Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on March 29, 2009

MMO community connection:

How I WoW | Frenchspin

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

I go by my real name (Patrick Beja), and sometimes people who really care call me “that french guy”. I’m also “notpatrick” in places I can’t get “patrick”, like twitter.

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

I run and participate in a bunch of podcasts. My french wow show is fairly well known here, but I do lotsa stuff in the podcast space, not the least of which is the How I WoW show my friend Shawn created, or The Instance to which I contribute a regular segment. I have also developed friendships with several other podcasters over the years, and you might hear me pop into different shows here and there. Anyway, all I do can be found on the site Frenchspin.

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

Wow… Errr… So: is a French Wow show.
How I WoW is “interesting conversations with awesome people”. No, really, it is.
Le rendez-vous Tech is a French tech news show.
The Phileas Club is an international news conversation show.
Noobz Online is a webcomic about gamers (I only “produce” that one).

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Lebanon and grew up in France.

Where do you live now?

Paris baby!

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

I’ll do better: I’m 35.

What do you do for a living?

Freelance assistant director / production manager.

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

If I could only get a “real” career, I wouldn’t reroll at all.
If I could get anything, I’d love to do podcasts professionally.

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

Five is a lot, but I’ll try.

  • I’ve lived in japan for almost 4 years.
  • I’ve moved over 30 times.
  • I take on accents like a sponge. It’s like a very very useless super power.
  • It’s not uncommon for my female friends to joke that I’m gay. I’m just a good listener and like chick flicks.
  • I am an exceptional lover. (ok, I might have made that one up)

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

I’m single, and my family is very small. All in all, my whole family is about six or seven people (cousins and uncles included).

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?

The usual: Star Wars action figures, Legos, etc. I would always play with my brother (2 years younger) and cousin (3 weeks older). So definitely not a solo activity.

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

I did a bit of martial arts when I was younger, played basketball for a while.  I wasn’t very athletic though. My amazing physical traits just come naturally. 🙂

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

Dude, D&D FTW!! I started playing when I was about 10 or 11, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was an amazingly enriching experience. Exercising your imagination like that was a blessing. I was lucky enough that my parents never payed any attention to the D&D controversies bullcrap we had back then. Same goes for video games by the way.
By the time I turned 17 or 18 we started playing with a still dear friend of mine who created his own games from scratch. We never went back to rulebooks or pre-written games after that, and today I see them as sort of limiting. Why not just invent your story completely? Rules are very secondary in my opinion: just set a few characteristics and roll a dice when you want to decide something random. That’s all you need. I have to admit though, it doesn’t hurt that the game master in question is an accomplished writer; his stories are pretty compelling.

Anyway, all that is a bit behind me now. I’ve been on and off the “team” for a few years and I don’t really like it as much as I used to.

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 didn’t read a lot as a child, and still don’t. It’s one of the things I’m not proud of. I see it as a shortcoming of sorts.

Well, I did read a lot of comic books, but I’m not one of those people who consider reading comics is “reading”. When most people ask that question they are asking about books, not the three bubble where Wolverine grunts because he’s being broody. I also read a ton of Choose Your Own Adventure books and loved it. But again, although that was real reading, what I enjoyed was the interactive nature of it. Almost like video games in paper form.
That being said, my favorite book is probably The Picture of Dorian Gray. Not so much for the storytelling, but for the incredible mastery Oscar Wilde has of the English language.

Close seconds are Cyrano de Bergerac and The Count of Monte Cristo. The first one owes a lot to the language too so I’m not sure how well it would translate in English, but the second one is just pure adventure, an amazing blockbuster from 150 years ago.

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.

Hmm… Hard to say. I guess that things like Lord of the Rings or Dragonlance shaped my tastes like it did every other nerd on the planet. I remember I couldn’t stop reading Dragonlance while walking from the kitchen.

