So I’m going to try something a bit new for a little while on the GBO Blog. I got to thinking about the gaming community and kept coming back to how much I love all the people involved. I’ve been honored to have so many awesome conversations with people in the industry from common fans to community managers. I wanted to see if I could capture a little bit of the magic in those moments and bring them to you, so for the near future, I’m going to share conversations that I have with various people in the community. Hopefully you get a chance to see a new side of each of our participants, and at the very least have your eyes amused for a moment or two.
We start off with Josh Isom, though most of the Halo Community will know him better as Hitmonchan107. He’s an avid contributor to both the HaloGAF and Halo.Bungie.Org communities, even enjoying a stint on staff at HBO before moving on to bigger opportunities. Josh now finds himself the Community Manager for Trendy Entertainment in Gainesville, FL. He was gracious enough to spend some time talking with me about a number of different topics. Hopefully you have as much fun reading as we did speaking…
GrimBrother One: Okay… so, how long have you been “gaming” in general? Any earliest memories of a particular game or system?
Josh Isom: The earliest memory I have of playing video games was when I was four or five. I remember playing DuckTales on the NES. I was frustrated by a witch or something like that, and I yelled, “You bitch!” I think that was also the first time I got in trouble with my parents for cursing. Heh.
GrimBrother One: Lol, of course, you really were only mispronouncing “witch”, right?
Josh Isom: Haha, maybe.
GrimBrother One: Who knew DuckTales was rated T for Teen
Josh Isom: I remember my mom handled that very well. She sat me down and told me that bitch meant a female dog, but that it shouldn’t be used for anything other than that.
GrimBrother One: There’s a project we should start. A DuckTales reboot that’s a much darker story… I’ve got a few ideas in mind for the Bi – I mean Witch
Josh Isom: As long as it has the music from DuckTales, count me in.
GrimBrother One: Done. I’m already on Kickstarter’s website…
Josh Isom: Haha!
GrimBrother One: That’s industry standard by now, right?
Josh Isom: I smell a lawsuit cooking.
Josh Isom: Kickstarter is fantastic. I love seeing people paying for a product based on the idea alone. At the moment, it seems like the products that get the most support are the ones that tap into our nostalgia, but hopefully it’s drawing more attention to the lesser known ideas on the site.
GrimBrother One: Yeah, people seem to also be buying into the personality behind it as well. I think that especially in these early goings, it’s an incredibly important factor. Tim Schafer’s success relative to many other potentially equally-cool ideas seems to show this.
GrimBrother One: Your mother was right though, and it’s still a very important life lesson that the word Bitch only be used when referencing a female dog.
Josh Isom: That’s actually one of the reasons why I stay away from mainstream rap. Hearing women objectified and being called bitch infuriates me to no end.
GrimBrother One: Completely agree there. On a slightly related note, it’s also why I tend to really enjoy playing games with a strong and (more or less) unobjectified female lead or costar. FemShep for the win.
Josh Isom: You know, I have yet to play through Mass Effect as FemShep. I keep hearing that I’m not playing Mass Effect if I’m not playing as FemShep.
GrimBrother One: You keep hearing correctly, in my humble opinion. There’s just something about the combination of the way Jennifer Hale delivers the dialogue and the way the Mass Effect universe reacts to and interacts with FemShep that just creates a much richer experience. Again, in my opinion of course.
GrimBrother One: So, the other side of your life is Journalism. How long have you been involved in that?
Josh Isom: Honestly, I didn’t get involved with journalism until my freshman year of college. I joined the newspaper staff of the community college near my hometown, and I nearly failed it. I hadn’t taken a single journalism course in my life, and I hadn’t read a newspaper in ages, so I wasn’t familiar with that style of writing. My first story was about people and their fear of donating blood or getting their blood tested. I remember my editor sat down and tore it to shreds. She didn’t tell me it was shit, but she didn’t have to. The red marks on the paper said everything. That was also when I learned the first draft of anything is going to be terrible. Writing is hard work. I think people look at other people’s writing and think, “Man, I’m never going to be able to write like them. The diction, the syntax — it’s all perfect.” That doesn’t happen on the first try.
GrimBrother One: What’s funny is that if that’s true, then your writing has certainly come a long way in a short time.
Josh Isom: It’s certainly something I struggle with now. I’ve gone back and read Frankie or Urk’s old weekly updates, and I get a little discouraged at my own writing.
GrimBrother One: Join the club. I’ll get you a t-shirt.
Josh Isom: Yes! I’m a part of something! I feel so special now. I…belong.
GrimBrother One: You’re always welcome here. Until you become too talented… then we hate you too. Not long ago you enjoyed a great stint on the staff at Halo.Bungie.Org not only doing some great writing for some of the Front Page (it exists) posts, but also doing some excellent fact-finding and digging as well. How did that come about, and did it teach you anything different about the skill?
Josh Isom: I remember digging for hours through trademark filings and business incorporation paperwork. I think most of that came about from being genuinely excited about journalism and fact finding. HBO reignited my flame for writing that college had killed. UF has one tough journalism program. I felt the style of writing they were teaching was stifling. It’s hard to describe. But with HBO, there are no pre-determined writing styles I have to follow. It was liberating. More than anything, my short time there helped me decide my future career path as a community manager. Also, there was a front page? Holy shit.
GrimBrother One: I know, right? I should go post about that… But where?
Josh Isom: hahah!
GrimBrother One: So let’s talk about that career path you mentioned. You are with Trendy Entertainment. How did you get involved with them, and how did your role evolve at the studio?
