Adventure Map | The Games That Define Us

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, welcoming you to The Games That Define Us!

Brought to you by Matt from Normal Happenings and starting from today, November 1st until December 4th, this ambitious collaboration brings together over thirty amazingly talented bloggers from all different walks of life to talk about the games that have made a massive impact on their lives and that were instrumental in making them who they are today. Yours truly is a part of this awesome effort and my contribution will be up on the 12th of November. I’m personally proud and stoked to be a part of this project and to be among such phenomenal, talented writers. So, thanks goes to Matt for letting me jump on this collab!

Go bookmark the Adventure Map in the link below – your personal roadmap to all the awesome content – and check back every morning, where a new writer will share their experiences with their chosen game. Day 1 features the amazing Iiago from Mr. Backlog and the game, The Bard’s Tale. Each post will also have a carefully curated playlist that I highly recommend listening to while reading.

What are you waiting for!? Grab a mug, brew your favourite blend, sit back and enjoy The Games That Define Us!

via Adventure Map | The Games That Define Us

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!

Final Fantasy VII: How the Game and its Protagonist Changed My Life Forever

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” May the delicious brew in your favourite mug give you +1 in both your wakefulness and energy stats!

Today’s topic is a very special one for me: 20 years ago, on September 7, 1997, Final Fantasy VII was released in North America. I don’t need to explain how much of an influence this game had on its release; from graphics, to story, to cinematics and gameplay, you can argue that this installment revolutionized and popularized the RPG genre for years to come.

For me though, my love affair with this game and the series started roughly two months after its release. November, in the year 1997 was when I rented and first played Final Fantasy VII. I still remember it like it was yesterday…

(Oh, by the way, MAJOR spoilers for the plot of Final Fantasy VII)


The neighbourhood where I grew up in was still in development in 1997, with the suburban sprawl ever creeping up northward into the farmlands. In the year before, a brand new strip mall opened up, which was a ten minute walk from my home. It had the usual stuff, like a grocery store, a dollar store, some fast food joints and other small retailers, but what made it different was an independent video rental store called “Ambassador Video,” where an enormous selection of movies, music and video games were available to rent. Now, this video store was replaced by a sports bar sometime in the early-2000’s, but at the time, it was THE place to be at for a kid.

On a cold Friday night in November 1997, my parents let my brother and I rent a video game as a reward for doing well in school that week. The two of us argued for a few minutes about which game we were going to take home, before settling on Final Fantasy VII. The moment we got home, we booted it up and were blown away at how amazing it looked.

The first thing about FFVII that differentiated it from games that I played previously was how it started. No tutorial level, no sitting down with the King and him explaining your quest and no cheerful, happy environment. I was instead thrust into the action in a dark, gritty metropolis, my character jumping off of a train and beating down soldiers armed with machine guns with his giant sword. Following a man with a gun for an arm up the stairs leading to the surface, the spiky-haired individual spoke to a group of three people, huddled in front of a large metal door. The one in the headband asked for his name. His response, in a cool, collected tone:

“…Cloud.”

And it was all it took for ten year old me to declare that he was the coolest dude in the universe.

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Seriously, spiky hair, giant-ass sword AND badass demeanor? Triple threat right there, folks (Image from Final Fantasy Wiki)


Cloud was the kind of guy I wanted to grow up to be. He was strong, cool and calm under pressure. He was so confidant in himself, even when things were going downhill for him and the gang and he was also determined to find and defeat Sephiroth, his hero turned mortal enemy. There were days during the dark times I was being bullied and made fun of for being so different, that I thought, “Man, I wish I could be like Cloud… He wouldn’t have put up with this.” But my perception of the hero changed after I experienced, what I believed were, the two most pivotal points in the game.

Here’s a question to throw at you guys: Do you remember where you were when you played through Aerith’s death? I was sitting in the living room with my brother on a summer night, our parents were out at a party and he and I were going through the City of the Ancients, hunting down Aerith. When Cloud and the gang caught up with her, I thought “Yeah, this is good, everything is good!” I didn’t expect what happened next.

Suddenly, we saw Cloud draw his sword and I started to freak out a little bit. Here he was, spazzing out, slowly approaching the flower girl with sword in hand and no matter what I did with the controls, I couldn’t get Cloud to stop. The same thing happened at the Temple of the Ancients, but I thought it was a one-off (or two-off?) deal. It took a while to understand, but after Sephiroth murdered Aerith in cold blood, I realized the hero that I idolized wasn’t who I thought he was. He did nothing, couldn’t do anything because, like JENOVA said to him after the battle; he’s a puppet controlled by Sephiroth.

Fun fact: I died immediately at the hands of JENOVA: LIFE. I had the controller in my hand but couldn’t do a damn thing about anything; Aerith was gone, Cloud was no hero, Sephiroth was winning and I didn’t understand it. I actually stopped playing for a week until I mustered up the courage to redo that dreadful event, beat the boss, watch the impromptu funeral and continue on to the next bombshell: that Cloud really wasn’t “Cloud” after all; his memories of all of the defining moments of his past, including the incident five years ago and him being a SOLDIER, were are all screwed up.

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And after that reveal, he went and gave his mortal enemy the key to their destruction. Dick move, Cloud.

Cloud redeemed himself in my eyes after Tifa, his childhood friend, dug up the truth of the events that occurred five years ago, while she and Cloud were both in the Lifestream. The reason why Cloud wanted to be in SOLDIER, was to be noticed by others, particularly by her. He was always alone, had no friends growing up and was always picked on for being different. He thought himself weak, that he could never belong because he never liked his fellow peers and was always looking to prove himself both to the villagers, who looked down on him, and to Tifa, whom he harboured a major crush for. In essence, the true Cloud was exactly like me; I was also alone, had very little friends growing up, was weak, disliked the people around me and was picked on for being so weird and different. Because of that, I felt that I related to him more than any other character in any story I’ve read or video game I’ve played.

