Video games have undoubtedly been a central pillar in my life since I was a child. I still have memories of being three years old and playing Sonic the Hedgehog and Castlevania Bloodlines on my dad’s Sega Genesis. My first console came when I was five years was a Nintendo 64 complete with Turok Dinosaur Hunter and Blastcorps. From there I’ve owned too many consoles and games to even start listing them here. That Nintendo 64 became a gateway for a life long love affair with video games.
From humble beginnings.
Video games have been the one consistent part of my life that have never failed to fill me with wonder and joy. They’ve helped me forge lasting friendships with hundreds of wonderful people that I still stay connected with. I have countless memories tied to gaming. And video games have been a major line of defense against my depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Where so many other aspects of my life have fallen through, the passion I have for video games as an artform and entertainment medium have never failed me.
And so, I work hard to be a content creator in various aspects of media. I make no money off of what I do but I do it relentlessly and tirelessly because of the love I have for video games as a medium. I find an immense amount of joy in what I do, but it’s not without its costs and pitfalls.
A Day in the Life
Like I said, I make no money off of what I do. At the time of writing this article, I run a website (that you’re hopefully reading this articles on! Thank you so much!) where I write reviews and gaming editorials. I have a Twitter and Facebook page that act as my platforms for letting people know what I’m up to while interacting with my small but humble follower base. I have a personal blog where I focus less on gaming and more on my personal battle with mental illness. I’ve been a streamer for the last eight months which recently paid off as I was accepted into Twitch’s Affiliate program. And in recent ventures I’ve started a Youtube channel that admittedly needs a little spit shine and polish.
The usual state of my desk. Note the coffee mug, paper piles, and reference books. Not pictured: clock that says 4am,
Essentially, I maintain and operate six different publishing platforms by myself. Everyday I check messages. Answer post replies. Responded to emails. And even if I don’t have any content, I still need to have a presence and make it known that I’m working to deliver something for people to enjoy.
On top of all of this I work a full time factory job, volunteer as a moderator for a mental health advocacy community, and have to deal with all the general hubbub of daily life. I’m essentially working a second full time job. I use my breaks at work to read up on industry news, post on social media, or update my production schedule. My phone has become a lifeline for the sake of perpetuating my content. Waiting in doctors’ offices or down time at a social gatherings are a chance to pop open google docs to add another line or two to a piece I’m working on. It’s a never ending process towards my greater goals.
Our Passions Can Be Our Failures
Much of what I’ve accomplished in the last few few months is largely by trial and error. I’ve come up with different article ideas, games to stream, and videos to make. Some of them are colossal failures that get maybe a handful of views and almost no interaction. Others become some of my greatest successes and get reactions from game developers, community managers, or just generally see a lot of traffic. And this comes down to two factors. One is networking which I’ll talk about in a moment. The other is simply the content itself.
I’ve come to find out that sometimes, the things we are passionate about might not have an immediate audience. So while I thoroughly enjoy the minutiae of eastern mythology and philosophy in the Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask. Not too many people share my love for a nearly twenty year old game that’s only seen one new iteration since I played it as a child. So the conundrum comes forth, do I do what I love and appeal to a niche audience? Or do I look at what’s popular and trending and fall into what people are looking for?
Seriously though the symbolism is really deep and the game in entrenched with Eastern philosophy…. okay I’ll stop now.
And honestly, it comes down to what I personally want to do. Am I willing to wait and work on content while viewership slowly trickles in? Or do I align myself with the common practices of gaming journalism, Youtube, or Twitch in hopes of getting my numbers up? I’ve chosen to take the happy middle way of doing industry standard reviews and editorials while still doing content that means something to me. My hope is that I can appeal to people looking for someone knowledgeable in the gaming industry while also showing my personality as a content creator. The payoffs aren’t consistent but it’s a choice that I actively make that I can be happy with.
Networking is penultimate in terms of getting yourself known and achieving a foothold. I get asked quite a bit about networking from some fellow streamers and what it entails. Put simply, it means every personal connection you can make is a potential sale and the product you’re selling is yourself. Granted, there is a very thin line when it comes to acceptable self-promotion so always make sure to exercise politeness in this regard. This can mean starting on a personal level. Letting your friends, family, co-workers, school groups and so on know about what you do. It’s a bit of a no brainer that your everyday friends and family would support your personal endeavors. However, they can still be your fans and followers! Some of my best friends and even friends I rarely talk to have come in and become integral parts of my stream or sharers of my content. And the fact that I already have a standing relationship with them means I can help show my personality with ease.
