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!

 

Travelling Essentials for the Mature, Distinguished Gamer

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Summertime’s almost here and with it, comes the desire to travel. As mature, distinguished gamers such as ourselves, whether it’s within the country (Canada’s turning 150 this year, so now’s as good a time as any to explore this great land), across the border or overseas, we know that boredom while travelling is an inevitability. You can only watch the same scenery, read that same travel magazine, watch that same movie or socialize with your co-travelers so much. Even when you’re at your destination, after all the sightseeing, visiting friends and relatives, eating exotic and delicious food and shopping the local deals, sometimes, along with proper rest, you just need some downtime for yourself. After all, you’re on vacation! Downtime’s important!

Fortunately, I have a list of essential items I always bring with me during my travels, both to keep me occupied during the journey and to keep me relaxed while I’m at my destination. And no, it’s not just video games either!

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As you can see before you

Here’s the list:

Video Games (Obviously)

What better way to start this list than the types of games to bring? For me, portables are my go-to for travelling; they’re easy to store, easy to charge and there are lot of great titles available. I usually take my GCW-ZERO: an excellent little system that plays a huge variety of games, either emulated or homebrew. Other times, when I get the urge to play some classic Playstation games like Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, I turn to my PSP or PS Vita. For my Nintendo fix, I have a Nintendo DS Lite – another great choice due to the compact size of the unit.

A couple of honorable mentions:

The Nintendo 2DS/3DS – I never owned this upgrade to the DS, but it has an impressive library of games, including remakes of all-time classics like “Starfox 3D,” “Ocarina of Time,” and “Majora’s Mask.”

The Nintendo Switch – The latest console from Nintendo, it’s a hybrid between a traditional console and portable handheld system. By looks alone, it’s impressive. My cousin has one and he’s convinced me that it’s a worthy system for travelling. I’m hoping to get one of my own soon, so I’ll update this post once I get and test it out on a trip.

Chargers and Power Banks

No self-respecting gamer would bring a portable system with them without a way to recharge the batteries! It’s a bit of extra wires to bring with, but the convenience they bring outweigh the space it takes up in your bag. However, if you’re planning on taking multiple systems, expect to bring a charger for each one…

Thankfully, companies nowadays have made the realization that gamers don’t want to lug around a bunch of proprietary chargers: take for example the PS Vita, it charges using the ever-popular USB Micro-B plug, ubiquitous with practically every smartphone in existence. So instead of carrying two chargers (one for the phone and the other for the system), I’d only need one, which helps in the space and weight saving department.

For those times when you’re on the go and have no access to an outlet, power banks are a godsend. I have a slim, 10400 mAh capacity power bank that’s perfect for juicing up all my systems along with my phone. I also try to keep it at or near full capacity at all times, in case an emergency happens and my phone battery is dead.

Laptop

I own an ASUS Transformer: a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop. It’s the perfect laptop to bring on a trip – it’s small and it’s powerful enough for me to play emulated games and ROM hacks. I don’t just bring it to play games though, because my laptop serves two other purposes – to maintain the vacation budget and for me to write. Whether it’s in my hotel room, a cruise stateroom or at a relative’s house, I try to take every opportunity I can to do some writing. Speaking of writing…

 Notebooks and Pens

Along with video games, writing is a big passion of mine. I’m currently writing (re-writing actually) a fanfic (don’t judge!) that’s been rattling in my head for the better part of a decade. So, to help me actually finish this thing, I’ve taken to writing down rough notes about character dialogues, setting descriptions, action sequences and the like for each and every chapter of the fic, in a notebook which I carry around with me everywhere, even on vacation. The fact that I’m in a foreign location, away from the daily grind of home life, helps me to focus and churn out some high quality rough notes. That’s why I never travel without my notebook and several pens – you never know when inspiration will hit!

Headphones

Headphones are an absolute necessity for me when I’m travelling. I usually take a wired set of earbuds mainly for my gaming systems when I play during my downtime or at nights when I don’t want to disturb my wife’s slumber. When I want to listen to music, I go to my set of Skullcandy Uproar Bluetooth headphones. They don’t take up a lot of real estate in my bag, they have amazing battery life and the sound’s top notch. Playing video game music while you’re traveling to or staying at your destination makes me feel like I’m on an adventure of my own, and it also helps to get my creative juices flowing for my writing when I’m on vacation.

