Hey, we're really kicking things off this week, in regards to our Halloween stream fundraiser.


And, oh, hey, check out my first night of Soma here:

There were some technical issues, but we got past them, and it was a really fun stream. Give it a look.

Ultimately, I'm really, really wanting to make a difference in Puerto Rico. The devastation that has been wrought there is unbelievable, and so several of us have teamed up to try and raise money for a children's hospital in Puerto Rico.

Check out this week's schedule here. I'll be playing more Soma, and my friends are playing all kindsa great shit.

And please, help me promote the shit out of this.

Other Gaming

Otherwise, I'm still plowing through my second playthrough of Tyranny (this time, with all the extra shit they've added since it came out), which is a vastly underrated game. I've slowed a bit on Divinity: Original Sin 2, but I'll pick up the pace again soon. I just kinda ran face-first into something I'm not ready to tackle, so I'll need to come back to it later, even though I really wanna do it now. We'll see.

I also just got Forza MotorSport 7, which, as always, is excellent. I love driving my Honda Civic Si in real life, and the Forza series really feeds into that. This iteration is excellent. I'm amazed at how well-refined each entry is. I'd thought about just sticking with only the Horizon branch of the series, but I gave in last week, and I'm I got FM7. It's an absolute blast, and fun to play with my sons.

Elex is out in a couple weeks, on 10/17, and I am very excited. This game, I think, is going to be my main winter game. I'll probably ease into it, as I don't think I'm close to finishing DOS2, but we'll see. They're vastly different games, so I could play them concurrently, but with my Halloween streams ... eh, we'll see.

The Cardinals are out of the playoffs, so I'll have more free time than usual in October. This is sad.

Not Gaming
I found out recently that a woman with whom I'd shared a magical summer, 20 years ago, took her own life. I hadn't spoken to her in about 20 years, and that conversation hadn't gone well. I regret that now. I was unkind to a wonderful woman, and while we probably weren't long-term compatible as lovers, we did have an amazing summer together that I'll always treasure. I'm very surprised at how hard this has hit me, as she was ... amazing.

I have two things to say about this. One, every conversation you have could be the last you ever have with that person. This shouldn't dominate your thoughts or control every conversation, but perhaps, if things aren't going well in that relationship, you should try to end it in a way that leaves your conscience clean. Mine never will be, in regards to Teresa, and it's not the first time I've had this precise regret.

Two, if you are considering suicide, tell someone. Talk to someone. It's probably not the right choice. In the cases of terminal illness, maybe it is, but I think most people deserve to be happy, and you're probably one of them. Just reach out and give someone the chance to help you.

Hell, if ya don't wanna go that route, the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Give them a call. It's worth it. Life can be great if you can just find your footing.

Anyway, that's that. Death is permanent. A lot of us are still alive, and we can help others stay alive, whether it be through suicide prevention, or raising money for Puerto Rico.

Help us out. Please. And Spread the word.



Halloween Scream Team Team Stream

So, some fellow 1UP Rejects and I are doing a big-ass Extra Life fundraiser for a children's hospital in Puerto Rico. Hit that link and donate what you can.

I'm kicking off the first stream tonight at 8PM central (2000 for those that think of time correctly) with the Scorn demo!

Watch live video from taranwalker on www.twitch.tv

I'd love it if you joined me as we check out this amazing-looking game tonight!


Horizon Zero Hope

At the end of July, I awoke one Sunday morning with a little soreness in my left shoulder. I asked my wife to rub it out a bit, and she did, but nothing seemed to help. It was a weird pain, too. I played a lotta sports in my younger years, and knew it wasn't muscle pain. It was something ... more precise? More along a straight line? I dunno how to describe it.

Anyway, by about lunch, I'd decided it was a pinched nerve, which I'd had in the same spot a few months before, and it had gone away on its own a couple times.

By that evening, I was starting to squirm with pain. It was starting to get bad, and it was getting harder to hide it from people.

I had already scheduled myself off that Monday, so I could drive the kids around to things while my wife was part of a panel for children's storytelling.

By lunch that day, I had to call my mother to have her take over because my entire left arm was basically useless. It was electrified with pain, and my hand had started to go numb.

I went to the hospital early the next morning. I will say that the one nice thing in this situation is that being a male in your 30s, overweight, with left arm pain, you go to the front of the line at the ER. I did explain several times that I wasn't have a heart attack, but whatever.

They admitted me, and time went by, and I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my spine. And FUCK, it hurt. I was diagnosed around the first week of August, and then it was discovered I had two herniated discs via MRI, and then, because of the severity, I needed surgery on my c6 and c7 vertebrae, and during the surgery, it was discovered that the impingement was even more severe than they'd thought, and that my spinal cord was in jeopardy. However, my surgeon was a rockstar, and fixed me up. From ER check-in to surgery was 18 days. 'Ozark' on Netflix was great, but 'The Defenders' was a little disappointing.

After surgery, I was laid out for at least a month.

Side note - I'm primarly a PC gamer. I occasionally slum it on console when I have to, but I much prefer PC, for a long list of reasons.

This condition left me basically unable to handle PC gaming for the time being. It was just too hard to get comfortable with my laptop and m/k setup for any length of time. I tried doing some games with just a mouse, and did start a second Tyranny playthrough, but it just wasn't really working for me.

My left hand was still recovering, too. I was getting a little bit more feeling in it every day, and decided that *gasp* a controller might be something that would help me rehab my hand.

I remembered a game that had dazzled me at E3 in 2016, that I'd bought when it came out in early 2017, but had been ignored by me in favor of Torment and Mass Effect.

(FYI - all these pics are mine, taken via screenshot on my PS4 Amateur.)

