What a surprise.
Five years ago today (technically, it was actually five years ago yesterday – July 13, 2009 – but I started on the Monday so quiet down), I made my bow to the UK games industry at large, making the (if somewhat partial at the time) leap from enthusiast to specialist journalist as some news guy doing Mondays on VG247, a website I read daily as someone initially part of its then small tight-knit community, getting readily trained for a week-long news shift to cover gamescom news coverage whilst editor Patrick Garratt was in Germany.
Five years on, I’ve written everywhere my 14 year-old self is crying in tears in happiness at somewhere. I had an incredible three year stint at UK Editor at VG247 that’s made me realise all I want to do in this industry is write and write about news because news is the bloody fucking best and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I do like me writing a feature now and then – as I write this, I sent off a piece this morning that I’ve been wanting to do for almost a year that was an absolute joy to do – but news is the best. News is number one.
I know a good chunk of people aren’t fans of writing the news, but for me, there’s nothing like it: the rush of the breaking story and to see who will get there first, the thrill of breaking a big exclusive – nothing like it (see also in similar speeches – Mrs Doyle’s speech of how to make the perfect cup of tea in the Father Ted Christmas Special).
And yeah, I’ve had my ups and downs with freelance (and I won’t tell a lie, as hard as they are to come by right now, a gig would be nice). But in doing freelance, I’ve made my US bow in the form of writing for Polygon, and popped up on Official Xbox Magazine UK too.
But the more important milestone in these five years I cherish more than anything is that I’ve written for the three publications that inspired me to take this route into the industry, that made me want to become a writer, that drive me to become a better writer continuously – Eurogamer, VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine UK, the former being the most significant of the lot for reasons that I’ve already made clear.
A half-decade is nothing in most people’s eyes in this business, I know. But I love this industry so much, even if there have been times in the past few years where that love has wavered a bit, so I wanted to write this up (plus, partly why I’m doing The Last of Us 24-hour marathon for GamesAid in about two weeks time). Not to mention, half a decade is a pretty long time regardless.
There’s a lot of people I’ve met with, worked with since 2009 and there’s a lot of them I want to give thanks, love and respect to. Whether you’ve pushed me on, inspired me with your work (there’s a few of you who have done so big time that has made me want to become a better writer than I am now and to achieve bigger dreams and goals in this industry) or just been generally awesome to me for various reasons since July 2009, I want to say thanks.
To name a few: (my self-anointed ‘online mom’) Stephany Nunneley, Brenna Hillier, Christian Donlan, Alex Donaldson, Jem Alexander, Chiara Woolford, Matt Martin, Ellie Gibson, Ben Wilson, Leon Hurley, Svend Joscelyne, Krystal Sim, Debbie Timmins, Nick Silversides, Korina Abbott, Dan Dawkins, Dave Cook, Hugo Bustillos, Dave Scammell, Matt Reynolds, Mark Robins, Alistair Hatch, Alan Williamson, Kristan Reed, Keza Macdonald, Aoife Wilson, Martin Robinson, Rob Purchase, Wesley Yin-Poole, Dan Pearson, Tom Phillips, Nathan Grayson, Simon Parkin, Johnny Minkley, Richard Leadbetter, Rupert Loman, Hollie Bennett, Dan Seto, Lucy James, Nathan Ditum, Gareth Williams, Lauren Wainwright, Sarah Wellock, Cat Channon, Will Porter, Gillen McAllister, Craig Gilmore, Nick Akerman, Chris Schilling, Shane McCafferty, Jessica Citizen, James Binns, Jon Brady and so many others I can’t begin to name at this point.
Nine years ago, I started down the enthusiast route with many crappy websites that I was in charge of doing the bulk of the work on after various folks, who happened to volunteer for at first, bailed on it (so next year, I’ll have been written about games on various levels for ten years!) all in the hope of achieving the biggest goal/dream of all. I’ve not achieved it yet, but I’m still hopeful of getting there. For now, here’s to the next five years, where I’m sure I’ll write something just as equally wanky in 2019.
It only seems fitting that I leave on this.
Much love to each and all in this wonderful UK games industry. Here’s to more fun times ahead.
PS: One more thing. I missed out three names in that list above. That’s because I wanted to give a special mention to them here because they are three of my biggest heroes in this industry. I don’t have too many heroes in general (seriously, I didn’t really care for the concept of ‘hero’ when I was younger – it was only in my late childhood/early teens I started to have a think on it), but these three are in there for various reasons.
Tim Clark: It was during your tenure at Official PlayStation Magazine UK when I was in school that I started getting the ‘bug’, so to speak, to get into games journalism. So much so, when I was still in secondary school (towards the end of my first year, I think), I wrote a handwritten letter asking for you to give me a gig at the magazine (I didn’t send it, in case you’re wondering – the handwriting was atrocious (as it is now) and my spelling and grammar was really fucking appalling at the time for a 14 year-old). Hence, why OPM meant a lot to me and why getting into it in 2012 with my writing was something special (as will something else in that regard soon). And that’s mainly down to you for why it was so special. Thanks for that. And good luck in San Francisco – I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again. You’ll kick ass at it.
Tom Bramwell: I’ve pretty much told you all of this story already and how much regard I hold you in, but I’m going to tell you again, in front of everyone this time. If I was starting to get ‘the bug’ to write about games thanks to Tim, you were the one who – without even knowing it at the time (because we wouldn’t meet for another five years yet) – gave me the push to pull the trigger and go for it. As exhausted as I was that day after day one of gamescom, when you came in to the hotel cafe/lobby area (whatever) in Cologne and sat down next to me along with Matt and Pat and said “Hi, I’m Tom Bramwell” and shook my hand, I nearly had a bit of a massive moment. And if anyone had told me five years ago, let alone nine, I’d have my biggest hero as such an invaluable friend, I would have laughed a bit. You are without doubt my biggest hero, my biggest inspiree and a wonderful friend. Thank you.
Pat Garratt: To be honest, I have no idea where to begin here. Well, I do, I just don’t know how to properly express it. But I digress. In retrospect, I owe you a lot. More than a lot, in fact. You gave me my start, you taught me how to write proper copy, you taught me how to write much better than any useless English teacher I had (for real) and without realising it, you made a job feel like it was “fun” than just a job. But one piece of advice you gave me that has stood with me more profoundly is something I wish you had told me sooner in my VG247 days than later at last year’s Eurogamer Expo: “Don’t be scared”. Regardless, I’ve taken that advice to heart and I’ve tried to remain willed on and not be put off by anything I want to achieve, regardless of how I feel it’ll go. I was going to make a JD/Dr Cox from Scrubs comparison here, but I thought better of it, too corny. But I will say this: you helped me a great deal in being my mentor. I didn’t say this enough before, but I hope this is a start in doing so in the future. Thank you, Pátrice.