Welcome to our fourth Vox Ludio, starring apterous celebrity Jen Steadman. Jen joined in June 2011 and has since run up a long list of apterous accomplishments, perhaps culminating in her excellent recent top spot in Game of the Week. And she's kindly agreed to speak to us here. Here goes!
Charlie Reams: So, first things first. How did you come to find the site, and how were your earliest experiences of it?
Jen Steadman: I became a bit obsessed with Countdown during a pretty crap first year at uni, and I'm ashamed to admit I found Apterous as an indirect result of stalking an attractive contestant on the wiki. (Naming no names.) One thing led to another, and I soon found myself a fully paid up Apterite. Had it not been for the subscription, I might have quit in the first week or so as a result of being, well, not very good at anagramming - fortunately my tightwad student tendencies convinced me to carry on playing to get the most value for my money, and I'm glad I did. Once I discovered variants (especially Unlimited) and chatting to other players, I became increasingly addicted to the site. Fortunately I've kicked the Unlimited addiction now - you really can only type 'SENSELESSNESSES' so many times...
Charlie Reams: You're one of the top-rated players yet to appear on the show. Any plans on that front? Is there a specific point at which you'd consider going on?
Jen Steadman: I've always maintained that I won't go on until I graduate - I'm not the most hard-working student as it is, so the incentive to play more Apterous rather than less would be disastrous on my degree! Graduation's only a few months away now though, so I'll be applying soon hopefully.
Charlie Reams: It's perhaps beside the point to mention you as apterous' top-rated female player when you're one of the top-rated players full stop. Nevertheless, do you feel any special responsibility as trailblazer for the ladies' team?
Jen Steadman: The lack of female representation both in the top 50 of Pro Ranks and in terms of series winners (the last time a woman won a series was in 1998) is what inspired me to get better. Well, sort of. I had a vague plan about being the top-rated female player about this time last year and mentioned it to Mark Deeks, who I'd become good friends with following the discovery that he'd been to see my slightly obscure football club (Tonbridge Angels) play before. He not only encouraged me to believe that I could be the best female player, but also taught me about stemming and split multiplication, as well as teaching me a load of useful words. Without a combination of that and being inspired to end the male domination of Pro Ranks/prove those who doubted female ability at the game wrong, I doubt I'd have improved so much. I'm pretty territorial about being #1 female, though. I do want there to be more women in the top 50, but not at my expense!
Charlie Reams: You're running a well-received sweepstake for the 30th Birthday Championship. Who's your tip for the title? (Ed's note: This interview was conducted before the tournament began, honest!)
Jen Steadman: It's hard to look past Innis or Conor really, although Innis in particular has a horrendous draw. Jack Worsley was my 'dark horse' tip, but with the Predictor putting him 5th favourite he's not much of a dark horse any more... What makes it exciting is the fact that it could go any way - people seem to have automatically written off the non-Apterites, but there could be a few surprises. It's hard to say when so many of the contestants are unknown quantities.
Charlie Reams: What are your personal objectives, apterous-wise?
Jen Steadman: Top of the list is breaking into the top 25 of Pro Ranks (when was the last time there was female representation in the top 25?!) - easier said than done when the standard is so high right now. Other than that, completing all Ascension cycles, learning how not to suck at 6 small and, more ambitiously, maxing a Letters Attack would be nice achievements. Maintaining a healthy level of perspective about it all is also an important one, though some would probably argue I don't have one...!
Charlie Reams: There seems to be a broad spectrum between people who turn up exclusively to play and people who largely hang out in chat. Where do you stand on the social side of things?
Jen Steadman: Without the social side, I doubt I'd have stuck around so long. For one thing, it keeps me sane at uni as I'm on a tiny campus in the middle of nowhere, which means I don't get out much. But I just love the Apterous community in general, be it for making 'top 5 most doable Apterite' lists in chat at obscene hours of the night, being rowdy and obnoxious in the back row of the Countdown audience, or the chaos and debauchery (/stemming and drinking) of Co events. Main chat intimidated me when I first joined, and I imagine others may feel the same. But you miss out on so much by not getting involved with the socialising. If not for Apterous, I wouldn't have a membership card for a Mancunian casino and wouldn't have ended up dressed like a slapper at an Alan Partridge party in Cardiff, which are both experiences that have enriched my life and come in useful for anecdotal purposes. Plus the friendships I've made on the site mean that even if I do badly on the show, my 30 days of in-game time (eek) won't have been wasted. Incidentally, don't bother going to the Mancunian casino if you're just looking for somewhere to drink post-1am - it's £4.20 for a Bulmers. You might as well put a few fivers in a blender and drink that instead.
Charlie Reams: What games do you play outside of apterous? Are you into Scrabble or other word games?
Jen Steadman: I like Scrabble, although like many Apterites am a bit dubious of the dictionary (OUTPASSION?!). Unfortunately my friends and family point-blank refuse to play me, and I'm not good enough at it to give a serious player a decent game. Tetris is my all-time favourite game, though. As with Apterous, I prefer speed variants of it to endurance ones. I hate to think how many hours of my life I've spent trying to break my 40 lines high score on both my Gameboy and Facebook...
Charlie Reams: Would you rather beat Innis Carson or Apterous Rex?
Jen Steadman: Probably Rex. I always feel weirdly guilty when I beat the top players, unless the player's a massive douche - which, unless he hides it very well, Innis isn't. And even if he is, he doesn't get all arrogant in chat afterwards like Rex does. There's nothing more satisfying than beating a bad winner.
Charlie Reams: And finally, but most importantly, what's your favourite cocktail?
Jen Steadman: There used to be a bar in Falmouth that served a cocktail called a Cookie Monster, which was a lovely shade of blue and involved sugar, cinnamon and lemon (which makes it sound like posh tea with food colouring in). The bar staff would set it on fire and then you'd drink it as soon as the fire went out. Unfortunately that bar's closed down since the owners left in dubious circumstances, so I'm not sure I'll ever have one again. Just as well I prefer cider, really.
Thanks Jen! More Vox Ludio next month, maybe. And don't forget to follow us on Google+!