27 December, 2011

The Top 10 Video Games of 2011 I Haven’t Played Yet

As Seen at Good Game Media

Working for a video game company the last year and a half (almost), it should be appropriate that I make a “Top 10 of 2011” games list due to my apparent love of all games. However, it has come to my attention this year marks a record year I have barely picked up a single game to play. I blame myself.

So in a last ditch effort I’ve decided to complete the review “The Top 10 Games of 2011” only I’ll review them based on what I’ve heard and/or the box art or something. Don’t worry; we’ll get through this together. Without further adieu, I present to you my top 10 list of games I haven’t played yet, or kind of played, or basically played - almost.

10. Bastion

This is on my list as number 10 pretty much because I’ve never heard of it in my life. The box art shows a kind of crudely drawn, anime type boy looking menacingly over a cliff with what looks to be some kind of hammer. He has white hair so I'm assuming it’s just trying to be edgy or he is in fact, very old.

The screenshots look like some kind of RTS layout, looked at from a bird’s eye view. The game says it’s an RPG about a boy and his hammer and all kind of trouble, or what I would call, a typical Saturday night, amirite?!

Apparently you meet a stranger who looks identical to you, only with a bad ass hulk Hogan mustache, and you collect some objects and magical potions it looks like. This actually reminds me a lot of this game I played as a kid, but I forget the name of it because it wasn’t very good.
I rate this game 2 Thor’s hammers out of 5 Odin’s, because the interview with the creative team looks like a cozy little crew I may pretend I have met simply for the fact no one will know who they are and question it.

9. L.A. Noire

This is by Rockstar, and apparently it was a long time in the works. I’ve heard mixed reviews, some day that it is an absolute stroke of genius where each character has a ‘tell’ and you can actually play sleuth.

Then I’ve heard that it seems a bit like World of Warcraft, where apparently everyone is collecting the same shit over and over, the head of this guy, 5 feathers, etc. It gets really monotonous and tedious being stuck in the same kind of “let’s solve this mystery! No, this one! Now this one!” mentality over and over.

It’s set in some kind of 40’s or 20’s backdrop (my history teacher is shaking his head), something film noir-ish anyway, where they wore those Dick Tracy hats and didn’t have as much Roger Rabbit.
I'm actually not sure what the plot is about, but because it’s Rockstar I'm rightly assuming that it’s about killing hookers and listening to Flock of Seagulls while running over people… while solving mysteries?

8. Portal 2

Portal 2 is the successor to Portal, and if not then it certainly goes for that mantra with the name. Portal was about using a gun that shoots time holes into objects so you could warp into rooms and stuff. Also I think you’re escaping a lab, and they have some cake you’re not allowed to have. And apparently it’s a lie. I only know this because the Portal song was in my ex-boyfriend’s Rock Band game and I was forced to sing it once.

As a sequel (if it is) you’re probably escaping the same lab, or something pretty similar to it again, or some kind of scenario where you find yourself needing to warp places. I’ve seen a lot of memes online where pictures of people misusing the portal gun ended up in mass hilarity and I’ll be honest I never played the first one so they all go over my head.

7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

So this game is the jock’s version of geeking out. This game is what dumb men play when they don’t know how to use a rubrics cube properly, or hold a gun in real life. If they do, then this game is the jock equivalent to the game Magic: The Gathering by the simple fact everyone playing is not an actual geek.

I'm assuming this game is like all the other COD games, and you’re helping your army group/base/team infiltrate multiple curiously similar locales, while trying to not get shot and/or help your group/base/team get to the end/capture the flag/pass the baton/duck duck goose your way through to the goal/end.

I know this game is an LOL online and most jocks use it to shit talk 12 year olds while laughing into their discount canned beer. Sometimes I imagine that if we ever were invaded, the world’s supply of chubby, albino, and pre-pubescent teens would take us to a solid victory.

6. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Ok so I have legitimately played a bit of this game, or at least one of them. Basically the issue here is you are Drake Uncharted (joke) and you are some kind of investigator or illegal smuggler or something, and your old partner used you as a scapegoat to steal something valuable and blame it on you. Oh wait that was the second one, but it still counts because it creates back-story (see what I did there?).

So in this one I'm sure some guy played you as a bitch and you’re trying to avenge yourself from your apparent deception, or try to steal/find something while going on missions to discreet and dangerous areas of the world. It seems as though the game starts with a firey... Zeppelin crash (?) plane, hot air balloon?, which Drake must chart his way out of. The actual game-play for the little time I have played is kind of fun I’ll admit because you get tossed into some cool scenarios and the cut scenes are pretty rad. This game was really highly regarded when it came out and people were really excited when it did come out, so that counts for something.

5. Star Wars: The Old Republic

So this game is basically World of Warcraft only with sci-fi nerds instead of fantasy ones. So instead of a Jamaican Troll you get to pick a Jedi, and instead of a faction like Horde or Alliance you can pick the Jedi side or the Darth Vader side. I'm sure the same dudes will be wandering around with big yellow question marks over their head as per usual MMORPG.

This game got the nerds really pumped, and all I heard for a while was “what race will you be” or “what side are you going with?” or “you’re a pussy bitch, Jedi is dumbshit!” of course I'm paraphrasing.

The moral of the story is that it is an MMO, so missed showers, starving babies and/or internet trash talking 10 year olds on their moms Macbook will be inevitable. *NOTE* I just looked it up and this game is not able to run on Mac (surprise!), so let me switch that with “10 year olds on their mom’s Windows XP Gateway.”

4. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Ok so I’ve been avoiding this one because I love Zelda and I have just not had the opportunity to sit down and hash this thing out. I played a few hours only and from that I can tell you the controller style is very different but it works with the game-play. I thought it was going to be annoying, as my hand cramped the first time I played – that could also be from the only time I’ve exercised in 4 years – but it turned out really interesting and allows for more movement and interactions, with direct control over your Skylofts and Link.

The art style is also different, like a mix of some kind of water colour painting, cell shading, and a Dr. Seuss book, but I welcomed the new art style as even though I was apprehensive with The Wind Waker, it turned out to be an amazing addition to the series.

The music and game-play is also enticing, the locales are expansive, and are very adverse for newcomers. I was lost in the forest a few times until I got the hang out it, but the areas are beautifully designed and gives Link the feeling of ultimate non-linear exploration, even though the game is more linear than an MMO. Overall I'm excited to play it more, and I think it will be a great game for a great series.

3. Batman: Arkham City

Now, I played Batman: Arkham Asylum so I feel that I'm qualified to write this review. I actually also watched someone play Arkham City for a few minutes so I'm pretty sure I will rock this shit.

So basically: you’re Batman. Already you’re not off to a great start but whatever. Looks like some villains are HOLY SHIT loose in Arkham City and guess the fuck what? You get to round them up like some kind of black silicon-suit sheepdog. So I'm pretty sure Joker is the main villain, voiced by Luke Skywalker as per usual. The game received some pretty high praise and I think that’s mostly due to the fact Mark Hamill is lending his voice. That or the bloody knuckles Batman is posing with on the box art.

I also hear you can beat the game again with Catwoman, or at least play as Catwoman for a few levels. That seems pretty cool. There’s also joker related challenges or objects you collect to provide a game longevity it would otherwise not have. As someone who has a Batman t-shirt and heard the hype about this game, I'm sure it’s probably good, at least better then Duke Nukem.

2. Duke Nukem Forever

Speaking of, this game is the latest installment from an old school series about a violent, asshole type douchebag who hates women and loves cigars. He likes to fight and shoot up people, aliens, and you know, women.

He kind of reminds me of that cartoon guy, Johnny Bravo. Johnny Bravo or a really old G.I. Joe, only less hair gel and more orgies. Less hair gel because the natural state of his 50 year old hair line makes keeping hair on his head an impossibility, and likely because he has more hair on his back than a Direwolf, to make up for it.

Also he kind of reminds me of a guy I used to date for that reason.

“He was like a wolf?”

“He was like a dog.” 


1. Skyrim

This game gets #1 spot on my reviews of games I never actually played, because even my non nerdy friends are playing it. I heard about Oblivion- I heard about it so many times a few years ago, how it possessed the people playing it into some kind of Mountain Dew filled coma with expansive RPG landscape and story of assassins or something.

Now all I hear are “arrow to the knee” jokes and how many brooms you have collected. All the YouTube videos on how to steal from shopkeepers by putting buckets over their head, how you can absolutely own a fucking dragon with your sword, run your horse off a cliff, and other really amazing design and art details included. I’ve heard the art actually changes as the day progresses in-game, and how every stone has texturing, every puddle has an accurate AI reflection, every tree has individual bark lines, and how all the landscapes are reminiscent of something out of a dream – more realistic than any photo from Ansel Adams.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, it reminds me of Black and White by Lionhead Studios, which is the first game I ever heard of that had this implemented. Lionhead Studios eventually followed up with one of the greatest reaction games every sold - Fable - where every choice has a consequence and every consequence a choice.

I'm actually very interested in picking this up due to the overwhelming hype surrounding it, and the quirks that make it unique, such as horses beating down dragons trying to save you, or your maid/house keeper playing a role in your adventure by accident. Hopefully I will be able to set aside 2 years of my life in order to commit to this game, as I once did with World of Warcraft. I was going to buy it for my PS3 but then I got an arrow to the knee.

Happy Holidays from Clover Quips

25 December, 2011

The Girl Geek: Dispelling Campfire Stories of Women in Geek Culture

The Girl Geek: Myths and Stereotypes Roundhouse Kicked in the Bawls –
Dispelling Campfire Stories of Women in Geek Culture

This guide is brought to you by an actual girl. Before I begin I should start off by saying I’ve worked in the video game industry, played World of Warcraft, subscribed to dog magazines, love science and geology, and have a computer specialization of my Honours Degree.

I’ve always kind of been a square peg in a round hole when it comes to fitting in with certain groups. I have lots of girlfriends who do not understand my geek side, and several male friends who never quite grasped how geeky I actually was. Going through life doing geeky things like installing my own RAM, spending 16 hours playing Final Fantasy and blowing off boyfriends for the newest Zelda release allowed me to experience many stereotypes and mythologies about women geeks. I'm here to dispel and explain the most common ones.

1. There is no such thing as a girl geek, only girls who like geeky things

While researching this article, I was told that some men think that girl geeks are an enigma, an ungraspable breeze in the wind of life, and those girls who actual like nerdy things (Ex: Star Wars) are not nerds per se, but just women who happen to like things deemed nerdy. Basically liking geek things doesn’t make women ‘geeks’.

This is a confusing double standard. Take Star Wars fan #1. They own all the Blu-Ray discs of every single movie (yes, even the bad ones), every single release, every single special collector’s edition, and all the special feature extras. They own plushies, lightsabers, go to Comic Con, dream of meeting George Lucas, and quote the movie. Would it matter if I told you that the geek in question was a man or a woman? It wouldn’t. You would classify this person as a geek, regardless of whatever untouched sexual organs they boast (or don’t boast, you know – whatever).

