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27th October 2018
Community Spotlight: Patrick & PayneReactor
[October Feature / Max Payne 2 Anniversary Special]

Community Spotlight is a regular feature which highlights amazing fan projects in the Remedy community. For 2018 we're switching things up a little with each month having its own spotlighted fan and fan project. For our October feature I'm excited to talk about PayneReactor, the longest-running Max Payne fansite, and speak to its current-owner, Patrick Streutjens. 

With the fifteenth anniversary of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne this month, it felt like the perfect time to talk to one of the community's most dedicated pillars of the Remedy community and longest-running Max Payne fansite, PayneReactor. It's owner is the lovely Patrick Streutjens, and he does an amazing job at keeping the site updated with in-depth and fascinating articles curated for fans of the Max Payne series. The content he writes is always fresh and interesting, and his passion clearly comes through in everything that he writes, an impressive feat especially considering that in just a few months, PayneReactor will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary.

The site itself has a ton of history with its original owner, Kristian Hollund, carving a space online and establishing one of the first fan hubs of the Max Payne community.  Originally known as InsanePayne, the site was launched in 1999 by Kristian in anticipation for the release of the upcoming game. Two years later, in 2001, the site partnered with GameReactor, adopting the name PayneReactor. The collaboration also saw Kristian travel to the Remedy studios to interview the developers for a special feature, later published and translated by the site's umbrella company. In the month that the game came out, visitor numbers shot up, totalling a staggering one million views worldwide. Kristian returned to independently running the site as the sequel was announced by kept the "PayneReactor" name. In 2003, as the modding scene in the community grew with the release of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, Patrick joined the PayneReactor team. The two worked closely together during Max Payne 3's production, meeting in person for the first time at the press event in New York.

After being a contributor for ten years, Patrick took up the reigns full time in 2013, following Kristian's departure for new projects. Under new control, the site evolved, focusing on story-driven games, and with a slick new look for the occasion. Since taking over, Patrick has covered the release of multiple Remedy and Rockstar titles including Quantum Break, Control, Red Dead Redemption 2, alongside many more games. While still celebrating the Max Payne series, Patrick has brought the site into a new era celebrating story-driven games like those which originally inspired the site.


We recently spoke to PayneReactor's owner, Patrick about joining the site back in 2003, and his favourite memories since:

Tell us a little about yourself!

First, allow me to thank you for having me. It’s interesting the least, now to be on the opposite side of the table. I had the opportunity to interview many people myself, but never have I been asked questions when it comes to the website or Max Payne. It’s quite the honor. Especially since the one asking the questions is such a kind, genuine caring person. [Editor notes: LIES! ALL LIES! But thank you for your lovely words!]

My name is Patrick Streutjens and I live in the most southern part of the Netherlands. Although it’s our capital where most of the events and business happens, it’s actually great for international travel as Germany and Belgium are just right around the corner. This year I’ve turned 27 years old and I live and breathe videogames. I’m employed as a Marketing & Communications Manager at Taiwanese computer manufacturer MSI, which enables me to keep in touch with many industry veterans and other like-minded people. As an advocate for a healthy lifestyle, you can often find me in the gym. If time allows me too, I’d like to visit the cinema as well or immerse myself in story-driven videogames.

Oh yes, and apparently I write too.
Patrick at a behind-closed-doors press demo for Control at Gamescom 2018. [Read his preview here].


How were you introduced to Max Payne?

It’s odd considering how old the game is, but the memory is perhaps one of the most vivid ones left from that time period. I was still a minor, around 11 years old. The game and the events that would all follow had such a profound impact on my life and my personality as a whole, it’s something I will not forget overnight. I had a friend in primary school that was lucky enough to have a dad that was very much into PC gaming, so he was too. I on the other hand, had an Uncle that introduced me to the PlayStation, after he already had gotten me addicted to the SNES. This would complement our friendship, often meeting at each other’s houses after school in order to play the best games both platforms had to offer. At one point, his Dad warned us we were not allowed to play a game he had installed the night before because it was violent and very mature. Needless to say, we started it up before he was able to finish his sentence. That game was Max Payne.



When you joined PayneReactor, the site was being run by Kristian Hollund, how did you two meet and how did you become officially involved with writing for PayneReactor?

We didn’t actually meet until the Max Payne 3 Preview event 2012, but by that point we had already worked together on the website for many years. At some point in 2003, Kristian was struggling to keep the site relevant with interesting news and articles after the release of Max Payne 2. He posted an vacancy regarding an ‘News Editor’ position. It took some convincing from fellow community managers, because I was unsure my level of English back then would suffice (I mean, I was 13 years or so). I don’t think many realized I was still a minor back then, but Kristian told me it was my sheer enthusiasm that got me the job. Not my level of English. It was nerve wrecking at first but I took it as a challenge. I have improved quite a lot through the years, up to the point where I’m totally fine with a few spelling mistakes here and there.
Rockstar's Max Payne 3 press demo held in New York, where Kristian and Patrick met in person. [Read their preview here].
I think the hardest part is actually the writing itself. I mean, it’s something most people take for granted when reading an article but a person took the time to compile a slew of words into something that might be entertaining or informative to you. Consider the creativity one would need to keep each story fresh and interesting. You can’t start your all your articles the same way, or let your interviews consist of the same questions over and over again. It’s a challenge to your creativity and something that definitely needs time to recharge. I think this is also one of the reasons I’d like to start many stories with something personal. Like a memory or an experience. Once you have a decent beginning, the rest of the words just tend to flow.



How did you become the owner of PayneReactor?

