Archive for the ‘Freelance Chronicles’ Category

Freelance Chronicles: 222222222

Monday, April 25th, 2011

As I mentioned before (briefly), my first paid writing gig was for Hardcore Gamer Magazine, a monthly publication that rose from the ashes of Diehard GameFan, an infamous gaming magazine from the 1990s. Hardcore Gamer was launched by several members of GameFan’s former staff, and sought to recreate GameFan’s fun tone and focus on niche gaming…preferably, without the ethnic slurs and LSD-inspired Atari Jaguar reviews.

In its second year of publication, Hardcore Gamer teamed up with viral marketing company FanPimp and began promoting itself through a community-driven website called Luv2Game. Luv2Game awarded users with prizes (mostly free gifts and promo items we collected from publisher PR) for completing site activities, making forum posts, and otherwise showing interest in the magazine.

Sounds like a winner, right? Who doesn’t like free stuff?

In reality, the setup fostered the kind of meaningful interaction that resulted in forum topics like “Mexicans: What do you think of them?”

Every day, I sat at the sidelines, watching the site circle the drain. People abused the system, cheated for points, and didn’t care about HGM in the least. User interaction was so shallow and self-serving that it was insulting to the work I’d put into the magazine.

Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I registered at Luv2Game’s forums and began a campaign of terror, ridiculing anyone who deserved it and ruining threads with pointless nonsense. I received warnings from the site’s moderators for my behavior, until they discovered that I was an editor for the magazine, after which my shenanigans were met with an awkward silence.

This continued on for several weeks, until it became obvious that Luv2Game needed new leadership. Seeing that I showed greater interest in the site than any other HGM editor (even if it was just to call people idiots), my boss made me the community manager of Luv2Game.

I wasn’t paid for the position, but I was promised a fat monthly paycheck if I was hired on full-time after an initial evaluation period. The “evaluation period” dragged on for six soul-crushing months, after which I relieved of my duties. The site shut down soon afterward. I was never paid.

During my time as Luv2Game’s administrator, I judged contests, quelled forum uprisings, and pored over pages and pages of inane gaming discussion to make sure that nobody was talking about Mexicans. Years later, I remember very little of it in particular, recalling only a vague sense of unease and nausea.

One thing I do remember — and will never forget — is 222222222.

“222222222” (that’s exactly nine number twos) was the name of a Luv2Game user who was determined to win every contest on the site. Each time I uploaded a new challenge, 222222222 would immediately enter it. This person answered every poll, responded to every survey, and made exactly the minimum number of forum posts required to earn points each month.

222222222’s specialty was fanart. Though I never chose him or her as the winner of a single contest, 222222222’s unwavering resolve was inspiring, and of the hundreds of drawings, screenshots, and poems I judged at Luv2Game, 222222222’s entries were the only ones I saved. Here they are, along with all of 222222222’s original commentary.

“Zelda is surrounded by darkness drawn inpending enemy in the mountains ,but show he was secure in inpending victory”

“The Video game Legend of Zelda a fine articulate game ,find the Elf in a forest in joyeous overshock and ready to do battle with crossbow in hand .”

“Dragon Quest The Princess the globe the sword in 3d”


Look At This Nickelback

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Nickelback’s “Photograph” was released as downloadable content for Rock Band 2 recently, bringing a bit of personal history full circle. Much like how the heart-wrenching lyrics of “Photograph” reflect on wasted youth, I would like to take this moment to examine how the song made itself an unforgettable part of my life.

Back in 2007, I was assigned a review for Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol — the latest entry in Konami’s singing franchise, and the first to carry the American Idol license.

Reviewing any karaoke game is always a challenge, since any given reviewer is only going to know how to sing about half of the songs included on the disc. So I worked my way through the setlist, listening to some songs for the very first time and learning how to sing them on the spot.

One track stuck out — Nickelback’s “Photograph.” It seemed to come up more often than any other song in the single-player career mode, and when I’d finally completed the game, I was encouraged to sing a final encore. The song it picked for me was, of course, “Photograph.”

After singing it so many times in a row, the lyrics stopped mattering entirely, and at one point I managed to get a perfect score on the song just by deliriously singing the word “Nickelback” over and over.

Look at this Nickelback
Every time I do, it Nickelbacks
And the Nickelback did Nickelback
Nickel Nickelback the Nickelback!

What made this particularly memorable was the custom character I’d created for the game using a feature that allows players to capture their own faces with an EyeToy camera. This was, actually, a pretty neat concept. Players represent themselves in current-generation games with Xbox 360 Avatars and Miis; putting their actual faces on in-game characters was an unusually forward-thinking idea back in 2005.

So why hasn’t this feature been used in any game since? Well, it might be because it makes you look like a muppet burn victim.

Imagine this guy — this monster — singing along to “Photograph” using only variations on the word “Nickelback,” and you’ll understand why I love this song so much, even though it is actually quite terrible.

To its credit, though, Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol at least gave me an outlet for my secret furry fetishism.

Last weekend, thanks to Rock Band 2, I sang a cover of “Photograph” that lay dormant for three years — this time with a backing band. It was every bit as wonderful an experience as I’d hoped.

Every Nickelback was backin’ at the backdoooor
Then it Nickelbacked and Nickelbacked and backed some mooooore

I then followed up with similarly stirring renditions of the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” and Smashmouth’s “All Star” shortly before passing out.

Have You Ever Heard of “Moe”?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

[Source: Actual NIS America PR letter]

I had, actually, heard of “moe” at the time of this writing, but was not fully aware of its meaning. The explanation here did little to clarify.

Years later, I still have little idea of what “moe” means. From what I can tell, it’s something along the lines of “Like pedophilia, only slightly less creepy.”

Aside from the cover letter above, I’ll always remember Ar tonelico because it hated me and wanted to ruin my life. It was assigned to me at Hardcore Gamer Magazine under mysterious circumstances (anime RPGs are not exactly in my realm of expertise), and the preview I wrote for it ended up not actually making it into the magazine.

The in-progress localized version that I played was buggy and machine-translated. Lines of text spilled over the edges of dialog boxes. Characters spouted reams of gibberish when approached. It was pretty great.

It stopped being great when it froze after I tried to save my game. On a memory card that didn’t belong to me. Which I had also used to store save data for Okami — a very, very, very long game that I was in the middle of reviewing at the time.

The card was hosed — it crashed the PlayStation 2’s memory card manager. I was able to extract my Okami save by loading the data in-game and swapping cards, but as far as I know, the affected card is still basically unusable. I bought its owner dinner at Whataburger as an apology.

It’s worth noting that save problems still exist in the final version, though they probably (hopefully) aren’t as catastrophic.

Lesson learned: When playing buggy preview code, don’t ever try to save your game.

Lesson learned #2: “Moe” is a very popular Japanese word used in Japan.

Freelance Chronicles: An Introduction

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

[Source: Hardcore Gamer Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 4]

This is the very first video game review I wrote for money. If I ever get all uppity with you about how great a writer I am (note: this will never happen), feel free to remind me that I kicked off my freelance writing career with the word “frenetic.”

I also said that first-person shooting was a stagnant genre, which is pretty funny. I guess it didn’t take much to impress me back then, considering that Darkwatch was Halo with vampire cowboys. Or maybe I just didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.