Another piece from last month that I’m especially proud of. Bounden is a beautiful iOS experience in which you and a partner both hold the same device, and the motions you’ll do to perform actions on the screen actually emulate real dancing moves. It’s super sweet and created in collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet, and I spoke with the designer for TechHive.
Today was my last day as an editor at Mac|Life after more than two and a half years of service. Due to restructuring at Future Publishing and a new split of resources between the US and UK branches, my part-time position couldn’t be maintained, and I was effectively lumped into the layoffs that struck the company earlier this month.
I’m saddened by the move. I loved being an editor, and it was an incredible (and unlikely) run. My position started as a four-month fill-in gig when Mac|Life’s executive editor needed to go on maternity leave at the same time that its editor-in-chief decided to depart the publication. I’d been writing for Mac|Life for a couple years at that point, and handled large projects—including cover stories for its quarterly special issues—so I was approached about doing the work remotely. When the four months passed, they were still shorthanded, so I was offered another eight months. When that full year was completed, I was given another annual contract. And then last fall, they converted me to a part-time employee and made it an ongoing arrangement.
What should’ve been four months ended up becoming 31 in the end, and I had the great pleasure to edit the games and apps coverage for both print and web and make it my own. I ended up assigning and editing more than 1000 pieces of coverage during that span, and I really feel like my freelancers and I did great work amidst all of that. In the iOS games space, in particular, it’s difficult to find a site doing dedicated coverage that’s also critical—that uses the whole scale and doesn’t award its top score constantly. Considering the budget limitations and the fact that Mac|Life isn’t a gaming-centric publication, I’m really proud of what we did there, especially with growing the coverage and leaving it both bigger and better than I found it.
It’s been a dream come true to edit a monthly magazine—31 issues of it—and be a part of that process despite living half-the-country away and taking care of my son daily while juggling the various responsibilities. I probably would’ve done it for a couple more years were the option available, but it didn’t surprise me to hear that the role would be cut amidst all of the other changes going on; some of which have sadly affected my full-time comrades at Future more than they have me.
I need to give thanks to editors like Susie, Paul, and Flo early on, and Mikel, Chris H, and Chris S. more recently for offering me the opportunity and/or keeping it going, as well as making me feel like part of the team despite the distance. And as a freelancer myself, I’d be remiss not to recognize the awesome writers that made my job a lot easier. I worked with a couple dozen of them, but Michael Simon, Richard Moss, J.R. Bookwalter, Nathan Meunier, and Joseph Leray were among my top regulars (not to exclude the others). Need a great iOS and/or Mac writer for your outlet? Ping me and I’ll send some of that talent your way.
So I’m out at Mac|Life. What’s next?
Well, I’ll still be writing for Mac|Life… on a freelance basis. I’m doing my weekly New Game Releases roundup still, along with other one-off pieces and potential recurring work. More broadly, I’ll be returning to being a full-on freelancer, albeit at a time in my life in which I don’t have 60+ hours a week to work. I don’t even have 40 anymore, due to my parental obligations. And other things are in flux, as well. @Gamer, where I’d written considerable coverage and had a monthly tablet games column, just completed its final issue, and OXM was taken over by Future’s UK branch, so I’m not yet clear on the amount of work I’ll be doing for them going forward.
Luckily, I’ve had a couple weeks to search for new opportunities, and I’m thrilled for what’s ahead. Most notably, I’ve started a daily news gig for Stuff UK, the world’s best-selling gadget magazine. I’m doing a news story each weekday afternoon and a roundup at night (for the UK morning), which I started on Monday. It’s been really great so far. Freelance news opportunities are often minimal-effort, minimal-pay gigs, but this is a significant and stellar one. And it essentially plugs the hole left by the editing part of my workload, which is amazing.
Otherwise, I’m working with editors new and old on some other things that should be starting up soon—both writing for fresh publications and maximizing what I can do at existing ones. I’ll definitely be pitching more pieces too, and trying to get back into longer-form writing work. That’s a real challenge with my schedule right now, but it’s my favorite kind of writing to do.
