CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF COMIC BOOK VIDEO GAMES

10 years ago, the site which started its life as Comic Gamers Assemble – now known as Comic Book Video Games – received its first article. It was a preview for the upcoming sequel, The Darkness II, developed by Warframe creators, Digital Extremes. The site never received an early build for the sequel, I was merely giving my impressions of a demo that was published on Xbox Live. Despite stating that The Darkness II was a game everyone should put on their radar, due to my own personal finances I wouldn’t own a copy until it dropped price months past launch. I wouldn’t formally review it until 5 years later.

I’ve told the origin story for what would become Comic Book Video Games many times in the past, but like comics themselves which sneak in ways to recount a character’s origin, I’ll go over it one more time. You never know, this might be someone’s first time visiting, too.

Late into my university degree – as in the final year – I came to a sudden realization that I didn’t particularly want to study business, my chosen field of study. Rather, I wanted to do nothing more than write about video games. This passion was ignited after watching the 1up Show, starring the editors of the now sadly defunct 1up.com and Electronic Gaming Monthly. The 1up Show, along with many audio podcasts also found on the site, had the type of video game coverage I didn’t realize I wanted. Though the 1up Show had segments that showed a fictionalized day-in-the-life at the Ziff Davis offices where the content was produced, what hooked me was the meaningful conversations between those segments where colleagues talked about games just like you would with your closest friend. If this was a gig you could get paid for, I wanted in.

via The 1up Show YouTube

The trouble was, this was when the internet was truly taking off. YouTube was in its infancy, blogs were popping up left and right, and the print industry was quickly dying off. I’ll never forget the crushing day in January of 2009 when I found out that after decades of being published, Electronic Gaming Monthly was to be no more. 1up.com would remain, however many of the people that made that site what it was, including the staff of the 1up Show, was cut loose.

For years I would publish amateur work wherever I could, whether that was through an account on 1up or a poorly constructed WordPress site. I knew that I had some talent, and that I could get better, but what made me stand out from the thousands, nay millions of others on the internet? A solution would being to develop in late 2011.

Comic book movies had begun to take off after the likes of Blade, X-Men and of course Spider-Man grossed millions of dollars in the late 90s and into the 2000s, but they would become something else entirely in the years that would follow. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films would go on to become critical darlings, and Marvel would being laying the foundation for their Marvel Cinematic Universe.

2011 for me when my desire for all things comic book related reached a fever pitch. The Avengers was just around the corner, DC Comics started their “New 52” initiative to bring in new readers and the follow-up to the shockingly excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, was just about to drop.

The wheels began to turn.

I didn’t grow up next to a comic book store, so when it came to collecting and reading comics, I only had a few issues here and there that were secured from drug stores. Mostly my comics exposure came through trading cards, cartoons and video games. Though they were more bad than good, I never turned down an opportunity to play the digital escapades starring the likes of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and the X-Men. My thought that If comics were becoming more mainstream than ever, and with the Batman titles ushering in a new benchmark for games based on them, why not laser focused on video games inspired by comic book properties?

What followed was hours spent combing through Wikipedia articles during any second of downtime at my mind numbing job learning about games that no one was really talking about. Every dollar I could spare was used to buy issues, trade paperbacks, and every comic book game I could find. With a new year signaling a time for fresh starts and new beginnings, I launched Comics Gamers Assemble and began my journey covering comic book games in early 2012.

Comic Book Video Games in any of its incarnations never really blew up or became anything resembling a career. In fact, if I had any business sense at all, I would’ve cut my losses many years ago instead of spending more money than I care to admit on stuff like Swamp Thing on the NES of all things. What you can’t put a dollar value on though is just exactly how many wonderful things have happened in my life because I chose to remain dedicated to this site.

Swamp Thing, I’m sorry, but you’re not amazing.

They say a journey is measured by friends rather that miles, and I don’t think I ever understood that until Comic Book Video Games came into existence. I’ve met far too many talented people to name – you can check out much of their own work under the “Respected Affiliate Links” tab – and they’ve shown me nothing but kindness and generosity. When a person you’ve only met online agrees to buy you something from their home country because the item doesn’t ship to yours, no strings attached, you know you have to sit down and count your blessings. I’ve become close friends with someone whose name is in the credits of many of the titles in my collection, and I’ve even got to interview the talented people behind the likes of Spider-Man on the PlayStation, Spider-Man/Venom: Maximum Carnage and The Amazing Spider-Man: Web of Fire. There’s no way in a million years I could’ve ever foresaw things like that happening when this site went live.

Speaking of directions I never though I saw my life taking, I never once had the ambition to become a published author, but over the past couple of years, I went and did just that. First, in 2020 with the digital release of my self-published book The Web of Spider-Man Games: The Amazing and the (Not So) Spectacular – which received an update in 2021, complete with a phenomenal new cover – which was followed quickly by The Avengers in Video Games. The latter of which was published by McFarland & Company, who I have to thank for taking a gamble on an inexperienced author. None of those projects would’ve came to be if not for Brett Weiss agreeing to let me play a small part in his SNES/NES Omnibus series. Seeing my name in print in a highly produced tome must’ve sparked the desire to produce my own books, and it was a flame that was fanned by those whose opinions I value highly. Circling back to 1up.com and EGM, I had the opportunity to be edited by Matt Leone, formerly of both of those outlets, for a piece that appeared on Polygon last summer which was surreal to say the least.

This was a collaboration with Rusty Shackles. Seriously, seek him out if you need some awesome work done.

I would also like to thank the many people who have poured countless hours into making the games I write about for helping me through some dark and uncertain times in my life. Many of this site’s articles were written during my tenure at an unfulfilling job that it took far too long for me to escape. It was tough finding the energy to even drag myself to go to work some days, but then there would be others that I couldn’t wait to go in to spend every free second I could making things for people to read. When I eventually did find the courage to leave, things didn’t work out immediately and I found myself without work and much hope or purpose. During that time it was when I dove headfirst into writing The Avengers in Video Games. Throughout the isolating first months of the 2020 pandemic, another book was started that I may never publish, however once again it was this particular niche in the video game industry that served as a distraction from the bleakness of what was going on around me.

When I started Comic Book Video Games, I perhaps naively hoped that it would somehow turn into a way for me to make a living writing. Lately, however, I’ve made peace with that not ever being the case. I’ve seen what comes with turning a hobby into a living, and frankly I don’t think that would ever be for me. What I love about writing for this site is that I’ve always got to produce what I want, which is something I simply couldn’t do if I had to worry about algorithms, PR, and SEO. In late 2020, I became engaged and last year I started a new career and both have limited the time I have to give to Comic Book Video Games. Even as something as simply as a breaking news story is out of the date by the time I get home from a far more rewarding job that has quickly become the start of a new chapter in my life.

It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, all the comic book games I owned could fit in a box I picked up at a local comic shop. Now, that has grown to a shelf that is packed to the brim with titles from all generations, art books, action figures, and all other sorts of related merchandise. Using that collection, I’ve grown both as a writer and as a person over the past decade, and I really wouldn’t change anything. It’s funny to think about all the hatred and vitriol licensed games get, but without them, some of the best things that have ever happened to me may not have.

I’ve threatened to quit writing many times, but just like Peter Parker who always pulls his suit of the trash, I somehow always find my back. I prophesized a renaissance in comic book games perhaps a little too early, but with the recent Marvel titles, the first ever Wonder Woman game around the corner, and retro throwbacks like what’s happening with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I would say confidently that it’s finally here.

Whether or not I continue to write about comic book games for another 10 years is hazy, but one thing’s for sure, I’ll never stop playing them.

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