Lasombra Files Episode 29: Faces of the Self

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.

Another week, another murder, as an intern named Jimmy is found hanging upside down from a telephone pole in the city suburbs. ‘Remember Me?’ etched into the wood. Who the murderer is talking too is only supposition. Is it me? The police? Someone in the company? The facts in this case are just as mysterious. Three weeks before we arrived in this dimension the killings started. No witnesses. No evidence. No forensics. A colder case than when V is in one of her moods. Still, that mysterious letter has us perplexed in Episode 29: Faces of the Self. A slight chill always runs up my spine when thinking of the name. Walking home to our apartment it feels as if we are being watched, observed like rats in a maze. Turning the corner of the hallway an ominous glint sparkles, letting us know we were watched, as the blade of a knife is stuck in our door. Three Words: Die Schatten Uhren. V quickly turns around after seeing the words, laughter echoing in the hallways, before eerie silence taking over.

Name: Kyle Prahl
Age: 20
Gender: Male
Occupation: Communication Studies major, Biology minor; my career interests include writing, editing, journalism, public relations, and media studies
Country: United States

Disclaimer: This interview is reproduced as written by the interviewee. Pictures copyright of their artist/photographer/owner. All likenesses used are for parody and/or satirical purposes.

Lasombra: How long have you been gaming?

Kyle: I’ve been playing games for going on 14 years now. My first gaming experiences were probably playing Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Kart on old Nintendo consoles in the after-school program when I was six. I first played PlayStation’s Crash Bandicoot, at a cousin’s house at about the same age. I’m reasonably sure that the first gaming device I owned was a Game Boy Pocket, but my first PlayStation was a Christmas gift in 1998.

Lasombra: How did you find PSU?

Kyle: I first encountered PSU while looking for new writing opportunities almost a year ago. I was writing for a smaller blog site called Vivid Gamer at the time and looking for something new, a place where I could embrace my love of all things PlayStation and focus my writing on the same. I definitely found it here!

Lasombra: Are you solely a Sony gamer this generation or do you split your time between multiple systems?

Kyle: “Solely” isn’t technically correct, but yeah, 95% of my gaming time is spent on PS3 and PS Vita. I also play the odd PC game—stuff like Guild Wars 2, the Half-Life series, and (gulp) Amnesia. I also own a 3DS; I’m not ashamed to admit that I bought it solely for Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.

Lasombra: What do you like about the community at PSU that keeps bringing you back for more?

Kyle: The PSU community is, without question, the most dedicated clan of PlayStation junkies on the Internet, but it’s also a genuinely welcoming and interesting group of people. There are always cool new initiatives and projects popping up among members and good conversation to be had.
Actually, there’s a defining moment that I often look back to when thinking about the PSU community. While exploring the site during my aforementioned search for new writing opportunities, I was browsing the forums, and saw a thread explaining that a member of the OP’s family had developed cancer, or something similar. In response, PSU community members stepped forward to help their fellow gamer and donated money, many without any hesitation, to help with the hospital bills. That took me totally off-guard; you just don’t see that kind of kindness on the Internet, unless you’re hanging out and making friends in a community such as ours.

Lasombra: In your opinion, what needs to be done to help the community to grow bigger and better?

Kyle: We already have the best PlayStation and general gaming conversations, and the PSU name is fairly well-recognized. I’ve only been a community member and staff member for nine months, but I think we could draw a lot of enthusiast gamers to PSU with more contributions to the Community Reviews and Community Opinions forum sections. There’s something of a stigma arising around game journalism lately, and people seem hungry for the thoughts of their peers and fellow gamers more so than professional writers. There’s already some great content in those forum sections, but I’d LOVE to see more!

Lasombra: Do you have any gaming goals for this year?

Kyle: With PS4 on the horizon, my biggest gaming goal is to get through a lot of my stupidly long list of backlogged games before the next generation hits. There are so many excellent PS3 and PS Vita titles I’ve purchased, or received through PS Plus, or wanted to go back to, I simply haven’t had time for them all! Stuff like Okami HD, Resident Evil 4 HD, Outland, getting the Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3 Platinums, finishing Rayman Origins…and, looking ahead, I’ve got The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Beyond: Two Souls, and the Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X HD collections to worry about.

Lasombra: Are you a Trophy hunter, and what do you think about trophies overall?

Kyle: I got turned on to Trophies in a big way a couple years ago; my first Platinum came via Sly Cooper HD, and the act of earning it really got me interested in chasing Trophies more. I’m definitely not as dedicated as some others (like PSU’s Don Oliveira), but I’m more likely to chase a Platinum when I fall hard for a game. Persona 4 Golden was my favorite game of 2012 (and my favorite JRPG ever), and I was among the first 200 people to earn that Platinum after 154 hours of playtime. In contrast, I couldn’t care less about Arkham Asylum’s Platinum, I love the game, and it’s not particularly hard, but it takes a very special game (or a very easy Platinum) to compel me to put in the time.

