Find out more about the author of "Game Theory"
Thu, 4 August 2005
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I know how many of you folks enjoyed the Q&As we ran with Hyper's Daniel Wilks and Cam Shea and never let it be said that Sammy doesn't try to give the people what they want! So, here's a third Hyper Q&A, this time with Sťamus Byrne. Want to know what he had to say? Read it, jackass!
Q. You've been involved in all sorts of interesting and unusual things over the years. Could you please tell us a bit about one of those things; SOUP (Society for the Observation of Unexplained Phenomena)?
They were wacky times. Myself and a uni friend kicked that off at the end of first year, which was back in 1994. We peaked at about one thousand members, holding X-Files viewing nights as a staple diet. We also held sleepover nights at ghost and UFO hotspots, the most notable being Hyde Park Barracks and North Head Quarantine Station. We even had an incident at the Barracks with someone getting shoved while lying in a hammock.
Q. Another thing from your past that I'd love to know more about is your time working as a yo-yo expert for Coca Cola...that has got to be one of the coolest things I have ever heard of. What exactly was required of you there?
I played with yo-yos! Remember how Coke always had their special yo-yos? Probably due for another resurgence. I showed kids how to do the standard eight tricks, as well as showed off some special moves. That was a fun, fun job. I'm pretty rusty now, but I can still pull off a 'split the atom' with a few attempts.
Q. Currently, you're a freelance journalist. Aside from your work with Hyper, what other regular writing gigs do you have?
My main gigs are as Technical Editor of Desktop magazine and also writing for SMH's Icon. I also write video production coverage for APC and Macworld - so I straddle both sides of that fence!
Q. You took over the Game Theory column from Daniel Staines. How did that come about? How has your take on the column been received, particularly by those readers who enjoyed Daniel's work?
Well in the classic school of feedback, you generally only hear the bad stuff. A great flame of one of my columns ran in the letters section recently. My perspectives are different to Daniel's and that can only be a good thing, because it's an opinion piece so you couldn't just follow in his footsteps. I've tried to take the 'theory' side of the name to heart, as my background is fairly academic.
It's been interesting. I've only just got my forums login now, due to some technical issues, so I'm keen to get in there and talk to readers about the column more.
Q. Where do you get the ideas for the column? Do you have to actively search for inspiration or do you tend to just go with whatever happens to spring to mind?
I keep an eye on what the hot topics are, which is why there have been a few columns focused on the next gen console discussions lately. When there isn't anything pressing, or something big getting ample coverage elsewhere - like Hot Coffee - then I'll look to the general issues in the scene for inspiration.
Q. Are there any games that you have really enjoyed, despite knowing that they were/are technically weak?
Does Eyetoy count? I still pull that out with mates and cook up a storm in the Chef game in Play 2. I'm definitely drawn to raw fun over technical accomplishment. Major technical flaws will, of course, make a game no fun at all.
Q. Which female character from a game do you consider the most appealing?
Chun Li, man. She's hot and she kicks ass Wu Shu style!
Q. What are some of your non game-related interests/hobbies?
I'm an old school pen-and-paper D&D geek, at heart. I've played that since the 80s, along with other RPG classics. Cthulhu, Paranoia, and the glorious Tales from the Floating Vagabond.I love all kinds of film and I'm a total media whore. I love bad television and celebrity gossip and all things utterly mainstream, as well as sifting through all the alleys and corridors of niche and cult culture.
Q. Who would win in a fight between Batman and Daredevil?
If we're talking latest cinema incarnations, Bale would totally mess up the B-Aff. But in general terms, I'm sure we'd arrive at the standard cross-over resolution where each gets the upper hand for a time to keep everyone happy.
That said, the Bat just has too many cool toys to be defeated by Murdock.
Q. What are some of the best and worst games you have ever played?
My best would be Planescape: Torment, Starcraft and old Scumm games like Day of the Tentacle and the original Monkey Island, which was a real revelation at the time. Oh, and Bard's Tale on the Amiga 500! I played some awful games on the TRS-80, my first computer in the C64 days. It had some real crap, but I played those games again and again, because I had nothing else. Even bad games are good when you have nothing else...
Q. Do you think videogames will ever be considered a 'respected' art form, in a more mainstream sense, the way films already are?
A. Absolutely. It's a slow, tectonic shift, perhaps, but it is happening. I think as gaming spreads further into the general culture, the market for a gaming 'art scene' grows. Right now we're still seeing a blockbuster focused industry. Do gamers buy artistic games? Ico and Rez weren't best sellers. Maybe Killer 7 and Fahrenheit will break through a little more? They're not pure 'art', but without their success it is hard for devs to keep pushing into more artistic territories.
Q. I'd assume that your job involves quite a bit of traveling. What are some of the more memorable experiences you've had on foreign shores?
A. I've only just started to get to travel with my work, so it is all quite new and exciting still. Hitting London, Paris, Lyon and Copenhagen in as many days with Atari recently was pretty memorable. Meeting the Deadline Games
Q. Do you notice that different types of games (genres or whatever) are more popular in some countries than others? Or are gamers fairly universal in their tastes?
A. It seems pretty universal. You get a sense of general cultural penetration of gaming. That can be quite different. Or what kind of label being a 'gamer' really has in countries.
Q. You are a happily married man. Does your wife share your fondness for videogames, or does she just "put up with it"?
A. Funnily enough, for a recent story in the SMH, I got Sally to go to the online game school run by Netspace. She generally stays away from games, though only due to her perception that she isn't very good at them. Thing is, she is actually good at most games she tries... I recently pulled out Soul Caliber II and convinced her to play. Twenty minutes later she was kicking my butt, having quickly moved beyond button mashing. Oh and at the end of the game school, she went online for some UT 2K4 action. She did pretty well. Genuinely contributed to team victories. She didn't like it, though. Too many fucktards, which is a fair call.
Q. What are a couple of the best music concerts you've ever attended?
Top of the list would be the Radiohead homecoming gig they played in Oxford, England. An outdoor festival-style event with Beck and Supergrass supporting. They really threw everything at that gig and it was something very special. A Gerling Christmas gig at the Annandale in Sydney a few years back was awesome too. And Fatboy Slim at the Roundhouse at UNSW, where I got to run the live video system. That was mind blowing.
Q. What's your favourite beer?
Tough question! Toohey's Old is my faithful friend, with Newcastle Brown another big favourite. Extra Dry is the choice on a hot summer's day. And I'm a big fan of Hoegaarden and Leffe when they're available.
Q. Here's a two-part question. Do you expect to see any major changes to our gaming experiences with the upcoming next generation systems? What sorts of things would you like to see developers try to incorporate more into games?
Do I expect to see major changes? Not on the Xbox or Playstation. Graphics isn't seriously a major change. Maybe a jump in scale and scope. I'm keen to see what the Revolution has in store. Nintendo have often been the innovators, so I'm optimistic they have something exciting in their bag of tricks.
I'd like to see more genre mashing. And the use of more artistic flair now that graphics are so slick. And bring on the Lawnmower Man VR control suits!
I reckon that'll do it. Thanks very much for your time Sťamus Byrne.
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