3 Best Video Games I’ve Played In 2018

So this has been the third year I’ve done it – the best games I’ve played in the year 2017/2018. It’s been another belter year for games, with some great games out, both for the big budget titles and the indie games. You also had the rise of the mini consoles (you can read my review of the SNES Mini at Retro Garden) this year, so overall it’s been good.

I both have played a lot of games and not a lot. Two games that nearly made the list were Cuphead and the excellent Dead Cells. However in the past month or so with the start of my freelance career I’ve not played as much as I would have liked. Dead Cells would have almost made the list had I played a little more recently. So with that said, here’s my 3 best games I played this year.

3. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Xbox One)

Here’s a hot take, I don’t like Fortnite: Battle Royale.

I cannot get on with it. The building and crafting mechanic takes a lot of enjoyment out of it for me. So I prefer the original made by PlayerUnknown. Battlegrounds.

This has been the year of battle royale style games – games where you are dropped in to a location on a map and you end up having to kill everybody else on the map. Over time the area shrinks and you end up in a tiny area with a few people.

Why I prefer PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds? I prefer the look, it’s gritty. It’s theme music is a belter, and it feels more realistic rather than floss dances and various moves shared by the French national team. And there is zero crafting. No hiding in large wooden buildings. You’re out. Alone. And I bloody love it.

Buy Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds on Amazon

2. Sea of Thieves (Xbox One)

Speaking of alone, Sea of Thieves has taken second place in my favourite games of the year. The beauty of it is the feeling of being alone. You are plonked on a world and you are tasked with sailing the high seas. Sure it had a rocky start, but I feel that it was needed, as it’s rocky start helped foster a community. The community is brilliant, as the community appears to be a lot older, lot casual, and a lot nicer.

Yeah my sloop isn’t too big, too flashy, or too feature rich, but sailing over the gorgeous seas with a wonderful soundtrack, either alone or with a small group of people, is one of the most pleasurable experiences I have had this year in video games.

Buy Sea of Thieves on Amazon

1. Yoku’s Island Express (Xbox One)

This game is magical.

Yoku’s Island Express is an indie game that I discovered in the middle of this year. You play a dung beetle who is a postman, showing up on the first day of work and all hell breaking loose with an attack on the magical tree. So you need to both save the island and also deliver letters and packages to the island residents.

You obviously have to traverse the island, with bits of the island opening up over time as you collect items. However traversing the island becomes quicker (or harder, dependant on your skill) thanks to the main game mechanic – you push a dung ball attached to you throughout the island, and some areas of the island contain flippers and chutes.

In short, this game is a bunch of interconnected pinball machines. 

It’s not all pinball, but many of the sections and the bigger puzzles use the pinball mechanic. You can get powerups such as kickbacks and the like, as although you cannot actually die in this game, losing flowers (the game’s currency) when you miss the odd shot does make the game harder.

The thing I love about the game is the presentation – the game is absolutely gorgeous and you’re on a desert island, with a bunch of cute residents. And the music is so happy and joyful, with the title screen music a beautiful piece. Furthermore, it’s kind of short – the main quest took me 6 hours – but if you want to go further and explore the full story of the island you are going to be playing for at least triple that.

This game feels like it was made exclusively for me – Metroidvania style game with pinball elements. The fact that I wasn’t aware of it until it came out made it all the more special.

Buy Yoku’s Island Express on Amazon

And You?

What are the games you played this year that you loved? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Previous years: 2016, 2017

If Not Now…When?

Man, May 2017 was tough.

It felt like one of those months that everything went wrong. A few things that were threatening to happen happened. It’s vague-booking at the finest, I’m aware, but the fact my phone being stolen after giving a talk at MWUG was kind of the straw that broke the camels back. Would I call it depression? Of course not. It’s unfair to call it such as seeing how people with serious mental illness are affected. But I’m not going to lie – I felt May 2017 and the sheer coincidences were out to get me. It was not fun, and kinda ruined 2017 for me.

It took me months, months to get back to some sense of normality. A weekend in Cologne on my first Deutschegraps Wochenende with PROGRESS & wXw (that saw my favourite match of 2017) that was immediately followed a few fun days in Manchester finally put a smile back on my face, and I returned in July 2017, and I felt happy. Things began to look up – I lost a bit of weight, I was doing loads and I was truly happy.

