of videogame journalism, and Executive Editor for Electronic
Games Magazine during the 80's, Game Designer, Legal Expert,
Comic book Author, and The Game Doctor!
What is the history behind "Arcade Alley" that was published within
Video Magazine? Was it an easy sell to Reese Communications
to get the article into the magazine, and eventually it's own
BK> Actually, it was a surprisingly easy sell. For one thing,
Video was a very successful magazine at the time
and had the market pretty much to itself. Arnie knew Bruce Apar,
who was editing Video, and we sold him a few video
game-based features and pieces on interactive TV (remember QUBE
anyone?) and the growth of cable-spawned sports channels like
the recently launched ESPN. You had to be brain dead not to notice
that the 2600 was becoming a significant new kind of electronic
entertainment device. And Bruce is a very sharp guy so after a
couple months of writing features, we sold him on the idea of
The only REAL concern was that we wouldn't have enough new games
to review three a month. Of course, that was actually the least
of our worries, and between the 2600 and the Odyssey2 we got through
the lean times.
The column did very well, and Reese was a small but very cool
company. And as they say in business, you don't argue with success.
The video game thing was going nuts and Arnie and I sold Jay Rosenfield,
who was the son of company founder Maurice (nickname: "Reese",
hence the name) on the idea of a magazine in steps. He agreed
to do the first issue as an annual, which meant it could sit on
the stands forever. It did VERY well, and by the second or third
issue we were bi-monthly and I think we went monthly by the fourth
or fifth issue. The magazine was coining money in its first few
years -- the entire company moved from Gramarcy Park to the penthouse
floor of the old Grumbacher Building on 34th Street and 10th Avenue.
We had these swank offices and a guy who came in to check on the
plants every week. We were a huge success and until the industry
started to falter after the '83 holiday season, it was a cash
cow. We did TV shows -- I did every one of those "A.M. Peoria"
and "Good Morning, Trenton" shows in the United States and Arnie
was on the Today Show. We wrote for Games, Forbes
and The NY Times. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime-if-you're-lucky
opportunities and Reese was smart enough not to fight it.
What was it like working w/ Arnie Katz and Joyce Worley? How did
the original duo and trio form?
I don't know if it's a big secret or whatever, but Arnie and Joyce
have been married for like 20 years. My first wife, Charlene,
and I were very close to Arnie and Joyce as friends starting in
1971 and we had all sorts of adventures in the '70s. Charlene
and I broke up in 1979, just before the big success, but the three
of us were just incredibly tight. We did a wrestling radio show
in New York, published a wrestling magazine (always ahead of the
times) together, and published a lot of fanzines.
The idea was that we wanted to make money writing about something
we enjoyed. We had been huge fans of coin-ops throughout the '70s
and we realized that SOMEBODY was going to write about this stuff
if we didn't and we knew we could do a better job.
Before writing for Electronic Games, you were a
writer for Marvel, Harvey, & DC Comics. With this experience,
what were your reactions to the Swordquest & Atari
Force comic books?
Let's face it, at the time, video games did not possess the graphic
potential to really accomplish anything like storytelling. So
from the jump you had a guaranteed bad idea. Even if the comics
were good -- and some of them were okay -- they'd have nothing
to do with the actual game.
Given my background, I always resisted the attempt to mix superheroes
and video games in the early and mid-80s. When Sega hired us to
provide editorial content for its new SEGA VISIONS Magazine,
I absolutely refused to do the "Captain Sega" crap and we got
a really good comic artist and I created a teen character named
Niles Nemo, which was a play on Little Nemo, the old comic strip
character. Niles would eat pizza while playing a Sega video game,
and he'd go inside the game in his pizza-inspired dreams. We did
about four or five of them, each a two-pager, and they're something
I'm very proud of to this day.
Electronic Games Magazine covered many consumer
electronic topics. Which of the dominant forms of interactive
entertainment did you most enjoy giving coverage in EGM: Coin-op,
handhelds, computer, or console? Why?
