Andy McNamara's Auto-Biography
From the Game Informer’s humble beginnings to its current place as the #1 games magazine in the world, Editor-In-Chief Andy McNamara has been there every step of the way. Not only have Andy’s ideas and passion contributed to GI’s tremendous growth, but his tenacity and keen sense of the cutting edge helps to secure the most worldwide exclusive cover stories of any other video game publication.
Even back in 1991, Andy was known as a gaming fanatic. His daily routine throughout adolescence consisted mostly of playing games rather than paying attention in class. “I’d basically sleep for an hour, and then get up and go to school, and sleep all day at school, and then come back and play video games all night,” Andy said.
This may not have impressed Andy’s teachers, but the clientele at the very first Funcoland, where he worked, valued his game recommendations more than anyone else. So when the company decided to start a magazine, they knew exactly who to turn to for reviews.
Andy started writing for Game Informer on the side, but was pulled on full time after he drove to the 1992 Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago on his own dime. The dedication continued, and after a couple years Andy worked his way up to Editor-In-Chief.
The early days were a lot of fun, but a small staff and limited budget didn’t make things easy. “We used to live at work,” Andy said. “We would do whatever it took to finish things.” After all-night binges of playing video games and writing reviews with the GI crew, Andy hauled all of their content over to Tom Blustin, the then-out-of-house Art Director. “I used to go over there and sleep on the floor while he’d lay stuff out,” Andy said. “When it looked good he’d kick me and I’d wake up and I’d look at it and go, ‘Okay, that’s good.’”
Andy’s first big move as Editor-in-Chief was to bring production in-house, and take Game Informer from a bi-monthly publication to a monthly magazine. “I mean, it was fun. I got to spend, like, $350,000 of the company’s money all at once,” Andy said. “I’d never really had done any of that stuff, and we had to figure it all out. The only way to figure it out was to just go do it. And that’s what we did.”
While the GI staff continued to hone their skills over the next several years, the magazine eventually hit its boundaries. Coverage and content of Game Informer continued to increase, but the former corporate owners refused to increase the budget or staff. “It was ‘Make the magazines. Deal with what you have to deal with. Be short staffed. Just do it.’ And so we just did it,” Andy said. “We were biding our time… waiting for our chance.”
Then, in 1999, opportunity struck – Game Informer’s parent company went up for sale. Fortunately, the buyers, Barnes and Noble/GameStop, recognized GI’s potential. “When Barnes and Noble came in they said, ‘Don’t just do it. Do it right. And how do we help you do it right?’” Andy said.
With this fresh infusion of support, Game Informer got its first big publisher, Cathy Preston, and a professional ad sales team. This combination of additional staff and an expanded budget led to a complete redesign of the magazine and a revolutionary subscription strategy.
Game Informer’s circulation exploded – growing from 200,000 to 1.6 million subscribers in a span of four years. “I think one of the reasons for our big growth over the last four years is that we all finally got a chance to do what we had been practicing for eight or nine years,” Andy said. “We left the minors and we joined the big leagues.”