Gamer’s Year in Review — 2018

For all of my years playing video games, I’ve never kept a record of when I started playing a particular title. In retrospect, it would be nice to have some documentation of my first impression of whatever game I’ve played, as well as keep track of which titles I’ve played. I’m certain that there are some games I’ve forgotten I tried myself.

For this blogpost, I thought I’d tackle a new, interesting topic. That is, to go over the new games I’ve delved into over the course of a year. When I say new, that generally means a title I’ve never played before regardless of when it was released. I hope you all enjoy this article and that you may find a title that intrigues you.

1) Subnautica (January) – I first heard about Subnautica when my older brother recommended I check out a YouTube video of someone else’s playthrough. I instantly fell in love with it enough to want to buy it for myself. The game starts with you using an escape pod to abandon a damaged space freighter before it crashes. This leaves you stranded in the ocean on an alien planet that is almost all water.  What I love about Subnautica the most is that you’re able to explore and gather resources at your leisure, though there are some time constraints and mandatory objectives to complete for your long-term survival. The main point of the game is to escape the planet, but you also have the option of remaining there indefinitely and building a home for yourself once you pass a certain part of the storyline. And no two playthroughs are the same—the environment changes when you start a new game. As far as open world games go, Subnautica has a beautiful underwater environment to explore and tells an excellent sci-fi mystery story. I would highly recommend it.

2) Octogeddon (February) – A fun and addictive cartoony game made by the producers of the first Plants vs. Zombies, Octogeddon is a title I discovered through the YouTube channel of ZackScottGames. Octogeddon is a game that offers a far departure from reality with its tale of a mutant octopus out to destroy the world after seeing a video of a sushi chef preparing calamari. The opposition to this quest consists of submarines and mechanized fish in the ocean levels, then airplanes, tanks, and flying mechanized fish in the land levels. To help defeat enemies, the octopus can be given mutated limbs in place of its tentacles that are more effective against enemy units. To make the game even more challenging, you are forced to start over from the beginning if you lose all your lives—though you can buy powerups with in-game currency to help you muscle through to the end. Though the controls for Octogeddon are simple and consist of using the mouse buttons to move left or right, the waves of enemies make it a challenge to complete the game. I give it two thumbs up. And I hope to see an expansion pack that will add to the replayability factor.

3) Outlast (March) – Outlast is a psychological survival horror game I’d heard a lot about since its release in 2013, but had never actually played. I wasn’t sure I ever would until I won it in a giveaway on the Twitch channel of Folia_Rock. Having been given codes to download both Outlast and its DLC, Whistleblower for free, I began to delve into the game a couple days later. In Outlast, you are playing as a reporter investigating rumors of illegal experiments at a seemingly-abandoned asylum. I knew in advance that the game was particularly violent and contained gratuitous nudity, but that still didn’t prepare me for the experience. Upon gaining entry to the asylum, I was consistently on edge and jumping at every little noise. Simple things such as a door closing or a TV switching on to a “snow” channel added to my fear. About ten minutes in, I had to quit when I encountered the first instance of something popping out at me unexpectedly. While I jumped out of my skin when that happened, at least I didn’t scream. If this intro is a precursor to what Outlast is like, I am in for quite the ride.

4) Players Unknown Battlegrounds AKA PUBG (April) – After months of watching other people play the online multiplayer deathmatch game called PUBG, I developed enough of an interest to want to try it for myself. I instantly discovered upon booting it up that I didn’t have a good enough Internet connection to waste time collecting weapons to combat other players. My general tactic—at least until I can get a better computer—is to just sneak my way through the match, avoiding drawing attention to myself for as long as I can. I got lucky enough to make it to the top 10 out of ninety players during one match, though I did come close in another one. I don’t know how many matches I’ve played, but I’m having fun with PUBG so far. Even the random glitches make it interesting—I somehow got stuck in a wall during one match and had to flat out quit.