Well, we each had our areas where our tastes and temperament led
us. Arnie had been a hardcore tabletop paper gamer since he was
a kid, so he was our guy for computer games, adventures and strategy
stuff, and Joyce concentrated on handhelds and tabletop games.
I was drawn to the plug-and-play ease of video games, and liked
the sports and action orientation of coin-ops, so those were my
favorite areas personally.
As well as starting Electronic Games Magazine, you
have also helped contribute to other gaming publications - Video
Games & Computer Entertainment, Sega Visions,
Computer Gaming World, and the current EGM.
What was your role in establishing these periodicals?
each one's a story. Some were easy sells and some were just cursed
projects. I basically met Steve Harris at a CES and two conversations
with Arnie later we had the deal to create the '90s "revival"
of EG (we had no part, however, in the start-up of EGM, though
it was obviously heavily inspired by the original EG). We did
VGCE for Larry Flynt (but we didn't deal with him) and that was
another one of those deals where the time was right, the NES had
re-established video games. But every magazine I've been involved
in creating -- and there are probably about a dozen -- was a unique
So, you are The Game Doctor! What is in store for the Game Doctor's
future? Please tell us about your new sidekick, Game Nurse Rachel?
Well, once Steve Harris officially acknowledged in our contract
back in '92 or whenever that I owned the name "The Game Doctor"
I did my best to keep the character visible, and he's appeared
in a lot of magazines. I CAN tell you that the Doc has a most
unusual appearance coming up at the GoPostal.com site. But the
project that's closest to his heart is the creation of an online
(and eventually bricks-and-mortar) museum devoted to the hobby
of electronic gaming -- that and taking the digital photos of
Game Nurse Rachael to accompany the site. :)
You are considered an expert for videogame legal consultation,
and were involved as an expert witness within two major industry
lawsuits. Please tell us about your role in the Capcom vs. Data
East court case and Galoob vs. Nintendo proceedings.
Actually, my first case was way back in 1982. We had JUST started
the magazine and our contact at Magnavox called to ask if I would
serve as an expert witness in the famous Atari Pac-Man
case. I felt K.C. Munchkin was a significantly different
game from Pac-Man and still do, and I don't believe
any company should be allowed to own a whole genre of game. That's
the same reason I testified for Data East against Capcom; Capcom
appeared, to me, to be claiming ownership of 2-D fighting games.
So we walk into court and the judge was clearly prepared to rule
for Capcom, but DE's legal team made a big deal about how I had
been flown in at great expense and how I was prepared to argue
against Capcom's point. So the judge decided to stay his gavel,
there was a major trial, and DE won.
The Nintendo case was less interesting. They were trying to supress
the Game Genie and I was brought in primarily as an expert analyst
to determine how much Nintendo had cost Galoob by keeping the
Genie off the shelves the previous Christmas. But do I know how
to pick my enemies or what? Atari in the early '80s, Nintendo
in the late '80s and Capcom in the early '90s. But to give them
their due, none of the companies I testified against ever showed
me any disfavor for having worked against them. But I obviously
wasn't picking clients based on which was the best career move
and I like to think my arguements were sufficiently eloquent that
the companies realized I actually believed what I was saying.
Tell us about Subway Software.
When Reese fired Arnie and Joyce and several other writers in
the mid-'80s, I left the company as well in order to join forces
with Arnie and Joyce at the upcoming CES. We started Katz Kunkel
Worley Inc. and saw it as having several divisions. We felt consulting
would be the bigest thing but we also hoped to do some game design.
Now as it worked out, we had been free consultants to the industry
for so long that the companies had a hard time dealing with the
of suddenly paying us.
Instead, Brian Fargo at Interplay offered us the opportunity to
design a game which was called BORROWED TIME. Suddenly,
we were game designers (in those days, it was a tough sell to
convince programmers that they couldn't do it all themselves)
and we needed a name. Well, neither Arnie nor I drive so the trips
between our NYC apartments involved a lot of subway travel and
that inspired the name.