I got my start by posting and responding to blogs on sites like Destructoid. I did quite a bit of posting until I connected with a website called The Game Bolt. An awesome like-minded group of fellow gamers who wrote articles by gamers, for gamers. It was there where I found my voice and developed a platform for myself. Once I felt comfortable enough to present my own work and style I became independent. Which was admittedly not without its setbacks. Going from a small time writer to a completely independent nobody meant I had to create a new image and approach. But I still go back to my friends from The Game Bolt for inspiration and they’re still the best editors I have!
Awwww, my first article!
Social media in all its forms can be immensely helpful. Facebook and Twitter make great platforms for longer announcements and statements of intent or quick fun blurbs respectively. It helps to stay connected and let people know what you’re working on. It also helps to reach out to others in your line of creation. I spend time in other people’s streams and talking with Youtubers or other small time writers and I’ve slowly built a community where we can depend on each other for something as simple as a retweet or a repost. I’ve connected with artists who are looking to make a start like myself and so I work with them to commission pieces for my different platforms and so on.
One of my biggest take aways has been conventions. Currently, I give two types of panels at various conventions in my region. I give panels on the mythology of video games, how the stories behind video games can teach us more about ourselves, and video games and mental illness, where I explore how gaming can help people with mental illness and trauma cope. I spend a week at the beginning of each year looking at which conventions would be a good fit for my content. I take the time to fill out panel submission forms and then keep an eye on my emails for any acceptance or rejection messages to plan my vacations from work accordingly. Preparing for a panel is a whole other animal that I won’t go into it right now. It’s a lot of work but the payoff in terms of making connections can be immense.
It can be hard to open up about what you might be doing, but if you never let people know then how is one to grow?
Forever Learning, Forever Improving.
I never stop improving in just about every aspect of content creation. I started streaming with no camera and just whatever games I wanted to on Twitch. As time went on I updated to a brand new desktop. Purchased A/V equipment. I sat down and researched different bots to add to my chat. Upon choosing one I learned all the different things I could do with it. I’ve started looking into what makes a Twitch stream more appealing which, if you didn’t know, takes in factors like having a facecam, audio quality, chat interactions with fans, and even the time of day you stream. I look to other streamers and not just watch them but study what they do in their stream to adapt it to my own purposes. It’s a never ending process and you have to be willing to put the work in.
It’s important to pay attention to the ever changing policies and changing zeitgeist of whatever platforms you’re working on. The above example is just what I’ve done for Twitch. But I take this mentality to all of my different platforms for the sake of constantly improving. I’m always looking at the changing face of publishing platforms both from the side of the publisher itself so I know their legal policies as well as what assets they have for creators to utilize. Then I look to different examples of content creators and what they’re doing to understand what I might be doing right or wrong and correct my course accordingly. My daily “newspaper,” as it were, are website and tech updates for the purpose of bettering my own content.
The Ebb and Flow of Success
Being an independent content creator is definitely an uphill battle. Working for a website, however small, has an air of legitimacy to it that people will immediately recognize. The only brand backing me up is my own so I grow entirely on the merit and quality of my work or word of mouth. The quality of my work is something I constantly grow on, as stated above. Word of mouth is really big for me as well. I acquire more followers from meeting others face to face and encouraging them to check out my stream or my social media sites. So every time I make a new set of connections I’ll get a quick burst in followers. Sometimes an article I write will get retweeted or shared and that might net me one or two new likes or follows. It’s a slow process to grow to the point where I’ve gone months without seeing a new follower on any of my platforms. It’s often a discouraging process but every follow, like, retweet, and so on holds a deep meaning for me.
The Bottom Line
If you’re someone who is looking to break into the gaming industry in any fashion, whether it be in development, publishing, journalism, or in my case, content creation, it’s just as much a test of perseverance as it is your ability to create quality content. Despite the length of this article and everything I’ve covered, this only scratches the surface of the effort it takes to be an independent content creator. Especially in a field that is already overcrowded with so many others working towards the same thing.
It’s tough when every follower matters and one un-like or un-follow is noticeable. I have streams where no one shows up for hours. Some of my videos only get views here and there. It’s painfully discouraging. But it comes down to three main factors: personal determination, consistent quality, and a willingness to constantly improve. Keeping those three things in mind and it becomes a factor of luck over time. That is, you will eventually build yourself up to the point where you’ll be self-sustaining. It’s a great feeling when you get long stretches of improvement and growth and it makes all those days or weeks of stagnancy worth it. I do what I love simply because it makes me happy. And I’ll keep plugging away at it slowly but surely.
Keep your chin up and your keyboard warm!