Interview: J Eckert (Get Honored)
J Eckert (Sargonas H2O) brings your gamer score to life with unique embroidered patches from Get Honored inspired by the first ever achievement system created by Activision in the 1980’s.
This interview was originally posted on PMS Clan in December, 2013.
We’ve just begun the next generation of gaming. Old platforms are phasing out. Xbox Live for the 360 will last only three more years and then you might not get a chance to play multiplayer mode on your favorite title. As for your past achievements?
They’ll just be war stories.
Honored wants to change that.
In order to make sure you never forget your prized achievements, especially the painstakingly meticulous ones, Honored will save your gaming history physically with embroidered patches. That way you can show off on your backpack how you completed the Omega side missions in Mass Effect 3 or killed an enemy with a toilet in Half-Life 2: The Orange Box.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Honored’s CEO and Founder, J Eckert, otherwise known as Sargonas H2O. He and co-founder Adrienne “Bitter Joyrok” Pugh are PMS|H2O Clan veterans with a great idea and an IndieGoGo campaign that needs your help to gain momentum.
Sara: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about Honored. Can you tell me a little about yourself and your history with the PMS | H2O Clan?
J: Hah, wow this is a long one… So the clan and I go way back. Back in 2005, I was living in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky working for ASUS and was out in LA at my first ever E3. There I met PMS Venus, and we remained friends online after the event via the online community at 1UP.com. On the side, since 2000, I was also on staff for LANWar, the largest privately run LAN in the country (and still going!). We held 4 events a year, averaging about 700 attendees for three of them, and 2,000 in the summer in our heyday. Because of that, in late 2005, Intel was kicking off the Word Series of Video Games and contracted us to run the BYOC LAN at the event, with the inaugural event happening in place of our usual summer event.
I invited PMS Venus to come and bring anyone she wanted. At the same time for varying reasons, other clan members were planning to attend as well, and so a whole army of PMS and H2Os as well as the entire Frag Doll team descended upon the Louisville convention center like a horde of gaming-locusts. Being one of the public faces for the LANWar staff, I sort of dedicated my time to being a bit of a concierge for them all during the week, and I just sort of fell into the family. By the end of the week Twin was referring to me as H2O Sargonas, and I was kind of conscripted into service from that point on.
Over time after that I got my job at EA and traveled the country almost monthly for varying tournaments, conventions and what not. I stayed in touch with a large chunk of the clan, and they have been a large base of my core friends. (God I wish I could share some of the stories from later WSVG’s and PAXs, but I’m under a court mandated gag order about what we got up to!)
In 2009, when work relocated me to San Francisco, I reached out to PMS Wedge asking for advice on finding a place since I knew she lived in the city. Her response? Move in to her house to replace her outgoing roommate, which I did! About a year and a half ago, Bitter Joyrok moved in with us as well, which is how she wound up being one of my two co-Founders [for Honored], and our head of design.
I’ve also spent some time working for the clan as well. I spent a chunk of time around 2007-2008 doing back-end administration on the forums, as well as in 2009 I helped start up and co-lead the fledgling Left 4 Dead division. In early 2011, I took up the task of helping Snaze run the team that manages all the game servers and Vent as well, before stepping down in late 2012 to focus on Honored.
Pretty much my entire life is dedicated to gaming, either playing them or making them, and I warmly count every clan member who lives out here in the Bay Area among my inner circle of friends. They are like family to me!
Sara: What is Honored?
J: In short, Honored is a way for gamers to earn embroidered patches as rewards for what you do both in games as well as outside of them within the gaming world. If it’s related to gaming, we want to help you show it off. Badges are earned for achievements, meta-achievements, attending events, participating in tourneys, from our partners for attending their booths at conventions, visiting a midnight launch, and more. If you can dream up a valid scenario, we’ll try to put it into place!
All of this is powered by an awesome website that houses your profile and serves as a tool to help you earn and unlock the badges for acquisition. A far better explanation can be found by me via video on our IndieGoGo campaign or on our homepage.
Sara: Where did the idea come from?
J: Years ago, I was going through a collection of gaming swag with friends. I have a huge personal collection and we were going through their stuff comparing and reminiscing, and he dug out a collection of the old Activision patches. In the 1980’s, you could send in Polaroid pictures that captured certain moments in Activision games. They would then send a patch that you could collect and show off to friends. We talked about those patches, and we thought, “Man, it would be so cool if you could have these for games today.” That’s about as far as it went at the time.
