It's a pretty good sign that you've been away from your blog too long when spam starts appearing in the comments. Seriously, WTF? You've gotta be getting desperate for attention for whatever you're peddling to think that that's a good marketing strategy.
Anyway, yeah, I've been gone. I know you know. I've had incredibly itchy writing fingers for at least a week, but instead of actually putting them towards writing, I was applying them to the plastic guitar in Beatles: Rock Band, which didn't do anything for my writing skills, but sure was a lot of fun anyway. Oh, and my Sim in The Sims 3 wrote 5 science fiction novels in the time I've been away, too. So at least that guy got some writing done!
It's been a busy, crazy, difficult, and sometimes fun month. The Games Com convention in Germany was exhausting and at times just not even remotely fun (you try sitting in a small room without windows demoing a game to non-English speakers over and over and over for 8 hours!), but I'm still glad I went, if for no other reason that to see another city in another part of the world, which is always worth it no matter what. Cologne was quite pretty--the cathedral is stunning (despite a co-worker's LOL-worthy complaint that, "UGH, it's like there's one of these in every city in Europe!" Yeah, ya think?), looming over the mostly modern city (the original was mostly destroyed in WW2) like some giant, dark Gothic beast. And you can tell when a writer is out of practice when he writes a fucking horrible middle school creative writing sentence like that.
The other lowlight of Cologne was being forced into two dinners the first two nights first at an Indian restaurant, and then at a Japanese restaurant. Yeah, because neither of those cuisines are readily available in the Bay Area. And, hey, who doesn't go to Germany for the sushi! Thankfully, the next two nights were done right, at an outdoor beer garden, with schnitzel and beer and the warm summer air, which was exactly the kind of European experience I was craving, and which often makes me feel like sometime before I croak I really should live over there for awhile. Or maybe I can just buy a beret!
No sooner had I returned from Games Com than I was off again to the Penny Arcade (PAX) convention in Seattle. And, hey, if you're gonna go to another city in the US after a Europe trip, it might as well be Seattle, truly one of the cooler American cities, other than the fact that every third building seems to be a Starbucks. I've said this on more than one occasion now, but, with 13 years of gaming conventions under my belt, I can confidently say that this PAX--the first one I've attended--was the best convention I've ever been to. This is what E3 should be, or wishes it was: A celebration of the industry, a geeky lovefest for what we do and what we play and what we're into, devoid of cynicism and bored obligation. Credit the fans for making it that way--the ones paying to get in, flying in from around the world on their own dime cuz they WANT to be there, reminding those of us who get paid to do it that, hey, ya know, at root this is and always has been about providing people with entertainment.
Showing MySims Agents was an absolute joy this time, because those who came to see it--whether it was because they knew me from my press life or were fans of the franchise and had no idea who I was--stopped by because they were truly interested, not because it was their job to do so. And, hey, not that there's anything wrong with it being "your job to do so," because that was MY job until I came to EA. This isn't about bagging on the press. It's about interacting directly, eye-to-eye, with people who are there ONLY for the love, with no other agenda other than that gaming makes them happy. It may sound corny, but it's just utterly refreshing, and was actually contagious--just like the swine flu I picked up! When folks started lining up to get Tim Schafer's autograph on Brutal Legend posters, I snuck out of my booth and got in line right with them, caught up in an unexpected rush of goofy fanboyism.
Of course, the proverbial icing on the cake was the GFW Radio reunion, which was just an incredible blast, humbling and exciting and satisfying in so many ways--not to mention just being a serious ego boost. Because, hey, let's not be falsely modest: Having hundreds of people lining up, hours ahead of time, to hear you talk, is a fucking surreal and awesome experience, and is easily one of the highlights of my entire professional career to date. And even better was the feeling of being back together with those guys and, even with the obligatory moments of awkwardness, clicking again and finding that groove that made that podcast so fun to do. Because in the old days, all we were doing was trying to please ourselves. We knew no one was listening, and, at first, we didn't really want to be there anyway. So we just did stuff to amuse ourselves, riffing off other podcasts, websites, magazines, talking about the things that drove us crazy at our jobs, that embarrassed us as members of the gaming press, and just talking about all the same kind of random nonsense that we would throughout the day anyway. The fact that it DID ultimately catch on, over time, was a bonus for us--a surprising one at first, but one that we did become proud of, and that we tried to take ownership of, treating it as seriously as we would the magazine. And so when everything went to hell and we all started bailing out of there, it was GFW Radio just as much as GFW the magazine that we ourselves came to miss. Getting the opportunity at PAX to reunite for one more round was an honor and a thrill and went better than I think any of us dared to imagine. So thanks to ALL of you who went, or listened, or tried to get in, or whatever. We all felt, and feel, extremely lucky and grateful for that experience.
Of course, karma kicked in immediately after, as karma likes to do, and whomped me upside the head with the swine flu, which took me out of circulation for over a week. It's only now, really, that I feel fully rested and back to life and ready to contribute to society in a way other than coughing. I realize this blog post is completely meaningless and boring, but this one is more for me than for you. I'm just tryin' to get back on the horse here.
It's been a long summer, with big highs and serious lows. Frankly? I'm ready for Fall.