Those of you who have followed our site over the years know that when we find out about a celebrity who plays one of the games that we cover, we like to track them down and get them to talk about their game playing with the community. So when I opened my local newspaper last week and saw that Jason of the comic "Foxtrot" was playing "World of Warquest", I just knew that I had to get the creator, Bill Amend, to share his thoughts about it with us. He graciously agreed to an e-mail interview covering World of Warcraft and comics in general. This is the result. I'll start you off with all 6 "World of Warquest" strips and then take you on to the interview.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I have been a big fan of your strip for years and read it every day in the Philadelphia Inquirer. When I started to read your strips about World of Warcraft I just knew we had to try to get you to talk with us.
Q: Last weekís cartoons involved Jason playing ďWorld of WarquestĒ, which is obviously a take off of World of Warcraft. What inspired you to have Jason playing the game?
A: It was about 11 pm on a Thursday, with my strips unwritten and due the next day, and instead of being in a healthy deadline panic, all I could think about was how my druid was about to hit level 20 and get the cat form ability. The strips pretty much wrote themselves at that point.
Q: Do you play World of Warcraft yourself? If so, can you tell us what race, class and level your character is and what server you play on (please donít mention the name of your character if you donít want to get completely spammed in game). Have you tried any other race/class combinations?
A: Yeah. I bought WoW as a Christmas gift to myself and have a Night Elf Druid on Bronzebeard. Heís level 34 as of this writing. My kids have an assortment of various lower level characters they play.
Q: Tell me your choices. Horde or Alliance? PvP or Pve? Solo or Group? WoW or EQ2?
A: So far I havenít done much PvP, unless Iím in a town and the Horde comes swarming in. Thatís fun, but usually theyíre all a lot higher level than me, so I die over and over. I do a lot of group play. I find itís more fun to be able to chit-chat during quests, plus I tend to live a little longer.
Q: What do you think of the game? What is your favorite aspect of the game? What is the thing you like least about it?
A: Iím pretty hooked. I love the design of the various regions. Itís like traveling to Middle Earth. I like the social aspect. None of my real world friends play online games, so itís fun to have online friends who share the interest. I do wish some of the quests didnít take so long (BFD, Gnomeregan, etc.), as itís hard to find huge chunks of time in my life to do them, but thatís part of the challenge of them, I guess.
Q: If you could corner a Blizzard programmer for a couple hours of feedback and suggestions on their game, what would you most want to tell them?
A: Make my healing spells work faster.
Q: If you donít play World of Warcraft what led you to pick this game out of all the ones out there to have Jason playing it? How did you hear about it? What do you think of the game and its players? Have you ever checked out any types of online games before?
A: Being a Mac guy, my game options tend to be somewhat limited, so for years Iíd heard about this ďEvercrackĒ phenomenon, and I knew itíd be great to spoof in the strip, but I couldnít play it and didnít want to write about something I was only superficially versed in. Then WoW came for Macintosh, which finally let me see firsthand what this MMORPG fuss was all about.
Years ago I was huge Myth 2 junkie. God only knows how many hours I spent online playing that. Then MS bought Bungie and yanked the cord on the servers and I got my life back. Then a year or so ago, they released the bungie.net source code and playmyth.net was born and I got hooked all over again.
Q: What other video games do you play? Have you played any other MMORPGís before playing WoW? Which ones did you like the best? How do those games compare to World of Warcraft?
A: As, I said, Iím a Mac user, so my options arenít all that huge. I do play a lot of Starcraft online. I loved the Diablo games, but never got excited about the online aspect.
My PS2 tends to be dominated by my kids, although I get some GTA time in now and then after they go to bed.
Q: Have you run into any other artists or others who play World of Warcraft, or other MMORPGS? If so, can you tell us who they are?
A: Not to my knowledge. If I have, theyíre being just as anonymous in the game as I am.
Q: What led you to drawing a Comic Strip for a living? Was that a lifelong plan, or something that just happened somewhere along the way? Can you give us some details on how it came about?
