On the morning of August 25, RPGamer’s long-time Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Cunningham peacefully passed away. Many of those from throughout the gaming community, including many of our friends at RPGFan and RPG Site, as well as from various publishers and developers, have been great in offering their support and showing just how beloved Michael was for his tireless support and positivity. We invited all of those who wished to express any tributes or memories, and have collected them all on this page in order to ensure that his life and time at RPGamer is rightfully celebrated. We will keep collecting tributes to Michael — and have some further tributes planned — so if you wish to add to the messages below please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ensure that it gets added.
We wish to offer our heartfelt thanks to all those who have offered their condolences and support to the RPG staff and Michael’s friends and family both publicly and privately.
When I submitted my first editorial back in 2009, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with RPGamer. Michael had emailed me back, he said work had to be done but there was definitely potential. At the time, I wasn’t confident in a lot of things, and writing was something that I loved to do, but was shy about sharing. Michael was always patient with me during edits, always offering suggestions to strengthen my writing, but often admitted he wasn’t the best writer either.
I was very fortunate to work alongside Michael in a variety of roles throughout my time with RPGamer. When he took over for Public Relations, I was his assistant, the one ensuring in the background that people were being recognized for their solid work, organizing and helping maintain Michael’s various spreadsheets, and being his brain in situations where clarity was often necessary. We took care of each other — we were constantly checking in on where articles stood, what was outstanding, and worked well together. I always appreciated his guidance, and when I was riled up by poor comments or failures I had encountered, there was always compassion and encouragement.
Michael was like a big brother to me in that he knew when to poke fun, but also when work needed to get done as well. When my parents died in 2013 and 2016 respectively, he was always encouraging me to do what I could for the site if it was a helpful distraction, but also made it clear not to overload myself given I was a thirty-year-old Executor still trying to figure out how to deal with the loss of my parents. I am ever grateful to the patience and understanding he had while I was a complete and utter disaster.
When Michael got sick, I checked in with him regularly, and I loved our time working on the Active Topical Banter Show alongside Trent Seely and my husband, Scott Wachter. We crafted a lot of fantastic features over the years, and Mac was always willing to play along with some of my more ridiculous ideas, such as my Dragon Age: Inquisition dating feature. I had such fantastic memories of Run to the Sun events where we’d be cursing down the highway singing along to Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, or singing karaoke with the staff at XSEED Games. One of my favourite moments was going to NIS America, and Nao Miyazawa gave us Ar Tonelico 2 swag that included a sexy towel and body pillow, and Michael looking at it and going “Well, I’m in trouble.”
I also have stories of kicking sand while inebriated, yelling straight at the Pacific Ocean about how I didn’t like negative comments from fans, and how I faceplanted into the and, near the ocean, and Michael and Adriaan den Ouden having to pick my sorry butt back up while they teased me profusely. I have memories from when we went to Disney Land and how Michael had to sit at the front of every ride because he loved to be able to see what was coming right for him.
It hurts to write a lot of this because I know that I won’t be to speak with him anymore on a daily basis. It hurts knowing how much pain his family, friends, and the RPGamer family are clearly feeling as well. I was very fortunate to have him in my life for nearly ten years, and I know I’ll treasure those memories with me. He helped me gain confidence in myself that I never thought I’d find, and he did an amazing job encouraging the staff in their projects and allowing us to be ourselves in a way that perhaps other sites would have likely censored. The gaming community has lost such a kind, wonderful and encouraging soul, and my heart goes out to his wife, Christie, and all his friends and family who are also grieving the loss of this amazing man.
— Sam Wachter
Michael has been ever-present in my time at RPGamer. He was the one who first approached me to write for the site despite my failure to finish the game I was intending to review for the hiring call, and was always on had to offer any advice or discuss any plans for things. (Pro-tip: don’t choose to do an awful game that can make itself impossible to complete for such things, though apparently the bravery of attempting it may provide a bit of kudos. Strangely enough, I actually ended up sending that game to Mac for his handheld collection — it is perhaps the only copy of it to have gone across that Atlantic twice.) From chatting with others about him, it’s been all too apparent that he was someone who went out of his way to help others whenever he could.
