My Favorite Vacation Spots in Video Games

For much of my adult life, I’ve dreamed of traveling to different parts of the world I’d like to see–Ireland, Australia, Hawaii. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do so, but I’ll always be able to say I’ve seen some very spectacular places in video games I’ve played. It would be nice if some of the stunning locations I’ve visited in the digital world existed in real life–and were monster-free so I could thoroughly enjoy what I was seeing.

Below is my list of ten fictional places, in no particular order, where I’d love to take a vacation.

1) Fortune City (Dead Rising 2: Off the Record) — Fortune City is a locale that is present in two separate versions of Dead Rising 2–one with motocross champion Chuck Greene as the protagonist and the other, Off the Record, starring photojournalist Frank West. The layout for Fortune City differs in Frank’s story–largely because one of the casinos is replaced with an amusement park. In either game, Fortune City would be the ultimate pleasure-seeker’s dream. The casinos, shopping centers, hotels, gladiatorial sports arena, scenic pavilion, and quickie wedding chapel make it a destination with something to appeal to most every vacationer.

2) Banoi (Dead Island) – The tropical island of Banoi featured in the first Dead Island game stands out for both its natural beauty and luxury hotels, bungalows, and housing. Whether you’re a fan of lovely beachside settings, cityscapes with modest weather-worn architecture, or remnants of a war—such as a concrete bunker—that plagued the island in times past, then Banoi is the place for you. It is a location I’d definitely love to visit, especially if I could rent one of the elevated houses out on the ocean.

3) Havarl (Mass Effect: Andromeda) – An alien world teeming with bioluminescent flora, Havarl is definitely a wonder to behold. I remember being awestruck when I saw just how beautiful it was for the first time. Nature-lovers will adore it simply because of the unique plant life, while sight-seers will love exploring the remnants of an ancient alien civilization. Me—I’d love to visit every now and then just to enjoy the natural beauty of this planet.

4) “Bouncy” Loot Lake (Fortnite) – Fortnite features a landscape that is ever changing; the area that was once Loot Lake has irrevocably changed. But I remember when it was once a massive body of water with a three-story house on the central island. At one point in the game’s history, an alien artifact dropped into the lake and transformed the surface into a purple bouncy material—you could be launched into the air merely by stepping on it. My teammates and I used to forego the gameplay objective of offing your opponents in favor of simply bouncing around the lake. Loads of fun—I wish such a thing existed in the real world, especially since you could get some pretty good height without getting hurt.

5) Queen Zenobia (Resident Evil: Revelations) – Despite being a cruise ship that was used as a headquarters for a terrorist organization, the Queen Zenobia is quite luxurious. Granted, I only saw one indoor pool and spa, the casino is rather small, and I didn’t spot any stores to purchase keepsakes or clothing. But the Queen Zenobia features the same architecture as the mansion from the very first Resident Evil game. It might be said that the cruise ship was made to cater more to those with an appreciation for art than pleasure—I like to think I’m open-minded enough to enjoy both.

6) Rapture (Bioshock) – The massive deep-sea domed city of Rapture might not be the most ideal place to live, but it is one of the most unique. Reinforced glass walkways and habitats provide a great view of oceanic wildlife. Built as a utopia by wealthy businessman Andrew Ryan who invested a fortune into its construction, Rapture is the place to go for the finer things in life. Five-star restaurants, boutiques, and theaters await those with the bank account to afford it. Even if it did exist in real life, Rapture might be the one place I could realistically only dream about visiting.

7) The Institute (Fallout 4) – There are many locations to visit in the Fallout series, though most are derelict or reimagined versions of their real-life counterparts in the wake of a nuclear war. Though I could have picked the Washington DC area, Zion Canyon, or Boston, these are locations I’d have the opportunity to visit in real life. Not so much with the Institute, a subterranean science facility that exists as a slice of perfection in a post-apocalyptic world. Contradictory to the damaged landscape above, the Institute is pristine—where one can find clean food and water—and is a reminder of how good the world was and can be again. Unfortunately, the Institute is limited on space—they don’t open their doors to just anyone. Should Earth ever fall into the state of ruin present in the Fallout series, then the Institute would be the place where I’d want to take an extended vacation if not live.

