To start out, I decided to have a few friends I game with and ones I know in real life ask a few questions to help get this started and break down the traditional “about the writer”. To do so it took some time and effort to get this organized and make sure all the questions that were asked fit the topics a bit better. I want to thank my friends and family for helping get this questionnaire written out.
Friend(s): Dustin, what got you into gaming? Was it what influenced you as a gamer today?
Dustin: Y’know, I got to say it was my dad. He came home one day, I think I was one or two, and he put down this Mario bundle. I’m not sure why, but I still recall it as if it were yesterday. He had the bundle that came with Duck Hunt and Super Marios Bros. It wasn’t till I think my 3rd or 4th birthday that he and my mom scrounged every penny they had to take me to Tulsa so I could get my very first copy of The Legend of Zelda for NES. It was there that I really decided I loved video games and continue to love them today. So I’d say it is a lot of what influenced me to become the gamer I have today.
Friend(s): So you said The Legend of Zelda is where you really got started, huh? What is your best memory with it?
Dustin: Yea it was. I remember on my fourth birthday my dad had ordered Pizza for this guy I grew up with in our trailer park named Erich. He and I were inseparable, but my dad joined in with us by ordering us a pizza from Pizza Hut I think. We sat down and played The Legend of Zelda for a good six hours or so. I remember it because Erichs mom came over asking him to come home. It was good stuff.
Friend(s): Seems like gaming has been almost a big part of your life. What would you say made you become the writer you are today?
Dustin: Man; that’s a tough one. I’d have to say I really got started into what I do now because of my parents. They always sat down and told me to chase a dream, but do something I’d be happy with. I’ve never been happier being a writer and playing games the way I do now. I’ve met some amazing people and even got some advice from some of the big names in the industry.
Friend(s): Has anything changed for your love or passion of gaming since you’ve started writing? Has anything changed about how you see games when you aren’t playing them to critique?
Dustin: Y’know, that’s also another good question. I hate saying that a lot has changed about my passion for gaming. Sometimes I find it harder to play games than other times since I find myself time constrained a good six or seven months out of the year. I spend a lot of time playing games for companies on major time constraints and trying to still spend time with my friends I game with over PlayStation Network or even in person. I’ve recently had to take a hiatus from WoW where I could obligate some money into the team to ensure our website stays active and we can get some of the bigger name titles under our belt. As for when I’m not criticizing games? Yea I do see a lot of things different. I’ve become more noticeable about small UI glitches, game bugs, hiccups or small things that should have been spotted way before they were. It’s just small stuff like that.
Friend(s): I bet you’ve played a lot of games over the years. What’s one of your favorites that you had to review for the team you work with and what is your favorite you played just to play?
Dustin: Man, you guys are spot on. My favorite review title, huh? That’s a bit of a tough one. I’d have to say the one I’ve had the most fun reviewing was Wrack by Final Boss Entertainment. I had the pleasure of meeting the dev team such as Remco, Brad Carney, and even spoke a few times in email with their PR lady Shan. I had a great time meeting them and really enjoyed what they had to offer as well as their game that really focuses on community efforts. As for personally purchased? I’d have to say I really enjoyed my most recent endeavor with Nihilumbra. It’s a great indie title that’s about to hit the Nintendo eShop. I played it on my PlayStation Vita and loved it. You should check it out.
Friends: Wrack, that was a game you were introduced to briefly before QuakeCon 2014, right? What was that experience with the game and team like?
Dustin: I can’t say it was bad at all. I had a lot of fun speaking with Brad and the team he works with. I took a lot of positive things away, but also learned I made some mistakes when interviewing. I called their game “Wracked” or “Wreck” a few times. I guess it was excitement, but I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed even playing their game as much as I did. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge PC gamer so I’ve really not had a chance to try out a huge chunk of the mods made available for it, but they look great. I keep my eye on it every now and then. Even shot Brad a few emails, but never heard back. It looked like the games been doing great last I checked.
Friend(s): Do you spend quite a bit on games to review for B.A.T.G.R. or try to review? Rather how much do you spend on average just to try and get reviews out if you have the time?
Dustin: Man… I think at least a thousand or so a year. I know I trade in a lot of games where I can get at least somewhat of what I paid back just to move on. Since we are self funded and as a team have no income as a company, it’s all out of pocket or supplied by the games publishers. So it’s expensive. When the New Nintendo 3DS released? I broke down and spent quite a bit on it just to ensure there is one on the team. It’s being used right now for two reviews that will be coming up by the end of March.
