A mere six months after Kickstarter began operating before it was quite the sensation it is today, a small group of writers launched a campaign to help fund their vision of a video game culture magazine. The publication was titled Kill Screen, inspired by the programming glitches found in the final stages of retro video games, and sought to answer the question “What does it mean to play games?” They asked for a humble $3,500 to cover printing costs, and received almost $6,000. More than six years later Kill Screen has expanded its’ operations to include the magazine, daily website content, conferences, special events, and they even helped create the first arcade in the Museum of Modern Art.
As a gamer if this is the first time hearing about Kill Screen, you probably are not alone, but founder Jamin Warren hopes to change that. Returning to Kickstarter Warren and his team of professional writers from places like GQ, Esquire, the New Yorker, Colbert Report, and more, hope to raise $68,000 to fuel the growth of the magazine’s size, scope, and artistry. We sat down with Warren to learn more about the origins of Kill Screen, and how it differentiates itself from other gaming related magazines and news organizations.
Jesse Tannous: Why did you originally decide to create Kill Screen?
Jamin Warren: I was writing about culture for the Wall Street Journal and saw an opportunity to do something unique in the world of games. In the mid-2000s, games started experimenting a lot more and independent game creators began to insert themselves as they did in the early 1980s. To attempt to capture some of the amazing things that were happening, I decided to start Kill Screen, our title as a videogame arts and culture company.
JT: What factors have been most instrumental in your ability to continue producing and even grow as an organization?
JW: Well, it’s been a lot of different things, some of them in the world of media and some of them in the world of games. For media companies, there are more ways than ever to grow business, although all of them take time and require a lot of patience and luck. On the video games side one of the biggest changes has been the creation of a smaller set of game designers, who have been able to leverage widely available tools and distribute them digitally to larger audiences more than ever before. This is a change in the way games are created and the way that they are consumed. As a result, Kill Screen is inundated with more games to cover than ever.
JT: The games industry can be rife with criticism both internally and externally, what would you say to aspiring writers looking to stand-out in the world of game journalism, reporting, and commentary?
JW: We get so many young writers whose only clips are things about videogames to the detriment of other parts of culture. There’s this perception that to write meaningful things about games it has to be your chief interest. This is completely false, and I’ve learned so much from writing about things that are not games. If games are culture and you are a culture writer, then there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be paying attention to art, architecture, design, or anything else that you would consider culture.
JT: Kill Screen encompasses the magazine, website content, and even conferences, can you describe a bit about what it is like managing the various aspects of this business?
JW: Well, for starters, it’s a lot of work! It means that everyone wears a lot of different hats and I think this multi-disciplinary approach is much more reflective of how media companies are going to operate going forward. In that respect, we’re very similar to a lot of other contemporary media companies even if our spread is very different. If you look at a company like VICE, they at one point owned a retail shop and a record label before figuring out that online video was how they were going to differentiate themselves. For Pitchfork, their festivals have been a source of revenue and an excellent branding opportunity for them in the real world. I’m sure this is one of the reasons that they were acquired by Condé Nast. So for us, spreading our reach across a lot of different verticalsis simply a necessity in a post display advertising world.
JT: What really distinguishes Kill Screen from other gaming related magazines and websites?
JW: Well, if you look at the magazine for example, I’m pretty sure it’s the only games publication to put a human on the cover. We’re the only publication that looks at the intersection of games and culture, and if you look at the people that have praised us in the past like the New Yorker or more recently the Verge, it’s pretty clear that Kill Screen is singular. We want to be the games people in the culture space, not the culture people in the game space, so I think we share a lot more in common with, let’s say, the Atlantic or the Awl than we do with IGN or Polygon. Our design sensibility is better and our sense of taste around games is better than anyone on the planet. There’s a reason why we created the first ever arcade at the Museum of Modern Art.
Those interested in reading some of Kill Screen’s critically acclaimed print content can find subscription prices on their store front. Their main website also provides daily articles on a number of gaming and culture related topics, and the newest Kickstarter campaign is currently on-going.