in the civilized gaming universe knows who American McGee is. If
they didn't know him from his work with id
Software since the days of Doom, then they knew him through
his first PC game title, American
McGee's Alice. Most of us "old timers" have been
around since the very beginning of American's career in the
gaming industry and been amazed at just how resilient and
resourceful American has been.
of you know we like to get a little touchy feely with our interviews
here, and focus on the personal side of our friends in the game
industry. We caught up with American at his new company Carbon6
and thought we'd throw a bunch of our patented
"Hypothermia" questions at him....being the cool MoFo
that he is, he obliged us with this interview.
to Hypothermia form, I have a funny story to go along with this
interview, and some of you might get a kick out of this as
have met most of the id Software crew, ( past and present )
between 1997 and now. Whether it was at QuakeCon or seeing the
gang at E3... over the last 5yrs I have been fortunate enough to
meet many other developers in the gaming industry as well. But
for some reason, the people that have been with id Software ( at
some point in their career ) are some of the best people on the
planet. Say what you will about their games or projects... the
people themselves are the coolest people you could ever meet ( must
be something in the water ).
McGee is the same guy that, 4 years ago would stand there
patiently listen to us babble at QuakeCon even though you could
tell he had better things to be doing. Today... many changes,
and much success later...is still the same guy. With all the
hype that surrounds the gaming industry, the cool friends, the
cool parties, magazines that proclaim him one of "The Next
Gaming Gods"... American McGee is still the same guy that
had time to hang out for a few minutes with incoherent, rambling
so much has changed over the last few years, and I am not just a
big mouth, obnoxious fan anymore ( I am an big mouth
obnoxious fan with a website now )...I
thought it would be fun to visit Mr. American McGee and poke a
little good natured fun at him about his success in the gaming
First of all, Thank you for
taking the time to do this interview. We do our best to make you
feel "at home" during our interviews, which shouldn't
be too hard since...well, you really are at home, this interview
is being done via e-mail
1.) You are like the KING of
"Lemons into Lemonade" stories, for those of us who
have been around
since the beginning of America ( bad pun )...what's the secret.
You've had a pretty hard road, but you have remained remarkably
focused, is that natural or is there a secret?
think my past has allowed me to keep a good perspective on where
I’m going in life. Mostly I put those events behind me, focus
on the moment, and try not to get too distracted by where I’ m
headed. If the events of my life have taught me anything its
that very little in life matters as much as doing what makes you
happy despite what other think. I try not to worry about the
things I can’t control and work as hard as I can to affect the
things I can.
2.) When I first heard the
title "American McGee's Alice" when the game was
announced. . . I thought "EGO". I remember you riding
a little wave of criticism over it at first. Once I played the
final product, I finally understood ( whether it was intended or
not ) that this was in fact "American McGee's Alice", and that is what impressed me. Was it
hard to take the heat on that one ( I remember it was a decision
made at the time by EA )?? Ultimately, would you go that route
criticism was minor, understandable, and bearable. The most
painful aspect of the “name on the box issue” manifested
itself in the relationship I had with the development team. A
number of the group felt (and rightly so) that a single person
taking credit for the work of an entire team was unfair. What
the public thought of it… it was mixed. I have lots of fans
and an equal number of people who dislike me just for the sake
of disliking me. The truth is that only my close friends know
enough of me to pass that sort of like/dislike judgment on me.
Others are simply wasting thought and emotion.
for whether or not I would do it again… we’re always
weighing the plusses and minuses. There are some projects where
I think it would make good business sense to do it again and
others where it doesn’t make sense. It’s going to totally
depend on what the project is. I’m certainly not for putting
my name on every game we create.
3.) O.K. I'll be the first
to say that even as a kid, I have always hated Alice in
Wonderland...as an adult, with children, I have learned to hate
it even more. American McGee's Alice was amazingly different,
the gameplay was awesome, the storyline was great and it kept me
LOCKED from beginning to end in the game world you created. The
appeal for many of us was the Dark - Tortured version of Alice
you brought to the table. Where the hell did all that come
from.... are you in therapy??
been asked this question before and I’ve tried to answer it as
best I can but never really felt satisfied what my response.
Trying to explain what internal mechanism is responsible for the
type of art you create, music you appreciate, clothes you wear,
etc, etc… isn’t easy for anyone. It requires that you step
outside yourself, examine the environment that wrought you, the
core of your personality, and the stimulus that drives you.
