Thursday, July 10, 2008

The worst interview ever

Above: "Not really" big gamers.

Whenever someone refers to me as a games journalist, I cringe. Journalism involves things like enterprise reporting, talking to people, and leaving your house. That's not my scene. My scene is asking someone else to bug publishers for promos, retreating to the privacy of my apartment, and then blustering on for thousands of words while wearing an open bathrobe and drinking Narragansett.*

Nevertheless, when I first got into this racket, I assumed it was expected of me to engage in some journalistic activities. So I attended a Major League Gaming event, visited the offices of Atari and Harmonix (this was before Guitar Hero, mind you), and, on the eve of the 2004 Nintendo Fusion Tour, conducted the worst interview in the history of the printed word.**

You can read that link to find out more about the Fusion Tour, but in a nutshell it was a cross-promotional music festival that featured crappy pop-punk bands on the stage and Nintendo kiosks in the lobby. The kiosks featured, among other games, a playable demo of the not-yet-released Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, which was my favorite part. Onstage were a bunch of up and coming bands, including a pre-"Helena" My Chemical Romance.

Headlining the Fusion Tour was Story of the Year. At each stop along the way, two lucky fans would win a chance to compete against the band in a game of WWE: Day of Reckoning. Somehow, I found myself with an appointment to do a phone interview with the band's singer, Dan Marsala.

You have to understand how nervous I was. I hate the phone. I won't even call for pizza unless physically threatened. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, but I had no experience interviewing people, and I am not by nature a talkative guy. Someone else needs to lead the discussion. Hiring me to conduct an interview is like asking Amy Winehouse to be your AA buddy. I'm not proud of this. It's just the way things are.

The moment came, and I called. Their manager answered. "This gonna take long?" he said. "Cause we got some other stuff to do."

"No! Just a couple of minutes," I said. I was grateful. The less time I had, the better.

He handed the phone to Dan. All right. Showtime. I'd been thinking hard about what to talk about. Story of the Year. Nintendo Fusion Tour. Metroid Prime 2. WWE: Day of Reckoning.

"So!" I said as cheerily as I could. "Headlining the Nintendo Fusion Tour. Are you guys big gamers?"

"Not really," he said.

Neither of us spoke for a moment. I wasn't sure if the hissing noise was the open phone line, or the blood rushing in my ears.

Finally, I thought of a follow-up: "Oh."

If you read the article, you can tell that I was able to stammer out a few more sentences and get some workable quotes, although I don't even mention Marsala's name until about two-thirds of the way through. When I do, it feels superfluous. But hell, I'd gone to the trouble of doing the interview -- I'd be damned if I didn't use some of it.

As these things go, obviously my interview wasn't as bad as, say, NFL quarterback Jim Everett beating the stuffing out of Jim Rome. If anything, I probably set myself up for failure by not preparing to talk about this guy's music. But it was enough for me to know I never wanted to do that again.

*At least one part of this sentence is not true. I will leave it to you to guess which.

**Sorry these are all Web Archive links; the originals have gone fishin' since the Phoenix's site redesign.


Daniel Purvis said...

I'm going to guess you don't drink Narragansett.

Wow, man. I absolutely LOVE conducting interviews, with, like, anyone.

Actually, I've been known to conduct interviews for a local music-based street press on the occassion.

Great fun if you can get the right people. Though, I must admit, some of the phone interviews I've conducted were rather ... eugh.

Take Clown, from Slipknot, who was obviously chowing down on something slippery during the whole interview. Chinese noodles, he confirmed.

And my interview with Trivium bassist Paolo Gregoletto was rather frustrating. It was as if he wanted to deliver a silent interview.

And I've found that in the gaming arena, an editor is more likely to publish your works if you're conducting interviews with interesting peoples. Also, unique peoples, if you can get them to agree to crawl out from their hobble.

I don't think you did such a bad interview with the Story of the Year guy. Hell, I think I'd have struggled not to give him shit the entire time!

So, have you thought of contacting people for an official interview in recent years? Or have you resigned yourself to writing extremely well-thought out and in-depth abstractions on the gaming industry in general? Because honestly, we could do with more of those!

Duncan said...

I maintain that no one has ever published a worse game-related interview than
this one.

Mitch Krpata said...

Daniel, Narragansett is the best cheap beer by a country mile. Not my preferred brew when price is no consideration, but price often is a consideration.

As for interviews, there have been a couple things I've done where it might have made sense to try to get some quotes, but I'm reluctant to do it. The weird thing is, if somebody ever wants to talk to me about anything, I'm more than happy to do it.

Duncan, that is the most hilariously content-free interview I've ever read. The reader comments redeem it.

Alex said...

I'm terrible at phone interviews as well.

My first (and hopefully) last was about six months ago with some high school sports blogger. At the time, I knew nothing about sports/high school sports/sports blogging/the guy/the guy's blog/etc, but I had an article due the next day.

I nervously, and COMPLETELY unintentionally, attacked him and his blog (still not sure how it happened) and the whole thing went downhill from there. Worst 30 minutes of my very brief journalism career.

Not to mention, I called up and began to interview the wrong person before any of this happened. Errg. Terrible terrible memories.