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I've never enjoyed writing a bio. It's equivalent to trying to sell yourself to a potential employer, but with a higher chance of not having anything to offer that will benefit the current community you're interested in joining. In an online community you throw your arms up in the air and yell "Here I am!", and then sit back hoping someone takes notice in the good you do, while on the same note, you hope you don't get ridiculed for a stupid action. I suppose at least there's the anonymity of being on the web, so with that I'll throw my arms up and attempt an introduction blog.

Lost Kitty by Adam Hughes

I am a collector of fantasy, video game, and comic book art. In fact, if you were to walk into my office you'd probably believe you stepped into a game shop of some sort. You know the little shops where you can go to get miniatures, dice, game cards, and comics. They closed ours down not long ago. Sad days. I love the work of the artists that have done pieces for Dungeons & Dragons, such as William O'Connor, Larry Elmore, and Todd Lockwood. Adam Hughes, Melanie Delon, Brian Froud, and Luis Royo are a few other artists that I enjoy. I could probably list 20 more names here, but I won't.

Art by Ghostfire on Deviantart

Following (11)  

Hello? Testing. Is this thing working? It feels like a lifetime since I sat down and attempted to update anything on my blog. While others have been cranking out blogs at an alarming rate, mine has been left neglected, collecting dust, forgotten – even by myself. Shame since I managed so well to storm in here and make myself at home, then promptly hitting the forum until being dragged out like white trailer trash attempting to gain entrance to a high end club. I lie. Everyone was surprisingly tolerant. Perhaps the white trailer trash is true considering my current living conditions. Things get better with age, right? HA! You'll all learn the hard way. Guess I've never been the type of person who's afraid to just jump in and join things, although I suppose it can get me into trouble at times. Then again, I was forced to sit back and wait for things for damn near 15 years so I can't see the point in wasting anymore time. Life is an adventure – unless you refuse to participate. Yeah...so not going with the Forest Gump line here.

I've been kind of a recluse as far as social gaming the past couple months. After hours of nonstop multiplayer action I felt I needed a break. I've been spending time getting lost in games like Skyrim and Mass Effect 3. Skyrim's like crack – I don't understand anyone who's completed the game and moved on already. I could spend hours wandering around the world with no set destination to complete a quest. This is a good thing considering the amount I paid for the collector's edition. Speaking of collector's editions – I 'm getting damn tired of every game that's released having one, or more so the lack of what we get for our money. It seems of late all you get is maybe one or two small items, like a tiny art book, or a couple patches, and then the rest is DLC.

Know what the best collector's edition I've bought in the past year is? The Witcher 2 for PC. Keep in mind I can't even play the game on my worthless, inadequate piece of shit computer without it blacking out my monitor after 10 minutes. The items I received in the box more than make up for it. I kept finding more and more little trinkets as I dug my way through the box, and even without those the art book is awesome on it's own. I'm talking a REAL art book. Not an art book that resembles an overstuffed wallet stuffed in a fancy-schmancy metal tin. Speaking of THAT game....since it's the hot topic of the month and everyone else has chimed in with their own opinion, I'd like to share a few choice words I have about the whole incident...

Moving on. Remember the Mass Debate topic we had last year about video game addictions? My family had the opportunity to live through such an experience just recently. If you were to take a guess you'd probably come to the conclusion it involved my son or my daughter. Nope. My mom was the victim of addiction. Let me just say that if there ever were an evil spawned from hell and released on earth, it's definitely named Farmville. It all started innocently enough. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't get my mother to understand the enjoyment of playing video games. We tried several times beforehand with games like Mario Kart for the Wii, and Pokemon. (to be fair, she actually enjoyed that one a tad bit) We even tried Tomb Raider on the old PS2. Of course, the fact she freaked out and fell into the pit with the grizzly bear, leaving us to flail on the floor in uncontrollable laughter as she screamed upon being face to face with the creature, probably didn't do anything to contribute to her wanting to attempt it again. But I digress - the fact is, she just didn't get it. Then along came Facebook with friends wanting her to join them on Farmville. So began a happy peaceful time within our family unit with everyone enjoying a game during the evening hours.

All went well for a month. Then began the invites from her wanting me to join Farmville. I politely said no. She attempted to sell me on the fact that she could make more money if she had one more person to add and join in quests or harvests....or whatever they do. She was successful in talking me into letting her get on my account in order to farm another farm. Despite being bombarded with requests on a daily basis that read something on the lines of “so and so sent you a tomato” or “you've just received a gold medal for sheep mastery”, I let her continue to use my account. I'm still not sure to this day what the hell sheep mastery is, but I'm probably better off not knowing. All I know is when I do begin to question it, my mind talk goes into “la la la” mode. At any rate, two months into this venture and I begin to have people question me on Xbox Live as to why I've been ignoring them on Facebook. See they think I'm online when it's actually my mom...who's just been closing out the conversation windows when they pop up. Three months in and it's my birthday. I log onto Facebook only to receive this message on my wall: “Tina wished you a Happy Birthday!” Yes, I had been wished a happy birthday by myself. Mom had been on my account, forgot she was on my account, and proceeded to post on my wall.

Five months into Farmville and my mother had forsaken every TV program she ever loved. I'm talking a helluva lot of TV here. She watched Dancing With the Stars. She watched American Idol. The Bachelor, Desperate Housewives, Say Yes to the Dress.....all forgotten because she had to harvest those crops before she went to bed or she'd lose all the money and time put into them. It didn't help matters that Zynga upped the ante by now offering not only the standard farm, but now you could have the English Countryside farm! Heart be still! I suppose all the middle aged, flannel wearing women in the world broke out the Domaine Romanée-Conti for that one.

Er....or maybe not...

After that it spiraled downhill rather quickly. She took money that should have went to bills and bought Farmville cash to buy worthless virtual items for the farm. She wouldn't go anywhere until her farming was done, even if it was an appointment she'd be late for. She became a mean spirited, somewhat hateful person in that time span, but perhaps the breaking point for our family came shortly after my aunt passed away from breast cancer. My aunt had also agreed to let my mom use her account to farm. Let me tell you – there's nothing more eerie than getting a message from someone who's recently passed away, wanting you to join them in an activity on Farmville. Thankfully my mom's become bored with Farmville, mainly because everyone else has moved on to things like Words With Friends and Angry Birds, the latter being another game I don't understand all the commotion over. Yes, I've tried it. Yes, it's sorta fun. Fun enough to sport a t-shirt and play it during lunch break, or in transition from one location to the next on a daily basis? No.

I am, however, quite pleased with my recent purchase of the new Playstation Vita. I painfully narrowed my choices down to two things in which to spend my income tax money on. My first choice was to upgrade my PC so that it could run games (...like Witcher 2) or second to get the Vita and then have some money left over to deposit in savings for a rainy day. Of course you'll never have extra cash for a rainy day because every damn time you get that extra cash something you own breaks down, and it's always something that costs a fortune to fix or replace. (Case in point, shortly after running out to pick up the Vita our water heater crapped out on us.) I was able to pick up a used copy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Raymond Origins with it. I then purchased Mutant Blobs Attack from the Playstation store, and those three games alone have been worth every penny spent on the system. I'm still looking for a game to push me towards dusting off my PS3. There are a couple people here on Destructoid I've been wanting to join and get to know a little better, but I'm sorry – Battlefield 3 is not my game, and the other games I already own on the 360 so it would be foolish to buy a second copy for a different system.

Speaking of the Vita - I was able to give it my utmost undivided attention during my little dental adventure. How fun that was! You know when you get a toothache and you mislead yourself into believing it will all be fine and dandy in a couple of days? Yeah, no. So I made a call to my dentist, which I had only seen once before because my insurance seems to think changing my dentist on a yearly basis is the most cost effective method to take. I was greeted on the phone by a receptionist with the personality of school marm who hasn't seen any action in a decade. She informs me I can't get into the dentist until the middle of the following week because he's so damn busy right now, and he doesn't have time for these emergency walk-ins. Her exact words. I went ahead and made the appointment. I told myself I'd be fine. I believed I'd be fine because I had a little bottle with some leftover naproxen in it. This was a very bad idea. The problem with naproxen is not only does it help relieve pain, but it's also an anti-inflammatory medication. The second problem was that I only had enough to last till the end of the current week, leaving me with 4 days till the scheduled appointment.

Come Friday, when my little bottle of magical pills ran dry, the right side of my face exploded out like a balloon left on the helium machine too long, and that dull, throbbing pain that reminds you you're in for a world of hurt, set in full force. I had no other option but to head to the emergency room where they registered me and took me to the back waiting room, all the time looking me over in disdain like some worthless piece of trash that doesn't have the common sense to visit a dentist on a regular basis. Three hours later and a piece of paper for a prescription of penicillin, Tylenol with Codeine, Vicodin, and Cleocin thrown in for good measure, I was able to return home in a lot less pain. It took one more visit to the emergency room, a threat from the doctor to admit me into the hospital (which I talked him out of) and 3 days before my face was back to normal. Needless to say – Monday morning I found a new dentist. It took some bitching to the insurance company, but I believe I made my point crystal clear, and the lady I spoke to will remember me for some time, I'm sure.

