The more astute amongst you will have noticed that I've failed to meet the one-a-month target for Vox Ludios for the last few months, mainly thanks to being busy with real life and making the actual game (mea culpa!). So to speed things along and provide a fresh perspective, this month's interview was administered by the much timelier Jen Steadman, who you may remember from the previous episode. She spoke to Zarte Siempre, king of aptochat banter and all-round top dude. Here it is!
Jen Steadman: You're one of the newest players in the top 50. How did you find Apterous, and what got you hooked?
Zarte Siempre: I found Apterous at a difficult period — I'd just broken up with my partner, I was still coming to terms with the circumstances that put me in a wheelchair and work had dried up. My thought process was "I really need to do something at least vaguely productive, to keep my brain in gear". I remembered my love of Countdown as a kid and thought "There HAS to be an online version somewhere" and went hunting. Lo and behold I found Apterous and have been playing since. As to what got me hooked, with the question saying "top 50" that implies it's about the gameplay, and it's really not for me. I've always been addicted to people, I just get through them quite quickly as most bore/irritate me. But within the community, despite my character often being a polar opposite to others on the site, there's never a sense that that's an issue – in fact, the opposite. Apterous welcomes diversity and for as long as it does, so will I, and as a result stay "hooked" (I feel like that's terrible English – but I hope it does the job). I think the fact that most of you put up with my piss-taking, acerbic, eternally grouchy self helps too!
JS: I understand you've recently filmed for the show - without spoilering, how did you find the experience?
ZS: I found it incredibly easy to adjust to. I told myself the night before, that whatever happened, I was going to take it one game at a time, and enjoy it. I think I was nervous for about the first 5 rounds, and then it just all evaporated away. All you have to do is what you do every time you log on online – just focus, and think about just that one thing. I'd really advise more people to have a go, because the lights, the music, the people – none of it affects you once you're in the zone. If it had affected me though – I'd just have got pissed... I mean considering my best ever co:event was Lincoln and I played that almost entirely half-cut, there might be something to be said for it...
JS: People have arguably become more serious about Apterous as the standard has increased - how seriously do you take your rating, gameplay and suchlike?
ZS: I think the fact I openly admit to playing while not at my soberest says a lot for how seriously I take it! Sure, I get frustrated with myself if I have a bad game – but that's it – I get frustrated with myself. I think there's a serious point to be made about people taking it too seriously. There's several people who I'm on about a par with who chew themselves up every time they miss a single word, and who've played double the games I have. People don't realise I've not even played 4,000 games yet – I come on to have fun, and if I don't have fun – I don't learn from the mistakes I've made and it clearly works. And I refuse to believe that that's SOLELY me. There's become an increasing culture of public self-flagellation AND self-congratulation in the 18 months I've been on the site and it's the only thing that tarnishes it for me. We have a wonderful community with some wonderful, interesting people – don't make a mockery of that by getting irate in a chat room when you've "only" got 13 maxes. It's meant to be fun! No-one's going to change the world sitting behind a laptop screen re-arranging letters, and no-one outside of a few other people doing the same thing gives a damn how good you are at it. So let's just chill and have some laughs. I like to think that I try to keep the mood light, and I hope other people would agree (and maybe even appreciate it on occasion!)
JS: You were the first person to get a max game in the new 15 rounder format. Have you got your eye on any other Apto firsts or goals?
ZS: Put simply... no. It's impossible to have your eye on firsts really, because most of them are either impossible to someone who is as non-versatile as I am, or things I could do, have already been done. And those that come up in the future, I don't know what they'll be, and so it's pointless trying. I always said that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I'd like to be remembered for SOMETHING by every social sector of my life, and I think being the first ever person to max the new 15, would ensure that. That's more than enough for me. I'll leave the record-breaking to those who are better at it!
ZS: I don't think there's something that I specifically enjoy about hosting tournaments – it's more things I enjoy about each tournament I host. Apto-tude is something that didn't exist before I committed to it – it's a test that never ends for anyone. The top players always have to be at their best, or they risk slipping down the ladder. The players down the bottom, have something to aim for and can set themselves achievable targets. And on top of that, everyone is always playing for something. In a knockout, you can draw one of the top 5 and be out in R1 – with this, every time, you're trying to take the next step. I love watching the tables unfold when someone surprises themselves by coming from the back, or when one of the big names has a bad day and suddenly finds themselves having to save themselves. It's like watching the football season – there's ALWAYS a story if you look hard enough.
With regards to The Mole, I'm a completely sadistic bastard, and watching the players wander around cluelessly trying to work out what's going on pleases me greatly. In all seriousness though, it's been great to provide a challenge that can be classed as apterous-related, and yet take people away from pure gameplay. I'm hoping that there will be several of them, because I think people might get more into the back-stabbing and double-dealing that the game requires, once they find out what players who know the game have been up to in this one (Hopefully this interview will also put the cat amongst the pigeons!)
JS: Outside of Apterous, you're a keen cook. What are your favourite recipes? Are there any types of cuisine you specialise in?
ZS: Yes, the kitchen is my safe place really. I've been at my lowest, practically rocking in a corner, singing sea shanties while wearing a tutu, but you give me a knife and I won't start mutilating my environment, I'll just knock up a remoulade (I felt a 9 letter word had to finish that sentence). My cooking style is mostly pan-Asian, but I also like fusion food, or food that twists the ideas of what a classic dish is. An example of the former would be a thai inspired sea-bass salad – with the fish flaked through rice noodles, with lots of chilli, lime, ginger and pickled vegetables and finished with fish floss (Crisped up fish skin which you then breakdown into a thick crumb – almost like pork scratchings). An example of the more fusion-side would be my curried beetroot risotto, finished with ricotta, and sometimes served with seafood, but it doesn't really need it. My favourite dish I've ever invented was scallops with a cumin and pea puree, a balsamic vinegar caramel dressing, parmesan crisps and finished with a few rocket leaves and some chorizo oil. My more out-there ideas... savoury ice-creams. Piping hot goats cheese and spinach filo tartlets with a caramelised red onion ice-cream. And I'll give you a dessert to finish off – jelly, cake and ice-cream Zarte style. Cardamom and pistachio cake, saffron ice-cream and a kaffir lime and ginger beer jelly. And if you think this all makes me sound pretentious well you can go... be right... I guess it is quite pretentious...
JS: Last but not least, what's your favourite flavour of crisps?
ZS: Ah, I do love crisps. If it's a bog-standard multipack, then I'll always go after the Salt and Vinegar, but my absolute favourite is probably smoked chilli and goats cheese – they're not cheap, but fuck me, I can eat them by the lorryload. Also – mix together tzatziki and lemon curd and dip salt and vinegar Pringles in... it's completely heathenish but delicious.
Thanks, Jen and Zarte! More episodes more often in the future, hopefully! And as always, please do follow us on Google+!