Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

One shot: Frank Sanchez

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 20, 2009

MMO community connection:

Overly Positive

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

If I was writing in the “voice” of Overly Positive, I’d say that people are just SO jaded and cynical these days. Genuine excitement and praise has long since been ridiculed as being as blind as a kid playing pin the tail on the jackass. At Overly Positive, we bring back the idea that being happy isn’t just a good thing, it’s a great and less stressful thing, too. Let the rest of the Internet have their “rants” and their “nerd rage” – at this blog, even the equivalent of nuclear fallout is actually a good thing from a certain perspective (hey look – real estate opportunities!).

In reality, I’m generally an optimist – or, that failing, I don’t really sweat the small stuff. Murphy has ruled with his Law for quite some time, and bad things will happen. Geeky society has moved from being socially outcast to being wry and quick-witted. When it comes to the geek media – things like sci-fi, gaming, comic books, and TV shows – geeks tend to be passionate, and in some cases, as angry and sarcastic as the worst mainstream sports fan or “normal” person. I’m basically filling a niche that basically says, “it’s not a big deal, and in fact there’s something good to be gotten out of anything.”.

Allow me to quote from your about page: “Ever wonder if bloggers sometimes have their cereal pissed in every day to have the hate they do.” I guess that would explain my hatred, but how do you manage to remain so “positive?”

Well, people have accused me of everything from having brain surgery to extract the hate to certain recreational drugs. The real key is just in attitude and seeing “the big picture”. Whether you’re talking about a game you play or the TV shows you watch or the tech things that you build, if you’re a geek you’re doing these things because they’re fun – because they provide you with some kind of entertainment and joy. Simply put, if you’re angry enough that you’re not having fun, or you’re not enjoying yourself, why waste effort and blood vessels being pissed about it? It’s just not practical, and the rather cathartic feeling you get from screaming, yelling, or typing a post on the Internet to someone insulting them and their progeny is simply short term.

I just don’t let a lot bother me. Years of being a moderator on various forums, where insults are as regular as a bathroom break, might have helped this, though.

What was your introduction to MMOs and what was that experience like?

I first technically got into MMOs before they were really “massive”, back when I played MUDs. Gemstone III and various free to play text-based adventures were my introduction to online role-playing games. Then when Ultima Online came out, I jumped on board that, and the rest is history.

You know, back in those days, the unforgiving nature of these kinds of games was simply a fact that you lived with. There was permanent loss of your loot, there was player-killing, and there was having to retrieve your naked corpse from the worst places, where possibly being eaten by a monster inspired by a grue was the least of your worries. These were the kinds of things that were expected when you played MMOs, so there wasn’t a huge culture shock or surprise at engaging in MMOs. Frankly, I experienced more of a shock when I realized that I could actually keep my hard-earned armor or that death was as meaningful as a walk in the park.

Can you recall that first MMO “wow!” moment?

I think when the first MMOs that really started utilizing the ability of a graphics card came out, like Everquest, was when there were “wow” moments – small ones, like seeing a zone load the first time, or watching a ton of players killing mobs in a zone. But nothing beats your very first raid, where you come upon a boss monster so huge and epic it seems to dwarf your party. These are always “wow” moments for two reasons – one, because the encounter is likely to not be one that you’ve experienced before and two, because you almost certainly die in a matter of moments.

If possible, list all the MMOs you’ve played extensively. Please start from the beginning and work your way up to the present.

Well now you’re just asking for it. In order of appearance:

  • Gemstone III
  • Ultima Online
  • Everquest
  • Earth and Beyond
  • EVE
  • Final Fantasy XI
  • Dark Age of Camelot
  • City of Heroes/Villains
  • World of Warcraft
  • Warhammer Online

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

When I was a senior officer and co-raid leader for the guild Templar Knights on Archimonde/Mug’thol in WoW, that was probably the peak time of my play. There, I was spending at least 35 hours a week raiding, planning, dealing with logistics or drama, or farming.

These days, with a lot of different (and more important) things in my life, including being married, having a job, paying my mortgage, and generally being suckered into internet community projects, it’s more like 8-10 hours a week. Yep – I’ve become a casual player, and perhaps that might actually help me not be so mad at certain things.

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

Sure – mostly with console games, though. I was a console gamer long before I was a PC or MMO player, with the Atari 2600 to the 360/PS3/Wii generation progression under my belt. I favor RPGs because they tend to last longer for me at my current playtime per week.

When did you first start blogging? Would you mind taking us up to present with all of your projects?

Overly Positive has really only been around a little over a year, but I’ve been actually writing and putting my thoughts to the internet for maybe 7 years now. Like most people, I started out with more personal blogging on Live Journal, then moved to other, brief projects in writing that honestly aren’t worth mentioning until the advent of Overly Positive, where I felt I really found a voice that, despite being an exaggerated parody of myself, was one I was comfortable with.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been tasked to write for other projects. For a few years I ran a 14,000 page site called AnimeInfo.org, which provided reviews, articles, and guides to the anime and manga industry. I also got into the wonderful and crazy world of convention planning, where I managed to provide significant roles (some of which involved me having to sound coherent on paper) through running departments and even chairing the events as a whole. Currently, I’ve put my community management experience to work as a contractor for Curse.com, where I serve as Assistant Site Manager for Warhammer Online fansite Warhammer Alliance. Among other things, I occasionally write OP-ED pieces about WAR under the name PhoenixRed for that site.

If you hadn’t noticed already, these kinds of things explain why I only play 8-10 hours a week now.

Do you see blogging as just a hobby or perhaps something more?

