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Casey Baker 's blog
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About
Casey Baker is passionate about all things video game, and has been this way since very young. His earliest memories involve trying to get E.T. out of a hole.

Casey plays nearly all genres of games, excluding most sports games (save Super Dodgeball for the NES), and pretty much any fitness games.

Casey has been partnered for 9 years, and though his partner Mike doesn't share quite the same passion for games as he does, Mike can kick his ass at Mega Man 2 and Castle Crashers, and loves Journey and Rez.

Casey also plays several online games with his twin brother, and is always happy to find others to play online with.

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I finally caved and bought the rest of the art tools for the Paper App by 53. Next up will be the actual stylus so I'm not doing these with my fat fingers anymore.

This is based on a true story and the characters within are inspired by real people.

...Wow, I just got interrupted by an ad while editing and couldn't even access the editing script. What fuckery is this, guys?
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Hey all! I had to take a hiatus this weekend for Mother's Day and for a Finals essay. But I will be finishing off this series today, Wednesday and Thursday...

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When HUGE became a integrated part of the site, I was happy that editors could be more directly supported by the community.

It was also at this time that I struggled with what direction I wanted to go with Destructoid. A part of me would have loved to be a full time writer and news editor, but considering I had so many other obligations with work, school and family – I didn’t have the kind of time needed to be a full contributor. So for a long time, I floated. I wrote stories when I could and didn’t commit to certain stories when it just wasn’t going to happen. I thought this would be fine, though I felt terrible every time I didn’t get stories written. As I mentioned, this happened with the big indie game events. Some really great games got later coverage because I just simply dropped the ball.
 
On that note, I have only the utmost respect for the editors currently working at Destructoid, especially those who have been around for such a long time – Dale North is Corgi-tastic and exudes charisma in person without even trying, Jordan Devore has made so many of my articles not sound like the blabbering words of a mindless idiot and I can’t thank him enough for it, Chris Carter is a goddamned machine, Steven Hansen is a super-powered jack of all trades (and master of puns), Hamza might bite legs off, and so on and so forth. They are all incredibly hard-working individuals.
 
From the outside, a casual observer imagines writing for a gaming site and they believe that it would be such an easy gig where everything is always handed to you, and you get so many perks like free games or access to really awesome events. From the inside, writing about anything can get really tedious and frustrating after a long enough period of time, especially when your livelihood depends on writing a certain number of stories to make money. The truth about being an editor for Destructoid lies somewhere between these lines.
 
A few months ago, Hamza wrote me an e-mail to try work out something where I’d get monetary compensation for what I wrote – but it also meant I’d have to be much more committed than I could promise. At the time, I had just left my long stint as a restaurant server so that I could focus on college full time and finally get my Undergrad degree and credentials for teaching. I was really busy with school and couldn’t commit much time to writing for the site.
 
Basically, I knew that if I were to make a modest compensation, I couldn’t just do the odd preview now and then, I’d also have to write up news stories, and possibly create features that garnered a lot of popularity. It takes a lot of content writing to make a buck in the field of journalism these days. The nature of the beast was changing for me and for Destructoid.
 
I asked Hamza if it would be okay for me to just freelance for awhile longer, no money compensation or expectation - to float and take jobs when I could. He never really got back to me in an official measure, but the next time an event came up and I was available, I offered to do it and was given the go-ahead. I took that as a sign that this was all right.
    
Now, the site seems to have a plan that is essentially a hope for returning to a more core team like in the old days so that there’s a more cohesive group of currently contributing writers that the community always recognizes and responds to. I totally understand this, it’s how Destructoid has worked in the old days too. “Lay-offs” of contributors and editors alike have happened in the past, the site generally trims the fat if you’re not a regular contributor. I can’t comment on the success of this particular skimming in the long run, but it has certainly worked just fine before.
 
I’m certainly not bitter about the decision. I enjoyed my time writing for Destructoid and being that part of the video game industry. But I also knew that in some capacity, I was moving on. I’m now seeking a career as a teacher because I want a career that can positively affect the world and also afford me at least a stable amount of money with a fair amount of time off. I’m not entirely sure journalism is the career that will do that for me. I simply can’t commit the amount of energy needed to write the amount of content that makes a moderate sum.
 
