The Games with Coffee Guide to Last-minute Christmas Shopping!

Another day, another edition of “Games with Coffee,” and what a great edition it will be! As of today, Christmas is a little less than a week away: are you ready for it? Or have you run right out of ideas for what to get for your favourite gamer? Or perhaps you’ve put Christmas shopping to the very last minute and don’t know where to start?

Well, God rest thee merry gentlepeople, because I got you covered! Below are a few ideas that you can either quickly run to the store and pick up, if you’re up north here in good ‘ole Canada, or order online: chances are, you’ll be able to get all of the below by Christmas (barring a few additional charges for expedited shipping). I’ll have plenty of links available to access, so no worries. So, keep that itchy trigger finger ready on your mouse and let’s make some magic happen!


Game Ideas

Well besides the obvious items on a gamer’s Christmas list (new systems, latest popular games, everything Nintendo, etc.), here’s an idea for you: how about trying something a little outside of the norm?

Stardew Valley, Axiom Verge, Cave Story+ and Shovel Knight are excellent choices to buy: all four are great games with retro-inspired graphics, poignant storylines, excellent controls and are available on all current generation systems, with the exception of Cave Story+. Check below on where you can find these games:

Stardew Valley:

Shovel Knight:

Axiom Verge:

Cave Story+


Gaming Apparel and Accessories

Graphic T-shirts: for the individual who loves to show off what they love.

Who among us used to hate getting clothes for Christmas? Well, with these selection of men’s, women’s and kid’s game culture T-shirts, your favourite person will hate you a little less this year.*

*Results may vary.

Men’s T-shirts:

Women’s T-shirts:

Kid’s T-shirts:

Ugly Sweaters: for the gamer who wants to rock this year’s Christmas party.

Ugly Sweaters are all the rage these days! Why not get something that reflects your favourite person’s gaming passion? Whether it’s Mario, Sonic or any of gaming’s famous faces, you’ll definitely have some heads turning at your next Christmas gathering! Here’s a few examples:

Satchels, Bags, Cardigans and Scarves: for the lady with a love for fashion and a passion for gaming.

If you’re looking for a great gift for an even greater gal in your life that enjoys gaming, check out these choice selections from EB Games (Canada) and ThinkGeek (everywhere else):

These aren’t limited to just gift-giving alone; ladies, in the words of an almighty master: Treat yo’ selves!


Toys and Games

Nerf Rival Guns: for the individuals who dreams of LARPing a Call of Duty scenario with their good friends.

With a variety of guns available, free-for-alls have never been so much fun! There are plenty of guns available, bit my personal favourite is the Artemis – a shotgun. Check em out!

Funko Pop’s, Nendoroids and Amiibo figures: for the consummate collector.

It figures that figures would be a great gift to give! From the highly collectible Funko Pop’s, to the picture perfect and adorable Nendoroids, to Amiibos that combine collectibility with function, there are plenty of options available! Now, there are too many for me to link, but check the stores; there’s bound to be plenty available!

Board Games: for those looking to game offscreen.

Want to bring the family together without resorting to playing Mario Kart? How about a few board games? Some of gaming’s biggest names have been associated with board game classics, like “The Legend of Zelda” Monopoly and Clue. Others, like Mega Man, have their own board games and there are even some video game inspired tabletop and card games, like Boss Monster. Finally, games like Settlers of Catan are a perfect gift for those who enjoy games like Civilization.

MegaConstrux Pokemon: for the kid or kid at heart.

If you’re kid’s like any other kid, they have vivid imaginations, a desire to build anything their minds can conjure up and a love for all things Pokemon. How do you combine the three? Easy: get them a Pokemon they can build themselves! MegaConstrux has several Pokemon related figures kids will go nuts over, especially Charizard and Gyarados! Heck, I’m a grown man and I want those for myself!

A Raspberry Pi, a Pi Case and the SNES30 Bluetooth Controller: for those who enjoy retro gaming as much as they love building things from scratch.

Ah, the good ol’ Raspberry Pi, giving you the ability to access all the games you used to play as a kid in a device the side of a credit card. If you got a tinkerer on your list who also loves dropping rounds of Super Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES, then this one’s for you!

