Scott Steinberg Talks The Greatest Music In Video Games

Former XXL game columnist Scott Steinberg recently released his second self-published book, Music Games Rock: Rhythm Gaming’s Greatest Hits of All Time. As the CEO of TechSavvy Global, a technology and video game consulting firm owned by Steinberg, the interactive guru is recognized as a tech and gaming expert by various publications including Forbes, Playboy, Rolling Stone and USA Today.

Naming Def Jam Rap Star as a personal favorite, the hip-hop head explores the rise and apparent downfall of music games by investigating gaming milestones. The gamer caught up with XXL to talk about his background, his book (now available for download at musicgamesrock.com) and how he learned more from Prof. Todd Anthony Shaw—Too $hort—than he did from professors in college. Game on. —Rachelle Jean-Louis

XXL: So how did you get into the gaming industry?

Like many people, I wanted free shit. I wanted to be in the video game business, [and I think I probably spent about three minutes in front of a schoolbook and the rest of the time listening to hip-hop and playing video games. I was living in Atlanta, [and] in high school I started reaching out to video game companies. The entire industry was based out of the west coast. I started calling around to see if they’d let me test things for free. We started [a website] – Gamesource.com [and] started getting free things, games [and] gadgets, and reviewing them.

So you got started early, huh. Ambition came at a young age for you.

I just started talking to them and started doing outreach to a number of different publications. Before I knew it, I wound up writing for everybody from XXL to Playboy to Rolling Stone, TV Guide, [and] New York Times. I was trying to get a job in the video game business, and nobody would hire me. Oddly enough, a company called Microids, a French company, happened to be at the big video game trade show called E3: Electronic Entertainment Expo, which happened to be in Atlanta in ’97. So the last year it was in town, it was right down the street from my dorm room. Despite being in a car crash the night before, a head-on collision, I wiped the glass off my forehead, woke up the next morning and hobbled to the convention center to Microids in the corner. They were like you should come to France and be the head of our public relations – we don’t have anybody who speaks English. I started out as an unpaid intern, and three months after I was there I became VP of Product Acquisitions.

There’s no question about your abilities in the video game industry. Where did the idea for this book come from?

I’ve written a few books before. I started with Get Rich Playing Games, which is a DIY career guide. That one I wrote because no one would give me a break. I wanted to give a road map. With Music Games Rock—we’d had music games for decades, but come the mid-2000s, Guitar Hero and Rock Band just exploded. Never seen anything like it. They blew up to the tune of roughly $1.7 billion dollars in about 2008. Every single background and nationality flocked to them because music is a common unifier. Look at the audience for hip-hop. I don’t think there’s anything you can say they have in common except the like the music. Then a year later, there was this meteoric fall. To the world at large, it appeared that music games were dead. It’s fascinated me, the phenomena of how powerful music games were and how big of a force they’re going to be going forward – helping video games make sense to people who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves gamers. I felt this issue needed to be addressed.