Lasombra Files Episode 4: Johnny on the Spot
Welcome to the Lasombra Files, PSU’s new weekly hit program. Follow the story of Lasombra and V as they try to stay alive in Shadow City, unraveling its secrets, while at the same time shining the spotlight on trophy hunters around the world and in our community.
The spinning in my head stopped but it didn’t prevent the blood splattering my face, as my battered body tries to pull itself out of the demolished news van. “Well, that did not take very long” the words come out in a sarcastic manner as if to taunt back the city for failing to complete its hit on me. V is dusting herself off, the litany of cuts not stopping her, as I can only role my eyes and fall off the top of the van onto the hard, uncaring cement. The sirens slowly enter ear shot, quick on the draw in Episode 4: Johnny on the Spot. “Happy days, the fuzz are here” the sarcasm still seeping with vitriol, but the sudden puking of blood into my hand was the city’s reply to my sarcasm. “The boss is going to be pissed, V. Did you happen to get the license pla...oh, never mind. Don’t beat up the driver too badly.”
Disclaimer: This interview is reproduced as written by the interviewee with the exception of spelling and some grammar corrections. Pictures copyright of their artist/photographer/owner.
Name: Ignacio (also known as Johnny)
Occupation: Student, currently on my last year of college and doing freelance work as a translator. I would love to be a full-time writer one day and make my living out of it.
Country: A little South American country called Chile.
Lasombra: When did you start gaming?
Johnny: Hmmm, I can’t even remember now. My first system was a Super Nintendo when I was about 8, but I’m sure I used to spend hours at the arcade before that. Killer Instinct was one of the games that came with my SNES, along with Donkey Kong Country and a Bugs Bunny game. A few years later I got my PS1 with Crash Bandicoot, those games made me stick to Sony systems to this day.
Lasombra: How did you choose your PSN name?
Johnny: It’s very simple, Johnny Leyenda. I came up with this name ages ago, a little after I started writing. At first it was a character in one of my early sci-fi stories, a galactic knight clad in crimson armor, but I got so attached to him that it became some sort of pen name of mine. I use that name almost everywhere on the internet, really.
Lasombra: What motivated you to become a trophy hunter? What was your initial spark?
Johnny: When I got my PS3 last year I got it with Little Big Planet 2 and Dead Space 2 among other games. At first I didn’t really care about trophies, it was kind of a new experience though, getting little rewards for simply playing a game. When I beat them and got all of those I started looking at trophy lists and considered replaying the games to get the rest. I actually started collecting them because they made the games longer and added replay value. Since I don’t have a lot of money I really have to make my games last, you know!
Lasombra: Are you a trophy hunter, platinum hunter, or a specific hunter? (Example: All GoW game hunter)
Johnny: I don’t know if I’m really a trophy hunter. I consider myself as one, but I don’t have a lot of plats, as you can see. Do you need an official amount of trophies to be considered a hunter? It would be interesting if Sony said something about it. If they gave away like a little badge or some kind of “Trophy Hunter” license it would be awesome. Anyway, I do stuff I wouldn’t normally do just for trophies, so I’m guessing it counts. If I’m addicted to something it would be two things: Zooey Deschanel and the little “PLING!” sound when you unlock a trophy.
Lasombra: How many hours do you dedicate to trophy hunting?
Johnny: Hah, I’ve never considered this before. I play games for fun but I do try to get trophies if it doesn’t get too in the way. I would say about 20% of my total gaming time I spend trophy hunting, not counting my sessions dedicated exclusively for it. I don’t know if I’m the only one that does this, but I love checking trophy lists for games I even know I’m not going to buy.
Lasombra: What motivates you to go for that next trophy? How do you stay motivated after a long gaming session, particularly with grinding trophies?
Johnny: I actually go to Google images and look up the platinum I’m trying to get (so even getting a minor trophy gets me closer to the plat) and I say “I like ya, and I want ya. Now we can do it the easy way, or we can do it the hard way, the choice is yours.” That gives me all the motivation I need! It has never failed me so far.
