mustin

mustin

My name is Mustin, and I am a mononym, like the emperor of Japan. I just have one name. And I'm 34 and I live in Bentonville, Arkansas, and what was the other part?

How did you come to lose interest in videogames?

I think I discovered girls.

[Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

You think you did?

I think so.

Or they discovered me finally, I don't know. I've liked girls since I was in kindergarten.

My first heartbreak was sitting on the back of the bus in the third grade field trip and finding out my teacher was getting married. I was like, "Oh my God how is this happening? I didn't even get a chance to make my move yet."

[Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

Per your emails, though, you said you were interested in games for a while.

Yeah.

You had said that, "I don't know how adults dedicate this much time to games."

Yeah.

This was before you even got married and had kids. What happened?

Yeah, I played games.

Games were my escape from my home life.

My -- I was born in Arkansas. And then I was nine months old, I moved to Chicago. I packed my diaper bag and left.

In a bindle.

In a diaper. [Laughs.]

So, then I was in Chicago until I was nine and a half, I guess, and it was at that point from my understanding my father had enough money to bring up his wife and kids from Mexico. And I think this was frustrating to my mother, and so we moved to Arkansas, which is where she was from and that's where my parents met. My grandmother -- we moved to the town where my grandmother and grandfather lived: Yellville, Arkansas.

Which was terrible culture shock because I went from being in this big city with all this noise and all this diversity in the population and a bunch of culture to the complete opposite: A town of a thousand people and I was the darkest kid even though I'm only half-Mexican.

And I don't remember having any sort of relationship with videogames until Arkansas, when I knew about the Nintendo Entertainment System and I don't remember how. I just remember having it and I think I remember, like, holding it at the store, waiting in line to get it, but this is way after the fact. I think we were on the verge of the Super Nintendo coming out. Probably a lot of price reduction before my mom was able to afford it or maybe my grandma got it, I don't really remember.

But that was my escape 'cause my mom was not the most emotionally available person and it was my younger sister and younger brother and I. I think my sister's like two or three years younger and then my brother's two or three years younger than her.

And it was escape. I don't know.

We played together, I mean, taking turns because it's two players, but I think we all grew up with that videogame interest. And then sometime there in Yellville, before I moved, because I got there in the middle of third grade, and then I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas two days before seventh grade started. So I was there for a little bit, but I made some friends in Yellville and I remember going to their house because I had just gotten a Super Nintendo and I really wanted to play Mario World, but everybody had already played it and nobody cared anymore. But I was really excited to. And they were playing some other game that they borrowed or rented or something. I had never heard of it. Something called Final Fantasy II.

Insert

Now it's IV, but then it was II, and they kept playing it and I was frustrated. I was like, "I don't want to read! If I want to read a book, I'll go read a book, which I don't want to do. I want to play a videogame."

And I just got frustrated with them and then they finally passed out and I don't know what it was, but I picked up the controller and was playing Final Fantasy and I think they woke up to me playing it the next day, like, I had just been playing it non-stop.

I had found something special.

And I got lost in the story and the music and it was -- I was pretty hooked.

What was special about it? Not even necessarily that game, but just the experience of getting hooked.

It was -- I don't know. It was like some kind of magic. It was something I had never experienced, being able to control the fate of these characters and this plotline that was far and away from Mario Bros., like a story where a knight has to choose whether or not to do something that he feels is morally wrong out of duty and goes to find himself and fight the darkness in himself to become a paladin, a warrior of good, and meet all these other people along the way who are capable of doing magic and -- I don't know. It was a lot of those Saturday morning cartoons rolled up into a controllable experience that I was in charge of.

I think that's why I liked it so much.

I was in charge of something in my life.

Like, I felt in control. That was something that was appealing to me because I didn't want to leave Chicago. I didn't understand the circumstances surrounding the absence of my father in my life and I just wanted to be in control of something and that fantasy world is something that I felt like I had control over.

How old were you?

I had to have been 10 or 11, possibly 12.

I mean, I feel like when people talk about videogames being escapist fantasies, it's more about people feeling powerful than to understand the world around them a little bit more. You know what I mean?

Yeah. I was never that kid. My brother and I never roughhoused. I never liked doing that with my friends and peers. Today, when I see my son and the little boy that lives with me and the little boy that we babysit -- they're always fighting like the kittens that we have.

[Laughs.]

