Saturday, October 17, 2009

Brian Ashcraft: Writer, Gamer, Kotaku's nighttime guardian.

I started blogging on a daily basis last year and made a goal of contacting and talking to at least three editors, writers, journalists in the games industry and asking them questions about their career. Over the past week Kotaku underwent a massive overhaul of the comments system and I got a chance to speak with Editor Brian Ashcraft about the site and how he found himself there.

Ashcraft started gaming at an early age with an Atari 2600.

"We had an Odyssey at home as well and a Pong set. I have vivid memories of getting an NES for Christmas at age six or seven and beating Kung Fu."

Ashcraft went to Cornell after studying Art History and moved to Japan on a whim. "I always liked Japanese games, movies, music. It was hard for the first couple of years because I didn't speak or read any Japanese."

"Writing for Wired helped a lot! I owe a great deal to the editors there for giving me an opportunity to write and even do features. It was like journalism school for me, but I got paid." Ashcraft started writing for Wired magazine after his move and his work there led to a recommendation at Gawker Media, Kotaku's parent company in 2005.

"I find it myself and pitch it to my editor. If the mag likes it, I write a story. If not, I don't. Balancing Wired and Kotaku isn't so impossible. Balancing a new book on Japanese schoolgirls, a family, Wired and Kotaku? That can be challenging at times," Ashcraft said when speaking about creating content for all of his writing endeavors. "People forget that we produce so much content every day [at Kotaku] -- 12 posts plus reviews, original pieces and features. So busy! But I love it."

Ashcraft recently published Arcade Mania, a book about Japanese arcades. I asked him about that process: "It was rough -- wife was going through a difficult pregnancy and I was trying to take care of her and my son. Favorite part was interviewing people. I love interviewing people, picking their brains, learning stuff."

Ashcraft has been playing a lot of Battlefield 1943 and says that he's been looking forward to "Uncharted 2, Peace Walker and FFXIII!" He says he prefers interviewing interesting developers, with no preference between Japanese and Western developers, and that "Perhaps Japanese developers need to focus on current gen game engines [in order to regain some of their dominance? I don't think there is an easy answer."

While Ashcraft doesn't have a preference for a genre of games. "I like mostly anything -- anything that's good. I like Japanese rpgs, and I like Western ones. Ditto for action games. I like *good* games, *fun* games." As far as some of gaming's current issues, Ashcraft had this to say about motion controls: "I'm interested in seeing how Natal does as it could shake things up if it lives up to its promises. Also, I'm curious to see if the PS3 wand controls lead to more multi-plat PS3 and Wii games."

And for those aspiring for a job in game journalism, Ashcraft says "If you read Kotaku, many thanks! For future journalists, write, write and write some more. And please don't be boring!"

Thanks for answering my questions and keep up the great work Bash!

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