In truth, Cloud never made it into SOLDIER – he was just an infantryman, a weakling, in his own words. But that same “weakling” took on and fought off the greatest and most powerful swordsman the world had ever seen, was subjected to brutal experiments that included having alien matter injected into his body, suffered a major identity crisis thanks to said alien matter, was poisoned twice (the first during the experiments, the second after giving Sephiroth the Black Materia) AND through all of that, he regained his sanity, defeated his nemesis (for the second time, I might add) and saved the world with his companions. I realized then that Cloud Strife wasn’t cool because he was strong and tough, he was cool because he survived the ordeals of his past and rose above it. It showed that I could do the same; that I could rise above the teasing about how odd I was and my own weakness and be better.


When I first rented the game, consoles like the Playstation never had those fancy, internal hard drive storage to save our games on; we had to rely on old-school storage devices called “Memory Cards,” which were bought separately from the console. My parents wouldn’t have known that a Memory Card was required to save the games; they thought it would be saved directly on the console itself. So, during the course of the seven day rental period, I played the beginning part of Final Fantasy VII over and over again. When I died and got Game Over, I didn’t mind because I got to experience the awesomeness of Cloud and the gang once more from the very start. The farthest I ever got without a Memory Card was rescuing Aerith (Aeris?) and seeing the horror of a headless Jenova in the Shinra Building and it took me a whole day to get to that point, after dying and restarting several times.

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This headless thing, along with the spooky “Who Are You?” theme playing during this sequence, freaked me right the hell out as a kid. It still does to this day… Scary… (Image from Final Fantasy Wiki)

My dad finally asked me on the last day before the rental period was up why I kept starting from the beginning after noticing the “Continue” option on the title screen and I told him I can’t save the game because I had no Memory Card!

And so my mom went to the store that very same day and bought me my very first Memory Card.

After several months of on and off renting, we finally got a copy of the game for ourselves, which we picked up at a flea market. Too bad though that we bought a lemon of a game; the third disc was so heavily scratched that the game would end up being unplayable at some points. To top it all off, my little brother was kind of an idiot and sold off our “Chocobo Lure” Materia by accident late in our adventure and saved the game, meaning no Gold Chocobo to pick up Knights of the Round and no easy way to defeat the Ruby and Emerald Weapons. I still pick on him to this day about it.

In fact, the music of Final Fantasy, particularly VII, was one of the main reasons my brother and I became close to one another. Back then, we were always at each other’s throats; he was the favourite and I was the oddball, so we didn’t get along well. Over time though, thanks to a growing love of RPG’s, the music behind them and both of us being exposed to band class (we’re both kind of musically inclined), we bonded. About five or six years ago, I took him to the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert in downtown Toronto and it’s one of the my most cherished memories.

If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I’m writing a fanfic using the FF VII plot as its backbone, which I’ve been working on for the last ten plus years. It’s an ongoing love letter to the game, to be honest. On top of that, I picked up two collectible figures: one of Cloud with the hardy-Daytona bike, before he modified it to the Fenrir, and another of Cloud in his Advent Children outfit.

20 years later, the story of Final Fantasy VII, its complex cast of characters, its themes of life and overcoming your past and its music are still a reflection of who I am as a person. Despite playing the other games in the Final Fantasy series over the years, VII was still the game that had the most impact. I can count on both hands the number of times my wife has rolled her eyes at me whenever I talk about Cloud or Final Fantasy in general – she knows all too well about my obsession with the series. I definitely think that this game has been an incredibly positive influence on me, and with the upcoming remake being released soon, I can’t wait to dive back in and experience it all over again.


And that’s it for today’s edition! Any fond memories of Final Fantasy VII or any other installments of the series? Let me know in the comments below! Stay tuned for the next edition, where I’m back to Path of Exile, along with hardware and gaming reviews, just in time for the holidays!

With that, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

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.

Star Fox 64 (U) (V1.0) snap0000

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. 

The Nintendo Switch: Does It Live Up To The Hype?

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Happy Video Games Day!

So, as you probably know, either through my recent posts or from my Instagram feed, I got a Nintendo Switch for my birthday! Today, I want to share with you the system itself, my impressions on Nintendo’s latest console after a couple months of owning it and if it lives up to the hype it generated from its announcement almost a year ago.


The Back Story

The Wii-U was a major failure for Nintendo.

Since it’s debut in November 2012, the Wii-U failed to capitalize on its predecessors massive success. Despite delivering innovative technology in the Game Pad, the additions low battery life, the lack of third party support from developers and lack of clear goals for the system had led critics to believe, at the end of its production, that the system was nothing more than a glorified Wii with a controller/touchpad hybrid.

Now, I’m not knocking down the console or anything. My brother has it and it’s not a bad system, all things considered. The Wii-U’s had some big hits, including Super Mario Maker, which allows the player to create their own Mario levels and the latest installment of the ever-popular Super Smash Bros. series, which included the return of fan favourites, such as Sonic, Dr. Mario and Zero Suit Samus, along with newcomers like Mega Man, Pac-Man and Little Mac from Punch-Out. On top of that was the underdog inky shooter game Splatoon, which was a rousing success. And let’s not forget about the ever-enduring Mario Kart series, of which it has reached its eighth installment. There’s were some not-so-great games, like Star Fox Zero, which was lackluster due to its odd control scheme and its focus on re-imagining the series. And the fact that third party development focused their efforts on developing games for the latest Sony and Microsoft console releases didn’t help its case. Overall though, there were some good games, but good first party games don’t make a successful console, considering that the Wii sold more in its first year than its successor could in its entire lifetime.

So, Nintendo did what most don’t: re-innovate, re-structure and re-imagine what a console should be. Using what they learned from the Wii-U’s Game Pad device, coupled with their dominance in the handheld gaming segment (the 2DS/3DS has effectively monopolized that market), their vast experience with motion controls and lessons learned from their previous missteps, they unveiled the Nintendo Switch.


The System

The Nintendo Switch, a hybrid between a console and a handheld system, was announced in October 2016 and released on March 3, 2017, along with its launch title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The main unit is a tablet-like device, with two housings on each side uses for its main control inputs, called the Joy-Con’s. The system comes with two Joy-Con controllers, a dock, an AC adapter with USB-C input, an HDMI cable and two straps for the Joy-Con’s.

