Interview with Mekkah

By Jimbo and tennisace, with help from Sarenji.
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The car winded its way through snowy hills and grass meadows. I looked over the backseat of my car. Tennisace was shivering in his seat. "Thanks for coming all the way from Malta man."

"Yeah, whatever." Tennisace's teeth were chattering, and he let out another violent shiver.

We arrived at a small cottage in the outskirts of town. It had a quaint feel, with a stone pathway leading to the door, and goats grazed nearby. We knocked on the door and a man with a magnificent blonde mullet answered the door.

Mekkah: Hello.

Jimbo:: Hi Mekkah, thanks for letting us interview you.

Okay, to start things off could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Mekkah: My name is Mark, I'm 20 years old, and I live in the Netherlands. I've done a study on psychology and quit halfway through my first year. I've been on Smogon for about—

Mekkah paused, furrowing his eyebrows in thought.

—4 years now, I think? And in the online Pokémon scene even longer! My other interests include game design, both in general and of course, Mafia. I also like sports occasionally. I've done 12 years of karate before quitting, and I still teach it occasionally. I've also done some soccer, football, whatever you're gonna call it, and volleyball, but nothing professional. I also like cooking!

tennisace: Speaking of the Netherlands, not many Smogoners live there. How do you like it?

Mekkah: I can't complain. I did in my well thread and got some flak for it; one guy even concluded I must be a hippie just because of that. I can't help being annoyed at Dutch people both on the internet and in real life when abroad... I guess it must be a pet peeve. I don't like the sound of Dutch when almost everything else is in English. It's a rather silly language. Sometimes I get PMs on Smogon that are written in Dutch, which is pretty annoying because when working on Smogon I just want to speak English full-time! As for the Netherlands themselves, there's really not much wrong. I'm not involved in politics, but it can't be much worse than America, Canada, or anything, and it's not exactly like we're poor either.

Jimbo:: Yeah, those PMs must be pretty irritating. Being an administrator on Smogon must be pretty interesting though... How'd you first find and get involved with the site?

Mekkah: I went from IGN to the NetBattle forums at first, then somehow bumped into the Smogon community and signed up for it. My first post was trying to get into an invite-only tournament, where I also demanded that Celebi (who was highly controversial at the time) was banned. Needless to say, I did not get in.

I blushed as I thought about my first post on Smogon, brazenly demanding a good Swampert moveset.

Mekkah: But at the time I was pretty good at battling (honestly!) and had been on IRC for ages already (even before my Pokémon saga). I stayed involved, and at some point volunteered to do work for the Smogon site when it got more serious. At the time we uploaded and updated analyses using the FTP, I was one of the first people to contribute and do all the hard work, and might have been the very first "Smogon outsider" who became a "Smogon insider", as everyone else deeply involved was part of the age-old Smogon clique. I clearly remember talking to chaos about how to do it all... even back then, when his beard was just a few innocent hairs, he was a striking character!

My rise to power began and I slowly climbed from Pokémon forums moderator to super mod to admin... all with long periods in between!

These days, my main interest lies with the mafia/Circus Maximus crowd, and IRC people in general. It's a shame the community is separated like this... I really liked it when everyone was together. But times simply change. I've also had a brief period where I was heavily involved in CAP. I helped moderate the server, contributed to polls and ideas, and me and Aldaron even collaborated to make Pyroak's base stat design. I also started the whole "in-game tiers" thing on Smogon, inspired by the tier list debating about Fire Emblem. Like with Fire Emblem, it seems talking about the game interests me more than actually playing it!

tennisace: Care to tell us about some memorable experiences you had in your earlier Pokémon-playing days?

Mekkah: I remember my very first battle on the RS Bots. Man, those things ruled. There was a dedicated channel, #rsarena, where only the Darkbots (hosted by Misty) could talk. They displayed the battle log, and you put your moves/switches into a query with the Darkbot. I know for sure my first team had Soul Dew Lati@s, a Spore Breloom, a Banette and a Gorebyss... all of it inspired by IGN's Pokémon of the Day Chick, God bless her whatever she's doing now. Almost nothing was enforced on Darkbot, so I just kept on spamming Spore with Breloom. It was an extremely mighty feeling. I knew Sleep Clause existed, I just didn't care!