5) Fortnite (May) – I had been playing PUBG so exclusively that I didn’t think there would be an entry for May. I’d really gotten into the game I started playing in April – to the point that I started teaming up with other players. I didn’t think I would bother with its competition—another multiplayer deathmatch game called Fortnite. The primary difference between PUBG and Fortnite is that the latter allows you to collect building materials to construct a shelter or elevated platform for defensive or offensive purposes. I’d been hearing so much about Fortnite that it roused my curiosity and I thought I’d give it a try. Fortnite is a game that is free to download, but it doesn’t really allow you to customize your character. I haven’t gotten too far into it, but I believe you have to spend real money to acquire a different costume to use. And unlike PUBG, Fortnite doesn’t really allow you to be stealthy to get through the match. Regardless, I did make it to #4 (out of about 90-some players) by hiding in a custom-built aluminum shack. I might not like this game as much as PUBG, but I aim to see how long I can survive in each match.

6) State of Decay (June) – My interest in State of Decay was generated when I watched a fellow gamer playing the sequel. It is very similar to other zombie-based games I’ve played such as Dead Island and Dead Rising. What sets State of Decay apart is that you must focus on collecting resources, fortifying a base, and keeping up the morale and wellbeing of your fellow survivors. I delved into the game thinking it would be a breeze, and it was for the first hour. I think what hurt me is that I stepped away from State of Decay for a few weeks after my initial test drive. When I got back to it near the end of June, I was blindly stumbling through the zombie-infested town in search of resources. This led to my playable character, Maya, getting killed by a random zombie in one blow. Instead of a game over, I was given control of someone else back at the base camp. The problem there is that my alternate character is injured and in poor shape because I haven’t yet constructed a med bay. I don’t know if there’s any way to salvage my first playthrough, but at least it gives me an idea of what not to do next time.

7) 60 Seconds (July) – I almost thought there wouldn’t be an entry for July until I got inspired to try a game I’d purchased some time ago but never played. On the 24th, I started up 60 Seconds for the first time. It is a very simplistic but still difficult game where you’re given a minute to stockpile items into a bomb shelter before a nuclear fallout. The basic goal of the game is to survive until rescue comes. I haven’t yet mastered resource gathering, so both my playthroughs ended with the family perishing due to lack of food or water. What makes 60 Seconds so enjoyable is there are multiple ways it can play out. No two playthroughs are the same—choices, events, and chances of survival are dependent on what your shelter is stocked with. I look forward to seeing everything that this game has to offer. I’m just sorry it took me so long to give it a test drive.

8) Clue\Cluedo (August) – Late in August, I tuned in to watch a streamer I’d been following for some time—Protonjon—when I saw him playing Clue, a long-time favorite game of mine adapted as a 2018 video game. I liked what I saw so much that it prompted me to purchase the game and all its additional content right away. I thoroughly loved this take on the classic sleuthing board game. In addition to the standard six suspects, the Clue PC game adds several more suspects to the roster, such as Madame Rose and Miss Peach. The additional content greatly changes things up—the murder mystery to solve can be set at a ski lodge, vampire’s castle, the wild west, and even the Orient Express. The character costumes and weapons have also been altered to match each setting. I very much like this version of a board game I loved playing as a child. And if I can hone my mystery-solving skills while I’m at it, all the better.

9a) Graveyard Keeper (September) – Over time, I’ve added around 200 games to my personal wish list on Steam. These generally consist of video games recommended to me by the gaming hub based on what I’ve purchased and played. Generally, I wait until something gets discounted before I buy it—the lucky winner this time was a lesser-known title called Graveyard Keeper. It is basically a building simulation\role-playing game where you play as a modern-day character mysteriously thrown into the role of medieval graveyard owner following a car accident. The general goal is to find a way back to your own time, but there is a long road to travel first. In addition to maintaining the cemetery, you must build relations with the villagers, construct workspaces to generate resources—such as wood and metal—and complete quests. Graveyard Keeper, despite being an interesting game, can be frustrating. The game doesn’t have the best tutorial—there have been several things I’ve had to figure out on my own such as where to spend your research points for better workspaces. I don’t know how long it will take to get through Graveyard Keeper as a whole, but I am slowly making my way toward an ending.