And I just -- it frustrates me because it feels so violent and I don't like that stuff. I've never been that kind of person. I've always been more of thoughtful, artistic type. Not so much a fighter.

So, what happened? If you're talking about that system and you at that age, but you said in your emails by the time the PlayStation and the Xbox came about, you were losing interest. How did games take hold and then lose their grip? I know you said it was girls but it can be more than that. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] Yeah.

In Yellville they had middle school. And in middle school, I sincerely thought that if I played the saxophone it would help me get girls. And so I chose to play the saxophone in the band and I went in one day to band, the first day of school or whatever, and I told her what I wanted to do and she gave me a mouthpiece and I made a sound on it and she said, "Okay, tomorrow you'll have a tenor saxophone."

And so the next day I had a tenor saxophone and I just started playing it. I had this aptitude for it. And I started playing the melody to "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," which is pretty simple. It's kinda, like, three notes. The bass line, rather, not the melody.

And so I took the beginner's book home with me, I learned the whole thing in a day. This doesn't mean that I was some sort of savant, that I could just play it like a great jazz musician, but I was able to really take to it and I remember my mother having a conversation with my father on the phone while I was playing about how this is something that he's good at. She didn't really understand it. But it seemed like it was a good thing.

And then we moved to Fayetteville, which was great because there was, like, 30,000 people and I was no longer the darkest kid and it was great to have some different culture and I made friends pretty quickly. And because we went, then, to junior high, the people in my grade were starting band, so I got to be in the upperclassmen thing and that kinda made me like, "Ooh, look at this guy!"

So I kept excelling with music, but at the same time, I made a lot of friends with people through my enjoyment of videogames. I remember I got a Game Boy at some point, and I got The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, a Game Boy game, and, man, I got lost in that. [Laughs.] I actually took six pages of printer paper and taped them together and I drew out the map for the game, which was just a square when you push the select button, and I colored it in and wrote where everything was in the game.

Insert

I made my own player's guide, essentially.

And I remember this upperclassman wanted to borrow it so he could play it. And peer pressure, you want to be accepted, so I let him borrow it and I never saw it again. And I still hate that guy because of it. [Laughs.] Because I put so much work into it.

Well, yeah, you worked on it really hard.

Yeah.

And one thing that my mom did that was really cool that as a parent I'm not sure I would do, but I kind of feel like I would, but on the big releases, she called me into school and I'd go get it with my money and I'd stay home and play it all day 'cause I was so excited about it. So, when Final Fantasy III came out -- now VI -- I played it all day and then I had, like, three friends rush to my house after school to see it.

That game was huge with me, and then the same thing with Chrono Trigger, another Super Nintendo RPG. And then, not only was it the games and the stories that were just getting me, but the music, being a music person, I was so interested in that to the point that I was writing out pieces of music from hearing it in the game and making an arrangement so that my three friends who play clarinet can play the melody and the harmony and the bass and stuff and putting it front of them, they just do it. [Laughs.] I don't know how that all happened, but I was just enthralled with it.

But I don't know where -- I guess when I wanted to be serious about music. I barely graduated high school and I wasn't gonna go to college. Because of the music aptitude and because I was a troubled kid, my principal, who was a former band director, really saw the potential in me and through his network he was able to get me a complete free ride to Arkansas Tech, but I turned it down because I hated school and I just wanted to -- I made a plan where, "Okay, all the college kids are gonna go and then they're gonna come back for the summer. If I can keep up with them on some level, then I feel like I'll be successful."

And lo and behold, all the friends come back for the summer after their first semester abroad, and I had already put out an album. So I was like, "Okay, I've got this."

And that album, I ended up somewhere in there -- I didn't really play as many games because I was working so much because I was trying to support my family. My mom left when I was 19.

And I took care of my 16-year-old sister and 13-year-old brother by myself. And I also ran for mayor of Fayetteville during that time, as a joke. [Laughs.]

How well did you do?

I didn't come in last!

Well hey!

Fifth out of sixth.

[Laughs.]

I made a lot of connections and I've always had some sort of political aspiration, I guess, but not so much anymore. I just was impassioned. I don't know. I made friends with a person who elected the mayor.

What was your slogan?

I don't remember having a slogan. I remember -- also, another thing that I think took away from the videogames was 17 years old, three friends of mine and myself had a public-access TV show that ended up becoming pretty popular, called BurritoVision.

