Welcome to the ninth 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.
You'll also notice that there are some new questions in the mix, and completely new to the interview process as compared to the previous entries. I am starting to throw a few new things into the recipe, please let me know if these are welcome additions. Honest feedback is very welcome.
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 tripping white people (is that how you say it?) with Occams Electric Toothbrush!
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How old are you?
I am 32 years old but I prefer to think of myself as three feral 6-year-olds and a 14-year-old who only feels alive when bow hunting trapped inside a human body.
What do you do for a living?
I am a Collection Manager and Registrar for an art gallery. Essentially I make sure that the art and travelling exhibits arrive safely and is installed properly and get back home in the same condition in which it arrived. I also handle all the paperwork dealing with condition reports and insurance and loan agreement forms and all sorts of stuff. Sometimes I get to wear a tool belt and I think that if I send my dad a picture of me with the tool belt on he might return my phone calls.
How long have you been around at Dtoid?
Hmmm, I showed up around ’09 I think? Maybe 2008. Honestly my cathode ray tube brain gets a little foggy when it comes to dates so I don’t exactly remember.
In your opinion, what is the coolest thing about yourself?
The coolest? Oh lordy, I don’t really know. I haven’t considered myself in terms of “cool” since I was in high school. I have a tattoo of Jimi Hendrix’s signature on my arm. That’s pretty cool, right? Like if I walked around Gulf Shores wearing a tank top there’s a pretty good chance that I would get at least 3 high fives between walking from the hotel to Senor Frog’s.
Totally stealing from Lipton here: What's your favorite word? Your least favorite word? Why?
Quixotic is my favorite word. When I was in high school, I was in Honors English and my teacher used the word quixotic. I had no clue what it meant. I couldn’t figure it out other than it was an adjective. Turns out it comes from the literary character Don Quixote and means exceedingly idealistic, impractical and unrealistic. This perfectly sums up my high school experience.
My least favorite word is probably “hacktivist”. It makes me immediately do my “who farted?” face. Really any of those words that are a combination of two things and are appropriated for a cause irk me. Call it a pet peeve but I think it cheapens any real conversation that’s to be had about serious issues. That being said, serious issues should only be discussed using a series of images found in Google Image Search.
What drew you to videogames as a hobby, and more importantly, what has kept you there?
I hate the outdoors. There's no toilet paper. I don't sweat well. I'm not particularly gifted in moving swiftly or being exceptionally strong. My natural inclination was to exercise my mind muscle. (Quick note: Mind Muscle would be a great Proto Ska Band name) As a child who sat inside and read books, discovering the power and excitement of the Nintendo Entertainment System was a glorious moment for me. Castlevania, Mega Man, Life Force, Donkey Kong, The Punisher...sigh...I remember them all so fondly. I would lose myself in video games and in doing so, was able to cope with being alone a lot of the time. What cemented the entire experience of immerssive gaming for me was Final Fantasy III (VI, whatever) on the Super Nintendo. That game was my world when it came out. I felt alive and invigorated traveling the world with these companions. I hated Kefka and his creepy laugh. I spent God knows how many Saturday afternoons playing it and when I beat it, when the credits rolled I wept. I wept tears of joy knowing that my friends were finally ok and that the world was safe once again.
What kept me there, over the years was having friends to play with who had similar experiences in gaming. High school saw me get chubby, angry and horny. A potentially deadly combination for a middle class white kid. I had few friends entering high school and had mentally prepared myself for a grueling experience. Then, one fateful weekend when I was pretending to enjoy soccer at this guy's house, I met a guy who liked Star Wars and had a Nintendo 64. These were things I understood. We spoke the same language. We dreamed alike. I played Super Smash Brothers and Goldeneye with him and beat him soundly. Then his friends came over. I beat them soundly as well. My skills gave me confidence. Confidence gave me a voice. My voice helped me to discover who I was and let these fellas get to know me. I remain friends with them to this day.
What keeps me into games is essentially the same thing. Having friends to discuss them with. Amazing stories. Good music. Memorable characters. As I've gotten older, I find myself digging a bit deeper and looking for more cerebral experiences. Art, maybe? At the very least artistic moments. I love the fact that people who play video games right now get to experience a genre evolving. Its amazing to me. I remember a time before the internet. Encyclopedias? Yeah, I used them. My generation was part of a group that lived the transition from analog to digital in just about every aspect of our lives. I’m really fascinated by how gaming technology is changing and how we, as gamers, react and adapt to it and vice versa.
Do you feel that there is a lack of understanding or a laissez-faire attitude among the generation of gamers who grew up with PlayStation as compared to the generation who grew up during the age of multiple quantum leaps in a twenty-year span? Do they tend to take things for granted, or are they equipped with some new sort of vision us old dogs have only in rare cases?
I think there is a difference in views. The leaps in technology were so much more noticeable back then. Going from 8-bit to 16-bit (remember when the number of bits was a thing?) was such a dramatic difference. We were all floored. For those of us who started with cartridges, I would bet you that we can all recall the first time we played a disc based game. It was magical. Some real science fiction shit. Having that perspective, it makes you appreciate just how far the games have come. New consoles are lovely and neat but that wow factor with graphics and hardware has lessened over time. Its all really pretty now, so unless they start using holograms that’s not going to floor me like it used to.
Now on the flip side, I think the younger generation of gamers can appreciate the leaps in communication technology built into and around games more than we can. Back in my high school and college days, co-op meant you played together in a room. My nephew, who turns 22 in October, thinks its kind of a hassle to have to get together with people to play a game. The younger crowd can identify and appreciate those subtler changes and nuances more than my generation can, at least in my opinion.
Is this because of them being raised in the sea change, and therefore that being their version of "normal?" We had arcades, we had Nintendo nights where you invited all your friends over...they had Runescape and shit. Do you think these digital kids can ever fully understand and appreciate the analog legacy?
