Gamer Euphoria interviews: Activisions Dan Amrich

Gamer Euphoria interviews Activisions Dan Amrich

What is your name, and where do you come from?

I’m Dan Amrich, and originally I’m from Trenton, New Jersey, but I escaped! Now I live in California.

What is your official job title, and what does it entail?

I’m the social media manager for Activision, so I spend my days talking with gamers on Twitter, Facebook, forums, and my blog, plus I podcast and produce videos. I also do a lot of swag giveaways. My goal is to be the inside guyat Activision, a person you can go to to help separate truth from rumor — sort of like Major Nelson does for Microsoft, but he’s obviously operating on a higher level! But basically, I’m here to be a more direct contact to Activision — which understandably puts me in the crosshairs when gamers are angry.

How did you get started in the business? And what were some of your first jobs?

I started out writing professionally in 1993, working for music magazines by day and game publications by night. In the first two years alone, I did over 300 reviews…and they was for an online site that no longer covers videogames, so all that work is totally gone! I worked my way up from local papers to small sites and magazines and ultimately found my way to GamePro in 1997. At the time the magazine had all the editors write under cartoon psuedonyms; I was Dan Elektro for seven years. I later worked for GamesRadar during its US launch, Official Xbox Magazine, and was briefly the editor-in-chief of World of Warcraft: Official Magazine. Then Activision called with this opportunity and it seemed like a really good one — especially since I’m still basically operating as my own journalistic outlet, interviewing developers and fact-finding and whatnot.

For any aspiring people who want to get into the game business, are a lot of qualifications a necessity? Or is there an alternative?
This entirely depends on what you want to do. To make games, math and computer science skills are paramount; the quicker you can learn C++, the quicker you’ll be able to find your niche in the development world. If you’re lousy with numbers and want to instead write about the industry from the outside, journalism classes help because they teach good habits and process, but they are not strictly necessary — as long as you can bring those journalistic skills to the table through other means. Hitting deadlines, learning how to edit your own work as well as the work of others, managing interpersonal relationships — all that stuff comes to bear, so you have to learn it somewhere before you start knocking on the important doors.

Obviously you do more than your job, so what hobbies or pastimes do you have?

I am a puzzle nerd; I like solving them and I like creating them. I taught myself how to juggle years ago and now I actually find juggling fire to be relaxing, in its own dangerous way. I’m also into music; I was the lead singer in an 80s cover band for five years, and now I write my own little video game parody songs with a friend under the name Palette-Swap Ninja. All our stuff is available for free download at; we’re just now finishing up our first live-action video. It’s just for fun, we have no plans to go pro.

Heres one for the fan boys – what is your favourite current generation (wii, PS3 & xbox 360) console, and why?
I am less into the console wars and more into the games that play on them; I feel as long as the box you own makes you happy, that’s all there is to it. That said, I spend most of my time with my 360 and my PC — the former in part because of my three years at OXM and my familiarity with it, and the latter because that’s the system my wife likes for gaming. Weekends are often spent side-by-side with gaming PCs, playing Borderlands and Left 4 Dead 2 together, punctuated by World of Warcraft dungeon crawls. I was late to the PS3 party but got one last year and now I’m catching up on games I’d missed, like Uncharted and Flower. I don’t play a lot of Wii, but NBA Jam might change that, and of course GoldenEye.

Is there anything you can let us in on which activision may currently be working on? And have you had a go at the highly anticipated black ops? – If so, can you give anything away?
Treyarch has been playing this really close to the vest. I know there’s something up for next month, so new info should be coming soon — but a lot of times on Black Ops, I find things out the same time everybody else does. I saw that multiplayer trailer roughly 15 minutes before everybody else did! Josh Olin is Treyarch’s community manager; I follow his Twitter feed (@JD_2020) to find out what’s up with Black Ops. I pump him for info whenever I can.

As for everything else, most of the big development for the year is hitting its crucial period of “almost done.” Lots of games are slated to ship before the end of the year — Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, GH: Warriors of Rock, DJ Hero 2, GoldenEye, Blood Stone — all those have to be finished fairly soon to hit their retail deadlines. So pretty much everything has been announced by now, but I have caught wind of a few interesting things in the works for next year. One of them really surprised me; I haven’t seen a game like it before.

Dan Amrich

Do you have an all-time favourite game which really sticks out in your mind?

I grew up in the arcade era so I am repeatedly drawn back to the 400-pound plywood boxes that were built to play one game and play it perfectly. Robotron 2084 is one of those games that I still find myself struggling to master, so that leaps to mind as still challenging, still adrenaline-pumping, and still something I need to practice. That and Tempest are both milestones for me. But then there’s Interstate 76, Diablo II, Gears of War, Guitar Hero II and Rock Band 2…the problem with being an older gamer is you have too many favorites.

Do activision plan to utilize Kinect to its full potential?

I have not heard anybody here announce a Kinect title. Doesn’t mean there won’t be something with Kinect support down the road, but I don’t know which teams are looking at it for which games. I wouldn’t expect anything for launch, let’s put it that way!

A lot of people consider you to have the dream job, though despite working in the video game industry, is it all fun and games? Or does it have its downsides as well as its upsides?

Oh, there are always downsides. Like, say, when the CEO of the company says something very unpopular…guess who they take it out on? There are rough days with this job — I like being that bridge between the audience and the publisher, but the truth is some people just like to burn bridges. I do feel I’m fortunate because I get to tell gamers “Hey, look, this is what’s really going on at Activision,” but at the same time, I get to turn to Activision and say “No, really, this is what is important to gamers, this is what they’re telling me directly.” I sort of “speak gamer” and “speak publisher” at different points in the day. The hours are actually pretty long and, with social media being what it is, I often feel like I’m never not working. There’s always an email to answer or a Twitter feed to check or a forum to chat up. But the upsides do make it worth it — I am surrounded by games every day and I don’t take that for granted.

Thank you very much for your time, from both myself (Blamy) and!

For more information on Dan Amrich, you can view his site at , or check out his twitter at

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