Josh Isom: I started as an intern at Trendy Entertainment back in July of last year. There wasn’t really a community management internship position. But I asked Phil, our marketing director, if I could help the CM at the time, Justin Danford, with forum moderation and news posts. So I guess I kind of wormed my way in to the studio. Danford stepped down in January of this year, and thankfully Phil and the rest of the team asked me to step in as community manager.
GrimBrother One: So how has it been going so far at Trendy? What would you say the studio is known best for and why should we play their games?
Josh Isom: My time at Trendy has been equal parts intimidating and exciting. It’s strange to manage a community that someone else cultivated. It’s like marrying a widow. She loved someone else dearly, and I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to love again. But I’ve made it my goal to be as available as possible. It’s led to some sleepless nights, but I think the effort has been worth it. This community is filled with very talented, passionate people, and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else. (Especially the guys and girls who hang out in our Cutest Pictures off-topic thread. They’ve made my day brighter on so many occasions.)
I think our studio is known for our community engagement and our willingness to incorporate community ideas. Our team is committed to delivering a product that people want to play. One of the new modes we’re coming out with this week, a new PvP mode, comes from our community’s desire to see a stronger PvP element in the game. It’s exhilarating to be a part of a company that takes community seriously.
GrimBrother One: So the latest game at Trendy Entertainment is Dungeon Defenders, and as everyone should take a moment throughout the day to do some pimpin’, we offer you the stage. For anyone who doesn’t know, what’s it all about?
Josh Isom: Dungeon Defenders is a tower defense/action-RPG hybrid. It blends the defense building of a tower defense game with the one-on-one combat, character leveling and loot of an action-RPG. It sounds like a strange mixture to be fair, but I think people should download the demo and try it out for themselves if they haven’t already. There are other challenges in the game if tower defense isn’t your cup of tea, like Monster Fest, which gives players a set number of lives and enemies to kill within a certain amount of time. My personal favorite is Assault where players have to run through enemies and defenses to destroy the cores.
GrimBrother One: Core stolen?
Josh Isom: CORE DROPPED.
GrimBrother One: My thoughts exactly
Josh Isom: It does remind me a little bit of Invasion without the wave progression. For the record, I love Invasion, especially the custom map from the HBO community with the first wave of invading Falcons. Good times.
GrimBrother One: Lol, speaking of which, since many of our readers would be coming from the Halo-side of things, do you have any particularly special memories involving the Halo Community?
Josh Isom: I had a blast hosting the Halo Community Tournament last year. Trying to coordinate more than 400 people in one event was something I hadn’t tried before. There were a few missteps, but for the most part, it went off smoothly. And meeting the fans at Halo Fest at PAX Prime was entertaining. Seeing the online personalities in real life was a treat.
GrimBrother One: HaloFest was definitely amazing. It’s always an awesome mixture of feelings when you finally get to put those faces to a Gamertag or forum handle.
Josh Isom: I also really enjoyed playing in the HaloGAF Customs Nights last year. It brought back the LAN-like nostalgia I hadn’t experienced since the Halo 3 days. That was around the time my neighborhood got DSL. I lived with dial-up internet until I was 18 or 19 years old. High-speed Internet is still a relatively new experience for me. lol
GrimBrother One: I remember dial-up… that’s when you knew it was working because it sounded like it was broken.
Josh Isom: YouTube took forever to load, so I never randomly looked at cat videos. I generally stayed in the online forums, the weekly updates from Bungie and maybe a few gaming news websites. My Internet days pre-DSL were abysmal. But now, I can watch cat clips all day. Life’s good. My girlfriend told me she used to have a dance she would do during the dial-up noise. I never went that far. I just memorized exactly how it sounded. It’s a noise that haunts my dreams.
GrimBrother One: Sheesh, a site like HBO would be a GODSEND in situations like that!
Josh Isom: Thank God for HBO! I love the minimal aesthetic. Perfect for the 56k kids.
GrimBrother One: Amen to that! I’m pretty sure Louis Wu actually invented proper dial up. It was only 49k until he added the extra 7 in there.
Josh Isom: hahaha! I love Claude. He is one of the nicest (and tallest) men I have ever met. I remember meeting him at PAX last year. I was feeling awful because my internship at Trendy meant I didn’t have time for HBO, and he made it very clear that he didn’t require a time commitment from me. He is the Godfather of the Halo community for a reason. I have no clue how he has time for everything in his life. I could learn a few things from him.
GrimBrother One: I’ll second AND third that, my friend. Alright, let’s get a few rapid-fire answers to wrap things up.
Josh Isom: okie doke
GrimBrother One: Apples or Oranges?
Josh Isom: Apples
GrimBrother One: Cake or Ice Cream?
Josh Isom: Cake
GrimBrother One: Red or Blue?
Josh Isom: Blue (Pokémon Blue, son.)
GrimBrother One: Jello: With Fruit or Without?
Josh Isom: Without. I hate the chunks. Bleck.
GrimBrother One: Huntress or Countess?
Josh Isom: Countess.
GrimBrother One: Nintendo or Sega?
Josh Isom: Nintendo. No contest.
GrimBrother One: Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct?
Josh Isom: Killer Instinct. My first and favorite fighting game ever.
GrimBrother One: You and I are now best friends. All others need no longer apply.
Josh Isom: Nice.
GrimBrother One: About the game project we were talking about starting… I think we’ve found another franchise to resurrect.
Josh Isom: YES. I keep hearing rumors about Killer Instinct 3 on the Internet. I hope they’re true.
GrimBrother One: You and me both.
GrimBrother One: Josh, thanks so much for your time here, and thanks for all you’ve done for the HBO & Halo community these past few years.
Josh Isom: Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you again! Don’t be a stranger.
GrimBrother One: No worries there!
Thanks so much to Josh for joining us. Definitely check out Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders on XBOX Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC. We’ll be back with another guest in the near future, so stay tuned!