Today we bring you an exclusive Monster Q&A with Graeme Boyd, Xbox Community Manager for Europe. Graeme may not be a name most of you will not be familiar with (sorry Graeme), but if we said the name AceyBongos we might now be raising a few eyebrows and respectful nods amongst the 360 collective. So if you are curious to find out what makes Mr Bongos tick, and learn a little more about the running of the Xbox community in Europe, pull up a chair and read on…
For Monster Members who don’t know you, can you tell us who and what you do?
No problem! My name’s Graeme Boyd, I’m 27, I’m from Aberdeen in Scotland, I’ve been working in the games industry and living in London for almost five years now, and my job title at Xbox is Community Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I work at the Microsoft European HQ in Reading with the rest of the EMEA Xbox team.
My job is all about representing the community to the wider Xbox team. So whenever we’re working on something new it’s up to me to communicate what the community would think of it, and suggest ways to get the community more involved. That means I also get to do lots of cool stuff directly with the community like working with community sites across Europe like Monster, writing my blog at www.AceyBongos.com, and trying to help people out as much as I can.
Recently I’ve also been working more with the community teams around the world (Like Major Nelson, TriXie, the GamerScore Blog guys and Jaken Bear from Canada) because we’re all keen to make our community work more ‘global’.
Can you take us through your average working day at Microsoft?
I usually get to the office about 9-9.30, get sorted out, check the emails, and try to post the new Marketplace stuff on the blog. The biggest challenge at work is that we have quite a lot of meetings so sometimes it’s hard to fit in other stuff! I might spend some time speaking to our third-party team about getting community Q&As with developers, planning events for our Xbox Community Network websites, then sitting down with the Xbox LIVE team to talk about upcoming Marketplace content and things that are happening. We’ve recently started working on Inside Xbox and that’s a big focus now, so I’m spending a lot of time on that. And then there’s the editorial on Xbox.com. I’ve got a few plans for more stuff coming up, but I’m starting to wonder where I’ll fit it in!
Where did your gamertag and alias AceyBongos originate?
I have one of my best mates in Aberdeen to thank for it – a guy called Hadyn Cooper who I went to school with. We used to hang around a lot and one of the things he used to say when he thought something was good was ‘Aceybongos’. Like ace, but better! When I was setting up my Xbox LIVE account I thought about a few things, like ‘Bacon Crisps’ and ‘Biscuits and Cheese’, but they were all taken!
I should point out that when I chose AceyBongos I never thought it would become a public name, but I’m pretty pleased with it – it’s pretty unique, I like the way it sounds, and people are never sure what it means. Mysterious!
Are you lucky enough to own another console outside of the 360? and if so what games do you play?
This is going to sound really fake, but if I didn’t work for Xbox I’d honestly still be an Xbox 360 gamer. It’s the console that fits me best and has the games that appeal to me the most. Honest! I bought a Wii at launch and really liked it for a wee while, but once the Christmas parties were over I never really felt like playing it on my own. I also have a DS but I haven’t played it for a while – I actually bought it just for Sim City DS and haven’t really dug it out since. And I’ve just never been tempted by a PS3, and the big upcoming games don’t really appeal to me.
In the past I used to play a lot of PC strategy games and I was a big PS2 fan, but now I’m pretty much exclusively Xbox 360. I wish I had time for games on other consoles!
Away from the console, what do you like to get up to in your spare time? (if you have any)
Funnily enough I don’t have much at the moment because I’m doing a marketing diploma in the evenings, and that’s really hitting my free time. Boo! When I can I obviously get my gaming in, and I’m quite into film and music too. But I guess my main pastime away from gaming is football – I play five-a-side as much as I can and eleven-a-side for a Sunday League team in West London. We get beat a lot – I usually mention it on the blog! I support Aberdeen FC and obviously Scotland too, and I love watching the Premiership as much as I can.
What kind of fancy Sports car do you drive?
Ha! During the week I drive a Lamborghini Gallardo and on the weekends I get the Dodge Viper out, but outside of PGR4 I’m afraid I drive a (*cough*) Nissan Micra. It’s nice though. I like it…
The one that starts most fanboy fights, Fifa or Pro Evo?
Just my opinion, but I think it’s FIFA. I think Pro Evo fans are more convinced that PES is the superior game and don’t really care about anything else, while FIFA fans seem to me to need to draw comparisons more often. Personally I’m all about PES and it’s one of my favourite games ever, but it’s interesting to see FIFA continue to improve every year.
