TA Community Interview - ShinUkyo

By DavieMarshall, 5 years ago
Put all those Sunday jobs on hold, pull up a chair and settle in for this weeks Community Interview with ShinUkyo. Nominated by members of community, ShinUkyo is 29 years old and was born and raised in Chicago.

However, we’ll be digging much deeper than that to find out as much as possible in the time we have available!

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D: Let’s start with a ‘back to basics’ question that we put to almost all of our interviewees. We’ll quickly gather pace from here! So, the Gamertag, can you tell us briefly where the influence for your tag came from?

S: I've been using this as my online alias for about ten years now. It was an homage to a great-grandmother on my Mom's side of the family, named Ukyo, who I didn't even find out about until later in my youth. Even though the Japanese side of my family ended with her, meaning it contributed nothing discernable to me biologically, I've felt that part of my soul must have been affected by it. I had been in love with both Japanese music and the language itself since almost birth, and it never really made sense as to why. This did something to explain that, in some small way at least. Ukyo itself is a gender-neutral name in Japan, so I felt it could fit me well. As for the "shin" part, that's an adjective which typically means "new."

D: And for how long have you been a Xbox 360 gamer?

S: I purchased my system in December of 2007, so it's been just over three years. It hasn't been consistent, however, as I took an eight-month hiatus from using my 360 while I was between apartments and staying with family. During that hiatus, I managed to miss out on both seasons of 1 vs 100 I'm a bit sad about this, as Microsoft doesn't seem to have any similar real-time live games on the horizon. While Full House Poker looks interesting, I've never been a huge poker buff. Trivia, on the other hand, was right up my alley. This and, I've always been a huge fan of classic game shows.

D: Your interest for consoles and indeed all things computing is by no stretch of the imagination a recent development. In your PMs to me you described growing up with a father who had a developed interest for computers before they were commercially available. Indeed you say you’ve been online ‘since the early 1980s’ and using computers in some form almost literally since birth. How has your impression of computers or the online world changed over these decades?

S: After going online for something close to thirty years, it's tough for me not to become jaded a bit. In the olden days, you had to make quite an effort to get online in the first place. The modem for one of our oldest computers was a coupler, basically two rubber cups that fit over each end of a traditional-style telephone. They would transmit the bleeps and bloops directly over the line with no external interpreter device. Friends would often acquaint this to some coconut contraption from Gilligan's Island, and it still gives me a laugh to this day. Even once the "blazing-fast" 2400 baud modems came along, however, getting online was no mundane task. In that, with the dedication it required, most of the people you'd meet online would be kindred spirits with a similar thirst to discuss the things they were passionate about.

D: Does this still not hold true? Discussion forums and outspoken voices online seem to grow as each year passes.

S: The internet has become an essential part of life, and I suppose it's a double-edged sword. The good points certainly outweigh the bad. You can find almost any piece of information on the planet with a few clicks, and just as quickly you can be chatting with friends from around the world as though they were in the same room with you. This mainstream progression of the internet has also brought us Xbox Live, something we all feel blessed for. My biggest gripe would probably be how discussion online has degraded. You can still find the types who enjoy true discussion, you just need to look a bit harder. They are most-often washed out in a sea of people who just want to spout things for catharsis. Most postings I see online are people saying either, "This thing sucks," or, "This thing is brilliant," without any sort of backing to their point. They've forgotten that an opinion, like truth itself, is something which should constantly be evolving. Research and new findings on the subject should always continue to shape it. I've always said something along the lines of, "If when exiting a long discussion, your feelings on the subject are identical to when you entered, you really haven't discussed anything."

D: And as a child you say you enjoyed the benefit of most major consoles in your household, plus some really obscure pieces of hardware. Many of us would recognise the brand names such as Virtual Boy despite it never truly taking off. However, you had access to consoles such as Pipp!n and Playdia. Do you remember much of these consoles? Were any of them actually as good as, if not better, than some mainstream hardware, but they just never caught on for whatever reason?