And they would have, like, a live call-in thing on Saturday nights and we would have some pre-recorded skits, and that took a lot of time. It was ridiculous and our big hit was a skit called "General Jones," who was one of the green plastic soldiers, like in Toy Story. He was General Jones, and his boss was The Chief, who was a plastic yellow Indian, and he would get these missions from the chief and it was just ridiculous. Like, he had to go back to school one time. I don't know. [Laughs.] It was insane.

But that took up a lot of time. It took me away from the games.

I was really burnt by the move of the company that made the RPGs that I loved so much. That company was kind of exclusive to Nintendo and then they moved to Sony.

Yeah. Square.

And so when they got on the PlayStation, I was pretty angry about it because I didn't have one and I didn't like the way that it was going. But I watched my friend play through most of the games, like, I watched all of Final Fantasy VII, all of Final Fantasy VIII, and -- it was ridiculous. You would have these things in the game when you fight and you summon a monster to come and fight for you and it would be this elaborate, "Look what we can do with computers! Here's a minute and 21 seconds long thing to show how awesome this good guy comes out and kills the bad guys for you." And you couldn't skip it back then, so we would summon a monster and then we would go and do reps on a weight bench. [Laughs.]

And just let that load and then come back and see what was going on. But it was just wild.

But during that time, I was also in music and I got my first computer in '99 and my friend that ran the show -- the public-access show -- got me for graduation a music program to make music on the computer.

And it was also the same time that someone showed me that you could emulate videogames on your computer, the old NES games and stuff. And I never owned a bunch of NES games. I always rented them or borrowed them. And so one of the first things I did was pull up Mega Man 3, which is my favorite Mega Man, and I remembered how much I loved the music. Like, I remembered all of it while I was playing it. I was like, "Man, this is such good stuff. Let me try to remake it now that I've got this software."

And so I remade -- I made a medley out of Mega Man 3 music and I also found this website where people were putting up their arrangements of videogame music called OverClocked ReMix, which also coincided with finding this guy named Stephen Kennedy, who lived in Missouri, very close to me, who was putting together the first-ever fan made licensed videogame album as a tribute to Nobuo Uematsu, who is the composer for all the Final Fantasy games up to that point.

And so that really all was very serendipitous in pulling me into this world of showing my love for the videogames and then my love for music and that kinda launched what it is that I'm doing now, which is -- I've made so many albums of videogame arrangements. I have a band called The OneUps that has been going for almost 15 years that plays live videogame music at conventions.

Yeah, so, somewhere in there because of all busyness and girls and time it takes to actually work on music I just haven't played much.

It wasn't -- and then, the time. Just the time.

I can pull up Streets of Rage 2 and beat it with my son in, like, 30 minutes. I don't have the time anymore to make for a 50-, 60-hour game.

What do you think is missing from games, or why do you think this happens where they seem to lose their importance or there's something lacking from them compared to, like, movies or TV or music even books a little bit? Where videogames don't seem sticking with.

Thinking right off the top of my head here, maybe an epiphany: It wasn't so much about games as it was about doing something that I felt was meaningful.

And so when I did have the TV show and girlfriends and music to make with my friends --

And your political career.

My amazing political career.

I didn't need them to fill that void anymore.

So I know you got really into the subculture of videogame music, that scene. But I don't really know what "gamer culture" is. It's a consumer group. Like, I don't really think of "grill culture," and I'm sure it exists, but can you just talk a little bit about what that scene is you belong to, and how that seems to differ or not differ from "gamer culture?"

Yeah.

My guitar player in the band, William Reyes, one of the guitar players who's one of my oldest friends, he kinda got me stuck on this idea that everybody is a nerd. It's just a specific interest.

You know, there's definitely grilling nerds. I was just watching an episode of Bob's Burgers where he goes to a burger convention. And so, he's a burger nerd.

I think I got really nostalgic, I guess, because all the music that I was doing and remaking was stuff that I knew and loved from being a kid, Mario music, Final Fantasy stuff, little bit more obscure stuff like M.C. Kids -- there's one piece of music in there that is just absolutely bangin'.

Insert

That's a deep cut right there.

Yeah, dude.

It was a really good Mario clone. It was a good platformer. It was really fun. [Laughs.]

