What games are you playing now, and what are your characters?
Right now I'm playing The Lord of the Rings Online when I have time. I have a level 50 Champion on Landroval but I haven't played her in a while since I'm not really an endgame sort of guy. I don't have the time to commit to raid groups; when I get the level cap I usually just start over again, so I've created a Minstrel and I'm climbing up the ranks at a snail's pace again. I also have a bunch of World of Warcraft characters on Feathermoon, but I only play them on special occasions now -- kind of like lapsed Catholics who only go to Mass on holidays.
Why do you like MMOs so much?
You know, the original appeal for me was the idea of having this virtual society where you could make a whole new name for yourself, and a world that you could explore. I feel like that's been downplayed since EverQuest and WoW. It's a lot more focused and automated. So the appeal now is being able to keep in touch with old friends, mostly from college, who live all over the world. Loading up Skype and LotRO helps us catch up and spend time together when we might have lost touch otherwise.
What accomplishment in-game are you most proud of?
In Meridian there were these artifacts called tokens that would appear in dangerous places in the world, and if you captured them, your faction would gain power at the expense of everyone else. There was a lot of fighting over these tokens, and the death penalty in that game was hardcore, so people would get angry.
I called a meeting of all the guild leaders and formed a server council -- kind of United Nations-esque -- where we decided who would control what tokens and when, and mediated disputes between factions and guilds. I was then elected Justicar, which gave me the power to penalize the opposition by not pardoning their murders; in Meridian, unpardoned murderers lose more skill points when they die than innocents do.
I acted as Chancellor of the council, but after about a month the politics turned sour. I was voted out of the Justicar office, and there were some assassinations. I was ousted in a violent coup, and the server went back to the status quo of constant, uncivilized bloodshed. Good times.
What's the most terrible, drama-filled, awful thing to happen to you in an MMO?
I was the guild master of a guild in WoW, and I saw some guild drama that would make even the most thick-skinned person weep. I don't even want to talk about it. People take these games way too seriously sometimes, and now I only join guilds with people I know in real life -- that's all I'll say.
If you had 10 more hours to play every week, what would you spend them doing?
I can't even imagine what that would be like! I don't have 10 hours a week to begin with, so that would be more than double. I think I'd play WoW regularly in addition to LotRO so I could start a Death Knight and play through the Wrath of the Lich King content. Or I might pick up EVE for the fourth time.
When you're not playing MMOs, what do you do?
I work long hours as a writer at Massively and elsewhere, so during the week I spend almost all day and night working. When I have spare time on the weekends I enjoy classic and foreign films -- I go to art house cinemas here in Chicago to see films by directors like Wong Kar Wai. Any time there's an Audrey Hepburn movie playing, you can count on me being there, even though I've seen it two dozen times already. I'm into the art scene, attending every gallery and exhibit opening, and I'm obsessed with politics, constantly reading the New York Times and political blogs. Let me say this: if you think MMOs are an unhealthy hobby then you've clearly never known a political junkie!