Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

One shot: Syp

Posted by Randolph Carter on September 9, 2009

MMO community connection:

Bio Break

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

Some might say that Bio Break is just another general mmorpg blog (JAGMMORPGB, which is pronounced as if you were choking on a tuna salad sandwich), but those closer to the source know the truth. They know that this is essential work that must be completed if we are to fend off and eventually defeat the alien invaders known as “YAR” in 2034, and restore humanity to its rightful place among the couch potatoes of the universe.

What was your introduction to MMOs and what was that experience like?

Anarchy Online. At launch. Gee, what do you THINK the experience was like? That I’m still playing games belonging to that genre is a miracle that should be closely investigated by the Catholic church.

Can you recall that first MMO “wow!” moment?

The second time I logged in to see my character still there. Small, stupid thing, but it hit me — this character had persistence and permanence (of a sort) in this game universe. Cool!

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

Before I met my wife, I was clocking in at least 6-8 hours a night, plus all day on my days off — not too healthy, which is why I’m glad I met her! Nowadays, I get a couple hours a day, if the planets align, the baby goes to sleep, I’m caught up on work, grad school work, and blogging.

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

I do indeed — I love single-player RPGs (Fallout 3, KOTOR, The Witcher and Mass Effect all being titles I’ve explored in the past year), casual flash games (usually of the tower defense variety), my iPhone games for when I’m out and about, and whatever really grabs me by the throat and growls “PLAY MEEE!!” until I run out onto the streets, stark naked, looking for the nearest Fry’s to obtain that title.

When did you first start blogging? And how about podcasting? Would you mind taking us up to present with all of your projects?

When I was playing WoW, I followed quite a few blogs relating to the game, and always a bit envious of the way they got to share their passion for MMOs in the public spotlight. When I began to get interested in Warhammer in early 2008, I looked around, saw that the field was pretty light for WAR-related blogs, and decided to get onto the ground floor with WAAAGH!, my first gaming blog. I ran WAAAGH! for a little over a year, covering the pre- and post-launch ups and downs of WAR, met a ton of awesome bloggers and readers, got to know a few of Mythic’s devs, and basically got addicted to writing. I love it!

As a bit of irony in appearing in this blog interview series you’re doing, one of the first things I did with WAAAGH! was to start interviewing the WAR blog community in a series of Q&As, figuring that it would not only be a great way to meet people, but they’d HAVE to link back to me then! And, to my slight embarrassment, it worked like a charm.

By early 2009, I knew that my interest in WAR was waning, so I chose to end WAAAGH! without it petering out slowly, and followed that up by starting a new general MMO blog called Bio Break (my first choice, “Exploding Sheep”, was taken). In a lot of ways, Bio Break was a huge “do over”, as I had to build up a readership and solid content, but I was delighted to discover that the blogging community outside of WAR was just as strong as I had previously known, and that spurred me on to writing a blog that was topical, honest and (hopefully) a mixture of informative and entertaining.

I have podcasted a bit, lately with Snafzg of Snaffy’s Space, but due to our hectic schedules, it can only be a once-in-a-while deal. Plus, Snafzg is a Canadian vampire, so he has to go around “watching” emotionally void females while they sleep.

Do you see blogging as just a hobby or perhaps something more?

Games can be art. They can also be trash, just like any other form of entertainment. People who never stop lobbying that video games are pure art need to get real — sometimes a headshot is just a headshot; people who degrade gamers as silly and stupid while spending entire weekends watching husky men on TV run up and down a field with a misshapen ball need a reality check.

I view my gaming as a hobby, for sure, and I can never award it anything higher than that in my life, or I would be in danger of putting it on the same level as my job, my family or my faith. There’s nothing wrong with a great hobby that puts you in touch with loads of other people, to socialize and work together for a common purpose — at least, as long as you’re not part of some underground militia group, I suppose.

Likewise, blogging is a hobby about a hobby (whoa… that’s DEEP, Syp). I’ve been a lifelong writer, and I have a serious problem in stopping the endless flow of words that just keep tumbling out. Most bloggers I know write because they’re passionate and personal with the subject, and want to connect with others by sharing their thoughts and opinions.

