NicoleRenee00's Blog - Jan to Mar 20 (103 followers)

Community Interview - smrnov (giveaway included)Permalink
Special Note: A giveaway is included at the end of the interview! Read below to learn more. 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.

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Current Interviewee: smrnov
Previous Interview: Reborn Insanity
To Apply for an Interview: See here

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Number one in the world for gamerscore on Xbox, and one of the most iconic site users to date: smrnov. Read up on his previous site interview here. It's also his birthday! So send some happy wishes his way!


First off, thanks a ton for doing this interview! Since introductions are hardly necessary, tell us about your Gamertag! Does it have any meaning to you? What about your Gamerpic?

I think a lot of people already know the story of my Gamertag but I will share it again since it’s somewhat interesting. When Xbox Live first released on the original Xbox console, it was November and my good friend told me that you get a free month each time you create a new Gamertag. The plan was to just keep creating new gamertags and the letters “smr” are my initials and “nov” is just short for November. I quickly realized that I would lose all my saves if I started a new Gamertag, so smrnov stuck around. And it sounds okay too, therefore, I never considered changing it after that first month. As for the Gamerpic, Elder Scrolls Oblivion was the first role-playing game I played on the Xbox 360, and who doesn’t like skeletons?

Oblivion is the best. Skeletons, I disagree with. laugh Have you had or used any other Gamertags in the past? Or only one?

No, just the one.

Describe yourself in just a few words. Who's behind the Gamertag? As one of the most prominent users on-site, how do you think the rest of the community knows you?

I like to think I’m just a regular, down-to-earth guy who loves video games, a lot. I’ve been a member on TrueAchievements for a long time now, and I feel like I’ve talked to the community quite a bit and made some great friends.

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smrnov, otherwise known as Stephen.

Down-to-earth indeed! How did you come across TA, and how long have you been on-site? What made you decide to join the community?

I joined TA in August of 2008 when a lot of other folks from a website called Console Heroes joined. We were all kind of migrating over at that time. Back then I used to use 360 voice quite a lot too and am happy to see that most of them joined TA as well.

Like many other users, you've seen TA go through plenty of changes. Are there any particular memories that stand out? Do you like the new update, or do you miss the old site?

I enjoy the community events. I will probably always remember winning the first GTASC, even though the format has changed a lot and it is way more competitive now. I also enjoyed doing it with RedmptionDenied in 2018 even though I probably held him back from winning! Seeing the community pull together instead of always being competitive is great also, such as the 12 Days of Christmas, TA playlists and the old 360 viral months.

I am good with the newly updated site. It probably took a bit to get used to immediately, but I like the dark mode, and everything scales well on different devices. There are still other features I’d like to have, particularly around the game collection, wishlist and lot more series functionality.

Hopefully, we can add some more functionality in the future. So, what started your interest in achievement hunting? Considering that you're ranked first, would you consider yourself to be a hardcore achievement hunter?

I was a hardcore MMO player before Xbox released. I was in a raiding guild in EverQuest, which was time-consuming and I put many hours into that game. I probably played it exclusively for 5 or more years. When my wife and I had my daughter, it became harder to play, because you just can’t pause an online MMO when you’re in the middle of a raid and say “hang on, I need to go help my wife”. Plus, the raids would often go until 2 am, leaving me exhausted for work the next day. Console games are awesome because they pause, for the most part, depending on the game. And no one is expecting you to stay up late, you can do it on your own schedule. I think collecting the best gear or completing over 2000 quests in EverQuest prepared me pretty well for making the move to console gaming. So, I guess the short answer is I’ve been gaming long before Xbox, and probably will until I physically can’t anymore.

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EverQuest in all its glory.

Glad to hear that you're in it for the long haul. Were you number one on TA from the start? Or did you have to work your way up?

No, definitely not. I’m not sure when I became number one in TA score, I suspect it’s around 3 years ago. For gamerscore, I was second to Stallion83 for probably 10 years, I passed him once for a week in July 2017, and then again in December 2018 where I’ve remained.

Would you say that joining TA has encouraged your hobby? Or has it always been a steady climb?

Absolutely, seeing what others are playing, boost sessions, solutions, and walkthroughs help me on a day to day basis. The climb is much steeper now, but that’s more due to the influx of easy games, but I think I've always been fairly consistent.

You mentioned earlier that you've been a gamer long before Xbox. How long would you say you've been gaming? Have you always used Xbox and PC, or do you game on other consoles as well?

I’ve been gaming for as long as I can remember. I've owned probably a dozen consoles (and computers) before Xbox. I had an Intellivision, Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, 32x and CD, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Wii, WiiU, Switch, multiple DS’s, Sony Playstation 1 through 4, Vita, original Xbox, and lost count of how many Xbox 360s and Xbox Ones. So, I think that’s a strong yes to other consoles. However, I feel like I’ve been exclusive to the Xbox ecosystem since achievements came out.

Do you remember your first game? Or at least your first Xbox game?

That’s a tough one, the one I recall the most is a baseball game on the Intellivision. The first game I really liked a lot was probably Pitfall on the Atari 2600. I can still hear the sounds effects. The first Xbox game was when I realized I couldn’t make a smrdec Gamertag if I wanted to keep my Project Gotham save.

Is there a particular place that you like to game? Care to share your set-up?

I primarily game in my home office, where I have an Xbox One X, 3 Xbox 360s (NTSC, NTSC-J, and PAL) hooked up to a 32” 4K Monitor. Also, on my desk is a MacBook I use for work, a Surface Studio and a gaming PC, so 3 screens in total. Otherwise, on evenings and weekends, I game more often in the living room with an X and a 60” 4K TV. I do like to stream in the evening sometimes as well to a Surface Book, that way I can still watch TV with my wife, but get a bit of gaming in, as long as it’s not something that requires much attention.

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I spy a familiar poster in the back...

That's a damn good set-up. Moving on, do you have hobbies outside of gaming? Anything that you're well known for?

Does going to the movies count as a hobby? My family goes every week or two to see whatever the new release of the week is. It’s fun and gets me out of the house. I like to read as well, usually fiction. A lot of Stephen King, Game of Thrones, The Witcher, that type of thing. I did recently just finish a non-fiction I really enjoyed and highly recommend to anyone who’s interested in behind the scenes of game development called Blood, Sweat, and Pixels.

After that, I do have a new project that I started working on last year, which is still in an early stage but that I don’t mind sharing. My wife, my daughter and I started working on developing a game. Initially, it was for my daughter’s college applications, but we’ve decided to proceed and release it first on Steam, iOS, and Android. We hope to get a release out this summer, and after all that, we’d like to try to release it to Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, with some gameplay additions. If anyone is interested, check out It’s a first try at game development, but we’re hoping that going through the process from start to finish will prepare us for a game we’re all very excited to create.

All great choices in books. But the fact that you're going into development with your family is awesome! I'm sure we'd love to get updates about it later!

Tell us more about your life outside of TA; is there any other interesting news to share?

I work full time from home as a software architect which keeps me busy during the days. I’ve been married almost 24 years now and have a daughter who’s graduating from a specialized art program in high school this year. She just got accepted to a college game design program that she’s starting in September so that’s really cool. In 2013, during one of our trips to PAX Prime, she cosplayed as her favorite Borderlands character and was lucky enough to meet Ashly Burch and be interviewed by Gearbox/2K which was a lot of fun.

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Tiny Tina, next to the voice of Tiny Tina.

She makes a great Tiny Tina. You should encourage her to cosplay again since Borderlands 3 is out! Anyway, would you say that your home-life impacts how you play games? Do you have a special co-op partner in your life?

I’m lucky that I don’t have a commute and that my family is okay with my gaming habits. We all game together but it’s sometimes difficult to get everyone on a schedule that works. We do love playing some games where we can co-op, like the Left 4 Dead and Borderlands series. My wife likes to read walkthroughs and enjoy the story of some games, particularly RPGs or adventure games. Which is why, on weekends, I’m generally playing something slower on the couch, watching cutscenes.

RPGs are always good. But let's move the subject back to gaming. Does being number one in the world come with any benefits? Do you get early access to games, or any recognition from Microsoft?

