Reflecting on Death Through Gaming

“At times of strife and anguish, we turn to our craft in the hope that it will light our way forward.” – Unknown

Good day and welcome back to another edition of Games with Coffee.

It’s a sad time for my family as my wife’s grandmother, who we all call Aaje (pronounced “Aah-gee”), had passed away from cancer this past Monday, May 28. What started as an exam two weeks prior to investigate problems in her digestive tract, ended with a diagnosis of terminal colorectal cancer and her subsequent decline in health until her passing in palliative care.

My wife, Usha, was incredibly close to her Aaje. Growing up, she lived at her house with her grandfather, who they call Aaja (pronounced “Aah-jah”). It is there that they both instilled within her a love of the creative arts, the importance of getting a good education and a strong desire to live good through the tenements of Hinduism and our many Gods. Ush would have long, storied conversations with her grandmother on the phone almost every day; sometimes multiple times in one day! Whenever she called, I always made an effort to say hi, to which she would reply, “Hi Beta (Son)!” and then ask how I’m doing, despite still talking with her granddaughter. And this was all despite the fact that she suffered a stroke over 15 years ago that handicapped her physically. Luckily, her mental faculties were intact and so, Aaje was able to share with her grandchildren (and myself, by extension) stories about her life living in Guyana, owning a store, getting married at an early age, being involved with the Arya Samaj church (a sect of Hinduism) and the sacrifices she and her husband made to get her children a good education in Canada.

Aaje was an incredibly strong woman, who raised incredible children and grandchildren and inspired those around her. I’m lucky she also considered me a grandson of her own, despite not sharing any blood relations with her. Her kindness, straight-forward nature and her love of gardening are what I’ll remember the most about her. She would always ask me how my vegetable garden is doing and if there’s anything ready to harvest and eat. It makes playing games like Stardew Valley hard now, because I could always hear her voice in the background telling me to water my plants or put fertilizer so I can get more from my crops. I’ll miss that greatly.

Her dying wish was to hold her first great-grandchild – my son, Arjun – so I’m comforted by the notion that her wish was granted in the end. Having her not see my boy enough, however, is my greatest regret. My wife, Usha, always told me that once she could see her first great-grandchild, she could pass away without regret, but still, I feel sad that she didn’t get to see him enough.


On the ride to work on Tuesday, the day after she passed away, I was listening to the God of War (2018) soundtrack. As I listened, I reviewed certain scenes in my head and then correlated them with my current situation. God of War deals with the passing of loved ones and the journey one goes through to fulfill the last rites of the dead. Much like the events in the game, Aaje will be cremated as per Hindu customs and her ashes scattered, either in a body of water or possibly in her home village (it’s not 100% determined yet). As I was thinking about that, it made me appreciate the game more, as Kratos and Atreus grow both as individuals and as father and son through Faye’s passing. With that said, I also believe our family will grow from this death and be stronger for it. The song that really struck me was “Ashes,” it is a very powerful piece in the soundtrack and I teared up a little because of it.

Prior to the news of her passing on Monday, I had this strange feeling that something was wrong: my throat and chest constricted and a feeling of foreboding washed over me When I got the call about half an hour after, I felt three things: Relief, since she was no longer suffering. Sadness, because she passed. And a spark of inspiration, which is how this post came to be. Prior to this, I haven’t had the same appetite I usually have for writing, because I was concerned both about Aaje’s health and Usha’s well-being regarding the situation. The day after she passed though, I suddenly had the urge to write. It reminded me of the events in one of my favourite games for the original PlayStation (and the subject of my next Espresso Shot Review): Alundra. In the game, Jess the blacksmith had the sudden urge to create something, usually an item or weapon to help Alundra, whenever someone in the village died suddenly, either from the nightmares or from an incident. That was the feeling I had when I started writing this down. I had some way to connect gaming to how I’m currently feeling about this death, and in a way, it’s helping me to process it all. It’s strange too how the Requiem theme from Alundra also runs through my mind during this time:

Tomorrow, Thursday May 31st, is the funeral and my last chance to say goodbye before she’s physically gone forever. As I sit here alone with coffee in hand (it’s just my boy and I at the house; everyone else is at the viewing) and think about what I should say, I realize I said everything I needed to here. So, all I’d have left to say here is…

Goodbye Aaje. We love you. And may the Gods grant you respite.

