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RicardoT Blog

What You Leave Behind

Howdy folks,

I suck at good-byes, so I'll just lay this out fast and then dress it up some: Today is my last day at GameSpot. Crazy, I know. This place has been home for 12 years. But all good things come to an end, and this has most definitely been a good thing for me. Before I sign off, I've got a lot to cover, so hopefully you will indulge me on a zigzagging trip down memory lane with a nerd detour or two.

First nerd detour: blog title.

As a Star Trek nerd, I felt compelled to steal the title of the final episode of Deep Space Nine, the absolute best Trek there has ever been. I loved what that show turned into, and it was awesome to see a person of color as a captain. After doing some research on the quote that inspired the finale's title (all good writers who steal do their homework), I found the original line from Pericles, a respected Greek statesman, that went like this:

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others."

And that really hit home for me as I look back on my time at GameSpot. In my case, I'm not leaving behind any stone monuments--just some data on the Internet--but the sentiment is the same. I hope that my time here amounts to more than just the content I produced and winds up being more about what I've been able to contribute to GameSpot, the industry, and the people I've worked with. First and foremost is my team here at GameSpot. Over the years I've been able to put together the most diverse team of individuals you'll find anywhere to cover games. I may be a little biased, but to my mind, you won't find a smarter bunch of great writers anywhere else.

Beyond my team, there's the content that GameSpot has produced over the years, which is going to require some looking back, something I rarely do. I've always had a weird hang-up about being self-indulgent, but if not now, then when? My time at GameSpot has been rewarding in too many ways to count because I got to come here and play with an amazing group of phenomenally talented people. And man, we had a blast. After this much time I could lay out a scroll of great memories, but I'll be a little selective and hit the stuff that has left a lasting impression. Sorry if it's list-y, but this is the Internet, and everyone loves lists, right?

On the Spot: Back in 2004, GameSpot's founder, Vince Broady, asked Ryan Mac Donald and me to put together a weekly live show. While it may not sound like much to ask now, back then, when no one was doing anything like that on the Internet, it was an ambitious request. Since Mac and I didn't know any better, we just did it, kicking off with a live show from EA's Tiburon Studios.It was totally insane to pull off at the time, but it laid the groundwork for the live content that became core to what we've done better than anyone else.

E3: We have always attacked this show with a passion that has resulted in some of the coolest stuff we've ever done. 2005 was a personal highlight, because GameSpot basically jacked everyone and scored the exclusive on Sony's E3 press conference. I should note that it was the first and last time anybody got an exclusive of that nature--sorry everybody! Besides press conferences, E3 quickly became about our live stage shows. Over the years we've debuted the best and the brightest from the show, with some killer firsts like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Street Fighter x Tekken, Twisted Metal, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, the PlayStation Vita, and the Wii U. The show started as 15-minute segments at the top of every hour during E3 in 2002 and grew to run every hour the show was open and, most recently, into the evening. My favorite stage show is probably 2007, E3's modest year, when we rented out a restaurant on the Santa Monica pier and had people head over from Barker Hangar to be on our show. We closed out with Alex Rigopulos and the Harmonix posse going nuts with the original Rock Band. My overall favorite E3 is 2006 for two key reasons. First is the picture below:

That's Eiji Aonuma, Vince Broady, me (with the beginnings of my enormous hair, which almost blocks out Brad), Bill Trinen, and Ryan Mac Donald posing together after the boys came by to do a demo of Twilight Princess live on our stage show, which, given how protective Nintendo is, was like having a sasquatch ride a unicorn onto our stage. We also had Reggie on for a chat with the Game Boy Micro (remember that thing?), which made the show extra awesome.

Second is that I got the chance to hang out a bit with Vince, which, considering how high up he was at the company, was a big deal since we didn't get a chance to see him as often. I took him around a bit on the show floor and got him into one of Nintendo's after-hours presentations, which was awesome since I got to see him geek out like the rest of us, because, in his heart, Vince loved games just as much as we did.