Friend(s): So we know your team had a huge falling out. How did B.A.T.G.R. get started and can we discuss the falling out?
Dustin: I knew this one was going to pop up somewhere.. Man.. (*takes a drink of wine before leaning back to answer noticeably not feeling up for this one*) Y’know, when I got into journalism, it was simply because I got bored, but knew I had a knack for writing. It wasn’t even a few, maybe that same day, when I approached former-colleague of mine and even founding member Jesse Olvera and asked him if he wanted to get into game reviewing with me. Just simply game reviewing. We started out as real amateur’s. We didn’t know what the Hell we were really doing. Rather I didn’t, let me rephrase that, but Jesse had this composure with him that made it seem easier than anything. I guess some of it was due to him really seeming calm as well as collected. So we created B.A.T.G.R., I spent an average of 4-5 hours a day writing up reviews on past games we played. I had to do a lot of research to re-learn some names I should’ve known of supporting characters, settings I should have remembered, and even a few basic things such as the developing studios. I was a true rookie at this while Jesse. Man, if anyone knows their stuff better than anyone, it’s that guy.
Over time though we picked up some members. Josh Turner was our third member to jump on, then Angie, Shannon, Devon, Sarah, Jonny, Kennard, Casey, Aaron, and just kind of hovered where it stayed. Over time we had a few good clashes between members, had a few people leave, and even found a steady team for about six to eight months. Remember, we aren’t even two years old yet. This is our second year, we formed in July of 2013.
Friend(s): So you hit a rather early rough spot. That’s no fun, but you seem to keep going through it with the support of Devon and Sarah behind the scenes. So what happened next?
Dustin: Yea, we do keep going. I can’t say just I. Sarah and Devon are a huge part of my drive to keep going. They may not put as much time in as I do, seemingly, but trust me. They are a huge moral support that helps Blast Away the Game Review keep going. Anyways. That’s a different discussion, but know I appreciate them more than anything else, just like I do the readers.
So we met up as a team in July of 2013 at QuakeCon 2014, where we officially got to meet Aaron. Casey, Johnny, myself, and Jesse that is. I knew Casey and Jon outside of conventions, we -Jonny and I – live(d) within an hour apart from Casey; convenience you know? We had this topic of getting an office, moving to Dallas, and starting up the idea of living closer together so we could get work done even faster. Looking back at it now? They were on the right path, it was a good idea, and one that had I known could have really helped us out, would have worked even better. Though I fought it tooth and nail, got pissy, threw a fit and well – pulled our team apart, long story short. Granted there is more personal stuff than that – lets just say I should have known better to be a better example as a leader, a friend, and person. I’ve had to come to terms with what I did.
Friend(s): Dallas, you have family there, no? So what made this idea a bit harder to do so that your team could relocate and make it a bit easier to work together?
Dustin: I do. I have a couple of cousins and aunts as well as an uncle. To be honest, back then I don’t know. Even though it was not even six months ago it happened – the fallout that is. I think it was me hitting a panic button, not wanting to sacrifice leaving everything I knew, and moving away from my friends, family, job, school, and well – my life to start a new one to build up a business. I really used my fighting with Casey as an inner-team issue. It got bigger than it should have, which was wrong. In turn this is where it goes. I lost friends I’d have taken a bullet for out of the ordeal.
Not letting the topic rest, I fought with Johnny, Casey, and even Aaron tooth and nail regarding this idea. I let it get bad enough it went to the point that I removed him from the team to put Blast Away the Game Review back to where I originally imagined it. A bit selfish, I know, but I’m at-times that controlling. I have a very set vision for Blast Away the Game Review and pulled the trigger, which ended a lot of friendships in team members, and even pushed potential writers out.
Friend(s): Sounds rough. How did you overcome it? Do you still think about the idea of Dallas?
Dustin: To be honest, I don’t think I ever fully overcame what happen. I still bring up memories from time to time and keep the topic at bay. I have a few friends I game with on PlayStation Network that ask me about what happened and why I no longer am part of a clan on titles such as Warframe and why I left WoW. I think I did a lot of it because I let what happened get to me that badly. I never even really had a chance to apologize to folks for what happened until a few months ago. I posted it on my Facebook wall, not that you would get to see it unless you went digging through my wall, but I made it happen.
