5 Reasons You Should Start Gardening in Your Twenties

When it comes to gardening, most people tend to imagine older ladies in large-brimmed hats tending to flowerbeds outside their sprawling suburban homes. (At least, that’s what I think of.) So when my boyfriend and I started a backyard garden during our very first spring out of university, we were met with some surprise. Now that we’re into our third season of growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs, we can’t recommend it highly enough to other twenty-somethings! In fact, it seems that millennial gardeners are becoming a bit of a trend. (Finally, something millennials aren’t killing…) Here are five reasons why gardening in your twenties is a definite must-do. Continue reading

Yoga Revolution- Kicking off 2017 with Adriene

Happy Almost New Year! We’re counting down the hours with eager anticipation until…2016 is finally over. This year has been quite the roller coaster for most of us. I’ve found that one of the most positive, grounding experiences for me this year has been a renewed commitment to yoga practice, as guided by Adriene from the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. So starting tomorrow morning, I’m going to be embarking on the Yoga Revolution journey: a 31-day yoga practice video series with a daily mantra or focus. I’m pumped!

You may remember from that I participated in the “first annual” 30 Days of Yoga back in the summer. This video series launched in January 2015, so obviously I was a bit behind. It took me 44 days to get through the 30 videos, but at least I made it! You can read more about that experience in my Lessons Learned post. To summarize, I learned to build a habit of self-care, find what feels good, and expand my focus from just the physical aspects of yoga to the whole experience.

I continued to attend weekly yoga classes at my office gym and walk through a YWA video every so often. But I was becoming uninspired and the habit was falling away. So in mid-October, I took on the 30 Days of Yoga challenge from January 2016: Yoga Camp.

The main difference between the 2015 and 2016 challenges was the introduction of simple mantras to each practice.

I am strong.

I am supported.

I go with the flow.

I’ll admit that I never got to the point of chanting the mantras out loud, but I did find them very helpful in focusing my energy and intentions throughout the practices.

For this challenge, I actually completed one video each day for 30 days straight, finishing on time! I could feel both my mind and body becoming stronger through the experience, and I’m so glad I did it. And now that I’ve done the New Year challenges from 2015 and 2016, I’m officially caught up — meaning I’m ready for 2017:

Yoga Revolution.

So this will be the first time that I’m following along with others through this yoga “bootcamp”, and I’m very excited! These practices are super diverse: cleansing, challenging, creative, you name it. And participating is totally, 100% free. If you’ve even considered doing yoga, I want to encourage you to join me. It’s going to be awesome!

Sign up right here!

For those of you that have been following my blog recently, you may be wondering, what about Tone It Up? In a previous post, I mentioned that I’ve been following along with the Daily Workouts on the website for a few weeks now. For the duration of Yoga Revolution, I’m going to let Tone It Up take a backseat. I’ll still complete the Daily Moves, but the other workouts/cardio will generally be replaced by my yoga practice — unless I somehow find enough time and energy to do both!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you tomorrow on the mat!

NaNoPrep - How to Prepare to Write a Novel in a Month

We are just over two weeks away from the first of November. For those of us ingrained in writing culture, that means we’re right in the middle of NaNoPrep season. For everyone else, allow me to explain what the heck I’m talking about.

November is the National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Each year, thousands of writers around the world embark on a quest to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. It’s a self-regulated marathon for anyone who has always wanted to write a book, but simply hasn’t found the motivation — the “kick in the pants”, if you will — to get around to it. Keep in mind that the goal is to produce a very rough first draft. The editing process comes afterward, once you have a manuscript to play with. Writing that first draft is the largest single hurdle anyway, so the internal and external motivation of this challenge is perfect for getting it done.

The NaNoWriMo website contains a myraid of resources, plus a comprehensive forum to connect its global participants. And if you live in a decently populated area, there may even be local writing sessions, or “write-ins”, scheduled nearby during the month for you to attend.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about NaNoWriMo, you’re probably thinking one of three things:

  • That sounds awful! Why would anyone do that?
  • That sounds awesome. Sign me up!
  • I’m sure that would be really fun, but I simply don’t have time to write a novel in a month! That sounds far too ambitious for me.

