"Listen to my story." - Tidus, Final Fantasy X
Updated on: September 4, 2016
AGE: 32 (b. July 4, 1984)
OCCUPATION: Shift Manager / Customer Service Instructor (general store)
PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Turku, Finland (formerly Uusikaupunki, Finland)
Up until seven years and some months ago, I never considered myself a real video game fanatic, much less a collector. I was just as fascinated by games as I am now, but I had a habit of playing just one or two games for months and I was perfectly happy with it. I've always been a nerd for everything nerdy. I've always been interested in stuff, and I've always wanted to collect _something_ that reflects my lifelong interests. I think the only things that held me back from becoming a game collector was my dedication to my then-girlfriend (and bride-that-was-not-to-be) who didn't really care about games, and the more substantial reason of simply being broke, all the time. Back at that time, I sold games to get new ones. Back at an even earlier time, I actually collected CD's up until discovering digital music. Now I would easily trade all my CD's for one game each.
After I separated from my long-time girlfriend in the summer of 2009 - or actually during the months leading to the final decision of going our separate ways, I began writing video game reviews. There were two reasons for that, and neither one of them had anything to do with games. First, I was unemployed, looking for a job in marketing and/or customer service, I was specialized in international b-to-b, and finally, I had a very rare chance to communicate in English, so I needed something to maintain my skills in the language. Second, I simply needed something else, something much more light-hearted and less serious to occupy my mind. So, I started by writing three reviews, at that time it was just for fun: Super Metroid, Full Throttle and Sam & Max Hit the Road. (Those reviews are on the blog as they were, with no editing. Unfortunately so.) After these three reviews were done, I kinda forgot 'em, and whatever plans I might've had for 'em. Several months later, living with my older sister (whether I liked it or not) and bored out of my God damn socks as I was trying my best (which wasn't nearly enough) to save money for a place of my own, I re-discovered these reviews. Also, living with my sister drove me to play video games all the time (mostly retro games on an emulator since she didn't like it when I stole her TV time), and when I wasn't playing, I was searching for information on video games. Or drowning my sorrows. Or both at the same time. To keep the little money I had off the bottle - didn't work out too well - I started working on a website called Retro Madness.
In very short time, I realized a few things. While doing my first Batman marathon, I realized that Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PlayStation 3 was actually the reason I started that marathon, and the one game I really wanted to review out of the whole string of Batman games. So if I wrote a review of that game and put that on this site of mine, there wouldn't be any sense in calling it "Retro Madness", would there? At the same time, I started thinking of all the games I wanted to write about. Metal Gear Solid would probably pass as retro, but not the sequels, and I definitely wanted to do the sequels. The 3D era of Grand Theft Auto had not passed the criteria for "retro" yet, and still hasn't, and could I really have left one of my all-time favourite franchises totally out in the cold like that, when the ultimate idea in my head is to find the best and worst games EVER made? It was time to change the name of the site, but to what? It's gotta be something simple. I've always liked the word "mania", and it's almost the same thing as "madness". Video Game Mania? Doesn't ring too good. VGMania? Good enough, I guess. VGMania it is.
After I had written about 200 reviews, I realized I didn't have the time, the resources or even the skills to maintain a website by modern standards, so in the summer of 2010, I came up with a temporary solution of converting the site to a blog, which, as you know, has since turned into a permanent one. At first, I was really skeptical and thought that a blog would violently restrict me from doing things exactly the way I want, and because of that, I would grow tired of it very quickly, but I was wrong, and eventually I discovered that I actually prefer blogging over maintaining a website. I only need to focus on the games themselves without having to spend my valuable time doing frustrating battle with code. IF the website had come to be, VGMania would've been done the day I signed my job contract three years ago.
So, when I first moved to my first single apartment in the heart of Turku, I was neck-deep in debt, and by far my only possessions were a shitty TV, an even shittier laptop computer, two gaming systems (PlayStation 2 and 3), a couple of handfuls of retail games, and a sleeping bag. All the stuff I got, I got as hand-outs - it took me nearly FOUR MONTHS to get a real bed. I wrote a lot of reviews at that time 'cause I simply couldn't afford doing ANYTHING. Six years later, you'd find all of this pretty hard to believe just by looking at the place I currently inhabit. I live way beyond what I can actually afford, but at least I have a fine, steady income to live the way I want, and should at this age. Living life as it should means a lot of working hours, though, and it means I have over 90% less time for the blog than I had in the beginning. BUT, ironically, I've become quite the collector of video games, as inspired by my good friend who's been collecting games since the mid-90's, and has more recently graduated as a video game developer. My game (and system) collection has grown by humongous amounts through the years, and it keeps on growing, so there should be no doubt that a part of my heart belongs to this business, and I still very much want to keep on writing reviews. 'Cause that's what I do, and that's what I've always done... as the next chapter will tell ya.
