The Reader’s Survey Part 3 : The interviews- Stelek

When I started thinking about my survey, and the idea behind it, I knew I wanted to talk to the people whose writing made us sit up and take notice. The guys that shaped and changed us as gamers, as folks in the hobby- I wanted to ask them questions and get a sense of the ideas below the surface. 
It’s the below the surface stuff that ended up saving me. I’m more than a little like my Xenos friend and have had a lot of rough spots lately (not drug addiction, but a debilitating medical condition that’s crippled my ability to function normally for a while now, hopefully to be fixed soon) and getting back into writing -specifically reading replies and thinking critically about what the answers meant and how I wanted to proceed with the information given- is what brought me out of the worst of it. 
I spent a lot of time reading these replies- and some of them really got me going – up at 2 or 3 am to read and reply in several instances- and enjoyed getting a sense of the tone, the ideas, and the meaning behind what these guys had to say. 
Every single one of my respondents has been UNFAILINGLY gracious with their time, their attention, and their answers. ALL of them have been truly WILLING to give to the community and I appreciate them very much. The answers these guys gave are just as different as they are, and this set of interviews is probably my favorite (at least right now). 
I want to thank these men for being so kind. While you ultimately benefit, I know I gained a lot from these conversations, and I’m very grateful for those early mornings; if for no other reason than they gave me a reason to get up. 
We begin with none other than Stelek. His answers in bold. 
Note: Absolutely NO editing has been done here, with the exception of ONE correction of a minor but glaring grammatical error. (Sorry, it was making me cringe.) 

  When (what year, or
as close as you can guess) did you start gaming?
I saw the Empire Strikes Back in 1980 when I was 6.  I wanted to play that in some way if I could.
1981 or thereabouts I got the D&D basic and expert sets, then picked up
AD&D.  Same year I got a
TI-994a.  TI Invaders, Hunt the Wumpus,
Pirate Adventure (Say, Yoho?  Fuck.  You. 
Stupid hole in the wall!), and of course…Tunnels of Doom.  So yeah, 1980 I started looking and within a
year or so, I’d found my hobby:  Gaming.
    Would you mind sharing what got you into the
hobby?
Well, I’d say a big part of it was the excellence of the
Star Wars franchise (before Lucas retconned and revamped it, anyway).  Sadly, most of what followed after that was
pure garbage.  I realized then I could
only recreate the best fantasy worlds by myself or with others of like minds,
since I did not know at the time that Star Wars wasn’t the norm but was of such
high quality it would take 20+ years for everyone else to catch up. 






    When did you start
blogging?
Roughly at the start of 2008.
    What blog or
blogger do you admire most?
Can’t say really.  I’m
pretty bad at ignoring the gaming side of the internet.  Reading what stupid people say really has no
interest for me.  Sorry I don’t have a
good answer.
    What blog or
blogger do you feel has been most influential on the hobby, and why?
Hmmm I think I failed again. 
I think all of us, including myself, have failed the hobby in virtually
every way.  lol  I couldn’t even begin to tell you who I’d say
the most influential is, since most of the stuff I have emailed to me to read
is nonsense.
    Married, kids?
What do you do for a living?
Due to previous bad run ins, I’ll leave the first question
unanswered.  I work in IT.  Bit of an understatement, as I’m a master of
all trades there but that’s all I need to say to answer, yes?  lol
    About your site:
    Was your blog
always focused on strategy, tactics and the more competitive side of gaming, or
did it evolve over time?
At first
    Your site tends to
change looks often. How much time do you spend on appearance, maintenance
and  new material?
It does?  Hmmm it’s
been that beloved shade of blue for a very long time.  I suppose you mean the sidebars.  Really, I haven’t changed it other than to
fit within the confines of hosted environments. 
What’s funny is, there are no good hosting companies–only shitty
ones.  I will explain more on this in your
next question.  Appearance I only spend
time on if I have to (see below) or I want to add a new toy (again, see
below).  Maintenance…well, I’ve spent
many an hour with my current shitty hosting provider telling them my site is
down, which they don’t seem to feel as being something they need to keep track
of–but as to actual maintenance, nah don’t really have any, it’s all automated
in WordPress.  New material?  Depends how busy I am.  I can crack out a ton of content in short
order, but I’ve been super busy for over a year now at work but I’m slowly
regaining control of my personal time.
