Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on March 25, 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 run a blog called iMMOvation.

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

iMMOvation is where I discuss my ideas about game design and try to constructively build upon and redesign the ideas that are already out there. It focuses on currently existing ideas as well as hypotheticals.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

Born in Ipswich, England and grew up in Elgin, Scotland. Move to the US and have lived in a number of states.

Where do you live now?

I currently live in Las Vegas, NV.

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 currently an IT Engineer and have been one for a good 15 years now.

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

Game Designer, definitely

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

  • Went to school in a farmhouse that Prince Charles attended.
  • I love sleeping with stuffed animals
  • I’ve had more than a few supernatural experiences
  • I’ve been married and have a son
  • I’ve only changed my online handle once in my life (used to be Rest In Peace)

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I was married once upon a time and had somewhat of a miracle baby during that time. My previous wife was told by doctors that she would never be able to bear children, but lo and behold she did become pregnant and the baby was delivered without issue. He’s a very smart little boy who currently live in Germany with his mother. I am currently (after 9 years of self searching) engaged again to a wonderful gamer girl named Dana. I couldn’t ask for a better woman by my side.

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 always loved board games and imagination (toys) games as I grew up.

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

I played sports in elementary school for a little league football team. I’ve always been artistic and creative, so writing and drawing have existed in my repertoire for a long time. I tried playing the trumpet for a bit, but music never caught on for me as a hobby.

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

I was exposed to it in my early teens and have been playing it ever since. I started with AD&D 2nd edition and have played a number of games. I won’t touch vampire P&P games though ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

Love(d) reading. My first set of books were the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. I haven’t yet read Wheel of Time, but I’ve read a few of R.A. Salvatore’s books and some Anne Mcaffrey stuff as well.

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.

I think the introduction to the fantasy world helped, but seeing as how I’m attracted to futuristic MMOs as well, that can’t be ALL the reason. I don’t really compare MMO worlds I frequent to any books I’ve read, I just see how their take on “fantasy” compares with others out there. I do it for the sanctity of the book really. I don’t want to ruin a book’s world by going “it would be better if it had…”

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

I don’t remember the exact age, probably around 7 or 8, but my first system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. I had seen other systems for sale, but that was my first owned system.

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

I played coin-op games any chance I could. I remember flocking to them in pizza joints, movie theaters and the actual arcade places setup just for gamers. I miss those days and I miss coin-oping. I was quite sad when I first saw console games that outdid the arcade counterpart.

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

I think that would be Sonic. I was old enough to be able to form impressions on my own and I played every Sonic game from beginning to end.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Genesis, SegaCD, 32X, Nintendo64, playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox, Xbox360, Wii, Gamecube, Gameboy, GameGear, PSP and some others (NeoGeo, etc).

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

I remember when Rampage first came out for consoles and I was SO happy. I took it over to my friend’s house to play it and we ended up staying up ALL night to do so. I think we stopped when we realized there was no end, but that was at like 4am. Then we played Contra ๐Ÿ™‚

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I only played a few MUDs, but none that I clearly remember. My gaming back then was almost strictly console based, with the PC games being single player. For the games I did play, I really don’t think they affected me as much as others.

What was your first MMO experience?

My first MMO was Everquest back in 1999. I loved and still love the experience of EQ. The world seemed massive and many of the mechanics and ideas used are things I’d like to see redone in current MMOs. I feel EQ was an appropriate difficulty despite its shortcomings and the recent move to easier, more dumbed-down styles of play really hurt the industry.

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

Everquest (expansions up til OoW), Asheron’s Call, Asheron’s Call 2, Anarchy Online, Star Wars Galaxy, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest 2 (all current expansions), World of Warcraft(all current expansions), Lineage II, RF Online, Eve Online, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Tabula Rasa, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online.

There are others, but these are the ones I’ve spent the most time with.

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

I recently resigned to having just 1 MMO on my plate while I wait for something actually good to come along. That choice is Everquest 2.

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

I played EQ for about 5 years and have played World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 for about the same amount of time now.

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

I’ve hit the level cap in about every MMO I’ve ever played, if only to quit just after ๐Ÿ˜‰ I like seeing everything in a game before I toss it.

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?

Honestly, whatever MMO I come up with to finally make ๐Ÿ˜‰ If I had to choose just 1 from the current picks, it would be Everquest 2.

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

I’m interested in any and every MMO that’s in development at any given time. I do my research and try to alpha / beta as much as I can, avoiding open betas at all costs. Mostly it’s to see what, if anything, these companies are doing different with their game, but I can honestly say I’ve been pretty disappointed in the last few years.

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

Well, despite my aversion to WoW, it’s where I met my current fiancee, so it wasn’t all bad ๐Ÿ˜‰ She was actually my guild leader, introduced to me by someone else in WoW who thought we would fit perfectly. She was right ๐Ÿ™‚

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

At one time gaming was all I did from the time I got home from school til I went to bed and all day on weekends. So anywhere from 40-80 hours in a week.

When during the week are your regular play times?

Now it’s a bit after work, then a good portion of the day on my weekends when I don’t have anything important to do.

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 a mix. I love the idea of guilds and camaraderie, but there are times I’d like to be left alone, just like in real life.

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

I’ve made many friends, many enemies and met my fiancee through MMOs. I’ve even connected recently with people I used to play with and recognize, but never knew I’d see again.

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?

It depends on how much fore-knowledge I have on the game. If I’ve been in beta, I know what to do and where to go, but if I skip the beta I usually just meander around and experiment. In beta, my focus is on bugs, so I just meander around looking for them ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 play as many as I could to get a good sampling at any one time. I’ve recently resigned to playing 1 MMO at a time though, to get more out of it. The constant switching when I would get irritated wasn’t conducive to a good gaming experience.

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

All of the above. I have one of almost every console ever made (and I still play the older ones from time to time), I have a couple games for the PC (the ones I’d like to get more out of graphics wise than I could from their console counterparts) and my friends and I meet weekly to play tabletop RPGs.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Before WoW I hated alts. I never saw the point in them because there was so much to do with just 1 character. WoW came along and made leveling easy, limited crafting to 2 options per character (1 gathering, 1 actual profession) and thus the need for alts due to lack of entertainment after having all the gear I wanted on 1 character, grew.

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)?

Depends on what I’m doing. If it’s not involved I’ll watch TV or talk, but if we’re running an instance or grouping to do other stuff, I pay attention. I do listen to outside music over in-game music a lot though, regardless of what I’m doing and I use Skype to talk to my friends while we play.

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

With friends, yes. Family not so much. All of my friends game, so our conversations naturally go that way. It gets quite funny when we’re out in public and people have no idea what we’re talking about.

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

Absolutely. And to fix it, I simply take time off. There’s no use in playing a game or multiple games if it detracts from your lifestyle or the health of it.

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

From the genre? No. From certain games? Yes. The MMO genre has always fascinated me so even with I have no AAA titles to play, I’ll go find some smaller scale game from an indie developer or a korean F2P that looks interesting. I’m always playing some form of MMO though as I have plenty of research to do ๐Ÿ˜‰

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