The Slowest Leveler in All of Zandalar?

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People have been 120 for over a week now, and I’m still piddling along at a measly level 112. Yeah, yeah, filthy casual and all that. But mostly I’m having a predicament where I have almost no time to play nowadays. Between parenting a rambunctious toddler and working my butt off at my busy job, I’m lucky if I get an hour to play every other night. So I’m trying to accomplish what I can with the time I have, which is little.

I’m duoing with my roommate/best friend. I’m playing as Resto with Feral Affinity (cat form) and of course it’s slow but I’m not really in any sort of rush. My friend is an Affliction Warlock and that’s a fun pair so far. It’s nice that she can tank pet and then we can take down things that are bigger and badder than ourselves. We chose Zuldazar to start and we’re one questline away from finishing it. Haven’t done any dungeons yet, sadly.

I’ve experienced so little of this expansion that I can’t give any sort of accurate assessment aside from saying a few things.

  • It’s beautiful. The vistas are gorgeous, the environment artists did a fantastic job.
  • The audio is top notch. The music is perfect and I’m loving all the ambient sounds. It really feels like we’re in a dinosaur-infested jungle.
  • I’m invested in the story, which is surprising given that I’m really not a huge fan of WoW trolls in general.
  • It’s humorous and entertaining. Reading all the quests is the name of the game, and I’m enjoying all the funny tidbits and easter eggs. I don’t get half of them because I’m no longer pop culture relevant, but it’s fun nonetheless.

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I’m Back in Battle

There’s nothing like making a triumphant return to an MMO to make a blogger wanna blog.

Battle for Azeroth launched last night, and in typical form for me, I’m playing. And I’m playing Treetopsy, my Tauren Druid (of course).

I’m in a weird spot though, because as I mentioned on Twitter….I didn’t finish much of anything in Legion. I never unlocked flying, didn’t unlocked Allied Races, or do Broken Shore, or Argus. It’s the second expansion in row where I basically did no professions, very little raiding, and no pet battling. I guess I should be thankful I have scores of content to go back to, but it feels weird to move on when I haven’t finished things. But I know that content isn’t going anywhere.

Expect more posts here as I chronicle my journey among the trolls.

(P.S. sorry for no screenshots, I’m at work!)

I’m being a manic gamer lately

My gaming life always ebbs and flows. Sometimes I’ll go weeks without playing anything, and then other times I’ll get the itch again and spend every evening playing something. The past couple of months I’ve been doing a bit more gaming than before, and whenever I’m playing games it makes me want to blog. Funny that is. I just wanna be cool like Belghast who has something interesting to say on his gaming blog every day. 🙂

One experiment that I started was with my Steam library. I’ve spent a bit of money on games lately and I was guilting myself about it by looking through all my unplayed Steam games. I decided that I’d start at the top, and if I spent less than 30 minutes in a game I would have to play it.

Alan Wake

I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into this — I had bought it on a whim during a Steam sale. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a scary game, inspired by Stephen King novels about a writer with writers block who goes to a Pacific Northwest cabin to clear his head and ends up being involved in a mystery surrounding his girlfriend and some creepy zombie things. It has a very Twin Peaks vibe to it and made me want to go to the PNW!

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The combat in this game leaves much to be desired, but I found myself really wanting to hear the story.  I ended up getting about 4 hours in before I found myself frustrated with an encounter I couldn’t beat and ended up switching to YouTube to watch a Let’s Play in order to finish the story. I get why Let’s Play’s exist now! I was kind of tired of getting scared and the combat was getting monotonous, so I was happy for an opportunity to still view someone else’s experience.

All in all, I’d say it’s a pretty game that has aged pretty well. Go into it if you want a creepy atmospheric story but don’t expect much out of the actual game mechanics.

Alice: Madness Returns

Basically every game I buy and never play on Steam is scary, apparently.

Alice: Madness Returns is a fun action platformer that’s just stunning to look at. The art direction is so wonderful that I kept playing for 4 hours just so that I could see what the next area of the game would look like. Unfortunately, I ran into lots of bugs (such as not being able to re-equip my weapons) and ended up having to reload and lose progress many times. It was very frustrating so I ended up quitting. The gameplay of this one definitely gets old quick because it’s the same thing over and over. But it’s just so darn beautiful and it’s so cheap to buy that I’d recommend checking it out for the visuals alone.