If you fall into the second or third camp, then I would encourage you to read on. With the right attitude and support, you may surprise yourself in your ability to conquer the challenge.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo six times now — and I’ve won each and every time. I’ll talk about how I accomplished that in a future post. But for now, let’s make the most of NaNoPrep season. Here’s how I prepare in October to write a novel in November!

Sign up.

For first-timers, the first step is to hop on over to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. You’ll have a chance to input a bit of a bio and your geographical location, which will allow you to connect with the local writerly community (if you so choose).

Declare your intention to participate.

I would encourage you to take a digital and traditional approach to your declaration. Tell your friends and family that you’ll be writing a novel in November. Then post some NaNoWriMo flair on social media to spread the word to your larger circle.

Decide what you’ll write about (or don’t).

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser (i.e. “flying by the seat of your pants-er”), you’ll want to create your novel on the NaNoWriMo site in order to track your word count progress. From there, it’s up to you. In the past, I’ve taken extensive notes, drawn maps, made character profile sheets, the works… and in other years, I’ve literally started with a title, a one-liner plot synopsis, and a blank Word doc. So get planning — or not!

Rally the troops.

Writing a novel is fun, but writing a novel alongside friends and family is even better! Find people in your live with a love for writing and encourage them to join you in your journey. You can even NaNoPrep together (whatever that means for you)!

Commit to attending a local event (where applicable).

If you’re lucky enough to live in a region with a local group, make the effort to attend at least one event. I find these events are highly motivating for upping your word count. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet other writers in your area, and to thank your Municipal Liaison (or ML, the local organizers for NaNoWriMo) for their efforts in the writing community. (Okay, I’m a little biased… I served as the ML for Kingston, Ontario in 2013-14!)


If you’re joining the marathon this year (or at least still thinking about it), let’s be buddies! Click here for my NaNoWriMo profile.

What are you doing to NaNoPrep this year?

My 3 Latest Binge-Worthy Netflix Faves

Hello, friends! It’s been a hectic few weeks around here. In the midst of the hustle and bustle this month, I’ve found it so necessary to take the time to chill out for an hour or two and watch a favourite TV show. With my current schedule, I don’t really have much time or brianpower for following multiple shows at a time. Netflix has been a godsend, then, since I can watch a single series straight through at my own pace. I’m glad I made time for these three recent Netflix picks!

Stranger Things

 Netflix: Stranger Things

Quick IMDb Synopsis: “When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back.”

This is one television bandwagon that I’m so glad I hopped on. Obviously, this show is blowing up right now, and for good reason. I’ll admit that I wasn’t hooked right away, though. I’d gone into this paranormal thriller expecting something similar to The X-Files. The first episode went essentially according to my expectations, so I didn’t feel particularly compelled to continue watching. A week later, I watched the second episode. And two days after that, I’d completed the entire eight-episode season. So.

In spite of its niche genre, Stranger Things has a very broad appeal: mystery, sci fi, nostalgia (it’s set in the 80s, in case you didn’t already know that), awesome characters, you name it. I am so impressed with the quality of Netflix Originals these days. Whether it seems like your cup of tea or not, give Stranger Things a shot next time you log into Netflix!

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

 Netflix: Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23

Quick IMDb Synopsis: “Chloe is a New York party girl with the morals of a pirate who bullies and causes trouble for her naive small town roommate June.”

This show is definitely not the stereotypical, formulaic sitcom I was expecting when I sat down to watch the first episode. It’s incredibly zany and surprisingly self-aware. The vibe is more Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt than Two Broke Girls, thankfully, but I’d say it’s more clever than Kimmy as well, especially in its use of clichees and tropes. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 is still predictable, like most sitcoms, but it’s worth a shot if you’re looking for a quick laugh with a twist.

Galavant

 Netflix: Galavant

Quick IMDb Synopsis: “The adventures of Galavant, a dashing hero who is determined to reclaim his reputation and his “Happily Ever After” by going after the evil King Richard, who ruined it the moment he stole the love of Galavant’s life, Madalena.”