Although, there is one pretty huge exception, I have the Duke Nukem Forever Platinum, and I hate that game as much as anyone. To this day, I don’t know why I put myself through two playthroughs of that game (one on the Insane difficulty) I guess it wasn’t particularly hard, and it is a historical game, in a sense.
I love the idea of Trophies adding longevity and extra goals to our favorite games. As long as companies don’t do silly things like including lots of multiplayer or obnoxiously luck-based Trophies, I’m happy.

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.

Kyle: Gaming audiences (well, audiences in general) are becoming increasingly steadfast in their preconceptions of brands and companies. Public perception of the PS3 is still somewhat lukewarm after its launch disaster, but Sony’s marketing efforts with PS4 have been utterly refreshing. For PS4 to really hit the same notes as PS2, Sony will need to approach the gaming community with honesty, humility, and a concerted effort to embrace consumer feedback and improve. In that regard, Sony’s off to a great start in 2013. PS4’s system architecture will make it easy for developers to do what they do best, and Sony’s support of indie development is unmatched in the console space. They’re hitting all the right notes to turn things around—a big multiplayer hit or new IP at PS4’s launch may seal the deal.

Lasombra: Do you have a favourite era of gaming? The SNES/Genesis war? The reign of the PlayStation Reich? Hail to the NES?

Kyle: I have extremely fond memories of playing the SNES with cousins in my childhood. Super Mario World is perhaps the greatest 2D platformer of our time. However, the PlayStation era marks the years when I became truly hooked on video games. Seeing HIDEO pop up during MGS1’s Psycho Mantis boss fight, perfecting lap runs over hundreds of hours of Crash Team Racing, drawing Mega Man Legends fan art…those are memories I will cherish forever, but the same can be said for just as many (if not more!) memories from the PS2 generation. I mean, Kingdom Hearts? Final Fantasy X? Star Wars Battlefront? Ratchet & Clank? I’ve seen reasonable arguments made for a bunch of consoles being “the best ever,” but the PS2 and I grew up together—I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to think about another console the same way.

Then again, look where we are today. Persona 4 Golden is my favorite JRPG ever. After just one playthrough of BioShock Infinite, I had to revise my All-Time Top 10 to make room. Every time I play Journey, I find more to think about and cry even harder at the end. Nostalgia tells me that the PS2 will never be beat, but my immediate feelings tell me that gaming has never been better. The last few years are packed with games we’ll be talking about for decades.

Lasombra: Is there a lot of gaming culture in your area of the world? Unique stores, conventions, etc?

Kyle: There are some pretty hardcore gamers on-campus here at UMN. Our campus gaming club fields competitive Starcraft 2 and League of Legends teams. Meanwhile, world-famous magazine Game Informer is mere blocks away. There’s not much in the way of unique gaming culture in my area, but Minneapolis is about as close as you’ll get to a “gaming hub” in the Midwest.

Lasombra: Have you ever been burnt out from a gaming session?

Kyle: Definitely. I’m not a huge multiplayer guy, so even if I really like a game’s multiplayer modes, one or two hours is enough to satisfy me. Other times, a game really hooks me and I go on seven- or eight-hour binges, but I then don’t feel like touching it for another week.

Lasombra: You are the US Managing Editor for the site. Can you take the audience through a day in your life working for the site?

Kyle: My PSU day usually starts the minute I roll out of bed. My hand instinctively reaches for my phone, where I check the emails and press releases of the morning. On weekdays, I have college classes and homework to tackle, but I stay in touch with my phone during free moments. In the afternoons and evenings, I keep an eye on breaking news, but editing the content of staff writers takes priority. Of course, reviews, opinion pieces, and other projects make every day a different, exciting experience.

Sometimes, things get REALLY interesting. I’ve written articles in airports and hotels, published breaking news from a campus library, and compiled notes at restaurant tables, but the bulk of my work takes place at my home cubicle, my laptop. I’m not lucky enough to live where I can work from PSU Towers every day!

Lasombra: What got you interested in working as a gaming journalist? What was your first step into the business?

Kyle: Two years ago, my voracious appetite for games and passion for writing was bringing me to spend three, four, five hours a day reading game websites of all varieties and immersing myself in the industry and its culture. I took a step back one day and realized I could do something productive and fulfilling with all this time I was spending online. I was gorging myself on the writing of others, often thinking, “I can do this better.” Truth be told, I can remember the very first game magazine I ever read. Official U.S. Playstation Magazine. Volume 2, Issue 11. Tarzan, based on the Disney animated movie, graced the cover. There was a feature about a recent fighting game tournament and expert Tekken techniques. I was seven-years-old. So, maybe I was always destined to end up here. I have revered game journalists and the critical side of gaming for most of my life, it’s remarkable (and regrettable) that it took me two and a half college years to finally realize and come to terms with that.

