#251: The Portal

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Today I’ll be discussing a lesser-known aspect of World of Warcraft, but something that’s still deeply important to my main class choices.

For the record, and for those who don’t know, I played a mage as my main class from 2007 all the way until… probably about 2018. His name is Seneth, and he’s been my main guy for well over 10 years. I still play him from time to time, though not as frequently as I used to. The mage playstyle just doesn’t interest me that much right now, and I’m waiting to see if any major changes to the mage rotation come in the next expansion, or after that. At the moment, nothing about mage is really striking me as interesting, except one thing… Portals.

That’s the topic of today’s blog post: the portal. Being a mage means having access to portals and teleportation spells that allow you to go wherever you want, whenever you want. The spells cost mana to cast, but the cost is practically negligible when it comes down to it. The main perk of playing mage is the ability to always have the ease of access of teleporting wherever you want to go. I miss that when I play other classes, like paladin and shaman, which don’t have the same ease of transportation. Both are bulky, mostly immobile classes. It makes me wish that mages were better right now, as I would probably be playing one!

I took a portal just now from Boralus to Silithus, but it would have been so much easier had I been on my mage. The times have definitely changed since the old days of this game.

As you might be able to tell by the picture up top here, I don’t have a picture of an actual portal to share with you, just a port!


#250: The Saga

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Today, I’ll be discussing one of my favorite games of all time, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. This is a classic for the Gameboy Advance, and I remember playing it so much back in the day. I never beat it as a kid, but I went back and beat it later as an adult so I guess that amounts to something. If you can’t beat it as a kid, that means it’s probably too hard.

The reason I bring this game up is because, at the con over this past weekend, Alex picked up the most recent, remastered edition of Superstar Saga for the 3DS. It’s a special game with a special place in my heart, honestly. I remember playing it on my Gameboy Advance like it was this newfangled piece of hardware. It felt so unique. Just hearing the music again brought joy and glee to my face. It’s something special when you hear a familiar song and it brings back memories all on its own. She was in the middle of the Popple battle, for example, and that has an amazing, recognizable theme that I can hear in my head as I’m even typing these words out. I’m going to the gym soon, and I might have to play it just to fill that space in my head! Usually, Alex doesn’t play with sound on, but I explained that this is an important game in which sound cues are essential to timing your attacks and defenses right. It’s not just an option to turn off or on; it’s relevant to all facets of the game’s design.

I also told her recently that there were four more additions to the series, so she got excited when that news was unveiled. There’s so much to do in this series, and it’s all so fantastic!

#249: The First Con

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My first comic con, technically, was in 2012, when I was a part of Anime Club at Quinnipiac and I helped out with QuinniCon, the semi-annual Quinnipiac-centered convention. We had all kinds of artists, shops, panels, activities, tournaments, and more going on throughout the day, and I remember getting some classic Super Smash Bros. Melee time in against complete strangers. Melee isn’t my preferred Smash title, but at the time it’s the one I knew best. I also remember picking up House Stark-themed shot glasses. They were tinted blueish, and I remember using them as a freshman in college because I was introduced to Game of Thrones that year by one of my good friends. That’s when that whole journey began, but that’s a story for another blog post. Perhaps the next one.

My second con was Connecticon, though, and I have fond memories of going there with my friend Bryan for the first time and being amazed at the sheer size of everything. It would pale in comparison to Anime NYC, but that took three years for me to get there and I wouldn’t want to compare the two experiences in the first place.

The reason I’m mentioning all of these cons is because recently I visited Connecticon with two people who haven’t been to it before: Alex and Bella. Alex has been to cons in the past, but this was Bella’s first true convention. As a fellow nerd, it was about time she got the chance to visit one of these. I wish we had the chance to spend more time there, but we got done what needed to be done and picked up some sweet loot in the process. Alex and I grabbed a Persona 5 poster, a Cowboy Bebop poster, and a Joker Funko Pop.

#248: The Persona

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It’s about time I talked about persona. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to dedicate a full blog post to it, but here goes anyway.

Persona 5 is a brilliant, interactive, narrative-driven video game on the PS3 and PS4. Thankfully, after purchasing the PS4 over the summer, I’ve been playing a lot of this game, over 95 hours so far. I’m currently on the sixth palace, or dungeon, in the game, and it’s completely enthralled me. I’ve talked with many, many friends about this game too, and it’s something else just to be able to have these long, detailed, complex conversations with people about a game’s unique story. I love unique, well-crafted narratives, and this is definitely one of them. The story, the characters, the themes, the framing, the setting. It all comes together into one beautifully-crafted package. I give props to Atlus for creating such a complicated title with interwoven character arcs and everything.