By the way, all those drugs mixed together, in the amount I had to take them......whoa! Don't do drugs kids. Play video games! Then again, maybe I should have picked up a game like Children of Eden?

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9:03 PM on 01.17.2012

Being a single mom and raising two children on my own I’ve had to go through both ends of the spectrum when it comes to peer pressure, how society views each gender, and making sure my children have a strong self-esteem. I can honestly say that raising a girl is a far harder task than raising a boy. When it comes to raising a girl, a parent is at a constant battle against movies, TV, models, advertisements for clothing, the music industry, and countless others that force the issue that beauty sells, and the more looks you have, the better figure you have, the farther you’ll go in life. Yes, there are all sorts of outside influences that are harmful to our daughters, and sometimes even ourselves.

Recently an article was brought to attention that pointed out the character of Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite. Words such as sexist, bigot, and misogyny were thrown around. Suddenly Elizabeth was tossed into a whirlwind of protest against the way females are portrayed in video games, let alone the suggestion that she was constructed showing a hatred towards women. Now do not be mistaken - I will be right there at the front with the rest of the group in agreeing that the media is indeed very harmful to our gender, young and old. I can not however, point out Elizabeth and agree that she portrays an image of hatred towards women, nor would I pick Elizabeth as a prime example of how women are overly sexualized in video games.

What started Elizabeth down this spiral of outcries from both male and female gamers? Her outfit. Yes, Elizabeth’s corset is the spark that started a fire. We don’t know about Elizabeth yet. We’ve been given a small glimpse of her character in which to draw conclusions, and it seems the conclusions drawn have been that of a weak, hated, and over sexualized female. Now we do know that Elizabeth has been imprisoned on Columbia for her entire life. Could the corset possibly represent imprisonment? What about control over her? Hate? Hatred towards women?

Now the fact that Elizabeth shows some cleavage does fit into the common image of how women are portrayed in video games - big busted with tiny waists in order to appeal to men. But let’s be honest here. Elizabeth is no Lara Croft. Or Ivy, for that matter. In fact, I can think of a least a dozen female game characters that are drawn more voluptuous than poor Elizabeth. When I look at her character I simply see a female character dressed in appropriate clothing for the time period being represented. Yes, the corset led to serious health problems as a lot of women laced them tighter than needed, not to mention the idea that women were suppose to be a certain size and shape. But aren’t we forgetting one little detail? The majority of women choose to wear corsets because that was the appropriate fashion for the time. The only forcing done was often by a girls own mother who would train her into the corset by having her wear it to bed. Let’s not forget that it was common back then for men to wear corsets. Yes, men used them too.

Go online today to Victoria’s Secret and you can find any number of corsets for sale. If the corset represents imprisonment, control and a hatred towards women, then why are they still being sold? Because women want to look and feel attractive, to be the image of beauty that the media tells us we should be. Or maybe they’re just self-confident enough that they’re not afraid to flaunt their sexuality. So how does drawing a female character in a corset represent hatred towards women? If anything it just strengthens the argument that female game characters are created to be appealing to men. Do we even need to get into the whole BDSM outlook? Aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves then?

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the whole Elizabeth controversy is the fact that we don’t know because we haven‘t played the game. We don’t know her entire story or how she’ll turn out to be. We don’t know how her relationship with Booker will transpire. We are walking a thin line and acting like those that accuse our games of being something they’re not when we react without knowing the complete story.

So does Elizabeth deserve to be included with all the other female characters that poorly represent the female gender? Personally, I think not. And although I get tired of seeing overly sexualized female characters in my video games, I understand that they are the result of how other media throughout the years has influenced the image of women. Video games are guilty of following suit, but it’s the fashion industry, movie industry, and other outside sources that I feel we need to worry about more. Our sons and daughters are constantly bombarded with images of beautiful people, even more so since the majority of teenagers spend most of the time on the net. There are real idols that our children look up to. Real people in real jobs they dream of having. Although we can’t control all the outside influences our children are faced with, we can try our best to raise them with enough self-esteem not to give into it, or alter their appearance to fit in. If we’ve done our job then all the Elizabeth’s in the world aren’t going to matter.

Misogyny? BDSM? Or just a bad advertisement?

It's not only breast implants. Girls are starving themselves to look like this.

