ourselves, or as we’d like ourselves to be. I’ve reached an age where I play Final Fantasy VII and recognize my youth in Cloud Strife, but my history of mistakes in Cait Sith. I’ve made enough real flubs to feed a regret that keeps me up at night, if I let it. I regret treating people in the past the way that I did, with all of the conceit and self-obsessions of Cloud. But what Cait Sith teaches me is that these mistakes and these regrets don’t need to dominate my life. They don’t define me. Because redemption, atonement, absolution, justification are real things anyone can experience. That defines me, and that’s the story of Cait Sith.

In the end, Reeve controlled the cat. Whatever apparatus he used to communicate with AVALANCHE through Cait Sith at such distances represents potentiality, one of humanity’s greatest gifts: the hope of change. From villain to victor. With a button or a lever or a long-distance walkie-talkie, he could stand beside the heroes of the tale and save the Planet, even after betraying them.

You never forget your first. Cait Sith’s might have been one of the first redemption stories I really got my head around and recognized. I think he’s a wonderful character, despite appearances. He might seem worthless but there’s some real depth there.

There’s plenty of stuffed toys like my body around, but there’s only one me! Don’t forget me, even if another Cait Sith comes along.”

After all, you wanna talk permadeath in FFVII? Nobody remembers when Cait Sith gave his life for his friends, just like Aeris. Why does she get all the credit? Where are the tears for the noble cat-creature that set aside his own artificial existence for Cloud and company?

No wonder I’m a cat person.

-Red


quests

Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*

Tracking Shells: Our Mario Kart Memories

3… 2… 1… GO!

TRACKING
SHELLS

Our Mario Kart Memories
From Around the Mushroom Kingdom
And Beyond

Mario Kart has touched so many of our lives. In this collab, we explore twenty stories of how racing around the Mushroom Kingdom has made our lives just a little more fun!

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Better with audio!

Mixed with all the frenetic action, Mario Kart mixes in some of the chillest, jazziest jams in all of video games. Hit that play button, and feel free to stay a while and brighten up your day long after you finish reading.

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Each post contains links to the blogs of the incredible authors of their respective pieces. Please support their work by following/bookmarking them. 

WordPress Reader audience, while we designed with you in mind, the nature of the platform removes some of the functionality of the design. Consider enjoying this work in its pure form on the site.

We recommend you start from the beginning, but you can click each link to jump to your favorite locations if you prefer. The order is meant to mimic the flow of a Mario Kart game. It is thematic, not a representation of quality. In short, they’re all great and worthy of your time! Continue reading

Stardew Valley | The Game That (Re)Defines Me

<< Previous | Adventure Map >>

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Audio

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

We’ve been looking to the past with most of these pieces. Sure, we’ve looked at how these games connect to the present, but with the possible exception of wonderful pieces on modern games like Will’s DayZ rumination or Alyssa’s Sims 4 recollection, most of the pieces for this look to the past for insights on the present. As the sites transitions back to normal Normal Happenings (not a typo), I wanted to look at the one game in my library that I can use to look to the future. It’s a relatively recent game – one with personality, distinction, and insights on life.

It is the one, the only…


Game: Stardew Valley
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 6, 2016


1P Start

What would be the best use of my time?
It was a common refrain in the Valley, until one day something fascinating happened. I started asking myself this question in real life, and it changed everything.

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Irrepressible optimism. That’s not the kind of thing I’ve always had to the degree required to fuel my motivation for life. In fact, much of my brooding in the past reflected disenchantment and cynicism. Irrepressible optimism is a learned skill. I’m going to be quite honest, to live life in a consistently positive manner presents a huge number of challenges, especially in a world so seemingly unbalanced in favor of negativity.

What I mean is that the consequences of negative events seem to far outweigh the fleeting effects of sanguine happenings. If there is balance to be found, it is in the possibility that negative events happen far less frequently than positive ones, but it is difficult to convince a person experiencing a mountain of very costly, very adult situations of this notion.

It seems assured, then, that the world is indeed a negative place filled with suffering to some extent or another. And yet, despite appearances, I’m an irrepressible optimist. Seeking this buoyant type of life has lead to more fulfillment than I’ve ever experienced, but I require tools to maintain that optimism. I’ve tried my best to build around me a fortress of positivity — relationships, education, and media all conducive towards making a dark world a little brighter. 

There are plenty of games that resonate with me on an emotional level, from the classic adventures of puff-balling my way across Dreamland in Kirby’s Adventure to the modern cinematic characterization of Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn. We see fingerprints like this all over this collaboration. There is not a single entry in this collection in which a person actively hated the game that defined them. That’s because sometimes a beautiful symbiosis occurs when you love a game — that title begins to integrate itself into your life as part of your identity.

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Stardew Valley is one of those engines for me. It’s no secret I absolutely adore the game, but it means so much more to me than an escapist romp through a farm town. The game has become an integral part of my experience as a human being.

Love in the Hard Times

I think one of the biggest reasons Stardew Valley is so important to me was completely out of the developer’s hands. Timing is everything, and the game landed on the Switch for me at just the right time. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. However, traditionally this cliche evokes images of two people discovering how frustrating it is to live with each other constantly. Not so with us — Nikki and I had almost a decade of dating experience backing us up, so we were pretty well-prepared for what to expect.

No, what confronted us was far more insidious than simple situational adaptation. The Dark Cloud of mental illness cannot be defeated by swords and shields, and we both carried with us a storm of family, cultural, and religious trauma. I believe mental illness is the true final boss of life, and Stardew Valley arrived deep into our protracted conflict with the Dark Cloud.

As many others have expressed, video games provide an adequate refuge from dealing with the constant pressure of real life. Though in the past I worried that using video games as a form of escapism would lead to addiction, that never happened with me. Instead, I simply began to look forward to my short daily commutes into the Valley. Rain or shine, they awarded me an opportunity to alleviate the challenges of real life and offered a glimpse into a future free from this mess. When struggling in a mental capacity, there can be nothing healthier than a little escapism.

Every Day an Opportunity

In Stardew Valley, you’re offered a choice, even if you’re not making them on a conscious level. The halcyon days go by quickly in the Valley, simulating the perception of time as aging sets in if left uncontrolled. As in real life, there is no way you can get everything you need to done in a day.

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It’s raining in the fall, so I can go explore the mines without fear of losing my harvest. It’s sunny in the spring, so I should harvest some salmonberries! Snow has blanked the ground in winter, so I should try to find some artifacts for the museum.

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What would be the best use of my time?

It was a common refrain in the Valley, until one day something fascinating happened. I started asking myself this question in real life, and it changed everything. You’ve probably seen this blog transcend from periodic posts to routine (hopefully high-quality) content. It happened in other aspects of my life too, but I credit my time in Stardew Valley for this paradigm shift. I am hoping it can help me conquer my fitness goals heading into 2019.

The Future is Beautiful

While it may seem cursory due to existing as a video game, the choices you make in the Valley uniquely impact the future. Every decision made has a butterfly effect, impacting life in unforeseen ways.

