New-style Music-Games Column

Wanted to note two quick things:

Thing the First: My weekly column about music games is up over at Green Pixels. We did something a little different this time, reorganizing the column as a collection of links to let you dig into the catalogs of the different artists. I think you’ll find it more useful than previous columns.

And Thing the Second: Don’t worry, fans of office-related destruction, I’m still working on the Ziff-trospective, Part III — I had some things that needed tending to over this past week, but I’m planning to have it up over the weekend or early next week. Thanks for your patience.

New Review: Korg DS-10

ds10coverAh, I thought I’d posted about this one when it went up, but apparently I didn’t. Green Pixels posted my Korg DS-10 review earlier this month; it’s a nifty little gadget that’s all about turning a portable game machine into a full-fledged musical instrument. Go have a look if the idea of near-limitless musical twiddling interests you.

A Ziff-trospective, Part II: Mere Anarchy

When last we spoke, I promised to tell you some dirty little secrets about the Bad Old Days of EGM, OPM, and assorted magazines, in their original home in Lombard, Illinois. And I have no intention of shirking my duties.

But trying to hang these all together in some sort of coherent narrative would a.) take way too long, and b.) probably not make any sense anyway. There was a lot going on, as you’ll see, and if I were to try to hem everything up all pretty it would probably come off as some sort of fevered drug-dream. So instead, let’s peek in on some memorable moments, some iconic people, things, and events that represented that whole heady, smelly time.

Let’s start with the Cone of Violence. It’s as good a place to start as any. Now, enough has been said about this device that I’m not going to waste much time describing it except in the simplest terms: It was a full-size traffic cone, heavy as these things are, positioned appropriately next to the Blitz machine… Oh, I haven’t told you about the Blitz machine? Yeah, we had an NFL Blitz arcade machine in the office, positioned directly in front of the main door so that you couldn’t possibly miss it. “Oh, I was just heading down to the break room for a soda, but I guess I could squeeze in one game.” It’s a wonder we ever got any work done. Anyway, games of Blitz could get pretty heated, thanks largely to what has been variously called “CPU assist,” “rubberband AI,” and “bullshit.” See, what happened was, as soon as one player opened up a big lead, the game would start causing him to fumble the ball, throw interceptions, miss easy passes — pretty much do everything but trip over his own shoelaces. This made some people angry.

But it made Crispin Boyer positively livid. Continue reading “A Ziff-trospective, Part II: Mere Anarchy”

A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening

In my most recent post over at 1UP, I started musing a bit about some of the good times I had in my ten-and-a-half years at Ziff Davis Media. With EGM having closed just shy of its 20-year anniversary, there’s a lot of this going around, I understand. Shoe and Crispin did plenty, in written and verbal form; Mielke wrote The Compleat Milkography, Vols. I – XXIV; Greg Sewart rebutted with a different perspective; and C.J. reposted some classic musings of his own. And that’s just a small sampling.

Look, I never claimed to be a trend-setter.

The thing is, I’ve noticed some gaps in others’ accounts. Some gaps that need filling. And by God, I’m just the man to do it.

Plus, I have pictures. Incriminating pictures.

And so, I present to you the first in a four-part series: A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening.

Pretty much any story anyone tells about Lombard includes mention of it being the most suburbiest of suburbs. And oh dear lord, it is. (Or at least, it was the last time I was there.) But do you think that mattered to a 22-year-old kid, fresh out of college, new to Chicago, and starting his first day of work at a videogame magazine? No. No, it did not.

It was June 24, 1996. A bit more than a month previous, in anticipation of moving from my hometown of Cleveland to Chicago, I had answered an ad in the Chicago Tribune for “Writer / Game Player” with a resume (thin) and writing samples (laughable). Both, I learned later, had been promptly lost, but my cover letter had stuck around on someone’s desk long enough to make some sort of impression. So I got asked in for an interview, impressed the hell out of everyone by showing up in a tie, and found myself reporting for work at the offices of Sendai Media the following Monday.

Let me tell you what I saw the first time I walked into this place. You drive up on the outside to a very plain, very institutional-looking, brown-brick building. Three floors, darkish windows — pretty much the epitome of the anonymous late-20th-Century office building. (Come to think of it, here: see for yourself.) You open the doors into a modest, tiled lobby, facing a bit of ugly abstract art that’s inexplicably blocked off with velvet ropes. You go up an open stairway to the second floor. Straight ahead is Reception, but if we’re going to EGM (and we are), we’ll turn left. Swipe your card and open the door. Continue reading “A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening”