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Digging and Dying – A Dig or Die Game Review

Hello everyone, those of you who know me over on Twitter may well have noticed I’ve been fairly quiet in the evenings just lately. That’s because of a game I started playing recently: Dig or Die. It’s a game on Steam made by a chap who goes by the name of Gaddy Games over there who has done most of the work himself, with some help with art and music. Rebecca came across the game first and within half an hour of watching her get to grips with it I jumped onto Steam and bought myself a copy. In some ways a pretty simple game in some ways, the basic premise can be summed up thusly;

 

Basically, you’re a travelling salesman for Craft & Co, you sell Auto Builder machines across the galaxy, but you derp up and crash your ship on a hostile planet. The ship’s AI survives and is less than thrilled with your muck up, before dispensing handy hint throughout the early game. Now you have to use your company’s products to craft items from various ground based minerals, the local flora and fauna in order to survive and eventually build a rocket to get off again. So it’s a bit like Minecraft with a tower defence element to it.

There’s a twist though; the local wildlife is hostile, very hostile. In fact if you kill one of a species, the rest of the species will go mad and will try to kill you at night. Therefore you need to build a decent, sturdy and well defended base. Think you can go pacifist and just avoid killing stuff? Forget it. Just about everything you will need to craft involves body parts from the various wildlife you’ll encounter. It’s kill or be killed.

 

                   (Evolution of your base; from hole in the dirt to a well defended complex)

So at the start you really don’t want to go around aggravating too much. In time you’ll craft better weapons, turrets, healing turrets and other defences and build a sturdy base. You’ll also craft better crafting machines to collect and make improved items and things that help you get around this strange world easier. You’re often caught weighing up weather or not to go after certain creatures based on weather you can fend them off at night or not.

It’s also a complete world, with different biomes and challenges each one brings. There’s the surface world, with floating sky islands, a volcanic area, an underground sea, caverns beneath that and other caves. It’s also a very wet world. It’s raining a lot. In fact the developer based the weather on his native Northern France. The water physics are amazing though. It rains, water runs and flows, it will seep and soak through porous lands and slowly evaporate out of areas that aren’t so. Water is fairly integral to the game given you can control it and use it to generate electricity and manage your environment for defence and safety (you don’t take fall damage if you fall into water).

The building physics are spot on too. Gravity is a harsh mistress and takes no prisoners. Don’t expect to be able to take a half-assed ‘pile it as high as you can’ approach to building towers and bridges. You need to plan and structure things properly or you’ll be literally falling on your ass.

There’s also four bosses to deal with (five if you include an optional extra), all of which need defeating in order to obtain key items for survival and getting off this hostile world. I’m not going into too many details as I don’t want to spoil the fun.

There’s a lovely musical soundtrack too, fairly calming by day and dynamic and a tad frantic at night when you’re under siege from all the creatures you’ve angered.

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(Base under siege: holding out till dawn)

You’ll be doing a lot of digging, and you’ll quite often be dying too, but with the game’s default setting meaning the game auto-saves each morning (you can do your own saves too) and each day cycle taking around 15 minutes or so, deaths aren’t catastrophic and you’ll often learn from your mistakes.

Technically speaking, this is an early access game, it’s still in development and there’s plans well afoot for a multiplayer element, which is in beta, but the main game is fully playable and I haven’t come across any bugs so far, and I’ve stuck 60 hours into this.

If you’ve read this and like the idea, look it up on Steam. It’s £5.59 and worth every penny IMO. The link to the store page is below.

http://steamcommunity.com/app/315460/

 

Stuff Your Jobs

So our supposedly esteemed leader (that no-one actually voted for) this week claimed there are ‘boy jobs and girl jobs’ at home earlier on this week. Yup, 2017 has reached peak table flipping madness with the prime minister coming out with this guff that belongs in the 1950’s. Excuse me while I call this out for the bullshit that it is.

It did get me thinking though, particularly after Mia Violet highlighted on Twitter in her usual fun and satirical way what would happen in a household where men aren’t present. At home there’s me and Rebecca, we’ve both come from a background where we’ve had to learn all sorts of life skills and interests that probably aren’t considered all that girly. Rebecca’s got extensive knowledge in DIY through work and has practical hobbies such as getting her 3D printer up and going, as she was doing so yesterday.

I too am no stranger to DIY, and know a bit about cars and bikes, enough to do things like change spark plugs and oil. admittedly it’s not stuff I really want to do but it’s simple enough to do and a money saver too. As for the domestic stuff? Well we both do all that too though opening jars is a task that’s becoming increasingly difficult for us both.

The thing is, this has also got me thinking back to my upbringing. I’ve come from a family where this idea of there being boy jobs and girl jobs never really existed. Mum and dad both worked from home and both fitted work around stuff like getting us to and from school, clubs and so on.

I remember moving into the old family home almost 30 years ago and helping mum and dad with chiselling room after room of fuck-awful woodchip wall paper off of the walls. Sure, dad was better at the decoration side of things, he was better than most professionals at that, but mum was no slouch. She can paint and pout things on walls. The other week she used a power drill and put up two hanging basket brackets and a garden hose reel.

Yes, mum did most of the cooking, but cooking is a passion of hers. As it turns out dad was a pretty good cook himself. He did a full Sunday roast the day mum came home with my youngest sister for instance, he’d cook when mum was ill and both mum and dad knew their way around a barbecue. Dad would help with serving up Sunday dinner and tidying up afterwards and he’d do his fair share of the cleaning around the house, especially as mum’s back got worse. He always could get more stuff to fit in the dishwasher than any of us.

I remember long car rides to various places we went on holiday. Mum would have the map out and navigating for dad in between plying us with sweets to prevent WWIII breaking out between me and my sisters so he could focus on driving. I earlier mentioned being somewhat handy with cars and bikes. Bet you’re wondering who taught me what I knew? Must be dad? You’d be wrong. Dad hated doing that kind of thing, which I found slightly odd given he was a practical and hands on person between his DIY skills and his work as a draughtsman. No, the car stuff was self taught at a time when I didn’t have the money to pay someone else to do it for me.

All in all, having this kind of upbringing has served me well as I ended up learning all sorts of life skills without this toxic thinking that a particular job was for men to do or for women. I’m also pleased my sister is imparting this upon her kids as they grow up. People really need to start thinking about what they say before they say it, especially those who are in a position that holds a lot of sway and influence.

