Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on March 21, 2009

MMO community connection:

Chapter 1: Introduction

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


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

I write (for my own pleasure) on and have for three+ years now, I also write for Beckett MOG (Massive Online Gamer), and

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

My blog is (and hopefully always will be) about my personal adventures in whatever game happens to hold my interest. I write from a very personal level, and I’m constantly surprised by the wonderful people that I come across in my day-to-day gaming activities. I write about SOE related games for Beckett, and I write about multiple games for MMORPG, whatever gets tossed my way really.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in NorthBay Ontario Canada, but I am a military brat and I moved a lot. I grew up in Germany (7-12 years old), then moved to Nova Scotia (12-15) and random places around Ontario since then.

Where do you live now?

Ottawa Ontario

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

21-30, it doesn’t bother me in the least bit that I’m getting older, I welcome it, honestly!

What do you do for a living?

I work as a freelance writer for the time being, but I’ve done lots of things in the past (photography, sales, management, office work, a waitress, even worked on programming and zone design for a MUD way back when.)

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

I wouldn’t, I enjoy what I do and I’m not settled into a career yet, so there’s lots of time to go after my dreams.

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

  • I’m shy.
  • I dislike chicken noodle soup from a box.
  • I’m left handed.
  • I have huge chunks of the Berlin Wall in my basement, I lived in Germany for the fall of the wall as well as the Gulf War.
  • When I was younger I was afraid of losing my hands in some sort of freak accident (they’re very important to me for all aspects of art) so I taught myself to write with my feet.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

My friends and family are my life. My mom is my best friend and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that. It wasn’t always that way, but I’m glad it is now.

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 played board games, a lot. Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Hungry Hungry Hipos (does that even count?) and of course Mouse Trap were among the list, and I played with family. I also did the D&D thing for a bit, but it was really hard to find people to game with since I moved so many times and was never very good at making friends.

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

Photography, reading, writing, painting. Lots of artwork. I loved nature growing up too, long walks and fishing, camping. I’ve always loved music, but never got involved in it as much as I would have liked.

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

Sure was, played D&D and loved it. My first boyfriend introduced me when I was 15, I still have the original books, some dice, and a DM screen with some sort of scenario printed on it. My brother was into a lot more different types of pen and paper role playing games then I was, I didn’t share his adoration at the time, I was still so very new. I loved to look through his books for ideas. In fact, still have a lot of the books from those games too. I used to browse through them to get ideas for artwork. Character creation and the stories involved were always the best parts for me.

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.

Oh goodness, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I did not have my own computer growing up (even though it wasn’t that long ago) and I never played video games like my two younger brothers – so I was ALWAYS reading. Way back then of course I enjoyed your typical Tolkien books, anything with Dragon Lance in the title, anything by Forgotten Realms, I also used to read a lot of mystery books and historical books about architecture, though I can’t remember the names of any off the top of my head. I was fascinated by castles especially while living in Germany.

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.

Of course, they helped shape me into who I am now. Thanks to being introduced to fantasy in general it stuck with me and now that’s what I enjoy most. Fantasy based MMO’s / Games. I even have a small dragon tattoo. My parents don’t quite understand my fascination since neither of them are into fantasy all that much but for me it just seems natural to love it.

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

First? I suppose my Dad introduced me with games like lemmings that he had on his computer. He used to run a BBS when I was growing up and while the computer was always “his” toy, there were brief moments when I was allowed to use it. There was a game called Hack and Slash that I used to play a lot. Aside from that, my two brothers used to own a nintendo, and various platforms that I could never keep track of. Me and my Mom used to play Super Mario Brothers 3 together late at night, I guess I was around 10-12 years old.

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

I’ve never tried one, they don’t really seem to hold my attention. I’ve watched lots of other people play them – but some how I doubt that counts.

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

When I was living in Germany my Dad took up a 2nd job as a radio DJ for a show called “Not Necessarily the Top 40” – me and my Mom used to stay up really late (1-2am) and play Super Mario Brothers 3 together while we listened to his show. We used to make frozen spareribs in the microwave that I really loved, in a heavy sauce. The game itself may not have made an impression on me per say but I won’t ever forget those hours we spent together. It’s one of my fondest gaming memories.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

I don’t even recall. My brothers had pretty much everything, I remember my parents trying to ask them why they needed yet another system, and all of the games we used to have. Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Play Station, and a plethora of others. I never really played, so I can’t even list them all.

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

Since I never really played video games, all of my stories relate to my two brothers. I remember my parents getting mad if they lost or broke a game, or left one of the games on the airplane which happened more then once with the game boy. I remember them sitting together (8 year difference between my two brothers) playing River City Ransom (I believe that’s the name of it) on the living room floor for hours. I remember their intense discussion while I watched – they still have those conversations today except now I write for a gaming magazine and I can input a little bit more then I ever could back then. I love memories like that.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

My Dad used to run a BBS when I was younger, and he used to have a MUD on it called Hack and Slash. That was in the early 90’s but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. My real first exposure was when my younger brother started playing back when I was in high school. I guess around 1998, not that long ago.

What was your first MMO experience?

My first MMO experience would be EverQuest, back in 2004. Again not that long ago.

