The early half of the 2000’s were both a bustling and nebulous time for games writing. Websites dedicated to the medium were popping like spring time dandelions, and big media conglomerates were spending millions to throw their hat in this internet game media arms race. And even though several outlets quickly separated themselves from the pack, there was a problem. As far as content was concerned, they were no different from said ‘pack.’ Sure, some of the logos and design work was obviously of a different caliber, but the words were just as generic and sterile as everyone else’s. In an attempt to remain objective, video game articles remained inert.
Around 2007-08 is when something decidedly different began to happen. The content creators of these sites were starting to add their pictures to their articles and reviews, stamping their names on the works. The works themselves began to reflect individual opinions and not simply just organizations. By the end of the decade, personalities had become part of the product. Though he may not have been the direct driving force behind it the movement, Greg Miller is a product of this shift in model, and has become synonymous with the idea of “video game personalities.”
Anyone who knows of Greg probably knows his tale: studied Journalism at Mizzou, wrote for a local paper, and after a dozen applications, was finally brought into the IGN fold in 2007. Almost immediately, his incredibly vibrant personality made waves in the industry. Initially brought in as a Playstation editor, his words rang like an echoing gong. Not always incredibly verbose or dynamic, but always genuine and uniquely Greg. That isn’t to say his writing can’t be formidable; his Lair review is among my favorite reviews ever.
Podcast Beyond – the brain-child of Chris Roper, Jeremy Dunham, Jeff Rubenstein, and Miller – would be Greg’s most reliable soapbox, and most direct interaction with his readers. Over 300 episodes of this long running podcast, he has really cultivated his internet celebrity, while simultaneously proving that making the writers of the site superstars in their ecosystems can prove to be financially rewarding as well. As the show isn’t officially sponsored by Playstation or any vested interests, it’s up to IGN to justify its existence. Making guys like Miller, Colin Moriarty, Ryan Clements, and more superstars to the readers makes said readers want to come back and read more of their opinions, giving the site the clicks they love. Money well spent, as it were.
It’s arguable that he isn’t the first games writer to throw himself into his pieces, or that it was really even his idea. Less debatable though, is the fact that after he started showing up on videos and podcasts for IGN, the upper tier games media outlets were incredibly quick to follow. Gamespot, GameSpy, Giant Bomb, and others all began to model their content around their authors, as opposed to the other way around, and such has become the norm as far as game coverage is concerned. You don’t see websites that dedicate major coverage to games that don’t have podcasts and a wealth of video content anymore. Most of this is just the ebb and flow of the industry as a whole, but the model relies on strong on-screen/mic personas in order of it to thrive, and it’s a model that started at IGN, with Greg at the epicenter.
His role at the world’s #1 games media outlet has changed since his early years. “Host” is his official title, according to the site, and it is rather appropriate. Almost every series of video content that comes from the website has featured Greg in some capacity. He hosts Start’s Up At Noon, an IGN affiliated game talk show, as well as several other self produced web shows via his YouTube channel. “The Drew Carey of the Internet” isn’t a misplaced moniker here.
But people wouldn’t keep coming back to watch his reviews of Oreo cookies or the like if he wasn’t such a charming guy. He has never met the majority of his fans and followers, but can still make them all feel like they’ve known each other for years. Maybe its his unprecedented candidness and his dedication to being real and genuine that makes Greg so welcoming. He wears his imperfections proudly, never truly outgrowing that young, vulnerable kid-from-the-midwest-just-trying-to-be-somebody attitude. In him, we are all that kid in our own way, and in a hobby based around escapism, he is a living testament to the joyful, liberating experience of finding peace and happiness in one’s own skin.
He invites into his home to answer our questions, talk to his friends, and play games with him. We were his shoulder to lean on during his rougher moments, and in turn he’s always producing content to be there when we need him. This sort of relationship doesn’t happen with Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer. Even among his contemporaries, there’s no real substitute for Greg Miller.