Welcome to the sixth entry in the revived Community Interviews series!
You'll notice a slight tinge of formulaic formatting throughout these interviews as you read through them, and that is that there are repeated questions that every person must answer. The reason for this is simple: those questions are what form the foundation of the interview. Once those questions have been answered, other questions are asked that are tailored to respond to the answers given. What you will be reading is the end result, conversationally compiled.
Without further ado, let's get started.
I sent him a questionnaire, he said some stuff, I said some stuff, you know how a conversation works.
Tonight, we're crossing foils with TurboKill!
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How old are you?
I am 20 years old.
What do you do for a living?
I am a full-time student, pursuing a double major in Music and English. When time permits, I am also a freelance and substitute musician. I play the double bass and bass guitar and can be found performing everywhere from weddings, to commencement ceremonies, to operas, to musicals, etc.
What do you think is the coolest thing about yourself?
I am a creative and very active mind that absolutely loves "getting my hands dirty". I will try plenty of things and if I like it I'll stick with it. For example, recently I took up contemporary (Classical) music, fencing, and judo; ballroom is next. I've also done some music lectures and motivational speaking. I'm also looking to get into some serious writing, not just personal works, but writing for newspapers and other places.
In other words, I'm a wannabe Renaissance Man, and though there's a strong emphasis on "wannabe" I still really like that. I like to think that everything I do is a means to help people or to better myself so that I can help others even more.
What makes you mad? Like shaking livid?
The comment section! Just kidding.
I've not been shaking livid for a long time, the last time that seriously happened was when someone was trying to start a scene with me. Fortunately, I've learned good self control. When I was a child, however, I had a really furious temper. I know better now.
Other things that can get me fairly livid is when I see or hear people putting my friends down or in a bad position. Then there are times when it doesn't even have to be people I know. I like to look out for my fellow man.
Oh, and staring at me or walking closely behind. I dunno, maybe it's because I grew up in the city. It sounds silly, but yeah.
...Actually, not too long ago today (As of writing this) I had someone walking closely behind me for an eerily long time. I ended up (literally) punching a door wide open and turning around. The guy quickly decided to take a different path. So yeah, it's slightly more than just a pet peeve.
What drew you to videogames as a hobby, and more importantly, what has kept you there?
For me, videogames as a hobby began really early on. I had a few of those LCD handhelds, but where it all started for me was with the SNES. I remember, as a child, my family and I were out shopping and decided to get a console. I opted for the SNES because I knew they liked "cheaper" items to save money. I was a considerate kid, who made a lucky choice.
Anyways, I believe they were eager to get my brother and I a console because it offered us a way not only to play together, despite a few years gap in age, but also because it out of trouble, by being both inside and not causing a ruckus. My city is not the safest of places. Anyways, the worlds of games like Link to the Past
, Yoshi's Island
, and more just sucked me in. It also felt nice to be able to challenge myself with games like The Lion King
and Super Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back
How about now? What's kept you in the hobby of your choice?
I still game, though considerably less. Going to college can do that. Well, I guess it depends on your major, my first roommate did nothing but play Gears of War 3
all day...and snore a really high pitched snore.
When it's busy, I keep myself busy writing, playing music, such as playing Double Bass in an orchestra, or playing in other professional gigs (I plan and do wedding ceremony music!). In addition to that I try to do other things to get, rather keep, myself healthy.
I took up fencing and jogging two years ago. I've been told I've been progressing really quickly, but off the cuffs of a World Championship Gold Medal (...shameless plug, tee hee). I'm in a World Class setting, so it's no wonder I'm getting better fairly quickly. Soon I'll also be taking up Judo, but Boxing was on the list too. It took some time boxing with friends to realize I have some natural ability in those areas. Fortunately, despite the reputation of the area I'm from, I've never had to use those abilities, though there were some close calls (I like to think about that whenever I'm sucking at Street Fighter
). It also showed me some of my weaknesses, and I intend to do my best to sort those out the best I can too.
Well, now that you've made the shameless plug: where does fencing fit into your life, and where did it come from? It's not exactly an everyday sport, so I am wondering what drove you to choose it above something else.
Going off to college, I thought it'd be a great chance to branch out into new things (that are productive, of course). I saw fencing as an eligible course for a health credit, but I instead opted to sign up for the club when I saw them recruiting. Something about that sport appealed to me over others. Perhaps it was how quick the sport was and that it was almost like speed chess, but with blades.
The first couple weeks consisted of rough drills in plainclothes, I assume to weed out some people, but I kept pushing. I felt like branching out and doing something like that was a good way to get away from my classes, as my major was really time consuming. And it turned out to be a smart move. Numerous times I felt like I was going to lose my mind, but ending the night with practice was always a good cleanser for the soul.