After that original thought, the idea bounced around the back of my mind for years. Periodically it would resurface, and I would refine some parts of it, flesh out logistics, and maybe if I was really in the mood I’d do some research. Then I’d file things away in the dark corner of my brain and go back to my real life, since I was working 40-60 hour weeks for most of these years and gaming every moment that was left. Then about a year and a half ago, I was laid off from Electronic Arts. After six years there, I took it easy and put some real thought into what I wanted out of my career next. A few months in, that’s when I said, “Wait a minute. I’ve been thinking about that idea for so long, I should just do it.”
Sara: Honored has an impressive staff from companies like Electronic Arts, Blizzard, Destructoid, and Riot. How did you assemble everyone?
J: Well, here in San Francisco the entire game industry community is one giant social circle; we’re just a massive family. Everyone knows everyone, or at least is separated by only 1 or 2 degrees, so we all share ideas all the time. When I was first roughing out this idea I just began to bounce it around off of people I trusted who were either currently or formerly in the industry, and on occasion some of them said, “That’s so awesome, how can I get in on this?” That’s pretty much how the team grew to where it is today.
Sara: You spoke about meta-achievements before, can you go into more detail about that?
J: Basically our thought is this: copying over your achievements is easy and quite honestly already done. So many sites offer this to you already and we wanted to be different. We wanted to think bigger!
The idea is that yes, some achievements are so fun they do deserve their own badge as is. However most of the time, one achievement is easy to get… we want to reward you for following a themed set. For example, what if you beat every Halo game on Legendary? Or how about getting a cake-related achievement in several different games? We wanted to come up with something as an enticing challenge to set us apart from other sides that just collect all your achievements into one place, and we felt the meta aspect was a great place to start.
Sara: What’s your greatest achievement in a game that you want to show off?
J: Hmmm, that’s a hard one. A single achievement, if anything, might be that *&$%@ Gnome from Half Life 2: Episode 2! In general terms though, I have 100% completed every Lego game, with the exception of 2 that I am currently working on. I look forward to having a badge saying I did them all.
Sara: Of course the main focus is the next-generation of gaming, but would you consider making Honored-specific achievements and badges for retro games?
J: As a matter of fact we already are. The challenge, however, is to make sure we can somehow validate your accomplishments, because maintaining an integrity to the system will help keep it relevant and make sure people see value in it. We are looking at options to find ways to reward people for classic things that have no online tracking we can compare to, even going so far as to cook up a potential “screenshot submission” queue moderated by staff and/or volunteers. It’s all rough ideas right now though and not ready to be covered in details.
Sara: We need some awesome places to stick these badges. Will Honored clothing be a future endeavor?
J: Absolutely! We plan to offer up a lot of different swag you can affix badges to. Items such as Jackets, hats, shirts, messenger bags and more will be made that you can stick your badges to. We’re even doing, as a bit of a joke, a boy/girl-scout style sash! Which while it was intended to be a tongue in cheek joke, it has become the number one requested piece of swag when I talk to people about this.
Sara: Can users submit their own ideas for badges and/or gaming events that could qualify for a badge?
J: Definitely! Our goal is to give users what they want, and what excites them. This is for the gamers and they know best what will excite them. We have several methods for letting people submit ideas, including the email address: email@example.com.
Sara: Is Honored going to tap into the tabletop realm?
J: We’ve been talking about this a lot of late. Did you know that Wizards of the Coast shares some interesting user data for Magic: The Gathering? I wonder what we could do with that?
Sara: You’ve had several Battlefield 4 community game nights with backers. Do you plan on continuing this on a bigger scale once Honored launches?
J: Most definitely. They were huge successes and, quite honestly, a ton of fun! Expect many more like this, eventually with our partners involved as well. I’m particularly looking forward to kicking off a Team Fortress 2 night soon.
Sara: Since beta begins shortly after the campaign, when is the tentative launch date?
J: The launch of our closed beta is tied to several things, a large part (but not the only part) being the amount of funds our IndieGoGo raises. Regardless of if we reach our goal or not the closed beta WILL happen, but the more we raise the sooner it will happen. I can’t really give specifics, but assuming we did meet our goal we hope to start letting people in to kick the tires before we all head to PAX East in April, however that is a loose estimate and could change in either direction based on so many factors. That’s why we’ve been deliberately vague in our target dates. We want to get you as excited as we are, but we also don’t want to let you down or over extend ourselves.
Sara: Thanks again, J! To learn more about Honored, visit their website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and lastly, their IndieGoGo campaign! Remember, you have to pledge in order to get into first wave beta access.