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

I try to post at least one new article a day. As several of my friends would attest, the problem is in me limiting myself to only one of anything. Usually I try to get a “general issue” post up first thing in the morning, which could be about whatever topic I’m thinking about, and then I follow it up with quicker posts about the daily news, or responding to topics being bounced around the blogosphere.

What works for me is to have an ongoing list of possible article topics — I have screen after screen of half-finished posts that might never see the light, but they’re there if I feel like picking them back up some day, dusting them off and taking them out for a spin. It’s nice to have a few articles pre-written and just sitting there for days that I’m at a loss for words, or too busy to devote any time to blogging.

Would you say there is some grind involved in blogging? If so, what is it and how do you tend to cope with it?

Nah, not really. If you feel like you have to grind out blog posts… well, maybe you’re going about doing it for the wrong reasons, or in the wrong way.

By contrast, what do you find pleasurable about working with blogging?

Meeting other bloggers and reading comments left by folks who often have more brilliant and insightful things to say than I ever could. I never mind when someone disagrees with me, or takes my posts in a new direction, because it’s fun to “listen” as long as I don’t take it personally.

There’s always a danger of getting a little too full of yourself when you blog, to make it a narcissistic, cult of personality thing. I really hope I don’t cross that line, but I’m sure I do on occasion — and so I do try to get as much self-depreciation in there as possible.

Remember, kids, Syp eats puppies. He’s a horrible human being. And he’s coming for YOU.

Would you care to share a particularly memorable moment from your gaming past?

This is kind of a small anecdote, but it’s stuck with me. So I was in a very tight-knit, casual guild in WoW called Time Well Wasted (they’re still rockin’ hard on the Rexxar server, look them up and give Val hell for me!). Anyway, one day we had a death in the family of one of our guildies, a young girl who took it pretty hard. We all reached out in our own ways, but I knew that she liked cats and in-game pets, so I ran around Stormwind for a good four hours until that vendor popped up who sells one copy of the little white kitten. I sent it to her, told her it needed a good home, and she wrote back that it made her day. This isn’t to say how great I am, but that it hit me then how very much we were an online family, and I felt like a real part of it that day.

Are you pleased with how your blog and podcast have been received in the blogosphere?

Sure! I’m always a bit apprehensive about getting too big or too well-known, because I know a lot of what I write is very off-the-cuff stuff, daydreams and opinions and “what if’s?”, which are easy to turn and use against me if someone has an axe to grind. But everyone has been overwhelmingly generous with their support and readership, and I hope I give back to the community and to fellow bloggers just as much.

If you had a chance to do it all over again, would you do anything different?

Not a thing. Except that I’d make a whole lot of predictions about MMO events that would eerily come true, and everyone would be in awe of my precognition.

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

Sure, I can. I have to always be willing to walk away from any hobby that gets to be too much of a priority over other things in my life that should be more important, so I always run mental hypotheticals envisioning a day where I would just stop blogging, and I think I could do it. But I have a passion for it, my wife supports it, and a lot of good has come out of it, so I’ll continue to write until/unless my conscience tells me otherwise. Or if I just become a jaded, grumpy gamer who looks at new MMOs, spits my dentures out, and starts lecturing young ‘uns on the glory of permadeath. “Oh, I *wish* I could die for real… back in the day, you wouldn’t just pop back to life as though you were blown gently through the air to a hippie revival festival — no sir, we rotted six feet under, and we LOVED IT.”

You wake up to a world where you are the head of a company developing an MMO. You have unlimited funds and resources available to you. Please describe the kind of game you would make.

Syp Online. There would be just one server, with only one player, who would get to virtually be me, sitting in front of a computer and doing nothing but typing. It would herald the end of all MMORPGs, and the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (Nerf, Troll, Carebear and Ganker).

Thanks for inviting me onto your crazy blog-type-thing, Randolph!

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