The Legend of Zelda – What The Series Means to Me After 35 Years

Hey, welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! I hope everyone had a great week! 

It’s been a pretty productive time for me, post-Mobius VII Book 1. The worldbuilding for Book 2 has commenced, writing for the podcast series – Mobius VII Story Notes – is progressing fairly well and streaming has never been more fun than it has today. Today, however, I’ll be putting aside all talks about Sonic and Final Fantasy and I’ll be putting a spotlight on a third series that has had an enormous impact on my life.

That series is The Legend of Zelda, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.


In The Beginning…

My journey with Link started off with the old 1989 Zelda cartoon that would air on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. I was in kindergarten during that time and I remember (albeit, vaguely) coming home at lunchtime to watch this show and it was there that I first watched that Zelda cartoon. It was set in the magical land of Hyrule and starred an irascible, rascally hero, a sassy princess, a mischievous fairy and a villainous pig monster/wizard who tried to steal the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rule the land. The moment I saw that show intro, I was HOOKED.

I remember at one point back in kindergarten that I pretended to be Link and had magical adventures with friends… but I could be misremembering things? Memory works in strange ways, sometimes.

In fact, looking back now, I credit the Legend of Zelda cartoon as the first instance where I was exposed to High Fantasy, my favourite genre of fiction. I was always swept up in the fantastical worlds that existed within these stories, with their crafty characters, deep and introspective lores and zany, over-the-top adventures and I have to thank the series for introducing that into my life. 

Anyway, we fast forward to around the summer of ‘94, when a neighbourhood friend introduced me to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. This was my first foray into the Zelda gaming universe and, in my eyes, it did not disappoint. Despite its status as the black sheep of the series, Zelda II was an incredible stroke of genius. With its focus on action and exploration instead of puzzle solving, the game has Link traversing the entirety of North Hyrule to place crystals in six palaces and unlock the Great Palace, said to hold the Triforce of Courage, the third piece of the Triforce. Before playing this title (and Dragon Warrior, which I played right after this one), I found that at a young age, games weren’t very immersive. They were simple affairs, like getting from one end of a level to the goal or beating a boss at the very end. With Zelda II, there was a story to be had, even though it was simple. Playing it made me feel as though I was a part of the adventure and my actions had an effect on whether or not Link succeeded in his quest to revive Princess Zelda from her eternal sleep. 

Also, as I’ve mentioned several times before, Zelda II was also a test of patience. It’s not enough to just hack and slash at everything in sight, there’s strategy involved in this game. Ironkuckles can easily be defeated by aggressively advancing forward, jumping and stabbing at them. Daria’s (Axe-wielding monsters) can be defeated in several ways – orange ones are eliminated by crouch-stabbing while advancing forward while the red ones can be defeated by timing their axe throws and slashing at their heads when an opening presents itself.

By far, my favourite enemies to fight are the Lizalfos and they’re simple to beat once you nail the strategy. While advancing forward, jump up, hold down (as though you’re initiating the downstab) and then immediately stab forward. If done right, Link will look like he’s crouching in mid-air and almost 80% of the time, it catches the Lizalfos off guard, making for an easy kill. It also means easy experience, considering the orange ones give off 150 xp per kill.

If I haven’t mentioned it before (and if it wasn’t obvious from the above), Zelda II is by far my favourite game of the series. There was a point in time where I thought all Zelda games were like Zelda II, but I was sorely mistaken once I started delving deeper into the series.

From Side-Scrolling to Traditional

Christmas of 1998 was a special time for me, as it was the year that I picked up my very first Game Boy – a Game Boy Pocket in Electric Green. I’m actually kicking myself for selling that unit all those years ago as it was just a wonderful little thing, but alas, hindsight’s 20/20, right? Still, the first game that I got with the system was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, released in that same year to coincide with the release of the Game Boy Colour.

Compared to Zelda II, Link’s Awakening was a completely different beast. It was more puzzle based than the side-scrolling action adventure title. I struggled to wrap my mind around the mechanics around the different items. I remember on my first playthrough being stuck in the Mysterious Woods with the raccoon blocking my path forward. It took some time, but I realized that I needed to use the Magic Powder to proceed further. At the time, I thought the only source of the powder was through the Crane Game mechanic and I remember spending hours chopping grass over and over again in order to get the necessary Rupees needed to play the game and get the powder. I only realized years later that I could have gotten the Toadstool within the woods, hand it over to the Witch by the graveyard area and receive a free sack of powder instead!

I also remember getting stuck on the last three dungeons for the longest time. As a kid of 11 or 12, I found those to be particularly difficult. The final boss was also a nightmare (pun intended) to deal with, but eventually I persevered. Link’s Awakening would be the first Zelda game that I would finish – I hadn’t beaten Zelda II until I was in my mid-teens and that was with save states and cheats and such! The message within the game, in that the whole island and its inhabitants are nought but illusions, flew over my head at the time, but I started to understand what it meant as I got older. The fact that your existence may be nothing more than a conjuring within someone’s dream and that it can be erased as soon as that individual awakens… that’s pretty terrifying to realize haha.

Transitioning to 3D

At around the same time I was struggling through Link’s Awakening, I also got to play the next evolution of the Zelda series with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, thanks to an older cousin of mine who had an Nintendo 64. He and I would journey through the vast lands of Hyrule together, fighting off monsters, solving problems for folks and trying to stop a madman from conquering the kingdom. The time travel twist was so awesome to behold and I remember sitting with my cousin and my brother watching all our efforts go to waste once we picked up the Master Sword and thinking, “Wow, we just got played.”

The dungeon difficulty went up several notches at that point, as each of the Temples had tons of tricky sections that really threw me for a loop. The most infamous of them all was the Water Temple, and I remember that we were stuck in that particular area for a good couple of weeks!

Such a pain to deal with…

Ultimately, this was a game that we didn’t get to finish together as a group. School and life got in the way and my cousin ended up finishing the game without me. He had also picked up Majora’s Mask – the sequel to Ocarina of Time and we spent a fair deal of time playing that one until his system and games got stolen during one of his baseball practices… Meanwhile, I didn’t get a proper chance to finish OoT until I picked up the Collector’s Edition for the GameCube for Christmas of 2003. I admit, I used walkthroughs to get through the rest of the game, particularly for the bloody Water Temple, which I still detest to this day haha. 

The final battle between Link and Ganondorf – transformed into the demon Ganon – was one of the most iconic and memorable fights that I experienced within gaming. The music, the atmosphere and the backdrop of the ultimate fight between good and evil, it was something that could only come from an epic High Fantasy tale. In this case, it was better because I could control the action, I could feel the tension between these two forces. I remember my hands gripping the controller tightly as I felt each blow of Ganon’s twin, forked swords. I remember gritting my teeth as I sought a way to hit the Demon King’s weak point on his tail. And I remember the jubilation I felt when I landed the final blow to his head and his subsequent sealing into the Sacred Realm. That moment solidified The Legend of Zelda’s place as one of my favourite gaming series of all time, ranking up there with both Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy.

After Ocarina of Time though, things just got better and better. Majora’s Mask – while not within my top ten Zelda games – was still an awesome and dark entry to the series. Wind Waker’s cel-shaded graphics didn’t deter me from experiencing a fantastic and compelling story set in a waterlogged Hyrule. Twilight Princess was, at one point, my favourite 3D Zelda game, because it combined everything that made Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker great into one complete and dense package. My only complaint was that it started off a bit slow, but once the first scenes were passed, the enormous world of Hyrule really opened up and it was what I’ve always imagined it to be. A land full of fantasy and mystery and wonder.

The Rest of the Series

I played the original Legend of Zelda game for the first time around the same moment that I got the Collector’s Edition. Seeing where it all started from gave me both a better appreciation for the games that came after it and a sense of gratitude that the series even existed and improved so much over the years. I followed that up with A Link to the Past – arguably the most talked about Zelda title prior to Ocarina of Time – and I understood why it was so highly regarded.

Oracles of Ages and Seasons, a pair of GBC Zelda games, marked the first games in which the events of one game would affect those in the second. My brother and I owned both copies of this game (Ages was his, while Seasons was mine) and the two of us would work together to figure out each game’s puzzles, unlock the mysteries of Holodrum and Labrynna and ultimately defeat Ganon once more.

The Minish Cap was styled in the same way as Wind Waker and featured a fantastic shrinking mechanic that allowed players to explore Hyrule in completely new ways. Speaking of Wind Waker, I’ve also played the two DS sequels to the game: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. I adored Spirit Tracks’ iteration of Zelda – she is my second favourite version in the series thus far. Plus, you can’t go wrong with trains!