Hey, Teacher! Leave Those Kids Alone!

Well if anyone mentions anything about school that song comes to mind, rapidly followed by any number of unpleasant memories and various pointless run ins with other kids and teachers alike. truth be told, this morning got off to a rough start anyway as I had some disturbing dreams from the past during the night anyway so my head was somewhere in the past when I caught sight of a tweet threat by OhMiaGod berating her own experiences with school.

It’s also coming up on 15 years since I last walked out of the dump of a school I had been toiling at, never to return. Truth be told, they were probably just as glad to see the last of me really. junior school was one thing, senior school, and a school where it was an all boys’ grammar school was seven years of hell, arguments, blood, tears, pain and frankly bugger all to show for it. Looking back now and knowing who I am now, it’s no surprise really.

Before going further, I need to warn you. I’m not holding back here, so warnings for mental health, and suicide. Yes, school fucked me up that badly.

I was at a grammar school but I didn’t really have the smarts for it, having scraped in simply to get away from the hooligans at my junior school who bullied me and means mum was making frequent trips across the road to give the headmistress a piece of her mind on the matter. Off to a winning start already really there. Being a socially awkward loner type who didn’t fit in and really doesn’t function at all well in a group put another bullseye on my back on top of not being bright in a conventional sense. Oh I was smart, but I have a short attention span and only really able to put my full mind to tasks that I find interesting, none of which were on the curriculum.

Being pretty naff at physical games? Yup, that’ll get you bullied too, especially while going through a puberty which you later look back on and see most of what you were feeling towards yourself was gender dysphoria, which thanks to the total lack of education regarding gender and sexuality that isn’t of the cis/hetero variety, this would go undiagnosed until years later.

Having a teacher who insisted you all showered after P.E, naked and he’d hover nearby to make sure you all went through meant  I got so wound up about things I went into a state of permanently forgetting  to bring my kit to school on those days and earning myself detentions every couple of weeks for non compliance. Hell, an hour after school failing at homework was childs play compared to confronting *those* confusing feelings each week. Of course, making my hatred of P.E so public meant other kids began questioning my sexuality, because of course, not liking football, hockey etc means you’re gay.

Having a personality clash with your English teacher, who only made things worse by singling you out and aggravating things further, because this is an all male environment and we love nothing more than pointless one-upmanship to assert our dominance? Guess I’m failing English that year then because the chances of me staying remotely engaged are now zero. That said I did really piss him off at the end of the year because there was one project I actually liked (devising your own directions for directing a scene in a play) which I actually put my full energy into and got one of the highest marks in my year group for it.

As I grew up I became steadily more angry, depressed, morose and introverted. punching things became all too routine, not good having already fractured both wrists in silly accidents, but testosterone poisoning does jerk things like this. GCSE choices came about, which was a laugh, because when it came down to it and  after you take away all the mandatory subjects I only had two free slots, though picking French and doing a full course in I.T weren’t choices I’d have picked if anything better was available. Seriously, they were the best of a bunch of stuff I couldn’t stand. history? Nope, three years with a teacher who could put the dead to sleep with his droning killed that. P.E? Lol nope after two years of racking up non compliance detentions. Religious education? Well as by then I was perma-banned from that class , that wasn’t on. Seems turning up to that class repeatedly five minutes late, opening the door as moodily as possible and hurling your bag across the room to where you usually sat was enough to get me kicked out. Doing this five times in a row and after three detentions and my teacher had enough.

Yeah, I wanted nothing to do with Religion, even back then I could see what  mess it was. I’d also recently lost my granddad and churches hold bitter memories as a result. School had this dopey prize giving service every year and marched us all off to church as a result. Mum had half heartedly said I should go into lessons that morning, feign illness and come home got get out of it. I took her at her word, did so and then forged a sick note. My year head saw through it called me to his office so he could call my parents and let them know what I’d done. Dad answered and cut him down, basically saying if I didn’t want to go to church, them I wasn’t going, and if the matter wasn’t dropped he’d come in and have words on the matter. Dad didn’t even care I’d forged a sick note, he told me he wanted us to grow up, make our own choice on religion and he’d back whatever we chose. I had chosen that day, he backed me up. Parental win.

Actually, I wanted to do art,. That got killed by my art teacher, based on the fact he made us spend the best part of two years drawing still life crap and not interesting things like comics and fantasy stuff. Funnily enough I put very little effort into the former and so my grades were deemed too crap to go into that class.

GCSE’s came and I somehow got a C grade or above in everything I sat, yes including maths, which I’m awful at and design technology, when my project didn’t even work. I even got an A for Spanish, not that I’ve ever had to use that in real life. Evidently I had the grades to go on and do A levels. What I should have done is saw ‘Fuck that’ and gone and got a job. I’m surprised school didn’t tell me to get lost by then really. I was still a socially awkward misfit who didn’t fit in anywhere and wasn’t really applying myself to my subjects. I picked A levels. FML.

Now, returning to do A levels, we got this big speech on how it was our own choice to be at school, as A levels weren’t mandatory and some guff bout being treated more like young adults. Riiiight. My first day back, my Spanish teacher spend the first lesson teaching us how to swear in Spanish out of the way, reasoning we’d figure it out sooner of later. Incidentally, knowing how to blaspheme in Spanish isn’t terribly useful for everyday life, but oh well. I also had an argument with my biology teacher, who by now had been my teacher for four years and I had spent all too many a lesson doodling and not paying attention only to leave him dumbfounded every time he tried to catch me out with a snap question to make me look silly in front of class and I answered correctly. He reasoned we should be putting in the best part of 30 hours a week outside school time across our subjects. I snidely made a comment about some of us liking a social life outside school. Ironic coming from me of all people and even more ironic as I was one of the chief offenders when it came to not doing homework in his previous classes. You can see this is going to end well.

Six weeks in or so and struggling with the workload, as well as the fact my English literature course was hamstrung by it being spread across three teachers who didn’t coordinate the workloads they were assigning upon us, one teacher who was even more monotonous than my former history teacher, allied to some of the worst books I’ve ever had to read did me in. Seriously, try reading Hard Times and *not* throw the book across the room after reading a couple of pages for being so tedious.

