Tag Archives: media

Vox Video Lab

Vox.com:

You know that feeling you get when you learn something that blows your mind, something new, something that perhaps you didn’t even think to ask about? That’s our goal with every Vox video: We want to help you understand the world in a visually clear, creative, and hopefully beautiful way.

If that sounds like a mission you support, and you love our videos, then we ask that you consider joining the Vox Video Lab, our brand-new membership program on YouTube that will help us give you even more ambitious explainer videos and series.

Why are we doing this? The core reason is pretty simple: Our videos take a ton of work.

Well, how about that. The day after divulging my affinity for Vox Media’s creators, they establish their first membership program.
Thrilled to be a Video Lab Advisory Board member.

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What’s in a Creator?

I visit Daring Fireball, Stratechery, Chorus.fm, and Polygon religiously. I support MacStories, Washed Up Emo, and Relay FM. Their content doesn’t always land for me and I’ve become increasingly less wild about their design. So why do I keep coming back? In a nutshell, it’s the relationship I have with their creators.

I have a background in the podcast industry. What drew me to it was not the business potential or the medium itself, but the intimacy of the format. I was able to develop a pseudo relationship with the voices at the other end. Only ever consuming podcasts in moments solace while commuting or on a jog, the intimacy intensified. I formed such a bond with the voices on the podcasts I listened to that I wanted to support them. In my mind there was no better way than to join the industry.

The same could be said for my want to join the ranks of the news industry — namely the gaming news industry. In 2013, I’d come across Polygon.com — namely their PS4 and Xbox One reviews. I fell in love with their design and the rich content they were producing. It was a stark contrast from my then favorite gaming site IGN.com. Less clutter. Sharper design. Higher quality writing and videos. I became so engaged with the site that I began deep diving into their creators. Allegra Frank, Ben Kuchera, Tracey Lien, Griffin and Justin McElroy, Ashley Oh, Chris Plante, Dave Tach — the list went on.

I began listening to Polygon’s Besties podcast, hosted by Russ Frushtick, Griffin and Justin McElroy, and Chris Plante. Hearing them speak at length, episode after episode, helped me build an intimate, albeit one-sided, relationship with these folks.

And the cherry on top: their custom “Polygon-ified” avatars used on both Polygon.com and Twitter. This made the staff feel like a unit; a family. Many voices that made up a larger whole. Their credit was not mired or obscured as a monolithic publication — one reason I cancelled my subscription to The Economist. Much of their team — and Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff — still use the avatars today.

Needless to say, I connect to outlets not for the outlet’s sake, but for the creators I enjoy. Mediums such as podcasts and Twitter bring the personality out of the individuals; and on occasion, the latter allows for actual interaction with these them.

Realizing Polygon was (then) one-third of the greater Vox Media, I took to learning about the creators of the other verticals. And as Vox Media grew, so did their rosters.

Dieter Bohn, Lauren Good, Nilay Petal of The Verge. Dan Frommer, Walt Mossberg, and Kara Swisher of Recode. Ezra Klein, Dylan Matthews, Libby Nelson, and Matthew Yglesias of Vox.

Over the weekend, after seeing a tweet and retweet by Vox Media COO Trei Brundrett and CEO Jim Bankoff respectively, I listened to Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell on CNN’s Reliable Sources Podcast with Brian Stelter:

Audiences love our work and they care deeply about our creators. Often times we see them asking our creators, “do have a Pateeon account? Is there a way we can donate money to continue to contribute to your sites? Can we participate in the journalism in some way?”

We want to explore those options for sure. We want to make sure we’re building a business that supports our creators. We’ll be looking at every business model as we grow.

I certainly don’t know how much of this is true while not working within the walls of the company, but it’s certainly something I’ve felt as an audience member and fan.

Since reading Polygon in 2013, I’ve been a fan and critic of Vox Media. They’ve made great technological choices, and some questionable ad and social integrations. But more than anything, they put a focus on their talent. Their creators aren’t just a byline — assuming those stick around. They are featured in their text, audio, and video. Their engaging — and often times incredibly long — features are showcased on other Vox Media verticals. And talent from one outlet will appear on another’s podcast.

