Though the general public don't have a clue who he is, Harrison is a man who many gamers seem to have some sort of opinion on.
From his days as the public mouth of the PlayStation 3, to (until this week) his role as the corporate spokes-trumpet for Microsoft's Xbox One, he developed a reputation as something of a go-to guy when it comes to rent-a-quote hyperbole. He's one of those industry people who - like, say, Peter Molyneux - tends to polarise, and seemingly gets backs up every time he opens his mouth.
Whether that's justified or not is something else, but it's with a certain degree of regret that I may have had a least a small part to play in Harrison's apparent reputation as, well, a bit of a tit.
Just look at some of the comments accompanying Eurogamer's take on the news that Phil Harrison has left Microsoft:
- "A spineless person who admitted that he lied into consumers faces himself. i think he is a curse for any company that has him."
- "Grade A wanker confirmed."
- "Phil Harrison was a master of spin. In an era of information being so much more easily available, his talent for talking crap has little place.'
- "Adios bullshitter."
- "I see Phil Harrison as a Two faced traitor to be honest."
And that's just Eurogamer: it's a similar picture on every site that has run the story.
I'm going to take a punt, and assume none of those people quoted above have actually met Phil Harrison, and that their opinions are based upon their perception of his public behaviour - related to them, let's face it, second hand through the lens of the gaming press.
Even if they had direct experience of him, I'm sure they probably didn't get to know him well enough to be certain he was - from tip to toe - a "grade A wanker", or "spineless", or a "ghastly suit". Nobody is any of those things, 100%. And we all - c'mon... be honest - have the capacity within us to be a wanker, or spineless, or two-faced, or traitorous, or a bullshitter.
Fortunately, most of us are lucky enough not to be in the spotlight-slash-pressure cooker of having a job as the hype-interface between a huge corporation and the public. None of us has had to launch a console.
Oh - and yes. In case you're wondering... "ghastly suit" is what I once called him.
Some of you might recall that, once upon a time, I had a regular monthly column in Edge magazine and a personal blog. For the most part, the column was an opinion piece. Basically, me finding something to rant about every month. Regardless of how much a topic actually bothered me, I'd always be able to dig out something about it that did bother me - enough to fill a monthly column for five years. That's being a columnist, I suppose: you have to be angry.
Luckily for me, I was really angry back then, so I didn't even have to pretend.
Anyhow, one month something else fell into my lap. Something I witnessed that didn't make me angry, but I knew would've been of interest to other games fans.
Something that, with a bit of tabloid-style spin, would be worthy of inclusion in poor, furious Mr Biffo's Edge column. Or so I decided.
Condemn me if you will, but - as some of you might know and enjoy sniggering about - my favourite band is Marillion. Yes: the band from the 80s, who did Kayleigh, but who are still going. Like Phil Harrison, lots of people have opinions about Marillion, without really knowing them. They're great.
Once every two years, Marillion hold a series of weekend conventions - one in the UK, one in Canada, and one in the arse-end-of-nowhere, in Holland. Back in 2007 - shortly before I dropped myself off the radar/cliff - I happened to be at one of those Holland conventions with Phil Harrison.
Turns out that Harrison is both a fan and a friend of the band. However, I only discovered this when - at the end of a charity auction during an afternoon's festivities - Harrison took to the stage, and offered a PlayStation 3 (signed by the band) as an auction item. He clearly hadn't consulted them about it beforehand - he just kind of appeared out of nowhere, and grabbed a microphone.
Unfortunately, the spur-of-the-moment gesture didn't go down well. It was all a bit awkward - some members of the band seemed uncomfortable - and there was a horrible silence in the hall, when the PS3 received not a single bid. It was a PR blunder, and he'd have gotten away with it...
Had I not been in the audience to witness the whole thing.
Harrison made a misjudgement, swept along in an impulsive rush of enthusiasm that - with the benefit of hindsight - was probably well intentioned, and more about trying to raise money for a good cause than trying to push his product. It felt like he was excited about being there, and wanted to be part of it.
It wasn't particularly funny - it was just really embarrassing, and I felt bad for him.
But still. It didn't feel like I could keep it to myself.
However bad it had been, I was writing a regular monthly column for Edge, and I'd just witnessed something happen involving one of the senior executives behind the PlayStation 3 - a console that I wasn't particularly a fan of at the time.
I was pretty certain I was the only video games journalist in the audience. And certainly the only one who wrote for as esteemed an organ as Edge. I couldn't just sit on it. It felt like I had a duty.
Of course, "I feel a bit bad for Phil Harrison - but at least he's a Marillion fan" wouldn't have made a great column piece. So I wrote something that took the piss. Unfortunately, being me as I was back then, I also made an error of misjudgement and took it too far.
Edge, quite rightly, said they didn't want to run the piece, so I asked if I could put it on my blog. They said that'd be fine. Then I made error No. 2 (times have changed - I don't make mistakes anymore; I'm literally a perfect human being now), and ran it on my blog with the title "Spiked!". Which was stupid of me, because it wasn't at all spiked - it was declined, because it didn't fit with the tone of Edge, or my column.
Anyway. Then it all kicked off. It became a huge news story, reported on countless websites. I got tens of thousands of extra hits on my blog that week, people mostly enjoying Harrison's misfortune, or being shocked that Edge would've "spiked" a story that painted him in an unfavourable light. "Conspiracy!" they cried.
Mostly, though, they just laughed at what they perceived - because I'd painted it that way - as Phil Harrison's stupid, show-stealing behaviour, hijacking a charity event to plug his company's new console. They revelled in his humiliation.
Fact is, that's as far as my history with Phil Harrison goes. I don't know him. I don't even really have an opinion on him. But years ago I wrote something a bit shitty about him regardless - and it was a piece that I still see getting mentioned from time to time.
So, I just wanted to say sorry, really. I've always felt bad about it. I felt bad about the tone of the original piece, and I feel bad that there's a small chance I might've contributed to the momentum behind the whole "Phil Harrison is an idiot" movement.
Phil doesn't know who I am, but I've seen him around at other Marillion events (indeed, maybe I'll see him at the Marillion Weekend in Holland this month). Whenever I have, I've always wanted to apologise in person, but never quite had the guts. Of course, he might not have any idea about what I did, so that might be awkward if I had to explain it first. But still. That's it, really. That was the point of all this. Yeah.
Sorry, Phil. And good luck with whatever you decide to do next.
FROM THE ARCHIVE:
- PHIL HARRISON: The Man, The Made-Up Quotes
- WHATEVER HAPPENED TO XBOX TV SHOWS?
- KINECT 2.0: Requiem For a Dream