Events: With everything we learned from On the Spot and our E3 stage show, we started flexing our muscles at events to try to give the folks at home, who couldn't be at game launches or other special events, a taste of the action. I remember going to Japan in 2004 with Ryan and Jeff for the Japanese PSP launch (it was also the trip where Mac and I snuck off to see Godzilla: Final Wars in a Toho-run Japanese theater, which was the best thing ever). Then there was 2006, an insane year where we got our exclusive Tokyo Game Show and X06 event coverage on Xbox Live. (That was the trip where Brian Ekberg and I flew from Tokyo to SFO, stayed in the airport after customs, and then caught a flight to Barcelona. It was also the trip where Vinny broke his finger between Japan and Spain o_0). As if that weren't crazy enough, in November of that year we went to New York and did two back-to-back webcasts for the PlayStation 3 and Wii launches. (Favorite memory there is Mac asking Charlie Murphy to do a shout-out for the site and things going slightly off the rails: go to the 1:38 mark.) In 2007 we hit PAX and did a live show where Mac hosted a demo of Haze and the developer from Free Radical parsed himself a brand-new swearword live on the air. Most recently we've broken ground at San Diego Comic-Con, where we did our stage show, had Colin and our backpack camera roaming the floor, and brought you uncut panels from the convention. This year we had fun with our launch coverage of the 3DS in Japan--Shaun, Takeshi, and I went to Akihabara and went live from Yodobashi Camera and our hotel room to show off Nintendo's new handheld. All that stuff is a challenge to be sure, but we've all loved doing it for you guys.

Tokyo Game Show: While this could technically fall in with the rest of our event coverage, I had to do a special call-out for this show because it's probably dearest to me as a game geek. I grew up in the era when Japanese games were the heart of gaming, and I've always had a soft spot for them. The first chance to go to TGS well over a decade ago was mind-blowing for me, but the chance to meet the developers who made the games that had a profound impact on my gaming life is really indescribable. Over the years I've gotten to know a lot of the guys from Sega, Capcom, Tecmo, Treasure, Nintendo, Sony, and a host of other developers, and it has been amazing and humbling. To top all that, I've come to have a very deep affection for Japan. It was the first place I'd ever gone to overseas, and it surpassed my lofty expectations. So when we've covered TGS we've always tried to showcase how awesome the show and country are by having fun. My best memories there are tied to and unsurprisingly revolve around cosplay, from Brian Ekberg's infamous "Stitch" run through the show to Shaun's "Luigi-V" shenanigans.

Spotlighting the Industry: At heart, I've always had an artistic/creative streak that has led me to be fascinated by the creative process and the people who make games. I've always believed that games are an art form like movies, television, and music, and over the years I've made it my mission to showcase them in one way or another. Big picture, there's Behind the Games, a spotlight on developers that shows a different side to these talented individuals. It has done me proud to see Sophia be inspired by BTG and dive into all aspects of music and audio in Sound Byte. Video Game History Month is another little passion project I was happy to see come to life to spotlight the fantastic and diverse history of our industry. On the smaller front, there are things that a site like GameSpot can do to highlight games or developers that we feel you should be keeping an eye on. One of my happiest memories in that respect was in 2004 when we helped get the word out on a fledgling developer called The Behemoth and its little game called Alien Hominid. The guys wound up doing pretty OK for themselves, as talented people do, and it has been fantastic to see them come so far. Then there's the spotlight we put on games like Demon's Souls, Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Catherine, to name just a few. We've always felt it's our responsibility as one of the big players in the industry to try to bring you a balanced diet of the blockbusters and the smaller, interesting stuff.

And that's just some of what I'm proud of here at GameSpot. I could go on a lot longer, but I've got some people to thank. I've been very blessed to have encountered some fantastic mentors over the years, and even though you guys probably don't know many of them, they deserve some public thanks.

Michael Brown: The big boss at CNET Gamecenter, where I had my first editorial job in the biz. He taught me the importance of setting the tone for your team.

John Marrin: My boss on the console section at Gamecenter, who taught me the importance of balancing being a game dork and a professional.

William Harms: My second boss at Gamecenter, who taught me the value of humor, zombies, and "getting it done."

Vince Broady: GameSpot's founder and the smartest man I've ever met in this business. He taught me the importance of protecting a brand, business manners, how to focus my drive and ambition, how to build a team, and, most importantly, how to take care of them.

Suzie Reider: Vince's successor, who taught me about grace under pressure and sticking to my guns when things get crazy.

Greg Brannan: Suzie's successor, a brilliant man who taught me about programming, developing content, and engaging an audience.

Henk Van Niekerk: A savvy guy who taught me about engaging and serving your community.

Stephen Colvin: A ballsy dude who reminded me about the importance of being an editor-in-chief.

Steve Snyder: A veteran business guy who taught me new things about business, communication, and managing a team.

Besides the array of bosses I've had, I have to give special thanks to a handful of people I've worked with in the trenches:

Joe Fielder: Thanks for showing me the importance of leading by example and, most importantly, being authentic to who you are while doing it.

Jeff Gerstmann: Thanks for showing me the importance of balancing being a total goofball with knowing your s*** and having fun. I'm glad you're kicking ass and taking names.

