Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
- Played guitar on the soundtrack for the PC point-and-click adventure Normality by Gremlin Interactive.
- Tested whether playing Quake was the most exciting thing imaginable, and whether the quote "it's better than sex" was an appropriate description. Article was for long-forgotten UK magazine, Escape.
- Bungee jumped for the above article.
- Had sex for the above article.
- Had to masturbate in a room while men in lab coats observed in order to calibrate equipment for above article.
- Appeared on the Star Wars Episode One DVD talking about the LucasArts game Starfighter.
- Played in a band whose demo was number three on a radio station playlist. In Belgium.
- Worked on the first (and only) weekly videogames magazine in the UK, called Games-X.
- Had my first game review published when I was 14 in a UK Atari magazine called Page 6, which was later renamed New Atari User. The game was Winter Games on the Atari ST by Epyx.
- Name-drop alert: Spent a lengthy lunch date with Mark Hamill (when he was promoting Wing Commander 3) and talked about his fascination with pornography.
- Perhaps foolishly turned down a job on Edge magazine in 1994.
- Had the keyboard player from Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne and (now) Deep Purple play at my first wedding.
- Reviewed games on the UK TV show "GamesMaster."
- Rode drunk on a golf cart with "father of the PlayStation" Ken Kuturagi.
- Similarly rode drunk on a golf cart playing "Starksky & Hutch" with Ubisoft president Laurent Detoc. Of note: it's difficult to get any air with a golf cart.
- Interviewed Lost/Star Trek/Prometheus/Cowboys & Aliens writer/producer Damon Lindelof live on-stage in front of 400 people.
- Have run a whole bunch of different magazines over the past (gulp) 15 years - many of which you'll have probably never heard of: Mega Drive Advanced Gaming, Super Control, PC Player, Megatech, Sega Zone, and PC Zone in the UK before drifting stateside to run EGM and then later OPM, and finally GamePro.
- Related to the above, I'm the only editor-in-chief to have run both EGM and GamePro.
- Started my own company and helped define a sector of media that previously didn't really exist; games media for kids and families.
- Raised over $2 million to start that business.
- Had my photo on the front page of the Business section of the LA Times.
- Did an eight-minute live segment on the Today Show about videogames for kids and families.
- Got hugged by Meredith Viera.
- Have also been on both Good Morning America and The Early Show along with a whole bunch of other news shows over the years.
- Wrote the foreword to a book about iPhone games called "Buttonless."
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I'm keen to assert before I go on, that this is in no way a declaration of favoritism. My children are the most important things in the world to me. That said, there's no escaping the fact that possibly the single most significant and life-changing "first" moment of the past 40 years was the birth of my oldest son. His presence in my life opened my eyes to a capacity for love that I wasn't previously aware of, and a sense of purpose that was clearly lacking before he arrived. His impact on every fiber of my being was so significant that when we learned we were pregnant with our second boy, I initially couldn't fathom how we could possibly supplement that volume of emotion. It was already almost overwhelming. Would it be divided? Would the power of emotion that we felt somehow be redistributed? Clearly this was foolish nonsense, as the powerful feelings for my second son amplified the importance of my family still further.
My kids are everything to me. They're the reason I push myself to excel, and the reason, along with their mother, that I'm able to keep life's events in perspective and understand what's truly important. When things feel stressful or out of control, I simply look to them. As I look back on the past 40 years, if there's one thing I'm most proud of, it's the family that I'm a part of.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Marci and I worked together at Ziff Davis. She later landed at IDG as the president on GamePro Media. Her confidence in me led to the most freeing and liberating management edict I've ever worked under; "Just make it cool," was the direction. "You have total freedom to do whatever you want with it." The 10 months I worked on GamePro were a lot of fun.
Simon and I had known each other for years, but had never really spent much time together and certainly not worked together. Previously he was at Future US, the sworn enemy of Ziff Davis Media. Later he landed at GameSpot as the VP of the games group. He approached me at an industry event and we started talking about the kinds of things we could do together. I'd actually flirted with some GameSpot opportunities in the past (a long time ago, back in the Ziff years) but never really got past the flirtation. Simon presented a fantastic opportunity, and a great new direction for my career.
