Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on March 19, 2009

MMO community connection:

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Ryan “Blackguard” Shwayder

What is your connection to the gaming/blogging/podcasting community (your chance to plug yourself here)? and 38 Studios

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

MMOs! Sometimes I talk about game design, other times I just comment on current events in the genre.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Mesa, Arizona. I grew up in Newport News, Virginia and Denver, Colorado.

Where do you live now?


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’m a game designer and community relations manager at 38 Studios. On the game design front, I’m considered a hybrid designer, in that I work on both content and mechanics.

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

A better game designer?

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

  • I play hockey.
  • I’m ambidextrous (mostly).
  • My favorite class is the Bard.
  • I’ve always wanted to write a hilarious fantasy book.
  • I can’t remember the words to songs despite listening to music all the time.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I’m married to a hotty.

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?

Video games were my first games of any kind. I usually played console games with my brother and friends.

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

I played various sports, though I mostly played hockey, as well as the guitar. I also wrestled my buddies… like WWF style. My name was Taxicab (I can’t remember why). I did a lot of random stuff all the time, rarely sticking to anything for very long (sounds like me in MMOs these days).

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

Yep, it was awesome. I played D&D, Vampire, and Shadowrun mostly. I liked being the DM/GM/Whatever sometimes, but usually just played a quirky character of some sort.

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 a decent amount as a child, though I read more now. I read mostly fantasy/sci-fi titles. Choose Your Own Adventure books were fun, and those Goosebumps books were totally sweet. I really liked comics (Batman and X-Men especially) too. I didn’t have specific favorite authors until I got older.

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.

Yes… they collectively made me want to become a game designer.

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

My brother probably introduced me to them. I first played them either on the Commodore 64 or one of the old consoles. I was so young when I first started playing games, I really can’t recall.

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

Yep. I went to the local arcade (Tilt) all the friggin’ time with one or two buddies. We always eyed the Zippo lighter booth near the entrance and eventually got one when we were old enough. Then the arcade closed (I didn’t burn it down!).

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

The Ninja on the Sega Master System, or maybe Oregon Trail… or Carmen Sandiego (don’t know which was first). I don’t know! There’s a pantheon of them. In The Ninja, I loved being a ninja, and the music rocked. In Oregon Trail, I always found it interesting to try to successfully make the trek across the US. In Carmen Sandiego, I liked the mystery and how so many people loved creole food.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Oh man… Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Super Nintendo, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, Playstation, Playstation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360. I think that’s it. If you count handhelds, you could add Nintendo Gameboy, Atari Lynx, and Sony PSP.

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

There was this one time when I threw the controller at the TV and broke the controller. Okay, that was a bunch of times. I blame you.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

Probably somewhere around 80 hours. These days with a full-time job and wife, I’m probably down to 10 hours or so normally (though when a new game comes out that I really enjoy, that goes up to the 40 range).

When during the week are your regular play times?

I don’t have regular play times anymore. I play when I can play and feel like playing.

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 not overly social in MMOs most of the time. I go through spurts when I’m really big into socializing, and I’m almost always in a guild, but I tend to keep to myself pretty often given my erratic playtimes.

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

Yep. I still talk to a number of different people who I’ve played one or more MMOs with, and have met a decent number of them in person.

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?

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Usually, I just jump in and do what will gain me the most progress in the shortest period of time.

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

I usually play one at a time, but I try pretty much all of them. If something comes out while I’m playing another, I’ll usually check it out briefly. But, I’m so fickle that I tend to stop playing any MMO after I feel like I “get” it, and rarely stay with one for a long period of time anymore.

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

Heck yes! All kinds. I play good games and bad games of any type.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Yeah, I like to try everything out and rarely ever get to the end game with one character.

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)?

At times, but I prefer to immerse myself as much as I can. The most common way I multitask while gaming is in front of the TV with the wife so I can still hang out with her.

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

Yeah, it’s kinda my job.

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

Not anymore. There was a time when I absolutely gamed too much, and I pretty much just grew out of it over time (I needed to make a living, ya know).

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

Not intentionally. There are often times when I’m not playing an MMO actively (like right now), but I’m always playing some kind of game.

One Response to “Blackguard”

  1. adelecaelia said

    Good answer on the family question!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: