Andrea Rene: The Game Awards nominee talks about gaming, her dream job and more [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Andrea Rene, The Game Awards

Andrea Rene is someone to watch.  Whether or not you are a gamer, it is only a matter of time before this smart, funny and fearless redhead becomes a household name.  Not only has she been nominated for The Game Awards for Trending Gamer, but also she will be seen chatting up fellow game lovers on the Red Carpet for the event on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Right now, she can be seen in her weekly video commentary on the What’s Good Games podcast and is co-host of the video game news show Kinda Funny Games Daily. Her website describes her as being “Video Game Lover, Entertainment Geek.”

Andrea Rene grew up in North Dakota.  She went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota with B.A. in Broadcast Journalism. Her senior thesis was on how the images of women in hip-hop music affect young women’s perspectives on sexuality.  After saving some money, she moved to California and started by taking work where she could and she started getting hosting, writing and producing work bit by bit and built an impressive resume.

Andrea has covered Comic-Con and dozens of video game and tech conventions including GDC, PAX, E3, and CES.  She was co-host of GameFly’s Game Center, was a recurring guest on Weekend Confirmed, as well as writing and hosting daily news for Clevver Games. She’s been featured on Spike TV, VICE, IGN, ABC, DC All Access, Logitech GTV,  Gamespot, GameTrailers TV and more.

In 2017, she produced and hosted the Raise Your Game Facebook Live stage. She was also a guest contributor for YouTube Live at E3, IGN, and Gamespot.

The hard-working and gracious Andrea Rene spoke with Michelle Tompkins for TheCelebrityCafe.com about her interest in games, her favorite shows, what is her dream job (Hint:  it seems to have a recent job opening due to scandal), how she thinks her gender has impacted her career path in the gaming world, what she thinks the future of gaming looks like, what she likes to do for fun, which charities she is passionate about and more.

Michelle Tompkins:   So, are you in the Bay Area now?

Andrea Rene:  I am.

MT:  Now you’re incredibly likable. I think you really like talking to people.

AR:  Oh [laughter] why thanks. Yeah, it’s a fun pastime [laughter].

MT:  And I was watching your videos. I like your cartoon post. X-Men was one of my favorites, too. But I think Smurfs and Jem and the Holograms actually were a little higher up for me.

AR:  Yeah, I was a big Jem fan as well. It’s hard to really pick a favorite but sometimes you got to just for the sake of a content.

MT:  And The Husbandos bit was really funny.

AR:  Yeah, I can’t take credit for that. That’s all Alexa Ray [laughter].

Andrea talks about her early life

MT:  Now, what did you love about growing up in North Dakota?

AR:  What I really loved about growing up in North Dakota was it felt like a tight-knit community because most of the cities are so small and the overall population of the state is so small, so you really got to know your neighbors, got to know your friends, and it really just felt like a safe, warm, welcoming place to grow up and really to be a part of a family.

MT:  Now, do you get back there often?

AR:  Sadly, I don’t get back there as often as I would like. Only a few times a year at most. My schedule keeps me pretty busy and unfortunately, it’s not the most convenient place to fly in and out of.

MT:  That’s too bad. I’m sure that your family and friends will miss you.

AR:  Thank you. But I tell them, “I live in California. Come to the sun. Get out of the cold. Come visit me [laughter].”

Sunday Funday at #Viansa in #Sonoma 🥂#winecountry #bestlife

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MT:  Now, what’s your favorite thing about being in California? I’m from California, too, by the way.

AR:  Oh, great. I’ve lived in California for over ten years now and I love that there’s just so much to do in this state. But for what I do for a career there’s just so many opportunities here. I think that’s really what drove me to California in the first place was my desire to work in the entertainment news industry and to work red carpet and interview celebrities. And I really just love how California has a mix of that hustle and bustle that is really essential to the entertainment and Hollywood business. But also it allows you to really get in touch with nature rustically through the many state forests and reservoirs and beaches. It’s just such a great state.

MT:  What do you like about the Bay Area?

AR:  You know the Bay area is an interesting place. It’s kind of got the hustle of New York but the laid-backness of the west coast. It kind of blends. The culture here is very different than any place I’ve ever lived. It’s really beautiful. I mean I’m a sucker for wine country personally [laughter]. That’s my favorite part of the Bay. But it’s been a great time while we’ve been here and there’s certainly a lot of friends that I have that live up here.

MT:  Have you become a San Francisco Giants fan yet?

AR:  Never [laughter]. I can’t do it. My husband, of course, is a die-hard Cubs fan, so we’ll be Cubbies from now until the end of time.

Andrea gets into gaming

MT:  Now, do you remember what was the first video game you ever played?