I had four other subjects (Spanish, Business Studies, Biology and General Studies) going. This was they year the AS level and League Tables for schools were introduced, so there was a lot of pressure put upon us to do well. I went to my hear heads (yes, both of them) and said I wanted to drop English and take a short course in another subject, thinking that as a young adult and my education being my choice now I could do this. I got told no and sod off in no uncertain terms, but I persisted. Eventually they said they needed my parents to come in and discus the issue. I went home and mum and dad agreed to come in one afternoon and discuss this with my year head. As soon as they came in, my year head dropped the matter and I was free to do something else, rather than waste any more time on a subject I was clearly not getting on with. That right, my SELF EMPLOYED parents both took an afternoon off from work for a meeting that was done in five minutes and was totally uncalled for. To say the three of us were annoyed was an understatement.

I spent the remainder of that year struggling along, falling further behind and with increasing mental health issues. I somehow scraped through the end of year exams, including Biology, somehow. My final year at school beckoned and knowing I was going to fail Biology if I continued as it was branching into areas I was weak at anyway I decided to swap it out for another AS level. once again, I got the ‘No, sod off’ treatment from my year heads and I snapped. This time I wasn’t going to drag my parents in and waste their time, I took things into my own hands. I decided I would fail in the most spectacular way I could think of, as this would hurt the school’s score on this precious league table they kept bleating on about.

Most of my biology lessons were spent either in a local cafe or weather permitting out in the countryside somewhere. I cycled to school so it didn’t take me long to take myself a couple of miles away somewhere, with books, doodle pad and walkman to while away my time.Most of the teachers weren’t local to my town, so I knew endless places to go where they wouldn’t come looking for me, as they frequently trawled the high street, the local supermarket and so on for other pupils who’d gone A.W.O.L during the day. it worked, I was never caught in the act, though I got the frequent “I know you weren’t in lessons but I can’t do anything as I don’t know where you were instead” from my year heads.

Of course, this eventually spiralled out into my other classes too. School reports that were filled with ever more exasperated lamentations never got to my parents as by then I had gotten good at forging mum’s signature (sorry mum), my attendance got ever more sketchy and my mental health was being steadily worn down by having keep going to a place I now detested, as well as the growing revulsion as to what my body was becoming as puberty wore on.

Throw in a pretty disastrous relationship with a guy I’d been introduced to by a friend and a pretty gnarly Christmas where at one point I got so irritated I barricaded myself in my room I had enough. I tried to take my own life after being diagnosed with depression, put on medication which seemed to only aggravate this and having also been warned that if I lost any more weight I’d be looking at being hospitalised. By then I had fallen to 8 and a half stone, which is not good when you’re near six feet tall, but I had zero appetite and couldn’t bring myself for force myself to eat. I won’t go into how I tried to end things, only that it didn’t work.

The school year wore on and on one of the increasingly rare days I turned up I got called into my year heads office. Cue a lecture on how I was throwing my education away, how I’d end up like some homeless person in the local park  and so on. He also brought up my attention span issues. It was well known I had ADHD as a kid and to this day I still have issues with my attention span. Mum and dad mitigated things as much as they could by changing my diet as a kid as E numbers in food were a big trigger. My year head, knowing all this made some crass and needless remark about how I was of the ‘Ritalin generation’. How I didn’t thump him one for saying that I still don’t know. Needless to say this meeting was pretty well finished by then, by me shrugging and walking away, much to my year head’s annoyance.

A couple of weeks later and in a rare moment where I was actually trying to do some work I get a message from a runner to go see the same year head. I shrugged and said he can come find me as I was busy. I had zero desire to speak to him again. Ten minutes later he arrived, asked me to confirm what I had said and informed me my study leave for exams was cancelled. Comical really. How was he going to enforce that when he’d spectacularly failed to enforce my attendance the rest of that year?

Breaking up time came and I went on study leave, along with everyone else. Well I say study leave. I either sat at home, listening to music, playing guitar, computer games or working for mum and earning a lot more than a paper round would have got me. The exams came round and I ensured failure in Biology by not turning up for the exam. It sounds petty but after the past year at school, failure felt good. Mum and dad finally found out the extent of how badly I was doing at school at that point and I explained how I decided to handle things on my terms rather than drag them in again, because being annoyingly stubbornly independent is what I do well.

Results came a couple of months later. C For Spanish, D for Business Studies and the same for General Studies. To this day I have not used any of them for any practical purpose, likewise with most of my GCSE’s. I got into care work at the age of 29 and over the next two years I completed an NVQ 2 and 3 in health and Social Care, among other short courses. Not bad for an errant misfit who spent seven years being psychologically and physically traumatised by her school who was destined to become a park bum.

Funnily enough, a year after left school for good, they contacted dad as they were snooping around, wanting to know what their former pupils were up to for their records. Dad bluntly told them to go jump and that if I wanted then to know what I was doing, I would contact them. To this day this hasn’t happened and probably never will. Ought to be a riot if I did show up one day, right? I can only hope school has changed for the better since I left really.

If the Devil Kept Pets …

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(Max, enjoying a stroll in the garden)

Max would have been a contender. Hang on, I’m going somewhere here so bear with me. You leave someone, you go your separate ways and over time the communication diminishes and then there’s silence. The past recedes and you look forward to the future. however sometimes the past comes back. Hard, and in unexpected ways. This was very much what happened the other day when I got a text out of the blue from Richard’s mum to let me know Max had died the day before. Cue a half hour chat on the phone to Richard to see what has happened.

Max, as it turned out had a really bad turn a few weeks back and had a lung infection of some sort. He’d seemingly recovered to a point though he has topped talking afterwards. Then a couple of days ago he started going downhill again fast. Richard and a neighbour got Max into the car and off to the vet. By then though Max was slipping away. The vet got his heart restarted but he wasn’t breathing on his own and the decision was taken to let him go rather than have him suffer further.

Apparently Max was quite old, something I had suspected, but Blue and Gold Macaws, like most other parrots are good at hiding their age so I couldn’t know for sure.They’re also good at hiding any illnesses until they get so severe it’s too late to do much to help them. Max at least had a good twenty years in a good home before he left this world.

