We’re on Round 3 of the Member Spotlight and so far this has received a solid amount of feedback. I know you guys are itching to learn more about one of your more outspoken forum members, thus why I chose to go with Seebs for this week’s entry.
A lot of people have seen him arguing and debating his way through an ample supply of topics with ease and great intellect. This interview will definitely give you a look into why he does what he does and how much he enjoys the world of gaming that we all cherish together. It’s a somewhat long read with a great sense of gaming history. I hope you guys enjoy it.
Dave Wales: How has PSU.com impacted your life in terms of online friendships, gaming knowledge, and views in regards to other consoles?
Seebs: I’ve gotten to know a lot more about PS3 gaming than I probably otherwise would. I found the site through a Google search on the question of why my PS3 might not work with my display; I actually found a thread that answered the question, as well as a couple more people contradicting the answer, so I registered to post a corrected answer. Since then, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people on the site, and I like many of them. I don’t think my views on the consoles have changed much, but it’s been fun talking about them with people, and I occasionally pick up a technical tidbit.
Dave Wales: Have you forged any online friendships?
Seebs: Not very deep ones, but there’s a lot of people I’ve talked to about things far beyond gaming; I’ve had interesting conversations with people about religion, pets, you name it. Mostly it’s been pretty informal and chatty; the focus on gaming doesn’t really encourage the kind of deep heart-to-heart conversations you’d get on a religion site or something like that.
Dave Wales: Yeah, gaming is pretty much the "icebreaker" into the other topics for a forum like ours. Kind of like the gateway drug, if you will. I’ve seen you active in a lot of debates around the forum and you seem to take an interest with the fanboy persona, do you have any reasons as to why?
Seebs: To make a long story short, a while back I became convinced that the essential problem facing humanity, I mean, ‘THE’ problem, is tribalism. It’s the decision to divide into "us" and "them"; the love of seeing "them" suffer. When I showed up, I saw people gloating about how the 360 fans and Wii fans would be crying, and that just offends me a whole lot. I don’t care where I see it; if I see people gloating about how people they aren’t like will suffer, I tend to get involved and try to break that mold.
So I try to be around and help people recognize when they’re getting sorta crazy, and just be a person who isn’t really on the "PS3 fan" side, but who isn’t hostile to the PS3, and will help people out, give them advice, and otherwise not be some kind of faceless thing they can just hate. I know it sounds trivial to worry about gaming fanboys, but the brain chemistry is no different between console fanboys and religious fanatics, and I want people to start seeing other people as ‘people’.
Dave Wales: So you’re like the Martin Luther King of Format Wars and you just have a dream? It almost sounds like the entire format war is the equivalent of a race war, though obviously not as extreme, would you agree with that?
Seebs: I think so. People get so caught up in wanting to "win". Look at the way people are gloating about Blu-ray over HD-DVD. If you had a friend, and your friend looked at a pair of competing products, and picked one, and spent a few hundred dollars on it, and a month later that product pretty much went under; would you laugh in his face, and gloat, and cheer? Of course not. People just do this because they’ve turned all these other people into a sort of indistinct mass of ‘Them’. It’s the same instinct as with race, although generally console fanboys don’t get nearly as crazy about it, but the same kinds of ‘reasoning’ are involved.
Dave Wales: Well, I’ve already laughed at my best friend for owning an HD DVD add-on, so I can’t really comment on that. So you obviously have no ties to either console company. How old were you when you first picked up the controller and what system was it?
Seebs: The first thing I ever played video games on was a Wang Systems 2200 computer — it was more of a business machine than a gaming system, but there were some games on it. I played on Atari 2600s and the like, but the first console I owned was an Intellivision. Man, I loved that thing. Some of the engineers wrote an emulator and released it along with a bunch of games, and I bought it. I must have been around… Ten, I think? Looking it up, I must have been a bit older; it was the second-gen Intellivision 2. So I was 11 or 12.
I got a Genesis in 1991, and a 3DO in 1995 or so? And then I got a SNES, Saturn, and a PlayStation, and eventually a Nintendo 64, a GameCube, and a PlayStation 2.
I still have them all, including the Sega CD. I can’t throw away toys.
Dave Wales: Wow, you’re quite the collector, I doubt I’d ever find you in a GameStop pawning off your latest terrible purchase then. What was your real first achievement in gaming that you can remember?
Seebs: Beating… I have to look up the name. Swords & Serpents! It was a dungeon-exploration game, you could play it two-player. A friend of mine and I spent WEEKS learning the game, getting better at it, and finally beat the dungeon to find out the "secret", which was I think a developer’s initials. If I’d been organized, I could have sent off for a free poster.
That was on the Intellivision. Since then, I’ve done tons of things. I proved that Sonic’s lives wrapped at 256, for instance, on the original Sonic. Sorry, not ‘lives,’ but ‘chances to complete the game.’
Dave Wales: I consider myself a pretty experienced gamer but I have no idea what Swords & Serpents is. You give a new definition to old school gamer, Seebs. When it comes to gaming, since you have such an eclectic history with it, do you prefer the old Intellivision or your newer shinier toys?