S: One of the gems of my collection is my FM-Towns Marty, a console that very few have even heard of. Compared to its competition at the time, it was actually a brilliant and quite revolutionary piece of hardware. The biggest problem is that it failed to meet the three key requirements of a successful console. It didn't have a substantial backing of software titles, it wasn't released at a price point that the average consumer could justify paying, and it didn't have the right marketing or word of mouth behind it. In that, like most consoles in history, it quickly bombed. Prior to the 360, my two favorite consoles were the Dreamcast and the PC-Engine (Turbografx.) While both had moderate success, neither was around for very many years in total. Part of this was them being ahead of their time, part of this was competition in the market, and really in the end it takes a cosmic set of circumstances for a console to endure.

D: Which console out of the ‘retro gang’ was the one to really pull you in to gaming? Can you remember what it was about this particular console that made it so accessible?

S: Like many others, the NES was the console that changed my life. I received it as a birthday present in February of 1986, immediately upon its mainstream release in the United States. We had owned consoles before this, be they Colecovision, Intellivision, Commodore 64, and various Atari models. It was clear to me, immediately, that the NES was something different. And in the end, it would truly revolutionize and shape the future of console games. To me, it was also the catalyst in coin-op gaming losing its viability in the mainstream. You might call me crazy in saying this, as coin-op arcade machines were viable for many years following the release of the NES. I don't mean to say it was instantaneous, more of a very slow and chipping sort of process.

D: Living and growing up in Chicago gave you the chance to visit the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) most years. As you rightly point out in your PM, this is more or less what would be known as E3 now. How old would you have been when your Dad started taking you, and how many events did you make in total?

S: I was only nine years old when I started attending the Summer CES with my father. It wasn't a public event at the time, and we were allowed to attend under his company name (even despite his lack of connection to the gaming industry.) After 1994, and four of our own trips to the show, the CES stopped being hosted in Chicago. E3 started in 1995, however, and it directly replaced the Summer CES as the yearly gaming industry trade show in America. Looking back on it later, I was actually a bit surprised that I received the same regular attendance badge as my father did each year. There were no markings of "child," or anything you'd typically see on a minor's convention badge nowadays. This means that either their age restrictions were very lax, or perhaps he fudged my age on the forms we always submitted. I was eerily well-spoken for my age, and decently tall, so most of the people we met there assumed I was in my early teens.

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S: This is my badge from the 1993 show. It's something I've always kept accessible for sentimental reasons. Plus, it was the year with the largest number of cool pins from the various booths. Many of them were promoting new or upcoming home console ports, such as Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition, the first Mortal Kombat, and the original Star Fox (Star Wing.) Sega Sports was around back then, too, and I sometimes forget the legacy they have. The pin from Virgin reminds me of a Westwood Studios game they were readying to publish that year, Lands of Lore: the Throne of Chaos. It's one of my favorite PC titles of all-time, and I'm saddened at how rarely people seem to recognize it. I'll assume most people are wondering what in the world Victor Maxx was. It was a virtual reality headset which you could use to play your games. The technology never really took off, but then again, it took 3D technology so many decades to find the momentum it has today. Maybe VR is due for a comeback!

D: You told me an interesting anecdote from the show you visited in 1992 where you befriended a chap from Capcom. How did this meeting initially come about?

S: I was browsing the Capcom booth, and I struck up a conversation with one of their producers that was visiting from Osaka. He was a bit shocked that a child was asking him intricate questions about development and game layout choices, working with the musical composers on the team, and so forth. Finding out how young I actually was just threw him further. He was also a bit surprised to hear an American referring to the MegaMan games as "RockMan" (and their original Japanese titles.) I explained to him that my family had been avidly importing Japanese games for years, and that I came to know most of these Capcom entities by their original names. I swear I made a joke at this point, something along the lines of, "Mike Bison is my favorite boxer." I also told him that I like to go online avidly, and that I loved to research the production side of games as much as was reasonably possible at that point in time. We would stay in touch mostly through email, and over the years we would realize we had loads in common in terms of creative notions. our friendship has endured for almost twenty years now.

D: You clearly made a lasting initial impression as you were invited some years later to take part in a small outsourced coding role for Konami? I’d love to hear some more about this.

