Exploring the Virtual World

We dove in and bought an Oculus Quest 2, the first wireless stand-alone VR Headset, a few months ago. It has been a fantastic source of entertainment through the Covid Winter. We have been playing a lot of AMAZING games on it – Moss, Red Matter, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, I Expect You To Die, Beat Saber, and VR Fishing, just to name a few.

Tonight I was playing in RecRoom, which is a social app with games to play within it, and experiences to have with the many other people exploring it.

RecRoom has a cartoony asthetic

Sorry these are dark, but it was at night – ON THE TITANIC!

In RecRoom there is a Titanic simulation, and I love the Titanic, so I have gone and experienced it several times. Tonight I was hanging out on the bow when the Iceberg hit (you can see us heading right for it in the second pic), and a kid dressed like the Captain ran up to me and said “We’re going to sink! You have to get in the lifeboat! Follow me!” and led me to the lifeboat. Then he rounded up everyone else he could find and tried to get them in the boat. Some got in, some ran off. One guy wouldn’t get in without him, but he said he was the Captain, he had to stay with the ship. So we saluted him as the water rose up and our lifeboat floated free. It was very dramatic!

So I was on the lifeboat with a couple kids, we were all watching the ship tip up and break apart. Neither of them spoke english, in fact I couldn’t quite place what they were speaking. One of them broke out virtual pizza, and they brought me a slice, then they broke out bottles to drink and handed those out, so we enjoyed a virtual picnic while watching the tragedy unfold! It was weird and wonderful, and surreal.

When it was over we got back on shore and (my avatar is distinctly female) a boy ran up and said ‘How old are you?’ and I said ‘really old’, and he asked ‘Like, are you over 25?’ (like that’s REALLY old) and I said ‘yes, way over. How old are you?’, and he said ’12! So I suppose you have a boyfriend?’ and another kid interrupted and said ‘Dude, don’t ask that, what are you doing?’ and turned around and shrugged at me like ‘Kids, what are you gonna do?’ The whole thing cracked me up. I just wanted to share, it was just a fun, silly experience, and everyone was nice and having a good time.

Lockdown in the time of Coronavirus

I guess we’ve been hearing about the virus in China for a month or so, but it has suddenly hit us hard. With the knowledge that this bad new flu is circulating, but without testing capability, and an already overtaxed medical system, we are now in semi-lockdown. The play we have been rehearsing for over a month (Much Ado About Nothing) is on hold until later in the summer, I’m working from home, and people are wiping out the grocery stores (glad I went to Costco with friends and stocked up a couple weeks ago). Crazy times.

I had just settled on a plan to expand my photography into family portrait work, and decided that this summer I would train and do any odd jobs I could get, and hone my craft. I bought a new (used) lens just for this pursuit.

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This is a Sony f/4 70–200mm. It takes really sharp pictures with nicely blurred backgrounds. I’m really happy with the few test shots I’ve done.





Combined with my full-frame a7ii, this is certainly a rig capable of producing high-quality images.

I also plan to dedicate any ‘hustle money’ I can make to my meandering Mustang project. But who knows when things will get back to normal, when I can start hustling, if I will even care about the Mustang when this is all over. Maybe priorities will change? Right now the poor Mustang is buried in the garage under shipping materials leftover from Christmas. The toy shipping season has stretched out significantly. Things are still selling now in March!

But I don’t mind working at home. I’m hanging out with my hubby and dogs and cats:

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surrounded by all my craft projects I’ve been putting off. Like my ‘learn to paint’ project. I’ve got my paints, I’ve got my easel, all I need is time.

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I can FINALLY follow along with BOB!

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It’s actually kind of nice, but I’m only a few days in. We will see how it feels by the end of the month! I hope to sneak off for some fishing when the weather warms up next week. We will see how it all goes. I’m just hoping people handle this sanely, take care of each other, remember to be kind and considerate, and we will all ride out this strange time, stay healthy, and be back to normal sometime this summer.

Until then I’ll try not to spend too much time riding the range in Red Dead Redemption.