For gift ideas, I would go with the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 kit, available on Amazon; it has everything one would need to get started. Alternatively, if you have time and resources to spare, you can buy the board, a case and an SD card and really personalize it for the recipient. I highly recommend the Smraza case, again from Amazon: it’s a case divided into seven layers that comes with two heat sinks, a fan to plug into the GPIO on the Pi and a power supply with an on/off button! It’s a great little package!

But you can’t just the Pi and not get controllers? PS4 and Xbox One controllers work with Retropie, but if you want to give that real old-school feel, I recommend the 8bitdo SNES30 Bluetooth Controller. Easy to set up and use, this is the controller of choice to delve into old-school gaming! Here’s where you can find it:


Stocking Stuffers and Other Small Gifts

Books: for those who appreciate a great story on and off screen.

This might sound odd, but books are an awesome gift to give. I say this because some of the best presents I got, besides video games, were books. I’ve gushed many times about the Mistborn series, it’s perfect for those who are obsessed with RPG’s, magic systems and a deep, immersive world full of lore and legend.

Another book I recommend is Red Rising, a science fiction/fantasy set on a colonized Mars. This might sound a bit spoilerish, but I feel that the story is somewhat analogous to God of War, with Kratos’ struggles for revenge, mixed in with undertones of power and politics a la Games of Thrones. My description doesn’t really do it justice, but fans of the God of War series may enjoy it.

Finally, Ready Player One is the perfect book to give a gamer, either young or old. The younger generation will appreciate the plucky protagonist’s journey from rags to riches, while the older ones from the late 80’s and below will fall in love with the heavy retro gaming and pop culture influences that are scattered throughout the book.

Gaming Ornaments: for those who want to combine Christmas with Gaming.

Ornaments make for great stocking stuffers! Check out a few here:

Journals and Notebooks: for those who want to write the story to the next big blockbuster game.

I got this Legend of Zelda journal as a present from my wife and I’ve yet to stop writing in it. In fact, I picked up a second one for my birthday this year. There are plenty of others available, check out below:

Gift Cards: for when you’re truly stuck on what to buy this year.

If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with giving a PSN, Xbox Live or Nintendo e-Shop gift card. Unlike most other gift cards, the receiver will definitely appreciate it. Bonus if you get them a year-long subscription to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold: you’ll be appreciated all year round!

If they’re a mobile game lover, an iTunes or Google Play gift card will also go a long way!

Coffee Mugs: for those who literally want to have their Games with Coffee.*

Didja see what I did there? Didja? Eh, I digress, coffee mugs make for excellent stocking stuffers: they’re statement pieces tailored to that person’s particularly favourite game or series and they can drink coffee out of it! Win-win. Here’s some examples:


And that’s that! Hope this helps with your last minute shopping. Today (at least up here in Canada) is the last day you can order online for it to reach before Christmas! (Additional shipping charges will be required…). So get cracking!

As for the next edition, I’ll catch up with you all near the end of the year, where I’ll talk about my Quest status in “The Year In Review.” Of course, I’ll be working on a few Espresso Shot Reviews, which will come in the new year, along with something else. What that is, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and hoping you’re spending equal time with loved ones and cherished games this holiday season, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee”, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

The Hcman Gaming Keyboard: An Inexpensively Reliable Mechanical Keyboard!

Hey everyone, welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Continuing where I left off with the G502 Proteus Spectrum Mouse, I’d like to talk about my next acquisition: a mechanical gaming keyboard! This thing ain’t no Razer, or a Logitech Gaming Keyboard by any means, but it lights up, has that special, clicky mechanical feel, has various configuration options and all for a fraction of the price of the more high end keyboards available! This is the Hcman (HOW do you pronounce that?!) Mechanical Gaming Keyboard!

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Backstory

I have an ASUS Transformer laptop. It was the perfect unit to type stories and blog posts on due to it being compact, lightweight and easy to use. Well, it used to be perfect because only a few months ago, my keyboard dock started to fritz out on me and I lost the ability to type the ‘C’ and ‘S’ keys! I looked up solutions, applied BIOS updates and generally mashed the keys to force it to work once more, but it was no use: the keys were toast and are currently not working at all. So I had to find a new solution.

I first tried a wireless keyboard with a USB input. Things were going good for the first month until it ultimately crapped out on me. Anything I connected the USB reciever into – laptop, Raspberry Pi, etc. – the device couldn’t recognize the keyboard, so it became a useless paperweight that I bought for about $20…

Learning from my mistake, I decided to get a gaming keyboard with mechanical switches. They’re durable, the back light makes it easy to work in the dark and the clicking sounds they make were oddly satisfying to me. I didn’t have the scratch to plonk down for a high end keyboard, but I also didn’t want to cheap out either. After doing my research on Amazon, I settled on the Hcman keyboard, which (and I may be biased here) was an amazing purchase!


The Keyboard

For a roughly $40 keyboard, the quality is not that bad. The top has a sandblasted aluminum finish, with the company’s logo milled onto the surface between the arrow and page up/down key areas. It gives it a nice, upscale look. The bottom is plastic with rubber pads on the corners to keep it from moving when on a surface. r Each row has its own coloured back light; from top to bottom, orange, white, green, violet, blue and red.

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Look at those colours!

The keyboard actually quite compact: measuring in at about 14″ long by 5″ wide (355 mm x 127 mm for the metric folks). There’s no number pad on this board, hence why it’s smaller in size compared to other keyboards. There are a total of 87 keys on the board.

They keyboard has an anti-ghosting or NKRO (N-key rollover) feature, which allows a user to press multiple keys at once; perfect for gamers who need to press multiple keys to accomplish various actions.

The keys have a nice, clicky feel to them and look extremely durable. They’re a bit noisy, but I feel in a state of zen whenever I type on it. The noise, however, may annoy others around you; My wife hates whenever I use it and she complains that it’s always too loud.

The keycaps can be replaced, thanks to the included key removal tool, so it’s easy to customize the keyboard to however you like.

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I think the coolest part about this keyboard is the multiple lighting effects! There are nine in total, including pulsating, wave, scrolling and ripple, among others. Another neat feature included on the board is the capability to customize your key back lights for various games! There’s a built in RTS (real time strategy) and FPS (first person shooter) configuration, which lights up only the keys that you would use for those games, but there are three additional profiles that can be reprogrammed to suit your specific game. For instance, I have one specifically tailored to Path of Exile and another for emulation. Customizing the board is extremely simple; select the empty profile by hitting FN + 1, 2 or 3, hit FN +Esc to start recording, type the keys that you use for the game you’re playing and then hit FN + Esc to end the recording and save it to the board!

Performance-wise, I’m very pleased with it. The keys are very responsive and connecting it to my laptop was incredibly easy; just plug in the braided USB cable and you’re set!   I’ve put it through its paces by writing posts and my fanfic and I’ve had no problems doing either. If you’re a writer or enjoy writing, I recommend that you pick up a mechanical keyboard over all others. There’s even a back light setting specifically tailored for the office. It doesn’t do anything for the noise however…

I think the only complaint I have about this keyboard is how people complain how noisy it is. I love the sounds myself, but again, the noise may drive others crazy… Others may not like the fact that the number pad is not included with the unit, but I personally don’t miss it.


Right now, you can pick it up on Amazon for $39.99 CAD with free shipping, which I think is a great price for a mechanical gaming keyboard. If you’re looking for a great gift this Christmas, either for your favourite mature, distinguished gamer, or for yourself (because you gotta treat yourself at times!), I highly recommend this.

Stay tuned for the next edition coming very soon: Christmas is next week and if you’re looking for some last minute gaming gift ideas for your favourite person, then I have a few ideas for you!

Once again, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. See you next time!

 

Beginner’s Mindset, Failing Forward and Starting Over: How They Relate To Gaming and Real Life

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May today reflect the contents of your mug: filled to the brim with hot, delicious goodness!

Today, I’m going to talk about having a beginner’s mindset, failing forward and starting over. I want to talk about these because several situations have happened at my (now former) place of employment that I could have avoided if I took those three things seriously. Don’t worry though, I do have a new job lined up and I talk about it in this post.

I also feel that it’s important for mature, distinguished gamers to keep these three things in mind, whether you’re crushing it in the office, in front of the TV/PC/Handheld, etc. or wherever you are. With that said, let’s get started.


