Lasombra Files Episode 38: Edited for TV
Welcome to season 3 of the Lasombra Files, PSU’s weekly hit program. Follow the story of Lasombra and V as they try to solve an inter-dimensional murder mystery of ostentatious proportions, while at the same time shining the spotlight on gamers around the world and in our community.
The cool sharpness of the blade caresses my skin, cutting into it like butter. Blood seeps around the blade, pain ignites my senses, and fear crosses my face. Time and time before I was in crazy situations but this is different. It felt like there was no hope, no chance for survival, only to become some vile experiment for a mad man. What was worse was the bag over my head. I didn't even get the decency of knowing who it was that proceeded to carve up my skin like it was the canvas of a flesh sculpture in episode 38: edited for TV. Screaming did nothing to persuade the mad man to stop, or even help the pain. As one blade carved up my neckline another blade was casually inserted into my hip. People always see the final product; the results of the torture and the brutality. They see Richard and the end result of whatever had happened to him. But this is the beginning, the alpha of whatever changes this lunatic plans to do to me. This is also the beginning of a realization that actions come with consequences.
Name: Steven Chaffin, Jr. (SchaffinOSX)
Occupation: Journalism and Economics major at the University of Missouri-Columbia
Country: United States
Disclaimer: This interview is reproduced as written by the interviewee except for grammar and spelling corrections. Pictures copyright of their artist/photographer/owner. All likenesses used are for parody and/or satirical purposes.
Lasombra: How long have you been gaming?
Steven: I've been gaming for as long as I can remember. I was introduced to the medium when I was very young, probably about five years old, when my parents received a Nintendo from some relatives. My mother was originally opposed to the idea of her son becoming a gamer, but that allegedly changed quickly after she played a few games for herself. I was brought up on Mario and Donkey Kong.
Lasombra: How did you find PSU?
Steven: Five years ago, at thirteen, I found PSU through a simple Google search. The first forum I ever joined was a PlayStation-geared forum, and when I found this site I was instantly hooked. My first line of business? Email half of the staff asking if I could become a moderator. Funny times. My apologies still go out to the former staffers that put up with my nonsense.
Lasombra: Are you solely a Sony gamer this generation or do you split your time between multiple systems?
Throughout this generation I have been both an Xbox and PlayStation gamer. Collectively there has been a distinct preference for gaming on my PS3, but during the whole hacking affair where PSN was down for about a month, I became primarily an Xbox gamer. I renewed my Live membership and even traded in some PS3 games for their 360 counterparts. My Live subscription has since expired and I have no intentions of renewing it.
Lasombra: What do you like about the community at PSU that keeps bringing you back for more?
Steven: Something I quickly noticed was how close-knit the community was, and how dedicated they all are to keeping this place going. Seriously, I have never seen a group of people more passionate about a website. While some people look at that as silly, I think it's extraordinary.
I also think, on average, this place has some very intelligent and knowledgeable users. I'll be honest: I often go into threads and get lost in discussions of hardware. But that's okay -- I like knowing that there is plenty for me to learn around here and that people are knowledgeable when I venture into a thread.
Lasombra: In your opinion, what needs to be done to help the community to grow bigger and better?
Steven: I think there is a lot that can be done to make the community better. One of the largest issues I believe PSU experiences at present is connecting the forum community and "front page community," as I am now calling it. There are a lot of people who frequently leave comments on our front page content, but never decide to head over to our forums and get talking with the larger community. If we could bridge this gap I think we would have an influx of quality users. So much untapped potential. That said, I understand why it hasn't been done. It both requires revenue we do not necessarily have to put towards the necessary software, and / or would mean a few organizational changes that have, in times past, not been successful. It's a very important change to make, but if done incorrectly, it would only cause an even greater problem. The more people we can get in on that discussion, the better.
Something else I think we need, and something I hope our incoming Community Manager will take to heart, is that PSU needs a clear direction. In an expansive thread on the subject of the new Community Manager appointment, a couple of users pointed out the back-and-forth nature of our focus on other consoles. For awhile other consoles get dedicated sections, then they get suppressed, then have dedicated sections again, and so on. We need to define PSU and stick with one image.
Lasombra: Do you have any gaming goals for this year?
Steven: My gaming goal for the year is, simply put, to beat all the games worth beating. I'm trying to make sure that gaming doesn't get in the way of other aspects of my life, and so I don't want to spend time on 'unnecessary' games. Those, in my opinion, are games that are lacking gameplay quality and/or a strong narrative. As of now, I plan on beating BioShock: Infinite (again), Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
Lasombra: Are you a Trophy hunter, and what do you think about trophies overall?
