TA Community Interview - Big Ell

By Jonathan Barnes, 5 years ago
Our TA Community Interview is back this week! I’m sure you missed it, some more than others, some not at all, and some WAY more than others… like obsessively more… like I was legitimately frightened.

I’d like to pull back the curtain for a second to let you know that I’ve been trying to wrangle in this week’s interviewee, Big Ell, for quite some time. Like an elusive marlin, he was evasive, strong, and quick to fight, but ultimately, I was able to reel him in for your reading pleasure.

With that in mind, strap on your sarcasm shield and prepare for some harsh truths as you enjoy this week’s edition of The Gamish Inquisition.


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obj – What’s the story behind your gamertag? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, despite a sarcastic reputation on the forums, you’re actually a softie at heart and the real “Big L” is love. Confirm, deny, or elaborate?

BE - It’s a long story. My name is Ell and I’m big. Ok, so it’s a short story.

obj – If Microsoft were to force you to change your gamertag to in some way reflect your favorite song and movie what would your new tag be?

BE - Don’t get me started on gamertags. Most of them are pure trash. I especially “love” those that begin and end with Xx and have numbers where letters should be. Any gamertags in all CAPS are immediately written off as terrible also. With all that said, my new tag would probably be something like XxJ3R3MYH0LYGRA1LxX.

obj – Considering you downright slandered me (horrible? HORRIBLE???) in a recent blog post about worst gamertags on your friends list, I should take you to task, but, since I’m SUCH a nice guy, I’ll let it slide.

Where is home for you and, if I were to visit, what kind of awesome stuff would I be most likely to enjoy? Please bear in mind that I enjoy alcohol in all forms, pizza (gourmet and/or cheap), and ladies like Christina Hendricks… not necessarily in that order.

BE - Well, I am a resident of Queens, New York. If pizza is your thing, you won’t get any better than a New York slice! I’m not sure if other states do the same thing, but a bar in New York will charge you at least 5 bucks for a beer and upwards of 10 dollars for a mixed drink. So if you are fan of alcohol, you are set. If you are a fan of money, you are better off going to the liquor store and downing a bottle of Jack Daniels by yourself while playing http://www.trueachievements.com/Gears-of-War-3-xbox-360.htm.

obj – I think a Chicago Deep Dish could give New York Thin Crust a run, but it’s like choosing between Elvis and the Beatles… you can’t go wrong with either.

Is there a special someone in your life and, if so, how do they feel about gaming?

BE - Yes! I am with the same girl since 1998. When we met, I was 17 and she was 16. We are now approaching our 8th wedding anniversary. Time really does fly.

As far as gaming goes, I am lucky to not only have a wife who tolerates my gaming, but someone who will play with me as well. She loved Portal, so when http://www.trueachievements.com/Portal-2-xbox-360.htm came out, we of course tackled the co-op together immediately! She liked 2 better because it didn’t involve much “twitch” skills. You had to use your brain more than your reflexes, and she prefers that. Besides Portal, she enjoys the Kefling XBLA games, and best of all, she sings expert vocals on the Rock Band games!

As far as achievements go, she doesn’t really understand the fascination. She can see why shooting for a specific goal is nice, but lining up to die on purpose 10,000 times doesn’t make much sense to her, and I’m hard pressed to disagree with her. More on that later…

obj – What pays the bills in the Big Ell household and does your profession come with any sweet perks like a good 401K comp, casual Fridays, and/or pudding wrestling?

BE - I have been working at a doctor’s office for 10 years, and my wife is a teacher. So to answer your question, my wife pays the bills. My obvious sweet perk is working with a computer all day and spending most of my time on TA.

obj - When you’re not gaming or working, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

BE - Sadly, my hobbies have not changed much since I was a kid. I still watch sports, I still play video games. I still watch professional wrestling, although it’s much easier to stomach with a DVR, as you can fast forward through a show and watch a 2 hour show in less than an hour.

obj – What is your biggest “real life” achievement?

BE - While this may sound cliché, the birth of my 18 month old son is by far my biggest and most important achievement.

obj – Your gamerpic is a Rangers icon. As a fellow hockey fan, who is your favorite, current Ranger… please note, if you say Sean Avery, I might have to give you a beat down.

