Redbrick Alumni/Eurogamer Guides Editor Matthew Reynolds stopped by the office to chat with Jack Cooper, Emma Kent and Roshni Patel about all things gaming
Jack Cooper: The first thing I wanted to ask is, how much has the office, the paper and Redbrick changed since you were here?
Matthew Reynolds: It’s changed a lot in some ways and not much in others. The office itself is very familiar to me, the actual red and white of the walls is the same; the computers, I think, are exactly the same as when I was here because I graduated 10 years ago. The paper, obviously, is modernised but still has very similar layouts, but from the actual sense of the gaming stuff it’s good to see there is more coverage for the gaming section in the paper, there’s more space, there’s more pages, like the fact you have two pages is, I would have had to have killed someone back in the day to make that happen, which is absolutely amazing, we really fought for it and to see that level of coverage is absolutely great. It’s really good to see some things have changed, some things haven’t.
JC: So, when you were here, what were your roles and what did you do while working with Redbrick?
MR: When I first joined I was mainly writing, I was a contributor, so maybe doing a review or something a week, but then the old editor moved on to other things so I took over and was then responsible for commissioning, laying out pages and actually writing. We had a couple of contributors but mainly the onus was on me to be on that which is obviously a lot of responsibility and I think it happened fairly soon after I joined, it was like ‘actually would you mind doing this’ but I really enjoyed it, I think journalism and writing about games was something I always wanted to do so I was really keen to just give it a go and see if I liked it and having that experience where I could do it in my spare time alongside my studies was actually really useful to then be like ‘okay, if I’m really eager to do it now then I think there’s a career there’ which is quite good because I actually did Geography as my degree subject, so nothing to do with journalism or games or anything like that. It was something I always quite fancied doing so to actually try it out be like ‘okay, I’m doing it and it’s actually really quite fun and I’ll give this a go after I graduate.’
JC: Did you have a back-up plan or was it always just gaming journalism?
MR: I had no back-up plan which is really stupid and I recommend anyone who is considering journalism in general to have a back-up plan, not because, you know. I think if you are smart about it and you’re passionate enough you can get a job in journalism absolutely but practically, probably, I’m sure everyone’s family will tell them to have a back-up plan. I think Geography, for me, was too general a subject and I didn’t have a particular thing I wanted to gravitate towards so once I got a taste for actually writing about games itwas like I really wanted this for a career so I’m going to give it a go.
JC: You said that being Editor meant that you learned more about the responsibilities and what would be required of you, what didn’t Redbrick prepare you for in the gaming industry?
MR: Oh, good question. I think learning how the industry works in terms of publishers, PR agencies, how all that works and who you would approach for getting access to game codes or game events that sort of thing. Also, to a certain degree, how you would actually approach Editors and actual publications. I think the experience at Redbrick was useful in terms of hands-on like I know how to lay-out a page, you get experience in writing and testing out angles of what people might like and might not in terms of readership but actually practical experience in terms of once you graduate, how you would approach an editor in terms of freelance, jobs, anything like that. That wasn’t really there, I remember I think badgering just the wrong people, that sort of thing. I think trying to learn that if you can is quite useful. That wasn’t necessarily the fault of Redbrick as a whole, I think it was because I was the editor of the Gaming section and I just, there was no-one necessarily to, maybe I didn’t think of learning that sort of experience right so that was something I had to learn on the job and I was very fortunate in that I joined a pay publication a couple of months after graduating, it was only part-time but I could slowly learn how all those things worked.
JC: So what has been your career path from graduating from the University of Birmingham to now being the Guides Editor for Eurogamer?
MR: So what happened was that I graduated in summer 2008 and then I tried to freelance for a bit and I got one or two pieces in a magazine called Retro Gamer but obviously, to make a stab of it, I ideally wanted regular work and I was fortunate enough that a website called Digital Spy, who’s a mainstream website, covering movies, music and celeb stuff, were looking for gaming contributors. So I applied and went down to London and did an interview and thankfully got the job which was great and there were four of us and we all did a bit of news, a bit of like, I think it was like two news shifts a week and one review a week and that was really great and what that allowed us to do was to get regular writing experience and just regular paid experience writing for that and I think actually being able to write regularly was helpful in getting into the industry in terms of practicing. To get better at this job you just need to put in the hours in some ways, regular writing, and being paid to do that was good.
So I was there for a while and long story short I saw there was an opportunity for an editor position because it was very much that the deputy editor was kind of managing a bunch of sections, but it was mainly reporters rather than dealing with editors so there was no one actually managing the gaming section as an editor itself and I was quite keen to be like ‘there’s surely more we can do, we can cover reviews, we can cover events, we can interview people and there is easily room to do this and I think it would do well for the website’ and I didn’t specifically ask but I kind of tried to take on those responsibilities myself, I kind of went out my way to be like ‘there’s a preview event, I can go to this, it’s in London, I’ll make the trip’ or we’d chat to a publisher and get a code or whatever it might be and I think in the end they kind of, thankfully, saw me as a responsible person to do that and offered me the gaming editor position. It helped that alongside that there was lots of different roles in the company so I did some production stuff like image editing, video uploading so that was quite good to get experience with that and also I worked on Big Brother as well, so Digital Spy was really into reporting on Big Brother when it was really big, it was kind of like its bread and butter, which is very different from gaming, but it was just like regular news experience. Basically, you just watch the afternoon shifts and if anything interesting happens write a story on it and that was quite good experience of news coverage in general, also we did live, there was a 24-hour stream and you had like shift work of just following the stream and doing text updates, you know how the Guardian has a live blog, so I got stuck with the night shifts once and it was just a week of watching people sleep so you had to get really creative with like ‘Samantha is snoring’, ‘Sam has just rolled over’ and just, at the same time that was when people would crack under the pressure.
Emma Kent: So you’d have nothing and then something major?
MR: Yeah, the camera would shift and someone would be getting a bowl of cereal at like 3 in the morning and it’s like ‘are they going to climb over the wall? I’ve got to really be careful here’. So it was important they had someone there to do it but that was really good live blogging experience so then with Redbrick the print publication don’t really have that, obviously there’s the website part of it but actually live reporting, just taking on information and conveying it quickly takes practice so that’s kind of useful. I think by the time, maybe like 18 months in, after I first started they saw that I was politely pestering them to do more for gaming, I also knew the website in terms of production and things like that, and they trusted me and I was really fortunate that I got offered a full-time position.
So I was there for a number of years, I moved down to London and that was really good in terms of building the stature of the website and the section itself, to be able to hire more contributors, that sort of thing. I was there for a number of years, it was very good then a couple of years ago, so I was there maybe five years then, I left to join a studio called Hello Games who made No Man’s Sky and I was there very briefly and I realised I missed journalism so then I saw Eurogamer was hiring and then I joined Eurogamer as their Guides Editor. It was a really good fit because in my teenage years I wrote FAQs and walkthroughs in my spare time so I would be on GameFAQs writing just walkthroughs and I’d spend the summer playing Shenmue again and just very meticulously outlining what it was, and what you needed to do, and little secrets and things like that and I really enjoyed it so to be able to come back to that was actually quite nice. Plus I had all the experience of being an editor and knowing how to commission freelancers and looking for good angles, all that sort of thing that that role requires. So I haven’t been a lot of places but I feel like things have developed since they went on. Sorry that was a very long answer, it was essentially three publications, three places I’ve worked in.
JC: That’s really interesting actually, so what would a typical day for you as the Guides Editor be?
MR: So typically, first thing in the morning we check, so basically, we have a set of guides, a set of pickings we work on so like Pokémon GO, Destiny 2, Monster Hunter (currently) so we want to make sure all those guides are up-to-date if there’s anything that’s broke. So we spend time quickly checking our inboxes, like our email, checking Twitter, checking Reddit, to make sure if people are talking about something or have found something, should we cover it? I catch up with Chris, he’s my staff writer, who I work with just to make sure he’s good and we chat to see if there’s anything that’s come out and if not we just then get a head start and work and that can revolve around playing the game a bit and writing up as we go for a guide or maybe a freelancer would send in something we’ve commissioned to them so we spend a few hours putting that into the CMS and making sure that’s all laid out, sometimes that requires getting back to them to clarify something. So, there’d be that, obviously we’d have lunch then, because sometimes I work in the Brighton office, sometimes I don’t, I work from home most days a week but in the Brighton office we’d then go out for lunch at a local pub and just catch up and have a chat which is quite nice, get back and usually just check email, make sure nothing has developed over lunchtime and then same again just heads down on work, all the while checking slack. Slack is a real, on the one hand it’s very good for making sure everyone knows what they’re doing and making sure that, if news has broke, someone is jumping on it but it’s also can be bad for productivity because things can get lost in a spew of conversation and then towards home time make sure there’s nothing that’s come up.
