Combo Breaker

I realize I’ve mentioned Combo Breaker a lot here and there, but I’ve never really gone into any details about the event. So here you go.

Combo Breaker is a fighting game event that is held annually over Memorial Day Weekend. It’s current home is at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL (which is about 40 miles west of the Chicago lakefront), where it takes up the Mega Center, and this year spilled into the St. Charles ballroom, as well. It is a BIG event!

It’s a three-day event, from Friday morning through Sunday night. 18 different tournaments are contested, and include games like Super Smash Bros., Tekken 7, and Street Fighter V. There are also auction tournaments and a cosplay contest. There is a vendor floor, where you can buy all kinds of video game merchandise, and even an artist alley if you’re looking for something handmade or even commissioned. And it’s a 24 hour event, meaning there are always people up for playing casuals, even if there isn’t a bracketed event running.

For the last two years, Ryan has both run brackets and played various games. And both times, he’s come home with a top eight medal from the Mystery Tournament, which is a big Chicago thing!

There are free arcade games of all kinds set up for participants to play…the children loved that!

This year, in addition to Red Bull slushes (non-alchohoilc), they also had video game-themed adult drinks, also prepared with Red Bull. I don’t know why exactly, but this really amused me!

The “No Coast. No Kings” motto is the perfect way to describe Combo Breaker. It celebrates the midwest, and no one player is more important than another.

This event has even become the perfect opportunity to take some family photos!

I’m not going to lie. I’m not much into video games, and I really don’t get fighting games at all. But Ryan and the children like them, and the community that gathers for Combo Breaker is very friendly, and the energy is great, so even I look forward to going every year!

Extra Life 2016

For the fourth year in a row, Ryan has participated in Extra Life’s “Game Day,” to raise money for the two Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in St. Louis. This means that he commits to playing video games for a 25 hour (because of the time change this weekend), marathon in November. He streams his games on Twitch, so anyone can watch, and takes donations, some of which had incentives for the donors. The great thing about Extra Life is that the hospitals get 100% of the donations to use at their discretion, for things like medical equipment, medication, even stuffed animals for children too weak or sick to get out of bed, but who could use a snuggly friend…it’s a great cause that we love supporting!

The game play began bright and early yesterday morning…Ryan always begins with Rock Band, and then other games follow.

This is a family affair. In addition to family multiplayer games, each child gets to pick a game to play with Ryan for an hour on Saturday afternoon. It’s fun to see what they each choose…there was Overcooked, Minecraft (chosen by two children!), Animal Crossing:Amiibo Festival, and Raving Rabbids 2.

He played lots of other games, as well…this year, there was a lot of Rock Band, and a whole lot of Lego Dimensions in the final hours of the stream. In the end, he raised $650, which was less than his goal, but still a great gift to our area children’s hospitals!


This is a fun family tradition that we’ve all come to look forward to, and once we get caught up on the sleep we missed this weekend, we’ll be eagerly anticipating next year’s event!

What Video Games Taught Me About Myself

A few years ago, Ryan bought me a copy of Style Savvy: Trendsetters, to play on my Nintendo 3DS. Mostly I just play Animal Crossing, but this game was right up my alley…it was all about designing outfits and creating fashion shows at which to display them, along with cool hair and makeup choices. I loved all the different styles of fashion and the ability to create any kind of outfit I wanted. And I would dress my character in all kinds of fashions…bold and luxe and feminine and whatever else I wanted. I experimented with all kinds of looks, and rarely wore the same thing twice. It was an awesome game!

Last month, Ryan surprised me with the game’s sequel–Style Savvy: Fashion Forward. Many aspects of the game are the same…there are still outfits to create, and fashion shows to participate in. They’ve added a bunch of new options, too, however. You can now not only change your hair and makeup, but do styles for other characters. You can also design clothes (not just outfits), and try your hand at interior design. Like its predecessor, it’s an awesome game, but I noticed a big difference this time around. Instead of trying out all kinds of different fashions, and constantly changing outfits, I have designed my character to actually look like me, (more or less…I’ve messed around with the hair color quite a bit, but I think that’s just art imitating life) full skirts and all:

I know it might sound silly, but this subtle change in how I play a fashion video game has really taught me something about myself. It’s rather obvious to me that in the last few years, I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin, and with my own style, and instead of trying out new looks in an attempt to pretend to be someone else, I now want the game to reflect who I actually am, because I like who I am! That might sound ridiculous to someone else, but it means a great deal to me!

