#508: The Quarantine, Part 3

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I’d like to talk about the picture I chose for this blog post first, before going into what I’ve been doing during this quarantine. The picture above states, “Stay home if you’re sick!” however I’d probably amend that just to say, “Stay home in general!” The way this virus works, you can be infected and still be asymptomatic. The responsible thing to do for all of us is to make sure we’re practicing social distancing so that, if for whatever reason we are actually infected, we don’t unintentionally spread it to the people around us who are more vulnerable and at risk. That’s one of the subjects we discussed at our round-table family meeting recently. I’m practicing social distancing and effectively quarantining myself even though I don’t have a cough or any of the other symptoms you would expect from the virus. Other people should be doing that, too, and I don’t think it’s wise for us to go out in public and romp around the world expecting everything to be the same as it once was. We need to be cautious and upfront about our symptoms so that other people know what to expect from us. Even as I write this I question a little bit whether I’m making the right call for everyone, but I hope it’s right.

As for me, I have been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XIV. It’s an addicting, incredibly thrilling MMORPG that has gripped my attention through this whole endeavor and I’m super happy about the ending of the most recent expansion, Shadowbringers. It was fantastic. I know people in the future are likely going to think, you were playing video games during this crisis? But guess what, what else am I supposed to be doing? It worked for me to keep me from going outside and being around people.

#505: The Puzzle, Part 2

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In this blog post, I won’t just be talking about the act of working on puzzles, a meaningful activity that my family has spent a lot of time on already. I talked about that in the last one. I want to touch on a particular anecdote and share it with you all because it’s stuck with me, and it’s an experience you maybe don’t always get to have. Basically, I got to meet one of my good friends’ family friends while working on a puzzle with them at their house about a year ago. We talked about all kinds of things in the time we were there, especially election season and how we were excited to hear what was going to happen next year. How naive we were at the time.

The puzzle we were working on was mostly inconsequential. I don’t remember the pattern or what it looked like at all; I just remember struggling to put anything together, as it had about 25% of it done and was in that stage where people are just putting the pieces next to other pieces and seeing if they fit at all.

About a week or two ago, I spoke to that friend again and we talked about this moment in time. We specifically talked about how weird it is sometimes to recall places and people you’ll likely never meet or see ever again. You were nice and cordial to each other once, and then… poof. They’re gone. You might not even remember their names or where they lived or what their house was like; you just remember that small moment your lives intersected for a bit. It’s unusual to consider this, I guess. But we talked about it together, and I wish I had more examples I could pull out in my head, but they’re all gone.

#504: The Puzzle, Part 1

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Back when I used to live at this house, we would sometimes pull out puzzles and try to complete them in one go. They’d never get finished that easily, usually because the puzzles we had were enormous and multifaceted and full of the most ridiculous spots. It’s more difficult than it looks, I promise you, to figure out how this blue spot connects to this other blue spot that looks remarkably similar except for an infinitesimally small sky-blue dot in the upper corner. It’s all about the little details when it comes to figuring out how these puzzles work. You have to have an attention to detail and picking out the finest points of things, and you have to be able to focus. That’s always a tough thing for me: focusing. Puzzles require concentration and dedication to completing it, obviously, but also to looking at those small details and not losing your mind in the process of working all that out in your head.

I give props to my mom and sister, who are much better at completing puzzles than I am. I learn by intuition; I feel things out and hope that they make sense in the process of me figuring it out on my own. I learn in a way that makes puzzles difficult, because they’re not exactly the most intuitive things around. Of course, there are some intuitive elements, like figuring out the outline of the puzzle before anything else, looking for pieces that match each other in pattern, and so on, but more than anything, puzzles are about concentration and a will to not completely give up after staring at the same spots over and over again.

I think I’m going to write about puzzles some more in the next blog post. Stay tuned for that.

#498: The Counter

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So, I sometimes run a deck that has a lot of good counterspells in it. No one seems to know what to do when they face it one-on-one, because it’s just so obnoxious to deal with. It reminds us always of a friend who we used to play with constantly, who always ran counterspells and loved the colors blue, black, and red in Magic. Those colors generally run with annoying spells, so it’s sensible that people wouldn’t feel that great playing against it in games. It’s like playing against control decks in Hearthstone; you never really want to do it, because you know they’re just going to ruin your whole game plan for the duration of the game. It’s part of their strategy, and it’s basically how they plan on winning, by disrupting you so much that you no longer have the combo pieces required to win how you would expect to.

