Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Once was Lost, but Now is Found

Stuff collects. Sometimes you collect it on purpose, other times you just don't get around to throwing it away in a timely fashion. When that happens, you may, over time, come to forget why you still have it - is it useful? Or was I just too busy to chuck it?

This happened to me some time ago and I thought the result was the loss of something I'd wanted to keep. Back in the early 2000s, I was really big into computer gaming. I read a couple of gaming magazines religiously, watching for info on games that were just entering development and following their progress up through their release. I was buying and playing sometimes two or three new games a month at one point.

For some reason I'm not sure I could have ever articulated (I definitely cannot do so from this point in the future) I kept these magazines. Perhaps I would sometimes go back and refer to a back-issue to follow the progress of a game through its development, or possibly there would be useful articles about how to play a particular game that were only useful to me months after the issue was published. I don't remember. I just know that I ended up with stacks and stacks of them that were still kicking around years later - piled up on a counter in my basement that had become something of a catch-all for stuff I didn't know what to do with.

During that period of manic PC game enthusiasm, I became enough of an expert on computer games to become a published writer in those very magazines I collected and read. I've mentioned before that I played World of Warcraft back when it was in its "alpha-test" stage, beginning almost a year before it was released as a (mostly) finished product. When the non-disclosure agreement expired, I immediately contacted the editors of PC Gamer magazine and submitted a proposal to write about WoW from an insider's perspective. They leaped at the chance, and suddenly I was published. They then asked me to review several other games for them - all online multiplayer games. Sadly, they had mistaken me for an expert at massively-multiplayer online role-playing games because of my experience with WoW (the game that would go on to become the most successful MMORPG of all-time), when in fact I was an utter novice at them, even given my months of intensive (and sleepless) playtesting of World of Warcraft. Still, I was reviewing games for a nationally-distributed magazine, which was pretty damn cool. They even recommended me to their sister-publication Maximum PC (formerly Boot), and they had me review a game for them as well. This was at the same time that I joined the cast of the Point 'n' Click TV show here in Syracuse, both as a co-host and as the writer and host of The Game Arena segment on (go figure) computer games. Suddenly, without really trying very hard, I was a writer and totally immersed in my gaming hobby. I was having the time of my life!

You may be able to guess where this is going - I had a huge stash of magazines, a very small number of which contained my published articles. And then I threw them away. It never occurred to me that my articles were among them, I just thought, "I have no use for these five-year-old gaming magazines. It's time for them to go." And out they went. When I realized what I'd done, it was weeks later and there was no recovering them. I was crushed. I tried looking for them online, but with no success. I still have the copy I submitted, but that's not the same as opening up the actual print mag and seeing your byline. That experience was lost to me forever.

Or so I thought! It turns out, almost a year later, that the issues containing most (if not all) of my articles had been stashed away in our library. I was looking for a book one night to do some research and stumbled upon an old pile of gaming mags that seemed terribly out of place in a room full of novels, histories, and reference books (plus two guitars, a lap dulcimer and some tin whistles). I flipped through the magazines and was incredibly surprised, and of course relieved, to find my old articles among them.

What's more, I had feared that my original WoW article had suffered from my relative inexperience with MMORPGs and the comparatively short time I'd been playing WoW. I've since spent a year or two in the grip of the fully-released World of Warcraft universe and I learned how much I didn't know when I was playing in the pre-release. It was extremely gratifying to see that my article still held up, even six years later.

So that's my happy ending. This time, anyway. With all the clutter in this house, there's sure to be more "oh crap" moments in the future when precious memories and treasures are inadvertently discarded. Someday my kids will probably find those magazines when they're cleaning out their deceased parents' house and wonder why the heck ol' dad kept those old magazines (they used to call them magazines, right?) for forty years. Hopefully they'll think to search my blog for "magazine" and then they'll know.

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