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American McGee

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American McGee
OZombie Film Set
Biographical information
Birth name American James McGee
Born December 13, 1972
Further information


American James McGee is an American video game developer, and the creator and director of American McGee's Alice, Alice: Madness Returns, and Alice: Otherlands. He is the CEO and founder of Spicy Horse.

Biography Edit

Early life Edit

American James McGee was born in Dallas, Texas to an eccentric mother who was a house painter.

In explaining where his name came from, American has said that his mother was a hippie and was inspired by a woman she knew in college that named her child "America".

"Yes, my mother named me that. She claims a woman she knew in college, who named her daughter 'America', inspired the name. She also tells me that she was thinking of naming me 'Obnard'. She was and always has been a very eccentric and creative person."
— American McGee

American had a "fucked-up, weird-ass childhood". He met his biological father only once, at his 13th birthday party. His father, whom he had just met for the first time, was "stinking drunk" and assaulted the young McGee by attempting to gouge his eyes out with the intent of either killing or molesting him. McGee escaped this event by suggesting they "take both of their cars" to a bar and get drunk. Luckily, the father agreed. Shortly afterwards his father was involved in a car accident. "They got no more than 100 feet away" when McGee's dad crashed into a telephone pole.[1]

McGee was highly creative and was gifted in mathematics and science. He also took an early interest in computer programming, eventually getting accepted to a magnet school for computer science.

Being the only child, McGee had a number of stepfathers when growing up until his mother finally settled on a transgender woman. One day when American was sixteen, he came home from school only to find the house empty and abandoned. The only things left were his bed, his books, his clothes and his Commodore 64 computer. His mother had sold the house to pay for two plane tickets and the fee for her girlfriend's sex change operation. American was on his own. He packed up his computer, dropped out of high school and took a variety of odd jobs, finally settling on a Volkswagen repair shop.

id Software, Rogue Entertainment, and Electronic Arts Edit

AMA cover

American McGee's Alice.

In 1992, McGee became neighbors, then friends, with John Carmack, the co-founder of id Software, maker of the popular game, Castle Wolfenstein 3D.

Carmack gave a tech support job to McGee, who was quickly promoted to level designer and music manager. In 1994, McGee began his career in level design, music production, sound effects development, and programming at id Software, working on such games as the Doom and Quake series. One day, McGee was fired from id Software, and he wasn't really sure why (presumably layoffs), but he notes many people were fired from id.

In 1998, he moved to Electronic Arts, where he worked as creative director on several projects. American McGee was given creative freedom and heard a song with the word "wonder" in it, which inspired him to create a dark re-imagining of Alice, which turned out to be American McGee's Alice with Rogue Entertainment. Part of the inspiration for the macabre tone of Alice came from his disturbing, dysfunctional childhood.

The Mauretania Import Export Company Edit

After finishing Alice, McGee left EA to found his first company, The Mauretania Import Export Company. Partnering with Enlight Software, McGee released the games Scrapland in 2004 and Bad Day L.A. in 2006. The planned American McGee's Oz, which was to be produced in conjunction with Ronin Games, was cancelled over financial difficulties at Atari.

Spicy Horse Edit

AMR cover

Alice: Madness Returns.

Later, McGee moved to China. In 2007, McGee founded his second game development studio, Spicy Horse and the company released their first title, the American McGee's Grimm series, that same year for the online service GameTap, which ran from July 2007 to April 2008.

In 2009, Electronic Arts announced that a sequel to Alice was in development for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by Spicy Horse. In July 2010, Spicy Horse and EA announced the sequel's title, Alice: Madness Returns.

On December 17, 2010, The Mauretania Import Export Company dissolved and all intellectual property was transferred to Spicy Horse. After less than one year after its announcement, Alice: Madness Returns was released on June 14, 2011.

Spicy Horse expanded to include another brand, Spicy Pony, to produce digital mobile media games for the iPhone platform. Their first title, DexIQ, was released in early December 2009 and was soon followed by Crooked House in March 2010 (both had iPad versions released in June 2010). Their third iPad title, Akaneiro was released on December 23, 2010.

