My favorite podcasts about Literature and Gaming (Right Now)

The end of the year has arrived, and with it lots of automated lists from corporations that keep information on their customers (like Spotify and Playstation). I was already thinking about promoting (for free) my favorite podcasts, but seeing the stats that Spotify showed me has solidified this -- I listened to a LOT of podcasts this year and I need to share! These will be in no particular order, though I will add an "honorable mention" list at the end for podcasts I only listened to in part.

First, here are some of the stats that Spotify showed me in their "2020 Wrapped" yearly round-up: I spent 3,878 minutes listening to podcasts this year (is that a lot or a little?) and my top genres were Arts, Leisure, and Society & Culture. Hmm. Now for the actual podcast recommendations:

1) What's Good Games

What's Good Games Logo

What's Good Games is, in my opinion, the most fun and entertaining podcast for learning the latest video game news and for hearing the thoughts of its colorful hosts: Andrea Rene, Brittney Brombacher and Kristine Steimer (along with assorted guests). (Visit their website here.) Listening to the podcast almost feels like chatting with a group of friends about the latest games coming out.

2) Reading Women

One of my more recent discoveries is Reading Women, a podcast where women read books about women. Okay, it's a little more than that... According to their about section on Spotify, "Each month [Reading Women] features two episodes on the same theme—one highlighting a range of titles and one discussing two titles more in depth—and two author interviews with women writers whose work we’ve loved." One of my favorite aspects of the show is that they often focus on disability issues on the podcast and invite disabled authors to speak. It's still rare to see disability discussed so frankly (though I will add that several other podcasts on my list have also been very good about discussing disability issues) so I am elated when I find a book or video game related podcast that discusses disability (as you may know, I myself am multiply disabled). Visit their website here

3) Our Opinions are Correct

Logo for Our Opinions are Correct

Our Opinions are Correct may sound like a really judgy title for a podcast, but it's actually a very fun show about science fiction literature whose title pokes a bit of fun at the occasional seriousness of geek culture. If you're a fan of authors Charlie Jane Anders and/or Annalee Newitz, you've gotta check this show out as they're the hosts! They also don't only talk about books -- video games and other media often feature prominently in the discussions.

4) FBoL
Logo that says: FBoL, and underneath it says F Bois of Literature

"FBoL" stands for something a little less family friendly... but you can infer what it means from the writing on the above image. While the language in this show may not be appropriate for all ages (which could be the case with any podcast made for an adult audience), make no mistake: this is an educational show. But who said "educational" couldn't also be fun? This podcast takes a comedic look at the awful men (and sometimes other genders) who have infiltrated so-called "great literature" of the past and present. Listening to this show feels like having a casual literary discussion with well-read friends.

Honorable Mention:
The shows listed below are ones I have enjoyed, but I may not have listened to enough episodes at the time of writing this post to express a well-researched opinion.

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Giveaway: Mass Effect Revelation for Sci-Fi Month and N7 Day on Video Games as Literature!

 Welcome once again to #SciFiMonth, hosted this year by Lisa at Dear Geek Place and Imyril at! This is my introduction post AND announcement of a Video Games as Literature special giveaway!

Sci-Fi Month 2020: If you want to resist, you have to rebel

I have a lot on my plate this month, so once again I don't know how often I will be able to post for #SciFiMonth, but as usual I am here to celebrate N7 Day and one of the greatest Sci-Fi franchises of all time: Mass Effect! I've tried to do something related to Mass Effect every year in November, as you can see here and here. This year, I have a giveaway! Without further ado, here are the details:

I am giving away one (1) pre-owned copy of Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Kerpyshyn, the first book in the Mass Effect book series! I felt that giving away a book based on a video game would fit the theme of my blog, Video Games as Literature, quite nicely. This book was purchased at a local used bookstore (please help small businesses like used bookstores stay open, everyone!), so it it NOT in perfect new condition. It has some shelf wear and a few cracks in the spine. Please take a look at the picture below, and keep scrolling to find out how to enter the giveaway!

This is a giveaway for one pre-owned paperback book, Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Kerpyshyn. The giveaway is for US residents only (I can't go into the Post Office to mail an international package due to the pandemic -- I'm sorry!). The giveaway starts TODAY, November 5, 2020, and ends on #N7Day -- November 7, 2020 at the end of the day (11:59pm EST). I will not publically announce the winner, but I will contact the winner after a winner is chosen at random. To enter, please do at least one of the following:

  • Comment on this blog post. Please include contact information such as a Twitter or Instagram handle! Also make sure you have messaging turned on if you give me a social media contact.
  • On Twitter, RETWEET my post (@videogamesaslit) about the giveaway AND comment on the tweet.
  • On Instagram, SHARE my post (@videogamesaslit) about the giveaway to your stories AND comment on it! (Make sure you tag me when you share to your stories so I can see it!)
To recieve multiple entries into the contest, you may do all three of the above! Good luck everyone, and keelah se'lai!


