For those who do not know Adam Sessler, he is one of the most respected authorities on video games and recently ended his fourteen year run on television. Most of those who are familiar with him were viewers of his G4 show, X-Play, who were hooked by his unique mixture of eloquent turns of phrase and penis jokes. As popular as the show was, Adam earned most of his respect from his “Sessler’s Soapbox” segments online, in which all of the production was stripped away and it was just Adam talking to the gaming community. Content was incredibly personal, dealing with events in his life, problems in the gaming community or viewer reactions to a recently aired review. The honesty was palpable and his videos often dealt with heavy topics like the unabashed use of racial slurs in online gameplay or the difficulty in writing a poor review for a game he was excited for. He was less a television personality and more a person. Now the Editor in Chief and host for Rev3 Games, Adam is back in his element and took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Gaming Illustrated: How did you spend your free time after you left G4?
Adam Sessler: Not wearing pants. The part that sucked is I lost my job right when the summer drought of releases kicked in. I had all this time and I had nothing new to play. I pulled out Skyrim and would come up with arbitrary goals like walking due north and killing everything I saw. I did that…and looked for a job.
Gaming Illustrated: You are now working with some familiar faces from the TechTV days. Did anyone in particular influence your move to Revision3?
Adam Sessler: Oh yeah. His name is Ryan Vance, He was the former Executive Producer of X-Play and someone I’ve worked with for over a decade. He approached me and presented an opportunity that could capitalize on my experience producing television for 14 years but providing a platform that allows for far more experimentation to create something that is distinct, not just from TV but from other gaming press. It’s great seeing some old friends from the TechTV days and it done wonders to making me feel at home in this brave new world.
Gaming Illustrated: Revision3 has a much more casual feel to their game discussion videos featuring three or more participants, akin to the early shows on G4. Is this a format that you’re more comfortable with?
Adam Sessler: Nice question. You have hit upon on of the key reasons I joined up with Revision3. I always felt that one of the things that made TechTV work was that we were inadvertently making internet videos before the internet could truly handle video. The sense of connection and immediacy with the audience helps develop a relationship between the viewer and the people on camera and minimizes the didactic tone that can befall many informational shows on television. I am very comfortable with this format, it allows me to indulge my idiosyncrasies and, due to less restrictive timing, we can give subjects the proper attention. Check out my recent interview with Tore Blystad from IO Interactive, I think it’s the best I’ve done in years.
Gaming Illustrated: Many people hold you in high regard and see you as a valuable asset in the video game community, yet you don’t seem to take yourself too seriously. Are the sketches and parodies your way of balancing the more serious discussions and reviews that dominate your work?
Adam Sessler: I love comedy and it is an effective tool to mitigate the Ivory Tower perception people have of the gaming press. When I’m talking to an average person and try to describe what i do for a living I find it challenging to justify my existence, I man, I play games for a living. What I do has its purpose and it’s founded in a deep affection for the creative process in video games but it’s so easy to work in this industry and lose all sense of perspective. The recent explosion of self-flagellating “games journalism” debate was an excellent example of this condition. You’re ethical by being ethical. We’ll always have examples of less-savory entertainment reporting, it comes with the territory, it’s because what we practice is not the same as covering Israeli attacks on Gaza, there will be no Nobel Prize. It probably helps that I didn’t think I deserved my career until recently.
Gaming Illustrated: You have expressed a desire to include the audience in discussions about games after their releases. How do you intend to accomplish this? Will we see more video responses to emails, a separate show altogether, or more live streams of current shows?
Adam Sessler: Forgive me for being somewhat vague on this point. I have some very clear ideas what I would like to do but I don’t want to commit to anything until I’m convinced that they are technically feasible. Yes I want to and will do shows that incorporate the audience because the only way to start having discussions about games that moves past the “Game X is better than Game Y” debates and the fetishization of minutiae that comes from a culture of exclusives is to have more conversations. Increasingly games are becoming so dynamic in the experiences they offer that a full appreciation of its design and creativity is only possible by having a conversation about various play-throughs. This also dovetails with my desire to have these discussions about games after they are released because that’s when the audience is paying them and reacting.
Gaming Illustrated: The Sessler’s Soapbox segments, as well as your introduction video on Rev3 Games, have pushed for a more mature, intelligent gaming community. How do you plan on fostering your ideal following and how do you prevent or filter the unwanted interactions?
Adam Sessler: The “unwanted interactions’ are going to come whether i like it or not. The trick is to make those people feel like the minority and on many sites that seems to be more and more the case. By giving the viewer more of a sense of engagement by having opportunities to interact with the community you are, in essence fostering more thoughtful behavior because there’s something at stake, which is the quality of the community. What it will come down to is getting the majority of people who like games and care about gaming culture to make themselves more visible to marginalize the loud but smaller group of anti-social wankers who somehow derive juvenile pleasure from ruining other people’s enjoyment. It’s not a silver bullet by any means but anything to help minimize the rancor that so frequently manifests itself in racist, homophobic and misogynistic behavior is a necessary step in creating a better generation of gamers.
Gaming Illustrated: What are the games that surprised you the most this generation?
Adam Sessler: The smaller, downloadable titles. Limbo, Bastion, everything from the Sony studios. They may not be perfect but there’s so much creativity and experimentation. All these instructive chances are being taken by these lower-threshold games and it’s just invigorating to see it happen.
Gaming Illustrated: What are you looking forward to in the next generation of consoles and what features or technology would you want in the next PlayStation or Xbox?
Adam Sessler: Independent AI and animations. Games have come so close to making these fully realized worlds but they’re still populated by group-think in the AI and, after a few hours, you can start to exploit the routine. I want something more reactive, something that will make me think twice when interacting in a virtual space. Also they better dump RAM on those machines, I never want to be punished with a load screen again.
Gaming Illustrated would like to extend our gratitude to Adam and the Revision3 staff that helped make this interview possible.