BE - While Sean Avery is fun to watch, he doesn’t win you too many hockey games. He DOES get the fans into it which is important. I am partial to our new captain, Ryan Callahan! He hits, he shoots, he passes, and he excels on special teams. He’s a homegrown talent and just a joy to watch!

obj – Is there any particular question you’d like me to ask you that I have not, and, if so, would you be so kind as to answer it?

BE - Sure!!! “What are some other pet peeves of yours with regards to achievements?”

I have 2 main ones that kind of go together.

a) People playing games they normally wouldn’t play just for easy or quick gamerscore.

While I can understand that some children’s games can be nice and relaxing to play, such as Toy Story 3 or http://www.trueachievements.com/TMNT-xbox-360.htm, putting in a game such as http://www.trueachievements.com/Avatar-The-Burning-Eart....htm or http://www.trueachievements.com/College-Hoops-2K6-xbox-....htm just for a quick 1000 points and no other reason doesn’t make much sense to me, especially if you are paying money for these games. Paying $20 just to type in console codes in http://www.trueachievements.com/Fallout-3-PC-xbox-360.htm is something only a true gamerscore whore would do. At the end of the day, I feel that you should be ACHIEVING something, which is the whole point of the achievements, and the whole point of this website as well. People who say “this is an achievement site, of course we want every achievement there is” drive me crazy!

About TrueAchievements (Thanks Das!)

b) People refusing to put games on their card because they may have one or many difficult achievements. Examples might be http://www.trueachievements.com/NINJA-GAIDEN-2-xbox-360.htm, which is supposed to be very difficult or http://www.trueachievements.com/Rock-Band-3-xbox-360.htm, where you have to buy peripherals, not to mention DLC. Some people forget why they started playing video games, and that reason to me should be good old fashioned fun! Games with glitched or unobtainable achievements are a gray area for me. I can see why someone wouldn’t want to start http://www.trueachievements.com/UFC-2009-Undisputed-xbo....htm or Ghostbusters: The Video Game solely because it just seems like the developers don’t give a shit about fixing them. I don't see much point in starting older EA titles with the servers down as well.

I am also aware that it may be hypocritical to use a Hori pad or idle box some achievements when I just said you should be achieving something, but I do enjoy game completions and only try to do this when I feel like I can speed up the process of an especially long achievement so I can get to another game quicker.

obj – Let’s kick off the gaming portion of The Inquisition with a picture of your setup and a quick description of its features.

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Writer's Note - For those without a sense of humor, the above picture was initially sent as a gag by the interviewee... real picture below.

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BE - TV is a 55" Samsung LED.

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obj – What was the first game you remember playing and your biggest memory of it?

BE - While I’m sure I had stumbled upon some Atari and old arcade games, my first real memory would be a huge display of Super Mario Bros on a huge screen in the famed NYC toy store, FAO Schwartz. I remember the screen being way up in the sky so I couldn’t see the bottom of it, so I just kept jumping and jumping without knowing what was going on. I was still hooked. My parents didn’t want me to have any video games, but in 1988 my Great Aunt bought me an NES for Christmas, and the rest is history.

obj – FAO Schwartz, you say? I KNEW there was something familiar about you!

Much like lovers, everyone remembers their first achievement. What was yours and was there any soft lighting, a bottle of Courvoisier, and maybe a fish sandwich?

BE - Honestly I don’t remember my first achievement very well, I apparently am an anomaly and have had my Xbox since 2006. (does research) Apparently I got my first meaningful achievements in the arcade classic, http://www.trueachievements.com/Street-Fighter-II-HF-xb....htm, on September 3, 2006. Apparently I got my last achievement in it on November 6, 2006, which would be my first completion! Hey, speaking of achievements in 2006, does anybody else remember when you would hear the bleep bloop and see “Achievement Unlocked”, and you wouldn’t know what the hell you did? Believe it or not, the name of the achievement and the amount of gamerscore it is worth didn’t show on screen until a much later update.

I believe my first retail achievements were in http://www.trueachievements.com/Marvel-Ult-Alliance-xbo....htm, and it wasn’t even my game. I have since rebought it and am trying to finish the campaign right now! I also popped an achievement in http://www.trueachievements.com/LOST-PLANET-xbox-360.htm, which I regret, since I didn’t like it and it wasn’t my game either. I have some 2006 achievements for http://www.trueachievements.com/Dead-Rising-xbox-360.htm as well. That game was ahead of its time and is fun as hell!

