The mirror men of Arkane


This was the longform that put Polygon on everybody’s radar. There hadn’t been a lot of stories like this about video games. Narrative, longform, about the people, not the product.

Prior to releasing Dishonored, Arkane was a little studio with a lot of talent and experience that had so far had really bad luck in the games industry. From cancelled projects to publisher intrigue, it would have made complete sense for this place to close down.

Instead, it found a lifeline in publisher Bethesda, hired the talented Harvey Smith (former Looking Glass and Origin) and started work on what would be a better spiritual successor to Thief: the Dark Project than the actual Thief sequel that was released at exactly the same time.

For this story I drove from Dallas, TX (where I had been visiting family), to Austin, TX. I spent an afternoon with Raph and Harvey from Arkane. After lunch, they showed me their game and then starting talking. And what came out was astonishing.

As it turns out, the two co-creative directors of Arkane have lived almost parallel lives. And the stories of how they both entered the game industry and eventually came to work together were among the most dramatic personal stories I’d ever heard.

At one point, As Harvey started telling me the story of how his father and mother had died (and why he went into the military), I turned to look at Tracey Thompson (Bethesda’s PR rep) as if to ask, “Can I print this?” and Tracey just shrugged and raised her eyebrows. She had no idea.

So I printed it.

The mirror men of Arkane