Interview and article composed by @Camonized
With every ambitious project comes the ambitious people to bring it to life. HT 5.0 is no exception, as it requires a straining effort from it's makers. One of these individuals is Aaron Siciliano, mainly known by his alias 'Mad Hatter' or 'Hatter is Mad'. Hatter has quite the history with HT, as he is one of the community's biggest contributors and oldest members (being one of the original 3 members of HT). Other intriguing additions on his community resume include being one of the current Code Monkeys, a leader for one of the most all time successful squads and a seasoned racer with commendable results. He may not be the most social on the website or within the community, but Hatter nonetheless is an interesting fellow with unparalleled integrity, thus making him the perfect fit for this edition of Community Spotlight.
HaloTracks: We've already given you a brief introduction, but could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Hatter: I am the longest lasting, last standing, developer for HaloTracks. In my free time, I am developing the HT5.0 platform update which also includes both the Maps application and Tournament system. Outside of the Halotracks community, I have dedicated a large part of my life to Sprintcar racing. I also am in the process of restoring a 1974 Jaguar XJ6, which is my daily driver, and a 1999 Ducati Monster 900 which is my favorite motorcycle.
Hatter (#44 in the black car), racing at Charleston Speedway in Charleston, IL.
Most people know you've got a hefty track record, but where did it all begin for you?
I started with Halo racing back in Halo 2 with Warthogs on Coagulation. I would play all kinds of mini games with my friends for several hours per night. At one point I learned how to mod Halo 2 on Xbox Live and I started creating modded racetracks on Containment. In the first week of Halo 3 I was searching through the Bungie.net forums and come across a racetrack made by killer200o and cul8er. This racetrack was very simple but they had come up with a gametype for tracking laps and no one else had the drive to even start on large projects like racetracks. I immediately added cul8er on my friends list and contacted them about starting a Halo racing community. cul8er and killer200o then invited me to their xbox live party, in which they happened to be forging their third track, and explained to me that they just a few hours prior created a Bungie.net group called HaloTracks. I promptly joined and was the third active member, 35th registered member, on the Bungie.net group.
Communities see plenty of people come and go, but you've stuck around all these years. What keeps you coming back?
Wait, am I allowed to leave? Actually to be honest I have tried to leave a couple times. Originally, my reasons for leaving the community were due to conflict between cul8er and I. At one point I even started my own Halo racing community. It failed when cul8er threatened to ban anyone from Halotracks who supported me and eventually managed to alienate me from the racing community. killer200o managed to bring me back to the community but cul8er and I would almost never be on speaking terms again. At this point in the timeline I came back because the Halo racing community was thriving and very fun to be around. The second time that I left the community was during the time that I was practicing for MLG tournaments and competing on GameBattles. I did not officially leave the community, but I stopped hosting the Velocity squad tournaments because I didn't have enough time. The last few years I have had no desire to be apart of the community due to the members of the community. I have however stayed with the intent on finishing the HT5.0 system because I made a promise that I would see it through to the end.
We see you're back at the races. How does it feel to be back in the saddle?
It wasn't my decision to stop racing! You guys didn't want to invite me or let me race since I was overseas and laggy. I am glad I am back and racing again but I do not ever expect to be dominant again like I was back in the Halo 3 days, unless we return to terrain racing.
After a long hiatus from racing, Hatter returned in Halo 4 for his first full season of HTSX during Season 7, where he finished in 18th Overall. He made 4 main events with his best finish being an 8th. In late 2014, Hatter made a personal journey to Thailand, which took a blow to his racing comeback. Plagued with connection issues, he salvaged an 11th Overall in the HTSX National Open Series. He completed only 5 races, making 3 main events with his best finish being a 6th. In his return to the states, Hatter faired well in the 2016 Nationals Series, where he finished 2nd Overall. He completed 8 races and snagged one overall win.
Speaking of, those were some tough times for you! How did knowing you were at a disadvantage and had more in the tank affect you mentally? Would you say it hindered your performance (aside from your connection issues)?
I don't think it hindered my performance too terribly. I am not very consistent with the Supercross style mongoose racing. If someone, usually Soda, didn't take me out because of my connection issue then I likely would have just wrecked on my own anyways.
