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My plane touches down on the sizzling tarmac just in time for noon, as the rays from a sweltering Californian sun beat down on the locals harder than Hollywood beats dead horses. A drive in the rental car finds me in some awkward situations with a couple of skimpily dressed ladies asking for directions, but after such non-essential digressions I eventually end up in front of a nondescript concrete building where one of The Smog's premier contributors supposedly resides. The front gates are shut tightly, so I press the button on the intercom system.
"Bzzzt," the intercom chirps as it connects me to the building's resident. A voice tinged with static is what greets me. "Ah, you're here! Come right on in. I'm on the second floor."
The iron gates swings open right as the voice cuts off, and I notice that there are inscriptions on the gates, something beginning with 'Lasciate Ogne...', but since Latin is all Greek to me I pay it no mind. I enter the building and instantly feel refreshed and sheltered from the elements, though the presence of a constant low hum is sort of disconcerting. I climb the stairs to the second floor, where I find my interviewee for this issue, Seven Deadly Sins, surrounded by computers, monitors, and servers that literally panel the room.
"Please, have a seat," he says as he spins around on his chair and gestures to the only other chair in the room.
Alright, thanks for agreeing to being the victim of this Smog interview. I'm pretty sure there's a lot to talk about so let's get right into it. Most people only know you as Seven Deadly Sins, a guy that does stuff for the site, but I'm sure there's more to you than that. Who are you when you're not Seven Deadly Sins, and more interestingly, where are you, how old are you, and what do you do when it comes to work and education?
Glad to help, Mekkah. I go by Seven Deadly Sins most everywhere online, but for everyday purposes, I'm just Will. I'm 22 years old, living in Sonoma, California, and studying computer science at Sonoma State University. Looking to graduate next semester hopefully, and pick up a job programming or doing tech support or anything of that ilk. In addition to my time spent in computer-related stuff, I also am an active participant in the Sonoma State University Chamber Singers, and have been part of the chorus for all of my time in college. I actually started as a music major, but quickly realized that I hate music theory, I hate ear training, and the thought of taking more than one semester of music history made me throw up a little.
That's when I notice a board on the wall with several pieces of sheet music stuck onto it with darts.
Not the first time we've had an interviewee who's going for computer science, but interesting nonetheless. So how did you end up turning Pokémon into serious business on the internet? In other words, how did you discover Smogon, and why did you end up sticking around?
I'll freely admit that I'm not exactly a veteran of the scene—I played casually back in the RBY/GSC days with buddies, but nothing competitive or even link battle related. I skipped ADV completely, and then picked up a copy of Pokémon Diamond when I first got my DS. It was fun getting back into it, but I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. Then about 4 years ago, I had this incredibly dull English class. With nothing to seriously occupy my time, I started looking around for Pokémon stuff on the internet, and came across Shoddy Battle and Smogon. I spent most of that class building teams, reading analyses, and getting into the scene, but I didn't really post much for a long time. My first competitive team even had HP Fire Weavile on it!
As he says this he spreads his hands open to the sides with a wide grin on his face and stares at me, expecting some sort of reaction. Being a sophisticated and worldly man I am not amused by this revelation, though I am amused by his sudden resemblance to Mr. Mime.
Having always been attracted to writing, I started writing analyses—mainly for mediocre Pokémon that had never really gotten a fair shake, like Rampardos and Lapras. Eventually I also expanded to tutoring, where I got my first badge. From there, I just jumped on anything I wanted to be a part of—I jumped into The Smog as soon as it started, kept writing analyses, and eventually became part of the C&C staff. It's been a great ride so far.
Cool. That just flows right into my next question: what are your current occupations on Smogon? You mentioned C&C and The Smog. What exactly do you do in each of these departments right now, and is there anything else?
I have a smattering of responsibilities in C&C, but most notably, I work with Quality Control to make sure that everything that gets on-site is in tip top shape. I also regularly engage in discussions on C&C policy, and I'm responsible for a number of the design elements of the current analysis format. Additionally, I upload completed OU analyses, and as a Site Staff member, I also cache pending information to go on-site.
Suddenly I notice that tiny sparks seem to be flying out of one of the servers at the back of the room. I look at Seven Deadly Sins nervously, but he seems to not have noticed.
For the Smog, I write the Featured Pokémon and Type Analysis articles, as well as anything I fancy at the time. I also field article submissions and coordinate with writers to make sure that everyone's on the same page with what they're writing. I'm also a longtime simulator moderator, from Shoddy Battle to Pokémon Online. My decisions are firm but fair, and I don't take no guff from anybody.
