Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Newest paper sculpt project!

Sonic Screwdriver trio for my friend's birthday.

An interview with Adam Harum of Transolar Galactica.

They achieved their Kickstarter goal, and now the world gets more of their award winning sci-fi comedy!

Doctor Who themed lip balm!

Brought to you from Earthtastic! and A Bit of Geek.

Minecraft paper sculpt!

My submission to the Mojang community art contest. Watch the video!

A TARDIS desk lamp!

Instructions and babbling on how to make a TARDIS lamp from foam core!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Showcase: Totoro Playing Cards

How cool are these cards?! I am a nut for playing cards, I think I have at least twenty sets at this point. I don't believe I could pin point when that even happened, but it has been going on for years now. Whenever I see a truly unique deck of cards I pretty much have to buy them. So when I saw these amazing My Neighbor Totoro playing cards at Uwajimaya in Seattle, I freaked out!

my neighbor totoro playing cardsmy neighbor totoro playing cards

First of all, they were way too expensive. Your average deck of cards costs around three dollars. These weighed in at a whopping thirteen fifty! I staggered back in the store when I saw the price tag, but my mind was already made up. They came in a nice little shiny cardboard box, but within that box was another box, a plastic one! These bad boys are seriously protected from moisture, dust, and scuffed corners.

my neighbor totoro playing cards

Upon purchase, I didn't know what the cards faces would look like. The backs are an unstoppably adorable Totoro image, but for all I knew the other sides were plain, boring cards (which happens a lot). But, no. Every single card is different! The deck features various scenes from the entire film! I was elated to discover this! They ended up being completely work the cost. They're a fully playable 52 card deck, complete with two jokers and two blank cards (for whatever reason).

You can purchase your own Totoro playing cards from the Uwajimaya in Seattle (if you're in the area), or from Amazon, Yes Asia, and even Ebay. Just a heads up, they're more expensive online!


*all photos property of A Bit of Geek

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

HM: A New Beginning is a Breath of Fresh Farm

I am a huge fan of the Harvest Moon series, and have been for years. My first foray into the series was a Rom of the SNES verision when I was in junior high and really, I was hooked from that moment on. I wrote up a huge piece on the series a while ago, if you'd like to give it a read, but today's post is going to be all about A New Beginningfor the 3DS, the most recent offering in this long-standing and well loved franchise! As a quick rundown (for those not in the know), Harvest Moon is a farm and life simulator that has been going strong since in the US since 1997. It features planting and harvesting crops, raising livestock, and finding a husband/wife all while revitalizing a rundown homestead and town. I promise it is more fun than it sounds.

harvest moon a new beginning livestock screenshot 
Chickens, cows, sheep, and more animals await you in A New Beginning.

The US version came out around Holiday last year, but I only recently got my hands on a copy. Two things to note right away: it was worth the wait, but also I shouldn't have waited at all because it is awesome. There are so many new features that I've been wishing for, hoping for!, in previous versions. I have also been repeatedly and sorely disappointed with the portable versions of Harvest Moon, so I can hardly even begin to explain my relief and all-encompassing delight at how much I love A New Beginning!

Natsume has stuck with the ability to choose to play as a boy or a girl to start, which I love, and A New Beginning introduces character customization! That's right: hair, eyes, skin tone, and outfit! Outfits and hair styles can even be changed later in the game once the tailor and salon move in! If you're a fan of the series, you'll have noted that I said "once they move in". So yes, the game doesn't start with every shop and/or villager available. And really, I like it this way! It's quite reminiscient of Magical Melody for GameCube (also available on the Wii as a port), which is my favorite version aside from Back to Nature for PSone. Players are tasked with revitalizing not just the derelict farm, but the town, too! Your hard work and commitment to socialization will bring in new characters, including an architect! Once the architect is obtained, you can then buy blueprints and build new structures. The first one that becomes available is a Newspaper shop, which when built brings a journalist to your town. Makes sense!

harvest moon a new beginning character customization screenshot 
Customize your character for the first time!

Unlike Magical Melody, however, players can choose the exact layout of the town, down to the pathways and decorations. This kind of customized freedom is completely unheard of for the Harvest Moon series! When I first started up my file I was a bit let down with how few people were in the town, but as I've made progress I've realized that there is SO much to do that it's really a good thing that the game is slow at first. This allows time for the player to get into the groove of the town and their own farm. As more people move in, more tasks are given to the player. If all of that were available from the start I really think the experience would be too overwhelming and complicated.

harvest moon a new beginning town customization screenshot 
Armed with super human strength, players can carry houses around town until they find the perfect spot.

One of my favorite aspects of A New Beginning is how easy and fun it is to forage in the forest and mountain areas. In previous versions it has been difficult to save or earn money, putting a damper on making fast progress. This game has areas FILLED with bugs and fish to catch, flowers to pick, and wild growth to harvest and sell. The best part is that every day there are new things! Magical Melody, for instance, would take a few days for items to respawn up in the mountains and the woods. This frequency of foragable items makes it easy to make fast money, gives the player more to do, and provides ways to refresh the energy meter without having to prepare food in the kitchen.