The Top Five–Video Games

I have to admit, before I met Ryan, video games didn’t have much of a place in my life. But, over the years, I’ve come to appreciate, and even enjoy, them! I have my favorites, too…here they are!

  • Super Mario 64–I watched Ryan play this game early in our relationship, and it was the first game I really played myself. I still love going through it, and watching other people play it! It makes me happy that our children love it, too.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time–(by extension, this also includes Majora’s Mask, just because…) I really think this may be the best video game ever. I never tire of playing it, or watching someone else play. It’s such a beautiful world, and I could run around Hyrule Field forever.
  • Red Dead Redemption–If Ocarina of Time isn’t the best video game ever made, then this game is. It’s not the type of game I usually enjoy, because there is violence and language, but it’s a complicated, real story, and the world seems so authentic. I haven’t actually played it myself, but I ask Ryan to go through it so I can watch at least once a year!
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf–I have loved (and played) all of the Animal Crossing games, and this is my favorite. I’ve played it almost every day for close to three years, and I’m still not tired of it!
  • Colossal Cave Adventure–This was my first video game (and I use that term loosely here), and the only one I was allowed to play as a child. It was definitely a formative experience, and “XYZZY” and “Plugh” still have great meaning to me!

Extra Life Marathon 2013

Click for the rest of the post, and find out how you can help support the children’s hospitals of St. Louis!

Extra Life is a community video game marathon that goes to benefit Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. Every year, interested gamers take donations as pledges and then take one for the team and play games for a full day in a test of endurance.

I thought about this. I have streaming capability. I have games. I have games I haven’t played or that I can play just for fun. I have friends and family I can rope in to helping with this and turning it into a really fun time.

There’s just one problem:

I’m late to the party!

This year’s Extra Life was held on November 2nd, and I missed it! (OK, to be fair, I didn’t have any idea it was going on until after the fact. Apparently I’m kind of sheltered.) From the looks of things, it has been a great success so far this year, and there’s no reason I can’t participate. I feel I’ve missed out on a chance—with your help—to make a difference.

Let’s do some last-minute Christmas shopping for St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.

I’m going to kick off my Christmas vacation on December 20th at 8 a.m. Central time with the beginning of a 25-hour marathon of games with friends, family, and maybe a special guest or two. We’ll play games, chat a bit, and do it all to support kids who need quality medical care.

That sounds awesome!

Yeah, it does. Having a good time with friends and family, doing it for a great cause… it should be a pretty good time.

via Extra Life Marathon 2013 | Ryan Markel.

Why I Shouldn’t Play Video Games

A couple of weeks ago, Ryan ordered Red Dead Redemption, and suggested to me that he thought I’d enjoy the game, as it takes place in the Wild West. Being something of a Browncoat, and having grown up with a father who watched reruns of all the old TV westerns (and listened to the Old Time Radio versions, too), my interest was piqued. Anyway, he thought I should stick around while he played it (which I normally don’t do), so I agreed.

I got sucked into the game pretty quick, even though I wasn’t the one with the controller, and I discovered that I was enjoying the time we spent in the evenings, him playing, me watching. I grew attached to the characters in a way I usually reserve for books, I enjoyed the missions, I got nervous at the gang hideouts–I was totally engrossed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of violence, but the themes were appealing–a main character trying to make up for his past and save his family; trying to do the right things after a lifetime of bad choices. So, I overlooked the general violence in order to follow the story.

That was all well and good until last night. The night we stayed up until almost 2 a.m. (and still hadn’t actually reached the final scene!). The night that I was awake half of, thinking about the game. After what I thought was the second “ending” of about four different events that felt like endings, I was feeling shocked and dismayed. I found that I had gotten into the story just like I would a movie–only it was a movie that has taken up almost three full days to get through, instead of two hours. I also found that I was left with more questions than answers, and unlike a movie, where you can rewind, I can’t go back and re-watch the scenes I’m puzzling over, or try to look for missed details, unless we start all over.

