Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Brian

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 3, 2009

MMO community connection:
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Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Online I go by Blue Kae. It has no meaning, beyond I like blue and it matches my initials. I made it up when I wanted to get online with my Xbox 360 and needed to find a gamertag. Since then I’ve been able to stay pretty consistent using it for Steam, Xfire, GAX, Twitter, etc. That is also the name of my primary Eve Online character. In other games I like to stick to the lore so I try to come up with whatever is consistent with Tolkien, Warhammer, etc.

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

My only online presence is at http://www.bluekae.com, I haven’t hosted or guested on any podcasts, at least not yet.

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

My blog is primarily gaming related since that’s what I do with my free time at the moment, but I don’t intend on limiting it so I may talk about woodworking, home brewing, or anything else I get into and develop strong opinions on.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Heidelburg Germany (Dad was stationed there in the army), but I grew up in a small town called Aurora in south-eastern Indiana (think Cincinnati).

Where do you live now?

I live near Indianapolis, Indiana.

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?

Software developer.

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

Fiction writer.

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

  • I’m left handed.
  • I brew my own beer, stouts of course.
  • I had dual-citizen ship between US and Germany until I was 18.
  • I have two Parker Latitude stainless steel pens that I love to write with. I keep one at home in my office and I carry the other in my laptop bag.
  • All of my MMO characters are male. I’ve tried to play female toons, but I’ve never been able to spend more than an hour on any of them.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I’m married and we just had our first child back in October. Being a parent is simultaneously the most fun, frightening, and frustrating thing I’ve ever done.

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 grew up out in the country so we rode dirt bikes, played army in the woods, and swam in my above ground pool.

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

I had/have very little hand-eye coordination so my hobbies were music and reading.

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

My very first experience with pen and paper RPG’s was in the boy scouts. A group of older boys were running an AD&D campaign and I remember sitting for hours and watching. It was neat because it was like getting inside a Tolkien story. I don’t remember how long after that, but I got the D&D Red Box game as soon as I could.

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.

I read quite a bit. My mom used to pay me to read books because she’d read/heard that it helped with intelligence. My reading was all books, no comics (that didn’t happen until college). I used to read anything fiction I could get my hands on. I read the entire Hardy Boys series from my elementary school library. My most memorable experience with books was reading Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings during the course of a summer when I was 10. That summer marked the point when I primarily read fantasy and science fiction. My favorite authors as a kid were: Tolkien, Alan Dean Foster, and David Eddings.

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.

Completely. My experience with Tolkien drew me to D&D which drew me to MMO’s. Computer gaming and later MMO’s were a way to get into role playing games without having to find other local people to play with or coordinate schedules.

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

I started with a Texas Instruments 99 and besides some educational games, I used to type in game programs from magazines and save/load them from audio tape.

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

There was no arcade near where I grew up, but I did get some time briefly in college before they all disappeared.

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

The Bard’s Tale on the Apple IIe, I spent hours and days playing that and creating characters complete with background stories.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Nintendo Entertainment System, PS2, Xbox, and Xbox360. I have a big console gap between Nintendo and PS2 where I solely played PC games.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I had some exposure to MUDs in college although I can’t remember the names of any of them. I ran across some references to different games on various Usenet groups and tried a few out. I liked the concept, but I don’t remember getting very deep into them. I found that I preferred single-player RPG’s with some graphical element to them.

What was your first MMO experience?

My first MMO was EverQuest which I started a few months after launch in fall of 1999. I developed an immediate and intense addiction to the game that lasted for about three months. When I would get home from work I would boot my PC and while that was going change out of my work clothes and throw a pizza in the oven. Once I was set for the night, I would login and play for eight hours. So my days were work for eight hours, play EQ for eight hours, and sleep/commute the rest. This lasted for about three months until I burned myself out. It’s nice when your ADD can cancel out your OCD. I played for another six months after that in a more sane fashion before quiting.

If possible, list all the MMOs you’ve played extensively.

  • EverQuest - Wizard
  • Dark Age of Camelot – Shaman
  • Anarchy Online – Adventurer
  • Star Wars Galaxies – Marksman/Scout
  • EverQuest 2 – Wizard 41
  • World of Warcraft – Hunter 45
  • City of Heroes – Blaster 28
  • Guild Wars – Elementalist/Mesmer 13
  • Lord of the Rings Online – Hunter 60
  • Eve Online – Missions/Mining/Indutry 14 million Skill Points
  • Warhammer – Dwarf Engineer 24

What is your current MMO of choice, or perhaps, what are your current MMOs of choice?

I am currently playing Lord of the Rings Online and Eve Online.

Which MMO have you spent the most time playing? How long would you say that has been?

I played City of Heroes the longest at 3 years, although LoTRO is fast becoming the current all time leader. Of course having a lifetime subscription kind of makes that the default.

Have you reached level cap in any MMO? If so, which ones?

I’ve ony reached the level cap in LoTRO, first to 50 about two weeks before Moria was released and again to 60 once the cap was raised. I tend to obsess and then burn out pretty quickly on most MMO’s, so hitting the level cap in LoTRO was a pretty big deal to me.

Loki taps you on the shoulder one day to inform you that you have fallen victim to one of his elaborate pranks. The world you’ve been inhabiting of countless MMOs to choose from and play has merely been a dream. In reality only one MMO exists. After laughing at you for a bit he decides to take pity on you and allows you to choose which MMO will remain. Which one would you choose and why?

That’s difficult, but I would have to say LoTRO. I am a huge Tolkien nerd, plus Turbine has had an excellent track record of supporting the game.

Are there any MMOs currently in development that you are particularly interested in? Please explain.

I’m most looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic. I would be excited regardless because of the IP, but I’m interested to see Bioware’s story-driven approach to MMO’s.

Chapter 4: Preferences

At your peak, how much time per week would you say you spent gaming? How about now?

My peak was probably 60 hours a week when I was a bachelor and could get away with it. Now that I’m married and a father, I’m usually in the 20 hours range with most of that on the weekends.

When during the week are your regular play times?

I play a little at night after my wife and son go to bed, but my consistent playtime is weekends from evening until whenever I drag myself to bed.

Generally speaking, are you more of a social creature in MMOs (grouping to quest, joining guilds, etc.) or something of a lone wolf?

I’m a lone wolf probably 90% of the time. I group occasionally when I need to, but I’m very picky about joining guilds and I usually don’t put much effort into tracking one down that would be a good fit.

Have you made any lasting friendships through your MMO experience? Please explain.

Nope. Mostly being a solo player with the occasional pickup group doesn’t lend itself to developing friendships online. There have been two groups of players, one in DAoC and one in CoH, that I got pretty involved with, but the friendships didn’t last past my time in the game.

Before logging into a game, do you already have a course of action planned out in your head, or do you just sort of do whatever you feel like once in game?

Depends on the game. When I log into EVE I usually always have plans, but I’ve found that’s necessary for a sandbox game. With LoTRO, I often have no specific plan and just get on to play.

When playing MMOs do you tend to just play one at a time or do you take more of the smorgasbord approach?

I used to limit myself to one active subscription at a time. As the genre expanded that became more difficult to do. My rule now is two at a time, but I’ve bent that rule a little by getting a lifetime subscription to LoTRO. I’m currently paying for EVE and CoH, which is my one serious and one nostalgia/experiment subscription. I’ll drop CoH sometime soon and pickup EQ2 or something else, I had resubscribed to WoW for a month before CoH.

Do you tend to supplement your MMO gaming with other PC, console or tabletop games?

I play PC and console games as well. My PC tastes are mostly RTS games like Warhammer 40k Dawn of War and Sins of a Solar Empire. I play a lot of Xbox 360 games as well like Fable 2, CivRev, and RockBand 2.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Depends on the game. In EverQuest 2, I only every played my Gnome Wizard Mallon, but I LoTRO I have 6 of the 7 characters slots filled. In the original EverQuest I used to create a character, play to level 5 or 6, then create a different character and start over. In DAoC I only played my Troll Shaman Nallas. Usually I just identify too strongly with my initial character and never develop any interest in playing through the starting content again. LoTRO especially has been different because I enjoy pretty much all of the classes.

Do you find yourself multitasking while gaming (perhaps watching TV, talking on the phone, out of game instant messaging, playing another game, or even listening to a podcast)?

I’ll often listen to podcasts while playing, although not if I’m grouping. TV, phone, and IM are too distracting, and music isn’t distracting enough.

