With the widespread success of satirical shows like The Daily Show and Web sites like The Onion, fake news has begun to rival real news in terms of popularity. Into this environment comes The Game Rag, a hillarious new site setting out to be “the Onion of video game news,” according to creator Nathan Smart. I talked to Nathan about his inspiration and his thoughts on the world of real game journalism. The complete interview after the jump.
Video Game Media Watch: How long have you been playing games? What are some of your favorites?
Nathan Smart: I’ve been playing since the Atari 2600 which means most of my life. My favorite games, as of late, are ones that are really unique. I really like games like WarioWare and Guitar Hero – games that you can play all night, or that you can play for five minutes. I only have so much time to play anymore so anything mini game-based is perfect for me. I also get crazy for these types of games that also have multiplayer – so give me Mario Party and I’ll call it a night.
VGMW: What inspired you to start a satirical gaming news site?
NS: I’m an aspiring comedy writer in addition to loving games. I’ve always been a fan of The Onion and satirical writing. In fact, I used to have a regular fake news site back in 1999 called Not Real News that I was constantly posting stuff to. I love combining my interests in any way possible and I looked all over the internet for something like The Onion for video games. The closest I came to it was Nintendorks and so I set up camp there in their forums. I had been kicking around the idea of doing a satirical gaming news site and there’s a guy there named ChrisV82 (who is basically the main writer for Nintendorks) and I thought he would be perfect for this. So, I decided to set one up and asked him to be a part of it – and here it is. I’m assuming that this is a niche and that there aren’t any other sites doing this. I could be wrong though.
VGMW: How do you come up with story ideas?
NS: First, I just come up with funny headlines. That’s the best way to do it. Just write a funny headline, do the article later. Sometimes, as in the case with the OTHER NEWS section of the site, I don’t even write an article for the headline. Sometimes, the headline just says it all. If I don’t have any ideas for a story, the next best thing is to look and see what all the sites are talking about. Whatever is the biggest story, that’s the next article on The Game Rag.
VGMW: In general, do you think gamers have a good sense of humor? How about game journalists? Game developers?
NS: I think so. I mean, the community is based on being a fanboy and making fun of other fanboys. It doesn’t matter who you are – you have a favorite system, developer or genre. No matter what you think, you will still be biased towards that particular interest. That’s why most of my articles are based in fanboyism. Maybe I’ll write an article talking about Mario being in a million games. Mabye I’ll write an article about the Xbox 360 catching on fire. It all stems from people having discussions on message boards and making fun of the other person’s interests. Not to mention – game journalism is already pretty loose. Where else are you going to find frat boys writing articles like the AP. Video game journalism is infused with humor. And game developers? I’d say so – just look at Rockstar’s whole deal with Jack Thompson. That’s was pretty amusing…
VGMW: Where do you go for real gaming news? What do you look for in a gaming news publication?
NS: I get most of my news from 4 Color Rebellion and the Nintendorks forum. I also really like Joystiq and Kotaku. And, of course, I’ll check IGN, GameSpot and 1UP out of necessity.
I really like the blog sites like 4CR and Joystiq – I like that it’s a bit more personal than the other ones have to be. Also, I like that they pull from all over video game culture. On IGN you’ll find the press releases. On Kotaku you’ll find a guy who makes tshirts out of old NES cartridges. That’s fun to me.
VGMW: What do you think is the biggest problem with video game news today?
NS: I don’t know if there’s a problem that won’t go away or a problem that hasn’t always been there. I think it has to do with what I said before about the blog sites. I don’t think the bigger sites cover the culture of gaming enough. 1UP does a really good job of it, I think, with their features and the community they have set up there (minus the freakin’ clutter of information – I swear, I’ve NEVER needed that much info on one page). IGN, on the other hand, is all business.
VGMW: What is the most unintentionally funny gaming news story you’ve seen?
NS: That’s a toughy. I think some of the features that IGN does are pretty ridiculous. Like, an entire article based on whether or not Nintendo will die because they don’t have HD (I’m just exaggerating here). There’s an assumption there that any Nintendo site should already make, based on the simple fact alone that they are a Nintendo site. You can’t have 25 articles all talking about how Nintendo is making a lot of money doing what it wants and then write an editorial about how not having HD is going to ruin it. Again, this isn’t exactly what was written at IGN. This is just an example of the type of stuff that goes on there. I think it’s okay to be against what ‘your’ company is doing. Criticism is fine. It’s just when you run out of stuff and you’re told to do a quick feature to fill space is where IGN goes wrong, I think.
By the way, I don’t really hate IGN. I do get some major info from it. They were great with the Revolution controller coverage.
VGMW: How long do you plan to keep the site going? Do you think it will be hard to continue creating fresh material going forward?
NS: As long as I can keep it going. I’ve been pretty prolific lately with writing. It’s pretty fun to write articles. As long as there is video game news, there’ll be Game Rag news. There’s no such thing as a shortage when it comes to comedy. There is always another way to look at something.
VGMW: Who is the funniest person in the video game industry and why?
NS: Wow. I don’t know. Maybe Shigeru Miyamoto? Have you seen that guy? I swear he’s a Japanese Mecha for a race of little Japanese people who spend their entire manpower making sure that Miyamoto-san is always smiling.