A while back, I wrote a post about my journey of writing about video games. Back when I was in college, I had thought that writing about video games would be my profession. However, after graduating college, I was soon realized that wasn’t going to happen. Part of this was monetary and ethical — and another part was that journalism itself is barely even recognizable as a profession. Maybe some of this is excuses, and maybe some of it is because I find writing inherently frustrating when you’re reliant on it for an income, especially when freelancing.
But the truth is I’m happy that I made the switch to marketing and used my writing abilities to work on creative projects like my upcoming graphic novel and this blog. Writing about video games was not only stressful, but it made me enjoy games a lot less. Every time I played a game, I had to think about some angle to write about it. It made the very act of writing about video games work — which is totally antithetical to the idea of playing video games in the first place.
That is’not to say that I never find myself writing about video games. I’ve republished some of my best writing about video games from the now-defunct Continue Play on this blog about race and class in Bioshock: Infinite, the changing dynamics of friendship using Rock Band and nostalgia and horror in Chex Quest. I’ve have also made a recent attempt with my piece about the role of brotherhood in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier,paralleling it with my relationship with my own brother.
These pieces are some of the best writing about video games that I’ve done, and they all have one thing in common — they’re all culture pieces. None of them are trying to quantify the games or make judgments. They aren’t trying to talk about gameplay, sound, or graphics, nor are they puff pieces sent out by PR companies promoting the latest trailers and developer diaries. Instead, when I do write about video games, it’s because I have a personal connection and something to say about them. It has nothing to do with my feelings on the game itself, but rather how I experienced it and what it made me think about. While very few outlets are going to pay you much for a piece like that (if they even pay at all), that doesn’t mean that there’s no merit to writing about video games in that way.
Thinking about video games critically has brought back the enjoyment of them that I had lost for much of the time I was trying to hack it as a video game journalist. When you’re playing games for work, they’re no longer enjoyable — they’re just work. Now, I probably consume more media than I ever have. I play a lot of games, I watch a lot of movies, I read a lot of books. And most of all, I travel quite a bit. Having experiences has become a more personal thing for me, and not something I feel obligated to write about.
As a writer, there’s something really freeing about that — not everything’s being done for the story. Sometimes, you just want to play a video game, or watch a movie, or read a book or travel to a new country. And then, you just want to keep your thoughts about them to yourself. While I hope to use all of these experiences in my writing someday, not trying to monetize any of these hobbies has brought a lot of meaning to my life and allowed me to clearly separate what I do for a living and what I enjoy. And when writing about video games, that separation is key to turning your brain off for a bit and just having a good time.