Do we need to keep on the gaming industry to change the way they portray female characters? Yes, we do. But not by grabbing up the torches and going after something we’ve yet to learn about. And what about praising them when they do it right? Why must we take something in our favor and tear it apart even more like we did with FemShep? Why are we complaining when we’re given a female character to play in one game instead of asking for say a female character in a popular game like MW? Change will come, but we need to approach it in a sensible manner. I don’t feel we did that with Elizabeth.
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I've been having this weird dream for the past two months. My dream begins rather serene, as I've no recognition of time or everyday demands to hinder the journey in which I'm about to partake in. In my dream large snowflakes fall around me as I make my way to a new destination. I know it's a destination that will likely be similar to the past 15 I've already visited, yet I could care less about the familiarity for they've all been enjoyable. My subconscious mind breaks in briefly at this point to remind me we've had no snow in this part of Ohio, but the information is quickly pushed aside as large words pop up overhead to inform me that I've found the location in which I seek. I enter a lighted doorway while wondering where the heck a light would be coming from.

My mind focuses on the whistling of the wind making its way through a cold and desolate cavern, although as I travel farther along this cavern I become aware of other sounds which tell me the emptiness was only a facade hiding what lies ahead. A clicking sound draws closer, or perhaps I draw closer to it. Whatever it is varies in my dream. Sometimes it's large. Other times it's small. Sometimes I get my ass handed to me on a big platter, yet my dream will always bend so that I am the victor.

I always find something shiny by the remains of whatever it is. I like shiny. In fact, I'm usually the partner in game that goes running off to collect the gems or a new gun, often returning at the end of the battle to angry outcries from teammates of how I promised I wouldn't do it again. Perhaps it's the reason my dream begins to unravel at an alarming rate after picking up the shiny reward. It's like my subconscious mind is playing the guilt card.

Turning around to walk away from it which I've just killed, my dream twists so that I'm holding a lancer and Marcus Fenix is standing beside me. He's yelling, "Grow some balls and get back in the fight!" At this point in my dream my subconscious mind is questioning what the hell, and I'm desperately trying to rev up the chainsaw while a Lambent Berserker heads our way. There's a brief second in the dream where I'm trying to taunt the Berserker before I feel a tap on my shoulder. Suddenly I'm in full camouflage and Marcus has magically transformed into Captain Price.

"Where the hell have you been?" he inquires. I inform him I've been busy while I load up an AK 47. "Bullshit!" He yells, and I'm vaguely aware he's missing an accent. Actually, I'm pretty sure in my dream the voice is still that of Marcus Fenix, but whatever. He goes off on a rant of how others have been taking up the fight for months. I'm behind he tells me. I explain to him that I haven't figured out the numbers yet. "If you haven't figured out the damn numbers yet, son, you're never going to figure them out," he replies while fading into the same lighted doorway I originally entered, and I wonder why I'm being called son, when I'm a full grown women.

I continue arguing over numbers while Captain Price fades from my dream, when I suddenly realize I'm sitting on the floor surrounded by a pile of Calvin Klein underwear packages that need to fit on a display already filled to it's limit. There's a buzzing noise as I franticly cram the packages into the display case, while I bitch silently about how the majority of men who visit our store could care less about wearing Calvin Klein briefs, which is a shame. Or maybe not, considering some of our customers. It's at this point in which the buzzing of the alarm clock jerks me from my slumber, and I hesitantly roll out of bed to prepare for another early morning of going into work. Ahh the holidays. How I love them.

Fantasy vs. Reality

So Christmas came and went. I trust everyone had a wonderful holiday and received everything you asked for, and then some. I can honestly say that working retail during the holidays is one of the hardest jobs you'll find. It kicked my ass. Everyone should work retail during Christmas once in their lifetime. Perhaps then they'd be more understanding and look at the intended meaning of the holiday, instead of getting angry over mundane issues that are bound to happen during the season.

Games - I've barely played them. Modern Warfare 3 has been out for almost 2 months now, and if I've put the disc in for more than 20 minutes, well I can't recall. I'm told it's a good game. Now I'm at a disadvantage because I'm unfamiliar with the maps in which the majority of players know well at this point. I hope whichever group I get teamed up with knows what they're doing, as I promise to be their weakest link for a while. I was heavy into Gears of War 3 before the holiday hit. Not sure if I finished the campaign before being dragged away, but I'm one DLC late with another about to drop. It's all kind of fuzzy around that time period.

I have been enjoying a tad bit of Skyrim here an there. What can I say about the game? Amazing. I don't care if you don't like it. Go away. Although, I have developed a terrible little habit of clicking down on the analog and throwing myself into sneak mode while in the middle of a battle. It makes it difficult when facing an opponent, especially when it's a dragon. I'd like to say I'm a pro at playing the game, but often my means of victory while semiconscious from exhaustion aren't as heroic as I'd like to pretend.