But it wasn't just the music part that really got me going, but I was starting to find in that that there were a lot of people doing art and stuff. People were doing sprite art. Take a canvas and instead of making a Mona Lisa, just paint Mega Man in blocks and people would take those little bead things that you glue together and make sprites and people would draw the characters from these little sprite videogames into these really elaborate fantasy pieces. I was really interested in that, started collecting some cool prints of drawings that I liked -- fan artwork, I guess. And then I was, of course, enthralled in the videogame music fandom where I had a bunch of friends all over the world using message boards and AOL Instant Messenger and IRC chat rooms to talk about videogame music and share, like, works in progress that we had going and different arrangements and get feedback and find out what people who enjoyed my stuff -- which I guess are called fans -- would like to hear me do.

Do you see some spillover from -- are there portions of that audience, not even necessarily your audience, but from the games-music audience that is similarly entitled as you see in videogame fandom?

Definitely. That's just a personal issue, I think. There are people who are angry.

And I was actually thinking about this today in the bathroom at work. I went in to wash my hands and there was a guy in there that was, like, checking his face and his glasses and his hair and stuff.

And I just -- I had this weird urge to make fun of him. And I didn't. Because I'm an adult and he's an adult and we're at work. And I'm not that bully guy.

But I ended up thinking, like -- I was washing my hands and then, I don't know what it is. I always wash my hands and then I'm like, "Oh, I have to pee. Just because I'm touching the water." [Laughs.]

So I'm going pee and then I'm just like, "Why did I want to make fun of that guy? I don't know that person. He was just checking himself in the mirror. Why would I do that?"

Is it just to make me feel better? Is there not another way that it's easy to make us as a people feel better about ourselves other than to put someone else down? It just seems insane."

And I also just listened to a WTF podcast with Marc Maron and his guest was Jason Segel, who after writing and starring in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which launched him into massive stardom, there were all these companies were asking him, "What're you gonna do next? What're you gonna do next?" And the only thing that he wanted to do was revive The Muppets because he loved what they stood for and that they were entertaining and made you feel good about yourself and never got a laugh at the expense of someone else.

And so that's kinda been a weird thing that I've been thinking about, and I think that's so much -- it's not just --

Kinda like what you were saying about people who get really into it. Like, I don't get people who get really into sports. But they probably don't get how I really get into movies or get really into cooking, but being angry about it is just a personal issue where you have something where you weren't hugged enough or somebody was so mean to you that the only thing you learned how to do was be mean.

But I always thought there's no way life is that cliched. Like, we've all struggled, but there does seem to be something different in some people where, you know, a lot of times I talk about this and I ask , and maybe it's a hypothetical question or a rhetorical question, but people oftentimes when I ask, "Where in the broader culture does this come from where people think it's okay to threaten each other over videogames?"
And oftentimes they explain to me the software and the hardware and the networks and the technology that enables it. I'm curious what is that makes people put the key in the ignition and turn it. What is it that makes someone -- who is that other you who is like, "You know what? I'm just gonna make fun of my co-worker at the mirror because fuck it."

Yeah.

[Sighs.] I don't know. That's a really deep thought. It's hard to explore because I think a lot of it has to do with the anonymity. You can just easily attack -- I can go on Twitter. I'm sure I did it today. Yeah, yeah. I did. I went on Twitter and said, "Can we invent something where if people say 'bleeps and bloops' their skin catches on fire and they never do it again? 'Cause that'd be great."

You did. You tweeted that four hours ago.

Yeah. And I wasn't, like, attacking any one person. I was just saying something that I don't like and I didn't think that there'd be any -- nothing that's gonna come back to me on that. And it got retweeted a bunch of times and one person wrote back and said, "Aw." Like, maybe that person was a real advocate for using the "bloops and bleeps" to describe old videogame music and it's just something that's been kind of infuriating to me for whatever reason.

It's just -- what is that that causes us as a people or just as a person to have something that we're really just tenacious about, like, wanting someone to correctly whether or not we're in Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time. Why be a warrior for something as simple as that? How does that really affect everything when people know what you're talking about?

I don't think I really should get upset that someone's using "bleeps and bloops" because they don't have the vocabulary to describe old videogame music.

I don't know. It just all goes into that, I guess, where there's things that make us unique and it's what makes you good is how you handle those things. How do you handle when you lose at a very intense multiplayer match? Do you really talk about how you had sex with somebody's mom that you never met? Why is that offensive?

I was never offended by "your mom" stuff.

I don't know.

I know you mentioned you had a lot of other things going on when you were growing up with videogames, but was that stuff a big part of playing for you and your friends?

Never.

The only thing I had was -- [Sighs.]