His positivity was a big part in what made writing for RPGamer enjoyable, many of my favourite moments have involved looking forward to things — particularly whenever new Trails releases were on the horizon — either in general or as part of the discussions for some our upcoming games features, as well as sharing a mutual habit to put things into spreadsheets. Mac was never one to let people drown in negativity, always there to lend an ear and give advice when things weren’t perhaps going as planned. Even when games were terrible, Mac was able to ensure that some fun came out of it and that staff members were never dragged down by them and keep them looking forward to the next thing.
Even during the last few years, Michael has gone out of his way to keep ensuring things were ticking along, and the support he has provided in all of the various roles I have been in at RPGamer has been invaluable. Certainly the one regret I have is that we never managed to meet in person, but I will always very fondly remember all of the many chats we had over the years. I don’t think it can be understated how much Michael will be missed. The world needs more people like Michael and everyone here is all the better for knowing him.
— Alex Fuller
I wish I had known Michael better. I never met him in real life, but in my time writing for RPGamer, I considered him a friend. He was always kind and considerate. He encouraged people to share what they loved in the world of RPGs and video games, just as he shared his. He brought out the best in people, helping me and many others to write about their favorite hobby.
There are many small moments I remember, and will now cherish about Mac. Amusing conversations among staff. How he was almost proud that he had never touched a mainline Pokémon game, though I seem to recall that he said he had played the spin-off game Pokémon Snap. His love of video game music, and of course, of handheld gaming. Team Handheld was already something I was engrossed in before the hashtag, but Mac put a name to it.
I was privileged to be on a few episodes of the RPG Backtrack podcast with Michael as well, a show he started. I will look back fondly on the Backtrack episodes we were on together, such as some of the early Final Fantasy episodes and Shining Force I-III, but they will have a tinge of sadness to them as well.
He was the backbone of RPGamer, and while the site will continue on, it will be with heavy hearts. I can’t even imagine what his family and closest friends are going through right now. My heart goes out to his loved ones. It was far too soon for him to go, but I will always remember Michael. Rest in peace, my friend.
— Cassandra Ramos
I’ve known Mac for over ten years, and I’m gutted we never had a chance to meet face-to-face. Every time we talked online, he was encouraging and enthusiastic. These talks were primarily game and site-focused. For example:
Him: Got Tactics Ogre in, still want it?
Me: Sure thing. Unless it’s cursed!
Him: I can unequip it, so you should be good.
Well Zach. I don’t know what to say….
That’s mainly because in a proof, I’m supposed to say what I found wrong, and I didn’t find anything. Nothing.
That second quote was his response to one of my earliest posts for the site. I was shy and academic in those days, and he helped pull my writing in the direction of something people would actually want to read. He wouldn’t suffer sloppiness, but when a piece turned out well (even if it took a couple of drafts) he made me feel like I was an important part of the team.
Mac would pan deserving games with gentle, understanding humor, but he saved the lion’s share of his energy to enjoy what he cared about. While so much of the public face of video gaming is anger and disgust, Mac showed overwhelming positivity.
Mac shared his intensity by encouraging others’ enthusiasm. He didn’t always understand why I liked the games I did, but he’d help me chase down features and line up interviews that speak to my own passions. He connected people, protected us, and got stuff done. Michael, that is your story.
— Zach Welhouse
Since I’m one of the newer members of staff, I didn’t get the opportunity to work with Michael as much as I would have liked, but I’ve known him for years thanks to Twitter. He was always such a kind and positive person who loved sharing his passions with others. I can’t remember anymore how we got to talking online, but I do remember a shared love of the Trails games got us talking often.
I know that I wouldn’t be at RPGamer if not for him. His encouragement to join as well as when I was starting out meant a lot to me. He was always generous with his time, helping me find me find my footing. I’m going to miss him dearly.
