Interview conducted and posted by: Tandar1
A college graduate from the prestigious Rose-Hulman, and long time gamer Zack Johnson (BoZack) was able to spend some time in-between swapping out consoles and games for customers in his business he started from the ground up. Congratulations on the success of eBash and we all hope it will bring many more years from your hard work and dedication to getting it started! Also, happy late anniversary!
Q: To better understand the man behind the tag, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?
A: I was born near Chicago, lived in North Dakota when I was young before we moved to Terre Haute, IN. I spent 4 years in Arlington, TX (Dallas/Ft.worth) while my dad went back to school for his Theology Masters Degree (Yep, I am a preacher's kid) and our family returned to Terre Haute to start a church. I played basketball throughout high school and then at the collegiate level while getting my BSME from Rose-Hulman. As soon as I graduated I started my first company designing web software and have not stopped starting new businesses since.
Q: Family members or any pets?
A: I got lucky and tricked a beautiful woman to marry me based on promises of fame and riches. Fortunately she still believes that and we recently celebrated our 15th year anniversary. Being self employed is a challenge sometimes. The pros outweigh the cons, but simple things like health-insurance and taxes would be way more simple working for a big company.
I have a son who just turned 11 and is in his last year of elementary and a brand new daughter who is 6 months old. What a crazy dynamic, but totally awesome. We have two dogs, both boxers, that live inside and out depending on how much trouble they are in at the time. I also have a 220 gallon fish tank at the store. I have been an avid S. American cichlid guy since college, at one time having over 50 tank breeding set-up on a custom made central filtration system.
Q: How did you come up with your gamertag?
A: In college playing basketball my freshmen year some of the seniors gave me the nickname BoZack from the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain. I got a personalized license plate the next year for my car with that name (I can’t believe the state allowed it) and it was only natural I used it for my gamertag.
A: We got the idea from hosting youth events at church. We would have the kids all bring their systems (original Xbox) and network them together for all night Halo LAN parties. It was a bunch of fun, but a TON of work. I thought to myself why don’t we have this stuff set-up all of the time somewhere? LAN centers at the time were dark open rooms with a bunch of bearded freaks playing Counterstrike on PC. We took it a step further with private room and a mix of consoles and PCs, with a bright friendly feel to the store so parents don’t have a problem dropping the kids off for a few hours.
In the future I would love to get 25+ stores all around the US. We started franchising in 2009 and we have one additional store in Evansville, IN. I am currently looking at space in the Indianapolis area to start another store, but to get the deals with publishers we really need them on the east and west coast as well as the south parts of the US. Anyone out there interesting in opening a store?
Q: How did you find out about 360voice.com?
A: Honestly I think I was browsing through the forums at x360a a few years ago looking for challenges using gamerscore. Someone had a post to check out the site and for a few days I didn’t really get it. The blogging was cool, but once I started using the forums and the challenge system things got really awesome.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of 360voice.com?
A: The events. Hands down that is the most unique and cool thing about the site. Not just the challenge system, but all of the member and 3VCE stuff that is operated in the forums. Truly a hidden gem of the site.
Q: What's your favorite type of genre and why?
A: Using this opportunity as a soap box, I would REALLY like to see a Kinect genre on 360v. I know some of the Kinect games have been placed in other genres because of their content, but honestly I can't think of a better use of the genre system than Kinect games. Not games which have a couple mini-games on the Kinect like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, but full blown Kinect required games. 1000G in Kung Fu Panda 2 is not difficult, but I physically felt like I earned every single one of those points when I was done.
Q: How long have you been a member of Xbox Live? What is your favorite part about the service, and do you feel like you get your money's worth?
A: I was actually a beta tester for LIVE, so I should get that coveted “9” next to my tag soon. Because I started an ISP I had access to extremely high speed lines (at the time) and the beta was actually a blast. Talking LIVE to someone with a headset while we all raced to an RC racing game (that was never released) was unforgettable.
Q: I see you started playing the free to download Age of Empires Online, do you feel like you will be buying the expansion packs to unlock the current 1150 gamerscore? Do you think more games will follow in these footsteps, and what is your preference?
A: My son and I love RTS games on the PC, so this was a natural for us. We have both bought one of the premium civilizations each, so we have dropped $40 together on the game. I don’t know if I feel either way on this style of game. From an achievement standpoint it is way worse than standard DLC, since you have to buy stuff right from the beginning for many of the achievements. However being a fan of the game I am not opposed to it on this particular game.
Q: Your gamerpic seems to suggest you set a Guinness World Record, did you? What was it for?