That’s kind of the typical day but it really depends if there’s a game that’s about to come out, so maybe, for example God of War is out this week, I’m not working on that, I’m not that person, Chris, our staff writer is, so he is at the minute playing through as much as he can and kind of drafting everything so it will publish on release day tomorrow or if it’s a quiet week maybe either of us would work on a feature we try and do other things across the site where we can because it’s quite good to get practice writing a review now and then or writing a news story so we pitch in where we can. It’s probably less exciting than it sounds, there’s always something to keep an eye on or something to do, especially in guides, I think in any role across the website, there’s always something that will surprise you, something will break, news will break, or an opportunity will come up and it’s great like ‘I need to be in London tomorrow to go to this event to cover it or do an interview’ so that’s really exciting. I think you start the week thinking ‘I’ve got X, Y and Z lined up’ and sometimes that is the case but other times it’s actually like Pokémon Go has announced another event and we’ve got, because it’s our main traffic driver, drop everything to make sure it’s covered and then get back to what we’re doing. So a lot of it is trying to prepare for eventualities like that.
EK: Kind of shuffling priorities…
MR: Yeah, yeah and that can be a challenge but it’s a fun one, it’s trying to work out maybe someone is on holiday so I’ve got to adjust my schedule to make sure it works.
JC: What is it about writing guides specifically that really interests you as opposed to news work or reviews?
MR: It’s weird because obviously I did it as a teenager and I really enjoyed, I think what I really enjoyed about guides was that I didn’t have a lot of money to buy new games so it was a way of replaying the game and writing about it. I wanted to write about games in some way and what I think I enjoyed about guides in particular is that it’s very, just being able to delve into a world I guess and pick it apart and explain to people how it works is quite a rewarding, very satisfying work.
I think guides kind of have a reputation of being a bit full on in terms of the amount of volume of work it requires to do a guide and that is true to a certain degree and I think if you’re smart about it you can pick and choose your angles and still get good results in terms of traffic and so on, but I think still the process of delving in is really exciting but even though I did that growing up as a teenager, when I went into the industry I wanted to do work on reviews primarily and I think a lot of people want to do that and you find a lot of people actually ask editors ‘can I have a review code?’, ‘can I work on a review for your website’ but it isn’t really until you get into the job that you realise what you like or what you’d like to specialise in so when I was at Digital Spy I actually enjoyed news most of all and that was very much, I really enjoyed the buzz of a story breaking or trying to get the scoop or trying to find out an angle that no one else has quite figured out yet and I quite like the urgency of it and I felt it was very productive, the feeling of walking away and thinking ‘I’ve got six news stories up today’ is quite satisfying work and I dabbled doing reviews and previews, interviews is kind of, I guess, similar to news as well but when I got back into guides it was like actually I really enjoy it for those reasons and it’s kind of similar to news in a way in that it’s quite factual, it’s angle based, you’ve got to find the right angles to make people read your story and that is really a challenge but it’s quite satisfying and quite fun.
JC: So what is your typical process for making a guide for a game like Pokémon Go?
MR: Typically it’s a lot of planning and research so say if Niantic release a blog post like ‘here is all the details of the event’ you’ll pick it apart and think what pieces people are interested in so it’d be like ‘here’s the dates’, so people would be searching for when does this start, so that’s a focal point. So you want to focus and make sure that’s right but you also want to research on Reddit, is there any other details that someone else, they’ve got the blog post and the press release, but is there any other bits that maybe they haven’t talked about but the readers, the fans of the game, have, so that’s really important.
It’s making sure we add a bit of value so it’s not only just that, it’s also trying to keep people on the page and keep people interested, a bit of added value, so they’ve come for the release date but can you actually add something that they didn’t know that is useful to them so maybe it’s ‘here’s the release date but also, for example like the Community day stuff, there is a chance for a shiny’, like if you’ve played the game I guess you’d know that but for someone who is new and Niantic don’t actually say there is a shiny chance you can put ‘we don’t know this for sure but based on previous events, there might be a shiny’ and that is an interesting thing so there’d actually go ‘oh I might go along and do that’ or it could just be little tidbits like ‘here’s how to use items in the game’ like Lucky Eggs or things that basically multiplies consumables like ‘here is a good strategy of how to use them ahead of time’, things like that so that’s kind of how we would approach it and we also use tools, like Google Trends is good to find out what people are searching for so making sure that we cater to that and basically a guide should always try to answer a question that a reader has in the best way possible and so if we can answer that question in the terms that they would use and give them something else then I think that’s a sign of a good guide so that’s what we strive to do and sometimes that can be difficult for example like if it’s a strict press release, we’ll really try and think how we can squeeze out something extra, others it’s like this is actually a massive guide, do we try and split this up, do we try and do several pages and break it up in a way that’s actually quite natural for them so it’s quite a satisfying process. But yeah, planning and preparation is always, and research, is a really key part of it and then making sure all this dense information is displayed in a really coherent way that is natural for people to read is really important.
