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Gamer Boy, Gamer Girl – Brandon

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@earthdyedred is an avid gamer, wizard, and music aficionado. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Soundcloud here.

Name: Brandon Isleib

Screen name: @earthdyedred on Twitter and 4thMostFamousIsleib on Magic Online

Avatar of choice: For the last several months, it’s been Justice Owen Roberts. He was misunderstood in his time, a moderate on a divided Supreme Court with a self-serving media, a President who was savvy with the media and hated the Court, and an economic depression that made everyone jumpy—like now, only then. I explored his entire Commerce Clause jurisprudence in a law school paper, and I kinda identify with him.

Years gaming: As long as I can remember, I'm 28.

Gamer idol: 100% Bill James. His work taught me how to approach analysis in any subject while also teaching me how to write. One of my greatest thrills in life was contributing to this book with him.

How much time do you spend gaming in an average week? Six to ten hours.

Favorite male game character of all time: Dunno . . . maybe Jeff from Earthbound. He has more dimensions than a stock character of his type. I always name him Nate for my best friend; it fits.

Favorite female game character of all time: Also dunno . . . I'll say Ness's mom, also from Earthbound. She's a mom a lot of gamers would want. Also, she makes a mean salmon.

First gaming console you ever owned: Are we counting Alphie II? No? Then NES from a church yard sale in 1993.

To what game have you been most addicted lately? Magic.

What game have you played for the longest time, and what about it keeps you playing? Moria, although I play variant Angband now because it's bigger and better balanced. I'm drawn to games with absurdly high levels of customization and replay value, e.g. Angband (each level is randomly generated), Out of the Park Baseball, Scorched Earth, and Magic. They're so deep that they can't go stale or become a memory test.

What game did someone convince you to try that you just hated? I don't recall this happening, mainly because I'm stubborn in refusing things I don't want to do. My spatial sense and physical reflexes are terrible, so I generally dislike first-person anything.

What game causes you to rage or tilt the most? Moria. Angband's interface makes it a lot easier to save before an important battle, so I don't rage as much now. If you haven't been one-shotted by an Ancient Multi-Hued Dragon when you're near maximum level, you haven't lived. Wait, it means you are alive. Anyway . . . 

Do you have any gamer regrets? Maybe it’s a misplay or a chance not taken. Day 2 of Grand Prix Seattle–Tacoma in 2012 was my first real-life timed Draft, and I panicked so much that I was lucky to draft a 1–2 deck. Without that failure, I wouldn't have gone in the second pod that I 3–0'd to squeak into fifty-sixth, so maybe it's all swings and roundabouts. But as cool as Top 64 in my debut Grand Prix was, Top 32 or Top 16 would have been even cooler.

Trash talk: mandatory or unnecessary? As a local game store judge, my trash-talk button's off by default. For trash talk to be okay, it needs to be completely incapable of being taken seriously, whether through word choice or tone, and it's tough to pay attention to those while playing a game.

Which one do you prefer? Video games, TCGs, or board games? My jobs are computer-based eyestrainapaloozas. Paper Magic's my one hobby that's a break from staring at a screen, so that's my preference.

If you could go pro in any game, what game would it be? I would be the general manager of an MLB team. What Neal Huntington's done in Pittsburgh is impressive.

Tell me about the game you would create if I gave you unlimited resources. That game already has been made: the Out of the Park baseball franchise. My best friend and I pulled our only all-nighter in finals week playing it as the 1901–’03 Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas.

If a karaoke game had a vocal remover for any song you uploaded, that would be sweet. I'm the guy who splices together instrumental mixes of songs I want to sing and brings them to karaoke—nobody expects drum and bass after somebody's umpteenth rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama," I assure you—and I wish there were a game that did that. (Yes, I can out-nerd even the Magic/karaoke crowd.)

Whom do you consider one of the most sexually attractive characters (male or female) you have ever played? Was this based on pure artistic design of the character or overall character traits? This is basically N/A. In most of my favorite games, I'm playing myself—I'm a general manager in Out of the Park and I'm an @ in Angband. I assume Paula from Earthbound is cute, but simplicity of graphics and her being a kid make me not want to find out. And fantasy attractive doesn't resonate with me.

So my official answer will be what I think my nine-year-old answer was: Lian from Baseball Stars. There's one Google Images won't turn up.

If you could be any character from any game, whom would you morph into? Milburn Pennybags. Dude's got style.

Do you see an issue with the portrayal of women in games, and why? Indirectly as a symptom of a bigger problem. I generally loathe clichés and tropes—e.g. pop music's willingness to reuse the same few chord progressions or Magic's temptation to Mad Libs a block story—and part of the dust on those well-worn roads is stereotypes. When I was working on Magic 2015, flavor text inspiration often ran about as deep as the art description I received. The more detailed and nuanced the descriptions, the more detailed and nuanced my flavor texts could be.

People rise to the level of whatever creative, inspiring material they run across. If a game portrays something I've seen countless times, I suspect they didn't put enough effort into the rest of the game to make it worth my time. Unbalanced portrayal of women in games is a symptom of the cliché disease. Curing the latter heals the former.

