Community Spotlight - CalamityKez

Meet a self-proclaimed Northern Nag, pillar of the SoTUK community and queen of the seas!

While the Sea of Thieves Affiliate Alliance has spread far and wide across the globe, sometimes it’s nice to check in closer to home and see what our local players have been up to. From running the lively SoTUK Facebook group to helping plan and run SoTFest over the summer, CalamityKez puts our UK community at the heart of everything she does. We thought it was about time we caught up for a chat…

[Q]: Can you tell us a little about what got you into gaming?

[A]: I was young, maybe around 5/6 years old. Me and my mam lived with my grandparents. My grandad had a ZX Spectrum and I used to love sitting with him while he played games like Jet Set Willy. My two uncles lived with us too and they were both into gaming, so I was always surrounded by games.

Summer 1996, just before I started secondary school, my grandad unfortunately passed away. One of my uncles brought round his Super Nintendo to help keep me occupied while the rest of my family dealt with everything. The first game he introduced me to on the SNES was Killer Instinct. He made such a big deal that he was epic at the game and I wouldn’t stand a chance. I absolutely wiped him out, round after round. Maybe he let me win but it was a fond memory. He did end up buying an N64 so I kept the SNES and that’s really where my gaming journey began. Gaming has helped me through some tough times over the years and become a big part of my life in many ways.

[Q]: Were you a Rare fan before Sea of Thieves? Do you have any favourite Rare games?

[A]: Absolutely! Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye and many others. Viva Piñata still holds a very, very special place in my heart. I bought it when it first came out and spent many hours playing it. In summer 2014 it saved me from possibly the worst time of my life.

My son was four years old and suddenly became critically ill, which meant we lived in hospital for nearly six months. After three weeks in intensive care on life support, he was moved to a ward we ended up calling our second home. We were allowed to bring in the Xbox 360 so he could play games like Minecraft during the day.

In the evening he would be settled into bed and connected to his kidney dialysis machine to start his treatment. As you can imagine, I couldn’t sleep being in hospital with my son, so I needed somewhere to escape. I found myself booting up the Xbox and playing Viva Piñata for hours, sometimes even all night until he woke. It was such a surreal situation but it saved me from some of the darkest moments, escaping to a different world where I could simply create a garden and forget where I was. It became a thing that I would show my son after breakfast what I had been up to the evening before, he would tell me what I should try and want to know what Piñatas I had attracted.

So when I heard Sea of Thieves was coming, I was already invested. Even better when the Paradise Garden ship set was released! I actually cried and it’s still my favourite set. Just that little reminder that Viva Piñata helped me through when I needed it.

The Ship’s Crest of The Northern Nag. As Kez says, someone has to do it!

[Q]: What other games are you currently playing? Any favourites?

[A]: Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to play games due to my very busy career, but I try when I can. I have been playing Disney Dreamlight Valley recently which I have been thoroughly enjoying. It’s Disney, what can I say! Other games that I do enjoy playing are Skyrim, No Man’s Sky, Mario Party and Mario Kart with my son to name a few.

[Q]: What brought you over to Sea of Thieves and its community?

[A]: You remember my uncle I absolutely thrashed at Killer Instinct? Well, he got involved with the Beta testing of Sea of Thieves with a mate and he was like “Kez, you are going to love this pirate game I’ve been testing. It’s made by Rare…”

And here I am nearly four years later running SoTUK with the rest of the team, and I wouldn’t change a single moment. I remember downloading it on day one and instantly falling in love. I have always loved everything about pirates. The first time I set sail, I crashed into an island and very promptly sank. A few times I went out on a Sloop solo or with my uncle, then I searched Facebook and found this tiny little group of about 200 people all based in the UK. Here I was able to meet other players to show me the ropes and join them on their Voyages.

[Q]: When did you become part of the admin team for SoTUK?

[A]: I had sailed with some of the admins during the first year of the game, and as the group was growing, they advertised that they were looking to expand the team. I thought I would offer my services, and I have loved every minute of it. I have met so many friends through running the group, some I would trust with my life. We are a very close-knit team and I sail with them at least once or twice a week, which we have done for years. They feel like family and I would be lost without them. One person does hold a special place but not sure I can take any more of their jokes or puns…

[Q]: How did the creation of SoTUK come about?