JC: That makes sense and you’re listed as one of the all time lead contributors on GameFAQ with several million impressions over 100 submissions so what methods do you use to make sure your articles get such good reach?
MR: I think it’s, for GameFAQs, I basically chose games that I really liked, that just happened to be popular. I think I did stuff for Super Mario World, Shenmue, not just because they were popular but because I happened to like them, I think I personally like games that are like, convoluted isn’t the right word, there’s a lot to them, there’s a lot, not necessarily secrets but there’s a lot in there to dig into.
EK: A lot of depth to the games…
MR: Depth, perfect, yeah. So Super Mario World, on the face of it, is a platformer which is basically you go left to right, you find the exit, you’re done but there’s tons of secret exits, there’s the map overworld where you can use keys to open different routes, there’s a way to finish the game in 11 steps as opposed to 100 and something, things like that, like Shenmue, which is one of my favourite games as well, you know there is multiple ways to beat your objective and actually explaining what those, if you’re really into that game, finding out what those are is really satisfying but at Eurogamer it’s about picking angles that would make people want to read, because I think ultimately you want people to read your work and I think for guides in particular you want to be able to help people, you want to actually add to their question, in the best way possible, and so the angle is everything. Regardless of guides, regardless of news, reviews, stuff like that, you want to pick a great angle that people gravitate towards, find really interesting, whether it’s helpful or just insightful or just entertaining, having a good angle is everything so that’s something we should all aim for really.
JC: So in terms of the general gaming industry, what tips would you offer newcomers to get their foot in the door, in the industry itself, especially journalism?
MR: I think, as I mentioned earlier, I think finding your specialty or niche is useful, I think going into it just asking for reviews, even if you’re a reviewer, is difficult because an editor will already have their own stable of reviewers that they trust and they know and they’re not going to, as unfair as it sounds, they’re not just going to pick someone that cold calls them for a review. So actually getting yourself in the industry, the best thing you can do in that instance is either pitch them something or pitch them an angle of something they would find useful so know your publication, so know Eurogamer, for instance, and VG247 and RockPaperShotgun, even though they are games websites, they all write in different ways, they all want different things, so know your publication is really important for pitching and things like that; and give them a good angle or story that they might be interested in commissioning, editors are always, always looking for interesting stories because, not only is that good to have on their website but they don’t have time to research for themselves, they don’t have the expertise either so if you’re really into a game or a community that you think would make for a good read then try pitching that and, even if they don’t know you, they should be able to get back to you, they will definitely read your pitch, they’ll get back to you and they will hopefully chat to you about it. On that similar note, being, how do I phrase this, being a good, being known in the industry is useful, if someone through Twitter, through going to events and so on, if someone knows you and know that you do good work, you’re more likely to get work from a new editor over someone they didn’t know before
JC: So it’s just about being active?
MR: Yeah, being active and having a good reputation. It’s not who you know, because I think that suggests it’s all like a cliquey club, you can cold call an editor and you can get results but if you are known to someone who is like ‘oh they’ve worked with someone else and they’ve produced this great work and they’ve got like a body of work available to refer to’ that is really, so useful and it’s also a small industry so everyone knows each other so having a good reputation, a positive reputation is useful. Obviously that’s very difficult, if you’re, say for example, a lot of journalism, like the industry, is based in London, in the London area, in the South, not everyone can get there which is, you know, obviously limits your options but there’s things like Twitter which is really useful, just be nice to people, you know, people and respond to their tweets and be nice and write insightful stuff and if people know you, even just from Twitter and a few tweets, that’s half the battle right so, yeah, what was the question sorry?
