When he isn’t busy writing for Business 2.0 or Entertainment Weekly, Geoff Keighley can be found contributing articles to TIME, Premiere, Rolling Stone, The Hollywood Reporter, and MTV Magazine. Either that, or he’s off filming segments for Extra or The Electric Playground, or working on his GameSpot feature “Behind the Games.” Geoff Keighley was named one of the Top 30 business journalists under 30 by NewsBios/TJFR, and has spent the last 12 years of his life covering the gaming biz. He took some time out of his CRAZY busy schedule (made even more crazy this month by E3—he moderated a conference there, you know!) to answer a few questions for us, and you can check out his responses right here.
GameCola: How did you get started in video game journalism?
Geoff Keighley: I started writing volunteer reviews for a CompuServe forum about computer games back in the early 90s. An editor from Computer Games Strategy Plus read my reviews and asked me to write for that magazine in 1993.
GC: Did your education at the University of Southern California adequately prepare you for video game journalism?
GK: I studied philosophy and business administration at college, not journalism—but I’m a big proponent of getting a university degree. I actually wrote most of the GameSpot “Behind the Games” series while I was still in college.
GC: What areas of study other than journalism do you think could help prepare someone to be a video game journalist?
GK: I’d definitely recommend a strong liberal arts background with a focus on creative writing—the more education, the better.
GC: If you were developing a college course on video game journalism, what would you include in its curriculum?
GK: Henry Lowood at Stanford University runs a great class about the video game industry—with a fantastic reading list. Check it out: http://www.stanford.edu/class/sts145/. There honestly haven’t been many good books about the video game business. Dean Takahashi wrote a good book called “Opening the Xbox” and I would also recommend David Sheff’s book on Nintendo.
GC: What would your advice be for high school students aspiring to be video game journalists?
GK: In the day and age of the Internet and blogs, I would just encourage you to play a lot of games, work hard in school and don’t let money get in the way. I started writing reviews for free because I loved games so much.
GC: Do you prefer writing for a dedicated video game publication, or a publication that’s more mainstream?
GK: I like both for different reasons. It’s nice to speak directly to hardcore gamers through publications like EGM, OXM and GameSpot. But one of my big goals these past few years has been to bring video game journalism to more mainstream magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Business 2.0, and TV networks like G4 and Spike.
GC: Have any publishers ever gotten angry at you for things you’ve written about their games?
GK: Not often but it has happened. Back in the late-90s Monolith Productions attacked me in the credits of BLOOD II because I said some not-so-nice things about the game before it shipped. But most of the time I find that game designers respect your opinion.
GC: What would you say are the top three benefits of being a video game journalist?
GK: Access, access and access—it’s great to be able to talk with CEOs and big name game designers.
GC: What do you think is the biggest problem of video game journalism today?
GK: I wish there was better investigative journalism and better storytelling. Right now I can flip through a new issue of a gaming magazine in about 10 minutes; you look at the screenshots, read a few review scores, and throw the magazine in the trash. Think about it: What’s the last truly memorable story you can remember reading in a gaming magazine? A story that you wanted to tell your friends about; a story that made you say, “I want to save this magazine and read this piece again in a year.”
GC: Have you ever gotten nervous or shy when interviewing the minds behind your favorite video games?
GK: Not really. I sort of grew up with the industry, so I see many of the designers as friends, not idols. Take someone like CliffyB from Epic Games—I first met Cliff when we were both teenagers just starting our respective careers. It also helps that 99% of game designers are very humble and world-class people.