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Top 10 Gifts Under $20! (For Your Nerdy, Fandom loving, DIY-er)

Growing up I had a plethora of hobbies and I know my family had a hard time figuring out what to get me. It was often daunting for them to figure out what exactly I’d like. It’s hard not knowing what to get your super nerdy cos-player friend, or your hardcore gamer, or that cousin that sits around a table with his friends and talks about dragons while tossing strange looking dice all over the place. Now try to make it happen on a small budget… That’s what this list is for! We’re here to help you figure it out, and maybe (just maybe) you’ll surprise them with something wonderful.

Firstly, a bit of advice: Identify their hobbies and the things they love. If you don’t know, ask them or their friends. Find someone that knows. This is important. Taking this tiny little step can go a long way to figuring out what you should be looking for in the first place. Do it.

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10. Elegy for a Dead World. ($14.99)

You find yourself in a peculiar situation. You’re friend is both a writer AND a gamer. What to do? Elegy of a Dead World solves that problem with one fell swoop, in which you take the role of a writer filling in prompts given to you through the imagery of various worlds you explore. The game is short and really only sits well with this particular geek.

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9. Google Cardboard. ($15)

VR is expensive. Plain and simple. This is an inexpensive alternative that can turn any phone (with the proper applications installed) into a portable VR experience. Plus, cardboard is in right now, just look at Nintendo Labo.

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8. Gift Cards. ($NA)

Gamers are often creatures of impulse. Having a little extra green in their steam wallet for that game that just went on sale or in their blizzard account for some packs of Hearthstone cards, can go a long way.

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7. Dice. ($5 – $20)

For those D&D (And other Tabletop RPG) aficionados. Their collection of brilliantly colored polyhedral gems are an extension of themselves and often considered sacred ground. Don’t you dare touch their collection, however, take a peak and look for their favorite color. From there take a look online or at your friendly neighborhood gaming store and see what you can find!

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6. Supplies. ($NA)

You’ve identified their hobbies right? Then ask yourself: “What do they need?” If you have an painter, do they have enough paint? Maybe a few canvases. Do you have a Dungeons and Dragons player? Maybe they could use some #2 pencils or index cards. A cosplayer could use more makeup or fabric. What’s your kids favorite gamer fuel? Mountain Dew? Water? Make it happen.

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5. D&D starter Set. ($19.99)

Do you have a buddy interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons but has no idea where to start? You’re looking at all the books and seeing $50 price tags and your not really sure which ones they need? Get them this. The D&D Starter Set includes everything they’ll need to get going, including some dice, a starter adventure, and a basic copy of the rules.

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4. Smart Cooler Mugs. ($19.99)

“A mug, really?” Yes dammit! These mugs are cool… errr warm… hot? They keep things cold or hot, depending on what you’re looking for. They are made from stainless steel; including the straw, have a no sweat exterior, and a vacuum sealed lid. You can choose from many colors and hold up to 30 oz of liquid! Awesome…

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3. Board Games. ($5- $20)

There are a plethora of board games available that are not only high quality, but inexpensive as well. They cater to a large range of gamers and nerds and very few will be disappointed by a quality card game. You’ve got titles like Chrononauts for those interested in time travel and history, or Bang! For your Red Dead Redemption fan. Codenames, Forbidden Island, Guillotine… The list goes on.

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2. Skrewdriver Pen Pocket Multi-Tool. ($12)

Multi Tools are super useful. From someone that likes to build their own computers to cos-players and artists. This handy pen comes with a level, screwdriver, ruler, and stylus! Super convinient. 

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1. Show interest in their hobbies. ($Free, usually…)

Far too many gamers are out there feeling all alone. I know I was. I would have been ecstatic had my grandparents come over and asked me about those cardboard cards I’m playing with or that game I play in the basement with my friends once a month. Offer to learn about it or have them show it to you. Take an interest in their hobbies. You have no idea how much it could mean to them.

Review: Ring of Elysium

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Developer: Tancent Games
Publisher: Tancent Games
Platform: PC

What’s it about?
Ring of Elysium is a multiplayer battle royale game. With graphics closer to PUBG than Fortnite, this action packed battle royale certainly keeps you on your toes. Sixty people are trapped on a mountain and must avoid the massive snowstorm, Ymir. The objective is to get to the rescue flight, which can save up to 4 people.