Greg Kasavin: Thanks for driving home the GameSpot work ethic that makes anyone who has worked here special and for reminding me that if you're not passionate about what you're doing, it ain't worth doing.

Andrew Park: Thanks for showing me the importance of organization, thinking things through, and always having some kind of solution in your back pocket.

Brian Ekberg: Thanks for showing me new ways to be a rock in hard times and how to be fearless and for introducing me to Trailer Park Boys.

Justin Calvert: Thanks for showing me how to just get on with it when things are crazy, the importance of international coordination, and introducing me to Phoenix Nights.

And last but not least...

Ryan MacDonald. Thank you for everything. You taught me how to be gregarious, positive, resourceful, and a better person all around. We saw the world together, we did things no one else even thought of in our time together, and, a few times, we broke the Internet together. I seriously can't think of anyone else I would have rather spent 12-plus years of my life with. You are my hero. Thank you for being my coworker and my friend and for all the time.

Now, while you'd think that's damn near everybody I could thank, I've still got more gratitude to dole out. If you've been coming to GameSpot, you definitely know the public faces here--myself, the editors, and the video and community teams--but we're not all that GameSpot is. While it's true our content makes up a lot of the site you see, there are dozens of other people here in the building and across the globe who have made GameSpot what it is. So I want to thank the US, Australian, UK, and Asian GameSpot teams--including editorial, copyedit, data, tech, product, design, marketing, events, sales, and PR--for their time, effort, and passion in making this whole thing go. Even more importantly, I want to thank the boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, children, and, hell, pets of everyone who works on GameSpot. The brand couldn't have lasted this long without scores of passionate people pouring their blood, sweat, tears, and time into it. Unfortunately, that has sometimes led to missed dates, strained relations, and the assorted byproducts that come with passion and sacrifice. So my profound thanks to everyone for sharing their time and loved ones to make this brand kick ass.

I couldn't think about doing any kind of good-bye without taking a nice chunk of space to thank my staff along with the countless folks I've worked with along the way who are no longer here at GameSpot. I couldn't have asked for a better, more-supportive kickass group of friends, coworkers, and colleagues to have made this 12-year journey with. You have been and continue to be brilliant and inspiring. You've helped shape me into a better editor and human being. I only hope that you realize how grateful I've always been for your tireless work and encouragement.

I could trot out the old cliche that I love you guys more than you know, but I hope that after all these years, while I certainly may not have said it enough, you guys know how much you have meant and will always mean to me. The experiences we've shared, the tough times, the demanding deadlines, and the seemingly impossible situations during my tenure, here and abroad, are unique to just a tiny handful of people on this planet. We have been, and always will be, a family. No matter where we go, no matter what we end up doing in the years to come, know that there is that handful of people out there who understand and that I will always have your back in the good and hard times.

I want to thank the industry: developers, publishers, PR, and all the other pieces of this crazy business we work in. It's mind-blowing to think it has been this long, and it's even crazier to think I've seen so many people grow up. I can honestly say I have cartridges older than some of you fetuses! But in the end, it has been a blast to work with everyone (well, most everyone. What? I'm not going to be blunt?), and I thank you all for the support and kindness that has come my way over the years. We've all bonded in the uniquely crazy rush of events, broken embargoes, demos, leaks, missent emails, and all the other shenanigans that have made up our work lives together. I will work with you all again soon, but until then, hugs (and stabs) to you all. It has been a blast.

Finally, and thanks for sticking with this, I want to thank the readers of the site. It has been an honor and a privilege to be gifted with the time you've spent on the site, watching videos, commenting on articles, posting in the forums, or making horrible memes of us playing motion-control games. You kept us honest, and you kept us motivated. On a special side note, I want to give a shout to the folks of color in the audience who have reached out to me in person or via PMs and email saying how excited and inspired they've been to see a Mexican EIC at a video game website. Well, it has been exciting to be that special kind of unicorn in the industry, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity. It wasn't easy getting here, and once I did, it was a ton of hard, but enormously rewarding, work. I also hope I'm not the last one, so y'all reading this, get your butts through college, play games, know your stuff, and come pick up the torch! I did this, and so can you, so step to it.

And there you epic sign-off. But hey, it has been 12 years since I first stepped foot into this office, so sue me.

For those wondering what I might tackle next, my first priority is...not a damn thing. I've worked 12 years straight (including most holidays! Thanks, games industry, for those pre- and post-Christmas releases!), so I think I've earned myself some time off. I've got so many friends and family I want to spend time with, and along the way I've got real life to live for a bit.

