TA Community Interview - Sashamorning

By Jonathan Barnes, 7 years ago
After sifting through mountains of bribes and several inappropriate advances (Some of those "favors" are still illegal in Ohio, folks!), the next Community Interview is coming at you like a hot blast of molten lava from a gaming volcano.

This week, the Gamish Inquisition turns its attention towards one, Sashamorning, a fiery redhead that most of you recognize from comments in our forums. It is my unfortunate duty to shatter a few dreams today because, in the words of Austin Powers:

It's not a woman. It's a MAN, BABY!
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obj - With a Rita Hayworth knockoff for a gamer icon, you and your gamertag are quite well known on the site. I assume there is some sort of story attached to your moniker and your visage. Care to share?

SM - Well, the name is a carryover from an MMO I used to play several years ago. I'd started playing as a guy, but then as a novelty I started playing as a female. I know that's not terribly uncommon, so I don't really think it's that weird. I've kept with it because, as a friend of mine put it best, if I'm going to be playing as Shepard for 40 hours I'd rather be looking at a female character than a male one. That's how it was in the MMO. I picked a character that I wanted to look at most of the time, since she's the one I saw all of the time, and since I got used to that character, it's just carried over into various other games. She's kinda taken on a life of her own to a degree, a bit of an alter ego.

As for now, my real name is really common, so I actually prefer to be called Sasha online. It's a bit more unique, so if someone says something in a crowded party it's a bit easier to know to whom they're speaking. I don't know exactly how I picked it up, but it just seemed to fit my image of what a fiery redhead would be named. The "Morning" part is a bit of an in-thing with me and my wife.

obj - Where is home for you and what is the most awesome thing about your county/city/hamlet/hovel/rock-you-live-under?

SM - Home's where I hang my hat? smile My father was military, and I've literally had over 25 different addresses in my life, including 15 states and 2 countries. My wife and I have also travelled for work and education, and we've lived in 4 places in the past 4 years, so I'm pretty much ready to settle down any time now (and stop with the packing/unpacking). We just moved into our current house a few months ago. I like where we are except that it's 15 miles from town and my internet isn't quite as hyperspeed as I'd like, but it works fairly well. Suffice it to say that the most awesome aspect of where I live is the scenery. I go outside every day and I have the most amazing view. It's incredible.

obj - You claim to be the Number 1 gamer in “Liechtenstein” yet say that you reside in the US of A. Care to explain your treasonous actions or are you applying for dual citizenship?

SM - Why not Liechtenstein? smile It's a great little country. I've driven through it a few times. Besides that, I've moved around so much, I have so few ties to any one place, really. I was the only person in Monaco for a while until someone "moved" there, so I wanted to find someplace else. Monaco's a nice place, too.

obj - Funny story about Monaco, I once "borrowed" my company's 401k fund to get a comped suite in a casino there only to have the coin stolen, forcing me to hijack a race car and chase down the thief!

Aside from a warm Xbox on a cold night, what/whom else shares your domicile and how do they feel about your gaming proclivities?

SM - My wife and our six adorable cats. Some nights in party chat, some of them may even make an appearance. My wife doesn't game, but she's very tolerant of it. It helps that we have reversed sleep cycles. I work from home most of the time (except when I have class), and what I do lets me sleep most of the day when she's at work, so I generally work/play when she sleeps. After a while I think she got so sick of me playing well into the night, so she said we should just get another console in the bedroom, so I have my secondary setup in the bedroom, with a second Turtle Beach headset so it doesn't bother her. She sleeps incredibly soundly, so I'll even be in party chat, although I may be a bit quieter.

obj – With such a swanky-sounding set up, I have to ask, what pays the bills in the Morning home?