When Max Payne 2 was released, the game’s customization capabilities kept it afloat for many more years. But as time progressed, and news of a possible sequel being absent, prominent members of the community finished their projects and went on to do different things. The site was still primarily focused on Max Payne back then, even though we were also fans of games like Metal Gear Solid and Alan Wake (which also would take six more years to see the light of day). It became increasingly harder to keep the site relevant. Then, it’s also not an easy task to keep up with technology, as CMS systems (the back-end system many websites use as base) were rapidly evolving. The site had already had specific needs that systems like WordPress couldn’t offer back then. We had a custom designed CMS by Matt Lowden (http://mattlowden.com/paynereactorcom) that required serious maintenance every now and then. We just couldn’t keep up. I remember at one point, we had a second CMS installed to keep the original one afloat.
PayneReactor's earlier look from 2003. Image by Matt Lowden.
The moment Max Payne 3 was announced, we decided and overhaul was necessary. So we ditched all the content we had (It was unsalvageable unfortunately) and started over in Joomla. Kristian did the design back then but he was not as skilled in Photoshop as I was. When I offered to take over designing as well, it was clear that Kristian became more and more responsible for keeping us afloat technically, while it became my job to keep coming with interesting content. As more time became available for Kristian he started focusing on other hobbies like 3D modelling and animation. He was also employed as a website developer and he became increasingly frustrated with the technical side of things after his day to day job. When he informed me he was thinking of closing down the whole thing, I offered to take over. Luckily, he agreed.



Was it initially strange at first taking over full-time on the site or did it feel like a natural transition due to your prior work on the project?

Not really, as I became progressively more responsible for the website. However, in the early days of running the website myself I would often freak out and panic when the CMS would go tits up and knowledge on how to restore things was absent. But trail and error is the best learning school and so I became more confident and skilled in making sure the gears remain greasy. The years might go on but Kristian is always there for me when I’m in need of information.



What has been the most fulfilling aspect of running the site?

Apart from it being an outlet for my creativity, I’m just proud the website still exists to this day. That in itself is an achievement. In less then half a year we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary, isn’t that bizarre?

 Moreover, the website also became more personal. I tend to share the stuff that I deem interesting and often lack consistency. So you could find me talking enthusiastically about a game announcement one day, only to never hear about it again after. I just think that enthusiasm can be sensed in the writing we do. From the feedback I’ve gathered so far, people tend to like that. They tell me when they read my writing, it’s like someone is telling them a story around the campfire.
PayneReactor's current look.
It’s a great fit too. I like story- and character driven experiences. People who are into Max Payne usually do too. It’s a way to keep the site relevant now we find ourselves in a situation where another Max Payne game is mere speculation. Sure, as a huge Remedy and Rockstar fan, these companies provide plenty of content to write about in the meantime. Also, as we started to cover more games, the site also attracted interest from other developers and publisher. We often get invited to preview/review various (indie) videogames and our recognition in the industry gets us in all the cool parties. That last part was a joke. But it does raise my brows every now and then to see what we’re able to pull off when compared to much more recognized websites. Being important is nice, but being nice is more important.



What has been your favourite memory since becoming a writer for the site?

Ha! This one is easy. Contrary to your other questions this one didn’t take a few minutes to think about. There have been two defining moments in my life (!) that PayneReactor made possible. It’s perhaps a bit cheesy to others but again, Max Payne has been with me for more than half my life. Needless to say, Sam Lake is one of my all time heroes. He was the face of a character I idolized. His writing I experienced as poetry. I can’t express how grateful I am when I finally got to meet him during a Quantum Break demo event. It was surreal. I tried to keep myself cool during a conversation that contained all of the freaked-out-fan clich├ęs. Including sweaty armpits I hope he didn’t smell. Even more surreal was when I got to meet him again, in a random encounter later that day on the metro when he was on his way to his hotel. Both more relaxed, he told me about his newborn son and that he actually visits the site every now and then. The cherry on the pie.
Patrick with Remedy's Creative Director, Sam Lake at Gamescom 2015. Photo sent by Patrick.
The second time is the Max Payne 3 preview event, as mentioned earlier. A defining moment, as it was the first time I got to meet with Kristian. We could get along instantly and we spent almost a whole day casually strolling in New York, sightseeing and reminiscing about the old days. We were also extremely proud to realize Rockstar was still having our back even though we went through tough weather in-between Max Payne games. I had never been to New York before, so this trip made an impression nonetheless. (http://paynereactor.com/hands-on-preview-of-max-payne-3/).



What would you like to see in a potential Max Payne 4?

As this interview is coming to a close, allow me to take a moment and thank you. Aside from the fact that you’re a fantastic person, I have to admit that you’re doing an amazing job with your website. Every videogame developer should envy having someone like you part of their community, and if it is up to me, we’d be doing this together for many more years to come. [Editor notes: Such heinous lies.]

Now, regarding your question, I’m not sure if I’d even want a new Max Payne sequel to happen. Max Payne 2 already managed to close Max’s story in a strong, respectful way. Max Payne 3 didn’t really push the character in new and interesting territory, in many ways you could see it as a retread of Max Payne 2. It contains many of the same story beats.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Max Payne 3. Sure, one can definitely notice it has been made by another team but that team operated out of love for the franchise. Realistically speaking though, I think Max Payne 3 was able to exist partly because of the many innovations in videogames that occurred in the meantime. I honestly question if ‘Max Payne 4’ could bring something new and interesting to the table. What story would there be left to tell?

It also doesn’t help that the games are timeless, apart from the fact that it becomes increasingly more difficult to run them on modern systems. For that reason, I think at the moment it would be much more interesting to see if Rockstar can come up with a way to port the games to a newer, more modern engine. I know many fans have been asking for that to happen. If it will happen, I hope I’ll be there to report about it.

Patrick out.

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