Books

Ah, the staple travel item for many people; a really good book. Books make excellent travelling companions, plus, they give your eyes a break from staring at a screen for long periods of time. On my last trip, I took with me a book called “Mistborn,” the first book in the “Mistborn” series written by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a great-high fantasy book, taking place in a post-apocalyptic, medieval world full of witty, memorable characters, a brilliant magic system and a well-thought out heist that hinges on overthrowing an immortal emperor-god. Bottom line, it’s really good​.

Change of Clothes, a Toothbrush and Spare Change

Why do I have these items as part of my essentials? Simple; because years of playing RPG’s have taught me to be prepared for the unexpected. For example, if I’m at the airport and I’m either booted off of an overbooked flight (Thanks, United) or if my flight’s cancelled and I end up having to stay at a hotel until the next flight or even when I arrive at my destination, but my luggage is halfway to the other side of the world, I know I have a set of spare clothes and a toothbrush with me so I can maintain some form of cleanliness. I also bring spare change, just in case my debit/credit cards don’t work or if my wallet gets misplaced or stolen. Remember, you can never be too prepared!


So, those are my essentials for when I’m travelling. What do you think? Got anything to add to that list? Put it in the comments below! And stay tuned for the next edition, where I talk about the need for taking care of your precious consoles and handhelds.

So, once again, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. Happy travelling!

“The Legend of Zelda:” How Link’s Altruism Helped Me to Channel My Inner Hero

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

Here up north, we’re winding down the Victoria Day long weekend*, the unofficial start of the summer. We’ve finally left behind the ice, snow and frigid temperatures associated with winter and are left with gradually warming temperatures, the sweet smell of the air after a rain shower and seas of vividly verdant greenery rolling along the hills and valleys around the little town I call home.

The colour green always makes me think of Link, the Hero clothed in green, wielder of the Master Sword and holder of the Triforce of Courage from the Legend of Zelda. His back story varies between entries; he was once a wandering swordsman, an apprentice of his uncle’s, a child of the forest, a boy who came of age on a remote island of the Great Sea and a goat herder on a ranch, to name a few of his incarnations. Regardless of his origins, he is characterized as a strong, noble man who is eternally destined to assist the holder of the Triforce of Wisdom – the titular “Princess Zelda” – in taking arms against Ganondorf, the holder of the Triforce of Power. An accomplished sorcerer and power-hungry leader of the Gerudo desert thieves, he seeks the other two pieces of the Triforce to complete them and fulfill his desire of conquering Hyrule.

While Link is known throughout the gaming community as a character with great strength and bravery, he also possesses untold amounts of kindness and humility towards others. Whether it’s helping a girl round up her Cuccos, making deliveries across kingdoms, islands and oceans, paying for bridge repairs out of his own pocket to help a town’s emerging economy, or even rounding up golden bugs for bug-obsessed princess, there’s nothing Link wouldn’t do to help his fellow man. It’s his altruism**, not his strength or his fighting ability, that inspired many, both in game and out, to become better people.


The first “Legend of Zelda” entry I played was the black sheep of the family: ‘Zelda II – The Adventure of Link’. I was introduced to this game from one of the first friends I made in my new neighbourhood back when I was six. Despite being the odd one out of the whole series, its Action-RPG and side-scrolling elements, as opposed to the traditional top-down views and multiple items to solve puzzles, made me fall in love with the game. More importantly, this was the first entry to really display Link’s altruistic side, like retrieving a trophy from Goiyras for the town of Ruto, picking up the Medicine of Life for a sick child in Mido and even rescuing a kidnapped child in the Island Maze and bringing him back to Darnuia. Even though these ‘fetch quests’ were only used as a plot device to advance you further into this punishing game, it really helped to showcase Link’s character as a guy who’s willing to go the extra mile to help out, something that the first entry (which I played years later!) didn’t really show in my opinion. To this day, I still consider ‘Zelda II’ to be one of my all-time favourite Zelda games.