Speaking of the kitchen, you start out with one! Most versions of Harvest Moon have the player in an extremely bare house with no amenities, and they must work toward paying for expansions. As fun and fulfilling as that was (no sarcasm), I enjoy having storage and a kitchen right away! I'm glad to see that recipes are a consistent theme through the life of the series, and A New Beginning kicks it up a notch by making recipes obtainable through friendships! Just give players an item that they like or love each day (such as fish or flowers) and occasionally they'll give you something in return, such as a blueprint, tools, or recipes.

harvest moon a new beginning harvest sprites screenshot 
Can't forget the Harvest Sprites! They make a return, as does the Harvest Goddess!

Players will enjoy a save anywhere feature, too. That has really been lacking for a long time. One of the greatest features of the DS/3DS is the ability to close the lid and go about other business if life calls while gaming. Throwing in the ability to save wherever you are makes the game that much more accomodating to a variety of life styles.There are honestly too many new and interesting features for me to possibly cover them all here, although I wish I could. I haven't even made it through year one of my game yet though, so there are new and exciting things that I don't even know about!

My only complaint about A New Beginning is the same complaint I've had about playing as a girl in the Harvest Moon series: the bachelors suck. No, seriously. The first bachelor is Neil, and he has the worst attitude I've ever seen. He is a standoffish jerk who will literally tell you to go away because you're bothering him. Meanwhile there are three bachelorettes in my town who are nice, fun, and social, so if I were playing as a guy I'd have it made. Why does Natsume continue to make total buttheads as potential husbands? Should I even delve into this subject?

harvest moon a new beginning bachelor Allen screenshot 
I haven't met this bachelor yet, but I guess he seems nicer than Neil.

If you're curious about the Harvest Moon series, or perhaps you're a longtime fan who hasn't played A New Beginning yet, then I highly, highly recommend it! I truly believe that it is the best addition to the series to date, and that includes about five other versions for the DS. The graphics look nice, even though I generally don't like 3D sprites on the DS, I'm enjoying the music, and there's so much to do everyday yet the days are still long enough to get everything done. Natsume has really struck a perfect pitch with this one! It's about $30 if you can find a copy at GameStop, and around $40 online (for some weird reason).

Which version of Harvest Moon is your favorite, and why?


*header images from here and here

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Funday #1

I'm going to go ahead and try something new here, so bear with me. When Monday rolls around, a lot of people are getting up and ready to slog through another work week, right? A Bit of Geek wants to help with that, to make it easier, funnier, more pleasant. So, tentatively, every Monday we will have a fun Internet find to share with you!

Let's kick the week off right with some Game of Thrones humor. If you haven't watched season one of the HBO show, or at least read the first book or two, then there may be spoilers ahead. You've been warned!

Game of Thrones Dating Profiles from Team Pwnicorn

game of thrones Daenerys Targaryen dating profile

game of thrones Sandor Clegane dating profile

Be sure to check out the profiles of Hodor, Jaime Lannister, The Wall, and Loras Tyrell, because they're all pretty damn clever. I wish they had done more, especially for John Snow and Sansa Stark. Is your favorite character missing? Tell us who you root for in the series, just remember that no one is safe.


*via kotaku

Friday, June 21, 2013

Gamer Tattoos: Hey, Listen!

Today's final entry features a well known, but little loved, character in gaming history: Navi from Ocarina of Time! I find the placement of Jacki's tattoo to be quite adorable, and also very nicely done! Shading techniques within the ink community really do impress me. See how it is defined, yet still has soft lines like Navi does?

Consideringthat fact that so many gamers garner a serious amount of hatred for Navi, it might seem like an unusual choice! But, that just circles back to how important and personal body modification is. An outisder may not understand a decision, perhaps they'll hate it or think it's stupid. But tattoos aren't for other people. Jacki feels differently about Navi, and even feels a connection with the character. In Ocarina of Time, Navi is a helper, a sort of guardian. Annoying she may be, but also full of good intentions!

legend of zelda ocarina of time Navi fairy tattoo 
Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time by Brandon Stewart at Silver City Tattoo in Poulsbo, Washington.

Here's what Jacki has to say:

"Navi is my favorite tattoo I forget that I have. Maybe this is silly, but I'm honestly pleasantly caught off guard when strangers notice her behind my ear and either, A. Gush with admiration and compliments, B. Ask me to explain why there is a turtle/golf ball/angel tattooed on my neck, C. My personal favorite, when I get a knowing smirk or nod of approval. No words necessary.

I can't say I remember exactly why I chose to get her tattooed aside from the obvious Legend of Zelda fandom. I can't even remember when I got it done... I just know it was a birthday present. I'm just gonna say I woke up one day and *finally* I fit in with all of the other Kokiri. I think parts of her character also remind me a little of myself. She means well and she just wants to help. She has a tendency to air on the side of caution and can get a little annoying but ultimately she'll always be there to help guide you if she can.

While many folks hated her incessant nagging, I have no shame in saying I loved hearing her cute little voice shout, "Hey, LISTEN!" At the very least she's an adorable companion :> " - Jacki

This finishes off my mini series focused on the tattoos of gamers! I sincerely hope you've enjoyed what I've presented. If you missed any entries, be sure to go back and check them out: Blooper, Raccoon Suit Mario, Royal Crest, and Edea. If any readers out there have gaming or geek related tattoos, then we'd love to see them!


