Category Archives: blog

blog: Internet Friends

A few years ago we were streaming out some Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds to our gigantic audience of like 4 people, when one of the folks in our chat blindsided us with a simple request: “Can I join you?” It was a request that more experienced streamers would not engage with at all, but like a house of cards our convictions came crumbling down in an instant. Our inexperience laid bare and our judgment dissolved, we let them join us — live and unvetted. Of all the ways that story could have ended, I would not have expected it to end with us having excellent chemistry with what would become a really good friend, which is exactly what happened.

But that story is an outlier and represents the only time in my life that I’ve ever made an ‘internet friend’, and they kind of forced my hand cause I didn’t know how to say, “nah, we’re good,” in the middle of a stream. Like, they could have hopped on our stream and just said the most horrendous shit they could imagine, but instead they were extremely cool. It all worked out, but it’s made me think about all of the online communities I’ve avoided and the connections I never made, mostly because of a crippling social anxiety.

It’s weird to me that in an age where internet anonymity emboldened people to be as vile and repugnant as possible, that I can’t muster the courage to interact with people online. I think my fear comes from that ’emboldened asshole’ thing though, cause while I’m not the type to engage with folks online whether it be positively or negatively, I worry everyone else is gonna be really shitty to me the second I open my mouth.

I see people engaging with each other inside of games, on social media or over Discord, basking in the glow of their shared interests and I wish I had that. I wish I had a place that I could log into and just kind nerd out with random folks who are just as weird and dorky as myself. But I don’t know where to start, and more importantly, I have this crippling social anxiety that makes even the simple task of hitting the automated “say hello” button that pops up in Discord servers a tall order.

All of this begs the question, ‘to what end?’ I have friends that I talk to pretty regularly and we’re all pretty dorky, it isn’t like I couldn’t blab about video games or D&D to them. I guess I just want to meet new people, but regardless of if that’s in-person or online, I’m terrible about being brave enough to engage with anyone new. Like, I’m not even the guy at the party who spends all his time on his phone, I’m guy who didn’t even show up to the party and feels terrible for not going but also relieved.

This isn’t just about wanting to make new friends though, because the other side of this whole situation is me wanting to find welcoming communities of like-minded individuals. I know they’re out there, but I just don’t have it within me to make that jump and engage with one of them. It’s social anxiety manifest in spaces where I assume I’d be welcomed, but the possibility of them being exclusionary, no matter how infinitesimal, outweighs my desire to make new connections. Simply put, I think I’m just afraid of rejection.

blog: The Gift of Spending

As a little gift for the holidays, I decided to splurge and treat myself to something that’s equal parts superfluous and unnecessary, snagging a shiny new virtual reality headset. While I’m not thrilled about having to buy a Meta product, the Quest 2 was the only affordable standalone headset I could find, so I bit the bullet and took the plunge and was immediately confronted by the need to spend more money.

While less powerful than some of its PC reliant contemporaries, the Quest 2 is still a really impressive piece of technology that more than just gets the job done. But if you’re like me and already have a pretty robust library of VR games on other platforms, you can plug in a long USB C cord and harness the power of whatever beefy rig you’ve got. That was the intent, but unfortunately my computer had other plans.

I thought that buying a prebuilt PC would solve a lot of the issues I had with the Frankensteinian mess I hobbled together years ago, but it turns out that computers can be incredibly fickle no matter what their origin is. The computer I originally scrumbled together was prone to crashing and just hated the idea of turning and staying on, which is an attitude I can kind of relate to. But this newer computer, I stupidly assumed, would be more reliable because it was ‘professionally’ built.

To its credit, my newer PC is great at being a normal computer that streams videos, plays music, and allows me to play D&D on virtual tabletops without much issue. What it doesn’t like doing is playing games, which was kind of the whole reason I bought the damn thing in the first place. Much like me, the second I ask for the littlest bit of exertion from it or anything that would mildly tax the graphics card for more than ten minutes, makes it get all crash happy in a way I’ve never seen before. Everything locks up, the displays go green, and the computer is unresponsive until I manually reset it. When it does come back online, it resets some of my display settings, specifically the monitor sleep settings, which I assume is a symptom of some cyber-amnesia that only computers suffer.

It drives me nuts because I’ve never really been able to play games on this computer as is, but for some reason I forgot that fact when I bought a 16 foot USB C cable with the intent of having this crashy piece of crap attempt to run VR games. While the green screen crash is disruptive and startling under normal circumstances, having it happen while inside of VR is truly akin to an Eldritch horror.

