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.
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.
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?
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?
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-
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!