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

Oh great.. Lets see..

  • EverQuest – 80 necromancer, 78 enchanter, 73 rogue, 73 druid, and a handful of alts lower then those.
  • EverQuest II – 80 troubador, 80 warden, 80 coercer x2 (a sickness, I know), 80 illusionist, 80 templar, 80 mystic, and a lot more characters 50+ but not quite 80.
  • World of Warcraft – 55 Priest, 55 Hunter, 55 Druid
  • Vanguard: SOH – 44 bloodmage and a lot of alts
  • Wizard 101 – 20 Life Wizard (and alts)
  • Warhammer Online – 25 Zealot (and alts)
  • Lord of the Rings Online – 20 Minstrel (and alts)

Those are the ones I’ve played extensively. I’ve also played Guildwars, Lineage II, Hero Online, Dungeon Runners, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Angels Online, EVE, Runes of Magic, Chronicles of Spellborn, and Silkroad Online but to a much lesser degree.

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

EverQuest II and Lord of the Rings Online

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

EverQuest II, since release so going on over five years now.

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

I’ve reached the level cap only in EQ2 but I’ve come close in EQ and VG. Hoping to get there in LotRO one day too. Who knows.

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?

Ideally, I wouldn’t choose. It’s not a choice I could make because there are different aspects to every game that I enjoy in one regard or another or else I wouldn’t even bother playing. However; were I forced to choose it would probably be EQ and simply because it was my first ‘real’ MMO and I have the fondest memories of playing there. It’s like your first love, and hard to forget.

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

Free Realms, though I don’t keep any particular tabs on games that are in development. When they release I think it’s great and I’m excited but I don’t pay much attention to MMO news per say.

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

I’ve met some of the most incredible people through gaming. I can’t stress that enough. I’ve got a million stories I could tell about the adventures we’ve all been on, and little quirks and interesting tid bits that only we know about since we were there to experience it. I love things like that, it’s what keeps me playing and keeps me interested.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

I spend way more time gaming now then I ever did at my play peak, mostly because I do volunteer work online and because I write about video games for a living. It’s hard to write about something that you don’t actually play. My numbers some times embarrass me but then you combine the ‘fun’ play time I get in there too. I’ve learned long ago not to look at the numbers unless you feel as though you’re neglecting life in some way. Then it’s unhealthy.

When during the week are your regular play times?

Again, it depends on what we’re talking about. If I’m playing for work I’m on during the day time, and if I’m playing for me it’s typically in the evenings, when friends are around and we can do things together.

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

A combination of both. I enjoy my quiet time I admit, but I also enjoy grouping up with friends and joining guilds. I enjoy ‘chattering’ to numerous people at any given time even if I’m not grouped up.

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

I’ve made so many lasting friendships I wouldn’t even begin to explain. I’ve met some of the most amazing fantastic people through gaming, both in real life and in virtual worlds. Some of my closest friends are people I’ve met online. I even met my fiancée online first.

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?

Some times I log in with an idea of what I want to do, and some times I log in without the faintest idea and pull from others around me. It all depends on my mood!

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

For fun I tend to just stick with one or two, but my work typically requires four or five or even more. It can get VERY frustrating. I’m still trying to learn how to master the balancing act.

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

I have a wii, Nintendo DSi, and a PS3 (two of those are fairly new) so yes, I tend to play other games along with playing MMOs. If I could get into some tabletop gaming here I would jump at a chance for that too, but the opportunity hasn’t come up yet.

Are you something of an altoholic?

“Something of an altoholic” – sure that could be used to describe me. Now multiply it 1,000 times.

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)?

Yes, almost always. The only way I can do everything I do, and continue to do it is multitasking. If I’m doing something intense in game of course I concentrate on it (raiding, instances etc) but when I’m casually kicking back I have other things going on.

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

Again, since it relates to my job, yes, almost always. My family doesn’t know a great deal about MMOs and I have a lot of fun discussing different aspects with them. Plus my brothers are heavy gamers (mostly console) so we have some great talks. I feel blessed that I can talk so openly about a passion of mine with friends and family.

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

I have been told in the past by people who (for whatever reason) thought they knew me that I game too much – but the way I decided to look at it was: I’m not neglecting anything at all in life. I don’t have children that I’m ignoring while I play, I’m healthy, I sleep well, and I have a fairly active life alongside gaming. What I do with my spare time, be it reading a book, drawing, or gaming is what I decide to do with it. I’ve never been big on television; in fact I haven’t even watched any shows for the past 5 years until just recently. That was my choice with my free time, just like gaming is. I think we need to spend less time worrying about what everyone else thinks, and just concentrate on what WE think about ourselves. Make ourselves the best that we can be without having to feel self conscience that we’re doing to much or too little of something.

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

Of course, I always take breaks here and there. I get bored, or restless, or I just need a change. It is sort of expected I think when you do so much of one thing. Moderation is important and being able to tell when you feel that burn out without ruining the game you’re currently playing is hard to do. If you can manage to pull yourself back you may go back to the game with a brighter attitude when you don’t feel quite so burnt out. Switching to console games or just giving up gaming all together when life gets hectic is also pretty important.

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