Follow GameBanter

Receive site updates straight to your Facebook or Twitter feed!

Subscribe to the Gamecentral Podcast!

Listen to Stitcher

 New episodes every week!

GameBanter Twitter Feed
Main | Unfounded Rage - analyzing the backlash towards Microsoft and the Xbox One »
Friday
Aug012014

Interview: Martin Kitts - Former Editor N64 Magazine

Martin 'Kittsy' Kitts was a fixture at N64 Magazine for years, eventually becoming editor leading up to the mag's 120th issue. N64 Magazine (later known as NGC magazine, then NGamer after that) ran for close to a decade, making it one of the UK's longest running and most beloved gaming magazines. The magazine's lack of official affiliation with Nintendo meant a more honest and candid approach to games coverage, which set it apart from other publications that were around at the time. Martin was gracious enough to answer my questions, despite having to deal with a newborn baby, so a big thank you to Martin!

 

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: N64 Magazine in its various incarnations was one of the longest running games magazines the UK has ever had. What do you think was the secret to the magazine's success?

Martin: It made you feel like you were part of a club and it had a quirky, irreverent nature that suited the subject matter. Nintendo fans are fiercely loyal and span a wide range of ages, and we didn’t aim the mag at any particular demographic. We tried not to patronise our younger readers and also to make the mag something that the older ones wouldn’t be embarrassed to buy, and a lot of them stuck with us for a long time.

 

In the last years of NGamer, though, the bosses insisted on having either Mario, Zelda or Pokemon on every single cover, regardless of whether we had anything to report, which sort of undermined the whole thing. But it was great for as long as it kept hold of its original spirit.  

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: Your "character" at the magazine was, shall we say... a psychopath? How did that come about?
Martin: I wanted to be the one who’s into Japanese stuff, but Wil Overton had already bagged that. So one day I had a bit of rant at my bank on the office phone, and Tim Weaver - the mickey-taking maestro behind all those mag personalities - decided I was actually a sinister murderous doctor.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: You got the sense that it was a lot of fun to work on the magazine, what was the atmosphere like there and are you and the guys still friends?

Martin: It certainly didn’t seem like work. The first year I was there I barely took any time off because it felt like if I missed a day then I’d miss something amazing. Not that I could have afforded to go on holiday at the time! I did eventually take a week off to play Ocarina of Time when that came out, but I only lived around the corner so I was back in the office every couple of hours anyway. I’m still in touch with a lot of the old team as many of us still live in and around Bath, or at least on Facebook.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: Do you have a favourite issue or feature that you worked on at your time on the magazine?

Martin: My favourite feature was the issue 100 retrospective. It was great to look back over all those years and rummage through thousands of old slides from photoshoots. For individual issues, probably any time we got our hands on a really big game, like Perfect Dark or anything else from Rare. Those ones were always special events.

 

 

 




Find a link to the whole feature (with the full sized scans) at the bottom of this interview.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: You guys were putting your names and your personalities front-and-center over a decade ago (sorry if that makes you feel old) and almost nobody else was covering games that way. Nowadays, a lot of the larger, more popular websites (Giantbomb, Gamespot etc.) and especially the Youtube/Twitch revolution in games journalism/coverage is much more personality based. In many ways N64 magazine was a precursor to the way games are covered today. Back then did you guys feel like you were ahead of the times?

Martin: Actually I think we were a bit of a throwback even then. There was a long history of British games mags that promoted the writers as characters, such as Your Sinclair, Crash, Amiga Power and many others. When I joined, the old hands told stories of hordes of kids waiting outside the office after school to get autographs.

 

By the time N64 came along, the future seemed to lie in magazines with trendy design and acres of white space, like Official Playstation, or the humourlessly authoritative Edge. New launches tended to take themselves quite seriously, and had things like movie reviews so the staff could pretend to be ‘real’ writers, when the joy of a proper games mag was in the silliness. After all, it’s a bunch of grown men getting paid to play with toys.

 

I’m not sure if any of the current wave of websites really capture the sense of childish innocence that made those early publications so magical.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: Whose idea was "Lex Luthor's Solve My Maze" and how did that pitch go for them?

Martin: I can’t remember for sure but I think that was probably one of Tim’s. He was the go-to guy for catchphrases, oddball ideas and 1980s movies, so it sounds like one of his. It was inspired by the dire Superman 64 game, in which the ‘maze' was a bunch of circles suspended in the fog. I’m sure it would have been just a random one-off thing, but the photo of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor came with a licence for multiple reuses so it became a long-running feature - a spoof competition with no solution and no prize. It was supposed to be a joke but people kept sending in entries like it was a genuine competition and it took on a life of its own.

Nobody had to pitch ideas as such. We were constantly chatting and joking in the office, and ideas like that would sort of evolve from this miasma of childish banter. It was like a playground, with many degrees of piss being ripped out of everyone and everything. It was great!