Maybe surprising, but no. I did get an Xbox One when they came out, but I believe quite a few people got that. When I did the 1 million gamerscore live at Toronto FanExpo, Microsoft Canada did give me a handful of games and swag. But I’ve never had a package mysteriously show up to un-box, and I don’t get any games for free.

What a shame. But at least it makes your progress all the more impressive. With all the games that you've played, do you have a favorite game? A least favorite? Any particular genres?

If I had to pick one game, I would probably say BioShock. But there are so many good ones out there. Genres are confusing to me on TA so I don’t think I can classify them, but my favourite series are Saints Row Series, Tomb Raider Series, Darksiders Series, Metro Series, etc. I think those are more story-based games, but they fit into shooter, platformer, action-adventure and RPG. I also like the sim management games quite a bit too.

I don't generally like to criticize much of anything as I don't think it adds value, but one terrible game that comes to mind was Murder Miners, apologies to the devs on that one.

Interesting choices. Bioshock is especially great. Do you have to pass up on games for the sake of keeping up with achievements? Or do you always play what you want?

This is a tough one. I would have said no in the past, and I generally don’t shy away from playing something I’m not skilled enough to complete, but I would say over the last two years this has changed and I’ve been sucked into quick Xbox indie games. I don’t want to knock indie games, because there are some real gems, but they have gotten me away from playing the games I enjoy like those mentioned in the previous question. I can look over my completions, and on 360 most of them, I can remember. With the influx of quick Xbox One games, I can barely recall what it was the next week.

Are there any games that you think are wildly underrated? If so, why?

I’m not sure it was wildly underrated, but I really loved the first Overlord game on 360. For me, it had a great combination of adventure, RPG elements, tactical/puzzle as far as controlling your minions, and a humorous story. I know the DLC was disliked because it added a Legendary difficulty that was quite challenging, but for me, it was a pleasure to be able to play through it again. I’d love a remaster. Speaking of remasters, Viva Piñata, please!

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Overlord, a game with dark irony and lots of demons.

What do you look for in a game? A good story, fun multiplayer, something else entirely?

It depends on the type of game. If it's a role-playing or adventure game, then story, if it’s a puzzle or racing game, then controls. I do enjoy nice graphics and sound for the immersion aspect, but sound is less important to me due to multitasking during the day. I always have subtitles on. Sound can be awesome in a creepy horror game you’re playing in the dark though.

Do you care for multiplayer or are you a single-player person?

I prefer single-player or co-op. I’m not really interested in just going online to kill others, or more likely get killed in whatever the popular shooter or battle royale game is currently.

At least you're honest. laugh What do you enjoy most about video games as a whole? Are there any new releases that you're excited for?

It’s interactive entertainment for me. I’d probably compare it to getting sucked into a really good book you can’t put down. I would probably say for new releases this year on Xbox, Cyberpunk 2077, and Watch Dogs: Legion. For who knows when and what platform, definitely Diablo 4.

Cyberpunk is the way to go! Is there anything that irks you about gaming? Industry, microtransactions, achievements, so on.

Poor controls, if I push the button to jump and it doesn’t jump or rolls into a corner instead, it makes me a bit sad each time. Seriously though, I think people jump on developers and rate their games poorly without knowing the hard work and love that went into that project. I think most game development companies have it hard, so cut them some slack and show them some love.

The thing I probably hate the most is delistings. In a digital age, I’d like the opportunity to buy something before it disappears forever. And delistings, where you can't redownload your purchase, absolutely shouldn't happen.

I especially agree with delistings. But while we're on the topic of games, let's go back to TA. Outside of being number one on the leaderboard, are there any other accomplishments that you'd like to share?

I’d love to know how many series I’ve got completed 100% but unfortunately, I can’t get that information yet. Otherwise the 2500+ completed games is decent.

Do you consider ratio to be important? What about completion percentage?

Yes, I think both of those can be important to the individual who cares about those things. We all play different ways with different goals and there’s no wrong way to enjoy video games. I think my ratio is not bad considering all the easy games I’ve completed. I’ve been slowly working on my completion percentage, still cleaning up old 360 backlog games, my end goal would probably be 90% given there’s some that can’t be finished due to server closures, unobtainables, or my skill level.

Have you ever done something ridiculous just to unlock a single achievement? I'd be surprised if you haven't.

There are probably a few. Crazy ones I can remember are the GRAW leaderboards which took about 3 months, Rumble Roses XX which took 800 hours (but a lot of that is turbo controlled), Chromehounds which was a crazy massive boost with friends that caused an in-game political uproar when our achievement squad stole some top place spots, and the 5000 games played in Quake 4 which I used for my 1000th completion.

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RRXX, Chromehounds, and Quake 4.

That's quite a lot. While on the topic, do you think developers use achievements to their full potential?

I would say it depends on the game. Some are excellent. Like, I didn't mind the collectibles in BioShock because they added a ton of depth to the story and were very well done. Some games are disappointing in that the achievements are not well thought out, and are just 10 achievements because it's the minimum and doesn't add any value to the game itself.

Are there any particular types of achievements that you hate to hunt for?

I'm not crazy about the full playthrough on hardest difficultly without dying or saving achievements. I also do not like when DLC is added that requires you to replay the entire game. I've already played your game, give me new content or don't bother with DLC. No leaderboard achievements either please.

Are there any limits to what you're willing to do for achievements? Do you have to limit the types of games that you play in order to keep your spot at the top?

In the past no, if you look at all those crazy long completions, most of them are from the 360 platform. That’s not to say I haven’t finished some long games on Xbox One, or sunk a lot of time in them (Neverwinter and Gems of War especially). But I have played a lot of quick Xbox One games, way more than in the past. I know I am missing out on some great games like The Witcher 3, Elder Scrolls (Skyrim and ESO), Red Dead Redemption 2 and many more.

Since this is such a special interview, I've asked around the community to see what kind of questions people were interested in hearing about. Quite a lot users have since chimed in with their own questions to the mix. Shout-out to all of you for contributing to the interview! Here are all the questions we've collected. The first few are from Shadow Kisuragi:

How competitive are you with the other top gamers on-site? Is there anyone in the top 20 that you consider a rival?

I wouldn’t call anyone a rival. There are some other gamers that I’m envious of for their positions on genre, platform or series leaderboards. You know, like those crazy guys who have amazing Window Phone completions, RPG genres, and full series complete like the Assassins Creed Series or Resident Evil Series, etc. I love the new button on the leaderboards to compare to someone for a particular leaderboard. I don’t recall a site news article when this was added so maybe I missed it, however, it’s fantastic.

Do you have any advice for those looking to take the lead?

Do what makes you happy, whether it’s completions, ratio or percentage. Pick a genre or platform that you enjoy and your own region to narrow it down and work your way up from there.

What are your thoughts on the recent issues with Windows Phone, and the general lack of support for legacy platforms such as Games for Windows LIVE?

I’m disappointed if I missed my chance to finish the Windows Phone games I was working on but I don’t really have anyone to blame except for myself for not getting around to it. There are probably very few people playing Window Phone or GFWL anymore, so I understand why Microsoft wouldn’t want to support it any longer. That being said, if I get an opportunity again to finish some games, I probably should.

Any thoughts on the rise of streaming and other social media content? Do you think it's fair for social media stars (for lack of a better term) to gain early access before other gamers?

I personally don’t participate in streaming, either watching or producing content, but I totally understand why developers are doing this. Any way to get your game talked about and shown, this is just a new way of advertising.

Do you prefer physical or digital ownership? Has this changed with Game Pass and other subscription services?

I would say digital even though I have a significant amount of physical games. Digital is more convenient for me, but having many games installed does require some disk space. I do have Game Pass Ultimate which I have really enjoyed for the PC games. For the Xbox games, I already owned most of them, but I have played a few that I never bought, which is nice.

Asked by both Shadow and OO111111, do you think gamerscore has lost "value" so to speak? Are you bothered by developers like Ratalaika, or should "easy" gamerscore games be encouraged? Does gamerscore have any real value at all?

I don’t think gamerscore really ever had any value other than a fun way to view your gaming history. I can tell you my life changed by 0% when I went from #2 to #1 in gamerscore and it won’t change again when I lose that designation. Despite that, I think the quick games have inflated gamerscore statistics. I only recently found out that PlayStation sometimes releases the Ratalaika games 5 or 6 times for regional/platform stacks, so I guess it’s not as bad for us on Xbox.

