By Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman
evin Murphy. I can hear it now..."Who?" Kevin Murphy. The guy behind The Mushroom, that wacky gaming parody site that everyone seemed to have stumbled upon at one point or another over the last month or two. Nothing on the site is true, of course, but enough of it hits close enough to the truth to be absolutely hysterical. So, to understand a bit more about The Mushroom, and the strange mind from which it comes, we're happy to bring you Kevin Murphy!
Name, rank, serial number? Kevin Murphy. I'm the head writer of The Mushroom...and I'm also a client.
A client of what? That was a Sy Sperling hair club for men reference. Sorry.
Sorry, missed me. np
Well, I figure the biggest question people have about you is...who the heck are you? I am a 21 year old Journalism major at a college in the South. I have been a gamer since birth. I grew up with an Atari 800, and from there I was hooked. I've had just about every major system ever, including Vectrex.
I'm also a pretty good writer, I think, and last year I got a job writing some reviews at this unknown website. It got me into E3 97. (ok, maybe that was 2 years ago I did the reviews.) The point is, while I was at E3 98, I came up with the idea for The Mushroom. I knew exactly how I wanted it to look, and I knew what I wanted it to be.
So, to answer your question directly, I'm a nobody, hoping that I've stumbled on to a great idea.
You seem to know a lot about the industry and the people in it, is that purely gotten from a fans perspective? Pretty much. Um, I have always wanted a job, somehow in the industry. It's almost like I wouldn't care what I did. I might be happy being the janitor for EA. :)
So, I think it's kind of neat that I can do a website and get in that way.
Where'd the name "The Mushroom" come from? It's a parody of The Onion. The Mushroom symbolizes video games, because it is Mario's power-up. The Onion...The Mushroom...made complete sense to me.
Have you gotten any flak for looking so similar to The Onion? Yes, from about three people. I don't really understand it. I mean, it's a way of showing them flattery. The reason The Mushroom "rips off" The Onion is because the name is just perfect. I can't think of another good name for The Mushroom. It fits.
So would calling you "The Onion of gaming" be accurate? Yes. And that's what I want. One thing I know is that I can never be as funny as The Onion. But, I can always try. They have a huge staff, and I believe they were started as a University of Wisconsin newspaper. Me, I have a little bit of money invested, and a few friends who give me suggestions, but 90% of the parodies on there are completely my idea, written solely by me.
One of the most common, well, the only complaint, really, I've ever heard about your site is that it's not updated enough. Any plans to change that? I really really really hate the fact that I can't update every week. I want to, so I get more hits, and can maybe start selling advertising. There are a few reasons I can't though:
Number one: I'm a college student doing this practically by myself. It's hard to write one article, forget about writing five a week. I think I can handle four or five every two weeks though. And I've got about three months left in me right now. I come up with about three or four ideas a week. Of those three or four, two are usually really good.
Number two: It's hard to have time to research this stuff. Even though the news is fake, it still has to have some degree of accuracy within it, so it looks real. I think the humor is really degraded when the names, locations, etc. are not accurate.
Number three: I'm limited by my topic. The Onion can write about anything they want. I'm a niche. I can write only about video games, and electronic entertainment-related things. Sure, I could branch out a bit, but have you ever noticed that the most successful gaming sites are the ones devoted to a niche? BluesNews, UnrealNation, etc. etc.
Number Four: Plain and simple-- lack of funny writers. I need not only people who know as much as I do, but I need people with a good sense of humor. Believe me, they are not easy to find.
Ok, I will stop rambling.
No, rambling's fine. Well, again, for being almost completely alone in this, I think I've done a great job. I feel pressure to meet my deadline every other Monday.
The one thing I am trying to do is start a review section. It will be completely legit, and it will feature things that I don't see in other websites. For instance, gaming sites, in an attempt to beat each other to the punch, try to review games as quickly as possible.
When a new product comes out, we will try to review it. When it's as hyped as Metal Gear Solid, or Zelda 64, however, we will go back and look at our initial review, and see if we still feel the same way. That's something that no other site has the balls to do. I read Next-Generation Online practically every single day, and I always see, "We stand by our review."
Screw that. If we're wrong about something, we're going to say it. The first case we will make is Unreal. When I first played it, man was I blown away. But, you get further into the game, and it loses its appeal rather quickly.
The last thing that we're going to do, and the advertisers will hate us for this one, is we're going to review a game in dollars. There is no perfect score. For instance, if I think Zelda 64 is worth $30, and Nintendo sells it for $60, that's a bad review. If I think it's worth $80, then that's a good review. I like that idea, because casual gamers pay real money for a game, and then they feel ripped off because, yeah, it's a good game, but it just wasn't worth the money.
Who have you pissed off with the site, god, the John Carmack/Romero story? Well, get this. Interesting story on that one.
I gave that link to Cliff Bleszinski (I don't know how to spell his name, he needs to change it), when the site didn't have it's own domain. And he sent the link out to some IRC buddies of his, and it just got around. Next thing I know, Romero mentions it in his plan file! I was amazed. He seemed to like it.
So, I sent him an email, telling him thanks for having a sense of humor. So, I got an email back from him, and he just told me he loved it. I found out from an Ion Storm employee that he sent that link throughout the whole company saying, "They found me out!"
I asked Romero what he thought Carmack would think of the article, seeing as how I had gotten hits from id, but they had not written me. He told me it would probably have made Carmack sick to his stomach.
Then, there's GT Interactive. Those people do not have a sense of humor. I'm sure their developers do, though. On the site, I quote GT Communications Assistant Tara Blanco. I get an email from her telling me to give her my contact info. Hell, I thought, I should call her.
