Back in November 2009, I was getting ready to attend the Montreal International Games summit and I panicked – it was my first big event as a journalist and I had no way to record an interview. That was a problem because I needed to talk to Yoichi Wad, the then president of Square Enix, along with several other important people from the industry. So I rushed to Radio Shack and picked out the cheapest dictaphone I could find, a small gray rectangle from RCA that was locked in a glass case. I have no idea which model it is, but it has followed me throughout my professional career so far – now, almost 13 years later, she is finally retiring.
I stuck to that gadget for one main reason: I believed in it. The RCA recorder did not have any particularly notable features; the sound quality was quite OK, and it was actually quite annoying to keep a bunch of AAA batteries on deck. But I’ve always been paranoid about wasting interviews and wasting time and – what’s worse – the time of someone who agreed to talk to me for a story. So as long as the dictaphone was working, I had no real reason to replace it. And it always worked. Even when the delete key fell off, I stuck to it. But earlier this month, while I was at Summer Game Fest, I came to a sad conclusion: the rewind key didn’t work, which pushed the dictaphone over the utility point.
But he lived a good life. In fact, he has been with me throughout my career The Verge so far, dating back to 2012. Every personal interview I did during that period was recorded on that machine. I took it with me when I flew to New York to hear it Shigeru Miyamoto’s grand plan to bring super Mario on the iPhone and when I was in Montreal yes find out how a team at Ubisoft recreates an entire city like Paris. I had it with me when, just the day after I submit my review,, I sat down for a nice, long conversation with the directors The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild in San Francisco.
I took it with me to many iterations of E3 in Los Angeles to a report on the state of the Japanese gaming industry,, explore Nintendo’s plans for the futureand try to understand Phil Spencer’s philosophy for the Xbox. It was in my hands in 2019 as I tried to keep my face straight as he asked Nintendo veterans what the gooey version of Luigi would taste like. It is recorded as Yoko Taro speaks without its legendary mask. I’ve been fortunate to talk to the key minds behind almost all of my favorite games as a child, whether it was super Mario,, Metroid,, God of war,, Devil May Cry,, A monster hunter,, The search for the dragonor The ultimate fantasy. Every time I traveled to an event or studio or even just went for coffee with someone from the entertainment industry, I felt safe knowing I had that RCA recorder in my pocket, ready to go.
And in the time before Zoom dominated most of my professional communication, I even used it to record a multitude of phone calls. It was inconvenient – I would turn on the phone speaker and place the dictaphone next to it – but, again, it always worked. That’s how I did it find the artists behind the classic Atari box and hear Sean Bean tell me what it’s like to be killed in a video game. In 2013, I locked myself in the bathroom talk to David X. Cohen about the end Futurama that I would not wake my first child from a nap.
With the rise in video calling and the lack of personal events over the last few years, the recorder hasn’t gotten much work done. He spent about 36 months tucked into a desk drawer. But earlier this month, I had the opportunity to use it again when the Summer Game Fest took place his first personal event in Los Angeles. And he was as reliable as ever; I used it to record interviews with directors Callisto protocol and Street Fighter 6 and catch my first practical experience with Peridot. But without the rewind button, actually rewriting those conversations took too much time.
It’s not clear when I’ll be back for another personal event, so I have time to decide what’s next. It is not easy to replace a permanent companion for more than a decade. I know I won’t use my phone to record interviews; again, i’m paranoid and i’d rather do something simple and clear so a low battery or software update wouldn’t spoil the interview. But I also love the idea of a single-use device. The RCA recorder is something I fully associate with the act of conducting an interview, a key part of my job, and that, as it turns out, means it has become an object imbued with memories. If I’m lucky, I’ll find something to help me catch even more.
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