Interview with GGVogue’s Writer and PR Director, Svenna

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“I think [my parents] instilled the best parts of who I am:
a gamer and a writer.” – Svenna

GGVogue: Welcome Svenna to GGV! We’re happy to have you on board. Now, we know you are an up and coming League of Legends Let’s Player, but to give our audiences insight on who you are and your gaming history, tell us a little about yourself and how you got into video games.

Svenna: Well, I’m a 90’s kid that grew up about an hour and a half north of New York City — the second to last stop on the Metro North Hudson line. I moved even more upstate four years ago for college but I’m making my way back towards New York City now. I’m a mix of different European heritages but I’m mostly Italian, German, Irish, and Polish. The red hair comes from the Italian side.

As for gaming, I owe it all to my dad, sister, and my cousins. They raised me on gaming. My dad instilled in me that it was okay to be a nerd and still be successful in life. For his day job, he worked as a business manager but at night we’d watch Hercules, Xena, Star Trek, Red Dwarf or play games like Legend of Zelda, Persona, Final Fantasy, Wild Arms, and King’s Field.

I was jealous watching my dad play all the time when I was younger but I didn’t know how to read, so he put the controller in my hand and read to me while I pressed the buttons. It’s the equivalent of a parent reading a story book to a child and the kid turning the page.

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Five-year-old Svenna with Kirby Super Star, one of her favorite SNES games.

GGVogue: Wow! That’s awesome that you bonded with your dad via gaming then. Would you say your father was a role model for you to continue to play games? Was there a backlash from Mom?

Svenna: Definitely a role model. He would buy consoles as soon as they came out or we’d go to midnight releases for games. Money was never an issue because he just wanted someone to play with. To tell you the truth, he still pays for my Xbox Live subscription so we can play together.

My mom isn’t really a tech person, so gaming and computers go over her head. She still uses AOL and owned a Motorola Razr for eight years. Seriously. We bonded through other things like watching movies, reading, or crafts. She did, however, love NBA Jam and the Incredible Hulk PS1 game.

I think the two of them instilled the best parts of who I am: a gamer and a writer.

GGVogue: That’s so heartwarming! It’s like you were meant to be a videogame journalist!  Now the games of the old days are totally different from the games of today, what are some differences that have heighten your passion for video game? What about negative impacts?

Svenna: I still can’t let go of old school RPGs, now matter how repetitive they are. I’m tied to the stories and characters. If a contemporary game has a wide-range of ethnic characters that come from different walks of life and have an interesting story to tell — then it’s sold. I want it.

I’m not one to care too much about graphics anymore or mainstream console gaming. I consider myself someone who has shied away significantly from console gaming in the last five years and have turned to PC and tabletop. Mainstream gaming is a double-edged sword. We get constant updates, DLCs, and sequels to our favorite franchises, but there comes a point where if everything is rehashed, it’s just not fun anymore. I felt like that when I played Halo 4. I loved Halo 2 and 3 but I barely touched 4. The series was supposed to end. Finish it and move on.

GGVogue: Nicely put, However, fans wanted more to the sequel as the story still continues in the book series. What are your thoughts about the push for continued series like Final Fantasy and Uncharted that have negative and positive sides to sequels and games like Tomb Raider that take on new directions?

Svenna: I haven’t read any of the Halo books, but I feel like it’s similar to how the Star Wars series continued on via novel format. Some things are canon, some aren’t and at this point, not many people, unless they are die-hard fans, pay attention to what happens in the books.

Ever since Squaresoft and Enix merged, the company hasn’t been the same. When you take away the key players of a series like Sakaguchi Hironobu, you get a completely different batch of games. Hence why everything post Final Fantasy X hasn’t had that true “Final Fantasy feel,” in my opinion. Now, I just feel they slap “Final Fantasy” on a game just because it’ll sell. As I’ve said on GGV already, Final Fantasy Versus XV is my last hope.

I haven’t played much of Uncharted since I don’t own a PS3 (though my dad does), but I loved it. I’m all for pushing series like that. It’s comparatively new to Halo (six years versus twelve years) so I think it has more time to bloom. I think Microsoft just doesn’t want to put their first baby in their version of the “Disney Vault” just yet so they keep cranking out games.

I like that Tomb Raider had a reboot because they went more into Lara’s backstory. She’s more of a person, now, and a strong woman at that.

GGVogue: I agree. The decline of great Final Fantasy games began with Final Fantasy 9 but reached its low with 12. Games like Uncharted are definitely changing designers’ perspectives on a powerful story with compelling graphics that complement each other. And yet, people like you and me…we’re so accustomed to the classics that it’s hard to change. Speaking of classics, is there a classic game that moved you personally or made you fonder of video games?