But once again the nagging feelings crept in. Something wasn’t right. I’m not sure what it was but it felt strange. Like a stagnation feeling, more than anything else. Seeing people grow and improve and do so much with their lives – whilst nice – made me reflect on what I was doing. The honest answer? Nothing. Sure I was doing stuff, but it wasn’t big, scary stuff. I felt like if my life was an RPG I was dicking about with the side-quests. October came and I was praying for December. Imagine clock watching, but calendar watching. It wasn’t healthy. So one of my new year’s resolutions (beyond one that I share on Instagram) was to change something, so that 31st December 2018 was a lot happier for me than 31st December 2017.

And 31st December 2017 I spent playing video games in Arcade Club in Bury, it was a lot of fun.

January came around. Happy New Year & all that. Right! Let’s attack the year. I know! I’ll look at my goals – let’s find my own place! Get on the property ladder! Live the British dream! I may not have anybody to share it with, but dammit I can still set up my Xbox and not whinge when somebody doesn’t empty to the dishwasher. I set up a few viewings for flats in Manchester. And then I realised half way through a viewing of a dingy place in Old Trafford, when neither me nor the estate agent particularly wanted to be there.

I’m not sure it was what I wanted.

I looked at what I could change on my life, so the next thing was a job. I love and care about the FireCask team to bits, don’t get me wrong, but a sexy job came up to work on a WordPress product (something I’ve a lot of interest in). It was remote work for a good company with industry leading names, but after sailing through the first interview, I looked again.

I’m not sure it was what I wanted.

I rang my brother, and I must have spoken to him about an hour. He’s an accountant, you see. He looks at things analytically. The job was with a French based company – paying in Euros, and assuming I smashed it and collected every bonus and Brexit was a total disaster, it still would be a sizeable pay cut.

But – he said – what if I didn’t smash it? What if Brexit isn’t a total disaster?

Difficult to imagine the latter, I know.

In the end, the analytical brother disappeared and the psychiatrical brother emerged. He laid out what I’ve been doing and what would make me happy. I was single, I was living in a rented accommodation, I had a decent job and travelled a bit. A solid 6/10 on the happiness scale but something wasn’t right. In the end I talked about a dream I’ve had since about the age of 18.

The dream of going freelance.

It’s not a freelance dream of sipping Margaritas on the beach, but to put to bed a working class guilt of having slightly longer lunch breaks, getting an earlier train to head back to see mum & dad, and opening my laptops on strange days in strange countries to graft, affording me an extra few days exploring. I’m not sure if any of these are actually possible, or it’s just a pipe dream, but I’d like to try, at least one day.

He then hit me with four words, that pretty much set the tone of this year up to this point.

“If not now, when?”.

Truth is, I’m not in a better position to give it a try. I’ve a bit of savings, I’ve a good network of contacts, I’ve no mortgage, no debt and no commitments. Sure it’s a risk, but it seems like a sensible risk. And if it doesn’t work for whatever reason – I know I can say “At least I tried”.

So, now you know the backstory, and as I sit writing this in an airport in Frankfurt, after seeing PROGRESS Wrestling & wXw rock the Batchkapp in a weird kinda full circle, allow me to introduce you to my Freelance face – Dwi’n Rhys. Dwi’n Rhys (pronounced “Dween Rhys” – Welsh for “I am Rhys”…clever eh?) is a WordPress freelance business, where I concentrate solely on making WordPress work. And trust me, in my 6 years commercial experience, I’ve seen many installations where WordPress doesn’t work. Winwar Media is still going – if I have the pleasure of working with you – these will be where the invoices come from, just it’s SEO is abysmal for it’s branded term thanks to a popular Windows based file archiver. Winwar will focus on plugins and affiliate sites, Dwi’n Rhys will be where you come to if you want your WordPress site secure, speedy and SEO friendly. To be honest are though if you drop a contact form on any site of mine I’ll probably triage it into the right place.

Anyway, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for a chat and a brew. I’m happy to meet within the Manchester & the North West pretty much straight away, North Wales fairly sharpish and elsewhere area pretty much with a bit of notice.

So to answer the question I posed at the beginning of the year: when…is now.