My initial and certainly well-founded concern over the last couple of weeks has thankfully subsided, and I’m not only confident that I have enough things in the mix to stay steadily working as I continue to take care of my son, but I’m frankly pumped and refreshed by the significant changes. I’m excited about tackling new opportunities and shaking up my old routine, and looking forward to pushing forward and doing my best work to date.
And you’ll be seeing it all over the place.
Following a couple months of planning and recording, I launched a podcast a few weeks with my freelance comrade Nathan Meunier. It’s called The Freelance Game, and it’s all about the freelance writing life, particularly for those covering the video game industry and related beats. We launched with three distinctive episodes (and have released another one since), and have seen a really strong response and great feedback from listeners.
Our collective podcasting experience is admittedly minimal. Nathan’s appeared on several podcasts while promoting his books, but hasn’t run any of his own in the past. Me, I created and co-hosted a short-lived one called Does it Hold Up? a few years back, and have appeared on Official Xbox Magazine’s podcast once via Skype. That’s about it. I’m a writer in part because it’s the best way I know to express my thoughts. I’m shy, and I’m not the best on-the-fly thinker. Working from home my entire post-college life has dulled my conversational skills. It’s not a great thing.
But work is something I know well and can speak somewhat intelligently about, and Nathan’s in the same boat there, so we’ve both been really happy with our initial work here. When I agreed to work on it, I stipulated that if our early attempts were awful, then we’d have to pull the plug and retool (or just abandon the idea). We lost our initial episode due to recording mishaps, but it’s probably for the best. Our redo was better, and the two episodes since have been really solid. I’m not only not ashamed to share it, but actually pretty proud of the results here. Big cheers to Nathan for being an editing wizard here, by the way.
So we launched with three episodes in part to maximize the initial impact, but also to hone our approach and show listeners the range of what we have in mind here. Our first episode is an introduction to our own careers, which is kind of awkward in premise (me me me me me, but is ultimately important—in large part because everyone’s entry into a writing career in this industry seems totally different. I’ve been at this professionally for eight years, but I first sowed seeds for pursuing this career when I was 13. Really. And Nathan’s been a pro writer for a decade, first as a newspaper reporter before going freelance and focusing on geekier subjects. So we had a fair bit to dig into, and it doesn’t seem too self-indulgent.
Episode two is all about pitching articles, and we break down seven core tips to finding and honing a great idea, polishing the hell out of it, finding places and people to pitch it to, and hopefully not screwing that part up. With episode three, we swap to our alternating format: the full-length interview. Our first one is with good friend and IGN editor Mitch Dyer, who drops a wonderful amount of knowledge on going from freelance to full-time, moving from Canada to the States, and pitching a major site like his. It’s an awesome interview, and if our future ones are anywhere on this level, we’ll have a great run.
In episode four, just released a few days back, we dig into building career momentum from early article successes. Which means episode five, of course, is another interview. And it’s going to be another fantastic, incredibly insightful guest. Really pumped. We’re recording that one this coming weekend, with a release a few days thereafter. Every other Thursday is the planned launch date.
Early feedback has been awesome, really. We’ve gotten a lot of nice tweets and retweets, and even some emails from folks who have enjoyed the information, banter, and interviews. My favorite came from a great writer I know (who I was on a panel with at PAX East a couple years back) that moved away from the States a little ways back. He said the podcast gave him a sense of community and talking shop that he’s sorely missed, and that really heartened me. That might not have been a stated intent of the podcast, but I’m so happy to hear that it’s served that purpose.
It’s tough for me to make time for anything that doesn’t contribute to the bottom line right now, with watching my kid five days a week and having to work a lot less as a result, but this has been a really positive experience thus far, and I hope you’ll give it a listen. Thanks!
Three months have passed, so it’s probably time to update this thing, right? Since then, another big project I worked on came out: Interview Fu: The Game Journo Guide to Conducting Killer Interviews by Nathan Meunier. As with his previous book, Up Up Down Down Left WRITE: The Freelance Guide to Video Game Journalism, I served as the book editor and helped get his very solid initial draft into fighting shape for publication.