My experience with Skyrim has been on an offline account, as my severe lack of free time hasn't left much room for socializing and still being able to make any progress in the game. Usually I have 30 to 45 minutes at most. Top that with my router giving me grief. There's nothing like leading your team in points and to victory, only to be thrown offline, disconnected from live, and then to return and sit while watching the game ending and your score at 0. However, I'm happy to say that for Christmas I received a new router (actually I bought it for myself) and I should be set for all the new multiplayer experiences heading our way this year. By the way, screw Cisco. After 3 routers from them I'll never buy another. My new router is a Netgear - easy to set up and open NAT from the get go.

SO many games I've yet to play, and so many coming out this year that I want. I need to finish Batman: Arkham Asylum so I can start Arkham City, which everyone seems to be raving about. Haven't finished Black Ops yet, so it seems wrong to start MW3. (Of course that's because I get caught up in multiplayer, and I can say without a doubt I'll be on MW3 within the week.) Think I started another play through of Mass Effect 2 that I need to finish off before ME3 hits in March. I'm halfway through Uncharted 2 so I'll be ready for Uncharted 3 by the time it arrives from Gamefly. Of course there's the 3DS games my son received for Christmas that I'd like to play. Guess I'll be adding more to my backlog. Damn. Almost forgot about the Vita. And then there's Skyrim. What was the question?

Speaking of new (and to wrap up this long rant) - I want to wish everyone here at Destructoid a Happy New Year! To those I've spoken with, and to those I may never, here's to another 12 months of gaming expectations, disappointments, arguments, but most important a wonderful community that allows everyone to have a voice. Oh, and perhaps we'd all better get to work on our backlog of games. If the Mayan's are correct, we're running out of time! :P

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Tonight at midnight our local GameStop will be packed with a crowd of hyped and impatient gamers who can't wait to get their hands on Gears of War 3. I will be one of those hyped and impatient people. Unfortunately, I'll be picking up my daughter's Epic Edition of the game that I promised her for an early Christmas gift. I'll have to wait until Thursday for mine....when I get paid again. Yes, she's spoiled - that's not the point! There are a lot of female gamers who enjoy Gears of War, so it saddens me that the majority of people that will be out tonight in my area will be guys. It also bums me out knowing that even with all the female players, I'll only run into a handful of them in multiplayer matches. And that's a shame because Gears of War is fun, fast paced, and it's SO easy to learn.

Maybe you've been waiting to give the game a try, but you've heard it's brutal and hard core so you've passed it by for something less intimidating. Perhaps you feel it's too late to join the fun. Nonsense. It's never to late, and like I've stated - it's easy to learn. There are 6 simple things you need to know before jumping into a multiplayer match.

#1 - Don't Go In Blind

If you've never played Gears of War then jumping straight into a multiplayer match is NOT the way to go. Getting into a game of team deathmatch without a clue of what you're doing is a sure set up for failure. I know. It's how I learned to play the game. It wasn't pretty. Play through Act 1 of the campaign to learn the basics of switching weapons, reloading, taking cover, etc. Usually everything's covered there so you don't have to worry about playing through the entire campaign before jumping into multiplayer games.

[b]#2 - The Shotgun Is Your Friend]/b]

Maybe, maybe not. Honestly, don't listen to other people. Just like any other game, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Some people love using the shotgun. Others enjoy the Lancer. I happen to like the Retro Lancer. And keep in mind, the Shotgun isn't going to do you any good unless your opponent's in your face - something you may not want if you're a new player! With a Retro Lancer you can do a charge attack. I happen to suck using the charge attack. I also suck at using the Torque Bow. The point I'm trying to make is it doesn't matter how good a weapon is if you're not good at using it, so DON'T be afraid to play around with all of them.

There are also weapons you can pick up in certain locations of each map, such as the Torque Bow I mentioned previously. Give each one a try when you come across them to see what they can do. Some are pretty wicked. Just keep in mind that other players will be making a dash for them at the start of the game, so you may have to fight for first possession.

#3 - One Grenade O, Two Grenade O

There are 4 types of grenades in Gears of War. Incendiary, Frag, Smoke, and Ink. The Frag Grenade and the Smoke Grenade are the two most used in multiplayer matches. The Smoke Grenade can be used as cover or as a distraction from your opponents. Use the Frag Grenade when you want to get someone else out of their cover point. I've run across numerous players who never use grenades, which is silly IMO. It's a basic weapon that can be used for offense or defense. Practice using them and then move on to planting doorways and tagging other people.

