Thursday, January 19, 2012

That one time I wanted to be a videogame journalist

It's no secret that I love videogames. I've been playing games regularly since the age of 5, and probably will until I die. Heck, it's a miracle I was able to stop playing long enough just to write this.

I also love writing. And for a long time, writing was how I thought I would eventually make my living. When I got to college, I started writing videogame reviews for the campus newspaper, and actually got paid for it. I thought if I could just do this for the rest of my life, I'll be set.

After graduating college in 2007, reality hit. You mean I can't just write whatever the hell I want and instantly be paid a fortune for it? You mean I have to get an internship and a low-paying entry-level job that may not even be related to what I'd like to do? What the hell is a "per-diem"? Basically, I graduated college with the tragically delusional belief that a BA was my magical golden ticket to a perfect world where I had the perfect job and the perfect life.


Two years later, I'm working part-time as an office assistant while writing freelance videogame reviews for a couple websites. Not a bad existence by any means, but not exactly where I imagined myself post-graduation. But that's fine, because at least I've got a goal in mind and I'm actively working to attain it.

Then came the day I thought would change my life forever. A friend gives me a tip that Big Famous Game Magazine (note: names changed to protect the innocent–me–from possible repercussions) is relaunching and is looking to hire writers. I craft the best cover letter I possibly can and fire it off. The publisher responds. He wants to have lunch with me! He wants to hear my ideas! He'll probably hire me! Holy tapdancing fuck, this is like a dream come true.

So I meet the publisher–let's call him Chuck–at a delicatessen one afternoon. I'm in perfectly pressed slacks and a dress shirt, because that's what you wear to job interviews. He rolls in wearing faded jeans, a black leather jacket and sunglasses. OK, I feel a little dumb, but hey, this obviously means he's a cool dude. We have lunch, talk about games, and I tell him all about how I've been writing about videogames for years, how I want to improve the state of game journalism, and yadda yadda yadda. I leave the interview beaming, because I'm sure I just got the job I'd been dreaming of having for my entire life.

At the time of my interview, the magazine was in the process of restructuring itself from the ground up. That means, before hiring an editorial staff, they had to buy office space, put together an HR department, an accounting department, and everything else you need to make a business run smoothly. So I understand that, although Chuck likes me and totally wants to hire me, it's going to be a while. A few months at the very least. That's all fine to me. As long as the job's in the bag, waiting a little longer's no big deal, right?

So every couple weeks I email Chuck, just to check in and see how things are going, and oh by the way any idea when I might be hired for my dream job? I'm told, every single time, later. Later. Not yet. Just getting some things nailed down, but I haven't forgotten about you. This goes on far longer than the original timeframe I had expected. Like, long enough for the leaves to change colors, then change back. Eventually, I stop hearing from Chuck altogether. Also by this time I didn't have my office assistant job anymore and was pretty much living off of unemployment checks and money from my parents. So I really needed that job.

When it sank in that it wasn't happening, I was frustrated. And not just Linkin Park "I tried so hard and got so far" frustrated, but "I worked my whole life for this and came within inches of achieving my ultimate life goal and it was taken away seemingly on a whim" frustrated. I felt like a failure. Like everything I'd ever written was shit. Like every time my parents, teachers and friends had told me that I was a good writer, they were lying.

Suddenly, writing free reviews for various websites had lost its appeal. In fact, writing itself had lost its appeal. I no longer envisioned myself as a professional writer, when that was the only thing I had ever imagined myself doing. Now I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, all over again. And I had no clue where to even begin. It wasn't like I had been working some job I hated and now I could pursue what I really wanted to do. I was doing what I really wanted to do, but I didn't want to do it anymore. So what the fuck do I do now?

Well, it's a few years later, and I still don't know exactly how to answer that question. But I've got some good ideas. For the past year I've been learning to use Final Cut Pro, and I've been doing film editing work, mostly with the Documentary Channel. It's challenging, pays well, and best of all, it still allows me to be creative. I'm also learning to take more control of my career and where to take it. I can easily envision a future for myself where I'm creating–not just writing, but making film, audio, or whatever else–and making a comfortable living with it. I know I'll get there eventually. For now, though, I'm taking things one day at a time.


  1. Reality is fun, isn't it? Takes everything you expect and punches it in the throat. But you survived. I'm sure whatever you decide to do will be awesome :)