Snack Report: Gamer Vacation Edition

mass effect andromeda snacks

Video game vacations are my favorite. Going to work is torture when you’ve just started a new game and you’re busy collecting some random thing. I can’t stop collecting the random thing! If I get 5 more I can build another random thing that I NEED! All those hours not playing? *shudder* At work you can of course read articles about the game you’re not playing, or message your friend about your game separation pains. None of it will help because you’ve been rudely pulled from your full gaming experience to adult. Taking a game vacation is really the best thing for you!

I’m obsessing slightly about my upcoming game-cation. Mass Effect Andromeda looks just as huge and detailed as the last game. I’m one of those crazy gamers who loves doing anything that isn’t the actual main plot. SIDE MISSIONS! RANDOMNESS! Searching for weird cool things under random rocks on a random planet because you never know!

In my obsessing I’m realizing, there are other adult things that may try to intrude on my gaming. Making food happen, getting enough caffeine for if stopping to sleep is too hard, and dessert of course. I mean poor food planning could lead me to have to put on pants and go to the store in the middle of talking to every NPC in a place. You can’t just stop mid-place with only half the NPCs talked to! That would be insane. YOU MIGHT MISS A SIDE MISSION!

I’ve finalized my snack list. These are foods that once prepared are easy to re-heat, or that could be eaten cold. They’re also easy to graze on while still gaming. Stopping for a meal is just more adulting, don’t fall for adulting!

Official Snack List of my ME: Andromeda Game-cation:

Pizza. Pizza pizza pizza. Pizza is a gamer go-to! You can eat it hot or cold. It is ready for when you realize that mission you’d thought would take no time, dumped you right into another action scene, and now that you’ve killed all the things you need FOOD! I’m going to cook the day before vacation, so I can have FANCY pizza, but delivery works too. I’m addicted to this pizza from The Pioneer Woman, though. Caramelized onions, prosciutto, lot of cheese! Mmmm…This pizza will hopefully see me through several days of random meals. Other good replacements are pizza rolls, or even making your pizza on naan bread, french bread, or english muffins to save yourself from dealing with pizza dough.

Smitten Kitchen Buckeyes!

Photo by Deb Perelman/SmittenKitchen.com

Dessert. This is a gaming vacation so dessert is essential. Not every meal should be as adult as pizza. I fully plan to eat dessert instead of a meal at least once a day, probably with a soda. Sugar-caffeine is how gamers survive long missions.  I love peanut butter and chocolate! My Kentucky relatives always used to make buckeyes when I was a kid. If you haven’t had these they are sugary peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. Smitten Kitchen has a great recipe for Buckeyes that I love. If buckeyes don’t seem like the dessert for you, Smitten Kitchen is a go-to site for desserts. She’s a very dedicated dessert tester. If she says a recipe is the best, she’s done the science. She knows! I should really move in next door to see if she gives samples to her neighbors. If baking is too complicated, find a local bakery!

Caffeine. It could be you don’t need this. Happiness and game excitement might carry you through nonstop playing! You may also get stuck in a weird place in the game and need some extra energy. Better be safe and stock up.

Dip. What is even the purpose of a couch vacation if you aren’t gonna eat a fancy dip while talking to alien NPCs about if you can get their credit chit back from some other NPC that wants you to do something else? NPCs are so needy. You need dip for in between your pizza and dessert meals! You know what though, you probably should have some more protein. Buffalo Chicken Dip! It is like eating cheesy wing dip! Frank’s hot sauce has my favorite recipe for this. It is great with corn chips. I use cheddar cheese, not blue cheese. I also like it hotter, so I do about 3/4 c. hot sauce. But you might want to taste it before listening to a crazy person and adding more.

snack-report-meatsandcheeses

Olives and Cheeeeeeese. This is the easiest snack. It requires taking it out of the fridge and maybe putting it on a plate before stuffing it in your mouth. It is perfect for game-grazing! I usually get an aged gouda, a port salut or soft goat cheese, an english cheddar that smells super earthy, and a stinky blue cheese (drizzle some honey on that.) Yum. Olives need to be pitted for safety!