In fact how Max came to be with us was a bit of a strange story. Max wasn’t even ours, but Richard’s granddad, who got hold of Max 20 years ago. At the time he was still working as an electrician and was doing jobs for an obnoxious millionaire who had Max as a status piece. Needless to say the poor bird was not treated all too well and fearing the worst, the millionaire’s wife somehow got Richard’s granddad to get Max out of there before something bad happened. From what I’ve been told Max was kept caged up all day and often threatened with a stick when t came to changing feed or sorting the cage out as he would bite otherwise (and no wonder if he was being treated so). This had a knock on effect in that he really didn’t trust many people. He got on well with Richard and drove pretty well anyone else away by attacking them so he soon became Richard’s responsibility.

Things went well for a couple of years and then Richard was hospitalised for a good few months. Max became depressed and ripped all his feathers out as is so often the case with these birds if they become stressed or depressed. They frequently bond with one person and see them as a mate of sorts. Hence I didn’t get along too well with Max. Oh we had fun and played games and whatnot, but if I tried to handle him it would come to grief. I have two scars on my arm where he once bit me down to the bone.

Max was a bit of an unusual parrot in may ways. Most people think of parrots and think of various toys and tricks they’ve seen them do. Not Max. Toys went unplayed and unchewed, instead preferring to trash anything within reach of his cage. Max had a cage but it had no doors. He would climb all over the outside see what was going on in the garden or the kitchen. Of course we promptly lost all the wallpaper round the cage, as well as the door surround and coving, but Max was happy and a lot freer than he was at his old place, and he liked being part of what was going on in the house.

He was a very social creature. Talkative too, though he rarely swore, and if he did he’d tell himself off. I kid you not. We’d hear “Oh fuck”, quickly followed by ” Bad! Bad boy. Baaaad parrot!”, and he was most definitely a parrot. You try call him anything else and he’d quickly correct you. “Er, parrot!” was the usual response. He’d say thank you at times when he had a treat  and the few words he did know he’d always knew how to use them in context. He was not merely mimicking. He also had airs and graces. If the phone went off he’d reply with a very posh “Hello”, and he loved sitting on his perch by the table when we had dinner and say “Ooh, that nice. Nice” until we gave him a piece of whatever we were eating.

He used to try and boss the dogs around too, when he was on the ground and roaming around the house. one dog would run away, the other would hold her ground and cuff him round the head as she was an old madam. Max would quickly run off and take over one of the dog beds and then say “Goodnight Max” and nestle down for a sleep.

Max also loved the garden, the pond in particular. He’d watch the fish and try and stroke any that would come to the surface with his beak. Pretty brave considering he liked water about as much as Taz. Richard would have to take Max into the shower with him to get him clean. Ironic given parrots come from rainforests.

Max had one more surprise for us. Ten years ago, Max had a bit of a funny turn when Richard and I were on holiday. Fearing the worst when we got back, Max was on the cage floor and very red in the face. We were about to call the vet out when I discovered what Max was doing. Max was laying an egg! Yup, Max was a hen, though any attempt at calling max ‘she’ was quickly rebuked with ” I’m a parrot” or “Good/Bad boy”. Seems I wasn’t the only gender non conforming creature in that house!

Max was a sod a times and a mischievous imp at others and I have to say I’m still getting used to having meals and not having a voice hint and hint until I gave him something of what I was eating. Richard and I often joked that we didn’t want kids because we had Max, for Max had the intelligence, vocabulary skills and general demeanour of a three year old child, one that would never grow up and that rang true, right until the end as Richard told he he’d get home and he’d have Max on his shoulder, being cheeky and headbanging away until he fell ill.

Rest well Max, wherever you are now you’re back with Rosie and Candy, and probably trying to chase them about again.

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(One cheeky bird, having escaped from the shower)

Gamer Girl

Rebecca and I have a couple of days together and for once we’re not running around doing tons of stuff. In fact yesterday, aside from a quick trip to the local shops or essentials (fuel, HRT and food),we stayed in and relaxed. So what did we do? I spent most of it playing Diablo 3 and Rebecca wrote at length about her history of gaming as it’s something she had planned on doing for a while now.

https://rebeccawhite2016.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/the-history-of-my-gaming/

https://rebeccawhite2016.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/after-rpgs-and-consoles-there-came/

For those of you interested there’s her thoughts on things, a good and fun read too. Of course we got chatting, sharing memories and so on about gaming and how it’s run through our lives in one manner or other. It’s also something I’ve been getting back to in the past year after not really doing all that much for some time now and realising how much I’ve missed it.

When I think about it, gaming for me anyway invokes a lot of happy memories involving family and people I hold near and dear to me who are no longer here, and that will become clear as I go on with this. I may as well begin from my earliest memories and go from there really.

The first memories I have are at school actually. I was five years old and the school I went to had a computer room. I can’t remember ery much though, other than the fact whatever education game we were using ran off of those huge old floppy discs and was made by the BBC.

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(Ah, old tech, got to love it)

I wasn’t at that school for every long in the end as my parents were in the middle of moving back to mum’s home town where she lives now, though my next school also had PC’s and games. Anyone remember Granny’s Garden? I loved that game but the wicked witch terrified me.

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Yeah, that’s the one, with the creepy as fuck 8-bit music that went with it. The game itself was a RPG of sorts and you had to solve puzzles to progress and find the missing children of the king and queen, while keeping out of the way of the wicked witch. It’s very basic by today’s standards but as a wide eyes five year old? It was something else.

It was around then (and looking back probably on the back of dad’s nostalgia for games) I was given a C64 for Christmas. Not the full blown rig, but the main bits, keyboard/processor, tape deck and joystick and was able to be plugged into the TV. Games back them mostly came on cassettes which took a good ten minutes to load, depending on game size, though there were a few cartridge games too, which started up almost instantaneously. Of course, being a five year old with attention span issues, these were a boon. In amongst the various tapes we got, dad found a set which had the old arcade games, such as Space Invaders, Galaxians and Pac Man , which he and mum played extensively when they were arcade games in the 70’s, and got me and later on my sisters into as well.

Other games I remember was Dambusters (you could pilot an Avro Lancaster Bomber, be pilot and bomber while evading flak and fire over occupied Europe and try and relive the famous raids of WWII. (Spoiler alert: I sucked at this).