There are some titles I haven’t touched yet, notably Skyward Sword, which is coming out this year, and Link Between Worlds for the 3DS. There’s also the Four Swords series, both for the GameCube and the GBA, as well as the Triforce Heroes games. I dare not mention the CDi games though haha. I don’t know if I’ll ever play those…

What I appreciated about the Zelda series was that it never stopped trying to improve itself in every way. Each and every game built up from the previous ones, while introducing new and innovative mechanics to keep things from going stale. And while the timeline ended up being a confusing mess, all the events eventually coalesced into one, singular stream and transported players 10,000 years into the future…

Breath of the Wild and the Future of Zelda

From the moment Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch were announced, I knew I had to get both. Due to shortages in both supply and in cash, I wasn’t able to get a system on launch, but I did end up getting a Switch and a copy of Breath of the Wild around my birthday. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience that I was about to undertake the moment I inserted the cartridge and turned on the system.

The stories of previous games had faded into near obscurity and the current game takes place after Ganon, now known as Calamity Ganon – more a force of nature than an individual – was unleashed and devastated the world. Link, the final hope of the land, had awoken 100 years after its release and now must free the Divine Beasts from Ganon’s control and defeat the monster with Zelda’s help. Zelda herself was trapped in Hyrule Castle, holding the beast at bay using the Triforce. As he was now, Link wouldn’t stand a chance, but by going to shrines, offering Spirit Orbs to the Goddess in exchange for power  and exploring the land for new weapons, armour and techniques, he’d be more than ready to stand toe-to-toe with the creature of Malice.

I mentioned before how Twilight Princess had an enormous version of Hyrule to explore. Breath of the Wild makes Twilight Princess’ version look like a speck in comparison. The moment Link awoke from the Spring of Resurrection and walked out towards that grand, sweeping vista overlooking Hyrule Castle, I knew for a fact that this was the Hyrule I’ve always dreamed of. A world filled with mystery and magic and even some ancient technology thrown in to deepen the intrigue.

The introduction of the Champions, coupled with a deeper focus on Zelda and her conflicts between her responsibilities as the Princess of Destiny and her desires to be a scholar, really made this game memorable. The only other game that made me feel so invested in the story in the series was Twilight Princess

The release of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity years later filled in many gaps within Breath of the Wild, while also providing a satisfying twist to the story and opening the series up to new interpretations. The Dynasty Warriors-styled gameplay was a perfect match to showcase what the war against Ganon was like before everything went south. Here, you got a sense of how truly powerful Link was before his defeat at Fort Hateno. I also enjoyed how the story focused on Zelda herself and how she had to battle back her doubts and low self-esteem in order to be the leader everyone knew she could be. 

Now, with the sequel to Breath of the Wild in development (and hopefully we can hear more about it in the summer!), I’m excited to see what the future lies within the Legend of Zelda series. There is so much to talk about, from its characters, to its settings and its lore that I could just go on and on if I wanted to! Alas, I’ve drawn out this post long enough, I suppose haha.


With that, we’ll call this edition here. What’s your favourite Zelda game? What is it about the series that makes it so special to you? Let me know in the comments below?

Also, I’ve been working my way through numerous Zelda games on my Twitch channel. I’m currently on a playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If your Tuesday nights are open, drop by and say hi! I start up every Tuesdays at 9:30pm EST.

Until next week, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Live with No Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase the Impossible. See you next time!


The Guide on Being a Mature Distinguished Gamer: Part 4 – Finding Your Goals

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

At last, we have arrived at the final part of my miniseries. To those of you who have stuck with my ramblings so far, a heartfelt thanks goes to each of you. I also want to thank everyone in the WordPress community for being an amazing bunch of talented and friendly writers and also for inspiring me to write this series. I finally feel that I’ve fulfilled the requirements I have set out in the tagline of this blog: A Blog for the Mature Distinguished Gamer.

Read the previous three parts here:

Part 1 – Priorities

Part 2 – Failure, Success and The Gaming Mindset

Part 3 – Respect, Kindness and Empathy

The first three parts in this series all lead up to this final one about Finding Your Goals. In the games we play, the characters we play as have a goal or a dream that they want to accomplish. Some are as simple as rescuing a princess or fulfilling a last wish. Some are as difficult as overthrowing an empire, uncovering the truth on a conspiracy or saving the world from a deadly threat. Whatever the case, these characters pursue these goals with abandon.

The Mature, Distinguished Gamer (MDG) must embody that same pursuit with their own goals. However, they should be kind and empathetic to themselves when pursing them. They should realize that the mindset will make or break accomplishing those goals. They should understand that failures or setbacks won’t derail their efforts, but will instead make them stronger for the future. And finally, they need to set priorities so that they can focus on accomplishing their goals.