What did I think?
The game itself runs very smoothly. There was no lag, no glitches that I came across. I would have liked the chance to learn what my controls were before being thrown into a match. I know that other battle royales do the same thing, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know what you’re doing and are killed within seconds.

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Like PUBG, you can drive a car or a boat to get to your destination faster. These are loud, however, and can be heard from very far away. I did have an opportunity to snipe someone driving in a car, but I didn’t know the controls and they passed by without me so much as firing a shot.

The customization was pretty cool, though extremely limited. You can go in and change your facial features, but mostly everything is preset. My biggest issue was the lack of diversity. You can only be an Asian man or Asian woman. This being an Asian game in early access, I understand why that’s the case, but I hope that they add more to this as they get closer to a full release.

The ambiance is rather jarring to me. The game itself is very quiet. The only sounds around are natural sounds, like wind blowing and leaves rustling. You can hear people walking if you’re in the same building as them, which is pretty cool. I actually got a kill because of this (which is more than I can say for any of the other battle royales I’ve played). The gunshots are loud, though. So loud that they gave me anxiety. I’m sure I can mess with the sound options, but my chest is still a little tight.

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Do I recommend it?
If you’re into battle royales, definitely check this game out. It’s free to play on steam, and it is currently only available in North America and Asia. If your anxiety is triggered by loud noises or gunshots, I highly recommend you let this one pass or tweak the sound settings to make it not so jarring.

Fighter’s Block: The Best Game to Play During NaNoWriMo

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So, show of hands: who is participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual challenge that writers take to create a 50,000-word novel in one month. One epic month where you are not allowed to tell yourself, “This is terrible. I should throw everything out and write it again.” A month of late nights and early mornings, a month of word sprints to see how much you can write in ten minutes, a month where you find yourself cancelling plans with friends because you have to work on your novel, a month of spontaneous plans with friends while you are procrastinating on your novel.

Which I am not doing by the way. I am sacrificing the time that I could be spending working on my novel to help you, my fellow WriMos. Please stop judging me. I have plenty of time to reach my word count goal for today. So there.

So, here’s a fun game that can help you raise said word count each day. I especially love to use it when I know I’m going to have a full schedule during the day, i.e. work and streaming. It’s called “Fighter’s Block.”

“Fighter’s Block” can be found here. You start at Level 1, fighting the “Not-A-Block” monster. And how do you defeat this monster? By writing!

You set a goal for yourself based on how many words you’d like to write. Personally, I like to set my goal for 500 words, but it’s completely up to you. The number of words is the amount of health that your enemy has. As you type in the text box beneath the “battle,” the monster loses health. But when you stop typing, your avatar loses health, and will continue to lose health until you finish mulling over what to write next. So the game forces you to write fast without concern for whether it’s “good enough,” making it perfect for WriMos.

If you need to stop for any reason, that’s not an issue. You can always pause the game until you’re ready to start again. Additionally, you can change the speed of the monster’s attacks, the size of the text, the font, and the color scheme of the page where you’re typing. And the more you write/play, the more you level up, and you can unlock new avatars to use.

All of these settings are great additions, but the real value of “Fighter’s Block” comes from its concept. It provides a fun way to increase that word count and get your thoughts down without worrying about the quality of them. (For now, anyway. Revision comes after the work is finished.) So, if you’re a gamer and a writer, check it out, and have fun!

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: Marisha Ray

ray-marisha-image Marisha Ray has done almost everything. She is a voice actress, producer, actress, host and stunt performer. Sher is also an avid gamer.

Marisha has been playing games and kicking butt since she was a small child. She loves all kinds of gaming. This passion has been able to help fuel her career and take her on the path that she now walks. Marisha has an impressive resume. She has been voice acting for years and has given us many fantastic characters.

Before she could start acting though Marisha tained at many companies such as; Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts, and the Governor’s School for the Arts. These companies helped Marisha hone her craft.

In 2012 she was able to star in and help create a fantastic series called; Batgirl: SPOILED. Ps I would LOVE to see more of that story. Batgirl is a great example of the creative nature of Marisha. Taking something she loves and building upon the story for others to enjoy. From there she has only gone forward. Including what most of us are most familiar with.

Critical Role is a show that has is a fan favorite for many tabletop gamers. It has also been a way for so many to get a start in Dungeons and Dragons and as a tool for Dungeon Masters with new players. Marisha has been on both campaigns and the one shot adventures of this nerdy group of voice actors. She has given players an excuse to be awkward and to make mistakes as they play through her characters. Marisha brings a real sense of fun to Dungeons and Dragons. I have written before about one of her characters Keyleth and how she inspired me as a gamer. 