Her constant support, and belief that somehow I actually might know what I'm doing keeps me strong and keeps me going. Sometimes the pressure of being the bread-winner (particularly when you live in the Bay Area where things are expensive) can get a bit overwhelming, but she's always a voice of reason and encouragement.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
There was a brief period in my late teens where it wasn't really a concern, but I was a chubby kid, and have struggled to keep things under control for the majority of my adult life.
Outside of a brief period in my mid-20s when I was pretty sedentary, and partied far too much (thanks to living in London and hitting the beers nearly every night) I've always made a lot of effort to try and exercise, and I've always been fairly careful about what I put into my body. All the stuff that you read about as "life changes" to help with weight loss are either totally fucking obvious, or things I'm already doing, or both; "give up soda and candy" for example - well, d'uh. I haven't consumed either since I was a kid because they make me (guess what?) FAT. Similarly "replace burgers and pizza with vegetables and lean proteins" is something I've been (mostly) doing for at least the last 10 years, and is similarly obvious and not terribly useful advice.
In my late 30s, the whole thing has become much harder. Despite exercising much more aggressively, and taking up long-distance cycling (I do the Marin Century every year, which is a 60+ mile bike tour around the North Bay) and an even-more-sensible (read: boring) diet, the best I ever seem to be able to do is maintain my weight. It doesn't go up, it doesn't go down. I've been stuck at 207 pounds for two miserable years now. It doesn't seem to matter what I do, it just won't budge. I've seen doctors, trainers, and nutritionists and followed all of their advice, which is summarized here;
"You're not eating enough, eat more."Lots of contradictions. Which is irritating. Honestly, after two years of nothing really achieving anything I'm at a complete loss. And honestly, being allergic to both dairy and gluten is no picnic. I'd set a goal at the beginning of 2011 to shed 22 pounds and be 185 by my 40th birthday. I thought a year would be plenty of time to achieve that, and I've worked hard to try and do it. As I write this with 26 days to go... I'm still (unsurprisingly, because the universe is just fucking with me) 207 pounds.
"You need to cut out carbs completely."
"You need carbs in your diet to kickstart your system."
"Eliminate at least 500 calories from your daily routine either through diet or exercise every day."
"Your baseline should be over 2,000 calories every day."
"Your baseline should be 1,700 calories every day."
"Your baseline should be over 2,500 calories every day."
"You need less than 1,500 calories every day."
"You might be allergic to dairy, cut it out completely."
"You might be allergic to gluten, cut it out completely."
"Do more weight training than cardio, it helps you burn more calories."
"Do more cardio than weight training, it helps you burn more calories."
It's starting to feel like some kind of cruel joke. If I had even a scrap of religious faith in me, this would have convinced me that the big man is just malicious. I've set a new goal; be 200 pounds or preferably less by my 40th. That's got to be possible, right?
Monday, December 19, 2011
Be a famous rock guitarist, idolized by millions and adored by women everywhere
I was in a couple of bands, and we were reasonably popular in the small towns where each played, but I was hardly "famous." The only "groupie" of any kind was in Macclesfield, and she was the singer's girlfriend. She was all sorts of trouble, so the less said of that the better.
Have started my own company, and made millions of dollars
Did the first part, failed fairly spectacularly on the second part. Was an exhilarating experience, and I'd definitely be up for doing it again. Perhaps with something of the latter as part of the package next time.
Found the love of a beautiful woman
Done that. Miraculously.
Moved to America
Did that one too. Original plan was to come for just two years. It's been nearly 14. See above.
Possess a garage filled with spectacular sports cars
I've half done that. I've not had any of them at once, but there have been some good ones over the years. Maybe not Ferrari's or anything, but I've had; a Corvette, an Audi TT, a Mitsubishi Evo VIII, and a Porsche Boxster over the years. Not rock star stuff, but not bad I guess.
Created some work of staggering artistic genius that genuinely moved people in some way; either an album, a book, a movie, a song, or a game
Nope. None of the above. I guess there's still time though. Maybe a book?
Achieved some kind of fame
I'm not sure 15,000 Twitter followers really qualifies.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Most memorable was his approach to maths; he had a knack for articulating how you approach things so you can simplify them and do them in your head. He taught me all about breaking down problems into their constituent parts, solving those parts as simple equations, and then piecing the whole problem back together again. It had a profound effect on me, and I'm sure it's a big part of why I quickly developed a talent for mathematical problems at an early age. The magic of this academic advice was that he also showed me how you can apply the same idea to pretty much anything in life. Things that seem complicated are usually much simpler than they appear, and all you need to be able to do is break it down and tackle it methodically. Without that foundation from him, I'm sure I wouldn't be the person I am today.
