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Gamer Boy, Gamer Girl: Reuben


Reuben Bresler is a video and coverage content associate at StarCityGames.com and for SCGLive. You can tweet him @moxreuby!

Name: Reuben Bresler

Screen name: @MoxReuby is my Twitter handle, and I’m just Reuben Bresler everywhere else. Used to be Reubs11 when I wrote for the Brainburst blogs.

Avatar of choice: Just various pictures of me. I’m kinda boring. And maybe a little egotistical.

Years gaming: I learned euchre and chess when I was about five years old. Does that count?

Gamer idol: Bugs Bunny. He played the game his way and thought outside the box. Also, anyone who is good at Werewolf.

How much time do you spend gaming in an average week? Because of my job as Event Coverage Coordinator and Video & Content Associate for StarCityGames.com and all of my other interests, I don’t really play that much. I don’t really have “the fire” that you see PTQ’ers and pro players talk so much about anymore. I’d say I play an average of five to ten hours a week.

Favorite male game character of all time: Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That’s kinda cheating since most of what I know about Mikey is from movies and TV and action figures and whatnot. But I’ve always felt that he’s the most like me. He sees the situation he’s in and knows it’s very odd, so he has fun. He’s like the Ninja Turtle Deadpool. He always stops just short of breaking the fourth wall, but no one would be surprised if one day he did. He knows what he likes and what makes him happy, and he helps those around him find the same things.

Plus, nunchucks. C’mon.

Favorite female game character of all time: Jaya Ballard. Every flavor text and every reference in every book show just how snarky and fun she was. Chandra is basically Jaya 2.0, but to me, she seems more angsty. Jaya, like Mikey, is another who is not one to take seriously things most people take seriously. That’s the way I am. That’s why I identify with her.

First gaming console you ever owned: As you can gather from my answers so far, I’m not really a gamer in the traditional sense. I don’t currently own a video game system, and the only ones I’ve ever owned were a Game Boy, a Super NES that I had when I was nine or ten, and a Playstation I got for my Bar Mitzvah. I played some PC games, like Starcraft, but I never really got too into them. I do enjoy video games, but most of the time, I like to watch my friends play rather than play for myself. I’d rather just be a railbird and chip in with strategic hints. I like being able to communicate with the main character of whatever I’m watching. “Why’d you do this? Watch out for that guy!” and the like. Movies that react to my suggestions are awesome.

To what game have you been most addicted lately? Something you should know about me is I have probably the least addictive personality I know of. Pick any hobby, any interest that I have, and I could just stop doing it at the drop of a hat. I have done so, for all of my major interests that others find addictive: stand-up comedy, Magic, poker, drinking, soccer, you name it. Just the way I’m built.

Among games I play that I’ve enjoyed the most lately, I am playing a lot of a card game called Kaijudo. It’s made by Wizards of the Coast but has a different theme to it, and the game rules are changed slightly. It’s a fun diversion. I played Civilization 5 a bit, but I’ve recently grown tired of it. Among games I’ve watched friends play: I have really enjoyed it when I get a chance to watch people play The Last of Us for the first time. The story is fabulous. It’s a recent development that videogame storylines are as hard-hitting and deep as movies and TV, and I enjoy those games more. Fable, Mass Effect, and Half-Life also come to mind as really great story-driven franchises.

When it comes to being a nerd, I’m a book nerd. I enjoy books—comic books, novels, graphic novels, pop-up books, short stories, fan fiction, flash fiction, plays, screenplays, monologues, dialogues, soliloquies, poems, prose, and so on. I find the written word intoxicating. And if I had to pick something that I was addicted to, I suppose books would be it.

What game have you played for the longest time, and what about it keeps you playing? I learned Magic when I was twelve years old in my friend Alex’s room. He and Chris (another friend) had this box of stuff twelve-year-old boys loved in 1999: MAD magazines, action figures, Garbage Pail Kids cards, and also Magic cards. They started playing, they sort of explained what was going on, and that’s how I got into it.

