As with Nintendo Power, PlayStation: The Official Magazine was another print publication that I’d written extensively for and over a long period of time. It wasn’t a magazine that I grew up reading as it only debuted in late 2007, but I did read and love its predecessor PSM as a kid.
But PTOM was particularly important to me because it was my first ever chance to write for a magazine. That was the dream. I adored video game magazines starting as a pre-teen. I’d cart around my GamePros and Nintendo Powers in middle school, talking off whoever’s ear about how awesome the N64 was going to be. I made my own game magazine for an English class project, which I still thankfully have. I worked in video game retail in high school, and when the time each month came to discard the old issues of the magazines, you can be sure that they ended up in my car. And I certainly pored over the new issues during my meal breaks.
Back in January 2008, then-EIC of the mag Rob Smith posted to an open video game journalists group that he needed a freelancer ASAP for a quick-turnaround weekend project. I didn’t hesitate. Less than a day later (on a Friday), he wrote back offering me the assignment: amass a list of all the games slated to come out that year for PlayStation 3 and write a sentence description of each — due on the other side of the weekend.
Of course I accepted it. I spent 15+ hours that weekend staring at a spreadsheet, searching every release list and blog post I could find to add games to the list. It ended up being 170 or so, in total. The money was the most I’d received for anything at that point, by far. But I cared more for the opportunity. You have to start somewhere, and if a weekend spent grinding on the piece got my foot in the door, that’s fine by me. When the issue came out, I remember a magazine roundup feature at the time lambasting it as being filler content or something to that extent. No matter. PTOM came back to me for a PSP version of the feature a couple months later, and then I started doing reviews and features and such.
(Fun fact! Before I embraced the freelance lifestyle and was sure I’d be staying in Chicago, I interviewed for a postion at the magazine in person in South San Francisco. Unfortunately, I hadn’t actually been told that it would be a formal interview until about two minutes before it took place, and I was both nervous and sick with a sinus infection, not to mention unconvinced that I wanted to move out there. My recollection is that the interview didn’t go so well, but whatever the case, I’m quite pleased with how everything worked out in that whole situation.)
My work for PTOM over the nearly five years wasn’t quite as consistent as that for Official Xbox Magazine or Nintendo Power, but there was also a lot of movement during that span; I worked under four Editors-in-Chief during that time, along with myriad other editors. But they gave me some of my biggest and most memorable opportunities, including that first print work, last spring’s coverage trip to Iceland, and the cover feature you’ll be reading about momentarily. The Holiday 2012 issue is sadly the last, but I had several contributions in the last few issues.
Starting with the October issue, I wrote a one-page news story about Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai on page 17. And then on pages 56-63, I put together a sweet eight-page feature called Big (Little) Games, which looks over the most notable indie releases on the horizon at the time, with new interviews with many of the creators used for much of the content. Flip back to reviews and I wrote the one-pager on the excellent Papo & Yo on page 82, followed by a half-pager on Dyad on p83.
On to November, I had a small stack of assignments here, as well. On pages 8-9, I have a spread news story about announcements of games like Tearaway and Rain, which is followed by another spread on various PlayStation Vita game and feature announcements on p14-15. I then have a two-page preview of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale on p38-39, and finally a one-page review of the wonderful Sound Shapes on p84.
December 2012, the next-to-last issue, is the big one for me. It’s my cover story on Far Cry 3! I flew up to Montreal to play the game for a few hours, but rather than put together a traditional preview feature, we went with “100 Ways to Die in Far Cry 3.” It’s a looser series of descriptive captions to large screenshots noting the myriad opportunities in the game to either kill or be killed, and the in-house staff filled out my actual observations from the demo with some jokier entries. It’s a different kind of approach, to be sure. That’s on p60-71.
And it’s part of a larger editorial package on open-world games, with a supplemental feature on p50-59 that a wrote a chunk of. I wrote the spread on p58-59 that includes preview bits on Yakuza 5, Watch Dogs, and Saints Row 4. Elsewhere in the issue, I also did a two-page preview of LittleBigPlanet Karting on p44-45.
Compared to that bounty of work, I’m a little bummed that my only work for the final Holiday 2012 issue ended up being a tiny review of the lightly charming Derrick the Deathfin on p73, but that’s the ebb and flow of freelancing. They actually sent me up to Toronto a couple weeks before the closure was announced to see Defiance for a feature, but before the time came to actually write it, there was no need. Sad.
All told, it was a wonderful run, and I really appreciate the opportunities tossed my way by Rob, Eric, Gary, Roger, and others over the years.