Why I Write About Games
There’s something wrong with your heart.
Around a year ago I was told this at a routine check up at the local doctor’s office. “Does your family have a history of heart problems?” Yes, someone very close to me has heart disease, and I think my grandfather died of it. “Oh… do you do a lot of exercise?” Um, sure, the usual, well no, not really, does walking count? “If it’s a lot, do you sleep a lot?” No. “Ok, go home, get some rest, don’t do anything stressful, we’ll call you with an appointment with a cardiologist so we can find out if you need pills, or a pacemaker, or something else.”
I went home, told my family, told my friends, told Anthony, PSLS’ founder. The second appointment was over a month later at the nearest hospital. I walked down the corridor past the sick lying in their beds, past the beeping ECGs, past the autopsy room. My heart raced as I thought about what I might learn, and then raced further as I worried about how fast it was beating. After a long wait, sitting next to a frail old lady who pale and worn, I was called into the examination room. “Next.”
I was told to lift my shirt, and a device was jammed roughly into my ribcage. My heart appeared on the screen magically, grey and fuzzy, like a pregnant woman’s ultrasound… except this was my life being summed up on screen, not a new one. It must have only taken 10 minutes, but it felt like an age.
“There’s nothing wrong with your heart, it seems fine.” But the doctor…? “It happens sometimes, misdiagnosis.” Yeah? Are you sure, can you check again? This feels too good to be true. “No, it’s fine, trust me, I look at hearts for a living, and yours is fine, now I need to see my next patient, here’s a form, fill it out in the waiting room.” I don’t know what to say… thanks, I guess… yes, thanks. “Next.”
It was such a great feeling, I felt so happy, so alive. I felt like I’d beaten a disease, despite never having one. But for a month I had believed otherwise. I thought that my heart was faulty, something in my DNA meant I was broken, and my natural paranoia made me fear the worst. I began to think about my life, what I’ve done so far, what I hoped to achieve before the end. I remembered relationships that failed, the friends that moved on, the fading memories of loved ones that passed away. And, as so much of one’s life revolves around it, I thought of my career.
I’m six or seven, sitting in a large room plastered with images drawn by my class. Opposite me is a ‘career guidance counselor’, a red haired lady with a dispassionate look in her eyes, enveloped by a heavy scent of cheap perfume. “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I’m six, let me go outside and play… is how I should have responded. Instead I told her I didn’t know, I wanted to do something that made me happy. “Being happy is not a career”. I don’t know then. “Well, what interests you?” Books, writing, games. “There are plenty of jobs that require writing, like a PA or secretary, any office-based career really”. I’ll do that then, thanks. “Next.”
I’m fifteen, my English teacher is staring at me quizzically, his glasses irritatingly perched on the end of his nose, as useful as an appendix. “You want to write about video games?” Yes, they fascinate me, I play them constantly, and all I want to do is talk about them. “Don’t be an idiot, you’re wasting your potential, do something that matters with your life.” Like being a teacher? I’m sent out of the class.
The rest of my education proceeds without note, each day a repeat of the last. I went to a Grammar School – that is, a free school that has an entrance exam and is known for its high grades. But the high grades were achieved by studying for exams, rather than simply trying to learn about a subject. Don’t question why the molecule does that, you don’t need to know that. Don’t read Wordsworth, we’re studying Wilfred Owen, read him.
My first job was far from the freedom I had so craved. I was a Supermarket checkout assistant. Beep. Beep. Beep. Life drained away, dragged along like a conveyor belt with no off switch. Still, bills had to be paid, and, while I worked at night, I got a chance to play games during the day.
About four years ago, I finally decided to write about them. The company I worked at had closed after ‘irregular’ accounting, I had some spare time. I was nervous, it was a dream of mine, the last thing I wanted was to fail at it. With the help of a friend I set up a games blog. It was rough around the edges, the writing was probably terrible, and all the news I covered was late. No one read it. But I loved doing it, spending more and more time typing away, and less and less time actually looking for a job.
Fast forward a year, some scoops and a few developer interviews later, and I received a message from Anthony: “Would you be interested in writing for somewhere bigger?” Yes, god yes… only my arm is broken, can you wait a week? “Sure.”
It’s been three years and four months. I’ve had good days, and I’ve had bad ones, but throughout it I’ve always been able to write about what I love. Sure, I’ve had to supplement my finances with other careers at the same time, but I don’t think of myself as a ‘clothes salesman’, an ‘estate agent’ or anything like that, I think of myself as a games journalist.
And, when I thought I was going to die, that this was it, I almost cried thinking about how little I had done as a games journalist. When the time does finally come, may it be many years from now, I hope to be able to look back at what I’ve written and be able to smile. It doesn’t topple governments, it won’t be remembered in history as the pinnacle of writing, but I get to share my love for what I love.
That’s why I write about games.