I have asked several Vox Media staff if I can somehow, someway contribute — donate through their sites or via Patreon; hell, publish print and take a margin. I want these creators to succeed! And I want the platform that gives them such a voice to be bolstered. I haven’t seen anything concrete yet, but I did buy Polygon’s 500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII by Matt Leone as soon as it went up for pre-order.

I feel I have a connection and loyalty to Vox Media’s creators first, their sites second; much like I do for independents John Gruber (Daring Fireball), Ben Thompson (Stratechery), Jason Tate (Chorus.fm), Tom Mullen (Washed Up Emo), and others. It’s the talent that always brings me back. And I’ll continue to do everything in my power to support the creators.

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Washed Up Emo: ‘It felt like you were turning a page of a book that you’d never opened before’

Tom Mullen, host of the Washed Up Emo podcast, interviewing Justin Courtney Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack fame:

JCP: Now we’re all on Twitter and Instagram. We can see at least a version of ourselves that we want to put out to the world, which is still more than when you had to find that one article of the band where they had a few paragraphs. You had to read it. You didn’t get to see video of the person that’s speaking.

It’s just so much easier to connect to people now. There less mystery involved. I think back then, everyone just seemed way cooler than they probably were.

TM: This is brought up a bunch because of the time period of some of these bands and their age. You knew it before [the internet/connectivity], and now you have it. You have this context of being able to know when you didn’t have it and that feeling, versus someone today who’s younger doesn’t. They’ve only always had a phone. They’ve always had Wikipedia.

You talked about that feeling, but it’s also that sense of discovery. It felt like you were turning a page of a book that you’d never opened before. That feeling I try and replicate as much as I can today.

More and more I realize how detached I am from new music. As much as I looked forward to the new Cursive, Minus the Bear, Saves the Day, and Thrice records, they are new records from old bands. Plus, there was little for me to chew on aside from the music itself. Little in the way of liner-notes, thank yous, etc. Or maybe it’s just my lack of focus, time, and energy.

Even more is that my pendulum of consumption has swung far in the opposite direction of video games to books this year. I don’t think I’ve finished a single game I’ve purchased in 2018.

Together, I now get the sense of discovery I used to have with music intertwined with the insatiable appetite I had for video games rolled into reading. I’m on pace to read more than I ever have in a single year.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, books are my new albums.

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Ben Thompson: ‘Humans Run on Stories’

Ben Thompson on The Talk Show with John Gruber podcast:

Stories matter. Humans run on stories.

I look at my own site and the articles that often resonate are not the ones with brilliant analysis or something clever. It’s the ones that tell a story.

People know it implicitly, but have a very difficult time articulating it. If you’re selling to consumers, there’s so much that goes into it that doesn’t go on a spreadsheet. That sort of stuff matters.

I subscribe to Ben’s Stratechery Daily Update newsletter. I read a lot of it and consider Ben’s insights priceless. But it’s typically his free weekly articles that grab me.

His most recent, ‘Tech’s Two Philosophies’, had me reeling. After reading it over morning coffee, I raced to work to share it with my team.

I shoehorned Ben’s ideas into something relevant to our work. It was a stretch, but I don’t think overly so. Regardless, I was so moved by the story in the piece that it woke me up better than any cup of coffee.

Humans run on stories. They absolutely do.

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Griffin and Justin McElroy Depart Polygon

Griffin McElroy, Polygon:

With that sage wisdom in mind, it’s time for us — Griffin and Justin, who have, for the purposes of this introduction, fused into a singular, fraternal hivemind — to announce some big and bittersweet news: This Friday will be our last day as full-time employees at Polygon.

We’ve written our own individual letters below, but understand that everyone’s attention span might not sustain them through both; especially now that you know we’re leaving, and our relevance to you slips away like so many grains of sand through the hourglass. So, here’s a TL;DR, as the kids say: We’re leaving to focus on our other projects, and to have more time to live functional human lives. We’re gonna keep doing Monster Factory on some kind of recurring basis, as well as a couple other of our pre-existing Polygon projects. Our departure is completely amicable — so, SORRY, beef-hunters. No beef to be found here. This exit is strictly vegetarian.

Now that we’ve spoiled all the big surprises, here’s our individual takes. Thank you all so much.

This one hurts.