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Bioshock

I know, I know. I never played the original Bioshock, can you believe it?  So for this one, I fired it up on PC since it was the next alphabetically and instantly I was hooked. However, I kept having bugs and crashing. So I Googled and realized there was a remastered version for PS4 that included the other 2 games as well so I ended up buying that. Well, I got about 6 hours in (and LOVED it much like I loved Bioshock Infinite) and kept getting nauseous when I was playing. Something about the big TV and the first-person perspective was really getting to me. So I’ve given up. Part of me wants to buy the remastered version on PC so I can keep going, but my time is precious and replaying those 6 hours seems terrible. This might be another great candidate for watching a Let’s Play.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I impulse purchased a Nintendo Switch in January during a particularly freezing rainy weekend stuck indoors. And then I proceeded to spend 4 nights straight bingeing Zelda and then never turning on the Switch again. I have no doubt we’ll be reacquainted in the future, but for some reason Zelda just didn’t connect with me. I will never deny that it’s a fabulous game, and I think it was worthy of all the awards it won last year. But I always struggle with Zelda games. I’m really not a huge fan of the puzzles and find myself Googling my way through them more often than not. I did enjoy the wild horses though, and had fun trying to catch them. I think I’ll go back to BotW at some point but I’m not sure when.

World of Warcraft

I was super gung ho for a few months and then per usual, the excitement wore of. I’m sitting at 885 or so for my ilvl and don’t have a ton of motivation to do anything in the game. I still haven’t finished Suramar, haven’t done Broken Shores stuff, or Argus. I’ve barely scratched the surface on World Quests. I haven’t unlocked flying. I haven’t preordered the expansion, therefore no Allied Races for me yet. I know it’s only a matter of time before I get the WoW itch again, but currently I’m in a lull.

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I’m not too sure what game I’ll play next. I’m intrigued by Eco, but the $29.99 price tag is pushing me away (and I’m not the biggest fan of early access games). I want to dip back in and check out Fortnite’s Battle Royale, but I’m terrible at shooters so I’m not sure why I’d even bother. I’ve kind of bounced completely from Overwatch as it was just frustrating for me to play as a filthy casual.

The next game on my Steam playthrough is Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons which looks good. At this point it would be nice to enjoy something enough (and not have any bugs) that I want to finish it. 🙂

Social Media & Me: A Change for 2018

Real talk: I’m addicted to social media and I have been for a very long time. Granted, I believe that it’s kind of the nature of the world nowadays. You can’t wait in line at Starbucks without seeing a sea of people with their iPhones open to Facebook. I’m one of those people.

The thing is, while I do consider Facebook usage to be a gigantic waste of time in my life — it’s not like it has replaced me having a full life. I’m outdoors constantly and live a vibrant, adventurous life with my son. But the amount of time I spend in the margins scrolling through my news feed, feeling complex emotions all of the time, well — it’s a ton.

I post several times a day on Facebook. I take so many pictures and post them all constantly, as if I need to “prove” that my life is so great. (Honestly though, I post these pictures for myself because I think it’s really fun to see the Facebook Memories…especially of my son). I’m in a ton of groups, and while I justify this by saying that I need to be in order to find meetups to go to in order to meet other moms, or to find local events to attend – I could sit down for an hour once a week and catch up on this stuff and save myself a ton of Facebooking time.

So I believe it’s time for me to make a change. I need to be done with using Facebook as my faux social life. I have ways to get the news outside of FB. I have ways to connect with friends if they want to get ahold of me. I have ways to view photos of my son in the future. I have ways to find local events.  So here’s my plan for the future.

Removing Facebook app from my phone

I actually already did this last night and I’m going to do my best to keep it that way. In the past I’ve always justified having it there because I “needed it for work” but I’m in a role now that does not need Facebook at all.  FB should no longer be the first thing I look at when I wake up in the morning. I don’t need to linger in the bathroom reading it. I don’t need to view my notifications during work. I don’t need to be looking at my phone nonstop while I’m playing with my son.

Posting less on Facebook

I honestly don’t need to tell everyone everything anymore. I actually get embarrassed by the amount that I post sometimes. I feel like I often look desperate and friendless, and I overshare because the internet has become my comfort, my drug. For photos, I intend to maybe do a weekly photodump just so my family can see photos of my son. But I don’t need it to be a running commentary of my life anymore.

Blogging more

2018: the year of the blog. I have a few. I have my personal finance blog, this gaming/general blog, and my Austin hiking blog. If I have news to share, I can put it on one of those three places. I like flexing my writing muscles.

Photo books

I take hundreds of photos a month, maybe even thousands. I want to start making photo books of this content. Either using a service, or making them via scrapbooks, or something. I want to save these memories offline in an analog format because I’m sick of staring at screens all of the time. I want more physical copies of photos, even as I declutter and minimalize my life of “things”, I believe photos are treasures worth printing and holding on to.

