I’ve spent the last few days starting to look back on 2012, back on the year and writing about the things that have mattered to me in those 12 months. How about sitting down to write a piece on the last 12 years of your life, picking out just a handful of memorable moments that meant something to you. I don’t know how PSM3 editor Dan Dawkins managed to do it, but in his 5 page feature in the final ever issue of the mag he looks to the past present and future of both the magazine, and his personal achievements. As we look on to the first year without a new issue, I wanted to pay homage to a magazine that has impacted my life in so many ways. I’m expecting this to be a long winded rambling mess, which I think is in keeping with the brilliant podcast the team would put out every month, so apologies from the off.
The first issue of PSM2 I bought was issue 40, the October 2003 edition which would have been the same year we first had a PS2 in our house. As I sit here writing this, the very same issue sat next to me, I can’t quite believe that was over 9 years ago. Obviously the mag had been running for a few years before I became a reader, but 11 year old Sam was new to PSM2. The team at the time consisted of the three Dan’s as well as long standing member of staff Milf, him and Dan D outlasting everyone else to the bitter end. The big featured review was for Jak 2 Renegade, also the cover game. I wasn’t new to games Mags, I had a subscription to PlayStation Max as a younger kid and was still buying Official PS Mag well into the PS2 life cycle. I suppose it was by chance I stumbled on PSM, as knowing what I was like back then I would probably have read the news, reviews and preview sections and skipped over any features not about games I liked.
9 years on though, I can still see the same work ethic and random sense of humour as I do in issues from this year. PSM2’s Countdown To Christmas feature opens with a full page picture of Richard Whiteley with a picture of Carol Vorderman selecting the letters to go in the name of each game in the list on the following pages. This sort of random comedic edge, with the staff never taking themselves too seriously is what made me grow to love the mag. I’m tempted to start looking through my stack of magazines for some more examples of features like this, I have over 90 issues of PSM2/PSM3 stacked up in my room, but I will surely be there all night.
I think it was around the time of the transition from PSM2 to PSM3 that I truly started becoming immersed in the magazine as a whole. I was a full time subscriber at this point despite not owning a PS3 for another year, but I was beginning to see journalism as a possible career path for me. It must have been around the GCSE time for me and it was literally a new year’s resolution, through a family friend suggesting I give writing a go, that made me first sit down and write a review. I was writing reviews of old games, I’m sure you can still find those articles somewhere, and despite most of them being very rough around the edges I was doing a decent enough job to build my confidence.
I remember writing a letter to PSM3 at the time with a bunch of these reviews included asking for feedback or just some tips on what I should focus on. It obviously didn’t make it into the mag, but one day I was flicking through issue 88 in June 2007 and right there in the reader review section is my name alongside an excerpt from my Fahrenheit review. Looking back on that now I wonder why I was so excited about such a small thing, but it really was a turning point for me.
2 months later I had become a frequent user of the PSM Forums, and I created a thread on a whim. ‘Any budding videogame journalists?’ which can still be found here started off as a simple question to both the PSM3 staff as well as other readers. I was spurred on by seeing my name in print for the first time to be proactive and find out what the next step should be. Somehow the thread takes off after a shout out on the podcast and next thing I know I have another near full page review in PSM3 and I’m writing reviews for a website. I’ve told this ‘story’ before so I’ll stick to the PSM related stuff, but without that first fraction of motivation that someone at the mag I had read for so long had actually read my work I don’t think the next 5 years of hard work would have begun.
I suppose now it’s time to talk about my fondest memory of PSM3, my week of work experience in early 2010. I was in my final year of sixth form, and I wanted to get some sort of experience under my belt before leaving for uni. Twitter was the main reason I ended up heading to the office in the first place, I had been chatting with Ex PSM writer Nathan Irvine who was giving me some advice on making a portfolio of short articles to showcase my writing. I sent a few emails to Future, but with no reply. I post a tweet saying I still haven’t heard back and thanks to current staff member Kim Richards within 30 minutes I’m emailing Dep-ed Andy Hartup confirming the timing for the week. It all happened very fast, and next thing I knew I was on my way to Bath, the first time I had gone away from home by myself.