He also had a cheeky, glib side, of course. The other most memorable advice that he gave me concerned a general approach to dealing with others, particularly those that are either nagging, or being a pain in the ass. "Just say yes, and take no notice," he would say.
Sometimes that proves very useful too.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
- The confusion people seem to experience in differentiating between their, there, and they're.
- Inappropriate use of the word "literally."
- People saying "bless you" after every sneeze. Bonus points: The fact that I never sneeze just once.
- The way that kids toys are twist-tied into boxes.
- Trying to set up pretty much anything out of the ordinary on a Windows PC.
- People reading/watching over my shoulder or just generally standing very close behind me.
- PlayStation 3 updates (and, by association any other kind of PSN-related forced update.)
- People reading stuff on their phone while talking to me, and clearly being distracted.
- Wanton untidiness (I'm not a neat freak, I just think stuff should be put away.)
- Whining, complaining and generally any kind of non-constructive repetitive negativity.
- Being allergic to gluten.
- And dairy.
Friday, December 16, 2011
My second serious girlfriend was a little bit crazy and in hindsight probably wasn't really a serious girlfriend.
My third serious girlfriend became my first wife. She didn't want children, and didn't like living in America. We got divorced and haven't spoken for a decade. She currently lives somewhere in America and has at least one child that I'm aware of. Yeah... I know.
My fourth serious girlfriend is responsible for, and therefore truly represents all of the most important things that have ever really happened in my life. She is the mother of my gorgeous children, and the most caring, tolerant and beautiful human being I have ever met. I'd be lost without her. The fact that she has put up with me for 10 years and has yet to threaten otherwise is testament to both her resolve and her...wonderfulness.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The gist of the piece was that I had to scientifically test the oft-quoted proclamation (at the time) that “Quake is better than sex,” which ages the piece, obviously. To do this I wore a heart-rate monitor while performing a variety of tasks that included playing multiplayer Quake, bungee jumping, buying pornography, hitting on a stranger at a supermarket, and having sex. Readings were taken during each activity, and this was all calibrated against test results acquired in a lab where I had to provide an orgasmic baseline reading for comparison. To do this, I had to drive to a heart lab in Devon on the south coast of England and… how to put this delicately? Pleasure myself while under observation.
I don’t actually have a copy of the magazine to hand at my home in the U.S., but my parents very graciously dug out a copy back in the UK and scanned it for me. They must be so proud.
Rather than paraphrase or try to downplay the content any further, here's a link to a PDF of the whole sordid thing. I should preface this with a note that this was produced during the high point of “lad mag” culture in the UK. Loaded, Maxim, FHM and their ilk were all killing it on newsstands, so this kind of salacious, raucous, knob-joke gonzo journalism was very much the norm. Hit the link below to see the whole, sordid six-page article. Also: Bonus! Pictures of skinny me with very long hair.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The latter was something that I wasn’t even aware of when it was happening, but having been through it during the tail end of the What They Play chapter of my career, I can look back on it now as possibly the scariest time of my adult life. Having been through a period of what can only be described as spiritual vapidity, I’m now fully aware of where my dark side is. I’m not talking about getting all Lisbeth Salander here. I don’t suddenly develop a penchant for black nail polish and freaky weirdness. The truth is that in my most extreme times of emotional distress, my psyche doesn’t freak out, it…what would you call it? Freaks in. When my stress levels wound up to truly extreme levels, I found that rather than getting increasingly emotional, I actually got less so. In the case of What They Play, as we struggled with funding during the worst years of the financial crisis, the idea that what I’d spent two years building may fall apart and that the team that had been so loyal and dependable may be out of work became a huge burden. While at the time I had absolutely no idea this was happening, what I found was that my emotions just shut down completely. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t angry, and I wasn’t unhappy about what was happening. Similarly, I wasn’t expressing much of any kind of real emotional response to anything else either; I wasn’t happy, I didn’t find things funny, or sad. I was incapable of feeling excitement, or nervousness, or anything emotional that you would otherwise take for granted. With this emotional compass somehow missing, it turned me into a completely different person. I believe the technical term is denial. It took me until about a year after the dust had settled to realize that without that internal barometer, and any kind of self awareness about it that my usually quite measured ability to make reasonable judgment calls was completely obliterated.