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I used to be scared of the future, envisioning scenarios in which catastrophe could spirit us away from the life we’ve dreamed. I used to be terrified of death, but even that doesn’t cause incapacitating dread as it used to. I am here to make the most of my time — to live and love, and to try impact the present and the future for the better. I am, after all, an irrepressible optimist, and the future is full of beautiful choices. Let’s make it all it was meant to be.

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This is, umm, not a baby announcement. It’s just a good example of future choices.

If Sonic the Hedgehog 2 defined my childhood, Stardew Valley defines my adulthood. Sonic 2 is the game that defines me. Stardew Valley is the game that redefines me.

Future Collaborations

Many of you have been asking about future collaborations on Normal Happenings.

Going forward, I plan to facilitate four collaborations per year. Big, month-long, epic ones like this are hard (but very enjoyable) work, so I only plan to do two per year. One will be in the summer, the other in the winter. I already have an idea of what the winter collab next year will look like, but as of now summer is completely up in the air.

In the in-between, spring and fall, I will be putting on mini-collaborations, similarly formatted to Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! If you want an idea of what to expect, that’s currently your go-to publication. I call the collaborations “mini,” but they’ll consist of ten to twenty pieces, weaved together into a one-post grand experience.

I intend to revel the identity Spring 2019 collaboration on New Years Day — January 1, 2019. Past contributors will get first dibs, but I definitely intend to reserve at least four or five slots specifically for newcomers.

What Happens Next?

Next, I’m taking a break… just for about a week or so. I just want to unplug and normalize after posting for 35 days straight. Doing so will refuel my creativity in the long run. I’ve got a drafts folder full of great ideas for posts, as I haven’t been able to craft any “normal” pieces for quite some time.

I’ll still be on Twitter, albeit probably a bit less than I have been for the past two months. I’ve got a collection of Daily Inklings scheduled to post as well, so this place will still be plenty active. I intend to be back in action on Monday December 17 with an important update post on Dysontopia and the Normal Happenings Patreon, so stay tuned for that.

And on that hopeful note, we’ve reached the conclusion of the most epic thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of facilitating. I want to thank all of you by name:

Thank you Megan, Ian, GG, Kim, Jan, KT, Moses, Victor, Shauna, Heather, Alyssa, Luke, Justin, Chris, Pix1001, Will, Murr, The Gaming Diaries, Amanda, Alex, Ruubin, Khinjarsi, Matt, Kathy, Mr. Backlog, Michael, Ellen, Ryan, Zerathulu, Imtiaz, Teri Mae, Skylar-Mei, and my beautiful wife Nikki for making this all possible! You all have done more than I ever dreamed.

And of course, thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read our thoughts. Always remember that you are awesome!

And The Credits Roll…


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form.

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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World of Warcraft | The Game That Defines Just Geeking By

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Going into this, I had two World of Warcraft mixes that were so good I couldn’t choose between them. Luckily, I also has two posts on the game — experience the incredible atmosphere of Azeroth.

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

It’s time for the grand finale of Warcraft Weekend, even if it’s technically a Monday! Our writer today referred to it as a Warcraft Bank Holiday, and I like that metaphor. Speaking of which, taking us to the finish line is the wonderful Heather from Just Geeking By! One of the most charismatic bloggers of the group, she is part of an incredible amount of blogging communities and is a genuine force for doing good. She’s an incredibly creative individual, so you should be sure to experience Just Geeking By for yourself after reading this piece. It’s hard to know where to start, but I would use her recent Geeking By in October post as a good launching point!

We couldn’t ask for a better final piece to Warcraft Weekend. We know you’ll enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

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Heather @ Just Geeking By

Twitter: @JustGeekingBy

For the button-smashers…

Game: World of Warcraft
System: PC
Release Date: November 23, 2004

1P Start

World of Warcraft has seen me from a nervous early 20-something student through to my mid-30’s, and I would definitely attribute it to some of my personal growth. There were tears shed, arguments had, and there were also skills learned and confidence gained along the way.

There was once a little girl that fell in love with the Sonic the Hedgehog animated TV show. At the same time, video games were just beginning to become a household item, with every little boy (and some girls) begging their parents for a Sega Mega Drive. Her cousin would get one first, and surrounded by a bunch of boys, she would try so so hard to keep up — to learn all the key combinations for the fighter games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat that they loved so much. Occasionally she would get to pick her choice, Bomberman, and she would get a chance to feel that incredible delight mixed with frustration as she chased things around on screen trying to win a level.

Inevitably she could never keep up with the boys. She was a button-smasher, she was told. She was not a gamer. She asked her parents for her own Mega Drive and spent a few hours trying to beat the first level of Sonic the Hedgehog. But her confidence was already crippled by then. She wasn’t a gamer. It just wasn’t her thing.

That little girl was me. I spent many years after that convinced that games weren’t for me. I would dabble in a few casual games; we had a fish game that came free with one PC, I could ace the quiz in Encarta and frequently did so, and any little games in DK encyclopaedia CDs I lapped up. When the internet came along and Neopets was created I was a fast fan, becoming a daily player that loved the little games. Those I could play, but I wasn’t a gamer. Not a real one.

I was always acutely aware of this, especially when I started dating a gamer. He tried to get me into games and like many things, he did that wrong. He started me off with his favourite game, Natural Selection. A first person shooter in teams, and while that was something I worked up to in my own time many years later, it was the worst thing to start me on. Deflated, I was ready to give up, and then something happened.

 

 

 

 

 

I still get a chill watching that cinematic. Everyone was talking about it. This new game coming out, and little me the non-gamer had no idea at the time how huge this game was or what it would mean for me personally. That game was World of Warcraft, and it is the game that would define me.

The Start of Something Life-Changing

At first, I had hardly any interest in it. What did I care? It was just another game. I’d watch my then boyfriend play a few games like Half Life 2 and, okay, they were interesting, but since I couldn’t play them they weren’t really anything important. He needed to use my PC to play it at first, so I caught glimpses of him playing it and bit-by-bit I was watching more. The first thing that caught my attention was how beautiful it was; the world was incredible, the creatures were fantastic and the characters looked amazing. I fell in love with the elves and the druids instantly. And then I watched him fighting a random mob, just doing an ordinary quest like you do. As I said, my introduction into video games had been somewhat lacking, and at this point I had no idea that there were so many varieties of fighting styles out there. The idea of turn-based combat, for example, was an entirely foreign concept to me. Here I was watching a fight where you could push buttons and there were cooldowns on abilities! You didn’t need to be fast and know all those fancy pants key combinations because the cooldowns physically stopped you from doing that! I still remember that moment so clearly. It was a moment of clarity, a realisation that I could actually play games. All those amazing beautiful worlds and moving stories that I’d seen and heard about – I could be a part of at last.

I had a character on his account for less than a week before I bought my own account and, as they say, the rest is history. That was one week after the game initially launched, and it is coming up to it’s 14-year anniversary of the U.S. launch, and in February it will be the EU launch, marking 14 years of play for me as a World of Warcraft player and a gamer. But the story doesn’t end there….

A Love Story

Fast forward to the summer of 2007. Newly single, I find myself sitting at a table at my cousin’s wedding when I hear a few words which to a casual observer wouldn’t mean a thing; city, auction house, bank, and talking about dancing on the bridge between them. This sounded familiar to me…

I listened for a few minutes to make sure I was on the right track before I politely interrupted; “Excuse me? Are you talking about World of Warcraft?!”

It turned out that they had just started playing. By then I was a several year veteran that had stopped playing and wasn’t planning on going back. It held some bad memories and of course, was tied closely to my ex. In the next ten minutes talking to this brother and sister something magical happened. Their excitement at just discovering Azeroth for the first time rekindled my love for the game. It pushed away all my doubts about whether I could be a gamer, whether the game was too toxic and whether I should go back. There was no one to stop me now — no little voice telling me it was a bad idea, that I couldn’t do it.

Still, I wasn’t certain. It took me a while to convince myself, and once I had I logged on to a welcome back from a friend with an invite to go to an old raid. By this point the second expansion, The Burning Crusade, had been released in January 2007, allowing players to level up to level 70. That meant that players could return to older content and run it with less people, usually for fun and for loot. It is something that we still do now to collect transmog items, pets and mounts. I’d never done one and so I decided to go along. I had no other plans after all, so why not?

When I’d last left the game I’d also left my guild, and in that new members had come along. Several of them were in the group that night when we headed into Molten Core. I hit it off with them straight away and we had a great time. I didn’t really think anything of it, but I do remember the next morning vividly. It was a Sunday morning and I was sitting in Stormwind, in the Trade District by the auction house trying to work out what I was going to do that day. And I suddenly get a whisper from one of the guys in the group last night, a druid called Gerry. He said that I seemed interesting and he wanted to get to know me more. So, we started chatting.

The rest, as they say, is history. Chris and I have been together 11 years as of October 2018. It was difficult to begin with as there was a long-distance aspect to our relationship with me living in London, England and him being in Glasgow, Scotland. Initially he moved down to London for a few years before we both moved to Glasgow and we’ve settled there. We became engaged in 2010, and while we don’t have a set date for our wedding we both know it’s a done deal. We’re practically married already. We hope to one day start a family of our own, and Chris already has plans to turn the kids into little farming minions. For now, it’s just us and our two cats, Milo and George.

Last year we celebrated our ten-year anniversary, and we both decided to do something special to celebrate it. For years I had an idea for a piece of art in my head for this exact occasional, so I sought out the perfect artist to commission for the job. That was Lady Rosse and I worked with her to bring my idea to life. Unbeknownst to me Chris had the same idea. He went to our mutual friend, and my best friend, Haley, and asked her to help him create a gift from both of them for my Christmas present. I had also confided in Haley what I was working on for Chris, and so she knew exactly what we had both done. As you can see; great minds think alike!

My present to Chris:
Our two main World of Warcraft characters with our three cats; Milo, George and Az (the ghost cat sleeping as he sadly passed away).

Chris and Haley’s present to me:
Our two main World of Warcraft characters alongside my favourite alts (alternate) characters which Chris sneakily asked me one day.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

You would think that giving me the love of my life and the person who has helped me through so much would be enough. However, this game has given me so much more and continues to define me every day. Through World of Warcraft I have met so many amazing people, including my guild Excited State on Aerie Peak EU which is probably the only guild that holds the record for the highest number of PhD’s. The guild name comes from physics because it is literally filled to gills with physicists – listing CERN as your current/former employee on your resume is a norm in our guild. I seriously feel the odd one out at times and I have two degrees and I’m working on a Masters. I actually got congratulated when I started my Masters because I was finally joining the science club 😛 Anyway, if you’ve never spent time with a group of physicists I will let you in on a little secret; they’re completely bonkers! Which leads to some really awesome guild meet ups.

There has been a total of four guild meet ups and we’ve attended three of them. Not only has this game given me the opportunity to visit some beautiful European cities, it’s also given me some great friendships that I treasure. These aren’t just limited to my guild and I count friends among the wider World of Warcraft community too.

As I’ve been a part of this community for so long, World of Warcraft has seen me from a nervous early 20-something student through to my mid-30’s, and I would definitely attribute it to some of my personal growth. There were tears shed, arguments had, and there were also skills learned and confidence gained along the way. My blog, Just Geeking By, for instance started life as a World of Warcraft blog before transforming into a personal blog when I returned to University and then eventually becoming its current incarnation.

The biggest surge in confidence though has to be to my gaming. Gone is that little girl who thought she couldn’t be a gamer. In the past 14 years I have played multiple different games including some that I never thought I could possibly play. The monumental moment for me was when I decided to try Half Life 2, a game I had been told I could never ever play. The day I finished that I was able to let go of a lot of baggage I had been carrying, and since then I can say with confidence:

I am a gamer.
And the game that defined me
is World of Warcraft.

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This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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World of Warcraft | The Game That Defines Life of Jan

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This is one of the most relaxing mixes I’ve ever heard. Despite having never played the title, I throughly enjoyed this melodic journey.

 

 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Warcraft Weekend continues, and this time we’ve been graced by one of my faovrite bloggers on the face of the internet! From The Life of Jan, it’s, well, Jan! This blogger wrote not one, not two, but three lengthy posts for Hyrule: See the Sights, Hear the Sounds. Now she’s back with another doozy, and I’ve been so excited to publish it for the world to read. After you’re done here, be sure to head over to her blog and get to know her with her recent Q&A piece!

The middle part of Warcraft Weekend and the next chapter of The Games That Define Us begins now!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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starring

DqNuIz7V4AA9Q42

Jan @ The Life of Jan

Twitter: @SuperJanGames

For pieces of the heart…

Game: World of Warcraft
System: PC
Release Date: November 23, 2004

1P Start

It was a crazy, expensive, 10-year long rollercoaster of a time that I had with this game, and while I may have ventured away from Azeroth, a piece of my heart will always remain there.

I was just a naive, impressionable 14 year old girl when World of Warcraft was released in the US, in late 2004. At the time, I was a quiet, nerdy band geek, with few friends, and far too many active game files on The Sims 2. Although I owned a handful of GameBoys, as well as my trusty, well-worn N64, and played a handful of various games on a regular basis (The Sims, Zelda, Banjo-Kazooie, Pokemon, and DDR mostly), I hardly considered myself a “gamer” at the time. Most of the friends that I did have were pretty hardcore when it came to both console and PC gaming, and I just didn’t get it. Maybe it had something to do with how they enjoyed torturing me whenever we played together, usually by killing me over and over in Halo 2, or some other shooter game, and it definitely wasn’t fun for me. Aside from a few, select franchises, not many other games had really been able to interest me, or hold my attention, and I couldn’t understand how people could get so consumed by them, and act so competitively.

At the time of World of Warcraft‘s release, I was dating a boy who was definitely what the world would consider a “gamer“. Of course, I mean that in the nicest way possible, because he was a great guy, but he definitely fit a lot of those all-too-familiar stereotypes that come to mind when you say the word “gamer”. In early 2005, when World of Warcraft had been out for a couple of months, my then boyfriend convinced me to make a character on his account (yes, we were ignorant 15 year olds, and hadn’t really paid much attention to the rules in the ToS). I was hesitant at first, because I was the type of person who absolutely abhorred being embarrassed in video games by my friends, and didn’t want this to be a more fantastical version of us playing Halo together. However, my anxiety was eased slightly once I saw all of the customization options, which was always (and still is) something that I loved in the games that I played.