Beginner’s Mindset

Whether it’s in real life or video games, being an expert at something feels amazing. If you’re not careful though, it can really get to your head. You might either stop learning from or listening to others who are willing to teach you because you consider yourself such an expert at things, and that can cause lots of problems. I say this because that’s what happened to me at my old job. I thought I was the best at what I do, but it took two bad summers, several little mistakes that grew into huge problems and flat out pride to cut me down to size. I’m kinda glad that it happened, to be perfectly honest, because it got me to rethink what I really wanted to do with my engineering career and, after speaking with friends, family and career specialists, I’ve left my old job and am starting in a new, totally different direction in my career. I wanted to go into this new opportunity with a different mindset than I had previously; I already knew I was no expert, so I’m going to do the opposite – I’ll adopt a beginner’s mindset.

I learned about the beginner’s mindset idea after listening to an audiobook about Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness movement. Beginner’s mindset is one of the several behaviours he explains helps a person become more mindful of their surroundings and it was his explanation of it that inspired me to adopt it for myself.

Having a beginner’s mindset doesn’t mean to forget all that you know; it means to let go of the notion that you’re an almighty expert and to accept the fact that there’s always something more to learn in your field by listening and learning from those who are either more experienced, or from those who have a completely different perspective on the subject you’re learning about. Being an expert is good for several things but it limits your mind and makes you think that you know everything when you don’t. To have a beginner’s mindset is to embrace learning as an ongoing thing.

This doesn’t have to be limited to real life – it also applies to gaming as well. Take for example fighting and racing games; you can always try out new tactics you’ve learned from other players in versus mode and understand your character’s or opponent’s moves  better through the practice mode. In racing games you can shave off your best time and understand the track mechanics in Time Attack/Time Trial mode, or even go through the tutorial modes to brush up on and explore driving techniques you’d never think of using before.

On top of that, having a beginner’s mindset also means continually going back to basics, which can encompass many things, such as reviewing proper communication protocols between clients and colleagues, relearning how to take effective notes and regurgitating them when the situation calls for them and ensuring that checks and balances are in place to catch mistakes. In gaming, it can also mean going through basic controls and movesets, reviewing basic strategy, understanding strengths and weaknesses of things like weapons, armour or elements, playing through the tutorial levels a couple of times as a refresher or even re-reading the game’s instruction manual. Those are but a few examples; there are many more situations that can apply here.

You might be saying now, “What’s the point in all this?” Well, I look at it this way: Sometimes, after a situation in game, at work or home, or wherever has long happened, I’ll come across something so basic and obvious that I overlooked earlier and I think “Man, if I had paid attention to this basic thing earlier, I could’ve avoided that messed-up situation I encountered at home/work/in the game I’m playing. But now that I’ve reviewed it and better understand how to apply it, I’ll be ready for when that same or similar situation happens next time!” Reviewing the basics while maintaining a beginner’s mindset is something that I encourage everyone to do, whether it’s in the real world or in video games. It may help to raise your awareness of things that you may have overlooked.

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Listen to ROB64! Always practice the basics!

Sometimes though, all your best efforts will result in failure, but it’s never a bad thing. If there’s two things I learned after leaving at my last job, it’s that you should never be afraid of failure and that it’s never too late to start over.

Failing Forward and Starting Over

In a job interview I had recently, one of the questions my interviewer asked me was if I would be OK with starting over. This question was a follow up after they asked me what kinds of mistakes I made at work, whether recent or not.

Here, I sort of panicked. Job Interview 101 made me think: “What mistakes do I mention that won’t make me look bad but were negligible compared to the overall completion of the project?” So I started with something that happened some time ago in one of my first positions in my career. The fact that I don’t remember what I said now was a testament to how lame my initial answer was. So, in a moment of honesty, and trusting my instincts (Thanks Peppy), I revealed that I recently (like in the last two months) made a major design error which required me to go to the construction site, review how much work was already done with the incorrect design, return to the office to correct it and resend it back to the mechanical contractors to fix, causing a huge inconvenience for everyone involved and an resulting back charge to our company for the extra work. When the follow up was asked, I took no time in answering yes, that I would be willing to start over and relearn everything if it meant that I would succeed in my new role.

