Dan Muir is the man behind the PR for companies such as legendo and on top of PR he is also a dedicated father and loving husband. I caught up with Dan recently to ask him a few questions, and this is what occurred:
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hi there! Well, I’m Dan and for my sins, I love reading and writing about and of course, playing games. From the first time I picked up a paddle for the Atari VCS, I’ve witnessed as to how the gaming industry’s changed and turned into the billion pound/dollar/Euro industry that it is today.
As I described above you do PR for some companies but do you do PR as a full time job?
The quick answer to that one is no, although obviously I’d like to. I work when I’m needed by my clients.
Well, the first thing I do in the morning is prepare my fuel. Coffee’s bloody important to me, so only a mug of espresso can help me function. (Tell me about it.) Whilst I’m quaffing my java, I nose through Twitter to check if anything important has been revealed over-night in the gaming and phone industry and join in on some conversations. Once I’ve had my beloved Joe and caught up with the social networks, I then move on to the more important roles of the day, like taking my Dr.Who obsessed son to school!
Once the morning school run’s done and dusted, I poll all of my email accounts to see if I’ve had any media enquiries, establish contacts on new gaming websites and publications to add to a database and plan on the next step to take in order to help market whatever game it is I’m looking after.
Over the last two years, Twitter’s become a fundamental part of my job. More often than not, it’s easier to get in touch with journalists and publications with a Tweet rather than emailing or calling.
What kind of duties does a pr man like yourself do everyday?
It’s somewhat of a repetitive day to day routine really. As I said previously, you’re always planning on how and where to market your product, make sure that the journalists are able to play the title (i.e. make sure they have the raw horsepower to play a PC game, or have specific peripherals needed etc), have the assets at hand (screenshots, videos, game information etc) to pass on when requested.
When a press release has to be prepared, the developer/publisher of the game forwards on a sheet containing key information of the product and then, you as the PR, have to prepare a press release that’ll then go out to press. Once completed, you then pass it back to the developer/publisher who’ll then green light it or flag anything that needs amending, pass it back to you along with assets to accompany it.
Forty-eight hours after the press release has gone out you then start with your clippings sheet. This is basically a way of documenting who has ran the relevant news piece and where.
What skills would you need to be good at pr?
Well, for starters in this side of PR, you need to be able to play games. So many PR managers simply don’t invest the time needed to really get an idea of what the game’s about and how it feels, which simply negates their opinion on the given product. I’m sorry but you wouldn’t go to a mechanic to fix your car, who knows nothing about engines, would you?
The most important skill for a PR is communication. If you can’t speak to people or build a rapport somewhat with the people you’re contacting, then there’s really no point in doing the job. English reading and writing are obviously of the utmost importance, putting together a structured press release that highlights the important elements isn’t an overly easy feat and then you also need to be able to proof read documents and amend them if needed!
How did you get into the field?
Long winded story really, I’m actually an ICT Administrator by trade! Years ago, my wife fell pregnant with my son and at the time she was studying to become a Midwife. As such, we made the decision that it’s far too important to throw away three years of degree study and that I’d stay home with Alfie (His son, for those that didn‘t gather that.). I gave up work and became a proverbial house-husband. Whilst my wife was studying, we were living on the bursary that she received; life wasn’t easy and so, I decided to try my hand at journalism. For the last 10 years, I’ve been running a rather successful gaming blog/site and regularly freelancing for some printed publications. Over the years I became friends with various PR, became rather enamoured with the sound of the job and basically offered my services, gratis. Eventually, it paid off.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to get into PR as a job
Well, it’s not all champagne and kisses on the cheek. It can be brutal and cutthroat but on the flipside, it can be a huge joy. If you’re curious about the field and how it works, approach a company to see if they’d be interested in taking you on for some work experience, this’ll give you a keen insight into the industry and will help you make the decision as to whether or not it’s the job for you.
We know from above that you’re a family man, but how do you balance everything between work and looking after your family?
I won’t lie, sometimes it’s very tricky. Between the school runs, doing the housework, answering the phone, walking the dog, cooking dinner and whatever else I have to do that day, it can get a bit stressful, but I manage. I relish the time I have to myself (my gaming time) and use that as my form of Zen relaxation. A few headshots, I’m happy and forget about what’s happened that day! (That’s a few headshots in a game, not in real-life. Dan doesn’t go around taking pop shots at strangers. I hope).
Will you be getting your son into video games as much as you are? (If he already isn’t).
I’ve always played games with my son. The day he came home from the hospital, I can remember him being in my arms, whilst I played Dark Cloud on the PS2. He was impressed, I could tell…*cough*. As he grew old enough, whilst I played various games, I’d give him the additional controller that wasn’t plugged in or didn’t have batteries in and let him think he was playing. At such a young age, he was none the wiser and was absolutely thrilled with what was happening on-screen.
As a parent, I’m thoroughly strict with what he plays and when. All of the consoles in my house (where applicable) are parental locked, so that he can’t play anything that I deem unsuitable. There’s no way he’ll be playing the next iteration of GTA for example, it’s simply bad parenting when a child’s given the green light to play adult orientated games. Rather than look after, guide and advise, more often than not a pad’s shoved into a kid’s hand and they’re left to their own devices. Consoles and computers don’t make for a good babysitter! Games (where suitable) should be experienced and played together. As a family we play on the Wii, bowling tournaments usually…my wife wins…*sniff*, Alfie and I play the various LEGO (amongst others) titles together. A family that games together, stays together. Sounds somewhat clichéd, I know, but it’s true!
What was your earliest memory of video games.
For me I was around 3. My brother, sister, Mum and I sitting down and playing on an Atari VCS. Breakout was my Mum’s absolute favourite! I think my siblings and I used to bash out many an hour on Combat. Those crazy bouncing bullets that the tanks fired used to drive me crazy!
