An Interview with Video Game Journalist Arturo Bracero

Arturo Bracero is a producer and editor based in Madrid who serves as Video Director for Meristation, an online video game magazine. As part of his role, Arturo is occasionally flown abroad to cover to major esports events, such as the League of Legends World Championships.

How did you get started as a video game journalist and video producer?

Well, everything kind of naturally fell in place as I was doing media studies. It is a 5 year university course in Spain, at the end of which you have to do some kind of work in a real company (like an internship). So while looking for internships I stumbled upon a video games news site called Zonared, that where looking for news editors. Even though I liked video production and editing, I decided to take a shot, since it was video-game related and I’ve been a big fan since I got my first NES and Game Boy. So I went for an interview and got picked up on the spot for a 6 month paid internship.

Once that was over, I spent some months doing freelance work, video post production, editing and motion graphics (which I still do from time to time). Then a friend told me about MeriStation, and that they were looking for a video editor. I sent my CV and after exchangin some emails I started working from home (only weekends). This was in May 2012. Little by little I started getting promoted (from weekends to weekdays afternoon) and later that year to managing the video section and working full time from our office in Madrid. And that also allowed me to cover some awesome events such as League of Legends S3 finals, were I met you guys!

What advice would you give to those who dream of someday becoming professional eSports reporters and journalists?

My advice is simple: Be a professional in your field. I think it’s kind of strange to think “I want to be an esports journalist”. I mean, you should want to be a great journalist, whatever the field you end up working in. If it so happens to be on esports, which is something you love, then that is great. But I know I would also love working on any other kind of video production even if it was not videogame related. Hard work and a little bit of luck can make you land the job of your dreams, but remember that being an esports fan doesn’t mean you are a professional. First decide what you want to do, do your best at it, and THEN decide how can you help esports (or regular videogames, or any other field you like) grow. Don’t do it the other way around.

What are the biggest differences between journalists who cover video games / eSports and those that cover traditional sports?

I think this has to do with the last question. Video games are a strange field to be a journalist on. Journalism and PR/marketing are so closely tied together that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Embargo dates, advert campaigns…Is that really journalism? That’s another question, and If I get side-tracked i could write a whole book about it so i’ll just focus on eSports vs traditional sports.

I haven’t covered traditional sports but I guess they are pretty similar. I would say the main difference is that the vast majority of sports coverage is done by professionals with many years of experience, while as in esports you find many young people (like myself o/) that may or may not lack experience. I would say if you are an eSports journalist you need to be ready to travel a lot. In traditional sports you can just be in your country or city and cover everything. eSports doesn’t work like that, so you have to be ready to go to Korea, USA or wherever things happen. This is obviously really expensive for all the parties involved, so you should really be ready to give it the best you’ve got. “Oops, I forgot to turn on the mic” is not something you can use as an excuse to your employer who just spent $3,000 to get you out to an event.

I think e-sports journalists or any new journalist in general has to be ready to adapt and fill several roles at once. Traditional journalism involves maybe 4 different people to cover an event. You need a reporter, a video guy, a sound guy and maybe even a rigger/light guy. This is okay and standard practice for TV, but on the internet world and due to the financial problems, things have changed greatly. You have to be your own sound guy, rigger, editor… Someone who can fill all those roles at once will have so many more opportunities to work than someone who just keeps to their comfort zone. Sure, the result is not the same if you bring 4 guys than one (like it was my case in LoL finals), but media outlets, specially on the internet, need “good enough” quality and cheap! It’s not a great situation, but thats the way things are, at least in Spain.

What types of eSports coverage seems to be in the highest demand: game reviews, coverage of tournaments, interviews with top players, tutorials, tips, analysis, or something else entirely?

I would say the esports world will always have a high demand for commentators and analysts. So many factors have to be present in someone in order to be a great commentator. Personality, game knowledge, skill, voice… Right now we even have a strange difference with traditional sports. In e-Sports, some commentators are even more famous than players! Day9, Apollo, Husky… they are all personalities that will pull huge crowds just because they are entertained by the way they commentate and analyse a game. It’s great to see to skilled players battle, but it just gets so much better when everything is explained by a good commentator. Live coverage is also important but I find it so hard to monetise from the point of view of a media outlet… Tournaments are held all over the globe, and many organizers dont have enough money to fly press there just for the sake of the publicity and coverage. It is then in the hands of the media outlet to decide if it is profitable to fly someone there and pay all their expenses… and the answer to that question is usually NO! (at least for people outside the US)

Is it more common for an eSports journalist to cover just one game, or many? Is there a difference in this approach between professional journalists and amateurs?

I would say it is common for someone to cover several games. The industry is not big enough for media outlets to have several journalists on their payroll just for different games. In my case, for example, I am the e-Sports guy, so I will have to cover every game that has a competitive scene (except in the cases where other journalist happens to have extensive knowledge in that specific game). Of course this changes if we talk about online coverage or just writing news articles. Maybe in this last case you can have several writers with specific knowledge in each game, but only if you are really focused in covering only esports, otherwise I think it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

As far as the difference in the approach, i think it’s really clear wether you are an amateur or a professional. As an amateur, if you don’t like a game you just won’t care about it and that will be reflected in your work. Maybe personally I don’t like League of Legends, but it is my job to know all the important e-sports focused games, be informed about the important teams and players and know as much as i can about it. Of course my coverage will be different if it’s a game I love, but only because i will know a lot more about it if I have played myself for years. Nothing else should change if you consider yourself a professional.

Throughout your experience covering various games and eSports, what common fandom-related careers have you encountered? (i.e. how have you seen people making money off various game-related economies?)

I have found that most players make a nice amount of money from streaming (twitch.tv), getting money from advertirses and suscribers. I also know people that make a living through Real Money Trading (RMT) on MMORPGS. They will get some items, or gold and sell them for real money. This is not allowed by the EULA (End User License Agreement) of most games, so it’s a practice that’s usually frowned upon.

DOTA 2 has started some other economic trends. Players can buy skins for their characters, and different cosmetic items to change their appearance in game. This is common in most free-to-play games, but heres the catch: other players can CREATE their own items, and put them for sale on the store. Then, Valve (game developer) will get a cut of the price and the rest will go towards the artist/player that created their item. Some game designers even go as far as saying that they earn more money creating items for DOTA 2 than at their day jobs designing other videogame assets! I think that’s crazy, and something we hadn’t seen before.

I know some other people that use the “key” system in Dota, exchange it for FG (which stands for Forum Gold) and then exchange that for steam games, and then they sell those games. I don’t know the in and outs of the process, but I can ask if you are interested.

Are there any particular games that make it very easy for serious fans of players to earn income through shoutcasting, streaming, selling costumes or products, or coaching?

I would say DOTA 2 makes it relatively easy to earn money selling cosmetic items (actually it’s the only one that makes it possible I think), and I would say StarCraft is the king of coaching. Being a 1v1 game, it’s really hard to get better at it, and difficult to mimic other players if they are not directly talking to you and watching you play. Some professional players like EG.IdrA used to charge $300 for a 1 hour session! Crazy.

As far as streaming goes, I think the key is your personality. If you don’t appeal to your audience and engage them in a conversation, it doesn’t matter what game you play. People will go somewhere else to get entertained. With high speed internet connections being more affordable, more and more people are starting to do live-streaming, but you really need to think well about it and take it seriously if you want to get somewhere with it IMO. Obviously, the bigger the player base for the game you play, the bigger your viewership will probably be.