[A]: It was created during the Technical Alpha. It was to help people in the UK to find other players, to meet up and go out on the seas while the game was still in testing. Some of the original members still actively play, three of them being on our admin team!

[Q]: What's been the best part of running a community like SoTUK, any standout moments?

[A]: First standout moment has to be the day we became part of the Affiliate Alliance. It made us really proud that we could be part of such a programme with other, larger communities. We have taken part in some great events and even ran our own virtual Weekender during the first lockdown which was amazing!

Second standout moment… just has to be SoTFest! What an experience and what an emotional rollercoaster it has been and still is! From the lead-up through all the organising and time spent setting up the rooms to the day it actually happened. I ran the livestream, and sitting there with 300-400 people watching our little stream was overwhelming.

The pinnacle of SoTFest has to be the live performance from The Longest Johns to end the day when the room was packed full, with some of the devs there being overwhelmed themselves – it was definitely a ‘pinch me’ moment. To then be followed by days of Twitter blowing up with the community in absolute awe of what we pulled off was just mind-blowing. I have a scar on my chin to remind me of SoTFest 2022 – definitely did not fall over and split my chin open…

And SoTFest 2023 will be on the… like I’d spill the beans on that yet – watch this space guys!

SoTFest’s inaugural event set the bar high for fan-run conventions!

[Q]: What sort of events do you run and how can players get involved?

[A]: We have mainly done PvP-based events which really gets the rivalry going between some of our group members. Some of our moderators have been coming up with some new ideas for events, and there is also something super-exciting in the pipeline I am really looking forward to when the guys get it underway! As we are a UK-based group, members do need to be part of our Facebook group and they can get involved by keeping an eye out for events posted in the group.

[Q]: Thinking back, are there any standout moments for you in Sea of Thieves since you started playing?

[A]: Has to be The Hungering Deep – I know everyone says that, but being there for that first DLC will always stay with me. The hype leading up to it was like nothing I have ever experienced. Then actually taking part and meeting other crews to carry that tune across the sea was something else. No words really – you had to be there to understand!

[Q]: What are your favourite additions to Sea of Thieves over the past year?

[A]: Hands down has to be Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life. Being a massive Disney fan, from loving the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to holidaying in Disney parks, these Tall Tales were truly amazing. Doing that first Tale and hearing the iconic ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ transported me back to being on the PotC ride. Isle Tesoro – just wow. The devs really pulled this one out of the bag. I have always wanted to be on the PotC ride when it goes down so I can be walked off by cast members and see the characters and scenes around the ride in more detail – well, I can finally do it!

[Q]: What are your greatest achievements in a game, Sea of Thieves or otherwise?

[A]: I am not one for Commendations as I get far too easily distracted. What can I say, I am a Reaper at heart. I think my greatest achievement is killing the Shrouded Ghost in January 2019 and being part of the first crew in SoTUK to kill her – she is REAL!

[Q]: If you had to choose a pirate and ship name, what would they be?

[A]: My ship is called The Northern Nag. I am from the North of England and I am well known for nagging people to get stuff done. Someone has to! I have never really thought about naming my pirate anything other than CalamityKez. She is just my pirate alter ego at the end of the day.

You don’t mess with CalamityKez, on or off the seas!

[Q]: What kind of other hobbies do you enjoy outside of gaming?

[A]: Baking and cooking are good stress relief for me. I love to stick my headphones in and potter around baking a nice Victoria sponge or my signature cheesecake. I studied Art and Design so I have a little bit of an artistic side too. When I have the time, I like to sew or do some cross-stitching. I also spend as much time as I can with my son. He’s growing up fast but I appreciate every moment we get together. Travelling too, I thoroughly enjoy getting on a train, turning off my work emails and reading a book. I am often jaunting about the country visiting friends or planning a Disney trip.

[Q]: Share a fun fact about yourself. Anything is fair game!

[A]: Not so much fun fact but a weird one. I have a very real phobia of polystyrene. So much so, I have been known to cross the road to avoid walking past a window display made up of the stuff. I was concerned about falling into the display. Beanbags are banned in my house – the horror is just too much to handle…

So ends another Community Spotlight! Many thanks to Kez for taking the time to talk with us, and if you’d like to keep an eye on SoTUK and what they’re up to (and maybe even get involved yourself) you can check them out here. Otherwise, see what some of our other players have been up to in previous Community, Creator and Legend Spotlights and our regularly updated Community Hub. Until next time!