*header image from zelda.wikia

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf First Week Impressions

animal crossing: new leaf screenshot 
I'm not wearing shoes!

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the fourth installment in Nintendo's wildly popular life/world/happiness simulator. This version rolled out onto the 3DS on Sunday, June 9th, and I have been working tirelessly to bring you first hand information! What do I like, what don't I like? What's new? What's familiar? What's missing that I wish remained? As a veteran and fan of the series since its start on the Gamecube in 2001, I feel qualified to share this information!

What's new?

So many things. Shoes and socks are now purchasable, as well as pants, skirts, tank tops, dresses, and t-shirts. The customization options are huge! More bugs, more fish, and aquatic life such as urchins, sand dollars, and anemones! NEW FRUIT! Players earn badges from Phineas as they meet milestones in-game, there's an island awaiting your presence with tropical fish year round, and SWIMMING! Players can purchase a wetsuit (or rent one while on the island) to swim for fun and also to dive for hidden treasures and creatures. When you move into town you get to choose where your house goes! Players become mayor of their town, then choose projects to build (such as bridges, benches, and street lights) in order to liven up the area and make citizens happier. Oh, and you even get to choose where those items go! Ordinances can also be placed into effect, changing how the your town functions. Some choices include Early Bird, Beautify, and Big Bells. They make the town livelier in the mornings, make flowers grow more frequently and never wilt, and make it so shops pay more for your items, respectively. There are many ordinances to choose from in order to suit each individual player's needs! And believe it or not, there's even more beyond my ramblings!

animal crossing: new leaf fortune cookie 
Once a day for 2 play coins, you can buy a fortune cookie. Exchange the fortune for a rare prize!

What stood out right away?

NEW FLOWERS AND FRUIT! This was seriously a long time coming. I love being able to change individual aspects of my outfit, and I love that there are so many more shops to pop into. Nook now runs the Home Improvement store, which he shares with Lyle. Nook still sells home upgrades, but now he also sells customization of doors, roofs, fences, mailboxes, and more. Lyle will give you your up-to-date Happy House Academy score, as well as pointers for improvement. Pelly still works at the Post Office, and Mabel and Sable are once again in their clothing shop, but they are now joined by Label! Label runs the accessory shop attached to Mabel and Sabel's. Eventually Leif the Sloth will build a gardening store, and Nook's nephews run Nooklington Junction selling furniture, tools, and the ever exciting new product: fortune cookies. Re-Tail in town is run by an adorable llama named Reese. She will buy your wares for a good price, and players can also set up items to sell to other players as well as citizens. When her husband wakes up he will build custom furniture, too!

animal crossing: new leaf bug off score 
New Leaf sees the return of many old favorites, including the Bug Off! You get prizes for beating the current high score holder, too.

Do I ever play with the 3D on?

I really don't like the 3D. I can only turn it on a tiny bit or else I get a headache, and even then I have to sit just so in order for it to look right. I sometimes forget the thing even has a 3D feature. Let me know in the comments whether or not you use your 3D, or if it gives you similar issues!

animal crossing: new leaf bridge completion ceremony  
Completion of Public Works Projects includes lots of pomp and circumstance, and I like it!

How are the graphics?

Usually I don't care much about graphics, but I'm pleased to say that Animal Crossing: New Leaf looks great! Super crisp, sharp, and colorful. The sprites move smoothly and there's great detail to be seen on the fish, bugs, and miscellaneous other things. I disliked Wild World for the DS because I didn't like how the graphics looks when players walked around (quite the hinderance, you know).

animal crossing: new leaf boat to island 
Kapp'n returns with sea shanties and weird compliments! If you go to the island a lot, and you're like me, you'll get sick of them.

Does progress move quickly?

The diligent player will have no issues making rapid progress. As soon as access to the island opens up it becomes easy peasy to make tons of bells in short order. A trip to the island at night will net between at least 100,000 because of all of the rare tropical tree beetles. The game has been out just over a week now, and as of this writing I have my first upstairs expansion on my home (which means three home upgrades already!), a second bridge, and a fountain. By the time this article posts I plan on having a campsite built, too!

animal crossing: new leaf green wet suit on the island 
Me in my wet suit getting ready to deep sea dive and avoid some very rude jellyfish.

Are there any Cons?

I can't stop playing.

animal crossing: new leaf multiplayer
My buddy and me exploring the multiplayer features. We happen to be matching, and I blinked!

Is there anything that I feel is missing?

The 3DS has a microphone built in, so I feel that Nintendo seriously dropped the ball on not incorporating voice chat into the multiplayer features. Communication with friends in-game is still as arduous as ever: hunting and pecking on the keyboard with the stylus, and a very limited number of characters at a time. I find it easier to keep a text or IM conversation going on my phone or computer. Using the touch screen keyboard just takes too long.

animal crossing: new leaf sea anemone 
The huge array of new sea creatures to discover via diving makes me so excited that I want to scream.

Also, the astronomy tower is gone! That gives me the sads, because that was an awesome feature of City Folk.

Is this a title that would benefit from being a Digital Download?

