Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who Am I?

I am a professional game journalist, and have been so for 20 years.

What that means (for me) is that I write about games for magazines and newspapers, and they pay me enough to meet the mortgage and fill the fridge.

What that means (for my kids) is that “Daddy plays games for a living.”

Well, yes and no. I do play games as part of my job, but no one pays people just to play games. (Even beta testers need to keep logs.) They don’t pay me to game: they pay me write. Playing games is just part of the research process. (Note to men who attempt to use this line on your wives: unless you are getting paid, playing games is not part of any research process.)

I have to keep up with current releases and play the bad games too, so it’s not all puppy dogs and lollipops, but as jobs go, it probably doesn’t get much better this side of Pillow Fluffiness Tester. (“Hmm, I’m not sure if that last one was a little too firm. Let me lie here for another hour to be sure.”)

My dad was a sheet metal worker who was brutalized, and ultimately seriously injured, by years of hard labor on construction sites. That I can work at home, volunteer around the community, help take care of my kids, do something I like, and then write about it in order to make a passable living is the kind of blessing I don’t deserve, so you’ll never catch me complaining because I had to play through a piece of sewage like Grand Theft Auto IV. It beats the hell out of what most men have to do to earn some scratch. God has been good to me, even if my natural Irish fatalism keeps me wondering when He might pull the rug out.

How I fell into this career is a story I’ll leave for another post. (We don’t choose our careers, they choose us.) But now is a good time for some general introductions.

My name is Thomas L. McDonald, and I am one of two “Editors-at-Large” for Games Magazine. “Editor-at-Large” means “Editor-Who-Never-Comes-Into-The-Office-and-Works-in-His-Jammies-and-Usually-Has-To-Beg-For-Accounting-to-Send-Him-His-Checks.” In practical terms, this means that I’m a department editor, responsible for several pages of reviews, columns, and features in each issue. My main beat is “Electronic Entertainment,” but I try to cover conventional (board, card, table, and role-playing) games whenever possible.
I have two other regular gigs as well. For the past 14-odd years, I’ve written the “Game Theory” column for Maximum PC magazine (formerly boot, formerly CD-ROM Today), and for the past two years I’ve been bringing a parent’s perspective to the subject in a monthly spot for the National Catholic Register, as well as occasional pieces for Faith & Family.

I’ve been covering video and computer games since 1990. During that time, I’ve been a feature writer, reviewer, and columnist for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Computer Gaming World, the Star-Ledger, PC Magazine, and many others.

A short time ago I calculated my average annual output and came to the realization that I’ve published about 1500 pieces. It’s probably more than that, and some of them are under other names or uncredited altogether. In truth, I’ll never know just how much I’ve published, and I certainly don’t have copies of it all, but we can simply say “a lot” and leave it at that.

I’ve also published 3 books: one gaming, one humor, and one horror anthology. Long lists of writer credits are boring, so I’ll just refer you to the canned bio under the About tab, and leave it at that.

Some readers who have been PC gaming hobbyists for a long time still remember me under the byline of T. Liam McDonald, which I used for roughly the first decade of my career. I stopped using it after the sudden insight that a) no one calls me Liam because b) that’s not actually my name (Liam is the Gaelic for William, my middle name: I changed it because I don’t like the letter “W”) and c) it made me sound like a pretentious twit. (It’s not that I’m not a pretentious twit, mind you: I just didn’t want to sound like one.)

As for the personal side of things: I’m married to a wonderful woman for 20 years this year; I have 2 children (ages 12 and 9), 1 dog, and 4 frogs; I’m a practicing Catholic and 8th Level catechist; and I live in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

And, since long blog posts are boring, I’m going to split this up into a couple of parts, beginning with Part the Second, In Which I Tell You Why We’re Here.


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