Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces


Posted by Randolph Carter on April 19, 2009

MMO community connection:

Chapter 1: Introduction

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

Everyone knows me by Genda, although my first name is Paul. I picked it up when i started playing EQ. I hit the random name generator, it suggested Gendan. It was taken, so I dropped the “n” and Genda was born. It was my first RPG and I really had no idea how to come up with a name.

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

I started out online when Sigil was choosing fansites for Vanguard. They were going to do an official “Affiliate” program, and I decided that it was something I could do. I thought I’d pick up some help along the way, which I did, but it was mostly me running the site. That site is I was going to do a lot more with the site, but as it was coming out of my pocket and the game wasn’t developing into what most of us hoped for, I decided to keep it as it is, which is pretty much in its pre-release form. During that time, I started blogging because I wanted a place where I could post opinion pieces outside of the “official” fan site. That blog has been going since late 2005 as Because, well, I am. Still have both of those sites up and running. I also operate because no one else in the guild is stupid enough to volunteer to do it.

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

When the blog first started, it was mostly about Vanguard stuff and general MMO commentary. It became a LOT about Vanguard when the fit hit the shan over at Sigil in May of the following year. I was afraid the blog was going to become a “Bash-Sigil and McQuaid” site, so I consciously moved it into a different direction. My time doing the official site had given me access to more and more people in the industry, so I tried to incorporate their perspective with mine, sometimes agreeing but mostly not.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Southern California. I don’t really miss it. Well I do miss going to Angels and Lakers games.

Where do you live now?

Austin, Texas. 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

51-60 Working on leveling this character though.

What do you do for a living?

I sell computer bits, large and small.

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

Actually, still in the computer business, but on the IT manager/director/CIO path.

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

  • I’m not a bad dart player. Pretty good at Foosball too.
  • I met my wife playing an MMO.
  • I’m a big Baseball fan.
  • I’ve traveled extensively in a previous position. All over North America, to Hawaii, and to a few places in Europe.
  • I’m taller than you.

Feel free to discuss any family you have here.

Gotta keep something private. I have 3 kids, all still in school. I think that’s all I want to say.

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?

My gaming was mostly relegated to board gaming and puzzle gaming before the electronic bug struck. I was a FIEND for Mouse Trap, not because the game was good (it wasn’t) but because of the Rube Goldberg device that was part of the mechanism. A couple decades later I found myself just as enthralled with The Incredible Machine on the PC. I tended to play games with mostly family when I was a kid.

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

I played a lot of sports (mostly baseball and basketball. Played some football later. All team sports), did model rockets, and loved table tennis. I was very competitive so no one would play with me but my dad, and he tired when I started beating him consistently.

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

I never was. 😦 I know. I was deprived.

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 read voraciously as a child, but mostly non-fiction. By the time I was in 4th grade I had read the World Book Encyclopedia cover-to-cover (all 20-some volumes.) To this day, my head is full of useless information. I later got into some select fantasy. Like many, it started with Tolkein.

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.

No, I think my MMO involvement came mostly from my playing games in general, and some RPG’s in particular.

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

I first played video games on an old console, and I honestly don’t remember which one it was. This is a sure sign that I’m getting really old.

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

Oh, yeah. Many a quarter dropped from my fingers into obscurity in the name of standing at the box and gaming. I played a lot of these games the same way I played everything else. By the time I got a little older, I had learned to tone down the outward signs of my competitiveness so I could find some people to play with me. Played a LOT of pinball and quite a bit of Asteroids, Missile Command, and Mortal Kombat.

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

When I got my first computer in the mid-80’s it was a Mac. I got a game, Wizardry, I think it was, that totally captured my imagination. I made maps on graph paper, played WAY too late at night, and really learned to love the genre. Before that, there were tons of console games I loved, but never anything like that.

What gaming consoles have you owned in the past?

Coleco Vision, Atari 2600, TurboGrafx 16, NES, N64, Genesis, SuperNintendo, Intellivision, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Game Cube, Wii, XBox, Xbox360, and some others I’m sure I forgot.

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

I remember doing some of what I would consider gaming with a friend at school.  He had a playroom that was huge at his house and we set up a slot car track. We spent hours tweaking our cars trying to make them go faster or stick to the track better, then would race each other for hours on end. I loved the competition and the little cars flying around the track. Still think about those days to this day.

Chapter 3: Online

Were you ever exposed to MUDs?

I wasn’t. Like Pen and Paper, I somehow missed that era.

What was your first MMO experience?

Like a lot of you, Everquest was my first. I started in early 2000, introduced by some friends that I played foosball with. Once I started, I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how rich the content was and how many things there were to do. I also really liked how what you did had consequences. If you died, you had to go find your body or you lost your stuff. That was cool back then.

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

EQ 61 Druid, Lineage II 33 Archer, SWG Master Architect, World of Warcraft 66 Shaman, City of Heroes 30 Controller, City of Villains, Everquest II 36 can’t remember what the SK is called, Vanguard (don’t get me started, trust me,) LotRO, Tabula Rasa, EVE, Age of Conan, WarHammer 30 Squig Herder, and World of Warcraft again. Also leveled a Lock, Mage, and Priest in WoW.

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

Playing World of Warcraft – Horde on a PVP server.

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

It’s close between EQ and WoW. I may have more total time in WoW because I have Altitis so bad. I’ve leveled a LOT of different characters there. On my main in EQ, he was retired pretty much right after the level cap was raised for PoP with around 100 days played. My current WoW main is right at 56 days played. About 35 of those days were played when he was capped at 60.

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

See above. EQ and WoW when the level caps were 60 on each.

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?

That’s hard. I could play the “what could have been” game and say SWG for it’s potential, but the game just didn’t support that. EQ was so important for it’s time, but that has passed. I’d have to say WoW, because then I’d be sure to have plenty of people to play with.

