We agree to meet on the Paramina Rift, a snow-covered mountain near the Golmore Jungle and south of holy Mount Bur-Omisace. After scuffling down a steep slope and making my way through a blinding snowstorm, I emerge onto the thick ice of a frozen brook and await the arrival of FAQ writer Chris Zukowski. Suddenly, the sound of snow collapsing under heavy boots startles me. I turn, expecting to find a 26-year-old technical writer, amateur cook and art history buff from Tucson, Arizona. But here in the world of Ivalice, Chris Zukowski is no mere mortal - he is Zukalous, an exiled hume Knight from the kingdom of Dalmasca, who has heroically charted the course of this hostile terrain to help the weary find their way through Final Fantasy XII.
Zukowski is one of 11 FAQ writers who have contributed complete walkthroughs of Final Fantasy XII (FFXII) to strategy website GameFAQs.com. To date, FFXII remains one of the most-requested FAQs on GameFAQs, 10 months after the game's North American release. Zukowski's FAQ appears on FFXII's GameFAQs page under the name of "Zukalous," a nickname from a friend and the tag he uses for his game-related writing. In addition to GameFAQs, Zukowski also posts his walkthroughs on his own website, GameIntestine.com, where he illuminates more than the secret passageways and boss strategies of the games he plays.
Zukowski describes GameIntestine as a videogame "digest," pun intended. According to Zukowski, GameIntestine "chews on the nasty bits, passes on the unimportant gristle, then grinds through the long hours to give you a compressed version of gaming." In other words, it's a site for gamers who spend more time using Outlook than their PlayStation 2. This barebones philosophy is apparent in Zukowski's Final Fantasy XII walkthrough: Rather than exploring every nook and cranny and painstakingly recording all the whos- and whats-its of the side quests, Zukowski guides the "casual" Final Fantasy player through the game's main storyline, providing only the most essential strategies and a description of the action - with a little added spice.
"My occupation is Technical Writing, so I'm used to writing out directions," he says. "The spice is just me trying to do something creative outside of work."
The recipe for a GameIntestine walkthrough is one part cultural commentary and two parts sarcasm. Consider, for example, his description of Lord Vayne, the military ruler of the occupied city Rabanastre:
He shoots off typical political lies/promises that he "will defend Dalmasca." I guess the two years of oppressive Empirical rule were not so bad because after a two minute speech the crowd starts clapping. How naive are these citizens if they can be lulled into approval by a few sentences spoken in iambic pentameter?
Though often amusing, Zukowski's asides are atypical for FAQs. "I have read some negative forum postings about my FAQs. Some people object to my style or if I badmouth a part of the game. Overall, though, it's quite positive."