I kind of wish I had gone digital for this one. As Iwata said, Animal Crossing is a game that can be played year round with new content nearly every day. There's little to no reason to ever take it out of your system! But, I am a collector, and a visual one at that. I love seeing my games and systems lined up on my shelves. It brings me joy! I have three games on my 3DS from the eShop, and even though they're convenient I still miss having their boxes on my shelf. So, if you aren't a visual collector and you haven't yet bought Animal Crossing because you just can't decide if you should go physical or eShop, my recommendation is eShop!

animal crossing: new leaf insect maniac badge 
I was confused when I saw Phineas, but now I can't wait for him to show up again and give me more badges!

Additional thoughts:

I love that we can take in-game screenshots by holding R and L down at the same time! That is truly badass! The mini games on the island are incredibly fun and challenging, offering even more gameplay to participate in. I'm anxious to use the QR code feature for clothing and wall patterns, and I love that I can add people to a Best Friend list and be able to send them messages even if we aren't in one another's towns. Nintendo really outdid themselves this time.

There is so much more to be said about New Leaf, but I don't want to overwhelm readers. Just know that this article is but a sampling of the wonders awaiting you!

animal crossing: new leaf majora's mask fortune cookie 
Thanks to the fortune cookies, my room is becoming a Nintendo haven (and I couldn't be happier).


If you haven't started a file yet (and you care what your character looks like), then be sure to reference this Face Guide to have some control over your visual outcome! Also, know that Rover gives you a few different town layouts to choose from at the start of the game. How awesome is that?!

So WHO ELSE is playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf? I don't delve into multiplayer games nearly as often as I'd like, and I want this experience to be different! Here's my Friend Code:


, please send me yours! I want to play!


*header and preview images from Nintendo. All screenshots are from my personal collection!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Video Game Character Spotlight: The Prince

Bouncing out of from a kingdom beyond the heavens, the Prince (also known as the “Dashing Prince,” “The Prince of All Cosmos” or “the Protagonist Formerly Known as Prince”) is the hero behind Namco's little known yet widely successful wonder, Katamari Damacy. A tiny green thing standing at 5 cm, the Prince is known throughout the world as the small, dutiful protagonist who's adventure is one bigger than himself, both metaphorically and physically. But he does it all with the light-hardheartedness and the cuteness of a newborn kitten, greatly overpowering the grim reality of his task: to roll up everything and everyone he can on Earth to recreate them into stars, without remorse.

“Behold, the face of the Destroyer,”

It all starts out, as most great stories do, with a night where there was just a little too much alcohol. The Prince's father, who's the King of All Cosmos and as big as a planet, gets too drunk one night and accidentally takes out all the stars in the entire cosmos. So to make amends, the King charges the Prince with the job of bringing the stars back. And when your father is the King of All Cosmos, not only do you generally have to do what he says, but it also makes it impossible to decide what to get him for Father's Day.

“It was either this or a toolbox the size of the sun,”

To accomplish the Prince's task, he is given a magical ball called the Katamari, which has the ability to cause anything smaller than its mass to stick to it. It starts off only slightly bigger than the Prince but as more and more objects build upon the ball, it quickly takes on the size of the stars recently put out. As the stars of the universe come back slowly but surely, the Prince finishes his adventure by recreating the moon with the last bunch of mass from Earth, along with a family he befriended on his stay (don't worry, they had it coming). Successful in his father's the request, the Prince finally earns the respect of the King of All Cosmos and the game ends in a flying montage involving dinosaurs.

“We weren't joking,”

Thus concludes the adventure of the Prince in Katamari Damacy, but this didn't mean that his adventures in the kookiness of the universe were over. The Prince, along with the King of All Cosmos and a whole slew of new characters, return for different adventures in the series' sequels: We Love Katamari, Me & My Katamari, Beautiful Katamari, Katamari Forever and the "ever-classic-and-coming-to-a-porn-store-near-you," Touch My Katamari. These are the stories of the Prince, who through it all, endures with the same cute brightness and determination that warmed him into our hearts from the very start. Even with his complete disregard for human life.

"May God have mercy on our Katamaris,"


*Top Header Image Source

Friday, June 14, 2013

Gamer Tattoos: Final Fantasy Edition

Today's feature is by far the most colorful and elaborate of all the tattoos I have in store. It's a real testament to body modification truly being art, as well as the value of an experienced tattoo artist.

Final Fantasy is an incredibly long running series with fans ranging all ages, all groups, and endlessly diehard since the first game came out in 1987. My personal favorites are IV, VII, and IX. In addition to involving stories, deep battle systems, and entrancing music, the character designs are quite amazing. Concept art, booklet images, and official illustrations were used to bring characters and environments to life in ways that older technology never could. It's true, young ones, graphics couldn't always portray cloth details and facial expressions ;>

I respect Morgan on his choice to go with a portrait piece. They tend to be the trickiest for artists, and an inexperienced individual can bring disastrous, permanent results. Fortunately, he went to one of the best in town and ended up with a ridiculously gorgeous piece.

final fantasy 8 Edea tattoo 
Edea from Final Fantasy VIII. Done by Bo McConaghie at Silver City Tattoo in Poulsbo, Washington.

