Chapter 1: The Most Coveted Job in the World
Chapter 2: A Change in Responsibilities
Chapter 3: Every Captain Must Have His Mother Brain
Chapter 4: Enter Captain Nintendo
Chapter 5: Captain Nintendo Lives
Chapter 6: The Captain Goes Hollywood
Chapter 7: The Real Power Behind Captain Nintendo
Chapter 8: New Worlds to Conquer and a New Superpower!
Chapter 9: The Last Adventure

As the first few issues of Nintendo Power made it into the hands of anxious young Power Players (over 2,000,000 actually—making Nintendo Power one of the 5 top magazines for “children” and one of the 25 top magazines – of any kind), an excitement was building at the American location of the company. We were in an enormous growth mode. Success was like static electricity all around us. And we could feel it. On a personal note, this loosely organized team of individuals that I was a part of was blazing some new trails and relishing the challenge to top our own achievements. I am very much accomplishment driven and I was receiving a lot of personal satisfaction from my contribution—if nothing else.

Like any good magazine, each writer/editor had his own “beat.” Though many articles were in the nature of a review or a how-to step-by-step guide to get a player through the game, the main purpose of the magazine was ADVERTISEMENT. While I wrote my share of the “how-to’s,” my beat was previews of soon-to-be-released and future games, and reviews of those games “hot-off-the-manufacturer’s truck.” Writing promotional copy is considerably different than straight journalistic reporting (which was what I had been formally trained to do), but it turned out that I had quite a knack for it. Still, I generally found myself walking a fine line on this beat.

I was liaison to the then 43 licensee companies and established a reasonable and friendly relationship with my contacts. I wanted to maintain those relationships even though at times I had to be less than glowing about one of their games. Beyond that, Nintendo stood to make money on the sale of licensee games, so Nintendo also had a stake in my putting forth a positive review and Nintendo was not shy about making me understand that. At the same time, it was my name that was associated with the writing and I was compelled to be honest—though I realized that I didn’t have to be brutally honest while still getting my message across. There was a great deal of creativity to be found in delivering an honest review while still spinning the game in the best possible light–in giving the consumer a frank account of the game while making the licensee company feel as though we were hailing it as the next blockbuster. I have to admit: I never failed at that. Not once. Even when I thought it just wasn’t possible.

I recall one instance where I was to review a fishing game. I was to write a one or two-sentence blurb for the “coming attractions” type page. Just a caption really, underneath a screen shot. Now, frankly, how bored do you have to be if you’re sitting on your couch “virtual fishing!?” I couldn’t think of a more useless waste of plastic and electronics, but “it’s a living.” So I played the thing. There a few different lakes to choose from. Several different lures. Casting was done with the A and B buttons. I’m not kiddin.’ I got a few, but most of the “game” was spent waiting. And waiting. Just what you want to do after laying down 50 big ones for this month’s entertainment. Man, I don’t like waiting when I’m fishing for real let alone when I’m….waitaminute. That’s it! That’s my angle for the blurb. And under the screen shot I wrote, “All the excitement of real fishing! Right in your NES!” Hey, I wasn’t lying. The other editors thought it was hilarious, but I really didn’t think I could get it past our staff “censor,” but it did! We later heard from the licensee company that they were thrilled with the caption. Sometimes I even amaze myself.

I spoke of the staff “censor.” No one officially had that title, but the responsibility lay with the person in charge. This was NOT the mentor I mentioned earlier, but a different young woman who was given the helm of publishing the magazine. I believe “given” is a fairly accurate term here. I was told by my immediate supervisor that she once was a foreign exchange student who’d spent a week in Japan (in a student exchange program) with the family of the president of the company. That, my supervisor said, was how she came to be in charge of the magazine. Good life lesson here people. It’s all about who you know. He told me that, to his knowledge, she had no formal training as a writer, editor, or publisher. Nor, by her own admission, did she have any real knowledge of video games themselves, their history, or the industry. I guess that’s why it was an unending source of amazement to me that she ALWAYS had an opinion about something. Everything. And, usually, it was the wrong one. I was to butt heads with this former “foreign exchange student” many times during my time served at Nintendo. I certainly wasn’t alone in that, but I DID have formal training as a writer, editor, and publisher, and I, too, was very opinionated because of my formal training. I also had played a video game at least once.

So I tended to acquiesce much less frequently and much less easily than did my peer editors. It is simply not part of my make-up to try to just appease the dragon, let it calm down, and hope it will go away. I am of the “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness” school. Shine the light on the problem to make it easier to solve. With all due respect to my peer editors, I was alone in this. Now, no one, not even I, went out of his way to poke a sleeping dragon, nor agitate an already agitated one. Indeed, I, especially, tried to steer clear of the dragon on those days, most days, when the dragon was in a particularly foul mood. I don’t like getting seared anymore than the next editor.

However, no amount of flame will deter me when I’m standing up for the right thing to do. So my particular battles with her seemed to be the most noteworthy of my peers (whose “battles” usually consisted of them sitting at their desks grumbling under their breath).. Certainly, mine were the loudest. The dragon and I tended to disagree, especially at first, on pretty much everything. Large and small. A lot of that was probably a personality conflict. Had to be. Something about me rubbed her the wrong way. Without trying to ring my own bell anymore than it may appear that I already have, I have the feeling she felt challenged around me. Which is understandable. I certainly had more training than she did. More experience at managing people, too. It’s a shame she felt that way though. I never wanted her job. I never wanted to make her look inept. Quite the contrary; had she only been more receptive, she would have come off smelling like a rose. Another life lesson people: If you’re ever put in charge, surround yourself with talented people and then get out of their way. You’ll look like a genius. But, like many of her male counterparts at the company, handling authority was not her long suit.

And, to be fair, I wasn’t the most deftly tactful person in those days. I tended, then as now, to call a spade a spade. I had little patience to put things in diplomatic terms either. I didn’t have an appreciation for how valuable such a skill is. I assumed that since we’re all professionals and we’re all working for the same goal, egos should take a backseat to doing what is right. Well, in an ideal world, that would be correct. Maybe you’ve noticed: we don’t live in one o’ them. There was a time when I did not suffer fools graciously. It is still an effort, but I’m a lot more gracious than I used to be. Part of that is simple maturity, but a great portion I credit my mentor who gently and patiently introduced me to the concepts of tact and diplomacy. Profound lessons that I will have unto the grave. To my own credit, I worked hard to employ restraint and patience and diplomacy when I had to deal with the dragon and, to that degree, our relationship improved. However, such improvement in conduct does not prevent a dragon from remaining a dragon. Ultimately, I can only change myself.

Happily, that’s what I did. For the better, I think, so it was not a totally negative experience. Close, but not totally. At one point, when the dragon had an opportunity to promote me, she acknowledged that our working relationship had improved dramatically, and admitted that I had certainly earned it and that no other person on staff deserved the promotion more than me. Still, because of our history, she couldn’t bring herself to do the right thing and, consequently, the promotion went to someone else. She DID inform me that I had the option of performing the same duties as the promoted position (if I desired), but that I would not be paid accordingly. As you can imagine, having worked diligently for this opportunity for which I was proficiently skilled and highly trained (and the only one in the room that could make that claim), I was beyond disappointment. I was later told by my mentor who was part of this meeting that the dragon fully expected me to explode at her and read her the “Riot Act (which would have proven everything the dragon ever thought about me),” and was taken aback when I calmly related that to deny me the promotion was unprofessional, unethical, and inexcusable, and that everyone in the room knew it. I remained calm when I explained that I would not be further volunteering my time and skill toward the magazine since I wasn’t going to be compensated accordingly (It didn’t make sense to make her look any better than I already had if this was her gratitude.). I had to live with her “decision.” As she was to discover in time, so did she. Unfortunately for Nintendo, so did Nintendo, but I’ll explain more about that in the next chapter.

My mentor told me several months later that the dragon had volunteered to her that the magazine never had the same light tone or positive voice after I left; that something was definitely missing. I continued to read the magazine after I stopped writing for it and, objectively, I had noticed that as well, but, until this moment, I’ve never voiced it. Nice of the dragon to admit though…finally. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

A month or so later I was to begin work at another renowned video game company. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, however. I still had other adventures and accomplishments prior to ending my time served at the Big N. One involved this fictional Captain character that was to have a significant impact on my life. And an even more significant impact on the life of another.

Next chapter: Enter Captain Nintendo