I remember, I think I rented Felix the Cat for Nintendo. It was really hard. And I remember that game specifically making me cry when I was, like, 10 or 11. It was so hard. But I persevered and I ended up beating it, and then my mom got mad at me because I beat the game in one day.

She's like, "Well, you have it for three more days!"

I was I like, "Well, I guess I'll just become a master at it."

And then another instance I remember is that my drummer in the band, Jared Dunn, we all lived together. Jared, myself, William, the core members of the band, we lived together, and Jared works at a family fun park and managed to get an NBA Hangtime cabinet, four-player. So we had that in the garage.

Insert

And I remember playing one time and I don't know why it was William and Jared versus me, but -- because Jared owned the frickin' game, he was so good at it and knew all the codes.

They just fucking annihilated me. It was brutal. It was like Keyser Soze-style, just getting destroyed. I got so mad that I remember kinda, like, tearing up, and I felt bad because I was embarrassed about how upset I was, and then they kinda felt bad because they had made a fuckin' guy in his twenties cry for beating him at Hangtime. I was just like, "Shit!"

But I never -- I didn't tell them that I had sex with their moms or anything like that.

That didn't come to mind as a thought of retaliation.

How did it go from the mentality of, "I suck at this game," to "This game sucks?" You know, "It's not me. It's the game."

I don't know! I was never that kid that blamed the controller.

You know, that was a popular one: "My controller's messed up!"

You know? It seems to work fine for everything else. I don't think the controller is sentient and gonna be like, "Oh, I'm gonna fuck this guy up, right? Oh, yeah! Look at that, he missed!"

[Laughs.]

I don't know really, but I do see it. I don't know for me or for other people, but I see it in this.

Let me try to ride this train real quick.

Whenever I was in Yellville still, and I was, like, 11 or 10, we lived in a quadplex and our door was at the ground, but the other parts under us were built into the ground. So, they were downstairs on the other side. So, we had -- our windows looked out second story. One day my brother fell out of the window while I was at school. My sister wasn't old enough to be in school. and he cracked his head open and had to be rushed to the children's hospital in Little Rock.

And so my sister, my mom, my grandma all go to there and they left me -- they took me real quick to the games store to rent a couple of games because I was going to be staying with my, like, ninetysomething great grandma. And kinda, like, watching after her. And I had this little black and white, like, 13" TV, and a Nintendo.

And my great grandma was scary. I remember her, like, tearing duct tape with her hand and it was just, like, creepy to me, like: "How do you not need scissors, woman? You're scaring me."

And I had -- I don't know why, but I got Dr. Mario and Gremlins 2. Like, the two, like, loneliest, crappiest games for someone that really needs to get, like, out of their head space. [Laughs.]

And -- [Sighs.] That's all I had.

I had this tiny little room, with a tiny little TV, hanging out with my grandma while she watched Price is Right.

I was playing Dr. Mario in black and white. I was playing Dr. Mario in black and white. It was the worst!

[Laughs.] To explain for readers who don't understand, that's a game where it's kind of helpful if you can match colors.

Yeah. You have to match the pill colors to make them go away and kill the virus.

[Laughs.]

So I just knew that this is what I got and I gotta work with it. And I just -- I just sucked it up and I did it because that's what I had.

Now, fast-forward to now, my Wii -- videogame console, not my wiener.

I figured.

[Laughs.] Okay.

You couldn't see the "Wii" when I spoke. My Wii is modded. Don't call the feds.

I mean, you already admitted to playing emulated games that you don't own. So. But I think you're fine.

Oh, crap.

So, on a 4GB SD card, I have every single Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Neo Geo, and Turbo-Grafx 16 game, like, ever made. And it's crazy because I can just pull it up and play it. I showed this to my son and let him go wild. Of course, he was just ecstatic, like, "Oh my God. I've got thousands of games."

But when he starts playing Mega Man 3 and can't get more than a few screens after, like, two or three minutes, he turns it off and goes to something else.

And it's just so frustrating to me because he doesn't know how good he has it. [Laughs.] He doesn't know, like, "Okay, well, you get one game at a time. You gotta learn to play that game."

He just doesn't have to do that and it's just so frustrating for me.

Yeah.

I was gonna say, I do have a little bit of that myself.

Not -- like, even though I went through all that tumultuous gaming experience of being stuck with something for three days, I still -- my main argument, I guess, for me not playing games anymore is that, like, when playing Final Fantasy X, it just wasn't fun. It wasn't fun. And they said, "Oh, you gotta wait to get into it."

And the same thing applies to when people are trying to tell me about TV shows that they love. If I watch an episode of it and it doesn't, like, enthrall me, I don't care. I don't care about your Game of Thrones or your House or Breaking Bad. It's not interesting to me. I'm more of a comedy guy, anyway, but, but there is that sense of -- I don't know if it's entitlement. "Entertain me, dammit!" Or if it's just, like, "I ain't got time for this."

[Laughs.] Is that a reference?

Well, it's twofold, because I shoulda said, "Ain't nobody got time for that." But I also wanted to say, "I ain’t got time to bleed." Predator.

But I don't even think it's entitlement. I think it's attention span.
Like I said, this stuff is not just games. I'm sure some of it is Internet. Also, you get older, also, you develop taste and I hear that, too, about some games where it's like, "You know, you really gotta play it for like 10 hours for it to start getting good."

Why would I do that?

[Laughs.] Be good now!

[Laughs.]

It's not that it's not good, you know. You can't deny when Game of Thrones wins so many awards and so many people are enjoying it, I mean, there's something to it. Just the same thing with anyone else that people get upset about. Like, I hate when people say, "Oh, music isn't as good today." I'm like, "Yeah it is! There's just so much music."

Just because you don't like something doesn't mean that all music is bad. I don't know. I don't get it.

Do you think there is a lot of that in games? The big, sweeping dismissals? It's certainly not limited to games, but I wonder if you feel like you see it more there than in other circles.

Oh definitely. Look at the whole "casual" games thing. People get all mad because they don’t consider grandma playing Farmville as authentic gaming. I mean, I even have a bit of that weird elitism myself.

I was really bothered internally to see Sonic and Solid Snake in Smash Bros. Like, "These guys aren’t from the same universe! What is this madness‽" I was always a weird kid. My Blacktron space-themed LEGOs never interacted with my town-themed LEGOs. Because they weren’t in the same universe. What do you say about a kid like that? I dunno.

Anyway, I’ve seen the hate firsthand -- even from my friends sometimes, but thankfully my friends haven’t been violent as opposed to just vehemently opposed to the idea of Angry Birds or whatever. But boys saying that puzzle games are "girl games" or whatever is infuriating -- like, how can a game have a gender? But, yeah, there are plenty of people that don’t consider Mario a game because there’s no guns and it’s not realistic. Makes me shake my head. I hope -- I would love to wake up tomorrow and have all this gender bias and misogyny and uneducated dismissal of things to just go away.

Do you pay attention to the games media?

I did because the person that I had a partnership with when I found that first CD that was going to be licensed -- I had made a friend here through OverClocked ReMix, finding out that he lived in Bentonville when I was Fayetteville, which is 15-, 20-minute drive. And we were both musical buddies and we got on that project and then we spun off with our own thing called OneUp Studios where we kinda just did the same thing: licensing videogame music arrangement soundtrack albums. His name is Dale North, and he went on to help out this little site called Destructoid, who had a podcast, and he would do the editing of their audio for them, and then ended up being their editor in chief years later. And he recently quit writing for -- he quit Destructoid and he wrote for Gamesbeat and he quit to do music full-time, now, actually for videogames and also just writing original stuff.

So I kept up and I get into it because I need that media because I need those people who also love the M.C. Kids soundtrack to find out that there's a weirdo in Arkansas who remixed it with real instruments and that they want to buy it. And so I rely on that games media to get it out there.

I don't know if they're really, like -- [Sighs.] Pushing this agenda of hatred. I think -- I mean, I have a problem with criticism in general, being an artist. A review of a movie is not going to sway me. The review of a restaurant. But I want to find out for myself. So that's me, personally.

Did you ever talk to Dale about some of the things that surprised him about his job writing for or running games-media sites?

Nah, sorry.

What do you feel the average videogame critic -- if there is such a thing -- sees their role as?

I think they see it to inform potential players of what they can expect from this experience. How does the story come together? Is it cohesive? When you push your character, does he move responsibly? Like, is the sound okay when your fighter hits someone? Does she make good sound when she -- I mean, like, I'd like to think that's what they're thinking about.

But it seems like times are a-changin' because these Lets Play aspects are much more enthralling, where you can just just pull up a YouTube video and watch someone play the game and you don't have to spend $60 and you can be entertained if the person playing it is an entertaining person.

What do you think the games media could be doing to improve the industry?

