When I learned of Steve Morgenstern’s passing early today, it was a shock. Steve Morgenstern had been a fixture, until recently, of the tech and gaming scene in New York City. But I also considered him to be a friend. Although he wasn’t a Circle member and lived out on Long Island, I often invited him to meetings and events. He often said he wanted to attend, but that trip was a bit of a haul for him.
When I first met Steve, he was writing for Rolling Stone magazine. It was a great gig for him and impressive to others. Steve, in fact, was pretty humble about the fact that he was elevating the level of game journalism, simply by writing for that magazine. Occasionally, he would regale me with tales of Jann Wenner. I had one or two stories to add from the few music stories I wrote for the magazine, but Steve had better tales from the front lines.
Years ago, when Sony had a PlayStation event in San Francisco, the company rented a huge yacht to take us around the bay. Both us grumpily commiserated, “They don’t need to do this; it’s not going to change our opinion of the games.” Upstairs, I think there was some fake gambling going on for prizes. Steve and I sat it out. We didn’t want the gifts. We just wanted to learn about games. And talk. We talked a lot about music that night, and about our careers as well.
As we chatted, Chase, now the PR Director at Twitch but then a brash games writer and reviewer, came up out of the blue and said, “I hear you write for Rolling Stone. How do I do that?”
We didn’t know Chase well enough at that point to realize this was his somewhat-humorous way, and Steve was annoyed. Steve was understandably protective of his gigs. After all, he had a family to support. Later, we all became friends. Chase is still a friend to this day.
At game events, you really couldn’t pull the wool over Steve’s eyes.
Now, the Web is full of enthusiast press bloggers (which I often enjoy), but some have no sense of game history beyond, say, five years (which I don’t like). Folks happily tout the wonders of videogames in all shapes and forms – under any circumstances.
But Steve wasn’t like that. He was curious, asked tough questions, and took no b.s.
On his Facebook page, some of the game writers who knew how important Steve Morgenstern had been posted short remembrances. Yahoo Games’ Ben Silverman wrote, “An old friend of mine, Steve Morgenstern, passed away this morning. Wonderful person, funny, warm, talented, sharp as a tack. He was a rare, old-school game journalist, a guy who managed to stay employed — and relevant — through decades of this turbulent industry. I remember reading Atari Age magazines as a kid — he was the founding editor back in 1982. I didn’t know this when we first met because we were too busy making each other laugh and kibbitzing about the shady catering at whatever the hell event we were at. Steve welcomed me into the business with open arms despite me clearly having no idea what I was doing, made me feel like a member of the club even before I proved I belonged. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. RIP.”
USA Today’s Mike Snider commented, “I remember reading Steve’s posts as a reporter. (I grew up reading Stereo Review & Rolling Stone.) And remember meeting this sweet fellow from RS when I eventually made it to CES. All I can say us it’s so sad and make Steve proud by enjoying every second of life.”
And Chase posted, “When I first got into the video game industry in the 90’s as a reporter, one of the fixtures at every event I went to was a wizened reporter (even back then). Later on when I crossed over into doing PR, I worked with him for over a decade and every interaction was always pleasant and respectful. When I saw a post today that he passed away, the wind was sucked out of me. Even though we lost touch over the last year or two, all of my interactions with him feel as fresh as yesterday. He said wonderful things about his kids and was always genuine and personable. Steve Morgenstern will be missed.”
Sometimes, Steve and I would run into each other on one of Manhattan’s busy street corners. We’d get to talking about everything from music to Broadway to, yes, technology and games. Suddenly, a half hour had passed. One of us would realize it and damn the fact that we had another appointment to rush off to. But we always knew we’d take up where we left off at the next event.
But now, there won’t be a next event.
Yet Steve lives on in our hearts and minds, as all of those good friends who have passed always will. Steve always had a kind of wise, slightly cynical twinkle in his eye. That’s how he’ll be remembered in this particular heart and mind. As someone who wrote well, as someone who was always kind, as a true wit and as a font of knowledge.
A gentleman with a twinkle in his eye.
-Harold Goldberg, Founder, New York Videogame Critics Circle