I also have some hang-ups with turning writing into my only livelihood. I write short stories in my free time, and have always loved writing in general. I’ve never wanted to be a slave to it in any way. My love for writing slightly trumps my love for video games, so what I perceive as enslaving my writing ability by forcing myself to write some number of news stories every day to make money - in order to get more access to the video game industry - is a personal conflict of interest.
 

I will probably continue to write here on this community blog from time to time. I still love writing just as I love video gaming. In fact, I already have an opinionated blog in mind comparing and contrasting Trials Fusion with Trials Frontier. Look out for it after I’m done with my 'confessional.'
 
(Stay tuned for next two installments: Recounting some of the more awesome experiences I’ve had working for Destructoid – and following that will be some of the lower points…)
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I should touch back on the whole indie games thing, because it’s really where I started to drift away from my duties as a contributor.  If anything makes me feel bad about my time with Destructoid, it has always been my spotty indie game coverage.
 
What often happened was that I’d go to some huge indie event, be really excited for 6 or 7 games, create posts and start write-ups for each game, and then manage to finish two before I became too busy with life/money obligations to follow through. For larger games from big publishers, it was always a bit easier to keep focus – and I’ll be honest – a large part of that was because I knew that if I didn’t cover the game properly, I’d hear pretty quickly from my Destructoid higher-ups. Especially Hamza. I respect and fear Hamza to this day.
 


During the last PAX, I had the chance to see some truly great games in the Indie Megabooth. I even told Niero I was planning to do several write-ups about them. Then I got home, got back into the routine of my college semester, and those stories sat empty and unpublished. Every day that passed by just made me feel guiltier about my broken promises.
 
Granted, that was the same semester that I spent a good deal of time writing up a rather large research paper about the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco - which also meant travelling to them for the fourth time and conducting/compiling an interview with the head researcher who seasonally works on the islands to get insight into the biodiversity there. So yeah - I had my work cut out for me elsewhere.
 
Regardless, I deeply regret my lesser coverage of so many great indie games I’ve had the chance to play. Fortunately, many of the other editors and contributors came across those same lesser known games at some point. So the credit for discovering them goes rightfully to them, and history is written.
 


I think I’ve carried a lot of that guilt relating to never writing about some of those games for awhile now, and thus I’ve distanced myself from Destructoid’s inner circle. I’ve been doubly frustrated that I’ve put so much coverage on big name games that I may or may not necessarily care about simply because the flame felt hotter and thus pushed me to get that stuff written up in a timely manner. Another consideration has been length – as these blog posts may make clear, I have difficulty keeping things short and succinct. Most of my indie game write-ups (both published and unpublished) were meant to be just that, but either ended up getting cut down by an editor or else just seemed too daunting to even finish.
 
I know the inevitable e-mail regarding my cut was around the corner, but the e-mail that eventually did arrive didn’t mention my largest crime at all. In my mind, I had already let myself go in a sense quite awhile earlier due to my flakiness in that regard. However, in the long scheme of Destructoid as a site, the cut isn’t some terrible sentence that has sent me out to space. I’m still going to be around, though admittedly my future potential career choices have already been leaving the video game sphere for awhile. This isn’t to say I won’t stop playing, writing, or talking about video games. I can’t be shut up that easily.


 

 
I used to run into Max and Tara all of the time when they were regulars for the Dtoid Show. I think they’re both truly great people and I don’t think Max’s return to Destructoid deserves the vitriol he was getting on the forums a couple days ago. Back in the day, I’d also see Nick Chester and Chad Concelmo at events and exchanged the odd e-mail with them from time to time – though pretty rarely, as I didn’t really write reviews at the time or feature pieces. I was sad to see them go, although both moved on to much bigger and better things.
 
I finally met Jim Sterling at the last PAX and ‘closed the loop’ between myself and him – Years ago, by complete random and weird coincidence - he posted a quite terrible joke photo I once took of me and my sister in law and used it as a header for a story about anti-video game controversy. I was jazzed that he even managed to find the picture at all, as it was wasting away in the obscure corner of the internet known as my livejournal. In fact, that was part of what made become even more active at Destructoid, as I already felt involved in some way.
 


Very soon after I finally met him in person, Jim left to write for the Escapist on a more full time scale.

I’m certainly no stranger to the entrance and departure of contributors. Throughout my time writing for the site, both contributors and core team members have come and gone. Some have moved on to better things, while others have simply moved on. Some have returned to the site. At this point in time, I’m interested in pursuing other goals. The video game industry is too volatile, and journalism is a hard career to keep up.
 