What’s In The Bag? 2018 Edition

So, I’ve began thinking of ideas for blog posts so that at least I’m writing 2 or 3 times a year rather than once or twice every 2 years. An example of a blog post I thought that I quite like is “What’s In The Bag?” posts I’ve seen doing the round. It’s interesting to see how people’s bags and rucksacks develop over time, so I thought I’d do mine. Here’s my bag, and what’s currently in it – as well as it numbered so you can easily follow below. Or I think easy to follow – my graphics skills aren’t the best!

  1. Wiwa OnePack – This was a fairly ill advised kickstarter, but it came through and it’s decent. A roomy backback which is easy to carry and two major compartments, one fairly roomy main backpack designed for 2 or 3 night stays (I will disagree mind), and a “work” area for laptops and notebooks. It is an okay backpack, slightly soured by how long it took, but it’s okay.
  2. 2015 Macbook Pro – Love, love, love this machine! Absolute beast and runs along quite nicely. Still only 3 years old and whilst I covered it with stickers it’s still chugging along without any problems. I wish the hard drive was bigger though. Charger is beginning to get the same issue all chargers for the Mac seem to suffer.
  3. World Civilization Laptop Sleeve – Because I’m forever dreaming of going away and this is a useful laptop sleeve.
  4. PROGRESS Wrestling Tote Bag – always need to be representing my fellow ultras.
  5. 7dayshop Aero Freedom Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones – My hearing is poor, and I like the Noise Cancelling aspect. It’s pretty decent in noise cancelling, compared to earphones.
  6. Clas Ohlson USB Double Charging Plug & EU Plug Adapter – after a trip to Italy where I forgot all my plugs and adapters, I’ve made a reason to always carry these two items in my bag, so I’m not without power.
  7. Puridea Phone Power Bank – A decent sized (10000mAh) charger. It’s slightly too big for my liking, but it can fit in my bag and not take up too much room.
  8. Small Notebooks – Used for small note taking, such as – for example – when I’m giving a talk (I used one for my WP Leeds talk recently).
  9. Nifty Kitchen Bento Box – Love this little Bento Box! I’d highly recommend anybody to get a Bento Box. I cook for 2 and now eat a delicious lunch the next day. It’s expensive for a lunchbox, but it’s save me more money in return.
  10. WordCamp Manchester 2015 Tote Bag – as you can never have enough tote bags, this was from WordCamp Manchester 2015, one I helped organise.
  11. Business Cards Holders – Holding business cards for Winwar Media as well as stickers for Winwar & WP Email Capture.
  12. LFC Notebook – Used for taking meeting notes, more long form writing that I need to do occasionally.
  13. Intelligent Change Productivity Planner – I’ve started using this to plan my days. It’s pretty good but I’m still getting the hang of it. Will let you know how it goes but it’s working with my Pomodoro technique, though one task every day may just be “Small Work jobs on my Remember The Milk list”
  14. (Above 12) Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charger – I thought this was a fad, as was the Treasure Truck, but I bought this on The Amazon Treasure Truck and it was a good purchase. Just makes my life easier. Can be temperamental at times though.
  15. (Above 13) Small Tin full of USB Cables & Bits and Bobs – I bought the tin in Dublin, as on my flight to Dublin I broke my USB cable, leaving me in trouble for a week stay there. This keeps the cables safe and secure. This does contain the Volutz Charging USB Cables, which are the best USB cables I’ve ever owned, so tough!

Anyway, that’s what’s in my bag, what’s in yours? Leave them in the comments!

Parties And Belgrade

“How have you enjoyed your stay here? Well I hope you come back again, but if not, I do hope you come back to Belgrade. You are always welcome here.”

Those were the parting words of the receptionist of Hotel Inn Belgrade as I left after a week in the Serbian capital. It felt like it summed up my stay in the Serbian capital. People are really friendly here. Like bordering on the “Why are you being so nice?” friendly. It was bordering on the unnerving and it was for the first day, but eventually you find a city full of warm, hospitible people who want to sell their city to you so you tell everybody about them.

Mission, accomplished.

I arrived early afternoon, and then immediately I went on a Belgrade Walking Tour, which was fascinating as well as slightly drunken due to the spirit given towards the end of the tour (thanks Godaddy for sponsoring!). After a bit of food (unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the place I attended) the night was capped off at the absolutely fabulous Samo Pivo, a craft beer bar located in an underpass. This was a real gem of a place and I was sad I only went once during my time in Belgrade. From the underpass you are lead to an outside terrace with a fascinating view of the city.

