The Agent’s Best Worst Birthday Ever

Yes, it was worse than this.
Source: Billboard

So, now that Halloween is officially over (I personally don’t stop celebrating until Thanksgiving), I can start talking about other things that happened last month. Things like how my birthday was both the most painful experience I’ve had in recent memory and yet one of the best from a personal growth standpoint.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how I normally love the month of October because my birthday coincides closely with Halloween. However, this year was quite difficult to enjoy.

A fair chunk of the issue is that this is my first year living on my own since getting out of college. As such, I’ve had to dedicate a huge swath of time and energy to making a comfortable life for myself. This means that most of my time has been spent away from friends, family, and even my roommate.

But it was the day of my birthday that hit me the hardest. I had just pulled up to my apartment after working all night. I was exhausted and emotionally drained after a half-hour of repetitive complaints from my boss that I had no power to fix; a daily morning routine for me for what felt like several months at this point.

I saw that my parents had called my cell phone, so I returned the call. After what felt like several minutes of explaining that I had to work that night and that I couldn’t see them, I had had a moment of lucidity.

I had not seen anything outside of the walls of my apartment or the rest stop that I work at since I moved. In my attempts to escape the trappings of my old reclusive live, I was stuck in a brand new box without the people I cared so much about.

As the realization that I was falling back on my shut-in behavior that I tried to distance myself from came over me, I wept. I wept like I never had in years. I just fell on the steering wheel of my car as I sat parked in front of my building and started sobbing. I had finally been broken.

But then, a strange thing happened. As I did my usual run of posts on Twitter and Facebook, I read the birthday wishes that others had sent me. It reminded me that there were those out there that still remember me and cared enough to take five seconds to let me know that. Still, it wasn’t the same as seeing a smile face.

That’s when my roommate came knocking at my bedroom door. She grabbed my best friend from work, got me a key lime pie, and didn’t want me leaving for work that night without it. Something about that small gesture just made the whole day seem worth being pulled out of bed. I went in to work that night with no regrets.

If there are two lessons to be taken from this, I’d say that the first it’s that – as sappy as it my be – there’s a reason that you’re here on this earth; because at least one person cares enough to need you in their live.

The other, less romantic lesson is that so-called ‘mature adult responsibilities’ will always be B.S. until they can be made to not interfere with the time you should be spending with the people that actually matter in your life.

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The Party People: Party Games That You And Your Friends Absolutely Must Play At Least Once

Source: Donald Milne @ Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/67972937@N07/)

Featured above: a sure sign that your game library is in need of an update.
Source: Donald Milne (http://www.flickr.com/photos/67972937@N07/)

In these busy times, it’s getting increasingly difficult to make time for socializing. Granted the internet and the advent of social media has helped a great deal with that, but it’s far from perfect and needs a helping hand.

One of the best methods of maintaining contact with close friends and family is through Party Games. Unfortunately, the web is starting to assimilate these as well.

Thank goodness for those devoted geeks of the world who are designing, making, and playing amazing board and card games to this day. What games are they? Why should you play them? Let’s find out.

Why Online Gaming Isn’t Enough

As stated above, online gaming has helped us to talk more. Unfortunately, it has also made us communicate less.

Online interactions simply can’t recreate all of the necessary interactions our brains crave on a daily basis. Without a physical human being present, it becomes difficult to gauge their emotions and intent due to the inability to read the person’s facial and body language. Don’t think body language is a big deal? You’d be surprised if you knew it (or a lack of it) is actually a root cause of road rage.

Speaking of irrational anger, another unfortunate side effect of online gaming is the hordes of fury-spewing trolls that clog up any given server on X-Box Live (Or whatever platform you prefer. XBL is just cited as the worst offender). This is mostly a product of time. Back in the days of analog gaming, we knew that we had to behave ourselves or we would never be playing with that person again. Today, however, the anonymity of the internet practically gives people the freedom to act out however they please without repercussions. As The Coachman said in Disney’s Pinocchio, “Give a bad boy enough rope and he’ll soon make a jackass of himself.”

This isn’t to say that online games are completely worthless. They still offer a means of connecting people over long distances for impromptu bouts of Team Fortress 2 after all. They just can’t offer the level of emotional and psychological connection that a good, old-fashioned, face-to-face party game can. Fortunately, they’re are plenty to choose from.

Munchkin

Source: worldofmunchkin.com

Source: worldofmunchkin.com

Some of the best games are the ones that are self-aware of how silly they can be. Combine this notion with the epitome of nerdy that is Dungeons & Dragons and you have a monster (No pun intended).

Dispensing with the time consuming role play and containing everything on convenient cards, Munchkin – named after a term used in D&D-style games to describe players that are only concerned with maxing out their levels to harass the other players and The Dungeon Master – is all about slaying monsters, stealing their treasure, and making the adventuring life difficult for your friends to ensure your success.

There’s a great deal of strategy at play in this game. You must know when to assist your friends, when to hinder them, and how to prepare for any eventuality. The tactics at play will constantly change as you and your friends obtain new treasures like the Boots of Butt-kicking and the Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment, learn new class skills, and become different fantasy-themed races.

If you ever get bored with the game, grab one of the many expansion packs that introduce new races, monsters, and treasures. Also, a heads-up for all of the geeks out there: word is that creator Steve Jackson is working with Cartoon Network to make a new Adventure Time based Munchkin game.

Settlers of Catan

Source: siliconbayounews.com

Source: siliconbayounews.com

Can’t quite get a handle on the responsibility of looking after citizens in SimCity? Perhaps you should try this more competitive city building game.

Settlers Of Catan places you on an island nation as you compete with other players for territory and resources to build the perfect home for your people. It’s a prime example of the adage, “Simple to learn; Difficult to master.”

Because the board is fully customizable, the game is different nearly every time you play. You must plan your moves very carefully as you place your villages, construct roads, trade resources, and choose how to develop your settlement. This is the kind of game that can run all night if you and your pals are calculating enough.

Do you have too many friends and not enough game? This game has expansions as well! You can boost your game from four players to six. You can also add new elements like sea travel, barbarians, and pirates.

Cards Against Humanity

Source: steelstringbrewery.com

Source: steelstringbrewery.com

If your circle of gaming friends skews older, you may consider trying this “off-color” take on the more family friendly game Apples to Apples.

When people talk about the successes of Kickstarter, most of them will cite Cards Against Humanity – the “party game for horrible people” – as the perfect example. Single players take turns drawing Black Cards (cards with a question or incomplete sentence) while the others play White Cards (cards with a random phrase or statement) to complete the Black Card… usually creating very politically incorrect statements as the end result.

Why would anyone recommend a game like this? The answer is simple: because this game teaches that words alone are not harmful (WARNING: Link is NSFW). It’s the context that they are used in that makes them good or bad. Being able to laugh off hurtful language takes away the power of words and puts it back into the words usage where it belongs (Note to self: consider writing an article on Political Correctness).

You can actually print these cards out for free on the official website and there exist fan sites dedicated to making your own cards. However, you should absolutely buy the game as the creators are known for using their profits for noble causes.

Rapping Up…

We could all benefit from making ourselves and the ones we care about take a little down time and enjoy a friendly game. The next time you’re planing a get-together consider playing these fantastic games. And say, if you know a game others should try, please tell us about it in the comments below so we can share in the fun!