25 Years of Mojo: Staff Picks Jason's Picks

The staffer who labors under the delusion that he’s paid by the word chooses ten of his favorites, from oldest to newest.

1. EMI: A Random Rant (2001)

Escape from Monkey Island doesn’t seem to be anyone’s favorite Monkey Island game, but it happened to be the one that coincided with Mixnmojo in its prime, so I look back on the compulsive coverage leading up to it with a lot of wistfulness and affection. While the game was met with a mixed (at best) reaction from the hardcore crowd in the end, Spaff remained an indefatigable positive voice, feeling the need to publish something of a defense of the game soon after its release to balance out the prevailing reaction. I don’t know how Spaff feels about EMI now, but consensus and truth aren’t the same thing, so I’ve always appreciated his refusal to bow to the fashionable response, in an act of signature Mixnmojo defiance.

2. Gary Winnick Interview (2001)

The trove of interviews that Mojo has accumulated over the years is probably its most valuable contribution in the final analysis. This one with artist Gary Winnick, conducted by telarium, is a truly informative oral history of the period that Winnick worked at LucasArts (1982 – 1992), all the more precious because that period was also the very earliest of the studio. Lots of inside baseball behind the development of Maniac Mansion among other classics are to be found across its five pages. Notably, it was the first time any of that Maniac concept art had emerged, which was a hell of an exclusive in the judgment of yours truly, an artless reader of the site in those days. I nurse the hope that someday Mixnmojo will have logged an interview with every LucasArts veteran living (though clearly we're out of our league with that ambition), and to me this one represents the standard to aim for.

3. Wilmunder Memoirs (2002)

For variety’s sake I decided to limit myself to three interviews for this list, and I’m giving the desirable second slot to another of the site’s oldest. This one is special because it’s not even really an interview; somehow, we convinced Aric Wilmunder, The SCUMM Lord himself, to write the article by his own hand, royalty-free. It’s still a lovely little diary of the early days of Lucasfilm Games, one that I’ve turned to more times than I can count to source or confirm an anecdote. I mean, Ron warning Aric away from weeks-old food rotting in his Datsun 280Z? That’s the good stuff.

4. E3, Studio Trips and Get-Togethers (2000 – 2003)

I’m going to cheat a bit and fold all of the coverage from E3 2000 thru E3 2003, and the attendant side trips and meetups, into one catch-all selection. In part due to these being the only times Mojo actually went to E3, the writeups that came out of those trips still feel like the site’s biggest coups, and certainly the best surviving recording of that era of the staff. The classic moments are legion, and what better way to celebrate eulogize the death of the expo this year than by reliving them? Who can forget…

So if you want to vicariously live that fleeting but memorable period of time when Mixnmojo attended expos, traveled the world and pressed the flesh with its heroes, all that generous coverage is a mug o’ grog worth refilling again and again.

5. Gold Guy Exposed (2003)

I like this one because it’s a typical example of diving deep into trivia that in no way justifies the effort, a category that elTee and Benny honored with aplomb recently. In this case, you get a tongue-in-cheek inquiry into the many permutations of the LucasArts “gold guy” logo over the years. It’s that sort “obsessive, but ultimately harmless” quality that I believe sums up Mixnmojo, at least when things are working correctly.

6. LucasArts Cancels Sam & Max Freelance Police, Resigns Self to Mediocrity (2004)

This editorial masquerading as a news post is best enjoyed in its original form (which is what the link will take you to). The whole saga about Sam & Max 2 has been documented at length elsewhere, but what stands out about this airing of grievances, which was circulated far beyond what a Mojo article can normally expect, is that in its own exceedingly niche, dorky, your-perspective-has-to-be-exceptionally-skewed-to-rate-this-as-significant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things kind of way, is that it’s kind of a dramatic moment. It’s a LucasArts fan site washing its hands of LucasArts. It also feels like a sign off from much of the original staff, many of whom would depart, Rapture-like, to work on Idle Thumbs or in the actual game industry, leaving the unsaved souls to fend for themselves and manifest momentum anew. Fortunately, an ambitious young lad named Gabez was prepared to meet the challenge.

