The veteran Dungeon Master Matt Amylon ’14 has carved a comfy niche for himself in Wesleyan’s gaming and comics subcultures. Amylon is spending his last semester at Wesleyan immersing himself in his three main interests: comics, literature, and television. The self-proclaimed nerd spoke to The Argus about Grant Morrison, scavenger hunts, and why freshman orientation may have been his prime.
The Argus: What makes you a WesCeleb?
Matt Amylon: I’ve been puzzling over that. I assume that the reason I’m a WesCeleb is because of the student forum I’m doing. The student forum right now has eight people in it, which doesn’t seem to qualify me for celebrity, but on the other hand, I have so many people who almost took the student forum and who claim to be following along with the student forum without going to it, or who can’t come on Mondays but keep threatening to drop by on Wednesdays. I think there’s some sort of meta-class around my class that’s, like, half the campus now. Maybe that would make me a WesCeleb of sorts.
A: Can you talk a little about the student forum?
MA: I wanted to do a student forum, basically, because I couldn’t get an advisor to do a creative thesis, which is what I wanted to do at first. So I was like, “How can I overcompensate for this and feel like I’m accomplishing something senior year?” So I did a student forum. My first idea was to run a workshop on comics writing because I’d gotten out of this television writing class and this seemed like a really cool thing to do and give people access to something. But I realized that I’m not a qualified person. I was planning on doing it with people who were really qualified to do that.
And at the same time, I had a friend who took the graphic novel class over the summer. I was just hearing about this class all summer and getting mad at it because they were reading, like, “Walking Dead.” There was a lot of really good stuff they were reading, but a lot of really good stuff that they really conspicuously weren’t reading. I was thinking about what I’d do if I were running that class and I realized I’d just teach a class on my favorite writer, Grant Morrison, and actually do a focused literature class instead of cover this entire medium in one class. So that’s what I ended up doing.
A: Why did you pick Grant Morrison?
MA: Grant Morrison’s comics have been steadily changing my life for like, five years now. Every time, basically, I read one of his major works, it changes the way I think about the world, or at least comics and literature, in some way or another. He’s probably the one writer that I’m actually qualified to teach because I’ve just been absorbing myself so much in his work for so long and watching documentaries on his life, reading all his interviews, and being obsessive. So I felt like I could actually do that. I don’t know whether the members of the student forum would agree that that’s really going down, but I felt I was qualified at some point. I still do.
A: Have you been into comics for a long time?
MA: Not so long as you probably think. I think I got into comics when I was around 12, so right after I’d be at the normal age of flipping through superhero stuff. I think it was the first Spiderman movie that really did that for me. I got really into Spiderman as a kid, which is sort of embarrassing because I hate that movie so much now. I’ve been doing comics, I would say, as one of my main branches of nerd obsession since late middle school/early high school.
A: What was the senior thesis you wanted to do that you weren’t able to?
MA: A creative thesis, so a novella or a series of short stories. It would have been cool. I’m in a writing workshop now, so I’m still getting my creative themes out, as it were, but not in that scary, super-focused, thesis-y way, which devoured my life.
A: What have you written for that?
MA: I just wrote a story that got workshopped last week or two weeks ago that was about two girls graduating high school, one of whom is on the honors/heading to out-of-state college track and one of whom is very middle-of-the-road and heading to community college. [It’s about] the way that their friendship has split apart in accordance with society’s expectations of them. So that was fun. It was well-received, I guess, by the standards of how things can be well-received in a writing workshop, which means that people tore it apart and then apologized.
A: What other stuff do you do on campus?
MA: Not a whole lot, really. I’m in five classes right now, so I’m just trying to fit in as much English major as I can, which means that I’m reading “War and Peace” and “The Sound and the Fury” at the same time. So in terms of campus activism, whatever extracurricular stuff, I’m a bit swamped. But you know, I do Dungeons and Dragons, I went to a Wesabi [Wesleyan’s anime club] social last night, just hanging around the nerdier community.
A: You’re something of a Dungeons and Dragons aficionado.
MA: Yeah, I was doing the Dungeon Master thing, running the game, for five semesters straight. I gave that up for this semester—not enough time or motivation. I’m just playing. I’m a witch right now, a really cool witch. What I am doing sort of on the side is running a game of Pokémon tabletop with my high school friends, which is Dungeons and Dragons with Pokémon, so that’s been really fun. It’s way easier and simpler, and I can just have fun.
A: How does that work?
MA: Basically, they codified the entire programming of the Pokémon games into an Excel workbook, and you just plug in numbers and produce, basically, Dungeons and Dragons as character sheets for Pokémon. So I’m running a few of my high school friends via Skype chat through a game of that.
A: Is there a Dungeons and Dragons community at Wesleyan?