Seebs: I really don’t know. The Intellivision had some amazing games — Utopia was the first ever god game, I think, long before Populous. I could play those games for 12 hours a day. At the same time, I love the depth that some modern games can have, and the improvements in user interfaces make it very hard to go back. Phantasy Star II seemed so incredible, but when it had long messages, you had to press a button for.
lines. Unplayable, now, because I’m used to being able to just read a paragraph. So, if you look at what I play today, it’s mostly more modern stuff, but I’m pretty flexible; I’ll still play old Genesis games. I like variety!
Dave Wales: Ever play Mutant League Hockey? It was pretty scarce and I believe they pulled it off shelves.
Seebs: No, but I played Mutant League Football. I might even still have the cartridge in the basement; I haven’t been able to unpack most of my gaming stuff since the move. "Bribe the ref!" "Kill the ref!"
Dave Wales: I actually have that game sitting in my desk drawer because I haven’t cleaned it out in over 12 years. If you could pick one game to play for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Seebs: That’s really hard. I’d say it’d either be one of the roguelikes, or World of Warcraft. I have spent whole years playing pretty much nothing but Angband. I wrote patches for it, which were accepted by the maintainer, and then replaced in an overhaul six months later.
Dave Wales: I’ve never heard of Angband, what’s the premise of that?
Seebs: Angband is in the genre called "roguelike". Are you at all familiar with those?
Dave Wales: No, and I’m sure a lot of the younger guys such as myself, probably won’t be either. Care to elaborate?
Seebs: Okay, so, back in the day, computers were these HUGE boxes, back in a room, and you didn’t actually work AT the computer, you worked on a terminal, which was connected to it; there might be ten or twenty terminals, or more, on a single computer. And they were generally just text interfaces.
When the first "cursor addressable" terminals came out, that let the cursor move back up the screen, one of the first uses was, of course, video games. The most famous was a game called rogue. You were an @, and there was a screen full of rooms (…’s surrounded by – and |) and corridors (#). Letters were monsters. You moved, and they moved. If you tried to move into a monster, you were attacking it. You could find armor, weapons, and food, and your goal was to search a dungeon to find the Amulet of Yendor, and then carry it back out of the dungeon. Movement keys were hjkl for left, down, up, and right, and yubn for the diagonals. (It’s really easy once you’re used to it.)
Anyway, there are DOZENS of games based on that basic principle, and one of the famous early ones was called Moria, or "Mines of Moria" for long, and you were supposed to go into Moria and kill the Balrog — shameless Tolkein rip off there. Angband is a hugely expanded version of Moria, which has pretty much every single historical or named figure from the books, and tons of named weapons (you can find Sting!) and items (if you see a Plain Gold Ring, life has just gotten interesting…). It’s an infinitely replayable game, with a lot of depth, and you can play it on just about anything with a keyboard.
Dave Wales: With today’s youth having the attention span of a cardboard box, I think a lot of us would be in trouble with a game like that. You’ve been a member of PSU.com for a long while now, is there anything you’d like to see implemented?
Seebs: All I ever use is the forums. I didn’t even realize for a long time that there was any connection to anything beyond the forums!
Dave Wales: Have you started utilizing the front page at all since that discovery?
Seebs: Not really. I’m a creature of habit; I have a bookmark for the forums, and I never really go exploring. Maybe when I’m less busy!
Dave Wales: The forums are an excellent source of news as well. We have a lot of great members such as yourself always popping up with something new to bring to the scene. You’ve almost filled a book here with me tonight thus far in terms of personal gaming experience; however, do you have anything you could possibly add to this that people on the forums wouldn’t know about you?
Seebs: I think most of the forum people know I’m a programmer and a writer; I’ve been doing technical writing about Cell since late 2005, thus my original interest. I have spent a lot of time on the internet discussing D&D, and I also do a fair amount of religious discussion and debate; I think I have somewhere over 60k posts out there on various topics. I used to have a lot more free time before I got a day job again, and it shows.
Dave Wales: You told me a bit earlier that you’re going to be doing another interview with a newspaper after this; can you give any insight into that interview as well?
Seebs: As a hobby, I’ve been suing junk faxers. Many people don’t know this, but the US federal government outlawed junk faxing in 1991; unfortunately, the primary means of enforcement is individual lawsuits. So I collect my junk faxes, and I sue the senders. A reporter spotted one of my suits in the civil filing records, and wanted to know more about it.
Dave Wales: People spam via fax? I never knew that.
Seebs: Yes, huge amounts. If you leave a fax machine connected long enough, they’ll eventually wardial you and start dumping. Most people I know with fax machines get at least a couple to a few a week. If you ever get a call where you just hear a couple of beeps and they hang up, that’s a junk faxer scanning for fax machines. Just so you know, the remove numbers are a scam, and your only real option for stopping the faxes is to sue. You are generally entitled to $500 per fax, or possibly more. The law’s more complicated than that, and I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, just a report on what happened for me.
Dave Wales: Sounds like the potential to have a second income if you get enough of them. All right man, that’s pretty much it, thanks a lot for doing this, I appreciate it and I’m sure the readers will also.
There you have it guys. The view into the life of a true pro gamer in every sense of the word; if you read it all the way through, you’ve just gotten +2 to your Attention Span and therefore have leveled up. Stay tuned for our next member spotlight coming in two weeks as usual.