Exclusive Interview: Loot Gaming Brand Creative Lead Mandie Roman
In the four years since Chris Davis and Matthew Arevalo started Loot Crate — the service that sends subscribers a box of geeky goodies every month — the company has not only included tons of gaming toys, collectibles, and t-shirts, but they’ve also done one-off, single-theme creates for the Mass Effect games and Fallout 4. So it was clearly a no-brainer when they started Loot Gaming, a spin-off that sends subscribers a box of game-related fun stuff. But how do they decide what games to include, and what goes in a regular Loot Crate instead of the Loot Gaming one? To find out, I blindly sent the following questions to Loot Crate and was happily surprised when I got answers back from Mandie Roman, Loot Gaming’s Brand Creative Lead.
As Brand Creative Lead, what is your role in the curating of a Loot Gaming crate?
My quest is to find the coolest gear, collectibles, and apparel for our looters. I use fan feedback and work closely with our game developer partners and licensees to curate the best experience possible. From the monthly arcade coin pin to the exclusive t-shirt, I drive the overall aesthetic of all our gaming lines.
How do you decide what will go into a Loot Gaming crate, both in terms of what games you’ll cover and what kinds of items you’ll base on those games?
Myself and the team look at major video game releases coming out that month, review our customer feedback from our surveys and social media — yes, I read the comments! — and do tons of trend research in and out of the gaming industry to find items that will resonate with our looters. Most importantly, I’ve played, or am playing, a lot of the games we feature so I can select items that make sense for fans of those titles.
What kind of response have you gotten from the gaming companies since you launched Loot Gaming?
We’ve received a lot positive responses from our partners. Some studios just don’t have the bandwidth to dedicate resources to developing physical merchandise, so we love to work with these guys to bring items to their fans. Though we also work with the larger studios who want to showcase never before seen art or merchandise that never made it to retail. It’s been great getting fans into games they hadn’t thought about picking up or rekindling their love for certain titles.
And how often does your point person at the game company ask for a free Loot Crate subscription?
It happens pretty frequently, but no shame. If they don’t ask, we typically offer. We’re all fans, we get it.
My understanding is that you guys come up with a lot of your own ideas. How often do you come up with what you think is a cool or funny idea, only to have it rejected because the game company doesn’t have a sense of humor about that game?
It’s not often but it does happen. That’s not to say these companies don’t have a sense of humor, it’s more that they might feel an item is too “inside baseball” for enough people to understand.
Alternatively, there’s been times where devs have turned down ideas because it doesn’t make sense for their upcoming titles or marketing beats. Though if we believe in an item enough, we’ll get samples made and use historical data to sell them on it.
So, do you have a file with ideas for game-related items, and you’re just waiting for the next game to come out so you can make those things? Like, have you been sitting on ideas for a Mass Effect: Andromeda shirt ever since they announced that game?
Have you been creeping on my desktop? I actually do. I keep a big backlog of items that never made it to a crate or cool things I find online for inspiration. We’re always looking ahead at major releases.
As for that Mass Effect: Andromeda shirt, we did a Mass Effect crate last November, but perhaps we’ll join the Andromeda Initiative in 2017….
Now, there are still gaming items in regular Loot Crates. How often do you contact a game company to ask about something, only to have them say, “Oh, we’re doing that in the new Loot Crate” or “Yeah, we did that in a Loot Crate two years ago”?
Not very often. Much of the gaming merchandise company wide funnels through the gaming team. The other crate teams may even come to the Loot Gaming team for ideas. We never repeat items, and would never put the same item in any two crates.
So I have to ask, what does your home look like? Is it just stacks of t-shirts you’ve never worn? When kids come to your house for Halloween, do you give them Funko POP! toys instead of candy?
Shamefully, yes. There are literal stacks of toys in corners around my house just waiting to be displayed. I was a collector before I came to Loot Crate, and getting stuff delivered to me monthly isn’t helping that. I also have a hard time parting with much of my Loot Crate gear, there’s a lot of sentimental value attached to it. No complaints though, seriously.
Finally, if you assembled a Loot Gaming crate of your favorite items, what would be in it?
My tastes are all over the place, but if I had to choose I’d love a Fem Shep figure from Mass Effect, a League Of Legends arcade skins t-shirt, a Warcraft stein, Donkey Kong Country stress ball banana, and a Left4Dead medpack.