I’d love to say that I used the week to the fullest but I suppose 18 year old Sam was still not quite ready for the prospect of working at the magazine he had grown up with. Meeting the team for the first time was genuinely surreal at first. I felt like I already knew the long standing writers, Andy K, Milf, Rich and editor Dan, which made things slightly lob sided at first. Before going to uni I was even more awkward than I am now, so I was a little taken aback and out of my depth chatting with the people who had inspired me to write in the first place. Of course I was there to learn as much as I could about the magazine process, and even if I didn’t know it at the time I was absorbing just about every bit of info I could. I knew I’d be writing, and the feedback I received from writing some small sections in issue 125 of the mag as well as a review of Way Of The Samurai 3 was extremely useful. What I didn’t expect was the other aspects of the magazine process, where I’ve since learnt that my talents lie. The time spent learning how a page is put together with Production Editor Owen Hill may have only been a taster of page design and editing, but since working on two pages a week for our uni paper I’ve found I’m still using some of the advice I picked up that afternoon.
It was the small things that I remember the most. Being in the ‘Game cage’ getting screen shots and gameplay footage for Just Cause 2 casually chatting to various writers and editors from other mags as they played their own games inches away from the huge TV screens. Everyone in the office receiving their early copies of Heavy Rain and Andy K giving me his after he had already reviewed the game. Being there when they recorded both the Podcast and the DVD footage, watching Owen successfully review Peggle in just 34 seconds was a personal highlight of this. The hush hush nature of the cover game, only a few people in the office were allowed to talk about Vanquish at that point.
Going to buy lunch with Dan and Nathan and talking about what I wanted to achieve in the future. They advised me to go to uni and do Maths even if I still wanted to go down the Journo route. I think this was early on, I was still in ‘bloody hell that’s Dan Dawkins’ mode at this point. I remember some of the advice Dan gave me on my last day, the one that sticks out for me was along the lines of ‘If you can get rid of something, get rid of it’. It seems a bit trivial, but it’s an idea that I’ve tried to uphold with everything I’ve written (except for this blog perhaps…) and more importantly edited, as anyone who has written articles for me can attest to my ruthless editing process.
Like I said before, I wish I had really gone for it a bit more while in the office, the timid side of me coming through far too often. It was still one of the best things I’ve ever done, and thinking about the closure of the mag makes me glad I got the opportunity when I did. The team were some of the most genuine and lovely people I’ve had the chance to meet, and being able to spend a week chatting about games with them is something I will remember for years to come. I had hoped to return at some point, but sadly any chance of that has disappeared.
Deary me I really have gone off topic haven’t I. This was intended to be some sort of dedication to PSM3, but I’ve turned it into my life story haven’t I. Those come hand in hand though, as my experience with the mag went from simply a reader to a personal one. It’s always been about the games, and I’ve grown up with the games that PSM has evolved with. It’s no coincidence that Metal Gear means as much to me as it does the mag, each cover story being more prominent than the last. My personal highlight was the first play of MGS4, where Dan somehow explained his thoughts on the entire game without spoiling a single thing for when I finally played through it. The same goes for SSX. I wouldn’t have heard of SSX without PSM, which for anyone who has seen my Best Game list knows is a very big deal. With PSM3 it was always about the games first and foremost. Debating whether such and such is art, the merits of ‘wasting time’ playing online or technical intricacies, none of that mattered. It was all about the experience of gaming and for me no other mag truly understood that the way PSM did.
All I know is that for the past 9 years, I’ve been reading and loving PSM3. For better or worse, it has shaped the gamer, the journalist and the person I have become in so many ways. I have a lot to thank the mag for and while obviously I still haven’t quite mastered making my point concise, I hope the team behind it and the readers know how much it has meant to me. It’s time to say goodbye to PSM, but I will continue to play Longer, Harder, Faster.