But what if you don’t know what your goals are? That’s what this part of the series focuses on today. Let’s get cracking on the final part of The Guide on Being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer.

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Go On A Quest

On January 1st, 2017, I decided to take a Quest for personal discovery. I’ve written on this subject just over two years ago, on my thirtieth birthday, and you can read that post here. In it, I go over my process. It’s a good compliment to this post.

But the thing is, I’ve dialed back on this constant stream of updating experience. Why? Well, the objective of The Quest wasn’t just to establish good habits, but to identify both the things that were important to me and the things that I’m passionate about. In my case, it was my writing. While I enjoy my job as an engineer, it didn’t necessarily spark the same drive and passion that I have for writing. The Quest helped me to realize that I both love to write and want to work on it more. It also established a set of goals I have for myself, which include writing and publishing an original story among other things.

Now, you don’t have to employ my method, but it’s well worth it for the MDG to take a real close look at yourself and to see what you’re passionate about. From there, one should establish a system where they track the activities related to those passions and then set goals for them accordingly. You can use productivity apps/sites that utilize gamification, like Life RPG, SuperBetter or Level Up Life to track and maintain goals. Or use a system like mine and track through spreadsheets or lists. Whatever choice you make, do the research and make sure that it’s the right system for you.

So, the bottom line here is that if you want to truly find out what you want out of this fleeting life we all live, go on a personal quest of discovery!


Keep A Log

During The Quest, I kept a notebook and documented what I did in a day, noting the highlights and lowlights in that period. It was a way to help track the goals that I laid out in my Quest. Rereading some of the passages I’ve written has helped me to set new goals or reframe old ones, like writing twice a week as opposed to every day as originally planned.

Sometimes, writing out your thoughts and feelings over a period of time and then looking back through it can reveal a lot about what you want for yourself. You may even come to a realization about yourself that you may have missed altogether! It may not be as earth shattering a revelation as when Kratos learns of his godhood in the God of War series or the fact that Solid Snake and Liquid Snake are twin brothers, but it can set a path for the MDG to move forward, as opposed to aimlessly wandering about. For me, writing about writing was the kicker; I just never realized it until I took a closer look at myself by writing a log of my day.


Two Final Notes

I’d like for you to try this exercise when you get a chance: make a list of the things you really want to spend your time on in a day. In other words, what would you typically want to do in a day if you had no restrictions? Below is what I would love to do in a day, as an example:

  • Write my novel.
  • Write some fanfiction.
  • Write something for the blog.
  • Interact with my fellow games writers.
  • Spend time with my wife and son.
  • Stream online.
  • Bake stuff.
  • Exercise
  • Design and build something really cool.

Now, with that in mind, make a list of the things you typically do in a day and how long you spend on each. Again, I’ll be the example:

  • Work – 8.5 hours
  • Commute – 2 hours
  • Spend time with wife and son – 3 hours
  • Gaming – 1.5 hours
  • Writing -1 hour
  • Sleep – 6 hours
  • Workout – 0.5 hour
  • Misc. (Interacting with other writers, baking, chores etc.) – 1.5 hour

Now compare the two lists. You can see that between working, commuting, family time and sleeping, there’s not a lot of wiggle room to work with. If you do your own list, does it make you feel uncomfortable seeing how much time you have left remaining once all your responsibilities are handled? If so, why does it make you uncomfortable? What would you do to change that?

Ultimately, this exercise shows why it’s important to budget time for yourself and your goals. Doing quests and writing logs for your goals does nothing unless you carve out some time out to achieve them. It may require some sacrifice (I might have to cut my gaming time for my case), but it will only help in the long run when it comes to accomplishing your goals. It’s something to keep in mind.

Finally, as we conclude this miniseries, I’d like for you to keep this statement in mind: Focus on being better and chase the impossible. Life is naught but a journey through highs and lows. More specifically, as Auron would say:

Image result for auron this is your story

And with that, we conclude the series. I thank you for joining me as I (finally, after much delay!) celebrate the blog’s third birthday.

But before I sign off, I have some important announcements. Bear with me, all.

Announcements

First and foremost, with the conclusion of this series, I will be taking an extended hiatus on this blog until I finish my fanfiction passion project. It’s been a goal of mine to finish this and I’ve put it off for far too long. It’s gotten to the point where it has literally taken over my brain and is preventing me from coming up with new ideas here, so I need to get this thing completed once and for all so I can move forward. As I’ve finished my outline roughly last year, I surmise it’ll take me a few more months to completely finish it. Which leads to my next announcement.

I will be posting this story here on this blog exclusively once it’s completed and beta read by others. I used to write on fanfiction.net, but I feel that I have better fanbase here on the blog than anywhere else. No lie, you guys who have been following me, (whether it’s from day one or recently), rock so hard, so I think it’s fair that you all get first dibs on the final, ultimate version my story.

In the intern, I will continue to write for The Well Red Mage and Normal Happenings as a contributor to their respective blogs. As The Hyperactive Coffee Mage on TWRM, I will be writing up more in-depth game reviews and participating in collaborations when they arise. One of which is the absolutely MASSIVE Super Mario Multiverse collaboration! We’re still looking for writers, so check out the post if you want the 411 on this epic undertaking!

On Normal Happenings, I am but one of 52 other bloggers celebrating “The Characters That Define Us:” another massive blogging collaboration featuring writers discussing the characters that made them who they are today! I’m excited to share my story about Sonic the Hedgehog. Look out for it next year! I’ll also be lurking around here and there, reading and commenting and whatnot!

Beyond that, this will be the final post this year for the blog unless I change my mind (or when part one of this epic fanfic is fully finished…). Thank you all so much for your patience and understanding. I love and appreciate you all.


With that, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, thanking each and every one of you for joining me on these ramblings and always reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See you all soon!

The Anniversary Post (Or An Interview Between a Mage and a Mature, Distinguished Gamer)

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! This one is special, because the blog’s now over a year old! Granted, I should have written this back in March – the actual month when this blog started back in 2017 – but circumstances that were out of my control prevented me from doing that. (And by circumstances, I mean babies.)

So, a year has passed since I started this blog. It’s hard to believe that time flew by so quickly… When I first had the itch to start this way back in December of 2016 as a part of my Quest to improve myself, I had no clue that this would be a gateway to so much opportunity and growth for myself during the course of 2017 – my thirtieth year of existence. I started out initially because I liked writing and I really wanted to get my story out there and share the fact that, yes, I’m a respectful adult juggling lots of responsibilities and I still love playing video games. Or as I call it, a Mature, Distinguished Gamer.

I discovered (to my surprise) that I wasn’t the only one with this mentality.

I’m so proud, stoked and downright honoured to connect with a community that supports one another, treats each other with respect and that’s willing to go into thoughtful, yet civil, discussions about gaming and its roles in society, in building character and how it shaped the lives of all those who’ve picked up a controller and played. Whether your game was Super Mario or Fortnite, whether you’re old-school at heart or a fan of the modern games of today, we’re all connected through a shared love of video games and it fills my heart with joy to be in the presence of such awesome individuals. You guys rock!

With that said, today I’m debuting a new segment for the blog, or at least a pilot/preview of it. I’m doing this as a way to celebrate the WordPress gaming community and the readers (like you!) who support us. Whether this idea catches on or not, at least today, you’ll learn a little more about the man behind the coffee mug.

So without further fanfare, let’s get into it:


I’m proud to present to you, dear readers, Beans and Screens! I’m your host, Ryan.

On this edition, the very first of (hopefully) many, I’ve asked a new friend of mine to be my very first guest. He’s an individual who writes sorcery on paper after ingesting an unholy amount of caffeine and has traveled here via Summoning Circle. Ladies and gentlemen, my first guest sitting next to me is The Hyperactive Coffee Mage!

*There is a stage with two cushy armchairs and a small table in between them. On the table are two coffee mugs.

Sitting in the chair beside me in a reclined, relaxed position was an individual wearing coffee coloured robes and a wide brimmed hat that obscures his facial features, save for a pair of bright, yellow eyes. On his hat is an emblem of a coffee cup.

He looks out, waves hello and then turns his attention to the empty mugs on the table. Pointing a finger at it and lazily waving it in a circular motion, the mugs magically fill up. The aroma of coffee permeates the air.*

HCM: How do you take yours?

GWC: Just black.

HCM: Nice.

GWC: *turns back to audience* So, here’s a huge plot twist right out of the bat: the good mage is not a guest for the first show. He will actually be the guest host! That’s right: I’m today’s interviewee!

Shall we get started?

HCM: Of course! First, let’s clarify something here; it’s not so much “Circles,” more like “Squares.” Summoning Squares that is-

GWC: Summoning Squares? Really? You’re gonna lead off with that? *rolls eyes* Next, you’re gonna talk about a Roy coming out of Grant’s Ear, which, I suppose, was the style at the time?

HCM: … And there goes the joke. Great job, you killed it.

GWC: … *raises eyebrow*

HCM: *shakes head* … Anyways, let’s really begin here. So first off, what is Beans and Screens and why go the interview/talk show route?

GWC: The name was created based off of a conversation I had on Twitter with Rob Covell from I Played The Game and Zach Bowman sometime in January around video game-themed coffee drinks. Rob came up with the neat name. (Thanks by the way!)

What’s Beans and Screens? It’s a segment dedicated to interviewing some of the very people I’ve recently met in my blogging journey. You know, getting to know them, why they’re so passionate about what they do and their dreams of the future. I see it… more as an opportunity for readers to get to know their favourite personalities in a casual talk show-like setting.

I was also partly inspired by other talk shows, namely one called Koffee with Karan. It’s a Bollywood talk show where the host, Karan Johar, has fun, open discussions with his guests, who consist of Bollywood’s biggest megastars. I’ve also drawn inspiration from Late Night TV personalities of past and present, like David Letterman and Stephen Colbert.

If there was one thing I enjoyed over the year I’ve been blogging, it’s talking with so many like-minded individuals. This might sound a bit cliche, but I feel like I found a third family with these guys, and I really wanted to celebrate and show my appreciation for them, besides giving the odd shout out here or there.

HCM: Third family? Who are the other two?

GWC: *laughs* Well, I have a wonderful, talented wife and a little baby boy who’s super cute! And my second family consists of the individuals who I’ve grown up with; friends, cousins, the like, y’know?

HCM: Fair enough. But that’s not all that’s gonna be on this segment, right?

GWC: Yeah, for sure, I’ll also be calling up some of the biggest stars in gaming to talk about their latest adventures, future plans and opportunities and to genuinely have some fun. It should be a blast! If… this takes off, that is.

HCM: Hope so. Anyways, let’s get a bit personal here; Tell us a bit about yourself?

GWC: Sure, so my name’s Ryan. I’m 30 years old and I work professionally as a Mechanical Engineer. I’ve been writing and gaming for… what seems like my whole life, I guess?

I am Indian-Guyanese and was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. My parents are immigrants from Guyana, a small, tropical country in the northeastern part of South America. The country is a part of the West Indies and it used to be part of the British Empire, until it gained independence in the late 60’s.

Growing up, my life revolved around video games and writing about them. I was bullied as a child and was also diagnosed with ADHD all throughout elementary school. I took lots of medications, ran through tests and spoke with counselors and psychiatrists. It wasn’t very fun. Those two things – gaming and writing – were what kept me going until I entered high school.

It was there that I ended up making friends with lots of people, thanks to a shared interest in video games. A couple of frequent readers on my blog are close friends from those years. Gaming has also been my muse, in that I also pursued art and music along with writing. These days, I focus more on writing, but I sometimes churn out a quick sketch or two.

HCM: Someone’s multi-talented!

GWC: Yeah! On top of that, I also whistle and I think I’m fairly good at it too. I put up a video on Twitter a while ago of me whistling while I did the dishes and recently put one up of me whistling Green Greens from Kirby, but I might be inclined to post some more? I whistle video game tunes (surprise, surprise), but sometimes I dabble in classical music, jazz and themes from popular TV shows and movies. If there’s one tune to whistle that I love to whistle the most… It would have to be the Overworld theme from Legend of Zelda.

HCM: You’re quite the jack of all trades?

GWC: Yeah, seems like. Oh, here’s a fun fact; my whistling puts my baby boy to sleep! I usually do the bedtime routine with him, which involves a story, a top-up and then I rock him to sleep while whistling something. He seems to like when I play soft, slow music like Cosmo Canyon or even quick, cute themes from Kirby. I’ve been exposing him to practically every kind of video game tune imaginable. *laughs* Hopefully when he gets older, he’ll recognize all these tunes and go “Dad! I know this one! Where is it from?! Oh, It’s from XYZ game, son! No way! So cool!”

HCM: Indoctrinate them young huh? *laughs* Good plan!

So, from what I understand, you credit your wife as the driving force behind your creative side as well, right? Tell us more about that?

GWC: Yeah, for sure, she’s definitely pushed me to explore my creative side more. Y’know, looking back, I haven’t really talked about her much, so I might as well start now! *chuckles*

HCM: Wow, way to redirect the question here!