— Joshua Carpenter
I never physically met Michael “Macstorm” Cunningham, but I did speak with him on a number of occasions using the magic of modern-day communications. On the numerous occasions when we recorded podcasts together he and I had a good time, joined in our experience of gems on the Sega Saturn and the Shining Force series. Mac could be hard to nail down for a recording when his life didn’t afford a lot of opportunities to sit in front of a computer and talk for a while, but I was always happy to have such a knowledgeable fellow around when I could.
In addition to a love of handhelds, I think Mac would agree that patience and optimism were among his strong suits. He referred to himself as the RPGamer Red Mage, able to do a great number of things but not excelling in any particular regard. He wouldn’t nag people about deadlines and was happy just to have projects in the process of being created instead of chiding over a lack of content. Mac was also very good at compartmentalization, in which he would not reflect any more than necessary upon unappealing things he had experienced, the better to stay optimistic about future creations from teams with which he had a history. Not that having a history is necessarily a bad thing, just that Mac always tried to stay positive.
I think that’s also something Mac would be happy to have as an epitaph: that he stayed positive whenever possible. He didn’t like to indulge in bashing anything.
— Mike Moehnke
Macstorm was fun. That may seem like an overly simple way to remember someone, but I think it encompasses him perfectly. Every interaction was fun, be it talking about old games on Backtracks or simply getting set up with a code for a review game and wondering if he’d slyly slipped me a code for something awful. We had an entertaining dynamic where I always seemed to enjoy mechanics he hated, so he always joked about us being yin and yang. If not for him I probably would have left the site back when I was growing tired of writing Q&A. He had a real passion for gaming, and whenever he recommended something, especially a indie game or something from a small publisher, I always tried to check them out. He was just one of the most engaging and entertaining people I’ve had the pleasure to interact with.
— Michael Apps
I’ve known Michael for about 5 or so odd years now and constantly made sure he got the games he needed (I worked for NISA in the past and he was solely the person I’d give physical copies to NISA games, which was something we never did except for really great press people like Michael).
Whenever I would reach out to Michael, he would always be excited to receive new games and even more excited that he’s receiving a physical copy. When we’d go to E3, I’d always ask him to see if he’ll be in attendance this year, so I could finally meet him in person, but every year, he says he’s too sick. Years passed and more annual events still without the attendance of Michael.
I never got the chance to meet him, and if I did, I’m sure it would be filled with lots of laughter. I wish his family the best and I hope he’s resting at a better place now.
— Robert Agustin
The first thing Mac ever said to me was, “Nooooooooooo!” I’d just been hired as a newsie at RPGamer and he realized that not only did he have to deal with a billion other Michaels, but a fellow Cunningham as well. That exclamation would echo through my time at RPGamer, as PR people and even staff from other RPG sites occasionally mistook me for his wife. Seeing as we were both happily married to other people, this amused us greatly. I couldn’t think of a nicer guy to be absolutely not married to.
From his patented blurbing lessons to his strongly-held grammatical beliefs, Mac knew how to walk the talk as an editor. RPGamer’s tough love editorial policy inspired me to transform myself from a stuffy academic into a web-ready popular writer, which helped me move into paid work in the industry. At the same time, Mac’s openness and encouragement inspired me when I myself became an editor. I always tried to be like Mac and offer both constructive criticism and encouragement. Even when I was no longer able to spend much time on RPGamer, Mac always welcomed any contributions I could make. Even though it’s been a number of years since I wrote for the site, I still feel like part of the family, and Mac is a big part of that.
Kind, enthusiastic, and with a low tolerance for unnecessary drama, Mac was the kind of all-around good guy that everybody is happy to know. Although I never had the chance to meet him in the real world, my life has been enriched by his mentorship and friendship. So here’s to my favourite Red Mage, fellow traveller on Easy Street, and occasional fakespouse. #teamhandheld forever!
— Becky Cunningham
Michael is someone I have known online for many years, starting from a very early point of my time on Twitter around 2012. With both of us writing for our respective RPG websites, we were naturally drawn to one another as friends who clearly shared many of the same interests.