[Pause.]

[Sighs.]

I think that's difficult because they are relying on so many things to function. They need to have videogame companies on their side to give them the stuff that they need in order to review games before they come out. They need the advertising revenue from game companies and things that are targeted toward the demographic to pay money so that they can keep the site on and pay the writers. I don't know what they can do other than just being as objective as they can, but that's not what people really want. People want -- I think people want a strong opinion of someone who is very subjective because they make them feel like they can, like, trust better.

With this whole Internet thing, everybody's a star. You can just point the phone back at your face and put it on YouTube for the world to see. You have to be interesting and everybody feels like they might be interesting and that's kinda where that sense of entitlement and all that jazz -- I don't really know, maybe I'm just not that into it because I'm really not that sure what they're doing as a media to encourage negative behavior. But I think it's -- you need to have a comments section because it's going to cause pageviews. And then in the comments, we're gonna have a bunch of psychos saying horrible things and that's gonna be linked to, which causes more ad revenue.

Kind of like the regular media, Fox News saying crazy things like the president is a Muslim -- because it's gonna bring in attention.

I mean, integrity. That's something that you want everybody to have, but you're also trying to find your place in an entertainment industry.

Yeah. [Sighs.]
What more would you like to see out of videogames?

I don't know. I think they're doin' okay. I think with the indie games thing that's so hot -- there's everything that you're looking for is pretty much out there. You've got these great artistic games and you've got your shooters and your racers and Nintendo's still rockin' Mario. I don't -- I guess with the whole blow-up with in the past year like you said, it would be nice to see more female involvement, just like with films.

The backlash of Paul Feig doing the Ghostbusters movie with the female cast, like, why do people care?

I mean -- [Sighs.] I guess I was kinda on that bandwagon a little bit whenever they started remaking all these movies from my youth, like, "Why are they doing that?"

But I still have that movie from when I was a kid, and so it doesn't take that away. So I don't know why they get upset about it.

But seeing -- I think we're seeing more female involvement. I always loved Metroid 'cause it's just so good. She's always been a female bounty hunter and that never really played into my head, like, "Oh, a girl can't do this stuff."

I don't know where all that came from, but I don't know what videogame companies can do except for have a disclaimer at the very beginning of the game that says, "Be nice to people!"

[Laughs.]

[Laughs.]

Well, at the end of games, I'm sure you remember: They used to say, "Thank you."

Yeah. "Thank you for playing."

I don't know if people feel games have gotten more greedy or less respectful to the player, but there does seem to be less politeness from games to the audience, from the audience to games. It's certainly gotten -- not everywhere, but a bit more combative.
I know you were just at the EarthBound-- is it like a convention, or what's the best way to --

Yeah, it was a convention. It was crazy. It was a full-blown thing.

I mean, were there bullies there?

No! No.

[Sighs.]

That whole thing -- this game EarthBound came out in '94, I think, and it was just this really quirky role-playing game that was odd because it was set in modern times and not a fantasy game.

Like, your dad calls and puts money into your bank account and you can pull it from your ATM and buy yo-yo's with it. This was so different for a lot of kids who grew up with it, and it was this charming story, and this fantastic music. And as they grew up and got Internet and learned that EarthBound was a sequel to a game called Mother, and then a new game came out called Mother 3, and Mother 3 didn't come out in the United States but only in Japan, it was very frustrating for them.

And they created a fan site and talked about all the theories and celebrated the characters and then the guy who started that started a company called Fangamer, which got into making, like, apparel where you can buy the shirt that Ness -- the main character in EarthBound -- wears and his ballcap, and you can get a poster of a drawing of all them, and then that sprayed over into other stuff where they made a ceramic mug that looks like a pipe from Mario Bros.

All this stuff.

And then recently they had a Kickstarter to raise money to create a handbook, a hardbound book that guides you through the game and the world of EarthBound, and I was a part of it because my group -- I have a group called the Bad Dudes.

Whereas making music with my band requires a group of people playing live instruments, I'm also a producer who works in my bedroom and makes music all by myself. Well, I have other friends who do that and this is, like, my A-Team of bedroom producers all over the world called the Bad Dudes, and we are going to do a two-disc album of music from this whole Mother series.

And they raised enough money as one of their stretch goals to put on an actual convention. And so they had this thing called Camp Fangamer, and everything was just surrounding EarthBound. Like, when you showed up, you went to the thing like it was a camp. It had a wooden thing, the hotel, this wooden kiosk where you check in and you got a little guidebook and you got a bag full of swag, which was really cool. It was all centered around EarthBound.

