Yanier Gonzalez is the Founder and Editor of Destructoid, a blog you’ve no doubt heard of if you love video games. With the pen name Neiro, Yanier Gonzalez happily writes for the nerd in all of us.
With the launch of Japanator.com and Tomopop.com, Yanier is ready to talk more gaming. He talked to us about the role of trend hunting in video game blogging.
12 Questions with Yanier Gonzalez
1. How did you get involved with Destructoid and what motivates you to continue?
Are you in the mood for a nerd’s ultimate fairy tale? Because that’s what I have for you. In March of 2006 decided that I really wanted to a press-only video game conference to be among the first to play the Wii and Playstation 3 (both unreleased at the time), so I created a video game blog to try to pass myself as legitimate and influential enthusiast press. I wrote like crazy for the next two months, emailing and submitting my articles to anyone that would give me the time of day.
By May I had enough of a readership to qualify for two media passes, and my golden tickets arrived in the mail. I enjoyed what I was doing and wanted to tell more people about it when I got there, but I couldn’t afford a trade show booth.
I summoned the art school dropout powers in me and bolted together a giant robot helmet out of air conditioner parts. It had a weird effect—when I showed up people either loved it and were jumping all over me for photos or hated me and couldn’t hide the disgusted look on their faces.
The then-president of the ESA actually ran away from me, prompting a huge debate on Gamepolitics.com about how the video game industry takes itself too seriously. I had raised sort of an army overnight and advertisers began calling.
Shortly after I quit my ad agency job as a creative director (I used to design web sites and banner ads for small airlines ... zzzzzzzz), sold my condo, sold my BMW, and started playing video games for a living. I figured it was a chance in a lifetime to do what I truly loved, so I didn’t hesitate.
Today 30 people work at Destructoid.com. I’m still owner/publisher and also still the guy in the helmet. It’s a dream come true. I regained license to be a kid in my 30’s all over again. Cool, eh? I’ve also launched two new sites, Japanator.com and Tomopop.com. I also like Anime and Toys.
2. How significant are the topics of cool spotting and trend spotting to Destructoid?
Vital. Mission-critical. On any given day we receive 300+ emails and press releases about stuff, so we have to chop through it like a knife. We also go out of our way to discover offbeat stuff that the other sites might miss.
Let’s face it—there are tens of thousands of video game sites before we started and even more now, so we have to constantly be on the pulse of the industry, gamer culture, and general Internet culture or there’s no reason to read us.
Gamers in particular are very Internet savvy so we’re either timely or it’s a nuclear crisis and we’re stale and dead. There’s little room for slacking on coolhunting (or sleeping).
3. How do you define a trend?
A trend is something you cannot ignore, hard as you try, and one day the pattern or frequency begins to repeatedly punch you in the face or guilt you until you pay attention. If people break down and open themselves to it and it feels good, it sticks around and can come around again after its lifespan.
It’s something cool that’s on the move and with a limited lifespan, like a rock star on fire rolling down a mountain. You can’t not pay attention until the corpse stops rolling and smoking.
4. How do you define cool?
To me, cool is real and heartfelt. It’s something that’s in the moment and fires off the senses without trying. Cool is the opposite of posturing. Oftentimes, I find cool is a new form of raw. Cool is unapologetic about the fact that you didn’t think of it sooner, but it is here for you anyway to enjoy.
5. Do you need a culture of innovation to create something that is cool?
Sure, but also not necessarily. I think cool can come out of hostile and stressful cultures, too—and cool will be seen running for the door. Artists need problems more than they need hugs to create cool. If a culture of innovation can simply mean “Hey, we’re going to make time for you to throw punches,” then yes, I agree.
6. What is the best way to create an infectious idea, product or service?
Quite simply, to listen and answer honestly and purely as possible. The new cool seems to be the removal of waste. Two examples of products and brands that walk the walk: Apple is cool. Twitter is cool. Cool doesn’t care about what your ideas and suggestions are to make it better, it just wants to be what it sets out to be and you can’t help but love them for it.
7. What is the key to innovation?
Creating the time and resources to address stupid, obnoxious problems (dear to our hearts) that our keepers have failed to address. Find a passionate person about your cause and give them the means and space to create a giant fire.
8. What is the most important trend you see in your industry?
On the games media side, it’s digital distribution. Its helping companies become more profitable and deliver content to more devices and homes faster and cheaper than ever before. It’s changing the entire landscape.
9. What are your ambitions for Destructoid?
A Destructoid robot in every home! We want to reach more people and continue growing our community and get more people involved in gaming. Destructoid is about games, but it’s also about meeting like-minded people that don’t take themselves too seriously and enjoy games. We have a cool culture and it translates to the editorial and all the way through the company by just being ourselves.
I’d like to reach more people that feel isolated as gamers and put them on our bus of awesome. Over 1.2 million people read Destructoid each month. I want an army 5 million strong in ten years.
10. How do you reset yourself to be creative? (e.g. do you have any rituals, do you set aside time for creativity, etc.)
Resetting is good but digging back to roots and refining is better. I don’t have to reinvent constantly to defend the brand. At least not yet. We’re still pretty new and on a mission.
I take pride in what I do, but I also assume that everyone is already bored with what I did yesterday so I always try to create something new in some way, whether its behind the scenes and for the benefit of the staff or for the readers.
The moment I have downtime it isn’t time to rest. I catch my breath and start something new. There’s always something. I’m kind of insatiable and a workaholic. I can’t help it. I’m like Prince’s mother in that song about crying birds.
11. Professionally, what do you want to be doing in 10 years?
I want to be challenged and frustrated somehow, learning something and having fun with people that don’t suck. I went up and down the job ladder enough to stop caring about money. It’s about the work for me. Something fun, challenging. I’m happy when I enable young people to do something they love and wouldn’t normally be able to do for a living as well. That’s an opportunity I was given and like to give back.
12. What are your most important hobbies?
Eating well. Exercising ... my internet addiction. Setting a good example. Treating people like adults. Making people happy. Jogging. Gaming. Art stuff. Twittering. Did I really just say I’m like Prince’s mother? #dtoid
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