I began playing and knew that I wanted to be at the most competitive events (that’s something I do, too; I can’t really play “casual”), and I was a regular at prereleases and FNMs and then PTQs from then on. I’ve taken breaks along the way, but nobody really ever quits Magic. It’s too good of a game. It’s an unsolvable puzzle. That’s what keeps bringing me back.

What game did someone convince you to try that you just hated? Truth or Dare? is a pretty poorly designed game that I’ve never really enjoyed. Candy Land also sucks.

What game causes you to rage or tilt the most? Magic by far. Specifically, losing to my friends. I am a terrible loser. I am trying to get better, but I am still very bad. If people only judged me based on my in-game qualities, I would have no friends. Luckily, I don’t play that much anymore, and my “fire” is tempered, so even when I lose in tournaments nowadays, it’s not too bad. But at Cube night, I’m a terror. It’s pretty bad.

Do you have any gamer regrets? Maybe it’s a misplay or chance not taken. I know in my heart that if I actually put in the work I could be a very good Magic player. But I have never done so, not to the extent that I’d have to in order to be a pro. I simply didn’t put in the homework. I’m not unhappy about that choice, though, because I’m happy with where I am. Just a road not traveled.

Trash talk: mandatory or unnecessary? Can I choose a third option? Discretionarily. Judge the situation, and also watch what you say. The words matter more than the act. Drawing a line in the sand of when something is acceptable and when it isn’t, with no gray areas, is how society gets into trouble. Sometimes, I’ll chide my seven-year-old cousin about a play she made in Chutes ‘n’ Ladders. Sometimes, I’ll keep my mouth shut at a PTQ. Sometimes, it’s the reverse order.

I have found that if you’re going to try to be funny (and the purpose of trash talk is to entertain, in my opinion, not to be hurtful or mean), you have to be at least fifty-one percent funny. Because if you’re not, and you’re only forty-nine percent funny, you’re one hundred percent the other thing—be that sexist, racist, classist, cruel, confusing, or anything else. But when in doubt, probably best to avoid it.

Which one do you prefer? Video games, TCGs, or board games? Card games have always been my bread and butter. Magic and poker in particular are my main choices of games. I enjoy the tactile sensation of cards in my hand. The noises they make, the act of tapping, drawing, pointing my Lightning Bolt at a target, placing a bet in poker. There is no replacement for sitting next to someone or across from someone. This is the reason I have never gotten into MTGO or online poker; sure, it’s Magic. Sure, it’s poker. But . . . not really. I miss that feeling.

If you could go pro in any game, what game would it be? Soccer. Growing up, I wanted to play professional soccer. I was pretty good, too. Then, I hurt my knee in high school, and I wasn’t the player I used to be. That was when I decided to make Magic my escape. If I couldn’t best people physically on the soccer field, I’d best them mentally in gladiatorial combat in a Magic tournament.

No, wait. Professional cuddling. If there’s a league, I’m in. I can cuddle like a baws.

Tell me about the game you would create if I gave you unlimited resources. I like Kaijudo a lot, but I think that I’d like it more if it had a general theme as with Magic. Magic: The Gathering can tap into any fantasy trope it wants. Two years ago, we were hanging out with werewolves and Frankenstein; today, we’re hanging out in ancient Greece; in two years, it’ll be Pharaoh’s Egypt or amongst Vishnu and Buddha. And that’s only the options based on real Earthen places! There’re also city-planes, metal-planes, spirit-planes, planes with upside-down mountains and centaurs and dragons and all of the things that we grew up reading and in the movies. You don’t need to stay locked into just a Lord of the Rings plane for the entirety of the game’s existence, or just a Harry Potter plane. It’s infinite.

I would want a generic space game, preferably a trading card game, but I could be swayed into other types of games. Just as Magic is fantasy, there should be a generic science-fiction game. Space stations and planet exploration and shuttlecraft and aliens and discovering new life and how futuristic engines work and space politics and physics and quantum physics and Star Wars and Star Trek and Ender’s Game and Neil DeGrasse Tyson all combined into one game.