SM - I'm a freelance legal consultant and researcher, and I teach part-time at a local college. We moved here because my wife had a too-good-to-pass-up opportunity, and most of what I do is independent anyway. We met at Penn State (go Nittany Lions!), and I taught high school math for a few years before going to grad school. Big mistake. Graduating right in the middle of one of the worst economies in generations isn't the best thing for one's prospects, but luckily teachers are still needed, and very fortunately for us, my wife's training puts her in high demand.

obj - Since I'm feeling generous, I'll forgo any Joe Paterno jokes and move on.

With it being summer movie season, what’s your favorite “guilty pleasure” movie… one that garners little-to-no critical acclaim, but you can’t help but love?

SM - Oh wow. I think it'd be a toss-up between Idiocracy and You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Idiocracy might not fit, though; it's got a bit of a (well-deserved) cult following. ("Brawndo, the Thirst Mutilator! It's got what plants crave!") Zohan not so much. I think a lot of people just don't get it, but I think that I haven't laughed so hard as I did in the first 5-10 minutes of Zohan.

obj - Outside of gaming, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

SM - I watch a lot of movies. When I was in college, I would average 2-3 a week. I also read a lot, which kinda goes with my literature background. I've also been playing Magic: the Gathering since college, and have a pretty extensive collection (that I still need to unpack, mostly).

We like to travel a lot. Neither one of us is from here, so we like to get home every once in a while, and just hit the road other times. Moving around as much as I have means that even though I'd like to stay in one place, I don't always want to be in that place all the time, so we try to get away at least once a month. I'm also a rabid college football and hockey fan. Basically I live for the fall sports seasons. Last year I was lucky enough to be at Joe Paterno's 400th victory, which was really special. I'm also big into live music and try to see as many concerts as I can get to, and we'll make it into a trip to someplace fun if we can.

obj - Fighting... back... JoePa... jokes... OK, better.

Before we start the official “Gamish Inquisition” is there any question you would LIKE me to ask that I have not… as always an answer to that question would be helpful as I seemed to have misplaced my Carnac Turban.

SM - What is my favorite gaming accessory, did you ask? Easy. My Horipad EX 2 Turbo controller. It's amazing how essential this thing is for achievement hunting. Everyone in my friend feed always hears me go on about it, but yeah, I love this thing. I'm not trying to advertise it or anything, but if there's one thing I've bought that's helped me in gaming, it's this.

obj - Now that we’ve met the man behind the woman behind the game, let’s meet the gamer behind the man behind the woman behind the game, starting with a picture of that sweet setup which you mentioned.

SM - Here's my media room with my basic setup: my Reach 360 and my PAL console. I have a Bose system set up in here, and a pair of Turtle Beach X11s. I prefer the wired headeset since I don't have to worry about charging it, and I've got plenty of space for it in here without the cord getting in the way.

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I also have a drawing table that I use as my computer stand, and I usually have about 20 tabs open at once depending on what game I'm playing at the moment.

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That room is basically the fun room of the house, so we have lots of random things in here, like my football helmets and my Master Chief helmet, my Vault-Tec lunchbox, those kinds of things.

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The room's too small for Kinect, so I use that in our living room upstairs.

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And then, of course, is my full bedroom setup, complete with a second drawing table and a second headset.

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obj - WOW! With setups like that, how much time do you spend gaming during a week?

SM - Too much, probably. wink I usually log onto TA and xbox.com when I get up. When I'm not working I'm usually logged into Live and probably in party. I'd say I'm probably actively gaming about 40 hours/week or so, depending on how much else is going on.

obj - What is your first “gaming” memory and were you instantly a fan of games or did you have to “grow” into it?

SM - Oh this one's easy, and it completely dates me. We were living in Germany, and my dad was stationed at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim. We had to pick up our mail from his office, so one time we drove there and my mom and I were waiting in the car, and my dad sticks his head out through the door with this huge grin on his face, then pulls out an Atari VCS (2600). He was just as stoked as I was. I basically destroyed the plastic on those controllers over the years.

obj - Since we're dating ourselves... let's roll with H.G. Wells for a moment and hop in the Time Machine: If the first video game you ever played had achievements, what would your first achievement have been?

