Sunday, January 25, 2015

I'm A Multi-Player Gamer

It is known in the village by many that I “do game.” That is, I play computer games (“Battlefield 4” on the Play Station 3 gaming console). Yet, no one really understands it – including my wife; why a grown man would play a “video game” and dedicate portions of most every morning to it or related to it.

Mostly, I think, it’s because a lot of the young village boys rack-up sizeable expenditures of baht playing person vs. computer games at the local Internet cafes.

My deal is that I’m in a gaming clan of people who network together, in real time, to play together in a virtual environment. We are spread across the world.

My clan (Tactical Gaming) interviewed me in summer 2014:

Tactical Gaming: Moose’s interview with TG-LEGENDARY

1. Why did you join TG?

In 2010, I was both new to gaming and multi-player gaming; having just bought my PS3 “Fat Boy” at the beginning of the year. The Xbox had tempted me, but I was afraid of the over-heating issue and, based on what I read, the PS3 seemed a more solid gaming console. I liked what I saw in the CoD demos, so I went ahead and bought my first game: Modern Warfare 2.

After going through the campaign and then getting on public servers, it wasn’t long before I discovered two things that became important in driving me forward as a gamer. One was that many gamers didn’t seem to have microphones (lack of communication) and many of those that did had a hostile or unpleasant attitude (lack of camaraderie).

I started looking around for a friendlier environment, one that I imagined one had when gaming with guys you already knew, who you respected and who respected you. I posted on several forums that I was looking to game with mature players who liked to win as a team and didn’t mind the fact that I was totally new.

I put that word “mature” in there because I am one of the oldest multi-player gamers on the planet. I’m not the oldest-in-age gamer in TG. TG Skeggie has that honor, I believe. I’m only 65.

I’m not sure if I found TG or TG found me. TG-Moose (aka dhmoose), then PS3\CoD BGC, sent a nice reply and pointed me to the Tactical Gaming website. The rest is “Legendary History.”

2. Describe your rise through the TG ranks.

Sometimes I still marvel that I rose at all and there are other times when I joke that TG “kicked me upstairs” in an attempt to take me off the battlefield. Nice try! Five years as a gamer and I’m still a very poor one. Given my age, my reaction time is just so slow.

I started off in the PS3\CoD Brigade. My first ST was the Marauders, then I think I was transferred over to the Rough Riders cuz my gun skills were so bad. But, the Rough Riders in the fall and winter of 2010 was a great place for me to be, because the SL (BREEP) took a little pity on me. He was backed-up by Fear who was one of the best trainers I’ve seen in TG. Between the two of them, they put a lot of extra time into training our squad and it was exactly what I needed.

Over Christmas 2010, our SS were a bit absent, so I increased my activity on the forums and picked up the slack without being told to. I wouldn’t say I kept the squad together, but I added a lot of glue until after the holidays and my efforts were noted. I was soon promoted to FTL, then, as vacancies occurred, rose to SA and then SL.

As I rose, I saw that I had a lot to offer TG – certainly not because of my gaming abilities – but because of my life experiences. I brought these to bear in helping my squad members have more fun and improve as gamers, themselves.

In late spring 2011, with the active encouragement of my BGC, I helped bring the Rough Riders up to qualify for competitive standing. We formed TROPIC THUNDER (CS) in the summer of 2011 and continued to hit the ladders. Unfortunately, we were not able to keep the squad name (it fit us misfits so perfectly!) and later renamed ourselves Fusion. We won most of our Game Battles, but personality conflicts hindered us. What was worst was that the competitive rewards and support for competition was greater with the Xbox, so we eventually lost our most competitive members to division transfers.

I went on leave in early 2012, in preparation for my retirement in real life and move to my wife’s village in the Thai countryside. I was happy to find out that I could continue to game, despite being so remote. So, I came off of leave in late spring of 2012 and decided to try out Battlefield 3 while waiting for Black Ops 2 to come out. Well, I liked Battlefield 3 so much, I never went back to CoD. In a way, that was a bit difficult for me because I had so many friends in PS3\CoD and was still highly respected there.

In PS3\BF3, I was “just another joe,” so I kept my head down and did my best to learn the game. It took me nearly a year! After another leave to visit family in the USA in spring 2013, I began my second climb up the TG ladder. I started with SA and then SL of the Flying Deuces, then to 1st Battalion Mentor, and then to 1st Battalion Executive Officer.

In early fall of 2013, we all were getting ready for Sony’s next gen gaming console – the Playstation 4 – and the release of Battlefield 4 for both the PS3 and PS4. With a good deal of foresight, TG-Reaper742 put together a transition plan to both keep the PS3 brigade viable and foster the growth for the PS4. On the PS3 side, this resulted in FatalityV1 promoted to BGC and myself as 1st Battalion Commanding Officer. We were fortunate to have DaOneEyeMan join us as XO of 1st -- an experienced TG member who transferred in from MAG. When Fate went on leave, I was promoted BGC of BF\PS3, and OneEye was promoted to CO.