GWC: OK so, I met my wife midway through high school. She moved to my hometown from a little city in the middle of the country called Winnipeg and we were introduced to one another through a shared family friend. I was instantly attracted to her but I thought I’d never have a chance with her.

HCM: And what did she think about you?

GWC: She thought I was a weirdo. She still does, come to think of it?

HCM: *winces* Ouch.

GWC: Anyways, we became friends and then hooked up at the tail end of my high school years. We dated for seven years and now we’ve been married for almost six. She and I are complete opposites; she’s highly-organized, tidy and a very Type-A personality, whereas I’m laid-back, a bit disorganized and very chill. But we do have several things in common.

HCM: Like?

GWC: Well, we’re both very creative. While I dabble in writing, she does something called hand-lettering and I swear, she’s a genius with it. Who knew that letters could be so artistic and beautiful you know?

We’re also stubbornly hard workers that challenge each other to do better. Like, she’ll start something, and I’ll be like, “Hey, I should try that too?” So I do it, modifying it to my liking, and then she sees me doing pretty good with it, so she’ll be like “OK wow, you’re such a copycat!” But then, she’ll adapt what I’m doing with her stuff and the cycle continues. We basically feed off each other in terms of our work ethic.

She has a blog as well here on WordPress showcasing her talents in hand lettering. Seriously, her stuff is awesome. Oh yeah, she shares a lot of her work on Instagram and she also has a store on Etsy where people can buy digital copies of things like gift tags and stuff and print them out for their own use. It’s pretty cool.

HCM: That is pretty cool! So, what’s your secret to making this all work?

GWC: I think the biggest secret to our success is that we work as a team at everything – our marriage, parenting, our hobbies, you name it. I’m honestly my wife’s biggest cheerleader. If she wants to do something creative, like take a course or get some new pens to test out, I’m like “Go for it!” I don’t try to stifle her or hold her back and she’s flourished because of that. Even though she just gave birth to our son, that’s not stopping her from pursuing what she loves and vice versa with my writing.

We argue, like all couples do, but we always find solutions to our current problems. Communication and trust are our greatest weapons.

HCM: Great, great, so… Your blog – Games with Coffee – you started that last March. But at that same time, you were apparently pretty lost in your career, right?

GWC: *shrugs* Yeah, so I’ve always been a very hands-on type of guy. I love building things and seeing how things worked and stuff, which is why I got into engineering in the first place.

When I started my career, I started out as a designer. I would use what I’ve learned in university to engineer solutions to client’s problems. I thought that being a designer would help get me to where I wanted to go. At that time though, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but I wanted to end up doing something hands-on.

My first big design gig was very structured, almost to the point where it was stifling. Everything was already thought out for you, so there wasn’t much I could really engineer or create a unique solution for. I was getting pretty stressed because I kept making lots of mistakes. And I made those mistakes because I felt really bored at the job and being a designer. I hated being stuck at my desk for hours staring at a screen with the same programs over and over again.

HCM: So didn’t you make a change?

GWC: Yeah, after about 4 years I left that company and took a similar position one closer to home. The biggest difference between this job and my previous one is that there was less structure, in that there was better opportunity to engineer stuff and I’d have more ownership with projects. At least, that’s what was advertised to me at the time.

HCM: What do you mean by that?

GWC: Well, the job and the company was very free flowing and loose, it wasn’t structured like my old job. Now that’s a good thing because there’s no one to micromanage you and you have full control of your work, but the downside of it is that if things go wrong, it’s all on you. There’s no one readily available to check over your work before submitting it, because the company was so small and everyone can’t just stop what they’re doing and check your work. To top it off, my role directly affected everyone else in the company, so my mistakes were magnified. Beyond that, it was the same stuff as before: same programs, same issues around design, but with different problems and different levels of stress.

I started writing Games with Coffee at the end of that year, where I flamed out spectacularly. It really helped me to cope with the stress, since it involved my favourite subjects: writing and video games. Eventually, I talked to a professional who helped me sort out what I needed to work on both personally and professionally and suddenly, everything started to fall in place.

HCM: In that you ended up in a new position, yes?

GWC: Yep. And it seems like I hit the sweet spot with this one: it’s structured enough that you have a clear idea of what you’re supposed to do with the support to back it up, yet it also encourages making solutions on the fly based on both engineering principles and good old common sense. Best of all, I’m no longer focused on designing stuff; instead I do inspections and figure things out by going to a jobsite instead of trying to imagine how to fix it in the office. It’s pretty cool. It also helped that I took a vastly different approach for starting this job, in that I adopted a beginner’s mindset and embraced failure as something that’s normal to do. It’s helped me so far in succeeding in this position.