8) the Carnovasch Estate (Phantasmagoria) – A century-old mansion constructed by an illusionist in the late 1800s, the Carnovasch Estate retains much of its original décor in the modern era. It is a one-of-a-kind house that features Victorian architecture and includes a full-sized theatre where hundreds of guests could enjoy magic shows. The wine cellar, observatory, and reception hall add to the mansion’s charm. The grounds of the estate include a vintage greenhouse, gazebo, fountain, and creekside terrain ideal for hosting picnics. Aside from the fact that the house is haunted, it would be a historical site I would love to visit time and again.

9) Twisty Bridges (Subnautica: Below Zero) – Subnautica is set on an alien world that is mostly water, but also features some extraordinary underwater vistas. One of the most spectacular is Twisty Bridges, a series of rock formations that curve around each other and are partially bioluminescent. It is a scuba-diving locale I wouldn’t mind seeing over and over as a reminder of how beautiful and mysterious deep-sea environments—alien planet or not—can be.

10) Arcadia Bay (Life is Strange) – Though it is a relatively safe locale unless you match the criteria of a deranged serial killer, Arcadia Bay is the place to visit for a glimpse of small-town life. The coastal town features a private academy for gifted students, family-owned businesses, and a scenic lookout in the mountains with a lighthouse and public park. Arcadia Bay is an ideal vacation spot if you wish to just get away from it all. I’d love to vacation there just for the peace and tranquility that the town has to offer.

I imagine there are hundreds of locations in video games that would make a great vacation destination, but these are the ones that stand out the most for me. Whether I’m looking for excitement or serenity, I would definitely pick one of the places on this list. If you would like to share your thoughts on a fictional place you find appealing, please do so in the comments below.


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

Last summer my husband, Roger, and I completed our goal of visiting all 50 states together in the nearly 30 years of our marriage. An acquaintance asked which states I liked best and which I considered the worst. Because the last two states we visited were South Dakota and Wyoming, I talked about the wonderful sights of those states first. I then mentioned the attributes of some of the other states. I never said which states I consider the worst. I believe there is something good about each of our 50 states.

In South Dakota we photographed Mt. Rushmore where we saw the carved faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. We visited the museum which displayed pictorial information about the construction of that phenomenal monument. Fascinating! We were also in South Dakota just in time to see the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which lasted about 10 days. Last year an estimated half a million bikers attended the annual rally. The noises of the many motorcycles drove the bison toward the hills making us miss seeing the animals.

We drove from there to Jackson, Wyoming, the last state on our list. Jackson is a small city in the Jackson Hole Valley of Teton County. One of the best restaurants in Jackson is The Bunnery Bakery & Restaurant which serves traditional American breakfasts, sandwiches, and delicious baked goods and desserts. While Roger and I were discussing the successful completion of our state visits, several of the customers overheard us. We were congratulated by several of the them. One man sent a large cinnamon roll, The Bunnery’s specialty, to our table as a gift for our accomplishment.

During a walking tour of the city, we saw an impressively huge arch made of shed elk antlers collected by local children. We walked the boardwalk to a local museum which detailed how people in the past lived. While we were there, we saw one woman demonstrate the loom to weave yarn. We also took a short ride in a horse drawn stage coach to see the rest of the city.

In Yellowstone Park we saw Old Faithful, one of the most famous geysers in the world. This area has more geysers than any geyser field anywhere. We also saw elk, moose, and some friendly donkeys being fed by tourists which was forbidden. Just before exiting the park, we finally saw herds of bison in the fields. Some of the bison stopped on the two-lane road blocking the traffic for some time. It is illegal, and dangerous, to try to move the bison. Of course, there were some impatient people who tried or got too close to those huge, wild animals. Foolish! I’ll write more about some of our statewide trips in future blogs. Have you traveled to many of the 50 states? What did you find interesting about them?