Bonus bragging section - I was a beta tester for Xbox Live on the original Xbox 9 years ago, so I'm curious if any other TAer's have the number 9 next to their gamer profile!

obj – The top row of your Trophy Case features Gears of War 1 & 2, a few WWE games, and a couple NHL games. By this rationale, I’m assuming you enjoy games with big, burly, muscley, manly-men. What is it, aside from the obvious testosterone kick, that appeals to you about these games?

BE - Well, Gears of War 1 was one of the first great Xbox games. The story is probably just ok, but the graphics in 2006 were just so far ahead of anything else at that time. See http://www.trueachievements.com/Rainbow-Six-Vegas-xbox-....htm for an example of what I mean. WWE games have been fun multiplayer games for a long time now. WWF No Mercy on N64 and the Smackdown series are great because even a non wrestling fan can pick them up and have great fun with them, while a wrestling fan will notice the little nuances. As far as the NHL series goes, it’s one of the few I play with my “real life” friends, as in normal people who play for fun and not achievements. EA really puts some terrible achievements in there, so I display them proudly in my trophy case.

obj – You’re one of the few gamers that I’ve interviewed that has http://www.trueachievements.com/Rockstar-Table-Tennis-x....htm on their best games list. Could you tell us about this reclusive, mystical unicorn of ratio goodness?

BE - Well as anyone who knows me can tell you, I love a great deal. And when Xbox 360 came out, Rockstar Table Tennis and http://www.trueachievements.com/Top-Spin-2-xbox-360.htm were 39.99 MSRP as opposed to 59.99 for everything else. I’m sure I got them both on sale anyway but I loved both of those early titles. I saw some boosting sessions for the 50 Tournaments, and after I had all the MP done, I had to finish the Single Player. I even had to use the (not for the squeamish) xbox360achievements.org forums for tips and assistance. I think a lot of these casual early games have high ratios because many people owned them, and they are difficult as well.

obj – I also happened to notice that every single one of your Best Achievements is sports or sports-entertainment related. Is this a coincidence or do you tend to work towards those high-value achievements in your sports games?

BE - It’s probably a coincidence, but I do love my sports games. The best thing about them is that they are good in small dosages. You can play a game here or there without having to worry about save rooms or getting sucked into the story or whatever.

obj – As someone who’s managed to get both Seriously ... in Gears of War and Seriously 2.0 in Gears of War 2 are you planning on going after Seriously 3.0 in Gears of War 3?

BE - Was Seriously 1.0 “fun”? No! Although I enjoyed the multiplayer aspect of it, Our Original Six had many laughs along the way. Was Seriously 2.0 “fun”? Hell no! If it wasn’t for my Hori pad, I might still be working on that one. Am I going after Seriously 3.0? Hell yes! Half of these medals are “easy”, and some of them are just ridiculous. I don’t know how they expect you to play 18,000 matches, which is why you’ll see half your friends list idle boxing this game while they are sleeping every night. I am definitely getting burnt on Gears, but a couple of sessions a week to work on different medals will prove fruitful, and I would imagine in a year from now I’ll have Seriously 3.0 compreeto!

obj – What is your opinion on these long-term-commitment achievements? Do you see value in pursuing them, perhaps at the “expense” of playing other games or would you rather have games with less time-consuming goals?

BE - Honestly, in my heart I know it’s a waste of time. I have at least 20-30 Single Player games untouched on my shelf because of these long term achievements. Seriously in Gears of War, Auf Wiedersehen Petrovic in Grand Theft Auto IV are time consuming, but the fact that they are multiplayer definitely gave me some enjoyment from them, and I met some great people on TA while working on them. On the flip side, THIS! IS! ANNEX! in Gears of War was as stupid as they come, but at least you could get some chores done while standing in the damn circle.

obj - When it comes to playing through games, do you prefer to explore and discover things on your own or would you rather follow a walkthrough or guide, or is it a combination of both?

BE - I’ll say that without a doubt, I enjoy exploring on my own, especially in puzzle games/RPGs. Anyone who played Portal with a video guide is missing the point. These are puzzle games and are meant to challenge you! If you don’t like the challenge, don’t play puzzle games!

When playing Gears 3 campaign with my group, we found whatever collectibles we could on our own, and figured when we went through a second time we could use a guide if we had to.

