The Guide on Being a Mature Distinguished Gamer: Part 4 – Finding Your Goals

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

At last, we have arrived at the final part of my miniseries. To those of you who have stuck with my ramblings so far, a heartfelt thanks goes to each of you. I also want to thank everyone in the WordPress community for being an amazing bunch of talented and friendly writers and also for inspiring me to write this series. I finally feel that I’ve fulfilled the requirements I have set out in the tagline of this blog: A Blog for the Mature Distinguished Gamer.

Read the previous three parts here:

Part 1 – Priorities

Part 2 – Failure, Success and The Gaming Mindset

Part 3 – Respect, Kindness and Empathy

The first three parts in this series all lead up to this final one about Finding Your Goals. In the games we play, the characters we play as have a goal or a dream that they want to accomplish. Some are as simple as rescuing a princess or fulfilling a last wish. Some are as difficult as overthrowing an empire, uncovering the truth on a conspiracy or saving the world from a deadly threat. Whatever the case, these characters pursue these goals with abandon.

The Mature, Distinguished Gamer (MDG) must embody that same pursuit with their own goals. However, they should be kind and empathetic to themselves when pursing them. They should realize that the mindset will make or break accomplishing those goals. They should understand that failures or setbacks won’t derail their efforts, but will instead make them stronger for the future. And finally, they need to set priorities so that they can focus on accomplishing their goals.

But what if you don’t know what your goals are? That’s what this part of the series focuses on today. Let’s get cracking on the final part of The Guide on Being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer.

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Go On A Quest

On January 1st, 2017, I decided to take a Quest for personal discovery. I’ve written on this subject just over two years ago, on my thirtieth birthday, and you can read that post here. In it, I go over my process. It’s a good compliment to this post.

But the thing is, I’ve dialed back on this constant stream of updating experience. Why? Well, the objective of The Quest wasn’t just to establish good habits, but to identify both the things that were important to me and the things that I’m passionate about. In my case, it was my writing. While I enjoy my job as an engineer, it didn’t necessarily spark the same drive and passion that I have for writing. The Quest helped me to realize that I both love to write and want to work on it more. It also established a set of goals I have for myself, which include writing and publishing an original story among other things.

Now, you don’t have to employ my method, but it’s well worth it for the MDG to take a real close look at yourself and to see what you’re passionate about. From there, one should establish a system where they track the activities related to those passions and then set goals for them accordingly. You can use productivity apps/sites that utilize gamification, like Life RPG, SuperBetter or Level Up Life to track and maintain goals. Or use a system like mine and track through spreadsheets or lists. Whatever choice you make, do the research and make sure that it’s the right system for you.

So, the bottom line here is that if you want to truly find out what you want out of this fleeting life we all live, go on a personal quest of discovery!


Keep A Log

During The Quest, I kept a notebook and documented what I did in a day, noting the highlights and lowlights in that period. It was a way to help track the goals that I laid out in my Quest. Rereading some of the passages I’ve written has helped me to set new goals or reframe old ones, like writing twice a week as opposed to every day as originally planned.

Sometimes, writing out your thoughts and feelings over a period of time and then looking back through it can reveal a lot about what you want for yourself. You may even come to a realization about yourself that you may have missed altogether! It may not be as earth shattering a revelation as when Kratos learns of his godhood in the God of War series or the fact that Solid Snake and Liquid Snake are twin brothers, but it can set a path for the MDG to move forward, as opposed to aimlessly wandering about. For me, writing about writing was the kicker; I just never realized it until I took a closer look at myself by writing a log of my day.


Two Final Notes

I’d like for you to try this exercise when you get a chance: make a list of the things you really want to spend your time on in a day. In other words, what would you typically want to do in a day if you had no restrictions? Below is what I would love to do in a day, as an example:

  • Write my novel.
  • Write some fanfiction.
  • Write something for the blog.
  • Interact with my fellow games writers.
  • Spend time with my wife and son.
  • Stream online.
  • Bake stuff.
  • Exercise
  • Design and build something really cool.

Now, with that in mind, make a list of the things you typically do in a day and how long you spend on each. Again, I’ll be the example:

  • Work – 8.5 hours
  • Commute – 2 hours
  • Spend time with wife and son – 3 hours
  • Gaming – 1.5 hours
  • Writing -1 hour
  • Sleep – 6 hours
  • Workout – 0.5 hour
  • Misc. (Interacting with other writers, baking, chores etc.) – 1.5 hour

Now compare the two lists. You can see that between working, commuting, family time and sleeping, there’s not a lot of wiggle room to work with. If you do your own list, does it make you feel uncomfortable seeing how much time you have left remaining once all your responsibilities are handled? If so, why does it make you uncomfortable? What would you do to change that?

Ultimately, this exercise shows why it’s important to budget time for yourself and your goals. Doing quests and writing logs for your goals does nothing unless you carve out some time out to achieve them. It may require some sacrifice (I might have to cut my gaming time for my case), but it will only help in the long run when it comes to accomplishing your goals. It’s something to keep in mind.

Finally, as we conclude this miniseries, I’d like for you to keep this statement in mind: Focus on being better and chase the impossible. Life is naught but a journey through highs and lows. More specifically, as Auron would say:

Image result for auron this is your story

And with that, we conclude the series. I thank you for joining me as I (finally, after much delay!) celebrate the blog’s third birthday.

But before I sign off, I have some important announcements. Bear with me, all.

Announcements

First and foremost, with the conclusion of this series, I will be taking an extended hiatus on this blog until I finish my fanfiction passion project. It’s been a goal of mine to finish this and I’ve put it off for far too long. It’s gotten to the point where it has literally taken over my brain and is preventing me from coming up with new ideas here, so I need to get this thing completed once and for all so I can move forward. As I’ve finished my outline roughly last year, I surmise it’ll take me a few more months to completely finish it. Which leads to my next announcement.

I will be posting this story here on this blog exclusively once it’s completed and beta read by others. I used to write on fanfiction.net, but I feel that I have better fanbase here on the blog than anywhere else. No lie, you guys who have been following me, (whether it’s from day one or recently), rock so hard, so I think it’s fair that you all get first dibs on the final, ultimate version my story.

In the intern, I will continue to write for The Well Red Mage and Normal Happenings as a contributor to their respective blogs. As The Hyperactive Coffee Mage on TWRM, I will be writing up more in-depth game reviews and participating in collaborations when they arise. One of which is the absolutely MASSIVE Super Mario Multiverse collaboration! We’re still looking for writers, so check out the post if you want the 411 on this epic undertaking!

On Normal Happenings, I am but one of 52 other bloggers celebrating “The Characters That Define Us:” another massive blogging collaboration featuring writers discussing the characters that made them who they are today! I’m excited to share my story about Sonic the Hedgehog. Look out for it next year! I’ll also be lurking around here and there, reading and commenting and whatnot!

Beyond that, this will be the final post this year for the blog unless I change my mind (or when part one of this epic fanfic is fully finished…). Thank you all so much for your patience and understanding. I love and appreciate you all.


With that, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, thanking each and every one of you for joining me on these ramblings and always reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See you all soon!

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!

“The Quest:” Practicing Writing Through Fanfiction and Using NaNoWriMo as Motivation to Write!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” How is everyone today?

As you may or may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): the annual event where writers from all over write a minimum 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s a pretty big deal, since it motivates people to get off of their butts and start writing, instead of thinking about writing something, but not doing anything about it.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, one of my goals in my Quest to be a better person this year was to improve my writing with the determination to fulfill one of my biggest life goals; to write and publish my own original story. While I’ve made a lot of progress on it this year by building a world, a loose timeline of events, some character development and a plot structure, I’m probably a year or two away from starting to put it all together. A lot of my progress was possible thanks to all the practice I’ve done writing fanfiction, which (as I may have mentioned this once or twice in previous posts) I’ve been doing ever since I was a kid. The biggest problem I have, however, is the fact that I’ve been unable to properly finish a story that I’ve started, whether it was an original story or fanfiction. Most times, I’d start, only to give up after the first few sentences and scrap the story. Other times though, I got pretty far into it, but my endings were terrible. However, there’s one story right now that I’m determined on finishing: a fanfic that crosses the universes of Final Fantasy VII and Sonic the Hedgehog, which I’m using mostly as a practice board for the real thing when I get to it.

Now, the operative thought you may have here may be; “A crossover fanfic!? What in hell’s name are you talking about?!” But seriously, here me out for a second; it may not be as far-fetched as you think!