A couple of years after I first communicated with Michael online, I started to put together a podcast for my site. At the time, I was strongly considering having a roundtable discussion, and we both excitedly talked about working together on it with some members of other sites such as RPGFan. While that plan never came to fruition, I felt like we always had the willingness to collaborate in some capacity down the line.
When I read the news of Michael’s passing, it struck me really hard. Here is someone I had never met before in real life, but I had been good friends with chatting about this genre we’re so passionate about (among other topics). I will never forget how enjoyable and full of life he was, and how he didn’t even let a thing like cancer put him in a different mood for long. We even tried to cheer each other up whenever we felt down.
So I just wanted to say, I’ll miss you a lot, buddy, and I’ll be thinking of you whenever a new game comes out that I want to have a chat with you about. Here’s to a great man who very much deserves all the respect in the world for how important he was (and still is) to the community.
— Zack Reese
Before I got my start at RPGFan, I had always desired cooperation between this site and their site. I wasn’t sure how it could, or would, happen. Then Michael “Mac” Cunningham came along. He made intentional strides to demonstrate to the gaming community that different websites can work together and provide excellent coverage; to borrow a Biblical phrase, as iron sharpens iron.
Mac brought out the best in us and in our respective web platforms. We need more gracious and kind people like Mac in our community, and in the world. I cannot help but feel that we lost him too soon. Unfortunately, that all is outside our control now. But his example is his legacy. We can embrace the best aspects of fandom by following his example. We will miss you, Mac.
— Patrick Gann
I didn’t know Mac personally, but I followed him on Twitter for years and found him to be a kind and compassionate man, and a voice for positivity in our community. I will forever miss his insight on handheld gaming, and the optimism he had in the face of overwhelming odds. The loss of his light makes our community that much dimmer. Rest in peace.
— Peter Triezenberg
Michael and I became friends through our shared love of RPGs and RPG music. We met early in 2015 while recording RPGFan’s (at the time) annual music of the year podcast, which Michael always guest starred on. I was new to podcasting and video game journalism, but Michael was instantly welcoming and excited to converse with people who shared some of his interests. Every year, he brought interesting and unexpected selections to talk about, and our humble show was made that much richer and more entertaining through his insight and passion for both the genre and its music. We sadly never met in person, but he was always a delight to talk to on social media, and I know his loss will be difficult to bear, even by those who only knew him this way (myself included).
One thing I will always remember about Michael is how he tried to take everything life threw at him with a smile or a laugh, even when he was dealt an awful hand. He never seemed to let circumstances defeat his spirit, and I hope that gives his family and friends some small comfort in the days ahead.
Thank you for being my friend, Mac, and more importantly, for being you.
— Caitlin Argyros
As part of “the other team,” RPGFan and RPGamer were supposed to be rivals. To be fair, that may actually have been a sentiment in early years, but it went away once Mac was involved. He was just one of those guys you can’t help but like, and want to talk to. He bridged a gap that I didn’t think possible, largely just by being himself, but also when he became a regular on our annual Music of the Year podcasts.
Mac was a special guest on four of said podcasts, and a key player in making them memorable shows. Sure, he brought fascinating music selections to the show that we’d never considered, but what mattered most was his enthusiasm. His sheer, unbridled enthusiasm came through in those shows, and it just wasn’t the kind of thing that one could fake. It was when I learned how much I liked him as a person, and we made sure he was always welcome.
It feels like such a cliché to say, ‘I wish I had a chance to get to know someone better,’ but it really sums up my thoughts on losing Mac. I didn’t get to hang out with him, battle him in Theatrhythm, or anything like that. But I knew him enough to know he was good people, and that I already miss him dearly. But it does make me glad to know – as I hear stories – just how many lives he touched, and improved, by going into each day with a smile. He was, remains, and should be, an inspiration to us all.
