Category Archives: Games & Media

Words With Friends – Vocabulary Booster!

Ritz? That's a good one.

I’m not ashamed to say, this game sucked me in right away. I’ve always been a big Scrabble fan, so when I watched someone play WWF (Words With Friends), I thought it was stupid. I mean, come on, you can sit there and put down complete nonsense words, forcing your moves onto the board and basically “checking” if they’ll work or not. Theoretically speaking, you can try everything you have (or don’t have) before choosing which move is the very most points. There’s not a great deal of skill and foresight involved. Does that make it bad, though?

Not really.

If you’re a Scrabble fan, you have to come at this game knowing that it ISN’T the same game. It’s all too similar, sure, but it’s in a whole ‘nother ballpark when it comes to actually playing the game. Obviously it’s far more friendly to beginners than Scrabble, as well as being a lot easier to play if you aren’t a walking dictionary like some people are. It’s easy to jump into, and those who might find Scrabble tedious, time-consuming, boring, WWF will be a lot funner for them. If you haven’t tried it yet, go ahead and check it out. it’s even on the iPhone or just about any other smart phone!

But as is true with any word game, it’s a good little exercise for you if you’re a writer. Scrabble is great for thinking of words and terms that seldom cross your mind otherwise, sure, but when it comes WWF, you’re likely going to learn a new word every couple turns (at least when you first start). I mean, maybe you knew that xi, qi, and qat were words, but I sure didn’t. It’s certainly a learning experience.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean it’s only full of crazy, ridiculous two-letter words composed of Q’s and X’s. You’re going to be really using your brain, building words and connections that you typically would never think of. You can never go wrong with working out your mind, and this game definitely is a workout, especially when you’re playing someone whos… well, a lot better than you. I wonder how good Alec Baldwin is…

So, do you play Words With Friends (or do you wanna start)? Add me on Facebook here and challenge me!

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Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition Arrives in February

I must say that I’m a bit of a gamer. It kinda comes with the territory when you’re a sci-fi geek, so I doubt it comes as a shock. While books and movies can serve as a strong source of inspiration, I believe games do as well, more so as the years go by. What used to be silly games now have become fully interactive epics (play some of the Assassin’s Creed games if you don’t believe me). In any case, I’d just like to throw out this little update I found concerning a personal favorite of mine.

Even if it wasn’t the first major production involving the whole post-apocalyptic thing, Fallout has cornered the market when it comes to the genre. Sure, games like Borderlands and Rage tried riding on Fallout’s coattails, but they’re no Fallout. Fallout has withstood the test of time, and the PC version continues to encourage and support user mods. It’s an amazing series with a lot of variation to it. It’s also one of the most amazing single-player games out there when it comes to re-playability and expansive, massive environments with tons of things to do. Simply put, you can waste a lot of time if you get addicted.

I’ve always been a huge fan of anything post-apocalyptic. Why? Well I’m already a nerd when it comes to future stuff, sci-fi, space travel, all that. The post-apocalyptic is a future sci-fi scenario closer to reality. While a battleship jumping light-years through the galaxy is cool and all, it’s fantasy. It isn’t real (not for a long time, at least). With apocalyptic scenarios, they could come about any day, whether via chemical or nuclear warfare, or a slew of other nasty things. Not that I want it to happen, but it’s a thought-provoking topic to write about.

Another guilty pleasure of mine is the western genre. Maybe every guy in the world thinks gunslingers and dynamite are bad-ass, but either way, it’s another big point of inspiration to me. What’s cooler than westerns though? Future westerns. Lasers instead of bullets, spaceships instead of horses, whatever. Fusions of new and old are; let’s face it; always pretty damn awesome. That’s why when Fallout: New Vegas hit shelves, I was smitten. Regardless of how great the game would be or not, the subject matter alone got me drooling. .44 mags, war-torn landscapes, plasma grenades, and a cowboy hat or two. What else does a man need? I splurged and got the collector’s edition, complete with poker chips from the game, a deck of weathered and mismatched playing cards, and a graphic novel. Oh right, gambling too. How much better can it get?

Anyways, in February the Ultimate Edition comes out. It may not come with the cool little knick-knacks, but it does include all the DLC. That means you get way more than what you get in a similarly priced title. You’re getting heaps of extra content, making a game that’s already massive (taking hundreds of hours to complete… completely) even bigger. Let’s just say, it’s worth the money. You’re going to be saving at least 50 bucks on what the DLC would originally be priced if you bought it separately.

How does this all apply to the blog though? Well, let’s just say Fallout is a good piece of inspiration when it comes to the post-apocalyptic genre. If you don’t like something, you shouldn’t write about it. Fallout certainly bolstered my love for the genre, and I hope it comes across in my writing. Didn’t you know? Children of Solus (my in-work novel, click the like for more info) is a post-apocalyptic novel. You should read it.

Well, I’ve droned on for long enough, so I’ll just put down the link for more info.

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition Arrives in February | Bethesda Blog

Post a shout-out if you’re a Fallout fan too!

The Sims – A Neat Little Tool For Writers

Who here hasn’t either played The Sims, or known someone who plays or played The Sims? Whether it be the old classic, the sequel, or the newest game in the franchise, almost anyone anywhere has seen the PC game in action; not including the seemingly innumerable amount of expansion and item packs. Let’s face it, it’s the most selling PC game franchise EVER. It’s also an amazing way to waste hours, days, or possibly years of your life. Managing the lives of your little people is ever so much more enjoyable than managing your own life.

But let me highlight a different aspect to the game we all know and love. Sure, it’s a time waster; a big one; but at the same time, it can actually be quite useful to who?