9b) Fortnite: Save the World (September) – After some time spent with the Player-vs-Player mode—or Battle Royale—of Fortnite (my May entry), I decided to invest in the single player role-playing game under the same title. Fortnite: Save the World has you slowly eradicating a radioactive storm that has come to cover 95% of the Earth and turned the population into rampaging zombie-esque creatures. Save the World is a very customizable game that allows you to pick from hundreds of different characters and weapons on your quest to take back the planet. So far, I find it equally as fun as the multiplayer mode. And I look forward the many hours or days it would take to play the game through to its conclusion.

10a) Dying Light (October) – Dying Light is a game that looked right up my alley from the moment I saw someone streaming it on Twitch. A zombie survival horror game that combines the best elements of Dead Island and the Far Cry series, Dying Light sees you assume the role of a soldier sent into a quarantined city to prevent a terrorist from releasing info about the zombie virus to the world. As eager as I was to delve into the game, I unfortunately ran into an unusual problem when I started playing. The best I can describe it is that part of the environment was having trouble keeping up with the camera shifts while the rest was behaving normally. I didn’t know how this “stuttering” would affect the combat portions of the game, so I never made it that far. I’d say I need a better computer if I want to continue playing Dying Light.

10b) Party Hard 2 (October) – As an avid fan of the first Party Hard game, I looked forward to the sequel from the moment I heard of it. The first game is purely casual – the sole objective is to murder the participants of a loud after-hours party without getting caught by the police or killed yourself. Despite being an expert, my know-how flew out the window for my first test drive of Party Hard 2. It differed from the first game with its 3D environment, objectives to target just a few people rather than the entire party, and escaping to an “extraction point” once all objectives are complete. I failed the opening level on my first try largely because I wasn’t used to the new interface and because I forgot there were traps I could implement to take out large groups of people. With time and experience, I can see myself getting hours of enjoyment and replaying levels just as much as I did with the first Party Hard.

11a) Tasty Planet Forever (November) – The Tasty Planet series is another franchise I really love. It is a very casual game where the general goal is to devour objects that are smaller than your avatar until you reach a pre-determined size on each level. The first two Tasty Planet games give you control of an experimental toilet bowl cleaner made with nanotechnology—called the Grey Goo—that steadily gets bigger the more it consumes. The third game—Tasty Blue—changes it to several forms of marine animals (dolphin, shark, etc.) who are largely restricted to an ocean setting but will devour everything around them. Tasty Planet Forever collects all previous avatars in one game and adds some new ones—such as a cat, bee, and dingo—each with their own origin story. For this new game, you have to beat each level in a certain time while taking as little damage as possible to earn stars that unlock different characters or bonus levels. I haven’t earned many stars on my first playthrough, but I aim to try and collect more. Practice makes perfect.

11b) Don’t Starve: Hamlet (November) – After months of waiting for this game’s release, I eagerly delved into it upon purchase. Hamlet is the latest expansion pack for Don’t Starve, but functions as a standalone game. You’re transported to a self-contained world with all-new environments to explore and a humanoid-pig town where goods can be bought and sold. I got a notification on my first playthrough that Hamlet is more difficult than previous versions of the game and I loved the idea of a learning curve. I didn’t last long in my first run though—I survived two days before I wandered into an area where I was exposed to a fast-acting poison. I have much to learn before I actually master the world of Hamlet, but I love a good challenge.

12) Renowned Explorers: International Society (December) – To round out the year, I decided to purchase one last casual game—Renowned Explorers. I’m not sure exactly what made me add this particular title to my wish list, but it is proving to be worth the investment so far. The game starts by having you assemble a three-person team of explorers\treasure-seekers whose ultimate goal is worldwide prestige. I am playing the game on its easiest mode, but I can see where it would prove quite the challenge on harder difficulties. You would need to carefully consider every move and battle tactic to beat the game at its hardest setting—miscalculation can be very costly and force you to start over from the beginning. Your team of explorers starts out with a finite pool of resolve points, which can be lost by failing at a battle—lose all your points and it’s game over. Even on easy mode, I ran the risk of losing at one point. That aside, Renowned Explorers is a very layered video game with a lot of avenues to explore. Your team selection, the path taken on each expedition and choices to be made can provide a different experience with each playthrough. I look forward to discovering all the routes this game has to offer.