3. What's the story behind your username?

In real life, I am a part-time writer and probably most noted for my writings on the history of surfing (real surfing, not surfing the Internet). My website and book series is entitled Legendary Surfers. When I thought of a gamer tag, “legendarysurfer” was too long, so I just shortened it to “TG-LEGENDARY,” being sure to keep the capitals for easier recognition in-game. The name, meanwhile, has taken on a life and meaning all its own.

4. Do you remember who recruited you? Answered in Question #1.

5. What is your fondest memory as a squad member? How about as CoC?

As an SM, it was probably in CoD, when I was called on by battalion/brigade staff to do several map run-throughs in Black Ops. I had developed a system that started at the southernmost spawn point. From there, I lead the group – guns red – around the perimeter, going clockwise, and spiraling in toward the center. To me, it seemed an easier way to learn a gaming map. When guys picked up on it, we continued to have good attendance for map callouts. You can practice that system in CoD, but you can’t in Battlefield because the maps are so much bigger.

As SS, my fondest moment was again in CoD when I realized most of the battalion was referring to me as “The CoD Father.”

My fondest memory as CoC was when I was promoted to BF\PS3 Brigade Commander, the position I now hold. Four years ago, I would never have imagined that I would come so far as a gamer in TG.

6. What are you most proud of regarding your TG career?

Although I’m proud of my role helping to keep the BF\PS3 Brigade a fun, learning environment especially over the past year or so, it’s my work in CoD that I am most proud of – at least so far. Leading Rough Riders (ST), reforming it to be on a competitive level to become TROPIC THUNDER (CS) and, later Fusion (CS) – gaming every day, helping very competitive TG members raise not only their skill levels and what we called “chemistry,” but also to be real leaders, brigade-wide. It was quite an exciting time for all of us involved.

7. What’s your all-time favorite game and your favorite gaming system?

My experiences are limited, so I won’t be of any help to anyone with this question. I’m a one-game-at-a-time kinda guy and I give my all to it. Also, I have yet to regularly use a gaming system other than the Playstation 3. Out of the games I’ve played on it: MW2, BO, MW3, BO2, BF3 and BF4… BF4 has been the most fun for me.

8. What was your first 1st gaming system and 1st owned game? Answered in Question #1

9. Any major influences? (TG and/or Real Life)

Within TG, major influences have been BREEP, TG-Moose (dhmoose) and TG-Reaper743. BREEP showed me how to lead a squad. Moose, you showed me how to lead a brigade. Reaper showed me how important the details are, how to handle them, and find them if I didn’t know exactly where they were.

In real life, I have had so many influences. If I have to single out a few, that would be my parents – both Gault and Williams sides – my wife, sons and Buddha.

10. What do you do to successfully mentor your subordinates?

I work incrementally and persistently with the stuff I feel they need to know. I make a conscious effort not to give them too much information at one time (data overload). I make sure they know I care about them, want them to have fun and be better at everything they do.

11. What is the key to successful leadership?

Strive to be effective and let success follow that lead.

12. What is your particular style of leadership?

I have to admit, it is Paternalistic. I love to help our members grow; in-game, in TG and in life. Loyalty is a big thing for me. I let everyone know I have their back and, in return, I expect them to meet the responsibilities to which they have signed up for.

13. Top 4 hobbies?

Gaming, writing, traveling, surfing when I can.

14. If you could change anything about TG, what would it be and why?

I think we’re doing great, collectively. Three little things I would change if I could:

#1: I feel too much time is spent on formatting issues. I believe it would save a lot of CoC time to relax the rules on formatting on the forums. I believe that “form follows function” and not the other way around.

#2: Have the new recruit process more friendly to mobile devices (i.e. be able to take the BC test on a hand-held).

#3: Most importantly, I’m concerned that our recruiters are not being accurately credited for all their recruits. This is because many new recruits do not mention their recruiter and if they do, it’s usually in the “why TG” field, not the “referrer” field. If I take myself as an example, I would guess that most recruiters are only being credited with less than 50% of the guys they’re bringing into TG. Obviously, this situation does not create much of an incentive for guys to continue to actively recruit. If your bullets are hitting the target, but you’re only receiving a score for less than half of your hits, you’re not gonna win your gunfight.

15. You have 1 wish....and you can’t wish for more wishes. What do you wish for?

Happiness for All Living Creatures.

16. Why have you volunteered so much time to an organization that doesn't pay you?

I’m fortunate. I’m retired and my schedule is now my own. So many guys in CoC positions are balancing school, sports, 40hr/week jobs, girlfriends, and/or growing families on top of their TG work. I gotta hand it to you all!

