BlockBuster Dreams

Tiger from San Diego Wild Animal Park
Tiger from San Diego Wild Animal Park

Science shows us that dreams fit a very important function. They keep our mind active while we sleep. The human brain does not really ever shutdown. It’s always active, sort of like a power plant. If the brain were to completely shutdown, there would be no way for it activate again. You can think of it as like a computer going into sleep mode, ;).

Dreams are fascinating though, because there are theories that dreams serve more of a purpose then just keeping the brain active. Some say that dreams are a window to the subconscious. The crap that we don’t deal with does seem to come up in my dreams. They could be fears, pain, happy memories, and many other things. People spend a lot of time trying to understand dreams and it can be difficult to do so.

This morning I had two dreams that I remember. We had a cat that looked like a tiger, like the one in the picture above, only in a  house cat size. The second dream had a reoccurring theme, one that I am sometimes loathe to experience. It returned me to a time when I still had a job, one that wasn’t really good.

I worked for Blockbuster Video for almost 10 years. When I started, it was a good job and it was a fun place to work. Viacom eventually sold the company as the internet reared its ugly head. They knew something was coming, lol! Yes the internet broke Blockbuster Video, but ultimately it was the people in charge that led to bankruptcy of the company.  It wasn’t a happy job in the end.

I was transferred to a store where the store manager eventually wanted to get rid of me. He was certainly not a nice guy, at least to me, but part of it was all the pressure to sell, sell, sell, I’m sure. Mangers were under a lot of pressure. This was something that I was reminded of when I had my final dream of the morning.

I was back in a Blockbuster store. I have some strange Blockbuster exam that I had to finish that was a take home test. I hadn’t finished it, but it was no matter. I was supposed to do my job now and the test had to wait. In the dream I am reunited with an old “friend” from high school who never worked for Blockbuster in real life! She visits my dreams very rarely these days, though she used to be more frequent years ago. The manager wasn’t happy with my work and then begins the uncomfortable part. In this case, I defend myself, feeling that I’m being picked on unfairly. I try to do my job better, but nothing seems to help.

The dream is a reminder of how I felt working for the company during the last year I was employed there. I lost my job unfairly, I was supposed to be transferred, but that never happened. I suppose it worked out fine, you won’t see a Blockbuster Video store anywhere now. I would have lost my job eventually. Still, it affects me to this day, even though it’s been about 5 years since. It wasn’t the worst dream I ever had, but Blockbuster dreams can sometimes be painful. The happy ones are nice, even though they are few and far between.

Haha, it used to be strange to be complimented on my work. Now that I am working at the hardiness lab at the University of California, Irvine, the atmosphere is much different. The lab leader called me awesome for some research I did to help on a study we’re developing. It’s certainly much nicer than being told you suck!

The negative experiences from working at Blockbuster do tend to make me want to avoid retail employment like the plague. I’m job hunting, have been for the last several months, but now I’m looking in new places. My position at the lab is volunteer work, but it’s good experience. It could lead to a paid job or a foot in the door to a PhD program. I sometimes worry about entering another work environment like the one I had when I worked for Blockbuster. You never know, but you still have to take a chance. Besides, retail usually sucks anyway. 😉

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Week 1 Review of The Sims 4

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A definite Scott Brown pose.

I’ve had The Sims 4 for about a week now and I feel like my opinion of the game hasn’t changed. I’m taking a short break from the game. After all, there are other games that want my attention! The Sims 4 is a satisfying game with enough to do to occupy my time if I pace myself. Ultimately, there is a significant lack of content if I compare it to The Sims 3. However, that is mainly because of all the expansion packs. Since we only have the base game for Sims 4, it’s not really fair to complain about lack of content when compared to Sims 3, in my opinion.

Of course, there still is the matter of no toddlers or pools. I get the frustration with this. I’m still hoping Maxis is secretly working on putting toddlers in the game soon. Right now I have deactivated aging, so that I can get more acquainted with the game. I can live without pools, but it’s too much fun watching toddlers bug their parents! I heard a rumor that story progression might be coming back, another feature that I’d like to see in The Sims 4.

Recently, one of my families had twins! As far as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve witnessed it. It’s a feature that has been in the other games as far as I know, but this is probably the first time I’ve seen it. What luck and my first time having kids in Sims 4! Infants are much more realistic in this game, especially with the sounds they make. Here’s a quick sample:

There are also a lot more interactions that you can do with them. I really like that there is a breast feed option for moms. That seemed like a long time coming! Of course, dads don’t have that option when clicking on the cradle. 😉

My main concern with the game so far is that there isn’t a lot to do in town. Sure we have libraries,  bars, night clubs, and gyms, but we need more! It would be nice to have restaurants again and maybe some other venues. I spend a lot of time in this game staying home and visiting other sim’s homes. So, it will probably be ok for a while, but I do think I will get tired of the same old places to visit, eventually. Why not have a “downtown” neighborhood where it’s mostly business and maybe a couple of homes?

