The Lost Sparks caught up with the thinking man’s games journalist, Ryan McCaffrey (@DMC_Ryan) to discuss his latest venture Nerd Styles, his career highlights and favourite gaming moments.
Ryan McCaffrey started his illustrious 12 1/2 year Xbox career working for the Official Xbox Magazine, a great story told by Ryan was that he bought an Xbox after he got the job as an editor on the magazine.
Ryan is the host of the Official Xbox Magazine’s podcast in which he co-hosted with Dan Amrich (One of Swords, Palette Swap Ninja) for many years.
He left Official Xbox Magazine in 2012 to become IGN’s Executive Editor looking after Xbox and previews which he quickly turned into IGN First, a fantastic month long spotlight on a particular game. Coverage has included Forza Horizon 2, Halo Master Chief Collection, Bloodborne and the latest IGN First, No Man’s Sky.
Ryan also hosts the number 1 Xbox podcast (sorry Major) with fellow IGN staff, which has just reached its 200th episode milestone.
He is best known for his fantastic, no holds barred interview style where his in depth knowledge of the gaming industry really shines. Interview highlights have included regular interviews with head of Xbox Phil Spencer, Matt Parker (South Park), Trey Stone (South Park), Max Hoberman (Certain Affinity) and most recently an industry first where Ryan interviewed Seamus Blackley, Peter Moore and Phil Spencer.
Outside of IGN Ryan spends time with his faithful companion Maggie the Boxer, enjoying Five Guys, In and Out, Shake Shack Burgers and his new passion, as the founder of Nerd Styles, a t-shirt line that plans to unite the console and burger wars.
[Lost Sparks] Hi Ryan, Thank you very much for sparing us some time out of your schedule for this interview, we are incredibly grateful. Firstly, here’s a little bit about us… The Lost Spark podcast is all about holding on to, or regaining that spark, love and passion that we gamers have for our beloved hobby. We have all had those dark moments when we fear we may have lost that spark, be it from a spate of bad game releases, time constraints in our busy lives, or perhaps a longing for something new. Have you ever lost your spark and if so what game brought you back?
[Ryan McCaffrey] It happens to all of us sometimes, I think. For me, I just take a break from gaming for a few days. Maybe a week at most. Sometimes I just want passive content — movies, TV shows — to entertain me, where I don’t have to do anything. But after a little while I’m always re-energized and ready to get back to games.
[LS] During E3 you interviewed some incredible people and as you said, ticked off some entries in your interview bucket list. What was it like interviewing industry giants Phil Spencer, Peter Moore and Seamus Blackley?
[RM] It was a career highlight for me, for sure. I’ve talked to Phil a lot, but I’d only met Peter once or twice and I didn’t meet Seamus until a few minutes before we got on the air together to do our Xbox E3 press conference pre-show. They were all very kind to trust me to do something like this.
[LS] Dishing the dirt; what was the atmosphere like before the interview, was there any animosity or was bravado the order of the day?
[RM] It was very relaxed. When one walked in the door, and then another, and then the third guy, I just got really excited. I couldn’t believe this was actually going to happen.
[LS] You got some great stories during this interview, which one stood out the most to you?
[RM] Two moments stand out for me: the first was when Peter Moore told the real story of the Red Ring of Death situation, where he had to go to Steve Ballmer and ask for $1.15 billion. That was incredible to hear. And the other was when Phil Spencer explained how his proudest moment has been dealing with the missteps of the past couple years with the Xbox One. He got very real, and it was riveting to listen to.
[LS] Do you plan to do more panel interviews and if so who’s left on your bucket list? Maybe a Halo past, present and future?
[RM] I actually prefer 1-on-1 interviews because it’s much easier to steer the conversation and get the information you’re looking for. Interviewing three people at once is actually very difficult. I would do it again if the right opportunity presented itself, though.
[LS] You recently launched your own brand of t-shirts, Nerd Styles. What was the inspiration behind the launch and have you given Phil Spencer a coexist t-shirt to wear?
[RM] I’ve had ideas for cool gaming/geek-related t-shirts that I’d like to wear for a while, so finally I just decided to see what it would take to actually do it. And I’ve thought about sending Phil one. I really should do that. 🙂
[LS] What were the challenges in kicking off Nerd Styles?
[RM] Just building the site — even with free tools like WordPress — was very difficult. I had help, but it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.
[LS] Has Nerd Styles been popular, which tee has sold the most so far?
[RM] I have modest expectations, and so far so good. The Coexist shirt with the high-fiving Xbox and PlayStation controllers is BY FAR the most popular shirt so far. I think people are really connecting with the message, as silly as it is to say that about a video game t-shirt.
[LS] On the Lost Spark podcast Antony states that he’s not an achievement hunter but secretly goes after those ‘cheevos; what’s your current gamerscore, proudest achievement awarded and have you ever got 100% (the Telltale games don’t count!) in a game?
[RM] My Gamerscore is not good because, like Phil said on Unlocked 201, I spend a lot of my time playing on Xbox debug kits, which are separate accounts that don’t show up in the real world. And I’ve got a few 100% games, most notably The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
[LS] Xbox has a strong lineup this fall, which games are you most excited about and do you think Microsoft can finally close the gap on Sony?
[RM] Microsoft can and will close the gap with Sony. The 2015 Xbox lineup is indisputably stronger from a first-party perspective. Combine that with a lower price and lots of good bundle deals and Xbox will make up ground. I’m not sure they’ll ever “win” with the lead PS4 already has, but in the end, they’re both healthy and that’s great for gamers and for the industry. I’m personally most excited for Halo 5. I think 343 is putting everything they’ve got into this one, and I can’t wait to see what they do.
[LS] Can you tell us about a time when a game surprisingly shattered your expectations? Perhaps a game expected to be excellent turned out terrible or the other way around and a game expected to be terrible blew you away.
[RM] Sunset Overdrive is the most recent example of a game that crushed my expectations. When I first saw it in April of last year, it looked fine. And up until release, it seemed fun but not mind-blowing. But when I finally played the final game, it all came together for me and I ended up voting for it for Game of the Year. South Park: The Stick of Truth is a game I really wanted be good that actually turned to to be as good as I wanted it to be. And that almost never happens.
[LS] If you had to choose just one platform (including its past and future generations) which would you jump on?
[RM] I’d never choose again. There’s no reason to ever limit yourself if you don’t have to. There are fantastic games on every platform. If you can afford multiple platforms, get them. Great games are everywhere!
[LS] Thank you Ryan for your time but one final question, how is Andy Bauman and have you guys hung out recently?
[RM] Andy is great! We get together every now and again. I miss working with him!