Destructoid itself went through so many changes as a site. I can’t argue whether they’ve been entirely good or bad changes as I don’t really see the metrics or concern myself with the stats of the site regarding viewership, though at the time they were announced, they seemed like a great idea.
 
That was when I was still writing pretty regularly for Destructoid. After Huge was announced, I excitedly told my partner that the structure of the site was changing, and that I might actually see some sort of more tangible perks and benefits from my writing.  At the back of my mind though, I had other concerns marinating.

Tomorrow: Part V: My 'Pretend' Job
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As a previews editor, I naturally tried to focus more on the positives of an upcoming game rather than the negatives. Writing previews isn’t easy – You’re trying to garner an idea of the finished product off of a build that might be still in alpha, or barely past conception. You don’t want to diss a game before it’s even released – not only is this highly unprofessional, it just makes you look like a troll and a huge dick. Furthermore, a publisher isn’t going to be calling you back when they have a new IP or revival of a franchise that’s actually really well done and redeems the company in the future – which does happen – so tact is simply a built-in necessity.

 
I both loved and hated doing previews. I loved preview events that were basically me meeting up with either a couple of developers, or a couple of developers and their PR people, and chilling in their cool, laid back office (or hotel room, or around a table near the rooftop pool, etc) while chatting about the game I was previewing. This was always the most honest setting, and I opened up a lot more as a writer and editor in these settings because I could let the developers actually speak for themselves and I would insert the difficult questions when necessary. This was when I felt like I was doing something I had always dreamed of doing – interfacing with developers and imagining if I had taken that route in my life when I was younger and into the idea of creating video games.
 
I usually disliked the much larger preview party events. They were always put on by some huge publisher, and always filled with so much pomp and circumstance. They also required schmoozing with other journalists – something I was not good at and at times, downright avoided. When I met a journalist I greatly admired, I generally made myself look small - like some frightened monkey in the presence of a majestic lion.  Often though, I ran into journalists from sites with names like GamerzandCoolGamez.com or LookAtUsGameAU.com – basically, sheep in wolves’ clothing who sort of annoyed me for no real good reason other than that I knew they probably created their website the week before. That’s the nature of the industry, just as there are new small game companies popping up every day or week, there are also new small gaming-related sites appearing in like numbers.
 

However, the worst aspect of the larger preview events is that you usually don’t really get a good idea of how the developers feel about their project. Everything is done for the camera, and when you don’t bring a camera to the proceedings, it’s not like you’re going to get some really strong insight in a loud venue where a whole bunch of journalists are engaged in playing whatever game. You end up having a conversation with one of the bigger heads of the company that usually has a lot of “We can’t answer that right now” or “We will comment on that feature on a later date.” You tend to get nowhere unless you’re one of those really aggressive sensationalist journalists who doesn’t mind crossing boundaries of ethics and civility to milk out just a little more information from a developer that you later exaggerate to incredible proportions.
 
That said - The irony is that my biggest crime ended up being that I let way too many excellent indie games by the wayside and a few potentially really good stories left unpublished because of other real life obligations that gave me money or a tangible chance to earn money, such as my job as a part-time restaurant server (which pays pretty well in the city,) or my continuing stint as a full time student.
 
However, when I could, I loved covering indie games. I also loved covering new IP’s that were awesome, and franchises that have successfully stuck around for a long time and that brought back cherished childhood memories.
 
But I have to tell you – there were days where I was standing face to face with a PR person or a Publisher Head V.P. of Bullshit Sequel Racer/Shooter for X Franchise, holding my awesomely technological Radioshack recorder out and trying to think of polite questions that weren’t summarily, “So, do you think gamers the world over are going to be really f*cking g-damned pissed at you for releasing such a shameless and soulless cash-in?”
 

I had to be polite and I had to try to be positive.
 
After all, if I were completely honest all of the time, I might hurt the site, and I definitely could sever relationship ties with big Publisher of X franchise. Even though I certainly never got any pay-offs, there is an implicit agreement between yourself as a journalist and a publisher showing off an early copy of the game that you’ll both be professional -- you in your coverage, and they in their various amenities such as the free open bar, live wild animal sitting in a cage three feet away from you, and weird hors d'oeuvres that taste like grass and seaweed.
 




Yet, despite all of that, I did soldier on the best I could. I feel like I’ve been generally pretty honest in the previews I’ve done – at least in terms of indicating real concerns I have at the time of preview.

