published Monday, March 12th, 2012

Gaming web editor rebuilding fan base

Wade Hinkle is the founder of Gaming Unwrapped.
Wade Hinkle is the founder of Gaming Unwrapped.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

ABOUT HIM

Name: Wade Hinkle.

Age: 41.

Education: Degree in culinary arts from Spokane Community College in Spokane, Wash.

Family: Wife, Alesia, 42; daughter, Autumn, 14; and sons, Anthony, 24, and Marco, 23.

Hometown: Monterey, Calif.

FAST FACTS

Game systems he owns: PC, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PSP, Nintendo 3DS and Super Nintendo.

Favorite retro video games: "Zork" and "Wizardry."

Favorite modern video game: "Halo: Reach."

Place he wants to visit: Tokyo.

Invention he wishes he had come up with: The paper clip.

Favorite movie: "Buck Rogers."

Xbox Live user name: TheSenorWakko.

On Twitter at: @SenorWakko

ONLINE

Visit Wade Hinkle's video-game website at www.GamingUnwrapped.com. Follow the site's Twitter feed via @GamingUnwrapped.

The Internet is a fickle place, and Wade Hinkle has spent almost two years recovering after coming face to face with that harsh reality.

The chef manager at McCallie School, Hinkle, 41, is a lifelong fan of video games and has spent his free time for the last decade editing websites devoted to covering the gaming industry.

After moving to Chattanooga from California's Silicon Valley, Hinkle founded his most successful site, Gamers Daily News, in 2003. As executive editor, he directed an international staff of writers whose work attracted 30,000 to 40,000 visitors a day.

In late 2009, Hinkle attempted to log on to the page only to discover his partner, a U.S. citizen based in the Czech Republic, had locked him out and taken over ownership of the site. After consulting with a lawyer, he said, he walked away after being advised that, since the incident fell under international law, disputing it would be needlessly expensive and complicated.

For a year, Hinkle worked with other sites before deciding in August 2010 to strike out on his own again as the founder and executive editor of a new page, GamingUnwrapped.com.

Hinkle said rebuilding his reputation from scratch has required concerted effort, but he assembled a freelance staff of 17 U.S.-based writers and editors. The site has a steadily growing viewership of about 15,000 users a month.

Q: When did you first start playing video games?

A A long, long time ago. I think I was 7 or 8, maybe earlier than that. When did the Atari come out? [Laughs.]

Q Have you ever tried to program a game?

A: I do a little programming. I would say I'm a hack. [Laughs.] Everything I know I've taught myself. I've tried to

program a game ... to miserable results. Websites I can do really well, but not games.

Q: What are the most exciting developments you've seen in the industry since you started gaming?

A: Probably just the time between generations of consoles. The speed that we're going at is amazing. When we were kids, it seems like things always stayed the same, but now, every year, something is different.

Q: What made you want to start a gaming website?

A: It originally was just a hobby. At the time that I first started ... gaming news was rather hard to get to ... and you couldn't believe everything they said. That's why I got into it: To have a place for the average gamer to come and read the news how it is, without the hoopla and the spin.

Q: What is your guiding principle as director of Gaming Unwrapped?

A: No. 1, [the site] has to be honest. No. 2 is integrity. We're only as good as our last article. If people don't believe what they're reading, they're not going to come back. Obviously, our biggest goal is to break stories, which I've done in the past. That's anybody's dream, to break a story and make it big.

Q: Is your goal to make running the site your main source of income?

A: Yes, it is my goal within the next year, but realistically, it will be within two years. I'm very cautious about how I want to use the money. When I jump in and start taking a salary, I want to make sure the site is set, has money behind it and that the other writers and programmers and graphic designers are all getting paid.

Q: What are the greatest challenges of covering the game industry?

A: Well, being that we're so "small" and that I'm in the middle of Tennessee and not in San Francisco or L.A. or Seattle. It was getting the public relations people's attention that we were not just a hobby site or an "IWantFreeGames.com" site. That's the hardest part. You literally have to get referrals from people who can say you're legit.

Q: What do you anticipate being this year's biggest stories?

A: Obviously, there are big swirls about whether the next- generation consoles are going to be announced this year. Also, I'm still debating whether [the Electronic Entertainment Expo] will be big or not. They've already announced some games that are big that I thought they would announce [at the expo], like "Halo" and "Assassin's Creed III."

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: Just the interaction with both sides of the gaming community -- the developers and publishers and the gamers themselves. We are kind of a go-between. It's kind of fun because you get people who ask us questions about a game, and we get to be the ones who go to the developer and publishers and say, "Hey, we want to know this."

Q: Now that your business centers on games, do you enjoy them less or more?

A: I still enjoy them, but I'm more critical of them than when I was just a gamer. But I still love it. I'll never stop gaming. I'll be in my wheelchair still gaming. [Laughs.]

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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