Today I’m writing about counters because, as it happens to be, yesterday I spent some time with my friends playing magic and we discussed what it’s like to play against the Bolas deck, as it’s called. It’s my grixis-colored commander deck, and it’s known for being especially obnoxious to play against, especially if you’re playing Dan’s selesnya-colored commander deck. He doesn’t run much blue hate in that deck, and it’s pretty much exclusively good at out-doing other fat decks that rely on big creatures. My Lord Windgrace deck gets countered pretty hard by Dan’s deck, but whenever I seem to play the Bolas one, it seems to come out on top in spite of it being less good, in my opinion. It doesn’t have the same options and I haven’t put as much money into it as I did the other decks. Sometimes simple is better, at least in this case.

#487: The Disconnect

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While writing the last blog post about getting a fat pack of cards, I disconnected from a game of Hearthstone. I like to play that game while still having time to do other things, like Destiny, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, or writing blog posts. Whatever the occasion, I like the opportunity to multi-task and accomplish two things at once, if possible. Most of the reason why I end up writing so many blog posts about the same subjects — the games I play — is because I end up writing while doing those things. It’s just the natural way of how I write.

Now, when I’m trying to pay attention and actually home in on a particular idea, in those cases I definitely don’t multi-task. Like if I’m writing a story or a chapter, I find that I have to commit myself to only writing that story or chapter in order for it to make sense. In any other circumstance, it’s just straight up impossible. There’s sometimes a disconnect between how I write and how I play, but above all it’s caused by my brain and how it manages itself. More than anything, I’m not the kind of person to just let things pass me by, and I want to commit to writing this blog with my full attention at times.

The disconnect is what happens when I lose a game of Hearthstone because the Internet connection here is a bit unstable and doesn’t always like to cooperate. The disconnect is how I handle frustration, and it’s also how I handle situations that are just straight up difficult to manage on my own. I disconnect from them, and I move away, like I did this January. It’s crazy to think it’s still been two months since what happened changed everything.

#481: The Land

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Land-based decks are some of my favorite in the world of Magic: the Gathering, and in today’s blog post, I’d like to discuss them a bit more in depth. This is partially inspired by the fact that the last time that my friend Dan came over to play Magic, I beat him twice with my land-based deck. It ended up being a lot more powerful and potent than I thought it would be, during both fights. What happens is, I start the game with some form of powerful land recursion or land generation from my deck, and then I ramp up to lots and lots of mana at once, culminating in a major move that usually wins me the game. Sometimes it’s Multani, other times it’s a really large Torment of Hailfire boosted by an absurdly powerful effect like the one that comes from Nyxbloom Ancient, a card that debuted in the most recent Theros set. (This post is going to seem ancient really soon, as soon as the next set comes out, right?)

Land decks are especially interesting to me because they focus around one of the key components of any deck: the mana base. If your deck doesn’t have a consistent way of ramping up mana, or perhaps they just don’t care about mana ramping at all, they’re likely going to falter in a format like commander, which is the one I’m trying to describe here. The landscape of the format pretty much depends on some form of cheap, reliable mana ramping. Without it, you’re going to be left in the dust by other people who are accelerating much faster into their game plans than you are. Even just including small cards like Sol Ring go a long way. That card is crazy busted by the way and wins games if you get it out early enough.

#445: The Vein

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Though I’ve never played Code Vein before, I know a decent amount about it because of my friends who have played it a lot. Earlier today, the day that I’m writing this, my friends were still playing Code Vein into the morning when I woke up at 6:40am. They were doing their thing, playing the game and beating all the available levels and bosses in front of them, and I was just getting ready for work. It almost felt surreal to see them still online, still talking to each other for almost 14 hours straight. I felt exhausted after only one hour of talking at a time, because it gets exhausting not being within my own head space for awhile. I know that probably sounds a bit selfish, but what it really is is just that I am the kind of person who prefers total peace of mind. I try not to stir the pot or make things worse for anyone, but I also like being within my own head, if that makes sense.

But again, this post is about Code Vein, which seems to be a Dark Souls-like game that features action elements and companion-style combat. It’s like Monster Hunter if the palico was actually really useful and helpful, beyond just providing buffs and healing from time to time.

