The Eastern Wall: A Short Story

Michael Pachter stood in his office. It was a large, well-appointed room, something any professional might aspire to. The shelves (mahogany) lining the northern wall were filled with books. Tomes on law and business, of course, but mostly books on the ever growing video game industry. Michael was proud of his collection, and prouder still that it wasn’t just for show. He had read them all, many of them multiple times.

He was less proud of his desk (oak). The piece was fine, exquisite in fact. The spiraling columns at each corner of the desk were hand-carved, as were the intricate, floral tendrils that framed the face of each drawer. The hanging, circular handles were bronze, tarnished on the edges but still gleaming in the middle where Michael’s hands regularly made contact. Each drawer would slide effortlessly and silently when opened, filled though they were with the tools of his trade – pens, legal pads and an honest-to-god accounting calculator, the kind that printed out its sums on honest-to-god paper. Continue reading “The Eastern Wall: A Short Story”

Two years and lots of changes

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Yes, it’s been nearly two years since I’ve written a post here. I won’t bother you by saying I’m going to try to increase post frequency. I mean… I am, but let’s not make promises.

It’s been a rough and tumble two years, what with Joystiq collapsing without warning. Thankfully, I was scooped up by the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, and then by the Tulsa Community Foundation, to organize content for the XPO Game Festival here in Tulsa. I’ve been advising on its creation for several years now, and moving on to work on it full time has been amazing.

The show finally went off in September of 2016, and it was enormously gratifying. It seemed like everyone who attended, — visitors, exhibitors and speakers alike — had a great time. I had more than a few people personally tell me how grateful they were that XPO exists. I hope I can continue to earn that gratitude.

The other end of my job is helping to build and expand the tech and game development industries here in Tulsa. Last January, I started the Tulsa Game Developers group, which is now really starting to come into its own. It’s my hope in 2017 to see a TGD developed game make it onto the XPO show floor and onto a mass distribution platform. Here’s hoping!

Given all the professional changes in my life, I figured it was probably time to spruce up the ol’ website. I hope you like the new digs.

8 years of gratitude

I first saved an empty draft of this post in April of 2014. I was approaching the beginning of my eighth year with Joystiq and reflecting on everything I’d done in what once seemed like an impossible career.

If you’ve been keeping up with the (admittedly insular) world of video game news, you’ll know that quite a lot has changed in the intervening months. Joystiq, as it was, no longer exists. I can’t say that I’m grateful for its closure, though that hasn’t blunted my gratitude for all that Joystiq has brought me. When I was 23, it enabled me to earn a living doing something I loved, a privilege that very few get to enjoy. The job was always just a job though. Certainly I loved it, but, as I’ve written elsewhere, I try not to define myself by what I do. It’s easy to conflate work, hobbies and passions with self-identity, but I think people are a much more appropriate measurement. In that regard, I am extraordinarily wealthy. Joystiq has introduced me to some of the most wonderful people a person could meet, many of whom I’m fortunate enough to call my friends. I’m eternally grateful to everyone I’ve worked with at Joystiq. Continue reading “8 years of gratitude”

The coming tide

My entire career hinges on two things: Chris Grant and the letter Q.

It was a fluke that I even found Joystiq at all. In 2006, I was working for a manufacturing company as a project scheduler, my first real job outside of college. My office was in the back corner of a double wide trailer stationed outside an empty warehouse north of downtown Tulsa. As you can imagine, the position wasn’t exactly thrilling, and I spent a considerable amount of time browsing the web. All the usual suspects were blocked by my office web filter, meaning I couldn’t cruise my usual standby, IGN, for gaming news. One site, however, wasn’t blocked:
Continue reading “The coming tide”

Game of the Year considerations

It’s getting to be about the time of year that we — we being “Joystiq bloggers” — have to start thinking about our choices for the best games of the year (this one being 2009). Off the top of my head, in no particular order, here are some of the games likely to make it into my top ten:

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Shadow Complex
  • Halo Wars
  • Street Fighter IV
  • Halo 3: ODST (For Firefight, if nothing else)
  • ‘Splosion Man

It’s worth noting that I haven’t played a fair amount of the games I need to play. Assassin’s Creed 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Uncharted 2 spring immediately to mind. It’s also possible that Torchlight just might make it on there once I sink more hours into it.

Anyhway, the point I really want to get to is this: I think ‘Splosion Man has to be my pick for overall game of the year. I don’t know if that’s radical/crazy/pretentious, but it’s my choice. The reason I say it has to be my pick is simple: I had more fun playing that game than any other this year. Throw out production values. Throw out the “games as art” debate. Throw out writing. It’s not that ‘Splosion Man didn’t excel in any of those areas — it did — but the simple fact is I enjoyed it more than anything else this year.

I’ll save more commentary for later, when I get my thoughts in order, but I had to share. Please, give me your thoughts on the best games this year. I could use the help.

Bi-Monthly blues

Good lord, I haven’t worked enough at all this month. I have worked, but not nearly enough. I place the blame squarely on Halo Wars. Never again will I request a game a full month before its release. Really, really bad call on my part there.

Tomorrow: Time to buckle down.

Oh, on a side note, the Halo Wars review should go up tomorrow. Hint: I like it.

Changes coming

I’ve decided to turn this into a professional website, so I think it’s time to clean it up a bit. Ideally, I’d like it to be an online portfolio, where anyone can take a look at the work I’ve done around the net. Please bear with any bugs for now.