2018 has definitely been an interesting year for trying out new video games. Whether they were titles recommended to me, given to me for free or just looked interesting, I had something new to delve into on a monthly basis. I don’t know if 2019 will be the same, especially when I thought that some months this year would pass by with no entry. The only story-driven games I’ve played through in their entirety have been Octogeddon and Tasty Planet Forever—perhaps the new year will see me actually completing some of the other games on the list. And there is at least two games I see myself delving into in the near future – Life is Strange 2 and the Resident Evil 2 remake.

My 2019 To Do List

“When at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” — Frederick Maryat


In 2018, I resolved to read one book each month, but I came up short reading only nine. I accomplished my second resolution of entering a writing contest. I didn’t win, but it was worth the effort to prove I could complete a story by the deadline.


My most ambitious resolution of writing a minimum of 5,000 words each week for three months to complete my 65,000-word manuscript also came up short. I wasn’t even close. I realized my problem is that I tend to edit as I go. This prevents me from getting my rough draft completed.


This year I’m writing a To Do List instead of a List of Resolutions.

1) Read a minimum of one book a month.

2) Write 600 words a day without editing.

3) Organize my clothes closet by the second week of January.

4) Organize my linen closet by the end of January.

5) Organize the pictures on my computer and delete the unwanted ones.


What is your New Year’s list of things you wish to accomplish?

Things I Learned from Playing Video Games

There have been many times over the course of my life where I’ve heard people say, “Playing games rots the brain,” or “Get out and do something productive.” As a child or teenager, I didn’t care to listen. Nor did I want anything to take away from my hours of gameplay.

As an adult looking back, I can safely say that playing games has helped enrich my life—in some ways helped shape me into the person I am. Whether they were educational games that were very direct about what they taught or titles that imparted some skill or knowledge about the world, I feel I learned a lot from video games.

Below is my list—in no particular order—of things I picked up from playing games.

1) foreign languages – You wouldn’t think that video games would be a good source for learning another language, but I have picked up something of a vocabulary from doing so. From various titles, I have picked up a bit of Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, and even Latin. Nothing’s really stuck, but I believe I can commit certain phrases to memory by replaying select games or watching clips on YouTube. Examples: Phantasmagoria, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Fallout 4.

2) money management – Budgeting is a key factor when it comes to simulation games particularly those where you’re put in charge of a business such as a zoo or amusement park that has to stay profitable to remain open. It took me some time to learn that the trick is to pace yourself and not spend too much at one time on upgrades. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at money management, but there are game titles that are a good teaching tool. Examples: Sim Theme Park, Big Pharma, Zoo Tycoon.

3) firearms – Until I started playing the immersive role-playing game Fallout 3, I didn’t have very much knowledge of firearms. I have since developed a greater understanding of guns—different types and how they operate—by playing more third-person or first-person shooters. Enough to know that I favor sniper rifles, assault rifles, or a bow and arrow. Examples: the Fallout series, Skyrim, Far Cry 3.

4) card/casino/board games – Though I grew up with a small collection of board games, they failed to hold my interest once I became a teenager. I would say I’ve played the classics – Monopoly, Clue, Chess – much more in digital form. There are certain video games that feature a wide array of vintage board and card games and serve as a great way to learn about their real-world counterparts. Through video games, I’ve learned the rules and gameplay for cribbage, Chinese checkers, backgammon, and variations of poker—Let It Ride, Texas Hold Em, Three Card Poker—featured in the casino. Examples: Hoyle Board Games, Hoyle Card Games, Fallout: New Vegas, Battle Chess, Governor of Poker.

5) the art of stealth – In both the real world and simulated world, I am someone who prefers to avoid conflict as much as possible. I’ve seen gameplay videos where other gamers rush wholeheartedly into battle, but that’s simply not me. I am patient enough to bide my time and slowly take down an adversary from the shadows or quietly vacate the area. I believe I once spent an hour navigating my way through a room where a dangerous creature resided because I didn’t want to fight. Examples: the Fallout series, Skyrim, Fortnite, PUBG, Far Cry 3.