Fencing was a "gateway drug" to staying healthy, and even getting more in shape. A healthy body is the best ally to a healthy mind. And it is with that sport that I've learned a lot about myself. I always knew I could push myself, but it was there that I learned how hard. I knew I could be a leader, but playing in a team-based tournament, I learned how well I could do it on the field (and outside of an orchestra).
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of a videogame?
It's hard for me to simply say, "It's gotta be fun!" because there's a lot to consider when it comes to being a fun game. I'm not picky with graphics, I just like to have a variety. I guess the most important thing is that there weren't any cut corners, or at least not too many, when the game was being made. It's hard to care about a game when it feels like not even the developers did.
I can agree with that quite a bit. Do you think that weaker aspects of a game, such as lackluster graphics or cumbersome controls can be forgiven if the remainder of the game is polished and cared for? Does a strong story forgive missteps, or an innovative graphical experience excuse a substandard plot and mediocre music?
Most definitely for all of those. In fact plenty of the forumites have seen me raving over the relatively unknown game Shadow Madness
for that very reason. Thanks to the show Xplay
, the game received the distinction as being one of the worst RPGs of all time, but I STRONGLY disagree with that. That game breathed some life into the genre that I saw was slowly fading away.
This game came out in 1998, and I still see many games that fail to feel as deep as this game. Plenty of games are still lacking in half decent dialogue, ESPECIALLY when it comes to NPCs. Shadow Madness
, despite it's faults, felt like a believable world. Pretty much each NPC had their own personas, which came with their own unique name and character portrait. Plenty of buildings came with their own unique things to read/observe. The music varied from place to place and each battle had a different battle theme, depending on the location. Many found a fault in the game's really low level cap, but I liked not having to level grind, but simply be more wary of my HP and status.
The game was looked down upon due to the battle system I mentioned earlier and the graphics. It struggled, especially with "prettier" looking games like Final Fantasy VIII
, which came out that same year. But its lackluster graphics, in my opinion, were made up for with the art style. The graphics and art style made for an appropriate pairing of grittiness (kind of like Silent Hill 2
and the low draw-distance concealing fog). Shadow Madness
, at times, almost felt like an RPG/horror game hybrid.
I think it's much more difficult for technical and graphical achievements to make up for a game's shortcomings. I'm positive it's possible, but I can't immediately think of any examples. Maybe the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai
series. We all know it's no Street Fighter
, but those graphics (and the fact that I'm a shameless DBZ
sucker) roped me in.
Do you feel that a game built from a strong licensed property (DBZ, etc.) allows for slightly more leeway in this regard?
That's definitely true. It was the best example I could come up with, which I only did because I looked to my right and there was my copy of Budokai 3
. Maybe I would've enjoyed a game that played just like it and was an original IP, but I only bothered trying it because of the DBZ
tag. I imagine there are plenty of others that can say the same.
Do you think that controversy (sexism, violence, etc.) helps or hurts the medium?
I think we sometimes overestimate some controversies that revolve around videogames. I feel that many people deep inside know that these things aren't as big deals as they're made out to be. Let's be honest, videogames aren't breeding murderers and oppressing women. However I definitely think that some controversy is important for the industry to mature in a healthy manner. Because there are indeed some merits to both sides. For example, the constant exposure to violence and sex can, in fact, desensitize people, which isn't exactly healthiest thing.
I'd like to see a fair balance of controversy consistently checking the industry, while it also doesn't go unchecked itself and become a hindrance.
That's a very moderate response. I can respect that. Do you think that it's got more to do with the way that sex and violence is presented, or the amount per volume? Or do you think that the current cultural zeitgeist has a far heavier hand in how anything released at that defined time is judged?
While I understand that kids are impressionable, so long as the kids are being raised with care in this respect, I don't think it's the portrayal of those things that can pose a threat (not in general, anyway). I'm fairly positive that it's the consistent exposure to these things that will get to them on a deeper level. No one really wants to harm these kids with their products (I...hope), but it's an unintended consequence. I've seen plenty of people try to put the blame on the parents and likewise for these companies, but unfortunately, not everyone is an expert on adolescent psychology. We're just trying to simply enjoy a hobby.
It would seem that, to an extent, the current cultural zeitgeist has an influence on the perception of what's being released. If that weren't true, I'd think that popular opinion and discussions would more often tend to be up to date with current scientific studies. Unfortunately, a lot of this knowledge is still fairly recent, and it takes time for such things to become common knowledge.
Let's go outside of videogames for a moment - what's the most important thing in the world to you as a person?
Easily my family and close circle of friends.