The Captive was played a lot because it was a tape that only took five minutes to load up. It was also pretty weird as a game. You’d escaped from somewhere or other and went through an abandoned and haunted town where ghosts would kill you, finding various items for quest progression, though I never found out what the actual quest was. You could gain abilities such as swimming and flying a helicopter. I also remember a time limit factor where after spending so long, arrows would fall from the sky and try and kill you. There were other items you could pick up, some useful, some not so. There was also a booby trap. You could pick up a magic mushroom but for frak sake don’t use it because this happens.

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Your character would flip sideways, float up and off the screen and it would be game over. A novel approach to teaching the perils of drug use, eh?

Bullseye (remember that darts game show?) got in on the act and released a game. Bully’s Sporting Darts. You used a joystick and controlled a disembodied hand to throw darts. You played the classic darts games, as opposed to the game show format, so you’d have 501 and Round the Clock. Some clever person figured out how to play a dartboard based version of cricket, tennis and snooker, mad as that sounds. This was one all the family played, even my grandparents, albeit it not so well. Words don’t do the game justice so here’s a video.

High tech stuff there, from the age when internet was the preserve of a lucky few and most of us made do with Teletext (I loved the artwork people came up with on that thing)
Dad tried to encourage me to get into coding when I was 8 years old or so on the C64. He got hold of a couple of books where you basically typed in a load of stuff, record it onto a blank tape and in theory you’d have a game at the end of it. Little miss ADHD here tried a couple of the shorter ones, which required a mere three or four pages of input to do this and grew frustrated as it failed each time. Dad got involved, first watching and proof reading my attempts and then had two goes himself, but nothing. The books were forgotten about and a possible future as a programmer died there and then.

The future beckoned and it came in Megadrive format. Yup, dad brought two in the end, one for the family to share and when he realised he couldn’t get a look in got one for himself. Sonic the Hedgehog were the games of choice for us then, all of which were great fun, aside from Sonic 3D, which I never got the hang of because I could never judge where to aim for in a 3D layout. Dad had his golfing games and we also had the Lion King, which we used cheat for to go through in the end. Dad got cheats off of a friend of his and introduced me to that side of easy, risk free gaming.

I  also bought a game or two. I remember a friend flogging Sonic 1 at school for a fiver. No box or manual, just the game, which I promptly raided my piggy bank for. I really went for the Sonic series as a kid and poured an awful lot of time into the games trying to get all the Chaos Emeralds and so on. I remember playing in the mornings before school, sneakily leaving the console on and paused and hoping mum wouldn’t see the little red light that indicated the thing was on and turn it off during the day as you couldn’t save your game until Sonic 3 rolled around. Fun fact, mum still has the Megadrive and games. The grand kids play it occasionally and my dad’s duplicate purchase means we still have a couple of working controllers and working TV lead after all these years.

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(Those bright colours and crisp graphics that look pretty good even today if I do say so myself.)

By now I was in secondary school and being taught how to use a computer properly as this was now a thing. A room full of 486’s that ran Windows 3.1 was what the future looked like, and those who were more tech savvy than I was had great fun trying to worry around the filtering system put in place to access restricted and probably pornographic content during lunchtimes.We had a pretty good teacher too, Dr Wilcox, though we all called him Moses because of his wild and grey bushy beard he’d grown over the years.

Back at home and seeing the future, dad, who was now self employed and now needing a PC to do his admin work and quotes for his interior design work, and changing with the times did two things: Bought our first home PC and our first internet connection. The amusingly named Mitsubishi Apricot came into our lives, complete with Windows 95.

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https://www.inversenet.co.jp/pclist/product/MITSUBISHI/N2A1.html

Specs are in the link for the curious, though most of the page is on Japanese. A 166mhz processor, 16mb RAM, 1.7 gb hard drive were the main specs, a pretty good machine for it’s time and within no time it became the latest family gaming hub. For me I was often playing the early Worms games on there, Rollercoaster Tychoon too, as well as the Shareware version of Doom. Shareware back then was you got part of the game for free, on a floppy disc. If you liked it, there were details on how to purchase the full game. With Doom I ended up doing so, albeit with parental help as it had a 15 rating at the time. Demonic carnage ensued when I should have probably been tying up some homework. It was much more fun with cheats and going around with infinite BFG 9000 ammo. There’s a group that’s modded the classic Doom and done all sorts of amazing things to update the game. Brutal Doom if you’re curious enough to look it up. You can even flip off demons in that and watch then take offence now.

A Playstation 1 also came into the house in the late 1990’s, another dad purchase. I remember playing Bust a Move with him, trying to beat him at the game and more than once staying up till midnight trying to beat him in a Best of 20 match. Crash Team Racing with my youngest sister got played a lot too because it was fun and quirky and we had great fun setting up booby traps that became impossible to pass without driving through and so on. Truth be told, I didn’t get too much into the Playstation as I was more of a PC gamer and this happened a couple of years before I moved out anyway.

I also got a Game Boy Colour for my 15th birthday and spent a fair chunk of time playing Mario 1 and 2, Warioland 2, Bomberman, as well as the early Pokemon games. Revise for GCSE’s? Nah, too busy trying to level my sixth Mewtwo to level 100 without using Rare Candies so I could unleash a devastating team upon anyone daft enough to link up and battle me. Pokemon Red/Blue were seriously broken, game mechanics wise. A level 100 Mewtwo with Psychic Attack, Amnesia to boost it’s power, recover to heal and Substitute to hide behind while setting up was unstoppable. Having a team of six was just obscene.

A couple of years after our first PC, dad bought a more powerful machine for his work, with the side effect that it could run newer games and in among various things, I got a little game called Birth of the Federation.

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I had other Star Trek games, most notably A Final Unity, but this one really grabbed me. I don’t play too many games, they either grab me or they don’t. But if they do grab me I really throw myself into them, reading up all sorts, trying new things and develop a minor obsession, as Rebecca has seen with me and Diablo 3. Anyway, this game, you can be the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians or Ferengi. You start with your home star system and a couple of ships and you go forth, terraforming or conquering other star systems and build up an empire. There’s micromanagement involved so you can set up star systems to focus on research or intelligence, or ship building and you can go to war with the other A.I controlled empires. Or you can just sit back and let your intel agency sabotage and gut them that way, if you’re so inclined and you have built up right. Beware the Random Events though. The Borg are one of them and they can decimate a game quickly. Oh, multiplayer was an option too so if you were bored creaming the A.I you could go try and cream some player sitting in a faraway land thanks to the magic of the internet.

