Travelling Essentials for the Mature, Distinguished Gamer

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Summertime’s almost here and with it, comes the desire to travel. As mature, distinguished gamers such as ourselves, whether it’s within the country (Canada’s turning 150 this year, so now’s as good a time as any to explore this great land), across the border or overseas, we know that boredom while travelling is an inevitability. You can only watch the same scenery, read that same travel magazine, watch that same movie or socialize with your co-travelers so much. Even when you’re at your destination, after all the sightseeing, visiting friends and relatives, eating exotic and delicious food and shopping the local deals, sometimes, along with proper rest, you just need some downtime for yourself. After all, you’re on vacation! Downtime’s important!

Fortunately, I have a list of essential items I always bring with me during my travels, both to keep me occupied during the journey and to keep me relaxed while I’m at my destination. And no, it’s not just video games either!

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As you can see before you

Here’s the list:

Video Games (Obviously)

What better way to start this list than the types of games to bring? For me, portables are my go-to for travelling; they’re easy to store, easy to charge and there are lot of great titles available. I usually take my GCW-ZERO: an excellent little system that plays a huge variety of games, either emulated or homebrew. Other times, when I get the urge to play some classic Playstation games like Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, I turn to my PSP or PS Vita. For my Nintendo fix, I have a Nintendo DS Lite – another great choice due to the compact size of the unit.

A couple of honorable mentions:

The Nintendo 2DS/3DS – I never owned this upgrade to the DS, but it has an impressive library of games, including remakes of all-time classics like “Starfox 3D,” “Ocarina of Time,” and “Majora’s Mask.”

The Nintendo Switch – The latest console from Nintendo, it’s a hybrid between a traditional console and portable handheld system. By looks alone, it’s impressive. My cousin has one and he’s convinced me that it’s a worthy system for travelling. I’m hoping to get one of my own soon, so I’ll update this post once I get and test it out on a trip.

Chargers and Power Banks

No self-respecting gamer would bring a portable system with them without a way to recharge the batteries! It’s a bit of extra wires to bring with, but the convenience they bring outweigh the space it takes up in your bag. However, if you’re planning on taking multiple systems, expect to bring a charger for each one…

Thankfully, companies nowadays have made the realization that gamers don’t want to lug around a bunch of proprietary chargers: take for example the PS Vita, it charges using the ever-popular USB Micro-B plug, ubiquitous with practically every smartphone in existence. So instead of carrying two chargers (one for the phone and the other for the system), I’d only need one, which helps in the space and weight saving department.

For those times when you’re on the go and have no access to an outlet, power banks are a godsend. I have a slim, 10400 mAh capacity power bank that’s perfect for juicing up all my systems along with my phone. I also try to keep it at or near full capacity at all times, in case an emergency happens and my phone battery is dead.

Laptop

I own an ASUS Transformer: a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop. It’s the perfect laptop to bring on a trip – it’s small and it’s powerful enough for me to play emulated games and ROM hacks. I don’t just bring it to play games though, because my laptop serves two other purposes – to maintain the vacation budget and for me to write. Whether it’s in my hotel room, a cruise stateroom or at a relative’s house, I try to take every opportunity I can to do some writing. Speaking of writing…

 Notebooks and Pens

Along with video games, writing is a big passion of mine. I’m currently writing (re-writing actually) a fanfic (don’t judge!) that’s been rattling in my head for the better part of a decade. So, to help me actually finish this thing, I’ve taken to writing down rough notes about character dialogues, setting descriptions, action sequences and the like for each and every chapter of the fic, in a notebook which I carry around with me everywhere, even on vacation. The fact that I’m in a foreign location, away from the daily grind of home life, helps me to focus and churn out some high quality rough notes. That’s why I never travel without my notebook and several pens – you never know when inspiration will hit!

Headphones

Headphones are an absolute necessity for me when I’m travelling. I usually take a wired set of earbuds mainly for my gaming systems when I play during my downtime or at nights when I don’t want to disturb my wife’s slumber. When I want to listen to music, I go to my set of Skullcandy Uproar Bluetooth headphones. They don’t take up a lot of real estate in my bag, they have amazing battery life and the sound’s top notch. Playing video game music while you’re traveling to or staying at your destination makes me feel like I’m on an adventure of my own, and it also helps to get my creative juices flowing for my writing when I’m on vacation.

Books

Ah, the staple travel item for many people; a really good book. Books make excellent travelling companions, plus, they give your eyes a break from staring at a screen for long periods of time. On my last trip, I took with me a book called “Mistborn,” the first book in the “Mistborn” series written by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a great-high fantasy book, taking place in a post-apocalyptic, medieval world full of witty, memorable characters, a brilliant magic system and a well-thought out heist that hinges on overthrowing an immortal emperor-god. Bottom line, it’s really good​.

Change of Clothes, a Toothbrush and Spare Change

Why do I have these items as part of my essentials? Simple; because years of playing RPG’s have taught me to be prepared for the unexpected. For example, if I’m at the airport and I’m either booted off of an overbooked flight (Thanks, United) or if my flight’s cancelled and I end up having to stay at a hotel until the next flight or even when I arrive at my destination, but my luggage is halfway to the other side of the world, I know I have a set of spare clothes and a toothbrush with me so I can maintain some form of cleanliness. I also bring spare change, just in case my debit/credit cards don’t work or if my wallet gets misplaced or stolen. Remember, you can never be too prepared!