Red Dead Redemption 2 (13)

Red Dead Redemption 2

After breaking my GTAV habit, I swore I wasn’t going to get caught up in another video game, but with the new Red Dead Redemption coming out in late October, just in time to give me an excuse to stay inside where it’s warm, I got sucked in. But really, they deserved it, because the game makers really made something special with this one. It felt more like being caught up in a movie than playing a game, and in spite of the action always being directed back to the story they wanted to tell, somehow it still felt like I was mostly in control.

Night view of mountains

This was a game I could get completely lost in. Trotting around the map on my horse, doing this and that, hunting for food to bring back to camp, interacting with other characters, and basically just running around and having adventures. There were surprises sprinkled throughout this game, in ways they didn’t really have to do, but they did anyway. Tons of details that made it feel like an authentic experience. Little interactions that were inconsequential to the plot, but were really cool to experience. And of course, horses just being weird.

Horse being weird

My playthrough ended up being a love story between Arthur and his faithful horse Maggie, who I picked up early on and stuck with through most of the game.

I love the horse animation so much, sometimes I just pick a point far away and send them off to it just to watch them trot along, and see the wildlife that scurries away as they pass.

Unlike most video games, where your character grows stronger and stronger, Arthur grew weaker and weaker as he was consumed by tuberculosis – a heartbreaking death sentence. So even though I was playing ‘good’ as opposed to ‘evil’, there was no reprieve for Arthur as his time wound to an end, no matter how many people he went back and did right by. It was moving and made me reconsider how I was spending my precious allotment of lifetime (paying video games probably isn’t the best use of my time, but hey, you gotta do something after work).

In spite of playing good, I had one very funny incident that was pretty bad. I was riding away from camp, and a guy ran into my horse, and then started shooting at me, so I shot him in self defense. But as I was hauling his body off the road a witness came along, and I tried to convince him not to report me, but I ended up shooting him too, and as I was dragging his body off the road..well, you get the picture. It was comical as I had to keep shooting witnesses and drag them away, and after about 6 of them, the next guy came along, I clicked the button to reason with him, and he says “I didn’t see nothin'” and rides away.

By the lake

Aside from inadvertent mass-murder of NPCs, this game was full of exploration, beauty, wild animals populating the land and sky. Some of my happiest memories are of just camping by a lake, fishing, cooking over the campfire. All things I’d like to do in real life someday. At one point my character stayed out so long just hanging out in the woods that the gang sent someone out to bring him back to the main plotline!

outside the map elk 2

After I finished the game, there was still months of entertainment in completing all the challenges, encountering stranger missions, finding little secrets and surprises scattered around the map, and even escaping the confines of the map to wander in the back-country outside the borders. There is so much in this game, I am still being surprised by little things, and only now, 5 months after I bought it, am I starting to run out of things to do.

sitting at fire

This article explains it much better than I could. Reading the Game: Red Dead Redemption 2 It has been not just a game, but an experience. Something amazing, and beautiful, and moving, and really unlike any video game I’ve ever played. It felt like a step forward in video game development. Not a constant shoot-em-up of bigger and bigger bad guys, but a game that required thought, and where the action was interspersed with quiet times. Now, when I’m tired at the end of a long day, I like to take John and ride out to Cattail Pond, and watch the elk splashing through the pond, fish until the sun sets and then sit by the fire and watch the clouds pass over the moon while the coyotes sing to it. It’s what Arthur would have wanted.



GTAV Update

So, here it is about 2 1/2 years after release, and I am still playing Grand Theft Auto 5 as my primary game of choice when I have a few minutes to sit down and play. And we still play together, Dave and I, on our two xboxes, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. It’s pretty fun. It is a wide open world, and you can do anything – though sometimes it seems like what I primarily do is crash planes.

These are all taken with the in-game camera…

And they frequently end up on fire…

Good thing the game sends firefighters to clean up my mess!
Thanks guys! Sorry about that…
Sometimes the game acts glitchy.

Whoa! That ain’t right!
Dave and I get up to some shenanigans together online. Here is his character posing next to a chopper he just wrecked.

