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How did TechRaptor first get started? I know you often get accused of being a “GamerGate” site but if I’m not mistaken you’ve existed in some form since 2013.

I started writing about games in late 2012 for a couple of small sites as well as blogging about tech events and computer fixes on my own blog for fun. After doing it for a few months and really taking the time to get well versed in how everything runs, I realized that there was more of a problem that I had already thought at that point. I already knew there were issues with games journalism, having graduated with a degree in Game Programming, but I didn’t realize the extent.

So in 2013, I doubled down and bought a basic server, domain name, and got started with building TechRaptor into a site that I could be proud to visit personally, as well as one that would really follow the basic tenets of ethics and integrity.

Since then, we’ve had more than 170 different people write for the site over time, 3.75 million pageviews, and really expanded our volume and quality of content.

TR side 1In the past year TechRaptor has expanded quite noticeably; what are the challenges involved in trying to break into the realms of bigger publications? 

It’s already really tough to get new people to visit the site, but then you have to work to get them to come back day after day. When there’s a ton of sites to compete with, many of whom are incredibly well established, it’s a matter of finding things that will make us stand apart.

I think the biggest challenge is being patient. From the start, I told myself – “This will take time, don’t get discouraged.” I think this really helped me set the mentality that I’ll have to work hard every day to keep changing and improving TechRaptor to grow.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is to listen to our readers. I look at all the tweets, comments, and more, in hopes that I can glean one more thought or idea that will help us make that next big step.

What do you most look for in a games writer or content creator? 

First and foremost, we’re looking for writing/video skill and talent, and then “Voice”. What I mean by this, is that we’re looking for people who are skilled with writing or video creating, but can take that skill and tell a story. Even in our news pieces, we’re not looking to just regurgitate information or review points, we want to make sure we’re explaining things in a way that people will both understand and enjoy reading.

Past that, I’m looking for people who want to help the site grow. We’re still small with around 300,000 pageviews a month, and while we are slowly growing our pay with our following, I want people who are looking for a place where they can grow and improve with us, both in visibility and compensation.

Do you think writing about games and creating media about games has changed in the past year? 

Without a doubt. I mean, look at YouTube and Twitch, and how integral they’ve become to gamers learning about the games they love through Let’s Play’s and video reviews.

I think people are looking for content and people they can connect to. In the past, we saw a lot of really dry press release news bits, and as time goes on you’re seeing more custom news pieces with extra details and for some sites like ours, commentary at the end. It’s why we’re working to create new columns and series that will run week after week, allowing readers and subscribers to connect to our staff.

How important is reader accountability to you? Can you ever listen to critical voices TOO much? 

Hah, you can DEFINITELY listen too much. Personally I spend a lot of time reading the comments, tweets, facebook posts, and a few emails, every month because I love being criticized. For a site that wants to improve itself and build a true community, taking criticism and using it to make yourself better is what you have to do.

At the same time, listening to every piece of criticism is too much. You have to know what’s too nit-picky, what’s trolling, and what’s something that will move your community forward.

In the last few months your site hasn’t been shy in flirting with controversy, do you think that gaming sites are overly averse to risk or too fearful of backlash?

I think the whole world is too fearful of backlash. It’s the sites that say what they mean, allow their writers to be honest, and diverse opinions to be shown, that will continue to grow and prosper as their readerbase gets to know them.

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I want my writers to be honest, cover things that are important to them, and interact in an honest way with our readers. If we share what we’re passionate about with the world, people are going to come and join us. We want to create a community around TechRaptor, and that’s not going to happen if we don’t take risks and be completely honest.

What kind of games writing and media would you personally like to see more of? 

Thematic media, honestly. At TechRaptor, we have the news and review space pretty well handled, and we’re working to improve it every day. Something going on behind the scenes right now, though, is that we’re working to start producing some thematic content. For those that don’t know, thematic content is story driven. For example, having D&D adventures, and thematically writing up a session report like a story. I think that’s something our readers will really enjoy.

Do you think video gaming content will ever fully replace written gaming content? 

If we’re saying 100% – no way. I think that over time, it may become more one sided as people look to video reviews and the like, but I just can’t see written gaming content going away. There’s just so much you can do with the written word that you can’t with a video.

There has emerged the idea of the “enthusiast press”, gamers writing for each other, do you will traditional games writing has a place still?

I think that “enthusiast press” is a category that we’ve fallen under for a while now, but we’re working to become a professional outlet as well. The difference I see is that “traditional” press does it as a day job, and “enthusiast press” does it for fun or as a side job. One day, we’d like to have an office and people on staff full time. That’s the goal.

So with that in mind, I definitely think that “traditional” games writing will have a place for a while – it may just evolve a bit.

TR side 2Do you think publications could do more to promote developer voices that are often left out of the conversation?

Yes and no. There are a seemingly endless number of developers out there, so it’s hard for us to hunt down and cover every single one (as much as we’d love to!) so we have to pick and choose what we as individuals want to review and what we think our readers would want to see.

But, I think it’s just as important for developers to make sure they take the time to do PR and contact sites with a good, solid PR email. Too many developers have issues making a solid first contact, generally leaving out details or information that will make them stand out!

How do new and emerging sites differentiate themselves from the old model of games journalism? 

New and emerging sites need to go back to the roots of games journalism – passion and community.

What I mean by that, is that the roots of journalism were deeply rooted in a passion for, and love of games. Mix that with a respect between journalists and gamers, and you’ll see a community grow as they interact and share their love for games, tech, and more.

It all comes down to knowing who you’re writing for, because you’re there to service your readers, not the other way around. If new and emerging sites can share their passion while respecting their readers, you’re going to see them grow.

TechRaptor has a comprehensive code of ethics, does upholding a high standard present a large financial burden?

I’m not sure if large is the correct work, but it definitely cuts our potential revenue by at least 50%. We uphold both our ethics policies, and any guidelines like those required by the FTC. As such, we say no to a lot of unethical practices such as non-disclosed sponsored posts and while they’re not really unethical – pop up and video ads.

It sucks, but if we want to build a site that’s founded on ethics and a passion for games, tech, tabletop, and building a community – we want to make sure that we do the right thing every time.

Plus, we care about our readers, so we don’t want to do anything to mislead them.

Why do you think many gaming sites have been slow or unwilling to adopt even basic editorial standards?

My money would fall on the fact that because of how games journalism came into being, that these sites got so ingrained and used to being top dog and doing things their way, they just don’t want to change.

My number one rule, and something I’ve noticed with a lot of companies, is that if you don’t change and evolve with the times – you won’t stay successful for long.

And last but most importantly of all, who do you think would win in a fight between a Pirate and a Ninja?

Ninja’s all day.

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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a terribly British man with a background in engineering. He writes long-form editorial content with analysis of gaming, games media and internet culture. He also does the occasional video game retrospective with a weekly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good measure. He also does most of our interviews for some reason, we have no idea why. A staunch supporter of free speech and consumer rights; skeptical of agenda driven media and suspicious of unaccoutable authority but always hopeful for change.