SM - "Eat your first dot" in Pac-Man. Of course it wasn't the cool arcade Pac-Man (and definitely not http://www.trueachievements.com/PACMAN-CE-DX-xbox-360.htm), but the crappy port that the 2600 could handle, but I played that thing over and over again.

obj - Do you own any other gaming consoles/platforms aside from the 360 and, if so, what is your favorite game on that console?

SM - I have a PS3 and a Wii. The Wii I got because my wife wanted one. I waited outside of GameStop in the Michigan February cold for four straight mornings so I could get it for her for her birthday. We don't play it all that much anymore. The PS3 has really been relegated to Blu-ray player status. I loved MGS4, but I have Heavy Rain and Uncharted 2 still sitting here uncompleted. It's just so hard for me to play games that don't have achievements anymore, and that's saying something. I looked forward to Heavy Rain ever since I saw that initial trailer for it back in '06, but it's been sitting on my shelf since release date. I've only gotten through the first chapter.

I also have an old used PS2 that I bought specifically for Ico and Shadow of the Collossus. Those were amazing games, and I'm really stoked that they're being remastered in HD for a release later this year, but only for the PS3. That makes me sad because I know the reality is that I'll never get around to playing them.

This goes to something I've discussed with a lot of my friends: have achievements in any way actually hurt gaming? I know that, for me, they've gotten me to play some really great games that I never would have, but the fact is that, from a pure gaming perspective, I've missed out on some fantastic experiences on other consoles that I might also enjoy. There's that tension... it just shows that I'm a bit addicted to the achievement hunting aspect of 360 games.

obj - I've often times had that thought myself. Achievements have definitely encouraged me to dig deeper into games that I've already beat, but often times such digging is bittersweet.

Since you're familiar with all three of the current home consoles, I'd like to shift to handhelds for a moment. Microsoft is the only one of “the big three” not to have a handheld console. Do you think the boys in Redmond should remedy this problem or is do you think that gamers are content with the choices that Sony, Nintendo and mobile phones offer?

SM - No. I think that the current barriers to entry for another handheld console are really high, especially given the economy. The truth is that gaming demand has proven to be a lot more inelastic than a lot of market researchers used to believe, but trying to introduce another handheld wouldn't make much sense to me. Nintendo has had a lock on the market for so long, from the Game Boy through the 3DS, and while the PSP has done well, I think Microsoft is looking at the alternate route through the WP7, and that makes a lot more business sense. By pairing the gaming aspect with in the mobile phone, it creates a perception of practicality that helps sell the devices. Now all they need are some really great titles for it, and I think that it'll really take off.

The problem in comparing the DS and PSP with the WP7 is that they appear to be completely different technologies. That's what it looks like (to me) that MS is trying to do: create a nexus of entertainment and mobile technology in one place. We've seen the way that they're adding additional functionality to the 360 (ESPN, NetFlix, Hulu Plus, etc.), along with the Kinect, in order to try to make the 360 the center of the home entertainment experience. It's something that MS has been trying to do for 20 years. I remember playing NHL 97 on a friend's Gateway Destination and being surprised at the direction that they were really trying to make. MS is getting much closer to the confluence of gaming, television and other media now, and even though Windows has been on mobile phones for many years, the WP7 seems to me like they've finally dropped the final piece into place. So no, I don't see that they need another handheld console; they're looking bigger. Why carry a console and a phone when you can just carry a phone?

obj - All very good points.

Your trophy case is stocked FULL of high-ratio achievements (some of the highest on the site). What’s the secret to your success?

SM - I keep an eye out for achievements that have deceptively high ratios and then attack them. I hesitate to say this for fear of crushing a couple of my ratios, but the reality is that there are a number of high-ratio achievements that aren't nearly as difficult as they may appear. For example,

Tom Clancy's EndWarDestroyerThe Destroyer achievement in Tom Clancy's EndWar worth 329 pointsDestroy 100 Critical Buildings in Theater of War.

just takes some setting up, and is nowhere nearly as difficult as something like A Monument to All Your Sins in Reach, nor as grindy as Seriously... My Riddick achievements are the same way, as is Marching Band Master!, although the latter requires that you play a completely dreadful game. You just have to know how to attack a lot of these achievements. Other ones, like Payday!, are just the result of having a fantastic gaming crew helping me, paired with the unfortunate glitching of the achievement for other people.