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Pay no attention to the nose, glasses and forehead on the screen…

The console itself is a tablet with a capacitive touch screen. On the top of the unit is the power button, volume up and down, a 3.5 mm audio jack and a cartridge slot for games. The back of the unit has a kickstand, used to set it on a surface and a micro-SD card slot, housed underneath the kickstand. On the bottom is the USB-C charging input and the intake vents. The display is 6.2 inches wide, corner to corner and displays at a resolution of 1280 x 720. When docked, the console’s display resolution bumps up to 1080p. The system is powered by an Octa-core processor clocking in at 1.02 GHz, has 4 GB of RAM and uses the Nvidia Tegra X1 as its system-on chip (basically, a jack-of-all-trades chip made up of many components that perform an array of functions). There is 32 GB of internal storage in the unit, but with the micro-SD slot, that capacity can increase up to 2 TB. The battery life on the unit averages about 3-4 hours per charge.

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Behold! My (tiny) library of games!

About half the size of the Wii-mote, the Joy-Con’s can either be used together as a single player controller, or individually for single or multiplayer games. Each controller has an analog stick, four face buttons, a plus button and the home button on the right hand controller and a minus button and a capture button on the left hand controller, and two trigger buttons on the top (The L/R and ZL/ZR buttons).

Whether the Joy-Con’s are held in each hand, attached to the system for “Handheld Mode” (more on that below), or slid into the Joy-Con Grip, the control scheme is analogous to that of the PS4 and Xbox One and is how most AAA single or multiplayer games (like Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2 and the upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) are played.

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It looks like a puppy with odd eye placements… and now you cannot unsee that image. Enjoy!

When turned on its side, the Joy-Con’s button layout looks and feels similar to that of Nintendo’s best selling console, the Super Nintendo. There are two additional trigger buttons on the top (SL and SR), which are more easily accessible by sliding in the hand straps provided with the console. This control scheme is used mainly for multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or the upcoming Pokken Tournament DX, but can be used for a few single player titles as well.

 

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Pro-tip: Hit the SL and SR Buttons together to use the controller on its side.

Each Joy-Con is equipped with HD Rumble, a feature that simulates realistic vibrations, like feeling several cubes of ice clinking in a glass, as shown in the technical demonstration. Along with the rumble feature, the motion controls of the Wii have also been integrated into the Joy-Con’s and are primarily used for motion controlled games, such as the Wii Boxing-inspired game, ARMS and the party game, 1-2 Switch. Motion controls are also featured in Breath of the Wildas well, in that you can aim your bow by tilting the controller (or the unit itself when it’s in Handheld Mode). The controls are also used to solve a few motion-based puzzles in game.

A Pro Controller is available to further mimic the traditional console gaming feel. For those who are looking for a more budget-friendly option, the wireless controller company, 8bitdo recently released a firmware update for their NES30 Pro controller, allowing it to work on the Switch.

The Nintendo Switch can operate in several modes, depending on your situation. Attaching the unit to the dock puts the unit in “TV Mode”, allowing it to operate like a traditional console. The dock itself is compact and minimalist in design, compared to the bulkier PS4 and Xbox One systems. The HDMI and power inputs, along with a USB 3.0 port, are located on the back of the dock and are kept hidden by a panel, with an opening to allow the power and HDMI cable wiring to come out. It results in a clean, wire-free look that adds to its minimalist design. There are also two additional USB ports on the side of the dock.

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Simplicity, thy name is Switch.

Slapping the controllers onto the side of the tablet and removing it from the dock “switches” (Ha!) the console to “Handheld Mode,” where the console behaves as a handheld device. Games played in Handheld Mode are the same as in TV Mode, with the exception of graphics resolution (no 1080p in this mode), meaning that games like Breath of the Wild can be played on the go.

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On-the-go gaming has never looked so good.

Finally, popping out the kickstand, placing the console on a surface and taking out the Joy-Con’s enables “Tabletop Mode,” which can be used either for single player game play, or more commonly for local multiplayer gaming away from a dedicated screen.

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Woo! Sonic Mania! I asked my wife to pick up the other Joy-Con and play along with me as Tails… She said no… 😦

That’s all the technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way. (Phew!). Now, you’re probably asking, “Thanks for that boring lecture, professor, but what do YOU think of the system so far?”

Good question. Here’s my answer.


The Verdict

After about two months of owning the system, I can safely say this with as little bias as possible: Nintendo did pretty well here. The system is incredibly unique in the sense that you can play it at home on the TV and on the go. It’s like having two systems in one! These days, I’ve been playing it solely in Handheld Mode and it’s been a great experience so far. Playing a full-fledged Zelda game on a device roughly twice the size of my smartphone has never felt so fulfilling.

I honestly don’t gripe about the battery life on the Switch when it’s in Handheld Mode. Three to four hours is plenty of time for a mature, distinguished gamer to play in bed while their significant other sleeps beside them, though I usually play for about an hour or two. What I love about the system is how quickly it boots up from sleep mode, the Switch’s “Off” setting, similar to that of the PS4’s “Rest Mode.” I press the power button on the top of the system or the home button on the Joy-Con’s/Pro Controller and the system boots up immediately and I’m back in the game while my wife’s asleep. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I also think it’s cool that Nintendo designed the system in a way that a second controller for two-player games comes included right out of the box. Highly useful for when the wife and I want to play Mario Kart (One of the few games she’ll actually play with me when I eventually get it!). For games like ARMS though, you’ll need a second set of Joy-Con’s to play locally.

Switching from TV Mode to Handheld Mode and back again is seamless. There is no discernible delay when the system switches between modes, which, again, is very rad.

There were a couple of things slightly affected my experience. One was the small game library available right from the start, even several months after release. When I first booted up the system, the Nintendo e-Shop had a whole bunch of downloadable titles, along with digital copies of their physical releases, but nothing really stood out to me in the store, besides Mighty Gunvolt Burst. That might change as the holiday season rolls around. (Correction, it has: Sonic Mania dropped a couple weeks ago. I picked it up and it’s AWESOME!)

