Please note that these interviews are unofficial, and therefore do not reflect the staff or site in any way. The opinions stated belong only to the interviewee.
Current Interviewee: ManicMetalhead
Previous Interview: Dwaggienite
To Apply for an Interview: See here
Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours. Does your gamerpic mean anything to you as well?
ManicMetalhead has been my tag for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure I was hunting for a unique tag when I first started gaming online and went along with my other big love at the time, which was (perhaps unsurprisingly) metal music. Then 'Manic' just came from looking for a unique name where I didn't have to add any numbers to the name. Also, it's Manic, not Maniac, which is what I sometimes get called.
Usually, whenever you see ManicMetalhead on any site (with the exception of Twitter, where someone beat me to it), it's me.
My GamerPic is just a screenshot of my avatar, after the most recent Xbox Avatar update, nothing all that special.
Describe yourself in just a few words. How do you think the rest of TA knows you?
I'll be honest, I'm never particularly good at describing myself, I feel as though it'd be too much like trying to sound cool, when I'm pretty sure I'm not. I love all types of animals, exploring new worlds (real and virtual) and am overly fond of being sarcastic.
I don't know how much the rest of TA knows me, but hopefully it's for all the walkthroughs I've poured my time into, rather than anything else.
How long have you been gaming? What’s the first game you remember playing and do you have any fond early memories of the hobby?
I've been gaming since I was pretty young. The first I really remember is playing Pokémon Crystal on my GameBoy (I wasn't old enough for Red, Blue and Yellow when they were released, I was only 4) and playing with my brother and cousins through a physical link cable. I remember using the family PC on a dial-up to play Runescape, and then getting my first PC that could actually play proper games.
I have a lot of fond memories of games I played back then (I still have most of them now). Star Wars Battlefront I & II, Star Wars Republic Commando, Star Wars: Empire at War, you can probably see a bit of a theme developing here.
I spent hundreds of hours on both Rome Total War and Medieval Total War II though, and those games are what started my interest in ancient civilisations.
My current setup is a bit more up to date, but nothing special, mostly just neatly tucked away:
Tell us about your home life! The real-life job, spouse, kids, anything.
I'm a pharmaceutical scientist in real life, which is as thrilling as it sounds really, but I enjoy it. My girlfriend and I have been together 3-4 years now and we live in the UK. We're both childfree as well, so never any kids. There's a question a couple down to show what we spend our time looking after instead.
A pharmaceutical scientist sounds pretty impressive. Is it your dream job? Did you plan for the career?
Thank you! It's not my dream job, I don't know what would be but I can guarantee it would involve working with animals. Probably running an animal sanctuary, if money wasn't an issue.
I just went with what I was good at while at school, which turned out to be chemistry and biology, then studied chemistry at uni, and then was lucky enough to find an interesting job in my field that actually uses my degree (well, maybe 20% of it, the rest hasn't been needed so far!)
Do you have hobbies outside of gaming? Anything that you're well known for?
I do indeed! My main hobby is caring for my pets, but that's covered in the next question. I also enjoy baking a fair bit. Cakes, bread, pastries, you name it. I volunteer for a local greyhound rescue as well, and we walk some of the rescues whenever we have some spare time. My girlfriend and I like exploring the world as well, and usually visit somewhere far-flung and exotic. Our favourite so far is Costa Rica!
Not sure I'm well known for anything, although I do have a claim to fame. I used to be a film extra (when I had the time). I've been in a few films, but the only one that anyone can actually see me in very briefly is the Muppets: Most Wanted. I filmed for about 14 hours one day in London, and I'm in the film for a total of about 10 seconds, split over a few scenes
A movie star and also a world traveler; sounds like a lot of fun! Any other locations to share besides Costa Rica? Any locations that you're dying to visit?
It really is! My other half had a head-start on me and has been travelling the world with her parents for years. We've been all over since we became a couple and have many more places planned.
Only a handful to share: while Costa Rica has been my favourite so far, Mexico is also absolutely amazing. I mentioned before that I have a love of ancient civilisations and the Mayans are one of those. Seeing some of the ruins there, and finding out that the Mayan people still exist today was incredible.
We want to do a few more: Caribbean islands, Thailand, Bali and I'd love to take my other half to Norway (one of the few places that I've been that she hasn't yet). I'm sure we'll find all sorts of interesting places to visit over the years, especially with our lifestyle choices.
You mentioned your taste in music when talking about your gamertag. Do you have a favorite genre? Any particular bands in mind?
