WoW magazine sample — and a slippery slope

I was very happy to see that the 40-page free sample of the World of Warcraft magazine was posted online at last. It was hard working on that project and not being able to show anybody what was taking so long, but nothing could be displayed until Blizzard had approved it. Now that they have, I figure the files have shipped to the printer and the physical magazine should be winging its way to mailboxes (including mine) by early January. Big props to Ryan Vulk, Josh Augustine, Julian Rignall, and the rest of the Future Plus team for weathering the storm and making it look awesome in the process. I think people who actually pick it up and give it a chance will be very impressed.

A few sites picked up the story, and as usual, most of the reader comments on those stories were the same tripe I’ve seen over and over again whenever any blog reports on any magazine. In Kotaku’s user comments, Azures said, “The internet makes them pointless on the most basic level. the internet is killing newspapers, im shocked ANY magazine is still around.”

I was going to post a long response over at Kotaku, but I’ve decided I would rather ramble and look like a crazy person on my own turf.
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The Ellipsis of Fuck You

Okay, gamer rant time. There’s this thing that I’ve complained about before that is still happening and still pisses me off to absolutely no end. Apparently me ranting about it once three years ago did not make it go away so I’ll do it again. It’s the Ellipsis of Fuck You.

Scene: Kat, Ian and I are playing L4D2. It’s our first time through Dark Carnival, and even though the game is set to Friends Only, someone shows up that we do not know. That’s fine, we can use the help, we’re newbies. Section 4, right before we get to the gates of the venue, we all go down. We simply got overwhelmed, because, hey, it’s L4D2. That’s what it is designed to do.

So we all die. Our mystery teammate types “…” and nothing else.

Now, if you’re going to stop and say something, SAY something. Type actual words. But three dots — the Ellipsis of Fuck You — means exactly that. “You are such a bad player that I am speechless. I want to say that you suck beyond words, so I will not use any words. You are a poor player and you are lucky I am even in your presence. Know that you have garnered my displeasure…in silence.”

I typed back “There sure were a lot of them.” He says “horrid place to stop.” I replied “Wasn’t exactly a choice.”

Now, “horrid place to stop” is at least constructive criticism — that’s something I can learn from and use next time through. I don’t know the choke points yet; I told him it was our first time on the map. Also, it’s two days after Christmas; it’s reasonable that we might be newbies who just got the game (and Ian was; Kat and I simply haven’t had time to dig into it until now).

But “…”? No, fuck you BACK, dude. It’s a bullshit elitist gamer thing to do, and you might as well have the stones to say “boy, you sure do suck.” Get on the microphone and sigh deeply at me. Or better still, fire up your video camera and give me The Look That Goes With The Ellipsis:

At least that would be actual interaction. But enough of this “I judge you from a lofty position of greater experience” bullshit. Either insult me or give me some advice. I don’t need to see that your e-penis is three dots long.

I am an A/V badass

Some guys can fix cars; some guys can chop logs; some guys can save lives. I can’t do any of that shit. What I can do is set up complicated home theater and computer rigs and get it right the first time. Kat, by contrast, likes to use complicated home theater and computer rigs, but she wants it to be easy to use. This is where my badassery comes in.
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Thoughts on LA

As I pack everything I own into what will no doubt be hundreds of small boxes (anybody who lives in LA who wants them for cheap when I’m done should get in touch), I find my thoughts wandering to what Los Angeles will hold for me. Some people have said “Don’t let LA change you.” The nicest person replied for me — “Hell, I hope he doesn’t change LA.” I know plenty of nice people there so I’m not particularly worried.

I’m honestly not all that thrilled to move to Los Angeles, but I am thrilled about the job, and we got a fantastic house — I think I’m going to be pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it will be once I find my own rhythm. Still, putting all your worldly possessions into cardboard cartons does give you time to make mental lists:

CONS:
– I have to leave all my friends. Paul Curthoys threw a farewell party last night which was filled with Rock Band and Guitar Hero silliness, good eats, great discussions, and some very fine spirits.
– Moving sucks.
– I know I’m facing an uphill battle with the job. People are going to twist my words no matter what I say, and I’m going to be seen as the enemy even when I’m talking sense or just offering an alternate viewpoint. That’s going to take some getting used to, but all I can do is what I’ve always done — take people seriously, be as clear as I can, and then let go when the haters simply want to hate. I’ve dedicated my life to being as clear as I can in my writing, so having people willfully misinterpret my words will take some serious adjustment.

PROS:
– I am purging stuff I don’t need and it feels good. It’s still too much stuff and I wish I’d purged more but I feel good about what I’d done, anyway.
– That new place is awesome. I think it’s really going to fit our mental needs, as well as the physical ones with the garage for storage and photography. We already know where all our landmarks are (banks, restaurants, grocery stores, Target, etc) and we feel comfortable.
– The short commute makes me VERY happy. Right now I have a 10-minute drive from my place to Future; it’s maybe 15 minutes in LA. I have found my life happiness is directly related to my commute time, so this was a key piece of the puzzle. And I’d love to see if I could bike it.
– We’re three miles from the ocean. And in LA, the beach has sand. Up here, it’s rocks. We might even interact with it now.
– New guitar stores. While I was down there looking for a place, I went into Truetone at the recommendation of both Scott Butterworth and Alistair Wallis. I was never happier about the move.
– Everybody knows there are celebrities everywhere in SoCal; in fact, you have to spray to keep them off your property. But I hope this means I will finally get to meet Jessica Rabbit. Toontown is around there somewhere.

