Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on March 6, 2009

MMO community connection:

West Karana

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Brenda Holloway, AKA Tipa after a favorite EverQuest character that I have taken from game to game ever since.

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

I blog at West Karana. This has almost nothing to do with the EverQuest zone, The Plains of Western Karana, but through diligence and bribery, typing “West Karana” into Google now puts my blog above any results for the EQ zone. I sometimes wonder how SOE feels about that.

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

I write about MMOs, especially the ones I am playing or would like to play, at the West Karana blog. I also do only tangentially MMO-related silliness like my board game-inspired Adventures in Monopoly weekly webcomic, something forced upon me by a pewter bear that came with EQ2’s “The Shadow Odyssey” expansion.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Renton, Washington, when my dad worked at Boeing. Both parents felt so lonely for their native New England that they moved back to New England, to Massachusetts, where I grew up. We moved once more, to New Hampshire, and that’s where I lived until I got married and moved to California.

Where do you live now?

Back in New England. Like a bad penny, I returned, and now live in Connecticut.

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 web applications developer at a Fortune 50 insurance company.

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

A writer. Actually, if I were a writer for work, I doubt I’d enjoy it as much. I dunno. I guess I’d like to have a career as the daughter of a wealthy oil executive.

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

I doubt most people know anything at all about me, so that’s easy.

  • I wear glasses.
  • I like Diet Coke.
  • I love falling asleep to old movies.
  • I have owned three different Volkswagen Beetles.
  • The last time I dressed up for a SF convention, I went as a frozen telepath (from Babylon 5).

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I have a beautiful daughter, handsome son-in-law, and frankly, the cutest grandson in the entire world living in the Riverside area in California. My son has decided to embark on a personal spirit quest in Virginia that may last several years. I have a furry constant companion named Isis, who closely monitors how long I spend on the computer to be sure it doesn’t overlap mandatory cat time.

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?

Board and card games were really popular when I was a kid. Monopoly was a favorite, if we had time. At school, sometimes we played Scrabble in home room. Which seems odd, looking back on it. My sister and I played Chutes & Ladders and Candyland to death. When we visited our grandmother, we would play Sorry, Clue and Canasta with our cousins. Mom taught us kids to play Whist, Uno and Mille Bornes.

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

I read a lot. I also played trumpet and later color guard for the local Fife & Drum corp.

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

Yes, I was in the gaming club at the University of New Hampshire. We played AD&D first edition, Traveler, Kingmaker, Diplomacy, and way too much Risk. That’s where I learned to play Hearts, too.

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.

My mom was a huge reader, so mostly I read whatever books she read. And SHE got her books from a hippie named Norm. While babysitting for Norm and his wife, Gloria, I discovered Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, which changed my musical life forever.

I graduated from Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins to Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” books, which were — WEIRD. I read the Heinlein juveniles, because they were in the school library (Have Spacesuit — Will Travel, Tunnel in the Sky). During sixth grade science class, the girl sitting next to me was reading Kurt Vonnegut’s “Sirens of Titan”, and after that, nothing was the same. Turns out my father was also a Vonnegut fan. He used to work at GE, briefly, just out of college, and so had Vonnegut (though not at the same time or place). Dad was a HUGE fan of Vonnegut’s barely disguised satire of work at GE, “Player Piano”. And for some reason, he liked “Breakfast of Champions”, too.

My mom was more into the usual science fiction, and it was through her that I first read any Philip K. Dick. I’m not sure which book of his was the first I read, but “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” scarred me for life after I read it.

Mom gave me a boxed set of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings when I was 12 — I still have that, that’s one of the only two things she gave me that I still have. I wore out my copy of Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, and remember saving up my money to buy James Blish’s “Cities in Flight”.

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.

No, arcade games and later, computer games were a wholly new experience.

Well, when I was a kid, there really was nobody known as a “gamer” in the way we think of people today — a large subculture of people interested in gaming in general. That sort of generalizing wasn’t really common. So I really can’t answer how computer games or RPGs affected me in the years before either existed, in any public sense.

1980 was when I first realized that there was such a thing as a gamer, and that you could identify as one. Wargaming, the domain of middle-aged men, was being overtaken by the next generation. Even though you specifically said not to talk about computer RPGs or MMORPGs, it was computer games — via “Hunt the Wumpus” and “Hamurabi” and a thousand other games from the dawn of personal computing in the 70s — and then with Colossal Cave Adventure, Dungeon (AKA Zork), DECWars/Megawars, Walter Bright’s Empire and Rogue, all of which I played first in college — that made me a gamer.

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

The bowling alley in Concord (NH) had a few pinball machines. And one day, they had piinball machines plus Spacewar and that snake game and Bricks. This must have been 1976 or so (so I’d be about 15). After that, video games were everywhere — Sub Hunt in the local pizza place, Space Invaders and Boot Hill and some racing game in the Sheraton’s lobby. When I went to college in 1979, the golden age of arcade gaming was just beginning — Galaxian, that 3D tank game, Asteroids…

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

Yes. In fact, on our honeymoon, we went to an arcade in Laconia, on Lake Winnepesauke. Among other things 🙂 New Hampshire is still famous for its Funspot arcade, home of the Classic Videogame and Pinball Tournament.

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

Space Invaders. I’d won some certificate for a meal at a local restaurant at school. My grandfather brought me, and we were seated at a table with a built in Space Invaders. I had so much fun 🙂

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Atari 2600, Colecovision, Super Nintendo, Playstation (1,2 & 3), Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, Xbox 360.

