It’s time for a new monthly feature here on MmoQuests, one inspired by an email I had received talking about female gamers and asking me some questions about my opinions on the matter. I know so many girl gamers who are not only gamers but also incredible people in all aspects of their life. What better way to recognize them then to post a monthly feature here on MmoQuests highlighting the individual person. This months feature is on Tipa – someone I’ve known for many years now. She is not only an incredible blogger, girl gamer, and coding guru but has taken it upon herself this past year or so to become more physically active in her day to day life, choosing to bike rather than take a car when she can, and sharing those adventures with us through her photography. As a gamer myself I find her an incredible inspiration, as being more active is something I think many gamers strive for but rarely succeed with on the levels that she has. Tipa was kind enough to answer a few questions for me to share with readers here on MmoQuests, I hope you all enjoy!
1. When and why did you start getting interested in video games?
Pinball games were everywhere when I grew up. I don’t remember the first video game I ever saw, but it was probably at the Ramada Inn. My cousin brought me there. I’d never seen anything like them. I know they had Pong there, and a shooting game called Boot Hill, and a little motorcycle jumping game, and a top-down racing game. Colors were just plastic overlays on the screen. From there it exploded, and the pinball games were replaced by video games.
I sucked at them all but I loved them to death.
I joined a gamer club in college. I wasn’t a gamer at the time, but I’d heard about D&D, had bought the basic set and tried to play with my little sister. It was mostly engineering students in the club, and military types who worked at Pease Air Force base in nearby Portsmouth. The two influences brought a huge variety of games to the club.
The engineering students all had access to the university’s timesharing system (and so did I, as an electrical engineering undergrad). Video games had been undergoing a quiet revolution in universities the world round. The very first video game ever made, Spacewar!, was used to demonstrate and sell the DEC PDP-1 in 1962. UNH had twin PDP-10s, named Scylla and Charybdis. We all learned how to write multiplayer video games on the DECs even as we played ADVENT (Colossal Cave Adventures), Rogue and DUNGEON (Zork), DECWAR, Walter Bright’s EMPIRE and so on.
2. What are your favorite types of games to play?
Definitely RPGs. Making a character and facing unknown dangers ties so perfectly into the fantasy novels I loved as a kid. I like best the kind of RPG that provides a canvas on which to write your own story, like the original EverQuest, but single player RPGs with a story are worth playing if the story they tell is a good one.
Single player RPGs are like books, but instead of turning a page, you’re hitting the keys the designer specifies to move the story along. I’m not looking for a challenge in story RPGs, just more narrative, because I’m just consuming, and I’m eager to finish the story and move on to the next one with a minimal of hassle.
I give more leeway to MMORPGs. They usually have less story and require more skill, and you have the fantastic benefit of playing with other people. It’s less like reading a book, more like going to an arena to watch a sports game, a game you yourself can step into and play.
3. If you could work any job in the gaming industry, what would you see yourself doing?
Programming. Working out graphics subroutines, making responsive UIs, bringing worlds to life — that’s what I would love to do. I’ve applied for dozens of gaming jobs, though, and only once got any sort of response. After awhile, I gave up and just settled for more mundane jobs.
I’m no game designer. I’ve written games in the past (and even sold two of them), but every single one of them was written to try out a new UI idea or a new graphics trick. The two games were both for the Sony Magic Link handheld computer. Reversi (Othello) I wrote to test out a new heuristic-based minmax algorithm for the moves, and was fairly challenging. Gammon was my integration of pre-rendered 3D graphics with gameplay, inspired by Rare’s Donkey Kong Country games. Both were part of the Sony Magic Bag game pack, and got decent reviews. It led into a freelance writing job with PDA Developer magazine for a few months.
4. What inspires and motivates you in your day-to-day activities?
For a few dark years, I was motivated entirely by my love for MMOs. My kids were teenagers at the time and mostly doing their own things, so I was free to lose myself in gaming. And I did — I lost myself. When I lost my job in the aftermath of the dotcom bust, I played EQ and any other MMO I could get my hands on. I lost my house, moved to San Diego and kept playing. Eventually I came to my senses, cleaned up, got a job, got my life back in order and vowed to never fall into the trap of “hardcore” gaming again. That stuff will eat your life.
I want my life to be a story where something fascinating is always on the next page. A story you don’t ever want to have end. I’ve learned to always have something to look forward to, to work to. This is how MMOs trapped me; I substituted real life goals for the goals of reaching a new level, mastering the next raid. I’ve since found that real life has just as much magic as any MMO.
Currently I am training for my first ever road race. This winter holds the adventure of finding a new place to live, a place of my own for the first time since I lost my house almost a decade ago.
5. How many computer languages do you know?
6. What is your favorite book?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach. It changed my life when I read it as a kid. After that, probably Ubik by Philip K. Dick.
7. How do you find a balance in your day between all of the activities that you do?
I don’t really have that many activities. I tend to go to work and then come home. Whatever it is that interests me at the time, I do. It could be writing, or blogging, or playing a game, or reading a book, planning a weekend bike ride or working on a program.
I love writing programs to solve puzzles. I spent weeks writing a program to solve a puzzle in kids MMO Neopets, and fell into a community of other solvers which I did not even know existed (though I suspected). I solved the short-lived EQ2 tie-in game, Fantasy League, with a genetic algorithm-based solution that quickly brought me to the top of the scoring charts — even though I wasn’t paying much to play.
Life is a puzzle. It can be solved.
A huge congratulations and thank you to Tipa for sharing her answers here, if you know a girl gamer you would like to nominate for this monthly feature, please don’t hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org