September 29, 2004

GAG: The Newsletter, The Dream, The Reality

Back when I was working the arcade in the Ogden City Mall, I started writing a small newsletter for our regular customers. It was called "GAG: The Gamers Advocacy Group." It was just a single sheet photocopied at my own expense that I would give to our regulars. It would have tips on new moves for the games, reviews of games from other arcades, and information on upcoming games.

I kept writing the newsletter for the next several years, transitioning it to an E-mail list in 1994. It varied between daily and weekly, depending on how much news I could dig up. I'd always include my own smart-ass reviews and take on the news as well. At its peak, my subscriber list was in the mid-500's, which wasn't too bad. A good two-thirds of my subscribers were developers, testers, etc., who enjoyed feeding me information.

When I joined Access Software, I was told that I could continue to do GAG under two conditions. First, I was not allowed to talk about any Access Software product in the newsletter. Second, I was not allowed to mention that I worked for Access Software. They did that as a precautionary measure. They didn't want anything I said to come back to them. In addition to keeping the promise, I also added the standard "opinions are my own, not necessarily that of my employer" clause to the bottom of my messages.

When Microsoft acquired Access, I had to put GAG on hold while Microsoft Legal reviewed my agreement. Imagine my surprise when they said I could continue to do GAG as long as I didn't tell people I worked for Microsoft. They actually removed one of the restrictions on me. I still didn't cover titles from my studio, but everything else in Microsoft was fair game.

GAG was fun, and I kept doing it to keep my sanity. However, the workload at Microsoft is heinous. Going from daily to weekly to monthly was a horrible experience. I put GAG on hiatus in late 2001, and when I lost the subscriber list in early 2002 due to a hard drive crash, most of my motivation to continue GAG went away.

It's a shame, too. If I had been able to keep the time to do it, I might not have burned out as bad at Microsoft as I had.

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