#4 - Be Quick With The Reload

Gears of War features a mini game called Active Reload. Instead of running out of ammo and finding yourself in a nasty situation, simply hit the right bumper on your controller to trigger it. You'll notice a bar on your screen which has a black area, white area, gray area, and then back to black. If you're fast enough to hit the bumper a second time while the line moves into the white area, you'll succeed in a perfect reload. This not only gives you a quicker reload, but it gives you an increase in damage per shot. Hitting the bumper in the gray area also results in a quicker reload, but if you hit it at any time the line is moving through the black area then you'll have to wait a short period of time to use your weapon, which puts you at a disadvantage in game. It's really not hard to pick up on after a few attempts, but it should be one of the things you practice at if you're having trouble hitting that white area.

#5 - That's How You Roll

Practice, practice, practice learning how to roll out of danger by tapping the A button. It's not going to save you all the time, but it could buy you some time to make it to cover. There's also a new weapon in Gears of War 3 called the Digger Launcher. It has a projectile that travels along a straight path and then pops out of the ground like a Bouncing Betty, and cover won't save you - it goes under it. Knowing how to dodge and roll out of it's path is vital because in the beta it was used a LOT.

Taking cover is something you should have learned in Act 1 of the campaign, and doing a Roadie Run is as simple as holding down the A button. (Another thing that should have been covered) Very useful in getting to those weapons I mentioned early on the maps.

#6 - Revive Me!

Please revive your teammates if you have the chance. It's a simple matter of tapping the X button while standing next to them. I know they cover it in Act 1 of the campaign, yet so many people ignore their teammates. You won't bleed out and die in most of the multiplayer matches now, you'll slowly recover, but there's nothing more annoying then being downed, vulnerable and unable to to do anything to defend yourself, while a teammate is close by doing his or her own thing. If you want to piss your teammates off then ignore them while they're downed and beside you.

Those are the basics of getting started in Gears of War 3 multiplayer. The game modes are pretty straight up and similar to other multiplayer matches. I'd suggest starting off with something simple like King of the Hill because your capture points spawn in various locations, and it gives you a chance to learn the map layout. Nobody jumps into a multiplayer match, having never played the game, without dying multiple times, so don't let that discourage you from having fun learning your way around.

I hope to see some of the more hesitant players giving Gears of War 3 a chance. In the meantime, I'll be trying to pry my daughter's copy of the game from her clenched hands while she's sleeping ,and praying that Thursday comes around quick.
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"Every story must have an ending."

"I don't care about your stories."

"I see. Sorry you feel that way. Fine then, come or don't come, it's your decision."

"What am I suppose to say? You say it's my decision, but I don't have a choice, do I? You're the only one who can tell me what's going on here. I have to go with you, I have to, I HAVE TO!"

"Irritating, I know......or are you afraid?"

Sadness. Joy. Despair. Hope. Disbelief. Faith. Death. Peace. Love. Loss. Mention any one of those words and I can relate them to Final Fantasy X, for no other game since has allowed me to completely get lost in it's world like I did back in 2001.

That summer had been generous to us as far as finances were concerned, so my one and only wish for a Christmas gift from my husband was a PlayStation 2. I remember him asking me which game I wanted to go along with it, and my response had been to ask the person working at the game shop which they'd recommend. We spent two hours on Christmas morning watching the kids open their gifts and playing with them before I opened my own present. I was surprised to receive two games along with the system, but if you ask me now what the second game was, I honestly couldn't tell you.

After the kids were tired out from the day's excitement and the husband had fallen asleep on the couch, I hooked up the PlayStation, made a pot of coffee, and took my first steps into a world I'd never forget. I remember the music, the Blitzball stadium, the first glimpse you get of Auron. It was beautiful compared to other games I'd previously played and I got sucked into it, wanting to explore, talk to everyone I could, and before I knew it - three hours had been lost. But in those three hours something had happened. All the everyday stress, problems at home, and concerns over family, had all vanished from my mind. Considering everything that was going on in my life at the time.....well, it was quite the accomplishment for a game to have such a deep effect.

I'd only be able to sneak in an hour of the game for the next two nights. It was pretty much the same routine of getting the kids to bed and waiting until my husband had called it a day, then settling in with a final cup of coffee to enjoy while learning my way around the areas and the Sphere Grid. And then something terrible happened.