I’m going to see Tom Waits!

Alright, so it’s been a while since I blogged last. You know it. I know it. Let’s move on, k?

The point is, I just dropped almost 200 bucks on Tom Waits tickets. He’s playing at the Brady Theater in Tulsa. The Brady is a pseudo legendary venue where I live. It’s played host to acts ranging from the Marx Brothers to Frank Zappa to U2. I love me some Tom Waits, and it’s been a while since I’ve been to a decent concert. It might bankrupt us, especially with Annie and me going on vacation next month (after E3), but I figured you only live once and it could be a long time before Tom Waits heads back this way again.

Unbridled insanity

So, as usual, I’m in the middle of editing the Fancast as I write this (update, Audacity just crashed. I lost four hours of editing or so. Fuck). This week, we had tremendous recording difficulties. One of our merry band, you’ll find out whom once the show is uploaded, had his internets destroyed by a vicious snowstorm. As you might expect, this had something of an effect on his Skype connection. This resulted in some hilariously glitchy audio. You’ll hear plenty of that in our outtakes. So, fun to listen to, not so fun to edit.

The guitar quest is going apace. The fingertips on my left hand are beginning to develop the thick carapace prized by guitar players the world over. Said carapace has advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: holding down guitar strings doesn’t hurt like hell. Disadvantage: in addition to dulling pain, all sensation is deadened. I guess I’ll get over it.

Someone asked me about my opinion of the whole GameSpot / Jeff Gerstmann issue. If you’ve been living in an internet-proof shelter for the last few days, GameSpot fired its Editorial Director under some curious circumstances. Essentially, he trashed Kane & Lynch. GameSpot, as it happens, had loads and loads of Kane & Lynch ads plastered all over the site. There are other pieces to the puzzle — feel free to sift through them at the link above — but I’ve given you all you need to put together where “the story” began.

Anyway, do I think he was fired because of a negative review? I honestly don’t know. What I do know, is that it looks damned shady. CNET and GameSpot have done very little to assuage the fears of gamers and game journalists everywhere. The fact that plenty of former and current GameSpot employees have spoken about the issue says volumes as well.

I’ve seen a range of comments on the subject, one of the perks of running a site about such things. I’ve seen comments against GameSpot and I’ve also seen plenty of blas comments from people asking why we should care. So someone got fired, who cares, right? Happens all the time. Comments like that are really missing the point. It’s not that he was fired, it’s why. Granted, we don’t have any proof, and it’s likely we never will, but if the story is true, it puts a mighty black eye on game journalism. Then again, it’s not like all critical fields aren’t fraught with problems anyway. Websites are given bribes (i.e. games, swag, etc) by the companies they write about, they’re whisked away to exotic locations to play fucking Dead or Alive Extreme 2, and so on and so forth. It’s the same in the movie industry, and probably every entertainment industry. Don’t misunderstand me, companies give stuff to X3F, but we turn around and give it to the community. We also get offers for junkets, but refuse them out of policy.

Frankly, I never visit GameSpot anyway, apart from finding the occasional news story. Most of my need for reviews is more than satisfied by Metacritc (update: I’ve learned Metacritic is also a CNET company. Small world.).

Anyway, rambling a bit. The point is that the critical field is crooked. Blogs are a little less crooked (especially the fine establishments found on the Joystiq network), but they’re susceptible to the same temptations. This GameSpot issue really just throws the whole problem into sharp relief, with the possibility of bringing it into the public eye. If GameSpot does go down because of this, don’t go thinking that any other site is any better (again, except for the integrity-ridden blogs on the Joystiq network). Finally, the fact that the industry is crooked isn’t exactly news, but someone actually getting fired because of it … that’s bad.

Of Guitars and Comments

Alrighty. Thanksgiving is over. For some, it’s a depressing time. For others, it’s a relief. For me, it’s a bit of both. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that Thanksgiving can be trying at times. Mostly though, Thanksgiving was great. I proselytized my wife’s family, showing them the wonders of the Wii. They liked it. They really liked it.

In other news, you may have heard over at X3F that I’ve begun a quest. My quest is this: I am going to learn to play a real song on a real guitar before I allow myself to purchase Rock Band. I would describe my progress as swift, except for the fact that I really have no basis to make such statements. All I know is that I’ve learned a lot of chords and my fingers fucking hurt. Initially, I had intended to learn “The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III. He’s an excellent singer songwriter and I’ve loved his music for years now. Whilst learning my chords and whatnot, I unwittingly uncovered the chord progression for another of his songs, “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry.” That one may actually be familiar to you, as Johnny Cash covered it a few years back (note the video above). A lot of people actually think it is a Johnny Cash song, so you can blow their minds with the real truth the next time someone starts spouting lies.

Anywho, I’ve decided to concentrate on “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry” as it’s a little simpler and one of my favorites. I love “The Swimming Song” as well, but I prefer a slower recording that I can’t find the chords for anywhere.

And there you have it. I’m really digging guitar and I’m looking forward to getting better at it. I’m a bit worried that it’s going to cut into my game time. I’m also a bit worried that I’m worried about that. Priorities and all that.

Finally, thanks to Eric for pointing out that my comments were defaulted to “off.” I fixed that, so comment away if you wish. And thanks to JaySlacks for sticking my blog on his blogroll. Been a long time since I cared about the incoming traffic here :)