Interview: Brian Clair, The Adrenaline Vault publisher

Today`s interview involves Brian Clair, the famous character behind the legendary online gaming magazine The Adrenaline Vault. Do you want to know his view of the actual gaming mags` situation? What was his first impression of the Net? All of this and more in our interview!
Interview: Brian Clair, The Adrenaline Vault publisher

Doupě: First of all could you please introduce the history of your magazine to our readers?

Brian Clair: Certainly - the Adrenaline Vault was launched in 1995 as a small hobby site catering to first-person shooters. Through the years, we`ve expanded our coverage to all genres and have become one of the largest independent gaming sites in the world.

Doupě: Who founded Adrenaline Vault? At the beginning, was it just a one man`s hobby or was it a brand new project of some company?

B.C.: The Adrenaline Vault was founded by Angel Munoz as a hobby site. Originally, the Adrenaline Vault was a VRML construct, but was later moved onto the web where it boomed. It was a year or so afterward that we founded, Inc. Which owns the Adrenaline Vault and the CPL.

Doupě: Did you ever imagine your magazine will become one of the largest and most famous on the Internet and actually in the whole world? What does it mean for you?

B.C.: I always had high hopes for the site, but it wasn`t until the summer of 1996 when things started to snowball that I knew we were on to something special. To be where we are today means a great deal to all of us, myself especially. I`ve literally poured my entire life into the site for the past 7+ years, and I`m pleased with the accomplishments we`ve made.

Doupě: Could you give us some personal info? What`s the latest game you play night by night?

B.C.: Right now I`m hooked into a shareware game called Astral Tournament. I know a lot of hardcore gamers tend to look down on shareware releases as inferior, but this one has my friends and I addicted.  I`ve also got a game of Icewind Dale II and Age of Mythology going right now also.

Doupě: What are all the ingredients you need to be publisher of a magazine like AVault?

B.C.: That`s a tough one... You need faith, perserverence, hard work, dedication, the ability to keep and eye on the big picture without missing the details, and the ability to juggle 15 things at once. I used to say that it was a good thing I was into strategy games, because running a site like AVault is much like playing a real-time strategy game.

Doupě: Can you describe your common daily programme?

B.C.: Sure.  I typically start the day by checking up on any downloads which may have been released overnight, and then update our PCRL section with the info. Then I check up on the morning`s gaming news, check email, and put out any fires. Then I take about an hour out to work out and eat lunch; afterward I go back to updating the site with new downloads and cheats, answer email, schedule assignments, etc.

Doupě: Where`s the biggest difficulty while creating new content for every day, every new "issue" of AVault?

B.C.: Time is always a big consideration, it takes a substantial amount of it to get things done and to get the site updated. We`ve been making improvements behind the scenes to make life easier for us in this regard, however.

Doupě: How much time do you devote to your magazine? Doesn`t it bound your other hobbies?

B.C.: Except for perhaps 6 hours a day nearly every other moment is devoted to keeping AVault running.  The only other hobby I afford myself anymore is my daily workouts, so I don`t let it impact that one vice. ;-)

Doupě: What did you think when you first ran across the Internet? How did you feel about it? And what`s your view of its future?

B.C.: I first got onto the Net back in 1993, before there was really a world-wide web; I thought it was the coolest thing I`d ever come across and would spend countless hours playing around with Gopher and FTP. Back then, before the unfortunate creation of spam, the coolest thing my college friends and I had were email accounts and online disk space - the more you had, the more status you got. I had 8 accounts once upon a time, though I only used 3 of them; back then, you actually got a real unix account with your email, not just a front-end like today.

The Internet has already come a long way since the early 90`s, and we`ve already gone through our first implosion the past couple of years. I think that the growing pains aren`t over yet, but that people and business are slowly figuring out what they want from the Net. In the future, I suspect we`ll be paying for more of the online content we want to access, but that the level of that content will be more refined then ever before.

Doupě: Was it a long way from the first rendezvous with Internet to the seat of general editor?

B.C.: Not really - I had only had my first website online for about a month when Angel Munoz scouted me out to join AVault. This would never have happened either, except for the fact that I was feeling very competitive with a friend who`s personal site was doing very well, which inspired me to build my own.

Doupě: Although gaming industry grows rapidly, online gaming magazines do not profit very well in last years. Where`s the problem? Is there a solution in paying for content (like GameSpot)?

B.C.: Well, the problem boils down to hypocrisy.  What I mean by that is that people and business place less value on online content than they do on real world (print) information. For instance, gaming sites primary method of revenue (even today) is via online advertising.  Back in the late 90`s, getting ad revenue was difficult, but possible and companies were willing to pay a reasonable amount of money for it.  Today that is no longer the case, which has caused a number of sites to disappear. What`s worse is that companies hold online ads to a higher standard than print advertising - they still base success on clickthru rate; and they don`t give any credence to what kind of audience they`re going after:  i.e., to most advertisers, the audience on a site like AVault is no different than that of a site devoted to auto parts. With this basic failure of philosophy, is it any wonder that online ads fail to work well?

Returning to my original point, readers are partly to blame as well for the current situation online. Online readers place little (or typically no) value on online content, so they`re not willing to help pay for it the same way they would for a print magazine subscription. Ironically, due to the higher number of online readers, an online gaming magazine could do very well with a minimal subscription fee while still providing far less advertising than a print magazine (which are usually between 60% to 80% advertising) and more real content.

I think that subscriptions will eventually occur most everywhere by matter of necessity, but that the business model for it will not run along the lines of what Gamespot currently offers.

Doupě: Be a visionary for a while - where do you see the future of computer games? Is there a place for PC games? (In other words, won`t consoles take up all the fun?)

B.C.: Well, a while back I wrote an editorial stating how console games would generally take over the market, but that PC games would never vanish.  Lately I`ve noticed this to be the case with several companies - they`re putting out fewer PC games and more console titles. PC games will always have a place in our industry - there are millions of PC users out there to draw upon (just look at the success of The Sims). I think we`ll see this trend continue into the future, but I believe we`ll always see technology-pushing titles hit the PC first.

Doupě: Will classic paper gaming magazines survive in the hard competition of online gaming magazines?

B.C.: Definitely.  Print magazines have a number of things working in their favor when it comes to the economic environment (see my answer above).  Some print magazines will fold, of course, but the best will survive.

Doupě: And now it`s time for my final question... What kind of beer do you like to drink?

B.C.: Killian`s Irish Red. :)

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