Our family would take turns every year hosting the family Christmas party. That year it had been our turn to host. My grandmother had passed away 5 years before that, and it had been on the exact night that my son was born. This year we had talked my grandfather into coming down for the family party. It was wonderful having him there to celebrate with us and be able to spend time with my children since he lived a few hours away and didn't get to see them on a regular basis. I remember just finishing up dinner and getting ready to settle down to exchange gifts, when suddenly we were called into the front room. What followed was a mad rush to call 911 for an ambulance, several hours of painful waiting in the emergency room not knowing what was going on, and 5 days later I would be attending my grandfather's funeral.

Needless to say, it would be several months before I would once again venture into the world of Spira. A lot had changed by the time I did. Our financial problems had returned. I knew things weren't right concerning my marriage. I hadn't, yet, dealt with the loss of my grandfather, for I blamed myself for talking him into traveling the distance to come visit us. I remember on the night I decided to start Final Fantasy X back up it was the first night of another lengthy trip out-of-town for my husband, which usually left me dealing with the kids and problems on my own.

Once again I let all the troubling thoughts and confusion leave my mind as I found that I needed the Jecht Shot in order to be any good at Blitzball, learned about Kimahri's shameful departure from Mt. Gagazet, and finally, the sacrifice that Yuna would have to make in order to stop Sin. Playing the game every night was something that I looked forward to during the day because it was only then that I felt any kind of relaxation from everyday problems. Some nights I'd stay up until the sun rose, getting lost in parts of the story. Like Yuna's sending of the dead after Sin's attack. Her dance to provide guidance for the souls of the dead to the Farplane made me think of my grandfather. I realized it wasn't my fault, but what he wanted. He knew he was dying. When I look back at how he acted that night, how he looked......he knew. Being with his family, all of us there together, that was what he wanted before he left. He had become at peace with his life and was ready to move on.

I soon became a beast at Blitzball, winning every game I played and recruiting players around the world of Spira to partake in glorious victory. It only took me two tries to dodge 200 lightning bolts in the Thunder Plains with Lulu, something that a lot of people found irritating, but it was relaxing to me - well, the first time. See, the first time I had made it to 199 and then I missed the last dodge. I meticulously plotted each character's route on the Sphere Grid. And with Auron always in my party (because he was that much of a bad-ass) we traveled from the Thunder Plains, through the Calm Lands, all the way to Zanarkand Ruins.

Final Fantasy X was the game that my daughter would catch me playing one night when she was suppose to be sleeping. Shortly after, my son would wake up to catch me playing the game and my daughter watching. My mom (who started spending the night when my husband was out-of-town) demanded that I didn't start the game without her in the room, for she had forsaken her book in order to follow along with the story of Yuna and Tidus. She also cried at the ending, but I don't tease her much over it....much. Yet, despite having my nights revolve around trying to fit my gaming schedule so that 4 other people could watch, I never once felt stressed.

My journey around Spira would, of course, come to an end. And shortly after I would start my own journey that would parallel a lot of the emotions dealt with in the game. My children would become gaming addicts, like myself, and I'd never again relive the peaceful nights of settling down in front of the TV, fresh cup of coffee in hand, and the relaxation of letting myself get lost completely into a game. Soon we'll be able to enjoy Final Fantasy X once more when it's released in HD for the Vita and PS3. I know I'll never be able to mirror the exact experience I had with it back when it was first released, but I plan on buying it for the Vita when it arrives, and then, for a second time, I shall walk the land of Spira on an epic journey to defeat Sin.

"Outside the dream world, life can be harsh - even cruel, but it is life." - Auron

Photo Photo Photo

Everyone loves holidays, right? Who doesn't enjoy getting an extra day off from work and school, and I'm no exception. Despite having to work Friday and Saturday, (Long 10 hour shifts both days) I was looking forward to spending Saturday and Monday doing what I enjoy most - gaming! I had originally planned on spending both days getting knee deep in Deus Ex, since it's been out for how long now and most people have probably finished the game at this point. After all, GameFly had already screwed up my previous week by not getting the game out when it was first released and leaving me with only older games to play, which I had little interest in for some reason. So despite grabbing up some time with Black Ops and several calls to the child support office demanding they get off their lazy rear ends and go after my ex, my free time was basically spent hanging out with George.

So bright and early Saturday morning I headed out the door and went straight to the post office. Alright, maybe not. It was Saturday after all. Friday had been a rough day at work with the weekend coming up. I slept in till around 11:00 and ended up having to rush to make it to the post office before they closed. And what did my rushing get me? Absolutely freaking nothing! (Except bills) Because of the holiday weekend the game must have been delayed by a day, meaning I wouldn't get my hands on it until today, Tuesday. My Saturday afternoon ended up with me looking at a blank TV screen.