I’ve done this and found that I’ve just always been a little
twisted… that from an early age I was marked ‘odd’. Partly
because of my upbringing, partly because of who I inherently
was, and partly because of the social pressures I’ve been
exposed to my entire life.
I’m not in therapy in the traditional sense. I have been but
I’ve learned to be a pretty good self-therapist over the
4.) Staying with the Therapy
theme here, please indulge me on this. I want to put these
notions that American McGee is a twisted bastard to rest. I have
a few "Ink Blot" tests that I believe will help people
realize that you are, in fact, not some bizarre game developer
that enjoys transporting poor children’s stories over to the
Dark Side ( Dark Side® LucasFilms, all rights reserved )
Please view the following
images and give a brief description of what you "SEE".
(...please remember there are NO WRONG answers....only really
stupid ones. )
1.) A Puzzle
2.) A Tropical
3.) The Demon of Evil Music
4.) Your Mom
What does a Gaming God / Movie Mogul / Sex Symbol drive?.
. .really, if I popped into the Carbon 6 parking lot...what
kinda cars am I going to see??
next time I see one of those I’ll ask him. If you looked in
the garage you would find two Acuras. A ’01 CL Type-S and a
’97 NSX-T. That’s mine and Dave’s cars respectively. I got
over the evil fast car fascination a long time ago.
6.) Speaking of Carbon 6,
give me some background Bro... c'mon, you weren't just dying to
hang out with Dave Taylor again were you?? What kinda stuff will
we see out of Carbon 6 “ENTERTAINMENT"... ( I am
stressing the fact that it isn't Carbon 6 GAMES
). Fill us in..
I wasn’t just dying to hang out with Dave again because
we’ve never really stopped hanging out. Dave has always been
one of my “permanent friends” and one of the people I most
enjoy having in my life. We do a good job of understanding and
making up for each others weaknesses and strengths. We have very
similar philosophies about life, work, and the world in general.
I think our working together again is going to help us both do
great things over the next couple of years.
will hopefully surprise a lot of people. We’re a true hybrid
based on very entrepreneurial philosophies and abilities.
The real question is what won’t you see. We’ve got
roads into every kind of entertainment and plan to fully exploit
each and every one of them to the fullest.
7.) I'm not going to pry
into your "relationship" status ( very much), we just
wanna know, does the whole "I have my own Entertainment
Company" help you score with the chicks??
doesn’t work really well with the “chicks” I dig. And my
relationship status is healthy and happy.
8.) The flipside to that
coin. Being as well known as you are now. . . you got like Rock
Star friends, the media and people like me bug you for
interviews and such. Do you ever just wish you were plain ol'
Tokay again, kicked back at a LAN talking trash with your old
it or not I can actually say I have fond memories of the days
when I was “just” an auto mechanic. There was a certain
satisfaction that came from laying your hands on something
broken and repairing it. And there was an relatively immediate
reward… with games we have to wait for years before we know if
the fruits of our labors are tasty or not.
can’t say I wish to go back but its not an unpleasant thought
9.) While we are visiting
the "Tokay of yester-year" in the way back time
machine....Holy Hell man, did you ever think doing Tech Support
for your neighbor at that little company called
id Software would ever lead you to where you are today??
I’ve been incredibly lucky in the sense that so many
supportive, creative, and brilliant people have surrounded me
throughout my career in the games industry. Every day that goes
by I marvel and am thankful for my position in life and where
it’s taking me.
10.) It's actually pretty
funny. . but most people perceive "PRESSURE" as trying
to create a "HIT". Whether it be a hit Game, a hit TV
Show, hit Song, hit Movie and so on. But truth be told...isn't
there more pressure being in your shoes right now with
successful games like Alice already under your belt, is the
pressure greater now to continually "top" your last
can’t say I’m feeling any sort of pressure. We really like
what we do on a daily basis and it’s all about having fun. If
the fun went away I guess I’d start feeling that pressure.
Alice’s success only makes me want to dream bigger, create
cooler stuff and more of it. If anything it’s removed a lot of
pressure by helping me to feel like realizing a vision isn’t
as hard as it seems. You just apply yourself and make it happen.
O.K. Moving along to the easy, frivolous stuff....
11.) When you aren't
working... be honest, what do you like to do???