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Marisha also is in charge of the Critical Role Podcast. She has been the producer of an awesome show called Signal Boost! Which is a really fun project that showcases everything from comics to music. Every episode has a different host. Which means viewers get a plethora of different interests to look into.

Marisha is a free spirit and an uber nerd. She has made space for herself in the gaming world where she can be totally herself. Marisha has made more space for women as well.

Marisha is proof that creativity breeds success. That you can be yourself, take your interests and make a career that you love out of it.

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You can see Marisha every Thursday night on Critical Role!

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

Staff Favorites: Horror Games

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Fatal Frame. I vividly remember the first time my brother and I turned out the lights while playing it… That didn’t last long.
– Oresan Fells

 

 

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I would have to say that one of my favorite horror games is Eldritch Horror. It combines two of my favorite things; the Cthulhu mythos and tabletop gaming. Players choose a character and then set off o try to stop the ancient evil from rising. Players are faced with many horrors and even if they win they will probably not leave the game with all of their sanity. Play if you think you are strong enough, if not when then “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” Happy gaming and always keep sparkling!
-Thia the Bard

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I love Alice: Madness Returns because it’s a twisted Alice in Wonderland. Everything is spooky, crazy, and wonderfully dark. You get to stab mobs with knives, smack them with a horse head or fire upon them with a teapot. Plus, you block with an umbrella. Not to mention the costumes.. Steampunk Alice is the best! -Azkadelya

 

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Damn it, Karen, stop writing on the wall

Layers of Fear is my favorite horror game. The story is engaging, the jump scares are minimal, the building terror is enough to make my skin all tingly, and it doesn’t make me motion sick since it’s basically just a walking simulator.
– Vanri The Rogue

 

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Growing up I got this board game called Nightmare. Very early 90s, mind you. A VHS board game and I loved every second of playing it. I made my neighbors play it with me over and over again. We recently played it on stream and I still love this game, no matter how old I am or it is.
– Crymson Pleasure

Gaming News: Halloween Events in Games 2018

Hey everyone! It’s my FAVORITE time of year! October! Halloween! Black cats and Vampires roam! And hopefully they find their way into our favorite games! I know that all year I look forward to Halloween events so I thought I’d share a few that have great looks and fun stuffs to do!

First up, Fortnite.

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As I’m writing this, we are in week 2 of Season 6 in Fortnite Battle Royale. This season is full of spooky costumes, new pets and challenges to keep you busy. While Epic hasn’t officially said what is going on for Halloween this year, there are big expectations since their original release was around Halloween. There has been some information leaked that there will be Halloween quests for the PVE side, Save the World. Also, they have already decorated for Halloween on the Battle Royale Map for Season 6. You can find spooky ghosts hoisted up randomly on lightposts and houses. There are spooky cornfields in Fatal Fields and a Halloween Store in Retail Row currently. And they’ve already had a few costumes out in the store. I know I’m looking forward to seeing all that they release this year!

Next, Overwatch.

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Everyone knows that Blizzard loves their holidays and this year is no exception. As always with Overwatch, previous years skins are available during Halloween Terror. There are also 6 new skins available this year and a limited-time brawl. Junkenstein’s Revenge is a fan favorite, including mine, where you can rage against your friends or random people. New this year to Junkenstein is the ability to use Brigitte and Tracer. Also, if you feel like dropping some cash on it, if you buy the 50 Halloween Loot boxes bundle you can get 10 free. This even started on October 9, 2018 and goes through the end of October.

Another Blizzard Favorite – World of Warcraft.

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Every year, we get the Hallow’s End event. There are temporary broomsticks to ride, masks to wear, and tons of Inns to trick or treat at. There are achievements for wearing all the masks, eating so much candy you get sick, and interrupting the other sides fun. You get to go burn the opposing faction’s wickerman and you can eat G.N.E.R.D.S and kill them in PVP. It’s always fun to put out the fires and kill the Shade of the Horseman. Make sure you put pumpkins on all races, clean your teeth with toothpicks, get transformed by all the wands, and going to all the Candy Buckets. Most of all, make sure you ready up and kill the Headless Horseman in the Scarlet Monastery. I don’t know about you, but I’m still itching to get his mount! This goes from October 18 – November 1, so don’t miss it!