How did you get into the gaming business? Did you always want to do that? And do you have any advice for gamers who would like to do the same?
I was very, very lucky. I have a degree in English and Film Studies from Aberdeen University, and when I finished that I went on and did a postgrad in Journalism at Napier in Edinburgh. I was just getting back into games hardcore at the time and I really didn’t see myself working on a newspaper, so I though ‘why not try to get onto a games magazine?’. I applied for a job on Computer and Video Games Magazine, was lucky enough to get it, then I moved onto CVG.com, then OXM.co.uk, then onto Xbox itself.
My advice to anyone who wants to do it would be to decide what you’re interested in (marketing? Publishing? Programming? Design) and then get some relevant and specific qualifications. Loving and playing games isn’t enough, but you do need that to of course! Imagine just how many people would love to work in the games industry – they’re your competition!
Do you think a high spec Xbox 360 console with 320gb hard drive and built a in HD-DVD would be a good addition to Microsoft’s collection?
It’s a nice idea, but I’m not sure how necessary it is to bring in another console variation. Obviously the HD-DVD issue has changed quite recently so I think offering the choice of an optional HD-DVD drive was a good call. And for me the 120GB hard drive on the Elite console is more than enough, although I understand that some people would like more storage space. I guess I think that the options and choice that the consoles offer at the moment is enough!
Is there any function that you think is missing or would like to see included in the future for the Xbox 360 or Xbox Live?
I’ve been thinking about this question for a while. One thing I do get asked a lot about is whether we could add group chat over Xbox LIVE, and I do think that would be cool. I have suggested it to the team by the way, and it is definitely one of the most requested features. Other than that I’m not really sure – I guess it’s more important to hear what the community thinks!
Where do you see the Xbox 360 going in the future?
For me it’s all about making sure the Xbox 360 continues to have the best games available, continuing to evolve the Xbox LIVE community, and adding new features to bring new people to the console. I’d also like to see us involve the community more with the console itself, and that’s something we’re planning on doing with Inside Xbox.
In my opinion the Xbox 360’s biggest strength is the people who play it, so as long as we all keep sharing our thoughts and ideas and making it the best community in videogaming I think the future for the Xbox 360 looks good.
What is Microsoft doing to tackle racism and bullying on xbox live?
I think it’s really important to reassure everyone that when you file complaints on Xbox LIVE they are taken extremely seriously and acted upon. We have a very firm set of terms and conditions and a code of conduct which clearly states how you are expected to behave on Xbox LIVE, and if people breach this we are committed to acting.
But we do need the help of everyone on Xbox LIVE to make sure this happens. If you encounter any problems you should immediately file a complaint, and don’t forget that you can block communications with other users. If you don’t like what they are saying or doing, just report them and block them – you don’t need to put up with that. Unfortunately there will also be people in every aspect of life who want to upset people or cause problems, but I think the great thing about the Xbox 360 community is that it doesn’t put up with numpties spoiling the fun.
Where does the £40 a year many people pay for xbl go? Considering XBL uses the players Internet that they pay for, the servers are either dedicated by the games developer or one of the players own console in the party hosts and it seems the only thing they have to do is keep XBL going?
Your subscription pays for the infrastructure around Xbox LIVE. You’ve got all the stuff that’s piped into your console every time you turn it on, like the Dash and Marketplace. Then there are your community features like Friends Lists, chat, video chat, messaging and recently Inside Xbox. Then there’s all the technical back end stuff like matchmaking, ranking, leaderboards and so on. I totally understand that PS3 offers ‘free’ online gaming, but I think that if you compare the features and quality of the services side by side you’re getting an awful lot more for your £3.33 a month!
The recent xbox live downtime has annoyed most of the xbox live community. What has been put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
I think Marc Whitten’s open letter to the Xbox community was pretty honest about this – nobody in Xbox was happy at all about the problems (especially as we’re all gamers too!) and it wasn’t good enough. I would say that as soon as the problems emerged lots of people were working long hours and giving up their Christmas breaks to work on making things better, and hopefully over time you saw those improvements.
Personally I’d like to say thanks so much to everyone who told me and the Xbox team about the problems they were facing, and made their views clear – that’s exactly what we need to make sure these issues get sorted out quickly and don’t happen again.
Thank you for your time Graeme!