Steven: I am by no means a Trophy hunter. Admittedly, whenever I get a new game I can be quoted saying "You know, I think I might platinum this game." I have zero platinum trophies. Trophies really paint an accurate picture of how 'intense' a gamer is. Those who have amassed a lot of gold and platinum Trophies are much more intense than a gamer with fewer. It isn't just about beating a game anymore, but how well you beat it. That's really cool, and I hope gamers who go deep into games continue earning recognition through the next generation PlayStation Network.
Lasombra: The PS2 dominated a console war like no other system. What tricks does Sony need to pull out of their hat to create the same magic with the PS4?
Steven: Sony needs to show that they're willing to be aggressive with the competition. Scoring more exclusives and consistently creating new experiences should be the hallmark of the next generation. So far, I think Sony is doing an excellent job. Plenty of wonderful exclusives are coming to the console in launch, the new PSN looks great from what we've seen, and Sony seems considerably more confident in this console than in its predecessor.
While I think it's important that the PS4 has the ability to play music, Netflix, etc., simply because that's the age in which we live, Sony needs to make it clear time and again that the PS4 is a gaming console, and that the focus will always be there. The Xbox One unveiling kind of illustrated the shift that is occurring...Consoles are becoming more of entertainment hubs than gaming consoles. It's a welcome shift, so long as game quality doesn't suffer.
Lasombra: Do you have a favourite era of gaming? The SNES/Genesis war? The reign of the PlayStation Reich? Hail to the NES?
Steven: The PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube eras, mainly because that was when I first became a real gamer. In other words, it's when I started playing games more frequently and developed a taste of my own as opposed to playing whatever was handed my way. Ratchet & Clank, Crash, Sonic, Jak...man, those were good times. The beginning of the current generation with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is also particularly memorable. All in all a wonderful time in gaming. Unfortunately I was too young to really remember or enjoy the other eras of gaming.
Lasombra: Is there a lot of gaming culture in your area of the world? Unique stores, conventions, etc?
Steven: The gaming community around here is kind of lame. Mainly I hear former classmates talking about getting together for a "sick Call of Duty match". I've played enough Call of Duty. That's why I find refuge here at PSU. This place rocks.
Lasombra: Have you ever been burnt out from a gaming session?
Steven: More and more frequently. With so many distractions, I find myself disengaging in the middle of gameplay quite a bit nowadays. When I was younger that didn't happen, and so I could play a game for hours upon hours without the thought of stopping. Now I always think of something else I should probably be doing instead. Once I find myself disengaging, I stop. I only want to play when I can turn all of my attention towards the experience. Otherwise, it's a brain-cell destroying waste of time.
Lasombra: Short of assassinating those already on the staff, what advice would you give that glossy-eyed kid who aspires to write for a gaming website?
Steven: Be persistent. Remember that writing about video games, or any medium of entertainment for that matter, is a popular job to have. Who doesn't want to write about something entertaining and get recognition for it? Unfortunately, these much sought after roles mean that there is a lot of competition, and so rejection is in abundance. Before being brought on as a staff writer at PSU, I sent applications to dozens of online publications hoping to get my foot in the door early. Some got in touch, some didn't, but all said 'no' in one kindly-worded email or another.
Thankfully, the web is a big place. If you're a good writer and passionate about video games, there is some website out there looking for someone just like you. It's up to you to find it, and to give an awesome pitch that gets you a second look and lands you a spot. If you're young, and I'm talking fourteen and fifteen here, the age when I first started looking for places to write for, you might have a harder time. Let's be frank: Most respectable publications won't take on writers that young because they lack the writing experience and are still too, well, young to have the kind of independence a writer needs. It's frustrating, I know, but continue honing your writing skills and in time, people will start to take notice.
I got lucky: by being persistent and putting in a ton of work, I was able to get brought on as a writer for PlayStation University, which was founded by PSU's former Community Manager and is mostly abandoned now, and NextGenUpdate at fifteen, sixteen. Neither of those gigs ended very well, I abandoned them both without notice, but they were crucial learning experiences and prepared me for the real deal with PSU.
And remember: There is a difference between being annoying and persistent. Don't cross the line.
Lasombra: What made you go from fan and forum goer to putting in the extra time and effort to get on staff and get promoted to an editor?
Steven: Funnily enough, I was rejected by PSU three years prior to being brought on as a staff writer. Former executive editor Adam Dolge was at the helm and no one knew who Steven Williamson was to my knowledge. I had been in talks with a former staff writer here, Eric Blattberg, and he taught me a thing or two about writing and encouraged me to "wait it out." I did, and here we are.
But my desire to be on the staff is something that has really evolved over the years and is a testament to my maturity. When I joined PSU back in '08, I wanted a forum-staff role for the sake of a cool username color, and for power. I was immature, I had just entered my teenage years, I was silly. I private messaged nearly every staff member begging for a spot on the staff. I really went out of my way to humiliate and wreck my chances of ever being on the staff. But over the years I replaced that blind-eagerness with a desire to help PSU expand and reach its goals, and I hope to make that show through the content contributions I've made and will continue to make.