This is one of those games that has followed me from system to system and I still play occasionally now. There’s a community out there with it’s own forum and more game mods than I can count. http://www.armadafleetcommand.com/onscreen/botf/
This game is 20 years old and people still play, do multiplayer, mod and chat.
Even I had a go at modding the game a few years ago. There’s a lot of resources and tools to help on the site so even an idiot like me can get her head around basic hex editing and so on to create something. I even released a mod there, called All the Ages, thanks to a lot of help from a guy called Thunderchero who pretty well runs the forum.

http://www.armadafleetcommand.com/onscreen/botf/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=760

It took several months to do and it helped me focus on something during some dark mental health times. It also drove my ex nuts as I was putting so much time into doing this.

After leaving home and moving in with Richard, the gaming quietened down. I carried on with Birth of the Federation, as I’ve already mentioned, but aside from the odd game, such as the later Worms games where I played to the point I could launch grenades as well as the hardest A.I could so so that was it. He couldn’t stand games, and like so many things, if I don’t have someone to share an interest in things that I like, I kind of lose heart and drift away. All he was interested in was re-enacting, which I suppose is an RPG of sorts, albeit with real guns and uniforms and whatnot, but a decade of that left me so physically and mentally broken I never want to do that ever again.

The last couple of years I did have something of a resurgence.I got a few of my old games back from mum and dad’s while they were preparing to move house and I had a big fit of nostalgia. I looked into emulators and found a Megadrive one for my PC and then laptop and played some of my old favourites. I also found a Game Boy emulator for the Pokemon games and a community which dabbed in modding. This time I was content to just play mods rather than get my head around doing it myself. I had other things on my mind, namely coming to terms with being transgender and gaming was a support. Being able to choose the female character, to escape, to dream was a release at the time. I ended up at a place called the Nuzlocke Forum.

http://s7.zetaboards.com/Nuzlocke_Forum/index/

Basically  place where people who wanted to make the Pokemon games more of a challenge congregated, but discussed other things as well. Modding and game mods, and there was a community spirit there too. People could also post their game runs, turn them into stories and all sorts as the games are essentially RPG’s to begin with. It was something I did myself at one point, partly as a release while struggling with my own identity before coming out and getting on with things, and also when I was dealing with my dad’s illness and eventual passing from this world.

There’s even a section where various members who were LGBTQIA hung out and discussed their various identities and supported one another. Needless to say this was a very useful place for me and helped me with coming to terms, figuring myself out and then getting up and going with this transition business I’m doing right now.
With my relationship with my ex coming an end and having moved in with Rebecca my gaming interests have been rekindled, thanks to the fact she’s a gamer herself and we can play things together, have discussions and she’s noted how I light up with I’ve got an interest in something and chatting about it. She’s show me all sorts of games and got me into the Final Fantasy series, something I’d seen but was never properly introduced to. Thanks to her getting me up and going on Steam, I went through FF7 and cried my eyes out several times over and tried a few other games as she’s got a dozen different consoles and games spanning a couple of decades floating about the flat.

Right now my present gaming obsession is the Diablo series, again something I’d seen in passing years ago but wasn’t really introduced to. Diablo 3 is often on the go here, we can play together or on your own, though I do prefer playing together, it’s just more fun that way and I’m doing my usual thing of reading up on different ways to play, trying different things and really throwing myself into the series.

Going forward from here, who knows what’s next? I am interested in the FF7 remake, though slightly wary in case they make a mess of it. For that I may well need a more powerful machine than my present laptop. I can just see me and Rebecca someday building our own gaming PC’s for future games. As for right now I’m off to go try and drive demon forces back into the Burning Hells, allied with my usual witty commentary as I try not to suck at the game and die repeatedly.

Have a good day everyone 😀

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(Diablo 3: Where while battling the hoardes of Hell you can pick up a wand that trolls you when you die)

The Promised Land?

Well maybe not but today does bring me one step closer to what I want and need to do for myself to feel right in my own body. It’s been thirteen months but today I finally had my first appointment at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic (GIC as I can’t be arsed to keep typing that out).

I suppose that unless you’ve been living on the moon you know how ridiculously long it takes for transgender people to get access to facilities and care they need to sort themselves out and feel right in their own bodies. I should have gone in April but had the appointment cancelled by them 4 days beforehand. Given I have anxiety issues anyway with important meetings and appointments being whipped away at the last minute after looking forward to them, this was not good for me. It also resulted in me spending the past few days in a high state of anxiety hoping it didn’t happen again and resulted in me being wide awake and messing around on Twitter at 5am. I really wasn’t too bothered about the appointment itself, having been through this all before last year, it was the getting there and making sure I got there which was getting at me. Sounds a bit daft but that’s me really.

Figuring out what to wear was easy really. I was riding the scooter to the station so that meant jeans and whatever top I fancied wearing on the day. I went with something simple yet appropriate without drawing too much attention to myself. I also decided to wear my Pride necklace in light of the horrible goings on in Orlando. People should not be gunned down because of who they love and this world is a fucked up place if those in power do nothing to prevent future tragedies.

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Anyway, I went and did my now familiar routine of bike, train and tube to where I need to go, having done several runs to go see family down south among other things lately. If I ever get a job which requires commuting to London during rush hour, section me. I hate crowds and noise, I hate the underground at the best of times but the underground at 9am is a special hell for me. I had to wait for three trains before I could actually get on one as they were that packed. I’m not too hot on going down those escalators that look like they’re half a mile high from the top either.

Anyway, one mild panic attack later I get to Baron’s Court and wander over to the clinic. Thanks to my usual trick of factoring way too much time to get to places I’m an hour early. Thankfully I remembered to pack The Long Utopia to read while I’m waiting and having updated a couple of minor details for their records. Interestingly they’ve got a new I.T system which they had installed the day before and are getting used to. Weather this is a good or bad thing long term I don’t know.

Anyway 11am comes and I’m called in, having calmed myself down and knowing I’m not going to be stood up at the last moment.

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(Yup, my usual sunglasses/MP3 combo to block out the hectic world when I’m out and about on my own)

I’m immediately wrong-footed as I’m introduced to someone else instead of the gentleman who was meant to be seeing me (he was ill) but we soon got down to things.

