25 Years of Mojo: Staff Picks Spaff's Picks
The founder of Mojo gets meditative, as anyone nearing the end of their life carrying the guilt of this legacy well might.
That this website is turning 25, almost a decade older than I was when I first hastily slapped the beginnings of this place together back in the 90’s, is pretty damn crazy. That the things we did and wrote about back then are still preserved here is one part amazing, one part mortifying.
The idea of revisiting them fills me with both incredible nostalgia for the good times, and angst-ridden dread at discovering what my own foolish younger self was babbling on about, and was prepared to commit to the internet for eternity.
I thought the process of choosing my favourite features and reviews of the past would take time, scouring through the archives to rediscover all the nonsense, occasionally reading with eye closed as the embarrassment took over. But as it turns out it was a lot easier, and less painful than that.
There are numerous features on This here House of Mojo I’ve long since forgotten writing or publishing (probably for the best), and there are some that are still fond memories to this day. These are articles that would, it turns out, influence the rest of my life, or are things I’ve remained deeply connected to.
So rather than torture myself by re-reading one of my many editorials or dumb opinions, let’s focus in on those eh? Here are my top 3...
1. Cooking With Spaff #1: Dominic Armato (2001)
Yes that’s right, straight away I’m going all in on me and this stupid column with my name in it. We only really did a few of these (Footnote: Editor's Note: Two, to be exact.), though we had grand plans to do a lot more (The Mojo Way™).
The first episode was inspired by Mojo’s trip to E3 in 2001, and spending time in LA with Dom Armato. He was already a keen foodie back then, and indeed is now probably just as recognized for his work as a food critic as he is for his voice acting, perhaps moreso. He was very generous to us, and at one point hosted team Mojo at his home and cooked us all this memorable pasta.
I too, it would turn out, would become quite the food fan. Both eating it and cooking have become deeply important aspects of my life. But back in 2001 that adventure was just beginning, and honestly this recipe remains a foundational moment for me. I still, to this day, remember exactly how to make this dish and cook variations of it relatively often.
Another thing I’m a lot better at now, 22 years later, is food photography. The pictures in this article are, let’s face it, appalling. Though of course in those days we had to actually get the film developed and scan the photos in, so maybe we can blame that process a little. Right?
As dreadful as they are, these photos are loaded with personal nostalgia for me. I’m cooking in my family home, the plates and cups make me think instantly of my Mum who passed away a few years ago. The shirt I’m wearing was bought on our Mojo trip to Disneyland. It still exists, but it got made into a cushion a few years back, also by my mother. She had a cafe press apron emblazoned with with the dumb logo we made for this article hanging in her kitchen for many, many, years, I think it might still be there. Finally, look at those friendship bracelets. Who gave me those? Sadly that detail is lost to time, but I’m confident that the memory of this article never will be.
OK so I’m technically choosing an article born after the fact here, the real memory is of the prank itself. A gift that it would turn out, keep on giving for 20 years.
Today in 2023 the internet, the world really, is so full of fake news and conspiracy theories that the notion of making an April Fool’s joke for an online community just feels like a terrible terrible idea. But back in 2002, in those heady early days of the internet, everything seemed like it could do with a bit of shaking up and silliness, and having the best April Fool’s joke was deemed a glorious achievement. And Mojo was going to get in on the action, as it always had.
Our gag was simple really, let’s use our powerful connections to make everyone believe there’s a new Monkey Island in production. By powerful connections, I am of course talking mainly of our relatively recently formed friendship with the voice of Guybrush himself, and king of the past, Dominic Armato. Our network of hosted sites join din to keep spreading the lies, until everyone was fully on board, before we pulled the rug from under them and watch them all weep like little babies. Bwahaha!
We asked Dom to record several lines of dialogue as guy brush that would feel realistic enough to convince the fans that this was real. We even slipped in little details, like the grand return of Largo LaGrande! We started the ruse a few days before the first, to make it seem less suspicious, seeking out new mp3s each day, until a final reveal on April first.
I love that World of MI correctly named the game “Return to Monkey Island” 20 years to the day before it was announced officially by mister Gilbert himself. I also enjoyed reading Jake’s post from April 1st itself, alluding to the many dropped ideas we had that I’d quite forgotten about, such as Jedi Outlaws: Six-Shooter Lightsaber.
I also laughed at seeing Jake self describe us the collective Mojo staff as “Lazy” which we honestly thought we were, but my god looking back we put so much time into this website it was bonkers. We were anything by lazy.
The cream on the crop is how the fake lines of dialogue were even added to an actual MI game by telarium many years later, what a world.
Bonus story: - One of the very last April Fool’s jokes I committed to the internet was in 2009. In a bid to get a job at Media Molecule, my friend and colleague Tom Kiss, both of us already working as community / web folks at NCsoft, built and ran a fan site for their forthcoming game LittleBigPlanet. Our thinking was, well let’s just do the job already and that will demonstrate why they should hire us. It worked, they offered us jobs, and our start date would be: April 1, 2009. Well, how could we let that slide? Especially since we need to close our fan site anyway and make a real one… let’s tell our community that we’ve been hired by Mm! “Hahaha” they all said “that’s hilarious”. Then on April 2nd we confirmed - no it’s true! Oh the fun we had.
3. Trip to Double Fine (2001)
In 2001 I took my first trip to the USA. I spent a whole summer in California, meeting Jake for the first time in real life, and going on various excursions to experience things that would get made into Mojo articles - E3 2001, our trip to LucasArts, cooking with Spaff, and so any more — were all born from this trip.
We started off in LA, later driving up to Santa Cruz, where I stayed with Jake in his UCSC dorms, falling deeply in love with the redwoods and the California coast on the way. After a week or so there, we traveled up through San Francisco to the northern parts of the Bay Area, where I stayed with Jake’s family.
We set up a second computer in Jake’s room to make a Mojo command center, and put together endless nonsense for the website. I recall fondly making a hundred different banners declaring VOTE FOR MOJO but I have no idea just what that vote was for exactly.
There had been some news in the press around then that Tim Schafer, of Grim Fandango fame, had left LucasArts to set up a new studio called Double Fine Productions. Wouldn’t it be cool, we thought, if we found out what he was up to? But how would we get hold of him to ask? Simple: the phone book. We found the number for the studio and called it, spoke to Tim and for some magical reason he kindly invited us to go and meet him at his new studio space and get lunch.
We would become the first fans to set foot inside Double Fine Productions, and get a glimpse at a very, very early days version of Psychonauts. We were even allowed to reveal a tiny segment of the two headed baby logo. The memory of this trip would remain fond in my heart for that reason alone, but here I am all these years later, working alongside Tim as a Director of his company. My love of those coastal redwoods never went away, in fact it pulled me, and called to me, and until I moved here in 2015.
The photos in this article include some of people who still work with DF, and are now my colleagues, and friends. There are remnants of this office that still hang on the walls or decorate the studio space, such as the painting of “Granny” and the strange cheese wheel dartboard thing. The lamp from the “photoshoot” pics was the only source of light in my tiny office for a few years, and that chair was until very recently still in Tim’s office.
The photo of Tim we took with the jar of marmite became both his Wikipedia photo for many years, and was integrated into the Mojo backend CMS, which we dubbed the Mojo Administration & Resource Management Integrated Tool Environment - M.A.R.M.I.T.E. Oh and I still own that signed copy of Vollgas.