Welcome to the fourteenth 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.
What drew you to videogames as a hobby, and more importantly, what has kept you there?
Initially it was the Pokťmon anime that got me into videogames; it was the reason for me begging my parents for a Game Boy Colour to play Gold and Silver. I can still remember it: the golden Pikachu edition. The red Ďoní light was Pikachuís cheek. Aaaah. That was 2001, and I was 7 (also the year that the Game Boy Advance was releasedóI was already outdated).
As for whatís kept me there Ö I donít really know. I canít put my finger on it. Iíd like to say Ďbecause I love them,í but thatíd make for a terribly boring answer. Videogames have been a constant in my life for the longest time: while at school Iíd talk about them, while at home Iíd play them. Theyíve been a common ground for me, my friends, and most others Iíve met; always an easy topic of conversation. I suppose videogames have never been irrelevant to me. It feels as if thatís changing now, though. Friends and their tastes are Ďgrowing upí, and so are mine, I suppose. Over the last couple of years my interests have broadened: Iím much more interested in films, books, music Ö people. I donít think Iíll ever stop being interested in videogames, but that fanatical interest Iíve had for many years may just soften with time. Whatever it is thatís kept me here will probably continue to do so, however.
Do you feel like your hobby is refusing to grow up? Are you afraid of it having less and less relevance to your interests, or do you think that the industry will mature right alongside of us, the generation who grew up with them as a staple?
I donít think that the industry is refusing to grow up; quite the opposite: at the moment itís trying very, very hard to be mature. I mean, compare the amount of animal protagonists in AAA games in this gen to last. Nary a furry face to be found. Itís not just grim-dark unshaven protagonists, either. Games are tackling some very interesting themes and taking some surprisingly good routes in their plots. I mean, most videogame plots are still pretty shitty in comparison to established media, but weíre getting there.
But can we have both? Can there be furry maturity? Will we ever get that gritty version of StarFox?
The last time that was tried we ended up with Shadow the Edgehog. Please, no more. Seriously, though, the juxtaposition of Ďkidís mascotí and Ďdark and violent themesí always creates far too ridiculous of a result to be taken as seriously as it so very desperately wants to be.†
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of a videogame?
If youíd asked me that a couple years ago, Iíd have probably said story. I was absolutely enamoured with RPGs and single-player games. So much so that Iíd have placed story on a pedestal far above gameplay, aesthetics, etc.. Now I realise that prioritising story does the medium a disservice. Doing so ignores all thatís unique about videogamesóthe interactivity, the immersion. You just donít find those two things in any other media.
But to answer the question: I think that how enjoyable a game is is its most important aspect. Itís the one facet that feeds into all of the others, and itís also the hardest for me to explain. If I find a gameís gameplay is good, Iíll play it. If it looks gorgeous, Iíll probably enjoy exploring its environment. If I enjoy its story, Iíll stick around to its end. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, games that objectively tick all those boxes, but I just donít enjoy that much for whatever reason, and there are the complete oppositesógames that are terrible, but I just love (Deadly Premonition and X-Men Arcade come to mind). If itís not fun, then I wonít play it. I suppose that thatís the most important aspect for me, then.
What qualities does the gameplay need to have in order to be considered fun? How does one break the rules and succeed, and yet, some hit all the notes and become boring as a result? What causes the differential shift?
See, thatís kind of hard for me to explain because Iím not really sure whatís in common with all of the games that I find fun. I mean, just thinking about what Iíve played recently, I canít find a pattern. ZoE, Nocturne, Dragonís Dogma, AoE 2, Animal Crossing, Worms? Thatís some eclectic shit right there. I think that itís not just the gameplay that makes a game funóalthough it certainly canóbut the overall package.
As for the so-bad-theyíre-good games, I think thatís wholly down to the writing. ĎWelcome to die!íówho doesnít love that?
But there's got to be SOMETHING that can act as a universal tie, some sort of guaranteed charm trigger that makes you say, "man, Imma play the shit out of this." What would you suspect that trigger to be?
Hmm. At one point, that would have just been ĎRPGí, or anything with a decent storyline. But now I think Iím leaning towards ĎJapanese deví. Generally, the games Iíve most enjoyed, and the games Iím most looking forward to, have been from Japanese devs. I thinkódespite what Fish says, God rest his soulóthat Japan is definitely leading the way with quality game development and ideas. Iím finding that Japanís producing games with the best gameplay/mechanics, storylines, and characters. To distil that, I will buy the fuck out of anything with ĎAtlusí on the box.
Do you think that controversy (sexism, violence, etc.) helps or hurts the medium?
Right now I think itís hurting the medium. Only time will tell if all this controversy is good for the medium, but right now I think weíre all going through some growing pains. Lots of new people are coming into the medium, and lots of old people are feeling dissatisfied with its current stateóbe it sexism, violence, whatever. A lot of the press that the medium has been getting has damaged many peopleís perceptions of videogames. Iím gonna be honest: both sides of these debates have come across as incredibly juvenile and militant. Theyíre both out for blood, and that can only harm videogames as a whole.
