By Stephanie "Bobbi Bergman
I was asked recently what I thought were good gaming magazines. I came up with two, the only two I subscribe to and read regularly. Of those two, only one had an online component that was just as good as the print version, and also worth reading daily. The magazine, of course, is Next-Generation, with Next-Generation Online being the online version. Now, I figure nobody will really believe that I think Iím pretty objective, and my opinion has nothing to do with loonygames and NGO being associated. So, I decided to prove my point and just go straight to the source...Aaron Loeb, Editor in Chief. Let him tell you why this magazineís just so darn good.
Name/rank/serial number? Aaron John Loeb is the name I write under, but most people just know me as Aaron Loeb. I swore when my Grandfather died years ago that I would always use his name when I wrote. Fortunately, it was already my middle name.
What do you do at Next-Generation? I'm the Editor in Chief, which I like to think of as a really grand way of saying "Web Monkey." I run the daily operations of the site, take care of entering most of the stories into our database for publication, get all of the images we use sized and online, answer reader questions, post reader letters, and, when I have a chance, write stories, feature articles, reviews, previews, meet with companies, hire freelancers, give them assignments, edit their copy, hunt down news stories, and surf the web. I try to get that all in before 4:00 so I can get some golf in at the end of the day.
You worked for UGO...what was that like? How does it compare? UGO was a non-stop free fall madhouse. When I started there, there was no UGO. I was brought in as Managing Editor of GamePen while Matt Callaway was building UGO and Chris Sherman was hammering out an enormous deal with the Concentric Network. After the foundation of the UGO network, I was made the Editor in Chief of the whole megileh and worked on keeping GamePen up to date while also working on other editorial projects for the UGO brand.
Comparing it to NGO is very difficult, because UGO was much smaller at the time and much of my work was "brand stewardship," as the suits in publishing call it. I was the face man to the industry working on convincing them to respect the UGO and GamePen names. When I came to NGO it already had a built-in respect, and while other online sites still face the absurd "web is unprofessional" prejudice many people hold, NGO really doesn't. So now my job is just not screwing that up.
I think the thing that was best about UGO that I don't get as much at NGO is a real sense of "Woo Hoo! We're the rebel forces trying to pull down the MAN!" we had back then. We had big chips on our shoulders, and really believed we could make GamePen and UGO as important and powerful in the industry as, say, Imagine or Ziff (more particularly, IGN or Gamespot).
The thing I miss about that is that we ended up being a very, very tight team and I felt like my blood was in the mortar that made the company. While working at Imagine has turned out to be not at all like joining THE MAN, INC. (the management here gives tells editorial a wonderfully free hand), I do feel like I'm a smaller part of the whole. In most ways that's
a very good thing because it means I have resources I only dreamt of at UGO. I just sometimes miss the utter insanity.
Why did you leave UGO? Well, I had fallen in love before I moved to San Francisco, actually, and just finally got up the nerve to do something about it. Before coming to
SF to work for GamePen, I was living the life of a freelancer in the book publishing biz in my hometown of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. My best friend was living with a friend of his from grad school and I was utterly smitten with her but never said anything because by the time I met here, I already had plans to move to SF.
Anyway, a year or more went by and every time I saw her, I'd want to say something and would end up deciding it was fruitless. Long distance relationships really suck.
Finally, after some long while, I was in Champaign for my Dad's 60th birthday and found myself pondering the magnificence of my father's life. My Dad is most admirable to me, I think, because he refuses to let things sit if he's unhappy with them. It makes him a royal pain in the ass sometimes, but what's best about it is that if he regrets something he's said or done, he tries to fix it. And he won't rest until he does.
And I got to thinking that when I turn 60 and I look back over my life, I want to see as few things that I deeply regret as possible. I realized that if I never said something to Kathy, even if I met someone else and got happily settled down, I would still regret it for the rest of my life. So, the next day I went to her house and told her how I felt about her.
The funny thing was she was sick at the time, so after I delivered this enormous speech about how wonderful and brilliant and charming I thought she was, she said "I'd like to kiss you, but I have to throw up," and ran out of the room.
Thankfully, it's been uphill from there. After a 6-month long distance relationship, I decided that though I loved my job I loved her a lot more, so I moved back to Illinois to be with her. That lasted for 9 months, and then Imagine came a'calling.
Now we're apart again, but she will be moving out here to join me in the summer. Yay!
What do you think about them being sold? I think it was the inevitable step for them. Forrester research wrote a white paper about the online gaming world about two and a half years ago predicting they'd be sold. We were a pretty hot commodity, in that we'd
managed to build something on a billionth of everyone else's budget, and Chris Sherman (the owner of the company) has a good track record in finding buyers for his properties. He'd sold Multimedia Wire to Phillips two years earlier.
I've never met anyone at Action World, but from what my friends who are still there tell me they have good intentions for the properties which still have my blood in their mortar. ;)
How did you end up at Next-Generation? Well, that's a complicated story. I spoke to Julian Rignall at IGN about coming on board to do an industry-based affiliate site, and he and I were both excited about it.
Then Imagine flew me out to discuss the idea, or so I thought. As it turned out the previous EiC of NGO was departing to found MCV USA, and they needed a replacement quickly. I ended up meeting with the publisher, Bill Blummer, and I'm sure he thought I was a dolt. But that night I got robbed at gunpoint in the stairwell of the hotel where they put me up. I think they hired me out of pity.