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

Not sure I have any. As a kid, games were just how you spent rainy Saturdays.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

Lambda MOO had made a big splash in the social media. Their website says this was around 1993, and that sounds about right. It was very, very crowded, and I had no idea how to not just be another gawker looking at all the freaks… which wasn’t all that wrong, and I didn’t stay long.

What was your first MMO experience?

1998, Nexus: Kingdom of the Wind. I was looking for a free version of a game like Ultima Online, which I couldn’t afford at the time. It was great fun, I played it for several months. Even though it was just a 2D game, it was incredibly deep and had a great backstory. It’s still running, too.

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

  • Nexus: Kingdom of the Wind – I don’t remember my level. I think I was a mage class.
  • EverQuest – 67 Druid, 70 Rogue, 75 Cleric were my mains, in order.
  • Dark Age of Camelot – 34 Bard was my highest
  • Final Fantasy XI Online – 46 White Mage/Summoner I believe
  • World of Warcraft – 60 Priest
  • EverQuest 2 – 80 Troubadour, 80 Inquisitor
  • Wizard 101 – 50 Theurgist (Life Wizard)
  • City of Heroes – 21 Controller
  • Lord of the Rings Online – 36 Captain

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

I don’t really have a main game. I wander between EQ2, W101, LotRO, DOMO, etc.

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

By far, I’ve spent more time in EverQuest than any other MMO. I was unemployed :/ I’ve spent over 200 days playing EQ on all my characters combined. We used to compare /played times so I know pretty much exactly how much I played.

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

Yes, in EverQuest, EQ2, WoW (at the time), and Wizard 101.

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?

EverQuest, the way it was when it started. But without so much crowding. I’ve never met so many good friends as I did in EverQuest. Never felt that same sense of wonder, mystery and danger. It was an open enough game that players could invent entirely new things, like marketplaces and raiding, which would set the standard in newer games from then on (and even be adopted by the devs themselves).

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

Star Trek Online looks good, It looks like an Exploration-based MMO. We haven’t had any of those since EQ went Achiever, but before then, all MMOs were Exploration or Social based. Asheron’s Call, Ultima Online…

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

Too many. I couldn’t even start.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

At peak, when I was unemployed, I bet at least 30 hours a week. Now, it’s about 15 in a variety of games.

When during the week are your regular play times?

From about 7 or 8pm until 11 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?

I like to do things with friends, or alone. I don’t really group with people I don’t know too much.

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

I have made MANY. Some people I met back in 1999, I still talk to today, even though we’ve long since changed games.

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 see what friends are doing (yay, XFire), and if that’s something I want to get in on, I chat with them out of game and then log in. Otherwise, I don’t often sit down to play. More often I just read people’s blogs for awhile, and then if I feel an urge for a specific game, I play it.

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 be a single MMO player, back when I was serious. Now I am completely casual and go where the whim takes me.

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

I have some DS games and some PS3 games, but I feel I am missing a chance to be with friends if I am playing by myself, so I inevitably find myself on the computer, firing up an MMO or just chatting via XFire or Twitter while I play Flash games.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Not any more. Since i went casual, I stopped really wanting to see newbie content again and again.

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)?

Always. I am either watching a movie, or a TV show on Hulu, or listening to music, or playing a game on my DS at the same time. Wizard 101 fights are so slow that I just play my cards and then tab to a browser until it’s my turn again.

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

Not really. I don’t know anyone offline who really cares about MMOs, or even really knows what they are.

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

I gamed too much when I was unemployed. But now my kids are grown, I have a good job, if I want to play MMOs or do anything else I want to do, why not?

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

No. Since I started playing Nexus: Kingdom of the Wind in 1998, I have been a dedicated MMO gamer. This was the kind of game I’d been looking for up til then.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

I started blogging October 2005, but I had been making blog-like posts on my EQ guild’s message boards for some time prior to that.

Why do you blog?

I can’t play every MMO, and I can’t play even the ones I have as much as I’d like. Blogging lets me experience games in a new way. I’ve always liked the metagaming that surrounds games — of which blogging is a part — as much as the games themselves.

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

I usually like to read my news feeds in the morning, take a show, then blog while my hair is getting dry enough to be manageable, before work.

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

I mix up my blogging just like I mix up the games I play. If I feel like writing an opinion piece, I do it. If I feel like just making a silly comic instead, I do it. If I feel like writing up something that happened to me in game, I do it. Story to tell? I do it. Commercial blogs perhaps have to set a tone and be consistent, but blogging is for fun.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

I like finding like people through blogging. Blogging is like being at a party where everyone is a friend, the ultimate social gathering. It doesn’t take high end graphics or the latest computer or a fast internet connection to do it, either. It’s just a bunch of friendly people, sharing stories, and everyone has their turn.

How many people offline know you blog?

My family (though mostly they aren’t MMO gamers and thus don’t read it), a couple people at work. Weird question, though. Who is offline these days?

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

Do it on a schedule, do it every day if you can, and do it because it’s something you like to do. People will find you eventually — but you can help things along by commenting on other people’s blogs, or sending in voice mail to podcasts in the hopes it gets played.

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

Don’t be a whiner.

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

Only if I find another creative outlet I like more.

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?

Requiem by Altan Urag.

My ashes swept up on the wind, and borne by the wind, fly over the frozen plains and embrace the earth.

3 Responses to “Tipa”

  1. Openedge1 said

    Notice how many bloggers wish to be writers (even when they are told they write like “assiness”, I believe was the word which was used in a beautiful diatribe against me once.)
    And by the way…you cheated. Any pic we see of you has glasses, so one of those is something we know darnit…we demand more juicy tidbits.

  2. […] Tipa […]

  3. […] Tipa […]

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