In retrospect, the scariest thing about the whole situation was that I had no idea that it was potentially a problem. When you’re stressed out, it’s easy to watch out for quintessential crazy person behavior – freak outs, rage, whatever – it’s another thing to notice that things are swinging the other way. I really don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for Mrs D and her amazing capacity for both tolerating my ridiculous bullshit, and helping me piece things back together in a much more self-aware fashion. Without her Yoda-like ability to turn me from the dark side, I really don’t know what I would have done, and there’s a very good chance that things would have gotten far more destructive. By learning and understanding that (if none of us are paying attention properly) I have the capacity to just shut down completely when things get really tough, she has helped me achieve a balance in the last couple of years that I really didn’t have previously. Importantly, this is also a balance that I didn’t fully appreciate that I needed. The majority stems from her love and the kids’, but it’s also a greater focus on both physical and emotional health, and a willingness to stare right into the face of what’s challenging and acknowledge problems as they’re happening.
With the pressures of new jobs and new responsibilities in the time since we eventually sold What They Play to IGN (see? There was a happy ending there eventually) I’ve been able to process challenges and stress in a completely different way, while also keeping my head above water and fixed on what’s most important.
See? This is what an imminent 40th birthday has provoked; it’s prompted some self-analysis, and consequently a blog post that was in serious danger of drifting into granola-crunching, touchy-feely, sandal-wearing, spirituality nonsense before I pulled it back from the edge there. Bottom line? Wife, good. Kids, good. Stress, bad.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Saturdays during the summer always hit this home for me, as my oldest has weekly basketball games over that period. This isn’t just a proud father boasting (I can say this with some confidence, as pretty much everyone at the Y has said it at some point) but during his last games this year, my boy was on fire. I was so proud watching him confidently take the ball, quickly move it up the court and make poised, phlegmatic shots, jumping up for the rebound and taking command of the game. A year ago he was eager but struggling, today he owned the court.
My youngest, while not quite the quintessential jock that his brother is becoming, has a sense of spatial awareness that’s enviable. I was well into my 20s before I was able to judge my surroundings as accurately as he seems to be able to. It’s incredible watching him learn from his brother and absorb the knowledge with a nonchalance that just makes him all the more charming. He’s no jock, he doesn’t particularly care that much about the sports, but he can just do it. I’d have given anything for that kind of coolness when I was a teen, let alone even younger.
They both must get this kind of skill and audacity from their mother. Clearly I live with three people that are infinitely cooler than I.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Entering the sixth form I made a conscious effort to completely reinvent myself; something I've fairly successfully pulled off twice over the course of the last 40 years. It didn't hurt that I dropped some weight over that summer, and the platonic (though I'd wished for two years that she'd be more) girlfriend that had shared my love of heavy metal, videogames, and geeky movies had finally caved and noticed that I was more than just an awesome study buddy. Suddenly I was visible. I made new friends (hardly any of my old crew had stayed at school past 16,) I started playing guitar in a band, I grew my hair long, and for some reason people started to seek out what I had to say about things.
The shyness remained though. I don't remember why I chose to deal with it the way that I did, but as a life strategy it has served me very well ever since; if in doubt, I would move towards whatever made me most uncomfortable. I'd get up on-stage to play in the band, I'd volunteer for speaking engagements, I'd try and reach out to new people, but all of it was always almost debilitating in how nerve-wracking it was. Looking back now, I wonder if someone encouraged me to behave this way, or if it was some piece of advice from my grandad (the source of much practical life-knowledge in my youth; his best being "just say yes and take no notice,) I really don't recall. Still...it's something that worked for me, and I will no doubt be imparting it to my own boys when they get older.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Ozzy Osbourne's Bark at the Moon album
Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast
Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force
Gary Moore's Still Got The Blues
AC/DC Back in Black
Anthrax' Among the Living
Extreme II: Pornograffiti
Depeche Mode's Songs of Faith and Devotion
Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor
BT's Movement in Still Life
The Crystal Method's Vegas
Super Mario World
Grand Theft Auto III
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Star Wars Trilogy
The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy
Reeves & Mortimer
The Fast Show
NPR's Fresh Air
The Dark Knight Returns
The Canterbury Tales
Sons and Lovers
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Growing up, I hated them. Big, loud, dirty, uncivilized slobber-monsters that were pushy and obnoxious. I was more of a cat person. Cute, cuddly, a little aloof but generally loving. I had a cat growing up, and had them as soon as I was able when I left home. I even brought two with me from England to the States back in the late 90s. Though it's incredibly unlikely, I guess it's remotely possible that the pair of them are actually still alive somewhere in the deepest, darkest Midwest. I wouldn't know though; they stayed with my ex-wife, who has been exercising her right to completely ignore me for the past 11 years.