I was trying out a game called Wanderer, which is this very moody, post-apocalyptic adventure game that allegedly has you jumping around through events in history and solving puzzles in order to fix your shitty future. I played about an hour of it and thought it was pretty neat until the sound suddenly cut out and everything kind of froze. The game had hiccupped before like this, so I just thought I’d wait it out. But as I looked around I saw the walls start to melt, and the colors turn into beams of light that extended into oblivion. It was like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, except unlike the movie, this crash made sense.

So what’s the play here, then? Cause from where I’m standing, my options are to either buy a new computer or laptop that can run some VR stuff, dropping well over a grand, or rebuy my entire VR library on the Meta store. Both options seem absolutely insane to do, but buying a new computer at least offers some utility and the ability to play the even more non-VR games I across the 15 launchers I have installed. It’s wild to think that the more sensible option is to buy a new computer, but that’s money I super don’t feel like dropping right now.

I can’t believe that my fun little present to myself has led to me having to genuinely consider spending an extra grand or more just to be able to fully utilize it. And now that I’m aware of my computer’s inability to handle the slightest of strains, I can’t not address it. I’m cursed with this knowledge and I’m genuinely afraid that I’m going to act on it. Send help.

blog: Guiltless Gaming

I remember being around 14 years old and begging my mom to drive me to our local GameStop so I could pick up the brand-spanking new Xbox 360 I had reserved. I walked into the store, picked up the prepaid console I had spent so much time saving up for, and headed back to the car. Excited as I was, there was a weird energy in the car that even my underdeveloped teenage brain could pick up on. Breaking the silence, my mom eventually asked the question that still nags at me till this day and said, “So when do you finally grow out of this stuff?”

Ten words was all it took to cast this dark cloud over my very good day, but it got me genuinely thinking about if and when I ever ‘finally grow out of this stuff.’ Clearly it never happened, hence the existence of this website, but at the time I didn’t have a good answer for it. I didn’t know how to properly express to my mother that this was my favorite hobby and there’s nothing wrong with playing games. To her and a lot of my family members, this was just another toy, some expensive brick of wires and plastic that was exclusively for juveniles.

It was from then on out that I did my best to avoid even acknowledging my love of games to anyone in my family. It turned into this self imposed taboo that I would hide away in my room and do in private, which sounds way more sinister and gross than I want it to. Even at 18 when I moved out I still kept my hobbies squirreled away from everyone in my family. I’m sure they all still knew that I was a big nerd, but I would always just do my best to never bring any of it up to anyone. When asked simple questions about what I got up to that day, telling them I watched TV all day was more palatable than being honest and saying I played games.

Hell, even to this day I still downplay my gaming hobby to most people I meet solely because in the back of my mind playing video games still feels a little childish. I know in actuality it isn’t, and I know that I shouldn’t care about what people think, but it’s hard to get past the antiquated stigmas that have carried over from my childhood.

It’s even weirder considering I have absolutely no problem boasting to anyone who will listen about enjoying Dungeons & Dragons, but I think that’s a case of me getting into as an adult and knowing how to defend myself from some jagoff who wants to try and tear me down for liking it, but video games are tougher because of how they were stigmatized when I was a kid. They were products for children and advertised as such, which makes it really hard to portray myself as a functioning adult who also enjoys playing video games, especially when it comes to my family. It makes me wonder if people who got into Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon as kids feel the same way as I do now that they’re adults.

Maybe I’m just in my own head too much and need to learn to better let go of the shitty and snide comments people have said to me in the past, but that’s easier said than done. It helps to have friends and a partner that are all supportive of and even partake in gaming cause I don’t have to defend or justify anything to them. It’s mostly just about how the general public and my family perceives the act of gaming that makes me feel intensely judged for liking what I like.

That insecurity that I feel about my gaming habits is mostly of my own creation and I recognize that. I fear a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios, where someone is going to make me explain myself and score me on how good of an adult I’ve been or something. It’s completely irrational, especially because I’m a grown-ass man who doesn’t have to explain shit to anybody if I don’t want to. So I’m gonna go ahead and keep on doing what makes me happy even if some of the most important people in my life think it’s too childish.

blog: In the Dust – 12/19/22

Not too long ago Chivalry 2 was released on Game Pass, quickly making it a staple in my gaming group’s rotation thanks to its satisfying and somewhat mindless gameplay. It’s not the kind of game that requires a lot from you in terms of progression or even paying attention which is the perfect platform for us to just talk about life only to be interrupted by someone screaming about how that last kill was “total bullshit.” It’s a good time for sure but it’s kind of the only game I can really join them on solely because of how little its progression actually matters, although I’m sure they’d beg to differ.