Food for thought: Would you consider a pro football player who looked like a model a geek if he played Magic: The Gathering? Would you call a Victoria’s Secret model a geek if she watched Firefly? If it’s only one area of geekiness, is it less geek-cred than those who have multiple geeky hobbies?
The truth is, the label geek is self-administered but it’s bolstered by those in your geek community. Any girl can be a geek if she likes socially deemed ‘geek’ things and attributes to the geek culture by indulging in such. AKA buying the movies, talking about Han Solo online, debating the Pokémon starting line ups, or arguing over the notion Batman is not a real super hero (he’s not). If you enjoy nerdy things, and have knowledge of these things in more than a surface value, then you are a geek, no matter what shape your Green Lantern undies come in.

2. Girls pretend to be geeky or lie about their geekiness to seem cute or cool

Being a geek is a personal lifestyle: no longer is it a slur or considered name calling. Being a geek is a personal statement one makes when they identify with a certain culture. Once a very identifiable minority, geeks are no longer visibly detected species, which means I don’t have to wear coke-bottle glasses to be considered as such. This has ushered in a new era for geeks to embrace their geekdom, and is no longer a shameful secret, but more of a bragging right.

As women are apparently harder to come by in the geek-world, the notion that female nerds are scarce has ultimately significantly raised their value. Some men thing girls see this as an opportunity to play the role of ‘Queen of the Nerds’, which they can brag and claim they are really nerdy so that the nerd men gather around them and give them attention.

While this may be true in some cases, it’s easy to pick out a fake geek. Talk to them about it. With social media, the interwebz, and tons of forums it’s easy to pick up memes or information on things without having an obsession hanging behind it. I’ll admit I was never into comic books, I was never that kind of person, but that hasn’t stopped me from googling all the DC and Marvel characters to learn more about them. I could go around Twitter and claim I'm a huge comic book fan, or how much I love certain super heroes, and I bet I would fit in with people having conversations about it, but if a real comic book geek started a conversation with me about it, it wouldn’t be long before I’d be like “What do you mean Baine killed Batman?!” (Er, spoiler alert?)

I once talked to a girl who claimed to love video games. She was a hard core gamer she said, and she played all the awesome games out there. As a gamer myself, we struck up a conversation and naturally my focus went to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a video game staple for any self proclaimed geek or gamer. I made a reference about the Water Temple (anyone who has EVER played this game will know exactly what I mean) and she didn’t understand the joke. The water temple is considered one of the hardest dungeons in the series, let alone the game (arguably in video game existence!), and I knew right away she either didn’t do the dungeon herself, or she never played the game. You may as well have taped a big scarlet letter onto your coat.

So yes girls like this exist, but they are easily distinguishable from the real geeks once you ask something that wouldn’t be written on the back of a box or in the first few paragraphs of the Wikipedia page.

3. Girls who are geeks or gamers are ugly and can’t get a boyfriend

This is a classic stereotype that has been proven false time and time again. Like I mentioned, geekdom is a new era, and with web 2.0 it’s easier to meet those of your own kin then it has ever been before. I can go online and register for a Battlestar Galactica community and meet someone with the exact same interests as me and we could end up dating. It’s easy to label girls as a certain type when they have been portrayed in the media as unattractive, socially inept, and gross. Or the opposite: drop dead gorgeous and a fake geek for attention. “Wow she’s gorgeous and she claims to pwn mad n00bs in World of Warcraft! She’s a dream come true!”, when in actuality she signed up for the 10 day free trial, got to level 10 and died repeatedly in Mulgore by an Ornery Plainstrider.

I’ve met tons of gorgeous gamer girls; they really aren’t as few and far between as the media makes them out to be. They are everywhere; they are playing TF2 with you, they are in your comic book store, they are in the game store buying games, or in the library brushing up on her chemical history. Working in the industry, I worked with and had networks full of gamer and geek women, and the majority of these women are beautiful and amazing people. The same is to be said with geek guys, no longer a shielded basement troll; the majority of geeks live a functioning life that involves social interaction. These folks all have or had boyfriends, husbands, wives, and partners, and leave behind stereotypes that women who play Pokémon have moss growing in their who-ha.

4. Women gamers aren’t very good

If I told you person A went to school to be a nurse, graduated, and is now practicing in the field, would you assume I was talking about a man or a woman? Gender stereotypes are rampant in every field, not just the tech and geek ones. If I told you that men don’t know how to cook as well as women, is that something you would agree with? If I asked you if female doctors are as smart as males, would you refute that fact?

In all fairness, stereotypes still exist, and sadly a lot of them revolve around women not measuring up to men in some form or another. Due to a few bad examples or random happenings, women cannot seem to climb out from underneath the rock known as “not as good as men”, specifically in the video game world, like somehow having a vagina decreases your HP by 9000.
I know women who play as much FPS as men, and can kick your ass in any game you put in front of them. Of course, I know men like this too. Realistically it’s not gender based, but skill based. It’s not “I am a man therefore I am better at video games” but “I have practices while I should have been at prom and have gained a skill at them.”

One time I went to my friends UFC party where two main guys were set to kick the shit out of each other. As you can tell, I'm very well versed in the subject. So beforehand, there was a group of maybe 7 of us all gathered around a huge TV, and someone suggested putting in a UFC game before we watched the fight. My friend’s brother (22 years old) was there and was challenging everyone to a UFC match. He beat a few of my friends and I was asked to give it a try even though I had never played the game in my life and was not really interested, but I agreed. I ended up knocking his ass out in the first 15 seconds, Ali vs. Liston style.

Basically you can argue gender equally until you’re blue in the face, the fact of the matter is having a penis does not make you better at something than I am. Geek women are just as plentiful, just as good, just as talented and interested in the culture and community as anyone else. What people should be doing instead is admitting the fact the face of the game has changed, and no longer are geeks banished to their caves, only to scurry out of sight once their moms turn the basement lights on, but are embracing the terminology and community that comes with being a geek.
Geeks know they are geeks – nobody else can label them. The community is ever-growing and with the connotation of the traditional word changing, it appears that everybody wants in on the geek culture. Jocks who play football by day and Modern Warfare 3 at night, programmers who are turning their ideas into the next big hit, business men changing into their Batman shirts at home, and hipsters searching for the most obscure game titles; don’t worry, you’ve probably never heard of them.

Sometimes it really is hip to be square.

14 December, 2011

Rollin' in the Deep - The Sims 3 Review

I should admit this right now: I am a Sims addict. This is all very embarrassing because I feel like I should admit I own every single expansion pack and every version of The Sims in existence, all located somewhere in the CD/DVD jungle that is my closet (with digital downloads so easy, the need for physical media is almost obsolete).

This is the first review for my The Sims 3 series so follow along as I review each expansion and stuff pack. Below you will unearth my findings as I trek through the fantastical forest that is The Sims 3, and wade though the never-ending ocean that is the absolute vastness of possibilities waiting for you. Yes you.

After you go through the montage of the Sims intro (less Rocky music, more Sims) you now have many options. You can explore the town (full of pre-made houses, shops, and community lots) or create your own. The Sims 3 boasts many new features that allow your Simsverse to become that much more realistic, and have grown heaps and bounds over the Sims predecessors.

If The Sims 3 was a robot, it would be the Terminator saying Hasta La Vista, Baby” to The Sims 2, who would be the Brave Little Toaster or something. The first main difference right away (besides the multiple neighborhoods) is the Create-A-Sim. Now users can actually create a Sim based on more than just picking computer generated faces and body parts – much like how you created a Barbie from the leftover heads your brother popped off in order to fill is plastic dump truck with. Maybe that was just me.

Unibrow: Now included!

Customization is the name of the game in this reinvention: everything from the space between your Sim’s eyes, to how much of a beard or 5 O’clock shadow you want – the total freedom to design faces and bodies is there with The Sims 3.

Now, with more Dalmatian than ever before!

The next big change is the trait and lifetime wish aspect of your Sims. Much like real life, certain personality traits can rock or ruin your experience in the game – choosing negative traits makes it harder to achieve goals, for those who want a challenge, or design their Sim after an Ex. Traits such as neat, funny, and nice can affect how your Sim interacts with the surrounding neighborhood, neighbors, and accomplishes goals. For example Sims who are funny have more luck impressing people with their jokes, and it’s easier to build relationships with others. Sims who have a lazy trait tend to sit on their behind and play video games or watch TV. Sound familiar?

To go with this, you’re able to pick a lifetime wish for your Sim based on the personality traits you picked – something your Sims will work the rest of their life trying to achieve. Examples include becoming an astronaut, family oriented, master thief, and even a gold digger (yeah she's a triflin' friend indeed).  Picking your Sims voice tone is an added perk, that makes your gameplay experience much more personal then in previous games.

Careers in the Sims are definitely more vamped up, giving you the option to view multiple jobs from the newspaper, browse through the computer and new in The Sims 3, you can visit the corresponding community building to apply right there.

Scene not included: “All positions have been filled.”

In previous games, The Sims could become pregnant but in The Sims 3, the parents physical and personality traits are combined to engineer a baby resembling the their likeliness. This means if your parents both have green eyes, your child will as well, and if one parent is lazy, the chances of your child having that trait is higher.  Your Sim will look physically pregnant depending on the trimester (each trimester is one day in length), and will experience morning sickness, frequent trips to the bathroom, and even food cravings.

The last main feature I wanted to bring up is age. Long gone are the days of a happy family living forever – Enter age limits. This means your Sim’s days are numbered – literally. Each age group has a specific number of “Sim-days” that your Sim can live before it moves on to the next stage in his or her life cycle. For children this means growing to a young adult, young adult to adult, and adult to elder. This introduces an eerie new concept of natural death, you know, not caused by fire or you for that matter.

The Sims 3 is heavily populated with better mathematics, AI, gameplay features, and new ways to make your experience more personal. Now, excuse me while I make the cast of The Goonies on my Create-A-Sim. Truffle Shuffle!

04 December, 2011

It Gets Better


These are a few words that I have been called, or I have been made to feel throughout my life. It’s something no one should have to experience – yet – it’s something almost all of us do.

The feeling of worthlessness, of self-hatred, the clouded and murky view on the world to which we think is a reality.

“I am worthless. I deserve to be unhappy.”

This is something I am familiar with hearing, and what’s worse is that these words that hurt me so much have come from myself.

People spend their entire lives fighting to be seen, heard, and valued. The fight with oneself is enough, but adding in others who may be tearing you down seems almost impossible to deal with.

Every time you think “I am going to be ok”, somebody makes you feel like you can never climb out of this crater you’re in, and every time your fingers grasp the edge ready to pull yourself out, somebody steps on your hands and send you plummeting back where you started.