AR:  Yes. The first video game I ever played was Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo entertainment system, the original console from Nintendo.

MT:  And did you just fall in love with it?

AR:  I did. So I grew up with a bachelor dad. My parents got divorced when I was pretty young, and so it was a great way for me and my dad to connect. Me and my sister also played quite a few video games together, so whenever we would go to my dad’s house, it was something that we would always do together. So I really have fond memories of playing games with my family growing up, and that’s really what instilled a deep love of gaming for me.

MT:  What are your favorite games to play now?

AR:  It’s so hard to pick favorites since I have to play so many types of games for my job. But right now, I really love Destiny 2. I really love Assassin’s Creed Origins, and another favorite of mine that I’ve been really enraptured with is Life is Strange: Before the Storm.

MT:  And what do you love about gaming?

AR:  I love that gaming has two separate sides. One side is the escapist side that really allows you to deep dive into a fantasy world and immerse yourself in a place to help you kind of disconnect from your day-to-day life. But I also love the online multiplayer aspect of games that really helps you become part of a community to make you feel like you can connect with people who live thousands of miles away. You’re chatting with them inside of a video game kind of having that immersive experience together and creating bonds over that community.

MT:  Some people would have said that gaming is lonely, but with that community, it doesn’t seem like it has to be.

AR:  It definitely does not have to be. It’s all about what kind of experience you’re looking to get out of gaming. Some people like to disconnect and like to be alone when they play games to kind of have that personal time. And other people really love the multiplayer part of it. It’s truly all about the personal preference.

MT:  How do you think your gender plays into your success in this industry?

AR:  I think that my gender has held me back from a lot of opportunities in this industry, quite frankly. But that’s not something that’s unique to video games. I think that that is a problem for females in every industry all over the world. But I have always focused on doing the work and my experience over the fact that I’m a girl. I certainly don’t think that I’ve gotten any legs up by being a girl because there just are very few opportunities in the video game business for people at large, regardless of gender, let alone specifically positions that are meant to be cast or if there’s a director that wants a female in the role instead. It’s been tough for sure. A lot of times, men in the industry and fans like to question your authenticity because there is this conventional wisdom that women don’t play video games, which is just categorically false.

MT:  But what do you think about the portrayal of women in video games?

AR:  I think that it has been morphing over the last couple of years and that there are a lot of really unique and exciting things happening with the portrayal of video games. Not just for women, but for different religions, different genders, and different types of races. Just all in all, the collective consciousness about diversity is becoming much more enlightened, which is fantastic to see. Would I like to see more women in roles of prominence? Of course. But I think, for now, I’m glad that we’re at least able to have conversations about it and that there are a lot of amazing female characters being created in video games today.

MT:  Please, tell me about What’s Good Games.

AR:  What’s Good Games is a project that I started with three of my friends earlier this year because we were all looking for a dedicated place to talk about video games. When we started the project, it was important for us to make sure that we were heavily leaning on our extensive expertise and years of experience over anything else. Because we know that there’s a lot of competition in the space. There’s plenty of other contacts and video game news shows where people can get information and listen to commentary. So we really wanted to make sure that if our audience was going to come to watch our show, they were there because they know that we have over 35 combined years of experience in the video game business and hopefully because they enjoy our perspective.

MT:  Please tell me about Gamer Next Store.

AR:  Gamer Next Store was a project that I worked on for Playboy Gaming that was their branch into editorial content. I didn’t start working with Gamer Next Store until after Playboy made the decision to no longer do nude content and that they really tried to start to editorialize their brand. That’s when they really started looking at video games to expand their tech and entertainment coverage. And that’s when they reached out to me to say, “Hey. We know that you work in video games. Would you be interested in developing some content for us?” And I said, “Sure. That sounds great,” and that’s where we came up with Gamer Next Door Weekly. GND Weekly, which was the video game news show that I would do once a week for their editorial branch.

The future of gaming and what the future has in store for her

MT:  Now, what do you think of the future of gaming?

AR:  Wow. That’s a pretty big question.

MT:  It is.

AR:  The future of gaming is kind of multi-pronged. So there’s mobile gaming, which is getting bigger and bigger every year. With the advent of the smartphones and how these little computers in our pockets are going with us everywhere, of course, video games on mobile phones are only going to continue to grow. There’s also augmented reality and virtual reality gaming, which is probably the fastest growing sector in game development right now. Which is an exciting field, but I think it’s still in its infancy, so we’ll have to wait a few more years to really see where that goes and if it takes off. And of course, there’s eSports. Professional, competitive video games are something that is finally starting to break through to the mainstream culture, but it’s still widely misunderstood by a lot of people who just happen to catch snippets of it here and there. But the audience numbers don’t lie. It’s incredibly popular and it’s only growing in popularity. So it will be interesting to see if it’s ever going to be able to crossover to where mainstream professional sports are.

