Welcome to the second entry in the 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. He's thirty-one. He's a father of a four-year old that loves being adorable and attempting to kill squirrels with rocks. He took the same path to Destructoid citizenship as he did with his wife - lurk and stalk for a few months, then jump in and never leave. He's been here since 2006, and is one of the longest standing active members of the community. He works with medical billing, and helps in getting people financially covered for things that insurance doesn't catch. He is Destructoid's Lord Of The Gym And Protein And Shit. And when he has a cold drink in his living room, he doesn't want to see it resting on the floor - he wants you show some damn class and USE DA TABLE. Same as the previous interview, I sent him a questionnaire, he answered the stuff on it, I asked him questions about his answers, blah blah. And I gotta say - he's living proof that brains and brawn can coexist harmoniously. Give a warm welcome to our very own Usedtabe.
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What drew you to videogames as a hobby, and more importantly, what has kept you there?
I started as a five-year-old kid, after my parents divorced. My mom found a way to afford a NES for us (no easy feat for a single mother), and we played the hell out of it. From there it just grew and grew, moving onto the SNES and then the N64. After that, I moved in with my dad around age 16. I quit gaming for a few years due to school, a 32-hour work week and working on our five-acre garden. I had spurts where I would game for a few months (Tekken 3
/ Bushido Blade
all-nighters where you reset the match clock because it didn't count past 99), but it was still a passing thing.
It wasn't until I got injured from lifting that I really got back into gaming. Halo
was the big thing, so I got an Xbox and had a blast. Fuzion Frenzy
, Def Jam: FFNY
and Dynasty Warriors
games were my other jams. Got a Gamecube as well, and beat RE4
more than 20 times because it was so much fun. I think it really sunk in with the 360, though. Oblivion
took my life, then Dead Rising
, then Gears of War,
which I played almost nightly for 2 years. Gaming was a way to not think about being out of the gym and a stress relief from work as well. It was also a way to hang out with friends who now lived in other states, and due to online multiplayer it was a way to compete in something, even if winning never amounted to anything tangible.
What keeps me here is the ruination of other entertainment by my love of video games. Don't get me wrong, I love movies, music and books, but none of those hold my attention like a good game.
I find games to be in a unique position, where they can be the combination of all of these forms of media you just listed all at once - they can have the writing of a great novel, the cinematography of a great movie, musical compositions that transcend the time period they're released in and episodic plot delivery like a television show. Because of this aspect, do you think that games are poised to make that turning point into becoming an entertainment medium that finally becomes far more than the sum of those parts? Does it still have a ways to go, generally speaking? Or have we already touched that level?
They have a long way to go in the writing department. They're not even close to the level of books, and even lag behind most films. But I do believe the interaction delivery will poise games to be the biggest of all the entertainment mediums.
Do you think that gap is able to be bridged with traditional storytelling mechanics, or will we have to find and employ new ways of effective storytelling due to the unique nature of the medium?
I think the possibilities are already there. Some games have good enough stories for the medium, it's just that most don't. If anyone really wants to compete with books and movies on story they have the idea of video games wrong. The delivery is gaming's strong point, therefore the story needs to take advantage of the immersion games afford. Don't try to be Hollywood or Twain, beat them with the tools available.
So it's more of a situation where you feel that the industry is trying their damnedest to slam that square peg into the round hole, then? Like they're forcing something unnatural for the medium itself, and that creates the dissonance that prevents true immersion, which is something only games can provide on that level?
Pretty much. Craft your great story but make it as fun as possible to enjoy through the interaction delivery. And please never sacrifice the gameplay for the story. I can't think of any situation where good has come of it. *winks at David Cage*
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of a videogame?
Gameplay. I know a lot of people harp on story in games, and with a few gems like Bioshock
and Dark Souls
I can see their point, but overall the game has to be fun to play. Other mediums tell better stories with better presentation, so I don't need that type of stimulation from a game, though I enjoy it when it's there.
I would tend to agree. Do you think that people make justified concessions when the gameplay is weaker for the sake of a stronger story or graphical showcase? Or is it something where developers end up "cutting off their nose to spite their face," so to speak?
I think it's sad and almost pathetic to lessen the strongest point of gaming, which is gameplay, to tell a story or show off tech. Last of Us
seemed this way to me. A great game, but it sacrificed a lot to tell its story. The gameplay was predictable and became mundane before you even hit the half-way point. You were just dragging along to get the rest of the story, not having any fun with the game itself, in my opinion.
So your thoughts on the matter are as far as games are concerned, strong story means nothing if the ability to play through it is an afterthought, correct? Do you object to QTE events as prescripted stopping points in setpieces, and if so, how would you like to see the narrative move towards something more naturally immersive?