S: In 1999, Konami Tokyo was readying the Playstation port of DDR 3rd Mix for release in Japan. They had recently decided to scrap the Dreamcast port of this same game, as Sega's console was on its way out. This, even though the Dreamcast versions of their music games had been the only home ports to show graphics and loading times on par with their arcade counterparts. The two prior PS1 ports were clunky, and they'd only been passable at best. In this, they needed to be sure that DDR 3rd Mix for PS1 was a significant step above their last attempt on the console. They decided to outsource programmers from friendly companies in the industry, in order to meet such demands without needing to delay the game. My aforementioned friend at Capcom contacted me about this, as he knew I had dabbled in basic computer programming for many years. He also knew how much I adored both music and the music gaming scene, something which was in its infancy. He pulled some strings, and was able to set up the connections that resulted in me being on Konami's contract programming team. The amount of work required was ultimately small, as they ended up with so many helping hands. It was exhilarating, though, my being even a small cog in the game industry machine for once. Thankfully, this could be done almost entirely from home. The data was securely submitted back and forth to them through the computer, so I could complete this work despite being home in the states.

D: And upon completion of the project was this the end of your contact with Konami and ultimately Japan?

S: When the project was completed, Konami offered to fly me out to Japan and meet some others on the team. This was a huge honor, even though I'd imagined they flew folks back and forth for business all the time. I had actually been to Japan twice previously with my family, in 1992 and 1994. This, however, was something completely different. An unlimited rail pass in hand, I would tour most of the country while there and meet people who had been heroes of mine. A lot of the Konami staff were excited at meeting me, and I'd imagine they approached me with a similar mindset to my friend from Capcom so many years prior. It was unlikely they'd ever heard of an American teenager who was so passionate and beknownst with regards to both the Japanese and production sides of the gaming industry. They knew that I was a budding journalism student, and so they were gracious enough to let me attend loads of industry press events. This included many music press events, where I was able to meet and interview some of my idols in the world of Japanese music. I would sit down with many of the pivotal members of Konami's staff as well, including a very brief visit with Kojima himself.

D: Who would have imagined what attending CES could bring for you in the future! Did you ever become involved in any other projects for Konami, Capcom or indeed any other companies otherwise in the following years?

S: Had I moved to Japan, they made it clear that I'd have been offered at least an entry-level position at Konami. The same type of offer stood at Capcom, as I'd been able to meet a lot of my old producer friend's fellow staffers in Osaka. At that point in my life, however, I wanted to finish school. I was about to head to university, and this was something they both understood and respected. Upon hearing this story, many friends will ask me why I didn't just go into programming later on in life. While it was something I could certainly do well enough, it just wasn't for me. I'm a fan of fields that allow you to flex your creative muscles, interact constantly with a team, and so forth. Straight coding doesn't fit this mold, unfortunately. This and, if anything, I was being guided towards journalism. As much as gaming is a core part of me, music is my greatest passion. Music journalism seemed more of a fit for me than anything gaming related.

D: You've mentioned this in your PM as well, how music is a passion of yours. Meeting famous Japanese artists must have been an incredible experience for you of course. You attribute your love of music to your parents and the frequent exposure to all things musical. Can you remember specifically the kinds of music you were introduced to as a child?

S: While we kept up with current acts of the time, we listened to a lot of what you'd call "oldies" music. This meaning artists from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This ranged from pop-sensible acts like Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison to earthy rock bands like Steppenwolf and Vanilla Fudge. Then of course the mainstays like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, etc. In general we listened to just about everything, though, from every genre and era of recorded music you can name. My father was also a huge fan of folk music, making it no coincidence that singer-songwriter and folk are probably my favorite genres of music. It's also no surprise that, with this sort of exposure, I developed an affinity for older music. I'd still say, today, that most of my favorite music comes from the 60s and 70s.

D: And how have your tastes altered and grown? Is there a particular style of music which you are drawn toward?

S: Something that differs a bit from my family's tastes is my adoration of R&B music. I feel a deep connection with it, along with soul, gospel, and other such related genres. Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Gerald Levert, Chaka Khan, and countless others are among what I define as the absolute lifeblood of music. It saddens me how few young people could name a single song from any of the aforementioned (aside from Respect.) I also have a fondness for Motown that transcends words. They took R&B and soul, fused it with pop, and ended up with the greatest thing in recorded music history. I don't think that such a caliber of writers, producers, and performers could ever be brought together again.