The first character that I ever made was a Night Elf druid, simply because of how beautiful they were. I named her “Deuxfois”. I had no idea what the name meant, just that it was French, and sounded cool, which was all that really mattered to my 15 year old self. I’m pretty sure I used Google translate, or Babelfish, to come up with it. My boyfriend was an Undead Mage, and you better believe that he gave me a hard time about choosing an Alliance character, especially since I had to be on a different server than him, since this was back in the Vanilla WoW days, when you could only play one faction per realm. My first experience in the game was cowering in fear over the idea of killing a very small, very non confrontational boar. I just stood there, totally frozen, and freaking out, while my boyfriend cheered me on to just go up to it and give it a good whack. It took awhile, but that’s exactly what I did. I felt like a total badass. While I would later abandon my little Night Elf, and reroll as a Troll shaman on my boyfriend’s realm, I made many, many other druids later down the road. Little did I know at the time, my small victory over that innocent, passive boar would be the start of an incredible, 10-year long adventure in Azeroth.

High school was hard for me. I struggled with anxiety and depression, had a rough home life, and didn’t have many friends. I experienced trauma, breakups, teenage drama, and all sorts of hardships that would normally have been very difficult for me to get through alone. Only, I wasn’t completely alone. You see, during those four years of high school that I struggled through, I kept playing World of Warcraft. I not only played the game, but I loved it, and I was good at it. I had managed to come out of my shell, and express myself in ways that I hadn’t been able to do before, and it changed me in some pretty obvious ways. My confidence and self-esteem had increased, and I began making friends from all across the country, and beyond. Every night, I was surrounded by these amazing, supportive, like minded people, who I could talk to about anything and everything, while we explored this beautiful, exciting, online world together. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel completely alone.

When I was a junior in high school, I met a boy on World of Warcraft. We were in the same guild together, and people often confused us for one another, because our names were so similar. One night, we got to talking about how funny it was that people were always confusing us, which turned into talking about other games we like to play, and then into more personal subject matter. He changed my life entirely. We spent hours and hours a day talking about life, our families, school, the trials and tribulations of being teenagers, bad relationships, trauma, and everything else in our lives. After a short while, we started texting, then talking on the phone for hours on end. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly, I found myself completely in love with this boy who I had never even met. He encouraged me to embrace life, and be the best version of myself. He made me feel like I was worthy of love, and friendship, and compassion. By the end of my senior year, we were applying for colleges together, which was something that I never saw myself doing. After graduation, I packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my old life, hopped on a plane, and flew to Missouri to stay with him and his family for an entire week, before driving up to Newfoundland, Canada to start school. We had it all planned out, and looked forward to taking on the world together.

Unfortunately, our life together was not all sunshine and rainbows, and I have no one to blame for that by myself. While at college, I continued to play World of Warcraft, while he chose to stop, so he could focus on school. While our relationship was okay for the most part, I spent many days, and many very late nights, playing online. I skipped classes, slept through alarms because I had fallen asleep at 3:00 a.m., and spent a lot of time in my room, instead of going to social functions, getting a job, or making friends. He excelled at all of the things that I found myself failing horribly at. I distanced myself from real life, and I totally immersed myself in this online world, despite the negative impact that it was having on my real life, and how neglectful I was becoming. By the end of the school year, despite being a straight A student in high school, I was nearly failing all of my classes, and my GPA was horrifyingly low. But I kept playing. Because of my grades, and the fact that I was now completely broke, I ended up dropping out of college, moving back to the US, and moving in with a friend, who I had also met online. My boyfriend and I eventually broke up, and I found myself starting over again.

The years kind of blurred together for a while after that. Although I kept playing World of Warcraft after I left school, there were long periods of time where I struggled financially to pay my rent and my bills, which of course meant I couldn’t afford to play the game either. I had to stop logging in for stretches of several months at a time. My real life was an absolute trainwreck, and everything was fall apart around me, and that bled into my escape. Even when I was fortunate enough to be able to afford my monthly subscription, I often felt that logging in had become more of a chore, rather than a way to escape from the struggles of my reality, which was becoming harder and harder to escape from. By this time, so many of my original friends from the game had moved on with their lives, either quitting the game entirely, or moving to different realms to pursuit new ventures. I had a hard time finding a new place that I fit in, and new friends that I could talk to. I bounced around from realm to realm, from guild to guild, switching back and forth between factions, and leveling up character after character. I had a certain pride, as well as a kind of shame, in how many characters I had managed to level up, but it all felt overwhelmingly pointless with no one to enjoy the game with. I raided, I collected, and I farmed, but it was a very lonely way to spend my life. I felt myself growing more and more isolated, both in the online community, and in real life. I dealt with depression, as well as intrusive thoughts, and felt like there was no place I could turn to to escape my demons anymore.

I struggled with this for several years.

Then, in early 2012, I decided that if I couldn’t find somewhere that I belonged, then I would create a place instead. On February 2, 2012, I published my very first episode of the Something Suggestive podcast. Armed with only a borrowed headset, a hand-me-down computer, some free recording and editing software, and a few other World of Warcraft podcasts as inspiration, I began dedicating all of my free time, and most of my energy, to producing podcast content that was informative, entertaining, and witty. Within a few episodes, I was receiving emails, tweets, and whispers from people in the community who appreciated my show, and wanted to talk to me, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a warmth growing inside of me that I thought I had lost for good.

I hosted the Something Suggestive podcast for a little over a year. During that time, I made friends and connections with people who are still in my life today, with whom I can’t imagine my life without. I interviewed prominent people in the World of Warcraft community, guest hosted on several other, popular podcasts, and created a name, and a following, for myself. I was even approached by two, wonderful people, who offered to be segment creators on my podcast, one for mounts and one for achievements, and even still today, they are two of my closest, most trusted friends, who I can’t even imagine my life without.

Unfortunately, the bigger my podcast became, the more attention I got, and it certainly was not always positive. I received a lot of anonymous, harassing emails and messages, as well some pretty nasty reviews on iTunes, and encountered a handful of people whose intentions were not always kind, including a few instances of stalking, and long-term harassment. At the time, I was one of very few female, World of Warcraft podcasters, and the only solo female host that I knew of, in a time where female gamers still weren’t as widely accepted and listened to as they are now. It was hard. At one point, I was invited to join a new, growing guild by someone who I considered to be a friend. Unfortunately, I came to realise after some time that this fellow podcast creator only wanted to use me for publicity and recruitment. Whatever “friendship” we had ended pretty suddenly, publicly, and very messily, and I ended up leaving the guild, if only for the sake of my own wellbeing and sanity. I lost a lot of so-called friends after that, and my name was dragged through the mud for months.

