Archive for April, 2012


Last Thursday was the first interview I’ve conducted in a very long time.  Now I’ve interviewed some pretty bad ass people during my radio years, Dir en gray, Tara Strong, quite a few others, and for the most part it went well.  Last night though, I was actually nervous.

Now, of course nerves hit me the first time I interviewed a celebrity…I remember it distinctly.  I was at the radio show’s first Otakon, sitting down with Japanese pop star T.M. Revolution.  I wasn’t prepared at all, the crowd was gathering, and when he and his entourage arrived, i was terrified.  The interview went off ok I suppose, looking back it was certainly not my best work, but I survived it, albiet exhausted afterwards.  I literally had to control myself from shaking while talking to this poor man.  I was frightened of screwing up, and nerding out at the same time, and as much as I was proud in that moment, I was so happy for it to be over.

Last week though, I sat down to the first interview in ages, my victim: Video Game Developer and Renaissance Man American McGee.  Yes, his real name is American (He says that his mother was a hippy).  This is the guy who is behind such titles as Alice, Grimm, and has played a role in games such as Doom, Quake, etc.  In the video game world, the dude is literally a living legend.  And I was scared to death of him for some reason…at least at first.

He was calling from Shanghai China, so there was a little delay in words going back and forth, but nothing particularly bad.  We got started, and immediately I fucked up.  I always research my targets, mainly to not do exactly what I did here, and ask the same question everyone else asks.  In my research, I found a lot about what he’s done, what he’s doing, but not much personal information.  So I asked how he got where he is today, apparently something that had been asked countless times, that I never found in my research.  Of course, now that I work full time, have 4 kids and a wife, and an generally exhausted, my research wasn’t as thurough as it had been in the past, and I made an elementary mistake.  I’m sure he was annoyed, but ever the gentleman he gave the rendition of his story, a facinating one at that, proof that serendipity in fact does exist.  Then, the journalist in me made a second mistake immediatly after, going too personal.

My interview style has never been what you could call standard.  In fact, my interviews generally follow a few simple rules to make them stand out:

1. Don’t ask the same questions everyone else asks.  This one is hard to implement, but easy to understand.  The dude you are  talking to is just as annoyed that you ask the same questions as everyone else, as are the readers who have already read essentially the same interview countless times.  It makes an interview boring, both for the reader and the audience, and if you do it too early, sets the tone going forward, a tone that is very hard to break out from.

2. Get personal.  Once you have your interviewee interested and confortable with you, you generally get them to say things they haven’t said elsewhere.  This makes for a hell of an interview, especially if you’ve followed rule number 1.

3. Don’t get too personal too quickly.  If you don’t have the trust of your target, they aren’t going to open up.  In fact, they can close up, very quickly.  Once you’ve closed up your interviewee, it will take sodium penthol and a crowbar to get them to open up again.  It’s next to impossible.

I had already broken rule number one, but immediatly followed with breaking rule number three.  I had read previously that American’s childhood shaped the stories in his games, which generally were dark and sometimes terrifying twists on classic fairy tales.  My second question in, “What from your childhood inspired your twisted visions of children’s stories?”  He did well with the question, and while he specifically said he would NOT get into specifics, he redirected the question, telling me how studies have shown that situations in your childhood essentially establish your writing style and how you think about things.  Interesting specifically to me, since being made fun of constantly as a child.  I went back and noticed that much of my writing is self-deprecating, quite possibly a pattern established from MY childhood.

The interview went on for another 30 minutes or so without a hitch, aside from me continuing to be stressed the entire time, but it ended on a good note.  I mentioned the development of a podcast specifically talking to Game Developers and other nerd heroes, and asked if he would be a guest if it launched, which he agreed to immedietly.  Listening back to the interview, I got back on track after my initial screw-ups, and it was really pretty smooth the rest of the way.  He gave my readers so pretty cool insight to some video game current events, and towards the end, his opinions really started to come out.

