Consoleation Reflection: Humble Beginnings
After all of the sadness and solemnity regarding the recent events at 1UP and the end of EGM, I decided to take a look back to trace my start as a writer. Although I’ve had a few high points in my time trying to “break in” as a member of the gaming press, I don’t think that I ever really made it… but it’s been an interesting ride. I believe that I can honestly say that my skill as a writer did improve over the last 10 years, and I think that is an accomplishment to be noted.
I really wanted to share some of my earliest work, which began in 1999 contributing user reviews at Video Game Review. Unfortunately, the site is a shell of its former self. Instead, I submit to you my body of work at a site called Epinions, for which I compiled over 100 reviews and features in 2000 alone. This was my first review, covering Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast. I look at it now and can’t help but to pick it apart. No formatting. Too much use of first-person speech. Too many references to The Offspring. It was an enthusiast review with little technical skill; I even went so far as to say that the game had “infinite replay value.”
The truth about my Epinions pieces is that I wrote many of them while working tech support in a call center for an ISP. There were decent amounts of downtime, and Epinions was paying out for each page view… so I figured that if I could churn out more content, more people would click. I wasn’t really thinking about how professional each piece looked or how technically sound each piece was. I was more concerned with completing each piece as best I could between phone calls while trying to tap in to my experience with many games at the time.
As time wore on, I branched out from software reviews and discussed hardware (like the SEGA Nomad, Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, the SNES, and the TurboGrafx-16), video game violence, and even a piece breaking down E3 2000.
The one big thing that all of these Epinions pieces did for me was to land me my first “job” as a reviewer, submitting work for About’s video gaming subsite. of course, with the dot-com bust occurring at roughly the same time, that gig didn’t last long… but I soon after wound up latching on at SonyWeb (before Kikizo was born) and then submitted work for several other sites over the years, in between “real” jobs, a very difficult divorce, and other obstacles that always seemed to keep me from really dedicating myself to writing.
I look back fondly on all of my work. I remember having to complete ridiculous turnaround times for games like Metal Gear Solid 2 and God of War. I was fortunate enough to receive and review BUZZ! for the PlayStation 3 in advance of its retail release last year thanks to Jason at Games Are Evil and his contact with SCEA. It’s been a stellar experience for me, and if you’ve been looking at the linked reviews, you’ll (hopefully) notice that the quality of my work did improve as time went on.
Don’t get me wrong… I would love to write about the industry that I love and be able to make some sort of living doing it, but that’s not really the goal for me anymore. It was a dream, and I’m willing to accept that it’s not going to come true. I do think, though, that it may be foolish to give up altogether on writing… but what do I do now? Do I simply maintain this blog and see who visits? Do I attempt to put a portfolio together and see what positions are out there, if only to measure what (if any) response there is? Do I think about maybe writing a book? I just don’t know.
My goals are different now. I’d like to be able to continue honing my writing and at least become a recognizable name to some of the other people who I look up to and recognize. I’d like to be able to know that people read my work and enjoy with they read. Payment and monetary gain just isn’t my focus; I am fortunate enough to be able to make ends meet (albeit barely) by running karaoke shows four nights a week, and I love my job. I guess I look at my writing as a way of giving back to the industry that I love so much and has been synonymous with me since the late 1970s. If I can share my experience and knowledge and spark up some good conversation, then that is payment enough for me. It sounds silly, but that’s honestly how I feel. Just knowing that people keep clicking on my Epinions reviews or read this blog brings a huge smile to my face.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” crooned Semisonic’s Dan Wilson back in 1999. My humble beginnings back then have grown into experiences that are very special to me, but those were beginnings leading to a dream that’s no longer important. My new journey is just beginning, and I’m hoping that you’ll be following along for the ride.