September Is Gaming Break Month
Virtual Presence Shift
Gaming has been a large part of my life ever since I started playing the original Age of Empires. I loved building little cities in that game. I also liked the archers. In short: wolololo was one of the funniest sounds of my youth.
During my teens, I played quite a few PC games… mostly RTS — real-time strategy, like Age of Mythology, or The Battle for Middle-Earth.
I also loved Urban Assault, an Ensemble Studios game that combined RTS with the ability to ‘virtual presence shift’ into vehicles you have summoned and take direct, first person control of them. I loved flying the helicopters and jets. I had a joystick I used exclusively for that game.1
As a child, my dream was to become a pilot — so yeah, I also briefly played flight simulation games (at a casual setting, of course). Because of computers and games, I learned a lot of English at a young age.
Now understanding more English, I was ready to understand more narratively-driven games. I spent tons of hours exploring the wonderful world of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion around 2006 and 2007. I learned how to create mods. I dabbled a bit, but not too much.
Not too much later, I got a PS3, and I started playing on home consoles2. Mostly exclusives. I got addicted to WipEout HD. In 2011 and during my time in college I played games on my MacBook, which worked pretty well at the time, since it had a discrete graphics card. I played StarCraft II competitively (kinda) with my friends, and explored the galaxy in Mass Effect. Those were wonderful experiences.3
In 2013, I got a dedicated gaming PC. That year, I also discovered visual novels. I bought a PS4. I played a bunch of games on my dedicated PC, and after spending my summer programming and presenting said project, I used one of my awarded gift cards to buy a 144Hz monitor. It’s still one my favourite purchases of all time, and I got it by presenting an application to mayors from all over Europe. Good times.4
In 2014, I graduated and started working a job near the end of the year. In 2015, having saved up some money, I bought some handhelds and more consoles. I bought a Nintendo 3DS and started playing some Nintendo games, like Fire Emblem Awakening, and reignited my love for strategy games again.
At the end of that year, we started using Discord, a program quite like Slack, but for gamers. A friend of mine started a fairly popular invite-only server and we made a bunch of new friends, from multiple different countries. We played a lot of Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch together in 2016. And to this day, we frequent said server and play games together.
An then this year, the Nintendo Switch released, and we got a slew of fantastic games like Persona 5, NieR: Automata, or the recently released Divinity: Original Sin II, which was made here in Belgium. (I backed the hell out of that project on Kickstarter, you can be sure! I’m looking forward to playing it next month.)
Gaming has always been exciting for me, and with the advent of VR and AR5, it’s bound to get even more exciting in the future still.
New Friends, Fellow Adventurers
Over the past two and a half years, I’ve made a few new friends online, had fantastic conversations with said new friends and played a lot of games. We’ve even done very long roleplaying sessions, which inspired me to make an application for said RPG. In a way, these friends are like fellow adventurers, and we’re always on fascinating journeys together. Making new, close friends through gaming was something I had not experienced since I was a kid.
Back in 2004, or 2005… I vividly remember playing with another kid - one from The Netherlands, if memory serves — during the time I played The Battle for Middle-Earth II. Man, we had so much fun together. I think his in-game name included Skyscraper or something. ‘Those Elven Silverthorn arrows were so overpowered,’ we’d laugh. ‘Or those trolls!’ I wasn’t as skilled as him at the game, but having an online friend was really fun. I miss that game, it’s a shame you can’t buy it anywhere digitally.
Eventually, I stopped playing The Battle for Middle-Earth II. The kid and me didn’t keep in touch, and I had no idea who this person was at the time. Social networks didn’t exist back then.
Fortunately, nowadays we have fantastic social networks and tools like Discord, which make it much easier to keep in touch.6
Since gaming has been such an important part of my life, I decided to add a feature to my website, last year. Since then, I’ve been maintaining the Play Log on my website. It will be moved near the end of the year, to a new place. More on that later.7
So, About That Break
This month, I decided to take a break from gaming. I have a massive library of games I still want to play, but I figured it was time to take a bit of a break. With the tremendous amount of games coming out, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. When managing lists of games you want to play becomes a job, it’s time to stop.