A new game this year – Monster Hunter: World

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Currently in this game, they have an Autumn Festival going until October 18th. This seems to include their Halloween activities this year and has costumes for your Palico and Poogie; as well as a new dress for your handler. Not to mention, the spooky gear you can get for yourself. There are quests as well which seem to be extended to October 25th due to some issues. If this is your game, make sure you don’t miss this!

P.S. If you already have this game, you got a free voucher on the 5th for a one-time character redesign!

Another MMO, Black Desert Online.

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It isn’t entirely clear what is going on in BDO this year, but if it’s anything like last year there will be quests with hat rewards, event boxes, and possible login rewards. They do already have bundles for sale (IRL money) on their store from previous Halloweens. There are costumes, mount skins, prop bundles, wall décor, a lighting set, a table set, and even a Jukebox available. Some are in limited quantity so make sure you get them while you can!

An honorable mention for Halloween that makes me sad: Ark is foregoing its annual Fear Evolved event because of the new DLC drop the beginning of November – Extinction. Until next time, play what you love!

– Azkadelya

Recap Review: The American Girls Premiere

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One lovely summer day, my parents were summoned to the basement for the world premiere of my very first play created on the computer.

This one-woman show invoked the minimalist style, in the sense that almost nothing actually happened. Its protagonist, Felicity Merriman from the American Girl franchise, crossed the stage and recited a brief soliloquy in robotic monotone: “Hello. My name is Felicity.” Then she curtseyed and walked off the stage.

…well, I thought it was a work of genius at the time. And it was the start of many more bizarre plays starring the American Girl characters.

For those unfamiliar with it, the American Girl franchise started out as a doll collection. Each doll was based on a fictional nine-year-old girl living in a specific period in American history. Around the time that the franchise caught my interest, there were six of them: Felicity, living in Colonial Williamsburg just before the Revolutionary War, Josefina, living in New Mexico before it became a U.S. territory, Kirsten, a Swedish immigrant, Addy, a slave who escapes to Philadelphia with her mother, Samantha, an orphan who lives with her wealthy, old-fashioned grandmother in 1904, and Molly, whose father is a doctor overseas during World War II.

The dolls each had six books that described their misadventures with family and friends and showed how important historical events had an impact on their lives. I loved reading them as a kid. I also loved staring longingly at the many, many accessories and clothing that you could purchase for the dolls in the American Girl Catalog, most of which I couldn’t get because they were just too expensive.

And then came an odd but kinda amazing addition to the franchise: The American Girls Premiere.

The American Girls Premiere was a computer game for Windows and Mac, where you could create your own plays using the characters from the American Girl stories. It gave you numerous tools to work with: characters, setting, props, music, sound effects, lighting, and actions.

Unfortunately, it did have one big limit, story-wise: you couldn’t create an epic crossover starring Felicity from 1774 and Molly from 1944, or Josefina from 1824 going on adventures with Addy from 1864. Once you picked one of the girls, you became confined to her time period, her settings, and her supporting cast.

I’m guessing that the company didn’t want girls coming up with plays that were too wacky, but in hindsight, they might as well have let us go wild.

The most memorable part of the game was the horrific, computerized voices that you got to use to make the “actors” say their dialogue. Technically, the game also provided a voice recording option if you had a microphone with your computer. I didn’t, so I could never get that feature to work and had to rely on the voices given to me.

The results? Well, you can watch this masterpiece of a play to get an idea of what they sounded like:

I couldn’t find many videos of people’s American Girls Premiere plays anymore (and I suspect some of them were removed for copyright infringement), but “Meet Robot Felicity” is a perfect representation of how these productions often looked and sounded, and then some. You could indeed make characters soar through the air or burrow underground.

Although the game came with a basic tutorial, I ended up uncovering most of the ins and outs myself. It offered me an opportunity to mess around and see how far I could go when putting together a play. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it also offered a learning opportunity in how to create something with limitations. Need to show the character sleeping in a bed instead of lying on the floor? Levitate him or her so that he or she would appear to be lying on top of the bed. The computer can’t pronounce the lines correctly? Well, time to deliberately misspell the words so it would.

The American Girls Premiere wasn’t perfect, but it offered many, many hours of fun.  It served as a nice introduction to the different elements in creating a play: having the right props, the right lighting, etc.  The silly robot voices added some unintentional humor to the whole experience.  I’m glad it existed and I miss playing it.