    How much does it
cost to maintain?  What, if anything, do
you do to offset the costs? (Currently I don’t see a ton of ads and your store
is pretty tasteful.)
Ya know I don’t think I’ve ever sold a thing in that
store.  Funny.  There aren’t a ton of ads, because BOLS,
Dakka, and Beasts of War aren’t labors of love–they are dedicated economic
fiefdoms and look like shit as a result. 
Try visiting with flashblock and adblock on (by default, always on for
me) or with something like yesscript and them blacklisted.  Ah, bad sites look terribad when nothing they
want to feed you works.  πŸ˜‰
So let me answer what should be a short answer into a long
one.  Hosting companies either want to
charge you $5 or 10$ a month, or 150$ a month. 
See, I’m not paying 2 grand to have a website the way I’d want it, so my
website is what my shit-tastic hosting company (Arvixe, I highly recommend you
never use them; or their host, Shit Daddy) can manage to run.  So I can’t have my own chat system, or really
integrate anything neat, because the fucking site will crash.  What you see is all I can squeeze out of the
10$ a month I pay to keep YTTH running. 
Most of the time, I want a better site but frankly the free tools suck
ass and paying 150$ for a server when I could just host a server at my fucking
house is way way beyond me.  Something I
probably should do since I have the resources and talents to do it, I just
don’t care enough to save myself that lousy 120$ a year.  lol
When I was posting regularly, I was getting about 40$ a
month from google ads.  Now?  Fuck me, I can’t remember the last time I got
an ad payment.  Probably because I’ve had
so little to say with the death of 40k.
Honestly, most bloggers have given up except those with an
economic incentive to keep putting out worthless garbage.  I’m sure you can figure out for yourself who
they are.  I still blog because I enjoy
it, I just haven’t had time to.
I really enjoyed reading your answers so far. Thanks a lot.
Can I ask general geographic region (West Coast, SouthWest.
Plains, South, Midwest, East Coast?)? I can’t help but try to attach a voice or
accent to your comments.  I am smack dab
in the middle of Illinois, with the very little in the way of accent- I sound a
little boring, haha.
I’m originally from Philly, but I’ve been in Utah since 95
or so, and have lost a lot of my Philly accent. 
Still retain the bad manners and pottymouth though.  πŸ˜‰
I’d love to dig deeper into the following:
    What blog or
blogger do you admire most?
Can’t say really.  I’m
pretty bad at ignoring the gaming side of the internet.  Reading what stupid people say really has no
interest for me.  Sorry I don’t have a
good answer.

What about outside of gaming? Are there any sites, forums,
networks or blogs you enjoy on any level? (Professional, personal or academic).
Honestly, in the last year I have visited two websites with
regularity:
Google News, and Giant Bomb. 
All I have time for are quick snippets of news (political, scientific)
and GB is entertaining (though to be honest, not as much since Ryan passed
away).
    What blog or
blogger do you feel has been most influential on the hobby, and why?
Hmmm I think I failed again. 
I think all of us, including myself, have failed the hobby in virtually
every way.  lol  I couldn’t even begin to tell you who I’d say
the most influential is, since most of the stuff I have emailed to me to read
is nonsense.
What can we do to benefit the hobby? Is it simply in playing
different games? Is it challenging companies to be better? Is it modeling,
painting and playing just that much better than last time? Please share any and
all ideas, as I’m really intrigued by this one.
I think coming together and putting our egos aside is the
only way to really impact game companies. 
Just spending your dollars elsewhere isn’t good enough.  We have to be a force, not just for
ourselves, our forum, our club, our store our blog, or our tournament; we have
to be able to speak with one voice and shout at the game companies.  They won’t listen to just one faction, and do
in fact do their best to block out those without their favor.  To which I say, fuck them.  They need us, we don’t need them.  I can get a shitty ass game anywhere.  I don’t need GW, or PP, or BF; to provide me
with the dubious ‘honor’ of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to
support their crappy ass game systems. 