Pros outweigh the cons for sure.

Home is where the universe is

Today was the big push to find a place. We went through Westside Rentals — basically the ubiquitous realtor in our target area — and saw eight places in four and a half hours. Some were condos, some were duplexes, some were just weird little apartment complexes. The worst was a guy who wanted a staggering amount of money for a home from the 1920s that had original charming elements like cracks in the ceiling. We saw a truly gorgeous little duplex with classic Hollywood-style Spanish styling and bizarre features like a 4’x4′ room with full carpeting, two windows, and no apparent practical purpose. One condo was right next to the 405 freeway — I mean, right across the street, and three floors up so you could see the traffic whizzing by — but thanks to double glass in the balcony doors, you could not hear the highway…unless you went into one of the bedrooms, where I will of course be recording musical instruments. Better still, it was raining. Hard. All day. Apparently, the first rain in months. Of course.
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The new job FAQ

I’ve been getting a lot of the same good questions lately, so let me see if I can answer them all here:

What is this new job? What’s your title?
The new job is community management on a large scale. Usually it’s done at the developer level; I’m going to be on the corporate level, working with a lot of developers within the Activision stable. Major Nelson was used as an example of something that works in a similar fashion– he’s really the inside guy at Microsoft, and he passes along cool info. It’s really about communication — the idea that there’s more to the company than what you hear, and they would like to find a way to tell people. So broadly, by being “the insider” at Activision talking to the gaming community, it’s community management, but I’ll be doing a lot of journalistic things — interviewing developers, writing articles about games in development, stuff like that. I’ll be blogging, podcasting, and creating videos as part of this, plus whatever else I can sneak in there — contests, puzzles, who knows what. This will be a two-way line of communication; the point is really to have a way to talk not to but with the people who are playing their games. You can see why I’m excited.

The title is being decided; “online evangelist” was suggested but probably won’t stick. (Some folks have reported that I’m moving to PR, which is technically true because I believe I will be part of that department, but I won’t be doing PR as you think of it.)

UPDATE 12/23: I believe my title is “Social Media Manager.” Sounds fancy.
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How to get rid of a lot of videogames

Yesterday was my last day at Future. Today I am unemployed. In January, I start at Activision. I am stoked.

I’m going on to an amazing opportunity; I have confidence that I am the right person for this job; I am honored to be trusted with something this high profile. But leaving Future and the Bay Area is still bittersweet; I leave a lot of friends, not to mention some unfinished business. The magazine I’ve been working on and screaming about and cursing repeatedly is not quite done and I had hoped to see it all the way through before I had to go. But by the time it ships, I may already be in LA. As soon as I have a permanent address, I am subscribing.

I’ve had a lot of kind words and well wishes and support from both friends and total strangers. We had a special guest on my farewell episode of KOXM and the gang at TalkRadar completely surprised me with a full-on Friar’s Club-style roast. I was honestly touched by both, and not in that inappropriate Chris Antista way. It’s just really a beautiful thing to know that you are valued before you die.

But now I have been moved, I have to actually, you know, move. Kat has taken charge of the move and we’re about 50% there now, with boxes sealed and ready to be loaded onto a truck. But I also realize I can’t (and shouldn’t) take everything. I am selling a few of my coin-ops (Tetris with several other puzzle PCBs is still up for grabs for $400) and I had a crazy portable garage sale for a lot of my old-school games, which the Radar guys were only too happy to attend.

At $10 a system and $1 a game, I moved about half the stuff, some of which went all the way back to my very first reviews (Total Carnage for SNES was the first freebie I ever got in the industry…in 1993). But it honestly felt good to know that selling my Sega Saturn to Brett Elston meant it was going to be USED. I figure it was like modern archaeology to them; they’d heard about things like the Odyssey 2 and Neo-Geo Pocket Color, but here were the artifacts that they could hold in their own hands! So it’s really true about wanting it to go to a good home. I know the Radar guys will enjoy them and turn them into Top 7 lists for many years to come. Everything else that did not sell was donated to charity.

Many other small things were put on the “free table” at work — books, games, toys, lamps, you name it, if it was not necessary to take with us, we passed it on. It was surreal to see many of Kat and my action figures — which had been bringing nobody joy sealed inside Rubbermaid containers in my garage — scattered around the desks of my Future co-workers. Purging this stuff (which I have really enjoyed owning) is good for the soul and good for the aching back.

I’ve had a lot of questions about what happens next and I have some of those answers, but I’ll save those for another post.