I enjoy writing positive articles and introducing a little bit of sun (even when it’s a bit purposefully overbearing and bombastic) into my corner of the Internet. I’ve honestly always enjoyed writing and blogging in general – this probably comes as no surprise considering my undergraduate degree is in English.

To be honest, if it became something more – and certain doors have been opened to that effect already – then I’d be quite happy. I see writing/blogging as more of a side project with side income, rather than a full-on job, per se, but finding a niche and a place that would be happy to have someone like me would definitely be exciting. Places like The Escapist and Destructoid feature passionate, prolific, and entertaining writers all the time, and someday, I wouldn’t mind joining their ranks.

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

The only hard and fast rule is at least one post a day. This is mostly to exercise my writing muscle, keep my pen sharp, and keep my content on Overly Positive fresh, of course. Typically on a day when I post, I’ll scour Google Reader for the blogs and sites that I keep up with. If I see something that strikes my fancy and could use a bit of sunny optimism, I write about it. The most times I post in a day usually doesn’t exceed three – once in the morning, once at lunch, and once in the evening. In the midst of that, I also take the time out to visit the various blogs I follow and leave comments for them. You’d be surprised at how having someone care enough to leave a comment can energize them to write more – and how they can reciprocate in kind by reading and leaving one for yours.

Would you say there is some grind involved in blogging? If so, what is it and how do you tend to cope with it?

There’s only a grind when you feel constricted, or have writer’s block about blogging. There’ve been times during Overly Positive when I just couldn’t inspire myself to write about something positive for the day. Sometimes it’s a mental thing, other times it’s other priorities, but blogging can become a real chore when that happens.

To be honest, if you are struggling with blogging, it’s usually best to take a break – clear your head, try to find that creative muse, and come back to it when you feel you can do it without really thinking about it. There are times I look at posts I make and don’t realize that I’ve posted 3 times in a day. When you can crank out articles, it’s a good sign for your future writing inspiration.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

Blogging is a permanent marker of your thoughts and ideas, committed to virtual ink and placed on the Internet for all to see. I think that a lot of times, we verbalize or think about something really profound, or really exciting, or really funny, and the really crappy thing is, it’s gone within hours, or sometimes minutes. When you blog, you’re creating an archive of your ideas and things that strike you, for reference or for simply getting it off of your chest. The experience is cathartic for a lot of people, which is why rant blogs are so popular and well-read – they’re an explosion of thought and ideas that many people can identify with when reading.

While massive readership is not needed to feel good about blogging, the fact that you have an audience of sorts is nice, because it validates that people find what you write meaningful. I have extremely limited readership for Overly Positive right now – but even for the 25 or so readers that hit up my feed, I find pleasure in making their day a bit more interesting with my quirky and thoughtful posting style.

Would you care to share a particularly memorable moment from your blogging past?

Whenever someone actually attempts to insult me on Overly Positive, I always respond with a kind of unnerving, perhaps even annoying kindness that fits with the voice of my writing. There was an article I wrote about what happened in Final Fantasy XI with a certain boss that one guild attempted for 18 hours. No, that’s not a typo – they were really raiding for 18 hours, to the point that some of them were physically getting ill from the effort. Now, I wrote on this particular issue in my own way, which is to say that I heaped unnatural praise for neglecting basic health needs and being generally insane. Well, apparently my bright attitude didn’t go over well with the FFXI community, who proceeded to roast me over the coals for being so sarcastically taunting. Thing is, every hate-filled comment I got was responded to with a blinding ray of sunshine and a huge virtual grin, and in some cases, it was disarming. I even got a comment from an FFXI GM. It was great.

Ever since then, I’ve had an Overly Positive Thoughts feature on Thursdays, where I provide the same kind of all-caps “THIS IS AWESOME” optimism to some of the worst pieces of news on the Net. Most people get the joke. Most.

Have you had any experience with podcasting? If so, what has that been like?

Over at Warhammer Alliance, we have a regular biweekly podcast. We’ve just passed 16 episodes and don’t seem to be in any danger of stopping anytime soon. I love podcasting, to be honest, and so do my co-hosts, who’ve also never done podcasting prior to this endeavor. Podcasting has been a challenge to overcome technical issues, features that didn’t work out, and commentary that has been a backlash to certain topics, but it has also been fulfilling and fun. Podcasting is sort of like blogging on steroids – the most interesting podcasts are a stream of shared consciousness from individuals with unique and interesting personalities. Even with a talented editor or producer, when you’re podcasting you’re kind of “blogging” without a safety net, because writing at least gives you the opportunity to better edit your own content. By contrast, your brain may cause your mouth to say something that might get you in trouble later (I didn’t mean to imply Halflings were only good for stew, honest).

Are you pleased with how your blog has been received in the blogosphere?

There’s a Japanese saying that says “There’s always someone better”. Seems pessimistic, sure, but the real message is that you should never be satisfied with the status quo. I like my humble little readership, but I’d love to reach out to more people, collaborate with them, and promote their projects too, which is why I’m more than happy to do this interview for this particular blog. Honestly, I’m not quite 100% with how I’ve been writing, but the constant comments and well wishes really are an encouragement to keep tuning under the hood.

If you had a chance to do it all over again, would you do anything different?

Probably not. Maybe I would have picked a wittier name, but boy, searching for the right domains has gotten so troublesome these days.

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

Sure – when I’m in my grave and dead. My own geeky tendencies, combined with my current online project responsibilities and my chosen profession in Information Technology, mean that I’m always going to be near a keyboard, which means I might as well do something worthwhile with it. No one can really predict the future, but for now, me and my optimism aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

One Response to “One shot: Frank Sanchez”

  1. [...] the link to the full interview. And hey – if you’re a blogger, see if you can help RC out. I’m sure he’d [...]

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