I've worked on PSM3 for twelve years. Twelve years. That's a third of my life. It's shocking to type. When I joined PSM2 in September 2000, George Bush was yet to become US president, Craig David's '7 days' dominated the charts and Big Brother pioneered a novel format called 'reality TV'.
As time passed, I had a child. Got married. Bought a house. Folk who'd bought the first issue of PSM2 as a ten-year old would now be in their early 20s. It sounds dramatic, but we grew up, and grew old, with games; and that not only shapes our views and hopes for the medium today, but also the lens through which we view the entire world.
That's why, when Hideo Kojima takes you back to Shadow Moses in MGS4 on PS3, ten years after the PS1 original, it's not about nostalgia, fan service, or how graphics have evolved - well, not just that - but an invitation to reflect on your actual life ten years earlier, and confront the reality of change. That's what endings do. Allow you to evaluate the journey.
In my case, it was paying 300 Baht an hour to play a pirated version of MGS in a ramshackle internet café in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, after reading a gushing review in Edge magazine. Truth told, I didn't really enjoy it, and kept pressing q in panic as Snake break-danced between kneeling and lying on the floor, soaking up bullets like a bath mat.
I went back to my cruddy hut, wrung out my fisherman's pants and had a tepid saltwater shower, contemplating whether I'd done the right thing going travelling, and - without being too dramatic - what I was going to do with my life.
Ten years later, I returned to Shadow Moses. Except this time, I was sat at a desk in Konami's absurdly decadent 'Super Campus' - complete with its own wind turbines, tennis courts and acres of rolling fields -
in Nasu, Japan. I was one of the first ten journalists in the world to finish MGS4, as MGS creator Hideo Kojima roamed about, smiling, joking and holding court at dinner. I've never given much thought to the ten years in-between, or their sharp contrast - but I guess it's the story of PSM3: a magazine launched with the motto 'Longer. Harder. Faster', that strived to bring you closer to the best games.
I remember my first day on PSM2. It was two days after deadline on the launch issue, and the team had just worked a 30-hour shift. Fellow staff writer Joel had slept on a beanbag, and editor Marcus did his best to be polite and keep me busy, despite looking ready to kill. Perhaps to keep me out of the way, I was sent - oddly - back to my hometown of Newport to see Activision's game line-up.
I arrived back for issue 2, and wrote my first PSM2 preview: Star Wars: Starfighter. From that point on, time accelerated. A life lived between the highs and lows of a permanent four-week deadline cycle. Rinse. Repeat. In amid playing games, loving games, arguing about games, writing about games and seeing games, I think four years of my life passed - the halcyon days of PS2. The highlights - and lowlights - are best captured in our 'goodbye' feature.
The Real PSM
At one extreme, you'd be sinking ten hours into a dire Japanese RPG, smashing out sharp words to sharper deadlines and worrying about your diabolical finances; at the other, taking a helicopter ride above Paris with Rockstar boss Dan Houser, gasping in horror as his chopper almost crash landed on the auto-route. But the real PSM occurred in the office, at the keyboard, in passionate pub conversations or in heated lunchtime games of TimeSplitters 2. No joke, we used to play split-screen 'Splitters 2 so intently, you couldn't risk blinking. I'd sit at my desk all afternoon with eyes stinging and watering. It was fun, but it was hard work, and everything PSM3 is, or was, is due to the brilliance of that early team of Marcus, Chris, Joel, Jonnie and Duncan.
You never realise something's good until it's gone, and as the team slowly broke up - with myself, and later Milf, the only constant - it took a while for us to rediscover that dynamic, until issue 47ish onward, with Dan G, Nathan Irvine and Andy Kelly.
A 'second' PSM2 was born, rallying around the same principles in new games. After SSX and TimeSplitters 2, we succumbed to PES. We played PES every lunch hour for five years: an obsession echoed across the games industry. In the glory days of the PES Media Cup, a big industry tournament for games journalists, the competition was absurdly intense. I remember playing the editor of a rival magazine, as his colleagues stood and heckled me all match. Ever the big man, I finished the game, calmly put down the pad and promptly offered them all out - pointing to each in turn and shouting 'You're a pr*ck, you're a pr*ck and you're a pr*ck and all".