Last night I was flipping through my twitter feed and noticed a recurring pattern. Many of the game journos that I follow were all being incredibly nice to game industry vet and host at Rev3 Games, Adam Sessler. Why was this? What had happened? Had he died? Then I came to his tweet where he stated that “I have left @Rev3Games and @DiscoveryDN”. With that tweet was a link to a tumblr blog article titled “In Tangier the Parade Bar is Closed…” a line from William Burroughs’ 1959 novel (The) Naked Lunch. The blog stated:
After some incredible achievements over the last year and a half, I am announcing my departure from Rev3 Games and Discovery Digital Networks. Sixteen years in front of the camera covering the video game industry has brought me to a point where I am ready and desiring to explore new opportunities. While I would never say no to doing one more review, interview or opinion piece, the time feels right to explore new avenues inside of gaming that help further the medium. The audience, my wonderful and talented co-workers and the last year at Rev3 Games will forever be appreciated for what was accomplished. There never is a right time to part ways with something that has become as natural as breathing, but things do end and now feels right.
It is a heartfelt piece of sentiment, and the idea of losing his thought provoking insight is almost immediately painful. But let’s turn back to the title of his open letter. Why Naked Lunch? Other than the knowledge that Burroughs is one of Sessler’s favourite authors, it is interesting to look at parallels between his own journey and that of Lee the Agent, the central character of Burroughs’ novel. My first thought is that Lee is always on the move in this story. Now in the novel, Lee is a junkie constantly looking for the best place to get loaded, but much of the stories meat is his constant string of companions and compatriots. Moving from the New York, to the Southern US, to Mexico, to Tangiers, and to new existential planes of being, Lee is a Nomad who meets people where ever he goes and as such is often identified by who he is with more than who he is as a person. Sessler as of late is by no means settling down. With his move from G4 TV to the Internet based Rev3 to what appears now to be the world of entertainment consultancy (his Twitter feed has him listed as the President of consultancy firm Theory Head, Inc.), Sessler seems to be floating. Burroughs often stated that with The Naked Lunch, you did not need to read from beginning to end, that you could start at any point and finish at any point. The narrative is disjointed and illogical and that is okay. Maybe Sessler feels the same way about life. Rules of structure and definitive placement are not his cup of tea.
Then there is the other great parallel. In the Naked Lunch, Lee is constantly floating between systems. His dissatisfaction with the structured rules of normal society comes from the feeling of restriction. In essence, control is evil. Yet when Lee escapes from the normal day to day into the libertarian free for all that is the interzone, the anarchic nature of everything is disgusting and off-putting, orgies of violence and excrement. A world where everything is possible with an end result of putrid brutality. Sessler, himself, has made his own journey from control to unrestrained chaos. Under G4, Sessler lacked creative control. He was constantly moved around from building to building as the company tried to find its own identity within the television space. The necessity for commercial breaks got in the way of news coverage, review lengths, trailers. Nielson rating ruled his life. Control was in the hands of others, not his own. Let’s just say that when things came to an end, Sessler did not part amicably with television. (If you want an awesome article on the subject, check out Kotaku’s excellent interview with him from last March). In this regard, becoming the host and main content producer of the Rev3 Games channel on Youtube must have felt incredibly liberating. He became the authority on what he was and was not allowed to say. His reviews became lengthy opines filled with lexiconic flourishes. But the liberty the internet affords works both ways and now Sessler was more plugged into the vast opinions of his audience than ever before. You are more connect with the Internet, and with that the Internet is more connected to you, and on more than one occasion, the Internet let Sessler have it. The heaving mentality of twitter, that you are only right when I agree with you, would constantly draw Sessler into controversy. The parallels between the orgies of fluid and grotesqueries of the Burroughs’ interzone were congruous to the vehemence and reactionary, spiteful pronouncements toward Sessler and his character.
Naked Lunch ends all too abruptly, as it would seem Adam Sessler’s career in game journalism. His last tweet simply articulated that he is taking a break from the internet for a while. That’s fair. It’s sad, but it’s fair. Sessler meant more to me than most gaming commentators. He was thoughtful in ways few attempt to explore within the medium. Rather than listing point by point what he liked and what he disliked, he delved deeply into the why. Gaming was experiential to him. It had meaning, and he reviewed his experiences in that way. He was honest with how things made him feel. He was bravely contrarian when he needed to be, and took the lashings from incensed masses when those words contradicted the desires of energetic fans. He butted heads with industry, decrying that which he saw impeding on his editorial integrity – be it footage embargoes, staged review events, and many other recurring (sadly) means of media manipulation exercised by video game publishers. He did these things, in general, because he was honest with himself and with his audience, and I appreciated that. Writing this blog, I know it will never be IGN. It will never be Game Informer. And that is okay. I want it to be an outlet, an outlet to express thoughts and feelings and ideas, not simply regurgitating what has already been articulated by those so much more informed than myself. Much of that is due to Sessler who has challenged me to think about gaming in more than simple materialistic terms. Video games are more than commodities, they are art, and as art are worthy of exploration and critical discussion. It is sad to see such a force for good in this industry go, but I wish him the best in wherever his life takes him.
When Adam first joined Rev 3, we wrote about it here.
Follow Tom on Twitter @thomaskagar