Taking the other side, there are long games with “missable” achievements if you don’t do some research first. I don’t see an issue with using a guide for flags in http://www.trueachievements.com/Assassins-Creed-xbox-360.htm, for example, as they seem to be put in the game for no reason, and don’t seem to be fun to find, even with a guide.

obj – I completely agree with you on researching the missable achievements. I’m currently smarting from selling my Thieves Guild Armor in Skyrim thus blocking me from finishing a quest and getting the achievement.

Fall is (obviously) a huge time for big releases. Do you think this is good for the industry or would you rather see Publishers spread things out a bit?

BE - Well to me, it definitely seems like every year November gives us plenty of A+ titles. What this means to me is that if you must pay full price for something, pick the one you want the most, then let the others go down in price and pick them up later. To beat a VERY dead horse, I usually wait until Black Friday to buy games, as you don’t even need to leave the house anymore because Amazon is the bestest. I am also a moron who buys stuff just because it’s on sale and I tell myself that I’ll eventually get to it, when in reality I never do. This is why I tell everyone to try and wait for good deals. They get mad sometimes when I tell them how to spend their money, but I don’t want them to make the same mistakes that I do.

obj – I think we see eye-to-eye here. I do the same thing with games that I’m interested in, but not invested in. It’s one of the reasons why we bring those Deals of the Day and Weekly Deals pieces on TA.

You’ve completed quite over 40 XBLA games, what is the key to a good XBLA game?

BE - Before I answer that, I must say that the best part about XBLA games is that I don’t have to get off my fat ass to swap discs.

As a general rule, I like my arcade games to be on the short side, but not so short that I feel like I wasted my money (I'm looking at you, http://www.trueachievements.com/XMEN-xbox-360.htm). Worst achievement list ever.

Games with nostalgia and tons of replay value are my favorite. My most played XBLA game has gotta be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 Arcade, as I’ve helped many friends kick Shredder’s ass! I never get sick of it.

obj – How do you play most of your games? Do you rent, buy, borrow or a combination of all three?

BE - Buy all, usually not full price, and never sell. I will lend my games to friends and hope to get them back…we all know that’s a coin flip.

obj – Since I know you’re one to never hold back an opinion, I’m going to tempt fate and give you an open soap box for a second. In your opinion, what is the most annoying thing that gamers whine about?

BE - Well whining about others whining is probably just as bad…but I’m sure I can think of something. I think I hate when some gamers on this site whine about games having online achievements. If games didn’t have online achievements, I can guarantee that we would all have less friends on our friend feeds.

obj – Let’s imagine that you’re Commander Shepard and have been tasked with assembling an elite unit of four video game characters to defend humanity from an oncoming threat. Which four characters do you put on your squad and why?

BE - Let’s say I’m who now? Hmm…

Ahhh. While I own Mass Effect 1 and 2, I sadly haven’t gotten around to playing them yet. I’m sure that I would have Sergeant Major Avery J. Johnson by my side and recruit Cole from Gears of War, Barret from Final Fantasy VII, Mr. Sandman from Mike Tyson’s Punchout, and Balrog from Street Fighter II. What do they all have in common? I have no idea, but http://www.trueachievements.com/Beavis+XBL.htm would be proud!

obj – On the flip side of the last question, which four characters would you doom to a violent, gory, hellacious death via Reapers?

BE - Oh good, I get that reference!

Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII, as whoever did her voiceover work needs to be strangled immediately.

Marcus Fenix from Gears of War 3. Holy shit, was it just me or was he ever a Negative Nancy in this game?

Lost Souls from http://www.trueachievements.com/DOOM-xbox-360.htm. Anyone remember these guys? I hate these little bastards!

Last but not least, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. After the awesome Cecil and Kain of FFIV and Terra and Locke from FFVI, this emo piece of shit comes along and attempts to ruin my favorite series. The fact that everyone’s favorite Final Fantasy game seems to be this one makes me ill. At least rayner2814 and I are on the same page with our love for FFIV.

obj – And now, Upper Case Letter After “K”, are you ready for the shock and awe of The Lightning Round?

Favorite 360 Game

BE - Gears of War 1.

Least-Favorite 360 Game

BE - Ugh, this is too easy. Let’s see, is there any game worse than http://www.trueachievements.com/Yaris-xbox-360.htm? Hmm try as I might, I can’t think of any. Yaris it is.