Svenna: I always tell people that Suikoden is my favorite game. It’s the first game that my dad finished, then my sister, then I finished. I remember being obsessed with it as a six year old. One day in Kindergarten, I told everyone I was sick of playing “house” and wanted to be the super hero. So, I tied a blue bandanna around my head and paraded around like Flik, one of the main characters in Suikoden. The kids were really confused at first and weren’t sure what to do. However, the next day someone brought in a red bandanna and we converted all of the normal people into warriors and wizards. Suddenly everyone had powers and we weren’t playing the family dynamic anymore. True magic lies within children and imagination. We can learn more from kids. That’s why gaming at an early age is pivotal for imagination.

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Flik, one of the main characters in Suikoden and Suikoden II.

GGVogue: Hearing you say that is such a powerful statement because it holds so much truth to it. Are there any issues or topics you feel should be raised about merging gaming mechanisms into education? What other issues or topics would you want to bring to the table and make the public aware about as the new addition to GGVogue?

Svenna: I think that parents should be more open about allowing their children to play videogames. I grew up with some form of ADHD (I know, every kid “has” it), so I had a hard time reading growing up. After reading for even a minute, I’d find my mind drifting or the text blurring. I couldn’t sit still. I’d get these weird impulses in my body to run around like a crazy person. I wanted to get up and do a million things.

Moving a character around in a videogame, fighting battles, and reading text (and being able to re-read it) made it easier for me to comprehend the story and pay attention. Even now, I have to multitask by doing many things at the same time in order to be productive. It sounds backwards, I know. But videogames taught me how to figure out that’s how I work. I’ve since calmed down a lot and learned how to discipline myself; I feel like gaming helped.

I can understand waiting to let kids play certain games where you kill people in realistic situations like Grand Theft Auto (even though I watched my dad play it when I was ten, I still understand why most parents would hold off on it) but fantasy games where you fight monsters and “bad guys” are more of a way to teach morals than anything else. Imagination is dying in the new generation because, what seemed to us as magic back “in the day,” is a reality now. MP3 players, smart phones, and GOOGLE GLASSES! Augmented reality is the next step but we still need to hold onto our roots. Not remembering your child-like curiosity or imagination can be the bane of creativity.

GGVogue: How would you like the industry to change to accommodate changing in diverse groups of gamers?

Svenna: I think the industry is on the right path but right now it seems like it’s on the verge of being a contest to monopolize the industry, in my opinion. If someone comes up with a new idea, the other companies play catch-up and have to enact the same thing. Nintendo came out with the Wii U and the game pad, so Sony wanted to implement the PS Vita and the PS4. Stuff like that. I just want it to be less rivalistic, less catered to non-gamers and more about the games themselves. On a side note, I also wish videogames based on movies didn’t fail either. Oh well.

GGVogue: Experience as girl gamer affect you negatively or positively?

Svenna: I love being a female gamer, but while growing up in the 90s, when it wasn’t as normal for a girl to like video games, I often got made fun of by classmates and wished I were a boy. I remember being called a lesbian for taping pictures of Yuna from Final Fantasy X on my folders when I was 11. I’ve also been called a fake gamer b***h, have been targeted in games just because of my usernames or them hearing my voice on the mic, you know, the same things most women gamers go through. I’ve had guys tell me I don’t know how to play a game or I dress too nicely to be able to play games. What does that even mean? What is even a gamer or nerd stereotype anymore? Lines are so blurred. But at the same time, sometimes guys adore me and try to hold my hand during a game. I’ve gotten an equal number of messages from guys wanting to give me free things and guys wanting to teach me “one on one” because they think I “suck.” Though that’s just a guise to get closer to a girl. It’s either trolling or the white knight effect. I don’t know if either extremes will completely go away even though women are more accepted now.

On a positive note, the first time I found out that female gamers existed all over the world was when I was in middle school. I joined a message board called RPG Revelations in 2001 which was created by Leroy (Tuvai), a guy from the Netherlands (I still talk to him every once and awhile). Through this venue, I met a lot of female gamers and even found out one of the members lived 20 minutes away from my house. That was the first time I ever met a girl who gamed that I didn’t have to “convert.” It was amazing. I didn’t know any other women outside of my immediate family that played. It also introduced me to concepts like text-based role playing whether via messageboards or on MUDs. I loved it.

At the end of the day, I think I’ve finally figured out how to accept myself as a woman gamer by be involved in groups. I’m just so thankful to be more involved in the female gamer industry through GGVogue. I hope to spread the word to more women about positive groups like GGVogue, PMS and the Frag Dolls.

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Svenna with her new GameBoy in 1997. No more borrowing from dad or sis!

GGVogue: Is there anything you’d like to tell gamers out there? 

Svenna: Just be yourself and focus on your true path. Gaming might only be a hobby for you, but you also have the potential to work in the business just as much as anyone else does — it doesn’t matter your gender, race, age, whatever. There are a lot of ways to get to the finish line and sometimes you’ve got to do a million things at once in order to speed up the process. You might have to work two or three jobs, juggle freelance work, maintain your creative hobbies, all while finding time to game but will it pay off. It pays off for me everyday just by being able to interview high profile people in the industry or meeting awesome people at events or through gaming. But, seriously. Do it your own way and love it. That’s what life is all about.

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