Hopefully that's obvious! When I created the tag, I listened to purely rock and metal, from classic rock to black metal. I've mellowed out a bit as I've grown up and while I still love some of the heaviest music I can find, I also enjoy pop-punk, some of the more rock groups you find in the charts, and I have a bit of a soft spot for the classical themes from movies and games. All-time personal favourites are Amon Amarth, Rush, Devin Townsend and Ghost.
Everyone who knows you likely knew this question was coming. Tell us about your pets.
Haha! Thought there might a question like this. I have some slightly different pets. As of this moment I have 15 pets, although that will surely grow when my other half and I move into a new place. We rehome all of our animals and once they're with us, they'll stay with us for the rest of their life, as long as we are able to adequately care for them and give them everything they need.
I have 9 snakes (5 corn snakes, a royal python, an albino Nelson's milk snake, a Californian king snake and a western hognose snake), 2 tarantulas (a Honduran Curly Hair and a Mexican Red Knee), a scorpion and 3 red-eyed tree frogs.
I know there are a fair number of people who aren't snake/arachnid fans, but I love them all as does my other half. We end up inviting people over to meet the snakes, as each has their own little personality, of sorts.
Pictures incoming (hopefully they aren't too blurry!):
Inca - our first snake. She's a normal-type corn snake, and she loves being out of her vivarium, such a chill snake:
Voodoo - He's an amelanistic (or amel) corn snake, and was the second snake we got:
Indy - She's also a corn snake, we think she's a ghost pinstripe morph:
Vandal - Our snake-y hermit. Not a big fan of people, and feeding her is akin to the scene in Jurassic Park with the goat. She wasn't well looked after before we rehomed her, and is a bit under-sized and stroppy. She's an anerythristic (or anery) corn snake:
Felix - Our longest snake, and our oldest. Felix is a snow corn snake, is around 6ft long and is around 10 years old.
Bandit - He's a bit of a special one. Our Californian king snake, He's the one who's bitten me the worst, when he managed to get himself stuck in a decoration and panicked when we got him out, but we love him all the same!
Houdini - She's earned her name a couple of times over. She's particularly good at finding the smallest gaps to escape from. Similar to the corn snakes, but she's a lot more flightly. She's an albino Nelson' milk snake.
Fergus - Out pet rock. Fergus spends most of his time sat in one of his hides, just chilling until we go to bed and he come out to explore. He's our thickest snake, and is a normal-morph royal python.
Bertie - The smallest of our snakes, Bertie is a our western hognose. He's actually venomous, but he's more likely to hiss at you than bite, and even if he did get you, the venom wouldn't kill or even maim anyone. It's deadly to frogs and mice, but that's about it.
Toast - The Honduran curly hair tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum. He was our first tarantula. He's fascinating to see and he's built himself a nice little nest in his vivarium, all webbed up. He's actually quite fluffy, and both he and Mariachi are have urticating hairs that they flick at you if you get too close, rather than bite you.
Mariachi - the Mexican Red Knee (Brachypelma hamorii). She's quite similar to Toast, and is generally quite a chill spider as well.
Blueberry - He's a Laos forest scorpion. He gets his name from the fact that he glows blue under a UV light. He's absolutely tiny at the moment, and probably will be for a little while yet. We only have a couple of photos as he spends most of the day hiding, only coming out at night.
Tico, Papaya, Límon - Our red-eyed tree frogs. These guys are absolutely mesmerising to watch at night. They are beautiful, colourful and spend a lot of their time jumping around their viv, hunting for crickets. Tico, the male, spend a lot of his time reeting as well, which is quite cute.
They're surprisingly cute! Is there a reason why you and your partner specifically chose to adopt snakes?
We were both fascinated by snakes when we were younger, and apparently, it just needed us to become an item to convince each other to actually get one! After getting the first one, Inca, we found out how many snakes there are in need of rehoming, whether its because their current owners have had a change in circumstances, or whether they've been overbred and dumped, so we decided to rehome as many as we could properly look after.
Do you intend to add to your collection of dangerous animals? Is there any animal that you can't own, but you still want?
Absolutely! We're not sure how dangerous we'll go, it'll all depend on what needs a home. We're big supporters of a place called the National Centre for Reptile Welfare, here in the UK, and once we have more space, will happily help rehome more from them. All it comes down to is what animals are in need of home and if we know enough to look after and care for them as best as possible. At the end of the day, it's all about what the animals themselves want.
