Here’s a brief biography of myself and my games media career so that maybe this makes a little more sense. Currently, I’m a student pharmacist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, with an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from California State University, Fullerton. I’ve been writing about the games industry since I was fifteen, which makes this my eighth year in writing – from a small blog to some of the largest sites on the internet. I’ll be offering my own (more than likely birds-eye’d and narrow) perspective of the games industry. There are certainly going to be issues that people may have with what I perceive. Consider it naïveté or having yet to truly dig into the profession.
It’s considered odd in science to hear of somebody that has attended one of the largest gaming expos on the face of the planet. It’s even stranger to find that I attended such an event as press, and that I did it twice. Technically, that’s not a lot at all by veteran media standards. The fact that I’ve attended E3 the past two years though has become a point of contention among my colleagues in pharmacy school; anyone who’s played video games knows the greatness that’s been revealed on the show floor and in the live conferences. As a scientist, E3 and its associated media-related work has had a distinct effect on my professional career. Here’s my take on what has happened, leading up to all of this.
This all goes back and begins some eight years ago. Nearly a decade ago, I was starting out on this writing path, writing in my free time. I started out in the summer of 2008… that places me at about fifteen years old. It started with Anson Lai, my first mentor who saw something in me that was worth pursuing with his forum project, DSDatabase. I stayed with him for quite a while and became a core member of his staff, and in return he taught me a solid foundation for the trade. Some of my more influential mentors included Nathan Janc from Zelda Informer and several people from the Enthusiast Gaming network. They pushed me, directly and indirectly, to fulfill my potential and keep reaching higher. I was never satisfied reaching the treetops when I knew that I could go for the cloud. The skills I learned, like teamwork, management, and writing have all become incredibly valuable as I pursue my Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
If you told me five years ago that I’d be going to E3 on a pretty much yearly basis, I would have laughed. Seriously! E3 always felt like the place where only the elites could go to, just out of the reach of the public. I remember my first time applying, back in 2014, and getting denied. That was tough, and I remember being quite bitter about that one. . My goals through this entire process have been entirely incremental: first, I had to get to the show to begin with. Then, it became getting into a press conference. After that, for this year’s show, for Gamer Professionals, it became getting into all of the shows. Each of those goals have been met. You do it once, you can surely do it again and again. These conferences, and by extension the work I’ve done as a (pseudo?) media writer, have taught me quite a bit about my self in several ways.
E3, to me, was about finding ways to best utilize my time. Scheduling and working through one week of E3 taught enough time management skills to last for a lifetime. E3 week means dozens of appointments (several in each hour), miles of walking daily, events after the conference floor closes like afterparties, and lots of sleepless nights, typing at the keyboard and catching up on all the developments that are missed from within the convention center. Those time management skills came back to great use in my pharmacy studies. Most of my peers find it perplexing that I’m able to run a website, actively write, and still manage to keep up with the curriculum. Even something simple, like taking notes in a lecture, has been greatly accelerated after trying to take notes and cover an E3 conference live in the arena.
The most important ideal that E3 and being a part of the media has given me, though, is the drive. The drive to keep going forward even when things were at all time lows. Getting denied back in 2014 was my nearing rock bottom, as far as my media writing went. Once I went in there the next year, though, people saw that I had a thirst to compete, to go back again. I did just that this year and made it to all the live conferences, had some great experiences on-site and off-site. That drive continues and helps me through my science curriculum, as it provides a great way to get away from the science-heavy material and do something that’s a little more outside the box. With that drive, though, it’s allowed me to reach a lot higher in the past two years than I did several years ago. I’m always aiming for the lofty goal now, even if it sounds completely ridiculous. Something as crazy as meeting Shigeru Miyamoto can actually happen.
In the past couple of years, I’ve gotten to take a bit of a deeper look at the industry, from the vantage point of the media. Deeper is entirely a subjective term; the probable reality is that I’ve probably nicked just the surface coating this entire industry. Seeing how devoted these guys are, seeing how hard they fight on a daily basis to get that story that’s worth telling, it’s sometimes mind-blowing. The industry is tough and I respect these guys for what they do. There’s tons of horror stories about low wages for writers and freelancers, and there’s a huge pressure to meet deadlines.
What’s kept me grounded in this endeavor is that I know my limits as a writer. I know I’m not a born and bred journalist by any means. I’m a scientist and always will be first and foremost. I know that I might not be able to drive huge numbers to my website, or write as ubiquitously as some of my colleagues in the field, but I’m going to keep putting my foot forward and submit my best efforts with each and every piece. For somebody who seeks to get their foot in the door, that’s a large part of it. Just trying to get their voice out there does a lot of wonders and can be greatly enhanced with the right people helming the project. Don’t be afraid to ask. Once they do get a voice out there, that’s where they get to learn the funner aspects of the job.
Playing as part of the media isn’t always about fun and games, either. Getting games from publishers sounds like a teenager’s wet dream, and in some ways, it is. I’m never going to complain. What people don’t see, though, is that often times, the media crunches this 80+ hour game down into a two-week play through, where getting it early can sometimes barely help the situation. That’s after the PR emails and the development of the personal/professional relationship. Think about that. Once the game play starts, that’s where you see the struggle of completion versus actually getting content out to the readership as soon as possible. It’s a tough situation that’s often taken depending on the scenario. I’ve definitely had my sleepless nights in the pharmacy curriculum already where I’d be up for a bit later than I’d intended, playing through some content for that written piece that’s due in a few days or editing that article late-night.
Have we even gotten to pay yet? The pay for journalists is apparently pretty low compared to standard office jobs, and for people just trying to get their foot in the door, they’re more than likely going to be working for free for a time during which they’ll develop a portfolio for themselves, even though the golden rule of freelancing is to never write for free. Pay can range, if the writer is lucky, from a fixed amount every sum quantity of views, or in a flat rate per piece that varies with the submission type. It can be salaried as well for those at professional level publications. I’ve been writing mostly for my own entertainment because writing has always been a hobby that has only recently began encroaching into a professional endeavor.
What can we even mean by “professionalism” in games media? People see professionalism in the field as being able to pull in huge numbers. It can also mean integrity in the reporting process that boils down to proper investigative journalism. In science, we see professionalism as proper behavioral etiquettes that allow us to do our jobs well. As a guy who really tries to uphold a code of ethics (self-developed), it’s interesting to see the direction of where games journalism and the media in general seems to be heading.
On the brighter side, being a part of the media and participating at events like E3, San Diego Comic Con, Anime Expo, the Consumer Electronic Show, and other such events have definitely improved my outlook on where I see myself. I used to always be a lone wolf; events like this forced me to socialize a bit more, and develop my professional interactions with these industry veterans. I’ve definitely made a lot more friends in the journalism and media sphere than scientists, but that’s changed since I got to pharmacy school. While I wasn’t necessarily hanging out as much with the peers in my undergraduate days, I was extending my professional network just a bit further. Learning how to manage my peers and my time, in events outside my own specialties in science… all are skills applicable to what I do, daily, here in the Doctor of Pharmacy program. Seeing the successes and the milestones this website project has reached has given me quite a bit of self-confidence, and a number of great stories to tell over food and drinks with my classmates.
The best way that I can end this piece is by encouraging all of those writers or aspiring talents out there, whom are afraid to take that next step or are unsure about how to proceed. Take up the pencil (or keyboard!) and just start talking about things that interest you. There’s a lot of good people out there who can help you find your voice and develop it. If somebody like me, a student pharmacist, can make it out there, you can too.