#286: The Queue

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Role queue is a new feature recently added to the game Overwatch, and it’s changed everything. Previously, you were able to choose heroes freely, without having to worry about what role they filled. You could have an entire team of damage dealers, or supports, or tanks, and the game would do nothing to stop you from trying that hilarious (but probably ineffectual and frustrating after awhile) strategy. Role queue is meant to fix that problem, among other problems present in the game’s social side of things, by forcing a 2-2-2 team composition on every team that plays in Quick Play or Competitive Play from here on. While initially I was hesitant to accept the limitations towards creative freedom that role lock posed, I became more in favor of the idea the more I heard from people on the PTR who said it drastically improved their playing experiences. They were able to queue for whatever role they wanted, and it didn’t matter what other hero people picked. They knew that their team would be good from the outset, at the very least because it was 2-2-2.

Previously, there was always the lurching fear that your team would descend into total chaos because one of your healers switched to a damage dealer, or your only tank swapped to a healer when you already had three healers. There have been innumerable instances of playing Overwatch where the other team wins over us just because they have a better team composition than we do, and now the field is a bit more level. There can still be times where your two damage dealers are Bastion and Symmetra on Offense on a 2CP map (*cough* *cough*), but at least the odds of that happening are less and less. Eventually, role queue will be coming to Quick Play, and I’m looking forward to that so I don’t have to do Competitive as much!

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#285: The Trap

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Do you ever feel trapped? Like you’re given to a certain lifestyle for the rest of your life, and there isn’t much you can do about it? Like no matter how hard you try, you’re stuck in a perpetual motion of repeating previous actions from the beginning of your life until your death?

I know that sounds morbid and all, but sometimes I think about what life will be like in ten years, twenty years, thirty or more, and then I remember that life is something we take for granted, that no one is guaranteed to survive forever. An accident can happen, or something totally unexpected. I’d be hesitant to ever say that I know what the next ten years will be like.

I remember being 14, a freshman or sophomore in high school, and barely able to fathom my future at all. I was either a lazy procrastinator, or someone who was punching above his weight in honors classes, trying to fit in among the intellectuals of our grade level. I desperately wanted to be accepted by them, and then at the end of my senior year, in preparation for the senior prom, I remember the ultimate rejection I and other friends faced by certain members of that group. And I remember that so clearly because it serves as an example not to put your trust in others blindly, and to never have your emotional well-being hinge on the feelings of others.

But not all lessons are adhered to easily. Sometimes they take time, but other times they never improve at all. That’s what I mean about feeling trapped, like a hamster in a hamster wheel. That everything has been decided for me by this point, and I don’t have many big decisions left to make. Perhaps I’m over-exaggerating, but sometimes that’s all you can think about, and there’s nothing you can do about it except let those thoughts consume you.

#284: The Pins, Part 2

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So, each of our backpacks are filled with pins of various sizes and shapes. Some of them came from conventions we went to, like Anime NYC last year and its incredible artist alley. Some of the pins came from other cons, like Connecticon which we went to this year. The pins are like a walking history of the cons we’ve gone to, and I think it’s cool to look back on them in that way. It gives them a sort of meaning beyond just the image on the pin itself. When I look at the Final Pam pin on Alex’s backpack, for instance, I can remember sifting through the book of Monster Factory-related art at this lady’s table, and telling her how excited we were that we found fellow McElroy fans at the con. It’s like spotting someone you feel like you know outside of a place you usually see them.

I have two Monster Factory pins on my backpack, one featuring Toucan Dan and the other featuring Chiquita Dave. They’re perfect pieces of art, and I only wish I could get more of them in the future. Hopefully the artist is around next year, and has them on sale again. I can imagine picking some extras up for my friend who only recently got into the McElroy brand of content.

There’s also a pin that Alex got at the March for Our Lives in 2018, which says that “Gun Violence is a Women’s Issue.” I remember seeing that and thinking, first of all, I support your message, but second of all, that would make a great pin. And it did. I can only imagine the stares that Alex gets from strangers while walking around New York with that on, but I hope that the majority of them are positive and full of agreement.

#283: The Pins, Part 1

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Getting Alex a birthday present is always fun. The way we like to do it, the person giving the gifts picks an arbitrary number of gifts they’re going to give the other person, and then in a length of time leading up to that person’s birthday, the gifts are given. This year I chose to get Alex seven things, and so that meant we would start sometime in late July with her getting a gift every three or so days. It’s a little tradition that we’ve kept up for awhile now, and I like to think that it’ll continue as we get older together, too.