And here he is in a chopper hovering outside my apartment window. That blows my mind that they have built that into the game. I can see what’s happening outside my apartment through the windows!

Some of my favorite toys. Nice that I can have a candy red 68 vette in the game, since I no longer have one in real life. The one in the game requires a LOT less maintenance!

This game is fun, beautiful, surprising, and exhilarating – even a couple years after release. I still keep finding new things to do. The other night I spent an hour trying to parachute and land in a church belltower. Such fun! And sometimes I’ll just park my bike and enjoy a virtual sunset over the ocean, and that’s ok too.


Grand Theft Auto Update

I have been enjoying Grand Theft Auto Auto 5 for a whole year now! Crazy! I have wasted entirely too much time playing it. It’s my favorite thing to do to kill a couple hours before bed, and I don’t even want to admit how much total time it says I have played! We enjoyed it enough we finally bought a second XBox and copy of the game (found both used on CL) and setup the second console so Dave and I could team up and play together. So much fun! Here we are between missions. The masks are to protect our identity 😉

I’ve kind of maxed out what I can earn in the game, so sometimes I just go hiking around the game and exploring. It is stunningly beautiful in places.

A year later and this game can still amaze me.

One thing that wasn’t so amazing though is the kids I have run across while playing it. The other day I played with a 9 year old. This game is rated for 18+ for a reason! Do their parents not know, or not care?! The little guy had the mouth of a sailor too, I’ve never heard so many F-bombs – clearly he was trying to be a big guy to the other players. It’s just disturbing. The game is great fun, but it’s so inappropriate for a little kid to be playing it!


Spending time in another world


Sometimes I feel a bit of guilt that I enjoy videogames so much. After all, there is a big wide world out there to explore, why waste time on the couch exploring a virtual world? To me, there is hardly a better way to spend the little bits of time left at the end of a day. I would so much prefer playing in a world I can interact with, compared to watching TV. In fact I can hardly sit still to watch a TV show or a movie. Sometimes younger people act surprised that I play videogames, but I’ve been playing them my whole life! OUR generation started out with Atari 2600s, why should we quit playing when games just keep getting better every year?!

At the end of September, Dave gave me a present for HIS birthday! To keep me entertained while he was away working on a play.




The ‘world’ is huge, and finely detailed. I could forget it’s a game. Sometimes it looks like a movie.(There is an ‘in-game’ cell phone that lets you snap pictures of your adventures. That’s where all these pics come from.) Sometimes I just sit and enjoy the view, listening to the waves lapping at the beach.






So you start out the game as a small time criminal, running around doing jobs for various mobsters. I created a woman character, and named her ‘Amanda Hugnkiss’. After a couple weeks I saved enough for a crappy apartment and a garage.





For the first month or so I did every mission on that pink sport bike, I loved that thing!




Though I frequently found myself ‘borrowing’ other vehicles, like this Patriot that I accidentally high-centered. It was totally stuck, wheels spinning in the air, I laughed my butt off!


I really enjoy flying, and trying stunts, landing in strange places. Like in front of my apartment, and causing a traffic jam…




Though many landings don’t go that well…








Eventually I worked my way up to a fancy apartment, and a BIG garage! I wish it was that easy in real life. Oh wait, I did have to kill a lot of people to get that, I guess I probably wouldn’t do that in real life.




Sometimes there are ‘glitches’ to enjoy – little things that shouldn’t happen. Like when I found myself able to walk around underwater.




Or when I followed directions from a YouTube video to sneak off to the secret, snowy land of Ludendorff.




And the time she inexplicably started sporting a beard!




And some joker gave us $2 Billion dollars to play with, which changed the game drastically. Eventually they cleaned it up and removed all the ‘glitched’ money, but it still changed the game. Instead of grinding away to make money, suddenly everyone had money for all the ammo and cars and planes they could want.

For Christmas the game designers gave us all a present – a snowstorm in Los Santos (it’s supposed to be Los Angeles)




Along the way I picked out a few favorite vehicles – like a pink Mustang




And my ‘Bifta’ Dune Buggy




And our Rhino Tank (posed on top of the tallest building in the city)!