The Year In Review

Good evening and welcome to the first year-end edition of Games with Coffee! We’ve come to the close of 2017 and, while the jury may be out on whether this was a good or bad one, it was definitely a year to remember, both for the gaming industry and for myself in general. Let’s review a few highlights:

Gaming

Probably the biggest news that dropped this year was the release of the Nintendo Switch, which heralded the Big N’s to mainstream status after the failure of the Wii-U. I’ve written about my impressions of the console here. Along with the Switch was the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” which just recently obtained The Game Awards’ coveted “Game of the Year” award, beating out such contenders as Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Breath of the Wild’s break from the traditional Zelda mold, something which Nintendo is attempting to do with many of its IP’s in order to remain competitive, was perhaps one of the many factors that accounted for this achievement, which I feel it’s earned. But again, the jury’s out as to whether or not it’s deserving of its title; despite us being mature and distinguished about these matters, we gamers still have strong opinions on what game released this year truly earned that award. Anyways, I digress.

2017 was also a good year for female protagonists: Horizon: Zero Dawn and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, introduced this year, are but a few examples of games with excellent female leads. My friend LightingEllen has written about both Horizon:Zero Dawn’s Aloy and Hellblade’s Senua herself. You should check them out, they’re great reads!

Indie games also had a somewhat of a breakthrough year, thanks again partly to the Switch. Indie-ish title, Sonic Mania, released to great fanfare (of which I wrote a glowing review for) and Axiom Verge, a Metroidvania with a deep, rich storyline, rereleased for portable play. Another new friend of mine, The Well-Red Mage, wrote an excellent writeup regarding this game and its mindbending story, go check it out!

The real indie star this year was the critically acclaimed Cuphead, which won several awards, including best action game, best independent game and best visual design. It’s on my list of games to get into next year.

We also got plenty of high profile releases this year, beyond the ones I mentioned above: Nioh was released at the start of the year – great game if you enjoyed Dark Souls. Destiny 2, Bungie and Activision’s popular shooter, also released to great fanfare. Call of Duty: WW2, another shooter by Activision, returned the series to its roots. Remakes were aplenty with the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Doom leading the pack. Resident Evil also returned to form with its seventh installment. Also released was the hotly anticipated Assassin’s Creed: Origins title – another on my must-play list. Wolfenstein 2, rated Best Action Game, continues from the first installment in a world where the Allies lost the Second World War. Uncharted: Lost Legacy, a side-story to the main Uncharted series, showcased the stories of several secondary characters (say that five times fast!) in an open world setting. And finally, all these crazy Nintendo releases, like the Metroid 2 remake for the 3DS, Mario + Rabbids, which made for am odd yet interesting strategy game for the Switch, Splatoon 2, the kid-friendly, ultra-competitive shooter and Super Mario Odyssey, quite possibly the best Super Mario platformer since Super Mario 64.

Regarding gaming for next year, I’ll be continuing my write-ups for Path of Exile. If you’ve been following me for some time, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with this game. Seriously, now is a great time to get into it and I’ve detailed the reasons why here. Along with that, more reviews shall be coming, along with the possibility of Video Reviews and Let’s Play’s as well! I can’t guarantee when exactly they will strike though, because my time going forward will start to get a bit limited. I’ll explain the reason why further below.

The Quest

As I mentioned half a year ago, I’m on a Quest for personal growth. As the year closes and I reflect, I’d have to say that I accomplished a lot of what I wanted to achieve, except for my workouts. A basement renovation and another important event that happened mid-year, stymied my efforts to maintain my schedule. Nevertheless, I’ve celebrated many highlights this year, one of which includes starting this very blog in March! If you’re a new reader looking to see what I’m all about, start here and be amazed. I’ve also made so much progress in my story writing, more than I have in years; finishing the rough notes for the first installment in my long-standing fanfiction and preparing notes for an original story of my own. And finally, I started a brand new opportunity in November, where I adopted a beginner’s mindset and let go of the preconceived notions I’ve obtained throughout my career.

Going Forward to 2018

2018 will not be more of the same; as the year turns, so to, do the people. I’ve picked up a capture card that I’ll be experimenting with this year and hopefully put up the aforementioned Let’s Play’s and Reviews.

As for personal goals, I plan on continuing on from my Quest last year, with a few tweaks. For instance, thanks to Google, I’ve migrated my fanfiction and my story notes to both Docs and Keep respectivly. I’ve found that I have more freedom to write, thanks to the ability to access documents anywhere, so long as one has an internet connection. I’ve done the same with the infrastructure of “The Quest,” hopefully making it easier to track my progression.

Beyond “The Quest” lies one other, major personal thing. I’ve alluded to it here and there, but now’s a good time to drop the news.

My wife and I are expecting our first child in less than four weeks from now. It’s an exceptionally exciting time for the both of us, since it marks a huge transition in our lives. I’m looking forward to this! It does mean that I’ll be stretched for time writing on the blog, but no worries: content will still be coming! It’ll just be a bit delayed, that’s all.


So, there you have it, another year gone. What are your plans for the New Year? Any Quests of your own you guys looking forward to tackle? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, wishing you all a Happy New Year and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!