Removing the negative on Twitter

I do this quite often, where I go through a purge and remove the people I follow on Twitter who post overwhelmingly negative content. Sure, it’s fun to see rants and snark on occasion, but at this point the people who are constantly insulting and criticizing everything and everyone are actually affecting my enjoyment of the platform. This includes politics. Trump is awful and hateful and terrible, but I can’t handle streams of content about him anymore. I want to live a happy life and not dwell on things I cannot personally change.

Intentional Facebook time

I believe removing FB from my phone will help tremendously, but I’d also like to say that having a set time to browse FB from my laptop will force me to be intentional with that time. One trap I fall into is that I sit down to play a game, open my laptop, and instead of firing up WoW I’ll “check Facebook really quick”. Next thing I know it’s been 2 hours and I’m still browsing the internet and I’m out of time to play games.

My plan is to hold myself to no more than 30 minutes per day. I can spend that however I want – posting, commenting, checking out events and groups. But after that 30 minutes, I need to do another intentional activity. Writing a blog, playing my piano, reading a book, playing a game, working on coding, learning something new, doing housework, talking on the phone with a friend, or even watching a TV show or movie. Anything other than spending my entire evening browsing the internet all night.


 

One platform I’m unsure about is Instagram. I love posting there and one of my favorite things to do is scroll back through my own photos. I always get inspired by other people’s content there and I follow a lot of accounts that make me happy. I don’t find that it triggers negative emotions in me like FB and Twitter do. However, I need to be mindful that my decreased FB usage doesn’t turn into more Instagram time, because that would defeat the purpose.

So there you have it. Big changes afoot for my social media usage. I hope I can stick to this.

Ding 110! (And I Found A Guild!)

I don’t get a ton of gaming time, but I’ve been making pretty darn good use of it in WoW. Last night, while collecting an herb in Azsuna, I dinged 100 on my main girl, my Tauren Druid.  Now, I’ve been 110 before on an Alliance alt (go go “Double Agent” achievement) but I immediately stopped playing her after dinging. So this will be first time actually doing end game content, and I’m really excited for it!

Immediately after hitting 110, I went back to my class hall and picked up some quests. I then headed to the Timewalking vendor in Orgrimmar because I had a quest to turn in, and was shocked that he sold ilvl 880 gear for only like 25-50 Timewalker Badges! So I picked up a few pieces and now I’m at 828, which is enough to queue for heroics already! I’m a little nervous about jumping right in and healing heroics if I have to be honest. So my plan is to finish the last couple of factions I need to get to friendly in order to open up World Quests, then quest a bit in Suramar, and then maybe hop into heroics or LFR.

Which brings me to…..my new guild! I joined up with a guild named <Steamy Romance Novel> that I saw an ad for on the official Blizzard forums. They seemed like a good group to join up with. The best thing is that they have movie nights twice a week where they all watch together. Neat idea, I thought! They do raid and I have a goal of trying to catch up and get geared so that maybe I can join them. I haven’t raided seriously in WoW in a long time, but their raid times match up with my single mom schedule (they start at 7:30pm my time after my son is asleep and go until 11pm which is my bedtime). I could probably manage the 3x a week schedule, and it would be a fun diversion to keep me busy and focused in WoW.  We’ll see though. I have a long way between here and there, and I’m in no rush.

 

Thankful.

This year has been a whirlwind. A divorce, a cross-country move, my son’s first preschool experience, a brand new job, ANOTHER brand new job. But despite the life upheaval, I can honestly say that all the choices were good and the changes were needed and a step in the right direction.

I thought I’d write a bit about what I’m thankful for this year, given that it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and frustrations of daily life as a single parent, when I should be giving gratitude to a life going well.

My son, Henry

It’s hard for me to write about my kiddo without getting overwhelmingly sappy, because he’s really wonderful. Even on his hardest of days, he’s still easier than a lot of children. I’m so grateful that he’s a solid sleeper which allows me to be the best mom and person possible.

This year has been incredible, because he’s been growing as a little human. He’s not really a “baby” anymore (shut up, he’ll *always* be my baby) and he’s developed an adorable little personality. He’s strong and independent, yet cautious. He’s so adaptable to new people and situations. He’s a spitting image of me when I was his age — precocious, smiley, talkative, inquisitive.

I’m so thankful that I’m his mom. It’s truly the greatest job I’ve ever had, and I love my new “mama” identity.

Austin

Moving to Austin was a difficult decision, but I’m grateful that it seems to be the right one. I’ve met some new friends (Austinites are really nice), and I’ve gone on tons of adventures. I’ve rekindled my love for hiking (it has supplanted my ability to be outdoors riding horses) and I’ve checked out countless hikes and State Parks. I’ve eaten great food, and seen so many neat things.

