I read the news today, oh boy. I have mixed emotions, but then again, I’ve had mixed emotions about GamePro since I left in 2003.
GamePro was seven years of my life, and they were alternately awesome and frustrating. Like any job. But I invested a lot of myself while I was there; it was not my first job, but it was a place that I really felt I belonged. I worked on the website way back in 1997. I worked on the print mag. I wrote news and reviews and previews and cover stories. I created two metapuzzles, huge hidden contests in two issues. I wrote words and Kat designed articles and we created awesome things, sometimes just the two of us. I worked like crazy and loved it. I won Employee of the Year. I have a leather jacket with the GamePro logo on it to prove it. I still stay in contact with many of my coworkers from that time. It was a family.
Leaving was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. I wanted to stay, but I had an amazing offer for not only myself but Kat as well — Future wanted us as a team, and we wanted to keep working together. We would have preferred to stay at GamePro, truth be told, but IDG management at the time didn’t understand our situation, and I still harbor resentment about that. Like I said, mixed emotions.
I was part of the cartoon era. Dan Elektro and Bad Hare were my personas, as was the tech columnist MC Squared, and I made it a point to not hide behind my name. I wanted someone who read Dan Elektro’s articles to look at the masthead, find the only Dan there, and go “Amrich — that must be him.” We all got to choose our alter egos; they were custom designed for us. That was fun. It was never a dodge. If you read any given article by Dan Elektro and any other by Bad Hare, the voice is obvious — you can tell they’re both me. I can’t believe people never figured it out.
We got branded as a kiddie rag, but we never actually wrote for children. As a staff, we were very focused on making a magazine that we would want to read, even if some of the visuals were aimed at people younger than us. Who reads Seventeen magazine? Not 17-year-old girls, but younger girls who look forward to the independence and style and adulthood that 17 will bring. I always kept that in mind: Our reader was aspirational. They wanted to be older; they wanted to be treated with respect. We tried to deliver that respect along with a sense of fun — about games, about ourselves. I strove to make my articles clear to read, unpretentious, like a friend explaining something without being insulting. But I never wrote down to anybody.
Tons of people criticized GamePro’s writing, but I don’t think they were reading it. They saw cartoon characters on the bylines and rejected it wholesale. Even after we’d had major staff changes and major structural changes and full redesigns, I saw people say it: “GamePro articles suck, I never read them.” Well, if you don’t read them, how do you know? When I asked when they’d last read GamePro, it was inevitably years prior. And when they did finally break down and pick up a new issue, they saw what we had become. We had worked so hard to make GamePro vital and interesting and useful to our audience. But getting people over an outdated bias was always the hardest part.
After I left, the magazine changed, and changed again, and was in yet another state of evolution when the news came out this week. When I found out Julian Rignall was taking over, I was tempted to ask he had room on the staff for me. I am sorry for the people who bought in to that new vision; all they’ll get is one issue and questions about what they could have done if their run was longer.
Their pain is sharp and immediate; my pain is more of a dull ache. It feels weird to think that the place I spent half of my 15-year editorial career is no longer around.
I miss my family.