MA: Yeah, there is one. My group was always apart from that, but there’s a club. If you go to the Student Activities Fair or whatever, there will be a Dungeons and Dragons club sort of hanging out there in the corner. I know there are groups that are associated with Wesabi and the Strategic Gaming Club people. There’s a fair amount of that, and so many people are talking about it. They’re like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to try that.” It’s transgressively nerdy, I think. It’s so far out the other side of nerdy that it becomes kind of punk rock and it’s something that people want to try and experience. Most people don’t because it’s such a daunting commitment.
A: What do you like about it?
MA: So many things. It’s fun. Doing the Dungeon Master thing, you’re building a world. It’s like setting up a really complicated domino trap and then basically, as soon as other people come into it and start playing, you completely lose control of other people and they start knocking the dominos over sideways, and they never get to see the really cool domino pattern that you’ve made. And then they still have a lot of fun and compliment you for it. It’s really interesting, sort of an exercise in control of chaos.
A: What’s your concentration in the English major?
MA: Creative writing. I’ve theoretically finished as of, like, a year ago, but I’m still doing workshops. I do some of that, but I’ve been taking just as many really hardcore literature classes as I can. I’m doing Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky; I’m doing William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, just really scary stuff.
A: What made you want to challenge yourself so much in your last semester?
MA: I think it was just a confluence of classes that I wanted to have taken and professors that I really like. Last semester, I took Philip Roth and Don DeLillo with [Associate Professor of English Sally] Bachner. I really like the single-author classes or two authors, where it’s just getting into someone’s work, and that influenced me to do the Grant Morrison class. And you know, I get to read stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise. I would not read “War and Peace” otherwise. I would not have started it. But starting it now, it’s cool; it’s fun.
A: Do you have plans for next year?
MA: No. God, no. I applied to Teach for America. I’m applying for a Ford fellowship, so there’s a slight chance that I’ll just be staying on campus in a semi-postgrad environment, doing work for the writing program. I’m just trying to find work. I need money.
A: What do you want to do in the long run?
MA: Kind of a lot of things. I want to write. I’m sort of drawn to the idea of higher education and doing the professor thing. I don’t know how feasible that is in terms of all the grad school. I want to travel the world at some point because I haven’t.
A: You didn’t go abroad?
MA: No, I didn’t go abroad because the period when people go abroad coincided with me completely running out of money. I had, like, 50 dollars in my bank account at any point during the whole year, so that wasn’t going to work out. I never go anywhere, so I want to completely upend that trend in my life if possible and go everywhere.
A: Is there anything you want to see in particular?
MA: That’s tough. Venice before it sinks, maybe. London, Sydney, cool things. Tokyo. Throw in Tokyo, why not?
A: What have been your fondest memories at Wesleyan?
MA: I might be the first person to answer this question this way: I really liked orientation. I liked the incredibly awkward vulnerable period that everyone was in because I have an extremely underdeveloped sense of awkwardness. So I was sort of thriving in that environment and was basically the coolest person in school for, like, a month. But then everyone else got cooler and I started getting less cool.
[Also,] putting together scavenger hunts with friends. We did a lot of those. With Oren Finard [’1] and Alma Sanchez-Eppler [’14], we did a thing for two years where when one of us had a birthday, the other two would make them a treasure hunt. We would make them run through the treasure hunt and there’d be some prize at the end. We used to do that. We did one for Nikolai Muth [’14] before he went away to study abroad for a year and the prize was a really, really cool set of Dungeons and Dragons dice we bought him. But he never finished it, so we had to run through it ourselves and collect all the dice back. That was good.
A: What are you going to most miss about Wesleyan?
MA: Being able to avoid my responsibilities, not having to worry about money. And infinity cool people, but I am assuming that somehow I’m going to keep in touch with them, whatever they’re doing, whatever I’m doing. I’m not panicking about that yet, losing all my friends. [Also,] getting to take English classes and read cool books. I’ll still be reading cool books anyway, but not in a focused setting.
A: Is there anything you hope to do in your time before you graduate?
MA: My girlfriend and I are planning on doing a belated Valentine’s Day walk to the McDonald’s. It’s, like, a mile away. As soon as it gets nice out, we’ll walk to McDonald’s and have McDonald’s and walk back. And just doing spring things when spring happens; going to the beach or doing Six Flags. Nothing particularly groundbreaking. I’m just really excited for all of that. It’s all so wonderful.
A: Are you excited to graduate?
MA: Not particularly. It doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t know. Like, when I graduated from high school, I got really emotional, but not because of graduation, because of “Toy Story 3.” I watched “Toy Story 3” on the day that I graduated and went to graduation right from the theater, and that was weird. But then the graduation itself was just hot and uncomfortable. It’s not something that super appeals to me. And we don’t even have Joss Whedon this time.