Alright, busy man. So what do you do for fun when you're not kicking people for mod sass or writing a thesis on why not to use Poison-type moves in competitive battling?
Well, I've taken Tae Kwon Do for 14 years, and I picked up my official Kukkiwon-certified black belt 4 years ago, meaning I now do 20% more damage with my Fighting-type moves.
He stares at me again, expecting a reaction. No dice.
I also play Blood Bowl for fun with the Something Awful crew, and help run Goonbowl, their official Blood Bowl tournament. It's one of the few games that is MORE of a dice-driven nightmare than Pokémon, and when every action has the failure chance of a Fire Blast, it's hard to resist tearing your hair out. That said, it's made me a lot more zen about Pokémon—when you lose to multiple 1/36 chances, that Hydro Pump miss doesn't seem as terrible.
Blood Bowl... Tae Kwon Do... I make a mental note to never go on the server whenever Seven Deadly Sins is moderating.
Sheesh, is it really that bad? I know absolutely nothing about Blood Bowl or Goonbowl. Is that as competitive as our Smogon Tournaments? If so, I really wonder why people choose to torture themselves like this. So many competitive games out there that do not rely on chance...
It can get that bad, but Goonbowl is played in a league setting, so you get something like 18 games before the playoffs. Still, I know at least one person who's had some terrible stuff go down in the finals. It's still mostly casual though, but there are definitely some SRS BSNSS people that play Blood Bowl out there. Personally, I have no idea how people stomach it.
That's when the smell of burnt electricity startles my nostrils, but Seven Deadly Sins still seems to be unperturbed, so I have no choice but to carry on.
So, does that mean you are active in a lot of projects about Pokémon, but don't actually play competitively? Or is that a wrong assumption?
That's absolutely wrong. I play actively in both OU and UU, though I tend to try more... "out of the box" strategies from time to time, as anyone that remembers my RainVolc + Poliwrath team in WCOP will attest to. Right now my focus has been more on UU, where I've been trying teams with unexpected cores, normally defensive Pokémon like Slowbro and Tangrowth with Choice Specs, etc. I'm also on the Ever Grande BIGS, the currently #1-seeded SPL team, and participated for US West in WCOP. I'm certainly not a superstar player by any means, but I like to keep my chops up.
Plumes of smoke are bursting forth from that corner now, and I can safely say that my sweating is not just because of the rising temperature in the room. I try to get through my remaining questions as quickly as possible.
Have you ever had a chance to try out older generations? Do you have an absolute favourite metagame overall, or perhaps an all-time favourite team from any metagame?
I played ADV for a while, and actually won a SPL ADV match against Heysup in SPL 2. I think ADV is interesting, but it's never really captured me. I'd say that my absolute favorite metagame has been DPP at the end of the generation, especially after the Salamence ban. There's nothing that's simply patently unhandleable, and a lot of strategies are not only viable but used as well. As for a favorite team, I'd have to go with Team R.E.D.: Reliable Excavation and Demolition. It's a team that I built way back in the middle of 2009, and yet it's still my absolute favorite team to use even through the end of DP. Of course, Salamence has been replaced with Flygon, but still, it's an excellent team.
He's still smiling. Either he's totally unaware of his environment, or fires are a common everyday occurrence to him.
I have a vague suspicion on the answer to this question, but I find it obligatory to ask anyway... what is the origin of your username?
A number of things, mostly musical. I'm a big fan of Flogging Molly and Iron Maiden, and the name specifically comes from a line in the opening of Moonchild by Iron Maiden: "Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win, seven holy paths to hell... and your trip begins". It's also just a cool name, and it was just a bit of a whim. I'm happy with it for the most part.
The roar of the fire is getting unbearable now. I'm almost at my sprinting position when I ask my final question.
Alright, I have one more very important question for you. Which Pocket Monstrosity is your favourite?
It has to be a tossup between Breloom and Aggron for me. Breloom has that kinda cool, laidback, "I'm gonna just chill here and not give a damn" attitude (while it dismantles your whole team), but Aggron's just a cool ass Pokémon that beats things to death with its skull and isn't afraid of anything. There are plenty of other Pokémon that I like, but those two have to be my favorite.
Alright, thanks for taking the time to answer everything, and I hope you have insurance!
I don't wait to hear his goodbye as I race out of the building, where several firetrucks are already waiting. The gate opens to let me out, just as a team of firemen rush in carrying firehoses and shouting commands. For once I am glad that I did not prepare that many questions—another minute in there and I might've been a goner.
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