D: Where does Japanese music fit into this? You mentioned in your PM that nearly half of your music collection is in English, while the other half is Japanese.

S: Thanks to a family friend who was a record distributor, we had access to Japanese music from the time I was three or four years old. This friend would constantly give us samples of new albums to keep, mostly American or British. Having eclectic tastes himself, and knowing my father was in the same mindset, he urged us to try out some Japanese artists. It caught my ear from the start, and my interest piqued. By the time I was four or five years old, and actively seeking out albums with my parents, my selection was always a mix of both English and Japanese music. I've grown up with a steady stream of both, and to me the music industry in Japan has held up much better than that of America in the past few decades. Japan still releases CD-Singles for every artist single getting promoted, each along with a B-Side, multiple times prior to full albums being released. The industry operates much like the American record business did up until the 1980s. This is both a good and bad thing, the only bad thing being that you end up spending a lot more money buying each release from your favorite artists.

D: How expansive is your music collection? Is it mostly ‘hard copies’ or are you a digital download convert?

S: I've actually never purchased a song on iTunes, and I'm a bit of an old fuddy duddy when it comes to music purchases. To me, having something tangible is far too important. In that, my music collection is all hard copies of the actual albums. I own something in the neighborhood of 13,000 CDs. This is accumulated over the course of nearly three decades, keep in mind, as my first CDs were acquired in late 1986. Many thousands of the Japanese ones are CD-Singles, and thousands in general were purchased at used shops. This collection is both a joy and a great source of stress while moving houses. The number of boxes filled with CDs is absurd, and this before we get to the other forms of media like games, vinyl records, and laserdiscs. And with a few rare exceptions, yes, I have listened to every single disc in some way or another.

D: Interestingly, you noted to me that despite this passion for music, music games on the Xbox 360 are very rare on your Gamercard. Why is that?

S: I've done well enough keeping up with dancing, singing, or button-press music games. However, you'll notice there isn't a single instrument-based music title on my gamercard. Part of this is how late I picked up my 360, as by then there were already a number of these out. The lack of online play in the first Rock Band, along with my apartment being too small to host friends, meant that I wouldn't have gotten the full experience out of buying it when it released. I'm also not the type who has an easy time skipping titles in a series, and by this point that number of missed titles is seemingly insurmountable. Not to mention, if I picked up every piece of Rock Band DLC that contained music I adore, I would go bankrupt. For now, I reserve my Rock Band or Guitar Hero playing time for trips to friends' houses. A few of my closest friends have all the games and loads of great DLC, and I always have more fun playing it with friends anyhow. In this alone, I've technically played loads of both series.

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S: There is apparently photographic evidence of my having played Rock Band. I'm the one in the middle, mind you I look a bit rubbish in this photo. That's what a long night of intensive playing and screaming will do to you. Either way, I stumbled upon this a few days back and it struck me as both fun and fitting. This was taken during the gathering we had on the launch weekend for The Beatles: Rock Band. I spent the majority of the evening on vocals, and I sang every early-era Beatles number on the disc. My friend Steve, the one playing the drums, took over the vocals for the psychedelic-era songs. Our friend JT, on the right, suggested we pose like we were rocking out when the photo was snapped. And so we did!

D: Do you value social gaming/multiplayer experiences over single player titles?

S: Absolutely! Not that I mean to devalue single-player gaming. Almost every one of my all-time favorite games is a single-player title, and my favorite series on the 360 is single-player as well. Still, when it comes down to it, I'm a very social sort of person. Nothing brings me greater joy than spending time with other people, and this translated into my evolving tastes in gaming. I had always been a fan of multiplayer titles, whether they were co-operative like Contra or competitive like Street Fighter. The N64 took this further by making four-player gaming a standard, and games like the original Halo with system link were brilliant. No game session is ever the same twice, and the entirety of the time you're laughing or hollering along with your friends. This is why the multiplayer side of gaming has never lost its zest for me. If anything it has only gotten better as each year passes.

D: Does this mean you've somehow "lost your zest" for single-player games?

