… as the room fills to the brim with water, a figure floats past the porthole window in the secure airlock door. As they raise their right hand, the words N0T PENNYS B0AT
are scrawled upon their palm. For anyone who has seen Lost
, link this to Gamertag and all makes sense. For anyone who didn’t watch Lost
, well now I appear senile.
____________________________________DavieMarshall: Thanks for speaking to me! I hope you can hold your breath long enough to keep writing messages on your hands for this weeks interview!
N0T PENNYS B0AT: Haha. Non-fans are reading this and thinking, "Who are these people? What are they talking about?" But thanks for having me. This seems like it'll be a lot of fun. I promise to try and keep my answers spoiler-free.D: We should get in from the off that you’re a huge Lost fan!
N: Even that may be understating it. I never really watched much television growing up. But I always loved movies. So when I got Netflix in Summer '09, I realized just how many great TV shows I had been missing. But none captivated me more than LOST
. I wish I could say I've been with the show since the beginning, but I dare say I know more about it than most fans. I always say LOST
is half entertainment and half homework. Some don't want that in their TV shows, but I love it! D: Before we go into anything in any depth, let’s get in some ground work. How old are you, and where do you come from?
N: I am 22 years old and currently I find myself stranded on a mysterious isl-...erm, rather, Worcester, Massachusetts.D: And what are you doing at the moment?
N: I'm in school here in Worcester and also working part-timeD: Ah right, so what are you studying?
N: I am getting my Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts with a lot of my electives focusing on English and History, as I am most interested in those subjects. And then, if all goes well, I will transfer into a four year school to earn some type of Bachelor's Degree in English or writing.D: Where do you hope to take writing?
N: Well I have been writing since I was a young boy (hopefully the quality has gone up since then) and nowadays I mostly write short stories. That seems to be my preferred style. But I could see myself doing a number of things. I also like to work on children's books and even in school, I like writing essays. Haha. Just this past week I have been reaching out to a number of gaming blogs in hopes of landing a paid or voluntary contributor position. Combining my greatest ability with my favorite hobby sounds like fun to me. I have this idea of devoting a gaming blog to just discussing the stories within the games and all reviews would be more heavily focused on the story. D: Have you ever applied for any positions here at TA?
N: I haven't yet. Like I said, just this past week is when I began looking for a gig somewhere. I'm sure I will over the next few days though. Know of any openings? : )D: These short stories you write, are they just for yourself, or do you maintain a blog where people could read them?
N: I haven't ever put them on the web anywhere. I mostly just keep them for my own reading or that of my family and girlfriend mostly. I'm not opposed to the idea but I just have never done it.D: Is your short story writing in any way inspired partly by Lost?
N: I would say it is inspired more so by The Twilight Zone
, though LOST
was also inspired by Rod Serling's classic so in a way, yes. I like to do short, trippy stories using sci-fi elements. Right now I am either writing or brainstorming a few stories including things like sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, simulated reality, and a couple of dystopian stories.D: Coming back to said TV show, how big a fan are we talking here?
N: It's pretty ridiculous. haha. I spend a lot of my time on Lostpedia, the premiere online source for all things LOST
. I discuss theories on the show like a political debate. My friends and family will often tease me for relating any scenario in our lives to something on LOST
. My avatar and gamer bio are often based on a character (Though at the moment it's Alan Wake). I have some memorabilia and I plan on getting some LOST
tattoos but mostly my fanaticism is found in the breadth of knowledge I have on the show. If anyone reading has a question, comment, or criticism about the show, I'd love to hear it. D: For readers who haven’t watched it, or didn’t enjoy it and stopped watching, why would you say it’s worth sticking with until the end?
N: I totally admit LOST
isn't for everyone. It requires your undivided attention and even post-show reading and discussion to understand a lot of the material. But I feel no show has committed itself to being so involved and in-depth as LOST
has. It has so many layers; from main plot lines involving scientific theories all the way to knowing who many of the characters are often named after, and why that's relevant to the story and characterization. The finale was very polarizing among fans but LOST
as a whole was one of the greatest stories I have ever experienced. If anyone hasn't watched it and has access to season 1, I dare you to watch up until the episode "Walkabout" and not consider continuing the story. D: And in a regular question, though later than usual, can you expand a little further than I did on the Gamertag. Do you get many comments on it?
