Brian Crecente on Video Game Journalism

Brian Crecente is a news editor at Polygon.com, a site dedicated to cover video games, the artists who make them, and the fans who love them.

How did you first become involved with video game journalism?

Slowly. I started out as a newspaper reporter in 1995 covering crime. I loved being a police and public safety reporter, but over the years kept trying to figure out a way to get video games in newspapers. Eventually, while working at the Palm Beach Post in 2000, I convinced the feature’s editor to allow me to write occasional gaming pieces for the paper in my spare time. When I moved to Denver to work as a police reporter at the Rocky Mountain News, I was able to do the same thing. After running a few features on gaming, I decided to create my own blog, just as a place to publish the bits and pieces that didn’t fit in my features. That blog led to Gawker noticing me and hiring me to run their new video game site, Kotaku. I ran Kotaku and worked fulltime as a police reporter for more than three years, before quitting the Rocky to go full time into game journalism.

As an editor, what do you look for in good coverage of games and the industry on the whole?

Original reporting, context, a deep understanding of the implications of a story and the impact it might have on the industry as a whole. Of course getting the basics right, and getting the story first are also very important.

To what extent does a journalist covering games need to develop a significant personal following in order to be attractive to publications and editors, and in what ways have you seen journalists find the most success in building readership or gaining a personal following?

In terms of hiring, a person’s social following has zero impact on whether I would want them working for me. I do make it a point to vet their social behavior, just to make sure we’re not hiring someone who is obnoxious to people. While I think having a big social following is edifying to a reporter, I’m not convinced it has a huge impact on a publication. That’s more about personal brand than it is ability or a publication’s brand.

What distinguishes good video game journalists from those who seem to rehash what’s already out there?

The key to a good journalist is just that, that they’re a journalist. My goal as news editor is to help identify, and sometimes cultivate, reporters who if they were forced to stop covering the video game industry today would have no trouble finding a job at a newspaper. Video games are just a beat, the profession is journalism.

That said, what distinguishes a journalist in this field, as with any beat, is the ability to find a story, chase it down and follow it. Reacting to the day’s news is important, but not as important as proactively seeking out the stories that matter most to the people who play games and the people who make them.

What advice would you give to aspiring journalists who wish to make connections within the industry (both with sources to interview, and with editors and fellow journalists)?

Treat your job like a job. When you’re at events your time there is precious, treat it as such. Don’t spend it hanging out with fellow writers or eating and drinking, spend it looking for the story, hunting down the angle, absorbing the color that will make your story different, and perhaps better than everyone else’s.

Connections come with time. The best ones are earned through solid stories and excellent reporting. If you capitalize on your time with developers and turn in solid, smart stories, people will begin to remember you and return your calls.

In your opinion, what are the most significant trends sweeping the world of video game journalism? Are there any types or niches that would make for good areas of strategic focus for those looking to break in?

I think in general video game journalism is coming into its own. More people see this profession as what it is, a part of the journalism, not video game industry and a viable and important way to make a living.

It’s great to see so much good work showing up on sites around the world.