Archive | December 2014

My White Christmas

Christmas Tree In The Snow

Each year, while my family attends a party my boyfriend and I have been taking advantage of the empty house to play card games. There are certain games that I love playing, but we don’t always have the table space to set them up.

This year it didn’t quite go according to plan. When we arrived at my place there was just a light drizzle of rain, nothing to be too concerned about. We sat down to play Cards Against Humanity, the first game was just a reminder of how to play, but then we were getting more serious on the second one. Only it was then that we also noticed that the status outside had changed somewhat. Heavy snow was falling and had already settled thickly on the ground. Parents were starting to ring through to warn us about the danger, but we were a little too carefree and tried to play onwards for a while longer. It would have been a good game too, I was going for the Novelty Goods (blue elements) while my boyfriend was starting to set up some alien technology worlds (yellow elements.)

After a while when the snow showed no signs of slowing we decided to end things early, packed up the cards and headed out to observe the state of the roads. I’d been staying over at my boyfriends so all of our stuff was at his and ideally we wanted to get back there. We’d driven in heavy snow before and the car seems to be pretty good at handling it so we rather confidently decided that we would go for it. We soon realised that we probably should have listened to our parents and taken the situation more seriously.

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Finding Love Through Gaming #bloggyxmas

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There are many different types of people that make up the gaming community. I’ve met some very opinionated ones that are always up for a bit of banter, others that use games as a basis for deep discussion and then there are those that just want to form connections and share experiences. I’ve had massive arguments over silly things like skill sets and also had the pleasure of participating in parties that have worked like well oiled machines. Alliances have been forged and enemies have been made. The one thing that I’ve always found to be consistent is that we gamers are a very interesting, passionate bunch of people. We can be meticulous in the way that we analyse strategies and systems, outspoken when it comes to our preferences and we’re always up for a rally if our community calls for it. Sometimes we’ll even take those cares out with us into the real world, wanting to make it a better place.

I’ve spent entire nights enthralled in conversation and yet sat idly by with sword in sheath and arrows in quiver; Sometimes with friends, but other times with helpful strangers passing by. I may have never seen those avatars again, but I’ll never forget the amazing conversations that we shared. Of course the most wonderful thing that I’ve found through gaming is love.

For a while I struggled to find a person to connect with. I suppose like many I went through that `usual phase of insecurities and wondering when or if I would meet the right person. Then I started a game development course and all of a sudden I found that I had become a part of a very friendly and welcoming group. Up until that point I’d never really felt like I’d belonged anywhere and it was a strange, but wonderful feeling. While we all contributed something different, we also shared a like mindedness that I had never experienced before. Amongst them I also discovered the person who has since become my fiancé. I will always remember the first time that he told me how he felt, we both logged into Guild Wars, sat on the grassy hill in the guild watching the virtual sunset and just talked for a very long time. Since then we have ventured through many different games together. We frequently play MMORPGs co-operatively, our characters connected in the same way that we are. We have many stories to tell of slaying demons and conquering mountains together.

I feel that our shared love of gaming has only strengthened our bond for they offer us new ways in which to interact that we would not ordinarily enjoy in real life. We have become so adept at working together as a team that we no longer have to speak to know what the other is thinking. We also help each other out in many other ways such as trading useful items or swapping tips. The best thing is – of course – having a partner that understands my hobby – although sometimes I think we can be a bad influence on each other (long days spent sat in front of the console or splurges in the game shop come to mind.)

In all the years that I have spent playing games I have been saddened to find that there have also been many controversies and complaints revolving around gaming culture. While there have undeniably been some downs, I have always found the ups to be far vaster and greater. It seems to me that games are capable of bringing people together in many different and unique ways. I’m also proud to be able to associate myself as being a part of gaming culture.

So to everybody that makes gaming what it is,
have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

My Favourite Christmas Films

We only have one chance a year to watch these films and so every Christmas I try to make the effort to sit through a few of them.

  • Muppets A Christmas Carol – This is just a childhood classic for me. It became a tradition for us to watch it every year on Christmas Eve so I have really fond memories of it. I remember the song ‘Only One More Sleep til Christmas’ use to really frustrate me though because I was so impatiently excitable as a child. A lot of the songs are very catchy. I love the dark Victorian sets too. Admittedly the story is a little over done now, but this will probably always be my favourite version of it. Scrooged and Disney’s A Christmas Carol are also pretty good.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – Again this is another childhood classic for me. It’s about trying to prepare for that perfect family Christmas but having everything go wrong. It’s just a really funny, light hearted film. I also think it could be somewhat truthful for some of us, that even though we dream of having the perfect Christmas with all the family around, in reality it can be pretty stressful. In the end, it doesn’t matter so long as your loved ones are close by.
  • The Polar Express – This is about a boy who is starting to question his belief in Santa Clause, but then takes a trip on a train to the North Pole. It’s a really nice, magical story that all of the family can enjoy. What stood out to me was just how great the animation was. I also love the quirkiness of the train conductor played by Tom Hanks.
  • The Santa Clause – I haven’t actually watched this in ages (I should probably get my hands on a copy,) but I always remember enjoying it a lot. I remember it being about a man, who after accidentally killing a guy in a Santa suit finds himself turning into Santa Clause and having to take over the responsibility.
  • Jingle All The Way – This is about the mad rush of trying to pick up a toy for Christmas just to find that it has run out everywhere (I’ve heard that there’s been a similar issue with Frozen dolls this year.) I think I use to enjoy watching this because I loved the idea of running crazed through toy shops. It’s pretty silly in places, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously. After seeing the clips from Black Friday this year it also doesn’t seem like that much of an exaggeration any more.
  • Elf – I actually only watched this for the first time yesterday. From the trailers it always looked a bit too zany for my liking, but it was a lot better than I expected. It’s about a human baby who is adopted by some elves, but then wants to leave the North Pole to find his real dad. Hilarity ensues as he then attempts to settle into human society. While a lot of new Christmas films feel like they’re just for kids, this one surprised me that even as an adult I was able to enjoy it.
  • The holiday – For the most part I’m not actually a fan of romance films, but this one isn’t too bad (plus you need to have something to watch while you cosy up to your loved one.) It’s about two women who swap homes and countries to find love. The main reason that it is considered a Christmas film is just because it’s set around that time. It has some good actors in it and the humour is decent.