6) human nature/psychology – One of the things I like best about story-driven video games is the look they give you into different mindsets. Video games aren’t my only source for learning about the human psyche, but they are one of the most prevalent. This look at how heroes and villains react to situations or to each other has helped me greatly when it comes to crafting my own stories. I would say I have a better intuition of what would or wouldn’t work for a given character. Some of my fanfiction readers have even praised me for my representation of characters from other mediums, such as Resident Evil and Transformers. Examples: the Resident Evil series, Life is Strange, Beyond: Two Souls.

7) politics – I’ve never been a fan of politics even though it is still very much a part of my life. I get more enjoyment from politics in video games than the real world—which might be because games give you more of a say over who gets put in charge of a nation or country. In a lot of ways, a fictional leader is more appealing and ideal to me than those in real life. I feel I’ve learned more from video games about what a political leader should be and that’s someone who never stops putting the people first and acting in their best interest. I do hope that someday I get to see a president in real life who has more of a positive impact on the state of the nation. Examples: the Tropico series, Cat President, Fallout: New Vegas.

8) building management\construction – I’ve played a wide array of video games where building a military base, settlement, or house is a key feature. I’m no expert at building a compact efficient living space, but I feel I’d be proficient at designing a colony if I had to. Examples: The Sims, the Dune series, Fallout 4.

9) ancient civilizations\mythology – I’ve been fascinated with mythology ever since I was a child. Video games have served as a good way to learn more about it. Select titles I’ve played have deepened my knowledge of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology, as well as provided a glimpse at the way of life of ancient civilizations. Examples: Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Fallout: New Vegas.

10) food preparation – I don’t know if there are any actual video games out there that impart knowledge about cooking, but I have played plenty that show how to prepare meals. When it comes to making hamburgers, cakes, or omelettes, I at least have some idea of ingredients that would go good with each. Examples: Cooking Dash, Stand O’Food, Cake Mania.

11) logic\strategy – I’ve played more than my share of puzzle-based games in my life and they remain some of my all-time favorites even though they’ve fallen by the wayside. I’ve always been good at solving spatial or logic puzzles and video games have helped accentuate this skill. I don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t had this consistent means of challenging myself. Examples: Portal 1 & 2, Words with Friends, Memory Match, Hoyle Puzzle Games, Tetris.

12) survival\resource management – For games where survival is the main priority, resource gathering can be the defining factor between life and death. Some survival-based games can be more challenging than others, but all make you really think about what is needed to stay alive. If I ever encounter a situation in real life where I’m forced to think about managing resources, my chances would be pretty good. Examples: Oregon Trail 2, Don’t Starve, Subnautica, 60 Seconds, The Forest.

13) interior design – My interest in the Sims series may have waned over the years, but it still has enriched my life to some degree. While I loved the Sims for the ability to bring my stories to life and create physical representations of fictional characters I’d dreamed up, one of the other perks was creating houses featured in my stories. Gameplay aside, the Sims can also serve as a good tool for testing out interior design ideas before actually implementing them in your home.

14) keen observation – I like to think that my many years of playing video games has made me hyper-aware of the world around me. In my everyday life, I am observant to the extent that I sometimes surprise people with how quickly I’m able to spot something. Video games—especially mystery games—have also greatly improved my listening skills. This has translated to me being a very good listener when it comes to my job. Examples: Panic in the Park, Treasure Quest, Tetris, Bubble Bobble, Jewel Quest.

15) good hand-eye coordination – Another way in which video games have helped enrich my life is by helping me develop exceptional reflexes. Not only am I able to quickly see something—such as a cellphone in danger of falling to the floor—I am able to react fast enough to prevent something bad from happening. I’d like to attribute this trait to the vintage Atari or arcade games I consistently played in my youth, but it realistically could have come from games I’ve played as a whole.