It wasn’t until after I played ‘Ocarina of Time’ and subsequent entries afterward that I really saw Link’s altruistic personality shine through. Whether it’s in town, on Hyrule Field or deep in enemy territory, I watched as Link took any opportunity he could to assist in any way he can. Granted, it’s the player’s choice in whether or not they accept the task, but the rewards are usually worth it.

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Yep, definitely worth it. (Image from Zeldapedia)

Doing these quests always put a smile on my face whenever I completed them. And I found that it felt really good when the person I helped was truly grateful. I imagined that’s how Link also felt when he helped someone out with their problems, whether it’s fetching something for them, playing songs on the Ocarina to soothe their troubles, or just being there, listening to and acknowledging other people’s problems. I found that the gratitude one receives after helping someone out is the best kind of reward, not money or valuable treasures. In that way, I started to find ways to help out the people around me, regardless of how big or how small that act may be.

However, being an altruist isn’t the same as being a doormat – there are times when you’ll have to say no, even if you really want to help. That’s especially the case if you’re already overburdened with other promises you’ve sworn to keep. Just like Link, you have the choice in whether to say “Yes” or “No” to someone requesting your help. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you burn yourself out trying to uphold all the promises you’ve made to others. It’s a hard lesson I’ve learned over the years; breaking a promise or an obligation to help harms that person’s trust in you and harms your credibility and reputation, a difficult thing to get back. The point I’m making is, make your promises sparingly and only if you have the capacity to keep them. In most cases, after you’ve taken care of your other obligations, you can usually go back to that person you declined earlier and assist them with their problems. It’s the smart thing to do, the right thing to do and the mature and distinguished way to be a successful altruist in this day and age.

So, has Link also inspired you to be altruistic? Mildly related tangent: What’s your favourite entry in the “Legend of Zelda” series? Share your thoughts on the comments below! And, if you haven’t already, subscribe to the e-mail list or click that Follow button to keep up with the latest on “Games with Coffee!”

Enjoying the rest of my long weekend, this is Ryan telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

 *Canadian holiday celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday, usually on May 24th. It’s colloquially known as the” May Two-Four” weekend, signifying the opening of the cottage season. It’s also the number of beers traditionally required to celebrate this particular long weekend, which is known as a “two-four” in Canadian lingo. The more you know.

 **For the uninitiated, Google’s definition of altruism is as follows: Altruism (noun): the belief in, or practice of, the disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. In other words, it means helping those without expecting any reward in return.

 

My How-To Guide on Living with Non-Gamers: Spoken From Experience

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.”  Grab a brew of beany awesomeness, sit down and let’s chat about an interesting subject.

As mature, distinguished gamers, we all have to face this particular reality at one point of our lives: how to live with others who have minimal or no interest in video games (ie. non-gamers). They could either be a spouse, a parent, sibling or other relatives, or a roommate. Let’s be honest; it wouldn’t be fair to that person if all you did in your spare time would be playing video games, since it wouldn’t bode for a good relationship. Conversely,  it also wouldn’t be fair to you if your S.O. or your roomie or whoever you’re residing with monopolizes all of your free time and prevents you from playing said games. While it’s the worst feeling in the world when the non-gamer living with you belittles you when you partake in your gaming pastime, on the flip side, it is kind of rude to hog the TV to yourself, especially if their favourite show is on. And finally, while you may think that you’ll get around to doing your responsibilities after you get to that save point or finish off that boss, the other person living with you may think otherwise.

So, what do you do to balance playing games with spending time with your favourite non-gamer?

It’s actually a lot more easier to accomplish than you’d think. The solution boils down to a few, simple things: Communication, Trust, Compromise and Moderation.


If there’s something I’ve learned after almost five years of being married, it’s this: Sometimes you not only need to listen, you have to speak up as well.

When I tied the knot in 2012, gaming took a huge back seat to my new life. This sounds like a first-world-problem kind of deal, but I went from gaming about 4 to 6 hours a day to 4 to 6 hours a month if anything,  and it was something that took a bit of time to get used to. My wife disliked watching me play video games, simply because she wasn’t interested at all – she found them to be a waste of time and would rather watch a TV show that we’d both be interested in. I complied because it was fair for the both of us – I wasn’t going to be rude and hog the TV all for myself, but there were days where I just wanted to veg out for an hour or two, especially after a rough day at the office.