The amount of time that I have to play games feels like it’s going to be a pretty consistent theme that runs through most of my written pieces and it’s showing up here too. The other folks in my group have way more time than I do to play games, which becomes more and more of an issue with every game we try to play together. I don’t begrudge them or anything for having more free time, it just leads to a lot of instances where they’ll get to play so much more of a game and out level me before I can even grasp the basic mechanics of it.

That’s just with something lightweight like Chivalry 2, a game where I don’t think your level actually impacts anything on the matchmaking end. In something with level-based matchmaking or even worse, with shared story progression, we’ll maybe get one session to play together on equal footing before they power-level past me. Then if I do happen to join them it’ll end up feeling like we’re playing two completely different games as they dump their deep knowledge of future mechanics, lore and optimal strategies upon me. It all leads to me feeling like I’m holding them back from playing a game how they want to play it and have been in my absence, so I opt to play most things alone.

Once again, this isn’t the fault of anyone involved, it’s just the nature of our lives right now. Maybe one day we’ll all reach an equilibrium where we’ll all have to parse out our gaming time, but we’re not there just yet and that’s okay. Sure I don’t get to interact with my friends as much as I used to, and sure I don’t get to play as many multiplayer games unless I want to be a lunatic and just matchmake into things alone, but that’s alright. I don’t mind playing games by myself because that way the only person I’ll be letting down with my poor performance will be me.

blog: Finding the Fit – 12/12/22

Have you ever heard the phrase, “throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks?” Aside from being an incredibly weird idiom that people use, myself included, it’s also been the technique I’ve been using to find a game I can really stick with, except the spaghetti in this metaphor is my money and so far the wall is a garbage can that’s on fire.

For those of you who aren’t aware, I have a problem with sticking to one video game for long stretches of time. Not since the days of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Overwatch can I really remember spending significant time with a game that didn’t involve me playing virtual basketball. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playing the NBA 2K games as kind of a mindless time waster, but it’s been a good long while since I’ve really dug into anything else.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t tried though. I’ve given so many different games a shot, ranging from the underwhelming but somewhat enjoyable Gotham Knights to the eternal grind-fest that is Disney Dreamlight Valley. I took advantage of Black Friday sales and picked up the bland and lifeless reboot of Saints Row, the slick and stylish OlliOlli World, and even four different Crash Bandicoot games, all of which reminded that I never enjoyed those games when I was a kid and I have less patience for their bullshit now. Those games are fine enough but none of them held my attention for any longer than a few hours which is a shame considering that while I do have disposable income, it isn’t that disposable.

I don’t have a problem with running through countless decades of NBA history in NBA 2K23‘s MyEras mode, but eventually I’d like to do something else that doesn’t reimagine what life would be like if LeBron James was drafted by the Knicks or whatever. I have some other games on the docket that I’m eager to try, but I worry that I’m just beyond the point where a single game is going to satisfy me for that long. I’ll openly admit that I’m a very picky gamer who constantly feels like they don’t have enough time to commit to something new, but I know there’s got to be something out there that’ll appeal to my weirdly specific tastes.

But therein lies the problem: I don’t know what I’m looking for. The closest thing I can think of that might even be in the neighborhood of what I’m interested in would be something like Destiny 2, but even that is a tough putt because of how much of that game there is and how much of it I’ve missed that trying to start now seems overly daunting. Maybe I’d enjoy it, but the odds are that I’ll be overwhelmed by the lore, mechanics, and my desire to play the game “correctly” by looking up optimal builds or whatever the hell you do in Destiny 2, that I won’t actually play the game how I would have if it just came out.

I think this all boils down to my anxiety about wasting time. I don’t have as much gaming time as I used to which leads to me being overly precious about how I spend said time ultimately leading me to do nothing with it because I fear that I’ll use it on something that wasn’t worth it. So I use my time doing something I know will mildly entertain me instead of taking a chance on something new that might genuinely captivate me or leave me profoundly disappointed.

