Pretty sure this gal doesn’t need any introduction, but I’ll try anyway. Zuulzilla is the creator of the Warcraft-based webcomic Surviving Azeroth. She’s also a writer/novelist and blogger. And a game writer for indie title Epica Rex. Oh, and a mom on top of all that. But enough of me rattling on; I’ll let the lady speak for herself!
Status: In a relationship
Location: Western USA
Brood: One kid, 4 years old
Current games: World of Warcraft and Diablo
Hobbies (gaming related or otherwise): I dabble in writing, painting, traveling, and singing.
Other stuff you’re into: Game of Thrones! I love Game of Thrones. A lot. I love music— all kinds of music. I’m about to start catching up on all of the Warcraft books.
Tell us about your webcomic, Surviving Azeroth.
I had been wanting to get into comics for some time now, but I lack the ability to draw— or draw well enough for it to not look like a blob of mess. However, I’m pretty confident in my writing and storytelling talents. I decided to create a comic that would put the story in the spotlight. I’m an RP player at heart. I took bits and pieces of my character’s lives and made a comic out of it. There is a lot of heart put into these characters and their stories. The main characters are Immersa, Enoku, and Vraela. In-game, Immersa is my main— my baby. Enoku was an unexpected love shortly after creation. Vraela is new and doesn’t have much of a story at the moment, but she’s getting there. Their in-character stories and personalities are slightly different from the stories and personalities in the comic. I changed that to add more humor, as my writing tends to be pretty dark and I didn’t want the comic to come off that way.
How time consuming is a project like this?
I get asked a lot what I use to “draw” the comic. I don’t draw it at all. The panels are made up of intricate screenshots taken from World Of Warcraft with the highest graphic settings. I’d be lying if I said that part was simple. The screenshots are the most difficult and time-consuming activity during the creation of each strip. It takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete the screenshots each week. That doesn’t include editing and adding chat bubbles and dialogue. Editing alone takes 1-2 hours. Bubbles and dialogue take about an hour to complete.
This may not seem like a lot, but when you’re a parent and have other projects going on (in my case: writing), it can wear you down. I usually spend Monday and Tuesday creating the comic and then publish it on Wednesday.
How long have you been gaming?
I began playing console games when I was 6. Stuck with console until I hit my teens and picked up The Sims. Eventually went on to play World of Warcraft, D&D, and more!
How did you get into gaming?
My parents brought home the original Nintendo when I was 6. They had a bunch of their friends come over to try it out. We all sat around in the living room and took turns. It was an awesome night!
What was your first/all-time favorite game?
My favorite game from my childhood is Zelda: A Link To the Past. I LOVE that game. I still have my original copy!
Gaming and the Family
When your little one gets old enough, will (s)he be getting into video games, too? She already is! She plays WoW and Rift.
Will/Do you seek out games you can play together?
We tried playing Minecraft together, but she wasn’t really into it. We have played WoW together. We tried doing Recruit-A-Friend together, but she has zero patience for the leveling process. She likes to fly around and visit different places in Azeroth.
Her father is a gamer as well. He and I are separated and he has primary physical custody of our daughter. They live in North Carolina. I live, or will be living in 7 days, in Arizona with my girlfriend who is also a gamer. She and I have Violet (my daughter) during the summer.
With a physical distance, will gaming be a way to spend time together?
She will game when she is with her father. Probably not as much, but it’ll happen. They play together, too. Gaming will definitely be a way [for me] to spend time with her when we are apart. It will mostly be about having fun and spending time together.
Will the dynamic of gaming time/non-gaming time change when she’s physically with and around you?
We’ll still game when we’re together. We’ll do lots of other things together as well (zoo, conventions, shopping, etc.), but gaming is certainly not off the table.
Are there things you (want to) do in your current games with your kid?
Once she has a max level character, I think we’ll do more things in-game together. She’ll be getting the character boost soon.
Just for fun: Give me an idea of what running a dungeon with your kid for the first time might be like.
Honestly, it would probably go smoothly. She enjoys following other players around and watching them as they do things. (It’s pretty cute, not to mention hilarious when other players realize they are being followed.) She listens well, so I don’t think it’d be a chaotic experience. She would probably ninja everything, though.
Where do you personally draw the line between “Games for Mom/Dad” and “Games for everyone?”
