I'm standing somewhere in the Nevada desert and it's cold as hell. The sun isn't due up for another half hour and I neglected to pack a parka. I'm beginning to wonder if this is some sort of cruel hoax or will I actually get so meet Kathy Tafel face to face. The last message I got from the dwarf mime was to meet her here. Of course, I could have easily misinterpreted, after all, he didn't say much. Bungie Sightings would mark down yet another reporter lost on a dangerous assignment when they find my body partially eaten by wild horned toads.
To think all I was trying to do is find Sorcha Payne, winner of Bungie's St. Valentine's Day Massacre five years ago.
Shortly after the sun comes up I see a glint on the western horizon. The dot slowly resolves into a brilliant ball and then finally comes into focus as a chromed solar powered three wheeled vehicle. The car slowly circles me at a distance, no doubt checking to make sure I wasn't followed. After a bit the car silently glides up next to me and comes to a stop. A gull-wing door rises and out steps Kathy Tafel AKA Sorcha Payne dressed in a brightly colored patchwork jumpsuit.
Seeing Kathy up close I can tell that the past five years have changed her dramatically. Her face has started to show worry lines that shouldn't have been there. She is still a beautiful woman, but there is a gravity behind her eyes that you don't usually see is someone so young.
"Hey, Kathy, nice to meet you," I say, "Jason Beach [AKA stinger of Civil Order] says, 'hi'."
The worry lines disappear as she lets loose a dazzling smile. "Yay, hi back to stinger!!!!" she exclaims. Then she's back to business as the interview starts.
It's been 5 years since you won the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. What was the tournament like and how hard did you have to fight to win?
Well of course the first Myth tourney was the stuff of legends. I made it through round one, but actually lost my second - it does happen. My Civil Order-mate, Fly MoLo, had a swim meet and couldn't do his second round so asked me to take his place. After much bribing, the judges said my being his champion would be okay. I thoroughly trounced the competition in round two - and there was much whining. Round three was more exhilarating. I especially remember the last battle, I forget the name of the map, but it's the one where there's a huge crater in the middle of a large hill where the flag is, you get soulless, thrall, a dorf or two and mebbe some knights [For Carnage Apply Within. - ed]. As I climbed the hill, I managed to pick off Mercy's soulless, so he was at a disadvantage. The other two finalists [Gwydion #CP#g and someone we can't remember. -ed] were duking it out on the other side of the hill. I occasionally would pick off some of their peeps with dorf or soulless. I watched clock carefully, and timed my army of thrall to end up at flag as time went out, but not before so they wouldn't be sitting ducks.
Now, usually how that map plays out is that two people would get to the flag at timeout, and thus the flag would be contested until last man standing, so you'd save your reserves until after the time actually ran out. But Mercy didn't send anyone down, and the other two players were fighting amongst themselves on the ridge of the hill, and didn't send anyone down either. I was surprised that no one tried to bomb my thrall, and that they didn't have to fight their way to the flag. Too late, people noticed my thrall but they blocked the other players from being able to contest the flag. Game over, with many WTFs. I think I might have lost one or two of my men, and grieved desperately at their loss.
So on the last game I didn't really fight much at all. Myth is strategy game. I have unfair advantage because I speed read, and process input quickly. So I've already made my moves before others take in the surroundings. And mistakes made early in the game compound themselves later.
How is the Trow statue is doing?
Since I was Fly's champion, I gave the Trowphy to him. My sole memento is the picture. You'll have to ask Fly about it. He retrieved it from the MacAddict office, and I haven't seen it since.
Bungie seems to inspire a fanatical fan base. What was your impression of the Bungie community in the goode ole Myth days?
I have to admit that one of my favorite parts of a Macworld expo was the rabid fans chomping at the bit for the doors to open to rush to the Bungie booth. ...seeing the trail of stickers for a particular game. Bungie inspired loyal fans because of quality and attention to detail. ...and inciting to riot. As far as the community in the Myth days, there was nothing better than sitting in a game room shooting the breeze with my Civil Order mates. Ah, those were the days. It was really fun to watch the jerks who do exist online get creamed by us "civil sissies." It didn't seem to occur to them that being able to trust your teammate not to WOL could actually help you win.
You've been at Apple for some time now. What have you been up to lately there?