MT: What would you like to be doing five years from now?

AR:  Five years from now. That’s a good question. My dream job is to work on The Today Show ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be Mary Hart. But now that I’ve Hoda and Kathy drinking it up in the 10:00 hour, I was like, “You know? That could be a pretty fun hosting job. I think I need to figure out how do I get that job from Kathy Lee? She’s got to retire eventually [laughter].”

MT:  Well, I think you’re getting in the right place for it, with all the interviews and stuff you’ve been doing.

AR:  Well, I sure hope so. I mean, my background is in journalism and broadcast news. And someday I’ll get back to that. I mean, I really love video games, but eventually, I would really love to start doing more kinds of content in food and beverage, travel, stuff that really interests me as a host. Hobbies that I have outside of games.

MT:  Now, what’s the best life lesson you’ve learned so far?

AR:  From working in video games, or just from working in general?

MT:  Whichever…

AR:  The life lesson that I’ve definitely learned from my career is never stop working hard and never stop educating yourself. The moment that you think that you’re done, that you’ve learned it all, that you’ve made it, is the moment that you’re irrelevant. This life that we’re in now– the way how fast everything is moving, you have to constantly be researching and educating yourself and to look at what other people that are successful in your field are doing and innovate. Want to be better than the person next to you and you’ll go far.

MT:  What do you like to do for fun?

AR:  What do I like to do for fun? It’s going to sound so stereotypical, but I love shopping. I love going out with my friends. Obviously, I love playing video games and watching TV. I love reading. I’m a big fantasy literature fan. And I really just like relaxing at home.  I have such a busy lifestyle with all of the projects that I’m working on, that it’s really nice sometimes to just take a break and veg on the couch.

MT:  What are your favorite shows and movies these days?

AR: Obviously, I’m a big Game of Thrones fan like most of the world. But I also watch the Walking Dead. Top Chef is one of my all-time favorite shows. I’m a big HGTV junkie, so Fixer Upper is one of my faves [laughter]. It goes all over the map with the kind of content I watch. And I’m really into Empire. I just love the soap opera nature of that show.

MT:  Oh. It’s a lot of fun. Taraji’s just amazing.

AR:  Yeah, exactly.

Andrea talks about her philanthropic work

MT:  Now, are there any charities or charity work that you’d like to talk about?

AR:  So there’s a couple different charities that I work with. One of the charities that I work with, I’m on the advisory board for, is called AbleGamers. They are a charity that focuses on creating custom consoles, controllers, and other devices to allow people with disabilities to be able to play video games. And what’s great about what they do is that they work with a wide variety of partners to adapt accessories, but also for accessibility within the software itself. For example, if you have a video game that requires you to identify certain colors on-screen, but you’re color-blind, it’ll be pretty difficult for you to play. So they work with developers to make sure that they offer options for people with disabilities, people with hearing issues, visual issues, mobility issues, to kind of broaden the perspective to let people know, “Hey, there’s this community that exists that really wants to be part of gaming culture, but for various reasons, they really just can’t.” And so we’re trying to be more inclusive and try to work with other people to broaden their horizons and say, “Maybe you would think about developing your game this way. Then more people could play.” So that’s a really great charity that I work with.

And then another charity that works with that is not related to games is Take This. So Take This is a mental-health charity that focuses on mental health awareness and really kind of putting out the message that mental health is something that we all have to deal with, and more people than you think suffer from mental health issues. And it’s okay to talk about them. It’s okay to get help. They’re a resource for people in crisis if there’s ever a time, if there is somebody who’s like, “I just need someone to talk to.” They are always there, and they have done really great work in the video-game community by really trying to break down these walls of this kind of, this shame and this embarrassment that people feel when they talk about their mental health. And really trying to let people know it’s okay to not be okay, is their slogan. So those are two great charities that I love to work with.

MT:  Where could people learn more about those?

AR:  So AbleGamers is ablegamers.org. So it’s just AbleGamers with an S and then .org. And then Take This is takethis.org.

MT:  Thank you very much. Now what are some things, either personally or professionally, that you haven’t done yet but you want to do?

AR:  Oh, man. I mean, there’s a lot of things that I want to do that I haven’t done yet [laughter]. I someday would love to work the red carpet at the Oscars. Not necessarily because I want the professional experience, but because I grew up watching red carpets, and it would be such an amazing experience to work a carpet like that someday. I worked a couple carpets earlier in my career but nothing as big as that. So that would be really awesome. And I would love to someday be a voice in a video game. I have done some voice-over work in my career, and while I’m not nearly as talented as the many voice actors that are working in video games today, I would still want to have a single line in someone’s video game.

