Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Myth-takes and Other Oddities

Robert Marks | 22 Mar 2011 13:10
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Computer games have treated me well over the years. My first printed book was a non-fiction book about a massively multiplayer game, my first professional fiction sale was a Diablo e-book, but of all the experiences of my early writing career, the oddest is hands-down my first professional sale - a review of Myth II: Soulblighter, for the April 1999 issue of Computer Gaming World. Over the course of reviewing the game and seeing it come to print, I ended up with three copies of the game - two of which can destroy the contents of a hard drive - accidental frostbite, and a vampire popping out of her top.

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My story begins in the fall of 1998. I was in the fourth year of my bachelor's degree in Medieval Studies at Queen's University, and I had made the decision to stop writing Doctor Who fan fiction and make the leap to professional writing. And I loved computer games. I was already thinking of games in terms of more than just a fun thing to play. Unfortunately, the gaming media at the time wasn't, although Computer Gaming World had started to show some signs of change. I wrote an article titled "The Computer Game's Place in the New Mythology," and sent it to Johnny Wilson, the editor of CGW at the time. Wilson didn't have a place for the article, but was impressed enough that he asked me to write a feature-length review of Myth II: Soulblighter, with a sidebar exploring how the game's combat compared with history.

Although there may not be that many people who remember it today, Bungie's Myth series was one of the giant leaps in the real-time strategy genre. Just about every RTS maker prior to Myth: The Fallen Lords had made RTS games that were as much about gathering resources and building bases as they were about battles. The Myth series changed that. They were adult fantasy RTS games with no resource collection at all - just tactics, combat, and lots of blood. And they were 3D, with rotating cameras; Myth: The Fallen Lords was the first game I'd ever seen where you could blow somebody apart and watch their head bounce downhill with a blood trail.

To be able to review the second one was an incredible thrill. Back then, I spent a lot of my free time at Digital Gamer, Kingston's computer game version of a sports bar. My friends and I would sit, chat, snack, and play network games. And on the table by the lounging area were always two magazines - PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World. Not only would I be able to review a major game release for a magazine I read on a regular basis at one of my favorite places in the city, but my first professional publication credit would be sitting on that table, where my friends could read and share it. That made it feel truly special.

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