So once Dave had time he started playing it too. We play it differently – I like missions, he likes running around randomly causing havoc. You share this world with other real players, and you can fight each other, or team up to make amazing things happen. It’s a sandbox, you don’t have to have any particular purpose, and that’s ok. This game has been loads of fun, probably the most I have enjoyed a game since Red Dead Redemption (an open-sandbox cowboy-themed game from the same people) and I’m hoping they’ll keep adding new surprises to it to keep people playing for quite a while longer.





Red Dead Redemption

I wanted this game from the first time I heard about it, and now that we’ve got it, I am completely hooked, addicted, and can’t wait to get my hands back on it from the moment I put it down (which is usually when Dave says ‘it’s 1AM and we have to work tomorrow – come to bed!’)

It’s a cowboy game, and I’ll admit, my favorite part is that you get to ride horses – a lot! It’s by the people who made Grand Theft Auto, and we really enjoyed those games, running around in a free world, doing whatever struck your interest. This one is the same. There are missions to do, usually presented by someone coming up and asking you to do something. It feels very natural. I’ve been rounding up cattle, chasing down rustlers, and breaking wild horses – too much fun! Your faithful steed (once he trusts you) comes when you whistle 🙂 But you have to be careful not to get horse-jacked while out wandering around in the wilderness!

The AI that controls the horses has led to a couple funny situations. In one mission, I was on a posse and dismounted and snuck up with the rest of the posse to peek over the rocks and see what the bad guys were doing, and at the bottom of the screen I see these two horse ears – I look behind me and there’s my faithful horse, following right along! On another mission I retrieved a lady’s stolen wagon, and brought it back to her, whistling for my horse to follow. When I got it back to her and got out of the wagon, she was about to give me my reward when my horse tried to go between the wagon and the horse pulling it and knocked it over, and so the lady instead ran off into the desert crying about how her wagon was destroyed! I love it when a game is so open that situations you would never expect happen!

Along with wandering around in the free form world, missions occasionally break into cinematic cut-scenes so pretty you’d think you were watching a movie. The graphics outside of the cut scenes are just as nice, it really feels like you’re controlling a movie (if this was a movie I’d probably give it an R for violence and language). Having been raised with video games from the time of PONG, it makes me wonder how much more realistic can they get?! This game is just immersive, to the point you feel like you’re living in a spaghetti western. You can play your character good and accumulate honor, or play him bad and end up with a bounty on your head, and the game is going to have different challenges depending on which way you play, so I can already see this game is going to keep me entertained for quite a long time. What more could a geek girl want? 🙂

When Dave plays games he always tries all the unexpected things and does stuff the game designers never intended. It will be great fun to see what he does with this one!




Our present to ourselves this year was a new Xbox 360 – something we have been waiting to get for a long time! It was well past time to retire the old xbox, and we are both videogame junkies given the opportunity – after all, we both grew up with Atari 2600 joysticks in our hands.

The new Xbox has some interesting twists though – the whole ‘Xbox Live’ thing is a new way of thinking about videogames. Being hooked up to the internet all the time, just like the other computers, makes for some interesting abilities old consoles didn’t have. We can watch streaming video over Netflix, or play games against other people far away. Those parts only work so-so, because our rural internet connection is not quite up to spec for intense gaming and streaming, but it works well enough. I decided to jump right in and check out some game demos, and found one I fell in love with immediately and had to download. Limbo.

The game is entirely in black and white. It’s not like any platform game I’ve ever played. It can be described as run, jump, push, pull, with occasional climbing and button pushing. Doesn’t sound very exciting, but the puzzles are incredible – real mind benders. None of the puzzles are the Mario type, where you have to memorize complex maneuvers and practice running the same thing over and over again until you get all your timing right – it’s not nearly as tedious as that! Things happen slower, and most of the time you have time to think before something kills you. Your little runner dies – a lot – and comes back ready for more. It’s just great fun. I was challenged by every puzzle, and delighted when I got through them. 

I can’t get over what an incredible little game this is. It only cost $15 and I got more entertainment value out of it than some games I’ve paid much more for, and that’s pretty unusual.