A: Iíd always drawn cartoons for fun, and somewhere around my junior year of college I started thinking about trying to get a strip syndicated after I graduated. I was a physics major and since I wasnít too keen on graduate school, I had to get creative about finding a career. It took about three years of rejection letters, but it worked out in the end.
Q: What is your inspiration for your work? Where do you get your ideas to keep coming up with funny concepts day in and day out?
A: Lots of coffee and deadline panic. Having characters that play well off of each other helps a lot. But it gets harder with each passing week, believe me.
Q: You seem to always be up on the latest things in pop culture and are always integrating them into your strips. How do you keep up with all of this and stay as edgy and relevant as you do?
A: Iím blessed with a fairly immature sensibility. Works great with my strip, less great with my wife. I read a lot of stuff in magazines and on the web to stay current. Itís gotten harder as Iíve aged, though.
Q: Those often called geeks like game players, trekkies, etc. are often kind of touchy about stereotypes portrayed of them, yet everyone seems to universally love Jason. How do you balance Jasonís geekiness in such a way that heís fun and amusing and not insulting?
A: Jasonís sort of an exaggeration of my own geeky side, so when I have fun with his interests (D&D, sci-fi, computers, whatever), Iím generally laughing at myself. Plus, the specificity matters a lot. If I just made the fact that he plays D&D the butt of the joke, thatíd be insulting. But if I make the joke about how he spends eight hours in the toy store testing dice to find the pair most likely to roll ď00,Ē thatís less so.
Q: What do you think of other online comics like Gucomics.com and penny-arcade.com that cover similar types of subject matter to what you cover? Do you have any advice for budding cartoonists?
A: To be honest, I donít read a lot of comics regularly anymore, print or online. After 17 years, I have a hard enough time trying to remember if the joke Iím writing has appeared in my own strip before, let alone someone elseís. Actually, I do read Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine on Yahoo every day, mostly because Iím friends with the cartoonists and we like to brag about how we beat each other on a given day in the rating system (I stopped doing that with Amazon once GF started cleaning my clock regularly). I see Gucomics and Penny Arcade from time to time, usually when someone on a message board links to one.
These are interesting times for budding cartoonists. The web presents a whole lot of freedom and really great way to attract an audience and get feedback, but not much in the way of money unless you (a) get hugely popular and (b) market the heck out of yourself. As much as a lot of people bitch and moan about the syndication system, it is nice that they relieve the cartoonist from the marketing aspect. All I have to worry about is doing the strip. Unfortunately, the newspapers that buy syndicated content arenít exactly freeing up extra space for new strips these days, so itís a tough business for the up-and-coming cartoonist, even once syndicated. And then thereís the issue of ďfamily-friendliness,Ē which isnít a problem on the web, but is a huge issue with newspaper editors. If you want newspapers to run you, you pretty much have to resign yourself to writing strips that wonít give grandma a heart attack. Itís not like radio, where controversy means big ratings. If 10 people call an editor to complain, that strip is more likely than not going to be on thin ice. This is why bland/innocuous strips seem to do so wellÖno one ever complains. The trick is to figure out ways to be funny without being needlessly offensive. Also, cartoonists starting out need to remember that the people buying the strips at papers arenít necessarily their target audience. A strip aimed at 20-somethings still has to appeal to the committee of 40-plus-somethings making decisions at the paper.
Q: What projects do you have planned for the future? Will there ever be a Foxtrot TV special?
A: No special projects are planned. Seriously, itís a full-time job just getting my strips out the door each week. And Warcraft doesnít help. Iíd love to pursue animation at some point, but I know some guys whoíve done it, and itís clear I donít have enough time or antacids ready right now.
I want to thank Mr. Amend for agreeing to talk with us. If you want to learn more about Foxtrot, read the latest strip, or check out some cool Foxtrot merchandise, be sure to go to Foxtrot.com.