But really, it was great to listen to people talk about their game while I was driving to work. It felt totally normal to hear them and chat with them, and continue the conversation that had started before I went to bed. It felt completely natural to move from one right to the other. And it kept me busy during the drive, which is great because usually I’m just listening to music or something else to keep my brain occupied. It’s wonderful.

#413: The Hollow

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I’m currently listening to the soundtrack to Hollow Knight: Silksong, a sequel video game that’s set to come out sometime next year. It’s going to be a huge hit, as the first one was, and I’m really looking forward to its release even though I never beat the first one. Why, you might ask? Well, one of the reasons honestly is because of the soundtrack. It’s gorgeous, and the melodies could drift you off to sleep if you’re not careful while listening. They’re soothing and luring, like a bedtime ritual.

I might have already made a post about Hollow Knight before, now that I think about it. I guess it just has really left an impression on me in the short time I’ve spent playing it. It stays with you even though the game isn’t necessarily that long. It’s perfect in small doses, playing from time to time and dipping in and out as you find the inclination or motivation to play it. Games that allow you to do that without losing progress or anything like that are exceptional in their own ways. They’re worth playing by virtue of the fact that they’re replayable. Hollow Knight is certainly an example of this, and it’s a blast to play because of that.

One thing about Monster Hunter World that would take some getting used to is all the controls for each of the individual weapons over time. It would be difficult to get back into the game if I took an extended break from it, which is why I usually end up playing at least some Monster Hunter when I can. It’s a fun game no matter how you slice it, but it’s definitely the kind of game that’s difficult to pick up and put down without committing a sizable chunk of time to it.

#408: The Deathmatch, Part 2

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So, gonna continue talking about the deathmatch format for another blog post because I’m just so jazzed about it, I couldn’t fit everything into just one post. It’s just that interesting for me to write about! Hopefully it has the same effect reading it as it does writing it.

So, participating in deathmatch games is always high-stakes. Your deaths directly contribute to the enemy team winning the game, and even if you’re carrying the team on your back with your amazing kill streak and combo moves, it won’t matter one bit if the rest of your team is slacking off. Now, that is to say that playing in the deathmatch format gives you more leeway to carry than say in the objective-based format. You actually have the opportunity to contribute to the score that wins the game for you, instead of having to push the payload in one direction for awhile.

I’ve played deathmatch games for as long as I can remember. When I first played Halo 3, for example, I was hugely into Team Slayer, which was essentially the same thing as Team Deathmatch. It involves picking up weapons throughout the map and letting them dictate how well you do in that mode. I also played deathmatch games in Call of Duty, specifically the Modern Warfare series and the first two games of that.

Nowadays, I play deathmatch mostly in Overwatch. It’s a game mode that’s sometimes available in the arcade, if I get lucky and log in at around the right time of the day for it to be available. It’s not always an option, which sucks.

I also went back to Halo: Reach again recently and that has Team Slayer as well, so it feels like going back home in some ways. Like I’m reverting to an old past.

#407: The Deathmatch, Part 1

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This blog post is going to be about deathmatch as a game mode.

Whenever I’ve played first-person shooter games, I’ve always gravitated away from the objective-based formats and more towards deathmatch fights. Here’s the major difference: objective formats have you work as a team to push a payload, capture a point, or hold a certain amount of ground, whereas deathmatch formats deal with killing the other team a certain amount of times to reach the end goal of 30, 40, 50, etc. It’s more exciting, in my opinion, and it allows for more relaxed, quick gameplay when you’re just focused on fragging your opponents and not so much on whether or not the payload is being pushed correctly.

This isn’t to say that those formats and game modes aren’t fun; they have their uses too. I like when I’m queued with a specific team and we go into battle together, as it means we’ll actually focus on the objective rather than if there was someone random on the team who might not focus on it at all. That tends to happen more often than not, and it leads to frustrating games. In deathmatch, the objective is so obvious that everyone is naturally doing it anyway: killing the enemy team is easy, fun, and quick.

Now, there are different ways of playing deathmatch. There’s the team deathmatch format, which involves teams of four or six people working together to take down the enemy team’s score, or there’s free for all deathmatch, in which you have to do it all by yourself. I don’t know if I have one I prefer over the other, but I’ve definitely put more time into free for all, if I’m being honest. That’s because it’s available more often on Overwatch, but that’s besides the point. It’s also just very fun.