When my wife and I moved to San Francisco for my job, I felt alone when outside of her company. On my commute or wandering the city, I’d listen to Polygon’s The Besties with Griffin and Justin McElroy, Russ Frushtick, and Chris Plante. Their humor and camaraderie comforted me. On one episode, I caught wind that Griffin and Justin had another podcast: My Brother, My Brother, and Me. It was a treasure trove of wit and goofs; things that helped me through my days.

Even with their plethora of amazing and innovative endeavors outside of games journalism, I will always associate Griffin and Justin with Polygon. They’re perspectives and writing are exceptional. I always looked forward to their articles.

But the writing was on the wall. Their bylines on Polygon.com appeared with decreasing frequency, while their amount of “side-projects” began to seemingly multiply.

In their departure letters, they both reflect on Polygon’s editor-in-chief Chris Grant’s friendship — how he helped kick off their games journalism journey. It’s amazing to see how much adoration is paid to Grant for his support and willingness to allow them to balance their dream job while pursuing other endeavors.

The piece of this news that hits the hardest comes from Justin’s letter. It speaks to the heart and humanity I believe the folks behind Polygon harbor. It also speaks to why I write Zero Counts and the countless other blogs I left in its wake:

So for years, I wrote for myself. I created and maintained no fewer than three different blogs with a readership of, statistically speaking, nobody. I pitched myself to every major gaming site and magazine and was ignored by all of them. But I kept applying, kept pitching, and was eventually ignored by almost all of them. After a few years, I was able to cobble something that looked like a resume in dim light, and things got a bit easier.

The call that changed my life though came from Chris Grant, the EIC of Joystiq who remembered liking my submissions when I had applied for a job (six months prior, didn’t get it, natch). He was reminded of my existence after I emailed him trying to get Joystiq to post about some videos I had made about a laserdisc lightgun game featuring prop comedian Gallagher. I owe Gallagher so much that I’ll never be able to repay.

I’m happy for Griffin and Justin and look forward to supporting their other adventures. But this one hurts.

Godspeed, boys.

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Brian Crecente says Goodbye to Polygon

Brian Crecente:

So I wrapped things up at Kotaku and joined Grant and crew to help launch Polygon. Then somehow five years whipped by and before I knew it I went from covering presidential press conferences and breaking news on new games to spending my days writing about esoteric pinball machines or the state of gaming and game culture in Cuba.

When Rolling Stone contacted me about joining the magazine on its 50th anniversary, I simply couldn’t say no. I’ve spent more than a dozen years talking about how I wanted to build the Rolling Stone of gaming publications. Where better to do that then at Rolling Stone?

I’ve always looked forward to Brian’s work on Zero Counts was founded upon a very similar message.

Glixel (Rolling Stone’s gaming vertical) has been publishing some spectacular pieces as of late. I’m very excited to see how Brian’s legacy and institutional knowledge from Kotaku and Polygon bolster Glixel.

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E3 2017

E3 debuted in 1995 — 22 years ago. This year, for the first time ever, the Entertainment Software Association welcomed the public to the expo. As a follower of E3 since age 9, I was overjoyed to have nabbed one of the 15,000 publicly released tickets.

The Event

The days leading up to the event were spent streaming presentations from Microsoft, Bethesda, EA, and Sony. Nintendo’s event took place while I was in the air, so I dove headfirst into the tidy 25 minute Nintendo Spotlight upon touchdown. I’d missed Ubisoft‘s presentation, but felt fairly caught up after scanning headlines during the cab ride from LAX to the Los Angeles Convention Center. I was ready for E3.

As expected, the entry lines snaked around the building. I had braced myself for standing in lines for three days straight. In the meantime, I took to booking appointments for the Sony booths via the Experience PlayStation app. I attempted to sign into the app with my PSN credentials only to find myself in an “incorrect password” loop bug, identifying storefronts and cars for CAPTCHA for upwards of 30 minutes. (Mind you, the likely “slammed by tens of thousands of E3 participants” LTE reception was poor. This did not bode well for my battery.) I could have signed in as a guest, but was hoping for a bit of PSN love if signed in. After several failed attempts, my password was finally reset, I successfully signed into the app, and was able to grab one of the remaining theater demo slots for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. All other demos and theater slots were booked. Try again at 2pm.