With some of my best friends currently on vacation, I figured this was the perfect time to focus on a side project, writing, exercise, and relaxation. It’s been an interesting experience so far. I really miss the banter, especially since I haven’t been online the last few months as much as earlier this year.
This goal is rather simple: work on a side-project long enough (at least one prototype should be functional), and don’t play any new games (other types of entertainment are okay, but focus on the side projects).
I completed the campaign of Prey right at the end of August. Since I never play too many games at the same time, I had finished all games I was playing at the time. So, I decided this was the perfect time to take a break. Not starting any new games meant no more games for the rest of the month, since I wasn’t currently playing any particular game.
By default, I’ll resume playing games in October, or when one of my side projects is ready, whichever comes first. And at the time of writing, it seems like I’ll be working on my side projects for a few more weeks, at least.
In a week… October hits — and that reminds me. Time passes so quickly! Each year, I plan all these things that I want to do but I never seem to get anything done. I think I’ll be repeating this experiment next year and I’ll make that month a Productivity Month. I’ll pick a project — whether it’s a new short story, or a website I want to make, and just do it. Kind of like I’ve done this month, but a bit more proactive.
On An Unrelated Note
There’s been a few things going on lately that I want to write about, but I haven’t had the desire to write very long posts on them. (Since I’ve been working on those side projects!)
Here’s a list of things that I’ve been thinking about and have considered writing a blogpost about:
- Man, I don’t really like the look of the iPhone X. Surely I’ll need to get used to it, but it’s going to be annoying to optimise for this thing.8
- Last month, Ulysses changed its payment model to a subscription application. I wasn’t too happy, but I don’t mind supporting developers as long as the price isn’t too high and I use the app enough. So far, only Overcast and Ulysses are apps I’ve subscribed to.9
- Apple’s watchOS 4 is great. So glad to see the return of the Now Playing complication, and the new visual style. I’m a fan.
- While I’m not gaming this month, I have been thinking about gacha games a bit more (since I’m still playing Fire Emblem Heroes) and also about microtransactions, loot boxes, and deceptive practices. I don’t have many new things to say here, except that I’m sad to see more games embracing loot boxes.
- There’s too many games. This isn’t news, but all platforms are getting so many games… This is why I’m taking a break at the moment. (I guess the post you’re currently reading is a bit about this. I also want to do a write-up on managing large game collections. But more on that later.)
- I’m also excited for some of the upcoming releases! I’m also glad to see the Nintendo Switch is getting a lot of love from indie developers as well as major publishers (Doom and Wolfenstein on the Switch!).
Anyway, that’s it for now. I hope to be able to write more frequent blog posts, but don’t count on it.
‘Virtual Presence Shift’ could be a cool description for using drones from a first person view, which is tech that exists today. What a cool world we are living in today. ↩
Fun fact: I was one of the first adopters of the PSP when I got one in 2004 — an imported version bought in a shop on the Canary Islands. This was a PSP 1000 series, with the original 1.0 firmware on it. My first games for it were Ridge Racer, and Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade — the latter being a game I finished multiple times and really enjoyed. ↩
Don’t get me started on the ending of Mass Effect 3, although they kind of redeemed that game with the last DLC. It’s rather unfortunate that the newest game in the franchise, Mass Effect Andromeda, was poorly received. I only played the first few hours of that game, and wasn’t very impressed. ↩
It was a fun project that never really went anywhere after its conception, but it was a great experience nonetheless. ↩
I also bought a PlayStation VR unit and played a few VR games. I was not willing to pay the price of the more expensive headsets. ↩
I even pay for Discord Nitro, which gives me some cool extra features and supports the people creating the platform. I’ll gladly support great software. ↩
The Play Log will return in some form, or another. This is one of my current side projects. ↩
We have various apps that won’t require much work, and some that will require a bit of work. I would have preferred not to have to make too many changes. Personally, I think embracing the notch is a mistake. Shame. ↩
Like I’ve said in a footnote above, I don’t mind paying for good software. Examples of excellent macOS software I’ve bought: Tower, Paw, Ulysses, Sublime Text, Transmit, Pastebot, PHPStorm, Screenflow, Sketch, and more. ↩