Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Jonathan Morris

Posted by Randolph Carter on March 16, 2009

MMO community connection:

The Online Gamer’s Anthology | Through The Aftermath

Chapter 1: Introduction

What is your name (your online persona/alter-ego, what have you)?

Jonathan Morris

What is your connection to the gaming/blogging/podcasting community (your chance to plug yourself here)?

Host of “The Online Gamer’s Anthology” podcast and co-host of the “Through The Aftermath” podcast.

Please take a minute and describe what your blog/podcast is about.

TOGA is a nostalgiac look back at the history of MMO’s and the games that influenced their creation. TTAM is a podcast about the post-apocolyptic genre of media.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan.

Where do you live now?

Saint George, UT.

Your level (age) is somewhere in the range of (pick one): 10-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90

31-40

What do you do for a living?

Service Manager for a corporate copier/fax dealership.

If you could reroll your career, what would you be?

I always wanted to be a Navy SEAL.

List five random things most people don’t know about you.

  • I inadvertantly use the word “frak” at least 6 times a day.
  • I frakkin’ LOVE Pepsi.
  • I was dead-set on being a movie director.
  • I know the lines to just about every episode of the British comedy “Red Dwarf” almost by heart.
  • I was terrible at Math in HS. Now I love game programming. How weird is that.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

Married with kids… a 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son. The force is strong with them, and they will be gamers like their father.

Chapter 2: Origins

What kind of games (if any) did you play as a child before you got into video gaming? Did you play with family, friends or was it more of a solo activity?

I was really fortunate to be introduced to gaming extremely early, by my Uncle. And right from the beginning, I was hooked. At age 5, I had PacMan curtains in my bedroom and drew little crayon pictures of DonkeyKong. The arcade world of the early 80′s totally shaped what would later become my world.

What other hobbies and/or activities did you have as a child (sports, music, etc)?

I loved to read. I think I blew through just about every “Choose Your Own Adventure” book they ever made!

Were you ever exposed to pen and paper role playing games? What was that experience like?

Ironically enough, my computer RPG love later LEAD me to pen-and-paper RPG’s, which is interesting because it’s usually the other way around. I played my first D&D game at a Boy Scout summer camp when I was 13. It was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen. I remember being totally blown away by the idea that your imagination was the graphics… it was like all my CRPG experience and love for reading finally came together at that moment. I knew my world would never be the same. From there I had pen-and-paper memories right alongside my computer RPG ones. My Junior High and High School moments were full of Ravenloft, Battletech, Spacemaster, and Vampire the Masquerade. Such good times.

Did you read much as a child? If so, what did you like to read (books, comic books, etc?) Please list some favorite authors, titles, etc.

Everything I could find. Books in particular that I remember the most were the Dragonlance series, Lord of the Rings, and John Christopher’s “Tripod” trilogy! And once, a kid in 5th grade threatened to kick my ass because he saw me reading Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010″… which was sad since I was not necessarily the “super-smart kid” he accused me of being… I just really loved sci-fi! :)

Would you say that any of these games or books had an effect on your later appreciation of computer gaming and ultimately MMOs? Please explain.

They were so intertwined, I honestly have no idea where I would have been if I hadn’t had both. I had always dreamed that someone would combine my favorite games with the ability to play online with someone else. I remember playing Ultima IV and talking with one of my friends (who was also playing U4), and saying how cool it would be if we could walk around in the Ultima world together. Little did I know that less than 8 years later Ultima Online would be one of the first MMO’s and we’d being doing exactly that!

How were you fist introduced to video games? How old were you? What was the platform?

Aside from the arcades (which my Uncle and my Dad took me to alot), my first video games were on the Texas Instruments TI99/4A playing Parsec and Donkey Kong. I was about 7 years old, if I remember right. And from there came the Atari 800 and then the Commodore 64, and it’s just kept right on going.

Did you ever play coin-op games at the arcade? What was that experience like?

I LOVED the arcades. It’s so sad that the arcade experience is all but gone now. The arcade world of the early 80′s for us was like our parents fondly looking back at the drive-in/cafe world of the 50′s. It was piece of history I wish even the younger gamers could have been a part of. I have extremely vivid memories of the “Timezone Arcade” down the street from where I lived when I grew up (alas, that place is long gone). Rows upon rows of Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, and Dragon’s Lair! Beeps and explosion noises from everywhere around you! And of course, pizza. There was something about eating greasy pizza and then jumping over to Galaga that made life seem perfect. Though the arcade world has made a slight comeback, it will never be quite the same as the arcades of the 80′s. Those were truly magical times. And remember when Chuck E. Cheese was brand new? That place was kid heaven!

What was the first video game you can remember playing that really made an impression on you? Please explain.

Though PacMan and DonkeyKong were my loves as a kid, “Montezuma’s Revenge” on the Atari800 was the first ones that made a HUGE impression. It was one of the first adventure-style games I’d ever played that had a final boss character and an open-ended world. I had that game down to a science! The other one I remember being completely influencial by was the first “Ultima”. That game was the start of what would later become a complete obsession with CRPG’s. And it has never stopped!

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

You name it, I owned it. I kid you not. Anything from the Atari 2600 to the big clunky first-gen Gameboy (man, I loved that Gameboy). Because my Uncle was continually passing on his older computers to me and I also had close friends who were console gamers, I was really fortunate to be able to have both computer games (like Ultima and King’s Quest) alongside all of the console games (like Zelda and Final Fantasy). Some of my fav’s were the NES and SNES, and the original Gameboy. Remember how exciting it was when the “Nintendo Power” magazine showed up in your mailbox? ;)

Feel free to share a story related to your gaming experience as a child.

Of all the memories of growing up with games, one of my favorites was the day my Uncle and I played Kings Quest 5 together. It was an absolutely stunning game… it was one of the first to have full 256-color graphics and it took the computer world by storm! One night my Uncle and I started playing the game, and we just didn’t want to stop. We were so drawn into the world and the characters, we never looked at the clock once. And when we finally did stop playing (right before the end level) it was 4:30 in the morning. That game was one of the most amazing adventure experiences I ever had. And playing it all night with my Uncle made it even better. To this day, we still talk about that game. :)

The other one I always think about was I played ZORK one night with my Dad. My Dad pretty much hated video games, but one day he saw me playing the text-adventure goodness that was ZORK, and was intrigued. Before long, we were running around the Great Underground Empire together and having a great time. My Dad never played a game with me since then, but even he remembers how much fun that time was. And he was the first to figure out that there was a trap door under the carpet in the white house! How did I miss that?! Do you have any idea how many times I walked around the forest or tried to jump off the cliff into the rushing river to find a way underground?? And then my Dad just shows up and does it. “>KILL TROLL WITH SWORD” indeed…

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