They all seem to think that esports is a joke.  That’s what miniature gaming COULD be.  BoxeR, one of the, if not the, highest paid
esports stars just retired in fall of 2013. 
He was making 100,000 a year. 
From one shitass video game. Just imagine if there was a 100,000$ prize
pool.  Combine all the money GW, PP, and
BF spend on prizes worldwide and you might get close to that kind of
money.  They don’t spend enough to even
HAVE a tournament scene of any kind, anywhere. 
Think I’m impressed your 3$ box of tactical marines is a prize?  Sorry noob, I’m not impressed.  The anti-drug dealer method?  Seriously? 
See, drug dealers give you your first hit for free.  The miniature game companies give you your
LAST hit for free.  After they charge you
up the wazoo for your FIRST hit.  Bad
business all around.  Being a better
modeller really isn’t that hard–converting just requires a good
imagination.  If you play with little
GIJOEs, guess what, odds are you DO have that imagination.  Let it out. 
I assure you, nobody is going to think less of you (hint:  those not in the niche, don’t get the niche,
and think less of you already).  In the
end, modelling starts out hard and becomes easy.  Same as painting.  Playing though.  That one is hard.  You know why? 
Most people like me, are actual assholes who don’t give a fuck about
you.  That’s why you see stupid fucking
crap like Mike’s paywall tournament sekrits system, and you don’t see anyone
who people THINK is a good player actually giving away their ‘secrets’.  Certainly not like me.  You think people win Adepticon or NOVA
because they are good?  In the beginning,
perhaps.  Now?  Surely, you jest.  My last two NOVAs, you know how many games I
played where I didn’t get cheated on by my opponent or screwed by the TO?  Hey look, I have one finger up.  Oh, right, I was counting.  Well, less than that finger. How does that
old saying go?  A victim of your own
success?  I wanted more competition, but
every year it became less and less.  More
of a joke really.  My interest level in
attending anyones event was already declining by the end of 5th (spend a grand
to fly across the country to get cheated/screwed repeatedly?  what’s that other old saying?  do the same thing twice expecting something
different, that’s the definition of insanity?) and 6th killed it for me.  Watching Fantasy quite literally die on it’s
feet didn’t help (I like my Fantasy armies, but play that shithole of a
game?  Yeah, right up there with Flames
of Peace and Suckmachine).  I think
people have given up, because the big 3 game companies have nothing new to
offer.  Sadly, most of the folks who have
something ‘new’ to offer really don’t. 
Oh, WW2 in 28mm?  Pass.  Been there, done that in 10mm.  Oh, well, try sci-fi in 10mm?  Fine, I’ll try Dropzone Commander but I don’t
expect a thing so I can’t possibly be disappointed.  Hint: 
Read the first page of rules, found my first typo.  It might seem silly, but for the 1.1 document
you’d think they’d fix the fucking typos. 
Sorry, it’s a pet peeve of mine. 
Can’t spell?  Don’t tell me how to
play your game until you can.  What?  You were edumicated?  Fuck. 
At any rate, there will be 10mm Wood Elves (or are already, who the hell
knows) and we’ll see more 50mm ‘Skirmish’ games soon.  Yet I see no pre-painted minis.  Because stealing from the customer base by
charging 15$ for a fucking bottle of 1$ walmart primer is worth
protecting.  Yeah, are we all
stupid?  No?  Oh, that’s why the customer base is shrinking
so rapidly.  Guess what, gamers and game
companies?  If the gamers won’t stand up
to the game companies, and the game companies won’t stop stealing from /fucking
over gamers with shit rules copy/pasted forward endlessly; there won’t BE a
miniature industry.  Here’s a clue for
you:  There aren’t enough old model
railroaders to support model railroad cars. 