JC: It was just general tips…
MR: General tips that’s good and I think the other thing is writing a lot, the thing with journalism, game journalism in particular, I think, you think you’re being paid to play games for a living, sort of true but you are paid to write, primarily and I think, ultimately, you need to be a good writer rather than someone who is good at games. Obviously with guides and stuff it helps if you’re good at games, you still need to get past stuff and finish it but ultimately you need to write, that’s the stuff that’s going to go in the paper, on the website, you need to actually be able to write and that doesn’t mean you need to be an amazing writer to start with, just practice. If you can get in a position where you can write for paid positions, ideally, but even if it’s for a student newspaper, a blog that you’re running with yourself or others, that is really, really useful. I was in a good position where I was paid to do news stories and I reviewed maybe once per week and just, I probably would think I would do that anyway but because it’s actually like ‘oh I’m part of a publication who’s paying, I need to turn up, I need to be on time, I need to put out a certain amount of work’ week in week out you don’t realise how quickly you develop as a writer so having regular practice, especially when starting out.
Some people are very fortunate where they can pitch and they can get in Edge magazine very quickly but for a lot of people it’s just taking the time to develop their skills and that’s absolutely fine. I certainly, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to do that and then get better over time. Even now, we’re in a position where we write guides full time but writing reviews and news and stuff, it’s very quickly how blunt your skills can get if you don’t do those things so I think it’s really healthy to do that or even get into interview practice and get into events like Rezzed or EGX, again bias because it’s my company or whatever, but going to those ones thinking about freshening up those skills is actually really important.
EK: So, keep writing a variety of things just to keep it up?
MR: Yeah, for sure and I think finding a speciality is key and I think once you find what you’re good at, what you’re interested in that is useful but I think dabbling still is a healthy thing to keep those skills going I guess.
JC: Getting to work in the industry is basically ‘the dream’ for so many of us, especially the ones in the room and so, just for you and from your experience, what have been some of your personal highlights of getting to work in the gaming industry?
MR: I think one of the nice things is being able to travel, quite a bit, I’ve been really fortunate to go to E3 I think like five or six times which is bucket list stuff. That’s the thing, if I told the person 10 years ago that I’d be going to E3 that much I’d be, it would have blown my mind. It’s a great, it’s very full on, and just very busy but it’s great fun so yeah, being able to go on trips like that or, there’s a lot of press events, I’ve been fortunate enough to work for two publications that would fly journalists to these things or we’d go out to see various events like GDC I went to, got paid to go out for that for Eurogamer and that was, that was amazing, I really love GDC so yeah the trips and the travel was really good, they’re all really hard work, especially when you’re jet-lagged and you’re, and whatever, and you’re just like ‘I’ve got to go fire something for a certain time’, that can be tricky.
I think the people are great, like other editors, the people, your peers in the industry, they’re all very smart, like getting to chat to developers, developers are just, they make magic happen, that sounds really corny I know but the way they are able to just make games work, full stop and also work in a way that is really good and being able to just quiz them and talk to them is a real pleasure, it’s one of the best parts of the job just doing interviews and chatting to developers, so the people are good, it’s a really nice industry to work in, that’s a definite highlight. I think it’s just to be able to write about something that you’re passionate about, that you’re really interested in, it’s really good, I’ve kind of landed on my feet in many ways, I am very fortunate to work in the industry I think. Obviously you have to work hard and I think I do work hard but I’m just quite lucky.
JC: And have there been any unexpected surprises or problems that you’ve found while you’ve been working in the industry?
MR: Problems… there’s certainly been a few I’m just trying to think. I think being, as an editor, I think being prepared and planning is really key, I think I said it earlier but things will come up that you won’t expect or you can maybe be, a piece comes in late or something like that or a game gets announced or there’s news which means you have to drop everything. Being prepared and planning is really important and I think that’s something you have to learn the hard way, like ‘I’ve been through this before where this has happened so I have to make sure for next time’, and it’s fine, it’s all a learning experience and it’ll be okay if you miss something, you know, it’s not the end of the world but being prepared is a good thing. Anything I wasn’t expecting… I don’t know, is there anything in particular that you think might be a problem that I can, sorry.