My years inside music (2000-2009)
In 2000, two friends and fellow students of mine began working on the framework of a megasite. Five minutes into the basic idea, they hooked up with me, because they had read some of my short stories and movie reviews I had done in the past, and they knew I was heavily into music, movies and video games, and all the stuff related to 'em. Which was good, 'cause this megasite needed reviews most prominently related to music, movies and video games. This project was obviously too big to be managed by three 16-year old IT students - the material was quite good, though, considering our age, so when one of us dropped out, me and my remaining comrade decided we should continue with a much more compact concept. Deciding on which subject interested us the most at that time was easy - music, mainly heavy metal. The site became known as Kalma. (It still has a few cult fans, actually - and to tell you the truth, I "resurrected" the concept about two years ago, as another blog, but getting something substantial done with it has been far from easy.)
I wrote about five album reviews a week, and also accepted reviews from anyone who was willing to write them, the guts to contact me directly, and even the slightest skill to write - that's why I also published some of my brother's reviews, as slightly edited versions, without his actual consent, but under his own alias easily distinguishable from mine, of course. At some point, I came up with a new project that I was more interested in (very typical at that time, I had some form of attention deficit), and my friend had lost all interest in his part of visual design, so we unanimously called it quits and I started doing my new project. This project was called Pile of Skulls - after an album and song by the German band Running Wild - and it was actually very similar to VGMania, and all about my album collection. Just a few days into this project, I got an e-mail from a guy called Aki, who ran a website called Sonos Metallicos. He kindly asked me to place a hotlink to his site to Kalma's front page; when I informed him that Kalma was actually on its way to be taken offline, he told me how sincerely sorry and disappointed he was to hear that, and we started talking about music. When he discovered that I hadn't lost interest in writing reviews, just maintaining the site, he asked me to join his small team of honest critics on Sonos. I thought, what the hell. It was worth a shot as long as I didn't have too much responsibility beyond just doing what I did best.
In time, Sonos Metallicos became known as Korroosio - and when I say "known", it was really pretty well known. Aki made sure of that in the social media of that time. Once again, I felt that my own project was more important to me on a personal level than constant responsibility with deadlines, so as Korroosio grew bigger, I silently dropped out. I kept on designing Pile of Skulls right up until the moment I wrote my first video game review, and slightly beyond that, until I realized that they were more fun to write about than rock music. I've estimated to have written at least 800 album reviews during those nine years.
My other interests
To merely be able to work, I at least to try to walk or jog for an extended number of miles daily. Not too hard either, since I prefer footwork over all forms of transportation. I love to cook, though I rarely cook for myself; I'll eat just about anything as long as it's edible, so I don't really bother unless someone's coming over. I love to please people with my food. Even though I very rarely do album reviews these days - there are definitely some exceptional times - I'm still a music lover. I listen to pretty much everything and genres haven't meant much to me in years, but metal and rock music in their various different forms are the closest to my heart.
In April 2013, I fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams by joining a local thrash metal group called Devastracktor as their new lead vocalist, after their former one decided to focus on his studies, fresh interests, as well as his long-time main instrument, lead guitar. The band was already quite popular in the local metal scene, and I think my arrival was taken rather well by the band as well as fans. I had wanted to be a part of a band in this position since I first started listening to metal, inspired by Ronnie James Dio and even more prominently, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, and I actually was in a cover band as a teenager, but that didn't really take as I was having some serious problems with my self esteem - problems that actually didn't go away until very recently, but I grew up "a little" in the between so I learned to deal with 'em. We went our separate ways in late 2014, since in my inexperience, I was more or less a little lost lamb in a group of people who had written and performed music their entire lives. I'm still good friends with the band, and they've given me fair support in coming up with some act of my own, assuming I'm still interested in performing music.
Finally, I adore my best friends, and if I'm in the right company, I love to try out all sorts of new things. I rarely get really fascinated with these new things, but they spice up my life a little. Just like those guys do all by themselves.