Shortly after the fallout, I was approached by several other people in the podcast community, who told me about a large community of content creators, listeners, and friendly folks that resided together on one realm. I had heard about this community of people, and their founder, and how they used addons to communicate between the numerous sister guilds. It was definitely cool. Without giving it a second thought, I moved all of my characters to the now well-known Earthen Ring realm, and joined one of the many AIE guilds there. It was a fresh start for me, and it was one of the highlights in all of my 10 years playing World of Warcraft. I had all of my friends beside me, an incredible raid team where I was able to really hone my skills, and a support system of people who wanted to help me succeed, both online and off. I fell in love with the game all over again, and even found new things to fall in love with, like putting together awesome transmog sets, and collecting rare vanity pets. I finally felt like myself again.

Unfortunately, like so many other times in my life, all good things had to come to an end. On April 1, 2013, the final episode of Something Suggestive was posted, hosted by a close friend, and fellow content creator, instead of myself. Just days prior, I was forced to step away from my beloved podcast, and the World of Warcraft community once more, when my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, after four years together. I was given no choice, and had to leave most of my belongings behind, including my computer, one of my cats. I lost my home, and four years of my life. With the loss of my relationship, came the loss of what few real life friends I had made over the previous four years, and I once again was finding myself feeling completely isolated and alone. I had moved so far away from everything familiar and comfortable to be with this man, and now it was all gone. For nearly two years, I lived without a phone or internet. I felt cut off from my online friends, my new fans, my community, and everything that I knew and loved, while living in an unfamiliar town, filled with painful memories. I felt lower than I had felt in a long time, and it was a very scary time for me. I had a lot of dark thoughts, and felt like I had very little to live for. A few weeks after moving into my own apartment, when I was just starting to feel like I could actually get a grip on my life, and try to move forward, I lost my job. And that nearly killed me.

But then, things got better, and my story was given a happy ending. After my breakup, and the loss of my job, I met a wonderful man, who treated me better than I ever thought that I deserved. Even his family welcomed me with open arms. I found a new job, that I absolutely loved, and made new friends. During my two years away from the internet and gaming, I got engaged, got pregnant, moved to a new town with the love of my life, and had a beautiful, little boy. After my son’s birth, I returned to World of Warcraft, where I received an exuberant welcome from my friends and AIE guildmates on Earthen Ring. I played casually, usually while my son napped, or late at night, and spent a lot of time farming for my guild, helping to supply the amazing raid team that I was no longer geared enough to raid with. I’ll admit, that stung a bit, but I wanted to support them. However, despite my warm reception, and the support of my friends, I never could quite get back into the game. I tried to reignite my love for pet collecting, and transmog sets, but it just didn’t click. Too much time had passed, and too much had changed in my life. So, I stepped away from World of Warcraft, one last time, on my own terms.

It has now been three years since I last logged into World of Warcraft, but I often find myself reading up on the new expansions, and all the drama and craziness that comes with them. I watch my friends tweet and post about new mounts, storylines, gear sets, and everything else. I roll my eyes at the politics of the game, and cringe at how much a video game can divide so many people, who are all just trying to escape reality, and have a little fun. I get wrapped up in the hype of BlizzCon every year, and gush over all the photos my friends post, even though I know I will never get to go myself. I retweet all the new podcast episodes, YouTube videos, and blog posts, trying to show love and support to my friends and their endeavors, the way they supported me in mine. It was a crazy, expensive, 10-year long rollercoaster of a time that I had with this game, and while I may have ventured away from Azeroth, a piece of my heart will always remain there.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Warcraft III | The Game That Defines The Purple Prose Mage

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Audio

Warcraft III has a pretty chill and ambient soundtrack to begin with, so let’s take it from the top. 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Welcome to Warcraft Weekend: a collection of three posts all related to this defining franchise.

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Upcoming, we have both Jan from Life of Jan and Heather from Just Geeking By recounting their life-long adventures with World of Warcraft. But today, we have the amazing and wonderfully supportive Alex, aka The Purple Prose Mage. This blogger puts out some great stuff, both on his own blog and for The Well-Red Mage! He’s also incredibly supportive of Normal Happenings both on Twitter and his own blog — we are very thankful for this mage’s constant encouragement. Here are a small collection of posts you should check out after reading:

Let’s start Warcraft Weekend, and this next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Alex @ The Purple Prose Mage

Twitter: @AlexSigsworth

For the humans!

Game: Warcraft III
System: PC
Release Date: July 3, 2002

1P Start

I wrote this entry with the theme of nostalgia, to be forever reaching out to that idealised time long ago of things which seem better because they’re gone; Like Gatsby, wanting to repeat his heroic past but without the complicated problems that made it very unheroic.

The problem with the real world is things often suck. It’s our friends that make it bearable. No one comes into the world predetermined. We’re all blank sheets of paper. The people that we meet, everyone, contributes something to that tract. Most of us aren’t self-defined. How could we be without context? It’s the other people, and what they write on our page that creates our identity. Therefore, our most important responsibility in life is to maximise the people who have only good things to write, and to minimise everyone else. If playing video games with someone is a part of that process, then it’s a fundamentally good thing. That’s why Warcraft III is such an important game to me – because it brought me closer to another person.

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Sure, we had already been friends for years but – just as doctors engage in a lifelong education about their field – that kind of relationship requires constant sustenance in order to mean anything. Warcraft III is a game that I’d play with Christopher Lee of short.Parse every Friday. It wasn’t a school night, and we were already together. It was just the easiest way to do it. He has no siblings, so I was always something of the brother he never had. That had been very clear to me as we became friends in nursery. Which meant Friday was our day.

When you meet up in the same form room for five days consecutively, it eventually becomes a bit of a debriefing about what’s on that day’s agenda in the kind of self-serious way that only children could do. On Fridays, whenever there was nothing else of note, what was guaranteed was that both of us would be meeting up at the school gates and then proceeding to walk through the neighbourhood to his house. I can still remember the route as well as I can remember the route back to my own house, as I’m sure most of us can. At that age, our overworld map is like a triangle: my house, school, friend’s house.

Back then, things were simpler. Before we went our separate ways to only be able to travel to each other by train whenever we get the time, which isn’t that often. When we arrived, there was the usual order of business: getting drinks, often a cherry cola or a special brew of his devising, which was basically a cup of tea with some chocolate in it. Then, after gossiping about whatever had happened that day, we’d get to it. Our LAN party. I was in the study, he was in his bedroom. Without headsets, communication between us consisted of talking loudly with the doors open, our voices carried across the landing. Yet we made it work, as you do when you’re committed to something with no convenient alternative.

He’d play as the undead, and I as Human, because that’s what I am – logic which I know sounds rather silly now, because everyone playing it is Human. I was never very good at playing the game, so I’d find ways of compensating. If this were a fighting game, his strategy would’ve been to apply the best moves whereas mine would’ve been to press any buttons and see what happens. That’s why I’d spend most of the time emptying my gold mine as quickly as possible. Any buildings I constructed were selected on a cycle system. I figured that, rather than building whatever was necessary at the time, if I built an equal number of each, I’d never run out. This strategy doesn’t work, and my application of it demonstrates my fundamental misunderstanding of real time strategy games.