Favorite Achievement

BE - Seriously 1.0 and Veteran Gear (tie) This is not a typo. The achievement requirements themselves are horrible, but at least half of my friends list is comprised of people I met going for those 2 biggies. I have maintained many of those friendships and have fond memories grinding those out, especially doing the hokey pokey.

Least Favorite Achievement


Favorite Developer

BE - Harmonix, hands down. They’ve delivered weekly DLC for Rock Band every week without fail for FOUR years now. They are the best.

Most-Anticipated Game

BE - The inevitable Gears of War 4, or in the meantime, the “RAAM’s Shadow” DLC for Gears 3.

Favorite Game Protagonist

BE - Cecil from Final Fantasy IV

Favorite Game Villain

BE - Kefka from Final Fantasy VI

Favorite Game Ending

BE - I sense a theme...Final Fantasy VI – Epic, 20 minute ending. Anyone know of any good Xbox 360 endings? The Gears ones were just ok to me despite enjoying the campaigns.

obj - As far as endings go, I think the ending to http://www.trueachievements.com/Dead-Space-2-xbox-360.htm was one of the best of the year.

Favorite Game Journalist

BE - uhhhh is this a joke? I can't think of any offhand, so I'll just kiss some Newshound ass and say that they do a great job. Oh, and also everyone at Game Informer that gives every other game a 9.5.

If you could spend a “night of passion” with one character from the gaming world, who would it be?

BE - Definitely GLaDOS from the Portal Series. She has the sexiest voice around, and I think she'd look awesome naked, especially in Portal 2. I'd love to peel that potato!

If you could have lunch/a drink with one real person from “the gaming world” who would it be?

BE - Cliffy B, so I can thank him for the Gears series, and then punch him for coming up with Seriously. And then thank him again.

obj - Any final thoughts, shout-outs or (additional) soap-box statements?

BE - This is the part where I talk about the Platoon! The Platoon is basically a group of 30 or so gamers who met through gaming sessions and through other friends. We play with each most every night because randoms are smelly. We don’t have to worry about negative feedback, we don’t have to worry if we are running late or can’t make it. We respect each other (debatable) and we enjoy each other’s company.

I’d like to thank our fearless leader NinjaDave04 for creating a spreadsheet which was originally created to see what games the Platooners had in common, but wound up being a google doc chat room where we all hang out and chat all day when we are supposed to be working.

So a big shoutout to the Platoon: Ab0m, KevBears, The Beav, BJ, Danger, Daso, Kevtag, Hamster, Kendrene, Layth, Mana, 010100011, Matrarch, Max, Godec, moe, Monkey, Nonfaith, Ozark, Ozark’s kids, Ozark’s dog, Pira, randy, Toad, Ed, Davey, Jay Leno, 21H8er, Vince, and SET. And me, I’m Shadoe Stevens!

Special thanks go to Trev for inadvertently naming our group, and for providing countless stories and entertainment. I almost miss you.

osu, thanks for conducting this interview and for being patient with me while I took about 14 months to come up with answers :)

If any of you want to talk old school RPGs with me, send me a PM! And of course, in return, I’ll send you a PM about the PM that you sent me.

Chillaxin in the Broherhood - Ell


My thanks go out to Big Ell for taking his time to be this week’s interviewee.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that our Community Interviews are now being featured on a bi-weekly basis, but we are STILL in need of good interviewees! You might be wondering to yourself what exactly I look for in a candidate for the Inquisition. Here is a handy primer as you prepare to dazzle me.

1- As always, spelling and grammar are probably my biggest qualifiers. You don’t need to be able to write for the New York Times, but proper spelling and punctuation are a must.

2- Be interesting! While being funny is always a plus, I’m really looking for people with good stories (see Flyboy80498’s Interview or Maxoplata’s Interview for quick examples) to tell and/or very active community members (like Sashamorning).

3- Have an opinion! Is there something you want to have a discussion (with me) about? A game you want to rant on? An industry trend you love/hate? Let me know and we can work an interview around it.

One thing to NOT do is say things like, "You should interview me because you never interview [insert things like: "regular gamers", "gamers from the UK/USA", etc]." In short, I want you to tell me why YOU are awesome, not give me editorial pointers... I get plenty of those from the bosses. wink

So there you have it, your handy, three-step primer (plus one) on how to be the NEXT interviewee for The Gamish Inquisition. If you think you’ve got the grapes, feel free to send me, osubluejacket, a message with those three points in mind.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.