Ten years ago, I got bored with studying advanced mechanical dynamics for my engineering degree, so I started writing character comparisons between the personalities of Sonic the Hedgehog and Zack Fair and Miles “Tails” Prower and Cloud Strife (from the Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy VII games respectively) after noticing similarities between them. As I delved deeper, I noticed a lot of things in both games/series somewhat coincided with one another. Examples include:

  • FF VII’s ‘Materia’ system consists of the five common types of Materia (Green, Red, Blue, Purple and Yellow), along with the rare White and Black Materia, which makes seven. Know seven other multicolored gems that fit that profile? Chaos Emeralds.
  • Robotnik’s (Eggman’s) desire for world conquest is analogous to Shinra’s naked ambition for world domination. Both achieve this through scientific means; genetic, robotic or otherwise.
  • In the Sonic comic series published by Archie Comics, several issues speak of a gold-silver substance called “The Source of All,” which is a form of spirit energy used to create life in the Sonic universe and which also has a link to the Chaos Emeralds and Power Rings in that canon. A similar link exists between the Lifestream, Mako and Materia in FF VII.
  • Finally, in the Sonic Archie Comic canon, prior to the start of the war between the Freedom Fighters and Robotnik, the Power Rings, created by an object called a “Ring Forge,” allowed the Mobian race to rapidly move from a primitive, medieval age to a hyper-advanced golden age. The same can be said about the Shinra Company’s discovery of Mako and the subsequent construction of Midgar leading to an age of advancement and prosperity thanks to cheap energy.

Using what I’ve found, I expanded on the initial comparison and eventually created an alternate Sonic universe, combining the story elements from the games and the Archie Sonic comic book universe canon with Final Fantasy VII’s plot as its backbone. I published portions of the first installment (out of six or seven!) on the Fanfiction.net website (My pen name’s Zonic Warrior-STH) – one of the largest sources of online fanfiction.

Six years later, I started rewriting the story, partially due to some harsh, yet constructive criticism, partially due to paying attention to how other author’s structure their stories and mostly because I hated how the original sounded. I mean, I read it out loud once and I cringed at how terrible it sounded…

So, for the rewrite, I decided to change my approach to writing. I started taking notes on what to write in terms of narrative and character dialogue relative to the backbone of the plot. I did even more research into FF VII’s plot and the world encompassing both the Sonic games and comics and continued to note things that sort of matched between the two and things that would need to be modified to fit the narrative that I wanted to portray. I studied both action and dramatic scenes in movies, TV shows and other games and wrote what it would look like in a book. And finally, using those same mediums, I tried to interpret how the dialogue and narrative would play out in scenes and how to describe in detail the present setting and character’s body language to better form an image in a reader’s mind. These strategies proved valuable both for developing the fanfic and eventually my original writing; in fact, just this June, I finished all the rough notes for the fanfic, which would make finishing this thing much easier, while I use note-taking apps like Google Keep, on a day-to-day basis to jot down and organize my plot, dialogue and action scenes for my own personal work.


I’m determined to finish this thing, more as a way to prove to myself that I can actually and properly finish a story. That’s why I’m using NaNoWriMo as motivation to finishing it. By scheduling time every day in November to write a few hundred, even a thousand words, I’ll be much more closer to finishing this thing than any other point before.

So far, as of writing… I haven’t gotten too much done, sadly; I barely hit 20% of the goal. But there’s still just under half a month left – I got time and resources (Thanks Google Docs!) on my side! And even if I don’t make 50,000, I would have done more now than I have in the past, which is something I can be proud of.

If you want to take a peek at my writing style or get a better idea of what the story’s about, check it out here. Bear in mind that I’ll be revising the hell out whatever you’ll be reading when I finish writing the whole thing, but still, let me know what you think. I’m always open to constructive criticism.

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m not done with November just yet! This month will mark twenty years that I first played Final Fantasy VII, the game that made a HUGE influence in my life. That will likely show up at the end of the month. Also coming up soon, I’m going to talk about some hardware I picked up a while ago, how to use a gaming mouse for work purposes and two more Espresso Shot Reviews!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, getting back to work on writing this beast of a story and always reminding you, dear reader, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Path of Exile Play-Through: So Close, Yet Still So Far

Good evening and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!”

