A mega house moving week has prevented me from keeping up to date with this, and mega-conference-workload next week will probably mean another lull. In the meantime, though, a couple of people have asked me how I’ve gone about getting into this games-writing lark, so I thought I’d pen an answer. I meant it to be a couple of paragraphs. It’s actually about a thousand words.
I’ve been into both writing and games since I was a kid. I was an avid PC gamer as a youngster, playing from around 1995, and bought PC Gamer religiously from around the year 2000. I used to love playing games, but equally I loved hearing other people’s opinions of them, even at that young age.
As a teenager in 2002, I decided to set up a games site (this was sort of pre-blogging culture, so it was all rubbish MS Frontpage stuff) where I’d just review loads of games. Eventually, I roped in a few other teens from around the web to help me out. A few months later, someone approached me from a similar site called Crucial Gaming, asking if we wanted to merge.
We did, and in 2003 we set up a site called Resolution. We were still precocious idiots at this time, thinking our opinions on games were significant, important, whatever. As a result, though we gained a small but loyal readership, I think we annoyed a few people. Specifically, the staff on PC Gamer, who we bugged incessantly for advice and nagged to read all our articles. I seem to remember at least two PCG staffers blocking some of our own writers on MSN.
One was Kieron Gillen, whose stuff I’d grown up reading. I started reading PC Gamer around the time he joined, and before long he’d risen up the ranks to Deputy Editor. I’d been fascinated that someone shared my ego-fueled views on gaming as an artform, something it had never really been considered as until around that point. I read his stuff religiously – and that of John Walker – so annoying these guys was a bit of a kick in the guts, as we’d never meant to. In retrospect, I can see how desperately horrible we must have seemed, so hold absolutely no grudges.
Anyway, Resolution lasted a couple of years, before half the team fell out and people generally lost interest. I started playing less games and listening to more music. I joined a band, and started writing voluntarily for a few music mags and websites. I went to uni and discovered heavy drinking. This gaming hiatus lasted until around 2007.
I bought PC Gamer, totally on a whim, having not purchased it for a year or so and having not thought much about games in the meantime. I read about a game called BioShock, being headed up by Ken Levine, one of my favourite designers from my gaming past. My interest rekindled, I got back into the gaming scene, and bought BioShock on release. It was absolutely fascinating to see how far videogame narrative had come in my absence.
So I really got back into it, and I applied for work at a couple of games sites – RealGamer and HonestGamers, to be specific (the latter of which I still contribute to). Both were voluntary positions, but I was happy to be back on the scene. I wrote a tremendous number of reviews for HonestGamers throughout 2008, and realised I found it so much easier to write well, and enjoy writing, about games than I did with music. But writing reviews didn’t quite seem enough. I wanted to write opinion pieces, editorials, features you couldn’t just get anywhere.
So I roped in a few friends from my hometown of Leeds, who I knew were into games and into writing, and we sat down to plan a monthly videogame ezine. Since Resolution is the best name I’ve thought of for anything ever, we decided to go back to that. It was to be an online mag, released every four weeks, containing previews, reviews and features each time. In November 2008, we launched.
We did this for five months. Over this time, we began to build relationships with publishers and grab a fair amount of review code. But this still wasn’t the direction we were hoping to move in. We wanted to be writing other stuff, but reviews were taking up all our time. So, in April 2009, we decided to switch. We would recruit a fairly large team of volunteers, structure everything in a business-like manner, and become a regularly-updated website. http://www.resolution-magazine.co.uk, as it is today, was the result.
Around that time, I decided I’d like to write about the notion of death in videogames. Unsure where to start, I emailed a few contacts to weigh in on the matter. I got in touch with Joystiq’s Ludwig Keitzmann, who had written something similar previously. I got in touch with Tale of Tales’ Michael Samyn. And I sent an email to Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s general email address, asking if any of them would be interested.
Ludwig and Michael replied. So did Kieron Gillen and John Walker from RPS. I wrote the article, and forwarded it to everyone I’d interviewed. And Kieron linked back to it from Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
We got an enormous influx of hits. Overnight, we went from 80 unique readers a day to over a thousand. The figure’s balanced out a little since, but that article – or, specifically, that link-back – marked a real turning point for Reso. People were taking us seriously. People liked this sort of article. So we wrote more.
RPS linked back to us a few times in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I was furiously pitching stuff to a variety of mags and sites, but not really getting anywhere. In the end, I wrote two full articles and emailed them to Tom Bramwell, Eurogamer’s editor. He wasn’t particularly keen on what I’d written, but liked the idea of one of them, and asked me to re-write it to suit EG’s style. So I did. I had my first commission.
The other article I’d written was still sat in limbo, so I began to think about where it would fit. I sent it to PC Gamer, but they didn’t take me up on it. The only other place I could see it working was Rock, Paper, Shotgun, who stated clearly on their site that they didn’t accept freelance pitches. I sent it anyway.
They published it.
That was my real entry to this world, and it’s quite an honour – having grown up being inspired by Gillen and Walker – that they should be the ones to give me my big break. Off the back of that article, I was contacted by Simon Carless of Gamasutra and GameSetWatch, and Tim Edwards of PC Gamer, asking me if I’d be interested in writing for them. I landed a regular column at GSW, which ended up being cross-posted to Gamasutra. I’m still in talks with Tim for PCG stuff, but it’s looking good.
I signed up to a couple of games journo networking sites. Shortly afterwards, a new site called FACEOFFGAMES contacted me, asking if I’d like to pitch for some freelance commissions. I did, and a few were accepted. I have a few more in the pipeline. And RPS have asked me to write for them some more.
And, well, that’s now, really. And I can’t believe I’ve assumed any of you are actually interested in this. You’re probably not. But fuck you. I’m still that annoying twerp I was at the beginning of the century.