Instead of learning to value victory as the positive result of a game well-played, I was more interested in victory as its own result that would indicate a well-played game by its own nature. Therefore, rather than focus on a particular principle of play – like, oh, say, military strength? – I preferred to make as much as I could of everything. Because surely that would make me superior in every way, right? Wrong, because every decision to invest in something was also a decision not to invest in anything else, which meant that, despite having a balanced abundance of all buildings and units, I didn’t have an abundance of the right buildings and units. By giving everything the same value, I’d overestimated my economic plan, making defeat inevitable. Beating me at this game isn’t an achievement, because most gamers could. The fact that my opponent was a skilled strategist was irrelevant, because my own choice to super-inflate my economy had brought defeat upon myself anyway.

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Every now and again, I like to rewatch a gaming video we made. It was Halloween 2012, and I was playing as the Orcish Horde for the occasion. Due to our inability to play in the same room, we recorded a commentary post-match style, each with our variation of events. Most of it consists of him explaining where I went wrong, which was even more accurate for that night because I had no idea how the Orcish Horde operated or what their buildings did or what their units were for. That video is not only extremely cringey – because I was 16 years old at the time – but also features outdated cultural references (this was back when the UK No. 1 single was Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris featuring Florence Weltch, a song that I can’t even remember). That’s why that video is for just me and him, although I showed it to Geekritique, and he thinks that it’s a good video if only for the posterity of seeing how I’ve changed.

I suppose that’s true. As much as we still stay in touch online, we’ll never be able to get back that part of our lives when all that mattered was whether I could get my homework done. There was more time back then. Even if we were able to reunite someday and have another Warcraft III LAN party, it wouldn’t be the same. It’s not just a game, it’s what it represents. We know that. Games aren’t really code and physics engines. That’s just the development stage but it isn’t what makes them. No. Games are made of our memories of playing them. It’s all very well knowing the controls and lore, but that’s all primitive recollection and hand-eye coordination. When we play them and they enter our brain, they’re filed into memory.

Memories create the consistency that gives everything context: what something is and what it means. That’s why Warcraft III isn’t just a game, it signifies the end of the school week. It’s payoff to getting to the end of Friday. It’s the part of my life back then that was actually worth living. We both share the same experience of the same game, which thus has the same unique meaning to each of us. The more unique the experiences you share with someone, the closer you become to them. Azeroth is a virtual place we went together because it was better than reality, and it’s where I left my heart.



But as it turns out, the story isn’t over after all.

Some time after finishing what I thought was the final draft of this piece, Blizzcon revealed Warcraft III Reforged, a remastered rerelease. It is essentially the same game, visually updated for modern video gaming standards, as it should be – adapted to the present without losing a sense of what it fundamentally is. It could not have come at a better time.

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I wrote this entry with the theme of nostalgia, to be forever reaching out to that idealised time long ago of things which seem better because they’re gone; Like Gatsby, wanting to repeat his heroic past but without the complicated problems that made it very unheroic. Of course I reflect upon my time playing Warcraft III with a sense of wonder but I wouldn’t actually want to return to that time in my life; the whole point of what Wacraft III means to me is that it was something of a diamond in the rough.

One may tolerate a world of humans for the sake of some Orcs. Of course, none of this occurred to me until I started actively thinking about it. This series has unlocked a lot of complex memories from within, and connecting with them has been like connecting with that past for the first time since I sealed it away. In doing so, did I create Warcraft III Reforged? Did I manifest it into reality with the power of desire? If spelling is to cast a spell, then are my words truly magic? Am I more of a mage than I believed? There is no doubt in my mind that this was meant to be. I thought that I was writing about the end of something. Perhaps it’s actually the beginning; a call to action or lighthouse in the fog, showing me the light, the way back to where I used to be, in the hope that, if I just stretch out my arms further, if I just run faster, and if I, too, can remain adapted to the present while remaining true to who I fundamentally am, then one fine morning, a time and a life that I once lost could be found again.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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NiGHTS into Dreams | The Game That Defines HideNGoShauna

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Audio

I believe this is one of the most underrated soundtrack in video game history. Stay and listen a while?

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Happy Friday, and welcome to Day 9 of The Games That Define Us! 

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.

Today we’re graced with Shauna from HideNGoShauna! This brilliant writer has a whimsical spirit and writing style, and her game choice couldn’t be more appropriate. I’d like to spotlight a series she did recently: Japan memories. She spent three weeks there, and chronicled each day. Travel blogs always get my attention, so to see one of my favorite bloggers crafting one so adeptly was a major treat! I recommend you block off an hour of your life, start at Day 1, and work your way forward in time.

That is, after reading today’s amazing piece of course! We hope you enjoy today’s dreamy entry of The Games That Define Us! 

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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Shauna @ HideNGoShauna

Twitter: @HideNGoShauna

For Claris and Elliot

Game: NiGHTS into Dreams
System: Sega Saturn
Release Date: July 5, 1996

1P Start

The unique creatures, lovely soundtrack, and overall magic of the game really made an impression on me. I remember drawing my own renditions of the worlds in my sketchbook. To this day it’s still one of the most uniquely creative games I’ve played.

In my earliest years, I grew up watching my Dad play video games, and eventually playing them with him. We would sit together on the lumpy futon in the den, peering up at the tiny television. Sonic was one of the first games I remember, along with Mortal Kombat, Ghouls & Ghosts, and a few other favorite Genesis titles.

And Altered Beast of course. WIIIISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE!!!

As I grew, Dad stayed by my side as a guide to the exciting world of video games. Dad was firmly a Sega fan; he believed that Nintendo, while fun, was always a step behind Sega as far as technology and graphics were concerned. As such, instead of having a GameBoy like my friends, I had a Game Gear (which Dad reminded me had colour display several years before Nintendo) and instead of N64 we got a Sega Saturn.

One result of the Sega-mania of my upbringing was that, while I occasionally felt like I was missing out on the popular games my friends were playing (Pokémon, Donkey Kong Country, and Super Mario 64, mainly) on the other hand my consoles were a source of wonder to my friends, and I soon came to love that I had my own special set of magical worlds to peruse.

Occasionally friends would come over to play video games with me at my house and wouldn’t want to leave.

Sega Saturn had a really awesome diversity of games. We would visit our local Cash Converters (used goods) store and eventually amassed a good stack of titles. Some of my favorites were Astal, Bug, Clockwork Knight, Shining the Holy Arc, Sonic R, and Tomb Raider.

Dad would play Virtua Fighter 2 with me often; I only learned many years later that he was letting me win on occasion — as such I feel a bit embarrassed now of all the smack-talk I used to give him after delivering a K.O.

I had a teeny crush on Lion…

Playing the Saturn was the first time I really felt like “I’m a gamer. This is my console.” I was old enough to start beating levels on my own (okay, I did ask Dad for help from time to time) and the Saturn was a precious possession to me. Heck, the thing was even my first CD player, and I delighted in changing the pitch, tone, and speed of my AQUA: Aquarium album with the Saturn.

The game that stands out the most from this time though has to be NiGHTS into Dreams.

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NiGHTS Into Dreams came bundled with a “3D Control Pad” controller that was innovative for its time.

The fantasy stages and bosses in NiD were so creative and strange. The main character, NiGHTS, is an androgynous, elfish being that can fly in a beautiful, acrobatic way.

The entire mechanics of gameplay felt different than anything I’d controlled before, designed to be used with the 3D Control Pad. You could make NiGHTS fly in any direction, forming giant loops to suck up gems and executing sudden turns as you pleased.