On the topic of ownership, planting42 wants to know if you're a collector. If so, what's the estimated value of your physical and digital items?

I would not call myself a collector, as when I finish physical games I sell or trade them and delete my digital games. I have in the past bought some pretty nice collector’s editions for statues. As for the estimated value, I honestly have no idea, and I don’t think my wife would want to know!

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Quite the collection for a non-collector.

A question from SniffinRails, do you ever get stressed by achievement hunting? It's surely not an easy task to keep your spot.

Only during competitions, which is why I generally don’t do them anymore. I can get stressed trying to finish various games though. Particularly the ACA games because they are low TA and I don’t seem to have the skill required. I’m also really poor with some platformers or shooters. Really anything that requires younger reflexes. ??

A very popular question from the community (asked by SprinkyDink, Beanpotter, NoobgamerValbo, and Noodles Jr. how do you handle the burnout of achievement hunting? How often do you experience the feeling, and how do you keep yourself from taking a break?

I’d say the only time I feel burn out is when I’m off my regular schedule. So, trying to game nonstop for 4 days during a GTASC week, or some crazy 42-hour boost session over 3 days. I feel like switching it up a lot, which is the reason why I’ve been consistent for so long. I play a lot of longer games I enjoy even if I limit myself to only a couple hours a day. Lately, I play Gems of War, Warframe and Lord of the Rings: ACG every day for about half an hour (or more) before I move on to whatever I’m currently trying to complete short term.

Another question from Beanpotter. There are countless games across platforms, some of which are console exclusive. Do you ever get the chance to experience these games? Do you want to?

I do have both a Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, with a handful of the exclusive games for those platforms. Unfortunately, I don’t ever seem to get around to playing them though. I will blame it on the fact that I just like Xbox better, especially the controller.

MichalKV asked a very important question. How do you balance your personal and family time with gaming? Especially considering your ranking.

My family is tight-knit. I make coffee for my wife and daughter each morning and then we go about our daytime routines. Each night we sit down to dinner together and catch up. We usually go out together Friday nights, and we watch a few TV shows together, nightly with my wife, probably 1-2 times a week with my daughter. It used to be more, but she’s older now and more independent.

And one from Falensarano. Do you enjoy the games that you play, even if you're playing for achievements? Or does the hunt turn gaming into a chore?

As mentioned previously, I really enjoy video games so I would say I enjoy 95% of them. I can usually find something about the game that I like. There are very few games I would say that they are terrible, and I wish I never bothered. I don’t think I could have done this for 15 years and not love it.

BigNev44 wants to know what your proudest achievement is. Not necessarily difficult or impressive, just one that you're content with.

Most of my high TA ratio achievements come from boosting or time served, not a lot of skill. But I would say one achievement that was very difficult for me to achieve was “It's in the Trial” from Dante's Inferno. I had actually given up hope on this one a few times because some of those trials are incredibly hard. Emerald Axer helped me with my last co-op trial and I’m forever grateful because it’s a fantastic game and to have it as a completion means a lot to me.

I am also proud of persevering to get the gymkhana events in DiRT 3 done, and the challenges in Batman: Arkham City. I did the GFWL stacks and still have not gotten around to do the 360 versions (or Batman on Xbox One), which is silly because I probably could have done it easier if I tried back to back.

Earlier, we covered how you got into achievement hunting to begin with. Elliot Pierson wants to know what about achievement hunting is fun for you. What about it kept you interested for so long?

I think the variety keeps me interested. Before achievements, I would never have played so many different types of games. I had zero interest in wrestling games, but having tried a bit of everything now, some are a lot of fun. The story modes in WWE games can be hilariously entertaining. There is so much to choose from these days, it’s hard to not keep going as the backlog continues to grow. I think I’m only coming to terms lately that some of these games I’m just not going to have time for, ever.

The next few are from Itchy Bahook. What's more important to you, getting score, or getting completions?

Completions. I like to complete a game before I consider being done with it, even though there are a few I know I won’t be able to finish. The score has always been a byproduct for me.

Do you still set goals for yourself or is it all about keeping up with your rank now?

Goals for myself definitely, I don’t think I’ll keep my top spot much longer. It would be nice to be the first to hit 3 million gamerscore, but I won’t lose any sleep over it if it doesn’t happen. I would much prefer to get through some of my backlog before the games become uncompletable due to discontinued servers or achievements no longer syncing.

Asked by MattiasAnderson, What's the hardest achievement you've ever unlocked? What about the hardest game you've ever completed? Are there any achievements or games you're still trying to complete?

Most of my high TA ratio achievements are not skill-based. Of recent memory, the WWE 2K18 servers were scheduled to go down, and you had to play online against harder AI to complete “Gauntlet Runner”. I am not very good at combo moves and quick reflex reversals, and I had about an hour left in the event before it expired when I managed to squeak by. Wrestling games have always been my kryptonite, and I’ve only managed to complete some by not giving up. I'm not sure I would qualify it as my hardest, but it was hard for me. For the hardest game, probably Zuma or Bejeweled 2 on XBLA, both of those took a lot of practice for me.

There are tons of games that I’m still trying to complete. There are a few achievements that I try every so often to see if I can magically achieve them. The below achievements are a very few of my white whales:

Black College Football Experience: Doug Williams Edition - Marching Band Master!
Hexic HD - Grand Pearl Pooh-Bah
Kinect Joy Ride - Bonus Bounty and Smash High Score
Minesweeper Flags - Gotta Sweep'em All
Thrillville: Off the Rails - Lunar Lunatic
Titanfall 2 - …Becomes the Master

Reaver Lion wants to know what your favorite game is that exclusive on Xbox.

I’m going to go with two because Alan Wake technically released later on Steam, so my other choice is Viva Pinata. I think there was a DS (and TV show!) spinoff though.

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Not the game I was expecting to earn so much praise!

Next is Vitiated1, who wants to know how many Xbox accounts you've had to run at once for a game, as well as how many consoles. He's betting it's a lot.

I’ve done 12 consoles/Gamertags for self-boosting, and last summer did 14 consoles during a 2-person 24 player lobby for Battlefield: Bad Company (A 0 E Monkey is a gracious booster who is great to talk with during these marathon sessions). For number of Gamertags, I think the most I’ve used is 100 for the dance with 100 unique people in Zumba Fitness. I did all 100 on the same Free to Play Gold weekend. That was when I found there were limits to how many tags you can actually have on a console.

A controversial topic on TA is account sharing, particularly those that share accounts to climb the leaderboards. Inferno118 wants to know if account sharers bother you, and whether or not you're worried that you will be unfairly passed by others in the future?

This is hard to answer because I know it’s a touchy subject. I can’t see why someone would do this because there is no personal sense of accomplishment if you didn’t earn those achievements. But I guess the same could be said for boosting. I don’t know if account sharing is technically against MS (or TA’s) terms of service. I feel like when I was younger I probably would have been upset, but now that I'm older (and hopefully wiser) I don’t feel it’s worthwhile to waste time getting disappointed over something I have no control of. It is what it is. I’m going to get passed on the leaderboards in the future one way or another. I’m happy with my achievements. What someone else does, it doesn’t affect how I play or what I do. When I get passed, I'll still be collecting achievements. It’s unfortunate though, and I can see people validly being upset, especially in competitions like the GTASC.

From Big Ell, do you still use the smroct account? How much gamerscore does it have now?

See, I knew someone would remember the story of my Gamertag! No smroct account. Sadly, whenever I get stopped at border crossings they assume my smrnov license plate is for vodka.

From vSully, when in the hell are you finally going to play Dark Souls?

I am planning to catch up on a lot of role-playing games on the 360, and that one (and the stacks) are definitely on my list. I hope to get to it this year, but I have 3 Mass Effect games that are in the queue before that one. I hope you've written some good solutions!

And another very important question from IRISH PATRIOT x. How much coffee do you drink?

I love coffee, most important drink of the day! I have a black americano every morning (sometimes a latte) and sometimes a second coffee in the day. But getting older, I try not to have any after 3 pm. Getting old sucks!