Hating yourself is exhausting. It takes every aspect of joy out of your existence, and leaves you dwelling in the pit of dejection you’ve convinced yourself is your life. You can’t get out of bed, and when you do you feel like you haven’t slept in weeks.

Your physical appearance makes you literally sick to look at - you can’t find one thing about yourself that you don’t hate. You think everyone around you is judging you, and people who make your life hard suddenly seem right. You begin to make excuses for these people, allowing them to treat you this way because you feel like you deserve it.

You don’t.

You may not agree with me right now, but you will.

Nobody should ever be allowed to make you feel bad about yourself, your abilities, your appearance, or your personality. Allowing people to make you feel worthless is the absolute lowest point you can get to. So you know you need to fight to make it better.

It won’t be easy. You start small.

When you wake up you will think, I will find something to make me happy today. And you will. When you look for things it’s amazing what you find. And when you get out from underneath the rock you put on yourself under, you will find that the world is a big place, full of people just like you.

You are valued.

You have a skill.

You are beautiful to somebody. And you matter to someone. Maybe you haven’t met them yet, or maybe you have – but you do.

Hating yourself sets the standards for everyone who meets you. The first thing you need to do is realize that it’s not okay to feel this way. If you hate yourself then others will think it is ok to do so. Stop the excuses, the false justifications, and the warped rationalization that you deserve it. Stop thinking that you’re not worth it.

You are.

But this can take a long time. It’s all up to you.

It can be frustrating. The only person who is stopping you, the only person who is standing in your way is yourself.

Once you actually understand that this self depreciation is not normal, it will hit you like bricks. The walls you build to keep others out or your emotions hidden will crumble.

Realizing that you are worth being here, realizing that you are special and that you matter – this is the first day of the rest of your life.

You are funny. You are loved. You have a talent even if you don’t know what it is yet. People like you.

You matter to someone.

People tear others down because it makes them feel better about themselves. Those who tear down are insecure and broken inside. These people are the people who have been in your position – and are doing anything they can to not be there ever again. They will do anything possible to stay out of that crater, to keep someone else in it so they will never have to be in it again.

These people, these are the people who need to know that you are a strong person. You’re a fighter.

You won’t allow them to push you around, or make you feel like you are worthless – because you are strong. You deserve to be here.

You need to show these people that you are resilient. That what they say and do does not affect how you feel about yourself. Show them that you aren’t letting them tear you down.

They aren’t worth hating yourself over.

These people aren’t worth the exhaustion that comes with hating yourself.

People are allowed to have opinions. This is a fact of life, and some people’s opinions will never change. And you have to realize this. Some people will think a certain way despite all the overwhelming evidence otherwise. These people you can’t change.

But you can.

Allowing yourself to be happy, allowing yourself to ignore hateful and abusive remarks is the first step towards reclaiming your life.

This is YOUR life.

You own it. You are the one living it, and everything you do is your decision and nobody else’s. You are in charge of your own path. You have the power to do anything you want – good and bad. It is up to you to make these choices.

It is up to you to set an example for others.

Everyone makes mistakes. We’re following our own path, wrought with choices that lead to mistakes and triumphs. The beauty of life is that they are yours to make, learning as you go.

You know you’re strong. You know that your opinions matter and that your life matters. You know that your time is valuable, and that you are worth it.

And if you don’t, then I do. And if you need help – if you are struggling – then I will help you.

You can count on me; you have me to come to. And I will listen. Somebody will listen.

And I'm telling you that it may feel like you can’t do another day, your pain is too great, and your determination to weather through is gone – but you’re stronger than that.

Strength is defined when unforeseen circumstances put you in a position to prove how far you are willing to go.

And as humans, our capability for strength is unparallelled.

One day you will wake up and think “I don’t feel as bad.” Some time later you will wake up and think “I feel normal today.” It will snowball until one day you wake up and think “I am happy.”

And you’ll get there.

I know you will.

30 November, 2011

American Beer is Terrible (and other things)

Check out my newest video blog about my experience in the states and their terrible beer.

WARNING: The following opinions expressed in this video have offended multiple Americans. If you get offended about beer and whether or not your beer is terrible please do not watch.

23 November, 2011

The Sims Medieval Game Review: King-Sized Changes on a Ye Olde Classic

By Clover

The Sims series -first created by Maxis and later acquired by powerhouse publisher Electronic Arts- has done a pretty good job at providing a certain game style for its players; free form, non linear, sans-narrative simulation gaming. Long time players of the series will tell you that every time they pick up the newest version or the latest expansion pack (and mark my words they WILL), they know exactly what they are getting themselves into- Simlish induced shenanigans.
In August of 2010 – shortly after E3 - Electronic Arts announced a new installment to their Sims franchise; only this time it was not an expansion pack or even The Sims 4, but a whole new game. This took the best intermittent elements of The Sims chain and infused it with a refreshing RPG goal system, which subsequently took the conventional Sims template and turned it onto its proverbial head.
No longer do players have to worry about bathroom breaks, comfort, or whether their home is pretty enough (although they keep Food and Energy bars, to keep their feet firmly planted in The Sims universe), but instead have to pick personality traits that can define their game experience. This includes one tragic flaw, which your Medieval Sim must live with and endure the constant maintenance of, making for a more interesting experience managing and filling good and hilariously questionable action quotas.
The RPG aspect of the game introduces the Quests feature, which supplies a variety of story lines to give your game play experience a sense of accomplishment and purpose, for those players who dislike wandering aimlessly into a neighbor’s house to steal their microwave. This new element allows players to use their created medieval Sims to accomplish and complete given tasks by immersing themselves in a given narrative. These narratives range in difficulty, with harder quests involving more actions and interactions with the surrounding Sim kingdom and its inhabitants – but doling out greater rewards like cash and influence. You can also set a Kingdom goal, ranging from complete domination to being richest in the land.
The humour in the game is apparent right away, with the first few quests making me laugh out loud (or LOL if you will). The subtle innuendos meant for an older audience, blatantly cheesy captions, and general comical content is definitely a change from the less text-heavy Sims predecessors. As far as the music is concerned, while the title theme is very Harry Potter-esque, the audio tracks ring mostly true to the Elizabethan era and it does feel like a good fit and a change form the looping soundtracks in The Sims 3.
The Create-a-Sim feature remains generally the same in every game, however with the Medieval theme your Sims can pick from a wide variety of medieval garb, complete with Fryer Tuck hairstyles, and the option to create your Sim in modern day styles as well. You will notice you also have the option of giving your Wizard a ye-olde-timey Mohawk and a Metallica beard – very historically accurate… and hilarious.

