Sam Lake as Max Payne

I often find myself thinking the thoughts that perhaps few others have ever entertained. Rarely is this worthwhile or groundbreaking, but my mind just has a way of meandering to oddball topics.

For instance, while pursuing my game library on Steam the other day, I happened upon a thumbnail for my copy of the original Max Payne. I was flooded by fond memories of the dozens of hours I spent playing this classic action title, but I was also struck by an odd question: Is Sam Lake the only person from the video-game industry to ever be featured on the cover of a game his studio developed?

If you don’t know who Sam Lake is — or even what Max Payne is, for that matter — Sam Lake is the Creative director of Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind the first two Max Payne games as well as Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Control. Mr. Lake wrote the scripts for all of these games, which means he is pretty awesome. He also lent his visage to the original character design of Max in the first game. They literally scanned his face and plastered it to the head model of the character, with an expression that has — poetically, of course — been likened to the expression of extreme constipation. Admittedly, I thought it was pretty cool at the time.

Sam Lake as Max Payne

Max Payne is a third-person action game that used bullet-time slo-mo to replicate Max’s superhuman ability to shoot the ever living crap out of bad guys with a coolness factor of maximum. You can get a copy for like $4, so you should probably pick it up if you’ve never played it. You’ll thank me later — but you’ll also curse my name once you get to the blood trail maze.

Of all of the talented folks working in video games, Mr. Lake is certainly one who deserves to be featured on a game cover. Then again, he doesn’t seem to have the larger-than-life personality of some of the other folks in the industry, at least in the interviews I’ve seen of him. He’s a surprising figure to have this distinction, given this is an industry chock full of — and I mean this in the nicest way possible — some really egocentric auteurs.

Given that this is an industry with — and God bless him — a personality like Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear Solid and Death Stranding, whose head is practically the size of the moon, thanks in no small part to a rabid fanbase and, of course, Geoff Keighley himself fawning over the man at every turn.

Heck, even Randy Pitchford seems like the type of bloke whose ego could use such a stroking as to have his likeness plastered all over covers of Borderlands. But no, his mug is nowhere to be found.

There is one other example I can think of, and I’m digging deep into the bowels of history here. The cover of the 1981 game Softporn Adventure — which would later give birth to the Leisure Suit Larry franchise — featured actual Sierra On-Line (On-Line Systems, at the time) employees topless in a hot tub.

Softporn Adventure

From left to right, you have production manager Diane Siegel, bookkeeper Susan Davis, and On-Line co-founder Roberta Williams. The waiter, however, is an actual waiter who agreed to be in the photo. No, I’m not making this up; this is a real piece of 1980s video-game history. In fact, we talked about this in the first ever episode of the Half-Glass Gaming podcast back in 2015.

Still, my hat’s off to you, Sam Lake, for being part of such an exclusive club. Not only have you injected some exquisite writing into some totally awesome games, but your face has become iconic as the original mug of Max Payne. And you didn’t even have to take off your clothing to do it.

Well done, sir.

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