Again, with more space, comes more animals, as long as we can still look after everyone properly. I'd love to have both cats and dogs. I'd also quite like to own a beehive at some point. My other half and I have a list of snakes we'd like to get if one is put up for rehoming and we've said we'll get a boa constrictor as a moving-in present when we get our new place.
Do you feel that, as a snake/arachnid owner, that these animals generally get a bad rap? Do you worry that they might hurt someone, or are they just like any other pet?
They do. We've had numerous friends come over and visit who were scared of snakes and, as long as they agreed to it, the started by looking in the vivariums, then we got out the friendliest snakes for them to meet and even hold if they fancied it. After that, they're usually completely fine with the snakes.
You get plenty of people online making statements like "if I ever saw a snake, I'd have to kill it" and that they'd never even visit someone who kept snakes, when really they're some of the most chill pets you can have (at least some of the more common species are, you obviously get snakes that are either massive, venomous or both, which can be complete dicks). Just treat them with respect.
I've been bitten a couple of times, but each time has been for an obvious reason either I still smell of mouse after feeding another snake, or the snake is stressed and bites defensively, etc. As long the snake has a place to escape to, it is far more likely that it will run away from you, rather than bite.
As far as I know, there's one species that will actively chase you away (and are pretty venomous) and that's the Fer-de-lance (we went looking for snakes in the wild in Costa Rica, luckily no fer-de-lance, but saw a handful of common boa constrictors and an eyelash pit viper).
Arachnids/invertebrates are the same really, as long as you treat them with respect, you'll generally be fine (we did a load of research on proper care, conditions and safety before getting any new type of pet, that always helps).
Back to gaming! Why did you join the site? What piqued your interest in achievement hunting?
I've always enjoyed popping achievements and finishing games, but when I was younger I wasn't particularly good at entirely finishing games. After properly finding TA, I found a lot more resources to help, with solutions and walkthrough providing the most help, and later on, joining gaming sessions whenever I could. After a while on-site, I wanted to help give back to the community and applied to become a staff member.
We work together on the walkthrough team. Care to talk about the job? Anything special to share?
I quite enjoyed writing my own walkthroughs, after taking the plunge with Slime Rancher in 2018. As you know, we do a fair amount of work behind the scenes to make sure all the walkthrough on site are up to standard, and it's fun to see both sides of the walkthrough writing process, both writing and checking/publishing. As both the writing and checking are all voluntary, it's also nice to see so many in the community come forward and want to write a walkthrough in their spare time.
As you just mentioned, you write your own walkthroughs too. Are there any that particularly stand out?
Short answer, Quantum Break. I think it's probably one of my best walkthroughs, but as well as it being a walkthrough that many wanted, it's also one of the more detailed that I've written. I'm also quite proud of the walkthroughs for Slime Rancher, as my first one and Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. I also gutted and rewrote the Viva Piñata and Viva Piñata: Trouble In Paradise walkthroughs and I like the detail I put into them. Hopefully everyone else does too!
You recently posted in the walkthrough forums (seen here) about your goal to improve published walkthroughs here on the site. Tell us more about the goal, and why you chose to improve walkthroughs that are already published.
It always seems like a large number of walkthroughs need to be updated after DLC comes out, links are broken, or that they're too old and simply not up to the standard that we now hold walkthroughs to. I wanted to go through as much of that list as possible and bring them up to scratch, as they generally seemed to be ignored. I've made a shortlist in my blog of all those I have in my sights and once those are completed, I'll be targeting the others. Hopefully I can whittle the list down quicker than it grows.
If anyone has a specific walkthrough that they'd like me to take a look at, I'm happy to give anything a look. Not only do I get to pick up some fantastic games that I may have otherwise missed, hopefully my rewritten walkthroughs encourage others to do the same!
You're also on the mod team here on TA. Care to share some details about what you do behind the scene?
Quite a lot! The mods deal with all the requests to do with the site, whether it's helping reset password (we don't actually see any password details, just to reassure everyone, everything stays private even from us), or to help with broken achievement streaks or removal requests. Basically any time someone uses the "Contact Us" feature, it comes through to us.
As well as that, we moderate the forums and work hard as a team to try to keep them as fun and as helpful as possible for our ever-growing community. We're all volunteers and started off as just standard site users the same as everyone else, and in most cases, all mod actions are decided on by the whole team.
As a mod, do you interact with the community differently? Do you think people are careful with their words around you?
I don't think I interact much differently from my usual interactions. I generally try to be helpful in any case. I'm not sure if some people are always aware that I'm a mod in some forums, but that's fine by me as everything is usually civil.
Do you have any interesting stories to share while being a mod?