In June 2012, McGee announced that he would be creating a Kickstarter campaign for his latest fairytale title, OZombie, although it was put on hold for Alice: Otherlands. Otherlands was successfully funded and created. However, Otherlands is currently a series of two short films and some other concept art and information, not a video game.

Closure of Spicy Horse and pirate life Edit

In 2016, American McGee announced that the Shanghai studio of Spicy Horse Games is closing its doors. The company itself will remain intact and will continue to operate existing games online, but it's unlikely Spicy Horse will release further games. At Spicy Horse's peak, during development of Alice: Madness Returns, the studio contained 85+ people, but in 2016, only contains 6.[2]

McGee decided to focus on indie development and continue to publish small titles under the Spicy Horse brand, and is doing some sort of pirate thing called Pirate Jam.[3]

Future of the Alice series Edit

American McGee has attempted to secure the rights and assets in order create a film adaptation of American McGee's Alice, but has had difficulties doing so, so it remains in limbo.

American McGee's Alice was given a slight remaster for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011. When asked about another remaster or remake on par with Madness Returns, McGee said he wouldn't mind.

In June 2016, McGee proposed an Otherlands video game continuation to Electronic Arts. In response, EA told American McGee that he needed a demo of the video game for them to consider. However, American McGee doesn't have the funds or resources to produce a demo, and Electronic Arts apparently rejects a demo funded by crowdfunding like Kickstarter.[4]

Alice credits Edit

American McGee's Alice Edit

  • Creative director, co-writer, designer

Alice: Madness Returns Edit

  • Creative director, co-writer, designer

Alice: Otherlands Edit

  • Project leader

Trivia Edit

  • His Japanese name is Takashi.[5]
  • McGee would let his children play American McGee's Alice, but he says "they haven't been born yet."[5]
  • McGee's favorite characters in American McGee's Alice are the Jabberwock and the Boojum.[5]
  • McGee never finished high school, and he wouldn't suggest any else to do the same, stating what happened with him was just "chance".
  • McGee is both proud and embarrassed to have his name in the first game's title. Embarrassed because so many other people besides him contributed to American McGee's Alice, yet proud because he feels it's wonderful having his name attached to the project.
  • McGee believes that if Lewis Carroll ever saw the Alice series, he would "probably freak and run out of the room." Then when someone explained to him that computers "weren't the work of Satan... imagine he might be pleased."
  • McGee says Electronic Arts "carefully apply proven marketing techniques to achieve the desired customer response."
  • McGee does not want his responses, or lack of responses, interpreted as being "arrogant," "deceptive," or "ignorant."
  • McGee appreciates the positive feedback on the Alice series, though wishes Alice fans were more enthusiastic about his other projects.
  • A common inside joke on the forums is that when people annoy him or do not read his rules on the "Ask American" section of the forum, he will send them to the "DRC" (or "Dolphin Rape Cave"). He simply sees it as more of his dark imagination.
  • American McGee has stated that if you say his name three times, he will appear.
  • McGee has stated his mission is "to create a unified production method for story telling across the interactive and film industries" and of himself, he says, "I want to be the next Walt Disney, only a little more wicked."
  • McGee is an atheist and a libertarian.
  • In 2015, American McGee's sister mysteriously went missing and he does not know where she is.[6]

References Edit

  1. The Great American (McGee) Game. Retrieved on September 12, 2016.
  2. Closure of Shanghai Studio, Start of New Adventures. Retrieved on September 12, 2016.
  3. American McGee to serve as 'lead pirate' on seafaring game jam. Retrieved on September 12, 2016.
  4. Twitter Post. Retrieved on September 12, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 American McGee interview. Retrieved on September 12, 2016.
  6. Disappearance of my Sister, Mercy Covington. Retrieved on September 12, 2016.

External links Edit

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