You've mentioned your time was back in Halo 3 during the days where you managed HT Velocity. How would you describe the current state of competitive racing and how it's evolved from the H3 days?
I think the current state of competitive Halo racing is shameful compared to what it used to be. I do not believe that the current members of the community are the sole contribution to this however. I believe the childish mentality that was prevalent during the success of this community is to blame here. Each squad wanted to be superior to each other and belittle each other, looking at you Velocity and Supercross, this along with squad mismanagement left us with no squads and no one taking incentive to host races or forge racetracks. I believe this community will continue to suffer unless each and every member takes accountability for the lack of activity and does their part to create new tracks and host tournaments to try and recapture the success of this community that we all have collectively ridden into the ground. H2A is pretty shit though. Can we all just go back to Halo 4?
Seeing how you've pretty much raced in every era of racing, which era was the most difficult to produce results?
Halo 3 for terrain, Halo 4 for everything else. I would have to say that the Halo 4 era of racing, although not my favorite, was the most difficult to win a race in. The tracks were mostly supercross with low tolerances for f*** ups. The fantastic part about Halo 4 was the consistency of the mongoose. The mongoose and controls outclassed all of the other Halo games, even its successors.
However, Halo 3 terrain racing was my favorite era of racing. Halo 3 provided the best mongoose for terrain racing. Unfortunately it was limited to eight racers per lobby and we would occasionally have to cut people from the races or create two different tournaments to facilitate all of the signups. If some of the more competitive racers from the Halo 4 era of racing had existed in the community during the Halo 3 era we might have seen more competitive racing in Halo 3 than Halo 4.
While competitive Halo racing was inevitable, Hatter is still a commendable pioneer of the concept. With help from former Head Map Maker, Bomberman914, Hatter created the grassroots of prestigious HT racing tournaments and his legacy is something to be cherished forever.
You've had a rough go at racing over the past few years and mentioned you don't see yourself returning to your dominant ways. What are your current goals as a racer?
I plan on racing for fun. I don't expect that I will be practicing for any tournaments nor winning any races anytime soon.
What has been your biggest challenge as a racer?
I think the biggest challenge that I have had as a racer is making sure that I can get my pizza put in the oven and cooked completely between races. It has been an ongoing challenge for several years now.
Don't be fooled; Hatter is quietly one of the most decorated racers on HaloTracks. His accolades include 24 HT Velocity tournament victories (3rd all time) and an HT Velocity championship from Season 1. Hatter may not produce the same results as he did back then, but that doesn't change his records or his status as a seasoned veteran.
What has been your favourite highlight and/or your greatest accomplishment in your Halo racing career?
My greatest accomplishment during my Halo racing career was when I won ten consecutive Velocity Squad tournaments in a row. Not only did I win the squad tournaments, but I did so convincingly by rarely dropping races during these tournaments. After I won the tenth tournament I decided to stop practicing for Halo racing and just take it for fun after that.
I think my favorite highlight during my racing career would be the entire time that I hosted HT Velocity. I was very proud to have organized that squad and help that squad to impact this community in the ways that it has.
Who was or has been your toughest competitor in racing?
In the early Velocity days I would have to say my toughest competitor was Deano. The later velocity days that transitioned over to Cassel. I raced a single time during Halo Reach and I led every lap of the race and Soda passed me on the last turn of the last lap to win the race. This race marked the first time I had ever raced against Soda and the last time I was on even footing with him. Since then Soda has been my bad luck charm, anytime I have raced with him in Halo 4 or H2A he will accidentally take me out of the race.
In closing, where do you see yourself in the future of HaloTracks? As well as being a developer, what are your hopes with HT 5.0 and where do you want to see HaloTracks in the future?
I would love to be a large part of HaloTracks in the future. I have spent so many years of my life on this community and would hate to see the community die from the current trend of inactivity. In a perfect world I would like for HaloTracks to see an upswing in content creation and tournaments being hosted. This activity would hopefully invite new members to join our ranks and allow the community to grow and re-establish itself.
Halotracks 5.0 will be a nice flex of our muscles as a community, however it is a useless gesture when there is no community to use it.