Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on February 20, 2009

MMO community connection:

Grinding to Valhalla

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Randolph Carter

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

I’ve just recently started this Valhalla project, and beyond that I don’t think anyone here would know me from Adam.

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

I’ve done my best to try and explain what this project is here.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Tyler, Texas.  I grew up in Richardson, Texas…a suburb in north Dallas.

Where do you live now?

Sachse, Texas.  Let’s hear you pronounce that one.

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


What do you do for a living?

I am a cataloger at a public library.  Interesting job that.   I also order the science fiction and fantasy titles for our collection.

If you could reroll, what would you be?

I’ve always thought it would be interesting to work as a game developer, maybe for a company like Bioware or Bethesda.  However, I’m not one who works very well under pressure or with deadlines.  I’m sure I’d get fired.  Then I’d probably be a cataloger.

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

  • I’ve lived in Texas all my life and have never owned a cowboy hat or boots and have never really enjoyed country music.  I just don’t go that way.  I do chew tobacco on occasion when I’m running an instance.  No I don’t.  I just lied there.
  • Although I’ve spent time in six different MMOs, I don’t have a max level character in any of them.  Shame on me.  Thanks WotLK!
  • I met my wife online.  No, not playing an MMO.  What kind of a person do you think I am?
  • I have a man crush on Captain Feathersword.  So does my son.
  • I was around 10 years old when Star Wars came out.  I went to see it at the theater even.  I was not blown away.  I’ve seen all the subsequent releases and have felt the same about each and every one.  In fact, I think the latter ones have gotten progressively worse.  Obviously there is something broken in me.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I’m married to a wonderful, very patient lady and we have one 18-month-old son.  I also have an older mother and brother and two big dogs.

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 seem to recall playing quite a bit of Monopoly and Yahtzee when I was younger. I also played a lot outdoors and games like kick the can, hide and seek, tackle the man, come to mind. My family was also big into card games (spades, hearts, even a little bridge), but I think where I really started to get into gaming was with Risk. I would play with several of my friends and we’d go for hours on end. I remember really getting worked up when someone was attacking me. I’d get nervous. My heart rate would go up and I’d start sweating. Fast forward 30 years and you’ll see me experiencing the very same sensations when I engage in PvP. It’s not exactly a pleasant sensation in my autumn years though.

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

I played my share of organized soccer, basketball, and about 9 seasons of baseball. I took a year’s worth of classical guitar lessons and learned enough to strum a melody all these years later.

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

Indeed. I think it must have been the summer of my seventh grade year (we read “The Hobbit” in class earlier that year, so I was hungry for fantasy) when one of my friend’s older brothers introduced us to D&D. The two older boys would let us watch them play but refused to let us in on the action saying that we were too young and immature. We finally broke them down and were soon playing away the rest of the summer. I think I played pretty steady for about 3 years. Then girls came along and too many of us didn’t make their saving throw.

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 really don’t think I got into reading until my 7th grade year. We read “The Hobbit” in class and that, as so many people have mentioned, was a life changing experience. From there I went on the Piers Anthony Xanth books and Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series. I’ve never heard of H. P. Lovecraft though.

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.

D&D had a huge impact on me. I started reading nothing but fantasy from that point forward. I switched from collecting Iron Man comics to Conan. Pretty much anything game related has involved fantasy in some shape or form ever since.  I don’t think I’ve ever really ventured outside the fantasy based MMO either.

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

I won a contest at school for selling the most spice racks. Well, my dad did actually. He took my order sheet to work with him and got a ton of people to place orders. The grand prize was a glorified Pong system with bonus rifle pack. I must have been in 4th grade at the time. So, somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 or 10. I seem to recall being able to point the rifle at the wall and still hit the moving target on screen. Impressive.

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

I was pretty self conscious as a kid and having people watching over my shoulder while I was gaming wasn’t my idea of fun. If I could have had the arcade to myself I would have been in heaven. I think that’s why the console worked so well for me over the years. I could screw up to my heart’s content and no one else would be the wiser.

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

I remember a friend of mine had an Odyssey 2 and he had a Lord of the Rings inspired game called “Quest for the Ring.” I remember getting very excited when I went over to his house. Just the idea of playing a fantasy based video game was enough for me. I seem to recall the game was something of a hybrid between a board game and video game, for it came with a game board and some playing pieces. Sweet, eh? Looking back I can see how rudimentary the game play and graphics were, but at the time it was like mana from heaven. Unfortunately my friend had played the game to death before showing it off to me, and I could hardly ever pry him away from his impressive collection of nudy magazines to play the game with me.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Atari 2600, NES, Super Nintendo, Playstation, Playstation 2, Xbox, and Xbox 360.

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

We had our own D&D group with a very lax DM who would let us get away with all sorts of things-murder just being one of them. Eventually we became ridiculously powerful and about the only thing left for us to do was start challenging gods and demigods out of the D&D pantheon. And that’s what we did. Well, there was this other group of D&D players who lived further down the street from us and one time we managed to get together for a gaming session. Their DM was ultra strict. One of their players was wielding a plain digging shovel as a weapon. Another was wearing a barrel for armor. No joke. Suffice it to say we had trouble finding a suitable adventure for our two groups to go through together. Their players simply couldn’t believe how decked-out our party was. I don’t think this sat very well with their DM either. Funny the things you remember…

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I remember watching over one of my roommate’s shoulders in college playing some MUD. His character was represented by an ampersand and the dungeon walls were pound signs. Eventually he came across a creature (I think it was the dragon) which was a dollar sign. At the time it was awesome. He never would let me play it though as he thought I might break his computer. Being the spineless person that I still am today, I was happy just to watch him run around slaying keyboard symbols for hours on end.