S: To me, the single-player side of the industry started to stagnate sometime after the turn of the century. I actually took a hiatus from buying games, for the most part, between 2002-2007. During this time, I would almost exclusively play multiplayer games at friends' houses. Part of this was lack of funds, and an even greater part was just being burnt out on what single-payer games had become by then. In an increasingly brutal games market, publishers were pushing play time and replay value as ways to edge out their competitors. This was sort of misleading, however, and only in rare cases were games actually longer. Most games were artificially extending their "total playtime" by either adding things like battle trophies or by going overboard with things like collectibles. Collectibles started out innocently enough in the Rare titles for N64. Banjo collects music notes, and Donkey Kong collect bananas. Makes sense to me, and it only detracts you a little from the core of the game. Later on, games were forcing you to collect a dozen different things at a time. Guess what? I don't feel like collecting the 200 Ankhs of Depreciation, the 400 Feathers of Fausto, or the 100 Bewildered Donkleberries of Ashburton. I just want to play a bloody solid platformer!

D: Which games that you have played do you feel have encapsulated the multiplayer experience in perfect or near perfect fashion? For me, Timesplitters (the first and second) on the PlayStation was a multiplayer experience which was then and still is now in many ways, superior to most other offerings out there.

S: Fighting games, mostly Capcom offerings, have always been perfect to me. Not much needs to be said on that one. And as mentioned before, I think N64 and its four-player standard was a revolution. I can't tell you how many hours I spent playing Smash Brothers, Goldeneye, Mario Kart 64, and Perfect Dark with friends. Halo was the perfect split-screen or system-link game, and Halo 2 was the title that really ushered in the online console gaming age. If we're discussing modern titles, most of the advances for the 360 era have come in terms of co-operative play. Horde Mode in Gears of War can't be ignored, and there's a reason most every major shooter franchise has copied it. Borderlands stands out to me, too, as it took a game which could otherwise become tedious and made it absolutely brilliant through drop-in/out gameplay with friends. In terms of newer competitive games, favorites for me are Shadowrun, Monday Night Combat, and Transformers: War For Cybertron. They all involve class-based and mostly cerebral play, something that delights me and needs to be utilized more often.

D: And what do you think provides a good example of how a single player game should be devised and executed?

S: This is a very tough question. Part of me wants to say it needs a good story, while on the other hand I remember that you can find much better narratives simply by reading a book. Games have always been about gameplay, go figure - and that should be the shining feature of any title. Things like story, graphics, or sound shouldn't mean a lick if you're not actually enjoying playing the game. This is part of my fondness for the classic Mario titles, especially Super Mario World and Mario 64. They took the simplicity of platform gameplay and tacked on some goals to accomplish and things to collect. The key to this, however, is that they found a balance. Something that seems so simple is actually quite meticulous to put together. There was just the right amount of each element, and nothing went overboard. The platforming was tricky, but not insanely hard. Collecting stuff took time, but not too much time. The game had a concrete enough story, but it never took itself too seriously. I think developers today have lost their sense of what balance really is. "Quantity over quality," as tired as the statement is, seems to sum up the problem with most modern single-player titles.

D: During that aforementioned period of time when you were ‘turned off’ to games, or at least they didn’t interest you in the way they might, how important was the Xbox 360's achievement system to you in ‘bringing you back’?

S: Achievements were one of the two key features of the 360 that managed to bring me back to gaming three years ago. For one, they finally gave us a consistent and tangible reward system for completing games. Even more importantly, they helped make single-player games more of a social experience. By the turn of the century, culminating in the PS2 era, single-player games were getting to where you'd have to spend 100+ hours completing many of them. This was despite the flood of new titles coming out every month. All this did was encourage gamers to be isolated and shut off from the outside world, grinding out things for accomplishments that no one else would ever see. The 360 came along and changed this. With the 360's achievement data being public and accessible, community sites like this one give us an infinite number of ways to compare and share our gaming accomplishments with each other. This doesn't just help to brag or to prove what you've done, but it also allows you to congratulate and even help out your fellow gamer. Not just local friends, either, but literally anyone on the planet with Xbox Live.

D: Do you make much use of the other elements of the Xbox 360 seeing as how the social side of gaming very important to you? Do you Kinect Video Chat for example, or use Party Chat outside of games often?