I have to look to my nephews for this one. They are 19 and 21 and play the xbox 360 with their friends. While most of their gaming is done online, they do occasionally get together for some couch co-op. What I get from them when we talk about it is that while they have fun playing in the same room with their buddies, they see it as a bit of a hassle. Having to bring over games and controllers and get everything synced up and working seems to be more trouble than its worth to them when they can just game from the comfort of their rooms and still play together. Now they do get together and play games but its often a byproduct of boredom or more of a spontaneous thing rather than a planned activity.
As for appreciating our generation's analog legacy, I think yes and no. Take you average 19 or 20-year-old to a proper arcade and they will catch a glimpse of the magic and be amazed but won't know what it was like in the heyday of arcades. Its hard for them to imagine what it was like when couch co-op was the only option. Lugging around 4 xboxes and sitting in a tangled mass of cords so you could play 16 player Halo matches. It was how we played games together.
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of a videogame?
Hmmmm…that’s a tough call for me. I’m a visual learner and retain information visually so art style and graphics appeal to me in a very direct manner. However, story and characters are vital to draw you in. It’s like graphics can open the door for me, but the story and characters are what makes me stay for dinner.
What elements of characterization or plot keep you seated at the table? More importantly, what makes you go back for seconds?
In terms of characters, the weirder the better. If I can play as a spider demon trapped in the body of an 8-year-old girl who controls living shadows, I am interested. I love it when rpg’s let me party up with the misunderstood hell goat man. Planescape Torment did an amazing job with these strange and lovely characters. As for plot, I really like serious elements and mature themes in a story. The Last of Us is an example. Games tend to treat real life issues such as loss and regret and heavy shit with a blunt style, either mashing into the plot to push things along or making it this really trite thing to flesh out an otherwise kind of shallow character. Lord knows every game doesn’t have to be a serious affair but when its done well, I feel like it’s a step in the right direction for video games.
Will that occur simply because our generation(s) will inevitably get older, or will that occur because the medium will push that envelope? Are these concepts hand-in-hand?
Both. As designers get older and the gaming crowd ages with it, I think the games will begin to address more mature themes. Telltales’s Walking Dead has shown us that an episodic, playable story can work and be commercially viable. Why can’t that translate into different genres? A murder mystery, a romance, a thriller and so much more. Also, technology is constantly evolving and game makers are taking full advantage of that fact. Look at the indie game scene. There is some amazing, brilliant shit coming out of there and its creative, smart people utilizing technology to create games that will influence future generations of gamers.
You mentioned The Last Of Us. There's been criticism from some that feel the game didn't actually push things forward enough in terms of what the interactive medium is capable of using to tell the stories only this medium can. Do you agree with this sentiment at all, and if so / not, why?
Hmmm…I’m not really familiar with the criticisms but personally I found the game to really excel at telling the story it wanted to tell. It conveyed to me a great sense of regret and loss and love and the story of Joel and Ellie stuck with me long after I finished playing the game.
Do you think that controversy (sexism, violence, etc.) helps or hurts the medium?
Both. We are watching video games grow up. It’s like puberty. Awkward, exciting, painful, embarrassing but overall worth it in the end. So as video games become more and more ingrained in our culture and push past being just a pop culture thing, the issues in gaming that were prevalent for years are now being addressed. I’ve seen a lot of open, fruitful dialogue regarding most of the –isms and video games and each time it happens, my heart swells a bit with joy. On the flip side, I’ve also seen so much vitriol and just utterly useless rage and bitterness where its completely unnecessary. Baby steps is how I think this is going to work. Little victories one game at a time. New ideas will inspire others and it will catch on. I look forward to seeing video games become as respected as literature and film in my life time.
Let's go outside of videogames for a moment - what's the most important thing in the world to you as a person?
My sense of self. I spent a very long time hiding out in my head and living in day dreams because I didn’t really know what to do in the waking world. Thankfully, I met some friends who made me feel ok with talking and expressing myself. Then in college I really bloomed. Oh sure, I wore a Blink 182 shirt for an embarrassing amount of time, but I was really able to thrive and find myself. Now, at strange age of 32, I find myself really loving who I am. And the best part is that it’s a constantly evolving process. Its not like you just turn 30 and that’s it. You keep growing. You keep discovering who you are and what you want out of life. Its pretty damn awesome.
You seem to be the world's most self-assured and comfortable cat here, that's for sure (and it's rare that you have it organically, rather than as a byproduct of bravado, which most people tend to employ). What did you learn about yourself (or anything else, for that matter) that truly made the difference in terms of your personal perspective?
Heh, bless your eyes. You know, its funny, when I first came to Destructoid, I wasn’t really sure what to do. My first few weeks on the site, I kind of tested the waters by saying some weird shit and leaving some mildly antagonistic comments. I think this was a nervous reaction (bravado) to being new and wanting to be noticed. It wasn’t particularly effective and I felt a little discouraged overall. Then I started to hand out the decoder rings in the c-blogs. That changed everything. The decoder rings made me feel ok being myself on the site rather than trying to be myself, if that makes any sense. From there, it was just a natural process, like how you meet someone and suddenly its years later and they’re your best friend.
At the risk of sounding like something you’d see written on a poster featuring a kitten hanging on a string, I’ve learned that discovering who you are is a process that never ends and that its about the journey rather than the destination. That being yourself can be scary and make you feel vulnerable but when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, that’s when you start to thrive. I’ve also learned that you can’t grow if you isolate yourself. You need friends, communication, people to interact with. Even when its tense or negative that’s a moment when you can learn something about yourself and how you react and that’s just as important as smiling. Also, I learned that my mind is essentially Google Image Search.