I'm also really proud of my vocal achievements. I've sung quite a lot in various choirs over the years (I even met my wife in choir), so singing is really the instrument in Rock Band that I like to play the most. I'm especially proud of

Guitar Hero: World TourSecret AchievementThe Secret Achievement achievement in Guitar Hero: World Tour worth 222 pointsContinue playing to unlock this secret achievement

since I did that myself, without use of a video or audio file. It's kind of a shame that vocals is the one aspect of music games that you can mimic without doing it yourself.

obj - On the flip side, your trophy case also contains http://www.trueachievements.com/My-Horse-And-Me-2-xbox-....htm and http://www.trueachievements.com/Avatar-The-Burning-Eart....htm. Would you care to explain these Scarlet Letters?

SM - Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no? wink I'm a gamerscore whore at heart, and I'm not shy about it at all. I'll be willing to boost just about any game at any time. Yeah, it really is an addiction. I think I need to start an Achieveaholics Anonymous leaderboard.

obj - Your TA bio contains several quotes from luminaries such as Mark Twain and the always graceful Gerald Ford, but the last quote is the most intriguing:

Sashamorning said:
Don't diss the Whorse.
Can you elaborate on these fillies of ill-repute?

SM - Ah yes, Gerry Ford. I probably shouldn't go too much into politics in here, but I still think that his statement to Congress is particularly powerful: "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have." It's something that bears remembering, especially in today's economic and fiscal climate.

But back to those whorses...

It's a reference to My Horse & Me 2. "Whorse" as become such an in-joke around my feed that it's a bit of a legend. I own a copy of it, and I pass it around to whomever wants to play though it (with the caveat that I have to know you fairly well first). I do that with quite a few games, actually, a sort of de facto GameFly. The postage in mailing the game to someone is generally a lot less than rental fees, and there are a lot of people out there with some really obscure titles worth playing (if only for the gamerscore).

I'm going to stand behind Whorse, though. The game isn't the best (I only gave it a 2-star review myself), but it really isn't terrible. There are a lot of worse games out there, and in a way the game is rather relaxing and peaceful.

obj - Speaking of reviews, you have written 44 for the site. What is your review style? Do you immediately write your review after finishing the game or do you let your thoughts “marinade” for a few hours/days before sitting down to write?

SM - It's a combination. Most of the time I review them right after I play them so that the game is fresh in my mind. Generally what I try to get across is the feel of the game. Sometimes I give a bit of backstory, because I think it adds something to the review to put the game into context. Something else I try to discuss in reviews are the achievements. While some may disagree, this site is about achievements, and so when I review a game like Hannah Montana The Movie or http://www.trueachievements.com/Rockstar-Table-Tennis-x....htm, the difficulty of earning the achievement needs to be taken into account if only somewhat.

obj - In additions to your reviews, you’ve also contributed 240 solutions and have a solution vote ratio of .92. What do you think makes a good solution?

SM - A couple of things. First of all, is the solution clear and to the point? Secondly, I don't have a problem with pointing out glitches and turbo solutions. Someone doesn't generally look at a solution for something like

Velvet AssassinBlitzkriegThe Blitzkrieg achievement in Velvet Assassin worth 113 pointsComplete the campaign in less than 5 hours

unless they're looking for a shortcut. Sometimes I get criticism and downvotes for posting workarounds, but the plain truth is that I want to help people by showing them a way to a particular achievement. I also monitor my solutions and improve them. If it looks like a solution isn't helping anyone based on the responses, then I'll delete it. There's no sense in keeping useless solutions on the site.

obj - With 117 completions, what was your favorite game to complete and why?