All in all, a successful interview.  I ended it utterly exhausted, but was certainly happy I did it, and I can’t wait to see it all on paper.  To be fair, as much as I wanted to get to it over the weekend, I haven’t even begun the transcription, and need to crank it out in the next 48 hours.

In other news, I have an article that should be published this week on ToplessRobot.com, and I have about 4 more in the works for them.  I’ll post them as soon as they go live, as well as the American McGee interview.  Take care and happy writing!

J

I’ve been trying to start this blog for the past week or so, and Writer’s Block has been rearing her ugly ass head and convinced me to delete every work in progress that I kicked off.  It’s ok, it’s all part of the creative process, and when the block broke yesterday, an almost orgasmic wave of relief hit me…inspiration was back baby!

I had started with this whole, seemingly profound exposition on how it’s ok to be a nerd these days, and back in my day, it wasn’t, so I was treated like shit.  Instead of sounding all inspirational, it sounded more like I was a whiny bitch, complaining about my childhood and how no one liked me.  So what, my childhood sucked, and maybe I will go into it at some point, but not today…I am not going to feel sorry for myself and attempt to get you, my reader (I’m assuming at this point that the only one who might read this is my wife) to feel sorry for me too.

For the uninitiated, I am Jason Helton.  I’ve seen things, you people, wouldn’t believe…just kidding…sort of.  I am a Geek, just ask my wife.  I am a geek who gets bored easily, hence why I’ve had so many careers/projects/evil schemes.  I’ve been a musician (because really, who hasn’t), I’ve rehabilitated dolphins, produced and hosted radio shows, been in a movie (a real one, not some student film…Ladder 49, but don’t blink, you’ll miss the 2/3 of me that’s on screen for .25 seconds), owned a laser tag, sold pinball machines, and a few other things.  But that was then…

These days, I have a mundane day job…I fix computers for a big medical company.  I hate it, to be fair, but it pays the bills and so I endure.  My creativity is sated these days by writing, something that started out as a hobby, then moved on to getting published, then moved even further to actually getting paid to spout off at the mouth.  I have high (and slightly delusional) hope that eventually I could do this for a living, but until then, I remain content to spread the Gospel of Geek to all those who choose to listen.

So if you decide to come here more than once, you will find things like the following:

1. Links to my articles on different publications (because I’m a shameless attention whore)

2. Articles that didn’t get published elsewhere (either because they suck or I didn’t submit them to the right place)

3. Opinions on all things Geeky (because you can’t be a geek without some kind of opinion)

4. Essays that might not be geeky, but might be interesting all the same.

5. Little tidbits of self-help for people who, like me, don’t quite fit in.

One thing you will find, I write totally from the heart, a tree hugging hippie way of saying I pour a lot of emotion into my writing.  Fair warning, you might come to the blog to laugh only to walk away crying or something, so no refunds (like the time I witnessed a lady demand a refund at the theaters for Titanic because she didn’t know the boat sank).

So…if you want a little glimpse into my nerd writings and rantings, check out the following websited:

For classic Jason rantings, check out http://www.denofgeek.com.  It’s a British nerd culture website that is pretty badass.  Some of my articles include an Obituary for the Title Sequence, a Memorial for Carl Macek (Producer of Robotech), and my investigation of the mythical game of doom, Polybius.  Also, if you would like a glimpse into my psyche, check out my series on a personal weight loss journey to hell, the WiiFit Challenge.  You might learn a lot about me, and have a few laughs at the same time.

For my more recent stuff, check out Village Voice Media’s ToplessRobot.com and JoystickDivision.com.  At TR I write the occasional Daily List, where I occasionally have the opportunity to get snarky.  Joystick Division is centered on video games, and I’ve done a few different things for them.  If you want me to write for you, just ask, I’m always looking for jobs.  If you want me to stop writing, just ask, I’ll ignore you, unless you have a truly compelling argument.  Otherwise, sit back, relax, and let’s try to have some fun.

(To steal my fathers phrase)

Your Friend and Mine,

Jason