If I have ever missed important information, it's usually the result of being at one of the larger events, not a one-one with the devs. When I've been able to speak directly to the developers, I've always been very thorough in my line of questioning. At larger events, I've often been met with resistance regarding specific details, and have figured it would be covered by another Dtoid editor at a later event.

Of course, the few reviews I've done have always been an entirely different story...

Which is why I always tell people to "wait for the review" - I myself generally don't buy a game based on previews and only put five bucks down on a pre-order unless I absolutely know that I'll love the game even despite potential faults. I check all the big sites at review time, and get a general sense of what the internet at large is saying. I think it's more important to be a knowledgeable consumer than it is to slag a preview of a game simply because it's in an early stage and hasn't worked out all the kinks yet (which has happened - off of the top of my head, Sleeping Dogs is a game I previewed that had earlier previews from around the web looking down their nose at the game...)

So please, please - take previews for what they are, not for how they do or don't confirm your hate or love of a company. There's simply no way to know the final product until it's actually in the hands of reviewers.

Tomorrow: Part IV: Facing My Failures...
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II.
 
Meeting Niero for the first time was as awkward as anything I’ve done socially for the first time. I tried to pretend to play it cool, wherein I ordered a coffee, sat at a random table and waited, thinking I had gotten to the designated location before him. I tend to show up early to interviews for jobs because I’m not charismatic enough to appear late and act as if it were intentional. Several minutes passed before I noticed a dude chilling at a corner table with a Destructoid messenger bag. I made a few hesitant steps towards his table, and when he looked up I asked, “Niero?”
 
He smiled and said, “Yeah. Casey, right?” – and from there launched a new chapter for the role of video games in my life. Niero basically just showed me the site’s editing tool, explained the basic html layout, and let me know that he’d create a gmail account for me. And that was that. It was 2011. I went home that day and told my partner Mike that I sort of got hired as an intern for Destructoid.com.
 
“So what does that entail?”
 
“I’m not sure exactly. But I’ll keep checking the e-mail.”
 
I was so excited to have the power to write whatever I wanted that I immediately contacted Chad, who was the features editor at the time, and wrote an overly long e-mail about my excitement for creating a new weekly feature that was going to talk about specific video game mechanics and how they added to or took away from the evolution of video games. I started with something easy – the hookshot in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I wrote an excited, probably terrible article about it and then proceeded to accidently publish it. It went live for about ten minutes before I realized my mistake and it garnered a total of about five comments.
 
I let Hamza and Niero know of my mistake, and they briefly freaked out (via e-mail anyhow) and realized I had already “un-lived” the post. A couple days later, Chad got back to me with some really great feedback, but he also said he wasn’t a fan of starting with something so easy and often talked about (I believe Anthony Burch had even touched upon it in one of his rants.) The fact was, he was right – but the effect it had on me as a newly minted editor was that my balloon was deflated. I took my toys and went home for the day. I ended up deleting that post. I never followed through with that feature. It was through no fault of Chad’s, I was just trying to figure out my bearings and was new to getting feedback. No writer likes an editor at first.
 
Eventually though, I began to fall into the role of one of the SF preview editors. I even created a business card certifying that this was my official title, on the suggestion of the Core Team. Of course, I was the Emperor with No Clothes – I wasn’t getting paid, and it felt weird giving myself a title, but I went with it because it gave me the respect I needed when speaking to developers and PR people. I knew I was fully capable of acting in that capacity anyhow - and this lead me onto some really great interviews and meet-up sessions with really cool developers. My self-created business card was my Golden Ticket to the Wonka Factory of my dreams - i.e., The actual video game industry.



And to clarify - Honestly, I haven't really cared much about pay and I’ve written for the site for around three years.  This isn’t a complaint, just a clarification for those wonderful trolls who believed I was only allowed to talk about games through the funnel of certain publishers.

When I write that I’m passionate about video games, that passion has extended not only to writing with no expectation of pay as a freelance editor, but also spending my own dime to fly to PAX and stay at hotels in Seattle, or take several buses to get somewhere in the city or get home. It's true that I would get the coveted PAX Media pass or access to some really great events where I met some of my most respected game developers, but everything surrounding these events came out of my own pocket.
 