It’s a smaller book than UUDDLW, and certainly a lot more focused on a singular element of the video game journalism field, though the advice extends to writers of all stripes. As the title suggests (twice!), it’s all about interviewing: finding relevant subjects, conducting the interviews, and turning that material into great articles. When Nathan sent me his draft, I thought it a very good top-to-bottom guide on the subject, but it seemed like he was missing a pretty significant opportunity, considering the subject matter: including actual interview content.
So I suggested that it’d be awesome if he had a chapter wherein he talked to noted video game journalists about their experience conducting interviews and going through the whole process. And then I added, well, you could do something similar with game developers and ask how they’ve dealt with interviews on the other side of the mic. Both were outside of the scope and timetable of the book as originally planned, so I didn’t know if he’d be open to them, but he heartily embraced both.
For me—and likely anyone else who’s already established in the industry—those two bonus chapters are the most interesting part of the book. On the journo side, you’ve got Dan Amrich (ex-OXM/GamePro), Kat Bailey (Freelance), Patrick Klepek (Giant Bomb), and Matt Leone (Polygon) talking about their experiences. They’re all awesome, and the chapter folds in a lot of their insight. And then on the dev side, you have Robin Hunicke (Flower), Greg Kasavin (Bastion), Randy Smith (Waking Mars), and Phil Tibitoski (Octodad: Dadliest Catch) talking about dealing with interviewers and suggesting what helps open them up for a great conversation.
It makes for a much better overall text, in my opinion. First it’s a how-to, and then it’s that advice in action. On one half, it’s Nathan’s experience, and the other it’s all these other great voices talking about theirs. It added a lot more work to the process, but I think it was well worth it.
Interview Fu launched in late January and is available in print ($8.99) and Kindle ($4.99) flavors from Amazon, so I hope you’ll check it out and pull some useful information out of it. I’m wrapping up work on a smaller eBook release edit for Nathan now and then will be doing another with him later this spring, it looks like. And we’re doing another very cool thing together that I’ll be blogging about very shortly…
I’ve been writing steadily for Official Xbox Magazine for about five and a half years now. That’s awesome! They’ve been really fantastic to me, and I’m happy to still be doing super steady work around those parts.
In the July 2013 issue, I wrote a half-page review of the Uprising DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops II, a two-pager on Defiance, and a full-pager on Sanctum 2. For August 2013, I reviewed a trio of stinkers: Way of the Dogg, Hunter’s Trophy 2: America, and Fast & Furious: Showdown (R.I.P. Paul Walker). I also wrote a review blurb for 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience, which is a pretty cool indie documentary.
The September issue has my two-page preview of Mad Max, along with a review of the awful Fireburst. I also wrote a two-page Backtracking piece on Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, plus a half-page review of Big Jack is Dead, a novel by game designer Harvey Smith. In the October issue, you’ll find my reviews of NCAA Football 14, Doodle Jump for Kinect, and Dynasty Warriors 8. Oh, and there’s a review of Up Up Down Down Left WRITE, the book that I edited! (I didn’t write that review. Obviously.)
For the November issue, I reviewed Disney Infinity (yay), Narco Terror (boo), Phineas & Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff (meh), and Lost Planet 3 (meh). I also reviewed YOU, a novel by game designer Austin Grossman, plus the horrendous Will Smith film, After Earth. The December issue, meanwhile, has my reviews of Madden NFL 25 (Xbox 360) and Freefall Racers, plus a two-page Backtracking piece on the NFL Fever series. I also wrote a full-page piece on Indie Game: The Movie Special Edition, which is wonderful.
And finally, in the Holiday 2013 issue, you’ll find my review of NBA 2K14 (again, Xbox 360) along with a half-page review of The Geek’s Guide to Dating, which isn’t quite as irritating as it might sound. I did a bunch of Xbox One launch game reviews, which should mostly be in the February 2014 issue, which will be rolling out fairly soon. Just a heads-up!
