I am so incredibly happy to announce this months ‘Inspirational Girl Gamer’ – Emily (aka Domino). You may not recognize her in her Dalek form pictured above, but Emily has played an important role over the years in the development of EverQuest II, especially concerning tradeskills. Not only that, but this girl gamer has inspired many with her fantastic minecraft creations, book suggestions, and is just a plain ‘ol wonderful person. Of course I’m slightly bias since she’s also Canadian and we have to stick together. *grins* A huge thank you to Emily for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me, I hope everyone enjoys reading them as much as I did. Without further wait here they are:
1. What was your first gaming experience, and how old were you?
I don’t even remember how old I was. I remember loading “Frogger” from a cassette tape at my aunt and uncle’s house; that’s got to be pretty long ago. But I’m not 100% sure if that was the earliest. I remember Pong, vaguely, but I don’t remember if it was the original arcade game or a later personal computer version. I do know I was absolutely fascinated by arcades when they appeared, and I’d spend hours (if allowed) just watching the bigger kids play things like Pac Man. The local laundromat had a game called Tutankhamun, and later Elevator Action, and I spent a LOT of quarters playing those.
2. How many hours did it take you to complete your Halloween costume for this year, and by the way, WOW what a costume
I didn’t keep track of the hours, but it was an ongoing project for several months. The most time-consuming part was spray-painting all the foam hemispheres and then gluing them on. I did save a lot of time by starting with a dress I found at the Salvation Army and converted into the skirt, rather than sewing one from scratch. The top was likewise a corset purchased on ebay which I just sewed some silver ribbon onto. The headpiece was a bit fiddly too, as I actually did some soldering to get the central blue light to work.
3. What are your favorite types of video games to play?
I tend to prefer strategy and sim type games, although I do play others. Currently I’m obsessed with Minecraft, I also got almost all the remaining achievements in “Plants vs. Zombies” over the holidays. Alpha Centauri is also one of my favorite games ever (and IMO the best in the Civ series) and of course I played lots of Sim City and Populous way back in the day. I don’t like feeling forced down a particular plot track or into a particular gameplay style, and I love to explore and find new ways to entertain myself, so sandbox type games appeal to me quite strongly, as well as MMOs of course, which is why EverQuest and EverQuest II have drawn me in for years. That said, I was one of the Tetris champs in my college dorm; I actually used to be able to play left-handed or even play with my feet and still beat my boyfriend of the time (this didn’t go over too well).
4. How do you find balance in your day between all of the activities that you do?
To be honest, I’m not sure I do. It’s an ongoing effort. I guess it’s a hazard of loving what you do for work; it’s difficult to remember not to work way too much, and take time to do other things. My friends help to remind me of this, and playing things like Minecraft rather than the game I work on helps also. (Although I do also play the game I work on, these days I find it’s almost impossible to relax while doing so, and I usually end up with an email full of notes on things to improve or fix at the end of a play session, unfortunately.)
5. What is one of the most emotional moments in gaming you’ve ever experienced?
This is more of a moment in game development than pure gaming itself, but as tradeskill developer during EQII’s Destiny of Velious expansion, I created a new present-day version of the Coldain Prayer Shawl quest for tradeskill players. The original quest was a huge mark of crafting accomplishment in the original EQ, and I wanted the EQII version to make the player feel epic, and as if they had really affected the world. I did a ton of research and the new quest was tied very closely into the lore behind the original quests; to make a long story short, in the original EQ, after the events of the original quest, the ring wars between the coldain dwarves and the giants drew to a close with the giants advancing on the dwarven city of Thurgadin. Defenses crumbling, the desperate dwarves had only one last option remaining to them, their absolute last-ditch plan of last resort: they set explosives beside the waterfall above Thurgadin, blowing away the top of the mountain and unleashing the icy waters onto the battlefield. The floods of frigid waters and their cryomancers’ spells froze the torrents solid, encasing both giants and dwarves below in an icy tomb. This ended the ring wars for good and saved Thurgadin from the giant invasion, but it also meant the death of all the brave coldain warriors who were fighting on the battlefield that day. For hundreds of years thereafter the coldain in Thurgadin have had to live with the knowledge that they knowingly murdered their most brave defenders to save themselves; and worse still, the spirits of the dwarves (and giants) killed in that final battle have been somehow trapped, re-enacting the final battle over and over again as ghosts instead of proceeding the afterlife of feasting halls and dwarven revelry which all dwarves look forward to. The coldain have spent the years in fear and guilt that their ancestors have been trapped in this endless undead hell because they were killed by the hand of their own kin, and the dwarven god Brell Serilis has therefore rejected them from proceeding to the afterlife. In the new coldain prayer shawl quest, the player gradually learns this history and learns of the horrific burden of guilt that the coldain are suffering, and struggles to make contact with the ghostly warriors and the god Brell Serilis to try and free the trapped spirits. Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that the player manages to gain the assurance from Brell that the warriors are serving an essential purpose and will indeed proceed to their just rewards when that is completed, and to take this news back to the coldain dwarves of Thurgadin to at last relieve them of their incredible burden of centuries-old guilt. It’s a pretty epic story and I really hope the players who complete it feel their actions have had a real and fundamental effect on all of Thurgadin. I confess to tearing up a little while writing some of the dialog for the guilt-wracked, and then unimaginably relieved, coldain dwarves and imagining what extreme depths of emotion they must be feeling.
6. What is your favorite book?
Oh, very tough question – so hard to pick just one! You could ask me this question every day for a week and I could probably give you a different answer each day depending on my mood, but today I think I’ll nominate the novella “True Names And Other Dangers” by Vernor Vinge. This was written in 1981, pre-world-wide-web, pre-virtual reality, before William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and before Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”. It’s probably the first recognizable description of cyberspace written, and when I read it in the early 90s it just blew my mind. When you consider that the internet as we know it was still well over a decade away from existence it’s simply amazing that he wrote this in 1981. I recommend it to anybody interested in cyberspace, cyberpunk, and SF in general (it’s currently available in the collection of essays “True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier”). Vinge’s later novel “Across Realtime” is also highly recommended! Other favorite authors include Pratchett, Bujold, Austen, Tepper, and Gaiman.
7. Any words of wisdom for people looking to get into the video game industry?
I joined the industry in a rather nonstandard way, so I don’t know if the specifics of my particular experience would be a lot of use to others. But in general I will say the following: learn Excel. Learn everything about it. Learn how to do vlookups and concatenations and substitution formulas and match formulas and nested if statements. Use it to write your Christmas cards and organize your book collection and calculate your D&D stats and anything else you can think of. Excel is a game designer’s best friend. Also, learn to write and communicate clearly and effectively. It doesn’t matter if you have the best ideas in the world if you can’t communicate them to other people (be they players or co-workers) both in words or in writing. And finally, be positive. Never criticize anything without also offering a solution to fix it; and preferably compliment a good point at the same time. This is true whether you’re a game player or a game designer; in fact it’s worth trying in all aspects of life both personal and professional, regardless of where you work or play.
8. What has been your geekiest moment to date?
Another question to which there are many, many possible answers! I could pick any number of occasions, but the first one that springs to mind this evening is spending Valentine’s day in 1996 sitting alone in the university computer lab learning how to make my first web page on the ancient unix-based mainframes. That was a pretty exciting evening, in terms of learning new stuff. But okay, maybe just a little bit geeky. In fact, one of the features of my brand new web page was a small stick figure comic called “geek girl”. I drew about 20 of them, I think, before retiring Geek Girl somewhere around 1997.