For olives treat yourself and go find a grocery with an olive bar. Then you can get a variety! Genoa salami, crackers, apples, pears, pickled veggies, candied pecans…these can only improve your olive and cheese experience. Fresh herbs too. A little fresh thyme on a soft goat cheese is magic.

Bacon Sandwiches. Alright, my no cooking plan was for anything but bacon. Bacon is nice. You’ll also need some breaks eventually. Why not use your break to cook some bacon! I love a bacon, avocado, tomato sandwich on toasted bread with a bit of lime juice and mayo. Now this is messy food. It may be tough to eat without getting the controller messy, so this is probably a chance for you to eat while looking online at all the silly things everyone else is doing in game. Reddit is my usual go-to for this, but right now they’re complaining about faces and character creation? It’ll be better in a week when there are silly game videos and screen caps!

EXTRA SNACKS. As much as you plan, you don’t know what you’ll be craving. Best to have some back-up favorites around. In fact, I’ve got fruit and veggies since I suspect a few days of eating the above, I may start craving lighter things. Of course, if I want more fatty sugary things, then peanut m&ms or reese’s pieces are wonderful. Chocolate truffles. Cookies. COOKIE DOUGH. Popcorn. All of these can round out your vacation diet.

Finally, you should probably also buy the game, get the updates installed if you can, do some gamer stretches, make sure you have enough clean pajamas, and warn your family and friends that you may go silent for a while.

The Mesmerizing Beauty of No Man’s Sky

no-mans-sky-logo

No Man’s Sky, the ambitious and massive offering from Hello Games has been out for just about two weeks now. I’m nowhere near the center of the universe yet, I still have no idea what the endgame looks like, and I’ll tell you what: I’m not in the mood to really rush towards either. The methodical exploration, language discovery and resource gathering experience of No Man’s Sky is so soothing and pleasurable that I keep forgetting I actually have a goal. And let me be clear, I think this is a good thing! There are so many video games that are easy to rush through, and it’s incredibly nice to have a game where I, as the player, am dictating the pace and depth of my playing without experiencing any negative consequences or boredom.

no-mans-sky-dino

This is my friend Dino Fish. He finds treasure.

I really appreciate that most, if not all, of the features of No Man’s Sky are optional. Not feeling inspired to rename your new planetary system? No problem, just leave it as the randomly generated one. Don’t want to kill the sentinels? Just get in your ship and fly away, or find a good place to hide and wait for them to go away. Aside from generally guiding me towards the center of the universe by way of regular reminders, No Man’s Sky seems completely content to allow me to wander a planet or a system to my heart’s content, racking up credits for discovering bizarre looking creatures, cataloguing rocks and gathering resources.

no-mans-sky-friend

Shhh….he’s napping.

My proudest moment in the game so far has been learning enough words in Vy’keen to understand a complete sentence. And no, not the one that’s just “death” over and over again. That doesn’t count! Now I’m trucking along in a new system, trying to learn enough words of Gek to experience the same thing again. It’s immensely satisfying to be rewarded for what essentially amounts to studying, because at the end of the day I am still a Hermione. Blowing up bad guys is fun and everything, but the sense of joy and accomplishment that comes from understanding the world of the game I’m playing cannot be beat.

It's so fluffy! And also spiky.

It’s so fluffy! And also spiky.

As a well established crafting addict and resource hoarder, I am really enjoying the storage space challenges that No Man’s Sky is presenting to me. No matter how consistently I curse the game for the fact that I’m always out of space, I secretly appreciate it forcing me to make choices about what stays, and what goes. How much plutonium can I realistically store? Which rare purple elements should I sell, and which should I try to hang on to? Making choices is good, and it’s important, because it keeps me moving forward in the game!

If it weren’t for my desire to enlarge my exosuit or buy a bigger ship, I’d probably still be on good old Juno, exploring and wandering and collecting. An ability to collect, craft and sell indefinitely is a significant factor in why I have utterly failed to finish the main storyline of Fallout 4. When I can build entire cities around my obsession with collecting and crafting ALL THE THINGS, it’s easy to never go back to main plot. Having exploration, materials gathering and crafting be the plot is such a gift for a player like me, who enjoys lingering over what a lot of games consider side quests. I really appreciate No Man’s Sky for that.

lumpy gazelle

Some names are better than others, OK?