What was your first MMO experience?

That would have been Wow back in March of 2005. I had been looking for a copy of the game soon after launch and wasn’t having luck finding a copy anywhere. Eventually I found myself in a Game Stop looking for a game me and my buddy could play and I noticed a huge display of WoW boxes behind the counter. I asked the lady working that day, “Those are empty display boxes, right?” When she told me no and then asked if I would like to purchase one, I almost danced a jig right then and there in the store.

Oddly enough, however, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for what an MMO experience was going to be like. I think the first month or so of playing I pretty much stuck to a single player game mindset–never chatting with anyone or ever setting foot in the auction house. It took two of my closest friends to start playing to get me to start opening up more to the experience.

I sometimes regret not getting into MMOs back in the days of Ultima Online and Everquest, but I happened to be in a rather unhealthy marriage at the time which took 8 years to self destruct. I simply didn’t have the stamina or emotional well being to play video games at the time.  I think my second wife would say I’m making up for lost time now though.

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

  • World of Warcraft – Level 73 priest, level 72 druid.
  • Everquest 2 – Level 36 necromancer.
  • Vanguard – Level 27 hunter
  • Lord of the Rings Online – Level 40 hunter, level 30 minstrel

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

Lord of the Rings Online

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

That would have to be WoW. I’m thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 years.

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

At one point I had reached the cap in WoW, but then RotLK changed that.

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?

Although I can’t seem to bring myself back to playing WoW again, I’d have to say WoW. All of my real life friends are still playing there and I’m thinking if this were the only game around, I could find ways of keeping my enthusiasm up for the game.

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

I can’t say that there are. Although I’ve been hearing some nice things about Earth Rise. The only MMOs I’ve played have been in the high fantasy genre. I think I might enjoy a change of pace.

Feel free to share an interesting or amusing anecdote related to your MMO gaming experience.

The Story of plucky Patpen


Randolph Carter

I’m not much of a PvPer, yet at one point in my illustrious WoW career I found myself playing on a PvP server. All of my friends were there as well, and we were playing on the horde side. Anyway, one evening a group of five of us was questing over in Arathi Highlands at Stormgarde Keep and we ran across a lone hapless night elf hunter named Patpen. Seeing how he was of a similar level to our party, we made short work of him and then went about our business. Within a few minutes Patpen was back and began expertly exploiting his surroundings (remember, a good portion of Stormgarde is filled with alliance NPCs) and was able to take us all down rather painfully one at a time. We were shocked. This must have been a fluke and we all agreed to go back and teach Patpen a lesson. What should have been a 20 minute diversion ended up becoming a 2 hour marathon exercise in futility. 5 corpse runs later, licking our wounds we decided to call it a night.

By the way, adding insult to injury, his pet cat was aptly named HordeRaper.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

I’d say between 25-30 hours a week during my in-between marriage phase.

How about now?

Probably between 15-20.

When during the week are your regular play times?

I play pretty much every night, but during the week it’s usually only for an hour or two after my son goes to bed. Friday and Saturday nights I usually have an extended gaming session lasting until the witching hour or so.

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

If I’m playing with friends I know in real life I will be more sociable. That means that in WoW I am in a guild and tend to group up with friends regularly. When I dabble outside of WoW, I generally go the lone wolf route. I have joined several guilds but never seem to do much grouping or other socializing.

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

Not a one. And I’m not sure why that is, really. I’ve met a lot of friendly, helpful people online, but I just can’t seem to get past the initial acquaintance phase. I think I still have something of a single-player RPG mentality when I play my MMOs and don’t open up much beyond that.

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?

I usually don’t and I think that’s become more and more of a problem for me. More times than not, I tend to find myself staring at the screen once I log in wondering what to do next. There have been times when I’ve done a bit of planning before logging in and things tend to go smoother then. You’d think I’d learn.

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

Generally just one, but I have juggled two on the rare occasion. It didn’t end up very well. I found myself spread too thin and with the limited play time I now have, it just doesn’t make any sense. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to play more than one. I just don’t have the time or the mental stamina.

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

I have an Xbox 360 I fire up now and then, but for some strange reason I tend to fall asleep when gaming on the couch. PC gaming seems to be the only thing that can keep me awake later at night.

Are you something of an altoholic?

I am and I wish I wasn’t. Invariably the first class I pick is the one I eventually end up leveling to any extent, but I always piddle around with alts at first to make sure I’m not picking the wrong character. I also start experimenting with alts just before I get to burnout phase in the game I’m playing.

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 don’t. I even listen to in-game sound. On the rare occasion I will tab out of a game to look something up on the internet, but generally I like to have my gaming experience as immersive as possible.

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

I bet my wife wishes I’d shut up about my gaming exploits. She used to play WoW and we would go for long walks discussing strategy and the pros and cons of the game. Those were fun walks. Now, I pretty much just spew forth and she rather patiently listens. I always start off with, “Would you mind if I talked about such-and-such game for just a minute?” It’s never just a minute though.

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

What kind of a question is that? Who comes up with this stuff?

Yes, I think I go through periods of feeling guilty about my gaming, but having read through others’ responses here who seem to be at peace with their gaming hobby, I think I’m feeling pretty good about my gaming again.

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

When I got married again I took a 6 month hiatus from MMOs only to return to the genre with wife in tow. I haven’t taken a break since.

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