KindBunny957018 asked two very interesting questions. The first: do you have any "guilty pleasure" games? Games that you play just to relax, despite not actively earning any achievements.

I have a love/hate relationship with Gems of War. I love that you can just launch the game and play in short bursts and it’s relaxing, but I hate some of the recent achievements. Phone games are my go-to for non-achievement games, I still play Plants vs Zombies on my iPhone.

And for the second question: has your hobby of gaming extended to the young ones in your life? Have you taught them to play any games?

I would say yes. I played a lot of EverQuest when my daughter was born and she actually remembers watching it (and later playing it) and wrote her college application essay on EverQuest. Bizarre fact, Brad McQuaid sadly passed away the day she wrote that essay. She also admires the Keith Parkinson signed art prints in my home office.

Sometimes she’ll just sit down and watch a game because she’s interested. Most recently she watched me play Blair Witch in its entirety because she was into the story. Her most played game, however, is probably Minecraft, although she did spend an entire summer playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which I still haven’t played! When she has friends over, they often play split-screen co-op Left 4 Dead and the Crash Bandicoot games.

JENDORF wants to know if you've ever given back to the gaming community, and if so, how?

I try to. I donated $20 xbox cash a month for one year, plus a couple 360 controllers to a King of Completions tournament that was done on TA. Anytime I have extra codes from games I give them away on twitter. Unfortunately, I’m not given anything from Microsoft to distribute, so everything has been out of pocket. I did host a lot of sessions in the old viral months that TA did to give out those achievements, and I’m not the guy who does a boost session just for himself, I like to make sure everyone gets the achievement we’re trying for.

x Mataeus x asked the question: does achievement hunting come with negative connotations in your life? Do you feel like you're giving up your time and other pursuits for this one hobby?

I feel like if I wasn’t spending time or money on gaming, I would be spending it on something else. My retirement savings are healthy, I own my house, and this is what I like to do. Sure, I could certainly afford a nice Tesla if I cut down on my gaming spending, but this is where I get my enjoyment, and I don’t have a commute anyway. I am also very thrifty with my game purchases. I do spend a lot, but I always buy my Xbox cash discounted and wait for game sales most of the time. I do plan on playing less of the quick Xbox One games and spending some time on games I really want to play and work on developing my own games.

And finally, from AaronJamesx38. Will you ever give up on achievement hunting? If so, why?

I don’t think so, but I might change what I’m playing. The last couple years of keeping up with the quick games has gotten a bit tiresome, so I’m enjoying some longer games currently.

Big thanks to everyone who pitched in with questions! Apologies if anything has been left out. On a more serious note, what would you like to see change with gaming? Better ethics, better quality games, so on.

I’d like gaming to have a more positive attitude. It’s still viewed somewhat negatively by the media, but I like to think that playing video games has a lot of benefits too. I also think the industry is a volatile place to work, with studios often closing after releases. I really hate to see comments like “no wonder they closed, their games sucked”, when you’re talking about people’s life, and people who are just like you and me that love video games enough to work in the industry. Seriously, read “Blood, Sweat and Pixels”, fantastic book. I do worry about my daughter working in the industry and hope she can find stable work and that people are kind.

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Blood, Sweat, and Pixels.

If you did stop achievement hunting, would you ever leave the site? Who do you think would take your place at the top?

I don’t think I would leave the site if I stopped, but I guess I might visit less often. TA is like Facebook to me; I can see what others are doing but things I’m actually interested in, like what video games they are playing, not what selfie they are posting. RedmptionDenied has a great TA ratio and will likely pass me in TA score in the next 1-2 years. Maybe sooner as I’m slowing down.

If you weren't an achievement hunter, what would you do? How would your gaming habits change?

If it wasn’t achievements or console gaming, I would probably still be gaming. I don’t think it would be World of Warcraft but probably an MMORPG. I would probably spend a bit more time working on developing a game too if I wasn’t wanting to play all the time.

If something did happen (if you decided to quit gaming, or just couldn't continue the hobby for whatever reason), what would happen to your Gamertag? What would you want to happen with it?

Kind of a morbid question that hopefully doesn’t happen for a long time! But I guess I would leave it to my family. I don’t know that they would keep it active or anything though. I guess it does have a ton of content associated with it, so it likely has a large monetary value.

Not meant to be morbid! I'm a nice person, I swear! Moving on! Do you have any future goals for gaming you'd like to share?

I’ve been slowly working on my completion percentage. Eventually, 90% would be nice. I have a lot of series completion goals, Saints Row, Middle Earth, and Dead Rising are all on my shortlist. I would like to get rid of my entire 360 physical collection; I need to determine what I still plan on playing and get rid of whatever I decide to skip on. That’s quite the undertaking as currently I still own 720 disk games, not including boost copies. Then I’d also like to clean up whatever 360 digital I can do and finally move on to the current generation 100%. This is unlikely to happen before the Series X, but I’d like to make a serious dent in it at least. I also would like to increase my position on some completed game genre leaderboards, such as action/adventure, RPG, and I really like sim management type games too, like Zoo Tycoon.

Would you say gaming has positively impacted your life?

Absolutely. I have met so many amazing people over my life, all due to gaming. I met my wife over 25 years ago playing a MUD called Shadowdale. She is the reason I moved to Canada. I'm sure a lot of people on TA might not even know what a MUD is, but it was online gaming before graphics and when the internet was young.

I think gaming keeps your mind active, more so than TV or movies. And even physically if you use Kinect, which I have not lately. For me, gaming is great around my family as I’m home instead of out somewhere that other hobbies might take me. We do play co-op a lot, or even discuss games and currently working on the development of a game as a family. We usually have an E3 party every year. My daughter would like if MS would move their conference back to Mondays so she can continue taking the day off school.

I couldn't agree more. And what about TA?

TA is awesome. I’m logged on there pretty much all day, and on multiple browsers/rooms. I don’t have any negatives, but I do have my own personal site wish list!

Once again, thank you for taking the time to do an interview. It's crazy to be able to have a conversation with one of the top gamers in the world. Are there any final shout-outs you'd like to give to the community?

This is tough because I'm sure to not mention someone who deserves it and I have met so many great people on TA. It's amazing how many TA members give their time selflessly to help others, whether through walkthroughs, solutions, boost sessions, community events, giveaways or just friendly conversation. I have friends who pull me through Call of Duty because they know I suck, offers of help in various games, or send me tips in PMs of games to complete; folks who post when something is going to get patched, so jump on the glitch, etc, and people who are just trying to make the gaming community better for all of us. I'd like to thank all of them.

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As said above, smrnov is closing his interview with a gift for the community: 6 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on the blog, and your name will be added. The winner will receive a PM with the code on Friday, March 20th. If, for whatever reason, you would like to comment on this blog but not enter the giveaway, just let me know in the comment itself. Big thanks to smrnov, and thanks to all of you readers!

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 11 March 20 at 18:33 | There are 78 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Community Interview - Reborn InsanityPermalink
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.

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Current Interviewee: Reborn Insanity
Previous Interview: Sangriaz
To Apply for an Interview: See here

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Reborn (Austin) in the flesh.


I'm very excited to share an interview from a close friend! Starting with the basics: gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours. Does your gamerpic mean anything to you as well?

My gamertag is a silly mix of two things from my younger years. Back in 2002 a great game called Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was released and my stepdad used to run big LAN parties for it at our house. Being a lover of both Star Wars and games I always took part, but since I was the youngest (8 years old) I was the last in line to pick a multiplayer character. Of course everyone else wanted to be Kyle Katarn or Luke, so I always left with "side characters" nobody cared about. The only cool looking person left was named Reborn so I used them exclusively for about 2 years during these LAN parties.

The Insanity portion of my tag comes two years later in 2004 from Halo 2. Clans and clan battles were getting big on Halo and I had joined one called "Corruption". The gimmick was everyone's gamertag at the time had to be CoR (insert something metal here). Like CoR Destruction, CoR Death, and then there was me with CoR Insanity. When the Xbox 360 rolled around I wanted to start a fresh tag and ended up merging the two to Reborn Insanity and have ran with it ever since.