N: Honestly, every week I do. From fellow fans telling me "Awesome Gamertag, brother." to non-fans asking me where I came up with something so lame. The most used line is "Well then whose boat was it? (zing!)" Basically, for non-fans reading this, it is a reference to my favorite scene of the show. But you probably could have deduced that by now.D: What did you think of the Xbox 360 tie in? I played it, and as a fan, I thought some elements were actually OK, and really not bad. I didn’t enjoy playing as a newly created character though.
N: I think anyone who isn't a fan will despise it. Even I admit it was pretty bad. I liked the episodic chapters though. That made it feel like the show. I still dream of a sandbox game where you choose your character and there are multiple, interweaving storylines. I probably wouldn't play anything else. haha.D: Do you watch anything else?
N: My post-LOST
television world consists of Dexter
, The Office
, Arrested Development
, among a few others. I also work at the movie theater part-time so I see a ton of movies.D: Do you get to watch films for free, or is that a made up perk that isn’t true four people who work in ‘cinemas’ (as we Anglo-Saxon type people call them!)
N: Each employee gets 20 free tickets per month. I don't use them as much as I used to but it's a great perk to have. This week I will be taking my little sister to Kung Fu Panda 2
and I'll probably be catching The Hangover 2
at some point as well.D: How is the team you work in? Do you all get on outside of work?
N: Oh man, I have made so many lasting friendships there. I met some of my best friends and my girlfriend there and there are always funny things happening. One time back when this Eddie Murphy movie came out, we had a big cardboard standee of his grinning, gap-toothed face, it was about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. And I would take it and hide it in the locker rooms, elevator, break room, anywhere really. And I'd shut off the lights and leave it in front of the closed door so people would open it and get spooked. It was quite effective. The actual standee was around the building long after the movie came and went. We may still have it hiding somewhere. I've always said on the list of crappy jobs, mine has to be one of the best.D: So what’s your favourite film ever then? Mine? Apollo 13.
N: Mine is definitely Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
but I also love Moon
and Donnie Darko
. Noticing a theme here? hahaD: Ah Eternal Sunshine! Such a great, great film! Anyone who casts Jim Carey as a bad actor and doesn't like his slapstick style films should definitely watch this. I'm a big fan. I also think Man On The Moon is a fantastic film. Anyway, what’s the worst film you’ve ever seen? My vote goes to The Day After Tomorrow.
N: Hmm that one is tougher. I take my 8 year old sister to a lot of kids movies and it's easy to tell the difference between a kids movie made with heart and substance and one that was made to reel in some quick cash. But the absolute worst movie I have ever seen is probably this terrible low budget horror called Killjoy
. It was about a killer clown who stalked this group of friends. The acting was terrible and the clown itself was laughable. D: And how do you feel about games that tie in to movies?
N: For achievements they are usually easy but mostly they are just bad. The best one I have played is Toy Story 3
. While the campaign is short, the Toy Box mode is a great tool for children. It promotes teamwork and creativity. I already love the Toy Story franchise anyways so it was nice to see a game based off of it with some actual effort.D: Absolutely great game. It really surprised me when I played it, and was still hooked twenty odd hours later! So, what game would you love to see made into a film? I always thought BioShock, would have been a good one.
N: Definitely BioShock (Xbox 360)
. Rapture is probably the greatest setting in all of gaming, in my mind. If the stipulation is that the movie would actually be good, I'd also like to see an Assassin's Creed
movie and a Dead Space
movie.D: Do you find yourself analysing films and TV shows as you watch them, studying writing at a higher level as you are?
N: I'd say so. I think that is partially why LOST
appeals to me so much. It requires reflection and analysis and there is ALWAYS more to learn on it. There is always room for good summer movies like Batman and the like, but mostly I like stories that demand further thinking.D: Let’s bring it firmly back to gaming now. Between study, work and day to day jobs it must feel like you’re working eight days a week. How much time do you spend on your Xbox a week?
N: I'd estimate about 10-20 hours per week. When I get a new game, most of my free time goes to finishing it. This week I beat L.A. Noire
.D: Can we get a picture of your setup?