Yep, that’s what I’d want.

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? Jaya Ballard, again. Not just because she’s drawn that way (Jessica Rabbit shout out), but her attitude. For male characters, I’d also say that I think that Dr. Gordon Freeman from Half-Life is attractive. Smart is sexy.

If you could be any character from any game, whom would you morph into? I’d be a dragon! Spyro the Dragon! Whooo!

No, I’d probably go with Ness. Bat-wielding psychic sounds like a good time to me. Plus, I’ve always wanted to just stay a kid. But a kid with telekinetic powers would probably be even more fun.

Do you see an issue with the portrayal of women in games, and why? It’s becoming better, but yes. I see an issue with unrealistic-body-image problems. They exist for men, too (come on, Koth! Who has the time to get abs of actual steel!?), but it’s a much bigger problem for women.

It’s part of the masculine industrial complex. The stories we were all brought up with said, “Girl gets captured, guy saves girl, they fall in love, roll credits.” And part of that is that the woman who is saved has to be a Barbie doll. Magic is on the forefront, I think, with strong female leads like Chandra and Liliana, but even they are still the generic, super-sleek, size-two busty characters we’ve seen the whole time. Watch sitcoms on broadcast, and it’s the same problem: How is he married to her!? Fred Flintstone and Homer Simpson and the guy from Grounded for Life. Nerdy guy falls for all-too-perfect girl. Why is it okay to have a fat, middle-aged dude in a videogame as a main character but not a fat, middle-aged woman? Why Mario, but no Maria? Sure, Cortana is a hugely important and incredibly smart character in the Halo series, but is there really any reason she’s a Hawaiian Tropic model in a purple body suit?

But it is going in the right direction. Samus from Metal Gear was an early pioneer, Mike & Molly is a sitcom with non-models, Jinx was just introduced to League of Legends, and she breaks the mold of what you think of when you think, “Female lead.” These are good signs.

Describe what makes a central character in a story-driven game appealing to you. Smart problem solvers. That’s the beginning and end of it. If I get to solve problems and get out of tricky situations, I’m in on it.

Storyline also plays an enormous role, in terms of videogames and role-playing games. Twists and turns I don’t see coming are important. I used to play a game in which I’d try to guess the murderer on an episode of Law and Order or CSI before the key piece of evidence popped up, and I had a better than fifty percent win rate. Surprise me.

If there were a game where I got to play as the velociraptors from Jurassic Park or play as the Minotaur running the Labyrinth, trying to keep so-called heroes out, that’d be my kind of game.

Have you ever cosplayed a character or could ever see your future self cosplaying a character? I costume up for Halloween, and I love that, so yeah, for sure. I could see going as Justice from Afro Samurai (assuming I get in shape. Damn you, unrealistic body image!) or some other character I enjoy and at least resemble slightly.

Cosplay is an interesting subculture that I appreciate, but it isn’t really my niche. I don’t even have other pictures as my avatars!

Have you ever related to any characters from a game you have played? I cannot play any game (or stand reading any book or seeing any movie, for that matter) unless I relate to a character on a fundamental level of some kind. Michelangelo and the rest of the turtles feel alone because they don’t belong. Mario fights the forces of evil for the one he loves.

But by the same token, I empathize with the villains just as often, if not more often. If their goals and dreams don’t make sense, I’m not with it. The Joker sees society as broken and wants to fix it. Saruman wants more knowledge and power, and he sees a way to get them. It’s all about story for me.

If able to choose a gender during gameplay, which gender do you usually choose? Whenever I played D&D, I made my character randomly. So, I’ve been female and male equal amounts of time. Most games don’t give you that freedom, so I typically default to male.

It’s important to point out here that I don’t see sexuality as a binary state anymore; there’s a gradient. Most of us happen to fit squarely in one or the other main genders, but pansexuality is a reality of life. I have never played a nonmale, nonfemale character, but I’d find that intriguing.