Tracking Down That Mysterious Jungle Bird Sound Clip

 In the mid-90s, when I was about 9 years old, my favorite game in the whole world was The Amazon Trail. In fact, I've mentioned it before on this blog. In playing The Amazon Trail, I began to notice a distinct pattern -- there was a specific bird call that would repeat over and over in the game. This bird call entered my head almost a quarter of a century ago and never left. I soon began to hear the bird call in other games and in other forms of media. If a jungle or rainforest was depicted, that bird would be there -- even if the supposed location of the story was set far from the Amazon in Borneo or Australia. This bothered me -- it felt like many lazy game and film producers had looked up "jungle bird sound" and just inserted whatever noise they found, without researching the actual bird. This quandary, along with the sound itself, continued to plague me over the years but I only researched the bird minimally. I did, in fact, find a free sound clip that contained that exact bird call at one point -- it was titled something like "rainforest bird," but there was no reference to what exact species of bird was making the noise. Finally, recently, I decided that enough was enough. I would do whatever hefty research was necessary until I found the exact species of bird that made the sound and determined its habitat. After maybe about 45 minutes, I found it thanks to the wonders of YouTube. Here is a video I found:

The result was a little anti-climactic -- the species is called the "Screaming Piha" (a.k.a. Lipaugus vociferans) and it does, in fact, live only in South America -- it is not found naturally on any other continent, according to Wikipedia. It's a sort of boring looking brown bird, and is extremely common in rainforest regions of South America, such that it is even regularly found in parks and other human areas. Wikipedia also says, "The sound is frequently used in movies as a sound typical of the Amazon rainforest." Hmm. See the photo below:

A brown bird sitting on a tree branch.

I wish I had compiled a list over the years of all the games I found this bird sound in, but alas I had other things on my mind at the time, I guess. If I remember or encounter any of these games in the future, I may add a list to the bottom of this article. In the meantime, here is an example of the Screaming Piha found in the game Horizon: Zero Dawn, where it apparently expanded its range up into North America (the game is set in the distant future so this is actually not an impossible notion, considering many animals are currently changing their habitats due to climate change and population overcrowding).

Other Sources:
Birds of the World:

In Celebration of Arbor Day: 5 of Our Favorite Trees in Games

In appreciation of the trees we all rely on, I have decided to make a special post for Arbor Day, which is celebrated in most of America on the last Friday in April (other countries also celebrate Arbor Day, or Arbour Day, at various other times -- you can read more about this on Wikipedia). Here I will discuss five of my favorite video game trees and what they have meant to me.

1) The Great Deku Tree (Legend of Zelda Series)

Artwork from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where Link first encounters the Deku tree
Source: link
Of course any list of video game trees would not only be incomplete without the Great Deku tree, it would also be flat out wrong. When most of us think about trees in video games, our minds first go to this greatest of Deku trees. The Great Deku Tree can be found throughout the Zelda franchise, though its appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is probably the most memorable. Like many video game trees after it, The Great Deku tree is the force that pulls Link from his bed and sends him on his epic adventure (with a little help from Navi, of course). The (mild spoilers) death of this great tree in Ocarina of Time legitimately made me cry when I first played the game.

2) Yggdrasil (Dragon Quest Series)

The main heroes from Dragon Quest XI standing in front of a huge tree
Source: link

Many games invoke the World Tree, Yggdrasil, of Norse legend, but none center the great tree as clearly as the Dragon Quest series does throughout many of its volumes. Not only is the tree the center of the worlds in which the games take place, it is also central to the story -- literally in some cases -- in Dragon Quest XI, specifically, a major plot point that occurs in the middle of the game focuses on the tree and even takes place within its branches. Yggdrasil also plays a pivotal role in the story of Dragon Quest IX, and has a slightly smaller role in many other games in the series (the spin-off game, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below, even references the tree in its title).

3) Sudowoodo (Pokemon Series)

Artwork of the pokemon, Sudowoodo, which looks like a small brown tree with green balls (like leaves) on its arm-like appendages.
Source: link

You may be surprised to see Sudowoodo on this list -- you probably remember it as that incredibly annoying Pokemon that was supposedly blocking the road, though you totally should've been able to walk around it. Sudowoodo was also annoying because once you caught it you learned that it's not a grass type... it's a rock type?! If it's a tree, why is it a rock type? Maybe that didn't annoy you as much as it annoyed me, but I had trouble wrapping my head around it at the tender age of 12-ish when I first played Pokémon. Regardless, I placed Sudowoodo in one of the highly coveted spots on my main team and it eventually grew on me... even if it is a rock.

4) The Money Tree (Animal Crossing Series)

A protagonist player character standing in front of a money tree in Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Source: link
We all know what our actual favorite tree is. It may not grant epic quests or block roads or even be the source of all life, but it sure makes us rich! It's the Money Tree from Animal Crossing! The Money Tree is so prolific in today's society that it even recently received a write-up on Forbes, a traditionally serious news site about the economy (Read the article here). That's pretty fancy!

5) Sakuya and her Trees (Okami)

Character design sketches of Sakuya from the PS2 game Okami.
Source: link

Even though Capcom has released countless remasters of Okami by this point, I haven't played this excellent game since its very first PlayStation 2 release back in 2006. That means that I remember very little about the actual story. One thing I do remember quite well, however, is the excellent characters that you meet throughout the game. One of the characters you meet early on is Sakuya, a tree spirit who needs help healing her trees that appear throughout the game. Like Issun, I may have had a bit of a crush on Sakuya. Just a little.

Those are my five favorite video game trees -- what trees do you think I missed? Which trees are your favorites? If you are able, don't forget to plant a tree for Arbor Day, or cultivate a plant of some kind! You can also learn more about Arbor Day by visiting and following the Arbor Day Foundation on Twitter.

Games to Play at the End of the World

Ah yes, the apocalypse, a favorite setting for game developers of all generations. While we waste away in our homes awaiting the end of days, we really should be playing some appropriate games for the situation, don't you think? But appropriate for one person may not be appropriate for another, so I have compiled below two lists for two completely different purposes. The first is a list of games to play if you are preparing to face the apocalypse head-on. The second is a list of games to play if you wish to shut out all bad in the world and ignore the rising flames around you (Yes, this dramatic nature of mine got me into big trouble when I took journalism in high school). You decide which type of game is appropriate for your needs.

Games to Prepare You for the Apocalypse:

Cover image for the game The Last of Us

The obvious first choice for this list is The Last of Us, a game that takes us through the first moments of a deadly pandemic, then shows us what the world looks like approximately 20 years later. We see the perspectives of two protagonists: one is a man who survived those first moments and has continued to survive over the years, and the other is a young girl/growing woman who never knew the world before the pandemic devastated humanity. The Last of Us is a thoughtful look at the events of precisely the type of tragedy the world is currently facing (though it may be a small relief that the dead remain dead in our case). There are moments when the protagonists must navigate still-contaminated areas and need to wear gas masks to protect themselves -- this scene may seem very familiar to modern-day players. By strange coincidence, the sequel is scheduled to release during the current pandemic, though like many other games it may end up being delayed. The Last of Us is available on PS3 and PS4.

When any gamer thinks of the apocalypse, it's very likely they picture a scene from the Fallout series. This series takes place many years after a nuclear apocalypse, meaning that society is ended through war (war never changes) and not through disease, but disease abounds after the destruction of modern society as we know it. By the way, am I the only one who really wants to see a Fallout game set in another country -- not just in America? While the series has often made commentary on American culture and politics specifically, I really want to know what is happening around the world during the events of Fallout. If you want to play Fallout with friends, I hear Fallout 76 has gotten better with recent patches, but if you want to play the best of the series, I recommend Fallout: New Vegas. The Fallout series is available on most major platforms.

A game I have mentioned before and will likely write about again is Bastion, a popular indie title from developer Supergiant Games. Bastion is another game that takes place post-war, but this time there are very few living people left in the vicinity. The hero of the story must find these last survivors and lead them to the Bastion, a place of hope in an otherwise dying world. This game is beautiful and will probably make you cry. Bastion is available on most major platforms.

Promotional image for Fallen London

A trusty game that is a little different from the AAA fare already mentioned is Fallen London, a browser-based game that has spawned two spin-offs: Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies. Fallen London is set in a steampunk world and is a little difficult to describe. The following is a description directly from the developer's website:
Thirty years ago, London was stolen. Now it rests on the shore of the Unterzee, that old dark ocean under the world. Hell is close, immortality is cheap, and the screaming has largely stopped… (Failbetter Games)
This story is apocalyptic in a very -fantasy- sense and makes a decent bridge between escapism and realism for the purposes of this list.

I want to include some "honorable mentions" that have a post-apocalyptic feel but did not otherwise make my list:
Borderlands, a science fiction series that takes place on another planet, yet has a similar setting to other games in the post-apocalyptic genre.
Aladdin, a seemingly straight-forward Disney game with a very popular fan theory that suggests the setting may be post-apocalyptic (read more about the theory here).
The Wasteland Series, a spin-off of sorts from the Fallout series, which I personally haven't played yet and therefore can't review or recommend.

