Befriending Ken Kutaragi, press trips with Charlie Brooker, and Sensible Soccer on the Amiga – Steve Boxer looks back on 28 years in the games media

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Steve boxer is the Guardian’s games writer and an extremely well published freelancer, having worked in the games media since 1990. He’s been a games writer/spokesperson for The Big Breakfast, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mirror, as well as regularly penning articles for the specialist games brands. In an ongoing series of Games Media Brit List Interviews, he tells us about befriending Ken Kutaragi, going on press trips with Charlie Brooker, and ‘the web’s poisonous effect on proper journalism’…

How did you first get into the games media?

In 1990, I joined Emap’s PC User as a sub-editor, fresh out of university, and after mis-spending my teenage years in the arcades. I found Emap Images in the office next door, home to magazines like The One, ACE, C&VG, PC Zone et al. After becoming reviews editor on PC User (bringing access to the fastest PCs on the planet), I started freelancing for various Emap Images mags, probably spending more time next door playing Sensible Soccer on their Amigas than at my own desk.

What advice would you give to someone currently looking at a career in games media?

Forget it: it may sound glamorous, but it’s a thankless task, especially if you’re freelance. But if you’re sufficiently passionate to ignore that advice, exercise all your journalistic skills to get as many articles published as possible.

What’s been the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve never really had access to anyone who felt inclined to give me any advice. The only good advice that sticks in my mind is: “Never use the word ‘seriously’.”

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

Being The Big Breakfast’s games expert during its final two years on air. Writing vast swathes of articles for The Sunday Times in the early 90s,The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror in the mid-to-late 90s and The Guardian in the late 90s and beyond. Tracking down Nolan Bushnell for his first interview in decades, and befriending Ken Kutaragi. Baiting Brexiters in The New European. And writing some seminal games-meets-pop-culture cover stories for Edge when the PlayStation first came out (as I will reminisce about in the forthcoming PlayStation From Bedrooms to Billions film).

And what has been your biggest challenge?

The web’s poisonous effect on proper journalism. Even newspapers nowadays pay a tiny fraction of what they used to in the 1990s and early 2000s. It took the web until about a year ago to realise that it actually isn’t all about brain-dead clickbait.

Which of your competitors do you most admire and why?

I don’t really feel that it’s a competition, although it used to really annoy when I’d have a feature idea rejected by The Daily Telegraph’s Connected supplement, only for Hari Kunzru to write it up a few weeks later. Like my fellow Connected freelancer at the time, Dan Pemberton, he went on to greater things than games journalism. Among the current crop of writers, Metro’s David Jenkins and of course the wonderful Keza Macdonald, now my commissioning editor at The Guardian.

Who’s your favourite non-games writer/presenter?

That would have to be a man who I went on various games press trips with back in the day when he was a games journalist, Charlie Brooker. The late Hunter S Thompson was a formative influence. And my all-time favourite writer is Thomas Pynchon.

If you weren’t working in games media, what would you be doing?

Either working in the oil industry – I have a Geology degree – or making electronic music and DJing (which I do anyway).

Nominate yourself for a Games Media Brit List award here – it’s quick and easy and finalists attend the event, held on May 17th at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, completely free!