S: It's funny you mention this, as the other key feature that drew me to the 360 was Xbox Live. It took internet connectivity, once an optional feature in consoles, and made it a vital part of the experience. My apartment is too small to host friends nowadays, and I spend much of my time working. There are not many chances for local multiplayer anymore, aside from the rare times I can head over to friends' houses. Being able to play most every game for the 360 online, with friends from across the planet, is a Godsend. This can be done on any day of the week, all while wearing your headset and chatting just like you would while playing in person. As long as close friends are on Live, which they usually are, we're basically always in party chat. This is whether or not we're playing the same games. There are exceptions, of course, like when I'm playing a game that requires either immense concentration or frequent focusing on story scenes.

D: And as part of our growing gallery, can we get a glimpse of your gaming setup? I don’t think anyone will beat the size of Mark Farley’s TV from last weeks interview!

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S: I'm sorry for the lousy quality on this one. It was snapped with my phone, which is sadly the only camera I have access to at the moment. My television is a 40-inch (about 100-centimeter) Samsung LCD. It's a brilliant set, but surely nothing out of the ordinary for this community. On the right, albeit barely visible here, is my Deathsmiles faceplate. It's the only one I've ever seen that actually matches my black console. It's also one of my fave games, which saddens me once I realize that I've yet to boot up my own copy of it! The white and pink thing on the left is my Street Fighter IV Femme Fatale Tournament Edition Fighter Stick. I don't have the luxury of setting up my nice sound system, mostly thanks to these paper-thin walls and out of respect for the neighbors. At least I'm probably safe in assuming I'm the only one so far with two cube-shaped plush pigs in my living room.

D: By now readers of this interview and regular forum users will no doubt have noted your clear grasp and interest in language and the written word. Is this something that is self taught?

S: I was always light years beyond my age, with regards to both knowledge and demeanor. Much as my love for music, this was nurtured and passed on to me by my parents. This didn't alienate me from fellow students, mind you, as another trait I gained from my parents was being highly sociable and a good communicator. This worked both for and against me, I suppose, as much of my time in highschool was spent partying with my friends rather than doing my homework. Still, even by age twelve, I had been writing at or above a college level. My English teachers always encouraged me to stay in this course of study, and I was more than happy to oblige. I was accepted into Northwestern University, one of the most-prestigious schools for journalism, after graduating highschool. This was despite low grades in quite a few classes which relied on homework completion, of course. Northwestern was way out of my family's budget, and we were nowhere near as financially sound as in my youth. I had to diligently search out scholarships and grants to cover tuition. In the end, with multiples of each, 95% of the tuition cost was covered for us. This left us with only a few thousand dollars to pay out of our own pockets each year.

D: And how long did you study English and journalism at Northwestern University?

S: Sadly, I would only attend one full year at Northwestern. In June of 2001, my father passed away. He had dealt with heart problems for many years, but he had always pulled through in the end. Even though he was staying in the hospital for the few days prior to this, both he and I assumed his strength would carry him like always. He was completely vital and aware just one day before he passed, so this came as quite a shock to me. Not to mention I was only 19 years old, and I was still attending school. That's not the time in life when you prepare yourself for something like the loss of a parent. Not that I would have been better-prepared at some point down the road, as I loved him too dearly to imagine life without him.

D: That must have been a terrible time for you, but I guess you had little time to gather yourself and begin rearranging parts and areas of your life to account for your loss which couldn’t have helped?

S: I had been living with him, in an apartment we rented, and so while dealing with his loss I also had to find a new place to live. I had already been working, but from this point onward every cent of my paychecks would need to go towards rent and life expenses. Prior to this, I could spend my earnings on game and music purchases. This is what they call being forced to grow up really fast, I guess. Even though I'd always been the smart kid, there's a sort of maturity you don't gain until you're forced to fend for yourself. This was the catalyst for that, albeit possibly one of the worst catalysts imaginable. I expanded my work hours to full-time, but it wasn't nearly enough to pay for college anymore. A few thousand dollars per year was still two thousand more than I had, as I was now living paycheck to paycheck.

