Short answer: No idea.
Long answer: I really have no idea.
I’m asking why because it’s so much more interesting than how. How is just the machinery behind it all, the clear path from A to B that you can only but struggle to recreate, if you can at all. Why is much more interesting. It’s for people more interested in the fork than the path.
I’m also asking why because this is how I operate. I want to find out the answer just as much as you (presumably) do. I conservative guess would be that I care a hell of a lot more, what with it being me that’s going to be doing this. So bear with me, humour me, and all those lovely patient things people do for each other. I’ll get there, eventually, even if it does take all day, a day I should spend talking about issues far grander than some sort of internal struggle.
Don’t take that to mean that I’m reconsidering my position, or having some sort of crisis; I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been elevated so fast and so far that I’m not even really sure how I did it, so why is pretty much all I’m left with. Why did I put myself on this course, and why do I want to stay on it?
If I want to be perfectly honest (and I do), it’s because it’s easy. No, wait, it’s because it’s easier. I’m doing a Literature and Philosophy degree which will end before this month is through. Two more pieces of work (10,000 words and 3,000 words) and that’s it, Uni is over and done with, move onto the next thing, no worries. So long as I don’t sabotage myself with these last bits of work, I’m going to be getting a 2:1. Not because I worked particularly hard (I definitely didn’t), but mostly because I know how to write, and I’ve done just about enough work to scrape myself into the ‘acceptable’ band of results.
The problem lies in the fact that a Literature and Philosophy degree really doesn’t give you much in the way of direction. You could become an English teacher, sure, but to me, that feels like giving up. It’s a surrender of choice that is a few hundred steps further than I’m ready to go right now. So the list of options in front of me is both frighteningly vast and horribly narrow. Essentially, the few things my degree is going to throw up at me, I don’t want. And so I’ve got every-fucking-thing else to pick. So, to bring me back to square one; why do I want to be a games journalist?
Would it be satisfying enough to just claim to enjoy games? Not really. I don’t even find that a satisfying answer. But it does kind of lie within that purview. As in, I enjoy games enough to pay attention to the machinations of both gaming and the gaming press, and that’s what interests me. Of course gaming is on a precipice, because I’m right here, right now able to talk about it as it topples into something grand. I’m not sure how presumptuous that is, but if things like Sleep is Death and Heavy Rain are indicators of the future, this is the best time to jump on the band-wagon, so to speak.
There’s also the fact that games writing is the least formalist of any media criticism, because it’s so damn young. Everyone has their own style, and you can develop your’s, too! Nothing is forbidden, and the only rule is the mob rule. If you’re good, at least in the public eye, you’ll be able to earn a living. There isn’t anyone glancing over your work (besides the editor, natch.) and tutting and shaking their head because you’ve been a little too colloquial and chatty in your delivery. Or not included enough fucking puns. Or anything; it’s fresh enough that you can do what you like, and hope that it’s enough to get you noticed.
Which is basically what’s happened with me. Never underestimate the power of a positive feedback loop. While at secondary school, I rowed at a high level. I was training upwards of three times a day, to the extent where I was literally eating, drinking, and sleeping rowing. My diet and sleep patterns were dictated by when I trained, essentially. However, it all started to fall apart because I wasn’t able to get to enough races with School on Saturdays (yeah, I know, public school), and eventually it all fell apart because I didn’t have nearly enough reinforcement that all this training was worth it. I was putting myself through hell, and getting no payoff. So I stopped.
The opposite has happened over the last year or so. I’ve gone from strength to strength, and while I’m not exactly being paid a living wage, I don’t need one because I’m still at university. I’m just constantly thrilled to be able to write for places that, when I started Uni, where the epitome of games journalism at the time. The fuel that gives me to carry on going is undeniable; and if the job stays this way (and I’m not deluding myself that it definitely will, or even probably), I can’t ever see myself having a problem with it. So, why do I want to be a games journalist?
I guess it’s a composite of all these things. I want to do it because I’ve got no idea what else I can do. I want to do it because I’m enjoying the hell out of it. I want to do it because it’s really bloody interesting, and it’s set to get more so over the next decade or so. And I want to do it because it’s making me feel pretty good about myself. Seeing fifty or so people discussing one of your articles really is a rush that you can’t quite equal elsewhere. Also, playing games is pretty great, but writing about them is about twenty times better. Because then I get to tell you what I thought, and that’s the most important thing of all.