Even in Medieval times, this guy should not be wearing white after Labour Day. Or at all.

Cause and effect is also a big factor in the game, as each quest you complete alters your gameplay and available quests. Completing quests can help or hinder your reputation with neighboring kingdoms, create a love or hate relationship with your subjects, and alter other sims quests. If your matriarch and knight both have the option of completing a quest, only one can complete it – so choose wisely!
As an example, one of the starting quests allowed me to visit a Wizard who had shown up on my kingdom’s doorstep unannounced and asked that I check him out. The options available were I could send him to the pit of death, inquire, or pursue a romantic relationship. Needless to say, whichever route you took affects the game. If you were wondering which option I took, for the rest of the game I had to worry about alimony.
This game is massive. There is absolutely no way you will run out of things to do. There are lots of Sims in different careers you can create: Bard’s, priests, blacksmiths, wizards, a spy, doctor, knights and King and Queens. Each “Hero” has his or her own set of quests, and you can have multiple Hero’s on the go, intersecting and influencing your other Hero’s story lines. Of course each Hero you create affects your kingdom: have physicians create potions for you, have the knight battle, the blacksmith create new weaponry – each sim can affect your kingdom as little or as much as you like.
Aside from just the Heroes, the game is a Sims title, which means the opportunity to furnish, build and operate buildings, shops, and other areas goes without saying. While the build mode is not as blue sky as you may be used to, you are able to take on more active role parts of the game and layout your kingdom as you see fit (or unfit).
 Like any Sims game of yore, it always remains customizable: from clothing, to complete control over your Sims features, hair and makeup. This aspect of the game will be familiar to all who have played a Sims game as well as a pleasant surprise for those who are used to certain RPGs where you select from 3 default faces, two of which look like Rosie O’Donnell. In buy mode you can take advantage of the medieval items as well, with various grades of craftsmanship from mediocre Sweedish functionality to Pottery Barn style goods, each bringing something from the era to sweeten your Keep’s look.
All in all, The Sims Medieval offers fans of the series a fitting homage as while trying a new spin on this old classic. With quests, humour, replayability, customization and a great take on cause and effect, The Sims Medieval is something that is definitely a must have for Sims players and a must try for RPG fans.
I rate this game 4 out of 5 goblets of mead.

21 November, 2011

What is the deal

What's the deal with airline peanuts? Could they USE smaller bags? You'd have more luck finding more chipmunks in that bag then peanuts! Am I right?

12 November, 2011

Ask Clover (V.1.0)

Here are the lists of questions I got in my inbox that you all have asked me. This is version 1.0 of my Ask Clover series. Head over to my Contact Clover page to submit a question!

1.                   Do you like Propane?
I like both propane and propane accessories

2.                   How do you feel about the use of song lyrics to convey ones feelings in a relationship?

Song lyrics are funny because someone else wrote them but sometimes they fit so well with how you’re feeling. When someone uses song lyrics to convey their own emotions, or try to explain how they feel this can be seen in two ways.

1) Creepy. Creepy only because the person who wrote this song probably needed to write a hit song and sat by their hot tub or basement keyboard to crank out a few lyrics that would resonate with mainstream media. Very rarely do artists write their own material, and while I know that some write lyrics how they feel at the time, chances are your favourite love song you lost your V card too was written by a 60 year old man who was eating a bologna sandwich and petting his cat while he wrote it.
2) Sweet. Sometimes poets can find a string of words you wouldn’t necessarily put together that somehow describes your situation perfectly – like the song was written for you and sent by Zeus to your am/fm radio.

I admit I'm a fan of song lyrics to describe my feelings. I mean how else will my Facebook friends know how deep and tortured I am inside? Exactly.

3.                   I’m very socially awkward. What are some non-creepy/non-awkward ways I can approach a girl I’ve never met and engage in conversation with her? On that note, what do you like and not like to be asked by a stranger hoping to date you?

Listen kids, everyone is socially awkward at some point or another. Some are more so later in life and those who aren’t have just seen the back seat of a Chrysler Sebring a couple more times in high school - possibly the inside of a health clinic. I'm not judging here; this is a safe place.

Loose high school kids aside, those who haven’t had the opportunity or time to date much may find themselves in a situation where they have no idea how to approach those they are attracted to.

In this day and age, being labelled “creepy” is A) something that whips around like some kind of super slang adjective for anyone and anything – no one is safe B) is something that is really hard to come out from underneath. Example? Being labelled a ‘creeper’ and that shit following you around like some kind of creepy dog. Oh wait; I just did it, didn’t I? Being a creep is not something you want to be known for, especially if it’s something as innocent as talking to women.