Maybe the industry will grow more progressive and include more options, or maybe the industry will grow stagnant in its desperation to pander to all parties. Or the people perpetuating these controversies will get bored.
That's a very astute observation. Do you feel that we need more moderate, measured voices taking the lead stances? Is that even possible considering the human race's collective penchant for preferring controversy to sanity?
In an ideal world, yes, calmer voices would be very beneficial to these arguments, but I donít see that happening. The debatesóespecially the gender onesóare incredibly close to peoplesí hearts, raising the heat of these conflicts considerably. This, of course, is inflamed by the rampant demagoguing certain parties just love to do.
Let's go outside of videogames for a moment - what's the most important thing in the world to you as a person?
Iíd feel like a terrible person if I didnít say the people around me. My friends, family. Iíve just had to think of what Iíd never give up, and thatíd be my answer; all the rest comes and goes, but I hope they always stick around. My cat too, probably. Heís alright.
What about your friends' and family's relationship to you keeps you going?
It must be whatever it is that keeps everyone going. Having someone to talk to, listen to, depend on. I donít believe people can live without others. Survive, maybe.
I find that music is a fairly accurate barometer of an individual's personality. What music makes your day?
I like a lot of music, really. Iíd say that Iím really into Pop Punk right now (older Fall Out Boy, Blink, The Story So Far), some Post-Hardcore (Polar Bear Club, La Dispute), and Electronic stuff as well (Crystal Castles, Daft Punkóof course). Iíve been really getting into Hip-Hop recently, too, mainly Ď90s stuff like Wu-Tang, Tribe, Biggie, but also some more modern artists like Childish Gambino, Death Grips, and Scroobius Pip. My all-time favourite band would have to be The Killers, though.
You're rattling off a lot of my favorite hip-hop artists / groups. Do you feel that there is a marked difference in the current state of hip-hop and rap when compared to the past? Some people believe that the overall landscape is not as lush as it used to be, would you agree with that assessment?
No, I believe that the landscape is just as verdant, if not more so. I mean, thereís so much variety now in the lyrics as well as the beats. Seems like there are so many more topics being broached in todayís Hip-Hop, rather than just theónow, unfortunately, triteóĎstarted from the bottom now we hereí theme (I am so sorry for quoting Drake), though that is certainly still present. This is probably due in no small part to the accessibility that the music industry has now, itís so much more openóanyone with a computer and YouTube can do what a studio took twenty years ago. I mean, Scroobious Pipóone of my favourite artistsómade his first album in his bedroom (and you can tell). Unfortunately, this also opens the floodgates for a lot of shit to saturate the scene. MC Chris and MC Lars, for example, leading the scenes in Ďnerdcoreí and Ďpost-punk laptop rapí (Jesus Christ), can go fuck themselves. Though, I suppose that some people enjoy that stuff, and it can only stand testament to the variety that's on offer in today's Hip-Hop scene.
Don't feel sorry for quoting it, it's true - it's the most overused rap trope in the whole fucking book. On a completely different side note, do you feel that most people who find success with their music tend to lose a bit of that bite once they become successful? This isn't an all-or-nothing question, but I think being hungrier gives a sense of immediacy and genuine feeling to their performances. Is this dulled, diminished or lost after successes?
I think that yes, it is generally true. I think itís a combination of the success and the money creating a security for the artistómeaning that thereís no risk any moreóand the themes of the lyrics changing with their lifestyle. Their lyrics are no longer street-level, no longer dangerous, genuine, and anecdotal, but masturbatoryóĎnow we hereí. Listening to Ďbrag-rapí isnít engaging for me. And, on the other side of the coin, if an artist becomes hugely successful and continues to rap about the street and his everyday struggle (in present-tense), then that comes across as incredibly manufactured.†
But, inversely, I think that staying hungry for too long can break an artist. Take Hopsin, for example. I liked his first album, it was fun enough. He bigs himself up a lot, though, talks of how this record deal will make him. Come the second albumóon an independent labelóand heís completely obsessed with the failure of his first album. He goes from personal attacks on his manager from his previous label, to blaming the Illuminati for keeping him down. Too much hunger ruined the album. Ruined him, too.
Do you feel that the videogame medium is evolving, and if so, is it going in a positive direction?
I think that next-gen weíre going to see a lot more of the Free to Play, social, and cinematic buzzwords. Iím not particularly fond of any of these (cinematic has its moments, though), so I wouldnít say that itís going in a positive direction. Iím not sure itís going in any direction at all, actually. I imagine that most things will probably remain the same: thereíll be a balance of those three buzzwords and more Ďtraditionalí games, much like the end of this generation.
Do you think that these models exist solely to make more money off of unsuspecting casual audiences, or do you think that more serious and hardcore devotees are starting to flock toward the same watering holes?
