Old Ideas & A New Games Media: An Interview With TechRaptor Founder Rutledge Daugette

An interview with TechRaptor founder Rutledge Daugette about games journalism, gamers and the changing media landscape.

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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.

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
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.
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