When I first saw Morgan's tattoo I was stunned. Honestly speechless. I never had the chance to play VIII, but I recognized the art style as something from somewhere in the Final Fantasy backlog. I didn't know him well at the time, so I sputtered briefly about what a stunning tattoo he had, then asked which game it was from. As it turns out, Final Fantasy VIII holds a special place in his heart (as one might expect from a piece this large and detailed):

"I got it in October 2012. Not a lot of people see it, but the ones that do say it's really pretty and something that they've never seen before. I had it done because she's one of my favorite characters in my favorite game. It reminds me of how playing the game made me feel, like the places my life would take me to were infinite." -Morgan

Tattoos are such personal things, that's pretty obvious, yet for many people they still can't fathom a video game holding any real value. I look forward to the day when a great game can be seen the same as a great book, movie, or music album: something to be loved, revisited, and held to a lasting standard. Morgan ended up with a piece of art on his body that is beautiful to strangers while also possessing a deeper meaning to him. Personally it makes me wish my tattoos were larger and colored!

Check back on next Friday for the last entry in my gamer tattoo mini series!


*Header image from Final Fantasy Wikia

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Big Three at a Glance

With E3 in full throttle this week it can be hard to make sure we catch everything important. Now that the Big Three are done with their presentations, we at A Bit of Geek wanted to put together a few charts for you so you can see the most exciting news all in one place. Enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you're most excited for!

nintendo e3 2013

sony e3 2013

microsoft E3 2013

-MJ and Zach

*charts made by A Bit of Geek
*Nintendo image, Sony image, Microsoft image, E3 logo

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gamer Tattoos: Hyrule Edition

Working at GameStop was really a mixed bag, but we'll talk about the positives right now. Commraderie, for starters! I had many fun conversations with customers regarding my Triforce tattoo, and twice I even encountered other people who also had a Triforce! Both times the other person and I gleefully inspected the work of the other person and then exchanged stories. This has happened to my tattoo buddy as well.

I did have people ask me why a Triforce, but not for reasons of thinking video game tattoos were a bad idea. No, it was because the Triforce is a common tattoo idea, and the askers wondered why I didn't want something more "original".

Perhaps originality isn't my game, because it doesn't bother me that there are so many others out there who possess a similar tattoo. The Legend of Zelda is an incredibly popular sreies, and I am not alone in my love for it. I now personally know a third person with a Triforce tattoo (our own Zach!), although his is more elaborate than mine.

legend of zelda hylian crest tattoo 
Hyrule Crest by Brandon Stewart at Silver City Tattoo in Poulsbo, Washington.

I asked Zach to share a bit about his tattoo with us:

"I had been thinking about getting something Zelda related for a long while. I got my tattoo when I was laid off from work and received a severance package. It was very spur of the moment. I don't regret getting it, but I definitely regret how impulsive it was!

I decided to go with the Royal Crest over the Hylian Crest because I wanted to include the Triforce to represent power, wisdom, and courage. I wanted it in a place where I could see it as a reminder to those traits and how much I love the series. The comments I get are all positive; people like the look of the tattoo whether they know what it means or not. I even had an older (late fifties) woman compare her tattoo with mine, hers being a symbol from Warhammer. Pretty neat bridge to that age gap. Otherwise, there's one jackass at work who constantly makes comments about me having to save the princess because of my tattoo, but it always makes me laugh.

I have since decided to continue up my arm with more Zelda-related items, possibly branching into other nerdy things I enjoy." - Zach

The Legend of Zelda is a special series, and I find it fascinating and telling that both Zach and I considered the value of the Triforce when deciding on our tattoos. Non-gamers may laugh at the thought of video game ink, but no one can really argue against the desire to have power, wisdom, and courage always with them.


*header image from sometimesrelevant

Friday, June 7, 2013

Gamer Tattoos: Raccoon Mario Edition

Today's gamer tattoo belongs to my friend Rachel. She got hers in March of 2011 from Silver City Tattoo in Poulsbo, Washington. My group of friends and I are fans of Brandon Stewart's work, and he happens to be a gamer himself, so he especially enjoys our requests.

raccoon suit mario with a koopa troopa, shoulder tattoo 
Classic Raccoon Suit Mario with a terrified Koopa Troopa.

Here's a little bit of information on Rachel's tattoo from the lady herself:

"Growing up I played outside or I played my Nintendo. I can't remember most of my childhood friend's names, but I can remember playing Mario for hours on end until my mom told me that dinner was ready. For me, those are happy memories, and so I wanted to get this tattoo as a nod to my childhood and what I spent my time doing. Mario wasn't the only game I played, but it was certainly my favorite and I thought this particular illustration was appropriate because I loved Mario, I loved getting the raccoon tail, and of course Koopa Troopas are my favorite villain.

Half of the people I show my tattoo to are super excited about it and think it's great, and the other half don't understand and they think it's just some stupid tattoo I got of a video game character. But for me it actually has meaning.

I'm a lifelong gamer, but it's always sort of been in the closet until recently. My husband has really brought out the inner geek in me and certain friends who are typing this right now [editor's note: I transcribed this as she spoke :>] also inspired me to let out my geek and be proud of this hobby of mine." - Rachel

When she and I met she was so excited when she saw my Blooper tattoo. She told me how she wanted a Mario one but had met with less than favorable responses from a variety of people. My response was that if she wanted a Mario then she should get one, and to ignore the people who told her it was a bad idea. People will understand it or they won't, and there was no reason to forgo her loves and interests for the sake of someone who would never "get" it.


*Header and preview images from here, here, and here!