So, those are my essentials for when I’m travelling. What do you think? Got anything to add to that list? Put it in the comments below! And stay tuned for the next edition, where I talk about the need for taking care of your precious consoles and handhelds.

So, once again, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. Happy travelling!

My How-To Guide on Living with Non-Gamers: Spoken From Experience

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.”  Grab a brew of beany awesomeness, sit down and let’s chat about an interesting subject.

As mature, distinguished gamers, we all have to face this particular reality at one point of our lives: how to live with others who have minimal or no interest in video games (ie. non-gamers). They could either be a spouse, a parent, sibling or other relatives, or a roommate. Let’s be honest; it wouldn’t be fair to that person if all you did in your spare time would be playing video games, since it wouldn’t bode for a good relationship. Conversely,  it also wouldn’t be fair to you if your S.O. or your roomie or whoever you’re residing with monopolizes all of your free time and prevents you from playing said games. While it’s the worst feeling in the world when the non-gamer living with you belittles you when you partake in your gaming pastime, on the flip side, it is kind of rude to hog the TV to yourself, especially if their favourite show is on. And finally, while you may think that you’ll get around to doing your responsibilities after you get to that save point or finish off that boss, the other person living with you may think otherwise.

So, what do you do to balance playing games with spending time with your favourite non-gamer?

It’s actually a lot more easier to accomplish than you’d think. The solution boils down to a few, simple things: Communication, Trust, Compromise and Moderation.


If there’s something I’ve learned after almost five years of being married, it’s this: Sometimes you not only need to listen, you have to speak up as well.

When I tied the knot in 2012, gaming took a huge back seat to my new life. This sounds like a first-world-problem kind of deal, but I went from gaming about 4 to 6 hours a day to 4 to 6 hours a month if anything,  and it was something that took a bit of time to get used to. My wife disliked watching me play video games, simply because she wasn’t interested at all – she found them to be a waste of time and would rather watch a TV show that we’d both be interested in. I complied because it was fair for the both of us – I wasn’t going to be rude and hog the TV all for myself, but there were days where I just wanted to veg out for an hour or two, especially after a rough day at the office.

Ten months into our marriage, after we became the proud owners of a nice little house, I decided that I needed to talk to her about my gaming hobby and what it means to me. I explained to her that there should be a happy medium that we could agree on when it comes to us sharing the TV and me playing video games.

Funnily enough, she understood and agreed with me and we eventually came up with a compromise: I bought me some wireless headphones to connect to the TV to use solely for gaming. During a session, she’s either right beside me reading a good book, watching a YouTube video, listening to a podcast, or at the kitchen table working on one of her many amazing hobbies*. When a reasonable amount of time passes, whether it’s an hour or two, she kindly asks me to stop, I listen and turn off my game and we go about our day.

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A victory for compromise! (Image from Know Your Meme)

Obviously, your situation may be different, but here are some tips that can help when you want to speak to that special non-gamer in your life about working out a compromise:

  1. Calmly argue your side of things: This may be a bit obvious, but don’t yell or whine at your special person and accuse them of never letting you play video games; that’s not the way a mature, distinguished gamer should act. Rather, calmly get that person to understand why you love gaming and that there should be a reasonable way for you to enjoy what you love to do without sacrificing your relationship with them, like playing during the weekends or so for example.
  2. Be persistent but don’t be aggressive: Especially if they bite back, saying to you that gaming is a waste of time or that there should be better things to do than sitting down and staring at a screen. Words like that do hurt and can cause tempers to flare, but keep your cool, explain that it’s as viable a hobby as any and that there’s no reason to judge you on what you enjoy.
  3. Work first, game after: Play games after you complete your daily responsibilities first. It’s a pretty easy compromise you can work out with your special person.
  4. Assure that person that you’ll exercise self-control: Practicing self-control develops trust between yourself and the non-gamer in your life. By developing that skill, you’ll find that they will be much more accommodating to hobby of choice.
  5. If all else fails, invest in portable gaming: There are a lot of great portable options out there to get your fix, from mainstream systems like the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita, to emulation based devices such as the GCW-ZERO, to custom-built options using the Raspberry Pi and RetroPie. If you’re still itching to play console games however, the release of the Nintendo Switch is (I believe) a perfect choice.**

Well, there you have it. What do you think? Are these tips helpful? Got anything else to add? Let me know on the comments below. And stay tuned for the next edition: I’ll be delving back into memory lane to talk about a series that’s been a huge influence in my life – Legend of Zelda!

Once again, this has been Ryan from “Games With Coffee,” telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. Happy Easter!

*I’ll shamelessly plug my wife’s work here. She does lettering and she’s pretty good at it too!

**I haven’t picked up the Switch as of yet, but I assume it’s a great console/portable hybrid that fits the profile of a mature, distinguished gamer? I’ll write about it when I pick one up.