Lasombra: Have you ever gone through any burnout from your sessions?
Johnny: Yes. When I fail to get a trophy several times I get frustrated and don’t feel like playing anything. I give it a couple of days and then try again. I have even rage quit. Some examples worth mentioning are the Five Finger Filet on RAGE (quite ironic if you ask me), trying to kill Oretoises in FFXIII (still need to get back to that) and some missions of Mass Effect 2 on Insanity.
Lasombra: What is your proudest platinum? Why? Was it your hardest?
Johnny: This one is a tough one. I honestly don’t know! None of my Plats are exceptionally hard and I only Plat games I truly enjoy, so none of those have been a pain. With the exception of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Warriors. It was not that hard, but requires A LOT of grinding and some luck. Took me a while to plat but when I got it I just went into happy mode for about 3 days. I do feel a little proud about that. I was like Speedy González jumping around “Sí, sí,sí, lo logré!
Lasombra: Do you have a trophy goal for the year? If so, how far are you along in it?
Johnny: I had a goal, getting 10 plats by August, which I did. I don’t have any immediate goals right now except maybe getting a few plats I need to get into, like RAGE and BioShock 2. I’ve had my PS3 since February last year so I’m guessing I’m doing well so far. As my grandfather used to say: “Escalar una montaña es solo la mitad del esfuerzo. Si te apresuras en la bajada terminarás cayendo.” which would roughly translate to “climbing a mountain is just half the effort. If you rush on the way down you’ll end up falling.” I prefer to take my time between goals and not rush them.
Lasombra: Do you believe gamers should be allowed to make trophy hunting teams? Why or why not?
Johnny: Yes, but with some boundaries. It should be limited -of course- to online trophies and only those that require either a lot of skill or insane feats. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and GTAIV, for example, should be allowed. Battlefield 3, BioShock 2, or Assassin’s Creed Revelations should not, kinda like real hunting regulations.
Lasombra: Do you think Sony should create a world database with every user’s PSN trophy info for all to see? Why or why not?
Johnny: Totally, then everybody could actually see their actual worldwide or national rank among every single player. It would encourage hunters and non-hunters. Everybody wins. Just be careful with cheaters or hackers, those should not be included.
Lasombra: What tips do you have for someone trying to reach the next level and going after a difficult platinum?
Johnny: ¡NO SE RINDAN! Don’t give up! Seriously, everybody can get any trophy if they focus and don’t give up. If a game is really giving you a headache, then take a break from it, but don’t forget to go back to it. Just like exam week, clear your head every once in a while or you’ll fail. But of course if it’s exam week you shouldn’t be playing videogames, unless you’re a genius like me. I just happened to fail on purpose. Mom, I told you I studied! Yes! The teachers didn’t even like me! Wait, that’s another story.
Lasombra: Regardless of the system, what pre-trophy game would you auto-buy if it was released on the PS3 with trophy support?
Johnny: The Megaman Legends series. I spent countless hours playing those games (especially MML2, my favourite one). I got every single thing to get and did every single thing to do. Played on all difficulties, got all the weapons, fully upgraded them…those would be perfect for a platinum.
Lasombra: Since you admit you don't grind trophies for the sake of grinding, what trophies do you hate the most having to unlock?
Johnny: I guess there are two kinds of trophies I really hate. The first one are insane multiplayer trophies that require a lot of skill and luck to get (Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, for example, or the MVP for Battlefield 3). I could get them if I tried hard enough, but I'm not a really competitive player, I'm mostly about the single player experience. The second kind of trophies I hate, and don't laugh, are really easy trophies. I don't see the point. Like the ones you get for pausing the game or playing for 5 minutes (Disgaea 4 has one for just watching the intro!)... I mean, it's an easy trophy, yeah, but when something is that easy it really takes the fun out of it.