What book or series not already made into a game do you think would just kill it? There are several graphic novels that I am shocked aren’t movies yet, such as Y: The Last Man, Fable (the graphic novel, not the video game), Maus, Sandman, and the list goes on. Games are different because they require not only the storytelling element but also the freedom of gameplay. If they could translate the story to a game, Y: The Last Man is tops on my list.

How have your friends and family supported your gaming or tried to change it? My friends and family are great. My parents met each other through their D&D playgroup, so I’ve never had any blowback from my gaming habits. I’m a lucky duck.

Did your family every have game nights? Do your parents like any type of games? Well, hey, let me tell you about that! My parents used to play Dungeons & Dragons regularly for about twenty years with friends, from before they were dating to when I was maybe eight years old. On top of that, I would play chess with my aunt and grandpa (on my dad’s side) at Shabbat dinner every week when I was growing up. I learned poker, euchre, gin, and a bunch of other card games from my mom’s side of the family as well. Games were an important part of growing up for me.

So, Magic and other games came naturally. I even played poker as my job for about two years during college. And whenever I go home, after dinner and whatever other celebrations, we play euchre and Monopoly and whatever else is lying around.

Can you play games with your significant other or do you find it ends up being too competitive between you? I can’t switch off. I am either playing full-bore or I’m not playing. This is always an issue in soccer practice, in Cube, or when playing with friends. I taught my girlfriend the basic rules to Magic, and she gets them, and when we played, I tried to win. I explained things and went slow with complicated stack triggers and stuff like that, but I tried to win. And she has a winning record against me. So it hasn’t been a problem yet!

Do you play any cellphone or Facebook games regularly? I play a resource-management game called DragonVale that I use as a time sink when waiting at airports or at the doctor’s office, and I also have Words with Friends and the New York Times crossword puzzle apps to keep me occupied.

What was your favorite game to play as a child? (It can be any type of game, such as red rover, marbles, tag, or whatever. I would play Calvinball; that is to say, I would come up with my own games with my own rules and change things as they went along. I did a lot more daydreaming and pretending than I did playing games.

I didn’t even play Pogs! What the hell is wrong with me!?

What kind of impact do you think MMOs are having on society? Would you change anything? People leave the house less, I suppose. But I don’t think I’d change anything about them. I’d not an expert on the topic, but anything that will increase interaction with people who otherwise wouldn’t have interaction is a plus for me.

This issue speaks to the problem with the Internet and social media in general. The world is more connected than ever, and yet, people are less connected than ever. You can have a thousand Facebook friends and not see them in person for months at a time. It’s not the fault of games.

Do you believe there is a correlation between violence in videogames and violence in society? I believe the amount of violence would be higher if videogames didn’t exist. The fact that you can go home and shoot a fake dragon and hijack a fake helicopter and blow up a fake army means you’re taking out your frustrations in a safe environment.

If, however, there were fewer violent videogames and also less violent movies and less violent TV, that’s a different story. If we taught children growing up the value of a human life rather than simply showing what happens if you aim for a headshot, maybe it’d be different. Games like XCOM are good at showing that you don’t get extra lives.

Blaming it all on games is disingenuous.

Once someone has been proven a habitual cheater, do you think he or she should be allowed back in professional gaming? Yes.

Oh, you want me to explain that, too?

People grow up. People change. Often, people realize past mistakes. People deserve second chances. And if someone betrays the trust given by the second chance, the individual deserves to be punished again (and harder this time) in the hopes that maybe he or she will get the message.

I am optimistic about humanity and its ability to fix itself when it does something wrong, and that extends to people who have a history of habitually cheating at games.

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

I’m leaving traditional games such as poker and chess out of it. Let’s limit this to games invented in the last fifty years, shall we?

  1. Magic: The Gathering
  2. Dungeons & Dragons
  3. Civilization 5
  4. Zelda: Link to the Past
  5. Pokémon Red

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