Another thing was the internal storage space. 32 GB may seem quite sizable compared to that of the PS Vita, with its 1 GB internal storage, but when you look at the size of some of the downloadable titles, plus the fact that you can save screenshots directly to the device, that storage can get eaten up pretty quickly. It’s a good thing I had a spare 32 GB micro-SD card lying around to expand my storage capacity!

Finally, while it’s not a huge deal for me, I’m sure many people are a bit miffed that the Switch doesn’t play at native 4K resolution, unlike the PS4 Pro and and the Xbox One X. Truthfully, having the system run on 4K resolution at 60 frames per second isn’t a priority for me: I’m more concerned about playing good, quality games and I’m quite happy with the Switch’s native resolutions.

Overall, the Nintendo Switch was built for the mature, distinguished gamer in mind, giving the user free range on wherever they want to play it and presenting it in a compact, minimalist package. Whether it’s on the TV, in bed playing in Handheld Mode, at a friend’s place playing in Tabletop Mode or whatever the case may be, the Nintendo Switch has lived up to my expectations and thus, I declare that the hype surrounding the system was well justified, although that’s just my opinion. With the upcoming holiday season approaching and the games being released in that period, I believe that Switch and the Big N itself are well positioned to make a significant comeback after the stumbles with the Wii-U.


So that’s it! What do you guys think? How’d I do? Gimme some feedback in the comments below! (I need those like I need a strong cup o’ Joe, know what I’m sayin’?). And stay tuned for the next edition, where I continue my playthrough of Path of Exile with my Witch, Rhuki! (Who’s a total badass IMO). Plus, coming after that is my brand new segment – “Espresso Shots!” I cannot wait to share this with you!

And with that said, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you a Happy Video Games Day and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya!

“The Quest”: Using Video Games to Fulfill my Dreams

Good afternoon and welcome to a special edition of Games with Coffee. Why special? Because today, July the 13th, is my 30th birthday! And while the jokes start coming around about how I’ve become practically ancient, I want to talk today about something completely different than the usual stuff I talk about.

Today’s subject is something I like to call, “The Quest.” Why is it in quotation marks? To signify its importance of course! Joking aside, “The Quest” is something I developed in late 2016 for myself to do one thing: to make my dreams reality.


The Back Story

I’m going to be honest here: I always hated New Year’s Resolutions. You make a set of broad, sweeping goals in the hopes that you’ll achieve something this year, like losing weight, or finishing that personal project or develop a new skill, only for it to go off the rails after February hits. Don’t get me wrong though, I made resolutions as well, in fact, the very same ones I listed, but I got lazy, forgot about my resolutions and wound up at the end of the year wondering what exactly did I achieve?

2016 was no different than the other years. At the start, I was on track to fulfill my resolutions: I started a job closer to home with better pay (get a new job), I was on track with my writing (write more often) and I was eating healthy and working out fairly often (lose weight). But by the end of summer, it all went downhill.

The company’s busiest time of the year is the summer, since our major client’s (a large school board) facilities close down for two months and creates a scramble to get things fixed up for when they open in the fall. During this time though, little mistakes made by myself and other new people opened huge cans of worms with the school board, who questioned our ability to do our jobs, hurting our reputation and making this the worst year the company has ever seen since it started back in the 70’s. Everyone in the office absolutely hated each other at that point, with screaming matches going on almost weekly amidst the countless fires that needed to be put out on job sites. In the middle the chaos, I started looking for a new job even though I’ve only worked there for six months. I thought to myself at the time, “Working at such a volatile company isn’t good for me or my family. I need something more stable and established.”

Everyone’s attitude at work, with people consistently blaming each other, coupled with my sneaky attempts at trying to find a new job put my writing permanently on the backburner and, even though exercise could have decreased my stress during that time, I stopped working out to focus more on job applications and interview preparations. Even playing video games wasn’t enough to help me relax. It was a pretty bad time.

At the start of December, I ceased my job search for the time being since no one’s going to hire somebody during the holidays. I instead looked at the paper that I wrote 2016’s resolutions on and, again, wondered:

What exactly did I achieve?

The short answer was only a little bit (the getting a new, higher paying job was the only thing I accomplished) and I was tired of only getting a little bit done every year. On top of that, 2017 is the year I’d be turning 30, a huge milestone, and while I could say that I’ve accomplished much by that age, to me, I felt truthfully that my efforts towards accomplishing those things were mediocre at best.

I jumped from one thing to another and left things half done, both with work and my own personal projects. I had trouble focusing at times, especially with things I have no interest in. I wasn’t very good at planning ahead and whatever plans I did make, I barely followed through with them. I’ve set the same goals for the last ten years and I wasn’t getting anywhere with them with my current methods (of which, I had none). I’d try to work out on a consistent basis, only to stop and not start again until the next year comes. Finally, I knew that I’ll eventually be a dad myself one day and the last thing I’d want my kids to see is their father being unable to work hard enough to see his goals through to the end. I want to be a role model for them, for them to see that, with hard work, perseverance and discipline, even a life-long gamer can achieve anything.

It was from that moment on, with all of the above in mind, that “The Quest” came into existence.


So, What is “The Quest?”

Instead of trying to achieve my goals outright, I decided that I would get into the habit of doing things that aligned with my goals instead. For instance, instead of having a goal to work out and lose weight, instead I’d try to get into the habit of working out at least 15 days in the month. If I made twenty, that’s great! If I felt short, then I’ll try for 15 next month.

The bigger question though, was how to stay motivated to do 15 days of exercise, or half an hour of writing, or anything really on a daily basis? Well, video games have always motivated me to keep going to that next level, beat that next boss, reveal that latest story twist and find that rare item, and I thought, “Why not make that work for me!?”

That’s what “The Quest” really is: my goals gamified*. Inspired by both “The Legend of Zelda” and “Final Fantasy”, I modeled the game around the RPG mechanics used Final Fantasy XV and Link’s quest to save Hyrule.

In Final Fantasy XV, even the most insignificant of actions, like helping someone stranded on the road, driving in your car or even fishing, yielded experience for the four friends.  So, I decided that for every action I took that aligned with my goals, I would earn experience points. After a set amount, I’d gain a level in relation to that goal, showing me that my commitment to achieving it had grown stronger.