Point is, from day one, I had some ambiguous desire to contribute, even if for the wrong reasons for the first several months, or even first couple of years.
Lasombra: What makes a game have a strong narrative or gameplay for you? What draws the line between playable and worthy and sent to the trade-in pile?
Steven: It's a very blurred line, and sometimes I find myself being inconsistent. I play Saints Row: The Third from time to time, and the narrative is absolutely irrelevant to me. So sometimes, I sacrifice the good narrative for some relaxing fun. But back to the question.
To say a game has an excellent narrative means a number of things to me: It means that the characters seem real, and that I can forge an emotional connection with them. If a main character dies and I check my phone for text messages, I'm not engaged. I haven't made any connections with the characters. It also means that an original, creative story is being told. BioShock: Infinite really captures what I mean by that. The game tells an awesome story, rife with twists and turns and a really wonderful premise. Moreover, you get those character attachments I mentioned. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself these questions when playing a game: Do you know what's going on in the game right now, and why it's important? Do you feel connected to the characters? Are you engaged? If you answer 'no' to any of those, it probably doesn't have as strong a narrative as it could.
Gameplay wise, I want to know that I'm actually doing something. I hate games that feel like the enemies are killing themselves to make me feel better about my skills. I'm not encouraging every game to become Dark Souls, because then I'm screwed, but I should have to wrestle with a game for a little while before getting the whole way through. Also, give me choices. That's huge. If a game is linear and doesn't give you any choices, you're much less likely to be engaged. Plus, I like the idea that playing video games is actually having some positive cognitive effects.
Lasombra: Any predictions of something earth shattering that Sony or Xbox will do with the next generation, that already hasn't happened?
Steven: The original, idealistic vision of Microsoft says a lot. It says that companies are looking to make these big, technological leaps forward. MS was ready to jump straight into the digital distribution era, but were held back by consumer dissent. I can't quite recall who said this, but someone said that if Sony had adopted a DRM policy similar to Microsoft's, both companies would have remained entirely silent on the matter in the face of dissent and would have stuck to their guns. Microsoft only budged because it wanted to end its bad press week, month, year, etc.
I think it's possible that over the course of this generation, Sony and MS will begin pushing these ideas of a more restricted DRM and always-online connectivity forward with more aggression, but it really comes down to whether or not they can both do it at the same time. If only one does, it won't stick.
Lasombra: Why do you think a game like Call of Duty has become so mainstream that it is the only gaming culture in some areas of the United States?
Steven: Several reasons. For one, we can't forget that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare really set the stage for all shooters of the generation. I might be a Call of Duty skeptic nowadays, but this I believe is beyond debate. Because it was the first, it automatically had an entrenched fan base that would follow it throughout the generation. It got the trust of consumers' first. Two, it isn't a hard game to play. There isn't much strategy involved if you don't want there to be, and you can still be very successful. Three, it's a multiplayer game before it's a singleplayer game, and so people like to play it with others they know. Consider the implications of the first point when combined with this: A lot of people play Call of Duy 4, love it. Want to play it with their friends. So, they recommend it. They agree. They recommend it to theirs, and so on. Call of Duty spread like wildfire, and its more prominent than Battlefield not because it's better (have you seen the trailers for Battlefield 4?) but because it got to the stage of the current generation first.
Lasombra: Even though you are not a Trophy hunter is there any game, that if re-released with a platinum, you would make your only plat?
There are a few, and they may seem kind of random. First there are the Jak & Daxter games. I loved them to death, despite being pretty young when they were most popular. Then there is the Sly Cooper titles, which I know are available on PS3 and probably have platinum Trophies. I couldn't get enough of those games. Lastly, the old Simpsons' games on PlayStation 2 were priceless, especially Hit & Run. I can't tell you how many hours I invested into that game.
But let's be real: If I ever get a platinum Trophy, it'll be for a game starting with 'The Elder Scrolls'.
Hours pass with no anesthesia, no pain killers, not even a piece of wood put between my teeth to bite down on. It was hours of pure agony, humiliation, and despair. Still, here I am with a hood over my head and on the verge of wanting to slam it forward in the hopes that I can end it all at the end of his scalpel. Still, something is preventing me from pulling the trigger. Still, a piece of me wants to live despite whatever was done to me. A clank echoes in the room and a door shuts, the sobbing and moans of pain still breaking the silence in episode 39: School of Hard Knocks. Tears flowing down my cheeks add salt to the wounds etched over my body, literally. My sobbing is the only thing keeping the silence from taking over. An echoing breath adds to the sobbing as someone, something sounds like they are just listening, waiting. Another voice overtakes the breathing and instantly it is recognizable. Now the scalpel intends to cut deep into my psyche.
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.