My years as a gamer (1988-2016)
The first video game I ever played was Tennis on the Atari 2600, developed and published by Activision in 1981, and I first played it in 1988. I'm really good with nailing down years from my far past, but actually I didn't remember the name of the game until I started doing extensive research on games. The image of that game was stuck in my head for all those years, all I had to do was study some screenshots of old tennis games until I found the right one. Just a short while later, I (sort of) made friends with two brothers who had the Sega Genesis - known as Sega Mega Drive in these parts - and the Nintendo Entertainment System. I totally fell in love with the latter, although the first game I played on the NES was The Legend of Zelda, which didn't make much of an impression on me back then, being too complicated and all. The golden cartridge was way cool though, it really caught my eye. But it was Mario who caught my heart, for years to come, with his debut as "Super Mario" in Super Mario Bros..
There've been some very lengthy breaks in my life, during which I didn't play video games at all, even one that lasted for years, and it took me a few more years to catch up with everything that had happened in the scene during that time. I almost completely missed the arrival of the Nintendo GameCube and the original Xbox, although they were released to compete with my only possible choice of a system if I had to have one, PlayStation 2. My long-time best friend had both of those systems, but there was a time we didn't get along all that well - that exact time. I was extremely selfish, borderline narcissistic, I had problems with coming along with people in general; it's a time in my life which I'm not too proud of.
I got (my first) Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas in 1990. It came bundled with the NES Four Score - an adapter for four controllers, didn't have much use for it though - and the classic 3-in-1 cartridge including Super Mario Bros., Tetris and Nintendo World Cup. I felt like a king compared to all the chumps who had the Duck Hunt bundle, 'cause this one had THREE games, and they were all fucking awesome. At least I pretended that Tetris was fucking awesome, as I didn't really like puzzle games. Nowadays I don't have to pretend; Tetris is fucking awesome.
My mom spotted an ad in the local newspaper for a cheap Super Nintendo Entertainment System, bundled with three games, back in 1995; perhaps quite far along the system's cycle, but I still wanted it 'cause it had so many of my favourite games, all of which I had easy access to. Or so I thought, as this unit turned out to be American, which didn't support European games, not even properly with an universal adapter. Of course I was disappointed, but in the end, it was my 32-bit freaks of friends who were disappointed when they realized I had exclusive access to games that were never officially released in Europe, and were sold for fair prices at local mail order companies - so that they could get rid of them, I guess. The final tide-turner was Chrono Trigger, a game everyone wanted to play after Final Fantasy VII came out. Guess who had it.
As another example of my extremely slow talent to catch up with the modern times, I asked my mom for a computer in 1997 - she bought me a Commodore Amiga 600. What you've got to understand at this point is that we were very poor due to my mother's forced retirement from her original profession, and even with my stepfather around, she considered herself a single parent as everyone else did. I myself didn't understand it at that time, but I was still happy with the Amiga. It had something like 85 games on it upon purchase - I didn't play a lot of games on it, though. I mostly used it to write my short stories.
1999 brought on a third example, as I specifically asked for a PC, and I got a 386 - which wasn't expensive at all, and mom bought it off a friend of mine who gave a special discount for it. She also bought me a PlayStation from that very same guy a year later, bundled with a few free games. In 2003, my brother bought me my first of six (!) PlayStation 2's. In 2008, I bought the PlayStation 3, which marks the first time I've bought a system myself, using my own hard-earned money. In April 2014, I bought the PlayStation 4, which in turn marks the first time I've bought a system less than six months into its original launch. Finally, the PC I'm using now is my seventh one.
Oh yeah, and as it's often been documented, I parted ways with the NES and SNES a long time ago, and not really by my own will. The only thing I was interested in was getting on my feet after my mother's death and after my stepfather decided to leave me and my brother to our own respective problems. So I told my brother he could do anything he wanted with those systems that had both broken down, and the few - yet essential - games I had left after I had sold a bulk of 'em myself for less than essential reasons. What I really meant to say at that time, was that he should've taken care of the games, at least - well, he sold it all. For mere pennies. And I guess it was my fault, after all. I literally had just a fistful of games when I moved out of my childhood home, and all of them for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2.
In December 2011, my anger towards my half-functional laptop came to such a boiling point, that I decided to buy a new one, even if I couldn't really afford it. I went to my favourite online store to find they were selling a quality laptop for a reasonable price, and that was not all - it came bundled with an Xbox 360. Reflecting on how great it would be to play Mass Effect 3 on the system it was meant to be played on - I had finished the last two games on my friend's 360 - despite of my well-documented dislike towards Microsoft, I took the offer immediately. It was later I found out that the 360 was free because it didn't have a hard drive. Disgruntled, I headed into GameStop to get a hard drive for half the 360's real price at the time, 'cause I still wanted to keep it. I'm glad I came to that conclusion, I really am.
On Christmas 2012, the girl I hung out with at the time decided she would give me the best Christmas present ever, even if we broke up the day before Christmas Eve, and bought me a recently repaired and modded NES, complete with ten games picked at a near-random. She had picked up a few games based on my stories (including the 3-in-1 cartridge that I got the last time!), and apparently taken a look at my blog for consultation, but most of the games were bad licensed games based on nerdy flicks she thought I'd like to have despite their crappy quality - and she was right! We don't talk anymore, but I'm still really thankful for this awesome present, and I wish her all the best.
In the summer of 2013, my friend Markus posted a Facebook status that he had found an old PlayStation lying around and he was going to trash it if no-one wanted it. I immediately commented something along the lines of "NO!", he said he guessed I'd be the one who'd first comment on the issue and offered it to me for free, along with a dozen games. It was then I realized that the games were probably pirate copies, which they were (have you seen the prices of PlayStation games nowadays?), but that didn't matter much as I had quite a few PlayStation classics in my shelf and as it's been proven since, they work best when played on an original PlayStation. Plus, the unit itself was in top shape. I hadn't owned one since I first got the PlayStation 2.
2015 was one hell of a consumer's nightmare. I had recently put VGMania on an indefinite hold, and ironically, that decision, coupled with the emotional thunderstorm I was trying to keep my boat afloat through at the time, promoted me from a collector to a COLLECTOR. I was constantly on the hunt for retro gems and flea market finds, and I think I bought a total of 12 games one month, that month being March, the month I got myself a Nintendo 3DS. I don't even know why, I was on a complete whim. December 17th, and I remember that date because I had just watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the first time, and gotten the green light for a sizeable bank loan I really don't care to explain. I bought back the SNES. This time, a European console. Bundled with three games, of which two REALLY weren't from the cheapest end. I was a bit drunk at the time, but in hindsight, this was probably the best decision I made all year.
I got the Wii U in the early summer of 2016 for a whole lot of reasons. The Nintendo 3DS had reacquainted me with pure Nintendo quality, how fun and complete Nintendo first-party titles were, and not only drawn me back to the Mario franchise, but proven to me that The Legend of Zelda, which I was never such a huge fan of, was truly a stellar franchise. The most important reason was a game called Xenoblade Chronicles. I had always wanted to try that game. When it was announced for the 3DS, I was ecstatic at first and went for the pre-order, but then someone informed me that it was only available for the NEW model. Well, after weighing in the pros and cons about selling my Special Edition XL model, I went to GameStop and inquired the trading terms of the XL and the New model. I would've still had to pay a 120€ incentive. I thought to myself, fuck it - Xenoblade had just turned up as another re-release on the Wii U, so I bought the Wii U, plus six games for it at once; including Xenoblade, which, as I'm writing this, is ironically the only game in the bunch I haven't played yet! The Wii U has proven to be a fantastic purchase. I'm still not a huge supporter of Nintendo, but at least now they've earned my respect and I appreciate their underdog efforts in the ongoing console war.
So, after all this, I have nine systems decorating the space I call my "office": the NES, SNES, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStations 1-4, and the Xbox 360. Plus a decent laptop PC, although I've never been much of a PC gamer. There are a total of 373 retail games in my collection across all of these systems, with the majorities for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 - not quite the number I'm going for, but considering that only seven years ago, I had a total of a little over 50 retail games across three different systems, it's pretty damn impressive, I think.
Methods to my madness
I started by reviewing games that I had known well for years. I didn't even have to play the game - everything I wanted to say just came to me. The reviews were brief, but to the most important point, which wasn't good enough. In time, I naturally came up with this basic concept for my reviews. Which was, that I just wrote whatever came to my mind, there was a certain pattern to it. I write, write, and write, until I reach a conclusion. Sometimes the review turns out really good, sometimes really bad, and I don't necessarily mean the game but the review itself. I still want to publish it, I don't want to spend too much time editing the content, 'cause what I have just written is my honest, spontaneous impression of the game. Honest and spontaneous is exactly what I want, and after all these years, I'm primarily doing this for myself. If I end up with a 51-page review filled with useless crap, then it's a 51-page review filled with useless crap. That crap probably had some use to me.
Nowadays, I hardly ever reach the conclusion in one single sitting. I write most reviews in parts, with days if not weeks between those parts, due to my job, hence the dramatically decreased pace of new reviews popping up. Also, since I don't have that much time to play either, I easily get distracted by newer games instead of the retro games I originally dedicated this blog to, and new games require a lot more information to be spilled. I can write a retro review in an hour, but in my current situation, a new game takes days to review, regardless of the genre.
