Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the disco will find you

Tuesday night, I sit here at my desk at Obsidian, digesting a freshly-devoured turkey sandwich. This sandwich, it should be noted, not only had pickles on it, but also coleslaw - some semi-spicy mustard - a dabble of half-fake mayonnaise, and some healthier (?) cheese substitute that still tastes enough like cheese that i will accept it. All of this, compliments of the fridge which resides next to my desk will i work, every day. Ah hell yes, it is the life, isn't it, folks???

So, I am a bit down lately. Work is taking me out a bit, I review my eleven preceding years in the games industry and realize I still have to make "the big hit." I have had a couple of close calls, that is I have been at some places where if things worked out differently for me I'd be a rather rich man by now. I could have had some crazy guitar hero residuals. I could have had some insane WOW money. God damn, if only I had a crystal ball... But that's the thing. It's hard to see this stuff coming. You never know where your studio is going to steer, nor what will be the Next Big Thing. I mean, to harp on it again, look at freakin' guitar hero. Look at it! That thing could have been made a decade ago! (Oh wait - it was!) Well, there's a clear-cut case of something showing up before it's time and not being properly implemented, but at least someone was on the ball with the thought process. Anyway even at the start of it's current genesis (as opposed to Konami's initial offerings) it still had some hurdles to pass, and a couple of iterations to catch on, but here it is. And now it's just a box with bars that float down it, while zillions of dollars are being made. So.. what, then, IS NEXT?

This is what all my bretheren are scratching their heads on while they cruise on the freeway each day. "Where's the next idea? Who's got the next crazy gimmick that everyone will want to shell out megabucks for? What do we want - what do THEY NEED?" And then, less troubling, how many times can we repackage this chippity choppity and crank it out until the stuff is milked and drained?

Well, I won't get all crazy with this. I am not in this "just for the money" - but hell. I get tired of working my ass off and pouring my heart and soul into this stuff, and years pass, and I'm still driving a beater, dressing like I am homeless, feeling kinda crushed and run-over while the world kind of keeps whizzing past me. It's funny, I can sometimes think of some ways to "get rich quick" but hey - it's pretty hard to just detach yourself from your relatively stable sure-thing routine and put everything on the line like that, especially when we are not living in the most prosperous of times. Honestly - I am so happy and fortunate right now to just have a JOB, and one where the people are cool, the projects are cool, and there's a lot of things that I can feel positive about. Yeah, of COURSE there's problems which make me feel madness. Sure I hate scrounging and compromising things in my life, who doesn't. But the industry is a different beast right now, it's no longer a case of "hum a few bars and I'll fake it." Competition is beyond ridiculous now (look how many AAA FPS titles released in the past few months!) - there's just not really much room for dicking around. 2008 was an incredibly rough year for games, one that really surprised me a lot - and so my guard is understandably up for the new year as a result. At this point - just let me keep doing what I do. I will walk the walk and talk the talk. I won't be a bitch and I won't be a whiny "i wiiiiish things could be difffferent!" Yeah, we all get antsy sometimes (we are people, not robots!) but at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, I pass through the main lobby of this office building - and I always feel pretty DAMN good to be passing in and out.

So what am I playing right now? Well.. COD4 oooorah, and Mappy.

OOorah! I want to put colecovision on my game boy micro. OOOOOrah!

Monday, January 12, 2009

adios EGM

and so, another great videogame institution comes to an end. Though in many ways, for me EGM has been gone for so many years now, at least the one "of my childhood" - that rough, rushed-out magazine with half-realized misinformation and crappy editing, but all the same it looked very loved by those who worked on it and hey, it SPOKE to me! I would run to the mailbox every month hoping the new copy would be tightly folded in there, waiting for me - i still have a bunch of the old issues in a box in my closet, held together with staples and tape. "Turbografx-16 or Sega Genesis, which is better? First look at Super Mario 4, and Sega Genesis CD-ROM!" Ah the good old days.

EGM as it's been since I've been working in the industry is a whole different affair, but times are of course extremely different - oh, but they are. I don't need to go into it for the umpteenth time, about how games are a much bigger corporate deal than the days of my youth when it was merely a "hobby/toy" type of thing in the eyes of the industry.. Also, it's very important to mention how media/news dissemination has changed rather globally as well. It's no surprise that magazines (print journalism) just cannot compete with online journalism in many ways, though that isn't to say that print hasn't still got an important place (or is no longer relevant). It's sad to see that the online arm of EGM (1UP.com) really dropped the ball in maintaining pertinence alongside rivals like Gamestop or IGN (perhaps they should have followed through with some kind of merger in earlier times) and kept their legacy going - as it looks now, things are just hitting a wall and splintering. That's not to say no good will come of this - a lot of the 1UP/EGM editors have quite high visibility on the games journalism scene, and no doubt many of the more "regal" ones will at least be able to maintain their presence elsewhere, in a way that people can still follow along. Yeah, things like "the 1UP show" and "the Brodeo" are no longer in existence, but they do leave a legacy and some smart and talented people in their wake. Hopefully, time and money will both be on their sides to continue in an appreciable fashion. I mean, I would watch the 1UP show as often as possible, it was far from perfect but certainly a great way to see what was going on arond the industry, in many ways (even if from a very particular view).

It's interesting to see where gaming journalism is going - other than EGM, I'd been a pretty staunch reader of IGN for ages (though as my time became more precious, and IGN became more blowhardy/illegible, I barely look at it more than a couple of times a month these days!). It's hard to argue with sites like NeoGAF, and Gamasutra - between those two, and the aforementioned podcasts, I would generally feel failry well-informed on the state of things across the board, in at least a pretty broad fashion. I still have things to pay attention to, but yeah - I have been spoiled! Please, some one else, rush in to fill the gap...

It was not hard to foretell the end of EGM. I think I made some mention of this in recent blog posts, basically several high-level people have been leaving long-held positions at the magazine/network. It was only a matter of time really (also, the PC edition closed up shop a good 6 months or so ago, as well...) I can't say I am really that sad about the physical mag coming to an end, again it's not the same as it was years ago, all things considered.. but it was nice while it lasted. Good luck to all of those who lost their jobs (it's been a pretty rough season!) and I absolutely look forward to hearing more from those talented folks in the future. I will go on the record here, if we see something else along the lines of a professionally-produced 1UP Show/1UP Yours/Brodeo set of things pop up, I would definitely pitch in a few dollars for a subscription (as opposed to the free model of the past). That would certainly be worth a few bucks to me!