But I wouldn’t say they had an effect on later appreciation of computer gaming or MMOs, because I almost see these as a continuation of the same culture. That culture had several branches that were complementary and moved at the same pace in different media. Fantasy and Science fiction are the two legs geek culture stands on today, and they were pervasive: from books to PnP RPGs to video games, to movies even… They all bled into one another, and in that sense I don’t think you can say one came before the other for me. It’s all one giant cultural wave that we’ve been riding for 20 or 30 years, I don’t make a difference between its parts, so I can’t say one had an influence on the other.

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

Arcade games came first, when I was about 10 I guess. My dad used to work in a company that imported arcade cabinets from Japan. I used to go to “the office” and play for free for hours. And hours. And hours.

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

I guess I already answered that, but I can add that I used to do it in regular arcades too when I got a bit older. French arcades mostly sucked, but I still would go to check out the latest version of street fighter and the like.

More recently, in the early 2000s, I used to love the japanese arcades. All nice and well lit, I would spend a couple of hours there, chatting with friends, drinking ice tea and going for a few battles against people I could never beat, like, ever. Ah, good times…

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

I have a horrible memory, but it was probably a coleco vision at my cousin’s. It was an awesome toy I guess, but I don’t think I saw the potential at the time. I was young…

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Haha, you want a list? How about all of them!
Well, maybe not all, but I seriously had most of them. Ok, let’s try the list thing:
Atari 2600
Super NES
Megadrive + SegaCD
Nec TurboGrafix + CD thing.
Gameboy Advanced
Xbox 360
I might be forgetting a couple.
And that doesn’t include the computers (Amstrad, Amiga…)

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

Not sure I was still a child, but I bought an import version of Street Fighter 2 for Super NES, which I paid 3 times the price of a normal game. That whole summer, my friends and I spent five or six nights a week crammed into my very small room, playing the game for 6 or 7 hours straight. Again: ah, good times…

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs? If so, when was this and what was the experience like?

Unfortunately, no.

What was your first MMO experience? Again, when was this (a year please) and what was this like?

Ultima Online, when it came out (must’ve been 1997 maybe?). I was on a 33.6 modem from France to the US: horrible speed and lag… I was fascinated by the idea, but only played a couple of times.

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

  • Everquest – level 14 or 15… Can’t remember the class. It took me six months to get there. One of my fondest MMO memories comes from this game: I tried to go to one side of the world to the other when I was way too low level. On that epic voyage, after having run away from lions and all manners of horrible monsters for hours, I came upon a wonderful vista of the sun setting over a dune in the distance. These four pixels of red and dusk were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen on my computer screen. Not far behind in memory lane are the trains of gnolls from that cave north of Qeynos (I forget the name). Trains were fun, I miss them to this day. Sort of.
  • Everquest 2 – level 41 templar. The experience was good at times, boring to tears at others. The idea of camping Chompers for days still makes me shaky with anxiety today. Ultimately the grindiness of it and the inability of the class to solo effectively (or rather, to solo at acceptable speeds) got the better of me. I keep very fond memories of the game though, mainly from my guild, The Legion of the White Rose, which I joined without knowing it was headed by Kendricke, a very respected member of the community. When I logged off for the last time, he came to meet me, took pictures of my last moments in Antonica and posted them on the forum. I still have the pictures and get a pinch in my heart every time I look at them.
  • World of Warcraft – level 80 mage and druid. I spend my days talking about the game, I guess the memories and experiences are too many to sum up.

I also tried out a TON of other games that I didn’t go beyond the first month with.

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

Wow of course.

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

Wow, many hours a week for over three years now… I never thought this would be possible. I played the beta and dismissed it before moving on to EQ2 which I considered more adult and diverse. I was right in many ways, but didn’t understand what I really needed from an MMO (fun>realism&possibilities). I guess many people made the same mistake, devs included.

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

Wow is the only one I reached the level cap at. It’s also the only one in which the grind wasn’t an unbearable necessity to work through to get to the fun.

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?