I pondered over those two questions after reading the offer letter in my inbox. To honestly admit some of my greatest mistakes was a difficult thing for me to do. I imagine it’s the same for many people but for me it’s nearly crippling; I tend to beat myself up, agonize and criticize myself over my mistakes and failures, to the point where it sometimes becomes destructive to my self-esteem, causing me to make further mistakes. It’s become a real problem for me which I’m slowly working to get better on with the help of some coaching and self reflection and learning how to really let go of my fear of failure.

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Me, running from my failures. (Image from Giphy)

Admitting my failures out loud, even to a potential employer, ended up being therapeutic for me and it allowed me to really examine what I’ve done and come up with a way to make sure these mistakes don’t repeat themselves. Even as I speak, I’m coming up with new ways to identify and learn from my mistakes, whether it’s through building checklists and logs or (my favourite option) performing a post mortem/lessons learned report to review what went well and what didn’t, along with ways to change my thinking whenever I do fail. What really surprised me was that after I mentioned that blunder in the interview, I still ended up getting the job. It felt like I was given a second chance to prove myself, even though it’s with a new company rather than the current one I’m was in before now.

With this in mind, along with a beginner’s mindset, I’m also going into this new opportunity with the notion to fail forward. That means reviewing the failures I’ve made and will continue making along the way in a nonjudgmental way, give myself the opportunity to learn from them, why they happened and reduce the likelihood of a repeat happening.

“But how does this all relate to gaming?” you ask, as you roll your eyes at my boring work story. Well, in platforming games, like Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog, you always have extra lives to use in case you die mid-level. However, if you really think about the mechanics of platformers and about how tricky they can be at times, when you lose a life, it gives you an opportunity to review and learn from your mistake. You can either perfect your timing, adjust the height and length of your jump to that difficult platform, or save that power-up for before you meet that tough enemy on your run instead of after, to name a few examples. In RPG’s, like Final Fantasy, you have the Save Point; a restore point where you can return if you lose your fight. It’s a great opportunity to either retool your characters’ weapons, armour or magic or refine your battle strategy when everything goes south and your characters fall in battle. Video games essentially teach a person to fail forward; make the failure, analyze and understand why it happened, try again with a new solution and repeat until success is found.

In real life though, you don’t always get extra lives or Save Points to retry from, but you’ll still get the opportunity to learn from your failures. Failing doesn’t mean that your less of a person or that you’re not good at what your doing (which were things that I had to come to terms with), it just means that you’re learning the right things for the next time that scenario comes forward again. As someone once told me, you got to fail your way toward success, and these days, I feel like video games do a good job in teaching that, I just never paid attention. Either way the moral of the story is: Fail forward and fail often.

Sometimes though, you can fail so hard at a job, in a relationship or in a game, that you’d think to yourself, “Man, I’d love to do that over again… I would have approached it differently/said something that fixed things, etc..”  There have been many times where I wished that I could start over and approach things from a different perspective.

In gaming, we have the reset button; used to either start from a save point or from the very beginning.  Resetting a game allows us an opportunity to choose a different approach to an in-game situation vs. the choice made prior to the reset. For instance, you can do that side-quest differently and receive an alternative reward that may be better than the one you first got, you could use a different strategy to take on a tough boss, take a different path that may be an easier way through than the one you were on before, or even choose a different response to an NPC you spoke to earlier to elicit easier or more favorable conditions for your journey.

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If at first you don’t succeed, reset and try again. (Image from Giphy)

Life, unfortunately, doesn’t really give a person a reset button to fix their current situation, but it’s the lessons you learn in those situations that you can apply when you do decide to start over, whether it’s in the same, or in a different direction altogether.


So, there you have it. Have you adopted a beginner’s mindset? Ever struggled with failure? Started over somewhere? Let me know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m doing an Espresso Shot Review on the game, Golden Axe! Also coming up, I’ll be talking about a fanfiction that I’ve been writing and using the NaNoWriMo challenge to motivate me into finishing it, how using a gaming mouse at work may lead to increased efficiency and a brand-new gaming keyboard that I picked up from Amazon to replace my laptop’s faulty one.

Until next time, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are of my own and neither reflect the views of company I am currently employed for, nor the views of my former place of employment.