Shooting Straight: My Long and Winding Road
When I first tried my hand at writing, about 15 years ago, I started by penning game reviews. The dot-com boom was approaching and it was pretty easy to get your voice out there. I didn’t have crazy notions of being the next Arnie Katz or Bill Kunkel, but it was fun to put words on screen with my name at the top– and it was rewarding when I found out that a few people actually read the stuff I wrote, or, at least, clicked on the page.
After writing a few rough reviews, I really got my start in 1999 when I stumbled onto a site called Video Game Review. The motivation to write reviews came from site admin recognition and chances to win free games if your review was voted Review of the Week. The best work I did was a review of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, which earned me the first of several Review of the Week honors and got me in fairly close to the site admin. He said that I had talent, and that things might happen if I kept writing. Sure enough, in 2001, I got my first “reviewer” gig and my “career” began.
There was more to my writing motivation than Video Game Review, though. GamePro chats in 1999 & 2000 were sources of inspiration. Fantasy Realms, the independent video game store that I used to frequent, bought weekly time on a local AM radio station and I wrote several news blurbs each show to deliver while anchoring game news at the top and bottom of the hour. I latched on with Epinions, too, and earned a little bit of extra money by pumping out reviews and game-related essays. These things, combined with my gig at About.com, really got me wondering if I might make a small name for myself in the world of writing about video games.
After the dot-com crash and the ending of my reviewing gig at About.com, I latched on at SonyWeb for awhile and contributed to a couple of other websites. Sadly, real life derailed by writing goals. I dealt with some health issues and other challenges in my personal life. I tried to stay involved in writing when I could, with a couple of tours of duty with PSX Extreme and GamePlasma as well as some other stops, but could never get fully invested. I was caught between writing as a hobby and doing it for fun and wondering if I ever had a shot to “make it” as a writer in the business. I got sidetracked some days, lost motivation other days, and lost personal battles on still other days. I had pretty much abandoned any regular writing in 2006 and the first part of 2007, and wasn’t sure if I’d find the time or the motivation to continue.
Things changed in 2008 when I joined Games Are Evil for awhile. Working with that team is what sparked my passion to write again, plus Consoleation was created as a secondary vehicle to write extra things in addition to my work at the site, I also joined Twitter that year. I started to wonder again if I had a shot to become something, but again, real life found a way to muscle in and wrestle some of my focus away. After a difficult 2009, I moved to Arizona to try and get a fresh start in many aspects of my life.
While in Arizona, I fulfilled a life-long dream by getting to attend my first E3 in June of 2011. I had been doing more in the way of sales analysis in terms of my writing here on Consoleation, and when my entry into KmartGamer‘s E3 Blogger contest was one of the three selected, I began to wonder once again if maybe there was a shot for me to do something more with writing other than as a hobby. The KmartGamer project fueled my passion, as well as getting to meet influential analysts during my trip to Los Angeles in Jesse Divnich and Michael Pachter. It was a huge compliment to realize that they knew who I was and what I wrote– even if some of it earlier on was less than complimentary of both professionals. I was hoping that the KmartGamer project might be a launchpad of sorts for me, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. Add that with a necessary move back to Massachusetts in late 2011, and I was once again contemplating moving on.
There was one last shot that I took, accepting a great opportunity to work with Nathan over at Popzara Press in May of 2012. My time with Popzara has been fantastic. Nathan and his team saw to it that I’ve been able to attend E3 twice more, in 2012 and again this year. I’ve been thrilled to get review assignments to keep my writing skills sharp, but my focus continued to be on sales analysis pieces and NPD breakdowns, which I’ve become better at composing since I started doing them 5 years ago. Nathan has been and continues to be awesome to me, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities that he’s been able to give me over these last 13 months. Nathan tells me that my work does draw some traffic to the site, and that always makes me feel good.
Truth be told about E3 this year, I had a secondary mission in Los Angeles. I wanted to test the waters and see if there were potential opportunities for me to chase down a dream and become a professional instead of a hobbyist. At 41 years of age, and at a crossroads in my life, I needed to find out whether there was a future for what I wanted to do. I got a lot of great feedback from other writers and a few analysts, and the simple answer was overwhelmingly “no”.
It was hard to hear, honestly, but it was important to hear it. I’ve been on this rollercoaster for 15 years now, from when I first started dabbling in review writing up to this very entry tonight. I’ve had ups and downs, flameouts and fresh starts, life-changing experiences and major challenges.
Now, I can accept what my limitations are and stop chasing. No regrets, no shame. It doesn’t mean that I’ll stop writing, of course, but it means that I’ll be writing at my own pace and taking the pressure off. I’ve been very fortunate and humbled that I’ve been in the same conversation with many writers who I have so much respect and admiration for. I’ve met a few personally and have been in contact via social media with several others. I can’t tell you enough in just words what it’s meant to me to meet or talk to these excellent people, though I never really told them how influential and inspirational that I find them to be because I didn’t want to come off as just a fan. I’ve always wanted to be a peer, someone who could do the job pretty well himself, and I believe that I’ve come as close as I can get to achieving that goal.
So, what does this all mean? Outwardly, it won’t change much. As long as Nathan and his team want to keep me on at Popzara, I will continue to submit work there. I’ll still be doing monthly sales breakdowns, to the best of my ability. I’ll still be reviewing games as long as I’m given the assignments. I’ll also still be updating Consoleation from time to time, as thoughts enter my head to share that I can’t really share with clarity in 140 characters on Twitter. Inwardly, I will be evaluating what to do now. Maybe I can look into community management, or perhaps begin to focus my writing efforts more on the retrogaming scene and its growing community. I’m hoping to go back to school in the fall and continue work on my degree, coming off a 4.0 GPA in my first two semesters. It’s funny… it’s been a month since school has ended and I miss it already.
For now, post-E3 recovery continues. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I invite you to do so as Nathan and I put together a lot of impressions and opinions taken from the show floor and beyond. As always, thanks for reading. You and the others who read my words and works have always been my biggest inspiration to write. As long as you’re still reading, I’ll keep doing some writing.
Until next time…