Actually, Bill and I got along very well, and when he made it clear that he'd like me to be EiC here, I got interested. NGO is my dream pub. I love the web, I love the industry, and NGO has just the readership I want to talk to.
The problem was, of course, I was in Illinois living with my partner, and she couldn't move to California because of grad school. We agonized over it for quite some time and she eventually told me to take the job because she knew my whole crazy hang up about living a life without regrets.
The rest, as they say, is herstory.
You have a reputation for keeping interesting hours. What hours do you generally work? :) If it's a bad day, I roll in at 1:00 in the afternoon. That usually means I was here really late the night before and I just couldn't manage to be here earlier. Usually I work from about 10:00 or 10:30 till about 10:00. Lately I've been pulling the 9:30 to 3:00 shift.
But my reputation, because Imagine is full of ball busters, is of waltzing in after lunch and leaving right before everyone else shows up in the morning. ;)
People have talked about how the media environment for press online has gotten very ugly over the past couple months. Do you think that's true? Hmmm...I'm not sure. I know we're getting more and more competitive, and there's more and more of us. I honestly don't notice too much, because I have my hands so full with doing the site every day that, while I'd actually really like to compete with other people, I never have time to see if they've scooped me or I've scooped them.
I have noticed there is a lot of worry lately on the part of my other friends about some site or another beating them to the punch on a demo or a review or something like that. There also appear to have been a few "Ha Ha! GameSpasm made a mistake" articles lately.
I've written a couple of those myself, particularly with the John Romero is Dead story, but I would name a publication in an article like that. In general, I think there's a little more attention than necessary paid to competition. The web is a free medium and, at the end of the day, I think the proof is that the site that just sticks to its guns and does what it does best without worrying about what other sites are doing will win out in the end. I point to Steve's success with Blue's News as the ultimate example of that. He has the web equivalent of household brand, and his whole philosophy is anti-competitive. He links everywhere.
Now, if you mean that the companies in the industry are being less friendly or ugly somehow to online, I don't agree. I think that's definitely improving as they start learning how to tell a website made in someone's basement with 10 hits a day from a serious, professional site.
Where do you draw the line between gossip and a legitimate story? This was one of my earliest trials by fire. I posted a rumor story about a company in my first week here (which said, "this is a rumor") and got very hurt emails from some programmers at the company.
I don't want to sound like I'm tooting NGO's horn unnecessarily (and let me stress that its reputation was built by the print magazine and by the previous EiCs, Colin Campbell and Christian Svenson), but NGO is read by everyone in the industry. Okay, not everyone, but an enormous number of people in the industry read the site or get our articles emailed to them when we mention their company. As Peter Parker the Spectacular Spiderman always says "With great power comes great responsibility," and I learned pretty early on that people will get hurt if NGO runs a rumor.
At GamePen we did funny news making fun of every company and saying the craziest things about the companies. Someone at Microsoft reminded me recently of a "stunning expose" we ran of an Age of Empires tourney where we took some completely innocuous picture of the guy who won and said some little detail in it was proof he had cheated. I think we had arrows drawn in like the Zapruder film. Some people took it seriously without stopping to think for a moment how one could actually go about cheating in a LAN Age of Empires tournament with all of Microsoft watching. That kind of article would not be appropriate on NGO.
So pretty much since I started here I've had an aggressive policy of only running rumors when dispelling or confirming them with hard fact. People look to NGO for actual news and sadly they fail to notice the "this is a rumor" caveat. This is one case where I think it makes sense to adjust our behavior accordingly.
How far will you go to get a story? (i.e. Do you take notes for many stories on napkins? :)) Right. So at Microsoft's GameStock they strip searched the press and took their notepads and pens for Chris Roberts' unveiling of Privateer. I snuck in a pen and took notes on a napkin.
I won't tell you where I hid the pen.
I guess the furthest I go is snooping around in companies' "dirty laundry." I read their SEC filings, their patent and trademark applications. I check frequently to see if any of them are involved in federal litigation. I monitor their stock activities, particularly inside trading, and I watch to see if they register URLs. I don't think I've actually done anything crazy or embarrassing for a story.
Who are you in real life? I'm a former playwright and a lover of words. The reason I most love my job is because I'm able to work with words all day long, and in this case words about a subject that's near and dear to me. I'm a movie fanatic who believes so very strongly in watching awful films on video at midnight.
The central pillar of my real life is my partner, Kathy. She's extra spiffy good and fills me with delight.
In general, I'm a big, loud goofball as anyone who's been near me for 10 minutes can tell you.
What are your favorite games? Of all time? Yow. That's a toughie. Perhaps as tough as movies. Star Control 2, Virtua Fighter 2, Ultima VI, Portal, Civ 2, Masters of Magic, and the Lurking Horror are some particularly brilliant games. The most recent games to absolutely floor me were Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life and Baldur's Gate.
What are your favorite websites? This is going to be really sad. Cnn.com and msnbc.com are the sites I read if I'm just in a browsing mood. Amazon.com is incredible and useful. When I think of it I read the Onion.
In the professional arena, I think my favorite game site is Blue's News. Magic Box, IGN64 and Gamespot often have great stuff. For a while I was crazy into the Vault network, but I haven't been playing anything where I needed them as much. And then there are various sites I use as research tools which, honestly, I'm not prepared to reveal. ;)
- Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman is an associate editor at loonygames. She's probably the most normal person on the staff. That's really sad.
Credits: Community Profile logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Community Profile is © 1999 StephanieBergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is just a bad idea. We have lawyers.