Describe what makes a central character in a story-driven game appealing to you. What Stephen Fry says about American versus British comedy here is similar to my attraction to characters. I'm drawn more to the British model of the person in the center under the rubble of something awful and bizarre than the American model of the protagonist on top of everything. Maniac Mansion is my kind of story.

Have you ever cosplayed a character or could ever see your future self cosplaying a character? I have a hard enough time being authentic me.

Have you ever related to any characters from a game you have played? Shigesato Itoi's characters, yes; otherwise, no. I rarely find fictional characters sufficiently developed for me to know that I'm identifying with the character rather than my speculative reading of the character, i.e. me with a different name.

If able to choose a gender during gameplay, which gender do you usually choose? Until this question, I never really thought about it. If a game specifically asks, I treat the question as though it's a medical questionnaire. *Shrug*

What book or series not already made into a game do you think would just kill it? I read almost zero fiction—I'm either in nonfiction, and its cousins parody and satire, or I sidestep into music, so I don't know. My favorite reading is on baseball, but I hear they developed that into a game.

How have your friends and family supported your gaming or tried to change it? My dad was a Marine and loves military history and strategy, so we played Risk, Fortress America, Rampart, and Scorched Earth growing up, as well as Baseball Stars and Super Mario Kart. He has good reflexes and therefore excels at games I daren't touch, like Call of Duty. He's always liked strategizing, and I apparently got that from him.

I've known some '80s-style D&D-is-satanic people in church who have been concerned for my spiritual health, but when what they expected didn't happen, they abandoned their prior view. I'm so Melvin in my game likes that a lot of what naysayers picture isn't how I'd describe a game anyway. I've known people I didn't want to tell my Magic involvement to, but that might be different.

Did your family ever have game nights? Do your parents like any type of games? In addition to the answer above, there would be phases in which I and my parents would play a lot of Nertz or try to beat each other's high scores in the Windows Entertainment Pack version of Tetris. My parents play games together—my mom's the world's biggest fan of Trouble's Pop-O-Matic—and my dad still plays plenty of PC games. He liked the pre-WoW Warcrafts and very much liked Army Men.

Can you play games with your significant other or do you find it ends up being too competitive between you? Probably our favorite games to play together are Advance to Boardwalk and Acquire (the 1960s 3M Bookshelf game version, no less—it had been gathering dust at my grandparents' house).

Do you play any cellphone or Facebook games regularly? I don't have Facebook, and I'm barely on my phone, largely because I work from home. I do have Angband on my phone, though.

What was your favorite game to play as a child? It can be any type of game, such as red rover, marbles, tag, or the like. Pre-teen, probably Baseball Stars, Super Mario Bros. 3, Moria, and Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy!.

What kind of impact do you think MMOs are having on society? Would you change anything? MMOs and social network games have brought candor to Western societies; the conversation is now what games you play rather than whether you play games at all. And the credit goes to improved, appealing user interfaces (that, and Solitaire being packaged with Windows). If someone was into something like FarmVille in 1982 the way Facebook users are now, that person would have been a gamer geek. Now it barely registers as a gamer interest. But when immersive worlds were all text and ASCII art and huge books and weird dice, gaming stood out.

To whatever extent some MMO players behave regrettably, it's better for those games to exist and shine the spotlight on those behaviors than for their players to withdraw into a hikikomori existence. At least with MMOs, someone can reach out to them and offer alternatives to that behavior instead of pretending those people don't exist. And I certainly wouldn't change that reality.

Do you believe there is a correlation between violence in video games and violence in society? Correlation, sure. Causation, probably not. If sexism in video games encourages sexism in society, violence in video games encourages violence in society. Do people trust cops and the military to separate their jobs from their home lives? If yes, they can trust video game players to separate their games from their actions.

Part of my undergraduate degree was a semester of Psychological Profiling. Two of the recurring themes in serial killers' backgrounds were disturbed/broken homes and cruelty to animals. If your life has a hole and you're a kid grasping in the dark, sometimes you fill it with the security of cult-like behavior, whether devotion to a game, Catcher in the Rye if you're Mark David Chapman, or an actual cult if you're David Koresh. The willingness to embrace something so fully that you miss life's normal stop signs is what leads to violence, not the specific something.

Once someone has been proven a habitual cheater, do you think that person should be allowed back in professional gaming? This is sort of the death penalty question for gamers, isn't it?

If it's proven that there was intentional cheating both pre- and post-sanction, don't let the person back in. As a judge, I want to spend my time making sure the new kid has a good time and making people feel good about spending their Friday nights at the store, and I do that less effectively if I'm keeping one eye on a suspicious character all night. And as a player, if I face someone like that, I'm going to be paranoid the whole time and feel like a chump if I lose to the assumed cheater. Give the cheater a punishment and a chance to show him- or herself clean going forward, but if the player wants to keep at it, no one person's involvement in gaming is worth the resources to monitor.

Can you rank what you would consider the top five games you have ever played?

  1. Magic: The Gathering
  2. Earthbound
  3. Out of the Park Baseball (referring to the entire franchise: I've played OOTP 8 more than the others)
  4. Angband/Moria
  5. Secret of Mana

Honorable mentions go to Scorched Earth, Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy!, and the criminally-underrated Aerobiz Supersonic.