Ten months into our marriage, after we became the proud owners of a nice little house, I decided that I needed to talk to her about my gaming hobby and what it means to me. I explained to her that there should be a happy medium that we could agree on when it comes to us sharing the TV and me playing video games.

Funnily enough, she understood and agreed with me and we eventually came up with a compromise: I bought me some wireless headphones to connect to the TV to use solely for gaming. During a session, she’s either right beside me reading a good book, watching a YouTube video, listening to a podcast, or at the kitchen table working on one of her many amazing hobbies*. When a reasonable amount of time passes, whether it’s an hour or two, she kindly asks me to stop, I listen and turn off my game and we go about our day.

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A victory for compromise! (Image from Know Your Meme)

Obviously, your situation may be different, but here are some tips that can help when you want to speak to that special non-gamer in your life about working out a compromise:

  1. Calmly argue your side of things: This may be a bit obvious, but don’t yell or whine at your special person and accuse them of never letting you play video games; that’s not the way a mature, distinguished gamer should act. Rather, calmly get that person to understand why you love gaming and that there should be a reasonable way for you to enjoy what you love to do without sacrificing your relationship with them, like playing during the weekends or so for example.
  2. Be persistent but don’t be aggressive: Especially if they bite back, saying to you that gaming is a waste of time or that there should be better things to do than sitting down and staring at a screen. Words like that do hurt and can cause tempers to flare, but keep your cool, explain that it’s as viable a hobby as any and that there’s no reason to judge you on what you enjoy.
  3. Work first, game after: Play games after you complete your daily responsibilities first. It’s a pretty easy compromise you can work out with your special person.
  4. Assure that person that you’ll exercise self-control: Practicing self-control develops trust between yourself and the non-gamer in your life. By developing that skill, you’ll find that they will be much more accommodating to hobby of choice.
  5. If all else fails, invest in portable gaming: There are a lot of great portable options out there to get your fix, from mainstream systems like the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita, to emulation based devices such as the GCW-ZERO, to custom-built options using the Raspberry Pi and RetroPie. If you’re still itching to play console games however, the release of the Nintendo Switch is (I believe) a perfect choice.**

Well, there you have it. What do you think? Are these tips helpful? Got anything else to add? Let me know on the comments below. And stay tuned for the next edition: I’ll be delving back into memory lane to talk about a series that’s been a huge influence in my life – Legend of Zelda!

Once again, this has been Ryan from “Games With Coffee,” telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. Happy Easter!

*I’ll shamelessly plug my wife’s work here. She does lettering and she’s pretty good at it too!

**I haven’t picked up the Switch as of yet, but I assume it’s a great console/portable hybrid that fits the profile of a mature, distinguished gamer? I’ll write about it when I pick one up.

Super Mario Bros. 3 and the NES – On That Day 25 Years Ago…

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the inaugural edition of “Games with Coffee.” Ready to get this journey started? Then grab a chair, top up your mug and get ready to travel down Memory Lane, because I got a bunch of questions to ask you:

Do you remember the very first video game you’ve ever played or the first console you’ve ever owned? Do you remember how it made you feel when you turned it on to play it? Were you excited whenever you heard the familiar introduction tunes or jingles? Was your first game challenging or easy? Were you determined to finish it at all costs?

You’re probably wondering, “Where are you going with all this?” Well, I’ve asked those questions for a specific reason: Today I want to talk about the very first video game I’ve ever played on the very first console I’ve ever owned. This game had a pretty big impact on my life and set me on a path that would help shape me to be the person I am today. The vibrant colours, sounds and environments expanded and cultivated my imagination. It’s also helped me to understand how being inspired by something unlikely can achieve great things. Even the circumstances to me owning my first console also taught me a valuable lesson, a lesson I only figured out later in life when I looked back at this moment: How to persevere in the face of adversity.

The game and console in question: Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Nintendo Entertainment System.


1992 was an awesome year. Not just because the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series (which was extremely important to five year old me at the time), but also because my dad gave me the best Christmas gift a little kid could ever get – a brand-new Nintendo Entertainment System pre-packaged with Super Mario Bros. 3. It almost didn’t happen though because of what happened at the end of 1991, when the recession affected our family.

