Meet the Mob: Layton Shumway

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Words can't explain what happened…but words are all I got. –Rucks

When you get right down to it, I really only have three talents in this world: writing, music, and Tetris.

My aptitude in writing stems from my love of reading. As a child, I devoured any scrap of writing I could get my hands on — books, magazines, newspapers, instruction manuals, cereal boxes, whatever. If an object had words on it, I wanted to know what the words said. (In fact, at the age of five I allegedly insisted that my kindergarten teacher let me read aloud to the class, because I didn't want to sit and listen. I have no clear memory of this event, but my parents insist that it happened. It sounds like something I'd do, anyway.)

From then on, I always knew my life would involve working with words. And it does — in addition to my work at Bitmob, I serve as a writer and editor for a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, Utah. My labors there revolve around the sports section, as I have a deep and abiding passion for all sports. (You will note, however, that I did not list sports as a "talent." I was never more than an average athlete, and the advancing years and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle have done little to change that fact.)


Music, on the other hand, was something I never wanted to feel like work. I'm blessed with a decent ear and an aptitude for chord structure, and at various points in my childhood I learned to play the piano, clarinet, drums and percussion, saxophone, guitar, and bass guitar, in addition to singing. And while I worked very hard at developing those skills, I needed them as an escape, not a career. 

Which brings me to Tetris. Tetris was my escape from my escape. When everything else in my life got too crazy (and I do have a habit of taking on more than I can handle), I would retreat to my bedroom and play Tetris on my old-school Game Boy for hours on end, usually while listening to a CD or an audiobook. Consequently…well, I'm just really good at Tetris. Trust me on this. 

If Tetris is my favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy 6 is a close second. For my siblings and me, video games were a communal experience — even the single-player ones. And we spent more time playing, watching, and talking about Final Fantasy 6 than any other game. The story, the setting, the monsters, the battles, and especially Nobuo Uematsu's masterful score captured my imagination in a way that no other medium — not even my beloved books — could match.

Shadow of the Colossus

Since then, I've been an evangelist for the emotional and narrative potential of video games. My favorites are invariably titles that strike me in a deep and meaningful way, like Shadow of the Colossus or The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. To me, a good game is one that makes you feel something. Striving to identify what it is in these games that touches me so deeply is a continuing challenge — one I find very rewarding.

I'll end by listing a few of the articles I've written here that best illustrate that search for meaning in my personal reactions to games. If you've got similar experiences, I'd love to hear them. Drop by my Twitter page and say hi.

Why losing in Starcraft 2 feels fun
My first article at Bitmob. While I'm still awful at Starcraft, I was surprised at the game's ability to keep me hooked by empowering me to see where I was improving (however slowly).

On Lovecraft, Chopin, bad graphics, and Alone in the Dark
An account of my experience with the original PC survival-horror game and how the abstract presentation and bizarre ambiance freaked the crap out of me.

Check your fire: Death and consequences in games
The latest Medal of Honor game contained a subplot about friendly fire, but I couldn't get into that when my bullet-sponge A.I. buddies took round after round and kept going unharmed.

Getting dumped: What Mass Effect 2 gets right about role-playing
My FemShep got shafted by the men of the Normandy, but it actually fit the character I was playing. I'd never been so satisfied with a negative consequence in a game.

The philosophy of Zelda: Existentialism, the fourth wall, and Link's Awakening
Maybe my favorite thing I've written here, probably because the game means so much to me. I still remember the dream I mention at the end, as clearly as if I had just woken up from it.

How NCAA Football 12 trolled me into becoming a prima donna
I've interacted with professional athletes a number of times in my career, but playing this gave me my first inkling of how it might feel to know you're better than everyone else at what you do.

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