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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