The companies producing those models keep making less and less, and have
(decades ago) passed the line in the sand–they make their profit selling to
stores.  No one is talking about model
railroad sales.  Well guess what? Let me
fill you the fuck in.  GW is Tyco.  Yeah, the people who used to make Railroad
toys.  Lifted directly from the Tyco
wikipedia entry:  Launching in 1957,
Mantua pioneered “ready-to-run” HO-scale model railroad kits under
the TYCO (for Tyler Company) brand. Many TYCO and Mantua die-cast products,
such as steam engines, are collector’s items today. In the 1960s, TYCO changed
its focus from train kits to ready-to-run trains sold in hobby shops and also
added HO-scale electric racing, or “slot car” sets. The slot car
range started in 1963. By the 1970s, TYCO shifted sales and marketing to a
consumer-oriented, mass marketing focus. When Tyco was purchased by Mattel on
March 27, 1997, it was the third largest toy company in the United States. The
Tyco model railroad business was purchased back by the Tyler family in 1977,
who revived them under the Mantua Industries brand. Tyco exited the model
railroad business after the 1993 catalog. 
In 2001, Mantua ceased production of its model railroad lines, and sold
the model railroad business to the Model Power Company, which continues to sell
a few items such as steam engines as its Mantua Classics brand. Yeah, that’s where
YOUR hobby is going.  Some assclown at
Hasbro is going to buy Games Workshop, some mother is going to complain about
the demons, and BAM:  Your hobby
disappears.  Because YOU won’t stop being
a bunch of stupid ass shitty players who won’t band together because you think
YOUR TOURNAMENT/STORE/BLOG is NUMBER 1. 
Fuck you, idiots.  Go down in
flames.  Shame you’re taking 20 years of
joy and fun in my life down with you, and I hate all of you for it. 
Please tell me about your “mission” for both your
site and your personal gaming.  I’m not
sure that what I’ve read or heard (second/third hand) is really representative
of anything you might truly intend to say. Does your mission still apply with
your current attitude about gaming?
My mission has never changed, probably never will.  The mission is to make the baddies suck less,
so I, at least, can get a good game in. 
Clubbing all of you, or watching sadly as you cheat your fucking asses
off, either way really bores the fuck out of me.  I like a good competitive game, and the molly
coddling everyone does to the baddies just astonishes me.  I don’t see anyone taking the time to teach
tactics classes.  Oh yeah, because
everyone is looking out for number 1, their bottom line–and thus you see lots
of worthless painting classes, how to shoot bulletproof backpacks, and a myriad
assortment of other idiotic product placements but not one person taking the
time or energy to teach people how to play the game properly.  You don’t see ANY schools offering classes on
how to design wargames properly, but boy there sure are tons of people making
really shitty ripoffs of pacman on android.
Enjoy that rant.  πŸ˜‰
Philly! and Utah. What a combination. I totally see the
Philly. I was guessing Mid-Atlantic ish, but have been wrong before.
That was beyond a shadow of a doubt, a tour de force, balls
out rant. It was also delightfully refreshing, and an eye opening read. It
really speaks about what you value and find compelling about gaming, and the
things you see as trivial.
For the sake of argument, if I value something other than
competition in my gaming life, does that make me wrong-headed? For our hobby’s
sake, if I don’t agree with you, is that automatically dooming the hobby?
Well, let’s discuss that. 
Many gamers in our community believe they don’t need to care about
competitiveness.  Now that would be true
if people buying say 40k models just to paint and never to play really existed
in large numbers.  Manga and Anime models
exist, and Fantasy style models exist–and people buy them just to paint, and there
are usually no games for them to play. 
You can also buy pre-painted models, generally speaking they are often
not pre-painted but merely plastic pieces of different colors slotted
together.  Or as I like to call them,
toys.  GIJoe, Star Wars, etc.  Throw in all the very expensive Anime ‘kits’
you can buy, both assembled and not; and you have technology that hasn’t
changed much in the past 40 years.  So,
people buy 40k models in large numbers to play with them.  If you look at all the miniature games people
are playing, which ones are the casual ones? 
Compare miniature games to video games. 