HCM: Nice to hear! So, last few questions before we wrap up: You talk a lot about being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer, what does that even mean?

GWC: *laughs* I had a feeling this would come up! Basically to me, being a mature, distinguished gamer is someone who knows how to balance gaming with everyday responsibilities, and I don’t mean just your job outside of home. I mean balancing it with spending time with family and friends, doing chores at home, like cooking or laundry, or what have you. Essentially, taking care of yourself, without letting gaming take over your whole life.

But on top of that is being respectful of other’s views, not just in gaming but in everything. Some people may think that Call of Duty is the greatest game ever made, (I’m using this as an example by the way) and while I personally disagree, I still respect that individual’s view. Sure, there are some good things that can be appreciated in the CoD series, but again, that’s not my personal preference. The point I’m making here is that I’m willing to engage and listen to that person’s viewpoint and maybe open myself up to playing games or genres I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. And also, one should never belittle someone for their choice of game or favourite series or installment of a series, because chances are that game has helped that person through a tough time.

Beyond that, a mature, distinguished gamer should have an appreciation for the classics as well as modern games, keeps an open mind about games of all kinds and reserves judgement on a game only after they’ve spent a fair deal of time playing it. Critical analysis of a game should focus both on what makes the game so good and identifying flaws and suggesting ways on how they could have been addressed, instead of simply saying “It sucks, don’t buy.” That’s just my opinion.

HCM: Alright, so what’s next on the pipeline for you? What’s your plans for this coming season of Games with Coffee?

GWC: So, this year, I’ve decided to jump on some opportunities offered by the community. Part of that includes writing for The Well-Red Mage as… The Hyperactive… Coffee… Mage…

HCM: … I’m sure our readers know by now that you and I are one in the same and that I’m brought here by the magic of fictional writing?

GWC: So… I’m basically talking to myself?

HCM: …

GWC: …Anyways, my debut review on Sonic 2 for the Game Gear went out earlier this month. I think I did a good job on it?

On top of that, the blog’s been nominated for a couple of awards and I want to respond in kind! Thanks again to Athena from AmbiGaming, TheGamingDiaries and NekoJonez for nominating me!

Furthermore, expect to see some more game reviews! I’ve modified my Espresso Shot format based on my work on TWRM. The categories remain the same, but I’m leaning towards providing some historical insight and personal connections to the game.

Also, I’ll be taking some time to focus on my personal writing. My biggest goal this year is to finish the rough draft of a fanfiction that I’ve poured my whole heart and soul into. From there, I’ll edit the heck out of it until it’s suitable for reading and then I’ll be starting a new segment where I’ll be releasing a chapter or two a week. All of this is for preparation for when I start writing my own original story someday in the future.

Other than that, my ongoing playthrough of Path of Exile continues. I’ll be sharing a few more personal anecdotes, particularly about Pokemon; I’m really excited about that one. I’m going to try and write some first impression posts of new releases, such as God of War, which I’m enjoying immensely.

And then there’s Beans and Screens, which I’m hoping takes off. I’ll be making some requests for interviewees in the coming months. (If anyone’s interested, let me know in the comments below!)

HCM: Got an idea of who your next guest will be?

GWC: Hmmm… Well, I suppose I could tease it a little?

So, I got in contact with a very high profile individual from a very successful game released last year. He’s kind of the strong, silent type, but his friend has agreed to interpret for him. So really, it’s two guests. I’ll leave it at that for now; anymore and I’ll spoil it!

HCM: Fair enough. Well, I’ll let you take over closing comments. Meanwhile, I have to draw another Summoning Circl-

GWC: Square.

HCM: …Whatever. *gets up, starts drawing a Summoning Shape using ground coffee beans*

GWC: The Hyperactive Coffee Mage everyone! And as we close off this first edition, I’d like to say a few words:

As enjoyable as this exercise was, none of this would be possible without readers like you. Thank you to those who have inspired, instilled confidence and pushed me to be a better writer. Thank you to you other bloggers out there, who are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, even though we’ve never physically met (Ah, the wonders of the Internet!). Keep doing what you do.

Until the next editions of Beans and Screens AND Games with Coffee, this has been Ryan, wishing you well, thanking you for an awesome year and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!