Lasombra: What is gaming culture like in Chile? Is there a big scene or is it considered child's play?
Johnny: This is quite interesting. I'd say gaming is really big here in Chile, but most gamers here could be considered as "casual." Almost everybody I know at least had a PS2 or a Gamecube (let alone PS1s, N64s and SNES), and quite a lot of friends actually own a PS3, a Wii or a 360. I will go into more detail in the next question as they are strongly related. The thing is, you see a lot of people on the streets wearing Resident Evil, GTA or God of War shirts, but I've never seen anyone wearing, let's say, a Psychonauts shirt. Most people have only played the classics, God of War, Call of Duty, Zelda, Mario, you know, the mainstream games. I'm not trying to sound like a hipster or anything, but I just wish more people played the underrated or more obscure games. But it happens the same with movies, books and television. Gaming here in Chile is definitely not considered child's play anymore, especially since the arrival of the Wii and Kinect and all that, more and older people are playing, and I think it's better for the industry to grow in South America. I even got my mom into Angry Birds, when she had never played a single videogame in her life.
Lasombra: I had friends in university from Ecuador who told me how in their country piracy was rampant, and they could get PS2 games for $1 on a modded system. Is it the same in Chile?
Johnny: Yep. And that's why most people I know had consoles because it's affordable if you pirate games. I'm ashamed to say that when I got my PS1 it was indeed modded and I owned a lot of prated games for it. It was the only way I could actually play, we couldn't afford original games, and besides, you couldn't even find them anywhere. PS2 was the same, you just went to the flea market, for example, and could get a game for $2. It is still going with the Wii and the 360, but thankfully more people are becoming "legal" gamers nowadays.
My PS1 literally taught me most of the English I know, and even though I had pirated games I knew I had to find a way to thanks the devs, so I just started saving money and buying my games legally. The industry has grown a lot here, and now games are affordable. Consoles are still way overpriced (As of 2010, PS3 were still $500+, now a little cheaper, PSPs are $200), but games are not. Prices are similar to the ones in the US if you wait a few months after release. But I'm glad gaming is becoming a more serious hobby. If you truly enjoy something you'll want to thank the people responsible for it, and that's what people here are starting to realize.
Lasombra: Being a native Spanish speaker, but also being bilingual, do you prefer playing your games in Spanish or English? Do games in Chile get localized into Spanish or are you forced to only play them in English?
Johnny: When I started gaming all the games I had were in English, I had no choice. But I loved my videogames and I just had to play them. In the end, after so many Final Fantasy games and other JRPGs, I learned English (school helped but not so much, really). I still got a game in Spanish now and then, but all of these translations or dubs were made in Spain. Spain's Spanish is different than Chilean Spanish, mostly in accent and pronunciation. Here in Latin America we're more used to Mexican Spanish dubs for cartoons, soap operas, anime (funny thing is, I always thought Latin American dubs for anime were better than American dubs), all that. So I didn't really like Spanish dubs for games. Translations were fine, though.
Part of the experience is enjoying it the way the devs made it, with the original voice actors, and I wanted that. It is the same today, though games are being dubbed in Latin American Spanish now, which is really, really nice. Alan Wake was a blast in Spanish, almost as good as the English voices. Still, if I can play a game in the original language, I'll go for it. But it's nice to have options, especially now thanks to Blu-Rays and all that extra space to store more data. You can just choose.
Lasombra: As an inspiring writer what current game series would you be most interested in writing an award winning sequel to?
Johnny: Hahaha, I've never thought about this before, which is funny considering how much I love gaming. Well, I am mostly into sci-fi and fantasy. I've written a few fanfics for some games (not corny or fanboy-ish stuff, though), and I really like how they ended up. Considering one of my favorite games of all time is BioShock, I'd love to write a sequel for it, but I doubt it would be as good as the original. Dead Space would be another choice, the storyline for the franchise is actually really interesting, and it just begs to be expanded. It would be a spin-off, though, given how the main series has turned into shooters...And of course, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Star Ocean, I mean writing for one of those series would be the best thing to ever happen to me. I'd really like to do it one day.
