There have been three formative moments in my longer-than-you’d-think career.
- Being hired as the San Francisco-based reporter for MTV News, and writing under Stephen Totilo, who’s now the editor of Kotaku. Totilo was a brutal editor, and he savaged my work—an editorial beating I needed. I was a curious writer prior to working with Totilo, and I came out of it a reporter.
- Getting laid off from MTV News when the financial crisis of 2008 rocked the world, and gambling on a questionable job as an editor for G4’s The Feed blog. It’s where I developed an interest in being on camera, and met my friend Adam Sessler. (We’d met before then, but we were just colleagues.)
- Leaving a job that was breaking me at EGM and coming to Giant Bomb, where I finally found the place that perfectly matched my personal and professional interests. It’s been a dream ever since then.
I was employed at G4 for about a year or so, but it was an incredible ride. It’s a place that gave the appearance of being this big organization, despite only a surprisingly small number of people making it all work. The ambition was huge, and made it a pleasure to come into work. The merging of G4’s video capabilities with its editorial staff never worked out, and remains a tragedy. One of the early secrets to 1UP’s success was its connection to EGM, and that connection just never came together for www.g4tv.com and X-Play.
G4 took a chance on me a couple of times, and I’ll never forget it.
Once, after most of the TV “talent” (the phrase that was used at G4 for those who blabbed in front of a camera) had gone home for Christmas, an opportunity arose to interview director James Cameron. This was just days before the opening of Avatar, and his connection to Ubisoft meant there would be a chance to talk to him for X-Play. No one from X-Play was around, though, and I hadn’t left for my annual trek back to the Midwest. X-Play producer Wade Beckett came up to me out of the blue, and asked if I wanted to interview Cameron. What does a person say in this situation? A person says yes.
I stressed about it all day. It wasn’t clear if Cameron would even show up, and if he did, there was every reason to believe it would only be for five or 10 minutes. By sheer chance, I was being given a shot to move up the ladder at G4, since I was considered one of the people on the web side capable of sitting in front of a camera every once and a while.
Cameron not only showed up, but he showed up a whole 45 minutes in advance, and we had a chance to casually talk about Halo, Aliens, Avatar, and a whole host of other topics. It was cut down to a video that only lasts a couple of minutes, but I didn’t fuck it up, and this lead to X-Play giving me the chance to be one of their E3 hosts. That was huge.
The result was a version of E3 that I’d never been a part of before. Waking up at 4:00 a.m. for a 10:00 a.m. shoot, learning what the hand signals are for bullshiting before a commercial, spending hours under hot lights—it was all stuff that would eventually prove vital when coming to Giant Bomb.
To steal a cliched phrase, I wouldn’t be where I am without G4. It was and is a great group, even if it never realized its full potential. Good luck to everyone who got bad news today. You’ll be fine. I don’t know what G4’s going to become, but thanks for being what you were.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Game Developers Conference for several years now, free of charge. Almost everyone else forks over hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars for the same privilege. And it’s exactly that: a privilege, one that I’ve come to realize I’ve been misusing, to my own detriment, because of the wrong priorities—albeit ones that have been largely out of my control (which I’ll get to in just a minute). GDC 2011 was the first GDC where I embraced what I should be: a student.
For five days, I sat, listened, took notes, and tried to let everything sink in. You shouldn’t have to be a respected game designer to talk or criticize videogames, but you should understand how they work and the processes behind their creation. The tension between games writers and developers has more to do with a fundamental misunderstanding of each side’s job, one that each could stand to learn more about. Many (most) developers are not given much access to the press, but GDC provides an excellent venue for the opposite. For reasons I think are entirely reasonable, that doesn’t much happen.
There was a meme going around GDC this year called the “no badge club,” in which several fellow colleagues reported not having enough time to even pick up their badge for GDC. Rather, they were swamped with appointments to check out games and publisher events surrounding GDC itself. There were enough games, from Batman: Arkham City to Battlefield 3, that you could avoid GDC entirely.
The problem? You can’t blame them. The games are around, other websites will be covering them, and not seeing them out means missing out on potential hits. Well, that and gamers probably want to hear more about what new villains are coming to Arkham City than moral reflections on social games. Of course, if you never expose readers to those ideas, they can’t demand what they don’t know is there.
What I’m saying is that it’s all very sad; a missed opportunity. I don’t know if there will be another GDC where I’m able to indulge nearly as much this year, but I hope so, I truly hope so, because I absorbed more over those five days, knowledge that is directly applicable to my understanding, writing and reporting about videogames, than I’ll ever get from the next year of publisher-driven press events.
Journalists vs. Developers: The Ultimate Grudge Match
Game developers can’t stand those damned journalists, the way they pick apart your three years of hard work with a review they wrote in an afternoon. And journalists don’t understand why game developers won’t listen to all of their great ideas! What happens when we force some of the industry’s most opinionated writers and developers to hash out their issues in front of an audience? Will they finally see eye-to-eye, or kill each other in public? Watch as writers Chris Kohler (Wired.com) and Patrick Klepek (G4) square off against game creators John Drake (Harmonix) and another guest from the industry.
Panelists Include: Chris Kohler [Editor, Games, Wired.com], John Drake [Publicist, Harmonix Music Systems], Patrick Klepek [News Editor, G4]
And then this one!
X-Play LIVE: A Show on Television
Through 12 years, 3 name changes and over 1,000 episodes X-Play has persevered as the most watched videogame show on television. Join hosts Adam Sessler, Morgan Webb with the X-Play and G4tv.com crew as they take questions from the audience, reveal world exclusive behind-the-scenes stories and learn the true meaning of friendship. **Special guest appearance by Ratty! (**Special guest appearance by Ratty subject to change due to new TSA safety guidelines).
I’ve never been to Boston. Can’t wait!