For Link, storming Gannon’s main stronghold right from the start was practically suicide. Instead, the Hylian warrior and bearer of the Triforce of Courage started small; breaking his objective (Defeating Gannon) down into smaller chunks (infiltrating dungeons across Hyrule to obtain powers to defeat Gannon) and accomplishing them one by one. I decided to do the same with all of the goals I wanted to achieve this year; start small and follow through.

“The Quest” is also similarly modeled by what real-world comic, Jerry Seinfeld did to keep motivated, back when he did the comedy circuit before hitting the big time. He’d mark on a calendar the days he would do any writing with a big ‘X’. Soon enough, there was a chain of X’s and it made it harder to break that chain because he was so motivated to maintain that string of X’s. It’s the same feeling I got whenever I saw those points accumulate. After a while, it became harder to break that chain of experience points that I kept pushing every day to get something done to keep it going. Which in turn gained me levels, which then strengthened my commitments to keep going.

Writing this down here and now on the blog, it sounds really childish. (Experience points? Levels? Final Fantasy?! Legend of Zelda!? X’s?!?! Balderdash! Poppycock! You’re thirty for God’s sake!) But, honestly, it’s actually working! For some reason, I felt motivated to keep earning points and gaining levels and the more levels I gained, the more I felt that I accomplished! Even when life threw curveballs, screwballs and knuckleballs (Haha! Baseball references!) to try and derail me, I found that I didn’t want to give up. I mean, you gotta work for your dreams, right? And doing it this way, using video game concepts, helped me to stay on top of my dreams.

Still not convinced? Think I’m full of it? Well, let me tell you how I organized it and my results so far. Perhaps you’ll be impressed?


The Method

I created the infrastructure using several Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The first thing I did before delving into game mechanics, was to list all of the goals that I’ve ever wanted to accomplish in the last ten or twenty years of my life, and eliminated the one’s that were either unrealistic or that I didn’t care much for, until I narrowed it down to five core goals:

  1. Advance in my career.
  2. Read more books.
  3. Finish and publish my fanfiction/ work on my original story
  4. Work out.
  5. Start a blog about video games (The one you’re reading right now!).

Once I established my core goals, I built a spreadsheet for each of them to track my progress. In one of the tabs on the spreadsheet, I set up an experience chart and built a formula to calculate the experience required for a level up (there are lots of resources online to help set this up). In another tab, I have my full status for that goal, including my current level, experience and what experience I needed to get to the next level. Finally, I set up tabs for every month of the year, which I used to track my progress Here’s a sample of my Writing Goals sheet for the month of May:

Writing Status Sheet

This was back in May, a pretty productive month for me in terms of my writing.

And a sample of last month’s Blog Goals sheet:

Blog Status Sheet

June was a good month for the blog.

So, in that mess above, I calculated how much experience I’d gain per action based on a function of time and relative to the XP Difficulty Factor of the goal (Each sheet had its own formula for determining that amount). I’d tally up my experience (under the XP Gained column) to get the experience I would earn for the month. On top of that, I’d determine if any bonus experience was gained, either from finishing and publishing chapters or posts online, or how many days I’ve worked out in total, or how many books I read, or if I fulfilled my Monthly Side Quests (Listed as Quest XP). Summing up all that experience back to the main status tab gave me my total experience thus far, giving me a good indication of how well I’m doing with my goal.

I mentioned Monthly Side Quests in the above and they are just that: Optional goals, or side quests, for the month that would earn me extra experience once completed. They’re usually highly ambitious, like publishing blog posts three times in a month, working out for more than 20 days in a month, or writing notes for or actually writing out three chapters for example. The rewards were always worth it though – not only did I accrue more experience, I also furthered myself in each of my goals. And even if I didn’t finish the quest, I was a lot farther along at the end of the month, since I broke the monumental task at hand down into smaller monthly chunks. Side quests are one of three things I used to keep myself motivated. I call these my “Fail-Safes.”


Fail-Safes???

The side quests were one of three fail-safes I initiated after starting “The Quest” to keep myself motivated throughout this experiment. The second of these was my Quest Log: a daily journal listing down all the things I did that day and how much time I spent working on actions related to my goals. At the end of each entry, I noted both the successes and failures of my day. I found that noting down the failures of the day motivated me for the next day. For instance, if I skipped my workout for the day, I’d note that down as a fail. From there, I’d tell myself “OK, I’m definitely going to make an effort to work out tomorrow!” And nine times out of ten, it happened. Plus, writing everything down helped me to keep my goal status sheets accurate and up-to-date.

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My Quest Log – You may have seen it in many of my posts and part of the site banner as well. Ush gave this to me for Christmas last year and it was one of the best things I’ve ever received.

The final fail-safe is what we engineers call a Post Mortem report. Post Mortem reports are done at the end of a project, where they highlight what made the project successful, what hindered or held it back, what things to change for the next project and any additional thoughts or reflections about the project itself. At the end of every month, I prepared a Post Mortem of my own, reflecting on the successes and failures of the month in relation to my goals along with what I think needs to change for the next month and any additional comments about anything that made this month a success or failure. Writing this report helped me to list priorities and prepare side-quests for the following month, while giving me an idea of how I performed on the previous month.

All of this looks like a lot of hard work and sometimes it can be. Trying to find time to record everything on top of writing for myself or the blog, working out, taking courses to build new skills for my job or read, along with spending time with the wife and family AND playing games can sometimes be a bit difficult. The results, however… I’m glad to say have been worth it so far.