But I'm not done with games by a long shot. I'm much too passionate about this medium to be done with it. There are so many stories yet to be told and things to be done in games that I'm intent on telling and doing. In the meantime, I'll be jotting down some of my thoughts and posting pics on this Tumblr. A word of warning, though--this blog ain't getting touched for at least a month or so. I'm going to spend some time catching up on games, hibernating (8 hours of sleep?! Impossible!), and maybe even going to Disneyland.

All the best,


GameSpot feeds your App-etite

We interrupt EVO ramblings for a heads up on some cool goings on here at GameSpot:

It's a great time to be a gamer.You'll find interesting games worth your time in all kinds of different places these days. As the gaming landscape grows and evolves, GameSpot will be moving along with it and broadening its scope to highlight cool games, wherever they may be. To start with, we'll be showcasing a weekly selection of top mobile game picks for Android and iOS. At the end of each month we'll also call out the best games from the previous week's picks. The games we feature will be a mix of titles we think are cool and, more importantly, titles you all think are cool as well. We'll be setting up a special forum dedicated to discussions around what the top picks for that week are. Ultimately your input will be the most important part of the mobile content we produce,

It's a different approach to covering games than we usually take, but we think it's the right one. At the end of the day the biggest problem for mobile game coverage is discovery on both sides. Developers make cool stuff that's often lost in a sea of content and potential gamers can't find said cool stuff because of the massive array of options. We want to try and fix that on both ends by tapping you all since word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to discover mobile games. We hope you'll make yourselves heard and help us create compelling coverage around the titles you care about. This is your site as much as it is ours so let's make something cool together. We'll be aiming to bring you the stuff we think is cool and, if you guys speak up, the stuff you like too.

Let's make magic, people!

Now, back to EVO-ing... Check out the feature and let us know what you think!

EVO 2011: Good times!

Just a semi quick note from the road. Mac and I are in Las Vegas right now, taking in the sights and sounds of EVO 2011. We're talking to some folk, filming some stuff, and carrying the official stream here. If you've never been you should def check it out. Even if you're not into fighting games, the matches make for some great spectating. We've shot some interviews already (with Seth and SNK for KOF XIII which is here) and have more scheduled for MvC3, SFxTK, SFIII: Third Strike, Tekken Tag 2, and Soul Calibur V. There may be one more but we'll surprise you with it if it happens. In the meantime, look for the video soon and some updated impressions on the site. Good crowd here already (things kicked off at 8am this morning) and it's just getting started. Give a shout on Fuse if you're looking for us to hit anything in particular, I've already got some requests in I'm working on but there's time to squeeze more in!

E3: @#$! Yeah

The show's been nuttier than usual for us but so much fun (I will be posting a non haiku-like entry once things settle down). I hope you guys are enjoying all the coverage, wanted to just say a quick thanks for the feedback you're sending our way.

Play For Japan: The Album

So Akira Yamaoka is putting together a project to benefit the Tohoku tsunami victims and relief effort. It's an album called Play For Japan: The Album and will feature video game artists and composers from both the East and West. Info below. Spread the word and pick it up when it hits the iTunes Store in May.


More Links:
Play For Japan auction item: Akira Yamaoka Silent Hill Guitar (auction ending 4/5/2011)


Doing What You Can

So just following up on my last post. More than a few folks have pm'd me letting me know they'd like to help but it's not financially possible. So I started asking around and had this passed on to me by a friend:

If you can't give money but have some time, paper, envelopes, and some stamps lying around this lets you pitch in.

Do Something

So I wanted to call your attention to the link on the site we've just posted. It's a collection of resources available to anyone looking for a way to donate to the victims of the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. You should see it at the top of every page on the site. It's up to you all to decide if it's something you want to do but, and I'm not one to do much in the way of preaching, I'd ask everyone to consider donating something if you can. For those of us who are able, I don't think it's too hard to choose to not eat out or go see a movie a few times and donate that chunk of money. Given the devastating scale of what's happened, I understand that it's possible to feel totally overwhelmed and powerless. You shouldn't though. Everyone has the capability to help in some way, no matter how big or small, and that can make a difference. Recovery for Japan is going to take a long time so anything we can do to help is better than doing nothing. If you're not able to donate money there could be ways to donate your time to help, or even just raise awareness. At times like this, it's important for those going through it to know that they're not alone so please find a way that's right for you and help.

Is FOX News the worst news outlet in the world?

