Press Reset

A short time after the last post, I took a short leave of absence from writing. A lot of things happened in my life, I had to change things for the better, and I refocused on the things that I could use to improve myself. Regrettably, Writing About Video Games was not one of them. Said leave ended in October of 2012, wherein I traveled to beautiful Leipzig, Germany to cover Electronic Arts’ Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Since then, I’ve written a dozen features over two years. While down from the dozen a week I’d thrown out in my heyday, I’d like to think the quality of writing has improved.

Since the last post, PlayStation: The Official Magazine shuttered. Two of the editors went to Ubisoft, one went his own way with freelancing, and one has remained with publishing house Future’s US operations. The last, the man who helped me land the role, has been a sort of Games Writing Ronin of late. He’s written lore for the forthcoming Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor and is currently on-board with a third chapter of a Mystery Franchise. Myself, I wandered off to a foray into affiliate marketing with Amazon that paid far better than games writing ever could.

So it begs the question: why did I come back? Because I love to tell a story.

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The Timely Man.

Ah yes, September.  This year was a sort of milestone, as the PlayStation brand hit its 15th year in the United States.  As a result, I was tapped for a thrilling historical retrospective of the game dynasty that was Sony.

Format-wise, it was a bit gimmicky and a bit easier to work: 45 entries, 15 years, a timeline encapsulating them all.  From the meteoric high of outselling everybody to the crushing lows of Bubsy 3D, the PlayStation story has been a long and windy road with a few obscurities along the way.

It was a fun project to work on, and made me realize just how corny mid-90s ad blitzes were.  Polygon Man?  U R NOT(RED)E? That sort of cheese escalated until around 2002 or so, with a defined peak coming in Nintendo putting Matt and Jeff Hardy in a commercial for Majora’s Mask.

Now there’s a classy cross-promotion.

The Magic Man.

Ah yes, reviews.  The bane of my existence, and my least favorite use of words.  Thankfully, this month I had to roll through two.  While Lego Harry Potter was a complete snooze, I’ve still found some play out of Ace Combat: Joint Assault.  While not a huge fan of flight games, there’s a certain charm to dropping heavy ordinance in a brightly colored portable game.

Boring stuff, I know.  Next month’s a bit more fun, with a project I had a lot of fun researching.  More on that as it comes.

The Highlight Man.

Out of all the print pieces I’ve read about LBP2, PTOM’s is both the most informative and the most enthusiastic — and that’s saying something considering Edge’s approach a while back.

The enthusiasm catches on like a contagious virus in the rest of the mag, which includes a section on the two lucha libre games currently in development and a bit of a weird feature, “Big Bad & Dangerous,” that features lists of things like big guns, annoying characters, really fat enemies, and so forth. A bizarre, but fun, way to fill six pages, definitely.

My article got mentioned on Gamasutra by Kevin Gifford. I used to read his (long-defunct) site Video Fenky on a near-daily basis, so it’s an honor to even get indirect props from the man.   I do need to read Gamasutra more often, I think, because The Boss keeps sending me links from the site–including this one, that I would have missed otherwise.

El Hombre Del Misterio.

Somehow, I feel I’ve become The Wrestling Guy in the P:TOM freelancer pool.  I can’t act too surprised, as my superior knows full well that I watch entirely too much of it.  Although, so does he–so it works out*.

This month saw a little bit of a change of pace, as I was entrusted with a featured article.  Stepping up from a small intro writeup and an equally small review to a four-page jamboree of text and art was intimidating, to say the least.  Having something to write that actually mattered was definitely a new experience.  So was seeing my name in half-inch high letters.

As much as the article was a change, so too was the preparation.  I traveled!  I interviewed, at length!  I carried on a conversation with the head of a pro wrestling company and the man who is to make their game!  All exciting and new things, but I have a feeling that I’ll top it all by year’s end.

The article itself is a rundown of two games: Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring and CHIKARA: Rudo Resurrection.  Neither is likely familiar to most; the former being a Mexican Lucha Libre promotion that’s looking to spearhead business growth into the United States with a game and a tv show on MTV2, and the latter being essentially what would happen if total nerds decided to make a family-friendly fighting show.

I’m glad to have been able to cover something less than mainstream, but the biggest advance in this chapter is the advice I’ve gotten from Greg on how to better my writing.  More on that as it comes, though.

*He strongly dislikes a newer WWE employee named “Michael Tarver.”  I think Tarver’s work is great, plus he’s a native Ohioan.

The Hexagon Man.

The July issue of PlayStation: The Official Magazine is out, and I have a review of TNA Impact: Cross the Line at the very end of the reviews section.  To avoid spoiling the review too much, I will only say one thing: this is the sort of game I would break out the Haiku Man gimmick for.  Although it would have flown at Gaming-Age Online, it probably won’t do at the new digs.

“But Tony,” you say, “You used Haiku Man as a crutch for whenever you were too lazy to review!”

That would be true, but in this case I’m gong to break off some Haiku Man independent of the mag:

TNA Impact
Seven seasons come and gone
Does it still hold up?

Buy the mag and figure out, or just pick it up for the sweet, sweet Assassin’s Creed cover story.  Whichever.

The Marathon Man.

On Monday, May the 3rd, I received a letter from the CEO of Staples congratulating me on finishing the Boston Marathon.

I’ve never been in Boston, nor am I in shape to run a marathon.  So I did the honorable thing, left a voicemail:

“Thank you for the congratulatory letter.  My mother always said I had runner’s legs.”

The Journeyman.

Five years.

For five years, I had worked with the fine people at  Starting with a pair of reviews due to current Shacknews editor Chris Faylor’s distaste for mediocre games (Tak 2 and Duel Masters), I found myself winding down a road that hasn’t yet found its end.  I met the man who first designed Mega Man, I sat in the same cramped conference room as the people behind Half-Life, and I got to–twenty years after I watched Hulk Hogan body slam Andre the Giant in the Pontiac Silverdome–go to WrestleMania.

All things come to an end eventually, and on January 25th, 2010 I made my formal announcement to my coworkers that I was retiring from the site.

That brings us to May, 2010.

Actually, let’s take this back a few years.  In September of 1997, a magazine called PSM debuted.  Probably due to a subscription card coming in a game package, I found myself with a subscription to it.  The details are hazy, but that’s what thirteen years does to insignificant details.  Regardless, I had the magazine since the first issue and can even remember jokingly noting to my girlfriend at the time that the Resident Evil decal that came in an early issue looked like me when I woke up.  That didn’t last long.  Neither did my subscription to PSM, as I moved largely away from games until 2002.

Since then, PSM had become PlayStation: The Official Magazine.  I’d be lying if I said I read it prior, but an opportunity arose when a business contact and friend in Greg Orlando made the call for freelancers.  I answered, and in the May, 2010 issue lie a short feature article about games-based social networking sites called Social Studies.

Already finished, but not yet published, is a review of a new game due out in June.

And being built right now, but not quite there, is something a little bigger yet.