Dave and I moved to Los Angeles we’ve had a hard time doing
anything BUT work. Before we started Carbon6 I used to go out to
the clubs in San Francisco a LOT. That was my social network, my
escape from reality, and my house of worship. The music scene
there really helped me to grow up and grow wise in a lot of
days when I have time I spin (house, trance, breakbeats), write,
read, dabble in photography, study everything from movie making
to psychology, watch (and study) movies, cook, work on the
house, read scripts, walk, work out, relax, etc, etc.
12.) Is it still Coke and
Cheetos like the old days?? Or had success spoiled you rotten??
never really been Coke and Cheetos… except for when I was
seriously poor and could only afford Spaghetti-os and ramen
noodles. My penchant for good food was probably one of the
biggest money drains ever. I’ve recently discovered that I
don’t need to pay other people to make good food for me
though… I’ve take up cooking in a big way and have been
having a great time, eating good food, and not spending a
fortune on it. Dave doesn’t mind having a food slave around
13.) Firing up your MP3
Player....what are a few on the playlist??
to the new Sandra Collins - Cream CD as I write this. In the car
today it was an old Sasha and Digweed - Northern Exposure 2, and
just started listening to the new Deadsy over the past few days.
I listen to everything from movie sound tracks to electronic,
rock, hip-hop, rap, classical, etc. The only thing you won’t
find me listening to –ever- is country.
14.) Hollywood types date
other Hollywood types... since you will soon be a big Movie
Making Mogul...or whatever, who would be in the short list of
Hollywood types you'd be interested in.
not interested in “Hollywood types”.
15.) I know people in the
gaming industry scope out other games, FROM A PLAYERS
perspective: Xbox.... GameCube..... PS2...... you playing??
What are you playing on that big fat ass HDTV??
From a player’s perspective…
is by far my favorite console and has my favorite lineup of
games. I go through times where I don’t turn it on for a week
and then times when I can’t turn it off to save my life.
Recently Metal Gear had me in one of the crack addict modes.
Been holding off on buying SSX Tricky because I know it’ll do
the same thing.
I think will eventually win just because of sheer horsepower,
but they need to get some actual gameplay into their games and
TRASH that controller. I can’t believe they shipped that fat
ass piece of @#*!. Do you hear the emotion in my voice? Damn
that thing sucks.
16.) Same question.. we're
talking PC Games now. . .
been playing any. Hard to believe huh? Was addicted to Diablo 2
like everyone else in the universe. Haven’t found the
replacement to that and haven’t really been looking. It takes
a LOT of time to get a new company off the ground so I’m doing
everything I can to minimize distractions… even if they are
related to our biz.
17.) I gotta buncha PC
Hardware junkies that visit regularly . . . what's in your
Personal Gaming / Work Machine??
favorite work machine when it comes to writing, art, video
editing, etc is what I’m writing this on - a Ti PowerbookG4. I
bought this thing wanting to get onto osX. The fact that it
looks and feels so much like NextStep and is UNIXy had me really
excited. I love this machine, the interface, and the fact that
whenever we present projects on it people immediately think
we’re 30% cooler than we actually are.
PC I use on a daily basis is the same one I’ve been using for
the past… 3 years. Is that right? Jeeze… It’s the P2-400 I
bought when we started work on Alice. I wanted something that
would be a good baseline for the consumer machines we were
shipping the game to. Just haven’t found any need to replace
18.) One final question, I
am sure you get it all the time now that you are a big
celebrity, but what the hell...I'm in charge of this interview
dammit!!! Can I have your autograph???
Entertainment has five projects currently in the works
right now, the most notable being their game based in the world
of Oz. Although the game is still in development stages there
has certainly been a lot of buzz and speculation around it
already. There is
Concept Art that can be seen HERE.
personal / funny note, they say everyone is connected somehow
through the whole "Six
Degrees of Separation" thing. You know: where there is
somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody....blah blah
blah. That theory is fine...as long as the somebody isn't me
posing with no
shirt on, in the same Quake's Sexiest Male 1997 contest with
Paul Steed and American
McGee... ugh...TEH HORRER!!! Those are six degrees that can
one of the coolest things about doing what I do, is having the
opportunity to be here ( a few years later ) and be able to
interview someone I respect as much as American McGee.
know I speak for everyone when I say...I can't wait to see what
Carbon6 has up their sleeves.