Horizon Zero Dawn.

I fired it up one morning, and just started seeing what was what. I'd played through the basic tutorial stuff maybe six months prior, and had to take a bit to remember how to do everything, but I eventually kinda got the hang of it, even with a left hand that was slowly coming back from being useless.

So, the main issue I had was everything on the left side of the controller, AND I was already not used to playing games with a controller anymore (I'd 'graduated' from most console gaming during the PS360 days.) I have both modern consoles (XB1 and PS4), but they're mostly for the kids.

The key issue was my left thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger, and the palm near all of those. Pre-surgery, most of the feeling was gone from there. Post-surgery, at first, a little had come back. And then, every day, a little more would come back. Still, movement and aiming was really hard at first, but I loved the game so much, I kept pushing myself to make myself use those digits and make them work.

So, I had a steep learning curve here.

Here's the thing, though. Guerilla Games made a nearly perfect game, especially for someone who was really worried if he'd ever be 'right' again.

I wasn't really talking much to people. I was, and still kinda am, worried that I'll never play guitar again, or feel my wife's cheek with my left hand, or even be able to move like I used to.

All of my favorite things, driving, playing guitar, PC gaming, all of it was taken from me, and I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to do any of it again. Between you and me, I remember one night I got really pissed at my wife over something stupid that was not at all her fault, that was just me lashing out because I was so afraid, and I stormed out the front door (more like stiffly lurched), slid into my beloved Civic Si, and I just sat in the driver's seat and bawled for about 20min. I hit some really low points, man. I was directionless and demotivated and genuinely frightened. I'm not even 40 yet, man, and I was dealing with some serious shit.

Luckily, I'm easily distracted. I read every night to derail my anxiety, even before all this, and I love fictional worlds.

Horizon Zero Dawn has an already fascinating premise, especially for a science fiction junkie like me. Add to that a protagonist, Aloy, played perfectly by Ashly Burch, who doesn't belong anywhere, isn't accepted by anyone, and is in way over her head, and I was really feeling this character.

Horizon Zero Dawn called out to me. And one morning, I finally fired it up, mainly because I wanted to see how fucked my left hand still was. And I was curious to see if I could actually play through a console game.

Robot dinosaurs. Artifact hunting. Trap setting. Pre-battle strategy. Lotsa lore. And a surprisingly smooth controller-driven combat system.

Before long, every weekday morning, around 9AM, I'd fire up the PS4 and Aloy and I would continue our trek until lunch, when we'd break and eat, and then I'd continue on until one of my family chased me off the TV (part of the reason I don't play console much anymore).

I felt her lack of confidence, absolutely, and I shared it. What's incredible about the game is how it allowed me to work with it to boost my confidence. It encourages experimentation. The leveling is just right. Maybe this is something all games do. I don't know. All I do know is that HZD was a really big part (along with some great family and friends) of getting me through one of the most difficult times in my life.

As the weeks went by, the hand got better, the neck/back got less sore, and like I said, I was seeking out challenges. At the start, every encounter with enemies was terrifying, but toward the end, I was all like, 'BITCH, PLEASE' to the bigger machines. That's something I rarely do in games. I usually like to just get the story, and then bail. In this case, though, I loved the world so much, I was pulling up bandit fortress locations and cauldron locations on my iPad Mini, and I actually got a little obsessed with hitting level 50.

I'll never forget, toward the end, barely being able to get out of my recliner and walk, but I was hunting for Thunderjaws and Stormbirds to take down. I was filled with confidence, and I began using that same confidence to get off my butt and start taking walks around the block, and to fill my mind with positivity and hope.


That was the main thing HZD gave me. Hope. At the start, the game does an incredible job of presenting to the player a very daunting world. It also gives you all the tools you need to succeed, but it's up to the player to figure out how best to deal with it all. (pro-tip, the Ropecaster is your best goddam friend toward the end)

Horizon Zero Dawn filled my mind. It gave me a place to protect and nurture my soul as my body mended. Aloy's world was a vast and intimidating one, but it was also one that I came to know I could exist in while I needed to give my body time to do its thing.

As my medical leave wound down, I started getting concerned that I wouldn't finish the game before I had to return to Earth. Something in me told me that Aloy and I needed to see this all the way through, or I wouldn't be ready to face the world again. Like I said, I'd hit a point in which I was running around, trophy-hunting, and then one day, I decided to take the plunge. It was time to face the big bad. And we did it. Aloy and I completed the task, and goddamit, that ending got me. I had tears streaming down my face. On one hand, the ending was that touching, but on the other, I knew it was time to take the confidence I'd built up in HZD, and translate that to returning to Earth. She and I were saying goodbye (well, until November 7 this year.)

There was one other lesson that Aloy imparted to me, though. I wasn't going to return to my old life. She'd affected change. That was something I could do, too. I didn't really wanna return to my old life. Nothing about it was horrible, at all, but there are things out there that I want to do that I've made reasons not to do, and I'm already taking steps in that direction now. Long story short, I haven't had a proper outlet for a long time, and I'm crafting one for myself. Creativity is essential to what I am.

I still feel like I haven't explained this well. Every so often, a game or a film or a record or a novel is there at exactly the right time, and ya just merge with it.

As for now ... I'm much better than I was, even if it's been hard to return to Earth. I'm really sore, I have most of my feeling back, and when you been outta the game for a couple months, it just takes a while to get back into the rhythm of Earth.

The plan is to write here some more, stream some more, and just be a little more 'involved' in the gaming world, instead of just lurking in its fringes.

I also really wanna talk about Divinity: Original Sin 2 soon. I am loving that game, as well.