Video Game Character Spotlight: Gordon Freeman

A hero with the brains of Stephen Hawking and the trigger finger of Rambo, Gordon Freeman is the silent protagonist of Valve's classic video game series, Half-Life. Armed with his protective HEV(Hazardous Environment) Suit and a wide assortment of weaponry, Gordon is the one human that poses a serious threat to the alien conquerors known as the Combine. And who wouldn't when your face appears as if it was the basis for Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad?

"He's cooking up something more than trouble for these aliens..,”

A Seattleite with a Ph. D from MIT in theoretical physics, Gordon started out working as a scientist for the top secret research company, Black Mesa. It was during the events of Half-Life that Gordon and the other scientists accidentally opened a portal to the alien universe called Xen, unleashing a horde of killer aliens into the world. So what was Gordon Freeman, super genius and resident badass, to do? Bash some alien brains in, that's what!

“With room for mandatory snack breaks, of course.,”

Using his trusty crowbar, Gordon repelled the alien invasion and even went into their own dimension to give their leader a stern, civilized lecture (letting his crowbar do all the talking).

Unfortunately for the Free Man, his reward for Earth's safety was being flung through time and space by a mysterious figure known only as the G-Man. Cast forward two decades to Future Earth in Half-Life 2, Gordon learns that the alien empire known as the Combine have conquered Earth and subjugated humanity to a life of servitude under a Suppression Field, which also hinders human procreation. Mac Daddy Gordon then gives a mental, “Ahhh hell noooo!” and once again leaps into action, joining the Resistance in their noble struggle to free Earth from the Combine control.

“And certainly not joining for the purpose of dropping the field with the resistance leader's daughter.,”

But now things get crazy as Gordon is united not only with his crowbar, but with his most infamous weapon to date: the “Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator,” also know as the Gravity Gun. Capable of manipulating gravity to lift objects in the air, Gordon now uses this device as his all-purpose tool and weapon, moving obstructions from his path and then launching them at his enemies.

With his god-weapon in hand and the Resistance at his back, Gordon Freeman soon becomes the defender of humanity as the Half-Life series continues (we hope) to follow his never ending battle to defeat the Combine empire. All the while without saying a single word.

Gordon Freeman Guitar “Clearly a man muted by the horrors he's seen.,”


*Top Image Source.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Importance Of A Good Soundtrack

When was the last time an ad for "the next big hit" from "the next big developer" raved about the music?  Most of the time when people read a review for a video game pending release, you don't see anything regarding the soundtrack.  This bothers me simply because music is an immensely important thing to video games.  Apart from being visually stimulating, there is also much enjoyment to be found in the various beeps and tones found in our favorite stories.

mario 3 overworld 
Imagine what this screen would have been like with just white noise.

Music plays such a large role in digital storytelling that the premise of some titles (and even some missions/quests individually) are largely based around melody.  Think about it: the various instruments in almost every "Legend of Zelda" game, composing the tadpole symphony for Toadofsky in "Super Mario RPG", making sure the band plays just the right ditty in "Final Fantasy VIII"... I could go on.

marin singing 
This game itself (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening) revolved entirely around one melody.

The anthems and arias we hear while on our electronic adventures can be notes in the background or tools for situational and mood conveyance.  For example, overworld music tends to be upbeat and adventurous, underworld music is generally dark and menacing, and battle music conveys a sense of urgency.

final fantasy vii victory 
Can't forget the 'job-well-done' feeling of victory fanfare! Makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

To capitalize on situational conveyance (I think that's a fitting name), think of a piece of music in your favorite game that left a profound impression on you.  A couple of examples that come to mind for myself are the adrenaline rushes I suffer from almost drowning in "Sonic the Hedgehog," or the anxiety-ridden moments encompassed in the orchestral drama that is "Heavy Rain."

heavy rain 
"Maybe I'd feel better about this if the music made it seem like fun..."

Simply put, while music may not always be essential to the story, it is a charming and crucial aspect of video game culture.  I am continually impressed when music is used in unique ways, gameplay or otherwise.  A perfect example is "Fallout 3" where you wander the post-apocalyptic wastelands accompanied by the swinging sounds of the '30s and '40s.

fallout 3 sheeshkebab 
"You know somethin'? Maybe I do want to set the world on fire."

While the soundtracks do get some attention, I hope appreciation for in-game music, chiptunes and orchestral compositions alike, will continue to grow and gain a stronger foothold in the bigger picture.  Let us raise a glass to the composers who made us feel triumphant for starting a new adventure, and to those who make us feel like jackasses for failing!

chrono trigger victory

If you've got a piece of video game music that you would like to share your feelings about, let me know below!


*Header and preview images courtesy of Zelda Elements.*

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tattoos of a Gamer

(note: this article originally posted on in January of 2013. I started a mini series on gamer tattoos, but didn't finish it before taking my hiatus. I've moved the existing entries here and will continue the rest of the series here as well)

Until the age of twenty I constantly swore that I'd never get any tattoos. I insisted there was nothing I liked so much to want it on my body permanently, I couldn't decide where it would go anyway, and there was that crippling, hypothetical paranoia that it would turn out poorly. But bring on age twenty, and my best friend and I started talking about getting Triforce tattoos. We had been friends for so long, and we both loved the Legend of Zelda dearly. After a year of talking, planning, and deciding, we finally went for it. On top of the Triforce having a pleasant and simple design, it has such a wonderful meaning. The symbol for power, wisdom, and courage, and the possessor, if their heart be pure, having the ability to bring the world into a golden age of prosperity.

triforce tattoos Please enjoy this dark, out of focus photo of us showing off our new tattoos.
Silver City Tattoo in Poulsbo, Washington.