A: I wish it was something cool, but it was just a promotion that MS ran for Kinect Sports a few months back. It was kind of clunky to follow all of the steps to register, so not many of us actually got the gamerpic and avatar shirt from the event. I guess that makes it sort of cool. :) All we did was run the 100m dash at the exact same time (1 PM EST) on a Saturday afternoon with a few million other gamers on Xbox LIVE.
Q: Is there anything you would like to see added to 360voice that could make it better?
A: I have said this before and I know the guys are busy full time just doing the regular events and maintenance of the site, but I will mention it again. I think the front page of the site needs a complete overhaul, bringing to front the competitive aspects on the backside. When you visit 360voice the feature of having your Xbox blog is really front-and-center and everything else seems to take a back seat.
Q: Have you ever met anyone from 360voice, or is there someone you would like to meet?
A: JB330 is from Indy and has been over to eBash a couple of times during our recent competitions together (Mega Challenge, HERBIE). It is great to meet people in real life and they are never what you think. JB I won’t tell you what I expected to see when you came over the first time, as I bet you had the same thoughts when meeting me. Hahaha!
Q: You have a lot of nice badges displayed on your blog, what are a few of your favorites and why?
A: The collection badges are pretty unique, but obviously I should have those owning a gaming store. I also like my Iron Man badge but I wish my completion percentage was much higher.
Q: What did you create to earn the API samurai badge?
A: When I was running the team portion of this year’s Mega Challenge I wrote some code to pull scores using the 360voice API system. I took the time to write down the process I used and put it in the forums for others to use.
Q: You recently created and started a unique challenge called the "Fall eBash Gamers Group" or EGG for short. Tell us a little about the challenge and how you thought up the idea?
A: After 6 months of SERIOUSLY DIEHARD challenges I wanted to start something that players could participate in at a lower key level that wasn’t based on unlocking tons of achievements. Also, selfishly, I want to throw in some weekly themes that will motivate myself to play and thought others might like the same “prodding”.
Q: Football season just began, do you enjoy watching the sport? Who is your favorite team?
A: I played basketball through high school and college but at the professional level I love watching football. Of course I am a Colts fan. Yes, even without Manning.
Q: Do you eat or drink anything that helps keep you gaming into the wee hours of the morning?
A: Funny you should ask, at the store our gaming drink for years was BAWLS energy drink. But a few years ago the company that created the drink went through bankruptcy and sold to new owners. Finally we are working with them to get the drinks back in our store. I can’t wait!
Q: What's your current gaming setup?
A: For owning a game center, it is pretty lame. We have a 52” Sony in our living room and my systems all sit below it.
Q: Do you use any guides or videos when playing games to help you unlock certain achievements?
Q: Are there any other consoles that sit alongside your Xbox360?
A: PS3, Wii, and my Japanese Xbox 360. I would like to say my home set-up gets used a ton for gaming, but most of my gaming happens at the store.
Q: What's your take on Games for Windows Live games? Do you see a difference playing a game on the PC?
A: In college we played a game called Warlords 2 on the computer that was my first true addiction in gaming. I remember one winter break I played about 16 hours per day. As a turn-based strategy game some of the games would take 4-5 hours. When I discovered the RTS genre it was like heaven. There is no question that RTS games were made for the computer. I love the idea of one integrated gaming ID (gamertag) across multiple platforms.
Q: I can see from your card you have played a few Kinect games, what do you think about the new peripheral?
A: I love the Kinect. That is probably the one thing that we use at home somewhat regularly. I think that things like this are not going to “take over” gaming, we are all too lazy. But boy does my love of achievements help get a nice workout every now and then.
Q: Do you feel like the technology has helped get you more active while playing videogames?
A: No question about it. It actually makes me realize what terrible shape I am in compared to my days of playing competitive sports. 10 minutes with Kinect Wipeout and I am curled up on the floor gasping for air.
Q: What are some things you dislike about the Kinect?
A: I know it might seem picky, but I like to play in my normal attire of athletic shorts and a t-shirt. It seems like the Kinect really has trouble recognizing my leg placement. A person would have to wear a wrestling singlet to be able to get the perfect recognition from the Kinect camera.
Q: Is there a certain game you would like to see utilize the Kinect in some way?
A: My son and I are really looking forward to Kinect Star Wars. I sure hope we aren’t disappointed. So many games that came out for the Wii appeared to be perfect for that system but then playing them really sucked.
Q: Can you remember the very first videogame you ever played?
A: Wow, that was a long time ago. I know the first one that made an impact on me was probably either Popeye or Boulderdash back on our Atari 800XL. I remember my dad buying that with the “hope” that it was an educational purchase and not just for gaming. The only thing that it ever did besides gaming was when he would print “Happy Birthday” banners for us to hang up on the morning we woke up on our birthdays.