The Results So Far

Here’s what I achieved six months into this crazy experiment of mine:

  1. I’ve never been consistent with working out, always starting and stopping and never really getting far with it. Since starting “The Quest,” I’ve spent less time beating myself up about skipping a workout and spending more time pumping out quick (sub 45 minutes), quality workouts that I enjoy, like practicing martial arts (I was a green belt in Tae-Kwon-Do) or my favourite, the Super Saiyan Workout from Darebee; a quick and easy cardio workout that makes me feel like Vegeta training to surpass Goku. It’s awesome and you should try it!
  2. Writing fanfiction is an extremely nerdy and guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve been writing a particular one for the past ten years. Like the workouts, I’ve started and stopped writing it too many times to count, but since focusing on writing something down every day for at least half an hour and tracking that through my status sheets, I’ve finished the rough draft of the fic and am working on the good copy with the hopes of putting it all online by the end of this year! A major leap from previous years when I thought I’d never even finish it!
  3. Speaking of writing, “The Quest” gave me the courage to continue writing my own original content. Last year, I started putting together a few notes here and there of ideas and themes that I’ve been toying with for the last fifteen years. Thanks my continued motivation to write every day, to date, I have characters, a setting, several magic systems (I’m writing a high fantasy) and the beginning of a timeline of events that will span from before the start of the story all the way to the end, which, again, was much farther than I could have imagined a year ago.
  4. Career-wise, I decided to stay at my current job and focused on building my skillsets, moving away from engineering design and into programming, project management and graphics creation/manipulation. Those efforts have helped me move into a more hybrid position instead of pigeon-holing me as a designer. I’m now looking to take some professional development course in order to improve even further.
  5. I love reading, but lately I haven’t set a lot of time aside to do any and I always read the same books over and over again. I’ve changed that by reading a whole wack of books, from self-help titles to high fantasy stories not unlike Game of Thrones. I’ve now noticed these days that my writing style has improved, as I read and analyzed the works of multiple authors, such as Brandon Sanderson, Lily Singh and Pierce Brown.
  6. Finally, I’ve always wanted to start a blog about video games, but never had the guts to do so. Mainly because I could never prioritize and plan ahead for creating new content. Tracking my progress on the blog with “The Quest” made me feel regretful that I didn’t start earlier; I’ve put up content that I feel proud of,  made a few new friends along the way and read their amazing content and even those in my current circle of friends and family see me in a different light, which I’m pretty happy about, y’know? The confidence I’ve gained through blogging has led me to think about doing freelance writing on the side, which is something I would have never even considered in the past.

So, there you have it, What do you think? Am I balls-to-the-wall crazy with this quest idea, or does this actually inspire you to go on a Quest of your own? Let me know if the comments below! Stay tuned for the next edition, where I travel back to the dark world of Wraeclast and provide a brief, but entertaining update of my progress in “Path of Exile,” of which I’ve become pretty obsessed with!

Before I sign off, I want to add a few extra notes here. To those individuals who are reading this, have subscribed to this blog, followed me on Instagram or even encouraged me from the sidelines; thank you. Thank you for sharing this experience with me and for making my 30th year on this chaotic plane of existence a great one so far. Here’s to many more where that came from.

And that’s all for today. Once again, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See you next time!

*Gamification: applying game elements to real life to achieve real goals or improve productivity. A couple of good examples online include Level Up Life and SuperBetter. I could have used these for my own use, but I decided to be extra and build my own game from scratch. What can I say? I’m complicated like that!

How Mega Man X Gave Me My Artistic Groove

Hey all! Welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! I hope everyone’s weekend (whether it was a long one or not) was well!

Today, I’m going to share a personal story about the Blue Bomber himself: Mega Man! Mega Man (A.K.A Rockman in Japan) holds a special place in my heart, along with other characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Link and Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. But what’s special about Mega Man, specifically Mega Man X, was that he pulled me out of a very dark place in my childhood and helped me discover something about myself that I thought I never had before – that I can be a creative and artistic individual.

(Warning: This may get a little heavy. Bear with me.)


Let me cut to the chase: Growing up, I’ve had lots of self-esteem issues. As I mentioned somewhere on this blog, I was a very awkward kid and by awkward, I mean I was never good at making friends. I was disruptive, unable to sit still, had a very short attention span and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, which got me into tons of embarrassing and problematic situations. My teachers, frustrated by my irregular behaviour, urged my parents to get doctors involved. They first diagnosed me with Tourette’s Syndrome, before performing a battery of tests and settling for the catch-all adolescent boys issue made popular back in the 90’s: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD.

On top of taking meds that would turn me into a vegetable, produce violent mood swings and made me chubby due to water retention, I also had to start wearing glasses from the third grade on, due to becoming near-sighted. All of this, along with my last name sounding eerily similar to a delicious dairy product and my penchant for being too trusting and gullible in an attempt to be likeable and friendly, made me a very easy target for bullies and set me down the path of isolation and loneliness. Academically, the medicines didn’t really help (since I was more or less a carrot at that point, so concentration was non-existent) and my teachers (bless their souls for putting up with me…) were even more frustrated at my obvious lack of effort, despite the fact that it was because I dreaded going back to school to face both meds and savage classmates that I didn’t want to try in the first place. The constant slog of side-effects, brutal teasing, loneliness and the inner disgust I directed to myself for being so abnormal compared to everybody else eventually snowballed into me feeling completely worthless and useless; that I had nothing to offer to this world and that I was just a burden to everybody.


It was some time in fourth grade that Mega Man first came into my life; both the animated TV series by Ruby-Spears and the video game “Mega Man X.” While the TV series was enjoyable (yet cheesy), it was X’s struggle, both against the forces of evil and within himself, that I really resonated with. For you see, X was unlike any robot ever built.

His creator, Dr. Thomas X. Light, designed him with a revolutionary neural structure that gave him the ability to think, feel and make his own decisions, essentially making him as close to human as possible and making him VERY different compared to his fellow robots. While a robot’s only concern was to obey the orders given to them by their human masters, X thought about things that were highly abstract from typical robot-think: Why was he created? What was his purpose? And if he was intended to bring peace between humans and robots as Dr. Light intended, why was he then given such a sophisticated battle interface, including the powerful X-Buster and Weapons Copy system?

On the introduction screens of the game, Dr. Light explains his intentions for X, that his unique neural structure and limitless capacity for thought would usher in a new generation of robots that could bring peace between man and machine. A part of his explanation eventually helped me to understand how ADHD affected me, four years after I was diagnosed with the disorder. A therapist I once saw explained it to me simply – that because of a chemical imbalance in my brain (which apparently is the cause of ADHD), it’s as if my head was rewired in such a way that I thought, saw and felt things differently from others. It’s that configuration that brings about the potential for immense creativity, just like X and his limitless potential for anything he puts his highly-advanced mind to. I initially took it as hogwash; I didn’t think I had it in me to be that creative at that time, but thinking about it years later and even now when I’m writing about this, I realize that the explanations, given by both the therapist AND Dr. Light, made sense.