N: It isn't much. But it's nice to have the Xbox and PS3 beside each other. My computer is off to the left and the Wii is upstairs too. As you can see, I'm picky with my gaming library. I only buy games that have long term replay value for me.D: And when you come to sit down in front of your Xbox, is it usually casual or are you out to hunt those achievements?
N: It depends. Some games require the right setting. I only play horror games at night. But when my girlfriend comes over, we play Grand Theft Auto IV
a lot. On my first run through with a game I don't concern myself with achievements. But after I experience the story and beat the game, I go back and have cheevo-hunting sessions.D: How about your genre preferences? What kinds of titles do you like to play the most?
N: I mostly play third-person action or adventure games like Assassin's Creed
and Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
. I also love the Madden
series. I have played in two cash-prize tournaments where I came in 1st and 4th place. I love anything with an open world, which is why the GTA series has been my favorite since PS One. But I will try most anything once. Though I tend to stay away from hardcore RPGs like Final Fantasy
.D: What’s the best game you’ve played so far this year and why?
N: So far, it would have to be L.A. Noire
. I love most everything Rockstar does. And while I was a bit let down by some of the story and gameplay, it is still the best I have played thus far into 2011. i'm really looking forward to Dead Island
and the Arkham City
though.D: Of course E3 is not far away now, and I notice you’ve a recent blog post up on the subject. On your ‘wish list’ (games you’d love to appear but know may not even exist) you’ve got Alan Wake 2. I’d completely go with this. Alan Wake was one of the finest games I’ve ever played and a sequel with tweaks and improvements would be a gift. I take it you enjoyed the first a lot too?
N: Oh absolutely. Earlier this month I completed the game's achievement list including the DLC. I have played the story 7 times. I consider it one of the best stories in all of video games. I pray to the video game Gods that a sequel is made.D: In the same blog post on your ‘watch list’ (i.e.: confirmed titles we’ve yet to see released into the wild), you’ve got, among others, BioShock: Infinite. You note it keeps ‘defying your expectations with each bit of new info’. How do you feel about the disassociation with Rapture?
N: I'm conflicted. On one hand, the series is just fine the way it is. Rapture is amazing and the story was flawless. But if they're going to make a new one, a new setting is probably necessary. D: Being a fan of shows like Lost, and getting into games such as Alan Wake and BioShock, you’re clearly a big fan of mystery and intrigue. How do you feel the story telling potential of games has progressed in recent years? Is there any way it can be pushed forward even more?
N: I feel storytelling in video games is evolving right before our eyes. We have moved from stories such as 'You're a small yellow dot that searches for smaller white dots while being hunted by the paranormal.' to full on epics with legitimate actors and engrossing plots. I think there is a tough balance between how much you devote to gameplay and how much you devote to the story. Some developers are finding new ways to implement this by having the story progress in-game, rather than through cutscenes between levels. I have a ton to say on this but it'd be too long. It'll probably be my next blog post.D: It’s hard to imagine fifteen years ago that games would end up enjoying releases on a Hollywood kind of scale. Just look at Modern Warfare 2. Do you feel that this series should be left alone now, we’ve Modern Warfare 3 around the corner after all.
N: With the money it makes, I don't see any reason why they would stop releasing them. It isn't in the best interest of gamers in many ways. But it does help to legitimize gaming as a part of mainstream entertainment. Gaming is still trying to find its place. Fan or not of Call of Duty
, each release puts video games in the spotlight.D: With games as popular as the Modern Warfare series, money spinning is somewhat inevitable. In your blog you’ve made a post commenting on the situation with regards to the Online Pass scenario we’re seeing now. You believe that the games industry is in need of an overhaul, and it’s the $60 price tags that are the issue, not the online passes. Do you think we’re going to see a sea of titles with Online Pass from here on in as developers protect their profit margins?
N: I hope so. I'm not normally interested in the business aspect of most things. But as an avid gamer, the flaws are glaring. Like I said in my blog, I don't mind the Online Pass format as long as the game is worth the money.D: So where’s the compromise? How do we bring down the RRP of brand new titles and address the profits black hole that is second hand games? It’s a tough situation.
N: Restructuring the pricing model for games as a whole could help everyone. I say release a game for a lesser price, make worthwhile DLC available on Day 1 and leave it to word of mouth and reviews as to which extras the consumers choose to buy. If they make worthwhile DLC, they still get their money and the quality of games will rise. D: How about game rentals. A difficult situation again! Oh if only there were a silver bullet!