Having lost some family and friends over the years, especially when I was young, I learned the hard way that no one will be around forever. Formally discovering that life comes with a time limit made me realize what's most important.
What keeps you close to them? What is it about those relationships that causes you to value this above all else?
All of them have faith in me and support me. I could tell them that I want to be a stripper, and after a week or two of them failing to talk me out of it, they would support me. I hopefully won't ever forget how my dad bluntly told me to not worry about how expensive a university is, so long as it's the one I truly want to go to. He said he would help me no matter what. My mom, and even my brothers agreed.
My brothers always stood by me. When we were younger, my middle brother and I often fought, and the oldest of us three would come to break it up. There was a considerable age range between us. After the brief phase of fighting was over, we were all very close and supportive. My oldest brother even bought me the instrument that I use in school now, which cost several grand. And when inevitable repairs came years later (worth about two hundred bucks), he covered that too, asking only for me to "take advantage and be a success!"
I value these relationships dearly. Everyone in my family is a great role model and I am proud of all of them. I'm actively trying to mold myself into having the best qualities of all of them, but that is of course far easier said than done. But I want to be able to be there for them like they have for me, and I know I have the potential to do so.
I find that music is a fairly accurate barometer of an individual's personality. What music makes your day?
I have a fairly eclectic taste and am often looking for new music and artists. At the moment I've been listening to some atmospheric and mellow electronic music. I listen to a lot of progressive and power metal, but when my day is in need of some uplifting I often turn to classical music. Some of my favorite composers (to listen to, not just appreciate) include Sibelius, Beethoven, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky.
Are you of the belief that compositions were of higher quality and scale in classical performance, or did they merely fit the framework of their time? Would you say that Tchaikovsky was the Rush of his day, or do they exist in completely separate universes due to their chosen instrumentation, time scales, etc.?
Great question. I've had plenty of music professors ask these questions too (fortunately, I don't have annoying elitist professors). Plenty of relics of the past that we know of, we only know of because they were grand enough to survive this long. Not every architectural project in the ancient eras were as grand as the pyramids or as successful as the Great Wall of China. But we remember those because they were grand (successful) undertakings.
What I'm saying is, not everything from the classical era was a masterpiece. There was plenty of popular works then, just like now, that weren't written by true artists, but by fortunate scribblers. Composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, were genius, and everything done was purposeful. However, given that in their time music also wasn't exactly a huge business with a defined "winning formula" helped them to focus on refining their artistic craft. Plenty of composers were forced to pander to the desires of their commissioners, but there was still some breathing room.
There are plenty of great artists today or in the past century, like Rush, that worked hard to not only make it big, but keep it real. The Beatles were criticized by Bob Dylan for not writing anything "that mattered" and they took that criticism to heart, and now in college, I studied their music alongside the likes of Tchaikovsky and friends. Those men didn't know much of music theory at all, and there they were using the same complex harmonies that plenty of these composers were discovering.
Still, music nowadays is a far different beast than it was then. I don't think Tchaikovsky was the Rush, or the Beatles of his day. Perhaps that comparison is more suited for Franz Liszt, whose mere presence had an effect on the ladies reminiscent of the Beatles. He (Tchaikovsky) was however, popular due to his consistently great symphonies and ballets, his artistry, in other words. Franz Liszt, much like The Beatles, successfully improved himself over time to not only be a grand force of entertainment, but a worthy artist to remember.
With the risk of going off topic, Rush is an awesome band. In addition to them, I listen to and enjoy a bunch of other rock and metal bands. As of right now, some of my favorites include Rush, The Beatles, I Fight Dragons, Stratovarius, Dream Theater, and Avantasia.
Listening to bands like Dream Theater, it feels like I'm listening to a modern continuation of the contemporary classical period of the 20th century. I actually had a brief discussion of this on the forums some time ago too.
I'd like to say that I believe the Classical genre still has it's place today, thanks to the movie industry and other mediums like videogames. It's great. I can't wait for Jeremy Soule's first symphony to come out!
Do you feel that the videogame medium is evolving, and if so, is it going in a positive direction?
It's definitely evolving, but, the way I see it, it's also going through some growing pains. Things often have a way of balancing out however, so I'm sure the medium will make it out alive. The strong rise of indies is what I find reassuring.
Do you see hope in that movement? Not the just-before-the-end-of-the-disaster-movie hope, but real, genuine "someone out there remembers how good we used to have it" kind of hope?
I find comfort seeing Kickstarter carrying a bunch of indies into success. But even more importantly, seeing Valve and Sony actively embrace the movement is great. Just like a democracy needs a system of checks and balances to keep it working well, I think the successes of the mainstream industry and the successes of the indies bouncing off each other could prove a healthy blend.
