“No one is more prepared” than Reiner to head Game Informer, McNamara said.
McNamara’s departure follows two rounds of layoffs in tandem with a larger cut across parent company GameStop to lower budget costs amid financial woes. The first layoffs reduced the editorial team by nearly half in late 2019, and the second affected non-editorial staff in March 2020. (Note: The writer of this article was among those laid off in 2019.)
“Ever since the first round of layoffs last year in August, I’d been looking for change,” McNamara said. “I just felt like that was the end of my run. I started to look for something new to do and started talking to game companies just to see where I might fit and what I could do."
McNamara also hopes leaving his post makes room for marginalized and divergent voices within the industry, saying we’ve “heard his voice for a long time.”
“When you have the same job for 29 years, there’s not a lot of room at the top,” he said. “There wasn’t room for growth. And I think, you know, I think I’m hoping that me getting out of games journalism opens up the door for new voices, for some change in diversity in games journalism.”
Game Informer has a long history, beginning in 1991 as a small, bi-monthly magazine sold in FuncoLand stores, a defunct video game retailer that was later bought by GameStop. In 1994, the magazine adopted a monthly model. McNamara worked at FuncoLand in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and was eventually hired as an editor to work on a magazine the store chain was launching. Named Game Informer, it had humble beginnings and a small staff.
“Back then, we put an ad in the newspaper, like ‘hiring for video game reporter’ and it would get no replies,” McNamara said. “A lot of the early days were just finding who I knew to come and help. I mean, I literally begged some friends.”
By its 16th issue, McNamara was named editor-in-chief. Following GameStop’s acquisition, the magazine was paired with the retailer’s PowerUp Rewards membership program, a move that spurred rapid growth and propelled Game Informer to become the most-read games industry magazine in the world, a title it still holds today. At its peak, Game Informer had over eight million subscribers. The success was beyond McNamara’s wildest dreams.
“When I was a kid, someone was like, ‘what do you do when you grow up?’” McNamara said. “I was like, ‘I want to be a rock star or a video game reviewer.’ Those were the two choices that I had put down. And I was lucky enough to get one of those to be a reality at that point.”
Asked about his proudest achievements during his tenure at Game Informer, McNamara listed many of the magazine’s cover stories that highlighted games big and small. Issue 327, revealed Tuesday and featuring “Cyberpunk 2077″ on its cover, will be his last. He pointed to “BioShock,” a game the magazine revealed to the world in 2006. He remembers meeting with creator Ken Levine in a “darkened 2K [Games] office,” where Levine sheepishly told him his idea for a new IP. Or when Game Informer revealed “Fortnite” for the first time, a game the editorial team had no idea would become a mega hit.
“I was really lucky to have that kind of opportunity, to be someone who could look at a game for the first time and say, ‘Hey, I think this part will resonate. I think that’s gonna be a hit,'" he said.
Game Informer has an uncertain future, particularly with GameStop’s falling earnings and stock prices. Potentially exacerbating that issue, gamers have increasingly shifted toward digital releases over physical copies of games. But McNamara remains hopeful for the magazine’s outlook, saying the remaining team will “make the best magazine they can.”
Leaving the company was a difficult choice, McNamara said, one that he had to consider closely not just for himself, but for his team and the large community the magazine has built.
“I never wanted to leave, but it was the right time,” he said. “I felt like I owed it to the team and I owed it to the readers. You know, I felt I owed it to Game Informer. But maybe I had done all I could do and it was time for me to move on. Game informer will live on without me.”