As for my gamerpic, I just wanted something that wasn't a default 360 pic to standout on TA. I went through a bunch of free gamerpic packs on the marketplace and found this one that I hadn't seen anyone else use before and it became a staple. I've changed it once before, but I got a lot of comments on my feed saying to change it back laugh talk about peer pressure.

Describe yourself in just a few words. How do you think the rest of the site knows you?

Laid-back, witty, night owl.

I think most folks on the site know me through Overseer / Moderator interactions or from TA Chat back in the day. I know a lot of my longtime TA friends I've met through mutuals, contests such as GTASC or boosting.

How did you come across TA? How long have you been on the site? What made you decide to join the community?

My good friend DresdenDil introduced me to TA 10 years ago. I had mentioned my love for achievements in a party chat and he got me to signup soon after. I can't thank him enough for helping me find this wonderful community. It's crazy to think about how long It's been, but I've been glad to call TA my home for a decade.

Do you remember what it was first like when you joined the site? You must have seen a lot of the changes over time.

When I first joined TA, even back then, it was miles ahead of any other site as far as features and community go. I was blown away at the amount of data I was able to keep an eye on that wasn't just flat gamerscore. The community also seemed more close-knit back then with the chatroom being a great place to meet new people and prominent staff members. It's been awesome to see how the features have expanded over the years and more interactive the site has become. The cool thing is we all just got to experience probably the biggest re-design of the site to date just a couple months ago. I can't wait to see where TA is 5-10 years from now.

Do you ever wish it went back to the old days?

Sometimes yeah. I'm a really nostalgic type of person and would love to have that feeling of experiencing the site for the first time again. I'd definitely love to have the old style of badges back wink

I want my staff badges back too, it's okay. laugh What started your interest in achievement hunting? Do you take the hobby seriously, or is it all casual?

I wasn't able to get an Xbox 360 upon release, so I would go over to a friend's house to watch him play. I remember watching him play Oblivion and seeing something pop up on the screen when we completed a quest and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I'm a sucker for being able to show off in video games and what better way than achievements? It was history from there once I got my own console.

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I'm a bit of both I'd say. If I really love the game I'll try my best to get a completion or as close to it as I can. That being said, I'm not afraid to start a game to play casually either.

How long have you been gaming? Do you remember your first game? Or the first one on Xbox?

At 3 years old my grandfather who was an avid PC gamer himself sat me in his lap and let me watch the opening cinematic to a game called Outlaws. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and it was both my first intro to westerns and video games. He sat there for hours so I could sit in his lap and play. I didn't really know what I was doing, but shooting pixelated bad guys with a revolver was entertaining enough for a 3 year old me at the time. I have been gaming ever since that day. (You can read more about that here)

My first Xbox game I ever played was Jet Set Radio Future followed by Halo. Both are great games and I highly recommend playing them. It's a shame JSRF wasn't made backwards compatible on the Xbox One.

Do you look at gaming differently than how you used to?

Absolutely. When I was younger I casually played games for the cool "shoot bad guys" type of mechanics, but as I grew older I learned to pay close attention to the narratives and great storytelling games had to offer. The original Deus Ex, Halo, Elder Scrolls, etc. are all great examples of visual and interactive storytelling you couldn't get from something like a movie. As time goes on the technology for consoles gets better we get even greater gems like Mass Effect and The Last of Us to keep proving that point to the world. I think Cyberpunk 2077 is going to be the next big step in that direction as well.

Moving on! Is there a particular place that you like to game?

Wherever I can play something really. Typically most of my gaming has been done at home, but with games like RuneScape I've played anywhere from a school library, work, to on a plane. Meeting up with friends for LAN parties is great too.

Do you have hobbies outside of gaming? Anything that you're well known for?

I enjoy things likes music, muscle cars, guns and writing occasionally. Nothing I'm particularly well known for though. Just an average guy really.

What kind of music? Types of guns? Types of cars? Any shows or movies you enjoy?

I love just about everything from classic rock to vaporwave. I almost always have something playing in the background.

For guns, anything that’s fun to shoot or has a history behind it. I currently own a S&W M&P 45. for everyday carry. It’s such a reliable weapon and fun to take to the range. I hope to one day acquire some classics such as the M1 Garand, Henry Repeater and Mauser C96.

Classic muscle all the way. My favorite choice being a 68-69 Dodge Charger. I’ve always loved the look and sound of classic muscle due to my grandparents having a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. Aside from my dreams of having historical weapons I also wouldn’t mind having some classic cars to work on in the future as well.

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When it comes to movies and shows it's yet another one I have to answer with "way too many to list". Star Wars, Blade Runner, Drive, The Boondocks, Cowboy Bebop, etc. Thankfully there isn't a TA like website for movies and shows... please don't tell me if there is.

Cowboy Bebop is a gem. You mentioned Star Wars as well. Care to talk about it? Any favorite characters? Do you like what Disney is doing?

My favorite movie is The Empire Strikes Back. Favorite characters? Everyone. The Star Wars universe is so in-depth and everyone has an awesome bit of lore and background if you dig deep enough. If I had to choose just one though, definitely Revan.

Disney has killed Star Wars like 343 has killed Halo in my opinion. They have made a mess with the last three movies and honestly The Mandalorian is their only saving grace. This is another section where I could go on rambling with a few pages worth of complaints, but again I'll leave that for another time. Go watch this and you'll sort of get what I mean.

Speaking of Halo, which is your favorite? You mentioned how 343 changed the series?

Halo 3. I have fond memories of all Halo games, but 3 is where I got most of my time in. It was Bungie's magnum opus, and I made a lot of great memories with Halo 3's multiplayer.

The series has definitely taken a big step away from what made it a household name in the first place. I think 343 has convoluted the story terribly. (Spoilers ahead if you haven't played 4 or 5) I found it rather interesting that they took the approach of killing Cortana at the end of 4 and built it up to be this huge emotional experience only to have her come back as the villain in 5 and make players dislike or hate her. 5 was huge a mess in itself... I could go on with 2-3 paragraphs about why Halo 5 was a mistake on almost every front, but I won't do that here. PM me if you want to hear my ramblings on that subject.

Tell us about your life outside of gaming! The real life job, and so on.

Outside of gaming I typically spend most of my time at work. I'm a late night break-fix technician for HP servicing Bank of America from 11 to 8 everyday. Myself and 4 others all run about 12 depots from our office in Dallas and I'm the guy that stays late to service every financial center in the country. Fixing laptops, printers, check scanners, server drives, etc. The great thing about the job is from 3pm to 8pm It's just me in the office so there are days I get paid to play games and browse TA essentially. Only if I'm caught up on work of course! I'm not a slacker... most of the time.

I can only imagine the people you have to talk to on the phone. Is it your dream job, or is there something else in life for you?

I'm actually in the middle of working towards my dream job at the moment. Being a police officer. I've put in for the Dallas Sheriff's department and I'm waiting to hear back. I love being part of the community whenever I can and being able to make a positive impact. Without getting too political, I think officers get a lot of flak because you only see the bad in the media these days. I want to show people there are good ones out there and set an example for others to follow. Eventually I'm hoping to branch off into a specialty role such as K-9 or Investigator.

I think it's a great goal. Would you say your job impacts how you play games? Do you have a special co-op partner in your life?

I'd say it does. Between home-life and work I don't have near as much time to game as I used to. Specifically multiplayer and party chat type of play. I miss it a lot as social gaming is one of my favorites pastimes. Though when I can play, It's almost always with my brother SW0LL3N08. We grew up putting a lot of hours into multiplayer and doing goofy stuff together. It's easy to pickup a game with him and relieve some stress with some messing around and good banter.

Good to hear that you still play games with your brother. Any funny stories to share?

Almost every time we play together it turns into a comedy session or something silly happens in-game. Whether it's his terrible driving skills getting us killed, us beating each other up in Saint's Row 2, or getting into Free for all games in Halo and baiting people into corners to get assassinated.

A lot of the funniest stories wouldn't really be appropriate to share here, but anyone that's joined our party chats have experienced the comedic chaos that goes down when we're together.

I know it too well!

As I always ask, do you have a favorite game? A least favorite? What genres do you prefer?

Honestly it's really hard to pick a favorite. There's way too many games I've dedicated a chunk of my life to to pick just one. I can't really think of a least favorite game, but I can tell you that my least favorite genre of game is MOBA. Those are all trash in my opinion.