— Mike Salbato
I don’t remember how I started following Mac’s work, although I’m sure it was looking around RPGamer in one shape or form. The earliest piece of work that sticks out in my mind though is his review of Ys Seven. I was largely unfamiliar with the Ys series at that point, only having played the SNES’s Ys III: Wanderers from Ys as a kid and being less than thrilled that I had picked it as my weekend rental. I think the chain that got me there started with XSEED publishing Lunar: Silver Star Harmony and then seeing their next thing was Ys Seven. Holding off until I saw a review for it, Mac’s was the one the sold me on giving it a shot. He was coming at it with the same experience I was and he seemed to enjoy it enough that I felt it worth giving it a go. Not only did this start a love affair with the series as a whole, but also got me into Falcom as a developer and, probably even more important to me, turned me onto Falcom Sound Team jdk. Mac and I shared a love of the Ys soundtracks and, as time went on, found we both shared an (odd) affinity for early 90’s R&B. I’ve had a lot of random Twitter interactions with Mac over the years, and they were always great.
Not only was Mac someone whose work I respected (as well as his taste in music), but I also was amazed at just how kind he was. A few years back, I saw an opening for a reviewer at RPGamer and decided to take a swing at it. I sent out a rather formulaic email to him, pointing to some of the stuff I had reviewed for my own site. Much to my surprise, he responded that he had read some of my stuff. He went over in great detail what the expectations were and what I would probably end up covering if chosen for the position. The details are a little fuzzy, but I do remember him saying I was a bit more positive on things than RPGamer typically is, but it’s something they tend to ‘beat out of their staff’. Unfortunately, due to some professional circumstances on my end, it ended with me having to pull out for the position (although I have no idea how deep in the possibility pool I had made it), but Mac was more than kind about it, offering advice about my writing and critical analysis.
There were a few times I would try to get in contact with someone from a publisher or a studio. Running into a wall, Mac was one of the people I knew I could reach out to and he was always more than happy to help if he could. I never worked for Mac, but he was always more than willing to go the extra mile for me just because that was the kind of person he was. When I wanted to do a podcast with a couple of people from his staff, I asked if it was okay if I “borrowed” them and Mac’s only condition was that I pronounce the site correctly.
Michael Cunningham was one of a kind. He was an incredibly positive influence in a culture that often has reputation for being the exact opposite. Mac not only helped turn me into the Falcom fan I am today, he helped turn me into a regular reader/listener of RPGamer. Everyone I’ve interacted with from the site has been nothing but great to me (even if Adriaan and I occasionally have these weird debates about whether or not Harvest Moon are games about being capitalist or socialist). I’m happy to have gotten to know Mac well enough over the years to not only be a fan of his work, but also to consider him a friend, mentor, and inspiration.
Mac, you meant more to me than I realized until your passing. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me over the years. Not only will I be #TeamHandheld forever, but I think I’m going to start podcasting with my pants off in your honor (and probably to the horror of my staff). I’ll never forget you. I miss you, Mac. And now I’m going to go play Tactics Ogre on my Vita so I don’t get tears in my laptop.
— Jason Arriola
I had the pleasure of meeting Michael in person at the concert of A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy back in 2016. He had offered the tickets up via Twitter and I asked to claim them. We had chatted on Twitter somewhat prior. After the concert, we had conversed about games quite a bit more, which was clearly his passion. Mine too. I enjoyed seeing his lists and hearing about indie titles that deserved more attention. My only regret is that we didn’t get a photo together back at the concert.
Thanks, Michael, for the concert, the RPG news, and all of the conversations about our shared passion.
I will be buying Mercenaries Saga for Switch and donating to St. Jude’s in your honor.
— Steven Mee
I first met Michael at a gaming event — we were a few of the first people in the world to play Elder Scrolls Online out on a Bethesda press trip. We spent several days together and had a blast, even though we were essentially in direct competition. I’m the co-founder and owner of RPG Site — but I’ve always considered our rivalry and relationship with RPGamer to be friendly, collaborative and kind — and I attribute so much of that to Michael, somebody who I always knew to be enthusiastic, positive and kind.