Exactly. I don't come to gaming to watch a story unfold. I come to gaming to experience a story through interaction. Cutscenes (when drawn out) and QTE's are lame as they take away the main reason for coming to gaming, the gameplay. Pressing a button or sequence of buttons is not gameplay either.
Are you waiting for that era of true situational immersion? Are you looking for something with persistent effect due to actions undertaken, or are you looking for an ability to actually engage with the story as it's happening, instead of being presented to you with your position being one of an invisible observer?
Why can't we have both?
But seriously, either is great. I don't even mind being an invisible observer, as long as it's not too time consuming and threatens breaking the immersion of the game. For me, a lot of cutscenes shatter my sense of immersion. I'm drawn in and focused when I'm in control of the character, and as soon as I'm not, it jolts me back to reality.
Do you think that controversy (sexism, violence, etc.) helps or hurts the medium?
Hurts. The idea that it makes the insdustry "grow" isn't wrong, but the assumption that "all growth is good" is wrong. Controversy forces growth much in the way cancer does, it's unnatural and can kill it's host if left unchecked.
If it introduces a oft-neglected viewpoint or a stance left unconsidered, is the rabble-rousing worth it? There's bound to be voices of dissent no matter what point gets brought up, and while some of them are grounded in reason, a vast majority of them are based in purely emotional reactions and cherry-picked facts and figures. Are we better off with the point being left unstated and unresolved, or is the price worth it in the end?
I don't think so. Those who find something lacking will create the things missing, that's the natural process. Forcing creation for satiation is unnatural and leads to shitty games and shitty gaming culture. It won't be left unresolved just because your tumblr social justice post wasn't highlighted by all of gaming media. People will create and fill a need, just not on your timetable.
What need is being created and filled, and is that the right need? Do we need to be looking at something else, something completely different than what people are usually bitching about?
The "we" is where I think gaming gets things wrong, at least in the current environment. This is supposed to be an industry of art, individuality and expression yet we talk about things as if there should be some hive-mind who agree on certain principles. So, no, I don't believe "we" should be looking at something else. I believe "we" should step back a little and let creativity run it's course.
There seems to be a lot of hive-mind mentality these days in every facet of media...but then again, that also seems to be the way things have been for a long, long time - possibly forever. Considering the power of the internet age, and the speed of sharing genuine information and also opinions disguised as facts, what would be necessary to break the hive-mind spell? Is it a question of having a greater ability to critically think on an individual level?
Sometimes a lot of nerds just agree on the same thing. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as we understand that agreement does not equal a force to change things. Obviously, I'm not talking about stuff that needs
to be changed like shitty business practices, but more subjective things like how a game should play or not play, along those lines of thought.
is a perfect example. A lot of people got their vaginas hurt because they assumed it was going to be a sandbox zombie murder game. When it turned out to be a survival-horror-esque story driven game with some goofy elements to it, they didn't like that it had specific rules you needed to follow. But what they didn't like is what set the game apart from anything else before it, or even after it. The rules the game made you adhere to made it special. You can see how when the formula was changed in Dead Rising 2
just a little to be more accommodating it wasn't near as unique or, in my opinion, enjoyable. And this totally ignores the retarded nerds who never understood you could just ignore the story and you had your shitty sandbox zombie murder fest. Anyone who believes a serviceable story can be delivered by just racking up zombie kills obviously never played the Wii port.
Let's go outside of videogames for a moment - what's the most important thing in the world to you as a person?
My daughter, hands down. That little shit-bird is a blessing. Having a 3 year old scream at you to play Dark Souls
because she likes it is something special. I always thought I wouldn't want a daughter but now it's hard to want a child that isn't one.
Right there with you, dude - my daughter just turned two, and she begs me to play "headband man" all the time, which is her name for Street Fighter. Let's dig into your personal life, if you don't mind - how has fatherhood changed you as a person? I know that becoming a parent changes you, and it teaches a lot of people similar lessons, but no two adventures are anywhere close to being the same. What have you learned from that ongoing process?
Patience. A lot of patience. Which is hard for an impatient man. I've also learned why people care so much about their family. Growing up I never understood the need for family due to shitty personal situations, but having one of my own hit me like a bag of bricks. I also learned to become a sociopath, easily willing to trade a million innocent lives for my daughter if need be.
Well, here's hoping neither of us get put into that situation. Again, not meaning to pry into super-personal territory (tell me that I am, and I'll strike this question), but what's the major difference between your previous family experience to the one you're creating now? Does / did that experience forge your decisions and desires in the present?