In Yellowstone Park we saw Old Faithful, one of the most famous geysers in the world. This area has more geysers than any geyser field anywhere. We also saw elk, moose, and some friendly donkeys being fed by tourists which was forbidden. Just before exiting the park, we finally saw herds of bison in the fields. Some of the bison stopped on the two-lane road blocking the traffic for some time. It is illegal, and dangerous, to try to move the bison. Of course, there were some impatient people who tried or got too close to those huge, wild animals. Foolish!

I’ll write more about some of our statewide trips in future blogs. Have you traveled to many of the 50 states? What did you find interesting about them?

Office Nerd #4

Amazing Journeys Online Episode 2: Fear…less

The arrow sliced the air. The rabbit turned its head, eyes widening. Socrates sensed he aimed true—until the head of another wolf appeared, jaws reaching for the rabbit. Only the arrow, intended for the rabbit, sheared the wolf’s ear and landed point buried at the feet of the hare. The wolf yelped with pain.

Socrates cursed, as he reached for another arrow, fumbled it, and watched it land in the high grass.

Father rabbit disappeared into the trees.

The wolf snarled at Socrates. Glaring, she crouched as if gauging the distance to her new prey. 

Drawing another arrow, Socrates’ hands shook. He suddenly felt a shortness of breath. The sun felt hotter. “Come on, breathe, breathe, breathe.” Repeating the word, he struggled to steady his limbs. The wolf’s calmness, as she stared balefully, sent a chill through his body. “You can do this. Take a breath. Hold, and…”

He released the arrow. The wolf leaped. The arrow missed badly. The wolf zigged and zagged, closing the distance. Socrates ran.

Placing the bow in an equipment slot, Socrates pumped his arms for greater speed. The grove was too spread out. The trees grew closer with each stride. His breath felt sharper as he pumped his arms. The fatigue bar was close to red lining, dropping below fifteen percent. When it did, he’d collapse and be wolf food.

His instincts screamed, ‘Dive!’ He tumbled right. The hair on the back of his neck tickled as he sensed then saw the wolf’s shadow rise over him. Its rear claws found purchase on his back, pushing off powerfully and leaving a searing line of pain. His roll became a sprawl, grass whipped sharply against his face and arms. Sweat slicked his back, enflaming from the wolf’s claws. 

A message box appeared before his face, translucent so that he could see his surroundings through the text: “You’ve been clawed by a matron wolf avenging its mate. 8pts damage plus one bleed point per minute unless bound.” Socrates was suddenly reminded that he was inside a virtual world.

Dismissing the message, Socrates breathing slowed, readied to sprint, and froze. The heavy growl in the wolf’s throat left the man drained of energy. His arms hung at his sides as his breathing slowly settled.

This was it, Socrates thought. First death in the game. Too soon to earn the “undying” bonus for lasting three game weeks, as he’d only been fully immersed in this three-dimensional world for three hours.

A couple strides away, Socrates spotted trees with climbable branches. But they might as well be a hundred meters with the angry animal in his way. Socrates racked his brain for a solution, any option that could save him. 

Suddenly, an idea came to him.

The wolf crouched, growling low in her throat.

The man reached into his inventory.

The wolf leaped.

Jaws closed toward Socrates’ head. He grunted with effort, shoving the bow into the wolf’s mouth, and used the animal’s momentum to push himself away. 

Reaching the first tree, he gripped the rough bark and scrambled up the trunk to the first branches, the second, and finally the third. Sitting exhausted, he looked down at the wolf. It bounded from broken bow to the tree.

Socrates smiled in relief that he was safe for the moment. He’d wait until the wolf got tired and left. His smile froze with horror as the wolf leapt and scrambled onto the first branch. She stared at him, and then the next branch.

