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Article 28—Studio E brochure (1994)

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Most of the press kits and promotional materials in my video-game ephemera collection were made by publishers or developers to introduce their products to
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retailers or the press. This brochure has a completely different purpose: It was made by developer Studio E to pitch its services to potential publishing partners.

I once met Studio E vice president Joel Seider when he was working at Atari on Pinball Jam for the Lynx. I remember the office being decorated with posters and life-size cardboard standees of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, because one of the two real-life pinball machines represented in the Lynx game was Bally/Midway’s Elvira and the Party Monsters. And I remember Joel’s desk being littered with physics books that he had procured from the local library, because he was in the process of coding the ball’s movement and wanted
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to ensure that it was realistic. He would eventually work on programming Accolade’s original Bubsy game, a hit that definitely boosted the credentials of Studio E when the company was founded.

If you’re wondering why Seider is the highest-ranking executive mentioned in this brochure, it’s because the identity of the company president was a bit of a trade secret when Studio E was originally formed. The only obvious clue to the mystery behind Studio E was its office address. I was working at VideoGames magazine at the time, and I knew that 1920 Highland Avenue in Lombard, Illinois was also the headquarters of our competitor, Electronic Gaming Monthly. (I once hand-delivered a résumé to that building, not long before I moved to California to work on VideoGames & Computer Entertainment.) EGM’s publisher Steve Harris was also the man behind Studio E, and his editorial team produced the magazine under the same roof where Studio E produced games like Mohawk & Headphone Jack (Super NES) and VMX Racing (PlayStation). As a matter of fact, longtime EGM editor Martin Alessi was credited as one of the designers of Mohawk & Headphone Jack.

There was some outrage in the VideoGames office when we learned that EGM could potentially review games that its editors had actually developed, but I don’t think the
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conflict of interest was ever a hot-button issue for the industry in general. We’d heard rumors for years about a guy who simultaneously worked for both Atari and EGM, and nobody seemed to think that was a big deal. Come to think of it, I worked for two different people who pitched game design documents to several different publishers while they were employed as full-time video-game magazine editors.

I guess it has always been an accepted maxim that many game journalists aspire to become game developers. My friend Ara Shirinian was one of the hardest-working and most prolific contributors to Tips & Tricks magazine, but after he landed a position in game development, he admitted that he had always viewed his job of writing about video games as nothing more than a stepping stone to his ultimate goal of creating them. Harris had the balls to just go ahead and do both things at once. As much as that tweaked my sense of morality, I stopped thinking about it after he sold EGM to Ziff-Davis. If I remember correctly, he got out of the game-magazine business before any of the Studio E games reached the review stage. And—God bless ’em—I actually liked Mohawk & Headphone Jack!

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© 2011 Chris Bieniek. Certain video game images, characters and logos on this Web site are copyrighted or trademarked by their respective publishers.