Again, for another year:
I’ve thought long and hard about whether I would or should re-post this article on my own website or leave it buried in Google’s depths, a humiliating relic that would reveal itself only to someone potentially as obsessed with me as I am with myself (or, more realistically, just a potential employer looking me up).
In either case it’s haunted me. I gave equal consideration to removing it from Bitmob/Gamesbeat entirely and erasing it from my past. Probably the only perk of never ranking above “blogger” in your writing career is that you retain the power to unpublish anything you write, (figurative) suicide notes and all. With a click I can unmake it from this reality space while that sorry Rambo from Universe J leaves it up and never achieves anything, the stupid idiot.
Therefore, due to the particular combination of irrational hatred for authority, passive-aggressiveness, undeserved ego and aforementioned self-obsession that has so often led me astray in life (see: the previous sentence oh and also every following sentence), I’ve decided to re-publish this thing here. Why? Because I can. But I also have more to say. And some shit to reflect on since I wrote this. Oh and did I mention that this intro is the first thing I’ve written since this whole debacle? That’s actually a big deal for me.
This is my “Giving up on Professional Games Writing” piece I did for Bitmob that drew so much consciously-unwanted-but-unconsciously-desperately-desired-and-begged-for attention on me. I posted it and expected silence. I got the opposite. I got a lot of people in the press yelling at me for calling them a “club.” OK, to be fair, I also got a lot of perfectly polite, well-meaning, thoughtful opposition.
What I didn’t get was a discussion — at least not one that I was included in.
After I wrote this, everybody laser-focused on the whole “club” thing when it’s really just a few paragraphs — a few paragraphs that are prefaced by an admission of emotional lashing-out and followed by an admission that the members of that “club” are objectively better human beings than me.
The funny thing is that I never actually believed the whole club thing until after this post provoked a lot of (mostly negative) responses from people in the business, professionals and fellow amateurs alike. A big, annoyed dialog took place that didn’t bother to involve me in the slightest, despite my Twitter handle, Facebook page and personal email address being a click away from the article.
On the plus side, I finally got the attention I had craved for so, so, so long. That attention didn’t come in the way I wanted it — and I spent a good amount of time laying in bed, feeling sorry for myself — but I’ll admit that it felt good in a self-righteous, John-Bender’s-fist-victoriously-thrust-in-the-air kind of way. If anything it only served to make my ego even bigger.
And then a couple days later everyone moved on to the next thing to get annoyed about in the industry. And that was the real starting point of the spiral for me: not that I had effectively committed career suicide; not that a ton of people I had followed and admired over the years now finally knew who I was and thought very, very little of me; not all the Tweets from fellow nobodies who hated me — but that it actually wasn’t career suicide and nobody actually hated me, because nobody would remember any of it by the next week.
I also realized that I was just simply following the wrong path. The gaming press is obsessed with business. Most of the talk is about sales numbers, development costs, licensing fees, PR strategies and money. And I don’t understand any of that shit. In fact, I actively hate that conversation more than just about anything I can think of. A little of it bores me; a lot of it makes me resentful towards the person discussing it, the industry breeding it and the world for being built around it. This is a human reaction towards one’s own ignorance that I will never apologize for. Why I thought I’d ever be successful in that world, then, is now beyond me. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was younger than I am now and, therefore, stupider — that’s my excuse.
What I do care about is . . . well, the point of this website is to figure that out. And if you think all I’m interested in writing about is myself, then — yeah, you’re mostly right.
Here it is — the burning monument to some of my worst qualities, as well as — I would now argue more than ever — some of the industry’s, too. Enjoy Giving up on Professional Games Journalism, published on Bitmob sometime in March, 2012. I don’t care enough to bother looking up the exact date. And, really, neither would you.
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 the damn things. 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 much, much 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, there aren’t many in the business 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 games writers” about trying to break in 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 my checklist of dreams, I’ve started writing comedy. (Because it’s too late to get a good education that will get me the 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 and welcomes and encourages new people? Those who’ve “made it” actually still experience and encourage 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 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 games writing is more business than craft, then it makes total sense to hone business skills. But hearing that over the years, I simply 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 fuckupery. Most working games writers I meet seem to be the opposite of me — successful, 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 at various blogs and websites I write for and I know I’m better than many of them. 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 posses. It’s just too bad I didn’t realize sooner how little that one skill amounts to in this dream 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 and maybe even a bit surly — angsty, even — 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 search for a way to make the last six years of life decisions have value going forward.
But I’m not trying to cast myself as a cursed underdog. And I’m not trying to cast games writers as villains of any sort. Yeah, I think a lot about this business sucks and I think the blame for my failure in it can be split evenly between me, the broken bits of this business, and the economy I graduated college into, 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.
(I do want to interject that it seems like the people who write for wider-focus outlets like Paste, Onion AV, etc. seem to be the most encouraging, helpful and open pro games writers. Maybe it has something to do with freelance life or writing stuff that’s not always about games, because the strictly-gaming community as whole has always felt insular and incestuous to me. But that’s a topic for a different personal essay/diary entry [which, I know, is all this piece amounts to — a diary entry].)
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 what they are — conversation starters — and not fanboy provocation. Both the community and staff here are wonderful and this will always be a place for me to turn to when I do want to write something about games, on those occasions when I feel I have something worth saying. 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.