Where do I begin? I’ve been hiding behind Spitfire for so long, it feels a bit weird going back to being public now.
I suppose I should introduce myself.
Hi. I’m Steve Bowler. It’s nice to finally be me, again.
(First off, I’d apologize for the scarf, but my awesome sister made it for me because she knows I’m a Harry Potter fan, and hey, it’s fucking cold here. It’s also the most recent picture I have of myself. I don’t do a ton of self-portraiture.)
I’ve been Spitfire on here for what, three years now (okay if we even get to count last year when I hardly wrote anything at all), but you’re all familiar with that already if you’re here, so let me show you who I was before I had to be Spitfire.
The professional story of how I got to what I do now is probably best summed up here, from when I did a guest spot for Jerry at Penny-Arcade when he was on vacation ages and ages ago. I suppose if you want the “full Monty” on what I did when I got to Midway (Lead Animator/Game Designer), you can look at my Linked In page. I’ve left what I’ve been doing the past two years intentionally blank, for my own reasons. I know there’s plenty of Internet Detectives out there who would love to figure it out and post it, but I politely ask you not to. They’re trying to put a disk in a box right now and I’ll update everything later after the game has shipped.
At any rate, let’s just get right to it: I know the big question on everyone’s minds that they want answered is “why were you anonymous?”
The short answer is: I didn’t want to get dooced.
The long answer goes something like this:
I used to write for my friend Jane’s website Game Girl Advance under my real name while I was at Midway. Jane gave me my first “break” in game blogging and I’m still eternally grateful for it. While there, I had a couple of huge firsts (for me, anyway).
Halo, Original Game, or Sequel? from 2002 went mad viral almost immediately. I want to say it was my first piece to ever be Slashdotted, but I can’t find it on the Slashdot archives.
City of Copies: Marvel vs. NCSoft It seems very old hat by now, but I had a lot of fun making this thing back in 2005. First time I ever bought a game just to write a piece about it. I had heard at one point that the article was used by the legal teams involved. Don’t know how accurate that claim is.
There’s a ton more there. Humor pieces, serious pieces, investigative pieces; I wrote there for quite awhile. Loved every minute of it. Eventually, I saw that Next-Gen magazine had decided to re-invent themselves online, and were looking for freelance writers. I sent their editor a bunch of my samples from GGA, and he loved them (especially the Halo piece, which he termed “Game DNA” type pieces), and asked for more.
So I wrote Doom3d, How id Lost the Crown. It was a little piece that focused on how id had lost the game engine market with Doom3. The original piece title and comments are lost in the ether (Next-Gen still has an email reply piece they threw together on it though). It is by far the most rabidly responded to article I’ve ever written. The editor I was working with told me it generated the most email responses to anything they’d ever written at Next-Gen. It was Slashdotted. Twice. With 500 comments in each (and for whatever reason I can’t find it in the Slashdot archives now). It taught me that shock value pieces get you either “amen” comments or hate-mail. Either way, it had Next-Gen clamoring for more pieces, and that’s when the wheels came off the bus.
I followed that one up with something about Battlefield 2. It was a pretty weak piece, but what happened was that Next-Gen put it on their front page (because of the success of Doom3d), which meant it got emailed out to all of their subscribers in their newsletter. This landed it in the in-box of Midway’s head of PR, who was shocked, SHOCKED, to see someone from Midway writing about a game that another company made! We could be sued! He didn’t authorize this! How DARE this employee write about other company’s games while using his title at Midway to show he’s experienced enough to talk about such things! So the head of PR emailed the VP of Production, demanding anything I write online from there on out be sent past him first. The VP conceded this was a “good idea.” Shocked, I decided to ask if I needed permission to write about video-games on GGA, or my personal blog/website/journal/whatever. The answer was still a resounding “yes.” I had been slapped with a gag order.
I sunk into a funk for awhile. For a lot of people in the industry, risking being fired isn’t a big deal. I, however, have a family to think about and just can’t afford to lose my job. It would be a wonderful ideal to have bucked the system and continued to write as myself unabated, “sticking it to the man” as it were. But I just had too much to lose.
I realized a couple of months later as the urge to write about game design was killing to get out, that I could just start a new website, and write there anonymously, and game-ism.com was born. The past three years of my thoughts are readily available to you, so get reading if you’re unfamiliar with the work.
Fast forward to this week, and I was made an offer I couldn’t possibly pass up. I’m back to doing Design full time for my friends over at Phosphor Games. The guys over at Phosphor aren’t worried about what I say online, because I think they understand that my opinions don’t represent the corporate opinion of an entire company.
So, the good news is that now that I’m “public” again I can write about some of the things I’ve worked on in the past that came up in gaming news recently, so hopefully I’ll have the time to work on some of that this weekend (and, y’know, post again).
Oh, and by the way, thanks for taking an interest in what I do here and who I am. It sincerely means a lot to me that my writing here had created an interest in others as to who I am “in real life.” Hopefully I can get back to doing a bit more interesting writing now.