No, "the zone" is not a Super Meat Boy reference, Dean. :P I've only reached one warp zone so far, dagnab it.

This is a blog about my holiday, but also one about moving outside your Talent Zone (as opposed to your Comfort Zone, which can also be good for you). And it's also a bit of a miscellaneous as well.

1) Do you normally suck at multiplayer shooters? Or some other kind of competitive multiplayer experience? Or are you just relatively average, doing fairly well once game and then horribly the next?

That last one is me in a nutshell with any shooter I've played (though it's mostly Call of Duty right now). I just don't have the twitch skills to genuinely compete with some of the other players who have spent their lives playing the game I'm playing.

But do you ever find a night where you're just "in the zone" and can do no wrong?

That was me last night.

(My usual gaming self after a night of playing CoD)

(Me last night, ummm...though much less good-looking, and the plumbing's a bit different)

I had round after round where I was getting phenomenal (for me) scores (playing Hardcore Team Deathmatch): 18-3, 20-5, 15-6, etc

I was on fire! I was getting killstreaks galore, I was hitting guys that I normally miss, even getting a few of multi-kills. I once killed three guys in quick succession as they ran through this doorway on Havana. Usually, I might get one of them but another would get me before I got the other two. There was even one time, on Radiation, when I saw a brief movement from far across the parking lot and a shot came toward me. I just whipped my gun around and let off a blast. Boom! Headshot.

Yes, I know there are guys who are just that good and this would be nothing to them. A normal day at the office.

But to us mediocre players, this means a lot! Have you ever had a night like this, where your normal suckitude just goes away?

Isn't it fun?

2) Holidays - Big Fish

No, I didn't get a gift-wrapped fish for Christmas (though that would be different).

I spent a week in Iowa with my family leading up to Christmas, so I was away from all of my usual video game haunts (though I did manage to do a blog here, and comment on a few others, as I don't want Saint to worry about me unnecessarily). No Xbox, no PS3, nothing but my iPhone and my dad's computer.

And I rediscovered something.

Big Fish actually has some really cool games.

Have you ever played any of them?

They have a bit of a variety in their games. They have some with "Match 3" gameplay similar to Bejeweled, usually with some purpose behind the matching. They have some time-management games (which don't appeal to me at all, so I've never played them), but their main bread and butter are the Hidden Object games. Where you're given a screen so cluttered with stuff that even the people who do that A&E series "Hoarders" wouldn't dare set foot in the room. And you have to find a bunch of stuff on that screen. There's usually a story behind the whole thing, moving from room to room and finding things with the ultimate goal of setting a ghost free to its eternal rest or escaping from a museum or what have you.

These games can be incredibly fun.

My wife buys a whole bunch of them, but I never play them here. My dad does too, and with no video games there, I found myself playing one of these games with him, helping him spot things (he is 74 years old, you know).

And it was a blast. One evening, we spent 4-5 hours finishing one of the games he had started. I just couldn't stop.

I still won't really play them at home, because I've got so many other gaming options. But they are a lot of fun as a change of pace.

3) Holidays in general

We don't usually do much gift-giving during Christmas, mainly because I'm travelling. Our gift to my parents is sending me there for a week. That's a $500 gift right there! So we don't get them anything else. I get gift cards for my brother's family, because I can buy them in Davenport and don't have to transport them. The same goes for getting gifts, too. I don't want to transport them, so my brother's family usually gives us something small and my parents give us money. So no gaming gifts for me this Christmas. Still, I've got so much other stuff to finish that it's just as well.

I did have a good trip. Saw some really good friends (played a little Rock Band with them too) and generally had a good visit. I'm off work this week too, so I'm enjoying my time lazing around home. Playing some Black Ops, Super Meat Boy, finished the Monkey Island 2 Special Edition, and bought some DLC for Borderlands and Mass Effect 2. Still have Fallout: New Vegas waiting in the wings too. So this week off is going to be coooooooooool.

4) Plug

No, not this kind of plug.

I just wanted to plug something that I've been doing for work.

Inspired by the many video game podcasts I listen to (and inspired even more by the Robot in the Corner podcast, since it's not a "professional" podcast, yet it's still doing well, which gives me encouragement that maybe I can do it too), I started a podcast up at work. I work at a university, and it's a podcast about various issues in technology and education, as well as kind of an advertisement for our programs. If you've ever wanted to hear what I sound like, or if you have an interest in such things, check it out!

We've got 2 episodes done now, and will be doing the third in the 2nd week of January. We'll be doing it bi-weekly, at least for now.

You can find episode 2 here (we're hoping to get onto iTunes soon).

I'd really love to know what you think, though I understand the subject matter may not be of interest to you.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and looking forward to a kick-ass 2011!