Super Smash Brothers is a hugely popular game for the family.  Yet it’s also wildly successful as a
competitive game.  That’s just how
humanity is.  We strive to compete.  Even the indie games people would describe as
casual games with no real winner, are more akin to Golf than anything
else.   Like the many stealth style
single player games.  I hear Assassin’s
Creed is quite popular.  =P  You compete against yourself.  It’s just a very elaborate solitaire.  Yes, you can cheat, but you know in your
heart you did; and it devalues your victory. 
So if you are into the game of 40k, since it has win
conditions….surely, it can be competitive. 
In the current edition it’s not truly competitive, because it’s been
rebuilt to sell big silly Anime style models nobody really wants.  That’s not a big deal, unless you consider
how every other addition added to your collection, and this edition invalidates
your previous collection.  When you tell
your customers their previous purchases are worthless, watch out!  Especially when the replacement isn’t
something anyone but the bean counters at your company asked for.  Who asked for Titans?  Who asked for Colossols?  Who asked for anti-tank grenades on every
infantry stand (reference to late-war Flames of War)?  I sure as hell didn’t.  I don’t enjoy playing any of those games,
because they are designed for fucking window lickers.  When I can’t use my brain to beat you, and
instead have to use my wallet, which can in turn be countered by your wallet,
and then it just comes back to using cheaty dice…well, my interest in your
game rapidly drops to zero.  Same as your
tournaments, which are no longer tournaments because there is nothing competitive
about who has the better cheaty dice. 
You know the dice companies cater to cheaters now, yes?  They have cheater dice available.  There must be a market if they are putting
them on their sites and producing them. 
Well, that market isn’t people playing Settlers of Cataan!  Or Magic! 
That target audience is miniature players.  Who are so pathetically bad that they have to
cheat to win.  It’s acceptable in NOVA,
and Adepticon.  If it’s acceptable in
those tournaments, where ISN’T cheating embraced?  Seriously. 
TO’s turn blind eyes on it, and there are never scandals.  Just more and more people coming.  Surely that’s success, isn’t it?  Gather all the cheating casuals into one big
room, and call it a tournament.  So are
you being wrong-headed by not competing? 
No.  Are you being wrong-headed by
thinking you AREN’T competing?  I’d say
so. 
Is that misconception automatically dooming the hobby?  Well, where Games Workshop goes, the rest of
the hobby follows.  I assure you, Games
Workshop is not going down a magic rabbit hole, soon to appear in a magical new
land.  They are simply going down a
fucking hole. 
You mentioned e-gaming as an example of a hobby developing a
tournament circuit with actual prize payouts. I have to ask an obvious
question, if you’re talking real competition and cash money prizes. What are
your thoughts on Magic: the Gathering?
Same as they’ve always been. 
It’s got a cheap entry point, but you can spend yourself blue in the
face and never win a major international tournament if you aren’t great at the
game.  I lost interest in it long ago,
because essentially it’s a game for suckers. 
Who would buy a chess set with paper pieces that you had to throw away
after 3 months of use?  Is the answer no
one?  Well, that’s Magic in a
nutshell.  That’s why I can’t take it
seriously.  Good rules or not, it’s a
money printing machine not a real game system that gives a fuck about it’s
players.
On pre-painted minis, I have one- Fantasy Flight’s
X-Wing.  Have you checked it out, and if
so, your thoughts on it?
I have no thoughts on it. 
Look at this picture:

Pray tell, where are the miniatures?  Right. 
It’s not anything but another skirmish level game.  Compare to this:
Firestorm Armada RSN Ships
That’s my buddy’s RSN fleet. 
That’s half of a tabletops worth of ships.
It’s a miniatures game. 
X-Wing might as well be chits.
And it’s Fantasy Flight, who so far has not shown any skill
at designing an actual miniatures game. 
Throw 60 miniatures onto the tabletop in X-Wing and laugh at how bad it
is.
Next?  πŸ˜‰
Skirmish level gaming is obviously not your thing. Did you
ever play Advanced Squad Leader or any of the older SSI games? StarFleet
Battles? If those types of games could have been leveraged with models, would
those be what you are looking for in gaming?
Long ago it was, but I don’t get much interest from moving
4-12 tokens on the battlefield.