However, all was not lost. The kids had been bugging me for months to make my chocolate chip cookies, which normally I hold off on until it gets closer to Christmas. (Did I mention that even though I'm good at cooking that I hate doing it?) So after going through the cupboards and making sure I had all the ingredients, I got busy on making a double batch to keep the peace in my family. Now because I hate baking I have a tendency to make BIG cookies. It gets done faster that way. The first batch started off at a decent normal size, but each batch after I'd add a little more trying to get through that stupid bowl of cookie dough as fast as I possibly could. We ended up with only 40 some cookies when we should have, with a double batch, ended up with twice the amount had I been more lenient with the cookie dough. Oh well. Christmas is right around the corner.

Now Monday was suppose to be nice and sunny outside, so we called up some friends and planned to get together with them and head to Hartville Flea Market for the day. Now Hartville Flea Market use to be a wonderful place to find a variety of antiques, collectibles, and miscellaneous items for cheap. Heck, back when Pokemon cards and Beanie Babies were all the rage you could find those items for prices that weren't stupid and unreasonable, even though everyone else was trying to milk it for all they could. The flea market was held out in an open field and traffic would be backed up for hours, leaving you waiting in long lines if you didn't get there early (like 7 am) in the morning. Well someone decided since the flea market was such a big hit, that they should move it closer to the restaurant and gift shop and build it up into this big tourist attraction. It's still fun to go there and walk around, but you can't find the great cheap stuff you were once able to, and a lot of it has turned into just another extension of Amish Country Shops with outrageously priced food and gifts. And the crowds have doubled....making your arrival time more vital than ever.

So after driving around (for like an hour) looking for a parking place, we were finally able to get out and enjoy some wonderful Ohio weather.

We were able to get in a couple hours of walking around and looking at things before the clouds broke loose and drenched everyone to the bone. As expected, it was mostly a bunch of overpriced crap that I had no use for, but I did see a few unique items worth taking pictures of.

The motorcycle wasn't for sale, but it was kinda neat how the owner had managed to attach so many feathers, rattlesnake tails, teeth, and um.....other things to the handle bars. A few of the venders must have concluded that with the rain, their business would die. So those that weren't covering up the tables and moving merchandise to a dryer location to hold off a little longer, went about packing up their vans and calling it a day. One merchant decided to skip the hassle of repacking entirely, and just dumped his goods on the ground for anyone who was interested to grab for free. Considering what he had maybe he should have kept the book? (In case you can't read it, it's titled Changing Careers for Dummies.

We all decided to head into the buildings next to dry off and buy some coffee and mochas, maybe grab a little snack before looking around at the inside shops. It was crowded. I'm always amazed at how rude people can be when they're looking for a place to sit in a crowded seat yourself establishment. You basically need to send out a scout to hunt down a table first. Then you must have at least two people join you at found table, so other people don't get the illusion you'd like to share the space with strangers. Two more people can then be sent out to question nearby individuals or groups as to if any of their empty chairs will be needed by someone they've sent out to scout. It's a delicately orchestrated procedure that's learned after attending several big flea markets.

After drying off, warming up, and refueling our energy, we began the process of tackling the indoor booths. Yeah, there was nothing worth looking at. Except this:

My daughter and I headed back outside to pick up a couple things we'd passed by previously. She didn't get what she wanted. The merchant had already packed up because of the rain. So we had a mad rush clear to the other side of the flea market to get her second pick. That guy had already started to pack up things into his van, but he was nice enough to unpack the item she wanted.........except she had lost her money. Some where between running to one end of the flea market and then back to the opposite end, the money had fallen out of her pocket. We apologized and walked away empty handed. Halfway back to the building I looked down to see...........her money. Another mad rush back to the packed up van and we scored what we were looking for to begin with. (The guy still had it in his hand. He must have figured if we didn't find the money, that perhaps I'd lone it to her and we'd be back.) After six hours of walking the flea market, dealing with crowds, and being out in pouring down rain, it was time to go. My mom, my daughter, and I headed back to the truck.

We met up in Canton with our friends to grab dinner and say our final goodbyes before heading home. So after all that what did I end up buying?

Don't judge me! I collect Halloween things by the way, and with a fresh coat of black paint to get rid of that ugly gray, he'll be as good as new. Think I'll keep the face though.

So that was my Labor Day weekend. 100% game free, being social....and all that. Now today I'm sitting here with not only my copy of Deus Ex, but my copy of Dead Island, as well. Since they both arrived at the same time my daughter and I will not have to sit and argue over who gets to play, but instead rotate turns on each game. I hope all of you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Now if you'll excuse me, I have two weeks of gaming to catch up on!