X really helped me out in the seventh an eighth grades in school though. Those were the years when I was at my absolute lowest; I was always angry, got into fights at the drop of a hat and hated everyone and everything (typical pre-pubescent angst). One day, I rented out Mega Man X4 for the Playstation and, either it was X’s battle against Double, the traitor he thought he could trust or Zero’s story of love and loss on the battlefield, I don’t remember, I felt so inspired by the game that I pulled out a sketchbook I got from taking an art elective, took the cover art from the game manual and freehand drew the cover art. It wasn’t half bad, to tell you the truth. I’d show it to you all… but I seem to have lost my oldest sketchbook…

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So instead, here’s an old sketch I drew, loosely inspired by X’s base armour design. I made this… roughly ten years ago?

It was that one drawing I did of X and Zero, side by side that started to convince me that “Hey, you know what? I’m not half bad at drawing, let’s keep practicing!” I was really surprised at myself. And so, I drew. I drew as I weaned myself off medications, I drew as my classmates liked my work instead of teasing me about it. I drew when I was happy, I drew when I was angry and I drew when I was stressed. Drawing became a therapeutic release for me.

Since those days, I’ve moved on from drawing Mega Man, drawing other characters like Sonic and even creating some of my own content. For example, for my wife’s 18th birthday (when we were still dating), I drew her a full comic book, listing eighteen reasons why I love her. She still has it to this day, laminated and preserved in our shared memory box.

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I’d also show you that, but it’s way too embarrassing… So, here’s one of my favourite Sonic sketches instead!


I used to feel that I was useless, but because of X, I learned that I had hidden talents I never knew existed before and I gained the confidence to work on them. These days, I write more than I draw, but I can safely say to myself now that I’m not so useless after all. And that’s a good thing.

So, that’s my story for today. What do you think? Was there ever a character or a game that inspired you to be more creative or get out of your comfort zone? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, stay tuned for the next edition of Games with Coffee because I’ll be talking about another personal subject. Since the beginning of this year, 2017, I’ve been undergoing a Quest for personal development, doing several tasks to help me grow both creatively and in my career. Starting this blog was one of those tasks. With my 30th birthday coming up in the next two weeks, I want to share with you all what this Quest is all about; what inspired it, how it works and my progress six months into it. Maybe it’ll even inspire you to go on your own Quest as well?

With that said, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

A Vacay in Wraeclast: My First Impressions of “Path of Exile”

Top of the morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.”

So, one of my goals for this blog was to try out new games, especially those that I wouldn’t necessarily play on a regular basis, such as MMORPG’s. (I’ve always been more of a JRPG kind of guy, to be honest). One of my readers recently reached out to me and suggested that I try playing “Path of Exile”; an MMO Action-RPG developed by Grinding Gear Games. I thought, ‘Sure! Why not?!’


You can install Path of Exile directly from the website. Alternatively, if you have access to Steam, you can also install it there, which is what I used.

In “Path of Exile,” you play as one of seven classes: The Duelist, The Shadow, The Marauder, The Witch, The Ranger, The Templar and The Scion. You are a criminal exiled to the land of Wraeclast: a dark world inhabited by legions of undead, fearsome monsters and other exiles like yourself, trying to eke out a living in the unforgiving world. (Sounds like a prime vacation spot!)

I’ve spent about a couple weeks playing it and so far, I’m enjoying it! It’s looks a bit daunting at first, especially with the multitude of skills available for use and the enormous passive skill tree used to upgrade your character stats and give sweet bonuses, but once I started getting into it, I found that the game was very straightforward. Bottom line, I recommend giving it a try, especially if you’re a JRPG kind of person looking for something different to play. The story is broken down into multiple acts (I’m on Act 1 right now) and there’s a plethora of post-game content available.

If you’re looking to get started, here’s a couple of things beginners should know to help make your journey through Wraeclast much more easier.


Guides and Forums

Before you jump into the game, I recommend reading through some of the intro guides on the forums, especially if you don’t get a lot of time to play MMO’s on a daily basis. (Like us mature, distinguished gamers with lots of responsibility on our hands!)

I also found a highly comprehensive beginners guide on Path of Exile’s Steam Community page which was very helpful for me. It laid out detailed explanations about the game mechanics, builds and even loot filters – an interesting mod that helps to narrow down rarer loot drops that might be lurking around the common, unneeded ones. Very useful.

Now, if you have a lot more time on your hands, of if you shun guides, feel free to jump in and go nuts. If you get stuck however, or need direction on how to improve your character build, or are looking for items to trade, you should still check out the forums. It’s an invaluable resource you shouldn’t ignore!


Gem Basics

Path of Exile often gets compared to Diablo III (reviews on Steam basically call it a Diablo III clone), but what separates the two is Exile’s skill gem system – the heart and soul of this game. It’s a bit similar to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII, but with a twist to it. Here’s a quick primer:

  1. Skill gems come in three flavours: Red gives physical skills (elemental physical attacks for instance), green gives movement-based skills (traps that restrict movement are a good example) and blue gives magical skills (fireballs, lightning from fingertips, etc.) Blue gems are my personal favourite so far.
  2. To use skill gems, you have to equip them into sockets. Each piece of equipment (weapons, body armor, belt, gloves, boots) has at least one socket to install gems in. However you can’t just throw a gem into a random equipment socket and start lobbing fireballs at the undead; sockets are also coloured like gems. You can only install a skill gem into its respective coloured socket in order to use it. That means you got to be smart on what you equip on your character.
  3. Each piece of equipment can have between one and six slots to equip gems into. Six slot equipment is really rare, so be on the lookout! Slots can also be linked or unlinked as well (more on that on the next point).
  4. Besides skill gems, there are also support gems that modify how regular skill gems behave. I haven’t gotten any support gems yet, but from what I’ve read so far, they can be devastating!  You’ll need to equip support gems into linked slots to bestow the supported effect to your skill gem. One example would be having a fireball skill gem linked with an added fire damage support gem to up your fireball damage!