Our entry line eventually moved into the Convention Center’s south hall where buzz was abound the cacophony of video game themed booths. Final Fantasy. Capcom vs. Marvel. Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Massive projections. Lighting flurries. Dragons. Cram over-the-top Disneyland aesthetics into an overcrowded casino and you have E3. Entering the gates of the video game holy land seemed everything I’d hoped it’d be.

Then we looked for games to play. And looked. And looked. And looked. The massive crowds had overtaken all available consoles for the next handful of hours. All lines were quickly capped. Luck being our only chance to play anything, it quickly became apparent that a three day pass for a single price was less of a steal as it was a requirement to actually feel like you were able to participate in what E3 had to offer. It would certainly take at least three days of waiting in lines for an attendee to play your top five choices of E3.

Clinging to hope that the crowds would thin out over the next two days, my friends and I took to wandering, stargazing, and stabbing our phones for appointment times at the Sony booth. Splitting up and sharing our experiences proved to be the best strategy. Nintendo’s construction of Super Mario Odyssey‘s New Donk City was the star of the show. IGN’s production crew and round the clock coverage was captivating. A plethora of fighting game competitions littered both halls. (I was transfixed watching Injustice 2 fighter Jen annihilate nearly every competitor that showed up.) Ubisoft made their presence known with multiple massive projections, live demos from development teams, and plenty of Just Dance 2018 performances. (Any tips for getting Hyuna’s Bubble Pop out of one’s head?)

While it was nice to see and play highly anticipated games ahead of release, the real magic of E3 2017 were the extravagant booths, passionate publisher/developer staff, wandering games media personnel, and ecstatic fans. The lines were hellish and I really wish I’d been able to play more. It was an exhaustive, discouraging experience that could have been more conducive to consumers with better line management (Sony’s mediocre app was the best experience and even that was painful), more live demos rather than hands-on areas with larger theaters, co-op or multiplayer experiences when possible, more occupied floor space, and simply less people. One full day may have been enough, but three was required to participate in more than one activity. It was certainly a childhood dream come true and I was expecting no less, but I can’t say I’ll be retuning to E3 without media or industry credentials in the future.

The Games

At the end of day three, I walked away seeing live demos of Uncharted, Spider-Man, Monster Hunter World, Days Gone, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and played Super Mario Odyssey and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. (My friend and I lucked out by standing next to a nearly unoccupied Super Mario Odyssey demo and I waited two hours for 16 minutes of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.) In hindsight, it was not enough to feel fulfilled by the experience.

Of the two games I played, Super Mario Odyssey was the better. Odyssey feels like the perfect amalgam of all 3D Mario adventures: The playground of Super Mario 64‘s introductory courtyard, Super Mario Sunshine‘s NPCs, Super Mario Galaxy‘s inventiveness, and Super Mario 3D World‘s fidelity. Above all, there is a “weird” factor that has been generating buzz. The various worlds Mario can travel to feature a variety of art styles: the playable New Donk City feels like a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater / Sims hybrid while the Sand Kingdom felt like a traditional 3D Mario world with a new classic 2D side-scrolling mechanic added to the mix. (Think The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.) The game played as great as you can imagine, but the real allure is looking forward to the variety and trying to figure out just what the hell is going on!

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is the game I’m most looking forward to. It’s gorgeous and surprisingly deep. I can’t recall ever seeing the Mushroom Kingdom in such detail. And like any great Mario game, it feels like it may be deceptively difficult. I’ve never played an XCOM game, and the demo seemed to only scratch the surface, but the number of methods to approaching and evading battle seemed impressive. There is a certain chess-like quality to the game in that you may need to think twice or thrice before executing a move. Enemies lurk in around cover and, if you’re not careful, environmental elements can throw off your game. I do worry that variety will be a problem; the old “Sonic” syndrome where the first handful of levels feel great but then feel dull or repetitive or both. We shall see.

Uncharted looks like Uncharted. I certainly love the idea of playing as Chole, but the sequence shown did little to suggest that this would be any different from previous iterations. And that may be fine, but unless there is a drastically different element (Uncharted 2‘s sequences > Uncharted 1, Uncharted 3‘s story > Uncharted 2, Uncharted 4‘s fidelity > Uncharted 3), I feel it’s a bit soon to jump back into this world.