It triggered a lot of thoughts about Dallas when I drafted up my apology that may never be fully accepted, but y’know – what can I do about that? Long story short. Yea I do still think I have a lot of overcoming to do. I constantly find myself asking the questions like, “What would those guys do if they were in my spot?”
It makes it rough at times.
Friend(s): It can be hard to lose friends and colleagues like that, but hey, you are still here, you are still pushing forward, and you seem like you’ve been busier than before. It was hard to even get you online to a video chat or even in person lately. Your phone is hard to get you to answer. What keeps you so busy? We noticed the posts on your website have slowed down a bit.
Dustin: Haha, yea. I have slowed down a bit in the writing department. I get hammered with 3-4 reviews a month, sometimes overlapping, which means I’m manhandling 3-4 games at a time, while also trying to maintain a somewhat normal social life. We all see how that goes. I keep my Vita, 3DS, and even a soda near by to function when it’s been an allnighter to make sure I get reviews done. That’s where having multiple team members that were available came real handy – they were able to help delegate the work to other member and meet the deadlines, but hey, I’m getting it done!
Friend(s): You seem to be doing so. You’ve been extremely busy lately it seems like. What game(s) are you working on right now that you can discuss the topic of?
Dustin: I wish I could discuss several of them. They are just that awesome, but because they aren’t out yet, I can’t. Though the ones that haven’t been given to me with an embargo I can. Currently there are two in works outside of codes given, which are Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. They’ve been a blast so far, but because I do have titles with deadlines, I’ve been focusing more-so on those and trying to ensure that their reviews are done in a timely manner. We got a few more days before you can see those, just keep your eye on the website.
Friend(s): Sounds good. So a bit about you since we got a bit off topic there. We know we said your dad was a huge influence into your passion for gaming. Is there anything him and your mom don’t know that you think of constantly?
Dustin: Yea there is. My parents are my biggest inspiration in chasing your dreams and making them happen. I grew up poor. By poor, I mean my dad sacrificed days so that he could work overnight at a chemical plant to ensure my brother, mom, myself, and him had a place to stay as well as food and clothes on our backs. He sacrifices a lot of stuff to ensure those around him have what they need and have a happy life. He’s always kind of been a huge anchor in a lot of the things I do, but so has my mom.
My mom’s kind of my rock really. She’s the person I go to when I need an ear to talk to, someone that may not understand my passion for gaming, literature, or even my excitement about the digital media I enjoy, but she and my dad actually – listens and tries to understand – it means a lot to me. They are what drives me to chase my dream of becoming a professional writer that works solely for B.A.T.G.R., which is awesome.
But I also have friends that drive me harder because they constantly want to know what they should be looking out for and even ask if I’ll try to get coverage on it. So yea, there’s a lot there.
Friend(s): You said Devon and Sarah really help you out – how so?
Dustin: Good question, I gotta say. They’ve been there almost since the beginning. Devon’s this awesome dude that’s always coming up with innovative ways to help draw in a bigger audience and maybe get us paid sponsorships, which we would love to have. The guy is an audiophile and hardware junkie. He loves it, which is great. His enthusiasm is intense, which resonates with Sarah and I quite well. He’s just a pure go-go-go guy and even really laid back. I really get a lot of positive vibes and feedback from him. He’s always got something constructive to say, which helps a lot.
Sarah is much the same. She’s never written much, but she’s always been there to help steer me back in the right direction, even when the other team members we had were still on board. In a lot of ways, she’s kind of the ‘counselor’ of the team who always listens and offers ways to fix problems. She’s also a Hell of a writer when she does write and offers up new and interesting ways to approach topics. So it’s all really behind the scenes with her, which helps a lot.
Friend(s): Sounds like you all are a strong team. Have you ever rammed heads with either of them?
Dustin: (Laughing mildly) Actually yea. Devon and I. We don’t see eye to eye on downloadable content, 2K Softwares business practices, or really even certain game titles. He knows I’m a bit of a Sony fanboy after the initial Xbox One reveal. They really hurt my trust there, but that’s a different topic, but yea, we’ve collided on opinions a few times. It happens though, and if it wasn’t for his approach – I doubt I’d be inspired to write some of the op-ed’s I’ve done. He’s a huge inspiration on stuff like that.
