Telstra’s official video game reviewer is Josh Appadoo, a Melbourne gamer with a love of story, Elder Scrolls, photography and streaming. He’s a face new to the Australian gaming sphere, in the sense that he doesn’t have an in-built following or fandom from a previous show, podcast, or another part of media.
So to get a better sense of how Telstra’s upcoming face of gaming sees the world of video games – and where it’s going – I had a chat with Appadoo over the phone.
This article has been sponsored by Telstra.
Alex Walker, Kotaku Australia Editor: So just talk me through your application process, what you put forward, what your approach to it was.
Appadoo: It was very different in a sense. The same way when anyone sees anything on – because when I’ve seen the application or ad for it on Facebook, and the same way you see a job application that basically you’re like half and half – is it publicity, are they actually looking [for a reviewer]?
But there’s been zero negativity that came out of this. So I applied, and within the application, I’ve included the content that I’ve made. I’ve kind of chased YouTube as a potential hobby and career over the last few years, and amongst all my content there is some kind of game reviews, which may draw similarities from other companies and how they tackle these sorts of things. But it’s more or less to spread awareness that games don’t have to be guns, gore and violence, all that kind of stuff. There is art, there’s thought that needs to go into these things, so I think that was the reason for me applying.
So that’s a good segue into asking about the lens you see video game reviews through. Telstra obviously has their own website, we [Kotaku Australia] obviously have our own, you used to go to places for information. But now we live in a world where there is a streamer for everyone. There’s someone who just exclusively does content on the thing that you care about. And that person is always going to be, because they focus on it, it’s going to be more in-depth, more detailed, more history and background than what a general review would have.
So what do you think is the next step forward for reviews? Should they still be consumer advice? What purpose do you think they should serve in 2020 and beyond?
Appadoo: In a similar way to how home movies have sort of taken a turn, where – not all – but a fair amount of things now move into remakes, remasters, reboots of certain trilogies, movies and games. It’s important for the consumer to know, ‘Is this, in a sense, worth my money?’ Because games are a lot more expensive than they used to be. People need to know about what could be an incredible experience that might change their view on certain topics and things like that. And as well as opening their eyes up to categories they didn’t know before: some people may have only played NBA 2K or FIFA, they may not know there is a hard-hitting indie title that you could finish in an hour.
So I think it’s important as awareness. Unless you work in the industry or you’re super hardcore into it, you don’t have all your bases covered. So it’s good to have someone who can bring all four corners of it together in one concise manner without you having to kind of dig around.
So as part of this process, for Telstra who do you see as your audience? And you mentioned before your YouTube channel, who were you targeting with that?
Appadoo: As for YouTube? Anyone who wants to listen. I’m not going out there saying, I want this demographic, I only want gamers. I want to bring it towards everyone, I want to bring content to everyone that way. I play games that maybe you need to have followed the whole series of Final Fantasy games, for example, to maybe understand the universe. But I also like games where anyone can sit down and understand it, there’s no heavy backstory, there’s no universe to involve yourself in. And I think with Telstra, we want to bring it to the majority.
People who have played games and know all these things can really enjoy this content, but then you could sit down with someone who’s never touched a controller in their life and they could see something they would want to play, or they might enjoy watching.
So what do you do outside of this?
Appadoo: Like most people, I think, retail was big for a very, very long time. I entered the workforce fairly early. And I did the classic – everyone’s been to Maccas. Then I went onto hospitality, all that kind of stuff. And then in the background, YouTube was brewing on the side, photography – I’m really huge on that. I ran a small photography business on the side for quite some time as well. And just media in general: all consumptions, videography, photography, games, that’s kind of like my day to day.
What kind of communities, what kind of online spaces do you hang out in your spare time?
Appadoo: Twitch is a big one, just a lot of friends and just people I follow online. Maybe not that I know them personally, but being able to connect while following live is really, really something else, not something I’ve ever experienced when I was a child and for a lot of people I think that’s the same thing. And then it’s probably the standard Reddit, YouTube, finding communities for specific hobbies is very important. YouTube is sort of my bread and butter.
I was wondering if you could talk to the value of promoting Australian voices and whether it matters if Australians talk to other Australians, or just building a bigger voice for Australians in general.
Appadoo: I think up until maybe the start of this year, end of last year, having Australia in the media, unfortunately, had a negative connotation because of the fires. But I think we need to bring more of a positive note. People know Australia is a great wildlife place, great holiday place, but they need to know there’s more to it than just that. I think putting us on the map in terms of what is a very up and coming industry with streaming and games and content creators is very good, while there are a few sort of larger names.
Do you think the Telstra program might have any sort of effect on the view Australians have on gaming? It used to be obviously quite stigmatised, 20, 30 or 40 years ago.
Appadoo: I think quarantine has managed to do the bulk of the work in that regard. Take Animal Crossing for example. That’s blown up. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’ve touched a controller or not. Everyone and their grandmothers are playing that game, or has heard of it at this point.
There is a title for everybody. Do you want something that’s going to take 300 hours? Do you want something you can polish off in 45 minutes? There’s something for all demographics.
One of the parts of the Telstra program is that it’ll end around when the new consoles launch. Obviously it’s Xbox specific, as Xbox and Telstra have a thing. But what are you actually looking forward to the most from these new consoles? We know we’re going to get new games. We know they’ll look better, all the rest of it. What do you actually want [the new consoles to do], that you can’t do now?
Appadoo: Bringing in VR, making it a bit more mainstream. I guess on the PC side of things, [VR is] a little bit bigger. But bringing VR to Xbox. Xbox has a very high similarity in terms of PC capability. The experience there is going to be absolutely incredible.
And making sure the VR experience isn’t stationary, as opposed to the [older] Oculus Rift experience. Then you have HTC Vive where you’ve got the senses and it’s more of a standing, moving experience. And I think that also extends to, again, bringing it to the masses. As a person you can stand up, you can walk and look around in these experiences. And then obviously the standard hardware upgrades are interesting, but VR I think is where they need to take it.
Do you think streaming – not necessarily Google Stadia or Project xCloud – but maybe being able to stream from your Xbox to your phone, do you think that will have an effect in Australia?
Appadoo: I’d say a larger [impact] just given the fact that now with the amount of people getting into gaming. Unless you’ve got multiple screens, multiple TVs in your living room setup, if friend one is playing something on the TV, you can then offload that, stream it to your phone or tablet or something like that, and continue playing. The experience can be seamless, and then you get to continue playing, you get to continue having that experience.
I think it is more of a convenience factor as well. If they can extend that to mobile networks, so you can stream on the go, on public transport or on holiday, that kind of thing. I think that is definitely the next step as well.
Appadoo’s first review for Telstra will be Minecraft Dungeons, which is live now on Xbox One, PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. You can follow Appadoo on Twitter.