There aren't really any specific ones I can share, but we get a surprising number of contact requests from users who have been directed to us from Xbox Support, usually for achievement issues that we have absolutely no control over.
Does volunteering on two different teams eat up a lot of your time? Do you ever think about throwing in the towel?
Not as much as you may think. Moderating takes up more time than being a walkthrough overseer. The walkthroughs usually come through every now and then, and don't often take too long to check and send for publishing, and they are entirely reliant on when the writer has finished with them, which can be months after they are first assigned, depending on the walkthrough.
Moderation takes up a little more, but also goes through cycles, some days are quieter but some days we got loads of contact requests as well have some popular forum threads at the same time.
I enjoy both roles though and don't see myself stopping for a while yet.
Do you have a favourite game? A least favourite? What genres do you prefer?
One of my all-time favourites is BioShock, nothing quite like that first view of Rapture as you descend in the bathysphere, and the rest of the game continues at the same level. There are many other games that hold a special place in my gaming heart, some I mentioned above, like Rome: Total War, and others I play a lot more and enjoy now, such as SMITE, and both Guacamelee games.
I'm not fussy about genres either, I play almost everything, perhaps with the exception of sports games, minus the odd NHL game or two. I love a good puzzler, platformers are generally quite fun, RPGs are exciting. I'll give pretty much anything a go if it looks well designed and entertaining. I enjoy fighting games as well, but I'm not all that great at them.
I don't really have a least favourite game. Like many, I dislike broken achievements, especially ones that never worked and never get fixed, so games like that are way down my list, unless the game itself is well recommended or looks fun.
Share your biggest accomplishments on TA! Do you hold any impressive leaderboard positions? Any difficult completions?
I think I'm decidedly average. My best TA accomplishments are probably my walkthroughs, as I love pouring as much details as possible into them. Even if only one person uses a walkthrough of mine and finds it useful, it's worth it. In term of achievements, SMITE is probably one of my better games.
Hopefully by the time this interview goes out, I'd have finished Snake Pass as well, which I absolutely loved. I'm one level away from finishing the no-death run.
What's something that irks you about gaming? It can be good or bad, about game mechanics, developers, or even a specific game.
I'm generally not a fan of anything exploitative or anti-fun. I generally play games to enjoy them and experience them. Granted, I have plenty of short, quick (Ratalaika) games on my tag, but as long as I have fun playing a game, that's what makes it a good purchase.
Another irksome matter is that there are too many good games . There are so many I want to experience to the fullest, that I will inevitably have to miss some, although I'll be finishing off as many as possible, even some of the really old 360 games that I have hanging around in the back of the shelf.
Do you have any opinions to share on industry news? Loot boxes, micro-transactions, developers? Feel free to be as opinionated as you like.
Lootboxes that affect the course of the game are part of the anti-fun mechanics that I mentioned above. I'm generally fine with loot boxes that only give out cosmetic changes, as I can choose to buy them or not, but it's a massive turn off. I know this is something a vast majority of the people here and gamers, in general, would agree with.
In positive industry news though, I love seeing games, both indy and AAA, that are absolutely beautiful and engaging to play. When I was younger, I didn't pay enough attention to indy developers and I really missed out because of it. I have a great many on my list of games to go back and play, and I'm always looking for more.
What do you enjoy most about video games? What do you enjoy most about TA?
Video games are my go-to choice of entertainment. I enjoy a good film as much as the next person, board games are always a good laugh, I love reading (if anyone hasn't read Ready Player One, I highly recommend it) and listening to music, but gaming just takes it up another level. Plus, there aren't many other mediums where I can switch from such vastly different environments simply by pushing a couple of buttons.
TA provides a platform to find others to play with, helps me find new games and help pop some more achievements. I most enjoy the walkthroughs (obviously) and the events (like GTASC and the Bean Dive, for example), as even if I don't do all that well in them, I end up going back and finding old games that I had otherwise forgotten about.
Do you have any future gaming goals? Anything that you're working towards as you play?
Mainly trying to finish off those games that only have a handful of achievements remaining before a completion, just hanging there in a limbo until I find the time or gain the skill required to finish them off.
As we wrap up the interview, are there any shout-outs you want to give to the community?
In real life, my girlfriend without a doubt. Some of the games she's had to put up with me playing. Luckily she enjoys gaming as well!
On-site, anyone who writes or has written both walkthroughs and solutions. This site wouldn't be where it is without you all, and many of you are often unsung heroes. Also, my thanks to Nici, for setting up these interviews!