RS Bot was an extremely fun experience, because the IGN battling community was really close-knit. It also had a lot of etiquette. Even though the bot had an option to challenge people, it was pretty much obligatory to ask your opponent if he wanted to battle beforehand. At some point the Darkbots became less stable due to technical issues at Misty's, and NetBattle rose in popularity.

Back then, NetBattle was known for mostly having a bunch of morons. If all the rumors were true, the NetBattlers didn't speak English, they used ubers, they disconnected during battles if they were losing, and they were generally really bad sports. The NetBattle community also had good people, and it was chaos who eventually brought the RS Bot and NetBattle crowds together into what we have now... But back then, you went on NetBattle to have fun "owning a bunch of n00bs."

The early Advance metagame was pretty exciting. It was somewhat set in stone, but you could still get away with gimmicks. There was no ladder, so no real records kept, meaning less ego problems. And there were sharkbats. Those were great.

tennisace and I exchanged puzzled looks. Mekkah noticed, and began to explain.

Basically randbats, except the Pokémon you'd get could have any move, instead of just random moves from their movepool. So yeah, I loved the old times!

Jimbo:: Believe it or not, I think I read those Pokémon of the Day articles... How is Pokémon for you these days?

Mekkah: After my prime in Advance, I joined D/P but found myself unable to keep up consistently. I could hold my own, but I had to share that level with a dozen times more players, and there were many better than I was. D/P just has so many more threats... It didn't make me lose interest entirely, but it was no longer my main interest. I became more of a community man. Nowadays I still tutor people to teach them the basics. I like introducing them to the community more than teaching them Pokémon though. I ladder and play unrated on a whim. Under alts though. I hate it when people watch or comment.

Jimbo:: I've heard from time to time that you enjoy Fire Emblem. Why is that exactly?

As Mekkah opened his mouth to answer we heard a knock on the door. We opened it to see no one standing in the entryway, but on further inspection we found an orange citrus fruit sitting on the doorstep.

"Oh, this must be the tangerine I ordered for my fruit salad I'm making tonight." Mekkah picked up the fruit and brought it into the kitchen. For some reason, I thought the fruit gave a cunning sneer.

Upon his return, Mekkah continued.

Mekkah: A friend of mine from IGN, meditric, who is sadly no longer active, introduced me to it. I was looking to expand my gaming horizon beyond Pokémon, so he recommended Fire Emblem. I didn't like it at all first because I sucked, but somehow it evolved in almost an obsession. my first game was the one almost everyone played first (FE7, also known as just "Fire Emblem").

Now I've played almost every one of them. I think I like it because it forces me to think, it often has a varied cast, and it's a fun game to talk about to people. I'm heavily involved with the Fire Emblem community elsewhere, and I even set up a small "clique" one myself to argue about what character is better. It's almost a professional debating club. Nowadays my "obsession" died down and I just play it out of boredom. I still talk about it a lot, made a social group for it, and #feto is still active occasionally.

Mekkah's eyes sparkled, like he had poured OxiClean over his eyes.

Many Fire Emblem players also play Pokémon and vice versa. I love seeing crossovers happen sometimes. Like Colonel_M, I talk to him a lot about Fire Emblem, but he is also a heavily involved Smogon contributor. Or there's this guy called WJC who I debated with a lot, and then suddenly he popped up on the UU Suspect Test. Without saying hi.

tennisace: In addition to your talent at Pokémon and Fire Emblem, I hear you're a crack mafia player. How did you get involved with Smogon mafia?

Mekkah: I think Raikage started the first mafia game on Smogon. I had no idea what the game was, I just joined and enjoyed the ride. Much later obi started it anew. Many games followed, I joined pretty much all of them. I didn't actually become a notable player until much later... a lot of my reputation probably came from whatever status symbol was behind my username at the time.

I like mafia because it involves information management. You have limited knowledge of everything, and you'll want to get more out of others, while also being careful with what you give out on your own.