Lasombra: Your trophy card shows a lot of RPGs. Are those your favourite type of games? Does it have anything to do with your desire to be a writer?
Johnny: You can never have enough RPGs! Sadly I've missed on some good stuff this generation (mostly Wii games and a couple 360 titles), but back in the PS1 and PS2 days it was heaven. I never got into them when I had a SNES since I didn't know English then. I played A LOT of JRPGs, and boy oh boy, they sure inspired me. Actually, my brother got me into them, he first started playing RPGs and I just watched him. One day I decided to get a game (it was Star Ocean II) and I loved it so much we started competing to see who would buy this or that game when they came out. I actually do not play RPGs he buys, and he doesn't play RPGs I buy, but we watch each other play them. And the overall experience is the same, since we discuss what's going on with the characters and all that. RPGs got me into fantasy, books and movies got me into Sci-fi.
Lasombra: The Japanese have an entirely different take on how they create a story compared to North Americans for example. How different is Chile compared to those two when it comes to literature, in and outside of gaming?
Johnny: I honestly don't know. I've read so much stuff in my life, from all over the world, that I've seen a lot of styles from the same place. I'd say Chilean literature is a lot more poetic (after all we had Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral), but also more realistic, in the sense that we usually cling to what's going on in our lives and narrate from that, more day-to-day, if it makes any sense. I've read some really good Chilean fantasy and sci-fi, but in my opinion it's nowhere near some Japanese or American authors. But in the end, thanks to translations and the internet, we're all connected, and no matter where you're from you can have access to everything, games included, so even if we have different writing styles it doesn't really matter. And honestly I haven't played many Chilean games anyway, and most of them do not have important storylines.
Lasombra: What would it take for South America to get its name on the gaming development map, and see South America leave it's mark on the gaming landscape?
Johnny: I think there are plenty of people here with great ideas and a lot of motivation to make games, but essentially we're lacking in two major aspects. The first one is infrastructure. We do not have a place to learn how to make games (programming, coding, all that) so most developers here are actually independent or have people from other countries, or with experience. Thankfully this won't be a problem in the future (I hope) since gaming has expanded quite considerably in the last few years. The second problem is that even though South America is composed of many countries, we're not very friendly to each other. We don't cooperate a lot, and I think that's what could make gaming better here, if we would just get together, plan stuff and organize a team of people to train others and establish a dedicated community of developers. Nobody, in gaming that is, can create a masterpiece from a single idea, and people from different cultures, beliefs, backgrounds and ideas could make a really good team if they cooperated and complemented each other. That's why major developers like Ubisoft and EA have people from so many different places. There are very good devs here in South America, but we're lacking the teamwork spirit. We have small, separated teams and while they can make some really good games, I think establishing a big place for all of them would be a good way to get South American devs more known.
I tug at the handcuffs, linking V and myself together. “I think Friday night came early.” She didn’t appreciate my wit as she thought a punch to the jaw wouldn’t cause any more damage than a van doing a 1440 degree somersault into a building would do. The detective tries interrogating us as if we were some kind of back alley perp. He must not have seen me on TV...or maybe that is why I’m getting the third-degree from a fourth-degree gumshoe trying to make his name as the new Cole Phelps. All I could do was shrug in Episode 5: Silence is Golden. Apparently he didn’t see what happens when you make V angry, and neither did that driver. Elbows were not made to bend at odd angles as if trying to scratch your opposite ear from behind your head.
Missed an episode? Check out the back issues.
Want to hear random thoughts about life in Japan, gaming, or want to leave your thoughts about the series and the story? Follow our intrepid reporter on Facebook, Twitter, or email him at Dane.Smith@psu.com.