Since meeting the current Mrs. Davison I've switched allegiances. I am now "of dog." As of last night, I'm temporarily "of three dogs," to be accurate. We adopted a wonderful puppy in 2002; a mutt of indiscernible origin that we were told was part Labrador and part, oh I don't remember, Spaniel or something? Maybe German Shepherd? I really don't remember. Regardless, I'm pretty sure they were wrong, because he's clearly part awesome and part excellent. There are rumors that there's some Rhodesian Ridgeback in the mix too, and that's completely fine. He is now nine, and is the most caring and loving animal I have ever encountered. We got him at the time because we wanted to go to a rescue, and couldn't afford the $2,000 it would have cost to rescue a pure breed like a Golden Retriever or something. Less than a week after we brought him home he cost us more than that in vet's bills because he had Parvo. I don't hold that against him though.
Last night the household (which, incidentally, also holds two cats, though one of them fucking hates me) was joined by a pair of puppies. The idea was to get a puppy. A puppy. One. But the rescue across the street had two that were very cute, so we made the executive decision to foster both of them while trying to decide which of them to keep. After just 24 hours, the entire concept seems entirely unfair and difficult and I'm already leaning to the idea of keeping them both, despite the fact that it would be really, really stupid to do so. They are incredibly cute and friendly, and I'd be sad to see either of them go. Already.
So, there you go. I've officially become a "dog person."
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Honestly, I still haven't decided on the format for this. At one point I'd entertained the idea of trying to make a post for each year going backwards until I either ran out of years, or ran out of things of significance from that time period. Probably would have been a bit much, really.
That said, I do want to use number 39 to make some broad strokes observations of events that have happened while I've been 39. I think it's fairly safe to say that the word "tumultuous" is an apt description for the past 11 months or so. It's not often you have the luxury of using such an evocative word to describe your own life, but here were are. "Excited, confused, or disorderly" says the dictionary - yep, that pretty much does it. At least on the professional side of the house. On the homefront, the greatest cause of any disorder has been trying to manage my weight (a disastrous project I'll no doubt go into in a separate post filled with woe and self-pity) but work, notably the businesses in which I exist (media and videogames) has been batshit crazy.
Over this past year, I've seen spectacular examples of both highs and lows. I've witnessed examples of every kind of behavior imaginable; Petulance, defiance, selfishness, negativity, and incredulity on one hand, but I've also seen boundless creativity, selflessness, intelligence, and wit on the other. I've seen people walk away from opportunity because of ego while others have sought out opportunity and defined themselves in defiance of the odds. I've seen success born out of a whim, and disaster brought about by pessimism. I've watched people find themselves and lose themselves. I've watched businesses blossom and crumble, the establishment topple, and new ideas flourish.
Significantly, after feeling like the "old man" for a while, and spending the bulk of the past few years imparting knowledge and guidance, this past year has been a tremendous learning experience. "Drinking from the firehose," as my buddy Ira liked to say back in our time together at What They Play. Yes, the last year has been one of the hardest in recent memory for me, but I've learned so much, and been able to adapt and evolve more than I could have possibly anticipated.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I'll wait until tomorrow to really get into the meat of things I think, but over the next 40 days I want to take the opportunity to talk about people that have been an important part of my life so far, things that have had a profound effect on me, and events both professional and personal that have shaped who I am.
My kids have certainly picked up on how this is playing on my mind. This morning they woke me with breakfast that they (partially) cooked themselves, along with hand-written notes celebrating "40 days to 40." Apparently I have been far from subtle in what's bothering me lately.