D: Did you ever finish your degree or does it remain incomplete? If so, is it something you’d like to finish?

S: I've never gone back to school. It's been nearly ten years now, and I'm not sure if I'd even be able to pick up the pieces. My writing has become extremely sloppy and colloquial over the years, and most professors would likely laugh off anything I could compose for them. It would require a decent amount of study just to get back to the point I left off at, let alone make any progression. It's still in the back of my mind, assuming I could find a way to do it without needing to take out student loans. I've seen too many friends graduate school, earn their degree, and then have absolutely zero success finding a job in their field of study. For them, the only major result of completing university was being left with 100 grand in student loan debt. I can't afford to take that gamble.

D: Of the things you have accomplished in your life, what would be your proudest achievement?

S: This is another tough one! As cheesy and philosophical as it sounds, I suppose my greatest achievement thus far is that I've found contentment. Most of this came along only in the wake of tragedy and hardship, but often times that's what it takes. Very few people I know can say they're truly happy with their life, and most are looking for something to validate themselves. I'm happy with things as they are, not out of giving up but rather by seeing the abundant joy around me. I still work full-time just to barely support myself, and things surely aren't care-free for me. At the same time, I'm surrounded by the love of countless dear friends along with my mother and grandmother. They all bring me solace.

D: And within the world of Xbox, of the around two and half thousand achievements you’ve unlocked (totalling a Gamerscore of 50k plus), which ones are you most proud of?

S: If anything, I'm proud of building a half-decent balance of TA ratio, completion percentage, and number of games completed. This, despite only playing games that I love. Aside from the Yaris game, I despise it and that blemish will sadly be forever on my card. I haven't actually unlocked any of those truly insane achievements, in games like Lost Planet, Devil May Cry, or Ninja Gaiden. It's tough to point to any specific achievement, as so few on the 360 are truly mind-numbingly difficult to begin with. I've cleared some games that require decent patience and time devotion, however, and most of the games I've included in my trophy case fit that bill. I've also included Borderlands, a game which was by no means difficult to complete. I did spend something like 200 hours playing it so far, however, and I've enjoyed every second of that time. I never viewed it as a grind, something I can't say for many games that I spent over 100 hours completing. Well, aside from the big tournaments in Mad Moxxi at least. Those were a slog, to put it mildly.

D: And what titles or genre of titles spend the most time in your console?

S: Among retail titles, hack'n slash and fighting games seem to be the most-played genres. Most of my time is spent on Live Arcade titles, however, in too many varied styles to really narrow it down. My absolute favorite genres over the years tended to be platformer, adventure, or ARPG's. Thinking about it for a second, wow, we really don't have many of those on the 360. Among the few shining examples, most are for Live Arcade and are often remakes. You wouldn't know it to look at my gamercard, but growing up RPG's were an absolute favorite of mine. I literally played every RPG released, for the PC and for every console, up until the end of the PS1 era. Then I just stopped, basically cold turkey. The reason I stay away from them nowadays, as mentioned earlier, is the sickening and artificially-elongated time that most modern RPG's require to complete. There are a few that I'm going to play, once I have the time, that break from this mold a bit.

D: Could you choose a favourite game, or are there a number of strong contenders?

S: I always separate single-player from multiplayer, as they are vastly different experiences as far as I'm concerned. My favorite single-player retail games are the Dead Rising titles, easily. My fave single-player game for Live Arcade is Shadow Complex. As for multiplayer, Borderlands brought me the most joy among retail games. Two titles from last year's Summer of Arcade reign as my favorite multiplayer games for Live Arcade. One is Monday Night Combat, and the other is Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. HOD stands as my most-played game for 360, at well over 200 hours. It could be nearing 300, but the in-game counter isn't terribly reliable and doesn't include the loads of time spent in lobbies or setup menus.

D: How do you feel gaming, as a hobby, has changed in perception in recent years. With franchises such as Call of Duty seeing each release heralded like a box office movie, is gaming now viewed as a more ‘serious’ hobby and the not the refuge of a minority?

