2021 set off with a bang as shown by the quarterly award winners in the 22nd Fleet with one winner in particular who made a clean sweep. Zuzutoo not only nabbed the Bronze Player of the Quarter award, but his sim, Rogue Wings, won the Gold for Sim of the Quarter. No small feat, to be sure. What sort of person is it who stands out among the rest?
Well, for one, he’s a humble kind of guy.
“You like me, you really like me!” Zuzutoo said of his winning his awards. “Seriously, I had no idea those were coming and I thank the friends that nominated me and those that for some reason found me worthy.”
While a sim award is certainly a team effort by definition, Zuzutoo credits his co-writers as his secret sauce.
“The only thing that has brought me success is the loyalty and kindness of the people that I have the honor of writing with in the sims I play,” Zuzutoo said, going on to add, “I enjoy their camaraderie both in game and on Discord. Y’all really have no idea how much I appreciate each of you.”
It’s more than sentiment, though, as Rogue Wings is the rebooted iteration of the 22nd Fleet’s first Star Wars sim, Rogue Squadron. Last year, the founding GM left the sim with only Zuzutoo and another player remaining. Taking up the reins, Zuzutoo rebuilt the sim from scratch, including a new name and website.
As stated in the fleet award announcement, Rogue Wings is, “The sim that would not die. Through the sheer pluck and determination of its GM and writers, a small number to be sure but all the more determined for it, they brought this sim back from the brink of closure.”
Clearly all of that hard work has paid off. What’s equally impressive, though, is that Zuzutoo is a GM in more than one fleet division, meaning that he rebooted one struggling sim while successfully running another one set in an entirely different genre.
“I am the GM of Firefly’s Greenleaf Skyplex and Star Wars Rogue Wings,” Zuzutoo said of his activities in the fleet. “I also have the pleasure of participating in Dragon Age Legacy, which is a blast even though I have never played the games on which it is based.”
Dragon Age: Legacy is another award-winning sim which popped onto the 22nd scene last year, and its GM, Sprite, sang Zuzutoo’s praises in her nomination of him for Player of the Quarter.
“Even though he has never played the video games that give Dragon Age: Legacy its setting, Zuzutoo plays a character that is fully immersed in world lore, a religious and opinionated sister of the faith,” Sprite said in her nomination. “Zuzutoo manages to bring together players’ characters with awkwardly humorous [in-character] interactions. It is a delight to have him as a player on the sim.”
Zuzutoo is an accomplished simmer with a broad diversity of experience. With a tenure of genres that stems beyond Firely and Star wars, from modern jet fighter squadrons to Lovecraftian Horror investigators to Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons.
“Of all of these, Firefly is my first love,” he said.
While Firefly may be his favorite, Zuzutoo credits other genres for enriching his craft and life in general.
“The [character] I am most nostalgic of is Providence Amstutz of The Dark Cometh, an amazing original superhero sim,” Zuzutoo said. The character was an unique blend of balance between power and weakness, something which is very important to Zuzutoo and of which he describes himself as a big proponent. “Her powers were based on her emotional state, so if she gets flooded by negative thoughts and memories from people, she tends to react poorly.”
“She was wonderful to play,” Zuzutoo concluded, “and shards of Providence are in my current character in Dragon Age: Legacy.”
Beyond just an award-winning character, however, Zuzutoo owes something far greater to the simming hobby.
“After having my marriage of 16 years fall apart, I was encouraged by other sim players to start talking to a young woman on the other side of the country who had recently gone through an ugly divorce too,” Zuzutoo said of his fondest simming memory. “We connected and came up with a weird notion of playing a divorced couple that were Jaeger pilots in a Pacific Rim sim. I think we put the pain and loss of our relationships into the characters and had to find a way for the two of them to work in sync to be able to fly the Jaeger.”
The story of twin tragedies had a happy ending, however.
“The bumpy fractured relationship of the two pilots was a healing catharsis,” Zuzutoo went on to say. “Of course that became the beginning of something and I have the joy of calling my Jaegar pilot my wife now with our lovely 5 children.”
After being rewarded by the hobby with a new wife (Blondie, another prominent and highly decorated player in the 22nd Fleet) and a beautiful family, Zuzutoo finds that his lives, both old and new, inspire his writing.
“My inspiration is almost always people I know,” he said. “I have made characters based on my children, my ex-wife and friends I have known over the years. I think of how that person would respond to a situation and fill it in with their voice.”
But, as they say, variety is the spice of life. Zuzutoo’s advice to other simmers is to never be afraid to take risks.
“Play as many variants of stories you can and make characters that are complicated and diverse,” Zuzutoo would say to his fellow simmers. “I nearly always play characters that are the opposite of what should be expected in a given genre. I like Firefly Characters that love the Alliance and unification. I like Imperial Star Wars Characters with a genuine love for the Emperor. Push boundaries, have fun and explore the depth of imagination we share together in our simming community.”
If nothing else, the lesson everyone can learn from Zuzutoo is that there is no avoiding life’s surprises, and when taking the good with the bad, it’s possible to always come out on top.
“My background is varied and chaotic. Not sure if anything really illustrates my GMing or writing beyond a desire to twist situations and find humor in them,” Zuzutoo said. “So, yes, I will be a pain in the butt if you have a set direction you plan to take a plot, because I will screw it up. You’re welcome.”
Clearly that is a strategic philosophy that will continue to serve him well.