Features

Positivity in Games Journalism – Peer Schneider

6 Question Interview is a feature in which I pitch six questions to anyone who has something to say about the positive side of gaming journalism and a few other topics of interest to Reggie Reviews. Today, I speak to IGN’s very own, Peer Schneider. Peer’s illustrious career in the games industry dates back to the mid-nineties in which he was a key-player in co-founding and running a Nintendo 64 website which would later become IGN64, ultimately leading to internet powerhouse, IGN Entertainment. Peer is currently IGN Entertainment’s Chief Content Officer!

However, personally speaking, I’ve really enjoyed Peer’s regular appearances on IGN’s weekly show, Nintendo Voice Chat. The show is certain one of my weekly highlights for Nintendo-related video game discussion and is always full of genuine passion and knowledge for the gaming and industry on the whole. Peer is frequently on hand to share his personal enthusiasm for game developers big and small.

 

Smash1


For Fun / For Glory!


Mike: Thank you for agreeing to answer our questions, Peer. It’s always apparent that you are keen to praise and promote your co-workers efforts, always having a positive word to say. What has been your fondest, most rewarding memory of assisting someone shape their career in gaming journalism, or having your own career influenced by a peer?



Peer: “It’s tough for me to say how and where I’ve been influential in shaping someone’s career – beyond, of course, hiring someone and letting them pursue their passion here at IGN. You’d have to ask my current and former team members! But there’ve been a few instances where I’d like to think that I was at least a little helpful in getting someone to step outside their comfort zone and to muster up the courage to try something different. For example, there are multiple people on my current editorial management team who were reticent to take on their current jobs because it meant not writing as much or tackling a completely new vertical. And there’s at least one former employee who couldn’t imagine letting go of being “the PlayStation guy” and helping us become a bigger force in video content creation. But he did it – and I don’t think he’s looking back with any regrets. I also remember giving a young Nintendo fan a chance to write for my little Nintendo fan site – and now Brian Stelter has his own show on CNN. On the flipside, many, many great people have helped me head into the right direction and inspired me to have the confidence to take on leadership roles, including Julian Rignall and Chris Charla during the Imagine Media days or Roy Bahat much later when IGN was owned by Fox/News Corp.”

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Clearly the entertainment industry has dominated your professional career, however, on Twitter and NVC, you often speak passionately of your gaming experiences with your family. I’ve stated before that gaming is extremely important in my own family life, giving us a form unique excitement we can all closely bond together over. How much of a positive influence has gaming been on ‘The House of A Thousand JoyCon’?

 

“When I look back at my childhood, my parents simply couldn’t wrap their minds around video games. While they obviously funded some of my obsessions – including my first computer, the Atari 600XL – they saw it all as a bit of a waste of time and a pastime that couldn’t possibly lead to anything of value. I keep on telling my kids how lucky they are that they’ve got a father who plays games with them and can help fix NAT errors… but then, I also complain that they’re watching YouTubers play games instead of playing them themselves, so it’s obvious there’s a generational gap there as well. But while I complain just like every parent when my kids don’t immediately stop playing to come to dinner, we do connect over games and play together. Everyone has fond memories of multiplayer co-op in Halo or Sea of Thieves, or playing Civ Revolution into the night. Words like “The Sacrificer” have entered family vernacular. That’s when one player volunteers to take a death plunge in Rayman Legends or New Super Mario Bros. multiplayer to get a hard-to-reach Lum or coin (“bubble!”). On the other hand, there’s also been door slamming and hour-long “shunning” after a particularly heated Overcooked battle. Or when someone can’t limit their time at the Borderlands vending machines. Or hangs out in Diablo III’s menus too long. And the “sad song” in Sea of Thieves is exclusively hurdy-gurdied when my daughter falls off the ship yet again.

So yes, games are core to the Schneider House Experience. My wife doesn’t play them, but it’s what bonds the rest of us together while she scowls at us. We even stick together when we tell her that we have to first get to a “save spot” before we can stop playing. Don’t tell her that there is no save spot, please.

I hope that we’re a prototype for modern families. Where the gap between what the kids enjoy and what parents enjoy is much smaller. I was able to use my kids’ love for video games to also get them into tabletop games, for example. I hope they’ll remember our play sessions for many decades to come.”




I recently wrote a feature on UK society’s perception of gaming and how it’s often seen as somewhat of a victory to move away from or ‘grow out of’, so to speak. I feel this isn’t helped by the UK’s mainstream media, who on one page will provide a review of the latest AAA title, while on the next immediately shine a negative light on gaming. In your experience, do you believe there are fundamental differences between the way modern society generally perceives the gaming community between Germany, Japan and the US? Does the mainstream press report mostly negatively on the subject or do you find it to be as balanced as commentary on other entertainment industries?



“I’ve definitely seen the same. Things are getting better, though. It was once commonplace that mainstream outlets wagged cautionary fingers over a completely unusual story of a player dying from playing multiple days without eating, or violence perpetrated by someone who also played first-person shooters. And those were the only stories covering gaming culture. In some cases, video games became lasting scapegoats with politicians contorting themselves to show correlation of playing games and all the evils of the world. I’m pleased to see that facts – such as accredited studies – rather than Jack Thompson rants are cited more and more nowadays. In the US, there are definitely more attempts at showing the excitement and the creativity behind game creation or the esports scene. I’m assuming you’re seeing similar developments in Europe. But bad news is big business. Just like snark and negativity can be a faster path to viewership success for budding YouTubers, mainstream outlets no doubt capitalize on part of their audience being suspicious of gaming and wanting their fears validated and stoked.”