I need to admit something right now: Playing Path of Exile has given a new appreciation for MMORPG’s. The story’s engaging, the gameplay is challenging and there’s always some kind of new loot or new quest that I’m stumbling on every time I start it up! And I’m still only on the first Act of the game…

Today, I’ll be sharing more info on some valuable quests, items, currencies and other little things I’ve discovered on my latest play-through, which WOULD have gotten me to Act 2, if it wasn’t for a certain individual whom I think will be a thorn in my side for the remainder of my adventure…

Piety Blocked the Way Forward!

Curse you Piety!

Passive Skills and “The Fall of Oriath” Expansion

Grinding Gear Games released their latest expansion for Path of Exile called “The Fall of Oriath.” This new expansion adds a new Act to the story, along with new items and other things. The major thing that they changed in this expansion is the Passive Skill tree – they’ve revamped and remapped all of the nodes, resulting in players having to re-allocate their skill points, myself included.

While it was a bit of a bother, it was actually a blessing in disguise. I focused my points on doing more damage and having more life and I noticed a total change in how my witch, Rhuki, dished out the hurt. It was pretty awesome.

Prophecies

As I ascended “The Climb,” I ran into an interesting woman stuck in a cage. Her name is Navali – a soothsayer capable of delivering prophecies for the low, low cost of one Silver Coin.

Prophecies

Rescuing her from her prison and speaking to her in town allows the use of prophecies that can change your character’s future and cause all sorts of interesting effects! I gave her the one coin I found prior to meeting her and thus gained a prophecy that I would run into Haku, the Forsaken Armourmaster, and will complete a task for him. Soon enough, I ran into the Master deep in the Lower Prison area!

Haku.PNG

Well, isn’t this a coincidence? *wink wink*

Once again, he asked me to bring him a Karui spirit from a haunted cell within the prison. Once again, I entered the cell, obliterated the boss protecting the spirit and delivered it to him, gaining me a huge boost in reputation thanks to the prophecy!

I ended up finding a second Silver Coin after slaying a ton of monsters in the Prison and traded it in to get a prophecy where I’d earn a TON of loot from an enemy! Entering The Ship Graveyard, I spotted and vanquished the prophesized enemy yielding said promised loot.

Prophecy Fulfilled!

JACKPOT BABY!

Coincidentally when the monster full of loot appeared, I bumped into another Forsaken Master: Elreon the Loremaster.

The Loremaster

New Forsaken Master.PNG

A wild Forsaken Master appeared!

Eleron is something of a holy man; religion and relics are his modus operandi. The goal was to protect Eleron’s relic by defeating waves of enemies. As you can see above, I stood on their corpses, triumphant!

By keeping the relic safe, the Loremaster will sell and craft unique items in town, similar to Haku. His speciality is crafting amulets and rings.

Trial of Ascendancy – What Are Those?

Back in the Lower Prison, I had an opportunity to enter the first of many Trials of Ascendency. These trials are required to enter The Lord’s Labyrinth later in the game, which, when completed, allows the opportunity to ascend to a new class! Each trial acts as a practice arena for what Exiles should expect when entering the full Labyrinth. The first Trial deals with spike traps – not only do you have to be careful around them but you also have to consider timing, since the only way to get out of the trial is to go back to the start on foot.

Tips and Currency Watch

Here are a few tips and some items and currencies to keep an eye out for when you’re trying not to die:

  • Find some gear that increases the rarity of drops. These really help when you’re trying to find new, rare gear either for yourself or to trade with vendors or players.
  • Open as many chests, barrels and boxes as you can see. You may find some crafting orbs if you’re lucky!
  • Jeweller’s Orbs: These are uncommon crafting orbs that can randomly change the number of sockets on an item. Save these for when you get a great quality weapon or armour; the higher the quality and the greater the item level, the better the chances that you’ll get more sockets!
  • Divination Cards: Trading in multiples of a single card will yield crafting orbs or other items! Keep your eyes peeled for them!

Looking for some of the aforementioned items? Be sure to check out the Path of Exile Items store at Playerauctions.com: they have a wide selection at a reasonable cost, and all transactions are safe and secure.

Hope you enjoyed today’s play-through post! Stay tuned for the next play-through later in October! For now, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you Exiles good fortune on the battlefield and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

“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!