So one major thing missing from that synopsis is that Galavant is a modern musical. No, seriously. And it’s kind of hilarious. It’s essentially an Americanized Monty Python (Holy Grail comes to mind). The writing and musical team behind the two-season show is also responsible for Disney’s Tangled, which makes perfect sense. If you liked Tangled, you’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this.


What binge-worthy Netflix shows would you recommend?

30 Days of Yoga: Lessons Learned

A few days ago, I finished the final video session of 30 Days of Yoga on the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. It was an empowering and enlightening experience that taught me quite a bit about yoga — and myself.

I mentioned in an earlier post back in the spring that I was just beginning to practice yoga regularly, so I definitely classify myself as a newcomer. After taking a weekly class at work for a couple of months, I realized that my yoga practice was hindered by the length of time between classes, and the amount of stress endured during that time. I felt like any progress made was superficial and I wanted to take things to the next level. In the interest of a healthy lifestyle, I decided to undertake a 30-day home practice video series.

30 Days of Yoga — in 44 Days

With my highly variable weeknight schedule, I knew it would be more reasonable to commit to a morning yoga practice. I took “days off” from the videos in order to attend my usual morning yoga class on Wednesdays. Plus, after the first full week of the program, I went camping and delayed my progress until I returned. So all in all, it took me 44 days to complete 30 videos.

A Private Undertaking

Since I started this blog, I’ve taken on a number of “challenges”. I wrote a post a day back in April for the A to Z Challenge; I basically invented my No Buy July to save money (but mostly so that I could blog about it); and I committed to a number of monthly goals that I posted for the world to see. It’s helpful for me to use this blog as a form of accountability. But when I decided to begin 30 Days of Yoga, I kept it to myself, with the exception of a handful of close friends and family.

Why didn’t I declare my intentions online? There were two reasons in this case.

First, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to commit. Waking up at 6 is quite the adjustment when you’re used to 6:45 — especially when you know you don’t need to be up that early.

And second, I felt that using an external form of motivation would defeat the purpose of the commitment. If I really wanted to use this time to deepen my practice and create a ritual, the drive would need to come from within. And while it took two weeks longer than intended, I think the decision to keep my 30 Days of Yoga to myself was a good one.

“Find What Feels Good”

One of the things I love about yoga is that its main focus is not on the poses themselves. Many sequences are physically demanding, and can be out of reach for some people, depending on their practice and development. From what I’ve learned on this so-called 30 Days of Yoga journey, there are two priorities in yoga that overshadow the quest to “achieve” a certain pose: mental/emotional/spiritual connection with the body, and physical alignment.

Without a focus on the first priority, you may as well be exercising in a boot camp class rather than taking yoga. And without a focus on the second, you may cause yourself unnecessary injury and stress. There are ways to modify essentially every pose to allow for a positive, yet challenging, experience. Adriene provided a lot of direction on this topic in the video series, which I found very helpful. She summarizes this concept in the slogan “Find What Feels Good”. The self-love aspect of yoga feels very authentic, even at the beginner stages, especially when compared to other health and wellness trends that are popular online.

Spoiler Alert: Day 30

Note: I’m going to spoil the ending here. Only read this section if you have completed 30 Days of Yoga, or if you have no intention of ever doing so, for whatever reason.

Or maybe you’re the kind of person that reads the last page of the book first. In that case, read on.

It’s easy enough to follow along with a yoga video. Sure, there are tricky poses and pranayama techniques, but you learn the tips, the tricks, the physical alignment “checklists”, and the lingo along the way. But as I neared the end of the sessions, I started to panic. What would I do once it was all over? Would I stop practicing daily? Would I find a new series of videos to follow? Or would I have to — gasp — make up my own routines?

As the series neared its conclusion, Adriene’s instructions tended to be more open-ended. At a given point, I could take on a challenging flow, use the time for rest, or anything in between. She was building up my confidence in directing my own practice. She convinced me that I could, in fact, have a self-directed practice.