This year, the gift field has been dominated by Persona 5-related ideas. It’s not just a fad we went through; it’s a game that thoroughly changed my life and helped me see video games as complex narratives to be experienced, rather than just lifeless fun. But that’s besides the point, and I’ve talked about my love for that game a lot already on this blog. The point is, I got Alex a few gifts related to Persona 5, one of which was a series of pins featuring some of our favorite characters. I chose Ryuji, Joker/Ren, and Makoto as pin picks and the Etsy shop owner was gracious enough to include an extra Haru pin on top of that. I super appreciate what they did and will definitely shop from them again if the chance comes up. When I was shopping for the pins, I knew they would be perfect for her partially because of the original art featured on them, but also because of our history involving backpacks and pins. There’s a story to each one, and it’s nice to look back on them. I could tell a stranger all about Alex’s backpack, for example.

#282: The Squad, Part 2

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This post is a continuation from my previous post about Monster Hunter and forming a squad online.

Initially, as a fan of the Monster Hunter series, I presumed that the game was primarily solo, with some online multiplayer if you wanted to. But realistically, the entire game’s campaign can be completed online, and that’s what I ended up doing with one of my friends over the past few nights. We’ve been hammering through the campaign at lightning speed, mostly because I have some overpowered weapons and gear right now. It makes for interesting times, and the completions are at record speeds for us. That being said, when I spoke with some of the other members of the squad, they said they’ve been playing long enough that they have kills on some of the late-game monsters in under five minutes. That’s insane for me to even think about, but congrats to them. The person I was speaking with said that if I perfected my builds and practiced, I could do it, too, which left me feeling a bit hopeful about everything. That even a noob like me can one day reach those incredible heights in a game. If you can dream it, you can do it, and all that sappy stuff.

What’s also interesting about having a squad is the feeling of belonging that’s associated with it. It’s so easy to hop right in that I don’t have to worry about feeling left out. Because it’s still currently summer vacation for me, I have the ability to stay up late at night with some extra coffee to play some Monster Hunter with my online friends. Sometimes way late into the night, even though I probably shouldn’t be messing with my sleep schedule so much right before school season begins again. The time is almost coming.

#281: The Squad, Part 1

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Playing Monster Hunter: World has been brought to a completely new level: I can now play with multiple friends at a time. Previously, I had played with one of my friends who recently bought a PS4 specifically to play with me, and that’s been a blast so far, but now the experience has been upgraded. I can’t say I’ve had an experience like this on an online game since my days of playing World of Warcraft in a guild. A sense of camaraderie between teammates while fighting for a unified objective, while also playing online with friends who you care for and who care for you.

When I used to raid in WoW, I don’t know how close I ever got to my teammates. I know I eventually told them my age and all that, and I know that at some point I went on voice chat with them and broke through that whole barrier. Back in the day, we used Ventrillo which was a computer application you had to pay for. Discord nowadays is so much more convenient, considering you can do whatever you want from there and for free. You can set up a server for just your friends, and you don’t need to pay for it, most importantly!

Forming a squad on Monster Hunter, though, has been a wonderful experience. I love meeting and befriending new people online, and I love perpetually closing the social gap that I have with other people. There’s satisfaction in slowly overcoming obstacles that have persisted through time, from a young age to an adult age. Having a squad means no one is out of place, everyone’s here for a reason, and everyone in the squad is welcome whenever. All you have to do is just log in to Monster Hunter: World and see if anyone else is playing, too. It makes the game so much more multiplayer based than I ever thought it would be.

#280: The Year

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It’s been a long time since I’ve spent a full school year teaching. The last time I did so was from 2017-2018, and it’s now long since that time. My seniors are now college sophomores, my sophomores are now high school seniors. All of that feels weird to type, knowing how mature (and immature) some of them were, and the requirements and responsibilities expected of their new stations. But on the other hand, life moves on, and I was an in immature, selfish brat as a teenager, so I don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

When I think about what a full year amounts to, I get a bit intimidated. The last time I spent a full year teaching, I had a bit of a breakdown on the first day of school, and then again the next first day of school. It’s been a recurring theme for me, one that I hope to break this year. Among other factors to do with my professional self-esteem and more, I think it’s partially to do with the existential realization that, for the next 10 months, I won’t be able to relax as easily as I was over the summer. But it’s not like this is the end of the world; work is necessary, and money is important. I have to supply for myself, and the world won’t keep moving if I don’t keep working in some capacity.