Do you find yourself having much MMO discussion off-line, perhaps with friends or family?

No, most of my family and friends don’t play games at all let alone MMO’s.

Have you ever felt that you game too much? If so, how did you cope with that?

I like this quote from Russell Bertrand: “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” http://quotationsbook.com/quote/39255/

I often hear people talk about feeling bad about time they waste playing games, but the question I always like to ask is, “What would you be doing instead?” There’s not much difference between playing a game, reading a book, or watching TV for an hour. Of the three, watching TV is probably the least healthy for you. The level of social acceptance of TV versus video games is something that has always bugged me, but fortunately is changing as more gamers become parents.

Since you started playing MMOs, have you ever taken a break from the genre? If so, please explain.

Absolutely. I took a break after DAoC, but that’s because there was nothing new I was interested in. Since then, I haven’t taken a long break from the genre, but I will occasionally take a few weeks or few months off. Usually in that time I’ll be focused more on console or single-player PC games, or on another hobby like woodworking or home brewing.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

I started blogging in September 2008 with Blue Kae. It’s my soap box for anything gaming related either PC or console. I may expand into comics, movies, etc. but so far gaming issues have been the only things that I felt a need to write about. I’ve recently started writing for QuillDragon, which is a new fantasy literature blog launched May 2009 by Regis from the Wizards & Wenches Warhammer blog.

Why do you blog?

I’d had been reading blogs (mostly gaming blogs) for quite a while, and then I discovered podcasts. I rarely commented on blogs, I was usually content to read the post and sometimes the comments, but almost never moved enough to comment myself. I finally started my own gaming blog because I had some rants related to DRM that I needed to get on “paper”.

Do you have a schedule or some sort of routine you try and follow when blogging?

I don’t have a regular schedule. I generally try to have at least one post a week, but if I don’t have something worth saying I’m fine with not posting. Sometimes a news story or a gaming experience will cause a flurry of activity and I might post two or three times in a day.

I do most of my reading from Google Reader and I have about 70 gaming blog subscriptions, more with comment subscriptions. I do my reading from work during spare moments and in the evenings after my wife and baby are asleep. Sometimes during my reading I’ll get an idea for a post and I’ll stop and put together a draft, although I may just comment on author’s post instead. Which one I do depends on how much I have to say about it, I don’t like to do link outs in comments but I will link to the original post that prompted mine.

Is there some grind involved in blogging? If so, what is it and how do you cope with it?

Not for me. I felt a little pressure early on to try and make sure there was always something up on the site, but I got over that pretty quick. I’m passionate enough about gaming that I usually have something I need to post about in any given month. If I do start to feel a grind, I’ll probably step back for a bit.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

I love the writing. It’s an opportunity to organize and clarify my thoughts. Sometimes I’ll start a post and delete it because I realized I didn’t have enough to say on a subject, and sometimes I’ll intend to put up a quick note and write a screen-full. I also like the conversational element, I’m still excited anytime I see comments on a post and so far I’ve always been able to respond.

How many people offline know you blog?

Only a few. I don’t generally bring it up and it doesn’t come up much in conversation. I talk about it occasionally to my wife and to a friend of mine whose an MMO gamer. Most of my friends and family are not gamers or geeks for the most part and very few of them listen to podcasts or read blogs.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to try their hand at blogging?

Writing is deeply personal, so my only advice would be to do it because you need to, not because you feel like you should or are trying for money or popularity. Don’t try to imitate anyone else. Pay attention to grammar and spelling. Find other blogs about the same subject matter and make constructive comments, but don’t include you’re site link in the comment, if people are interested they’ll click on you’re name and find your blog.

What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you first started?

I had been reading other blogs for so long before I started my own, that I had a pretty good handle on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. The only thing I wish I had done differently was started sooner.

Can you picture a future where you will hang up your keyboard and no longer blog?

Nope. Anything is possible, but I can’t imagine coming to a point when I don’t want to write/blog. I may take a break at some point if it becomes a grind, but I’m sure I would always come back.

At your funeral, what song(s) would you have played as your corpse is set alight and cast out to sea on a funeral barge?

The Overture from the Barber of Seville, it’s an excellent piece of classical music and the sound track from my favorite Looney Tunes episode.

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