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LAist Interview: Dan "Shoe" Hsu On Halo 3

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Dan "Shoe" Hsu knows video games. As the Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Gaming Monthly, one of the most popular magazines in the world of gaming, it's part of his job. Shoe, 35, first dove into video game coverage in 1996. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Statistics, he sent query letters to 30 different organizations in the rapidly-growing industry. "I was looking for a job, any job in the game industry," Shoe recalls. EGM editor Joe Funk, impressed with Shoe's query letter, called him up and offered him a job as a games reviewer. Shoe took over the EIC job six years ago, and has steered the publication through some of the most exciting developments in gaming history, including the launch of the Playstation 2, the Xbox and the Wii.

This has been a busy week for Shoe. As we said yesterday, the biggest game of the year hit retail shelves at midnight. By now, fans and newcomers alike have had their first taste of Halo 3, so we thought it appropriate to interview one of the folks who has had the most time with the game up to this point. Shoe has been playing Halo 3 since Friday, and in one of the first official reviews, he scored the game a perfect 10.

LAist sat down for a few hours of Halo 3 action this past weekend (all of the press got our copies early) with Shoe and some of the other EGM crew, and after some running and gunning in both co-op campaign, deathmatch and Forge, the gaming magazine's chieftan sat down to discuss what makes Halo 3 the event game of the year, and how noobs can can get in on the first-person shooter magic.

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So, how many hours a week do you actually play video games?
(laughs) It can be almost my entire week. Since getting Halo 3 on Friday afternoon, I've put in about 25 hours on it (by Monday afternoon). But it varies week to week. During a work week, I usually put in two to three hours of play a night.

What kinds of games do you like to play the most?
I like shooters and strategy games. I used to also like role-playing games like Final Fantasy, but having this job killed it for me, because those games are 40 to 50 hour experiences, which makes them hard to finish. I got burned out on them.

So, how big is this Halo 3 launch?
Halo 3 has got to be one of the most anticipated games of all time. People have been counting down the days for months now. We can tell just from the traffic on our site that people have been salivating for any little bit of information on this game.

What's the big deal about Halo 3?
If you're going to get one game of this type for the Xbox 360, this is it. It's an epic sci-fi shooter. It has a deep fiction. It's incredibly well designed. There's a lot more to this game than other shooters. It's a lot more than just shooting Nazis. It also packs a lot of value for the dollar. There are so many different ways to play. It's very friendly to user customization. And it's also friendly to cooperative play, which makes the game more accessible to the casual player.

You gave the game a perfect 10 score, so it's safe to say you believe it lives up to the hype?
Halo 3 is definitely the best game of the series on all levels. Graphics, level design, features, everything. It's really a good value. I think this game is going to have an unprecedented level of longevity. Even today, three years after its release, thousands of people are still playing Halo 2 online. This game could be even more popular.

Let's say I'm one of those casual players. I've bought into the marketing campaign, went out and bought a new Xbox 360 with a copy of Halo 3. What do I do to have an enjoyable experience, and not get abused?
Well, if you're going into matchmaking (a multiplayer mode where the game matches you up with other players), make sure to find the "training" rooms. You don't want to end up in a veteran play group where you'll get yelled at for not pulling your weight.

Why the verbal abuse from so many shooter players?
People out there are jerks. They get behind the anonymity of the Internet and a headset and don't know how to behave. That goes across the video game board, but since Halo is so popular, you'll see more of them online in that game.

What else should a new player do when they boot up Halo for online play?
Another thing I'd encourage before getting into a real game is to run around a multiplayer map by yourself. That way, you can get comfortable with the environment before jumping into a game with other people. You should also find friends to play with, even though you're online.

Who do you play with?
Most of the people I play with are co-workers. Also, people I've met at E3. Anytime you play an online game with someone who is a good sport, you should make sure to add them to your friends list.

Microsoft is billing this as the last game of a trilogy. Do you think this is this the last Halo shooter we'll see?
We already know (director) Peter Jackson's company is working on a video game Halo spinoff.

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What about the originators of the game, (Microsoft) developer Bungie? Think they've had enough of making Halo games?
I'm sure right now the Bungie guys just need a vacation from working on the game all these years. But maybe in a few years, when they're done drinking their $100 whiskey and they've all driven their Ferrari's into the ground, maybe they'll reconsider and do another Halo game. Who knows?

Hard to look away from the financial success of this game, huh?
The commercial success for this type of game has been amazing. You have to remember, this isn't a $10 movie ticket. We're talking about a $60 (at least) video game.

Photo courtesy of Dan Hsu