Maybe I’m only meant to be a fan of games. I’m ready to admit to myself that I’ve effectively failed at being a "professional games journalist," and I don’t have the skills needed to actually make it. Yeah, I think so. I think this is it. This 15-year-long dream isn’t going anywhere.
As I write this, I’m of two distinct minds. One of them just wants to write about how fucked up and broken this industry is and how it's everyone else’s fault that things have turned out this way.
The other knows that’s not true. It does think there are a lot of things broken about the business of games writing, but there are a lot of things broken about every business. It knows that this was never a good fit for me and wishes I’d realized that sooner.
But the first, emotional part of my brain says, "Fuck you all. I don’t want to be in your shitty club, anyway."
I’ll try to keep a leash on him.
But it is a club, though, right? Am I wrong about that? The club of "professional games journalists?" The club of people who’ve "made it?" Sites like Bitmob aside (don’t worry…I have very sincere praise for this site, its staff, and its community that I’ll get to later), there aren’t many in the club who can be bothered to send the elevator back down. Any support is hard to come by.
The most frequent piece of advice I hear from "professional games journalists" to aspiring writers is, "Don’t even try." The sentiment is that the business is too hard and too crowded, and the club doesn’t want any new people. It feels like a constant test…like you have to continue to write (for free, but the recent Twitter hooplah on the subject isn’t why I’m writing this) in spite of that shitty "advice" to even be noticed — reject rejection and we’ll let you stand in the lobby; find a way to sneak into E3 and maybe we’ll let you sit.
Well, I can’t do that. I’ll admit: I need help. I can’t make this happen on my own. I guess that’s why it hasn’t worked out.
As I make my way down the checklist of dreams, I’ve started writing comedy. It’s too late to get a good education that will get me a solid 9-5 job that gives me the time and money to just play games after work every day. I wasted all that time prepping for this writing/art/creative thing, and now I’m stuck in it. You know what advice I’ve heard for aspiring comedians?
"Do it! Get on stage as much as you can, and be funny. Keep going, don’t get discouraged, just be funny, and work hard."
Holy crap! Is that really so much to ask for? The slightest amount of encouragement? A "club" that wants, welcomes, and encourages new people? Do those who’ve "made it" still experience love and passion and not just business and “the grind?"
As an "aspiring games writer," I don’t think I ever heard, “Write as much as possible, and be articulate and thoughtful.” On the rare occasions I did hear real, helpful advice, it was to get business cards, to network like crazy, to create a brand, to create a "social media presence," and to learn how to sell myself…the kind of advice you’d hear in a business or marketing seminar. Any advice to actually write always seemed to come as an afterthought or as the least important skill.
I’m not saying that emphasizing business skills is part of what’s wrong or broken about games writing. If this industry is more business than craft, then it makes total sense to hone the appropriate skills. But hearing that over the years, I should have realized that maybe this isn’t my place in the world. I’m not a hustler and, no matter how much I’ve tried to fake it over the years, I don’t think I ever will be. I’m just not made for that.
Games writers have always seemed so well put-together to me: ambitious, driven, alpha, clean, stable, happy, natural-born hustlers who are as comfortable playing tag with PR people as they are writing. I’ve never heard a games writer talk about their drinking problems, crippling social anxieties, self-hatred, depression, or involuntary predilection towards general fuck-upery. Most working games writers I meet seem to be the opposite of me. They're successful and not just in terms of their career (obviously someone who’s being paid is more successful than an amateur writing for free) but in life in general, in spirit, and mind. Which is why they aren’t writing something like this right now, and I am.
I know I’m not a great writer. I may not even be a very good writer. But I know I’m good. I look around at my peers on various blogs and websites I write for, and I know I’m better than many of them. (I look at a lot of "professional games journalists" and know I'm better than them too.) I think I have the right amount of ego — enough to believe that the words I put to page are worth being read but not so much that I don’t know where I stand. I’m not lacking a neurotic amount of self-awareness and doubt, but I have at least enough confidence to know that this is the one thing I do well…the one and only skill I possess. It’s just too bad I didn’t realize sooner how little that one skill amounts to in this dream that 11-year-old me chose to pursue. (But I have only the present, 26-year-old me to blame for thinking a fucking 11-year-old knew what he was talking about.)
I probably sound bitter, a bit surly, and even angsty, but that’s only because I am. All of those things. I’m human, and I just gave up on my childhood dream. I’m allowed to be bitter. I’m allowed to drink myself down a spiral of negativity while I try to convince myself that the last six years of life decisions actually have any value.
But I’m not trying to cast myself as a cursed underdog. And I’m not trying to portray professional games journalists as villains of any sort. Yeah, I think a lot about this business sucks, and I think the blame for my failure can be split evenly between me, the broken bits of this field, and the economy. But on an individual and community level, I’ve had some good people help me out. Chris Dahlen has read my stuff and given me feedback. Tom Chick gave me advice on pitching. Chris, Tom, and Mitch Krpata all contributed to an article I wrote. And then, of course, there’s Bitmob.
Bitmob is one of the only places on the Internet (that I know of) where I can go for rational, adult conversations about video games…where negative or controversial articles are taken as conversation starters and not fanboy provocation. Both the community and staff here are wonderful, and this (or GamesBeat, I guess) will always be a place for me to turn to when I feel I have something worth saying about games. Thanks, guys; without the support I found here, posting something I wrote on the Internet would still be a terrifyingly big deal to me.
I'm just so sick of the rejection letters and silence. I guess I'm finished.