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

The Copernicus project at 38 Studios is really the only one holding my attention at all at the moment. I am a little disillusioned with the state of game development at the present time, and I am really hoping these guys can do something different.I like what I hear from Shwayder and Moorgard, but I’ve fallen for smooth talking and cheap wine before. I’m also a little piqued by what Blizzard might be working on.

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

Where is Burned Woods this week? This isn’t my work, but trust me, and if you are an MMO fan, this is a MUST read. Some EQ acronyms are worth finding out about to understand the story. I wish I could take credit for this one.

Chapter 4: Preferences

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

About 40 hours. That was during my EQ raiding days, and that was around a full-time job as well. Still today, I do about 30 hours a week. That’s probably peak for me these days.

When during the week are your regular play times?

Every night after work for a few hours, and most of the day on the weekends around events we have. Right now, we are fully engaged in gaming so it’s pretty regular. It’s not always like that.

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

I tend to be more social, but I definitely have my lone wolf side as well. Most of the time, it’s me and Tarkheena duoing. We love playing (especially dungeon crawling) with others though. Right now, we just started back on our WoW Horde characters (who have been retired since BC came out) so we are leveling, trying to get to 80 so we can run with the rest of our guild. We’re not being crazy about it but that’s where most of our effort goes.

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

Absolutely. Besides meeting my wife playing EQ, there are all kinds of people that we still keep in touch with and have for years.

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?

Usually we have something planned. There’s always a big goal hanging out there in front of us (right now, that is running 25-man Naxx.) To get there we have to level, so we know right now when we log in that we’ll be questing. There are times when we log in and ask “What do you want to do? But that is less often any more.

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

I usually have more than one game going, which drives Tark nuts. Mostly I concentrate on one, unless there is a big new release out that I want to try out. Rarely any more do I do more than two though. Most of them are so demanding that there is no way to play that many effectively and have a job. Now if I could get a sponsor…

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

If I’m really into the game I’m playing, no. I tend to have laser focus on the game or task at hand. If it’s losing my interest, I’ll go to other computer games, then to the XBox or the PS3.

Are you something of an altoholic?

Yes. I have a main and usually a couple of alts that get a decent amount of attention. Currently I have a Shaman main (73), and a Mage (54) and Lock (46). Hmmm, guess I lean toward casters. My Mage doesn’t get much play time now that my wife has her mage to 75. Let her lose interest though and I’ll trot him right back out. 😀

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)?

Always. There is a flat panel mounted on the wall where we play above the desk that is usually on, and I have another computer (I used to 2-monitor my box, but didn’t like the small performance hit, so I unretired a box for browsing and 2-boxing.) that is right next to my main gaming machine.

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

Any time I get the chance. Most of the people where I work now are not gamers (that I know of) so that doesn’t happen at work. Most of my guild lives locally, so there is an opportunity to get together every once in a while and we do.

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

I’m sure I game too much. I don’t smoke or drink or chase women though, so I feel like of the possible vices in my life I’ve chosen one that is relatively less objectionable. Plus, it’s something my wife and I do together which continues to be a bonding experience for us.

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

Yes, from time to time I’ve stepped away. Most of the time it’s in the wake of a disappointing new game and me having the feeling that I wasn’t ready to go back to whatever I was playing right away. During those times, I tend to immerse myself in the meta-game. In most cases, the meta game is at least as interesting as the actual games themselves. That’s how anyone ever came to know who I was, otherwise I’m just another player like everyone else.

Chapter 5: Blogging

When did you first start blogging?

I started in the gaming community with a fansite. Talk about jumping in with both feet. That was, obviously a site for crafters in Vanguard. I opened that in March of 2005. As that progressed I wanted more of an outlet for my personal opinions that a fansite wasn’t appropriate for. So in November of that year I started my blog. I didn’t post much at first. Seems like that is repeating itself now. I’m currently working on a new site for an upcoming game. Evidently I AM a glutton for punishment. I’m also going to get my blog going again. No, really. For sure this time.

Why do you blog?

I never really thought about it. I started to get some things out of my system. That resonated with a certain audience, so I was encouraged to continue. It kind of made it’s own momentum from there. I still like thinking and talking about gaming. So that’s gotta be the main reason.

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

I used to. Sometimes that just isn’t possible to keep up though. When I’m going well I’m trying to write four or five times a week.

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

Absolutely there is. Once something is scheduled it becomes a commitment. Commitments carry responsibility and responsibility can be a grind. I also am prone to writer’s block. Once that sets in, it can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I can’t write well when I’m under deadline and uninspired. So I try harder, which leads to a block. Then I feel bad about missing a post… you get the picture.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about blogging?

I like all the interaction with people who have like interests. I even like the debates with people who think my ideas are total crap and fabrications. I’ve had a few of those, especially during the emotionally-charged Sigil-splat era. I really enjoy all of it except trying to do it when I can’t.

How many people offline know you blog?

A handful. Some of the guys I used to work with, a couple of my wife’s co-workers. The people in my current guild don’t know, and I kind of like that.

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

If you are going to commit to your audience, make sure you have something to say and a real charter to fulfill. I have a particular way of looking at things, and that is what sets my blog apart from some others. Don’t be controversial for the sake of controversy, but don’t shrink from it either. Let your angst show. Try to be transparent and never lie. Be yourself, amplified.

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

I wish I would have known about some of the cool software tools. I’m still learing about that and trying to update my blog. I also would have tried to set more realistic goals for myself.

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

Yes. I’ll probably always have a web presence though. If I’m not blogging I’ll have a fansite or something. I’m not planning on stepping away but I think I could if I were ready to do so.

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?

Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin) – do the math, if you are a fan of obscure internet culture.

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