Q: What do you think about "DLC"? Do you feel cheated when DLC is announced on the same day the game comes out?
A: Not really, it is totally a business move to try and get a bit more from gamers. I honestly do not mind DLC except that I would prefer to have a disc option also because of eBash.
Q: There seems to be a new marketing scheme coming out, which is the introduction of "Passes". In an attempt to decrease the amount of used games being sold, companies are locking out multiplayer unless you have a certain code included in new copies. What are your thoughts on this system, and has it made you think twice about buying from a company who does this?
A: This REALLY makes me mad when I look at it from our store’s perspective. It is VERY hard to make it work in a building with tons of Xbox stations but we want to share 4 copies of Madden 12 all over the store. I actually prefer the new method of one code up front that unlocks all future content, similar to the Bad Company 2 VIP pass. However we will have to see these new programs like CoD Elite that have a monthly fee. I am not sure paying monthly for a few extra stats and access to DLC that comes out every other month will be worth it.
Q: If it was the last pizza you were ever going to eat, what would be on it?
A: I was always straight-up pepperoni, but my wife has coaxed me into a more daring lifestyle when it comes to food. I would say for the last pizza in my life let’s load that bad boy up with everything!
Q: Lots of blockbuster movies were released this summer, what were your top 3? What did you like about them?
A: Honestly with the new baby it is very hard for us to get to the theater. The only one we made sure to watch was the last Harry Potter with our son. We loved the series and read all of the books together as a family so the rest of the movies would not even be a close second if we had time to watch them.
Q: What was your biggest sleeper hit of 2010 (retail or arcade)?
A: Not that it was a sleeper, but I would have to say Red Dead Redemption was probably the biggest surprise for us at the store.
Q: What are your top 5 favorite games from this year?
A: I am loving Gears 3, so put that up there. As a family we just discovered Plants vs. Zombies a few months ago and loved that one. Age of Empires Online for the PC has to be up there too. I would round the top 5 off with Kinect Adventures and Man vs. Wild. Hahahahahaha! Can you imagine if someone actually picked Man vs. Wild as a good game? I love the show, but man in today’s age of gaming that title was torture.
Q: There seems to be quite a few AAA titles being released in the coming months, name 3 that stand out to you and why?
A: This game release season is just insane. From our store’s perspective we are going to go crazy with Gears 3 and Modern Warfare 3 with tournaments and events. I believe Battlefield 3 will be big on the PC to round out our top 3. But thinking about how many other AAA titles are coming out makes my head spin. Skyrim, Forza 4, Uncharted 3 and Batman will be huge single player hits at the store. The re-release of Halo CE, Assassin's Creed Revelations, MarioKart 7 and the new Zelda will also be big.
Q: Are you planning on buying Gears of War 3? If so, are you excited for 360voice's very own achievement challenge? How do you think you will fare?
A: One thing I take for granted owning eBash is the fact that I don’t really buy games at home anymore. Every now and then I will buy one. Gears 3 just *might* be one that I buy at home because bringing a copy from the store might not cut it long term. The brotherhood challenge is so good on so many levels. Dog of Thunder and Fshguy are doing amazing things with the site.
Q: Do you play games for fun or do achievements play a role when you look at what to play next?
A: No question, it is hard for me to play any title for fun anymore. My son’s favorite thing to tell me is “Dad, why can’t we just play this game for fun instead of trying for achievements?”.
Q: Do you prefer single player or multi? Why?
A: Actually I love both equally if that is possible. Sometimes I am in a mood to just play by myself and I like the ability to pause the game when I am at the store to answer the phone or help a customer. But there is also nothing quite like the feeling of having a full team of guys from the store playing with me in the same room and going for 30 wins in-a-row for in a Halo, Call of Duty or Gears game.
Q: What are some achievements that you like to show off to your friends?
A: The full 1000G in Civilization Revolution was pretty awesome, especially when I did them all legit with basic single player games and not custom scenarios. The one that I always tell everyone that started it all was Need for Speed Most Wanted. That was the first 360 game that I really went after all of the achievements and we simultaneously held a tournament for it at the store and no one else had a chance against me.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with everyone, or any shout-outs?
A: I mentioned this a couple guys earlier, but really everyone here on 360voice that contributes to make the challenges and events run smoothly get high marks in my book. This is truly a community-ran site and the passion for gaming (and achievements) really brings out the best in so many people. The Gears of War 3 brotherhood challenge is a perfect example of thinking outside the box and then putting in the time to make a great event for all of Xbox LIVE to enjoy. Speaking of... I had better drop the game in so I can carry Elem3ntal80 through more Gears 3 multiplayer. Hahahaha!