(Side note: I mention fireballs a lot.)


Character Builds

As with other popular MMORPG’s, building a good character can make the difference between breezing through the story or rage-quitting in frustration. While you can go it alone for your own build, there are lots of character building guides on the Path of Exile forums tied either solely towards beginners or those who want to play the main story and not do the guess work when it comes to builds. The build I’m currently working on is called “Bladefall Witch,” which centers around the Bladefall spell, picked up in Act 3. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but the focus right now is to get to level 27 (the minimum level to use Bladefall) using area-of-effect (AoE) spells and prioritizing life and defense on the passive skill tree up until that point. The creator stressed that this build doesn’t rely solely on trading with other players to get stronger, which is one thing that appealed to me. Oh, speaking of which…


Trading and Currency

Unlike other RPG games, Path of Exile’s economy is based on trading and the game relies heavily on it. Every item, every piece of equipment and even gems can be traded to either vendors (NPC’s) or other players to receive items in return. Sometimes, trades can yield incredible rewards, especially if  you give vendors certain items in certain combinations. So far, my experience has been limited to obtaining Scrolls of Wisdom and a few orb fragments here and there, but it should improve once I find more cooler stuff to trade in.

Orbs are the de-facto currency in Wraeclast. They can either be used to improve equipment or in trades to get more valuable stuff from other players. Two of the most sought-after orbs in the game are Exalted Orbs and Chaos Orbs – both respectively called the gold and silver standard in the player-driven economy. Exalted Orbs are used to create powerful rare items while Chaos Orbs reforge a piece of rare equipment with random properties. Chaos Orbs are quite uncommon and are used most commonly for low and mid-level trades with players and vendors. Exalted Orbs, on the other hand, are extremely rare to find, unless you grind in high level areas.

Besides those two, there are many other orbs available that bestow different effects on weapons and armor, like Chromatic Orbs, which changes the colours of your equipment’s sockets, or Armourer’s Scraps and Blacksmith Whetstones, which improve the quality of your armor and weapons respectively. Beginners should really keep on the lookout for those two at the start.

Also, there are Orbs of Alchemy, which upgrades a normal item to a rare item and Orbs of Transmutation, which upgrades a normal item into a magic item. And, if you screwed up your passive skill tree allocation, Orbs of Regret will grant you passive skill refund points used to fix up your allocations.

There also exists places online called RMT (Real Money Trading) marketplaces, where players can buy in-game items and currencies for tons of different games, including Path of Exile using real money, including the aforementioned items above. Now, as mature, distinguished gamers, we’re free to spend our money so long as it’s done responsibly. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with forking over real-world cash for in-game cash (I’ve done so with Clash Royale never mind), take heed that there are risks involved with RMT’s. The largest risk is that some game developers will actively ban those who use RMT services for their games, citing violations of their EULA or other legal jargon. Thing is, most developers don’t exactly have the resources in place to police every single players who chooses to use RMT’s. Some, meanwhile, just turn a blind eye to it and some actually integrate their use into their own games and encourage players to use them. (Source). The bottom line here is that you have a choice in whether you use real money to buy in-game currency or not, so think it through carefully. If you do decide to buy, research your seller properly, make sure they have the item(s) you’re looking for and spend wisely!


So, that’s my thoughts on “Path of Exile.” How’d I do? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you decide to start playing, look out for a witch named Rhuki (pronounced ‘rookie’, get it?) in the Legacy league; that’s me! If you’re interested in partying up, let me know too! Oh and thanks goes to Daisy, the reader who introduced this game to me!

And stay tuned for the next edition, where I’m going to reminisce about an old friend of mine; Mega Man!

This is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you, whether you’re online or not, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. See ya next time!

A Reminder to Take Good Care of Your Games!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” How’s everyone doing?

Today’s post is more of a PSA than anything else. Let me set the scene here:


Last month, I went on a cruise up the West Coast, starting from Los Angeles CA and ending in Vancouver BC. As part of my trip preparations, I decided to take my GCW-ZERO system with me, mainly to play a Super Mario Bros. 3 hack.

Now, I’ve had this particular system for a couple years and while it’s a great and versatile unit, it also has its flaws that I didn’t address, or attempt to address at the time. The D-pad didn’t sit well on the unit, and made it register an up-left input instead of a direct up input whenever I pressed the up button. Also, the A button, had a tendency to stick, which made run-and-gun games like “Super Metroid” difficult or nearly impossible to play. Even though there are ways to address those issues, like using silicone grease or taking apart the unit and replacing the buttons with new ones that improved playing performance, I decided not to address them and carry on.

Big mistake.

Long story short, as soon as I got on the plane to LA, the D-pad stopped responding. I tried playing using the stick only to find that control was awkward and uncomfortable after a period of time; it just wasn’t the same. Thus, I was without my preferred system almost the entire trip, which, while only mildly inconvenient, was still annoying nevertheless.

If I was more proactive, I would have addressed these issues much sooner. Thankfully, the guys who manufactured the GCW-ZERO have partnered with a 3-D printing company called Shapeways that provide improved replacement buttons for the system. I’ve ordered and received a full set and I’ll be undergoing the painstaking task of taking apart the system, installing the components and putting it back together again. (Apparently, the process is quite hard. Wish me luck!)

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My next personal project.

This leads me to today’s PSA: Please, please, PLEASE, take care of your systems and games! As mature, distinguished gamers, we pay a lot of money to indulge in one of our favourite hobbies, so it’s important that you make sure your systems and your games are in perfect working order. Proper maintenance will allow you to enjoy gaming to your heart’s content, without worrying that your system will break down or that your games will crash. And if you suspect that something may be wrong, whether it’s major or minor, get it looked at ASAP. It could mean the difference between either getting it repaired without cost or spending hundreds of dollars on getting your stuff replaced.


Do you guys have any stories about maintaining your systems and games? Share them in the comments below! And stay tuned to for the next edition, because I’ll be talking about a video game music site that’s dear to my heart: OverClocked ReMix!

This is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. See ya next time!