When you come from a family that takes away your security at a young age, it's hard to think of "family" as being important. And certain sides of my family would rather compete against each other and help complete strangers than each other. So seeing that a family can be a good thing and something to be nurtured definitely hit me hard.
I find that music is a fairly accurate baromter of an individual's personality. What music makes your day?
My tastes are so eclectic it's hard to pinpoint a certain piece or genre. One day it could be a Death-Metal-spliced-with-Hardcore-Techno song about licking shitty diapers or it could be something by the Ink Spots. Or Aphex Twin. Or any Acid Jazz. Or anything. My "mix" cds/playlists stretch that word to its boundaries.
If you had to pin down one unifying quality between all forms of music that operates as a "love it / hate it" switch, what would that be? What common factor do all of these forms of music share that keeps you interested?
Another hard question. I don't have a "hate it" switch, because I find that just about anything I listen to long enough I start to like. Except for Bruno Mars. Fuck that bitchmade, white-knighting-wish-someone-would-throw-a-grenade-at-his-girl-to-save-us-from-him motherfucker.
Do you feel that the videogame medium is evolving, and if so, is it going in a positive direction?
The only evolution I see is from the Indie Market. Everything else looks like it is cannibalizing itself and ready to implode at a moments notice. I have no fear of this though, as a video game world without publishers doesn't scare me. I welcome the Indie overlords and their crazy new game ideas.
As crazy as it sounds, I'm right there with you. Do you think that the underdogs will eventually take over, or do you think that the current corporate overlord culture will start feeding money to successful small fries in an attempt to buy their "magic formula?" I see it happening all over the place now, and I can't help but wonder if even that will be turned upon itself by the bloated AAA publishing system in place - do you see some sort of Apubcalypse on the horizon?
They've already taken over in the court of public opinion. I'm sure corporations will pull a Budweiser and start trying their own microbrew games, but it will only slow the fall. But it's going to be a slow fall anyway, so no, I don't see any defining moment happening. It'll be like making a statue, slowly chipping away at the shitty rock that is the industry until we have a nice work of art.
Do you see the current glut of freemium and casual / mobile titles to be evidence of this already taking place?
Not really. But I do see them as where experimenting is going to help the older forms of gaming. People like to take stock of the negatives of those two but look what it brought to the limelight: a gaming business where self-publishing is not only a possibility but the norm and publishers who control artistry from the safety of boardrooms and guaranteed salaries are the rarity.
If you said that someone just had to play a particular game before they died, what game would that be?
A game called "DON'T DIE".
For a serious response, Dark Souls
. Praise the Sun and never go hollow, brother.
There's been a lot of people saying that in these interviews. Seriously, it's like that answer is fucking rehearsed in a conspiratorial committee. The praise is evidently universal, but why does it stand out for you? What keeps you coming back for more, even though it's an experience primarily designed to punish the player for even daring to pick up the controller? Not saying that's a bad thing at all, but I'm curious as to why you chose that above anything else.
Because it's only designed to punish you if you refuse to follow its rules. It's one of the few games out there where you cannot cheap your way out of everything by learning a few combos or moves and patterns. It requires patience with every encounter. It requires you learn its system. It requires you to play the game and not just game
I chose it for a dying person because the lore. Death is going to come, but that doesn't mean you have to go hollow because of it.
With so many sites in existence, and the internet having no shortage of places to hang one's virtual hat, why Destructoid?
Because of the community. I have a lot of people I consider friends here even though I haven't met most of them. I wish I could say the content but the days of great originals and the "rebels of gaming" attitude seem to be long gone.
How would you get that original feeling to return? Is there some sort of magic formula or spice that is no longer present, an attitude, something intangible? How can Destructoid get its groove back?
I don't think it can to be honest. The amazing talent that created that feeling has all been driven away or moved on.
Do you think that there's enough amazing talent latent in this community to restore what's been lost, perceived or otherwise? Or is it that a particular time period passed and things are just too different now to ever go back?
I think there could be, but it would never be tapped in the current environment. Dtoid is more worried about who it's offending and busy trying to please everyone so much that anyone with a different take on things would be maligned. It doesn't help that the support for people who made mistakes or held an opinion not accepting of everyone isn't there. If you don't fit the current narrative and ruffle too many feathers, you're gone. The Jim Sterling of the past would be fired on the spot today.
Why do you think that is? Is this a "mo' money, mo' problems" scenario? Or just the price that the site has to pay for rising to such levels of visibility? Do you think there's a way to ride a line between publicly acceptable and unapologetically irreverent?