Socrates muttered, “No, no, no…”

The wolf leaped, scrabbled with its claws, and…

The wolf climbed to the second branch. She watched as the man raised his legs and stood. She seemed to grin with triumph and expectation.

Socrates’ heart sank.

Here We Go Again!

Whenever it’s time to write I get this “here we go again” feeling. All the cool, neat ideas I have in my head make an immediate beeline for the door and I’m left with nothing. Even things I originally thought were pretty funny don’t sound that way anymore. Years ago I wrote a humorous piece titled Do Dieters Have Split Personalities? It’s about why it’s so hard to stay on a diet when success is just around the corner. The Ann Arbor News published it in their Opinion Section. They must have liked the piece because they gave it most of the page. If I redid the piece and freshened it up a little, would it make for a good submission to our Deadwood Writers’ Anthology? That’s where my problems began. Someone in our writers’ group insisted I should check with the Ann Arbor News to see who had the rights at this point in time. Originally that didn’t sound like much of a problem so I agreed. But it’s turned into a big headache. The next day, I sent the Ann Arbor News an email giving them the title of the story, the section, date and page number where it had been published. I told them I’d like to freshen the piece up a bit and submit to my writers’ group. I got a prompt email back saying: “That would be handled by our print group.” They included an email address and a name to send it to. I thought, this is going to get settled quickly. That turned out to be the understatement of the year. On March 9, I emailed Todd and explained the situation. No one answered. I waited a few days. By March 13 I realized that no one was going to answer. I sent an email to the nameless person who had told me to contact Todd in the first place. This time I asked for a telephone number. The response was complete silence. I decided to let this problem sit for a few days, hoping something would happen or I’d come up with a brilliant idea. By March 18, I decided to try phoning. I got the Ann Arbor News’ print edition number from Google and dialed. Jan answered. I asked to speak to Todd. She said she’d connect me. But all I got was his voice mail which wasn’t very helpful. I left my name and number. Then I called Jan back. This time I explained why I was calling and asked if there was someone else who could help me. Jan said yes. Actually, Mickey was the person who did this. She would connect me. The phone rang several times and then I got Mickey’s voice mail. I left my name and number again but didn’t have much hope that I would hear back from him. Then I had an idea. Frequently, people will respond to an email before they’ll respond to voice mail. I’ve never understood why. I called Jan back and asked for Mickey’s email address. I sent him an email explaining the situation. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I checked my email: lots of messages but nothing from Mickey. But, around 11:00 a.m., I got an email from Sara. When I saw that she is the Regional News Manager for the Ann Arbor News, I began to feel better. It looked like my problem was going to be solved after all. Sara wrote, “If you signed a freelance agreement with us, the copyright belongs to us. If you didn’t, you are free to rework it and submit it to your group. If you did sign an agreement, please let us know and we can give you a release.” Now, the truth is, I wrote this piece in 2008 and the only thing in my file is the piece and the 2008 cover letter I sent to Arny. 2008 was eleven years ago. How am I to remember if I signed a freelance agreement or not? I don’t think I did because, knowing me, I would have asked for a copy and put it in the same file with the published piece. The only thing I do remember is feeling nervous when I walked into the Ann Arbor News downtown, met Arny, and had the photographer take my picture. I shared this with Sara, minus the nervous part, and asked if she could send me a release to be on the safe side? I checked my email this morning and there was nothing from Sara. I decided to wait until 11:00 a.m. before printing copies of this piece to bring tonight. I also hoped I’d hear back from Sara in the meantime. This turned out to be a good plan. At 10:29 a.m. I got an email from Sara saying “Please feel free to rework and resubmit the essay to your writers’ group. You can use this email as official permission.” Mmmmmm… after 14 days, closure. Not only do I have the rights to my piece, I have written proof. Great! For once, this is not a case of “here we go again”.