Two major events in my life occurred since I last wrote on Destructoid. The first was that I had lost my job at the time, leaving me unemployed. The second, in an ironic twist of fate, was that I was invited to be a front page writer for GamersWithJobs.com. This came on the heels of my To Write, To Write, L'Chaim
blog post, where I bemoaned the feeling that I was no closer to being a games writer than ever.
A lot has changed for me in that year, and I figured I'd share some of my experiences in that time period with you fine folks of the Destructoid community.
Note that I'm not really a professional writer, in that I'm not being paid to regularly write about games as a job. I'm back to working a crappy 9 to 5, this one paying less than my previous job whilst forcing me to use a mangled network of back-end systems and rusted, broken tools to perform essentially the same tasks as my previous gig. So, in essence, I'm still struggling to claw my way out of the mire and muck of cubicle work so that I might find a place in the world as a real boy... erm, I mean writer.
Even so, there's a lot that has been learned in this struggle, most importantly the knowledge that I am good at what I do
. It feels conceited to say so, but I've spent enough time speaking with other writers and helping to provide feedback to know that I'm not just some hack trying to play against the big leagues. Sure, there's still plenty of room for refinement, and I'm always in search for how to write a better review, how to expand my vocabulary, and traveling that fine line between entertainment and insight. The fact that I'm still working on these skills, however, means I have developed enough to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses within not only myself, but others as well.
Which still makes me sound a bit like a prick, but hopefully you get me. As someone that has struggled with a low self-esteem their whole life, it is very valuable to be confident in one's abilities.
Valuable and important, because you'll always be misguided into believing that you're pretty much nothing. I don't even have the pleasure of being trolled, oddly enough, and Lord knows I've said things that might warrant trolling. I try to avoid it, but sometimes you cross into controversial topics and spit out an opinion that goes against the grain. I don't even have enough of a following for people to scream at me when I say controversial stuff that pisses them off.
Every week Twitter sends me an e-mail letting me know how many people see my tweets, respond, and click the link to go check out what I've written or shared. Facebook provides similar feedback on my page whenever I post something new. What I've learned from these analytics is that, even if I get retweeted by notable people, nobody seems to give a damn.
Somewhere in there is God's indecipherable equation for a Hot Pocket heated to a perfectly consistent internal temperature.
A lot of experts (at what?) will tell you about the importance of social media, but the reality is that social media does not build up a decent following. Or at least, it cannot be relied upon. If you pop up on someone's Twitter and they don't know you, they're more likely to skip on past. Why should they care what your thoughts on Way of the Samurai 3
are? They have important cat pictures to share!
If anything, social media has begun to take the form of randomized RSS feeds. A small, dedicated following will share what you've written, and if your headline is click-baity enough or already pertains to some hot topic of interest, then you'll get a bunch of people checking out that one page. But they will skim the article, close the tab, and move on back to Facebook or Twitter. Maybe you'll manage to obtain new followers, but, well, that leads to the next problem.
Obtaining followers willing to share your work
is a whole other trial I haven't even figured out. Chances are when you're just starting to write, the only people that will be following you on social media will be friends and acquaintances. Now the question is, are they a part of your target demographic?
For me, the answer is, sadly, no, not many. As a result, very few people will share what I've written, and as such my works don't get spread very far beyond a limited network. As a result, it is very, very easy to get lost in analytics and numbers. Only a couple of my YouTube videos have surpassed 100 views, this article barely broke a dozen comments, so on and so forth.
This is where I've found myself struggling, wondering what the whole point was, if I should even bother.
Perhaps the most important lesson of all is that the numbers don't mean much. While my name hasn't exactly exploded across the games writing sphere, being on the front page of GamersWithJobs has certainly gotten me exposed to people that otherwise wouldn't have been reading a single word I've put online. I frequently get members of that community telling me that they make time to read every article I post on the front page there, and even looking out for when I update my blog or other projects with new content. They may be quiet, they may not always comment and they may not have the dedication to social media to share my work, but it is doing its job. It is entertaining and providing insight to people that are as enthused about games as I am.
That's the real lesson to anyone looking to write about games. It's not about instant gratification and it isn't about numbers. It's about satisfaction in your own work, followed by the sincere satisfaction of others that read it. What matters is getting it in front of people and letting them know who you are.
If you're writing a community blog here, you've already got a good start. Destructoid has a very diverse community not only in regards to what people play, but simply what sort of content they're looking to read. But it's also important not to become too comfortable in just one place. I myself am struggling with getting my work out to other locations, taking that all too intimidating step into freelancing.
But that is a topic for another time.
Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading this, I hope it was encouraging to a number of you out there, and I also hope you'll stick with me as I continue to post more thoughts on my blog here.