16) history – Of the many subjects I’ve picked up from video games, history or knowledge of historical figures has been the most prevalent. I have played a good amount of period-piece games that have deepened my understanding of past world events. I do hope that history remains an element present in video games for years to come. It’s always a thrill to learn something new. Examples: Fallout 3 & 4, Oregon Trail 2, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time.

17) geography – When it comes to learning geography, there are certain game titles that impart a good deal of knowledge. The Fallout series particularly is a good resource with its faithful representations of 50s-era Washington DC, Las Vegas, Boston, and the surrounding areas for each. Granted, the Fallout series is largely set in post-apocalyptic America, but it still gives you a good idea of locations and landmarks. Examples: Fallout 3 & 4, Fallout: New Vegas, Where in (Europe\the U.S.A.\the World) is Carmen Sandiego?

18) astronomy – I don’t know of many games that teach about astronomy or the Milky Way. But the educational\sleuthing game, Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego, has a heavy emphasis on the topic. This particular game was a good source for learning about our solar system, from the moons associated with each planet to info about the Asteroid Belt and the sun. It’s a shame that there aren’t a lot of other video games like it.

19) mathematics – I remember having a greater appreciation for math in my youth than I do now. As a child, I loved the challenge of solving basic math problems. It was even better to see addition and subtraction problems incorporated in video games I loved to play. My interest in mathematic may have waned over the years, but I still look back fondly on educational games that made it fun. Examples: Number Munchers, Troggle Trouble Math.

20) vocabulary – The way in which video games have enriched my life the most is by expanding my vocabulary. From educational to story-driven games to word puzzles, I don’t know who I’d be if games hadn’t been such a huge part of my life. In the long run, I’d say that video games have played a significant role in shaping who I am as a writer.

In general, video games can be so much more than a source of entertainment. If you really think about it, there is a lot of knowledge you can take away from games just by stopping to take a good look or listen.

I hope you found this blogpost interesting and thought-provoking. Please leave your comments below—I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t Tell Me What to Do!

“I’m a dreamer so don’t tell me not to dream.” (1)

On the GMA television show November 8, 2018, I heard Martin Garrix, singer, and Mike Yung, guitarist, perform a powerful song, “Dreamer.” The lyrics began with that poignant plea, don’t tell me not to dream.” While listening, I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing.

How many times have you been told to stop daydreaming? How will stories be written, songs be composed, and art be created if we stop daydreaming? Where would technology be now if not for the dreamers?

“I’m a lover. Don’t tell me who to love.” (1)

Why do some people insist that you can only love people within your religious community, your ethnic group, or someone of the opposite sex?

“I’m a runner cause I’ve got somewhere to run.” (1)

Why question someone else’s reason for running, flying, snowboarding, hang gliding, or any other activity that may seem frivolous or dangerous?

When you sing, does anyone tell you that your voice is terrible? Please tell them that you sing because you feel it in your heart. Continue singing. After all, you’re not trying out for “The Voice.You’re expressing yourself. Has someone commented on your awkward dancing style? Please continue to dance because you want to, not because you want to appear on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Live your life. Don’t let someone else tell you how to live. Daydream if you so choose. Sing like nobody is listening. “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” (2)


(1) Goggle Dreamer by Martin Garrix and Mike Yung

(2) Words and music by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers © Copyright 2000

Just Google It, Grammie

I miss the days of finding information in my family’s World Book Encyclopedia. Using these reference books to complete a homework assignment took much longer than it should have. Why? Because I’d continue reading about whatever subject I’d accidently run across while looking for the information I needed to complete my report.


As an adult, I wanted a more up-to-date set of encyclopedias and purchased the Encyclopedia Americana © 1986. For years I’d make time to grab one of the books at random, open any page, and read. I learned about a variety of plants, researched foreign leaders, and studied the solar system.


To research a topic now, I simply google it as my granddaughter suggested. There’s no longer the strong possibility of inadvertently discovering something quite different from my original topic of interest. Now my concern is what to do with my old set of encyclopedias. The libraries don’t need them. Used bookstores won’t take them. Modern families have the internet at their fingertips, and I hate to send them to the landfill.


What do you suggest I do with my encyclopedias?