The unique creatures, lovely soundtrack, and overall magic of the game really made an impression on me. I remember drawing my own renditions of NiD-like worlds in my sketchbook. To this day it’s still one of the most uniquely creative games I’ve played.

I enjoyed the landscapes in NiD so much that I would often linger on purpose without hitting the checkpoints, forcing NiGHTS to transform into one of the two human characters whose dreams he inhabits. As such, I had the opportunity to walk and run on the ground and get a better look at some of the interesting designs in the game, but before long the egg-clock, bane of my existence, would begin to chase me with its terrifying searchlight.

I hated that clock with a passion. If it caught you in its bright ray, you would “wake up” and fail the stage. As a child I strongly wished that there was an alternate game mode where I could explore the fascinating worlds at leisure without that cursed clock dogging me.

I’ve always had a penchant for baddies, and Reala, NiGHTS’ rival, intrigued me. He was like the evil twin of NiGHTS.

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I was stoked when a new NiD game was announced for Nintendo Wii some years ago, but it really didn’t capture the magic of the original. I’m not particularly fond of the altered version of NiGHTS that was presented; in the original game NiGHTS doesn’t really speak, whereas the posh female voice in the new game really throws me for a loop (a loop, get it? Like how NiGHTS uses loops to collect energy gems? … )

I’ve often thought that NiGHTS would be fun to cosplay, and that I’d like to design the costume someday — I was so excited when I saw a cosplayer at the Edmonton Expo last year wearing her own handmade NiGHTS costume! I should have gotten a picture with her, ah well. She told me that the headpiece was a pain in the butt to craft, and I totally believe that!

NiD, for me, is a reminder of my happy childhood, a special time when I had nowhere important to be, nothing particular to do, and seemingly all the time in the world to play games on my beanbag chair in my tiny, cozy room. It is one of those magical games that can remind us how video games can be an interactive art form, a format for creativity where dreams can become reality.

adventure map


WordPress Reader viewers, please consider enjoying this post again on the site. While we designed with you in mind, you miss some of the nuances of the piece by not enjoying it in its original form. 

patreon

This collaboration took an overwhelming amount of time and dedication from 34 exceptionally creative, incredible makers! Help us with the resources to make more, even better, collaborations in the future! We also have aspirations of developing a podcast called Normal Talks about optimistically appreciating everyday life! Please consider becoming a patron of Normal Happenings and help us try to make the world a better, more positive place!
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Breath of Fire II | The Game That Defines The Well-Red Mage

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Audio

Come for the great writing, stay for the lovingly orchestrated and animated cover of a slightly obscure SNES RPG. It’s a win-win. 

 

The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so. 

introduction

Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.


Mild Trigger Warning: this blog delves into topics of faith and spiritual identity. We believe these are important parts of life and identity, but as always, we have no desire to push these beliefs on other people.


The mage. The myth. The legend. You are truly in for a treat today. I must admit, though I try not to play favorites, I have truly been looking forward to publishing today’s piece.

I’m a proud patron of The Well-Red Mage, and for good reason. He leads an army of bloggers to writing critical long-form pieces about video games, and they must be seen to be believed. Each piece he publishes is well-paced and deliberate, refusing to let the sensationalism of modern-day journalism (in)sensibilities seep in. You’re about to see some of that in action, after which you might be interested in some of these:

He has been so supportive of Normal Happenings since all the way back to when I published the retrospective on my first video game. Since then, we’ve built up a truly great blog partnership. While I’m dragging my feet (for now) on becoming a mage, mainly because I get obsessed and am worried I wouldn’t be able to devote the time to make the pieces as complex as I would like, we still work together on a multitude of projects. I was recently on MAGE CAST, the Well-Red Mage podcast, discussing Sonic the Hedgehog 1, with a rumored Sonic Mania podcast in the future. Meanwhile, his retweet support is helping both Normal Happenings and this collaboration find new audiences. I’m looking forward to all the tasks we’ll be working together on in the future.

For now, however, let us begin! Please enjoy this next chapter of The Games That Define Us!

– Matthew, Normal Happenings

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DqDyanoX4AAgoTl

The Well-Red Mage @ The Well-Red Mage

Twitter: @theWellRedMage

For the warriors of light.

Game: Breath of Fire II
System: SNES
Release Date: December 2, 1994

1P Start

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
-John C. Lennox

Preamble Ramble

I want to thank Matthew from Normal Happenings for asking me to be a part of this collaborative undertaking. I’m not always able to dig into the fun community events happening all over WordPress, but this one was normal enough to be irresistible! My heart is in this community of writers and I wish I could clone myself for more time to be everywhere, read everything, and interact with everyone. Until that technology is invented and the inevitable clone wars begin, this stopgap of an article will have to suffice. I’ll treat it as a love letter to this great and welcoming community.

So anyway I was asked to talk about (not review) a game that means a lot to me personally. The title of the project is “Games That Define Us”, after all. To prevent myself from running my mouth dry about Chrono Trigger yet again, or any of the other games I never shut up about, I decided I’d talk about Breath of Fire II and how it played a major part in my life’s journey so far, specifically regarding theology. I don’t want anyone to feel shanghaied into reading this under different expectations: I am about to talk about my perspective on God and religion, topics not always for the faint of heart, but ultimately, this is a post about my life and how I arrived at certain philosophies and systems of thought which I maintain to this day. You don’t have to agree with me; that makes us individuals, but I’m going to talk about my life, nonetheless.

Whiff of Fire

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If I remember correctly (though if I have to have a past I prefer it to be multiple choice), I first randomly encountered Capcom’s JRPG epic Breath of Fire II at my friend Jacob’s house. He had a Super Nintendo before I did, and spending the weekends there was a big factor in why I love the SNES so much and got one of my own eventually. We played a lot of Earthworm Jim, Street Fighter II Turbo, Chuck Rock, Mega Man X, and Rock n Roll Racing among many others. There was some PC gaming that went on, too, with the likes of Duke Nuk’em and Another World.

There was one of his cartridges, however, which stood out to me. We never played it together and I didn’t know why, especially since we traded off or played co-op with pretty much all the other games in his collection. Since I spent so much time there, and since it rained so frequently, we eventually got to the point of boredom where I could play whatever I wanted with or without him. He let me have access to his entire library. Generous guy! I went straight for that cartridge and plugged it in… the familiar 90’s Capcom logo warbled on a black screen, followed by the title screen (the incendiary insignia of a dragon’s silhouette). An adventure then began, the likes of which my young mind really was not prepared for.

After a haunting, if not terrifying, opening sequence with a talking eye, I followed a little boy named Ryu in search of his sister. He finds her but when he returns to his village, nobody recognizes him. So begins a story bigger than I could’ve imagined. Breath of Fire II involved lots of dragons, a catgirl, a dog-man, a human armadillo, a monkey, a tree sprite, a French frog, an exile with black wings, a huge fantasy world, many monsters galore, and… church?

I was kind of surprised to see it there.