Video game journalists often strike me as some of the most passionate writers when discussing the level of emotion and satisfaction gaming can bring, even more so when it comes to shared experiences. Outside of your professional career, to what extent would you say gaming has helped you build personal relationships over the years?

“My closest friends definitely share the same passion for games. A great college friend and my wife – when we were just college sweethearts – pooled money to buy me a Super Famicom. I have so many wonderful memories of hanging out in my tiny Tokyo apartment and playing Bomberman or Mario Kart, often foregoing studying and utilizing Japan’s extensive network of 24-hour stores to restock drinks when we should’ve been sleeping. Likewise, here in the US, I’ve forged lasting connections with people who worked at competing games media outlets; initially because of our shared passion for games, and then realizing that we have so many other things in common.”

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For every story of gaming having a negative influence, there are seemingly many, many more positive examples of gaming helping people deal with aspects of mental health, however I feel there is an imbalance between studies and examples on the topic of mental health and gaming, because, let’s face it, the negative stories will always drive the traffic. Would you agree this is the case and, if properly embraced in the same way as say, music and movies, do you believe the gaming industry has more to offer society at large?

“Absolutely! I hear these stories all the time – but they’re often shared in private, between coworkers and friends. While not completely focused on gaming, earlier this year, we launched a show on Facebook called Hero Makeover that explored how fandom and cosplay can overcome insecurities and disabilities. I hope more people can muster up the courage to tell their stories. We’re definitely listening and eager to share them with more people!”  

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There is, and always will be, toxicity in any large community but gaming, I feel, tends to attract a particular brand of behaviour in the way people are singled-out and marginalised. Of course, it’s clear that the team over at IGN promote the importance of diversity, but comment sections of video game websites are always rife with these problems. Certain internet-based movements suggest political leanings are embedded in gaming journalism. Do you feel this darker side of the gaming community is merely a vocal minority and is there anything those of us with a wider reach can do to positively influence inclusive leanings in gaming circles, without necessarily forcing viewpoints?

“If it’s a minority, it certainly is a persistent and loud one. I come from the viewpoint that minds can be changed and even the biggest troll can have a change of heart. I keep on thinking about how I was as a teenager. I was a pretty social guy and generally good to people, but I also know that I had a pretty limited understanding of the world and spouted plenty of bullshit just because I didn’t know any better. Parents aren’t always there to help guide a young mind – and as teen, I always thought I knew best and was more interested in being a rebel than reasonable or a force for good. I benefited greatly by having two older brothers who called me out and set me straight in my formative years. Of course, leaving your country and immersing yourself in another culture – as I’ve done during my college life in Japan and later in moving to the US – provide so many new perspectives. Not everybody is that lucky. Gamers are very vocal. And I think it’s fair to say that it’s also, comparatively, a very young and immature audience that vocally comments on game design choices, like, say EA’s decision to have a female freedom fighter headline their new WWII game – while the vast majority of players engages with the game when it comes out and consumes content that’s posted post-release. At least that’s what our traffic patterns show.

As to how to deal with them. This is where it gets tricky as there is a very fervent and angry community who thinks any media outlet has an agenda that will inevitably lead to the games they like “going away” or their own representation in games to be diminished. Editors often get lambasted for liking game genres rooted in story-telling – like “walking simulators” – as if liking one means not wanting any other genre of games to exist. But I think time will be on our side here. My opinion is that we shouldn’t lose patience and aggressively push back and instead focus on sharing the facts and always seeking out the few reasonable voices among the dissenters, without being pushed into being defensive. And then my brothers will put them on the right path.”

I asked a seventh question in the last interview and am afraid I’m going to again… I should probably consider changing the title. Anyway, what would your dream JoyCon design look like?

 

“I think Microsoft did a really nice job with their custom controllers, including the ones that have a gradient color patterns. The current Joy-Con designs are just too safe. I want to see transparent ones, multi-colored ones, and of course designs patterned after classic Nintendo consoles and handheld. Only then, when the thousandth Joy-Con is in my house, will I rest.”


Feel free to plug any recent projects you or your colleagues are working on.



“Check out our new little mini-documentary on Mega Man! Both parts are here – came out well, I think:”

https://www.ign.com/videos/2018/07/24/how-mega-man-x-revolutionized-2d-action-platformers-true-blue-hero

https://www.ign.com/videos/2018/09/06/30-years-of-the-blue-bomber-the-evolution-of-mega-man-true-blue-hero

 

Again, thank you for taking part in this interview and for the awesome work you do for gaming. I really appreciate you giving me this opportunity.

Reggie Reviews recommends readers take a look at IGN’s weekly Nintendo show, Nintendo Voice Chat. The IGN crew always have insightful discussions about all things Nintendo, from the best first party, AAA and indie releases, to Peer’s favourite Picross clones! If you have any love for Nintendo-related games or topics, it’s definitely worth your time. Also catch Peer on Twitter here.

 

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