Why is this interesting? - The Monday Media Diet With Jamin Warren
On culture, video games, and the best records of the 60's
Jamin Warren (JW) is a longtime friend of WITI. I first started reading him when he was a stellar culture reporter at WSJ, and one of the first people to document the seismic culture impact of video games. As a natural progression, he’s become an entrepreneur closely tied to this interest. Here’s a wide range of what is keeping him inspired day-to-day. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jamin Warren. I started my professional career as a journalist at the Wall Street Journal, covering arts and entertainment. At that time, gaming was already a huge industry, but there was (and still is!) a huge gap in how it's perceived culturally. A lot of ink was spilled in the mainstream press about new movies and television and books, but there was almost no cultural writing about games. Initially, I tried to do this for the Wall Street Journal, but my editor wasn't into it.
Ten years ago, I left WSJ and started a magazine called Killscreen. We published a physical mag, ran a popular website, did the first-ever arcade at the Museum of Modern Art, and were even cited by the Supreme Court in defense of free speech rights for games.
A couple of years ago, we started getting more calls from brands that wanted to know how they could reach gamers as consumers. I started Twofivesix as a strategic consultancy to help software, technology/hardware, and consumer electronics companies like Intel, Google, and Samsung.
I live in LA, after ten years in NYC, with my wife and a labradoodle named Frida.
Describe your media diet.
I, obviously, play a lot of video games. We actually play games as a company every day. We jumped into Rainbow Six: Siege, Overwatch, and StarCraft II recently. All team-based competitive games.
We cover more of the arts side on Killscreen. I am also in love with the work of an Indian designer named Dhruv Jani. He's created this fictional post-colonial India literature world that he's built game experiences from.
For the last three years, I've been slowly working my way through the Pitchfork best records of the 60s. It's been an awesome experience and brute-forcing a list like that has brought some great music to me that I wouldn't have found. Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite (sadly still prescient) and Wanda Jackson's Rockin' With Wanda are two standouts.
After the 2016 election, I radically decreased my overall news input and tried to focus on a handful of places, rather than taking Twitter directly into my veins. All news and most social media are actually blocked for me during the workday. I like podcasts for news consumptions, especially Vox's The Weeds, Intercepted, and Short Wave. Also BirdNote.
What’s the last great book you read?
I don't read as many books as I used to—I still read a lot, but it's mostly publications. I am working through Jeffrey C. Stewart's massive Pulitzer-winning The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke. I was vaguely familiar with Locke as the father of the Harlem Renaissance, but Stewart's scholarship paints such a fascinating and complicated human. His vision of the role of African-American art in transforming American culture was so forward-thinking and Stewart captures so many wonderful scenes from Locke's life. I desperately hope HBO picks it up as a biopic—his time at Oxford as the first Black Rhodes scholar, courting Langston Hughes as a lover while walking the streets of Paris, and, of course, the dynamism of the Harlem Renaissance.
What are you reading now?
I read a lot of long-form non-fiction. The London Review of Books, The Atlantic, and Wired are all favorites. Also, National Geographic is still wonderful, especially after its recent redesign.
I took up birding last year so I've been loving Jennifer Ackerman's The Genius of Birds.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I make a point of reading everything cover to cover. I have so few print publications that when I read something in the paper, I try to pay attention to each and every piece.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
Adam Serwer, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Jamelle Bouie are just so crucial right now in terms of understanding what's happening in America. My wife is a history teacher and their approach to today's problems as chiefly outgrowths of America's original sin of slavery is spot-on. We all struggle with thinking our current moment is unprecedented without thinking about what's happened before.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
Sorry to go back to birding, but the Audubon app is really lovely. It has this great Bird ID feature that helps you narrow down a sighting by size, color, habitat, etc. It's great for seasoned folks and the bird-curious alike.
Plane or train?
What is one place everyone should visit?
Jenner, CA. It's a small town right at the mouth of the Russian River. Sea lions nest and play in the surf. There's a great restaurant there called River's End where you can drink Sonoma County wines and watch a sunset.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
I am obsessed with Kotaku's Highlight Reel YouTube show. It publishes glitches, strange moments, and occasionally feats of excellence from videogames one a week. There are over 500 episodes and I've watched every one.
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Jamin (JW)
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