Encountering Religion

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See, I grew up in the church. Sometimes you see that phrase passed around. It doesn’t really mean anything other than my parents made me go to a place I didn’t want to go every Sunday. I drew pictures and learned some stories without any indication of their meaning or relevant significance, and more than a few times I drew from my tiny cache of childish wiles to get out of it. Once, I put bubble gum in my hair to try to stay home so I could play The Legend of Zelda. I just ended up with a new haircut and all the old women who smelled like hair and muumuus complimented me.

Anyway, I was still going to church with my mom when I played Breath of Fire II. I eventually got to the part in the game where the Church of St. Eva (more on that here) became antagonistic, its hypnotized congregants shepherded by the literally diabolical high priest Habaraku. Turns out (spoilers, I guess) the Church of St. Eva was actually a front for demons. The Church was siphoning the prayers of its parishioners and converting them into power for its slumbering demon-king, Deathevan. This was fairly typical for the JRPG scene at the time, which had a tense relationship toward depictions of Westernized religion, at best, stemming from what appears to be a distinctly Japanese perspective.

This concept terrified me when I first encountered it, though. It was an entirely new idea to me that a church could be actually evil. I went to church only begrudgingly back then, had the occasional stirs of inspiration when a song I liked was sung (“My Sheep Know My Voice” since I loved animals when I was very young), and I don’t remember having any meaningful tie to the church I went to. It was a place to play and see friends. That’s it. But I never thought of it as an evil place. I felt the people were nice and the food was good and it was peaceful.

The idea that the church could be worshiping evil instead of Good never left me, and as I grew up into high school age, it was one which continued to haunt me now and then. I had the occasional nightmare about it. In reality, what it did was provoke me to research. I remember growing up that I spent a lot of time alone in nature; being by myself in the forest or at the beach let me think on my thoughts. Growing up, I told a few people who didn’t know that I got dragged to church that I was an atheist, my young life punctuated by the divorce of my parents and a subsequent perspective of the universe as capricious, cruel, and meaningless: the atheistic admixture.

However, it was in nature that I reached a point in my life when I had my inciting incident. I realized if the God they talked about in church was real then that meant everything in my life had to have meaning, significance, and a fundamentally different reality than the one I usually considered: being an unwanted accident. But if God didn’t exist or worse, if he was actually something else entirely, then that meant something, too.

All Things Permissible

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I began to feel like Ryu and his party creeping down the Infinity Dungeon step by step, plagued by random battles, toward the inevitable end as the daunting scope and resolution of my studies ahead settled in on me. Still, I felt the task was unavoidable. I had to figure these things out. I couldn’t just live as if they didn’t matter.

I later read about how C.S. Lewis, the most reluctant convert, came to believe in God and fought against it with all the intellectualism he could muster until the horrible, irresistible, pacifying realization came down on him like an avalanche and he had no choice to accept. Why the horror? Well, to accept that there is an infinite Mind watching you from conception, more powerful than anything else in existence, is and ought to be a humbling realization, at least. That’s why I take some irritation with some who treat their believing in the existence of God with frivolity and indifference.

And only does taking the next step further toward personal explanation on the part of that God as loving dispell any of the horror of that belief. I’ve heard Christianity described as a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark, but God’s not a teddy bear… He’s pictured as a consuming fire, someone who won’t be mocked.

Questioning the Unquestionable

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It’s okay to question, be curious, skeptical, doubtful, and then search for an answer.

As a boy, I remember being fascinated with folklore and mythology but that doubled after playing Breath of Fire II. Thanks to my local library (I didn’t have internet access in my home back then), I could study as much as I wanted.

I dug through the pantheon of the Greeks and Romans. I picked up some Japanese vocab to delve into the myths of the rising sun. I felt the ice of Norse eschatology. I looked to the heavens with Native American beliefs. I even learned about the ancient tales of the Hawaiians, my own people, but, becoming rapidly superstitious, I avoided learning Hawaiian chants and prayers in some of the schools I attended, even though I remember standing at the seashore and cursing Nāmaka the goddess of the sea just to see what would happen. People are complicated contradictions, I guess. To me, those things were real until I reached an age when I learned to study if they really were.

Hawaii is both a very superstitious and spiritual place, come to think about it. As a place where the fusion of cultures functions rather well, foods of all kinds are in abundance, as are traditions and religions. Within the small circle of my friends, I knew an atheist, a Buddhist, a Christian, and a Mormon. Hawaii had a lot of religions going on in just a small plot of land.

It was in this realm of fusion and confusion that the roots of my interest in spirituality and religion was cemented, but I realize I can trace that interest back to Breath of Fire II. It wasn’t until I moved to California and went to college that all the questions I’d ever asked came to a head and I found myself the disinclined convert made inclined. In other words, I couldn’t think of a way out of it. That’s my story, trying to rationalize God because of a video game.

How do you rationalize God? Lots of people say that the Christian monotheistic model of God is so supreme so as to be disprovable (invisible, all-powerful, all-knowing, beyond physical reach, etc.), the equivalent of “Well I’ve got a dinosaur who eats forcefield dogs!” I don’t think that’s the case, though.

Antony Flew, when he was still an atheist, attempted to demonstrate that the Christian God is an inherently incomprehensible concept by suggesting God’s attributes are incompatible with each other (grace and justice, for instance). He later discredited his own work on the subject but at least he established the honest potentiality for disproving God if He could be demonstrated to be fundamentally inconsistent: the theological equivalent of a zero-sided square or other such nonsense.

What Breath of Fire II did for me was it prevented me from taking anything at face value, not accept that church or God were good just because my parents went there for a time. I had to dig into these things myself and try my best to see and study and research the reality of things, if there indeed was any at all. I had run the gamut from Buddhism to Shintoism (two faiths which grabbed my attention when I was younger) and an array of others in books in full circle back to Christianity.

Personal Discovery

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Really, I couldn’t be more grateful for what Breath of Fire II did for me, indirectly.

Could I have encountered God without it? I don’t know, but if I had, maybe it wouldn’t have been in the same way where I came to think of the Uncaused Cause as logically coherent within Himself, not that there are no more mysteries or that I have no more doubts (wrestling with the nature of reality is what religions are about), but learning to be assured is something that’s been a crucial part of finding meaning in my life.

Now, I’ve experienced a lot of joy, done a lot of cool things, and met a lot of incredible people that I never would have without the experience that Breath of Fire II led me toward. Literally, I wouldn’t be the same person, spiritually, certainly, and those of you who are spiritual reading this will know that that speaks to a core part of your being. If you’re not at all interested in that sort of thing, at least you can get a glimpse of what video games can do and how they can impact people, provoking them to ask questions about epistemology, psychology, history, sociology, anthropology, eschatology, and theology itself. I don’t have all the answers, just as no one in any other field of study has all the answers, but I’ve rarely been so impacted by other samples of entertainment.

Because I believe in a personal God now, I’m impressed at the sagacity in using a simple 16-bit video game to get to me. I’ve been able to find this meaning that has carried me through the later, harder parts of my life thanks to this game. Sure I discovered that meaning a little later in life but it was just like waking up on a Saturday and having breakfast at noon.

This is the second time I’ve connected Breath of Fire II to my faith in writing, so I hope it’s not old hat at this point. Thank you for reading my story!

-Moses
thewellredmage.com

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