I haven't always been a popular game journalist. Yes, it's true. Once upon a time I was just a regular gaming guy who grew up with dreams of working in the video game industry, but getting my foot in the door seemed impossible. Pursuing the idea was always one of those things that I'd put off for "later", but then one day it looked as if there would not be a "later" for me. After a long illness and a brush with death I threw myself into working towards my goal of becoming a video game reviewer, and if you've been a long-time PTB reader then you already know how the story ends. What you probably don't know is how the whole thing began, and ultimately it's the tale of how I acquired Tom Clancy's Splniter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow for the Nintendo GameCube.
After spending nearly my entire childhood with a game controller in my hand, it was time to move on from the Mushroom Kingdom. It was 1999, a time when high school was ending and college was waiting. I moved away to my own apartment in the big city, got a real job, went to classes, and did the whole college routine. This left little time for gaming as the assignments piled up and the classes became more involved, and with the Nintendo 64 era winding down there really wasn't much worth playing that caught my eye. Gaming slipped into the background and life went on. Everyone has to grow up sometime (or so they told me).
Things started to fall apart for me four years later. As I've said before, I've lived with Crohn's Disease since the age of thirteen. In early January of that year my illness flared up more than it ever had before which led to me having to drop my college classes, take a leave of absence from work, and stay home for nearly six months while I waited for my doctor to assemble a surgical team that would remove a section of my damaged intestine. During this time I dealt with crippling pains and was unable to eat anything. I kept my sanity with long journeys across the Hyrule sea in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the first time I'd put in any major time with a video game in years. I honestly believe that Wind Waker kept me alive during that difficult time because it gave me a purpose beyond laying in bed and waiting for the whole nightmare to come to an end.
After the surgery I was told that with all of the damage to my digestive system and my low nutritional levels, I should have been dead some time ago. I lived on, obviously, but I came away from the experience with a changed outlook on life. I wanted more fun in my life than college classes and a day job could provide, and I wanted that fun to involve gaming in some way beyond just consuming new adventures. After recovering from the surgery and getting my life back on track I started exploring just how a person such as myself could get into the game reviewing business. Having a vast knowledge of the Castlevania timeline isn't enough, surprisingly. I spent several months writing reviews just for myself to work on my writing skills and to assemble a portfolio. It was April 2004 before I started applying for reviewing positions at my favorite gaming websites, and before long I was welcomed aboard GameCube Advanced (which eventually expanded into the Advanced Media Network) as a product analyst with an eye for GameCube games. My first official reviewing assignment? Tom Clancy's Splniter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow.
Now, I'm not much of a Tom Clancy fan, but part of why I wanted to get involved with reviewing was for exposure to new genres. When the game arrived in my mailbox I eager tore into it and played for days and days, taking notes and planning out what I wanted to say about the game and how to say it. There were many more games to review after Pandora, of course, but like they say: you never forget your first.