S: Gaming has definitely become a mainstream form of entertainment, and its releases can compete with or sometimes even eclipse Hollywood. I never thought I'd see the day, really, but then again a lot of things have changed in my years on this planet. I never thought that owning a computer and going online would become an almost-essential part of life for every person living in the civilized world. Gaming still has a stigma associated with it, but over the years this will continue to diminish. There will be a point at which every living person was born in a world where videogames have always existed. In the grand scheme of things, it's not even that far away.

D: Whatever people’s view of the gaming industry it’s certainly not a cheap past time as we all know. Do you manage to keep your spending on gaming in control? In your PM you briefly referred to an ‘OCD’ like mindset you have in which you feel as though you must pick up every bit of additional content for a game where possible.

S: I tend to be OCD about getting every possible piece of in-game content for a title I really like. Most of the games I've played are for Live Arcade, and thankfully Live Arcade titles get DLC fairly infrequently. Of the retail titles I own, I've managed to get most of the content they offer. The only things that drive me crazy are the pre-order bonus content. When games likeFable III offer unique pre-order incentives from five different retailers, incentives which will not go up for sale at a later date, you either need to spend loads of time/money procuring them all or simply miss out. This is becoming more of a common practice nowadays, sadly, so for OCD completionists I let out a great sigh.

D: Now, on your Xbox LIVE bio, there’s a part which says; “Trying to play [Xbox] as much as I can...I still don't get nearly as much time on it as I'd like, sadly”. How much time do you squeeze in your Xbox in an average week?

S: On most weeks, I tend to make it on at least a couple days. Let's say 15-20 hours is a safe average. It's not fair to go by averages, though, as my time spent varies so wildly. In my first week of playing Borderlands, I spent something like 70 hours in the game. I've probably spent close to this amount in my first week with Dead Rising 2 (Xbox 360), and other rare games that captivate me so. I know I've had weeks where I've spent around that much time playing HOD, too. On the other hand, there are weeks where I literally don't boot up my 360 at all. A combination of over-working and gaming apathy can leave me without the strength or ambition to play sometimes.

D: And looking ahead to the rest of the year ahead of us, what titles excite you the most?

S: I have a feeling that some of the best titles have yet to be announced. This especially holds true for Live Arcade, the source of most of my games. On the retail front, checking out the games with dates so far, there are actually quite a few that strike me already! Duke Nukem Forever, Mortal Kombat, WWE All-Stars, Shadows of the Damned, Alice: Madness Returns, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, Child of Eden, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I was going to elaborate on each, before realizing how many there are. Let's just leave it at that, for those who've actually managed to survive through my long-winded answers thus far.

D: And do you have any big plans or goals in your personal life that you’d to complete this year?

S: In the past few weeks, I've been thinking seriously about life. Part of it was reminiscing and retelling my story for the sake of this interview, and part of it dealt with some family hardships I've recently faced. I'm hoping to pursue some sort of career in a creative field before the year is out. Allowing your creative muscles to go unflexed for so many years will result in atrophy, and I can't stand for that. As much as I love my current job, and as much as I'm happy with life, I could certainly do with feeling a bit more-fulfilled in it.

D: As we begin to draw this interview to it’s close, this final part is thrown completely open to you. Is there anything you’d like to share with us all, or any shout-outs you’d like to give to the community?

S: I must give shout-outs to my 7th Step people. We've been together for more than a decade, now, and we're blessed to have such a tremendous and close-knit group of friends. We were originally brought together by our love for gaming, but from that we've developed some of the strongest bonds imaginable. Some of them have joined the site so far, and I'm sure they'll be reading this. Even as well as we know each other, hopefully they'll find out something new about me today.

I also must make note of TA itself, and the wonderful members of this site. This place embodies the word "community," making it no wonder this is the best gaming-related site on the web. I've been a member here since basically the beginning, and I've never been prouder to say this. As often as I'll speak about the decline of the internet community at large, this place is a shining beacon of hope. Let's never lose this.

Perhaps the most informative interview yet I'd say! An interviewer's dream, ask him a question and let him run. An incredibly likeable and approachable guy, lets get this weeks discussion off to a start shall we? And, as usual, see the text below to nominate yourself or a friend for next week's slot!

If you’d like to be featured in a future Community Interview, or would like to nominate a gamer on this site to be featured themselves, please send a PM to DavieMarshall