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)?

My real name is Isabelle Lavigne-Parsley (and I *still* haven’t come up with a decent pseudonym for that someday first novel). My far more important internet handle is “Ysharros” and has been for over a decade now, back when the internet was powered by hamsters and not weasels like it is today. It’s the name of a character I once created but mostly it’s a name that’s unlikely to get stolen or duplicated.

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

Last year one of my blogging acquaintances bit me and gave me Blogger-Rabies, which is a serious condition and very hard to cure, and led me to start up Stylish Corpse , which is where you’ll find me blogging most days. Oh, and I also play MMOs. My usual character is “Raging Altoholic.”

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

Since I started the blog at the tail end of the Warhammer Online beta, SC started out as a Warhammer-ish blog, though it was never intended to be a one-game pony. Now it serves as an outlet for the deep and meaningful questions I ask myself about MMOs; as an armchair designer, I’m as qualified as the next unqualified guy. I’m still trying to figure out how much latitude my readers will give me in terms of subject matter. So far, they’re been very lenient.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Chartres, France. My father is French and my mother is German, and I’m what most people understand best as a “UN brat.” I grew up mostly in Geneva, Switzerland, with stints in Brussels, Dakar (Senegal), Lyons (France) and Strasbourg (also France). I studied English and French Literature in England (University of Kent), and lived in England during the 90s.

Where do you live now?

In Texas, in the Unites States. It’s a long story.

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

81-90, but I don’t look a day over 40. I’d rather not look a day over 20, but there’s only so much face-creams can do.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a professional slacker. When absolutely necessary, I translate various types of documents for my mother’s company; she’s now based out of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yes, my mother has a much more glamorous, dangerous and exciting life than I do.

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

I’d say Johnny Depp’s wife, but not only did Adele Caelia already beat me to it, another French lady beat both of us, so I can’t really throw too much of a tantrum (publically, anyway). Other than that… published and writing author. Or maybe an architect. Or a horse-breeder. Or a horse-breeding, house-designing, novel-writing renaissance woman. Sorry, was it only one choice?

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

  • I’m female. This is becoming a little better known, but for years and years everyone but me, apparently, thought “Ysharros” was a male name.
  • I can be concise when it’s absolutely necessary. (No, really. Maybe. If you threaten my life or something.)
  • I like to fume at incorrect foreign language sentences or dialogue in books (and it’s almost always horribly wrong). Also, don’t get me started about the current usage of “phenomena” when the speaker (or writer) means “phenomenon.”
  • I started, but didn’t finish, a Master’s Degree on Tolkien’s work, tentatively focused on his treatment of women in LOTR. That makes me a 2-time dropout, dude (first time was from business school in France).
  • I’m extremely bad at spotting deadpan humour (when it’s properly done). This has been embarrassing on several occasions.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

How much space do you have? I’m married, no kids, hubby has kids who are grown and have kids of their own. I have family in something like half a dozen countries, most of whom I don’t see very often but who remain extremely dear to me. I lost my paternal grandfather last year — the last of my grandparents — and it’s still very hard to get over; he and my grandmother had such a large effect on shaping my life, and I wish I’d known enough to tell them that at the 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?

All manner of boardgames, especially when I was visiting my tribe-sized family in Germany. I discovered an early aptitude for hide-and-seek and promptly had to give it up, since people could usually not find me. The usual pretend-games with other kids.

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

A little music, if repeating the same beginner’s guitar course for 3 years running counts. A couple of years worth of ballet, mostly to feed my mother’s nostalgia. I seem to recall playing soccer and running at school and loving a game we played in PE called “Pirates” — it involved making a sort of 3D obstacle course with a bunch of gym equipment (climbing bars, beams, mini-tramps, big mats, etc) and having half the class being the eponymous pirates chasing the other half as hapless victims on the high seas. Rule #1, don’t touch the floor! These days, that would probably get a school sued for reckless endangerment.

On the more cerebral side, my 5th grade teacher used to have us play a game remarkably similar to Trivial Pursuit. She had a bunch of questions on cards, and teams would take turns trying to be the first to answer them. It’s probably where my uncanny excellence at the Geography Triv questions comes from.

For much of my young and teen life, however, I would have killed or done worse to obtain a pony. In that, I suspect I’m no different from billions of other teen and pre-teen girls. I lived to ride, and never got to do enough of it (or indeed got my own pony). I did have motorbike though; guys dug that.

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

I was exposed to them during secondary school (high school in the US), though I didn’t actually start playing until the late 80s and University. It’s through those game sessions that I met my BFFs, a half dozen people I will know for the rest of my life no matter where we are. From then on I played PnP solidly through the 90s, with that same group and other new arrivals. We played most everything under the sun, though a handful of systems were mainstays. The experience was so good I ended up co-writing a series of live-action role-playing games — where you stand around in costume talking about what you’re doing instead of sitting around a table talking about what you’re doing (politics- and backstabbing-heavy, light on the combat). I haven’t played much since I got to the States, but I still consider myself a PnP gamer.

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 French family and my mother are all incredibly voracious readers, and most of my paternal grand-dams (the female side) were teachers; I was taught to read before I was 4, and encouraged to pretty much read anything I could lay my hands on. Books of all kinds and all genres, from Nancy Drew to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and A Wrinkle in Time to the Hobbit and even Roots, as encouraged by my mother when we moved to West Africa; I was 10, and I’m pretty sure a great deal of it went straight over my head. I read a lot of comics too, mostly French ones (huge fan of the Yoko Tsuno series — Google it).

I still read like a termite eats wood. Favourite fantasy/sci-fi authors include William Gibson, Barbra Hambly, C J Cherryh, Ursula LeGuin, Sheri Tepper, Iain Banks. Favourite more mainstream authors include Sara Paretsky, Dorothy Dunnett, Andrew Vacchs, and the 19th century classics (Dickens, Twain, etc). I am currently not allowed to hit Amazon or a “real” bookstore without a responsible adult in attendance.

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. A widely-read mind is a more tolerant and imaginative mind, open to new ideas and experiences.

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

PacMan and SpaceInvaders – do they count? In the early 80s I was gifted my first computer (a Vic20) and pottered around with that for quite some time. While it was fun, I was very jealous of my friends with ZX Spectrums (81s?) because of the Hobbit game you could get for that.

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

See above. They were fun, of course! At university (late 80s) we had some of those early “hold a gun and shoot at the screen” games that were fun too, though I wasn’t all that good at them.

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

PacMan. It was in colour, it rocked, and you could turn the tables on the #(*&@ monsters and eat THEM. What more can you ask?

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Err…. not much of a console person. I’ve had a PlayStation and a PlayStation 2, and I think that’s about it. Don’t burn me.

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

I’m old enough to remember fairs and arcades as gaming experiences rather than home computers or consoles. I *do* remember kicking some wicked ass at the air-gun stand when I was about 9, and bugging my grandparents for more money so I could win an absolutely HIDEOUS green glass bottle that they lovingly kept and which I have probably inherited, now that they’re both dead.

2 Responses to “Ysharros”

  1. spinks said

    Yay our first computer was a VIC-20 too 🙂 Commodore made great home computers.

    But how old did I feel when I saw one in the Science Museum in London…?

  2. […] Ysharros […]

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