When I first met Niero, he explained that the site was independent and community-run and that he couldn’t offer pay. That was the agreement, and though I had mixed feelings about it at first, I was excited about the chance that I’d be be able to tuck myself into the industry (A “sleeper cell” as Tim Schafer once referred to me in reference to being a Destructoid writer…but I’ll get to that later…)
 
There were times where I would get a little irritated or pissed off because of the fact that I wasn’t getting paid for taking a few buses to out of the way areas just to see a game that I ended up feeling somewhat neutral about (I often was not the only one creating my headline titles, by the way - it has always been a collaborative effort with my editor), but then I’d always remember the meeting with Niero at the coffee shop, and the freedom I had to be honest about video games.
 
Of course, there was also some fun swag, pretty good food, and open bars at many of the preview events, so I figured that was compensation enough.
 
Even if it took two buses out to some corporate studio in the South of Market district.
 


In the rain and blustery wind.



Tomorrow: Part III - Welcome to the SF Events Team
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Disclaimer: This series of blog posts that I will be releasing once a day for probably a week or so is in no way meant to slander Destructoid or the awesome editors who work for it. It is more written in the interest of revealing the inner workings of the Destructoid site, and my personal reflections on writing for Destructoid.com. The last two posts of this series will focus on the greatest moments of my Destructoid 'career' and then the lowest moments respectively. For the second one, I probably won't use names and will certainly not be talking about anyone currently employed by the site.

Also, as an aside, I never signed anything saying I wouldn't talk about my experience with the site. ;p

Also also: All images drawn by finger on iPad app, Paper.
 
 
In life, I tend to work best as a jack of many trades. I’ve worked as a laborer on  family-owned apartments down in Southern California, as a restaurant server, as a camp counselor, as a caterer, as a freelance writer of short stories, as a trainer to new job hires, and now my next career-oriented goal is to become a teacher.
 
Throughout all of these different job opportunities, one thing has been consistent – the fact that I am obsessed with the video game industry. It goes so far back that I was once a nerdy little boy who coded my own complex game ideas in the shittiest of all programming codes, QBasic.


This obsession is what first lead me to Destructoid as my favorite go-to site some time as early as 2007 or 2008. The genesis of my knowledge of good video game sites came from when I once loved IGN when it was called N64.com and then even when it went through a couple of changes and became more than just Mark Bozon and Matt Casamassina talking excitedly about video games.
 

Eventually, I fell deeply out of love with the site as it became the frat-house of video game sites, and it seems to generally continue in this trend today. I’ll be fair – I think Greg Miller –for all of his archetypical nerd-trying-to-be-one-of-the-frat-guys glory - does a pretty good job and has been there long enough to be a veteran. I’ve certainly seen his talent first-hand during a couple events where I sat right next to the guy. Of course, he probably had no idea who I was as I’ve always been a ghoster at preview events, but that’s irrelevant.



The point being - overall, IGN shut someone like me out - mainly in that it quite often has had a reputation for a stringent focus on boobs and 'hot chicks' doing the news, and frankly I’m more interested in actually reading about or watching videos on certain video games. Sorry girls, not really that interested. You’d be much more interesting if you weren’t always trying to pretend you weren’t disgusted by some of those guys.
 
I did read Gamespot for awhile, but after the Jeff Gerstmann scandal it was never really the same. I absolutely loved 1UP.com and adored everyone on the 1UP Show – but the site was soon hit with massive layoffs and I felt a weird sort of ill will towards the journalists who stuck around. I apologize for ranting so trollishly on one of your reviews, Jeremy Parish.
 


But I digress.
 
Destructoid was different.
 
Destructoid was like the Wild West of video game journalism. I began reading the site when Anthony Burch, Chad Concelmo, Nick Chester and the old core staff used to sing insane shit about dolphins on podcasts. I used to love and hate Rev Rants, and would often join the comments as “Rigby” or some such silly user name to bitch at Anthony about how wrong he was about the games I loved. I loved Destructoid for the incredible community and independent spirit it had. It was the idealized form of a video game site in my mind – where the true minds of the gamers were at the helm and guiding the discussion. There seemed to be no filter created by the behavior of publishers.
 


So naturally, when the site made a call for interns, I jumped at the chance. I shot an e-mail to Niero on the off-chance that he might consider me to write for the site. I was surprised to get a response back rather quickly, asking if I’d be cool with meeting up in a coffee shop in the Mission.

Stay Tuned for Part II: The 'Hiring' Process, coming in tomorrow.
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