The live Spider-Man demo went a little off script from the Sony presentation but was largely the same. I love the Arkham-like feel, but the reliance on quicktime events is a bit off-putting. Still, I’m looking forward to this game. (Now I want Insomniac to make a TMNT game!)

Days Gone was touted for it’s variety of mission approaches and environmental effects on the population, but the post-apocalypse / zombie infestation disenchanted me. How are we not done with zombies yet?

Both Monster Hunter World and Middle-earth: Shadow of War looked incredibly chaotic yet impressive. The highlight of Monster Hunter World came when a giant iguana-like monster crashed out of a nearby forest to feast on another gigantic beast — albeit lower in the food chain — plumping up like a snake after the meal, and sauntering back into the forest. Back at the nest, the iguana-like creature regurgitated part of his meal, summoning it’s offspring to the feast. Later in the demo, the same iguana-like creature would join our battle against a T. Rex-like monster as the T. Rex-like was trespassing on the iguana-like’s territory. Quite the world!

Middle-earth: Shadow of War looks to be focused more on castle raids than the previous entry. Players will recruit orc war chiefs throughout their play and choose which ones they will bring into a castle raid, strategizing their recruits’ strengths vs. the castle’s war chiefs’ weaknesses. Before the demo, director of technical art at Monolith Mike Allen touted enhancements to the nemesis system; however, these did not seem evident to me. I was expecting something more along the lines of the beloved Brûz.

There was lots of buzz about Detroit throughout the show. It plays like Heavy Rain, allowing payers to investigate a scene in attempts to build a successful outcome to a dire situation. While I did not get a chance to play Detroit, I did observe four different endings to the hostage scenario players were given the opportunity to partake in: 1 failure, 3 successes. The failure resulted in the hostage being killed. The successes varied in:

  1. the player sacrificing himself to save the hostage
  2. the player saving the hostage, but being shot during the encounter
  3. convincing the rival android to comply, saving the hostage and himself

There are plenty of games that offer a variety of situations and solutions, but to see these different scenarios play out next to each other simultaneous by different individuals’ actions was rather interesting to see. I can’t say the game is for me, but of those that played it, most felt it was the game for them.

As noted, I wasn’t able to partake in much. Nor were all games showcased during the presentations being showcased — Anthem and God of War most notably. Ultimately, I feel I’d gotten everything I needed from the presentations. A trip to E3 was not warranted.

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‘On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog’

John Markoff,  former technology reporter for the New York Times, in an interview on Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast:

On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog. I think identity and the fact that you disconnect [real] identity from your internet identity has proved incredibly vexing for society. It played out in this election. It played out in Brexit. (It was a factor in both—I don’t know if it was a deciding factor—but I actually do blame the internet.)

I grew up with John Perry Barlow and his manifesto in WIRED in which he argued that cyberspace would be this “Socratian” abode above the grimy politics of the world. Then I realized I was wrong.

The internet is simply a reflection of all the good and the evil in the world.

[…]

What’s striking to me is that what the science-fiction world saw in the ’80s and ’90s has actually come to pass; the cyberpunk sensibility. There was a book written by Vernor Vinge in the early 1980s called True Names. The basic premise of that was you had to basically hide your true name at all costs. It was an insight into the world we’re living in today.

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Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and the Born This Way Foundation Launch #HackHarassment

Kara Swisher, re/code:

The first knee-jerk reaction of those who think completely free speech is the paramount rule of the Internet is simple: Stop whining, you stupid girl, and take it, because everyone should be able to say exactly what they want, however they want and in whatever way they want to say it.

It’s a canard of an argument, designed to turn a complex issue into a reductive black-and-white debate where no one can come to any agreement.

Still, it’s always set up this way when anyone attempts to make the more obvious point that free speech is not as free as all that in the real world, where there are numerous social repercussions for behaving in a rude, obscene and appalling manner.

Simple example: If you loudly tell a woman she deserves to be raped for speaking her mind on any subject in the public square, at a party or at work, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get ejected from there and, at the very least, you’ll be subject to much-deserved derision and censure.

Not so on the Internet, where such talk is all too common and much too tolerated. Which is why Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and the Born This Way Foundation are coming together to co-create Hack Harassment (#hackharassment), a new, collaborative initiative to fight online harassment and provide safer, more inclusive online experiences.

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