My preferred genres would definitely be RPG, sci-fi, fantasy and anything story-rich. I'm not too picky as long as the game is good, but I do tend to stay away from sports.

RPGs. Sci-Fi. Fantasy. All my favorites. What about them do you like?

I grew up with things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings so I've always been pulled to those types of settings. Anything to do with space travel or magic/swords is awesome because it invokes your imagination. Something that fills you with "what if" thoughts while you play or watch will always be my favorite.

What do you look for in a game? Achievements? Story? Other?

I always look for gameplay and sound design. I love a good story, but there are fun titles out there that don't have a fully fleshed out campaign. As long as a game makes me think, isn't obnoxious with it's mechanics and sounds great while I have fun playing it I'll love it. Graphics will never be a priority in my mind. I like pretty games as much as the next person, but it's not important.

Are there any games that you think are wildly underrated? If so, why?

The Original Deus Ex that came out for PC in 2000. That game isn't given enough praise in my opinion. It's a great mix of FPS and RPG elements with a in-depth story and gameplay that rewards you for playing your way. It doesn't hold your hand, every problem has multiple solutions, there's tons of hidden lore and a great atmosphere to get lost in while playing. A lot of people see the game and judge it from the dated graphics, but I promise you if you give it a try you'll fall in love with it. It's goes on sell regularly on Steam and GOG for pretty cheap too so there's no excuse not to experience that game at least once.

Do you prefer single player or multiplayer?

Both. If you can't tell by my previous answers, I'm a sucker for single player but love a great multiplayer game too. Social gaming is great and is quite beneficial if you ask me. Online MMOs for example really sharpened my reading and writing as well as words per minute when it comes to typing. Online games such as Halo, Battlefield, etc. has taught me how to both work with a team and lead a team. All of these are productive traits that can be used outside of gaming.

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What's the best story that you've ever found in a game?

This is another one where I can't pick a single answer. As time goes on and more games are released there are more and more narratives that are a masterpiece or close to it. The original Deus Ex, Halo, Mass Effect, The Last of Us, Elder Scrolls, Half-Life, Red Dead, Fallout, Grand Theft Auto, etc. Any type of game that really captures you with their attention to detail and ability to create a world that feels living and breathing is a good example.

What about the best multiplayer?

Halo 2. The multiplayer in Halo 2 was so good it practically created Xbox Live as we know it today. It had a friends list, party chat system, clan system and much more all on the original Xbox. Halo 1 and 2 on the original Xbox really pioneered the FPS multiplayer genre for consoles.

Do you have a favorite developer? If so, why?

There's a lot of names that I would have put here a few years ago, but most of my favorite developers have fallen from grace. Bioware is a husk of its former self, Bethesda has embarrassed itself with the constant blunders of Fallout 76, Blizzard has abandoned it's morals as it and Activision pursue the microtransaction monopoly, Ubisoft has developed a bad habit of reskinning games and calling them new while making you pay for timesavers... I think I'm gonna have to go with CD Projekt Red or Rockstar on this one. They both continue to release great epics and take their time with development.

What, in your opinion, do developers fail at the most?

Rewriting the gaming experience as a whole. Generally speaking most games and developers go with what they know already works instead of trying to push the industry to the next step. It's not always a bad thing that they don't, but I'm waiting for the next Half-Life, Doom, Deus Ex, etc. Games that completely changed how all studios and developers approached games because those titles made them say "I wanna be that good". I will say the closest I've seen so far is with Boneworks pioneering what VR is capable of. It took all of the greatest elements of VR gaming and put them into one game. So much so that even Valve had to start reworking the upcoming Half-life Alyx.

What do you enjoy most about video games? Are there any new releases that you're excited for?

I think I've answered that mostly in my previous overzealous answers laugh but mainly the narrative storytelling, skill and traits you can pickup and the hours of entertainment that games can offer. You can watch the same movie over and over again, but nothing about it will change. You can play the same game multiple times and have a different experience each playthrough.

The main game I'm looking forward to experiencing right now is Cyberpunk 2077. I'm a lover of Cyberpunk and neon aesthetic settings and if the game has near as much content as The Witcher then it's definitely going to join my list of masterpieces. I've already got a week of vacation scheduled for it's release.

Speaking of Cyberpunk, isn't Keanu Reeves dreamy?

He's breathtaking redface

Is there anything that irks you about gaming? Industry, microtransactions, achievements, so on.

My main complaint with games and developers these days is the push towards profit rather than a good product. Microtransactions, half-baked development and quick cash grab games are plaguing the market and the most unfortunate bit is it's mainly the "AAA" industry doing it. I'm just glad that Xbox hasn't been infected with the "achievement spam" games yet like Steam has. Excluding Ratalaika games that is.

Considering your childhood, do you think more games should support LAN and Local play? Or is it outdated?

Yes! I think developers underestimate the importance of local play and LAN. Back in the day LAN parties were great free advertisement for games someone wouldn't have gone out and bought themselves first. When we had our Star Wars lan parties people would come over and hop on a PC to play the deathmatch and then tell us they went to the store to buy a copy and play the campaign. That and nothing beats having a bunch of friends over for some trash talk, junk food, alcohol and a night full of whooping eachothers ass. It's just not the same over party chat.

Interesting. With all this in mind, would you say that games are getting better or worse in quality?

Definitely worse as time goes on. Ever since microtransactions and season passes became the norm in AAA games the quality has gone down. Most "AAA" developers are only worried about capitalizing on a namebrand and getting as much revenue out of it as possible to appease the shareholders. Long gone are the days where every developer / studio was fighting to win over the hearts of dedicated fans and players.

That being said though, it does help the good games shine brighter and standout as an example among the trash that plagues store shelves and digital libraries.

Thanks for sharing all your thoughts. Returning to TA, share your biggest accomplishments on the site! Any impressive leaderboard positions? Any difficult completions?

There's really nothing to write home about as far as leaderboards and stats go. My only notable accomplishment I can think of is keeping this damned streak going at 700+ days. I can't wait for it die can't let it end willingly though.

What's the hardest achievement you've ever unlocked? What about the hardest game you've ever completed?

I think the hardest achievement I've ever unlocked would have to be beating Through the Fire and Flames on Expert on Guitar Hero III. I spent months in quickplay practicing that song and looking up methods to get past the first bit. It was kind of a race between friends to see who could beat it first. It was a great party trick too lol. Unfortunately I found out the hard way that being able to play Guitar Hero is a diminishable skill as I suck at it now.

My hardest completion is a tie between Brink and Kinect Adventures. Brink had frustratingly unbalanced A.I. and Kinect Adventures was a killer workout. I'm glad I did that back when I was younger.

Like many of us here, have you ever done something ridiculous just to unlock a single achievement

Purchase a really terrible and low quality Windows phone. Back then my parents had Sprint and they only offered a single Windows phone that I just HAD to have so I could get achievements at school lol. Worst mistake I ever made. The phone lasted all but 4 months before the battery blew up and support quickly died for the WP marketplace anyways.

Are there any limits to what you're willing to do for achievements?

My limit is money. I would never go out and purchase 5-10 consoles to multi-box a game or achievement such as Quake 4 and G.R.A.W. I respect the hustle by players that have done that, but can't justify it myself. Also I would never stoop so low as to use some sort of 3rd party unlocker or cheat software. If it's something the devs left in the game, that's one thing, but if you just plug a save into a program to modify it that defeats the purpose.

Do you think people take achievement hunting too seriously at times?

I think it can go a little too far if your home and social life suffer from it. Achievement hunting can become an addiction just like anything else, so make sure to balance things out and still have fun. I also think it can go too far if it's causing you to be an elitist and discourage someone from achieving something their way. You did something legit and painfully hard? Congrats, but don't be an ass to the guy who used a speed run technique to accomplish the same thing.

I like it! While on achievements, is there any particular one that you'd like to unlock in the future?

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Elite: DangerousTriple EliteThe Triple Elite achievement in Elite: Dangerous worth 2470 pointsReach a rank of Elite in Exploration, Combat and Trading
this is something I'd love to achieve one day. I'm 2/3 the way there with two Elite ranks. Just have to work on combat. I love space though so I always find myself exploring which slows my progress towards it.