JC: It was more just if there’s anything that, when you were thinking about the industry, before you were part of it you were like ‘this is probably what will happen’ and then, I don’t know if there’s something that’s come up that you’ve been pleasantly surprised about like ‘oh this is a really cool feature of getting to be part of it’
MR: Yeah, yeah, I think the travel part of it is but not everyone is fortunate enough to, and when I say travel, obviously I’m fortunate enough to go on trips abroad but even travel to events like Rezzed, EGX and stuff, just to be in this place where there’s tons of games and tons of cool people is really great and is really helpful to get out the office and come and see that person, that was really good, I was expecting it to be heads down on a computer all the time so that was a genuinely nice surprise, I get to mingle with really smart people, get to play really cool games and kind of do that sort of thing. I and there are things that, there is, there’s always more you can do, there’s a lot of hard work to be done. I probably will come back to you with a better example when I think of one, because it is a job and there are things when you get home and you think ‘for God’s sake I wish that would have gone better’ but right now there’s not a specific case study.
[Editor’s note: Matthew also messaged us on Twitter saying that transcription was something he didn’t expect before doing the job and commenting that ‘Transcribing an interview or conference is an essential part of the job, but unfortunately it’s one of the most monotonous – and always takes longer than you think!’ – the irony of which has not been lost on me!]
JC: Really interesting to chat about that actually but would you say there’s been a movement away from traditional written games journalism towards more focuses on videos on YouTube or Twitch or podcasts?
MR: Yeah there has certainly, I’ve been in the industry 10 years so, from 2008, and youtube was kind of a thing, it had been around for about two years, but it wasn’t really
JC: The behemoth it is now.
MR: Yeah, I think even then, I think the real consensus was ‘oh print is dead and online is going to take its life’ when really it’s kind of like well Twitch and YouTube are now taking the attention away from online but as you all know from running a paper and also you go to Smiths and stuff, print journalism is still alive and online journalism is still there, I think it’s increasingly very hard to make money in games journalism and that is probably because attention has moved away, like advertisement, maybe an advertiser would rather work on a video than online and in print, so that’s probably, because of that positions have to close and publications have to close, so that is a problem I guess if you, as a journalist or a publication to think about, but there will always be a home for written journalism for sure because I think, if you’re on the tube, for example, or a train and you’re commuting in, I think most people would prefer to read something rather than watch it.
I think video has its purpose and its place for certain things but writing will always have its place and I think it’s healthy for journalists to dabble in both, actually I haven’t really touched upon video at all, personally I don’t do it and Eurogamer have a dedicated video team but some places have everyone working a bit of everything and that’s very helpful so if you can go to a publication and say ‘I can also edit a video as well as write about something’ that is huge, actually a few of our video guys do that, we ask them, as well as the video you’re doing do you mind writing a written piece as well because it just doubles up on what we can offer in terms of angles. So yeah video is a very interesting space and it is obviously very popular but I’m confident that the written word will not go.
JC: I think if we’re talking about the gaming industry we have to talk about ‘elephant in the room’ of Battle Royale games, just what are your thoughts, and do you think it’s going to keep growing, do you think there’s still room for anything else to go against Fortnite and PUBG?
MR: Yeah, yeah, we’re going to be talking about Battle Royale games for the years to come, for better or worse, because it’s a thing that’s not going away. I think this year will be the year where we see a lot more big publishers try and do Battle Royale stuff, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see big shooters that we are familiar with every year maybe offering a new component.
JC: In a Battle Royale setting?
MR: Yeah offering a mode or something and I think there’d be foolish not to, I think that’s where everyone is focused on and yeah, I think PUBG and Fortnite have actually come out fairly early, they’ve established the genre or helped, I’m not too familiar with how it’s grown but I think PUBG wasn’t the first Battle Royale game but it certainly, in the same way that Doom wasn’t the first
JC: It really popularised…
MR: Yeah Wolfenstein was actually beforehand so maybe there’ll be something else that comes out that’ll be bigger and better but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen trends like this, before this we had MOBAs, we had Dota versus League of Legends and everyone, every publisher trying to make a MOBA and often failing.
Roshni Patel: Yeah Heroes of the Storm…
MR: Yeah exactly yeah and that’s been a moderate success but it hasn’t really taken off in the same way as the others, and before that we had MMOs like Warcraft being the biggest game in the world, still doing really well but you had every publisher throwing money at it and it’s interesting, I think that’s one of the most exciting things about the industry, there’s always new trends; we wouldn’t have been talking about Battle Royale games 18 months ago and it’s now the big topic, it’s the biggest. The idea that Dota 2 wouldn’t be the biggest game on Steam by a long stretch in terms of player statistics is now BattleGrounds is crazy and Fortnite then suddenly taking over it whereas Fortnite was this weird thing that was kind of in development for like 5, 6, 7 years and no-one really thought it was going to come out and now it’s the biggest game in the world. That’s why I love this industry, you can’t predict.