Writers!

How exactly? Well that’s what I want to talk about in this post. As a writer, what’s your primary focus in any story you create? The protagonist, and secondarily the rest of your characters. A story is nothing without characters. The voice behind the theme. You can create an amazing, wondrous world of lush forests and castles in the sky, dragons soaring through the updrafts under shimmering twin suns… It’s going to be quite useless though unless you’ve got warriors in those castles and elves in those woods, following the tale of a poor blacksmith’s son who has just come of age, boldly venturing out of his small village and into the kingdom as he dreams of becoming a powerful knight.

What’s the key there? The people, and more importantly, the protagonist. When you read a book, whether you realize it or not, you’re developing a connection to the characters (mostly the protagonist). If that connection doesn’t form well, or doesn’t form at all, the emotions the character is feeling are not going to come across to the reader, and the events of the story are not going to have much impact. The emotional aspect is what separates good stories from bad stories. Sure, there are genres that don’t put a great deal of focus on that, but those are also not near as successful as the alternative. Why is Star Wars likely the most popular story of all time? Because there’s emotion behind it. My mother cried as she watched Obi Wan and Anakin battle over the boiling magma of Mustafar. She might be a pushover when it comes to that kind of thing, but that shows how much emotions factor into a story. And as we all know, there is no emotion if there is no character connection.

So as a writer, what is one of your most important skills? Making your character real; forging a connection on paper (or monitor) from the person in the story to the person reading their tale. How do we do that? Well, that topic could on forever, and there are a great many ways you can build a deep, powerful character, but I’m going to focus on one simple point that I think is the most important point of all.

The key to a good story? Emotion.

Connecting to your own character.

If a character isn’t real to you, he or she isn’t going to be real to your readers. Every writer has their own personal ways they forge that initial connection with their protagonist. It’s oftentimes that an author will have created a character and a story around them through inspiration from something they saw, heard, or read. Something that touched them on an emotional level, and gave them that creative spark they needed to infuse those emotions and depth into their own character. I once created a very odd character after being inspired by a Disturbed song called Inside The Fire. It had very stirring lyrics, based on a very stirring subject, shown in a very stirring music video. The key behind any artistic medium is that it needs to… what? You guessed it: stir the reader. Take their heart and emotions and swish them all around, whether they be love, hate, sorrow, or anything in between. As you progress as a writer, you develop your personal methods of connecting to characters you write. Let’s talk about one that I’ve personally discovered.

What was I talking about at the start of this post? Right, a PC game, The Sims. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll explain it. It’s fairly simple. You create people, you put them in houses, you get them jobs, forge them relationships, and so on and so forth. The Sims series started off pretty old school and basic, but when The Sims 2 came out, that all changed. You could see your little created people close up, with pretty damn good graphics. Facial expressions, their interactions, etc. If The Sims 1 was a novel in which the characters were nice, but hard to relate with, The Sims 2 was a story in which you could really get connected to the characters. Through this enhanced level of connection and interaction, I found a neat writing tool.

Some people are very visual, writers included. While some writers might be just fine with the written word, others like being able to see their character. If you’re one of these people, you might even sketch up drawings of your characters. I’ve done that before, and even though I think I’m terrible with a pen or pencil, it does help to visualize the characters you place in your stories. How does The Sims fit into all this? Well, starting from the The Sims 2, and continuing into the newest title (The Sims 3, obviously), you were able to literally sculpt the faces of the people you made in the game. There’s a high level of customization, going as far as clothes, hair, and even jewelry. So how can you use this in writing?

Well like I said, whether you’re a visual person or not, seeing your characters with your own eyes is a useful ability. It helps you connect with them, and more so see them within the various sequences of action within your writing. There’s a reason movies are much more popular than books. It’s more common to connect to an image than it is to connect to written words. Using the vast amount of customization in The Sims 2 or 3, you’re able to create anyone you want to. Many have created celebrities in the game, and by that line of reasoning you can just as easily imagine; for example; your protagonist in your head before creating a Sim just like them. There are limits to this creative process, of course, but the tool doesn’t stop there.

Even Sims have emotion!

The Sims, since the very beginning, has always encouraged storytelling. Whether the stories be silly, serious, or anything else, the game has always given the player easy access to a sort of visual storytelling system. You can pause your Sim’s life at any time, take a picture, and then go into the story editor and write whatever you want below that picture. Using this method, you create a bit of a photo storybook, with the photo on top, and the written words below it. Through this practice, you have even more at your fingertips for visual aids while you’re writing your actual novel, short story, or whatever it is you’re working on.

Again, there are always limits to this. It’s still a game, and you’re never going to be able to create the character in the game exactly as you imagine them within your head. Your own Sim creation skills are going to be a big factor on that, but it remains to be a very neat little tool when you’re trying to forge a strong connection to a character you’re writing on, as well as having a little fun along the way.

There are also a multitude of artists who create custom content for The Sims games, from new hairstyles, to skin tones, to clothes, to accessories, to even cars! If you don’t have the right resources to create that character in your head, odds are you can find what you need online. It might be a bit of a hunt, and a time waster, but it’s good fun and it can be useful to the creative process in the end. The best artists bar none when it comes to Sims stuff can be found on this site: http://gardenofshadows.digitalperversion.net/

The site is a bit more focused on the alternative, dark side of things, but the assortment of downloadables are astounding, and the quality is unbeatable. If you’ve got The Sims (or want to buy it) and you’re interested in checking out this little exercise, I’d strongly recommend checking them out.

I’ve blabbered on for long enough. I invite you to try out this exercise if you can and get back to me with your experience!