For the July/August 2013 issue of @Gamer, I wrote my two-page Tablet Games column (lead game: Star Command), along with a two-page review of GRID 2 and my little reviewer blurb. Flipping over to September, I similarly wrote Tablet Games (lead game: XCOM: Enemy Unknown), along with a two-page review of Ryse: Son of Rome and a one-pager on Crimson Dragon. I also reviewed Killer is Dead and contributed a reviewer’s blurb for the Top Picks section. In the October issue, we have a rare beast in Tablet Games — Halo: Spartan Assault, a notable Surface game! I also wrote two-page previews for Forza Motorsport 5 and Killer Instinct.
November’s a big issue for me, as I wrote the copy for the 10-page Greatest Games of the Generation feature. I suggested a couple of picks, but my primary role was taking the gigantic list and forming a cohesive piece out of it. Tablet Games is mine, as usual (lead game: Call of Duty: Strike Team), plus I wrote a two-page preview of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and reviewed Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures and wrote a reviewer’s blurb.
December ended up being another very sizable issue for me, as I wrote the copy and helped finalize the list for the 10-page 2013 Game of the Year Awards feature. That was a fun undertaking, and in a few cases I had to work with reviewers while they were finishing up appraisals of some games to get their verdicts. I also wrote Tablet Games for this issue (lead game: FIFA 14) and reviewed Wii Party U.
I’m bummed that the December issue will be the final print edition of @Gamer, which will continue on in a digital app format. Definitely glad that it’s continuing on, and I’ll be happily writing for them as long as they’ll have me, but as a hardcore print nerd, I can’t help but lament the fact that another magazine’s biting the dust. Last year, I was writing for five monthly print magazines nearly every month with occasional bits elsewhere; come next year, it’ll be down to two monthlies. I’ve said it somewhat jokingly, but I really mean it — I hope I’m still able to write for print magazines when my son’s old enough to know what they are!
The July through December 2013 issues of Mac|Life rounded out my second full year of editing for the magazine. I’ll blog about this at some point soon, but I’ve since been extended out indefinitely with a part-time arrangement, so I’ve worked on three additional issues since and will be digging into another one very shortly. It’s awesome — it’s really a super ideal situation for me with watching my son every day. But more on that later.
In the July 2013 issue, I wrote the $50 iTunes Card page, where I picked a few choice media items that you could purchase within the price limit (including Fall Out Boy’s last album and the color editions of Scott Pilgrim). As usual, I edited the App|Life section and wrote my monthly app blurb, along with a full-page review of Cut the Rope: Time Travel. Later in the mag, I contributed a full-page review of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing for Mac and edited Mikel’s Hotline Miami review.
For August 2013, I co-wrote a feature called Social Media by the Numbers that compiled tips, tricks, and fun lists about social networks and apps. For my App|Life section, I reviewed Plants vs. Zombies 2 as the full-page opener, wrote my app blurb, and also reviewed Twitter #Music, Impossible Road, and Angry Birds Friends. I also edited the two Mac game reviews.
Rolling into September, I edited App|Life and reviewed Instagram 4, Where’s My Mickey? XL, and Kingdom Rush Frontiers, plus wrote the full-page app narrative about apps to use at the ballpark. I also edited the two Mac game reviews. For October, I wrote the three-page Start section opener about the promise of iOS 7 game controllers, for which I spoke with Alex Schwartz of Owlchemy Labs, Rami Ismail of Vlambeer, and Kevin Geisler of Young Horses. I edited App|Life and wrote the Limbo review, plus edited the two Mac game reviews in the issue.
In the November issue, I wrote a news/opinion piece on Jobs, the terrible Ashton Kutcher movie about Steve Jobs, plus the $50 iTunes Card page, which features the final season of Breaking Bad, Yeezus, and The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall. I also helped write the Join the Podcast Revolution feature in the issue, for which I got tips from Jesse Thorn and Justin McElroy and also broke down the available iOS apps. I edited App|Life, as usual, and wrote the opening full-page review of Disney Animated, along with Asphalt 8: Airborne. I also wrote the full-page narrative about apps I use to help keep me on track as a work-at-home dad. I also edited the Mac game reviews here.
And finally, for the December issue, I reviewed both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c handsets, along with the official case for each. I edited App|Life and reviewed Angry Birds Star Wars II, Madden NFL 25, Call of Duty: Strike Team, and Infinity Blade III, plus edited the two Mac game reviews.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS.