A Re-Introduction to Me: Frank Varro

The following is a post I made on MyIGN, a site for gamers. It also serves as a pretty good introduction to who I am in terms of Landscape
Architecture, Design, and Technology, so here you go:

I suppose I owe this post to altoidyoda and justsomedude899, along with a martini and a few High Life’s.

I have been a semi-active member of the IGN community since around 2006,
with a blog I started in 2007. I never posted regularly, as I suppose
I’m to self conscious about my own writing abilities when I don’t have
a bit of a buzz going, but I followed many of the “big time” bloggers
in the old system (Reillymonster, Fozzy, Altoidyoda, Justsomedude,
nextgengamer, dillaweezer, teh_red_baron, etc), and commented enough
that I like to think I had a familiar face at the least. I was excited
to see the new MyIGN as I thought it would become a new iteration of
the original blog community, but it seems that at least so far it is
something more. I don’t know if I think it is something better at this
point, as it feels somehow, diluted, but it is what it is. Some of
this may come from the fact that the old blogging tools were somewhat
of a pain in the ass, and that meant that the only people blogging were
people who really had something to say, and that made it a little more
of a tight knit community. Its the same thing that makes your best
friends often come from the WORST jobs, you suffered through the BS
together, and managed to make it enjoyable. MyIGN is the easy job that
was never hard, and paid decently. You make friends, but, from my
experience, the friendships and comradeship just aren’t as strong as
they were back on the old blog system.

But, I think its time to try to make the move more official, so let me tell you about me. I
started blogging here at IGN because, at the time, I was questioning my
choice of profession. I, at that point, was all-but-thesis for my
masters, and in a job with a small landscape architecture firm. The
commute was murder, and I just wanted to be doing something different.
I remember thinking about how AMAZING it would be to design games back
in the 80′s when I was playing BattleToads and Galaxy5000 on my NES
with my best friend Josh. I moved away from that dream over time,
first deciding engineering was the best outlet for my dual loves of
creativity and science.

Then I took college physics and calculus. I then was looking for a new direction. Luckily, I found
landscape architecture. It is a little understood field that involves
everything I love. On every project you need creativity to create a
design that will inspire, scientific knowledge to know what soils will
work with what plants, engineering to know what to put under and behind
walls to keep them retaining soil instead of collapsing. And you are
working not with “cold” materials like an architect does (No offense,
believe me, I have often thought about going back for an M.Arch as
well), but with the living earth and nature. And you aren’t taming
nature in some god-complex way, but working with nature. Trying to
find ways to create a design that will look amazing both the day you
install it, 30 years down the road when the trees finally are reaching
maturity, and 50 years in when things want to get overgrown. Finding
those balances, and designing so that nature will HELP the development
of your design instead of hurting it is an amazing challenge. I also
brought my LOVE of all things technological to the field, including a
love of 3D Studio Max rendering and photoshop.

Now I am in a VERY different place. I am no longer in Chicago (Hello Queens, NY!),
and, after getting laid-off in August of 2008, I have yet to find
another position in the field. This has been a very sharply double
edged sword. First, I realize that while, yes, I do LOVE videogames, I
don’t really want to be a developer- I just want to be a landscape
architect. And yes, I had time (while working 30 hours a week at Best
Buy) to create a new rendering style, combining the depth that
photoshop gives with the life that hand line-work gets, and I am now
learning Thea and Rhino. But it is really all in the effort to try to
get that extremely illusive job that fits me, a non-entry level,
non-mid-level person with 9 months experience in a field that was
definitely hit by the recession, or even a contract gig doing a few
renderings for a firm that maybe would mean I can stop working retail.

For the time being, however, here I am. I’m playing the few select games I
have cash to spend for. I’m playing some of them on a 360 that my
AMAZING former Best Buy coworkers in Chicago bought for me, and others
on a PS3 I got on Metal Gear 4′s midnight launch (which has since
yellow lighted, and been replaced thanks to Best Buy’s Black Tie
Protection, minus all my saves), and a few on the Wii I bought on launch
day. I listen to Beyond, Scoop, and Knockin’ boots every week
(Knockin’ boots is the new Love-line), and Voice Chat on occasion (Matt
and Bozon are still that podcast to me, and I can’t get around that,
sorry Craig and koopa-lings).

In terms of my gaming background, my first gaming memory is playing “alpiner” on a TI-99 back in the
Early 90′s on vacation in Duluth MN. I then played “Sopwith” on my
Dad’s PC in 1986ish (I’m 29), and soon graduated to an NES, complete
with Power-Pad. I was instantly hooked as a Nintendo Fanboy. I stayed
loyal all the way through the GameCube years (RE4, Metroid Prime, and
Rouge Squadron were AMAZING), and it was only in 2005 when I finally
got a non-nintendo system, the PS2. I got it for DDR, and stayed for
the GT4, Burnout, and Guitar Hero. As I said, I now am lucky enough to
have all three major systems, along with a DS and a PSP (2000). Metal
Gear, inFamous, Uncharted, LBP, Mass Effect, Red Dead, Zelda, Endless
Ocean, and No More Heros are my favorite franchises from this

In the morning I have to learn another 100 pages of Rhino, and tweak fonts on my resume (welcome to the life of a designer
who is under-employed), and my martini buzz is wearing off, so I’ll
leave this post at that. Hopefully you will see more of me, and with
better news on the employment front soon. Until then, take the time to
sit and listen to some good music. Seriously. Find some good
headphones (throw the earbuds away, your Mom and Dad might have some
decent stuff), put on a good CD (MP3′s sound flat and bassy), I
recommend Feel Good Ghosts by Cloud Cult, or Eraser by Thom York, and
just LISTEN. Sit in a comfortable chair, put your phone down, and
enjoy the music for what it is. An experience.

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