Editor's note: Toby scores another interview, this time with 1UP alum and current editor-in-chief of EA.com Jeff Green. Read on for Green's insights into corporate podcasting. -Brett
Maybe you know Jeff Green from his stint as the editor-in-chief of the magazines Games for Windows: The Official Magazine and Computer Gaming World. Or maybe you first heard him espousing his very vocal opinions on various 1UP podcasts — notably CGW Radio (later known as GFW Radio). By the time he jumped ship to try his hand at game development for EA, Green was one of the most well-known and respected personalities in games journalism.
A guy like that can't stay away from expressing himself for long. While still at EA, Green now has a more visible position as the editor-in-chief of EA.com and as one of the hosts of the EA Podcast.
Curious about his thoughts on podcasting for a corporate behemoth, I sent Green a series of questions on the subject. He was kind enough to take time off his busy schedule to answer me.
Toby Davis: Who has been your most memorable guest on the EA Podcast so far?
Jeff Green: Well, they’ve all been super fun for me, so I hate to give anyone more love than anyone else. But I have to say, I was probably most pleasantly surprised by Glen Schofield, who at the time was the head of EA’s Visceral Games and executive producer of Dead Space. It was only our second podcast, and I was really worried that having a studio head on was going to mean that he was going to be all marketing speak and corporate babble, but in fact, he was laid back, totally funny, and full of candor. Of course, it turned out that he quit EA something like two weeks after our podcast and went to Activision, so that’s probably why he was so at ease — he knew he was outta there. Still, it was a fun recording, and set a certain bar for me in terms of what to try to get out of folks here.
TD: Do you find it difficult to show enthusiasm for some of the EA games you cover? Surely you enjoy some of them more than others.
JG: Well, it’s just natural that, like everyone, I’m going to be a bigger fan of some games/franchises over others. I mean, for example, I’ve never been much of a sports guy, and I'm also a fantasy RPG dork. So in theory, a Madden podcast is going to be somewhat less fun for me than a Dragon Age: Origins podcast.
I say "in theory," though, because it really always depends on the guest — and on our skill in interviewing them. I always try to use Terry Gross' NPR podcast "Fresh Air" as the best example. It doesn’t really matter who her guest is or what it is they do, she always manages to make an interview interesting. It’s part of the job of the interviewer to draw out the cool, interesting stories, anecdotes, and, hopefully, candid feelings from a guest. But inevitably, some guests end up being more interesting than others, often having nothing to do with the game or franchise they’re representing. I could have the world’s most boring guy on a Dragon Age podcast, and a brilliant, hilarious guy on a Madden podcast.
My big point is that, while doing the podcast, it’s always the individual who is going to determine whether I’m having a good time or not — not the product.
TD: What does the EA Podcast do to differentiate itself from the hundreds of other video game podcasts out there?
JG: Oh jeez. I have no idea. Mostly, I’m just interested in keeping it real. No matter what we’re talking about, or who we’re talking with, I want us to have a real, non-scripted, non "talking points" conversation. It’s something I did at GFW Radio too, borne, as people who know me know, partly out of laziness, but mostly out of a desire to keep things fresh and spontaneous. I don’t like to go off notes or an agenda. I mean, yes, we will jot down a couple rough things, and if there are specific facts that I want to get across, I’ll have those too, but mostly I want the conversation to flow naturally, as if the mics weren’t there. I don’t know if that really "breaks the mold," so to speak, but it’s the one thing I’m fiercely protective about with any podcast I do.
TD: Since starting the podcast for EA, have any comments from fans of GFW Radio surprised you? If so, what were they?
JG: I think I’ve been most surprised by how patient and loyal so many people have been. I know that what I’m doing now is miles away from the freedom and irreverence I enjoyed on the GFW Radio podcast, and I know that for a lot of folks that’s a deal breaker — and that’s okay. I expected it. What I didn’t necessarily expect is all those who are staying along for the ride anyway, and are being patient as Samantha and I work on developing a unique voice and tone for the show. It’s been really gratifying to have anyone listen at all, because I know that asking gamers listen to a "corporate podcast" is a lot to ask. I’m just trying to give them a little more than that would normally imply.
TD: What one lost EA franchise would you like to see come back and why?
JG: Crusader: No Remorse (and Crusader: No Regret). Because I freakin’ loved those games, and there hasn’t really been anything like them since. I just loved the isometric perspective — normally used in strategy games — as a setting for a kick-ass action game. I would absolutely love to see that one come back.
TD: What is one thing you've learned from podcasting that you didn't expect to learn?
JG: Hrrmmm. Well, first, that I say "ya know" and "mmhmmm" a lot, which totally annoys me. More importantly, that the kind of "content" you can create in this kind of setting can be as creatively satisfying, in some ways, as writing. And I’m saying this as someone who has always identified himself as a writer, who’s always been a pretty introverted guy (like most writers). But there’s something really satisfying when the cylinders are firing and folks are feeding off one another with spontaneous humor, that just really makes me happy. I love doing it. I’d do it full-time, or something like a radio show, if I could.
TD: Even though you're a branded podcast, do you ever get flack for only talking about EA games?
JG: Well, by calling it "The EA Podcast" we’re making it clear we’re not trying to fool anyone. It’s the company podcast. So anyone going into it thinking we’re going to sit around talking about how awesome Ubisoft’s new lineup is would have to be, err, how to I put this delicately…pretty freakin’ stupid. And for some folks, the fact that it’s only about EA and is coming from the company itself is enough of a reason not to listen. And I get that. It’s cool. But what I’m trying to show, both externally with fans and internally with the company, is that by engaging in open, honest, unscripted conversation, you can be both entertaining and informative in a way that really means something.
There’s so much fear in this business — fear of telling the truth, or getting "off message" or whatever. And it’s sad and a bit ridiculous, because this is just games, after all, and most of the people who make them are smart, funny, creative people. I just want to talk with them, pick their brains, joke with them, and put on a good show. It’s really just that simple.