And they had something inspired by the game where you would go on your own scavenger hunt and you actually earned real merit badges that they had made. Everybody was just so happy. Because Japan didn't give them the other games that they wanted, and these folks were able to then come together, all being complete fans of this game where they could celebrate it.

No, there weren't any bullies there, and everybody was smiling the whole time. It was very different than going to a regular game convention, where they're showing the new stuff and people wanna see the new shooter games and see how realistic it looks when they kill someone and then, you know, get mad and be upset when it doesn't meet their goals, and make petitions to stop the development of the game just 'cause they don't like how the thing's going. I don't know. It's just crazy to me.

So when you have something so specific like that, I think you're going to get more of a homogeneous group together that's not gonna be toxic in any way -- because gaming culture, like we talked about, what is it? Most people who play games are adults. It's not a kid thing and it's not something that's dismissed, I don't feel like anymore. Like, "Oh, you play games? What are you, some kinda weirdo?" Everybody does on some level. Especially with Facebook and their games. Grandmas are doin' it. The 70-year-old lady that works next to me in the cubicle at work plays Candy Crush like you wouldn't believe.

So, it's just everybody, the culture, now to me.

And that allows for everybody personalities, and we all know that those don't always mix.

What do you think it is about that pocket around EarthBound?

Well, it's pretty simple if you look at it from the very outside perspective. If you want to take two groups and take your core Call of Duty crowd and then you take your EarthBound crowd, and Call of Duty is about killing and shooting and EarthBound is about this journey of this boy to save the world and find this misfit group of friends who sacrifice so much to save their planet from bad guys -- it's gonna draw those two different types of people. You're gonna have the weirdo softy for the existential playing the EarthBound, and you're gonna have the future police officers playing the Call of Duty.

I mean, I think it's as simple as that. If you have a Mario convention, you probably get a little crossover, but I've never seen another videogame-specific thing gathering other than World of Warcraft or -- I guess there's some, like Quake, World of Warcraft, but the EarthBound one is very precious.

What do you think videogames have achieved?

I think they've allowed people to play a part in a story that they otherwise wouldn't be able to. A direct part.

The thing that's fascinating about videogames is, like, three-dimensional. Maybe four. Yeah. Fourth dimension. Like, I remember Spielberg talking about getting into games. He liked making movies, obviously, and here's your visual and here's your audio. And that's it. Every time you watch it, it's gonna be the same.

And it's gonna be amazing and magical, but with a videogame, if you go from land to water, you are the one that makes the choice. And the music will take the drums out when getting to the water, become more dreamy. It's really amazing that you get to have that control.

And I think people have collectively been able to find that escape and that entertainment and find out things about themselves. Am I the person who's going to play the story verbatim and linear? Or am I going to find a way to try to break the game? To find different ways to cheat? Am I gonna be the person who learns how to do one weird thing in the game very specifically and be the best at that? Is there a game inside of the game, like a card game or something that I'm going to enjoy more than the main game itself and the story?

I think you've got this great world of endless possibilities that people have been able to be a part of. And then, of course, like, visually, not being able to have that kind of experience with any other medium, with books or film or this -- you can paint this world the way that somebody had an idea, and the music, of course, has been amazing in how much of modern day music is inspired by these kids growing up playing those videogames and now incorporating those sounds into their electronic dance music.

It's just been -- I think it's been amazing. I think it's the good outweighs the bad and I think as time goes on, the level of radiation poisoning from the people who are bad is going to go down. Because I think that overall people are freakin' out.

People are scared. They don't know what's gonna happen.

And we've got robots that can recognize that they are aware of something and this technology is moving in this crazy pace. If you had told me when I was in my thirties that I would be able to play all the Nintendo games that I ever owned on my phone, on a mobile device, I wouldn't believe it. And we're all just scrambling to keep up and it causes us to lash out.

The religious right is getting really crazy.

But we're trying. We're moving forward. We're saying that people, everybody, is worthwhile and that women are just as important as men and that people's beliefs should be held, as far as religious things, for themselves and letting people marry who they wanna marry and -- I don't know.

When you grow up and learn that this is the one way, only to find out that it's not the only way. Only because of what experiences that you've had do you know how to process that and you either do that violently or you do it in a way where you can accept it and be tolerant.

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