I don’t have a curative salve to apply to these particular neurosis that’ll make me suddenly understand that I actually do have plenty of time to engage in my hobbies and I don’t need to be so scared about potentially wasting time, but I’ll keep looking for one. In the meantime I just need to stop wasting all this dang spaghetti.

blog: Discomfort Zone – 12/08/22

It feels weird to be doing this again.

It’s been so long since I’ve done this whole ‘website’ thing although it’s only been about a year since my last post. But this really shouldn’t feel strange considering I used to do this every single week for a few years straight. This isn’t a new hobby I’m taking on but for some reason it feels foreign enough to feel unfamiliar, but that’s been the case with just about everything I’ve done this year.

At the beginning of 2022 my partner and I moved hundreds of miles away from our respective comfort zones and left the people and places that were familiar to us thanks to new employment opportunities, specifically new employment opportunities for my partner. While they were working and being productive, I stayed home and found time between cleaning, grocery shopping and being severely depressed and homesick to play a lot of video games. And while I played those video games I got to experience a deeper feeling of self-loathing than I’d ever felt before because it felt like I was wasting valuable working/applying to jobs time.

It was this endless cycle of feeling miserable and responding to it by doing something that was supposed to make me happy, but ultimately making me feel worse cause it felt like I didn’t deserve happiness while I was in this unemployed and isolated state. It got so bad that I was afraid to leave the house and was completely overwhelmed by doing even the smallest of things that didn’t involve me sitting in front of my monitor-crowded desk to play video games.

That was my comfort zone, my 4 monitor cocoon where nothing could hurt me. It was where I spent most of my time, relying on my hobbies in an attempt to stave off the encroaching darkness, but eventually I began to feel listless and apathetic towards everything that was supposed to bring me happiness. I’m pretty sure that’s the textbook definition of depression, actually.

I was in a rut. My comfort zone suddenly turned into this monument to failure. Having fun and enjoying myself felt unearned and unwarranted, and it left me feeling like a complete mess. It took a lot of patience and support from my partner along with me finally finding a job and having to spend time away from my sadness shrine to really claw myself out of that hole.

These days I feel like I’ve struck a pretty good balance between working, being a good partner and engaging in my hobbies. I’ve even started to romanticize the days when I had hours upon hours of free gaming time, which I think means I have a healthier relationship with gaming now. It also means that I’m an idiot who is knowingly looking through rose-colored glasses at one of the worst periods in my life and thinking, “wow, I kind of miss that.”

I really hope this doesn’t read as me trying to dole out advice because it 100% should not be interpreted as such. I didn’t actively do anything while I was struggling to alleviate the stress and just let it envelope me. I do not recommend that. I should have gone out and explored my new surroundings or at the very least I should have spent time in a different room in my house, but I didn’t and ultimately suffered the consequences. I just hope I remember all of this for the next time I’m unemployed for a significant amount of time.

blog: New Beginnings – 12/05/22

At the end of 2021 I uploaded what I thought would be the last post I’d ever make on The Bonus World. It was a tough decision but it was the only one to make at the time considering that I was experiencing some monumental life changes and found genuine difficulty in balancing all of it alongside running a website. I don’t want to make it sound like I have everything completely under control now, cause that absolutely is not the case, but I do have a better handle on things now more so than I did over a year ago.

So I’ve decided to bring The Bonus World back – kind of.

Like the about page says, I want to take The Bonus World in a slightly different direction but fully understand that whatever form the site does take will still have a lot of general pieces on games that aren’t particularly groundbreaking and will look very similar to the posts of old. However, I don’t want to only want to just spin up the ‘content machine’ once more and do nothing different with the site, but I understand how lofty and unrealistic it sounds to strive to produce exclusively transformative work.

It would also make me sound like a complete jackass if I genuinely proposed that.

I don’t know what the elevator pitch for The Bonus World is these days, but I know that it isn’t going to be a carbon copy of what it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate what this place used to be, but I want to be able to talk more earnestly about balancing responsibilities and maintaining relationships while trying to not fall back into my old anti-social and reclusive gaming habits. I want to be able to speak from the heart a little more and not feel like this isn’t the right venue for that kind of thing. This isn’t me saying that The Bonus World is no longer a place for fun, but it’s growing up alongside of me and I want to reflect that in the things I write.

I can’t say I necessarily have some grand plan nor do I have any wild ambitions for the site, but it is important to me that The Bonus World continues to exist and that there’s stuff for people to read and engage with. There’s no schedule, there’s no plan, it’s all jazz, baby, and I hope that you’ll join me in figuring out exactly what The Bonus World is and where it goes from here.