Here is my handy creep-proof guide for talking to women, each example you see below has been used on me, and the ones below work best:

1)      Don’t be creepy. I'm actually not trying to be funny. Don’t smell her hair or comment on how tight her pants are or tell her you’ve picked out the poem you will read to her at your wedding. Just remember that this person doesn’t know you well, or at all, and whatever you say now will be her first impression of you forever. You will look back on this day 30 years after you’re married and you don’t want her to say “when I first met you, you were a total creeper”.

2)      Be genuine. Don’t use gross pick up lines, or lines people tell you to say, or ones that you’ve rehearsed. The best approach is an honest one. The worst pick up line I ever heard was some poor guy who was obviously nervous, and he screwed up his line because it wasn’t something he would normally say. He was embarrassed and I felt awkward and bad for him.

3)      The best way to meet girls? Make eye contact and smile. If she smiles back or you see her glancing over again, approach her. You don’t have to make things awkward. Go up to her and introduce yourself, and smile. “Hey, I'm Bob. Sorry to bother you but I just had to come over here and tell you that I think you’re beautiful.” You don’t even have to stick around, you can wait for her to thank you and smile then after a couple of seconds you can walk away. If she’s into you, she will say something before you leave. You can even just make conversation by asking a question “This sounds weird, but I can’t decide which one to get, have you tried one of these?” Just be honest, don’t be fake.

4.                   I have horrible luck with getting a date. What advice can u give me to get a better chance to get a date? Also what can I change to change the view the opposite sex has of me because I always get placed in the just a friend/big brother type category and it sucks.

Friend zone is like a downward death spiral because you know you’re in it, and YOU CAN NEVER GET OUT. Once you are in one, chances are you will stay there. Like a death spiral, there is only one way you can go – down. This can be seen very much like how dudes get stuck in one. They travel downward and never any other way. Laymens turns: They take the friend path and thus are stuck in a downward motion of phone calls from their secret crush asking which dress is better for the date they’re going to go on with a guy who isn’t you, and treated like one of their girlfriends. “You’re such a god friend,” and “I can always count on you,” and “I really trust you.” These things are not going to help you get laid or escape your friend zone death spiral.

Advice: If you want to be her friend, act like a friend. If you want more – do more. This is fairly obvious. I have lots of guy friends who I consider like brothers. The thought of kissing them literally is gross. You do not want to be that guy.

Solution: Flirting. It’s a simple thing to do, that anyone can do and it is fairly harmless in the fact that you can brush it off as being nice if it backfires, or you can be more obvious. Touching is a big flirt rule. Touching creates a literal physical bond between you. She will feel you touching her. When you say something or lead her somewhere, or point something out, make a point to touch her lightly on the shoulder or arm. If you feel that you can get away with it, touching her leg or back is something much more obvious you can try.

If you can’t touch, try letting the other person know that you are a sexual being. What separates you from her girlfriends is that she probably will not imagine having sex with them (I mean who knows I'm just throwing that out there as a general assumption). Like inception, planting a seed of sexualness is the first step. If you’re laughing about a date she’s going on, a guy she likes, or plans for the weekend, if you can sneak in that you’re talking to this girl, or you once had a hilarious story about a first date you went on, or how you got caught making out with someone by her parents, these all plant the seed that you are going out and romancing women. This shows her that you are more than just a friend for her – you also are a guy who has a life outside of her with women. Chances are she will picture this in her head and also that she is a pervert and will at some point imagine it.

Take a risk. I always went to school dances as a kid, and before each one my mom would tell me if any boys ask me to dance, I should always say yes. The reasoning was that it takes a lot of courage to ask someone to dance, or anything. If someone is putting themselves at risk of being embarrassed or rejected for you, you should respect that. Even if it’s for a date or dinner, if you don’t want to say yes, always be friendly and considerate. These people put themselves out there for a chance to be with you and get to know you, so the least you can do is respect that.

5.                   Why do females seem to always need to be wearing makeup? Even the extremely pretty females seem to feel a need to always wear makeup. I have been told all my life that I am ugly and it doesn't bother me at all to walk around town all day. If they want to call me ugly, fine. It isn't going to bother me at all

There are two kinds of women: those who wear makeup and those who do not. Both of these girls come in two flavours – 1) Confident and 2) Insecure. A confident women does not give a rats ass what you or anyone else thinks of her. She will wear makeup because she likes to, not because men expect her to. She loves wearing makeup, or wears makeup because she likes to be presentable and likes how it looks and makes her feel, and you or anyone else has nothing to do with it. A confident women that desn’t wear makeup feels like she doesn’t need to impress anyone, and is perfectly happy going about her daily life not worrying about how people will perceive her if she does or doesn’t wear any. She is comfortable and confident enough to go without it, and may just like the way she looks without it, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it.

An insecure woman wears makeup because she feels like she needs to put forth a certain image for people or men to like her. She feels that without makeup she is ugly, and she is afraid for people to see her without it. She is unhappy with how she looks and used makeup to help her hide her imperfections and insecurities. An insecure woman that doesn’t wear makeup is not sure how to put makeup on properly, is insecure about herself and how she looks so she avoids anything different so she does not stand out. She is afraid that she looks bad with makeup on, and feels she does not have the experience needed to apply makeup so she is afraid to take a risk in case it looks bad. She is used to herself without makeup on, and anything she puts on her face she will hate because it is not normal or comfortable to her.