Prior to the big day I encountered a fair amount of grief from outsiders regarding my tattoo of choice. They simply couldn't believe that something from a video game was a worthy subject for permanent body art. It was difficult to explain to them what, exactly, the Triforce meant to me. It was more than a game, it was also a symbol of my friendship with Jacki, my childhood, and a representation of good in the world.

People could get onboard with the friendship thing (although some still found that to be a bad idea. "What if you stop being friends?"), but mostly they thought the game-based aspect to be absurd ("What if in twenty years you don't play that game anymore?").

There's no way for me to know what's going to happen, or how I'm going to feel, in twenty years. I can only know how I think and feel now. I love video games so much, they are a huge part of my life, and I've played them since I could hold a controller. I've had my Triforce for over five years now and I don't regret it. It makes me smile, it brings me happiness. I'm reminded of fond memories of playing Ocarina of Time, and of my best friend and everything we've been through together. For my 22nd birthday I acquired a second gaming related tattoo, my beloved Blooper.

mario bros. blooper squid tattoo 
Tattoo by Brandon Stewart at Silver City Tattoo in Poulsbo, Washington.

People didn't question this decision nearly as much as they did for my Triforce. I guess once you have one gaming tattoo, it's not a big deal to get a second. They did wonder why Blooper, though. My answer for that is two fold: 1. Mario is awesome, and 2. I love sea life. I like to joke that it was a thrifty two-in-one tattoo, taking care of the need for a Mario piece and sea life at the same time. Bloopers also happen to be my favorite enemy in the Mario series. And I love this little guy! I don't wear tank tops a lot, so whenever I do I feel pleased knowing that he's behind me staring at everyone that I pass. I also frequently forget that he's there, so sometimes I'll catch him in a mirror and spin around startled to get a better look. People ask me, "What is your tattoo?" to which I reply, "It's a Blooper, the squid enemy from Mario." It elicits strange looks from a fair number of inquirers, but at the very least everyone can agree that he's a cutie.

Check back through the next two weeks, because I'll be showcasing more gamer tattoos from my friends! See their art and hear their stories, and if you have a tattoo and story of your own please feel free to share it here!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

10 Reasons You Should Watch Castle

ABC’s Castle is a crime based comedy/drama starring Nathan Fillion as mystery author Richard Castle and Stana Katic as Detective Kate Beckett. The series begins with a murder that seems all too familiar to Detective Beckett, who is a devout Richard Castle fan. Castle is called in for consult on the crime, which mimics a murder in one of his novels. He is inspired by Detective Beckett and decides she is his new muse, seeing as how he just killed off his best-selling character, Derrick Storm. Nikki Heat is born, and, thanks to his friendship with the mayor, Castle is now Beckett’s permanent tag-along on all her cases (much to her chagrin).

10. The Acting is *actually* really good.

I don’t know about you, but I despise shows like CSI, SVU, and Law and Order because the acting is absolutely atrocious. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the main characters—but the victims/murderers/rapists/suspects/etc. I understand that with people constantly being murdered and interrogated, you need to cast a lot of actors per episode/season. But honestly, I could name ten people from my high school drama class that can act better than that. There are so many actors out there who are trying to make it in that industry, really talented people, and you waste your budget on actors who belong in porn or workplace training videos?

"Listen, Lizzie, we found Miranda's bloody scrunchie in Gordo's house, tell us where he is."

When I watched my first episode of Castle, that’s exactly what I was afraid of. I already knew Nathan Fillion was going to be great, but I was most hesitant about the extras. Castle isn’t a real “well heard of” show, so why would their budget allow for talented people? I had to weigh my attraction to Mr. Fillion against the inevitable bad acting that would come with this crime/mystery show.

To my surprise, I could have my cake, and eat it, too! The actors they choose to portray even the smallest part are always, always stupendous. I’ve never found myself flinching during a badly-delivered murder confession or victim’s statement. Plus, if you’re a Whedon fan (which you better be), you’ll delight in each episode that a Whedon character suddenly appears! I know I did.

Not to mention Stana Katic, who plays Detective Kate Beckett, is a brilliant actress, as is the entire cast.

9. It’s a Twist!

Well, obviously it was the husband. He is definitely the killer! I mean, come on, he took out a life insurance policy on his wife the week before her murder, hello! Wrong, stupid. It was the random guy from her office who was mad that she was going to reveal that he was sleeping with his secretary! BUT WAIT THE HUSBAND WAS IN ON IT??

See what I did there? You went for the obvious answer, right? But you were wrong! But then you were kind of right. It’s all very technical. This is basically what you can expect from each episode of Castle. You’ll find yourself accusing the character that seemed really shifty during interrogation, when really you should have been accusing the person who “found” the body or knew the victim from summer camp 20 years ago. I’m not saying that you should expect every episode to have a murder plot out of left field, but really, you should just leave Beckett and Castle to their jobs. It is fascinating seeing how everything ties together at the end. I always get a little chill when either Beckett or Castle (or both at the same time, as they do) shout, “I know who the killer is!”.

