previews\ May 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Age of Conan PvP Interview


(Editor's note: This story is part of a continuing revisit to Funcom's Age of Conan massively multiplayer online PC title.)

The wind dances along the edges of deepest night, carrying the cries of the fallen in its mournful embrace - the songs merely a prelude to a smile from its mistress. It catches up in her raven-colored hair, swirls the rich mane into a angry torrent and then dances away.

Her eyes, carrying the fires of a thousand battles, brighten as the songs of despair touch her ears. They were not people, not souls, merely those who stood in the path of what she wanted.

The lady stands silent for a moment, like the calm before the storm of unholy power, a dream to some and a nightmare to many others. She is beauty, the sensual temptation of blessed delight, and she is hell personified. The sands of Stygia have burned in her passing, the winds chill off the mountains in Cimmeria know her touch, and the grasslands of Aquilonia bear witness to the carnage she has left in her wake.

Conan may be a king in the regions, an icon of hope, but to those who have seen her in battle, the lady demonologist is Death.

Sharon Hemmings is not your prototypical gamer lured into the realms of massively multiplayer online games. There are so many aspects that it is hard to know quite where to start in talking about her. She is an avid PvPer (that’s someone who engages in player-versus-player combat), and her results in combat are amazing.

But apart from a level 80 demonologist in Age of Conan (Funcom’s MMO), Sharon describes herself as “a farm girl at heart” (she grew up on a farm in southern Australia) who “loves animals and nature.” She is also a former Australian Penthouse Pet, and currently works as an exotic dancer in Far North Queensland, Australia. She has an Associate Diploma of Business Management, and is also a qualified real-estate agent.

When it comes to gaming, though, she thinks of herself as a femme fatale and admits to be a “little addicted” to Age of Conan.

It was pretty much a no-brainer when offered the opportunity to interview Sharon, and - of course - the topic was video games and AoC in particular.

How long have you been playing MMOs, what games have you played and what attracted you to the genre to begin with?

Sharon: I have been playing MMOs for a couple of years. I think I basically fell into MMOs at the beginning; my brother, being a guild leader in World of Warcraft, was my first introduction to the genre, and he thought Age of Conan would be my style so he told me to check it out. I was looking for a hobby to keep me out of trouble, as at the time I was a bit lost and searching for a means to stay indoors and shift my focus from certain things in my life and take a breather. It worked wonderfully and now I am a total fan.

You've been described as a die-hard PvP gamer. What attracts you to that style of gaming and what do you think it takes to make someone good in that gaming arena?

Sharon: I never really was a hardcore PVPer until I joined the guild Legion in Flames on Cimmeria (one of Age of Conan‘s PvP servers), and met the guild leader Kaine. Here is a man whom I absolutely adore. He took me from a horrid player who was pretty lost and had no clue, and nurtured me into the strong woman gamer I am today. My courage and strength come from the intense PvP training he instilled upon me and from the family he created within our guild.

What attracts me to this game is the people, first and foremost; it‘s a community. And then the game itself is just beautiful. Funcom has really made a visual experience worth exploring. AoC is a rush, the people are from all walks of life; so I find myself in a constant state of learning, it’s definitely one of the most fun hobbies I have had thus far.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about women gamers?

Sharon: That we are fat and ugly; this is so far from the truth it’s actually funny - me being a perfect example of how incorrect this is.

There are a lot of guys that play female characters for sexist reasons, and some that role-play them well. Conversely, some women, to avoid being harassed, play male characters. What do you like or dislike about those players and do you think gender is even an issue at all in gaming, or should players simply be allowed to play a character and get beyond the gender issue?

Sharon: Personally I don't like guys playing female toons, and vice versa; I think it’s a bit odd. I make my characters all the same and all to look like me. I do have two blonde character to see what it felt like and I hate them. My character is simply an extension of my real self injected into a game I play. I feel the character should reflect its owner, for the most part so if I'm looking at a character I like to imagine that the real person behind it is in some way linked to it. Many of the people I know and play with look similar to, if not are like in some way, their characters.

However, there is a large portion of people I have met in my travels who are nothing like their characters, especially guys being girls so this throws my theory totally out the window and confuses every thing!

In the grand scheme of things people should be allowed to play and be whatever they choose. I won’t not play with someone because they are faking their sex, In fact, some really amazing players I have met were guys playing girls, On the other hand I have only met two women that played men in-game, and I didn't really get along with them, so I can’t say that side works so well. I understand people's reasons for doing it but I seem to gravitate towards people that are honest about their sex, and who they are in their real life. I kind of want to know you’re not a weirdo if I'm going to be playing closely with you so I want people to be upfront with me if they’re in the same guild anyway. Anyone that hides something, to me has an agenda and I won’t trust them fully, or allow them to get close to me.

What brought you to Age of Conan, and what class do you enjoy the most?

Sharon: I play a demonologist. When I read about the character choices before creating mine, the demonologist best described me as a person, so I picked her. She is very fragile to the touch (cloth) and beautifully exotic, but her magic is deadly. She works best in groups to support and shield her from melee attacks so she can unleash hell from a safe distance. I hate dueling, also. I do have six Level 80's but the demonologist is my main, and favorite followed closely by necromancer.

Does story matter to you? Do you think story elements are important, or is it more about the environment (fantasy, sci-fi) and the challenges of questing?

Sharon: I have a tendency to skip through the story, I like to hear it but all the reading bores me. I get off on action, adventure and visual stimulation. I pretty much PvE (player -versus-environment) to gain benefits in PvP.

Have you read any of the Conan books, and if so, what characters do you identify with the most?

Sharon: I watched the movie. I like the beautiful bodies of the men and the sexiness of the women. I identify with beautiful strong women who rule men, but in the end allow one man to rule them.

In the context of the clan and roles you play in MMOs, what do you think defines you as a player and how do you want to be remembered?

Sharon: I am the femme fatale. “Let this vision of beauty be your last” - Athyr-Bast.

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