I could talk at a mile a minute about this game, but I’d like to focus on a specific aspect of the game that I like: the persona system. It’s sort of like Pokemon, in which there are elements (fire, wind, ice, nuclear?, etc.) and certain party members specialize in certain elements. You pick up party members in the traditional JRPG way of having them slowly join up and come to terms with how cool your party is. In this case, the Phantom Thieves are an internationally-known, secret organization of crime fighters, and each character awakens to their persona at a critical moment in the story, thus granting them that kind of power in the Metaverse. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s seriously fantastic. I don’t know what my summer would have been like without this game with me.

#247: The Mansion

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Spooky, right? Something about looking at a mansion always gets my mind racing, thinking about the haunts and horrors that lie within.

But today, I’ll be discussing one of my favorite video game titles of all time, Luigi’s Mansion. It debuted on the Nintendo Gamecube way back when, probably around the time that the Gamecube first released in 2004. I have some special memories associated with this game that I’d like to discuss on here for a bit.

Back when I was in middle school, my friend Jimmy and I would compete to see who could beat a certain game the fastest. We had this competition with Kingdom Hearts 2, Paper Mario 2, and Super Mario Sunshine, along with other Gamecube and PS2 era titles that are still nostalgic for me, and that I haven’t touched in years. Another of those games was Luigi’s Mansion, which was probably the best title we could speedrun. I’ve since seen people beat the game within an hour’s time, without using any cheat codes or crazy tricks, because they’ve dedicated that much time to it. It’s one of the quickest games available, but it’s also endlessly replayable and full of challenge if you’re unfamiliar with the game’s systems. If you are familiar, the game rewards you immensely by letting you collect differently-framed haunt paintings. You want to reach gold with each haunt, and you want to ultimately have the biggest mansion possible by the end of the game, too. It reminds me a lot of Pokemon Snap, another game with a short play time that’s designed to be replayed over and over for maximum fun.

So, Jimmy and I replayed a lot of Luigi’s Mansion over the years. The game is kind of ingrained in my head because of that. One day, maybe if I can find another Gamecube to use, Alex will get the chance to play it, too.

#246: The Mask

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Do you find that sometimes you wear a mask around certain people? Do you conceal your true self when around others? Are there people you simply cannot let loose around, for whatever reason, be they your boss, your parents, or what have you? That’s what I’d like to discuss today.

As I write this, the instrumental version of “Beneath the Mask” is playing in the background, filling up my brain with ideas for what to write about on here. It’s a beautiful song, and I recommend it as some good studying or writing music. It also plays on my new PS4 theme background, thanks to the $2 I spent on it. It serves as good inspiration music for my writing.

As a student, I learned that being honest about yourself invites ridicule from others, and that the only way to avoid being ridiculed is to completely hide all uniqueness from yourself, to blend in with the background as much as possible so as to become invisible to those judgmental eyes. That’s why I sometimes have a difficult time expressing my true feelings to others. When it comes down to it, we’re taught the virtues of honesty, but not the vices. We’re lead to believe that integrity, honor, honesty, and other positive values are inherently just, but not how to handle ourselves when those values are questioned and put to task. As a young, impressionable kid, it’s easier to relinquish them and accept defeat.

Being behind a mask means being fake, to some degree; you’re not disclosing your face, where others can see how you feel based on your body language and expressions. You’re concealing that which you have learned to conceal for your own safety and security. I no longer live behind a mask like I did way back when, but occasionally I slip into my old teenage habits because of those days.

#245: The Maker, Part 2

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But let’s switch topics to something a bit more in-the-news: Mario Maker 2, a game that recently released for the Nintendo Switch. This is what I originally wanted to write about, before I was distracted by the Bionicles and LEGOs discussion.

Mario Maker 2 is an otherwise fantastic game with some glaring flaws in its online multiplayer design. Though I didn’t spend much time playing that particular mode, I did enjoy the other modes quite a lot. Being able to play endless level challenges, over and over, with similarly endless replayability thanks to its user-generated level system. You pick a difficulty mode, such as Normal, Easy, Expert, or Super Expert, and the game throws user-generated levels at you to complete. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Normal mode, as I’m not skilled enough to get past level 6 or so without running out of lives, usually. Some of these levels are tricky, and I’m used to using my intuition as a gamer to figure out what’s coming next in a level. When it comes to user-generated levels from people all over the world, there’s no way of knowing what to expect and what a specific person is thinking when they created a particular level. They’re more unpredictable, basically.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the level editor, too. I created one level that requires you to use the cape from Super Mario World to traverse some deadly flame traps and cannonballs. And then I created and published a second level, with a bit more seriousness to it, that featured loads and loads of cannonball traps and a rising tide underneath the character. I felt especially proud of that second one because it used a few new features offered just in Mario Maker 2, such as the rising tide and the music blocks.

