2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Falling Woefully Short on My 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge

In January 2015, I set myself the ambitious goal of reading 50 books during the year. In April, I was 11 books behind schedule, and just never really got on track. I knew 50 books was an… aggressive amount of literature to consume in a year—that’s nearly one book per week, and I’m no longer an English Literature major where 75% of my assignments are reading novels. But I thought, Hey, why not go for the challenge?

The answer to that question is ain’t nobody who buys a house, has a full-time marketing job and a husband, travels, and maintains a healthy interest in video games and movies got time to read a book a week. I love reading. I wish I could be paid to read all day long. But I don’t necessarily want to chain myself to books for a whole year to complete some arbitrary reading goal. Yes, I could exchange the dozen or so hours I spend playing Guild Wars 2 per week reading, but why would I do that when I’m having fun gaming? I wouldn’t, and I won’t.

That all being said, the fact that I miserably failed my reading challenge doesn’t exactly feel good. I didn’t even hit 25% of my goal! I read 12/50 books. I read only twelve books in a whole year. That’s averaging one per month, and five of them were re-reading Harry Potter books in the last three months of the year. That is embarrassing. But I’m seizing this opportunity to make a realistic 2016 reading goal and keep it. I’m doubling what I read in 2015 for 2016—24 books. That’s two per month. Totally doable, especially since I stacked the deck:

I didn’t hit my other goal of finishing my Harry Potter re-read before the end of the year, so completing The Half-Blood Prince on Jan. 3 counts as book 1/24. I’ll start The Deathly Hallows this week, so there’s book 2/24 for January. I’m going to force myself to read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that’s been sitting on my shelf for six months, I have a half-read Tiffany Reisz novel I found in a moving box in November to finish, and I got a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas that I’m going to use to buy The Bell Jar because I’ve been meaning to read that book for longer than I care to admit. Look at that, I’ve got books planned into March!

Goals can be easily accomplished when you set a plan for yourself and give yourself the tools or time needed to succeed. Maybe that’s the underlying theme of 2016 for me: Make a plan. Achieve my goals.

2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge

 

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EXPeriencing the Hype: Guild Wars 2’s First Expansion

You know I love Guild Wars 2. I just recently told you how much I love it. So it’s no surprise, then, that I am super. freaking. pumped. for Guild Wars 2’s first expansion, Heart of Thorns.

Starting almost exactly two years ago, GW2 launched what they call the “Living Story.” Season 1 of the Living Story built upon what had already transpired in the game and introduced new group of heroes to interact with, new alliances and enemies, and created more content for players to jump into. In my opinion, it started out a bit slow–these tiny events were happening, and you knew were building up to something, but it took almost a month to find out just what they were building up to. But they improved dramatically as 2013 carried on, building a greater story with many moving parts, all leading up to a giant boss battle with the Living Story’s antagonist, Scarlet Briar. At the end of this battle, it turns out Scarlet has awoken another elder dragon–the overall antagonists of Guild Wars 2.

About a year ago, Season 2 of the Living Story began as you the hero and your new band of buddies who you acquired throughout Season 1 begin learning more about the newly awoken dragon, Mordremoth. You’re trying to convince the different races that this is a big deal and everyone needs to work together to defeat it, and when they do realize it, what exactly you’re supposed to do about it. Season 2 has been much more well-paced, and the best part is, you can replay the different episodes. (In Season 1, a living story episode was one month or two weeks long, and when it was over, it was over. So if you missed something, you couldn’t participate and had to read about what happened on the Wiki site. It was kind of a bummer.) It’s all felt very much like it’s been leading up to something–you don’t introduce a new main antagonist if you don’t have big plans for it.

Enter Heart of Thorns. Guild Wars 2 has been out for almost three full years now, and man do I have the hours racked up to prove it… Many people have been chomping at the bit to get a new expansion, which would likely be accompanied by new classes, new areas of Tyria to explore, and who knew what else!

Well now we know:

New profession? Check. New areas to explore? Check. New weapons for existing professions? Check. New ways to master those professions? Check. Old enemies becoming new friends? Check and check. I. Am. Pumped.

I think the thing I’m most excited for is the new maps. I love exploring Tyria–in fact, there’s an entire title devoted to getting each map 100% explored. Of course I have it on my elementalist (Been There, Done That, y’all), and am steadily working toward it on other characters. But to have someplace new to explore with new events and (hopefully) new hearts to complete and new rewards to get… My need to be rewarded for hours of effort I’ve put into something craves this newness and satisfaction of completion.

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Image via Guild Wars 2.

Another thing I’m very interested about is how the sylvari play into all of this. I think it’s clear now that they were supposed to have been Mordremoth’s minions, a.k.a., enemies, but thanks to a centaur with a heart of gold, most of the sylvari aren’t evil. They’re a playable race that I quite like playing as, so it will be an interesting dynamic when we’re confronted with that. (I haven’t yet played the latest episode in the Living Story, so I’m not sure if this has been out-right confronted. Will update when I’m let back into the game, because of course the night I want to blog about GW2 again is the night the game client doesn’t want to let me in again. Bah.)

The downside to all the hype for HoT? Well, we don’t have a release date for this expansion yet. So, to my knowledge, we have no idea when we’ll be able to explore the Maguuma Jungle, create new characters, and see what the Mursaat have been up to all these years… I’m not complaining. I appreciate that ArenaNet doesn’t generally rush their content before its ready, meaning they have a higher quality product than what we could be subjected to.

So while I watch the Heart of Thorns announcement and story trailers for the 19,713th times, I’ll just have to speculate and give in to the hype.

My Favorite Video Game: Guild Wars 2

All images are my screen caps while playing Guild Wars 2.

My favorite video game, far and away, is Guild Wars 2. This MMO and its predecessor, Guild Wars, have played a huge role in my life for the past 10 years, and in light of what could be (should be, better be) Guild Wars 2′s first expansion (further confirmed by this amazing video), now is the perfect time to talk about why this game is so special to me. And why it’s such a good game, of course.

But first, some backstory.

GW1When I first started dating my now-husband 10 years ago when we were in high school, I went to his house one day and he was playing the original Guild Wars. I watched him run around for a while in this world and said, “This looks like fun. I’d be interested in playing it with you.” Having never dated a girl who really played video games, he bought me the game, and we started playing together after school. A couple of our other friends got the game, too, and also played with us. I fondly recall a snow day back in 2006 where we sat at our computers and played Guild Wars for eight solid hours, only taking a brief break in the middle of the day to all take showers and each lunch.

So we put some time into the game, to say the least. Finally, in 2012, conveniently when I happened to be funemployed about a year after graduating from college, Guild Wars 2 was released. I jumped into the world and it’s had a hold on me ever since. (You can read some more about what Guild Wars 1 meant to me and how hardcore I was waiting for GW2 in a blog post on my old blog.)

But why is this game so much fun? Why am I such a fan girl? Let me tell you.

First of all, this game is beautiful. Every city, every jungle, every mountain is just gorgeous. The gameplay and art quality is really just absolutely wonderful. It’s not cartoony, even when you’re running around as a three-foot tall creature with giant floppy ears and sparkly pistols. They put an incredible amount of detail into each map that makes the world come alive. Along with the art, the ambient sounds and dialogue between NPCs when you’re running by a random fort or shop add another layer of realism to the world that many games lack. NPCs aren’t just waiting around for you and only you to run up to them and start talking to them. Things happen independently of you in Tyria.

In the Maguuma Jungle.

In the Maguuma Jungle.

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My sylvari warrior, Casfiradei (left), and Terry’s norn guardian, Thor Hammerfell (right).

Another thing I love: the races and classes. There are five races and eight classes (or professions if you want to use GW2’s term). Everyone’s favorite race, including mine, is human, probably because their city and starting area are the best maps in the whole game. But I am also very fond of the sylvari, the plant people, because they’re such a unique race. I’ve literally never encountered another world with creatures like the sylvari. They’re not elves, but actual plants who are born from a tree as adults and share a Dream that teaches them about the world. The norn, asura, and charr, too, all add their own flavor to the world and your own gameplay experience. When you first join Guild Wars 2, you get five characters slots, and I strongly suggest making each of your characters a different race so you can get the full game experience.

The professions, like any good fantasy game, consist of light, medium, and heavy classes, but what GW2 doesn’t have, which I love, is the MMO “holy trinity” of tank/healer/DPS. There is not a dedicated tank class, though warriors come close. There is no dedicated healer. At. All. There were monks in GW1 that were in such high-demand if you didn’t have a healer you couldn’t play the game, and if you were the healer, you had the power of a god just by joining someone’s party. And there is no dedicated damage-per-second class. Most of the classes in Guild Wars 2 can do damage over time, but there’s also burst damage and ranged damage and magic damage and pretty much any type of damage to suit your unique style of gameplay. And you can do it as any class with whatever weapon combination works best for you. You can take care of yourself and you can play as a team, from two people in a party, to a dozen people doing random map events, to hundreds of people taking out one of the huge world bosses. I like playing by myself, but I do like having that option to join a group of people to accomplish the same goal.

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My human ranger, Chelle Quicksilver (left), and Terry’s human ranger, Fiyero Quicksilver (right).

The other thing I love is that you can play how you want to play. Do you prefer PvE (player vs. environment) to PvP (player vs. player)? Great! You don’t have to play PvP ever if you don’t want to (and I never do because I’m a PvE gal). Want to zerg across maps taking keeps and lighting other players on fire with burning pitch? Awesome! WvW (world vs. world) is for you! Like dungeons? You got ’em! Want to craft hardcore armor and weapons? Ya got that, too! Want to read a bunch of random history about a make-believe world to make it feel even more real than it already does? Books for days, friends. (I may like that particular option quite a bit.)

So there’s definitely a lot to do in Guild Wars 2, and the hundreds of hours I’ve put into the game can attest to that. You can also spend as much or as little time in Tyria as you want, because the best part? It’s. Free. To. Play. No monthly subscription. Yeah, you can definitely drop some cash buying mini-pets and keys to the million chests that’ve been dropped and stupid outfits, but hey. There are months at a time where I just need a Guild Wars 2 break. I love the game, but I can get burnt out on occasion. So when I do, I just step away for a couple weeks, then I come back when I want to. I don’t have to cancel or reactivate my account or worry about losing $15 per month. Guild Wars 2 is always there for me when I need it to be.

[With the exception of right now because I’m having connectivity issues that are preventing me from updating the game with the newest patch that contains the last part of the living story leading up to the expansion. So I’m kind of not okay with this particular development.]

But it’s cool, ArenaNet. I’ll be here for you when you get it up and running. And then I’ll be right back in Tyria on my ele ready to go.

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