EK: Yeah it came out of nowhere, it’s crazy.
MR: Yeah and maybe in a years time there’ll be another Battle Royale game that dwarfs whatever PUBG and Fortnite are doing and that’s really exciting. So long story short, yes we will be talking about Battle Royale for years to come.
EK: Possibly not Radical Heights.
RP: That was literally the same thought, that was telepathy.
MR: Yeah that might be the first game to try and do something, and I think actually the fact that the big publishers haven’t tried Battle Royale yet and you’ll see, E3 I guarantee there’ll be one or two games adding it in as a mode, that’s when it will get super interesting as this is actually a polished game with a lot of expertise behind it, what will it be like? Will people be like ‘actually PUBG is kind of a bit janky, a bit broken, but that’s kind of why I like it?’
JC: You’ve also written a lot of guides for Pokémon Go so I was just wondering, do you think it’s got its longevity and settled into a rhythm that will keep it going for however long I guess?
MR: I think so and I think the player base, I haven’t actually seen what the player numbers are recently, but i feel like it’s got into a nice place where if you’re into the game you’re in for the long haul. I can’t imagine if you’re in this far into a game you would just walk away, they’ve gotten into a good place where they have been adding new features, adding new generations of Pokémon or legendaries, they’re kind of in a good rhythm to do that and I think they can keep going for years and as a fan of it, someone who plays it all the time, I can’t see me not playing it, I think why it works is because it’s a game that fits into the other parts of your life, like if you’re just walking down the shops or going to work you’re playing Pokémon GO. There’s no other games that do that and also it just brings you outside into the world and playing with other people, a lot of games have communities, a lot of them are online, this technically is online but is also very much in person, you can go to a new city, a new place and you can meet up with people playing it in the street just because they’re in a huddle playing and stuff like that actually is amazing and I think that’s why people like it.
It’s also, you can talk about games that have depth, and Pokémon GO has a lot of depth. On one hand it’s a very simple game, you’re just running around catching monsters in the world but also there’s hidden stats for all the Pokémon called IVs and two seemingly identical Pokémon are actually very different in terms of their potential like getting into that is kind of a bit of a rabbit hole of thinking ‘oh god, i’m going to spend a lot of time catching the perfect Pokémon to just filling out your Pokédex etc.’ there’s a lot to it and i think Niantic had a few stumbles in the first year just trying to catch up with demand and things like that but i think they’ve really hit their stride in the last 6 months especially in terms of new features and keeping player interest up which is good, as someone who enjoys it that’s really nice to see.
JC: And the last question I’ve got, something I always like to ask, what’s been your favourite game to review or write a guide for and why?
MR: Good question, Pokémon GO does have a special place again as a game i really enjoyed, it’s quite different, it’s also one of the first games I worked on since joining Eurogamer and that was a real trial by fire almost because it’s like ‘this game is absolutely massive and we need to cover it, and write about it and do a lot with it’ it was an interesting couple of weeks but we eventually found our groove and thankfully got there fairly quickly and were able to get good traffic out of it, good angles and been able to maintain that ever since so i think that’s incredible memorable for us and I also think what that game was, everyone has stories of Pokémon GO whether for themselves or going out and seeing crowds of people. Yeah that game is absolutely massive so that’s probably a real highlight.
So when I was then writing about games professionally there’s a bunch a really good games out, I remember Fable 2 on the Xbox 360, I think Gears of War 2 at a similar time, these really great Microsoft games and I just remember having a lot of fun thinking ‘this is what I’m getting paid to do, to play these games’ and very much, I’ve moved away from reviewing and I think reviewing, I got into a period where I was actually reviewing games quite a lot, and actually it’s like ‘that’s a lot of time playing games’ and that sounds great, and it is, but you’re not doing a lot of other things. Reviews are great, they’re very time intensive, and also I don’t want to be a critic, I’d rather be a reporter, I’d rather write about the games themselves in a newsy, natural way I guess and tell stories about games. That was fun for a little bit, it’s one of those moments in the industry like ‘this is cool, I’m playing games for living’ and it helped that the games were great and i think last year we had some really cool games that I didn’t directly work on but it’s just like ‘these are really great fun, these are fantastic’. So yeah, it’s a real pleasure when there are good games to write about and get stuck in to, a lot of positives, a lot of good things.