Definitely "mo' money, mo' problems." No one's gonna hate on someone trying to make more money, I just hope or wish every other option was exhausted before trying to become another cookie-cutter gaming site. Destructoid had big fucking balls and a huge "we don't give a shit" attitude for a long time. Now, it's all about the feels.
I'm sure there's got to be some sort of "code of conduct" that has to be followed in order for the mainstream gaming press machine to let you in the damn door. Destructoid was really lucky that they broke in the way that they did, because now, shit is a whole lot more stringent and controlled, and perhaps that's not a good thing. However, I'm fairly positive that the reason why Dtoid maintains the level of visibility and access they do is because they know when to bow. With that said, is there any way of reconciling the two halves - the Destructoid of old and the Destructoid of now? Can they truly not give a shit and walk around with those big fucking balls without someone trying to take shots at what may be an obvious weak point, and a sensitive one, at that? Furthermore, can they go back to their old ways and still keep that press pass, and if not, should they continue on being safe or go pack to pushing envelopes, before someone else does and takes away what they used to do best?
I'm sure there is a way to carry the aura of the past and not piss off the advertisers who pay the bills. I'm assuming that's what most of the current and coming changes (that I'm sure are happening) are going to be about. The Dtoid of before didn't care that someone took shots at their brazen attitude. I left Kotaku even though I was a "star commenter" twice-over due to being banned for behavior that was considered "more appropriate for the likes of Destructoid." Now, look at the shit-hole that site has become due to them trying to accommodate everyone and everything. You can't talk about gaming journalism without Kotaku being the pussy at the end of the joke.
I'm not on the inside, so I can't know for sure if they can go back, but I don't know why anything they did before would cost them their press pass now. But, I am quite sure that some other place will take up the mantle they've left behind. This is the internet, we love our assholes. See Phil Fish.
Does Destructoid have the power to become self-sufficient? By opening the floodgates to the community and asking for funding instead of relying solely on advertising, do you think this would encourage a higher level of, for lack of a better term, brutality in honesty? Sort of like how you can watch a cop show on broadcast television, but if you watch the same show on HBO, shit is going to be, get and keep things at least 600% more real? Do you think that they should look at the community as its true source of power in more ways than they already do, and if so, could it realistically work? Is Dtoid on the verge of becoming on the lines of a Penny Arcade, something that could be basically sustained by its level of fandom and the dedication of its community? Or, am I just talking out of my ass, and it's all going to go Kotaku 2.0?
Self-sufficiency is a gamble. I would like to think the community could fund the site, but I also know plenty who wouldn't give a dime due to some of the changes that have been made over time. As far as Dtoid looking at the community as it's source of power, I'm sure they already do to an extent. They used to do it more so than now, but Niero isn't dumb and I don't believe he would abandon us all in the hopes of more money. However, the problem with all of this is that I'm answering questions with less than a full percentage of the details needed. The site definitely feels like it's going into the Kotaku 2.0 area, but I could be very wrong and these new ideas they've been talking about for the community could be everything we've been wanting. I'm still here, and so are some of the other "old timers," so we're obviously hoping for the best. I'm glad you said that - here's my last question on the subject: I understand that this place is a business. People get paid here. There is a form of livelihood for some, a place of solace for others, and advertising revenue makes it all happen. With the desire to move away from that established model being vented in some form, would the community (or at least the portion who gave a shit about it, which I would imagine to be fairly significant) benefit from transparency of either the more or more often varieties? Would a lot of these discussions become null and void if we just knew something that wasn't intensely debated over for a day, then dropped for at least a third of a calendar year? Would more contact about these plans and more community involvement make for an easier pill to swallow?
Transparency only hurts when the deeds are sinister in nature, hence why the government doesn't like us knowing shit (lol). I say yes to knowing what's in the works behind the curtain. One only needs to remember the time Destructoid tried to rebuild the entire site as one unit and make their own forums to realize how bad something can be when it's just simply implemented, sight unseen, with no community feedback first.
Is there anything you would change about Destructoid? Anything you'd preserve at all costs?
I'd bring back Ron Workman. That man embodied community. He invented the NARP. He would visit random Dtoiders just to party with them. He was the attitude incarnate the site claimed to have. The only thing I would preserve is the forums.
Do you believe the community to be fragmented due to its sheer size? Is something like this impossible in scale, or should we all just be attempting to be the change we wish to see on this site? Do you feel that this should be something we take into our own hands, or should we seek the blessing of the men at the mountaintop first?
I would say it would be something to take into our own hands, but unfortunately, the drive to be "everything for everyone" means it's not possible. There are so many restrictions on everything now compared to then in an attempt to please everyone. I hope it works out for them.
One last question: Who do you think you are?
An enigma playing a role. Sometimes the role changes.
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