It's a game with almost unlimited possibilities, which makes it a lot of fun to design. Since I was already some kind of status figure on Smogon anyway, and also a well-known player of mafia, I pretty much handle almost every bit of mafia organization on Circus Maximus now. It's become almost a separate community... Many players used to play Pokémon but got bored. I personally think mafia is a better competitive game than Pokémon... don't shoot me.

From the kitchen we heard a voice that could've only come from the mysterious fruit, "Pokémon sucks."

Jimbo:: Heh, it seems like you really excel at strategy games. What else do you do with your spare time?

Mekkah: Almost every week I teach karate to kids, which is a lot of fun. This is my only real "job" currently, and it keeps me busy for about five hours a week, most of which is traveling. Once or twice per month, I cook for a varying amount of people in the student club I joined when I started my psychology study. A crew of like four to five youngsters cooking for somewhere between 10 and 60 people, or on events, sometimes even 100-200. It's a blast. And now I'm also spending time setting myself up for helping people on demand with certain things.

I offer computer assistance to people who are... not as competent with computers. Very basic things like how to burn CDs, set up a MySpace profile, get more out of Word and Excel, etc. I also offer to babysit someone's kids if the parents are gone, and I'm also planning to help people with small renovation jobs and other miscellaneous things. For example, an old lady wants her shed cleaned out but she falls over after the first box... so I'll do it for her!

I look behind Mekkah to see three colorful crayon-drawn pictures proudly hung up on the wall. They all depict a stick figure with a giant mullet.

The idea is to offer it all for small money, since the main idea is giving me something to do while I'm looking for a full-time job or education. I expect the most out of the computer assistance... I already have two customers :)

tennisace: Back to cooking for a moment, what is your favorite meal to cook and to eat?

Mekkah: I'm a vegetarian, and in addition, I have a "don't fix what isn't broken" mentality, so others might consider my meals a bit generic. My favorite ingredients include spinach, tomatoes, any kind of pasta or even dough, any kind of cheese and mushrooms. Which makes my favorite meal pretty much all of that thrown into one scale, putting it in the oven and waiting some arbitrary amount of time. (Cooking the pasta and spinach beforehand though!) The cheese melts, which is especially delicious if you include multiple types of cheese. That's one thing the French got right.

Jimbo:: Now onto a very pressing question... What is "Mekkah".

Mekkah: Haha, I've had to explain this to several e-people I met in real life, as well as in my Well, and of course on random occasions... I'll gladly do it one final time. When I first went on IRC, I was using my IGN handle _unknown_1. Because a name with two underscores and a number is clearly not obnoxious enough, I decided to add {} brackets. NickServ would have none of that, however, probably because these brackets are an important part of mIRC script. I was having trouble registering it and asked someone else for help.

They tried to do it for me, while I just /nick'd to the first thing that sprang to my mind. Mekkah is derived from the sound a goat makes. Specifically, it is from the verb used to describe it... in Dutch. It's called mekker. When I came on IRC, I was already deeply involved with chatting on IRC, and one popular fad on my Dutch networks was to change -er endings to -ah. So yeah, it really doesn't mean anything significant. I just stuck with it for no reason whatsoever. I'm glad I did though, I might have ended up with a generic Digimon/Pokémon/DragonBall Z name like almost everyone else.

Jimbo:: Or you could be named after a fruit.

Mekkah: Yeah, I agree this would be terrible.

At this point I could feel a sharp glare from the kitchen, piercing my soul.

tennisace: Now, for the most important question of all. What is your favorite Pokémon?

Mekkah: Exeggutor, no doubt about it. It has an extremely creative design, a mesmerizing anime voice, and it brings back memories of when I played the trading card game. "Flip a coin for every energy card attached to Exeggutor. 20 damage for every time you flip heads." Using it was great, playing against it was a nightmare.

Jimbo:: That's about all we have for you today. Thanks, you've been great!

We left with a fruit salad, freshly made by Mekkah, and hot chocolate in hand. It had gotten a lot colder while we were inside Mekkah's house, and tennisace was not happy.

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