Sold out at Creative Con!

Man, I had an awesome weekend at Creative Con. So much fun. I met insanely cool people, formed friendships with fellow creators, talked about writing on a panel…and sold out of Medical MECH. Oh, yeah! The new book was a huge success. It grabbed the attention of young readers, video gamers, anime and comic book fans–you name it. Needless to say, I was super stoked when I realized how well the book was selling. And what is more, my other titles did great, too.

You might think my favorite moment of the CON was selling out of my book, but you’d be wrong. Those of you who know me personally understand I have a passion for kids. I mean, heck, I’m a middle school teacher and I write young adult novels for crying out loud. During the first day of the event, when the place was filling up with Con-goers, a group of kids dressed in cosplay costumes mingled around upstairs. They went from vendor to vendor, stopping occasionally to sing, giggle or dance. The kids were having such a fun time, dressed up  and with like-minded people who “understood them.” Everybody needs a place to belong. And it touched my heart to see kids in a place where they could be themselves without fear or shame or judgement (something that goes on far too often among teenagers these days, enhanced by social media). I literally got goosebumps seeing kids having so much fun.

Among my other highlights, I enjoyed sharing a table next to Eitanya Designs–a husband and wife cosplay table where they sold props, armor, and geek-chic fashion accessories. You can see them in the above pictures, dressed as Lara Croft and Nathan Drake. A funny moment happened when an attendee asked him if he was dressed as Josh Gates from Expedition Unknown. Great stuff. I was dressed as Nathan Drake, too, but it’s not as obvious–which you can see in the pictures, too.

My favorite cosplayers were two women dressed as Noctis and Prompto from Final Fantasy XV; and another chick dressed as Cloud with his Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII. If you’ve followed my gaming blogs on this Site, then you know how big of a Final Fantasy fan I am. Pretty cool costumes.

Anyway, I’m exhausted from the Con. But it was worth it. New readers have access to my books. I met great people. Made friends. And I had the privilege to be part of the Creative Con experience. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Advertisements

New book hits tomorrow at the CON

New Book - Medical MECH

That’s right, folks. Medical MECH will be out in force at Creative Con all weekend long. If you’ve got nothing to do, head over to the Panama City Marina Civic Center and join the fun. There will be cosplay, celebrities, authors, filmmakers, artists, contests and gaming. And that’s just scratching the surface. Head over to Creative Con’s website to check it all out. Make sure you stop by my table if you visit. I’d love to see you there.

Creative Con

When Nostalgia Meets Gaming

Nostalgia can have a powerful tug at your heartstrings. We often romanticize our past. It doesn’t matter if we were struggling through difficult times, embracing a new adventure, or growing into adulthood, memories will flood our thoughts and remind us of an easier time. Nevermind that living through the event may have challenged us on every level: physical, spiritual, environmental, mental. Nostalgia tells us we lived and we experienced. 

Anyway, all those philosophical thoughts are likely going to be wasted on this post, because from here on out I’ll be talking about the nostalgia of a video game. But it isn’t really the game which brings about the memories, it’s the events I lived during the time I played the game.

The game is Final Fantasy XII. It originally came out October, 2006. My wife and I were newly married. I worked at Shark’s Tooth Golf Club, was still studying to become a teacher (being an author wasn’t even a thought), and I was extremely happy. I can still remember the night I beat the game, because my wife worked all evening long on a college paper while I stayed up and played FFXII. Procrastinator. She should have completed her paper early like I did.

I am pleased to say I’m still extremely happy, married to the same wonderful woman, have three beautiful children and all that jazz…but like I said earlier, times seemed easier then. Chalk it up to nostalgia.

Final Fantasy XII was recently re-released on the PlayStation 4. The game follows orphan, Vaan, as war looms on the horizon. The Archadian Empire is invading neighboring kingdoms, and Vaan’s home of Dalmasca is next. When Dalmasca’s king is assassinated, Vaan, a sky pirate, an exiled knight, and a princess thought dead must uncover the mystery behind the Archadian Empire’s invasion in order to restore their home. It’s a political tale filled with intrigue, airships, and war.

I haven’t played the game in years, and I’m excited to dive into the world of Ivalice once again. The new version of the game even features a new leveling up system, so even though I have beaten the game before, parts of it will feel new and fresh. Add improved graphics and a re-orchestrated soundtrack, and my game sessions will be filled with both fun and nostalgia.

So what are you playing? Shoot me an email and let me know.

Final Fantasy XII

Lost cities, tombs & treasures, and ladies who can beat the snot out of you!