The second day I spent looking through the Nikola Tesla Museum as well as The Serbian National Bank, both fun little distractions and diversions. The evening was eventually resulted in food at Ambar, with their “All you can eat for 2990 Dinar” (about £20), we had a great filling meal that went on for hours, with many beers. Top. Notch. I cannot remember what it was, but there was an absolutely delicious hazelnut butter that was to die for. I cannot remember anything else about it, but it was superb, as was much of the food there.

The next day saw the kick off of the World Cup, and I ended up in another cracking bar – Berlin Monroe. Located off a car park in the old town, this craft beer bar has a great staff, friendly service and a superb selection of Serbian craft beers. No food is served, but there’s a pizza place nearby that does massive pizzas for not much money.

The rest of the holiday was spent mainly at the aforementioned WordCamp Europe, which you can read more about that if you so desire here. But here you are after pictures aren’t you? Here’s some of my top snaps from the trip.

Race to 100 err…103 grounds complete

Bloody England.

And Bloody Wales.

And Bloody Worcester City.

So I have been embarking on a trip to see as many football teams play in as many stadiums as possible. I had hoped to reach 100 by the end of the season, and I did! I thought I’d did it on a Tuesday in mid April when I went through the turnstiles at Deepdale (home of Preston North End), ticking off my 100th ground.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, like all brilliant minds do every now and again, I had miscalculated. I had seen 100 different teams playing at various stadiums. However, I’d actually ticked off a fair few already.

Let me explain using my beloved Wales.

Ask me if I seen Wales play at home, then I would say “Yes”. I had. However I’d seen them play in two different venues that they call “Home”: The Millenium Stadium & Cardiff City Stadium. Same applies to England (Old Trafford & Wembley) and Worcester City (St George’s Lane & Aggborough). Like Phileas Fogg, I’d well and truly screwed up my calculations and actually achieved more than I thought.

So in actual fact, my 100th ground – Ramsbottom United vs Colwyn Bay – was completed on a cold Spring evening in Late March, making Preston, Blackpool, and my trip to bloody Genoa rather redundant.

Oh well.

All in all, I feel a weird sense of pride with my achievement. It’s means nothing, didn’t make me healthier, didn’t raise money for a charity or even do something for somebody. It was selfish, it was selfish bloody minded stubbornness for something that impressed only me and a few other people. I don’t think I’d even put it on my Tinder bio.

But I don’t care, as for this journey, there has been a weird solace for me within a WhatsApp group. Two of my friends from university heard about the challenge and decided to go for their own challenge related to it. One of which was to hit 100, another was to hit 50. If absolutely nothing else, as I hurtle to my mid 30’s, I’m glad that I’ve managed to reclaim and spend some quality time with two great friends. That has been what has made the last 6 or so month’s special.

I’ve not decided if I’m continuing to 200, or 250, or whatever. This isn’t swimming: the next 100 will probably be harder, but I’ve paired with one of my friends and we’ve started a little instagram account for groundhopping. You can see it here at @ystbah. Please give us a follow!

Anyway, now onto some stats!

  • Most Northerly ground – Firhill, Glasgow (Partick Thistle)
  • Most Easterly & Southerly ground – GSP Stadium, Nicosia (Cyprus)
  • Most Westerly ground – Giants Stadium, New York (New York Red Bulls)
  • I’ve watched football matches in 13 different countries: Andorra, Belgium, Cyprus, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, United States and Wales.
  • I’ve watched football at 59% of the teams in the Evostik Divison 1 North, my most populous league.
  • I’ve seen football played in 23 competitions: European Championships, World Cup Qualifications, European Championship Qualifications, Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, Championship, League 1, League 2, Conference North, Evostik Premiership, Evostik Division 1 North, Evostik Division 1 South, North West Counties Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, FA Trophy, League of Wales, Cymru Alliance, League of Ireland, Scottish Premiership, Bundesliga & Serie A.

Anyway, here’s a map!

Anyway, if you have any questions or anything, I’m opening the comments up to an unofficial AMA, if you have any questions for my escapades, leave them in the comments!