Posts Tagged ‘ PC Gamer

The Happiest Happy Hour – September 23

Last weekend some friends of ours got married in one of the best ceremonies and celebrations I’ve ever seen, but that wedding also meant two other things. The first is that MK’s summer break was over, and she had to leave to do the second part of her extended internship. It also meant that I didn’t get any work done over that weekend, which meant that three days’ worth of work had to be crammed into Monday and the early part of Tuesday.

I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened on either of those days. I know that for one of them, I started working at 10 am and finished my last assignment after 1 am. A pizza box on the floor of my apartment and a couple receipts from an Indian and Chinese restaurant indicated I somehow ate this week. But really, it’s been a blur of games, printed drafts covered in red ink, screenshot editors, and a blinking text cursor.

But it’s over now, and I have a couple precious days to cook, clean, and work on some pieces for next week. I feel like I just turned in my last final exam, and I half-expect to find my fraternity brothers waiting for me at the campus bar, a rail gin and tonic with my name on it sitting in its little plastic cup.

Instead, though, it’s just me in my living room with two fingers of Johnnie Black on the rocks, and OK Computer on the stereo. Not bad, but I think I could do with loud laughter, crude sex jokes, and Star Trek discussions.

Still, I can only feel happy and relieved. I survived my first week as a PC Gamer blogger, and you can find me every weekday over at pcgamer.com. This week I was just trying to keep the lights on, because this job arrived on short-notice in the middle of a full freelance schedule. I didn’t do any original pieces. That all changes next week, however. I plan on doing a lot more interviews, impressions pieces, and perhaps even some original reporting. I’ll be linking all of it through my Twitter. Longer, meatier pieces I will link here, on my Work page.

For a moment, then, all is right withe the world. Lara Crigger and I were laughing about how long it takes, and what a huge milestone it is, for a freelancer to break the poverty line. I think I’m there and if things keep up like they are right now, I might actually be making the equivalent of a decent starting salary in a real career.

This, by the way, is why you are unlikely to find me writing anything about how to become a games writer. Until this year, my fourth, I did not earn enough to entirely support myself.  I have a long way to go before I would even be able to contemplate supporting a wife or a child on my own. I say that only because careers are supposed to provide a measure of independence for you and security for those you love. As yet, my work does not. I think it will, eventually, but every time things start going well, some outlet is closed or an editor cancels a regular gig. That’s another part of the freelancer’s life.

I don’t recommend it. If you can do something else, do that, because “making it” means working incredibly hard just for the chance of maybe making a living wage. Knowing that major sources of income could vanish with a couple emails.

Me, I can’t do anything else. Maybe someday. But not today. Today I am proud of my work, and am looking forward to Monday.

Friday Debrief

A few people have requested in comments and in emails that I provide blog entries and links when I have new work going up, a sensible point when considering RSS readers. So we’ll see how a Friday round-up goes.

This week, you can find my reaction to Enslaved over at Gamers With Jobs. I do worry I came down a little harshly on it: the first half is really excellent, and justified my purchase. But ultimately it’s not just a story, but a videogame, and not a very good one.

I was also on the GWJ Conference Call to talk about Valve and a few of my recent gaming obsessions with Cory Banks, Sean Sands, and Allen Cook. I don’t know what it is about the Conference Call, but it makes me more argumentative and ornery than usual. Maybe it’s because someone else is hosting, and so I delight in throwing out conversational hand grenades. Ironically, back when I just listened to the show, I hated Cory for playing this role. When he was the only guy who thought Flower was overrated, I thought he was just being a contrarian dick. Then I played Flower, and saw the value of being the guy who sets the Hyperbole Theater on fire.

If you head down to you local newsstand, you may find the June issue of PC Gamer. It contains a review of Portal 2, but we don’t care about that here. We care about me. So go pick up the June issue for a new Tactical Advantage column on the state of RTS communities in the age of Starcraft II, a review of the lame APOX, and the excellent Men of War: Assault Squad. In retrospect, I probably should have just asked for more space for Men of War, as the word count was a little crowded for the angle I took. Still, you have to try different things.

Finally, on Three Moves Ahead, we talked about the Panzer General series and got into a whole dust-up over whether it’s even a good wargame, and how that series introduced players to a classic genre conventions.

The Columnist at Dawn

Since I’m up unusually early this morning with nothing to do, I may as well put this time to use by explaining why this blog is going dark so frequently. You know the outlines of it, of course. I’m busier than ever and am trying to accommodate a new pace of work. However, now that it’s in black and white, I should talk about my new life as a PC Gamer contributor.

When Troy paid the boatman to ferry him over to the PR side of the business, Dan Stapleton asked me if I would take over the strategy column and review work that Troy had been doing, since he already knew me from 3MA. Most of my work has yet to show up in print, because of the way schedules work, but if you hit the newstands now, you’ll find my inaugural column.

Honestly, if you like reading my work, you should really subscribe to PC Gamer, because I am doing an absolute ton of writing for the magazine right now. This week alone has me putting together a wargame review, a guide, a preview, and a column. Although I’m biased, I would also have to say the rest of the magazine is pretty damned good, too. It’s far better than what I remember from when I let my last subscription lapse several years ago. The columnists are great (Andy Mahood remains one of my favorite game writers) and I abs0lutely love how the previews get beyond the sale pitch and raise questions about the games under discussion. My editor didn’t bat an eye when I explained in a preview for the website why The Darkness II was as repulsive as it was enticing.

This is good, because writing for the magazine has me doing the kind of assignments I’d always thought I would prefer to avoid. I don’t know how I’d write a blandly positive preview about something I really didn’t care about, and fortunately I’ve not had to find out. The biggest challenge is writing to the low word-counts of a print magazine. At the start of this week, I had to distill a crummy week with a game to less than 300 words. That’s a totally different experience than the web pieces I’ve done to date.

But it does mean that my time is more limited than ever. Still, enough people have been prodding me about this blog, and in particular some projects I’ve left unfinished, that I will set aside some time to write some long-overdue pieces. In the meantime, however, I strongly suggest checking out the “Work” tab in the upper right of this page for links to my latest pieces, and subscribing to PC Gamer.