Addicted-Gamers Exclusive Interview: Brett Elston, Capcom Community Manager
Enter Mr. Brett Elston, Capcom Community Manager. Perhaps one of the toughest game journalists to get a hold of in the industry, but Addicted-Gamers pulled it off, just for you. Well, not really, considering Brett is one of the nicest guys there is, he didn’t have a problem sitting down with us. Who is he really, you ask?
Elston first garnered real success in the industry over at GamesRadar. His wealth of video game knowledge and expertise earned him the role of Executive Editor. He also co-hosted the popular TalkRadar podcast until his final show and roast, episode 176. Hell, he even has a Tdar wiki page dedicated to him. As it goes, Brett was offered an opportunity to work for Capcom during his stay over at GR, and jumped at the chance. He currently resides with Capcom-Unity as Community Manager, where you can find some of his writing on the daily blog.
Let’s get on with the questions…
First and foremost, how did you enter the games journalism business to begin with?
Went to college, earned journalism degree and then walked from newspaper to newspaper hoping one of them would want game reviews in their publication. A couple bit, but eventually one guy knew a guy from 10 years ago who apparently went out to California to write about video games. Turns out that guy attended the same university a decade earlier, I sent him an email and that led to freelance, which eventually led to the paid gig.
What was your background as a kid, prior to entering the business? What were some of the games that got you into gaming?
I don’t really have any memories that are pre-video games. I was born with an Atari 2600 in the house, and after seeing an NES in 1st grade I lost my mind and never looked back. Early favorites would be stuff like Dig Dug, Galaga, River Raid, and then obviously Zelda, Mario, Mega Man, Castlevania. Played anything and everything.
How did you know that game journalism was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? Wasn’t that a risky approach, as far as income (in the beginning)?
It’s true, you won’t get rich doing this. But passion is the key in any quality job, so the ability to write about what you love is a form of payment, as cheesy and borderline exploitative as it sounds. Initially I wanted to get into advertising (because as a teen Ninendo’s ads embarrassed me and I wanted to work there to fix ‘em), but in my third year of college I decided games journalism was the real ticket. I sort of lucked out, finding that connection like I did. That said, today it’s easier to get yourself out there, with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and all the blogs.
Compared to GamesRadar, how are you enjoying your new position at Capcom Unity?
It’s completely different! Still learning the ropes, so don’t have a lot to report so far. Been part of some very cool meetings, talking about games and plans and such, so that was a sort of fan dream come true, being able to have a voice in that manner. Other than that, lots of talking to fans (which I did a lot of at GR) and live streaming Capcom games.
How does your day to day differ from what you had at Radar?
Hm… I’m still looking for stories post on Unity, so in a way that aspect is similar. But I have a lot more meetings now and try to plan ahead for cool events and giveaways. I think I’ve mailed more prizes this month than the past year at GR.
Now that you’re completely Capcom focused, is their a void for non-Capcom related games? Do you have time for them?
Absolutely! I’m finishing up Arkham City now and plan to tackle Skyward Sword next. Uncharted 3 is in the mix too, and I have a measly 6 hours put into Dark Souls that I’d like to expand upon. That said, I do need to practice my Street Fighter skills so I can represent…
Will there ever be an opportunity for you to have an impact on new Capcom releases, as far as ideas and design? Have you ever considered programming or going for an active career in game design?
Programming, no way. Tried that as a teen, got as far as C++ and almost melted down into a pile of searing atoms. As far as impact goes, Capcom always has an ear open toward its employees and even I, a brand new hire, have been able to toss ideas into the mix. I do definitely have aspirations in that regard, as a lifelong gamer and specifically a Capcom fan, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.
VGMpire is your new project dedicated to video game music appreciation. In what ways does it contribute on that level? How did it come about?
Contribute may be a strong word, haha. I just wanted to share game music with other people, with as many people as possible. Game music means a lot to me, and as time goes on I meet more and more people who identify with songs from past games, or who feel an even stronger attachment to a game because of its soundtrack. On VGMpire, I attempt to articulate those feelings and play songs that mean something to me, in the hopes they’ll inspire or affect others in the same way. Who doesn’t hear music from Symphony of the Night, Super Metroid or a dozen different Final Fantasies and fall in love all over again? It’s such an important part of the experience and it deserves to be acknowledged – things like OverClocked ReMix and Video Games Live are great examples of actual contributors.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, assuming you’re still in the business? Where would you like to be in 5 years?
Hoo boy, that’s tough. I don’t jump around a lot, so now that I’m at Capcom I intend to stay as long as I can. It definitely seems like a place where doors can open, so if I can open one and bring some beneficial ideas to a future game, then I think my life’s complete.
What is your favorite video game of all-time?
I really may have to say Mega Man 2. I think it’s absolutely perfect.
Game soundtrack of all-time?
GAH impossible to say. I honestly don’t know if could narrow it down… reminds me of a trip to Osaka where I entered a music store and it had a video game section… that was an entire FLOOR. I was absolutely crippled with choice. Trying to pick ONE thing from a collection like that, it’s a challenge. But for the sake of saying something… blarg I can’t. Maybe it’s time for a shameless VGMpire plug and humbly suggest you listen to that every week for my ongoing selections???
What game would you like to see an HD remake of?
Metroid II. Such a pivotal game in the series and it’s condemned to the Game Boy. Would love to see it reborn in color, let alone HD! I know there’s a fan version on the way, but Nintendo, take my money!
What game would you like to see a sequel to?
Smuggler’s Run! Rockstar, you guys had this amazing cops ‘n’ robbers game before online multiplayer really took off – make another one and get some 8 on 8, FBI vs smuggler action going! I would play it for years.
What non-game related website do you frequent the most?
Since I spend all day online, I don’t really poke around much at home. I try to stay abreast of the comic book scene, and am on Twitter constantly, but in general when I get home I wanna’ watch or play something.
What would you say to gamers/writers that are trying to get into the game journalism field as a piece of advice?
Play everything, write about it all. Even if it’s just for yourself. Helps you hone your voice and your craft. Make sure your stuff is as free of typos as possible – any extra work you create for an editor makes you that less likely to be hired. Think about the “why” in every review – why is this game good or bad, why does this element infuriate you, why does the multiplayer justify the purchase etc.