Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Ysharros (Chapter 2)

Posted by Randolph Carter on March 26, 2009

MMO community connection:

Stylish Corpse

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.

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