Now most people who get to my stage go for an initial assessment. There’s two of them, done by two separate people to get two opinions before we get around to goodies such as hormones, speech therapy etc. I’ve already done this through my going through the private road, so the first five minutes or so I was explaining what I had done and arranging to have all my appointment notes copied as they didn’t have them on record here, though I’m sure I was told they would have been sent over. Glad I brought my black folder full of everything I’ve done to date transition wise.

With that out the way and having rather wrong footed the lovely lady who was seeing me with all this, we got on with things. I was asked pretty much the same questions Dr Lorimer did last year, questions about my dysphoria, growing up, puberty, how I came to realise I was trans and so on, as well as family history, what support I had and what experience I had socially to date.

This was useful in a way as I was able to discuss what went on since Dr Lorimer saw me and how that’s affected things. Things like how going into my new job as me has been a liberating experience and how everything that has changed has been for the better.

After all this was written down I was asked about what I wanted from the GIC, as they offer voice coaching, counselling, hormones and endocrinology, a limited degree of facial hair removal as well as surgery. I’ve gotten right to the point and said all I need is gender reassignment surgery. I discussed with her about how I’ve feminised my voice on my own, how far I’ve gotten with facial hair removal on my own (I know I’m too far along with that to qualify for any funding assistance anyway), and thanks to my discussion earlier, mentally I’m in a far better place now having figured out who I am and what I need to do. As for hormones, again that’s all set up and I have a GP who is competent with monitoring and knows what to do and who to contact if he needs advice. I literally just need my bits sorting out, which is the one thing I can’t do myself.

With that in mind I was asked what I wanted done down there. I want things to be as fully functional as they can get and I stated as such. She went a bit more into asking me how much my bits bother me and I told her I’m at a point where aside from handling the damn thing so I can wash it properly I want nothing to do with them. I want them gone and I have to remind myself every time I shower I have to wash those bits to keep them clean and healthy as I don’t want any complications arising from infections or scarring affecting what I want done.

By then we were pretty well at the end of our appointment and discussing what happens next. Usually you book a second appointment, with a different consultant and pretty much go through the same thing again as they need two opinions before giving you access to the treatments you need. With me and having just had my two previous assessments photocopied for their records it’s a bit different. When I go back I’ll likely be asked more abut surgery and what I want as by then I’d have been full time as me and on hormones for over a year and having done everything else I need or want to do the only thing they can help me out with is the surgical aspect of my transition. This could well count as my first opinion for surgery as well, though no promises were made on this. If I’m honest I can’t see why not as I’ve jumped through every other hoop and gate they ask of us.

All in all a pretty good result, only tempered slightly by the fact my next appointment is not till February next year, which sucks and highlights why we desperately need more capacity in the system to speed things up a bit. I will also note on my appointment letters it states that they have issues with a high number of patients making appointments and then not turning up or cancelling them and while waiting for my confirmation letter I overheard the reception staff lament about how 3 patients hadn’t turned up this morning alone.

With letter In hand I was all set to go. After a first appointment they usually send you off to get a blood test done to get a baseline as part of their procedures. Yup, I mucked that up as well thanks to coming in armed with the blood results from last month I have done to monitor my hormone levels. It was agreed that I should continue with three monthly monitoring of these and get a set of results done as close to my next appointment as I can.

Moral of today’s tale: Don’t wait around for the clinic. If you can do things yourself, do them. It saves time in the long run. Bring all your notes and results too. Basically be proactive as you can with things.

Now with that out of the way I one more thing to do before I came home. Sarah, a friend of mine on Facebook has just had her surgery at Charing Cross Hospital, so as I’m there myself how could I not drop in to say hello, congratulations and give her a card and a hug for getting there? She’s very happy with things, especially having had a bit of a rough journey getting there, recovering well and was full of praise for her care at the hands of the staff at the hospital, which is great to hear as I’ve not heard too much about the Charing Cross team and had been considering going there myself for geographical convenience when it’s my time to dance.

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From a life divided to a life united.

Well here’s a newsflash everyone, I’m Trans. Might as well get that one out of the way before I start. Chances are if you’re reading this you already knew that about me but anyway, this is about how I got there and looking back at all sorts in my life that now I’m looking back made that little fact about me rather more obvious.

Over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a number of things and feel ready to talk about them. This is going to take some time to go through so feel free to get comfy or think ‘I ain’t got time for this’ and do something else. I should put in some warnings here as I’m going to be bringing up memories of homophobic and transphobic themes. Mental health themes crop up too.

As I realised the other day at 3 am and thinking about this instead of getting some sleep before work, it’s like I had all the pieces of the puzzle there, but it’s only now I have the picture on the box to help put everything together, so here goes. 31 years of various memories that now are no longer a confusing mess and make sense to me now.

So when did I know I was trans? That’s the first question most people have asked me when I’ve come out to them. It’s a good question, one I’m not sure I really have an answer for. Could have been when I was 4 years old and running around quite happily with a girly bob cut, in one of mum’s aprons and pretending to cook on the oven? I certainly looked (and remembered being) very happy in the pictures mum or dad got of me doing this, and aside from that there’s not too much I remember from that age, aside from early birthday cakes, watching Bullseye on what was then our only colour TV, dad driving around with me on his lap and holding the steering wheel, and Uncle Jim once sitting me on his motorbike and going for a slow ride to the end of our road. Yeah, you could get away with this crazy stuff in the eighties.

At that age and a little bit older, yeah, I was into boy things. I played football (badly), charged around screaming ‘I have the power!’ because He-Man was a thing then and I spent a lot of time hooning around on the first of many push bikes I’d ride into oblivion.

I also liked my sisters toys. I’d often borrow her Barbie dolls and I watched my fair share of Care Bears and My Little Pony among others with her (and my other sister when she came along). Mum and dad didn’t seem to mind, I remember them asking me if I was having fun, none of the ‘Why are you playing with girls toys for?’ Knowing them they were glad if I was sitting still and quiet for more than two minutes so who cars what I was doing at the time. As a kid I was extremely restless and an allergy to e-numbers in a number of foods was found to be causing this. At some point around here I ended up with a pink skateboard for my birthday, not that I could skate for crap, but I did enjoy the fact it was pink.