Moving on, do you have any particular goals for TA? Completion percentage, ratio, so on.

Right now I'd really like to see my ratio hit a 1.8 and one day stay above a 2.0. It's probably years away from happening, but I'd love to see my top row of badges all be orange, gold or a nice mix of the two. I was able to finally get them all in the red last year which felt great.

Since you're working on ratio, are there any games you're thinking about starting to raise it? Any games that you will never start, no matter what the ratio is?

As far as starting a new game, I can't think of one. I'm more concerned with cleaning up high ratio games I've already started that way I can hit ratio and completion percentage together. Games like Elite Dangerous and Halo: MCC. I'll never start games like Smite and Warframe which I hear aren't that bad when it comes to the high ratio achievements, just time consuming. Trying to avoid time sinks.

Considering your goal, do you think ratio is important? What about completion percentage?

I used to not care about ratio as much, but as of late I've found myself working towards it more often than anything else. All the Minecraft stacks and community events have done wonders for both my ratio and completion percentages. I stopped worrying about my completion as much once it surpassed 70% because I used to find myself refusing to start DLCs or participate in title updates because I didn't want to see the completion go down. It was a stupid thing to do as I missed out on a lot of stuff around release day.

Do you ever think about throwing in the towel for achievement hunting? Would you ever leave the site?

I've considered it a couple times before, but it's something that I could never stop doing. Achievements are a part of any game no matter how you play it and it's impossible not to peek at a list or two when you're playing something. I might one day take a more casual approach, but that won't be happening anytime soon. As for leaving the site? Never. Even if I were to hypothetically quit achievement hunting I would still stay active in the community and the forums.

What would you do if you didn't achievement hunt?

I'd still game for sure, but I wouldn't game the same. There's a lot of games I would never have touched if it wasn't for achievements and there's also a lot of games I wouldn't have played more than once if it weren't for achievements either. I'd have a smaller backlog too

You're a member of both the walkthrough team and the moderators. (Like me and Miles!) Care to talk about it?

My first official staff role on TA was the Walkthrough team which I joined in June of 2014. It's been an awesome experience witnessing and helping with creativity this community has with their guides. The team and managers have always been a blast to work with and proofreading full game guides have even convinced me to make a purchase a time or two.

The Moderator team has always been a group I've looked up to since the early days of the site. People like AndyLSimmons, Hoffman and drabik were some of the friendliest (and patient) people that would help me with my constant stupid questions about the site. They also had a constant presence in the chatroom and the banter was good all around. So in 2018 when I saw an opportunity to volunteer for the team I had to jump on it. I was lucky enough to be accepted and finally get to give back to a community that's done so much for me over the years. A lot of people think Mods are just out to swing the hammer, but we're all gamers and TAers just like you. So don't be afraid to approach us or joke around. Unless it's Beanpotter, he's grumpy.

Any advice for users that might be interested in writing a walkthrough?

Don't be discouraged by the size a walkthrough can become and write something you would want to use if you were a new player to the game you're writing for. Walkthroughs can get huge, especially for big games like RPGs, but if you're passionate about it you should have no problem writing a clear and precise walkthrough. Take your time and don't be afraid to ask for feedback or help from your Overseer.

What would you like to see change with gaming? Better ethics, better quality games, so on.

I'd like to see developers steer away from the idea of creating cash cows and go back to wanting to make a game that keeps people talking. Something that pushes the narrative and technology further than the last success. Something timeless that we'll be playing 10-20-30 years from now and still praising it. There's hardly any competition between developers these days because they're comfortable on whatever their current money printer is and developing a new IP or good sequel is just a side project to them. Here's hoping that Cyberpunk 2077 can wake up the industry and show the world that we need less flashy weapon skins and more passionate projects.

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Would you say gaming has positively impacted your life? If so, how?

100%. Gaming has been a big part of my life and I owe a lot of things to it. Games have gotten me through bad times, taught me things I can use in real life, introduced me to amazing people I now call friends, sparked interest in things I otherwise wouldn't have known or cared about and overall has really shaped who I am today. It might sound weird, but when I think back on my past or measure time I'm almost always referencing games in my head. If I think back to 2010 for example the first things that pop in my head are Red Dead, Limbo, Mass Effect, Bioshock, etc. Don't get me wrong, gaming isn't the only thing I think about but I constantly get nostalgic from the many great memories they've given me through the years.

And has TA positively impacted your life? What do you like about it most?

Without a doubt. TA has been my 2nd home for 10 years now and it's filled with amazing people and friends I consider family. This site was built on the premise of meeting strangers and helping each other, but it's gone so much further than that and I'm grateful I've been able to experience and be a part of that kind of community.

The community is no doubt my favorite thing. Without the community (and the developer's hard work) TA wouldn't be what it is today. The guides, walkthroughs, sessions, reviews, blogs, volunteer staff work, it all builds the foundation of what the site stands for. It's always alive and fresh with content from all over the world.

It's been great talking to you, as per usual. Any final shout-outs to give to the community?

I want to give a shout-out to all current and past staff / volunteer staff members of the site. You guys don't get enough praise for keeping this place running as smoothly as possible. Especially our developers.

I want to thank DresdenDil for bringing me here, All of my family from the Walkthrough and Moderator teams and the many many friends I don't have enough room to link here.

You're all truly wonderful.

Thank you for taking the time to read my interview, I hope it was semi-interesting. Thank you, Nici, for keeping the TA interview tradition alive. You've been doing a great job and I look forward to reading the next one.

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 20 February 20 at 22:45 | Last edited on 21 February 20 at 04:42 | There are 17 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Community Interview - SangriazPermalink
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.

In other news, I'm looking for a partner to help me keep these interviews running! Real-life is keeping me busy, and there are lots of people still waiting. So if you're interested in helping out, PM me. Thanks!

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Current Interviewee: Sangriaz
Previous Interview: Matrarch
To Apply for an Interview: See here

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Gamertags almost always tell something about their owners. Tell us about yours. Does your gamerpic mean anything to you as well?

My nickname evolved from my real name Sang. It became Sanger because friends called me Sanger the Headbanger. This was ironic because I’m the typical Asian nerd with glasses reading books and playing games all the time. Then, I just wanted to change it up a bit and wanted a “z” in there somewhere, so I removed -er and added -riaz instead. I did not know about the drink named sangria at the time, but since I enjoy cocktails from time to time, it fit pretty well.

Describe yourself in just a few words. As a prominent figure on TA, how do you think the rest of the site knows you?

A crazy Asian guy who speaks English very well and makes bunch of walkthroughs for visual novels.

How did you come across TA? How long have you been on the site? What made you decide to join the community?

When TA was just starting out, a friend told me about the site. Thought it was a cool concept and joined immediately. I think it was 9-10 years ago.

Do you remember what it was first like when you joined the site? Were you as prominent of a figure as you are now?

I don’t really remember, but I was already writing guides for visual novel games and a lot of people were enjoying them and getting easy gamerscore through them. So, I wouldn’t say I was a prominent figure, but a little bit known in the niche community of gamerscore hunters who were willing to go out and get a NTSC/J console.

What started your interest in achievement hunting? Surely you would consider yourself a hardcore achievement hunter, right?

When I first got my Xbox 360 console, I thought achievements were for really good gamers, which I am not. The reason was because I had imported my console from Japan prior to release in Korea and the launch titles were Dead or Alive 4, Perfect Dark Zero, Ridge Racer 6 and a couple other games that I wasn’t very much interested in. You may or may not be familiar with those three titles, but they are one of the hardest games to 1k out there. So, naturally, when I played 30-40 hours and not really getting anywhere in terms of gamerscore, I felt it was an extremely hard task.

But one day I was browsing the Internet and IGN or Gamespot (don’t remember) had an article saying that you can earn 5000 gamerscore in a couple of days. I was *so* surprised. Read the article, only to find that the games were NA exclusive titles like Madden, NBA 2k6, etc. Since they were region-blocked, I was unable to import and play them. However, I now knew that some achievements are hard and take time, but some can be very easy. So, I started looking for games, outside of my comfort zone, that may be easy completions and playable on my console.