I made grand plans to do my research. I’d develop some sort of weekly plan for the types of poses for which I would prepare each day. I wanted to create the perfect playlist that would ease me into each portion of the practice. Maybe I would set goals for developing my endurance, strength, or patience. I procrastinated on all of this. I figured it could wait until the evening on the day I completed my 30 Days of Yoga.

But then, a twist!

Adriene intro’ed the 30th day video as a self-directed practice!

If I had been really paying attention, I would have known that each of the previous 29 videos had been leading up to this one. Without my intense preparation, though, was I really up to the task?

Turns out, yes, of course I was. (Plus, the video provided the playlist.) It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The important thing, though, was realizing that my preparations would have defeated the entire purpose of the exercise. There is a whole lot of yoga I have left to learn, but when it comes to making the most of a home practice, as Adriene says, it’s all about finding what feels good.


Now that my 30 Days of Yoga are complete, I intend to continue with yoga at home, with a blend of both personal and video-led practice. If you haven’t tried 30 Days of Yoga for yourself, I would definitely encourage you to try it out, whether you’re brand new to yoga or a little further along. The videos are light-hearted and instructive, and Adriene is hilarious and awesome. I really believe you’ll get a lot out of the experience, like I did!

What has been your favourite yoga experience?

When you’re looking to add a new board game to your home collection, one of the most important things to ensure is that the game won’t get stale. What’s the point in buying a game that gets boring after the first few play-throughs? Joe and I were on the hunt for something fresh and fun this weekend. We landed on Pandemic, a popular cooperative strategy game released in 2007. So far, we’ve played in three different groups: with my family, with his family, and just the two of us. And we had lots of fun each time!

The goal of Pandemic is to save the world from four deadly diseases. You play as a team of specialists with various randomly-assigned skills. As your turns progress, you and your team travel the world to treat these diseases and research their cures. At the same time, new cities are infected and outbreaks spread. It’s a race against the clock and the forces of nature to save the world.

Pandemic is the first cooperative game I’ve ever played. It took some adjustment, but I really enjoyed being able to work with the other players. Instead of competing via psychology and betrayal, your shared enemy is a series of random card draws. That way, the suspense and excitement were equally high for all players. Plus, you can share everything: the cards in your hands, your plans for next turn, and suggestions for your teammates’ moves.

The cooperative gameplay worked best when all players were engaged in the game. That wasn’t always the case, though. But even when a player was distracted or disinterested, they wouldn’t fall behind like they might in other games. The team still could still direction and use that player’s in-game special skills as things progressed.

My favourite part of Pandemic is the role of randomness in providing a unique game experience every time you play. Your strategy will change based on which cities are infected, when your cities have an epidemic, and what your special role will be for the duration of the game. I’ve noticed that some board games get very repetitive the more you play. That’s not the case with Pandemic, especially because you can also adjust the game’s difficulty at the start of each round.

 Pandemic — A Board Game Review

I do have a couple of warnings for new players. First, the game gets harder and the strategies get more intricate as you add additional players. It’s intended for 2-4 players, but we tried playing with 5, which made it much harder (but not impossible). Extra players essentially lengthen the time it takes to execute your strategies, and there are more opportunities for random events to ruin your plans.

Also, be aware of your team composition. Team strategies in cooperative games like Pandemic tend to gravitate toward the suggestions of players with stronger personalities. Do your best to ensure that every player gets a chance to voice their opinions and make decisions with the group.

In short, Pandemic is a great game for groups to have fun and be competitive – but with common goal. It looks a bit daunting at first glance, but the mechanics are really straightforward once you get the hang of the three-stage turn system. I would recommend Pandemic for groups of all kinds!

What are your favourite cooperative board games?

Smartphone Astrophotography with Novagrade

Hello all — I have returned from Starfest, Canada’s largest annual astronomy/camping conference! We had fabulous weather and clear skies for (almost) the entire week straight. There were lots of opportunities to use telescopes, binoculars, and even our eyes to observe the skies, especially the Perseid meteor shower! While real-time observing has its merits, many Starfest attendees are also heavily involved in astrophotography: taking photos of planets, stars, galaxies, or the night sky in general. This year at Starfest, I tried out smartphone astrophotography for the very first time.