6.                   Is there a way to get people to stop assuming or joking that I'm gay? As far as I can tell this is because 1. I care about how I'm dressed and how my place looks, 2. I have lots of platonic female friends I'm polite to, and 3. I'm more interested in art than sports. Doesn't even make sense as I've had gay friends who contradicted those stereotypes. Would like this to stop as it is super annoying when one is single.

If not living like a pig, being nice to people, and has an actual interest in a multitude of things makes someone gay that is certainly a shame. Variety is the spice of life, and it’s too bad that our society looks upon men who deviate from the norm in a way that they must be deemed different or weird or gay because of the things they like. God forbid they like something that does not stereotypically adhere to societal guidelines and structures.

A woman who knows anything about life will not assume a man who likes to cook or has a clean apartment is gay. These are the people that you don’t need in your life that have no common sense or life outside of the box. My advice? Flirt. This tactic will nix any gay rumours and let people know that you are open for business – straight business. Flirting is easy, fun, and can be a super subtle way to let someone know you’re into them and just because you like Lady GaGa and don’t watch the Super Bowl doesn’t mean that you wear mesh tank tops and dance to Barbara Streisand songs. Another stereotype I know, but I feel like that one is hard to come back from.

26 October, 2011

Is Facebook Making Me Dumb? - Guest Blog

Is Facebook making me dumb?

Written by Rox-Anne Henderson

*From here on in Facebook will be used to represent Facebook, Twitter, People.com and any other app on my phone that wastes time. Maybe I should write it’s all my phones fault, but I won’t. I love my iPhone and nothing could ever be her fault.

For the past few weeks, maybe even months I have been walking around in a daze. Sort of like a foggy brain where I can’t seem to concentrate on anything.  I was chalking this up to Adult ADD, but I do believe there is another reason.  I believe that Facebook is making me dumb. Yes, I said it.

At work, I have lost all the drive to succeed and excel, at home I have no energy and no housework gets done. All my favorite pastimes are sitting in the corner collecting dust. I love to write and even manage 2 personal blogs, yet I can’t seem to find the time to post anything. I had a fantastic idea for a book based on a conversation I had with my husband. It will be the greatest book since the release of Brave New World. Bits and pieces come to me throughout the day. A scene here, a conversation there. Yet I have not moved past the step of jotting down a few notes on the Notes app on my iPhone.  I feel like I have so much to say and no time to say it in. I get home from work and make dinner for my family. Maybe watch a little tv, or even a movie. I thought it was all that tv watching that was killing my ambition, but we removed the satellite tv and cancelled the cable. Before you know it, its bed time and then the whole day repeats itself. Get the kids up, get dressed, drive them to school, go to work for 8 hours and then back home. I have always been pretty good at time management so what’s the problem? I’m getting nothing done and not moving forward.

So enter the day I would like to refer to as The day of Enlightenment. It’s not like I was mulling this over in my head or even considered it before The Day of E. It just happened. You can’t argue with inspiration, so I went with it.

 I, Rox-Anne Henderson, gave up Facebook for the day.

Actually, not even the day. Just for the morning of a day. And I couldn’t believe how much I accomplished! Work was great, I got a lot done and worked really hard. I was just having the most amazing, productive day ever. I never realized how much time I wasted on Facebook, or even thinking of Facebook. Every song I hear on the radio, I think how it would fit as a status update. Then you obsess over whether it will be well received and get a lot of “likes” or will someone misunderstand and think you’re out of your mind. Every picture I take my mind rolls to “will this make a good picture to post” or like this past weekend at a wedding I found myself having my picture taken by my sister in law. All I thought was “I hope it looks good so I can make it my profile picture” Let’s not even get into the weird obsession I have with trying to understand why some status updates get a ton of likes when the subject matter was really nothing important, and yet the ones that are closest to my heart, no one comments or likes.

Then you spend the rest of your time looking at your friend’s pictures and status updates. This can bring a lot of enjoyment, especially when your family is overseas and it helps to keep those connections. Then there is the flip side. There are always those people whose life is just so freaking perfect that you go crazy with jealousy.  Then you get the real phonies. The husband and wife team who spend all day professing their love for one another over Facebook, when you know they go home at night and don’t even speak to one another. You have the friends who are always so happy, you want to tear them down or the friends who are so depressed, you’d love to give them some Prozac.  Then there are the friends that make you question why they are even on your Facebook.

Which brings us to the all-important “how many friends do you have?” Do you add every single person you have ever met? Do you keep it to friends and family, or include your co-workers? I started out wanting only to have people that I would sit and talk to in person. Now I find myself with people I met once through a friend that I would never sit and have a conversation with and the friends you had as a kid and haven’t spoken to in 20 years and even though you can see their Facebook wall, you wouldn’t post anything to them.

I’m not looking to get anything out of this article. I don’t want to create a “Ban Facebook for the day” event.  I’m not even blaming Facebook. It’s really not their fault. Its mine, its us. We created this Hell for ourselves. It may be small and it may sound terribly obvious, but I think every so often we need to pull ourselves away from the computer, phone whatever it may be and remember what life was like BF (Before Facebook) Go to a park, take a walk. Have a cup of coffee in a coffee shop without updating your status to “Sitting and enjoying a cup of joe” Actually drink the coffee. Sit in silence. Talk to someone. Think thoughts. Do it now before your mind turns to mush and we all become a zombie race of status updaters!!!

*Update- Today I went back to my old routine of incessant News Feed checking.  I got nothing done and can’t think straight. 

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