Friday, September 7, 2012

And now for something completely different

I slipped away fairly quietly, in the end. After 21 years of performing variations of the same thing wearing a series of increasingly grandiose job titles, I finally moved away from pure editorial management this past week.

My next adventure is something I feel very strongly about, and I get to work with a very good (and old) friend in order to try and pull it off. It's still focused on the same audience - it's just tackling the challenges of meeting gamers' needs in a very different way from anything I've tried previously. We're not quite ready to announce exactly what it is yet, that will come in a few weeks. Hopefully when we do, it will be met with a chorus of "ooh, that's a good idea," rather than "that sounds fucking lame." I have, after all, just bet both my professional future, and my family's well-being on this decision. No pressure, then.

I'd originally intended this move away from pure editorial management to happen back in 2007 when I left Ziff Davis to start What They Play, but I ended up staying much more rooted in that world than I'd originally intended. My goal had been to spend a lot more time working on product and the business side of things, and slowly build a team of talented editorial folks and producers that would ultimately take the reins. Sadly, the business climate at the time meant that wasn't possible. Rather than build our humungous, family-focused empire and expand What They Like into a suite of parent-focused entertainment juggernauts-of-pure-awesome, we gave up on trying to raise more money and sold the thing to IGN/Fox who apparently didn't really know what to do with it. Then I went and sulked for a few months.

What followed was pretty serendipitous. The GamePro gig in 2010 was always intended as a very short-term engagement. "Come fix this thing," they said. Moving back to something with any kind of print component was never on my life's roadmap, but the luxury of being given complete and total freedom in an area that I know inside-out and backwards was incredibly appealing. To be completely honest, it was exactly what my fragile ego needed at the time; take something that was pretty awful and try to turn it into something...not. After a little less than a year, things appeared to be moving in the right direction. People seemed to like the new approach, and the team had gotten some swagger. So I moved along.

GameSpot was a very different creature. Colossal, but delicate. Because of past events there was a fragility to it that made things quite challenging. A victim of its own legacy. Could it be helped? Well, yes...but it was very hard work. Two of the hardest years of my career, I think. The first, particularly. I don't think I've ever felt as unwelcome anywhere as I did in my first few months there. And this is from someone that's stood in a divorce courtroom. I also don't think I've ever learned as much as I did while working at CBS Interactive. I've worked with folks in editorial, video production, product development, marketing, ad sales, PR, and product marketing for many, many years now, but working with a group that operates at the level of those guys was just awe-inspiring. Similarly marvelous was the opportunity to be a part of the highest-profile "getting the band back together" moment in games media history. Bringing the Giant Bomb guys back to be alongside GameSpot again was pretty magical, and I'm proud to have been a (very) small part of helping put the events that caused the fragility and delicacy behind everyone concerned, permanently.

But while all this was happening, lots of other things were changing. The audience was changing. The way we all interact with content was changing. The places that it comes from, the way that it's made, the priorities of the audience, the things we respond to, and the ways we want to interact with it. The games industry was turning itself upside-down, and media was going through an enormous upheaval. Not just games media, all media.

So when a close friend revealed over dinner one night that he and his business partner had been mulling over an idea very similar to something I'd spent a lot of time thinking about, it was clear that a "now or never" opportunity was presenting itself.

So...I took the plunge.

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