Heading into this week of astronomy, I brought my 10-year-old automated telescope along with me. My only camera is a Nikon point-and-shoot. It’s not suited for long exposures or detailed images, both of which are important for “imaging” astronomical objects. However, I’d recently heard about a new trend in astrophotography that would take advantage of a camera most people already have: their smartphone.

It’s not enough to hold up your smartphone to a telescope eyepiece and snap a picture, though. You have to keep incredibly still, and if your phone moves out of alignment, you’ll see nothing but a black screen. That’s why Joe and I decided to make a purchase through Red Raven Marketing, one of Starfest’s vendors, at this year’s conference:

The Novagrade Phone Adapter for Smartphone Astrophotography

 Smartphone Astrophotography with Novagrade

The phone adapter is a device that latches onto any reasonably-sized smartphone or mini tablet. The side clamps are spring-loaded, and the back of the device has an adjustable hole to accommodate any camera placement. We found that it was easier to have the adapter hold the phone upside down. That way, thee little knob above the phone (see above) would support the phone’s weight instead. The adapter then twists onto a telescope eyepiece or camera using a compression ring.

 Smartphone Astrophotography: Novagrade Compression Ring

For our first foray into smartphone astrophotography, also known as digiscoping, we used 2″ eyepieces and a Samsung Galaxy S6. We used the Pro Mode of the phone’s built-in camera app to take pictures. That allowed up to 10 seconds of exposure, and we could play around with brightness and focus to try and optimize our images. Some turned out really cool, but we struggled with some others. We’re still learning! I’ve just used PicMonkey to apply some filters to these images. (That’s known in the astrophotography world as “post-processing”, apparently.) Take a look!

The Crescent Moon

 Smartphone Astrophotography — The Moon

Saturn

 Smartphone Astrophotography — Saturn

Jupiter, and some of its moons

 Smartphone Astrophotography — Jupiter

The Double Cluster in Perseus

 Smartphone Astrophotography — Double Cluster

(Okay, it basically looks like a bunch of stars…)


Another important aspect of this process was the Twilight app. We were taking photos in the dark and looking at faint objects in a telescope, so we didn’t want to ruin night vision for ourselves or the other campers around us. This program applied a red tint to everything on the phone screen. This way, our eyes didn’t get blown out by bright white light every time we looked at it. The only downside was having to take a break every couple hours to look at all of our images in full light, to make sure they still looked good!

Want to use this technology for yourself? You’ll need a smartphone, an adapter like ours, and something with an eyepiece. That could be a telescope, a birding scope, perhaps binoculars… or maybe even a microscope! And as for me, Joe and I are going to keep experimenting with our Novagrade Phone Adapter!

How do you enjoy the night sky?

Disclaimer: This post is not affiliated or compensated in any way. I just enjoy sharing about cool products!

Starfest: The Ultimate Astronomy Camping Experience

Happy Tuesday — it’s a very exciting day! Starting today, my family and I are taking our annual camping vacation to River Place Campground for a much-anticipated event: Starfest!

What’s Starfest?

Starfest is Canada’s largest “Star Party”. That’s an amateur astronomy conference event. By day, Starfest is a camping trip with the added bonus of speakers, workshops, access to astronomy equipment vendors, kids activities, and campground amenities (yes, that includes showers, thank goodness. And there’s a pool!). Some of us also take the opportunity to embark on day trips to nearby small towns for sightseeing and shopping. By night, everyone breaks out their telescopes to observe or take astrophotos.

If you don’t have a telescope, fear not! The night-time entertainment also includes a guided Sky Tour as an intro to astronomy for newcomers. Plus, many campers with large telescopes would be happy to show you what their telescope is viewing — as long as they don’t have a camera plugged into the eyepiece instead! During the day, there is also a chance to do some observing of the Sun using specially-crafted filters to protect your vision.

Believe it or not, I didn’t first hear of this event while studying physics in school. In fact, I’ve been a die-hard attendee since I was three years old. My dad has been an astronomy hobbyist for years, and he began bringing the whole family along in 1996. Here we are, twenty years later!