7. Mojo: Ten Years and Counting (2007)

There was a period from, say, 2006 – 2011, when Gabez arguably functioned as the chief editor of the site, if Mojo ever had such a thing. Without burdening his colleagues by putting it to a vote, he assumed the role of publishing most of the articles, which came at a rapid clip, and as the dominant force his personality was all over the site during this time. That enthusiasm isn’t to be discarded -- Gabez was probably a big reason Mojo even survived past the Post-LucasArts Breakup, when it doubled down on coverage of Double Fine and Telltale Games and whatever other lifelines presented themselves for the grabbing.

Gabez’s voracious content-generation – whether it be the tradition of year-in-reviews he presided over, his sometimes-bizarre contest ideas, his fired-from-the-hip editorials, his instrumental role in delivering that “Secret History” series on a near-monthly basis, or the description-defying MojoComics – was a major factor in keeping blood coursing through the site’s veins at a time when that was vital.

The highlight of Gabez’s considerable output for me would have to be his ten-year Mojo history article. Equal parts informative and inappropriate, this sort of spiritual successor to Spaff’s vintage piece The Old Days (an artifact from 2000 which looked back upon the goddamned Paleolithic era of the fan scene) showcases that Mojo mixture of sincere journalistic curiosity and outright disreputability. He managed to extract some great anecdotes from long-memoried veterans that shed genuine light on the site’s evolution, even while he was at the same time slandering everybody. It remains fun to read. Sobering, too, when you realize that there’s more distance between that article and the present than there was between that article and the beginning of Mojo. :~

8. Gabez invades America (2007)

Gabez sought to recapture a little bit of that vintage field report magic when he flew across the pond on Mojo’s behalf in the Spring of 2007, during the week of that year’s Game Developers’ Conference. The trip produced three features: one documenting his visit to Telltale and subsequent tagalong with them to the 7th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, an interview with Dave Grossman during that same visit, and a final adventure where he paid a call on Bill Tiller’s Autumn Moon offices.

Putting aside the workplace harassment of Mojo-staffer-turned-Telltale-employee Jake, Gabez’s fish-out-of-water travelogue style was endearing to many. Even Mojo’s founder was a fan. In that aforementioned 10 year article, Spaff acknowledged Gabez’s romp approvingly:

i read a recent article where someone went to Tell Tale and harassed Jake, it was kind of a horrible article but also so awesome, it was a classic mojo stalking article.

None of this is to minimize Jake’s victimhood, of course. But he did forge the press credentials that enabled Gabez’s knavery.

9. Future Tense (2008)

Gabez may as well remain on stage, as I’m not done pinning medals on him. I actually hate this article, which is why I love it. It’s hilarious to me how prematurely Gabez expresses concern about Telltale running Sam & Max into the ground. The irony, of course, is that the Telltale of several years later would be a perfect target for this sort of complaint, as it very much turned into a sweatshop pumping out games on a recognizable template for increasingly more mainstream licenses. But this was 2008 for pity’s sake, and there Gabez was, way ahead of the curve, pondering aloud whether an exploitative two (2) installments of a Sam & Max serial came with the risk diluting the brand, finding a way to complain that the exact thing the site had practically identified itself with feeling bereft of was actually being made. It is wrongheadedness elevated to art.

As a special bonus, this dubious think piece apparently displeased designer/writer Chuck Jordan, who called the perspective “morbid”. I mean, he wasn’t wrong. But Mojo’s wrongest takes are some of my favorites, and I miss Gabez’s “deal with it” rambunctiousness sometimes. In that spirit I must give his pre-emptive axe-grinding the nod.

10. Mojo chats up the team of Return to Monkey Island (2022)

The unlikely announcement of a sixth Monkey Island game – one masterminded by Ron Gilbert, no less – put Mixnmojo in a position to shake off the rust and prove to itself that it could still do what it hadn’t occasion to do in many a decade: anticipate an unambiguously relevant upcoming video game that everyone was genuinely excited about, and thus attempt to secure previews for.

Mojo’s relatively breathless (look, we’re not teenagers anymore) coverage culminated in two interviews that came together in the final moments before the game’s launch: a discussion with Ron and Dave Grossman fielded by elTee and guest staffer Marius, followed by a one-on-one with Marius and art director Rex Crowle. It was a delight, and a bit like watching an old man run a marathon. Or maybe it was just terminal agitation we were looking at. The point is, Mojo could still get it up, one last time.