Lasombra: I am a fresh faced kid who likes games and wants to work in the gaming journalism industry. How do I get a job short of assassinating the current staff?

Kyle: Making a name for yourself on social networks and internet communities is an important start. You might have the most interesting opinions in the world, or an exciting new format for engaging your audience, but these don’t mean squat if you can’t find an audience to begin with. Personal blog sites or YouTube channels are popular starting points, but you need real professionalism and practical skills to really “make it” in this business, whether you’ve got your sights set on freelancing or joining an established outlet. So, join a small blog site and get your feet wet learning the ropes of journalism, corporate communication, and the pace of news media in the internet age. Think about games. Write about games. Contribute something new, something valuable to the space. Then think, write, think, and write some more. Familiarize yourself with the de facto channels—Twitter, Reddit, GAF, official websites. Pay attention to how game journalists interact, with other outlets, with readers, with publishers and developers, and with each other.

At the end of the day, with all that effort, game journalism can be frustratingly difficult to break into for some, and remarkably easy for others. There’s no science to it, no easy answers to give, at the very least, you need to care deeply about the significance of video games, have a real desire to test yourself, and be ready to grow as a person and a professional.

Lasombra: What has been the most controversial topic you’ve covered in your years of working in gaming journalism?

Kyle: The most controversial issue of recent months is the treatment of women in games. Games are no longer growing as a narrative art form, they ARE a narrative art form, and the most sophisticated storytelling device in existence. Gender typecasting and female disempowerment have no place in this medium, and the Internet is very right to be up in arms about it. One of the first opinion pieces I wrote for PSU was a response to the Tomb Raider rape controversy of last summer; a Crystal Dynamics employee misspoke in an interview, and journalists and gamers reacted strongly. Some gave Crystal D the benefit of the doubt; others assumed that any scene where Lara Croft was sexually accosted would be in poor taste. In my reaction, I outlined the larger argument of sexual representation in gaming and called for change through more sophisticated writing. I also gave Crystal D the benefit of the doubt, opting to wait for the game’s release before ripping apart their creative decision. Ultimately, everyone’s fears were unfounded, Tomb Raider tells a respectful origin story of a multi-dimensional woman with real personality who triumphs over significant adversity. We need more of that in games, and I’m glad that what was once a “controversy” is now a movement to advance the medium.

Lasombra: If you could choose any gaming event to cover for the site, what would it be and why? E3, TGS, Comic-Con?

Kyle: I have more interest in dedicated gaming events like E3, GDC, and TGS than I do in conventions with broader appeal, like Comic-Con. E3 2013 is shaping up to be an absolutely tremendous show, the next generation’s coming out party, I couldn’t be happier at the thought of representing PSU on gaming’s biggest stage.

Lasombra: Guessing from your site avatar you are a Persona 4 fanatic. What is it about the series that made you become a fan of it compared to other RPGs?

Kyle: JRPGs aren’t known for particularly deep characters or mature writing, but Persona 4 has both of these in spades. Both complement a story that is made more intimate and emotional by reeling back from the overblown scale of many modern RPGs to a hometown mystery with a relatable teenage cast. But the core of Persona 4, its gameplay, is an outstanding foundation for these things to build upon. Collecting and levelling up Personas, fusing them to create new varieties, exploiting a host of elemental weaknesses with the unforgiving Press Turn battle system, it’s addictive, replayable, and astoundingly fun. My first playthrough of the game took 72 hours. The moment the credits stopped rolling and the title screen reappeared, I immediately started New Game Plus. That kind of game comes once in a generation, and when it does, it changes you.

The Boss had one flaw in his plan. He assumed we would be the only ones sent here, to this world, to do whatever it is we were supposed to do. If this were a simple case of inter-dimensional corporate espionage and murder it took a more convoluted turn than any Japanese writer could hope to construct in his wildest dreams. V told me what the note said, making me wonder if we were the only corporation here. If there was one parallel dimension it was reasonable to assume there were others, and maybe one is more sadistic and violent than we had planned for in episode 30: Enter the Varjo. Being afraid of death would get us nowhere, neither would holing up in our apartment. Despite a thick rainfall, instantly soaking us to the bone, we set out to this world’s NGN headquarters. It was time to be proactive and hunt down this killer the only way I knew how. Good thing I had our resumes handy, and with the string of deaths getting a job was easier than outrunning a knee-capped friend from a bear. Besides, who in their right mind would take a job that paid barely above minimum wage, had no sick days, worse hours than a doctor, and had to take abuse from people worse than a Thai hooker? First assignment? Red Light Alley.

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