This is how I became an achievement hunter. Believe it or not, I still consider myself a casual gamer and casual achievement hunter. The reason for this is that I play so many different games that I am not good at any one game in particular, and I also don’t try hard to complete the games. If they are beyond my skill or takes way too long, I tend to move on to the next game.

How long have you been gaming? Do you remember your first game? Or the first one on Xbox?

I started gaming back in 1983. My first game was Galaga in the arcades. I do not remember my first game on Xbox original, but my first game on Xbox 360 was Ridge Racer 6, and on Xbox One was Killer Instinct.

Is there a particular place that you like to game?

Anywhere, as long as there is a TV, is fine. If I can be lying down while playing the game, that is even better.

Do you have hobbies outside of gaming? Anything that you're well known for?

I love to read and I love to bowl. This isn’t a hobby, but I also did some fan translations of US TV shows and movies into Korean that some people still might remember me by.

Do you have a favorite book? Any books that you think are overrated?

My favorite books are The Stand by Stephen King, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and The Legend of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong. No books are over-rated and I tend to enjoy most books recommended by other people.

Tell us about your life outside of gaming! The real life job, spouse, kids, anything.

I work in an IT company as a community manager. I got married in 2017, but do not have any kids yet. It’s kind of just typical work, hobby, spend time with family, etc. Not at all much exciting. ;-)

An IT tech sounds pretty impressive for a job. Does your job extend to your hobbies?

I have a computer science degree, so that kind of thing used to be what I do all the time, but now that I’m into console gaming more, I rarely do any PC building.

You're from Korea, correct? How would you describe it to people outside of the country?

Yes. I am born and raised in Seoul, Korea. Seoul is capital city of Korea and 40% of the entire country’s population lives in or around Seoul. We are a small country that is surround in west, east, and south by the sea. We have the unfortunate title of being the only divided country in the world with North and South Korea. We want unification but North Korea is a communist country, South Korea is a democratic country, so it will definitely not come easily.

Do you think gaming is different in your country compared to other countries? Are certain games more popular there than in other places?

We are more focused on PC and mobile gaming as opposed to console gaming. eSports pretty much started in Korea with Starcraft leagues. :)

Does your home-life impact how you play games? Do you have a special co-op partner in your life?

I have duties as a husband and son-in-law, so it definitely impacts the amount of time I can dedicate to gaming. Fortunately, my wife is ok with me gaming as long as it isn’t the first thing I do as soon as I get home.

Do you have a favorite game? A least favorite? What genres do you prefer?

My favorite game by far is Pac-Man. I don’t think I have a least favorite, but I do not enjoy soccer games at all. (It is soccer, NOT football by the way) My preferred genre is platformers and rhythm action.

Out of curiosity, why Pac-Man?

Because it is Pac-Man. :D

What do you look for in a game? A good story, fun multiplayer, or something else entirely?

Easy achievements… (pause)… just kidding. I like a fun, single-player experience. The ones I love most are the games that have a simple mechanic that is easy to learn, but hard to master. Games like Super Meatboy for example.

Considering that you enjoy single-player games, what's your opinion of multiplayer achievements?

Some co-op, I am ok with. Multiplayer achievements can all burn in hell.

Do you play games as soon as they release, or do you always wait? Do you support pre-ordering?

As a reviewer who gets early review codes, I tend to play the games that we get as soon as possible so that we can put up some content in time for release. Unfortunately, this means games that we don’t get have to take a bit of a back burner.

It's cool that you get early access! Any tips to share for other community members who want to do the same?

Essentially, the publishers want exposure to their game, so if you are doing Youtube, Twitch, Mixer, etc you can always ask for a code. They won’t always give you one, but it never hurts to ask. I usually mention that I am number one in Asia for gamerscore and that I am fully bilingual. This helps if the game is targeted more towards the eastern audience.

What do you enjoy most about video games? Are there any new releases that you're excited for?

I like that video games can take me anywhere. Whether it is outer space, hell, some exotic place on earth, it’s so fantastic. I’m excited for Ori and the Will of the Wisps as well as Resident Evil 3. RE3 is my favorite Resident Evil game.

Is there anything that irks you about gaming? Industry, microtransactions, achievements, so on.

Paid DLC, free DLC, and DLC in general.

With all the games that you've played, would you say that games are getting better or worse in quality?

Graphic and sound-wise they have gotten better and better through time. In other aspects, I feel they are getting worse in general, but you see some gems here and there. I’m delighted much when I find such a gem.

Achievement hunting can become a pretty aggressive sport. Do you think that secrets/exploits should be shared with the community, or is it okay to keep things hidden?

Secrets/exploits should be shared always in my opinion.

Back to TA! Share your biggest accomplishments on the site. Do you hold any impressive leaderboard positions? Any difficult completions?

I was ranked #10 in the world for about a month for gamerscore. I am #1 in Asia for TA score and gamerscore. I think my proudest completion is Killer Instinct. It’s not a hard completion but it does take a very long time (I played 546 hours).

What's the hardest achievement you've ever unlocked? What about the hardest game you've ever completed?

I honestly cannot remember my hardest achievement. It is most likely because I tend to give up and move on if I feel it is too hard. The hardest game of completion was Wordament Snap Attack. Servers were announced to close on May 18, picked the game back up on Apr 20 without knowing whether I could finish it. I was playing all day and all night literally and finished it on May 2. Without solvers posted in the TA guide, I definitely would not have been able to do this.

Have you ever done something ridiculous just to unlock a single achievement

Alto’s adventure. Left the game on for about 15 days straight to get the Silver Surfer achievement. Honorable mention goes to Gears of War 3’s Seriously 3.0 which I have not unlocked but used 3 Xbox 360 consoles, 3 games, 6 controllers to start up games and get kills in a very efficient manner.

Is there a specific achievement that you haven't been able to unlock that you really want to?

Not really. If I can’t unlock it, it’s beyond my skill or I lack the dedication, and I can live with that.

Moving on, do you have any particular goals for TA? Completion percentage, ratio, so on.

No particular goals. I just kinda play the games that come out and enjoy.

Do you think you'll ever quit achievement hunting? If so, why?

Probably not. I’m one of those types that stick to something forever.

Does achievement hunting change the way that you play games? Do you ever wish you hadn't started the hobby?

Definitely. Previous to achievements, I played games on easy difficulty, got the ending and moved on. Achievements have forced me to play some games multiple times, find all collectibles, see all endings, etc. In a way, this made me appreciate games more deeply, but also it meant I’m replaying the same game over and over which could be used to play other games.

If you didn't have the hobby, what else would you focus on?

Reading. I love it!

I saw through your blogs that you make content on Youtube. Care to talk about it?

Of course. I have a personal channel at which I use to upload videos of Korean language game-play. My goal is to upload as many Xbox One games as possible that support Korean language. The other channel that I work with is The Hidden Levels ( The Hidden Levels (or THL for short) is a media group that formed between gamers to stream and create videos. We have also branched out into publishing and our first game should be out soon on Xbox One.

Tell us about the games The Hidden Levels are making!!!

Ravva and the Cyclops Curse: & The Void Rains Upon Her Heart: are both already available on Steam. They will be coming to console, but we are not ready to give dates or make proper announcement yet.

Any plans to publish other games in the future? What about developing a game?

We want to publish/develop and continue to be in this space, but it is not easy for an independent company with limited budget.

Do you have any long-standing goals with your personal account, or the Hidden Levels?

I think I fulfilled or exceeded most of my personal gaming goals. My current goal is to get more games on Xbox to support Korean and create videos of Korean game play for games that do support it.

As we wrap up the interview, is there anything you'd like to say to the community?

Thank you always! Your encouragement gives me the energy to keep on trucking!

Are there any final shout-outs that you'd like to give?

Shout out to Kitty Skies and Gamer Guy in a Suit from THL.
Jamiereloaded23, my good friend for achievement hunting.
BiLLzuMaNaTi from AchievementLand.
K4rn4ge, the go to guy for ID@Xbox related stuff.
My Korean friends Netgets, woo984 and Xlain SS.
I apologize if I missed anyone. There are far too many connections I made through TA and Xbox in general. It would be impossible to list you all, but I do love you all!

Posted by NicoleRenee00 on 12 February 20 at 17:54 | There are 13 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.