He also makes sure we strive to succeed with his constant input and feedback. Trust me though. I’ve rammed heads with others before, but in business you do get passionate about things like this, and at times – it’ll show.
Friend(s): That’s no doubt. You’ve always seemed to enjoy a good debate. Speaking of debate – we know you did a small series about sexism, gamer identity, and even the GamerGate movement. What sparked that? Was it Anita Sarkeesian?
Dustin: Man oh man. Talk about walking on some thin ice here. Yea I did actually do those topics. To me it was rather important to discuss, even ethics in journalism since I’ve found myself confronting the idea of journalism business practices from some big name publishers because of scores for big titles like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and even Grand Theft Auto that always get these insane scores, but are heavily flawed or broken titles. So to me it was important to bring that up a bit, but the GamerGate movement, Gamer Identity, and even sexism was a much bigger deal since it’s a huge topic right now.
GamerGate especially since I have a few people I know as gamers and journalists that are feminists as well as pro-GamerGate people. I really felt honoured when we got a follow from Jenny Bharaj who is a huge advocate for ethics in journalism as well as even showing some really serious issues in the gaming industry to this day. I have a lot of respect for people who are very big speakers of the underlying issues of today’s world in gaming. Even Anita Sarkeesian has made some very valid points about flaws in todays gaming industry.
Friend(s): Can you expand upon what you mean by flaws?
Dustin: Honestly, I can’t. I could write you a novel about that, but lets just say there are a lot of them. Especially in ethics, scoring, and even reporting.
Friend(s): So lets change the topic. We can tell you are passionate about that one and will have to suggest people to see the editorial part of the teams website. Lets go back to video games and what got you started. Who really helped get you going in the means of practicing and becoming a better writer going forward?
Dustin: I’d have to say two big names were Adam Sessler (TheoryHead, Inc) and Mike Futter (Game Informer). I exchanged a few emails with Mike on how to become a journalist and a better critic about a year ago from my old email account. He gave me some really inspiring tips on how to get better, what to do, and even how to report. I’d have to say when it comes to Adam it’s because of his pure passion for gaming, but also his knowledge and appreciation for such an artistic platform. One that is still growing and becoming what it is today. These two guys are huge influences and really drive me to strive to get where they are now. I may already be there and just don’t know it yet.
Friend(s): That’s very true. Both are very well established and renowned. Is that something you want for the writers you work with and yourself?
Dustin: I think it would be an honour to get to that stature, but if we get there we get there. Hard work in the end sometimes pays off for some people and others it doesn’t. We’ll see. I’d love to see them get all the recognition to be honest. They have worked hard whether they have written an article or helped me out with research.
Friend(s): This Q&A has gotten rather long. Eight pages typed. Did you ever think someone would set you down and put you on the opposite end even with your own computer?
Dustin: To be honest, no. I’ve fielded some answers I’ve been asked before and I never really thought it would happen, but it’s a nice change in pace. It’s interesting to see how others think and approach questioning. I appreciate it.
Friend(s): Since things are starting to wrap up here – what really pushes you to keep going and remain the way you do as a writer, but also as a founder?
Dustin: I’d have to honestly say gaming itself. I’ve met some awesome people in my 28 years of gaming. I’ve experienced stories that knock a lot of the T.V. shows, comics, and books I’ve read completely out of the water, but I can’t say that’s fully why. I think a lot of w hat keeps me as dedicated as I am is the push to really offer gamers a place where they feel they can be accepted, honest, and enjoy a publication that’s not going to water down or give some game a good review just because it’s branded by a certain company.
I keep going and striving the page as a team effort. I really don’t think I’d have continued on without the support from Devon, Sarah, my mom, dad, and a few of our readers. I owe them the biggest thank you that you could imagine. They’ve really been a lot of inspiration to me and I can never thank them enough for putting up with me the way they have. It’s just a bare and honest truth.
Friend(s): Thank you Dustin for answering these questions and we can’t wait to see how the fans of Blast Away the Game Review respond to this.
Dustin: Thanks for taking the time to get some honest questions out.
To join the community for Blast Away the Game Review, we now have an official Community Group that anyone can join by going through our Facebook Community Page and simply joining. There you can discuss games, reviews, news, and even information or thoughts about anything.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.