School became a thing and became a long standing hate/hate relationship between myself and it. The uniforms were always utter crap and I wasn’t one who made that many friends, the awkward outsider who’d take time to open up and warm up to people. Bullying was a thing too because let’s pick on the kid who was different, or the boy who spent months at 8 years old desperately wanting to be called Chrissy and signing their name as such without really knowing why this was so at the time.

Cue long talks by adults explaining that it was a girl’s name and I was a boy. Nowadays I’d like to think people are more educated and more supportive but early nineties was a whole different ball game. Section 28 was firmly in place and there was no way in hell anyone was going to suggest anything that wasn’t straight cis male to me at the time. Needless to say being escorted from the main doors at school by mum on a daily basis to avoid being jumped by bullies did a world of good to my self esteem at the time. The only highlight of junior school was passing the eleven plus and getting into the local grammar school. This meant escaping from the bullies. At best this was a mixed blessing as it would turn out.

Grammar school was another 7 years of hell, and an all boys school at that. Once again I quickly found myself very much on the outside looking in as far as popularity went and then puberty came and slapped me in the face. I also learned I was developing some serious issues with my body. Body hair appeared and I soon began making efforts to get rid of this. Looking back I now have a name for the feelings I had back then but had no name: Gender dysphoria. P.E was a no go zone in the end, choosing detention once a month rather than dressing and undressing in front of other people due to how bad my anxiety became around this.

I also remember it was around now that whenever I sat down on the toilet, I’d sit so I’d tuck things away and have this curious sense of satisfaction of not seeing them, not that I had a clue what any of this meant because education for transgender issues was non existent and the whole internet/social media thing wasn’t really around yet for me to go find out for myself, like I’ve done in later years.

Same with being gay as it was also around now being attracted to men was a thing. Again, thanks to Section 28 there was nothing there to help come to terms that I was different, that I was attracted to men when everyone else in class weren’t. At least that only took a mere three years to come to terms with and finally be comfortable enough with the fact before coming out. Thankfully we had a computer at home, internet and I’d figured out the black art of deleting the browsing history. I’d also had time to myself to read up on things (as family had gone to Spain for a fortnight and I wanted to stay home). I came out to my nan first (mum’s mum) as I’d never heard her say a cross word about anything or anyone and I just had a feeling I’d be safe telling her, a feeling that turned out to be spot on. She also gave me a safe space if I needed it, in case my parents weren’t happy with my revelation. I actually set things up so when I told my parents and things went badly I had the patio door behind me unlocked so I could bail and get over to nan’s. Sad that I had to prepare for such an eventuality and even more sad that the best part of 20 years on people still have to think like this for fear of not being accepted for who they are. As it turns out I had no reason to be worried. Mum and dad asked for time to get used to things but were happy for me.

When I was 17 I finally managed to get myself excluded from school? How? You ask. Massive mental breakdown? Doing some outrageous act of vandalism or violence? Finally calling my year head all the things I desperately wanted to call him? Nope, wrong on all counts, though the first was a close run thing. I got kicked out for …. drum roll … having long hair. Yup, I had hair, pretty well down to my shoulders then, mainly to be rebellions (I had been introduced to several forms of heavy metal by then and engaged in a love affair with music that continues to this day), but something else about it also felt right. I’d spend most of my time in lessons playing around with it, curling it in my fingers rather than doing actual work. I was rather fond of my long locks.

I received several warnings and at least three rambling monologues from teachers about how long hair isn’t a boy thing. Boys don’t have long hair, long hair is for girls, end of story. I ignored them, declaring their backward thinking the bullshit that it was and eventually turned up one morning only to be told not to come back until I had it cut.

By then I’d started A-levels (big mistake/waste of two years as I spent most of it fighting stuff like this and teachers treating us like kids instead of young adults) and mentally I was at a very low ebb. I gave in after four days and lopped it off simply so I could see the few friends I did have as they were about all that were keeping me going some days. Looking back I wish I’d told them to stuff it and dropped out. As it was my final year at school I barely turned up for, but you don’t often think right when you’re not feeling too good and I gave in, something that still irks me now.

The whole gay thing came out into the open at school soon after, which made my last year at school really interesting. Being 17, not feeling right about your body, dealing with rather repressive teachers who treated you like you were six AND a bucket load of homophobia? What could be better? A boyfriend who I met, gave me mixed signals then dumped me on a whim (probably because I didn’t want to rush in and fuck on our first date).

My already shaky mental health plummeted, as did my weight (pro tip, being 5′ 10” and eight and a half stone isn’t a good look) and the antidepressants I was prescribed seemed to only aggravate things to a point where I took a pretty good whack at taking my own life. Thankfully I didn’t do as good a job as I intended and soon took myself off of the damn happy pills.

On the plus side, thanks to one of my school friends, I started getting into the Goth scene, mainly because it was a valid excuse for men to wear make-up and nail varnish (though I never did black lipstick, not my style) and not get as much grief about it. I felt a little happier when I was wearing make-up and had my nails done, though I wasn’t sure why.

I also went around charity shops, picking up  clothing that was interesting to me. Weather or not they were stylish was another matter, but I felt happy wearing them. Some of what I picked up and wore were clearly women’s clothing. Nothing too outrageous, but again I felt a little better about myself when I did this. It was also around then that I began to find that whenever I saw adverts for women’s clothes I found myself thinking ‘I wish I was a woman just so I could wear such nice things’. Not knowing that gender reassignment surgery was a thing back then I had no idea there was anything I could have done regarding these nagging feelings that popped up like this.

Mum then gave me a wonderful speech about how being gay didn’t mean going around wearing women’s clothing, not unless I was a woman. Still not really aware of what being transgender was this pretty well killed this avenue of expression off as my self confidence was pretty low and on top of all the petty arguments and hassle I was getting whenever I bothered to go into school I couldn’t handle any more stress at home as well. I gave in and the more feminine clothing disappeared.
I can’t blame her for this, again education was the key here, or lack of it, for both of us. That’s one reason why I’m writing all this out now.

I lurched through the tail end of my last year at school, deriving entertainment by eluding all attempts by my teachers to figure out where the hell I was (tip, if you’re going to skive off school, go somewhere not local, especially when most of those looking for you don’t know the surrounding area too well) and got introduced to a guy who I had a fling with for a couple of months, but he wanted a more casual relationship (read fuck buddies) and I wanted more. Needless to say this ended well, but he did introduce me to his ex, a man called Richard, and that’s where I’m going to leave things for today.