Who should attend?

  • Anyone with any level of interest in astronomy, telescopes, or space science — and their families and friends!
  • Anyone who has been meaning to book a camping trip all summer, and just hasn’t gotten around to it yet..

The campground is located about two hours north-west of downtown Toronto. That’s fairly close to the GTA compared to a lot of other camping destinations. And you get all of the extra perks of an astronomy conference as well!

What’s special about Starfest this year?

2016 is the 35th anniversary of Starfest, and the conference theme is “Big Astronomy”. That means galaxies, black holes, solar storms, and massive telescopes. If you’ve ever been amazed by the sheer scale of our universe, this year is for you!

Does it start today? How do I register in time!?

Don’t worry! I’m just a keener and going up to Starfest early. The official event starts on Thursday evening and runs until Sunday morning. Feel free to arrive and register at the door anytime before noon on Saturday. You can also set your departure date as any day as well. Keep in mind, though, that the keynote speaker will present on Saturday evening — followed by the highly-anticipated door prize draw for all registrants. Come one, come all: you have to be present to win a prize! I was extremely fortunate to win this beauty as the grand prize back in 2005:

 Starfest 2016 — My Telescope

What if the skies aren’t going to be clear?

Ah, the age-old Starfest question. Everyone devoted to the hobby of astronomy hopes for clear skies every single night. The campsite was chosen specifically because of its dark night skies, compared to the Toronto area. However, if there are some clouds, or even if it rains (or if there’s a tornado or two…), you still get every other perk of attending the event! Why waste an opportunity for a mini-vacation? So in my opinion, if the skies aren’t going to be clear, come anyway! It’s going to be great!


Well, folks, I’m heading off to Starfest — hope to see you there! Clear skies!

Summer Games Done Quick 2016

It’s that time of year again! For one week every summer… I simply can’t get Joe off the computer. He’s too busy watching Summer Games Done Quick!

What is Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ)? Here’s the official description:

[Summer] Games Done Quick is [an annual] charity gaming marathon. Volunteers play games at incredible speed (“Speedrunning”) for entertainment. The event is streamed live online, non-stop, and all donations go directly to the charity.

A couple of clarifications:

  • We’re talking about video games: anything from classics to brand new games, on all sorts of consoles and in all the genres.
  • Speedrunning may or may not include taking advantage of “glitches” — broken code in games that allow you to speed up your progress in some way (e.g. skipping levels).
  • This year, SGDQ is donating all of their proceeds to Doctors Without Borders.

Now, I play a couple of video games every so often, but in no way would I call myself a “gamer”. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. But even if the only gaming you’ve ever done was on your original Gameboy or your Tamagotchi, here are some reasons you should still tune in to Summer Games Done Quick:

It’s for Charity

Whether you’re a gamer or not, you can’t deny that Doctors Without Borders is a worthy cause. In case you’ve never heard of the foundation, this is from their site:

We help people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from health care.

So naturally, any opportunity to support that cause is a good one.

It’s All About Nostaglia

While some of the featured games on SGDQ’s 150-game lineup are brand new, many of them date back years. For example, I’m excited to see Mario Kart, Star Wars: Jedi Knight and Knights of the Old Republic, Super Mario 64 DS, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Check out the schedule to see if any games are a blast from your past!

Stream Live or Later

The marathon is set up as a livestream on Twitch, but you can always click here for past streams!

Lots of Play Styles

Speedrunning is a bit intimidating for anyone not familiar with gaming. The players breeze through levels, take advantage of weird glitches, and totally bypass the storyline in a lot of cases. However, the SGDQ schedule will specify what type of speedrun will be completed for each game. For example:

  • Any %: Get to the end of the game. It doesn’t matter how many levels/stars/coins/quests you have. You’ll probably see lots of glitches in these runs.
  • Glitchless: No use of any “broken” parts of the game. The flow will generally follow how the game was intended to be played.
  • The racing games, like Mario Kart, are done on the fastest speeds, and they usually do all of the available tracks.