What is your favourite game of all time?
Without for the want of sounding boring, I have far too many. Repton was a huge favourite on the Acorn Electron as well as Business Games. My brother and I spent many an hour buying and selling shares, which looking back to it now…god, however was that entertaining? (Agreed, how?).
On the Spectrum, one of my all time favourites would have to be Chaos and Lords of Chaos (as well as the Laser Squad titles). Chaos was an absolute gem of a game, its simplicity was beautiful. It instigated so many arguments and fun between my brother and I, but its sheer addictiveness brought us back over and over!
Another game on the Spectrum that made my jaw drop, back in the day, was Robocop, the digitised speech and the visuals were amazing. You were in the game, man!
On the NES, it’d have to be the Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, thankfully I won’t have to explain those two!
SNES, I had so many games that I adored. Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the Final Fantasy titles (when I could bloody find them), Chrono Trigger and anything RPG-ish I could find! One game in particular, deserved to sell by the millions, but sadly was a sleeper hit. Shadowrun was an absolute corker of an RPG, introducing me to Cyberpunk!
On the N64, it’d have to be back to Zelda: OOT and Majora’s Mask, which I played and played and played. Masterpieces, the both of them!
PSX, there’s no shadow of a doubt in my mind that it’d have to be Final Fantasy 7. From the cinematics to the actual storyline, its hooks in me from the moment I loaded the game. My wife and I also used to sit up for hours competing on a game called Bishi Bashi Special, which I suppose is a pre-cursor to games like Wario Ware.
PS2, so many RPGs I adored. FFX, FFX-2, Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2, Star Ocean, Dark Cloud 1 & 2…I won’t go on, but you get the idea. I love RPGs!
Dreamcast I loved Elemental Gimmick Gear, Skies of Arcadia 1 & 2, and Grandia. Poor old Dreamcast, it was a fantastic console which deserved to do better! My wife and I used to love playing House of the Dead and SEGA Bass Fishing!
PC, I love far too many games to list. From Baldur’s Gate and Never Winter Nights to Duke Nukem 3D and Quake, I played them all! Naturally, games like Leisure Suit Larry were a favourite with my good friend, Lee and I playing. The scratch and sniff card that came with the game provided a lot of the laughs and sicker moments of the game! Another game that we used to play religiously when slightly tipsy was You Don’t Know Jack, absolutely hilarious stuff; especially the mock advertisements!
(I asked for one, but ok. Haha.)
What game/s are you playing currently?
Currently? Good question! I’m currently ploughing my way through L.A Noire, Crysis 2 and Duke Nukem Forever on the Xbox 360. Crysis 2, although a little thin on the storyline, is a nice, solid shooter. Quite enjoying it.
L.A. Noire’s a visual masterpiece and I’m blown away by the facial animation and acting within. It can be a wee bit frustrating cocking up a particular interrogation or case and not being able to manually save is a major negative aspect of the game.
Duke Nukem Forever. It could’ve been so much more. What have they done to the world’s greatest anti-hero? I don’t quite agree with the absolutely dire reviews that the game’s receiving, 2/10 for example, but the game’s not as visually pleasing and fluid to play as it should be. After all the years development, it feels rushed and incomplete. Quite how the publishers were happy with the end product is beyond me. I daresay GearBox were under quite a lot of pressure to get it done and dusted in a short time frame and you can honestly tell. There are moments of where you can potentially see something genius but then that’s mired by lazy ass texturing, horrendous load times and ludicrous restart points. Humour wise, it is to gaming what the Carry On series are to films. It’s crass, occasionally provides a smirk but nothing more.
I can’t help feel that with Duke being a product of the 90s, he should’ve been portrayed exactly as that. In a world that’s simply forgotten about him and his awesomeness and simply moved on; where he has to once again strap up and kick ass 90s style to show how it’s done. He should’ve been out of shape, fat, balding and with women no longer fall at his feet, having to prove himself.
I’ve heard rumblings of another game in the series, I just hope that the next one lives up to the name.
Moving on to some iPhone questions…
What is your favourite app?
TweetDeck. Twitter’s a stupid addiction of mine. I like to sing a game’s praises or simply rant about it until I’m blue in the face. I also use Twitter for getting in touch with press.
What games do you play on your iPhone?
I’m sad to say that it’s Bejewelled Blitz. (Don’t be sad, the game is awesome. Although I may be biased considering I am going to PopCap’s office next week haha). I’m a competitive bugger, so when I see someone on my Facebook list that’s beaten my score…I have to play it!
The other game that had me horribly addicted was GameDev Story, I won’t go into it or I’ll remember how much I adored it and buy the sequel! (I want a sequel. But I also want sleep, so it’s a toss up for myself).
At times I find myself working even when I am supposed to be taking a break due to my smart phone, is this the case for you?
Of course, problem is with today’s Smartphone’s capabilities is that you’re able to communicate in so many different ways. With the always connected nature of them, it’s very hard to switch off from work mode.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
To be totally honest, I don’t have a clue. If PR fails, I’ll no doubt head back into ICT in one way, shape or form!
Where do you see yourself in 10?
One last question, Xbox or PlayStation?
Without for the want of sounding boring, neither! I hold no loyalty or show no favouritism to any console. I own them all.
Every console has its must have titles, that are exclusive to that platform. Like the PS3 and Uncharted for example. I live and love games, so quite literally if it’s capable of displaying graphics and allows for user input, I’ll have one!
I just wanted to say a big thank you to Dan for the interview. I hope you all enjoyed it and please comment below and let me know what you thought, and what kind of interviews you would like to see in the future.