I still have short loading times. It’s such an improvement in my mind. The longest load time is when I’m loading a household from the main menu. It’s a bit shorter when I’m visiting a new lot. Getting to the main menu is really quick and loading my save takes a couple of seconds. While some complain about having more loading screens, the short load time means you can get into the game and play faster than you could in The Sims 3. You are giving up the open world of Sims 3, but Sims 4 still feels open. Still, it’s true that it’s not the same as Sims 3, where you could go anywhere without loading screens. Overall, I don’t miss the open world, I’d rather have the faster load times and Sims 4 doesn’t feel all that different from Sims 3 as far as visiting lots. Public areas are still accessible without loading screens, so the park in the desert town is a rather large area to explore without having to sit through a loading screen.

With all the negativity around the game, I feel like people ignore the new stuff. So far I stand by my earlier opinions about the new content. Multi-tasking is a big deal and it really makes things easier. Being able to talk, eat, and watch TV helps satisfy sim needs better then in the older games. Sims are much more expressive and animated now. Having different walking styles and seeing expressions on their faces more clearly adds a level of intimacy to the game. I really feel more connected to these sims than I have in the past. Seeing a sim happy makes me feel happy. Their accomplishments are more impactful and when a sim get’s rejected by a romantic interest, well it’s easy to relate to! Having more in-depth emotional states motivates you to try to help them feel better when they are sad and excited for them when they are inspired or confident. Geeze, confident sims really do seem to be more successful in social situations, reminds me of real life. 😉

The Sims 4 community is a great place to chat with fellow simmers and the Maxis staff are active there too. They ask for feedback and suggestions. It makes me feel like they really care about this game. I like that and I feel more connected with the Sims 4 community than I have in previous games. For now I’m pretty active on the forums. Hopefully I’ll stick with it, but with me you never know how long it takes before I move on to something else. Heck, I’m not that active on reddit!

Bottom line: if you are a fan of The Sims buying this game is probably a no-brainer. It’s a fun game that pulls you deeper into the lives of your sims. It is focused on sim life and not on customization, so some people should probably hold off if they like customization. Custom content also doesn’t exist in this game right now. That’s fine with me, I’m not really interested with creating worlds or custom objects. If that doesn’t bother you, then you’ll probably like this game. I spent $70 for the deluxe version. I understand why some complain about the price, but I couldn’t wait! The price will go down eventually and you will see expansions for this game, so you may want to wait for a combo pack. If money isn’t really an issue and you enjoy Sims games, then go for it. Overall, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

Free Forza Motorsport 5 Xbox One Weekend

Forza 5

Starting this morning, if you have a Xbox One, you can download Forza Motorsport 5 for free. You can play as much as you want until Sunday night. It’s a full game trial. At first I was hoping it was a special deal and I’d get to keep the game, but I figured it would be like renting it. You have to be a gold member to try it.

Since my last review of The Sims 4, I thought I’d write another review of Forza. This is my first impression of the game as I just played for a little bit. The game feels a lot like it’s predecessors. I have Forza 2 for Xbox360. It’s a racing game that focuses on simulation. The handling can be tricky to get used to if you usually play arcade racers. You start with an easy difficulty mode which you can change.

Probably the biggest change in Forza 5 is that there are no longer any traditional AI racers. The drivers you face are “real” people in that you play against other people’s driving habits. Every time you race your data is collected and after a certain amount of races that data is used to create the drivers that other people race against. It’s similar to AI since you aren’t racing against actual racers in single-player and you aren’t racing against “ghosts.” The drivers are simulated from real players.

It may sound like the game is harder, but because you get to chance the difficulty, you can still race against these drivers without too much trouble. I will say that I had trouble trying to get first place in the races, but I always finished in the top 3. You earn credits and as long as you finish within the top 3 you basically “win” the race. That takes some of the pressure off.

The graphics are very nice, crisp and clean. I feel like I’m really in the driver seat and the backgrounds look so real. The only time I am reminded that I am playing a game is when I see characters or people. Forza has always been good when it comes to graphics and visual performance. The game runs steady at 60fps. There are plenty of cars to choose from and there is a lot of download content. Some of it free, most of it will cost you. 🙂

I like the game and it’s nice to use the Xbox One controller instead of the Xbox360 controller in a racing game. The controls are nice and the driving is pretty fluid. Also it’s nice having the rumble in the triggers. Ultimately I probably won’t be buying this game as I just spent a nice chunk of change on The Sims 4. However, I am likely to pick up Forza at some point. I recommend trying this game while you can for free and seeing how you like it. Oh and yes my profile is online now, so you may face a driver named SDBmania. That would be me. 😉