My dad lost his job and our landlord had no choice but to evict us and sell the house we were renting to own at the time to make ends meet. My dad’s older sister took our family in, while he himself took a night shift job with his older brother in the family business – medical-grade plastic injection moulding.

For almost two years, we shared the same roof as my paternal aunt and uncle, their two grown children and a basement tenant. Initially, my mother was humiliated at the fact that we went from a good job and a house to nearly homeless and unemployed, while my dad was ashamed at putting our family in that position, even though it wasn’t his fault to begin with. It was a difficult period for the two of them.

Shane And I

My brother (left) and I (right), not knowing or realizing what the hell was going on at the time.

I’ve always considered Christmas of 1992 as the catalyst for when things started to change for the better for our family. Even though Dad worked double shifts, he was determined to be an expert in the injection moulding business, doing whatever he could to understand how the machines worked and how to fix them when they broke down. Mom trained to be a receptionist at a private college while learning how to use word processing software a computer (which was up-and-coming technology at the time). All that work eventually paid off when we finally moved into a brand new house in January of 1994, paid for by my parent’s hard work. When I was told this story as an adult, I was floored. I never realized how much they did to get our first house.

Since that day, whenever I put on Super Mario Bros. 3, whether it was emulated or remade, I always think back to the struggle my parents faced almost 25 years ago, and how they fought back to make our lives better.


As for me, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when I first started playing video games. Like all new players, I was pretty bad. I didn’t even know what the ‘B’ button was used for; I just kept pressing ‘A’ all the time to jump. It took the combination of me actually reading the manual and an older kid physically showing me how to run in the game for me to get it, but even then I still struggled.

I’d get to World 8, only to get trounced either by the tough levels or by running out of items and lives before I could even hit the final castle. I developed a love-hate relationship with it and I actually gave up a couple times, thinking I would never finish it.

Until one day I did.

It was 1995. My brother and I stayed by our favourite aunt’s loft in the city and we rented the live-action ‘Super Mario Bros.’ movie from the local Blockbuster (remember those?). I remember back then thinking that it was the greatest movie ever, when in actuality, it was so cringe-worthy bad.

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Not the brightest moment for Nintendo, or John Leguizamo (Image by Internet Movie Poster Awards)

Anyways, I was so inspired that when I got home, I did two things – I wrote a crappy fan fiction based on the movie for my third grade creative writing class (only the second time I’ve done that, and it certainly wasn’t the last) and I was going to finish Super Mario Bros. 3, come hell or high water. I even planned it all out:

Step 1: Get some Whistles.

Step 2: Get all of the items between Worlds 1 and 3 (Especially the Juglem’s Cloud at the end of World 2).

Step 3: Play all the Whistles to get to World 8

Step 4: ???

Step 5: Profit!

SMB3_Title

Tonight I dine on – Whoops, wrong series…

I wasn’t joking about Step 4 either; I knew firsthand how challenging World 8 was, but for some reason I breezed through the levels on that day. Levels 8-1 and 8-2 and the Mini-Fortress had stumped me for years, but this time I either cleared them easily or skipped them thanks to the level-skip cloud. Everything was going right for a change. I played smart; I was patient, used my item stash wisely and didn’t rush. And then I arrived at Bowser’s castle for the first time.

It took me almost all my lives and going down to the absolute last of my item stash before I could finish it and I remember setting my controller down in astonishment at what I accomplished. It wasn’t significant by any means – I didn’t cure cancer or developed the technology of the future, but that moment, to me, meant everything. And it was from that really terrible movie that I learned that even the most unlikely of inspirations can lead someone to achieve great things, whether it’s beating a game that’s stumped you for a time or starting a passion project that you’ve been putting off for years.

Super Mario Bros 3_Ending

A Winner Was Me!!!

 


So, that’s my story for today. Now it’s your turn: Hit up the comments below and let me know what your first memories of video gaming were, how they inspired you and what you learned looking back at those days. Also, stay tuned for next Saturday morning’s post where I talk about a smart phone game I’ve recently been obsessed with: Clash Royale.

Until next time, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to keep gaming and keep brewing.