Interview with a Gamer: Sam Grawe October 10 2016

One of our favorite Kickstarter traditions is the "gamer profile tier," in which one of our authors interviews a Kickstarter backer. Today, Alexa Ray Corriea (author of the forthcoming Kingdom Hearts 2) interviews Sam Grawe about his gaming history.

Sam Grawe is a 27-yr.-old programmer currently looking for a new location to settle down in. You can follow him on Twitter at @smgrawe.

Enjoy! - BFB


Alexa Ray Corriea: How did you get started playing video games? What is your earliest memory of playing one?

Sam Grawe: Oh boy, the earliest I can remember getting into games was when I was like 6 maybe? Probably earlier. My older brothers had an NES I loved to mess with, but I can remember anything specific from that. I liked messing with my older brother's Virtual Boy and remember getting in trouble for playing with a wire stripper and the virtual boy's cable to it's controller. I vividly remember always wanting to play with my friends' Nomad and or Game Boys while I was going to daycare. Tetris was awesome, but I never felt like I was good at it. The earliest memory I can identify as playing a game was a Sonic game on the Nomad and never being able to get past some crab/squid boss that had bouncing balls that you had to dodge to get pass. The stupid balls never bounced consistently.

I didn't have a system I could consistently play or use on my own until my parents got me a Game Boy Pocket. It was green! I was so cool. The first game that was mine and that remember playing on it was Pokemon Red because red was my favorite color at the time and dragons were (and still are!) cool.

Alexa: What were the first system and game you bought yourself and why?

Sam: The first game I bought on my own was Ratchet and Clank on the PS2 right around the time it came out. I was so hype for that game, I think I was like 12 or 13 at the time I got it. I don't remember how I learned about it, but I wanted it because it was Insomniac's first game for PS2 and I had loved and played that crap out of the first two Spyro games (Unfortunately I never did convince my parents to get me Spyro 3 before I got my PS2 and forgot all about PS1 games). I remember opening the game up on my way home and thinking it was so cool that the game manual was just a big ol' poster of the now iconic duo. I loved that game and will probably play every single Ratchet game that ever comes out because of my nostalgia for it.

The first console I bought on my own was a PS4 since it came out while I was an adult and had a real full time job, but I did manage to split the cost of my PS3 with my dad so both can technically qualify.

Alexa: What genre of games did you gravitate towards, and why?

Sam: I tend to gravitate toward character driven RPGs (JRPGs and the western RPGs that don't make me think about the numbers too much a la Mass Effect 2) and action/character action/action RPGs (KH series, Ys, Spyro/Ratchet, Assassin's Creed, etc).

Alexa: Is there any particular game or series that you played when you were young that had a significant impact on you? This can be your views on life, your views on yourself, your personal goals, fitness goals, career goals, etc. For example, I've been very open about my connection to Kingdom Hearts with my family, and how Lara Croft impacted my values.

Sam: Oh boy. This is the last question I've gotten to and I've been thinking about it ever since I've got your email. I've played a lot of games and it all sort of meshes together at some point. I contribute to our favorite manic pixie dream boy in KH, Sora, the fact that I try to act like it's generally a better idea to look try to look at something positively than it is to "give in to the darkness." Kingdom Hearts is also why I first dived into online forums since I first joined a forum to speculate with other fans about just what the hell might happen in KH2 (OH BOY were we in for a treat) especially as the KH: FM special ending and all of those things made their way over here. I tried my hand at writing for the first time on those boards. FFX is the game that cemented my love for JRPGs (while I liked VII and VIII they didn't quite make me feel like these were my favorite type of games). I still tear up a little when I watch Titus disintegrate into oblivion (or so I thought) while Yuna just doesn't want him to leave at the end of FFX. Persona 4 (or more accurately Giant Bomb's endurance run and then my personal P4:G playthroughs) let me know that video games can actually have fully realized characters in them, and that JRPGs didn't need to always feel like comfort food when I played them. Playing the Trails in the Sky duology is the closest I've ever come to finally trying to learn Japanese so I could play Kiseki games that haven't come out here, and that there are JRPGs whose story can actually stand tall when put up against my favorite books.

Alexa: Is there a particular character you identify with?

Sam: Not really? It's been an odd thing thinking about this since you'd think a semi-generic white dude who has played games for most of his life would have identified with a character in a game by now. I'm answering this question before I answer the "significant impact" question so I might elaborate on that there. So I'm going to pivot the question a little: "Is there a particular character you admire?" That I can answer a bit better.

I would say Estelle Bright from the Trails In the Sky duology is one of the character whom I admire most in video games, and is one of the primary reasons why Trail in the Sky is my favorite game of all time (I may have yelled at the Airship podcast a couple of times for never mentioning the Trails series). Estelle Bright is probably one of the only protagonists I have ever played as whose motivations for a decision I have never disagreed with in terms of how the position was presented and made. Most times in a video game story (especially in a JRPG) there will be times in the story where I want to slap a character and scream "YOU ARE BEING BLATANTLY STUPID AND NAIVE" or the entire reason I can discern for something to be happening is because the plot had demanded it or the game makers decided that there needed to be a bit of fan service (or whatever). That never really happens in Trails in the Sky, and if somebody does do something stupid they usually get slapped. She starts the game knowing who she is and who she want to be, and even though there are many opportunities for her to deviate from the path along her journey she never does. She's just so cool and I aspire to be as cool as her (in my own way). Characters like her make me excited for my little girls to start playing video games even though there are many many reasons for me to be terrified for them to even pick up a controller in the first place. Her characterization, and the characterization of most of the other characters in Trails in the Sky, made me feel like they were real people I could meet and would like to meet. I had only felt that happened before in Persona 4, my old most favorite game.

Alexa: Is there a particular console you favor? And does your choice have to do with usability or the catalog or the values of the platform?

Sam: At this point in my life I tend to just go where the games are. When I have a choice I tend to go Vita first due to portability and ease of use (I'm currently playing Trails of Cold Steel II on my imported P4: DaN Vita). It also makes it easier to pick up and play or put down so I can help out with two wonderful daughters. If my Vita is an option I'll probably be playing it on my PS4 since I don't have the time/money to build myself a proper PC yet. I used to be a PS fanboy, but I'm now more just nostalgic for the brand than I am a fanboy.

Alexa: Have you been to any conventions like PAX, E3, or PSX? Have you had any excellent fan moments at any of these with a creator or someone else in the industry you particularly admire?

Sam: I have only gone to a single day of PAX and that was back in 2013. I met Greg Kasavin and some of the Super Giant team after I played Transistor... and it crashed on me. I also poked by the Double Fine booth, but didn't exactly try to talk to anybody. To be honest I was kind of out of it the whole day since there were just so many people there, so even when I did talk to Greg I just thanked him for doing a great job with a game I was excited to play. After that I just sort of scooted away since I tend to be shy and get terrible anxiety when I think I might be wasting someone's time. My highlight of the whole thing was actually when I got to meet Vinny the day before when he commented on my Giant Bomb hoodie, but it was in passing since I think he was doing other stuff. It would be awesome to go again to PAX or some other gaming convention again some day, but at this point it's mostly been a problem of not having the time or the money to go do something like that. My favorite dev interaction these days has actually been following Keita Takahashi (@KeitaTakahash) on twitter since the man is a delight on that platform.