Justin McElroy has been doing video game stuff for a long time, recreationally and professionally. He was kind enough to answer a handful of my questions, with answers that not only made me laugh out loud but feel truly insensitive as well, along with being genuinely insightful.
He is a man I respect for his appreciation for the fun in gaming, someone who has found remarkable success writing and editing within the field, and an overall noteworthy person… Justin McElroy!
Eric: How would you introduce yourself to someone, if you had 15 seconds to do so?
Justin: My name is Justin McElroy. I’m the managing editor of a forthcoming video game site called Polygon, the cohost of a comedy podcast called My Brother, My Brother and Me and a TV podcast with my wife Sydnee. I’m basically the luckiest guy in the world.
Eric: How long have you been playing video games?
Justin: When I was four or so we got our first Atari, so I guess around 27 years?
Eric: Why are video games so frickin’ sweet, anyway?
Justin: Because they trigger a cheap and efficient method of dopamine delivery by providing a sense of achievement and progression free of the hard work and dedication those feelings typically require. Also, SICK GRAPHICS.
Eric: For individuals, video games can provide entertainment, escapism, and even exercise. What can video games provide for culture at large?
Justin: Narratives that are shaped by the intent of the consumer provide so many interesting avenues for artistic expression, something I’d like to see the industry explore more.
Eric: You have a certain fondness, it seems, for “broken” games, or the simple whimsy of ramps that explode when you jump them in the game. How often do you encounter people who seem to take electronic gaming too seriously?
Justin: Every day, I guess, but then, there are certain facets of the industry that I take too seriously, Spider-Man games and FMV games among them. I think the key is balance, understanding that culture doesn’t begin and end at the title screen.
Eric: Have you ever peed your pants while playing a video game?
Justin: Yes, but the two were not related.
Eric: But seriously: What is the funniest video game you have ever played?
Justin: It’s probably Ben There, Dan That or Time Gentlemen, Please, the two adventure games from Size Five Games. Devastatingly funny.
Eric: I probably have more ties in retro gaming than I do in modern titles. As for you: Do you have any favorite classics from the 64-bit era and before?
Justin: Does Seaman count? Because Seaman.
Eric: Theoretical: You’re a developer with infinite resources. What game do you make?
Justin: Seaman 2.
Eric: My mom plays video games. Does yours?
Justin: My mom passed away a few years back, but the only thing I can remember about her and gaming was her uncharacteristic enjoyment of watching us mess up innocents in Grand Theft Auto.
Eric: You get to do some very cool stuff at Polygon. Is it a tough challenge to keep helping produce top-quality knock-out gaming content all the time, or is it an absolute blasty blast and a half? Does your work require a lot of caffeine?
Justin: The trick is to hire insanely talented, smart, funny hard working people to make all the good stuff while I sit back and “manage” them, whatever that means.
Eric: What would be your advice for someone who wants their career to be in the gaming industry?
Justin: Realize that this is one of the top five coolest fields in the world and if you want to be paid to be in it, you’re going to need to either work incredibly hard or be something really special. Alternately, if you can figure out how I’ve hung on so long, you could try that, but there may only be room for one of us anomalies, so I hope you don’t piece it together.
Thanks again for your time, Justin.
McElroy’s editorial work can be found on what-will-soon-be Polygon, his (and brothers’) assuredly excellent podcast is one I have heard great things about yet have stubbornly not yet listened to, and he can be followed on Twitter @JustinMcElroy.