MT:  You don’t have a Midwestern accent. That’s actually kind of surprising.

AR:  Well, that’s because I practiced at it. [Laughter]

MT:  That makes sense. I was actually curious about that. So you actually did practice to get a non-accent voice?

AR:  It’s practice through work. You just keep working and keep doing as many projects as possible and over time, you get better and you learn how to control it. I still have some words that my accent comes out on, absolutely. There this one moment when I was on set when I was working for GameStop TV and we were  doing a piece for Siren, the Elder Scrolls 5: Siren and there was this word, Daggerfall, which is a location in Tamriel and I kept saying Dāggerfall instead of Dăggerfall and I didn’t hear the difference but they kept saying that I was saying it wrong cause I was saying the A’s like I’m from North Dakota, my A’s and my O’s. It became this thing where I had to do the video like 10 separate times cause I just could not say the A the correct way and I just was not hearing what I was saying wrong. It was pretty funny.

MT:  Your O’s just came out Midwestern. I loved it. That’s the first time in the entire interview that the O’s were. [laughter] Now, because I don’t think you want to pick just one, what are your favorite movies?

AR:  That’s a hard one. There’s so many good movies. Some of my all-time favs, I love Gone with the Wind, I love Footloose. I love Dirty Dancing. I love Inception. I love the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. There’s just so many good movies, it’s really hard to pick. I love sci-fi and fantasy, so The Matrix, Harry Potter, there’s so many good ones.

MT:  I think you’ll like this question. Tell me a little bit about Ghost? How’d you get him, what makes him special?

AR:  Oh, well I have two cats.

MT:  I’m sorry, I was mistaken.

AR:  That’s okay. I adopted them at the same time. Ghost is great because he’s just kind of like a lover boy and I give him the most amount of love possible as his mother that he’s just so sweet but he’s just so dumb. His brother is a little bit more clever. He’ll get into things that Ghost doesn’t even think to think about. But the pair of them are pretty great. I love them a lot.

MT:  What’s the other one’s name, please?

AR:  Maverick.

MT:  That’s cool. Now is there anywhere special you’d like to travel to that you have not been before?

AR:  When I was a kid I was always wanted to go to the rainforest in South America and I still haven’t been. So I definitely have that on my list. I also have never been to Tokyo which is a big thing for video games because there’s a lot of Japanese gaming companies and the Tokyo Game Show happens there every year so that’s certainly on a top place of things that I would like to see as well.

MT:  Here’s a dodgy question for you but you’ve already mentioned some of it. What are your sports teams?

AR:  My sports teams? So I’m a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan.

Diana hooked me up with this sweet jersey to commemorate my new married status 😁

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MT:  Go Vikings, I thought you might be.

AR:  My family had season tickets. Yeah, for a very long time. And that’s really the only sports team that I actively support. It’s hard because I’ve moved around so much that trying to maintain fandom in each individual city is kind of challenging but those are my faves. Just really the Vikings are it.

MT:  And your husband’s the Cubs fan so you’re doing that out of solidarity?

AR:  Correct. Yes.

MT:  What’s something you want your fans to know about you?

AR:  Hmm. A good question. Let’s see here. Let me think about that for a second. I don’t know. I guess just that, my fans, it’s hard because my fans know me. If they’ve been following me, they know that I’ve been playing games for a long time. They know that I have other desires and ambitions if they listen to the show every week.

Someday I’m going to start a cocktail show of some kind. It’s on my list of things that I want make eventually because I was a former bartender so I’ve always wanted to make some kind of bartending show.

MT:  I was too. I actually make homemade Kahlua.

AR:  Nice.

MT:  Yup. How do you like your fans to connect with you?

AR:  The most ways that I connect with people is on Twitter. There’s just so many social platforms these days, it’s really hard to manage audiences on multiple ones. So I predominantly just interact with people who Tweet to me.

MT:  What is the social media handle just to make sure everyone knows it?

AR:  It’s just @andrearene.

MT:  That’s easy.

AR:  Exactly.

MT:  Is there anything you’d like to add?

AR:  I would like to add that if people like my content or are interested in learning more about what we do, to go to Patreon.com slash watch good games.

That’s where they can be part of our community and support us and help us make more content. That’s the easiest way to get all of our information in one spot.

I became an Iron Lord in @destinythegame at the @playstation Experience! #PSX16

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Follow her on Twitter or check out her website for the latest info.

Andrea Rene, TheCelebrityCafe.com wishes you luck at The Game Awards and in all of your endeavors. See you on the red carpet!

 

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.