Since my early elementary school years, I was really envious of the radio DJs and producers. Those guys had access to so much music, and to so many people. I was determined to have my own radio show at some point.
Back then, internet access in Greece was really sparse. And radio on the web was not something anyone was familiar with. Growing up, once I reached junior high, my music collection started growing. I bought CDs from artists I loved, and downloaded (-cough cough-) mostly everything else. Internet speeds were also growing, and I got my hands on some mixing software. That’s when I started experimenting with making mix CDs that had beat-matched crossfades and effects and my own remixes of tracks. That grew into some pretty elementary live DJing, without me ever getting around to trying out the hardware all the DJs I was dreaming of becoming one day had.
And then, during my first years in University, I finally got my chance.
A friend of mine, Thodoris (goes by Spell Alchemist in various places), was already doing a radio show on the web. He was part of an actual internet-based radio station that had a small office in the city of Patras. He went to events, got to meet a lot of people, and got to play the music he loved for a crowd, even if it wasn’t right in front of him.
That was when I decided to start something myself; I found a free radio hosting service (listen2myradio.com), and started doing something. Friends and other students from my department listened to the show, and another person, Dimitris, got me in touch with some people in their late teens in Thebes, who, although in High School, were already running a popular internet radio. They were paying for their own server, getting sponsorships, running events in the city, the whole shenanigan. And they wanted me to be a part of it.
Granted, since I was studying in Patras, I would only participate with my radio show from my home, but they invited me to go over there on more than one occasion. In the 2 years and 3 months I was doing the show, I had a blast. Those two hours every week were my escape from everything that was bothering me. I got to play the music I loved the most, chat with people who appreciated the show, get them to know new bands and lesser known tracks from bands they already loved. They were 2 really great years.
Schedule got pretty hectic though. I was in the middle of my 5th year of my Computer Engineering studies, and my focus on my assignments and being part of a student movement occupied most of my free time. I didn’t have much time in the week to pick out the tracks I loved, and I hated doing half-assed shows with songs I picked in an hour and had no idea about. It was obvious it wasn’t working for me anymore.
So I thanked everyone at Radioparea.gr for all their support and for letting me have my own show on their radio, and finished my 5th year. It was a successful year, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I had put such a loved hobby aside. No matter how I might enjoy working on things such as my thesis, and applying all the knowledge I’m acquiring every day, sometimes I just needed to get away. Listening to music didn’t seem like enough. I had to get back to a crowd, get back to the joy of having people listen to what I like and what I don’t. Sounds quite of lonely when you read it out of context, but the appreciation of others for what you do is the thing that makes a DJ love his job, or hobby. It’s the thing that makes most jobs out there worth doing.
I’m not saying you should do what other people would appreciate you doing. I’m saying that if you can combine doing something you love and being able to give people access to it, get their feedback, interact with them on a weekly or even daily basis, just go for it. It’s worth it.
I had lost my touch with radio and DJing for most of last year. Sure, I kept looking for new bands (praise you Blalock), but I didn’t have the means to share their great songs with others. There’s Facebook, but people there mostly ignore songs they don’t know already, or that don’t have a gazillion likes.
In late Spring, I came across a machinima. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a movie or a series created using a video game, by recording and editing the gameplay into a video. The machinima I came across was Red vs. Blue, a fun story about two supposedly enemy armies stuck in a canyon, based on the Halo video game franchise. I enjoyed it so much that I had to look up if the creators of it were doing anything else. Lo and behold, their YouTube channel was one of the most populated channels I had ever come across. So much to watch.
The creators of Red vs. Blue, a company named Rooster Teeth, make a living out of playing games and creating videos. Machinimas, reviews, achievement guides, outtakes, competitions. Yeah, you read that right. They make a living playing video games. After Jeremy Clarkson’s job, who gets paid god-knows-what to drive cars fast for BBC’s Top Gear, travelling around the world in the latest and most expensive creations of the automotive industry, this was definitely the second most envied job I could come across.
To the point though, Rooster Teeth have their own podcast, among other things. And as if they didn’t have enough fun playing games, they also have lots of fun just getting together every week in a studio and talking about things they love: gaming, drinking, themselves. I was listening to the 3rd straight podcast of theirs when I got the lightbulb moment. I’m getting there, but I have to make another detour. Stay with me.
I love video games. I even tried to have my own gaming community back when I was 13, hosted on Tripod. Since my first computer (well, it was my father’s computer which I got to ruin now and then), I loved playing basketball games. I remember deleting more stuff than I should on that PC, just to make enough space to reinstall NBA Live 96. That passion came and went, but returned for good when 2K Sports released NBA 2K9 back in autumn 2008. That game was so good, that I couldn’t stop playing it. I’m estimating that I must’ve put over 1500 hours during the last 4 years playing the NBA 2K series on my PC. Last year’s iteration, NBA 2K12, however, was giving me problems. And where else would I go to fix those problems other than communities dedicated to sports gaming?
That’s when I came across NLSC, a site I had registered at back in 2009, but had completely forgotten about in the meantime. The members of the community were extremely helpful with whatever issue I came across, and I noticed the effort a lot of members were putting into editing the game to improve it. People were creating arenas, jerseys, new 3D face models and textures for players, new rosters. It was impressive stuff. And that got me to thinking that I could be helping too. I was going to put over 500 hours on that game alone and was leeching pretty much every mod that was posted over there, so why not give something back to the community, if it was in the process of improving my own experience?
So I started modding (i.e. editing the game) as well, and focused on creating tools. Tools that would make modding easier, tools that were workarounds for problems with the game that the developer refused to acknowledge and fix. I was at the NLSC forums every day, providing support for my tools and answering whatever questions I could to help others. And my effort got my more appreciation than I could ever imagine, and quite fast. Although I was really active for just 4 months, in April 2012, after a lot of recommendations from members of the community, the NLSC staff decided to ask me to join the team. And I did, right away. I was able to help the community from an even better position. Besides answering questions and developing my tools, I was now helping run the community I was so involved with.
This story, and the Rooster Teeth one, happened almost concurrently. So, the lightbulb moment is becoming pretty obvious. I suggested to the rest of the NLSC staff that we do a podcast, since it seems to be so much fun to do, and gives you another, more personal way to connect with your members, your users, your community in general. And we did. Mind you, it wasn’t perfect. We threw the first one away, and we’re still having issues coordinating our schedules so that we can all be there to do it. But oh-my-god is it fun to do. It wasn’t as fun as it sounded when I listened to the Rooster Teeth guys, it was even more fun.
So now, I’m back working on things I love, and also having some great fun through a hobby that I always loved. Being on the radio. Getting together with Andrew, Jon and Patrick is already lots of fun. We’re quickly getting accustomed to each other, building a nice chemistry, and I’m pretty sure this podcast is going to be something we’ll be looking forward to doing every week.
Our first podcast is up, so give it a listen, if you’re interested in listening to guys talking about modding and basketball video games, or if you’re curious whether my English is any good.
I feel lucky for being able to do what I love, but there’s a lot of work involved in making sure things stay that way in my future. For now, let me take a breath and enjoy this.