We’ve a real treat for you this week! Electronic Gaming Monthly stalwart Mike Price kindly gave our Adrian some time to dig out the real gossip. Enjoy.
Your time at EGM is well-known but how did you first get the opportunity to enter the video game industry?
Initially, I started a video game store called Apeman Video Games and mainly sold retro stuff at the time. I think this was back in the mid 90s or so. My friend worked at EGM at the time and would call me to help out with retro related features.
When did you first start working for EGM and do you remember your first assignment?
I think my first official assignment was covering the Sega Dreamcast launch. It was pretty fun interviewing people. I even interviewed myself because I was short one person at deadline! So, I think it was the 9/9/99 issue that my first work was published.
You mainly worked on previews and launch events while working at EGM. What was the most memorable event you ever attended and why?
The most memorable was covering the press event for ECW’s new wrasslin’ game. I think it was Acclaim that hosted it. They took us snowmobiling and fed us pretty well. I got to interview the ECW wrestlers. I remember interviewing Raven and it was a very difficult interview. He just had a nasty attitude. You could tell he didn’t want to be there. Everyone else was super cool. They even performed an impromptu wrestling match for us in their motion capture studio. Since there wasn’t a crowd of people making noise you could hear them calling out the next series of moves while in the middle of move. It gave me new respect for the amount of skill needed to be a pro wrestler.
What was a typical day like while working at one of the world’s biggest video game magazines and how do you reflect on those days now?
I kinda worked from home, mostly. EGM would FedEx a prototype ROM board to me and give me a deadline. I’d play the game, write up something that wasn’t critical (it was a preview, after all), take interesting screen shots, fill in the template page with my text and screen captures. Then I’d email my work to the Editor.
I got to work at the main EGM office (they’d fly me in) around the big holiday issues. Those were pretty intense but it was really fun working with all the other editors.
Video game magazines were so important before the internet exploded. How do you reflect on the industry today and do you think it is shame that so many old magazines are no longer published?
I loved reading magazines. I looked forward to them being delivered in the mail. Man, I miss those days! However, the industry moved digital. I really loved the Euro Amiga computer magazines (AF, AC, AUI, AP, The One, Amiga Shopper). I spent almost $100 every month importing those. It was a sad, long death. It was hard watching my favorite magazines get smaller and smaller each month until they announced their closure (nooooooo!! – Ed).
Out of all the games you ever got to preview which one got you most excited and did it ultimately prove to be a commercial and critical success?
LOL, most of the games I previewed were pretty bad! I was low man on the totem pole so I got the games the other editors didn’t want. Wrestling games, mostly. Most of the ECW and WCW games were pretty bad, however, I remember there being a Wrestlemania game on the N64 that was pretty fun.
Was there ever a game that you didn’t like the look of, but later proved to be a huge success?
I seem to remember a snowboarding game, I think it may have been Cool Boarders, that I wasn’t very fond of that went on to have reasonable success and at least one sequel that I remember.
Can you describe a few key games you previewed but were never completed and released to the public?
I got to see and play Castlevania Symphony of the Night on the Game.com. It was probably the best example of what that handheld could actually do. It was an early build with no collision detection but the animation was amazing for that system.
I also got to play Thrill Kill. They were promoting the game at a CES if I remember correctly. The publisher had this really weird booth set up that had these two women dressed up as dominatrixes (sp?) and you could get “whipped” by them or you could go play the game. I opted out of the whipping part (what! – Ed), but man, it was really weird seeing all these gaming dudes waiting in line for the women. The line to get whipped was longer than the line to play the game! (that’s more like it – Ed)
What new console were you most blown-away by when you first set eyes on it and why?
Sega Dreamcast! I covered the launch and it was the first issue I worked on. It was a really great system. I couldn’t wait for it to come out and I wasn’t disappointed when I got one.
You helped preview the mysterious Dante’s Inferno for the Atari Jaguar CD. Can you explain your initial reactions, how far the game seemed to completion and whether you believed the game would be a success?
I got to see the game running on a development system, some kind of PC, that had a Jag CD hooked up to it. I don’t know how far along they were on making the game. I was there to mainly work on FLIP OUT, but I’d try to sneak some peaks at Dante’s Inferno when I could since I am a huge fan of the book. Please keep in mind it was a very long time ago, but I seem to recall an environment that looked kind of like the Highlander game that came out. The game looked pretty dark (both visually and thematically). I’m not sure how the Jag fans would have responded to that. I really wished it had been finished and released. I was looking forward to that game more than any other on the Jag.
You just mentioned it there, FLIP OUT is a well respected Jaguar puzzler. What was your exact role with this game and do you ever wish the game received a sequel?
This game nearly made me flip out! I had to beat it (which for me was very challenging and mostly by luck). I was tasked with evaluating a pre-release build of the game at the developer’s offices, offer my feedback on gameplay/graphics/sound/overall experience. It was a fun game but I thought it was a little rough around the edges. I made suggestions on how to improve the game. When the game was finally released and reviewed the reviewers cited the same issues that I had suggested be changed. I believe the developer was up against the clock trying to get that game done and they also had a small budget. A sequel would have been awesome, I bet! Maybe a CD version with a funky soundtrack? (yes please – Ed)
I had a great time with the game and it was a very cool experience.
What do you think are the most important skills for anyone looking to get into video game journalism?
A degree in journalism or English is a good place to start (errr, less said about our qualifications the better… – Ed). Getting used to deadlines and being disciplined on getting quality work done on time is a must. Having a good sense of humor. Most importantly, however, is to love video games! I know that would seem obvious, but if you are going to be playing video games for a living you better love playing them or you’ll get burned out.
When did you leave EGM and were you sad when the magazine discontinued in 2009?
Shocked and sad, yes. I grew up looking forward to that mag being delivered to my mailbox. I was blessed to be a part of it for the short time that I was. It was like a dream! I was sad because I know how much the staff loved making that magazine. It was their lives and their work was enjoyed by so many people all over the world! I remember seeing EGM printed in several different languages for the first time. I thought to myself, “this is a huge deal.”
I don’t recall when I stopped working for them. I do remember that the dot com crash had happened and there were a lot of editors returning to print based media that had a lot more experience than I did. So, there just wasn’t enough extra work to keep on some of the freelance writers like myself. Plus, print magazines had started to shrink in size, too.
What projects are you currently working on?
I run my martial arts and fitness school full-time. I’ve been doing martial arts for 35 years now. I have four different black belts and have won a few championships in fighting, so that keeps me pretty busy.
I also play in several bands. I do vocals, play guitar and bass, write music and lyrics, and play the drums.
In my free time I play Mario Kart 8 or Silent Hill games with my daughter. She loves horror games (Mario Kart 8 is pretty horrifying – Ed). I also have a big collection of classic consoles and games and I enjoy playing those once in a while.
I run an animal rescue and rehabilitation service, Duck Whisperer Animal Rescue.
Crikey, you are a busy man! A quickie before you go, if you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
Lord British! Man, I loved those Ultima games! I got to meet Richard Garriott in the gift shop at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He was very cool. It just so happens I was finishing up Ultima 4 at the time. It took me 19 years to beat that game!