SM - My knee-jerk answer is Fallout 3 (PC) because watching 72 achievements pop in 5 minutes was absolutely awesome. Beyond that, I really liked http://www.trueachievements.com/Alice-Madness-Returns-x....htm a lot, especially because I have issues with difficulty achievements, and I beat that on Nightmare. I also loved the original http://www.trueachievements.com/Fallout-3-xbox-360.htm because the game was so immersive.

obj - Gamers game for various reasons, some do it to socialize, some do it to unwind and some do it to have some personal time. Where does your “gaming style” fit?

SM - I'd pretty much describe myself as a compulsive gamer. I get a sense of accomplishment by pushing through games, but I also do it for the sense of community that I spend time with online. That being said, I really am addicted to achievements, and when I'm not hearing that pop, it bugs me. The only time that changes is when I play a game like Red Dead Redemption where I get so involved in the story that I let myself not think about the achievements. Of course once the campaign ended, back to the grind. wink

obj - I feel the same way about http://www.trueachievements.com/LA-Noire-xbox-360.htm and am going through that "post campaign" grind now.

Do you have a favorite beverage (either alcoholic or non) that you like to enjoy while gaming?

SM - I have a 24-pack of Diet Mountain Dew next to me at all times and one in the garage as a spare. I also have a bottle of Silver Patron, but that's another story.

obj - Two bits of free advice: 1- DO THE DEW! 2- Don't try to chug the Patron.

The summer traditionally tends to be a “dead” period for quality game releases. With that in mind, what game(s) is/are getting you through the summer?

SM - Oh, I have plenty of games queued up from before. I've been going through Rockstar games that I haven't finished, so Bully: Scholarship Edition is next up. I'm also working on Create, which is a really fun game that it seems very few people have heard of. I'm also still working on last year's bean dive games (Brutal Legend, Deadly Premonition, Prototype (Xbox 360)), some games I put aside and really want to get back to (Mirror's Edge, Eternal Sonata, etc.) and some games I've never gotten around to at all (Singularity, Metro 2033). I also have some new releases to get to, like Child of Eden and F.E.A.R. 3. If not those, then I have a lot of clean up to do just to improve my completion ratio.

obj - And now, Sasha, are you ready to experience the electric shock treatment of the Lightning Round!?

SM - Ah, Gary Busey. He plays such a great lunatic. Who'd have thought back in 1987 that we'd be looking at Gary Busey as the normal one and Mel Gibson as the crazy one?

a- Favorite 360 Game

SM - So tough. There have been so many. I played Fallout 1 and 2 back in college and fell in love with them. I was a bit hesitant when http://www.trueachievements.com/Fallout-3-xbox-360.htm was announced as being a first-person game, but I think Bethesda handled it beautifully. Portal 2 would probably be a close second. After such an amazing story, Valve really clinched the deal with that fantastic ending. Braid deserves a mention, too. I really wish I could complete it, but that speed run... grrr.

b- Favorite “Bad” Game

SM - I would definitely have to go with My Horse and Me 2 here. The morality tale exploring the complex relationship between a championship equestrian rider and her noble steed really holds a special place for me. A close second would have to be Rogue Warrior. The Mickey Rourke rap in the credits is completely worth the price of admission.

c- Favorite achievement

SM - I'll have to go with

The Orange BoxLittle Rocket ManThe Little Rocket Man achievement in The Orange Box worth 93 pointsSend the garden gnome into space.

Anyone who can get that without the invincibility cheat, keeping that gnome in the buggy while dodging explosions, gets massive props in my book. Valve has a lot of great achievements in general. Portal 2 has a great one that I don't want to spoil, but it happens toward the end of the campaign. My least favorite was definitely

The Orange BoxFratricideThe Fratricide achievement in The Orange Box worth 6 pointsDo whatever it takes to survive.