Well, lol, Diablo is certainly “mom’s game” due to the game containing a bit of nightmare fuel. It won’t be long before she plays it, I’m sure. I don’t subscribe to the “video games cause violence” idea, so my reasons for keeping her from a game will never be based on that. The games I allow her to play are choices based on what I feel she is prepared to experience.
Is there content in games you hope your kid never experiences?
There are games I wouldn’t want her to experience just as the there are situations in life that I wouldn’t want her to experience. My instinct is to protect her and eradicate the things and the people that hurt her. There’s a thin line between being protective and being preventive, and as a parent it’s really hard to keep a balance between the two. Certain games shine light on activities that I deem highly unethical and some of those in-game activities can actually do a bit of out-of-game damage. Would I want her to experience those things? No. Neither in video games or life. However, there are inevitable situations that she will eventually learn about or experience firsthand and I will not always be able to protect her from them.
So my answer to this goes back to my statement about choosing games I feel she is prepared to experience. I want her to be emotionally prepared and mature enough to play certain games so that she understands what exactly is going on in them. This applies to all forms of media.
Will there be games that are *just* for the kid?
She plays iPad games that are just for her. Outside of that, I don’t imagine I’ll define games that way.
What are the rules you lay down— or will lay down— for gaming to your kid?
She’s only allowed to game for a certain amount of time each day. She still enjoys running around outside and playing with toys, so her life isn’t all about gaming. Yet. When/If we get to that point, there will definitely be a few more rules.
Does your kid ever whine about not having enough “game” or TV time yet? Do you have a course of action in case she does get too plugged in?
She has cried hysterically because I’ve made her log out of World of Warcraft. She knows now that if it’s time to log out and she throws a fit, she won’t be allowed to play at all the next day. That’s the rule, and it works.
Do you try to make gaming educational even if it’s not a “for kids” or “educational” game? Or do you try to keep gaming strictly as entertainment, fun, and for relaxing?
She plays fun, educational games on the iPad. She’s learned quite a lot from them. I think any game has the potential to be educational. It depends on how you look at it, really. I let her do her own thing in World of Warcraft and she’s learned a lot just by having fun in Azeroth.
Being a Gamer Parent
Do the non-gamers in your life confront you about “still being a gamer” after, or even before, you became a parent?
I don’t have non-gamers in my life. Everyone in my family is a gamer, so thankfully this has never been an issue. What I do with my time, as a parent or not, is no one else’s business and I’d be quick to put someone in their place should they ever confront me negatively about it.
Consequently, do you ever feel like you have to hide your gamer pride when you’re with your kid or doing “adult things” (e.g. groceries, etc)?
Not at all! I’m 100% nerd and don’t believe in hiding who I am.
Do you sense any scrutiny, resistance, etc from others simply because you’re a gamer parent? (E.g. Do you get weird looks if you’re at the store wearing a Horde/Alliance shirt with your kid in tow?)
If I do get weird looks, I don’t notice them. Wouldn’t care if I did. It’s my life and I’m happy with it. If someone has a problem with that, it’s their problem.
How do you get to a mental state where you can block out what others think of you and be completely comfortable with who you are?
I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum. I’m rebellious. I have issues with authority. I don’t like being told what to do or who to be. Only I know how to be me. No one else has a say in that. I’ve always been this way.
Do people say harsh things that get under my skin? Oh yes. But, being under my skin is a place no one should ever want to be. I’m a genuinely nice person and I will bend until I break for those who are good to me. I’m polar opposite to those who treat me any differently. I don’t take kindly to being treated negatively or being told how to live my life.
What *would* you say to someone if they tried to comment on you being a gamer parent?
That would depend on the context and tone of the conversation. I’m passive to a degree, and outwardly so once that degree is reached. I’d most likely tell them that my life is none of their concern, smile, and walk away. Anything vile or harassing would be received by silence. Those actions will turn a quiet mouse into a silent snake.
Just for Fun
If you could adapt 3-5 video game abilities into real life, what would they be?
Teleporting would be nice. Blinking, too. I could use some levels in cooking.
My kid is most like [fill in video game character/creature here] because…
Any World of Warcraft dragon. She is obsessed with dragons. Her imaginary friends are dragons and she runs around the house roaring like one. She even speaks dragon!