The idea, as seen from Project Phoenix, that an all star cast can join up to independently create a game free from the binds of the mainstream industry without too much worry, is an exciting one. That thing has been open for about a day and already reached it's $100k goal! (as of the date this question was asked / answered - EL)
If you said that someone just had to play a particular game before they died, what game would that be?
Questions like this always stump me. The last time someone asked me, "What do you want to do before you die?" My answer was a simple, "Live".
But if I have to give an answer, I guess a safe answer would be to tell someone what got me into gaming. And that was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
That's a very good answer. Why? What makes that game stand out for you? Was it the time in which you played it? Was it the adventure you went on?
It was my earliest immersive virtual adventure, yeah. The game however seems to be a golden standard and model of what it is that I love about videogames. From the colorful artwork, expansive world to explore, interesting characters and scenarios to encounter, secrets and bonuses that one would actually care (And love!) to discover, and plenty more.
There are plenty of games that I played when I was young, that I enjoyed simply because I was young and easily entertained. Link to the Past, however, is something I can still enjoy. It's also the one Legend of Zelda
game where there isn't a dungeon where I feel completely lost and stupid. That game was great for gaming veterans and newcomers alike.
You mentioned before that your answer was a simple statement of "live." What, in your opinion, does that entail?
"Live" was my answer to the question I mentioned earlier because, when I was asked that, I honestly couldn't name just one thing. I'm young and there's still plenty that I would like to do. Even if I wasn't young, there are so many beautiful things about life to appreciate that it's impossible for me to name just one thing. So I boiled it down to "live" because that's the best answer I can give.
With so many sites in existence, and the internet having no shortage of places to hang one's virtual hat, why Destructoid?
I first got into Destructoid through listening to RetroforceGO
, which I discovered through a Google search of gaming podcasts. I fell in love with everyone in the podcast, it's always fun to listen to, and given that it's about retro games, it never got "old" listening to past episodes. In time I checked out the site that they were a part of.
Destructoid felt like a breath of fresh air. Everything seemed great, the news, the brutally honest reviews, and even the community. It took me a little over a year to finally migrate to the forums, and even more time to be a frequenter, but I've been along for the ride ever since (being approximately 6ish years ago).
RFG is no longer recording, would you like to see something like that come back again?
Don't remind me. /sadface
I'd certainly like to see a new DTOID production make an appearance with an adorably bubbly cast. Podtoid was great, and so is the DTOID Show, but I think there is still room for another official endeavor. What that can be, I don't know, but knowing the wonder that is the DTOID community I think there are nearly endless possibilities. Shoot, we could totally steal the show XPlay
's "Review, semi-relevant sketch, Review" formula, since the old G4 channel clearly won't care.
What do you think about Huge? Do you think that Destructoid has the capacity to become largely self-sufficient? Do you think that will inspire or allow changes in the site to take place, and if so, what would you like some of those changes to be?
I think Huge is a pretty great idea. Many other websites have tried similar ideas for similar reasons, but with DTOID I definitely feel that "love ingredient" put into the mix. I'm not so sure that DTOID will be able to be largely self-sufficient. I won't claim to know anything about running a site like this, but I imagine that it costs quite a bit and the ads certainly help. But the note that Niero has on the Huge promo page seems to say that each individual membership is extremely valuable to them, which is a great sign. I hope they can become largely self-sufficient, I really do.
What I like is that seem pretty open to suggestions (especially from Huge Members*, I'd imagine). That definitely doesn't hurt. So it could lead to some nice changes within the site. We have a smart crew here at DTOID, and as such I'd like to think that they'll make some really great decisions, some inspired by suggestions, in the process. There are lots of bonus features that seem pretty interesting, in my opinion. I am content with how DTOID currently is, but I am looking forward to these "new surprises every month". Perhaps some exciting new podcasts? Or maybe Holmes manages to get access to that musical he was in and is (somehow) able share it with us!
I may not jump on the Huge train immediately, but I may at some point. I'm all about supporting independent publishing.
Is there anything you would change about Destructoid? Anything you'd preserve at all costs?
I'd like to see something as absolutely and adorably joyous as RetroforceGO was make an appearance. Other than that, I'm comfortable with how the website is (except this Disqus business - all I find it good for is contest threads).
The community is the best part of the website, in my humble opinion. I've been around other places, like GameFAQs and there's just no sense of that there.
One last question: Who do you think you are?
I am what the sum of my actions say I am. That said, I'm always changing. I believe that I'm a fun loving guy who wants nothing more than to help other people like others have helped him. I also think I am a man who has found happiness, but is now striving to reach it, and ultimately share it.
I think I'm also a guy who also spent a little too much time with games.
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* - always gets a chuckle out of me. - EL