See what I did there? I turned a clearly exaggerated statement into a shocking headline just by adding a question mark, like in this Fox News article headlined, "Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World?" But seriously, the Fox News article is disheartening, to say the least. It's sad to see video games still being positioned as a corrupting influence on today's youth.

On the one hand I expected us to be past this by now. The industry has been around long enough to have seen multiple generations of gamers grow to adulthood and beyond without causing the downfall of society. On the other hand, I get that dire stories about all the evils of the world and how they could ruin your children makes for eye catching, snappy news. They're even more eye-catching when peppered with gross generalizations and completely unsubstantiated "facts."

For example, the Fox News article quotes Emmy-award winning psychiatrist Carole Lieberman as saying "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in videogames." Putting aside the vanishingly small number of games that allow you to play out sexual scenes, it's worth noting that the "increase in rapes" Lieberman references doesn't seem to exist. According to Bureau of Justice estimates, there were 126,000 rapes and sexual assaults in the US in 2009 (the most recent year available), less than half the 2006 total of 272,000. In fact, the number of rapes and sexual assaults has been trending downward for decades. The Bureau estimates there were 607,000 incidents of rape or sexual assault in 1992. Coincidentally, that was the year Mortal Kombat debuted in arcades and touched off a previous round of hand-wringing about violence in games.

The sad reality is video games are still something of an unknown for a lot of people, including parents, so it's very easy to paint them as horrible things that you are powerless to stop from doing something insidious to your child's moral fiber. It's exasperating for me to see because, as one of those aforementioned kids who grew into adulthood while playing games, I've seen this play out before. The games have changed--back in my day it was Night Trap and Mortal Kombat--but the root fear is the same. The concern, even then, was that seeing violence or sex depicted in games was going to warp kids' view of reality and somehow lead to us all committing horrible acts. Anecdotally, I can tell you that this did not happen to me or any of my acquaintances or theirs.

In the end we're the product of "nurture" as well as nature. Our upbringing shapes us and informs the way we process the world. Regardless of how games or technology or new media change the specifics, parents will always have a responsibility to raise their children to be respectful, intelligent members of society. If they can manage that, a child will have the common sense to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and use good judgment regardless of what unsavory content they come across while gaming, surfing the Internet, or hanging out with friends. And incidentally, BulletStorm isn't even intended for small children and is clearly marked as such--it carries a rating of "M" for "Mature."

I understood, even as a kid, that games were a form of entertainment. In my world then, and honestly for my generation now, games are right up there with movies, music and television, and we have always seen them as such. And just as with those media, parents have a responsibility to monitor which games their children are playing and exposed to. The video game industry has done its part to help out. There's an easy-to-understand ratings system in place that's plastered on boxes, tagged onto commercials, and readily accessible online. There are parental lockout controls on every major console and all the latest handhelds. Whether or not they choose to use them, parents already have these tools at their disposal.

So is Fox News the worst news outlet in the world? I think people's opinions will vary, wildly, on that matter. As for Bulletstorm, is it a deplorable celebration of the most puerile experiences gaming has to offer, entirely devoid of merit? Possibly. Is it something that should be kept from impressionable children? Well duh, it's rated "M". Is it the latest scapegoat in a decades-long discussion dominated by unnecessary hand-wringing and fear mongering? Definitely.

It Ends! (finally)

Okay it's almost 5am up in here. All the goods have been posted and are being grouped for your viewing pleasure by folks in the US. Hope you guys liked the coverage, it was a blast to be here and see this happen. The games look cool and the screen is nuts.There's a lot to like about this device, so I'm really hoping the price continues that trend and lands in the likable spectrum. What are folks thinking is a good number? In a perfect world of unicorns and yeti I'd say 250. But in the land of realism? Probably in the 3-400 range although I'd love to be proven wrong... K time to pass out for a bit before flying home and doing the time warp thing- leave Friday 3pm.... arrive Friday 8am. *cue sci fi music*

It Begins! (well, in a few hours...)

Just some quick bits before crashing... jet lag is in full swing. So today got a chance to visit one of Sony's offices to get updates on The Last Guardian, Patapon 3, and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus: The Collection. Neat stuff to be sure, content's embargoed for a while so hang tight on specifics.

As for tomorrow, if all goes well we'll be having a liveblog of Sony's event and some exec interviews to share so keep your eyes peeled. There's a lot of info out there (none of which Sony is confirming or denying as part of the time honored industry tradition of dealing with leaks) that's pretty interesting. The one thing that hasn't gotten out is any word on software, which everyone's curious about. Here's hoping they bust out some big guns. Alright, I'm out. Check the site tonight for all the fun.

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