I have run into some interesting conundrums though. Such as, why can I name a planet A Frigid Hell, but I can’t name one The Basement for profanity reasons? Why do the creepy spiders always attack me? (Wait, I think I know the answer to that one.) Will I ever discover another player along the way, and if I do, will they appreciate my obscure Big Lebowski references and willingness to name planets after the various cats in my life?

Overall, No Man’s Sky is gorgeous, and inspiring. It’s well constructed, the UI design is clean and the game itself has moments of challenge (space battles! massive environmental hazards!) that keep it fresh. It’s fun and relaxing to play, while still being deeply engaging. I really want to know more of the stories and mythologies of the three races, I want to keep discovering crazy creatures and unique environments. I think I might name my next system after spells from Dungeons & Dragons, you know, for reasons. I’d say I’d see you out there in the universe, but frankly, it seems terribly unlikely. Happy flying, fellow explorers, and may all your sentinels be relaxed.

Can you name all the nerdy nonsense in this shot?

Can you name all the nerdy nonsense in this shot?

Confessions of A Crafting Addict

crafting header

Pro Tip: Do Not Mess With the Chickens.

My name is Carolyn, and I have a crafting problem. Not in real life, mind you, where the craftiest I ever get involves adult coloring books and overly elaborate cocktails. No, I have an addiction to crafting in video games. Weapons, armor, houses, potions. If I can craft it, I guarantee you I will sink hours upon hours of game time into finding the components, making it, and then selling it for profit!

I think it’s safe to say that this love affair with crafting started with Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I have always loved in game crafting, but the UI for Skyrim was truly excellent. Each crafting area was lovingly rendered, and the skill trees were expansive. I could earn my way to customized dragonscale armor! If I put enough time into alchemy, I could learn what every single plant did. I could cook food and make booze from the items I found in the world and never have to spend gold on healing potions ever again! Plus, I could earn sweet, sweet profits with all the items I made, and then I could buy houses! Houses with alchemy labs and blacksmithing stations. It. Was. Glorious.

And it’s been a passionate relationship ever since.

Creepy Head

Ummm…can I craft anything out of this?

I, quite literally, squealed watching the trailer for Fallout 4 when Bethesda revealed that not only could you craft guns and armor in the game, you could build ENTIRE TOWNS! The possibilities seemed endless and exciting. Truth be told, I actually find the crafting options in Fallout 4 a little overwhelming, and I’m constantly overburdened because everything in the world is basically usable in crafting. But has that stopped me? No, it has not. I’ll run around with my faithful companion Dogmeat, collecting all the things we both can carry, and then back to Sanctuary I go. Where I will sit for hours, making Stimpaks and modding the crap out of my favorite pistol. Oh, and the fact that cooking your wasteland food over a fire suddenly makes it not radioactive? AWESOME. Who doesn’t love a good Mutant Hound Chop for dinner? Also, one time I found this head, but I never did figure out what to do with it.

But truly, the game that has most strongly captured my crafting obsessed heart is The Elder Scrolls: Online. I have logged nearly 200 hours of gameplay and I have not once gone to the PvP arena, I haven’t cleared a single public dungeon or completed the main quest line. You know what I have done? Hunted for recipes. I am obsessed with finding new recipes. I need them. I have to have them. I have all these ingredients sitting in my character bank and all I want is to be able to make delicious pixelated food and drink out of them! There is a trophy for learning 100 recipes, and I want it. I will get a cool new clothing dye when I unlock it. I get a ridiculous thrill every time I open a backpack

Come on, purple recipe! Nope, just more flint.

or dresser (the best containers for finding recipes, it is known) and see a recipe icon, which is quickly followed by a stab of disappointment when I discover it’s one I already know. I’ve only found one purple level recipe and not a single golden one. But I will. I’m dedicated. I’m going to find them all. And then make them all. And then sell them all through my guild for gold.

I don’t know why crafting in video games is so satisfying. Is it the repetitive nature of making things? Or the small, achievable goal of creating a potion, or a piece of armor? Perhaps it’s that making things in a video game is approximately a zillion times easier than making them in real life. I don’t know, and I’m not sure I really care.

grilled seagull

Why is seagull made of poultry?

I just know that it’s fun to stand over a cooking fire making Stros M’Kai Grilled Seagull and a nice Rosy Island Ale to pair with it. Actually, now that I think about it, those look tasty. Maybe I’ll try my hand at making them for real. Oh who am I kidding? Pressing square on my PS4 controller is way easier than trying to find whatever the heck saltrice is in real life.

 

 

Carolyn is a Veteran Level 1 Breton Sorcerer. You can usually find her wherever there are ample ingredients and a cooking fire. Happy crafting!

Why Can’t I Quit Destiny?

destiny

I think most everyone can agree that Destiny is a deeply flawed game. The storyline is fractured and incomplete, it has some hilariously laughable acting moments (seriously, Peter Dinklage, I adore you, but did you call this stuff in from your trailer in Belfast on a lunch break?), and the loot system is frustratingly random and capricious.

And yet. Here I am. Some 200+ hours of game time in. 3 characters in. Endless weapons and armor. A pile of other games to play. A house to take care of, movies to watch and critique, and Denver Comic Con to prep for.

And. I. Can’t. Stop. Playing. Destiny.

Every Tuesday, there I am, running Nightfall with my husband. Every weekend, Vault of Glass and Crota with our friends. Mocking the dialogue, hoping for good loot drops, rolling our eyes when someone gets the same pointless, but pretty, Sparrow for the 19th time. Obsessively hunting down shards, glimmer, and parts to make our weapons and armor better. Grinding our way to level 30, then 31, and now, 32.

I don’t understand the grip this game has on me. Sure, it’s unbelievably beautiful to look at, the engine is phenomenal, and the weapons are super fun, but that’s true of a lot of games. And yes, the cast is filled with people I would happily watch do a staged reading of the Yellow Pages. (You would watch Nathan Fillion, Lance Reddick and Gina Torres do that too, I know you would!) And of course I’m enjoying the growing list of geeky shout outs. I mean, come on, how are these cloaks NOT a Game of Thrones reference?

Destiny-strength_of_the_pack

But that’s not really enough to keep playing, week in and week out.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about it.

Is it Destiny’s top notch execution of game theory to engineer the loot drops to keep pulling you back in? Maybe. Just when you’re ready to rage quit, Destiny gives you a wonderful treat like the Ice Breaker,  a sniper rifle that does over 300 damage and causes your enemies to combust, all the from safety and comfort of Destiny’s clever hiding spots. Then you have to play with your shiny new toy, and level it up, and before you know it, another 6 hours of gameplay have gone by.

Is it my completionist nature? I mean, I am the girl who can’t walk past a single cave in Skyrim, who has to open every chest, explore every town, and kill every enemy. I think I did, quite literally, every single side mission in Borderlands. On each character. I want my trophy page to say 100%. And I still don’t have my Gjallarhorn. (Doesn’t everyone need an exotic rocket launcher?)

Is it the awesome community of players I’ve met? The almost total lack of online douchecanoery? (Yes, I make up my own words, deal with it.) Destiny is an MMO that rewards teamwork, not just individual accomplishment. If you put together the right team, you can breeze through raids in no time at all, just owning your enemies and collecting your shiny prizes. It doesn’t even matter if someone is new. There is always the more experienced players, calling out tactics, when to run, when to hide, when to shoot. I love running the 6 person raids every week, the trash talking, the teamwork, the stupid animated dancing after a hard won victory. Destiny is the first gaming community in a long, long time where not only have I felt welcome, but also sought after, whether for a raid or just to chat while we mindlessly blow crap up.

So, while I think, in the end, it is all of these things, it’s the teamwork. In spite of its many flaws, Destiny is, above all, collaborative in a way that even other multiplayer games aren’t. Combined with beautiful graphics, and a great engine, it is an epic combination that keeps me coming back day after day, despite the ridiculous cut scenes. I guess that one day, I’ll be done with it, ready to move on to something new. Probably right in time for the new DLC. And I’ll get sucked right back in.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments, or better yet, JOIN US. I’ll be back soon to read all about it,  but, right now, my fireteam needs me. We’re running Crota again, and we need a Sunsinger. And I need these boots.

destiny-boots

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