Of course it was the butler. Look at him, he's a freak.

8. The Sexual Tension is Murderous. (Get it? Eh? EH?!)

Oh, Caskett (their OTP name, Castle + Beckett = Caskett) JUST DO IT ALREADY! Castle and Beckett are so obviously in love. And how could they not be? Castle is Kate’s favorite author, he’s handsome, rich, smart, helps her solve murder cases, and makes her laugh. And Kate is strong, independent, incredibly sexy, a Sherlock in stilettos who could kick your ass halfway to next year. The tension between these two is so frustrating. You just want to make paper dolls of them and make them kiss each other! (Wait, is that creepy?) Honestly, though, you understand why they’re hesitant to indulge their curiosities. The writers do an amazing job of making sure you really know the characters. Just like Beckett and Castle, you’ll know when the time is right.

"Drink up, it'll be a while before the sex."

7. “Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be just like Kate Beckett!”

Detective Beckett is a triple threat: smart, sexy, and lethal. Her target practice sheet will have you pissing your pants, and don’t even think about running from her, because she will take you down harder than a linebacker (I don’t know football, is that a legitimate comparison?). This woman is in-demand, determined, and noble. She wants to put murderers behind closed bars and will do whatever she needs to do to get there. The youngest female homicide detective in the NYPD, Kate Beckett is driven by an inescapable desire to gain vengeance for her mother, who was murdered when Kate was still a teenager. She is loyal, honest, and hard-working. She is a real role model, although her character would blush and hide in a closet if you told her so (she’s also very modest).

You're not a real cop, you lying bitch.

6. Castle’s insane theories will have you in stitches.

Whether it’s a government conspiracy, extraterrestrials, zombies, or vampires, Castle always has an imaginative (and sometimes plausible) theory for the murder case at hand. Occasionally, his theories are actually helpful, and humor ensues. This is not a science-fiction show, however, so his theories are always wrong. Still, it always has Beckett and her fellow detectives raising eyebrows and grinning even in the grimmest of circumstances.

A crossover could be in the works.

5. The Plot Thickens…

There isn’t one episode of Castle that bores me. Pop stars hanging from fire escapes, dead guys in cake mixers, girls pinned to the ceiling with barbed wire. Call me morbid, but these episodes are frightening and fascinating. Sometimes there’s a gunshot wound to the chest, but the body has been set in such a ceremonial fashion that you wonder why the body was left that way instead of why the victim was murdered in the first place. The writers keep the viewer intrigued, curious, and grasping for details. And as always, when the case is solved, the viewer is left satisfied.

Perhaps this is a protest to the local school district for calling it "Christmas Break"?

4. All the feels.

From Castle’s relationship with his daughter, Alexis (Molly Quinn), to Beckett’s painful past, the feels in this fine program are never ending. I have laughed and sobbed appropriately. I have been scared shitless and overjoyed. I have rooted for the good guys and been furious with the bad guys. I feel like I know these characters, like I’m part of their lives, and I have high hopes for where they’ll end up and who they’ll end up with.

Dawson ships Caskett.

3. The existence of the Richard Castle novels. Yes, they’re real!

Someone actually writes the books, under the pen name Richard Castle! When I figured this out, I was thrilled. Castle’s first series of books featuring detective Derrick Storm (whom he killed off by episode one) are available to buy on Amazon, as is the newer series, Nikki Heat (based on Detective Beckett herself). During the show, One of Castle’s Derrick Storm novels, Deadly Storm, was adapted into a graphic novel, and it’s actually available for purchase! Now that I’ve finished the show (before season 6 premieres this fall) I’d really like to read all the Richard Castle books and the graphic novel. The novels are loosely based on experiences that Castle actually went through. I’m excited to learn more about Derrick Storm, since those novels took place before the show came into fruition.

The handsome Mr. Storm himself.

2. Whedonites, rejoice! References are in abundance!

Like I said before, if you’re not a Whedonite, you better become one, quick! It’s just the best fandom to be a part of. And once you do, or if you are, Castle is just sprinkled with perfect little references to all our favorite shows. Buffy, Dollhouse, and, of course, Firefly. When I hear one, I can’t help but squeal and text my fellow Whedonites exactly what I heard or saw. They just make me smile until my cheeks hurt. Although Mr. Whedon isn’t involved in the writing, I can’t help but think that his close relationship with Mr. Fillion has something to do with every little allusion.

You two are just adorable.

1. Nathan Fillion. Enough said.

Seriously. Enough said. No? Oh, all right. Come on, guys! It’s Captain Hammer from Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog! Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly and Serenity! Sergeant Buck from Halo: Reach! Bill Pardy from Slither! Caleb from Buffy! Okay, if you don’t know what any or all of those things are, then you better get on it, buck-o. I mean it. Nathan Fillion is incredibly sexy, talented, and hilarious. I’m not sure if Richard Castle is more Richard Castle or Nathan Fillion, but either way, he portrays the character exactly like he should. No one else on Earth could play that character, and I’m glad no one else does.

I mean, look at him!

Now go watch seasons 1 through 5, ABOGS!


*banner image from georgespigot

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