N: Again, if developers make worthwhile games people will want to buy them rather than rent them. The problem is the pricing versus the quality of some games. Even licensed movie or tv show kids games are released at 40-60 dollars. How many are worth that much? Very few if any. So why not rent them until the pricing model is fixed.D: Some of the longer games just can't be rented I don’t think, so perhaps content and quality is the way to combat this? I notice on your Gamercard you’re playing Dead Space 2 at the minute and are at an ‘early’ stage with the achievements, (at the time of writing you have one hundred and sixteen TA score). Maybe clever achievement list design prompting multiple playthroughs, as with Dead Space 2 could help too?
N: Yeah that could help too. Just look at this site as an example of the power of one's achievement score.D: I also noted on your blog that you also own a PS3. What prompted you to buy one of these?
N: My girlfriend bought me one for my birthday because I had been dying to play some of their exclusives, mostly Heavy Rain
. and Uncharted
. It's been fun so far but any cross-platform games will still be bought for my 360.D: Can you list all the consoles you’ve ever owned?
N: 360, PS3, Wii, Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, N64, PS One, Sega Saturn, Sega CD, Sega Genesis and Panasonic 3DO.D: So what was the first title you ever played?
N: Hmm. It was probably Mortal Kombat
or Sonic The Hedgehog
on Genesis. D: And I’m sure you know what I’ll ask next. If it had achievements, what might the first achievement unlocked ever have been, and how much would it have been worth?
N: For Mortal Kombat
, it would have been "Suffer a Fatality at the hands of your older brother 100 times consecutively." It would have been 80G because it is actually tough to be that bad. But hey, I was little. haha D: How about the full 1000/1000GS. If all titles had that attached, what would your first completion have been? I’d have probably polished off Tetris on the Gameboy I think. I was a machine when it came to blasting bricks
N: Probably Crash Bandicoot: Warped
. That was the first game I ever beat on my own and I played it all the time.D: And if you could bring any title from your past to the Xbox, what would it be and why?
N: The first two Grand Theft Auto
games, for nostalgic purposes. D: Looking at TA stats now, are you much of a stats junkie, or do you just game and let the achievements happen when they do?
N: If the game is really fun, I will go back for as many as I can get. Alternatively, if it is an easy cheevo list I will play for them. I don't often try for collectathons unless the game means a lot to me, like Alan Wake
.D: You only registered with TA in January of this year. What brought you here!
N: My friend who goes by the Gamertag Division1Champ
told me about it because we help each other with achievements. He had signed up before and referred me one day. Shout out to him! hahaD: Has joining TA prompted you to set yourself any targets to lift your completion percentage or TA score?
N: Yeah I completed my first Gamer Goal to get the last Alan Wake achievement. I had 66/67 for a long time and it drove me crazy. Right now, I am going for 50K Gamerscore by Halloween. Not too ambitious, I know. But I am picky with what I buy.D: Currently your highest TA scoring achievement is The Way Home in Lost Via Domus for two hundred and twenty three TA points yet the ratio is only just over 1. Are you getting in to the whole TA ratio business yet?
N: I haven't yet tried for any certain achievements strictly for their high TA score. But I always track my overall position on the Massachusetts TA and Gamerscore leaderboards.D: I remember joining TA a long time ago now. The damn site has altered my concept of achievements completely now! In a good way, but I wish I didn’t earn as many headaches as I do chasing high ratio achievements in games like Motion Sports, or forcing myself to up the 42% completion in Splosion Man! Anyway, it’s been great to speak to you, I hope you’ve enjoyed your interview!
N: This was a ton of fun. Thanks very much for having me.D: Any last thoughts, brother?
N: If anyone knows of a blog where I can find a home, let me know! Other than that, on behalf of Alvar Hanso, Gerald and Karen DeGroot, and everyone at the DHARMA Initiative, thanks for reading and namaste.
And so concludes this week's Community Interview. It's been a completely different beast to last week, which I feel helps make these reads on a Sunday interesting! And please, keep your PMs for self nominations and friends rolling in!
If you’d like to be featured in a future Community Interview, or would like to nominate a gamer on this site to be featured themselves, please send a PM to DavieMarshall