What’s in YOUR Wheelhouse?

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been struggling to find games in my wheelhouse. This is partly my own fault, as I am really picky about what kind of games I’ll give my money to. When I was only playing World of Warcraft, I had never considered what other games I would like. I had WoW and just didn’t care about finding more. It wasn’t until I had branched out into Dragon Age: Origins and the Mass Effect Series that I started discovering my preferences. Indeed those games formed my preferences. Now I find myself asking a couple of questions before I even consider a major game.

Is it story driven?

A game for me must have a strong story, at least for the big titles. I want to be shocked, I want to feel the need to yell or cheer at my screen. I want to feel emotionally invested in both my character and the world around her.

Can I play a female character?

This actually should have been listed first, because if the answer is no…I stop reading. This particular requirement has gotten me quite a few odd looks and questioning responses. The first question is usually why. Well that’s simple. Unlike books or movies where you are not an active participant but an outsider watching from afar as the story unfolds, a game is inviting us to be PART of the story. It’s an invitation to be the hero, take part in the world, change it as you go. As such, I must relate to the character be it pre-made or custom.

As a woman, I find it near impossible to relate to gruff grizzled scruffy dude #24672. There’s no immersion for me. I don’t feel connected to it, or reflected by some scruffy dude.

I don’t feel I’m missing out on much by putting my money and time behind companies that provide what I enjoy, and not putting it behind people that do not. My husband buys and plays many of them, and I can watch the story just fine while I do other things.

There have been few exceptions to this rule, and those were the Bioshock games. Other than that, every game I play has a female in the lead or the OPTION to do so.

“Female characters don’t sell!” They shout.

Tell that to Commander Shepard, or Lara Croft, or Emily Kaldwin (Dishonored 2). Tell that Skyrim, Fallout, or Dragon Age because each has either a female only, or a female option and from what I’ve seen have been pretty successful.


“Your principles won’t change things!” They’ve told me.

Well, I beg to differ. It hasn’t happened overnight, and it is dreadfully slow in coming but change is happening. Look at Farcry 5, due out on March 27. A customizable character, with the option to play as a woman. This is a really big deal, as it is the first time in the game’s history that they’ve done this. And it’s a really good step forward. I for one cannot wait to buy it and play it. Because it might as well say right on the box “Hey, we made this game for you! too!”.

Indie Games catch a break on my first point. But not on my second. I loved Stardew Valley to death, in fact I might play through it yet again the next time I’m between games. For Indie games to suck me in the need to be cute, charming, have a female option, and depth in what they do, be it farming or puzzles or crafting or exploration. Those are my favorites in the Indie world. Platformers are out, I have never liked them they make me /hulksmash.

So there you have it, Story driven games with the ability to play as a woman and charming indie games that keep me clicking but don’t make me jump with any degree of accuracy. That’s what’s in my wheelhouse.

I Fooled Around and Lalafell in Love

When I first started playing video games in force, it was really just one game. World of Warcraft. I played it for hours a day, blogged about it, tweeted and chatted about it. I was sure it was the only game I needed. Then I found Steam, and through a WoW friend, tried some other games like Dragon Age Origins, which led to Mass Effect.  Still, I always returned to WoW eventually.

I tried other MMORPGs over time as one of my long-time WoW friends recommended them but only one really stuck for a while, that being Star Wars: The Old Republic. Still, I went back to WoW when Bioware decided chaptered story content released monthly was a good plan.

When Belghast was recommending Final Fantasy A Realm Reborn, I tried it for about a day. Bel got me into SWTOR after all, and, Rift for a while as he tends to tempt his friends into these things (pretty sure he’s attempting to have House Stalwart strategically placed for MMO world domination or something).   I got to level 4 before I became overwhelmed and confused and longed for the comfort of what I knew. So I left it behind never going further in the free trial. I decided if it ever went free to play I’d play it. Since around that time, every MMO that came out seemed to go from subscription to Free to Play within the first year. But it never did.

Two weeks ago, having grown bored with WoW back around the winter holidays, (as tends to happen when I reach max level) and craving an epic story based game that I could sink my teeth into I began searching again. There haven’t been many games of late that were in my wheelhouse.  My wheelhouse is admittedly very small and that is its own post, but I just wasn’t finding anything I hadn’t already played, in some cases to burnout levels (ie: everything Bioware). I had already finished Pillars of Eternity, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Dishonored 2 (twice). Horizon Zero Dawn I can only play for a limited time since it’s on the main (read: only) television. Nothing on Steam was really jumping out at me, aside from an early access crafting game that I managed to drop 100 hours in while I waited for the next big thing to catch me.

I don’t know what made me look at it, but I found myself downloading FFXIV’s free trial again, which now lasts until level 35. I created an adorable little Lalafell arcanist and started my adventures. I was more patient this time since WoW wasn’t calling me back. I learned to follow the fancy quest markers, which took me into the main story. And that story pulled me through 100 hours, and 50 levels of pure enjoyment. I couldn’t quit, I couldn’t stop…I had to see what was next.


THAT is in my wheelhouse. Beautiful settings, amazing artworks, colorful and memorable characters peppering this huge world. I normally hate leveling from 1 to max, but with a story pulling me through those levels, it becomes less about that next level and more about the next chapter. And the way Square Enix frames the “you’re the hero!” tale is both unique and perfect. In nearly every cutscene you are shown LEADING your party, be it NPC or adventurers like yourself, you are very much framed as the main character. What really gets me about that, is in Duties (or dungeons), you see your other party members but the camera and the setting clearly show your character as the one in charge.


I’m at the end of Vanilla FFXIV now, and still overwhelmed and frequently confused with how much there is to learn and do in this game. But I understand now why they haven’t made it Free to Play. They don’t need to. They can compete with the market because they have a product that not only still draws people in but keeps them there with the sheer amount of content beyond the main story and max level. The crafting is in depth, there’s housing to (hopefully) buy and decorate, along with the typical mounts, outfits, and pets to collect. Heck, you can get outfits FOR your mount! Mine (Named Trex)is dressed up as a Behemoth.


I only keep one active paid game subscription at a time. And I have another couple weeks of free time in Eorzea. But I think there’s a clear winner between Eorzea and Azeroth, and for the first time in 12 years, it isn’t Azeroth winning.


Thanks Blizz…

I would like to personally thank Blizzard Entertainment for the accelerated heart rate and near heart attack I had this morning. You see, a new world boss was available today, so I took my druid and went to see about killing it. I found my way to the underground lair in Suramar, and stood there looking at my mini map thinking “ok it should be right here”. Only the carat was pointing up, so it had to be upstairs. Nope…not there either. Maybe it isn’t spawned yet. I wait, no boss. Maybe there’s a bug? I pan around with my camera looking for stairs or something and then, as I pan up…..I see it.


Scared the ever loving hell out of me!!! I unleashed a string of profanity in guild chat, and screamed out loud at my desk. The cat and dog have now disowned me. Thanks Blizz!


Once upon a time, ten plus years ago, there was a newbie blogger. She blogged mainly about life, army life in particular. She started on a website called Free Open Diary, then moved to Diary Place, then to her own domains and hosting which changed several times, then to Live Journal. Each time taking her archives with her and continuing her story.

Then she discovered World of Warcraft. She became Lady Jess and crafted her self hosted Word Press blog, which she maintained for many many years. Noone knows what happened, even she doesn't know, but the posts just stopped. She discovered a miriad of other video games, fell in love with Bioware RPG's,  became a full out gamer, but still no posts.  She spent a lot of time on her Tumblr, but even that fell off. 

But the blogging bug bit again, bringing with it a new domain name, new hosting, and a new look. Only this time she didn't carry her archives with her. This time she called a Mulligan and just started over, as Calamity Jess.