Press Pass: Gaming's Grassroots with GamePolitics' Pete Gallagher
On March 24, 2005, Dennis McCauley launched his LiveJournal-based blog with an analysis of a game-bashing op-ed in the Macon Telegraph. Over the next four-and-a-half years, McCauley would build GamePolitics.com into the go-to source for coverage during those times when gaming merits the attention of governments and cultures around the world. From legislation to censorship, Jack Thompson to Grand Theft Childhood,/a>, Hot Coffee to Manhunt 2, McCauley's comprehensive coverage built the site a sterling reputation for reporting that attracted a buyout from the Entertainment Consumers Association in late 2006.
So it was a bit of a surprise when, last month, McCauley announced it was time to move on from GamePolitics, for reasons and parts unknown. In his absence, direction of the site has transitioned to Peter Gallagher, an industry veteran who helped start GameDaily (back when it was still an industry newsletter) and the defunct GameWeek Magazine. I talked with Gallagher about the challenges of taking over such a well-respected site, his thoughts on the site's editorial direction, and the state of gaming's political position here and abroad. Some excerpts from our conversation:
On McCauley's departure and filling his shoes
"We're trying to ... keep the site where it's at, and we have some exciting stuff coming up in the next six months or so."
"As someone who's sort of been through what Dennis has been through -- working from home, running a Web site, you're the only guy doing it ... I could just see where he reached a certain point, and I think he wanted to do something else, try something else. It was draining, and he had had enough, possibly." [Note: McCauley declined a request to be interviewed about his departure for Press Pass.]
"We talked a good deal before I took over. We'd talked on and off during the years, not a whole lot. [We talked about] the transition, how he finds some things, basically administration of the site. It's certainly going to take me a while, maybe forever, to catch up to the level where he was. Dennis, he had his tentacles everywhere. Our tentacles, we're still trying to spread out there. We're still trying to, not get up to speed, but ... he took his tentacles with him. We were in a Ferrari and maybe we're in a Mercedes now. We're trying to get back in that Ferrari."
On changes he hopes to make to the site
"Right now we're just trying to maintain the status quo. We've got some big ideas in the pipeline for what we hope it could become. We're trying to ... not to tread water, but to keep the site where it's at, and we have some exciting stuff coming up in the next six months or so. [We'll have] more contributors ... opening it up a little bit. I do have some assistance now in the form of John Keefer, who's obviously a seasoned, awesome writer -- you probably know him from Crispy Gamer. He's contributing articles now, so that helps out a lot. ... Part of what we want to do [is] break more stories, go more in-depth. If not now, that's what we want to do eventually."
On the importance of the GamePolitics community
"GamePolitics -- one of the beautiful things about it is the community. The guys who hang out around the Web site are very well informed, and they're helpful in providing leads sometimes. They're up on stuff 24/7. They also help on editing; if there happens to be an error once a year on the site, they're helpful in pointing that out. But really, great community that's totally into videogames and politics and how those worlds collide. They help out a lot."
"A lot of [how we find stories] is tips. Readers will shoot an e-mail, 'Hey, check this out.' Last week, the German group that had that killer game drive; that came right from a German reader who e-mailed us, translated some of it, and followed up again [Monday] with some pictures. So community really drives a lot of the content, which is awesome from this end."
On political awareness among gamers and the media
"It used to be that if you wanted to read about these topics, you had to go to GamePolitics. Now I think Dennis has expanded that with GamePolitics. You see these stories on every gaming Web site now. I mean Joystiq, Kotaku, any mainstream blog or videogaming Web site out there; it kind of spread. I think GamePolitics and Dennis and hopefully me in the future had a big hand in that."
On the site's political viewpoint
"We have it pretty good here. Nothing's really banned. ... I believe videogame legislation, wherever they try to prohibit the sale or display, ... I don't think they've ever lost a case. That's pretty good for gamers."
"I think under the previous owner, [the site] may have [had a political viewpoint]. I don't want to cast aspersions on [Dennis'] political-ness, [but] I try to keep my politics out of it. I think we have more liberal readers than non-liberals, and I tend to lean that way as well, but I try to keep that slant out of any writing. If we do put an opinion in a story, it's usually at the end of the story, and we try to break it out so it's known that it's opinion. But if something is ridiculous, we'll call it ridiculous; if we think something's smart, we'll call it smart. We kind of try to walk the line and not be too political on one side or the other."
"It's more straight reporting. What I'm bringing to the table, just from doing GameDaily all these years, is no-nonsense, just the facts, not too much external stuff in there. Just short, concise, to the point, don't try to interpret anything, write it as it is and then post it. That's kind of where I come from. Just the facts, Jack."
On the politics of GamePolitics readers and gamers as a whole
"I don't have any exact demographics, but don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people on both sides and they argue on the forum. ... The two sides are so divided, anything we can do to bring them together, even if it's talking about videogames; it's all good. Because not much is going to get done in this country unless the two parties can get along. That's where I'm coming from, kind of. I'm kind of non-political, but I'd like to see both Dems and Repubs work together to advance America somehow.
"And everybody loves videogames. You've got billions and billions of people playing games, and I don't think it matters which side of the fence they're on. Gaming's an escape for some people who are overly political; they can just jump in a game and not think about politics for an hour or two."
On covering Jack Thompson
"So should we even pay attention to this guy anymore? He's been disbarred, he's not really railing against videogames. He's just the common man nowadays, he's not a lawyer."
"One of the quandaries John [Keefer] and I talk about is whether or not to cover Jack Thompson anymore. Because he's still active, firing off e-mails three or four times a week. You saw how he used Facebook. So should we even pay attention to this guy anymore? He's been disbarred; he's not really railing against videogames. He's just the common man nowadays; he's not a lawyer."
"We're just going to take it on a case-by-case basis. We posted about him a couple of weeks go because it was the one year anniversary of his disbarment. ... We covered the Facebook suit... it's a double-edged sword, because Dennis' coverage of Jack helped both parties. It definitely helped build GamePolitics, and it definitely got Jack's name out there. But at this point in time, I don't think everything he does is relevant to our audience, and even the GamePolitics readers are kind of split. They dislike reading about Thompson on other Web sites, but when GamePolitics covers him, it's on a case-by-case basis at this point."
On efforts to curtail gamers' rights in America and other countries
"You know, Germany had that really bad school shooting; 16 or 17 people were killed. I wouldn't say they're overreacting, but it would make sense that other groups would make things a little more difficult in terms of violent games. I'm not saying I agree with it, but I see where they're coming from.
"We have it pretty good here. Nothing's really banned. I don't understand the whole AO rating -- why we have that and nothing really takes advantage of it. ... I think [the industry] has done a really good job of protecting them. ... I believe videogame legislation, wherever they try to prohibit the sale or display, blah blah blah, I don't think they've ever lost a case. That's pretty good for gamers. I guess it falls under the First Amendment.
"That's the ESA and the ECA lately; they're all doing a good job. The ESRB, even, in the last findings from that media group that does those report cards every year, those scores are up. It appears everybody's kind of working in unison and things are going pretty well for the videogame industry."
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