A fine example of Lex Luthor's "Solve My Maze." (link to a full gallery at the bottom of the interview)

_________________________________________________________________

Gareth: So, what have you been doing since exiting the magazine game?

Martin: Nothing exciting, unfortunately. These days I work on science journals, which is a bit dull but has an undeniable bonus in that I’m much less likely to walk into the office one day and find that the people who used to sit over by the window have all been sacked.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: I take it you're still a gamer, what are your methods of choice for gaming nowadays?

Martin: I’ve got an Xbox 360 that’s been gathering dust since I finished GTA 5 and a bunch of other old consoles and handhelds. I thought the new consoles were really disappointing so I got an iPad instead. Mostly I play PC games these days. I’d never owned a Windows PC until last year, so I’ve been checking out how the other half live.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: So you're not on board with the next gen then. Is there anything on the horizon that will make you bite the bullet? And if not, what would it take to get you to buy yourself a PS4 or an Xbox One? 
 
Martin: Well they’re both about twice the price I’d be willing to pay for them and I haven’t heard of any particularly amazing games coming up, so I’m not tempted in the slightest. I really liked Halo 3, so maybe I’d be interested in the Xbox if the next Halo is as good as that, but the chances are slim. Perhaps I’d get one for the next GTA game. Neither console is a really desirable piece of kit at the moment, though. The closest I’ve got to either one was a PS4 demo unit in Game, but the controller was covered in sweat and the rubber bits were flaking off the top of the sticks, so I didn’t want to touch it. It looked like it had syphilis.
Martin: 

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: You noted that Nintendo fans are fiercely loyal, yourself included, I'd imagine. With that in mind, what are your thoughts on the current status of Nintendo, and at what point will they sell you on the WiiU? (Smash Bros? The next Zelda? Something unexpected? etc.)
 
 Martin: I’d love it if they could get back to what they used to be, before things like waggle controls, Miis and underpowered consoles. I got on board with Nintendo with Super Mario World. I’d recently bought a Mega Drive at the time, and when I saw F-Zero in the local import shop it was obvious to me that I’d chosen the wrong console.

So I think cutting edge tech is really important for attracting shallow people like me, but they’ve gone down a completely different route now. The console world has left them behind, and their last great new concept was probably Wii Sports, which is not the sort of game I’ve ever wanted from them. Their own games look primitive compared to things on other formats, they keep rehashing the same old ideas from 15-20 years ago, and in the unlikely event that a big multi-platform title appears on Nintendo today you can guarantee it’s a gimped version.

To be honest, I’d like to see them abandon consoles and start making games for companies that know how to do things like strong hardware and online infrastructure. Actually, that’s something that would persuade me to buy an Xbox or PS4.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: With a newborn baby in your life (congratulations!) have you given any thought into whether you want to try to get them into gaming in the future, and if so, what's your plan of action?

Martin: She’s definitely going to be a gamer, if I’ve got anything to do with it. I think I’ll start her on retro stuff, like emulated arcade games and some of my crusty old consoles. There are so many games machines in this house there’s bound to be something she’ll like. I’ve even got a pinball machine in the spare room, but maybe she’ll just be into princesses and ponies.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: What's the best game you can remember playing in the past year or two?

Martin: I’m a big fan of GTA, so GTA 5 really stands out. I liked Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and played quite a lot of Arma 3, which is a real mixed bag. Some of it is quite shoddy but then you’ll find a scene where you’re sniping people from two miles away and it suddenly becomes the best thing ever.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: Is there a game that you keep coming back to? For some it's FIFA, for me it's League of Legends, what's yours?

Martin: I played World of Tanks for almost a year, but after a few thousand games it started to wind me up so much that I uninstalled it. I reinstalled it about a fortnight later but I’ve hardly played it since, so I think that habit may be broken. I rarely play single-player games more than once through, so my collection of old completed games just sits around doing nothing.

________________________________________________________________________________

Gareth: And finally, Sophie's choice: Enjiki, or Worldy Bloke?

Martin: You mean which one would I send to a gas chamber? That’s a bit harsh. I mean, Enjiki is a badly drawn anime girl and Worldy Bloke is a globe with goggly eyes, but I’m not sure either of them deserves to be murdered. Given some of the filthy stuff readers sent in about Enjiki, maybe the magazine would have been a slightly better place without her.

Worldy Bloke and Enjiki. (respectively... obviously)

________________________________________________________________________________

To keep up with Martin's latest activites visit his website Kittsy's Cookbook, and be sure to visit his portfolio for some of his past articles from N64 Magazine and beyond, including the complete Issue 100 restrospective referenced in the interview.

It was very hard to find them online, so the complete collection of Lex Luthor's Solve My Maze can be found here, easy to find, hosted on Gamebanter.co.uk, hopefully for all eternity! (Fingers crossed!)

Lex Luthor's Solve My Maze - Gallery

Reader Comments (1)

Great interview, glads kittsys keeping
April 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLeroy

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.