When I look at a calendar, it’s hard not to think of how long each day takes. 24 full hours, with very little room in those hours for enjoyment. But when it comes down to it, I’m doing something that I love doing, and that’s all that matters. Doing what you love is what will propel you and give you the motivation to not worry about whatever comes next.

#279: The Journal

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When I was younger, I used to write in a physical journal, and I carried it everywhere with me. (Have I told this story before? Inevitably, I’m going to repeat myself; not like anyone’s keeping track, but still…)

As someone with low self-esteem and a predisposition towards telling people what they want to hear rather than the truth, my whole life has revolved around pleasing others. But writing is one of my few remaining solitary activities. It’s something I can return to and rediscover my true self and feelings, without reservation. I don’t have to worry about whether or not I truly like something or if I’m just saying I like something to please another person; while writing, I am honest to the only person who consistently reads my writing: myself. Self-esteem doesn’t play a role in my treatment. Everyone deserves the opportunity to discover their voice and allow it to be heard, and a lot has been on my mind lately regarding what I want to do with my life. At age 24, it’s hard not to think of all the ways in which I’ve slowly lost control over things I used to have under control. Appointments, daily routines, large-scale ambitions. Inevitably, all of these things fall apart over time, but I never expected it to be so sudden and apparent to myself.

But that’s a topic for another blog post. Today, I want to solely discuss the act of writing, or keeping a daily journal, as it allows me to flesh out my thoughts in ways I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. In my journals, I am forced to stay consistent with my own thinking, and I don’t allow other voices to intrude on what I ought to write about. The only person I owe anything to with these blog posts is, ultimately, myself, and hopefully that doesn’t come off as selfish to others.

#278: The Plot Twist

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What do you remember the most from the plot of the most recent piece of media you consumed? Probably the climax. It’s the pivotal moment of the story, what all the narrative has been hinging upon. A story with a middling climax leaves people feeling dissatisfied and, in worst cases, betrayed. Look at how people have reacted to the most recent Game of Thrones season. There was an uproar, almost deservedly so, over the decaying writing quality over the course of the series. Seasons 7 and 8 were seen as low points for the series, whereas the beginning and middle seasons appeared to people as hallmarks of the good old days. It’s almost a shame how the climax left so many people wanting more and expecting higher, though the story was bound to disappoint at least some section of its audience regardless.

But the point here is that people will cling to the story’s end, whatever left the most recent large impression on them. To me, a recent game that had this effect was Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I spent the majority of the story slowly understanding it, but not making too much of an effort to pay attention. When the plot twist came along near the story’s climax, I felt totally unprepared for it because I wasn’t expecting such a major, narrative-shattering moment to appear. I won’t spoil it for people who are reading this but haven’t played the game, but I recommend picking it up for yourself so you can see what I mean. It might have the same effect on you! It definitely has the potential to. The game itself is completely worth picking up, especially if you’re new to the series, as I think it’ll astonish you. A plot twist like the one coming up in this game might leave your mouth agape, waiting to be picked back up from the floor.

#277: The Takeover

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When a game takes over your life, it’s a feeling like no other. Usually this happens when I play games with long playtimes, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, Paper Mario 2, the new Fire Emblem, games of that nature. Long, epic adventures with grand stories to tell. They’re addicting in that I want to reach the end, but I also want to enjoy what I have while I can. I talked about this feeling in my blog post titled “The Delay,” in which I mentioned that I don’t want to beat Persona 5 yet because it would mean the end of my friendships with the characters and fictional story. When a game takes over your life, you have to let it pass over you, and you have to enjoy every minute of it. Thankfully, that’s so easy to do. RPGs make it easy, as there are so many systems you have to understand in order to grasp the game. Mementos, diner dates, social links, activity points, confidant availability, faculty training, fishing and sharing a meal, materia, whatever else there is.

The new Fire Emblem is starting to take over my life in the same way that Persona did, although I’m taking precautions to make sure when school rolls around soon, I’m not too invested that I can’t keep up with work. It’s important to have a healthy balance of fun and work, after all. But that’s one of the reasons why the summer is so difficult to rebound from; you get used to living life one way, and then boom, it’s back to 10 months of intense work.

The title of this blog post was inspired by the song “Take Over,” the new ambush battle theme for Persona 5: Royal. It’s been stuck in my head and I don’t know what to do about it except continue listening!