I got really attached to that Cube. I even have a plush one sitting on my shelf.

d- Favorite game weapon

SM - I'm kinda partial to the A3-21 Plasma Rifle in Fallout 3. Combine that with Bloody Mess and Grim Reaper's Sprint and pretty much everything around you is a pile of green goo. The Hammer of Dawn in Gears is a close second, except that you can't use it all the time. What a bummer.

e- Favorite developer

SM - It's a toss-up between Valve and Rockstar. Every game that each one has made has been high quality, and every time they announce something it's pretty much a day one buy for me. I have to give the edge to Rockstar, though. It's a shame that Valve, like King Arthur, can't seem to count to three.

f- Most anticipated game

SM - It's hard for Mass Effect 3 to be built up any further than it has, but the one game I'm waiting for the most is Skyrim. If Valve ever got around to announcing Half-Life 3, that would easily top the list.

g- Most disappointing game you’ve ever played

SM - I just finished the campaign, so it's really fresh in my mind, but http://www.trueachievements.com/Crysis2-xbox-360.htm was really a let down for me, and I don't exactly know why. The graphics were beautiful, the story was decent, the gameplay was innovative, but in the end I just felt rather... meh. I was expecting to be blown away. I can't put my finger on it.

h- If you could have a multiplayer session with anyone on the planet, who would it be?

SM - Besides the crew that I hang out with pretty much every night, I think it'd have to be Justin Timberlake. I remember back when Halo 2 was out how Timberlake had an elaborate multiplayer setup built just so he and his buddies could play. I also think he'd be a pretty cool dude to hang out with. Normally I'd probably pick The Dude or Bono for a question like this, but I don't think they game.

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

SM - I gotta go with Randy Pitchford on this one. His sense of humor with http://www.trueachievements.com/Borderlands-xbox-360.htm and Duke is fantastic, and I think that would just be an awesome time.

j- If you could punch one person from “the gaming world” in the face, who would it be?

SM - If I could find out who exactly made the decision to shut down EA's servers, I would probably go after them with a virtual lead pipe. Thanks, EA, for making me check every game on TA for unobtainable achievements before I pick it up. A close second would be whomever came up with the Online Pass. Hell, let's just go to the source and punch out the whole damn board of EA for sticking it to the gamers.

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

It's great when developers have innovative achievements, rather than the normal "beat this on Expert" or Insane, or ALL of the difficulties for crying out loud. Gearbox had some good ones in Duke Nukem Forever as well. It's the ones that certain developers put in there just to see how much suffering we'll put ourselves through (I'm looking squarely at you, Epic and Bungie), the achievements that I call "hoops," those are the ridiculous ones. Often times I won't even attempt them unless I find some sort of trick, like I did with Seriously 2.0. I'd rather not reward developers for putting stupid achievements into games instead of giving more thought to them. "Kill 10,000 enemies." Really? That's all you can come up with?

TA is a fantastic community. When I joined, I remember trying to hit the top 10% of the site. I think there were about 70k-odd people then. We have double that now, and still growing. That's awesome.

Serious shout outs to my LNC (InigoMontoya80, oxBURN3Rxo, uberpwnage479, phatal1ty, redraider104, fighterx93chipp) and my friend feed crew (James48025, RadiantViper, Sakegari VS3, Weerwolff, Otilia e Gabita, Neko Pounce, True Xenoblade, Richard Bastion, YoshiMiyamoto, tsunamishadow, Chromium Stars) and everyone else I can't think of right now that I'm going to feel guilty about tomorrow for not remembering. All my base are belong to you. Finally, I need to shout out to my absolutely wonderful wife, Angelmorning.


A big thanks goes out to Sasha for giving his time to be subjected to the Gamish Inquisition. As always:

If you’d like to be featured in a Community Interview, or want to be a solid citizen and nominate someone more awesome than yourself, send a PM to me, osubluejacket. FYI – You’re MUCH more likely to be picked if you’re well-written, interesting, funny and/or can produce an English Bulldog named "Winston". Hullaballoo!
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.