Rise of the Tomb Raider

And this lady is an iconic one, too. Lara Croft, the tomb raider. In her latest adventure, Lara attempts to unravel the mysteries behind the Divine Source–an ancient artifact said to grant immortality. Her father sought the artifact throughout the course of his life, but came up empty-handed. Now Lara has uncovered a missing piece to the puzzle, and she’s off to raid tombs and discover lost cities…and kick guys in the junk! Well, not really, but she knows how to handle herself in a scrap.

Lara’s not the only person seeking the artifact, though. Trinity, an organization reputed to be thousands of years old, is also on the hunt–and they’ll kill anyone who gets in their way. Can Lara overcome an entire band of mercenaries and unravel the past to discover what her dad could not?

The answer is yes and no. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, a video game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I accompanied Lara on her latest archaeological thrill ride. Sadly, the game consisted mostly of action and world exploration than historical mysteries, but the game was still fun nonetheless. SPOILER ALERT: she defeats the bad guys, only to learn Trinity is much bigger and more influential than she first believed. There will surely be a sequel, but I might not buy it. Because when it was all said and done and the end credits rolled, I felt like the game lacked that something special. Chalk it up to my own biases. I recently completed both Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, which I enjoyed for their integration of history and storytelling, and fun gameplay mechanics; respectively. So please know those games skewed my opinion slightly.

Regardless, Rise of the Tomb Raider shined in its optional tombs Lara can explore at various points throughout her adventure. It was during those moments, when I attempted to solve tomb riddles to reach a hidden treasure, that I truly believed the game hit its stride.

I give Rise of the Tomb Raider a 7 out of 10. A mediocre experience from a biased gamer. So what are you playing this summer? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email. As for my next gaming experience, well, I’m itching for nostalgia. And I’ll get it in Final Fantasy XII: the Zodiac Age–which just came out this month!

Final Fantasy XII

 

Top 5 Video Games of all Time (Part Two)

In my last blog post, I talked about my top 5 favorite video games of all time based on story. In this post, I will share my top 5 favorite games based on gameplay mechanics. So here we go…

Top 5 Video Games: Gameplay

5. Halo: Combat Evolved. When the Xbox was gearing up for release back in 2001, I was skeptical. At E3 (one of the biggest video game conventions in the world), Microsoft announced their console’s “killer app,” a game they touted would sell millions. When I saw that the game was a first-person shooter, I scoffed. What the heck was Microsoft thinking? Didn’t they know players preferred role-playing games like Final Fantasy VII? Boy, was I wrong. The game turned out to be great. I spent hours playing the single player campaign. But where the game truly shined was in its LAN capabilities. If you’re not familiar with LAN, it involves connecting four Xboxes up to one another so you can play with up to 16 people at once. LAN parties became a thing. You’d invite your friends over, tell them to bring their Xboxes, stock your fridge with drinks and snacks, then prepare for hours of fun. Online games today lack the fellowship Halo: Combat Evolved offered. I miss those days.

Halo

4. Devil May Cry. Man, the year 2001 was a great year for gaming. Although this game’s story is kind of blah, its gameplay is fast, stylish and fun. You play as Dante–a demon hunter who is half human, half demon himself–toting two semi-automatic pistols named Ebony and Ivory, and a huge great sword named Rebellion. Everything about Dante screams cool, from his weapons to his red trench coat. He fights demons with style as he juggles combos and performs insane aerial maneuvers. I probably beat this game three times in a row just to enjoy its addictive gameplay.

Devil May Cry

3. Horizon: Zero Dawn. This game likely made the list because I’m still on cloud nine from playing it the last couple months. You play as Aloy, an outcast who travels the land in search of answers to her past. During her journey, you fight massive robot dinosaurs with impressive bows and arrows. Each robot has weaknesses to exploit. At first, I was overwhelmed going up against the machines, but as I learned to target their components and weapon systems, I found the gameplay to be enjoyable and strategic. Plus, it’s fast-paced, the graphics are insane, and the story is awesome. Horizon almost made the top 5 list for best games based on story, too.

Horizon Zero Dawn

2. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I know many of you out there reading this post have played Skyrim. For you, that game would probably be ranked higher than Morrowind. I’m here to say Morrowind is better. Now, I must clarify that Morrowind was the first time I had ever played a massive, free-choice game. You can literally create a character however you want, from his avatar to your play style. When I first roamed the land, I couldn’t even kill a rat who attacked me on the road. It took several swipes of my dagger to finally slay the creature. But by the end of the game, I could defeat any foe with blade, bow or magic…and I could fly. Holy cow. I went from nothing to the most powerful being in the world. Sorry, but you can’t fly in Skyrim. Not unless you play the PC version and add Mods.

Morrowind

1. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. How could an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) not make the list? If you’ve ever played a game like World of Warcraft, then you know how addicting the gameplay can be. Of all the games I have ever played, I have logged more hours in the world of Eorzea than any other. I play as Vosslar, a level 60 elezen bard/paladin/white mage/you name it. One of the great things about the game is you can play multiple classes. I have a tank, a healer, and a DPS (damage per second) character. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’ve likely never played a game like this. What’s so addicting about FFXIV’s gameplay is the online element. Through the game, I am connected with thousands of players. Together, we can form parties and tackle dungeons, monsters and high-level raids. Gamers are typically a nerdy group, but MMO players are the nerds of the nerds.

Final Fantasy XIV

Well, that’s a wrap on this discussion. Those are my top 5 favorite video games based on gameplay mechanics. What are your favorite games? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

Top 5 Video Games of all Time: Gameplay vs. Story

I worked as a Gamestop game advisor during my early twenties. One of the most fun topics to discuss with coworkers and customers was our favorite games. Games, like movies, are subjective, so the following list of games are what I consider to be the best. You might disagree. Great. Let’s talk about your favorite games, too. That’s part of the fun. I have broken my list into two blog posts–one for games that had the best stories, and another for games with the best gameplay mechanics. Today, we’ll focus on story. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started already!

Top 5 Video Games: Story

5. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I loved this game when it released back in November, 2001. The introductory tanker chapter alone is worth the price of admission. The story follows Solid Snake as he attempts to thwart nuclear disaster, but following an explosion Snake is believed dead. Two years later, a terrorist group takes over an oil rig and holds hostages–and one of them is the U.S. President’s daughter. Their leader goes by the name Solid Snake. Whoa, plot twist! You play as Raiden, a covert soldier who must sneak into the rig, rescue the hostages, and uncover the mystery behind Snake’s disappearance and treason. Pretty cool story.

Metal Gear Solid 2

4. Final Fantasy XII. This game came out October, 2006. My wife and I were newly married. I can still remember the night I beat the game, because my wife worked all evening long on a college paper while I stayed up and played FFXII. Procrastinator. She should have completed her paper early like I did. The game follows orphan, Vann, as war looms on the horizon. The Archadian Empire is invading neighboring kingdoms, and Vann’s home of Dalmasca is next. When Dalmasca’s king is assassinated, Vann, a sky pirate, an exiled knight, and a princess thought dead must uncover the mystery behind the Archadian Empire’s invasion in order to restore their home. It’s a political tale filled with intrigue, airships, and war. I highly recommend the game. It’s being re-released this summer for Playstation 4.

Final Fantasy XII

3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I’m a huge fan of the Uncharted series (and Final Fantasy, if you haven’t noticed). The games have a winning combination–great stories and fun gameplay. A Thief’s End came out May, 2016. The story follows treasure hunter Nathan Drake after he comes out of retirement for one last adventure–to go on a dangerous quest for Henry Avery’s pirate treasure with his brother, Sam. In the world of video games, the Uncharted games are your summer blockbusters. Big productions and epic stories. But Uncharted 4 is the best.

Uncharted 4

2. Final Fantasy X. This game came out December, 2001. I was still living at home with mom and dad. I had no responsibilities other than working part-time, and my classwork at Gulf Coast. Which meant I could play FFX all night long and not worry about getting up early the next day. Man, times sure have changed. The story follows Tidus, a superstar Blitzball athlete, as he is swept away from his world and transported to a mysterious land known as Spira. There, he meets a young summoner named Yuna who must journey to acquire a powerful spell from a place called Zanarkand–the name of Tidus’ hometown. The city was destroyed 1,000 years earlier by a creature called Sin. Yuna seeks to destroy Sin. Tidus tags along to help Yuna, and to discover the mystery of what happened to him and his home. It’s an emotional coming of age story filled with love and a twist ending on par with the movie, The Sixth Sense.

Final Fantasy X

1. Vagrant Story. Of all the games I’ve ever played, this one by far has the best story. The game came out May, 2000; and to be honest, I didn’t pick it up right away. It wasn’t until about 2002 I finally gave the game a shot. The story follows Ashley Riot, a Riskbreaker tasked with rescuing a kidnapped boy from a religious zealot named Sydney Losstarot. To save the boy, Ashley must travel to a magical city destroyed twenty-five years earlier by unnatural earthquakes. But Ashley isn’t the only person inside the city. Knights of the Crimson Blades, as well as other agents pursuing their own agendas, are also on the hunt for Sydney. If this premise sounds familiar, it is. When I wrote The Prophet of the Dragon, I considered what I loved about Vagrant Story and tried to recreate a similar feel. Some of those elements include a medieval stealth soldier, a religious zealot who kidnaps a boy and takes him to mysterious city, and knights in pursuit with their own sinister agenda. It goes without saying, I LOVE this game.

Vagrant Story

So those are my top 5 favorite games of all time…based on story. Next time, I’ll share my top 5 favorite games based on gameplay mechanics. So what are your favorite video game stories? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!