Interview: Casey Lynch of IGN

By Nolan Siegler

Casey Lynch is a video game fanatic. With the release dates of many high-profile games right around the corner, it is both a blessing and a curse to be one of the newest members of the IGN team.

But the Editor in Chief knows a thing or two about handling a hectic schedule. As an industry veteran, Lynch has contributed to gaming publications like GamePro and Official Xbox Magazine, and has helped launch the Rock Band franchise.

Lynch discussed his passion of gaming in a recent conversation. Thoughts on his new position, feedback from readers and the best aspects of IGN were also shared.

Spartan Chronicle: First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your relatively new position at IGN. Were you previously a reader? 

Casey Lynch: Thanks much. I have read IGN for many, many moons, and have always appreciated their giant voice in the gaming community.

Spartan Chronicle: What would you say are the best aspects of your new position?

CL: The IGN editorial staff is world class, and we have the means to cover the video game industry like few other outlets. I lead a powerful team, which is an honor and heavy responsibility.

Spartan Chronicle: The worst?

CL: There’s so much to do, so much happening in this business and so many moving parts. The toughest part is often keeping up with everything and making sure every piece of content and video are kept to our high standards.

Spartan Chronicle: How does your position differ from your past experiences in the gaming industry?

CL: I’ve covered games and music since the 1990’s. The challenge today hinges upon providing relevant, timely and awesome content to gaming’s core audience, while creating meaningful content for people who don’t follow the enthusiastic gaming press. Audiences are changing. You have millions of people playing Facebook games and apps on their phones. These people love their games, but don’t necessarily identify themselves as gamers in the traditional sense. Serving them and the core audience simultaneously is a great balancing act that I’m constantly perfecting.

Spartan Chronicle: Your debut review for IGN was for Gears of War 3, arguably highest profile game that was released this year. How did you prepare for the review?

CL: I prepared by playing the crud out of it. I played the first two a lot, for work and pleasure, so I’m very familiar with the Gears of War universe. I think there’s always a level of energy that rises when you push the publish button and you know hundreds of thousands of people will read your words. I don’t know if I would call it nervousness as much as excitement.

Spartan Chronicle: Some video game journalists have stated that they weren’t impressed by your review (specifically the subhead). Do you feel the criticism from other journalists is constructive or just plain malicious?

CL: Oh, the internet is the internet. There’s a certain anonymity that it provides that emboldens people to say things they would never say in a true social situation. Malicious feedback doesn’t really bother me. To the point of that subhead, it’s not very often that a word can function as the subject, verb, adjective and modifier, so I went for it.

Spartan Chronicle: How do you feel about criticism from IGN readers?

CL: Like I said, it doesn’t really get to me. I certainly read it and encourage conversation. I often take to the comments section myself to answer questions and discuss differing points of views. I’m always learning, like any writer should be. I love to read, I love to write and I certainly haven’t arrived, so criticism is always welcomed. Rude flame wars, not so much.

Spartan Chronicle: Do you think that directly engaging with readers promotes more online arguments?

CL: I don’t really know. I hope that when people understand you and your intent a little more, they would tend to cool off a little bit. I’m still the new guy, so it’s easy to go off the handle and assume the worst.

Spartan Chronicle: Are there any types of feedback that crosses a boundary and needs to be addressed?

CL: I’m happy to discuss anything with anyone as long as it’s constructive. When there’s name-calling, sweeping assumptions or simply rude remarks, that’s where I draw the line.

Spartan Chronicle: You have been consistently contributing to IGN’s podcasts. Why do you place such an importance on them?

CL: The most hardcore of our audience tune into our flagship podcasts by the tens of thousands every week. It’s a great way to connect with readers in a casual and personal way. I’ve appeared on most of our podcasts, but I’ve become an ad hoc member of the Podcast Unlocked cast, which records and posts on Wednesdays.

Spartan Chronicle: Along with the gaming industry, you also have a background with music. What role does music play in your life?

CL: I love music on the same level as I love games, film and television. I’m the type of person that listens to music all day while I work. It’s incredibly important to me. I also play guitar, and can fake some drums and piano.

Spartan Chronicle: Any plans for a musical collaboration with IGN editor Daemon Hatfield?

CL: We’ve definitely joked about it. Who knows? I’m so busy that I consider myself lucky to catch up on “Breaking Bad”, much less jamming. Tal and I have played a few times, but he has an entire band set up in his garage.

Spartan Chronicle: Who are some of your favorite artists?

CL: Oh man, there are so many. Protest the Hero, the Dear Hunter, the Fall of Troy, Radical Face, Tides of Man, Mastodon, Lydia, the Snake The Cross The Crown, Say Anything, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, City and Colour, Cloudkicker, Eef Barzelay, Metal Hearts, Revocation, Lana Del Rey, The Sword, Mew, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Mogwai and Pelican. The music I choose to listen to usually depends on my mood.

Spartan Chronicle: What was your past relation with the Rock Band franchise?

CL: I took about four years off from writing and worked in public relations, where I represented the Rock Band franchise from Rock Band 2 through The Beatles: Rock Band, Green Day: Rock Band, Rock Band 3 and even Dance Central. I was basically paid to travel around the world and play the games with people and convince them that pretending to play music was fun.

Spartan Chronicle: In your opinion, has the mainstream appeal of music games helped or hurt the gaming industry as a whole?

CL: Definitely helped. I think music games are a great gateway drug to other gaming genres. They are easy for anyone to jump into and really fun in to play in a social setting. I think they served an important purpose and got people familiar with and excited about games in a unique way. The genre ultimately became oversaturated, which lead to the untimely demise of several franchises and development teams. If anything about music games ever hurt the industry, it’s that a boatload of very talented people suddenly found themselves without a job.

Spartan Chronicle: Would you like to see music games make a comeback?

CL: Right now, I could take it or leave it. That might be the hundreds of hours I’ve spent playing music games talking, but I don’t have the itch to play music games right now. I had a good time with Rocksmith, and I think it improved upon some of the things Rock Band 3’s Pro Mode tried to do. That being said, I’m not quite sure if the world really needs another music game, unless it tries something radically different. I think it’s time for people to start to play real instruments at this point.

Spartan Chronicle: Are there any games that you are excited to play this year?

CL: I’m very excited about Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Halo: Anniversary. Both of those come out on November 15, which will make for a busy week. I’m currently playing Batman: Arkham City and Dark Souls, and I just started Uncharted 3, so time is at a premium right now. And then there’s Skyrim. Sheesh! Too many good games!

Spartan Chronicle: Can readers expect you to review any of those games?

CL: No, I’m very busy with all things IGN, but have top men working on them.

Spartan Chronicle: With the video game industry still relatively young, what are you excited to see from it in the future?

CL: I’m excited to see gaming made increasingly more accessible to more people. I predict another round of price-drops is in the near future. If the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 drop below 200 dollars, I anticipate more interest in the medium. The time to get into gaming is now. With huge catalogs of games to choose from, it’s a great to be a gamer.  For the future, I look forward to more innovation, and having my mind blown by the ninjas and wizards at today’s development studios. With most franchises on their final iterations, I think we’ll see some exciting intellectual properties beginning to crop up. We’ve seen Gears, Uncharted and Mass Effect peak, and I’m eager to see what comes next. Same goes for hardware, which I think the world will get first glimpses of next year. Readers should check IGN.com for all the upcoming gaming news.