I played Squad Leader, all it’s additions, and I played ASL
and all it’s additions.  Starfleet
Battles never really impressed me as a game, to be honest.  Too many holes, too many bugs.  And honestly the models back then were ass.
This is what I played weekends when I was a kid, this and
Squad Leader and D&D.  lol



 Europa.  The pic above
is Fire in the East.  Operation
Barbarossa. To the left is Scandinavia, that little island on the right is the
Crimea. Eventually you have thousands of little cardboard chits all over the
place.  Some folks magnetized
everything.  Crazy.  lol
The more complex the game, the more it wakes up my
mind.  That’s why Skirmish level stuff
never really interested me, because it’s so set-piece.  40k started out that way too.  5 guys vs 5 guys.  Ultimately it was boring as hell.  That’s why it was changed.
At any rate, I play Firestorm Armada now because while it’s
not massive in scale, it is not an easy game to master.
As far as other games go, well I’m branching out into
Dropzone Commander so I can see if there is a massive scale sci-fi ground
combat game I can enjoy.
Oh, Europa. That’s an oldie. I know all about the magnetized
pieces and leaving it set up for months at a time.
Ok, just a few more questions, and then I think I’ll wrap
this up.
For game complexity, how did (or do) you like games like
RoleMaster (aka Chartmaster), Traveller, the 40K roleplaying games (Dark
Heresy/Rogue Trader), Abalone, Hive or Twilight Imperium?
Childish.
You mentioned wanting better games. There are people in the
hobby writing modified or new rules to play the games they want to play.
Whether those games are 40K variants or something else, these people are
attempting to change the game. What are your thoughts on that?
I’ve wanted to write a replacement ruleset for 40k for over
a year.  Sadly, my new job has just about
killed all free time I have to do so. To directly answer your question, so far
I have not been impressed by most home brew rules–they just aren’t a new
ruleset and don’t function properly in the context of what a new set of rules
needs to bring to the table:  the answer
to this question:  Do I want to play this
system WAY more than the other system?
You also talked about cheater dice. There are some gamers
who are convinced even “regular” dice are unfair or uneven in
balance. What are your feelings on (or interest in) precision dice and their
role on gaming?
Precision dice are fine for what they are, but they are
expensive.  And wear out.  Look at what Casino’s feel is fair.  They replace craps dice when there is any
chance the house is losing money.  i.e.
When the precise odds they use to (fairly or not) bilk players of their cash
drop, the new dice come out.  While not
quite industry standard, as some places don’t change dice this way…most shops
will change their dice at the end of any shift, or whenever the pit bosses run
an audit.  So, at the most, the dice a
casino relies upon to fairly roll, get changed no more than say 4 games of
40k.  That gets quite expensive.
That’s why last year I sponsored dice for Spags tournament,
a general pool of dice.  Hey, they might
not be fair but every table has a pool of dice. 
If they fuck you, odds are they fuck me too.  Fair isn’t findable in a perfect world, but
we can certainly give everyone the feeling of fair.  It’s still not perfectly fair, but who is
going to buy 40 dice at 75$ per day? 
Well, if ever had tournaments AND real money, sure every table would
have new dice.  Until there’s a 50 grand
or 250 grand spotting one of these games, ain’t ever gonna happen.  Note that I spent quite a bit buying those
dice.  I never saw them, either.  I gave Spag the money and he bought
them.  Word is they went over well.  Perfect? 
No.  Fair?  Yes.
and lastly- I want to thank you. I have truly appreciated
the time, attention and energy you have put into these replies.
Sure thing.  πŸ™‚
I have been sitting on these for so long, I nearly failed to
ask them:
Is there anything we didn’t discuss that you’d like to
mention?
Know of any good games? 
πŸ˜‰
Seriously, any questions you have, you should ask since I’ve
got a nasty honesty streak.  lol
I’m truly grateful that 
you did, but I’d love to know (if you don’t mind sharing) : what made
you say yes?
Why wouldn’t I say yes? 
It’s a extremely rare day when someone asks me something and I won’t
answer. 

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