#244: The Maker, Part 1

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Another two part blog post! Recently, I’ve had fewer ideas but more to say about those ideas, so instead of dragging myself through lots of ideas at once, I figured this is a more appropriate way of publishing consistent blogs.

The Maker. Making things was a part of my childhood. I grew up with LEGOs, Kinects, Bionicles, the works. Whatever you can imagine, I probably tried creating at some point. My dad took it as an early sign that I would be an excellent contractor like him some day, but that didn’t necessarily turn out to be true. I can see why he would think that, though, considering I loved using my hands to build things as a kid. One would assume from that that I would also be interested in that as a future career. It just makes sense that way, and people did it for fun mostly. I remember building a massive Bionicle figure, I think it was Makuta/Teridax/whatever his name is, and it turned out to be one of my biggest accomplishments as a kid. Seeing that figure, and seeing that I had a part in actualizing it, felt amazing. Words couldn’t capture my enthusiasm and excitement. Bionicles truly had a great hold on my childhood creativity. I think they were one of the first times I was offered the opportunity to create something myself. Although directions were given to you, I’d go off the beaten path sometimes to create monster or figures that didn’t resemble the original creation at all.

Being creative isn’t an inherent trait, I think. You can be taught to be creative, and the best way is to model it after your own intuition. Sometimes small things have a large effect on your standing as an adult. I’m glad these toys had an effect on my life.

#243: The Group Chat, Part 2

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This one is coming in two parts!

Two of my friends on the chat are huge anime fans, for example, so I feel like I know a decent amount about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure just from them, even though I’ve only ever watched the pilot episode with Alex in Boston one night.

The group chat started back in 2016 or 2017, when I was still on Twitter under a different account name. I had an account I used to follow people from hobbies I was a fan of, and I found a bunch of wrestling fans who shared similar interests online. We bonded over the wrestlers we liked, but most of all, we bonded over our shared connections and long-winded discussions about heated topics, such as booking, match results, and video games. There were lots of things to be angry about back when we watched the shows regularly, but also lots of great, memorable conversations involving people I’ve never met in person. These people are some of my greatest friends, and yet I don’t know when I’ll ever get the chance to see them. Does that really matter? Aren’t online interactions just as genuine and worthwhile as interactions in person? I’m not sure, but I’d like to think they are. A person you communicate with, by whatever means of communication are available, can still be a friend of yours. A pen pal from across the country is still a friend regardless of the fact that you may never meet them, either.

When I was in high school, I had a difficult time making friends, so to be able to have access to the internet meant having access to a world of online friendships, too. I knew people on the internet from World of Warcraft, the Rock Band forums, Last.fm, and more, and all of those people I owe so much to. I don’t know where I would be without them, so they definitely mean as much to me as any of my other friends do.

#242: The Group Chat, Part 1

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This one is coming in two parts! Here’s the first one, about a fantastic group chat I’m a part of.

While scrolling through Twitter, I discovered something worth writing about: the group chat I’ve had for so long, and all the wonderful people I’ve met because of it. I was playing Persona 5 earlier today when I remembered that I could share my experiences in the game with my friends who recommended I play it in the first place, years ago. I remember reading the group chat, also known as “Paige fam” or whatever other title it has on a given day. It usually changes with the season, but that’s one of the more endearing parts of the chat. I’m not going to mention any of the chat members’ names, as I haven’t told them that I’m writing about them and don’t want to spoil their privacy. But it’s a great group of about 9 people, all of whom I’ve spent a lot of time talking with. We’ve gone through stages of allowing more people into the chat, only to have them either spoil who’s in it to others or just not participate very often. Those people aren’t part of the chat any more. There was a time when the chat had 11 people in it, for example.

We’ve talked about and shared opinions on all kinds of topics, from Game of Thrones’s latest season (and its ultimate failure) along with football championship victories in Europe and earthquakes in New Zealand. The people in this chat span across countries; the diversity isn’t just in location, but in gender, ethnicity, and personality. It’s that kind of diversity that makes the chat so great, and so wonderful to come back after taking a few days off from looking at Twitter or social media. There’s always a fruitful, interesting conversation to look at afterwards.