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Shooting Straight

I’m just going to shoot straight from the hip: I’m a big ol’ coward.

I’ve been writing about video games in some capacity since 1999. I got my first reviewing “gig” in 2001. I’ve had many stops along the way since then, and I’ve probably had my fair share of opportunities to pursue my “dream job” and write about video games for a living. I’ll never forget being all excited during GamePro chats with Dan Amrich and the rest of the team back in 2000, talking about how I wanted to be a professional and having them cheer me on. I’ll never forget being on the radio every Saturday to talk about video games with friends from Fantasy Realms. I’ll never forget my first review assignment for About.com (Super Bombad Racing… YUCK). I’ll never forget my first review deadline, having to play, complete, and draft a review for SonyWeb for Metal Gear Solid 2. I’ll never forget the many times that I got close to getting to go to E3, and then finally getting that chance twice in 2011 and 2012.

I’ve been as close to being a professional as one can get without actually getting there. I never took that last big step. Why? I was scared. I remain scared, even as my 41st birthday approaches… although the “dream job” scenario has been relegated to flights of fancy now. What if I took that chance, flew out for an interview, and get turned down? Or what if, like we just saw with 1UP and GameSpy, the jobs just disappeared? What would I do? How would I survive? I could never bring myself to take that chance, to believe in myself, because I was– because I am– a coward. I’m not afraid to admit this.

It takes more than pure writing talent to do this kind of thing for a living. In fact, it takes more than pure talent to do this kind of thing consistently, whether you’re a professional or just an enthusiast. I see writers all the time dedicating themselves to wanting to be the next big thing, or wanting to take their skills to the next level, or wanting to prove that they belong to what is one of my favorite fraternities. There are too many of these people to list, and that list grows longer every day as new sites spring up or as new writers decide to jump into the fray and offer their own works and perspectives. I salute all of these people. These are the same kinds of people that motivated me to start writing in the first place, rather than just think that I could. The Amrichs, Eddys, and Reiners that first inspired me have been joined by the Workmans, Futters, Evangelhos, and a chorus of others. They are all dedicated to their craft, and they have helped and inspired others to succeed along with them.

To those who have been displaced from their writing jobs, I offer this: Although it’s of little consolation, you all did something that I never did. You all took big chances and believed in yourselves to get where you are. Your strong work ethic, talent for writing, and passion for this business still remain, and you almost certainly inspired others to follow in your footsteps– to do as you have done. You have my admiration and respect, and I wish nothing but the best for you as you move forward. I thank you for what you have done and hope that you will continue to do it.

As for the rest of you who are writing and may be shaken by recent events, I offer this: Don’t do what I did. Look to those who had the conviction to take risks and put themselves on the line because they believed. Keep writing, keep working, keep sharing. Even if that “dream job” never materializes, if you have passion and motivation, there will always be opportunities for you to share that with an audience of people always thirsting for more knowledge and different perspective. We need voices. We value opinions. We enjoy reading. Try not to let the volatile nature of the gaming press business dissuade you or bring you down.

I look back today on why I never took my shot and admit that it was my own fault. No matter what the dream is, don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself. It’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.

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  1. March 2, 2013 at 4:40 PM | #1

    As a counter to that, I would respond with the admittedly cliched “it’s never too late”. While the majority of the gaming press is made up of mid-20s to early-30somethings, many of whom clearly feel they have something to prove, I feel strongly that there’s very much a place for more “mature” perspectives on the industry. Your analysis pieces are a good example — while some may not be interested in the ins and outs of the business side of things, there are plenty of people who are, too — people who aren’t always catered to.

    One of the issues with the modern games press is its homogeneity. (I think that’s a word.) It’s all designed for that lucrative target audience of 18-30 year olds who are mainly interested in triple-A titles. There’s still relatively little to distinguish a lot of outlets from one another — ironically, 1up was one of the more distinctive ones out there — and I really do wish we’d see more big sites taking a bold step and specialising their content to different audiences rather than everyone courting the exact same demographic. Gamers are a diverse bunch; the people writing about them should surely reflect that. Small sites do a lot better at this as they’re more free to take risks — my own Games Are Evil is steadily carving out a nice niche, for example — but the big sites have to think of the bottom line, I guess.

    Keep doing what you do — it’s always an interesting read and I know your thoughts and analysis are read and respected by many. If the games press opens its mind a bit — which I think it will in the coming years — then there’s absolutely a place for other perspectives.

  1. March 19, 2013 at 1:45 AM | #1

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