We do it because we’ve gotten so much out of TG, ourselves. We want to share it with others. The more, the merrier!

17. You've been through a lot compared to your random CoC member, regarding ups and downs with competitive aspects of TG. What lessons did you learn while leading CoD PS3's competitive squad?

Although my experience is obviously limited to BGC and under, I can’t imagine a more fun job in TG than being the squad leader of a CS.

That said, it’s not easy. You have to manage highly competitive gamers who tend to have very large egos. How you keep them focused and respectful while trying to bring them up as leaders is a real challenge.

In Rough Riders/TROPIC THUNDER/Fusion, we had very strong personalities – even a couple who came within a hair width of being thrown out of TG. Yet, I found that by making sure they all knew I was working for their best interests, the CS squads responded well to the call to leadership – not just as gamers winning most of their Game Battles, but as guys for the other brigade members to look up to and learn from.

And your work as CS SL has to be done on both sides of the ST/CS divide. So you work with ST SS and members so that they understand that CS guys are just a different breed; brothers, yes, but with an edge (ego). For things like competition, performance art, broadcasting, etc., you need ego to succeed.

18. In one word, how would you describe yourself? Why that word?

Persevering. Just look at my KDR. I’m still waiting for it to go positive! No, seriously, that’s just the way I am. If you start out in the direction you want to go, no matter the obstacles along the way, stick with it and you’ll get where you want to go.

19. Why is communication so important within TG?

Try playing on public servers with your mic and speakers off. Then, go to your squad practice with them on. What a contrast! Even in pubs, with your mic and speakers on, your results are mixed cuz few people on your side are really communicating.

With communication, your experience is so much richer. You can truly win as a team and develop relationships outside the game itself. Without communication in-game, via Teamspeak and on the forums, we could never achieve tactical superiority, nor would we be much of a community.

20. What's the most important thing a SM can do to pull their weight while in TG?

Learn from your FTL and SS; ask questions; volunteer; respond when polled; attend as many practices as you can; be active on the forums; think of where you want to be down the road and head there.

P.S. If you could, send me a link to your 3 favorite pics from your trip to Laos and I will try to include one for the article.

Pic links:

My favorite image from the TROPIC THUNDER days, done by Warmachine:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Harvest 2014/2557

Another reason why the fall season is a busier time for us than normal is because of giao khao (cut rice) – the harvest of both glutenous (sticky) rice and jasmine (khao nio and khao jao) on our two rice farms.

I was happy to see Thip take more of an active part in the harvest, this year, but I would not be drawn into it, myself. Transplanting and later cutting rice is real back breaking work. I already broke mine, for real, in 2004.

Besides that, as I have written elsewhere, I feel there are enough able-bodied family members to work the farms. We didn’t buy the farms for Thip and I to work them, but so that the family could and, as a result, be self-sufficient in the main staple of the Thai diet throughout each and every year.

If this sounds elitist, it’s not meant to be. It’s just the manager in me who recognizes that we all have things to contribute in life. Not that we even should, but there’s just no way one or two individuals can fulfill every role, themselves.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Our Birthdays 2014/2557

Almost immediately after Ohpensa is Boon Katin, another major Thai Buddhist observance. It is the time when monks receive new robes for the year and monks start to move out from their temples to visit other wats – having been sequestered in their own temple for three months from Khaopensa to Ohpensa, due to the restrictions imposed by Vassa.

After Boon Katin, it was Thip’s 43rd birthday and my 66th. Thip wanted to do something special this year, so we observed our birthdays jointly at our Kamattan temple, with a candle light ceremony of “making merit” (boon). I couldn’t count the number of candles. Ours and others’ who joined us in the merit making must have amounted to well over two thousand candles between about thirty people.

Thip said it was not a ceremony that is often done and that we were fortunate that Lungpaw agreed to it and that others also took part in the giving (ceremony and food afterwards and the next morning), making a stronger, more meaningful act.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ohpensa 2014/2557

One sunny, clear, crisp day there was a light breeze in the air that reminded me of something. I’d lived this day many times before – not in a previous lifetime, but this one. It was the first day of the fall season. When it arrives, there’s no calendar to tell you the date. You just feel it and know it.

Of course, there are the indicators: clear sky when usually it’s hazy, cloudy, overcast or air polluted. Then, there’s more air movement than normal – not cold or even cool, just moving, which, of course, relates to the clear skies. Crisp, yes, that’s the first day of fall.

The fall season is a busy time for us. Well, “busy” may be overstating it. We’re more active with other things in addition to the routine daily stuff is what I mean.

First, there is the Thai Buddhist observance of Ohpensa, marking the end of the three month “Buddhist Lent” (Vassa).