We only met in person that once, unfortunately, but from the friendship struck up there we’d talk online in private messages semi-frequently, sharing gossip and intelligence about games in development and working to help out each other’s sites as much as we could. That as professional rivals we had such a relationship speaks volumes about him, I think — as does the quality of work and the team he’s put together on RPGamer. Michael seemed to me like the kind of man who will leave a lasting legacy in all the areas of his life — and in the one I can speak to, his site and team, his legacy is enormous — not just on RPGamer but among the RPG Site team, as he was a friend to many of us and a positive example to all of us. I’ll miss him and our all-too-infrequent chats tremendously.
— Alex Donaldson
Michael and I had been talking for almost four years, in that time he was my friend, and an inspiration. A genuine man, who throughout the toughest of times, managed to make the world a much brighter place. I’ll forever cherish our conversations about Final Fantasy, the Vita, and many other video game-related topics. One of our first conversations was about Danganronpa and the Vita, and from there the conversations grew. He was nothing but the kindest and most thoughtful person. I still find myself wanting to reach out to Michael, to hear his opinion on the latest games. I really did cherish our conversations, gaming related or not, each memory with you is just as important. I’m going to take the positivity and kindness Michael has shown me, and try my best to pass it on to others. Even though I never met you in person, I still consider you to be a very dear friend so thank you, Michael. Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for simply being the person you were. Rest peacefully, Mac. I’ll miss you.
— Nathan Bell
Michael was one of the most genuine, positive and kindhearted human beings that I’ve followed on Twitter, and someone that I am fortunate enough to have considered a really good friend. I am really grateful for our conversations about non-video game things as well as our mutual love for dragon quest, vita and #TeamHandheld for the last four years. I am sad that I didn’t get more time to talk to him about these things… especially when a new JRPG would release, reading his thoughts was something that I always was excited about. Even during his hardest of times he made Twitter — and the world in general — a better place with his kindness and optimism, as well as his passion for video games. The gaming community lost someone great, and video games will never be the same without him. He really helped me improve as a person with his impact, and along with everything else about him that was great, that will inspire me for years to come.
You’ll be missed, Mac. Thank you.
— Maddy Jackson
Dependable, kind, passionate, and a forward-thinker, Michael was a person that believed in the goodness of people. Though we’ve only briefly crossed paths directly, I enjoyed reading what he had to say. I sadly never got the chance to meet him in person; I wish I did. He was a mentor to me. When I first started writing for RPG Site a few years back, I’ll be frank — I was lost. I didn’t know what I’d gotten myself into. He was one of the few people I turned to for guidance. His determination to share the truth as he perceived it was powerful — Michael wasn’t one to mince words from what I’ve seen. I recognized that. I respected that.
Even though his passing still weighs on my heart heavily, I’ll never forget the things I’ve learned from this beautiful man. His persistent push for more handheld games is now in full bloom thanks to the Switch. What Michael brought to the world can never be replaced. Rest in peace, my friend.
— Josh Torres
Years ago, when I was still in college, I emailed RPGamer when the site was looking for an editorial columnist. That’s when I met Michael. He looked over my samples and helped me get started. He was always friendly and encouraging, and continued to be when I started my short stint as editorials curator.
I started trying my hand at freelancing and asked him if he’d be a reference for me. He happily agreed, and with the kinds words he lent me and the skills he helped me refine, I launched my career as a writer. I don’t know what my life would be like if he hadn’t helped me. I know that it’s better because he did.
We haven’t spoke as much in recent years, save for the occasional messages and Tweets, but I’ve always been grateful for his help and for his warm presence. Even through the internet, you could get a sense for the good person he was. I’m going to miss him, and I hope he rests in peace.
— Stew Shearer
RPGamer would like to extend their thanks to all of those who have provided tributes to Michael. Again, all of us here at RPGamer wish to offer our deepest condolences to Michael’s friends and family, we hope all that all of these memories will help honor his legacy.