Creative Block

I was watching an episode of ‘Portrait Artist Of The Year’ and one of the artists was explaining how she was sometimes scared that she would approach the canvas and find that she had forgotten how to paint. It seems kind of silly, but I could totally relate to that. Quite often I feel hesitant to sit down and create because I’m worried that I’ll have forgotten how.

It happens a lot when I’m programming, a fear that somehow all of that syntax knowledge will be erased from my mind. Of course that has never happened, but sometimes I’ll flick through a programming book just to re-assure myself. I have had bad days where the logic just doesn’t seem to come to me. I’ll sit there staring at the screen unable to process what it is that I need to do; apparently writers are not the only ones to suffer from block.

I’ve been feeling it recently with my art too. Regrettably I don’t always have the time to draw, but even if its been a few weeks it will always feel natural to me again when I return. I don’t suppose I’ll have improved, but I have found that once you’ve honed those drawing skills you never seem to lose them. Yet this still doesn’t stop me from having that brief moment of anxiety when I first put pencil to paper.

I’ve found the trick to conquering this is just to learn to trust yourself and to go for it. Even if something takes a while at first, eventually it’ll get there. There’s also no reason for why any well-practised skill would just suddenly disappear. All creative people have good and bad days.

Celebrate The Small Things: 19 December

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  • It’s almost Christmas!
  • I’ve finished all of my wrapping and given my cards out.
  • I made a successful Yule Log Cake. It can be a bit hit and miss when I’m rolling them up, but this was almost perfect :P.
  • Went for a walk and meal in Castleton. Met a very friendly cat in the pub.
  • A friend has asked me to create some charts to help him with his PHD Dissertation. He seems happy with what I’ve produced so far.

What Not To Say When Talking About Depression

Talking about Depression and general mental well-being can be awkward and there is so much stigma around it. I understand why some find the subject difficult to approach, especially if they’ve never suffered from depression themselves. I think it can be easier to sympathise with physical problems even if you’ve never suffered with them yourself, whereas mental well-being can affect our personalities and behaviour; As such it can be problematic to know how accountable we really are for our actions.

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Christmas Stress

Christmas is an awkward time of year for me. On the one hand I feel excited, but on the other I find myself dreading the stress that it brings. More arguments seem to break out in our house and there’s more to do.

For me Christmas is about breaking up the cold, dark winter period. I think I get a little bit of seasonal depression, but it gives me something to look forward to and the decorations seem to give the house a cosier feel. I also see it as a time for some guilt free relaxation, while also getting to spend some time with the people that I love most in the world. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to relax or get in the festive mood when there is so much tension in the air.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 5 December

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  • Went out to the pub with friends and had a great time.
  • Been doing some art this week. I like to make my own custom Christmas Cards using my photos and drawings. Haven’t had the chance to do any drawing or digital art in a while. I think I am improving at painting faces though.
  • My partner has got us a holiday abroad for next year as my Christmas present. Really excited.
  • Only a week to go until we get to watch the new Hobbit film. Already got our tickets booked.
  • Finished my Imperial Agent on SWTOR. Completed all Empire classes. Looking froward to trying out the new content soon.
  • Advent Calendar time. Chocolate. 😛

Why I Loved The Original Guild Wars?

I’ve been getting the urge to go back to the original Guild Wars recently. It was always a Christmas game for me. Every year I would sit with my laptop by the tree and grind away at one thing or another. I even got a Wintersday Card one year brandishing a lovely picture of Nicholas the Traveller and Professor Yakkington.

Many MMORPGs that have been released since have actually left me slightly disappointed; Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars The Old Republic were two major releases that fell a little short for me. I still play them, but not to the extent that I did with the original Guild Wars. There has also been Final Fantasy and The Secret World, both great games, but still haven’t filled the space that Guild Wars put there. In the world of MMORPGs I’ve come to realise that new does not necessarily mean better, even with all the hype that surrounds them. I had to try really hard to resist the temptation to buy Wildstar earlier in the year, but I’m glad I did (I probably play too many anyway.)

It is quite difficult to call which MMORPG is my favourite, but I think Guild Wars is definitionally one of the contenders. I have a lot of happy memories spent with this game; Guilds that came and went, relationships forged and broken and challenges conquered.

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