Games to Play When You Want to Block Out the World:

This list is going to be a little more obvious, as there seems to be a genre of games specifically intended to help you ignore the real world. Get ready to do a lot of farming.

Image of the player character from Animal Crossing and Beau, a deer, standing in front of flowers and smiling.

First and foremost, of course, is Nintendo's Animal Crossing franchise. When you wake up in the morning, you immediately start playing Animal Crossing. After catching some fish, planting some flowers, and identifying some fossils, you realize you never went to the bathroom, so you put the game down. On the way to the bathroom you realize it's oddly dark and your clock says it's already after supper time. Your psychiatrist might call this an unhealthy addiction, but gamers call it a day well spent. Animal Crossing is available on every major Nintendo console/handheld since the GameCube.

The next franchise on the list is a little confusing: Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons. The confusing part involves a change in North American publishers which led to a copyright battle over the name "Harvest Moon." I won't be able to tell you which exact games are good and which are the "fake" Natsume games, but fortunately other people have already compiled a list for you (see that list here). The Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons franchise tends to focus more on farming than on any other activity, but you will still find plenty to do! And of course, there are always a variety of bachelors and bachelorettes available and hoping to marry you! The Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons franchise is available on many, many consoles and handheld systems (though most are on Nintendo systems).

The Rune Factory series is essentially a spin-off from the Harvest Moon franchise, but a lot of activities are added to the roster in these games. While you can still farm, Rune Factory adds dungeon crawling, world exploration, and Pokemon-style beast raising. My favorite game in this series is also one of my favorite games of all time: Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny (also known as Rune Factory: Oceans). The Rune Factory series can be found on Nintendo DS, 3DS, Wii, Switch, and PS3!

I'm going to give a brief mention to Stardew Valley, a delightful indie game that is very similar to Rune Factory, but its developer, ConcernedApe, listens to fans and regularly makes improvements to the game! Stardew Valley improves on the Rune Factory formula in several ways, including allowing same sex dating and marriage along with character customization. Stardew Valley is available on most modern platforms.

Last but not least is the old classic, The Sims. While you can have your Sims do some farming, this franchise is more about doing everyday things... like going to the bathroom and remembering to wash your hands. One might think that a game about telling virtual people to use the toilet would get boring very quickly, but somehow that is not the case. I, personally, have spent hours at a time in front of a computer simply micromanaging the minuscule details of my virtual citizens' lives. And in an age of uncertainty, a game about ordinary, every day actions might be just what we need. The Sims franchise can be played on PC, or you can play The Sims 4 on PS4 and X-Box One.

Biweekly Posts: March 13, 2020

Hello all!

To get myself back into the swing of writing regularly, I am going to attempt to post some more casual blog entries approximately biweekly. These will include updates on what games I have been playing, books I have been reading, and any other interesting tidbits I have picked up recently that don't warrant a full post. Of course, these posts will be much more casual than usual.

First off, I would like to remind anyone who is not following me on social media that I do often tend to be more active on Twitter and Instagram, so please feel free to follow me there, as well as on the blog.

As of the beginning of the year, I have already beat three games, though I've spent the majority of my time on much longer games like Persona 5 (which I will beat eventually, I swear!) and Torchlight 2, which has recently come to PS4 (yay!). The three games I beat include, well, Uncharted 1, 2, and 3. Finally. After years of trying, and failing, to get into this series I finally decided to just run through them on easy mode, and I certainly found them to be more enjoyable than I thought they would be! I'm really excited to play the newer games in the series now!

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection

 As far as reading goes, I've been in a terrible slump. I hope to escape this slump, however, with the help of book challenges! One challenge I have joined is the #ARMEDWITHABINGO reading challenge. This challenge is, as the title suggests, a bingo card which suggests different types of books to read. See the graphic below and click the link for more information:

Kirsten is #ArmedWithABingo: a casual book bingo for 2020 hosted by Ariel and Kriti at Armed with a Book

So far this year, I have only completed one book, but here's my dark secret: that's better than last year. My reading slump has been so genuinely terrible that I didn't complete any books last year. I started many, but was unable to complete any. The one book I completed so far this year was Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs -- one of my go-to authors when I need to fight my way out of a slump. I counted this on my bingo card as "A Book with Multiple POVs" as the story is told by two protagonists (see the bingo card at the bottom of this post). It was a rough book to get through at times due to the serious nature of the storyline, but thankfully it was engaging enough to start my journey out of the reading slump!

Thank you for sticking by me as I try to breathe some life back into this blog! If you want to see more activity from me, feel free to view/follow my social media accounts at Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Kirsten's Armed with a bingo bingo card!