Watching Serious Gamers Play Not-So-Serious Games

Here’s a sampling of some of the interesting picks in the lineup:

  • Mickey Mousecapade
  • Disney’s The Little Mermaid
  • Crystal’s Pony Tale
  • Barbie Game Girl
  • Ed, Edd, ‘n Eddy: The Mis-Edventures

Yeah.

While most of the less serious games are broadcast in the middle of the night, as I mentioned, you can always watch them later!

Donation Incentives

Let’s face it: it’s more fun to donate when you can get something in return. That shouldn’t be the entire motivation, of course, but it helps.

SGDQ offers a number of incentives for different types of supporters:

  • You can always add a comment to your donation, and they may read it on the livestream!
  • “Bid wars” let you use your donation to vote for an option in the current or an upcoming game, and the option with the greatest funds raised wins. For example, supporters can choose whether a game will be played with an Evil or a Good main character, or they can name the character or save file. (Some people care more about this than others.)
  • There are also randomly-selected prizes and prize packs. Some have minimum bids and some don’t.

Summer Games Done Quick is Pretty Newbie-Friendly

Many of the prime-time games are intended for a wide audience. As such, most of them offer explanations about what’s going on. In a speedrun, where things are happening in record time, this is super helpful for n00bs like me. 😉

It’s Like Any Other Marathon!

Let’s say you’re not very athletic, but you have an acquaintance that’s running a marathon to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. Would you refuse to support them, just because you’re not a runner yourself? Of course not! You’d support the cause, and maybe even cheer them on along the route or at the finish line.

That’s exactly how I view SGDQ. I’m not a huge gamer, let alone a speedrunner! But that doesn’t mean I can’t support the event and spread the word.


Summer Games Done Quick 2016 is on all this week, with the finale scheduled for 11:35PM EST on Saturday, July 9th. Hope to see you online!

Are you watching Summer Games Done Quick?

I could have accomplished a lot of things this weekend. Granted, I made time for gardening, a hike, and folding some laundry, but the majority of my time was spent playing a video game called Banished. It’s a simple city-building and resource management simulation game that I purchased off Steam just this weekend, but I’ve played many hours of the game using friends’ accounts in the past. I figured it was time to cough up the cash and give the game a legitimate play. And, as I expected, I got sucked right back in.

What is Banished?

The premise of the game is that you must take care of a group of people that have been “banished” from their home, and are now living on the land.

Banished: Starting Out

Those icons mean your citizens are homeless! Oh no!

You can have them construct their homes, work specific jobs, gather resources, and build their families. Over time, your town will expand and develop.

Banished: Building My City

This is a view of the current state of my city. Lots of hustle and bustle!

Your town can partake in trade, animal husbandry, immigration, and mining, for example. You may even have to face some natural disasters, such as tornadoes, fire, infestations, and plague. There isn’t a specific “story mode” to the game, per se, but there’s still lots to do.

Why am I hooked?

I mentioned in an earlier post (about The Sims) that I love so-called “God Games”. I love to build up resources and watch my city (or my Sim) thrive. However, I don’t go crazy and I like to be quite realistic in games like this one. I’m a fairly cautious player, so I don’t like to expand my towns too quickly, and I get extremely attached to the citizens and the town as a whole. That means that I’m totally devastated when a tornado rips through half of my downtown core. It also means I like to follow specific citizens around and see how they live and work.

 Banished: The Marketplace

As a side note, it’s always pretty funny to “follow” the hunter characters as they search the forest for simulated deer. For some reason, they are terrible at their jobs and will walk right past (and sometimes through) deer without noticing them…

The soundtrack is also catchy, in a old-timey, wilderness-y, calming sort of way. Watch the trailer below to see what I mean (especially in the second half):

For those of you needing more motivation to play a simulation game like Banished, Steam also has 36 badges to award for various play styles that range in difficulty. I’ve only earned two so far, but I can definitely earn more with the town I’m working on now!

If this game sounds appealing to you, hop on over to Steam or Shining Rock Software and try it for yourself! (It costs around $20, depending on your currency of choice.) Once you’ve had a chance to play, let me know what you think in the comments below!

Thanks for indulging my video game obsession 🙂 Have a lovely week!