As to how much time I spend on a single game before letting the review go online, that does depend on the genre. I always attempt to beat those games that can be beaten in the traditional sense before reviewing them. I play resiliently and thoroughly, but at a very fast tempo if my only goal is to review the game. If beating a game takes less than ten hours - I often attempt to find an estimation before starting - I usually attempt to beat that game in one single sitting and get a review done by the end of the day. RPG's and more recent, vast action games take a little more time, and usually I write their reviews in parts on purpose, on the go; all the while that I'm making progress, I might pick up random stuff. I pause the game, go to the computer and write about it, just so that I wouldn't forget to mention it. If I don't find anything else to say about the game after a certain point, I conclude the review but never publish it before being done with the game, just in case. I'd say I've beaten about 70% of the games I've reviewed.
Favourite gaming system
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System has perhaps got the largest library of crappy movie licenses and run-of-the-mill sports games there ever was, but it also has the most legendary array of video game masterpieces there ever was; the second Final Fantasy trilogy, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Super Metroid, Super Castlevania IV, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past... there are countless titles which no gamer in the right mind can afford to ignore.
Taking this issue a bit closer to modern times, I'd say the PlayStation 2 comes as a good number two to SNES' unbeatable number one. Many of my favourite franchises of the last 15 years originated or were reinvented on the PlayStation 2, such as Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto, and last but definitely not least, the one and only God of War.
Just check the VGMania top list periodically to get the best idea; I've reviewed nearly all of my favourite games in history now. Grand Theft Auto V and Final Fantasy VII are tied, tight, when it comes to my singled-out favourite video game of all time.
I like RPG's and all forms of third-person action the most, but there really isn't a game genre I can honestly say I hate, not after all I've learned through the years. I have expressed discomfort with FPS games, racing games, puzzle games, as well as sporadic sports titles. Generally, genres that have never undergone radical changes. I like some classics in those genres very much - Doom, Quake 3: Arena, Gran Turismo, Tetris, and of course, NHL '94, are the first to come to mind. Recently, I've discovered great FPS franchises from later years, including, but not limited to, the almighty BioShock and Dead Island. Thanks to games like these, I'm willing to give any game a chance, regardless of the genre.
Everyone has let me down at some point. Square and Konami were my top developers back in the times of the 8- and 16-bit consoles, but both of them have had their hard times, especially these days - when Square as we knew it doesn't even exist, and Konami has the audacity to go on with the Metal Gear franchise without its driving force Hideo Kojima. Rockstar has had a "pretty good" run, as no game made since Grand Theft Auto III has been a complete disappointment to me.
Like I said, I'm a metal fan, been that since maybe 1991, although my brothers were always into metal, and even my sister was into commercial metal such as Scorpions, Europe, Skid Row and Def Leppard, she never admitted the metal roots of these bands though. However, I like all kinds of music. One day, I might feel like listening to Simon & Garfunkel, while the next day I'll dig out the most brutal piece of death metal I can find - I'm always like this when summer vacation ends, actually. My favourite band in the world is Iced Earth; Slayer, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Savatage and Death don't fall too far behind, just to mention a few. From non-metal bands and artists, my all-time favourites are Pink Floyd, Adele, Muse and Poets of the Fall.
I love almost everything by David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. As a kid, I was also a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, but it was mainly because of the Indiana Jones series and Jurassic Park, which are still some of my all-time favourite movies. And Star Wars! I'm a huge Star Wars fan as well. Psychological thrillers and classic sci-fi are probably my favourite types of movies. Movies that make you think - the genre doesn't really matter.
I'm usually more intrigued by biographies rather than fiction. The Dirt by Mötley Crüe and Neil Strauss is probably my favourite book of all time. From fiction, The Lord of the Rings, bar none - although that book contains a noxious amount of totally useless drama, it's one of a kind when it comes to creating images. I like Stephen King's novels, but I've not finished too many of them, as they tend to flatten towards their ends in my opinion.
Favourite TV shows
I haven't watched TV in six years, 'cause it's full of crap. But, there are some gems hidden within that crap, so I've discovered Internet TV to be a very good friend of mine in recent years. I like classic TV shows such as Twin Peaks, Oz, Lost, Prison Break and 24 - at least the first five seasons, and South Park and Doctor Who, if you count them as classics since they're still running wild. From more recent TV shows, I like The Walking Dead, obviously since I'm a zombie nerd, and I absolutely LOVE Game of Thrones. I have always despised sitcoms as they've tended to repeat among themselves since the dawn of time, but I like the more unconventional How I Met Your Mother a lot.
Questions, questions? Mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.