Can I choose the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic? I guess not…
That’s a really difficult one, but I think it might be Eve because the ever expanding universe is full of worlds and possibilities… and the ambulatory pack is (hopefully) coming soon so we’ll be able to get out of our ships.

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

SW:TOR is the only MMO that has seriously sparked my interest in a long time, and that includes recent games like AOC and WAR. I detailed my reasons in this blog post here, but the gist is that Bioware is probably the only company that can come to the idea of an MMO with a fresh mind. They are also masters at crafting a compelling and immersive single player experience, and that is something I especially enjoy in a role playing game, even if it is multiplayer and online. Ironic, I know. My point is: I think they can make it work in ways that the “big dogs” of the MMO market couldn’t, because they were constrained by the rules and habits they gathered from their previous, old school experiences.

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

I was at a wedding and a bunch of us were wow players. At the evening reception, a group gathered and started talking about the game, the classes and the like. After about 40 minutes I turned to a guy who was sitting quietly in the corner and apologized for talking about this arcane topic that he probably didn’t understand very much about, figuring that he was bored to tears. He looked at me, beaming, and replied: “ah not at all, I have a level 46 shaman on Shadow Counsel”… 🙂

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

Wow, errr… I think it’s safe to say it goes in cycles. Sometimes I’ll barely play for weeks at a time, and sometimes I’ll be completely obsessed and spend all my free time on the computer (and I have a lot of free time). Right now I’m still reeling from the awesomeness that patch 3.1 brought, so I’m in a “high activity” period. I’d say upwards of 25-30 hours a week.

When during the week are your regular play times?

Any time is play time!

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

Lone wolf I guess. I enjoy grouping also of course, but I’m mostly a solo player.

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

I guess I haven’t really. Do podcasting friendships count? I’ve made some pretty good friends in the podcasting community but I don’t suppose that’s a valid answer. Regarding the in game stuff, I think it has to do with me being so solo-oriented. Even my guild is just a small part of my gaming experience, so I haven’t really formed lasting bonds with anyone in the game.

I have however reinforced bonds with very good friends that I’ve been playing with. The memories from the game have just added to our already long common history, and I’m sure we’ll bore our grandchildren with stories from Azeroth just as much as stories from wild parties and trips to foreign lands that actually exist.

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?

I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want to do at a specific time, but once I get in I might get distracted.

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

I’m obsessive I guess, so one is all that I can handle while also playing the “other” game. You know, the one laymen call “real life”? Yeah, that one takes quite a lot of time also. So annoying.

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

I try to keep myself informed, and I do have an Xbox. I will play a major release when it comes out, if only to know what the fuss is all about. I feel it’s sort of my duty to know about other things too, even if I have to force myself a little bit sometimes. Kind of like a cooking enthousiast needs to try different kinds of food, even if he has one favorite. Not doing so would be close minded or illiterate. Am I making any sense?

Are you something of an altoholic?

Well, I have several mains, but I don’t think I’m an altoholic. I do usually play my main character until he’s reached the level cap.

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)?

Duh, podcasts!

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

Wow (or MMOs in general I guess) have a tendency to cannibalize the conversation when you’re with people who also play. So we sometimes have to make a conscious effort to not talk about it, especially when there are people who don’t play around.

So with friends, yes, definitely. Family, not so much. They don’t play.

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

Haha, only all the time! I cope by thinking hard about whether or not there is something I would rather do but am not doing because I feel like I have an “obligation” to play. If there is something else, I force myself to stop and go do it. If there isn’t, then I understand that this is what I want to do with my time and I’m ok with it.

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

I take regular breaks, but they’re not scheduled or really voluntary. Every few months I get sick with the game and basically stop playing for a few weeks. This usually happens when I log in and realize I’m doing it out of habit and not really because I want to. I just leave the game alone until I actually feel like playing again.

Chapter 5: Blogging/Podcasting

When did you first start blogging/podcasting?

I started in mid 2006 by sending a few segments to shows I enjoyed (The Instance was the first one I think).

A few weeks later I started my own Wow show in french called (there were none at the time) and have since then taken on a variety of podcasting projects: The Phileas Club (international politics and news), How I Wow with my friend Shawn Coons, Le rendez-vous Tech (french tech news show) and more recently The Movielicious, a movie review show I do with Mark “Turpster” Turpin and Nicole Spagnuolo. I also “produce” the webcomic “Noobz Online“, whatever that means. My friend PH is the artist on this one. And I have a blog that I occasionally write articles of the “TLDR” variety on.

I think that’s it. All this can be found on (there’s a french and an english version).

Why do you blog/podcast?

I do podcasts because it’s a way to tell my oh-so important opinion to people without the hassle of actually having to write down entire articles. So I guess I podcast because I’m lazy. And also because I have a ton of fun doing it.

Do you have a schedule or some sort of routine you try and follow when blogging or podcasting?

Yes! Schedule and regularity is the key in those ventures. I always set a periodicity I think I can stick to (monthly/bi-monthly) and try to never miss an episode. If you start skipping shows it’s the beginning of the end. For you as well as your audience.

Is there some grind involved in blogging/podcasting? If so, what is it and how do you cope with it?

Yes, definitely. It’s like everything: once you get into the routine, it’s less of an “exciting adventure”. I still love doing it though, so it’s not like I feel I’m doing factory work or anything like that. That being said, sometimes I don’t want to do a show or I feel uninspired. But when I finally finish editing and get the show online I’m proud of the result. Most of the time. 🙂

I guess the way I cope with it is, as I said, setting up reasonable goals for myself. My first shows was monthly because I didn’t want to promise a weekly show and not be able to deliver. Then I started getting the hang of it. When I got enough experience to go from recording to online status in about an hour or so, I figured adding some bi-monthly shows wouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

I also do everything I can to rationalize my workflow: some people can’t cope with one show a month because they’re not using the proper tools or are attached to things that bring little to the product and consume a lot of time and effort. For me, if something is superfluous, it’s out. As long as the quality isn’t too greatly impacted of course. The point is, it’s better to be able to get a show out every time you’re supposed to than to make it a “job” and end up not doing it at all.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging/podcasting?

Everything! The community, the relationships with the other shows, the fact that you get to know and interact with incredible people you wouldn’t have known or heard of otherwise, the hours and hours and hours of entertainment I get out of the shows I listen to… I don’t think I could find a single negative side to this hobby of ours. Except maybe the fact that it takes too much time to listen to everything. 🙂

I haven’t watched TV in years though, so that cleared up a big chunk of time. And believe me, I don’t miss it in the slightest.

How many people offline know you blog or podcast?

Pretty much everyone I know. I’m very open about it, mostly because I’m proud of it I think.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to try their hand at blogging or podcasting?

Again: set reasonable goals you think you’ll be able to achieve. Start small, you can always expand later. And second: expect it to take more time and effort that you thought it would.

What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you first started?

A ton of things… Mostly tools that make my life easier today:

  • Feedburner to host the feed: it creates an alias so you can change the original feed later if you have to.
  • Podtrac: data collecting. They track your downloads and such.
  • to host the files: they are the only ones that allow access to the original.
  • Sony Vegas for sound editing: blows ANY other editing software out of the water; you’ll spend half the time editing if you’re doing anything remotely more complicated that simple mp3 encoding.
  • Powergramo: Skype recording utility.
  • WordPress is easier to manage that static HTML… Wow was I an idiot to go with that in the first place.

I think that’s most of it.

Can you picture a future where you will hang up your keyboard or microphone and no longer blog or podcast?

I guess I can; nothing’s forever. I couldn’t picture a time when I wasn’t in love with Anime and Manga when I was younger… Boy was I wrong, those things suck! But for podcasting it probably won’t be soon.

At your funeral, what song(s) would you have played as your corpse is set alight and cast out to sea on a funeral barge?

Probabaly “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”, by the Monthy Python. Smile! 🙂

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