It’s been a while since I last had the chance to head down to the Omega Sektor LAN gaming centre. In fact, I haven’t been there since the launch – an extravagant affair where I got ferried around in stretched hummers complete with champagne mini-bar and in-car consoles.
Heading back down to Birmingham for the European launch of Unreal Tournament 3 was an entirely different affair though.
There were no stretched hummers for a start and instead of spending the trip up chatting about the latest insider gossip with fellow journalists, I was sat quietly on the train playing Quake on the DS.
The one thing that was still there though was the sense of excitement and buzz that I always get before an event. I was looking forward to the event ahead and it wasn’t just because I knew they’d be handing out free t-shirts. It was because I knew I’d get a chance to interview one of the figureheads of PC gaming and pose some (hopefully) interesting questions to him.
Mark Rein, vice-president of Epic Games and spokesperson for the company responsible for one of the most successful games of all time, Unreal Tournament. He’s a man who doesn’t need much of an introduction, which makes all of the sentences before this kind of stupid and redundant.
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When I first got to the Omega Sektor gaming centre the place was already packed with journalists and gamers and the various PRs were scuttling around in states of utter frenzy as they tried to bring some sense of order to the rampant chaos. Mark Rein meanwhile, after giving a brief presentation, sat himself down coolly in the VIP area of the centre and started working his way through interviews and autographs.
As it got round to my turn to see the man, I was more than a little bit nervous. That earlier sense of edgy excitement had slowly disintegrated, progressing through into a mild terror as I faced the prospect of interviewing one of my heroes. Pins and needles raced up and down my spine as Mark turned in his chair and rose to his feet, hand outstretched. He is, and I say this in as nice a way as possible, not exactly a small man. He’s at least an inch or two taller than me and has the type of confidence to match.
I played it as cool as I could, handed him a business card and shook his hand. I was tempted to curtsey for a moment (not bow, curtsey, which is a bit worrying) but I successfully managed to stifle the urge and instead just walked around him and slid into one of the alcove seats opposite his chair. There was a collection of beers on the table. I helped myself to a bottle in order to build some Dutch courage and help myself forget how massively self-conscious I was of the fact that my satchel was stuffed to bursting point with free t-shirts.
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His confidence came in to play and he started asking questions immediately. Who was I, how was I, what did I think of the game? I’d been told that Mark Rein was something of an American Peter Molyneux – a man who loved to talk. With this in mind I quickly tried to take charge of the interview. He must have picked up on the fact that I was about to ask my first question though because he interrupted my interruption.
“You can ask whatever you want, as long as you don’t ask what the PlayStation 3 version is like. I’m sick of that question – it’s upstairs guys, so just go play it!” He sighed. “Have you had a chance to play it yet?” He asked me.
“Sure.” I lied, noting down in my notepad that I’d have to try and get back into the PS3 room before I left. Mark nodded his assent, ceding the floor to me.
What would my first question be? How would I phrase it? What if I dropped my beer or lost my notes? Was I really about to interview one of the most important men ever in PC game design?