I did, and what happened was basically a Jerry Springer-type argument. I could see her just moving her head back and forth in typical talk show fashion. She asked me why I quoted her, blah blah blah. She said that people do searches on her name all the time, and if they saw that stuff she "said" that they'd take it seriously.
I was shocked. I asked her a simple question: Nothing else on the site is serious, why would an article about GT holding a network telethon be the only thing on the site that is serious? She didn't have an answer, and she made me promise not to use her name on my site again. So, I figured I'd use it here. :)
The last person I pissed off, and I didn't expect this at all, is Doug Perry from IGN. He writes for PSMOnline. Those guys seem like they have a sense of humor, but you write an article saying that they find out that they're not God, and man. He bombarded me hard. He said something like, "Your site will never be as funny as the Onion. I liked it at first, but when you write stuff like that, you don't do me a disservice, but you do yourselves a disservice. blah blah."
So, I wrote him back and thanked him for proving me right. I should have addressed him as "Dear God."
You said you want to get advertising, but you have a banner running on the bottom of your page...what is that? Well, I'm giving advertising away now. You'd be surprised. I thought most companies would jump at it, but no.
I want advertising not so I can "rake it in," but really so I can support the site. I don't want to get rich, and I don't want to be a millionaire, but hey, if that happens, great. My only plans are to get enough traffic, and to get some related advertising, so I can keep the site running. If I get ads, I can hire more people.
And believe it or not, people do click on Internet ads. I see my stats all the time. The average clickthru ratio is about 1/20 for every ad. (ie, if it's shown 20 times, one person on average clicks on it) Everything I've read about Internet advertising has been the opposite. They say that it just doesn't work.
What I've found is that it all depends on the banner itself. If the site, or ad, looks interesting, people click.
So, I want advertising for two reasons. 1, to support the site, and 2, it gives us a certain credibility. And it shows that hey, even the developers and marketers have a sense of humor. I, being a gamer, would love to know that.
You have one of the strangest .sig files's I've ever seen...CEO/Editor/Writer/CIO/Secretary/Sex Machine/Barbara Streisand Fan. Care to explain it? hahaha.
I had to ask. Well, it's kind of because I do everything on the site. I try to pimp for advertising. I write everything. I edit something that my friends might send me.
However, I'm not a Barbara Streisand Fan. I just throw that in there to see if people truly pay attention to sigs. I guess you do.
Oh, and I am a sex machine, baby. :)
What are your favorite games to play? Well, my all time favorite is two-player Tetris on the GameBoy. Nothing every made me so bloodthirsty. Not even playing Quake 2 on a T1 could be as enriching. Tetris is the perfect game because it really never gets old.
Right now, I'm enjoying very few games. It's kind of like I have to go by year to tell people what I like. So far this year, it's been Resident Evil 2. That's about it. Even though some great games come out all the time, very few are holding my interest. It's a shame really. I grew up playing games, at a time when the systems had great limitations.
Today, we can do just about anything. We've got 3D graphics, high-end tech terms like voxels, mip-mapping, etc. etc., and yet it seems to me that I had more fun with my NES.
Games are going in a different direction, and there's nothing wrong with experimenting. But because of the nature of the industry, no one "innovates" any more. It's like, "Doom worked, so let's do it in true 3d." "Quake has lighting, what can we do with Quake 2?" And then everything becomes a knock-off of it.
There's so much financial burden on these companies now, and the marketplace is so crowded, that true artistry is almost gone. There are a few companies out there, but really, if Tetris had never made it big, we would have never seen Puzzle Fighter 2. No one would have ever taken the risk.
Ever played Tetrinet? I tried. It was a bit different. That Nintendo-2-player style just got me going. When I was 13, I played a Nintendo Game Counselor in a GameBboy game, and I kicked his ass. It wasn't even close. I had never felt so happy playing a game.
I looked forward to Tetrinet, and it seemed like a hassle. I don't want to have to learn a new way to play, give me the old way, and make it an easy option to get to.
What's a Nintendo Game Counselor? I don't know if they are still around, but in the late 80's/early 90's, Nintendo had a few hundred "Game Counselors" working for them. You could call them up at just about any time and ask them, "How do I get past the 'grumble grumble' guy in Zelda?" They'd give you hints, and if you didn't get it, they'd tell you.
I imagine 900 numbers and the Internet killed that. It was just a long-distance call originally. (I still remember the number to Nintendo's Game Play Hotline. I'm sad.)
1-206-885-7529. I don't know if it works anymore. :)
You're a journalism major, so...is it safe to assume this is what you'd like to do as a career? Maybe. I was pretty pumped about it after I applied to Imagine Media (not all of whom like me now)....I applied, and they liked my application a lot, but I was still in school. They told me to get in touch with them after I graduated.
To me, that would have seemed like a dream job. Forget about the long hours, and the deadlines, etc. I'd be writing about stuff I knew a lot about, and stuff I liked. Not every journalist gets to do that.
I could do almost anything with my life, really. I've always considered comedy writing an option, and I would love to do something with that too. I wish I had the talent to be a game designer, but I don't. I have no patience with code or anything. When they start pulling out terms like IEEE and talking about the difference between a 16-bit and 32-bit 'int' they've lost me. It's a shame, because I think I could make games really funny, if someone were willing to listen to me for awhile.
What are your favorite websites? Well, of course, The Onion. Then there's the Cruel Site of The Day. I frequent CNN a lot, and the game sites, looking for ideas.
Then, there's the Misanthropic Bitch, and I love her to death. I think she's going to write some reviews on The Mushroom. I think she's a great writer, and she has a future in front of her. And if you haven't been, you need to go, after going to the Mushroom.
Thanks Kevin! Be sure to visit The Mushroom!
- Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman is an associate editor for loonygames.
Credits: Community Profile logo illustrated by and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Community Profile is © 1998 Stephanie Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is just a bad idea. We have lawyers.