I was worried about moving to Texas due to the Conservative nature of this state, but Austin is a great little haven where I feel surrounded by people who think the way I think. I’ve met lots of moms for potential playdates for Henry. He’s going to a wonderful outdoor preschool and his teachers love him a lot. I’m really truly happy here, and still have so much to explore!

My return to the game industry

This is a huge one for me. Earlier this year, I heard that my contract at Riot was going to expire and I needed to job hunt. I decided to try out working in non-games, and took a position at You Need a Budget. That company was incredible. I love the product, the team is amazing, and it was a fantastic experience. It was the first time I’ve gotten to work from home for a fully-remote company, which was a nice change. It was flexible, which was great for my move.

However, I found out that something was missing in my life. That role was a Community Manager role, and prior to having my son I was a Director of Community. This role was more junior, great for the flexibility but it turns out that it wasn’t what I needed in my life.

I had thought that returning to games wasn’t ever going to happen. After all, the discipline that I’m in (production) is rarely supportive of family life, especially that of a single mom. When I had the opportunity to pursue a Senior Producer role at Zynga, I entertained it but didn’t believe that it would even be feasible. It turned out, the slots studio that I’m at *really* values work/life balance. One of the other producers is also a single mom as well! Many people have children here and no one really stays that late. I’m able to work 9-5, and I can do extra work at night from home after my son goes to bed (if I need to).

I now feel like I’m back on the career ramp that I was on before. I don’t feel like pregnancy and motherhood made me step back in time too far. I get to prioritize my career again and work with games. And despite me questioning what working in slot machine games would be like, it’s been a ton of fun. I love my team, I love the role, and I’m pretty hooked on our games as well. It’s been really great for my mental health to be back in a rigorous and challenging onsite role. I think I’m balancing things quite well, all things considered.

Things I Love: YNAB

YNAB, or You Need a Budget, has been a life-changing software for me. (Note: I did work there for 7 months or so this year, but I was a fan before working there and I still love the software like crazy!)

You see, prior to my divorce, I had gotten into this comfortable zone of being in a double income household that didn’t really have to think too much about saving. We paid our bills and then pretty much squandered whatever was left in our account after doing so. It wasn’t until living on my own, paying for my bills and caring for a baby, that I realized just how much I didn’t understand about money management. I did some Googling, found /r/personalfinance on Reddit, and kept hearing smart financial folks talking about this little thing called YNAB. What the heck was it?

So let me try to explain YNAB in a nutshell. With normal budgets, you map out all of your expenses ahead of time and then you pay your bills when you get them. With YNAB, you only map out expenses that are paid with the money you have right now, which sounds simple but it’s actually a pretty difficult concept to grasp.

With a tool like Mint, you get a very basic budget where you can see where your money spent in the past has gone. You can also say “this month I want to spend $400 on groceries” and then throughout the month you can watch your bar meter tick closer and closer to that magical number.

With YNAB, you take a look at the money you have in your account and ask yourself – “what does this money have to do before I get paid again?”. It’s a very simple question but it’s actually a pretty challenging concept to grasp.

Today I just got paid. We’ll just say it was a $2000 check for simplicity’s sake. I asked myself – “since it’s the 15th, what do these $2000 dollars have to do before I get paid again on the 30th?”. I know that my internet bill is coming up, so I assign $60 of it to the internet category. I know that I’m going to need to have $1100 for childcare on December 1st, so I put $500 of this $2000 toward that so that I’ll “fully fund” the category with another $600 during my next paycheck.

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The net effect of this is that I never look at my actual bank account. I look only at my YNAB app. In the image above, the person has $730 available in their ‘grocery’ category, which means they’ve already allocated $730 of their hard-earned dollars that are already in the bank to that category. So instead of looking at my bank account and thinking “I can spend $3,000 on groceries if I wanted to”, I’d know that I actually can only spend $730 because the rest of my money is already allocated to a job.

With the YNAB method you never overdraft (if you’re doing it right) because you’ve only assigned dollars that you already have. You also realize the benefit of not squandering an extra $200 at Target just because you have it, but instead flipping forward to the next month and “pre-funding” one of your categories there.

For example, in my $2000 paycheck..maybe it only has to do $1500 worth of jobs before I get paid again. The previous me would think that I could go spend $500 on whatever I want, because the money is there in my bank account. But instead, I flip to December 1st and I put $500 into next month’s groceries. BAM, now my entire grocery budget for next month is already paid for — with money I normally would have wasted on a new video game console or a Sephora trip.

YNAB has made me think about every dollar I spend. It’s created a buffer in my finances, where I’m living off last month’s pay. It’s made me more secure in my purchases, more frugal with my choices, and also is allowing me to pay off credit cards and loans faster. I’m a huge fan of YNAB and I highly recommend checking it out!