I make bad puns in marketing. But this isn't about my job [she grins a big grin] Other than standard disclaimer, these views are my own, have nothing to do with Apple, I don't by any means speak for Apple here, Apple doesn't endorse what I say, etc. etc.
How are your personal affairs progressing?
Hmmm, now that would be telling, wouldn't it? Suffice to say that there is currently no man in my life who has declared his everlasting love, devotion, and desire to raise a brood of free-spirited geniuses bent on world domination. For some reason, I seem to intimidate people and it is difficult to find playmates who can keep up with me. [She bats her eyelashes coyly.] I do have a wonderful circle of deep friendships.
What do you do for fun these days?
The most regenerative thing that I do is attend Burning Man. It is home. In 1999, I participated in my friend Mike's Freezing Man project. We raised money to buy ice cream, and gave it away in the hot desert sun. We were very popular.
I imagine so!
Last year, I made a statue of Aphrodite that was installed in the center camp cafe. "Aphrodite Arrives" was a life-size visualization of Botticelli’s Venus, except Greek is better than Roman. The clamshell had waves of electroluminescent wire and white (bottle) caps; the clamshell itself was lit from within with fiber optics that changed color. Participants could stand in the clamshell, read inscriptions on the inside of the statue and be the goddess for a moment or two. Learning to solder was fun. It took less than five minutes to set up and tear down, which was a primary design consideration along with withstanding the elements.
My friend Liz helped me make the statue, and we are about to embark on her project, an installation of the Morrigan from the Tain Bo Culaigne, perhaps juxtaposed with the scene of the Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata where Arjuna asks Krishna, "how can I fight this war against my uncles and cousins and teachers?"
Still a Master Gamer or on to something totally different?
Yes, to both. I have discovered the ultimate real time strategy game, though it's actually been on the market for quite some time. It's called "Life." You can play by many rules, but my favorite is "Leave the planet a better place than you found it and have fun in the process" along with the corollary "I don't win unless everyone else wins, too."
To get on a soapbox, the planet is in sorry shape, and if present trends continue, I imagine it will be a cesspool in fifty years. The current administration is filled with neens intent on entrenching the plutocracy at the expense of everyone else. Wealth is getting more concentrated in the hands of the super-rich. Corporations who do not pay taxes have bought our federal representatives and legislation. Overpopulation will use up and pollute the world's water supply. The planet currently produces enough food so that people needn't starve, but politics diverts it and famine ensues. Mega-corporations plunder from the common wealth and do not return the seed so the next generation can flourish. Education is a joke, and rarely do people learn critical thinking skills. In the US, it is a vibrant middle class which is the soul of innovation and invention, and it is disappearing, with a whimper. Also sprach Kassandra.
I woke up to the need September 12, 2001. That's when I found out that one of my sister's dear childhood friends, Alicia Titus, was a flight attendant on United #175, which crashed into the World Trade Center. I can only hope that she died quickly, but I wonder what it feels like to have one's throat slit with box cutters. Is it like a massive paper cut? Did her almond eyes watch others get the knife first and did she wait in dread, or was she mercifully first? Blood and gore isn't so fun when it hits so close to home, and I really haven't played video games since then, other than Pikmin.
My quest has been to remain awake ...to seek out that which keeps me fearless and free ...to encourage others to wake up to the planet's plight. I have some thoughts on the matter. First, turn off your television. Throw it away. Get your news from independent media. Spend less than half your free time on "entertainment." Write letters to your congressional representatives. I actually think the US system is the best one available, just needs a simple reboot to get rid of some bit rot, such as the notion that a corporation should have the same rights as a person.
Sorcha's recruiting autonomous lieutenants. I would welcome teammates who agree to play the game with my rules. Watch "The Matrix" and "Fight Club." Read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," "Ender's Game," and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Visit CrimethInc, but don't take it too seriously. Know thyself. It is a far greater challenge to create civilization than it is to destroy it. It will be fun and exhilarating. There will be random captains, so you must be willing and able to lead. If you are game, and you know what your next move is, tell me. Maybe we can get to the next level together.
Thanks for the interview, Kathy. Anyone you want to say hello to?
Gosh, my civil mates, of course, and Doug Z and Yeroen.
With those last words she slides back into the faux purple velour interior of her car and quietly slips away. The sun's been up for a while now and the chill has left me. The only trouble is I can't remember the way back home. Wish me luck.