I think that in the mobile market the latter is certainly the case. Such a saturation of in-app purchases there. The Ďhardcoreí market is a weird beast, though. Glance over any message board and youíll see a definite hatred of these models, and yet F2P games still continue to be made, as well as continue to top the charts. I donít think a week goes by without TF2 and DOTA2 hovering around the most played games on Steam. Iíd attribute this to the amount of effort that goes into F2P games now (surely because of the predicted returns); itís no longer Ďcasualí flash games (for all intents and purposes), but pretty finely crafted titles such as the two aforementioned. I would say the two biggest draws of Ďhardcore gamersí to F2P models is, quite simply the facts that theyíre free and that that normally ensures a large player-base.
But these "predicted returns" relies on players of a game that hit three main criteria: one, it's fun, two, it's addictive, and three, there's a real sense of progress. Games that don't offer these three things in perfect unions are the ones that usually cost more to maintain than they make, and therefore sputter out of existence shortly after inception. Do you think that studios get this, or are they blinded by the potential of profits?
I wouldn't be surprised if the studios understood this, but the publishers certainly donítóor, at least, donít care. There must be some awareness that this is the case. But, maybe the studios genuinely think that their game will be the next TF2, that it does have the above three main criteria, and the publishers are willing to let them go along on the off-chance that it does become a hit.
If you said that someone just had to play a particular game before they died, what game would that be?
Iíd have to say Persona 4. Itís a great gateway into Shin Megami Tensei, as well as JRPGs as a whole. Itís also a very fine game; one of my favourites. Leaves me with very warm and fuzzy feelings when I think about it.
What about it leaves you feeling that way? What causes it to take such a high seat in your preferences?
It stems from two things, Iíd say: it was my first JRPG (apart from Pokťmon, but Iíve never felt like that counted), and it is so inescapably charming. The world, the art-style, the soundtrack, the characters, the ending (the train station ;_;)óeverything about it just exudes a warmth that fills my chest when I think about it.
Go on, elaborate. Don't worry about spoilers, just tell your story.
I can distill that feeling into one song, that warmth in my chest I mentioned before. It plays right at the end; the final dungeon of the True Ending. When I listen to it, I canít help but feel a rush of what I felt when everything was coming to a close: the sense of accomplishment, the sense of endearment, the twinge of sadness.
Itís a big game. It lasts a very long while, and I enjoyed every second of it. I think I managed to stretch it out over a few months. When you spend that amount of time in an incredibly character-driven game, youíre bound to get a few attachments. I think thatís what stung the most. When it ended. Bitter-sweet, though. The best of endings.
You can imagine my excitement at the possibility of a Persona 5 announcement soon. And just when I was developing a lifeÖ
With so many sites in existence, and the internet having no shortage of places to hang one's virtual hat, why Destructoid?
The community is why Iíve stuck to Destructoid (the forumís, specifically). I havenít found anywhere with such a close-knit cast of characters, thatís so active, and as special as the Dtoid forums (not that Iíve been looking). Something about Dtoid just seems to attract the best peopleóIíve got no idea why. If it werenít for this community, I donít think Iíd be visiting Destructoid.
What do you think that universal attractor is? Why is it that so many cool people choose Destructoid?
Hmm, Iíd say that overall itís the exploits of the front page and the Destructoid Show. They both seem to give off a relaxed, informed, and, more often than not, quite sarcastic vibe. If people like all these things and can stomach the gate-keeper of Jimís satire (and understand that it is actually staire), then theyíll probably stick around and eventually slot into the community somewhere. More often than not, these are really cool people.
(There have been multiple shakeups since this interview was conducted. - EL)
Is there anything you would change about Destructoid? Anything you'd preserve at all costs?
I canít think of anything Iíd change, though I rarely venture out of the forums. As for preservation, Iíd love to see the forums stay just the way they are. Last time they were messed with in the big site overhaul it was terrible. Change is bad.
One last question: Who do you think you are?
I really donít know and itís very frightening.
Alright, here's a bonus question: Really? You don't even have an idea of what you believe yourself to be? No self-actualization whatsoever as far as this is concerned? You must have something. Anything, really.
Haha, my response before was half-joking, half-cop-out. Some truth to it, though: Iím finding it hard to think of who I am past the literal sense (ĎHey guys, Iím a 19 year-old male thatís studying English Literature at Newcastle University. I just love videogames, books, music, hanging out with my friends, and swimming! Boy, what a life!í). I donít think itís something Iím like to find out soon, either. Still feels like Iím on the cusp of being an adult, being my own person.†
This blog is about interviewing members of the Destructoid community. If you think someone deserves to be interviewed, please contact either us via a PM to this account, or our private ones, if you feel so inclined.
The opportunity to be interviewed does not necessarily depend on amount of time spent here, number of published articles, etc. - only if our interviewer or a separate nominee thinks you have something really interesting to say.
So, if you think someone else out there could use a little community shine, speak up and let us know! They could very well be the next victim interviewee!