So, these are the thoughts that kept me up half of what was a short night, anyway. And now that we finished the game (for what seemed like the fourth or fifth time) for real tonight, I’m still thinking about it, trying to figure it out, and feeling generally unhappy about the last third of the game.

This is why I don’t play video games–it really doesn’t have anything to do with their violence, I just don’t have time for the after-effects!

My Favorite Things–Games

Board Games

Ticket to Ride–Any and all varieties of this game rock! This family of games is my all time favorite of anything I’ve ever played. The board games, (Europe, Switzerland, Märklin, USA 1910) the card game–I’m even assuming the Xbox version is good. Each game has unique characteristics, so while the basis of the game remains the same, there are differences from version to version that make them all fun. Whether it’s the addition of stations, passengers, or ferries and tunnels, there’s a lot going on in this series. And the new card game has a whole other type of play that is confusing, intriguing and fun. It’s weird, because I don’t win too often, but I can’t help but love it. Now if I could just import a copy of the Nordic Countries board…it’s like Ticket to Ride, Christmas edition!

Mystery of the Abbey–Like Clue, but harder, and much more liturgical. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not very good at this one, but the game itself is so enjoyable, I don’t even mind losing! You even get to ring the bell when it’s time for Mass.

Yahtzee–Poker with dice. How can you go wrong?

Trivial Pursuit–I admit that my husband is the one in the family who is really good at this game, but as a child, I looked forward to the day when I would be allowed to participate (the adults always paired up men vs. women when the family got together), so it still feels special to me to get to play.

Card Games

Uno–I grew up on this one, and it will always be my favorite card game.

Phase 10–It can take a long time to play, but it’s a fun family game, good for having a conversation over.

Rage–I haven’t played this one too many times yet, but it’s easy to understand, moves quickly, and is quite fun, and that’s high praise from me as far as card games go!

Computer Games

Adventure–Remember the old text adventure game? My dad introduced me to it when I was quite young, and his work had finally given him a computer to use at home. I inevitably ended up in a “maze of twisty little passages, all different,” or, for kicks, a “maze of twisty little passages, all alike.” Good times, good times.

Tetris–I don’t care if it’s played on an old computer, a Gameboy or a more advanced game system. It can have extra features (cubes, anyone?) or be the plain old game. No matter what format it comes in, I love it, and it will make me crazy!

SolitaireFreecell, Spider, 40 Thieves–I love ’em all.

Age of Empires–Given my love of history, this was always an intriguing game to play. I especially liked building cathedrals.

Zoo Tycoon–If you ever wondered what it would be like to manage a zoo, this game fulfills the fantasy. Be careful–if you don’t have proper upkeep on your exhibits, the animals will escape!

Roller Coaster Tycoon–I haven’t really played since college, but man, was that a fun game!

Video Games

Bejeweled–You can play this game in so many formats–on your phone, the Xbox, the computer. I can’t believe I couldn’t get any achievements on the Xbox version!

Zuma–For a while last year, my children referred to the Xbox as the “Zuma machine” because that’s all I played on it.

Mario Kart–I have loved every incarnation of this game I have played, but my favorite is still the Nintendo 64 version (but the Wii version is a close second!). I love driving around with Yoshi.

Zelda: Ocarina of Time–I think this is the best Zelda ever, and maybe the best video game I’ve ever played. The story was good, the setting was pretty, I liked the characters. Of course, Ryan had to beat a lot of the bosses for me, but I still had a good time!

Mario 64–True to form, (the first version of any game I play tends to be my favorite–see Mario Kart and Zelda above), this is my favorite of the Mario games. I was introduced to video games late in life (thank you Ryan!), so while I had some peripheral experiences with Mario at friends’ houses, I never really played until college. I still love sitting down with this game, if only to run around the castle. At this point, I could do most levels in my sleep, but it’s entertaining and cute.