This year’s Ohpensa was quite a memorable one for me. I’ve been trying to limit my attendance at Buddhist ceremonies – much to the disappointment of my wife. It’s just that there are so many. 

So, I did not attend the evening Ohpensa ceremonies. Instead, I went out to our 9 rai rice farm, across the road from the temple to watch the full lunar eclipse of a "blood moon." Our farmhouse (Bann Nah) stood start and empty, suffering from a work stoppage, as I sat down on an outdoor bamboo bed to watch the show. I could see the lit-up hall of our temple from across the rice fields a quarter of a mile away.

I was in luck, as the skies were crystal clear. Not only that, but many temples around the area were lighting off sky lanterns. Far and wide, I could see literally hundreds of them rise up into the sky from various points along 360 degrees – all around! With the eclipsing moon, they made quite a sight.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bann Nah 13 - Lan Kha Noi

Thai and Lao people love multiple roofs and there’s no denying that they look sway (beautiful). Sometimes they are structurally integrated – meaning, they are necessary the way they are designed. But, most often, it’s just for show. It’s rare, for instance, to see a Thai Buddhist temple without a double, triple or quadruple roof.

Seeing our main “aluminium” roof go up, Lungpaw mentioned to Thip that it would look better with a little roof added on top to create a double roof effect.

So, because we respect Lungpaw and despite the added cost for something totally non-functional and the danger of water leakage as a result of cutting into the main roof, we had Lott and Naht install a lan kah noi (little roof) onto the roof of Bann Nah.

When our workers were nearly done with the roofs, they were needed back at the wat, for Ohpensa, the end of Buddhist lent (Vassa). So, work stopped. Then there was Boon Katin, when work couldn’t be restarted. After that, there was a trip Lott drove to Thung Yai and after that the guys had to work their rice fields in order to bring in this year’s crop. Although they could have come back to work much earlier, they waited until after the end-of-year holidays. Total of down time: 3 months (October-December, 2014).

Welcome to The Isaan.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bann Nah 12 - Lan Kha

With the teak structural posts installed on the second main floor beams, along with some wood cross supports and temporary eucalyptus scaffolding, the rafters went in so that the roof (lan kah) could be screwed on.

One note about the second story posts: these are attached to the main floor beams in much the same way as the concrete posts are. Both concrete and wood posts are notched and fit inside the main floor beams that are grouped in pairs, so that the notch fits inside the floor beams. In the case of the concrete posts, the floor beams rest on them and are bolted to them. In the case of the wood posts, they rest on the floor beams and are also bolted to them.

 Within the past 70 years, roofs for homes in the Thai countryside have gone from thatch to corrugated tin and now to “aluminium” (aka “aluminum”) and concrete tile (“C Pac”).

We decided to go with corrugated metal, like we did with our first story roof at our village home, not only for the lighter weight, but also for the price and durability – choosing a thicker grade rather than the thinner.

Also, we opted not to go with color. It is my opinion that the enamel process in Thailand is not standard and that the painting process for concrete tile is not uniform, either. Looking at both color-enameled aluminum roofs and colored concrete tile roofs of more than ten years, I see various shades of tiles and roof sections. The Thai sun is, no doubt, merciless. I want a roof to continue to look good beyond ten years, even if it develops its own weather-beaten shade of duller silver.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Bann Nah 11 - Beers End of Day

Occasionally, I would time my inspection visits to the farm to coincide with the end of the construction work day. Of course, I’d bring along some Leo’s, the favorite beer of Isaan guys. Women do not generally drink alcohol.

Samlott and Samnaht (Lott and Naht) really looked forward to this, as all work crews do.

There is a bit of protocol to beer drinking in Thailand and Lao and they’re pretty much the same. Glasses are filled with ice, by the host or person buying, using a metal spoon or ice tongs (using fingers is considered loso – OK to do for your own, but not for others, unless there’s absolutely nothing else you can use). Beer is slowly poured into the glasses tilted at an angle to minimize the head of the foam. Once the glasses are filled, they are given to their respective drinker. Usually a toast of “Son Kiao” (Thai) or “Som Jak” (Lao) is made and glasses clicked. It is the Thai/Lao equivalent of “Cheers!”

After the initial set-up, anyone can fill another’s glass with either beer or ice or both. This is most always done, as it is a sign of respect and appreciation. To have someone’s glass go empty or even half empty (especially when making a toast) would be considered a poor reflection on how you “take care.” Once a 640 ML bottle is finished, anyone is free to open the next one and fill glasses – always others first.

(Notable in the picture above: top of the bed is split bamboo. Lott’s hand is resting on his “Mechanical Buffalo” and you can see the attached cart stretching out to the upper left. Sandwich-type grill hanging on the left; underneath is my bag that I carry with camera, phones, notebooks, money, lighter, glasses, keys, mosquito lotion and more)