On September 29th, 2016, Kotaku’s staff held an AMA for an hour and a half. I sadly could not find a way to find the comment, but I essentially asked what I should do if I’m serious about becoming a video game journalist. A writer (I can’t say for sure, but I think it might have been Patricia Hernandez) responded with this challenge: “Write and publish one article every day for two months.” I responded by asking if they were serious. This seemed so ridiculous of an idea to me. Another writer, as well as the original (I think), confirmed this. And if you are reading this article on August 21st, the-year-of-our-Lord 2017, then I will have done just that.
Well... if you cut me some slack, that is. I did miss a few days. Sometimes, I’d compensate by writing two articles in one day. Other times, I would stay up until around two in the morning to finish my article, which technically counts as late since the day changes at midnight. Other times still, I just missed a day and moved on, taking one extra day off my count up to 60 (roughly two months) to make it seem like I missed two days for every day missed. (It confused me for a while too, but trust me, the math works.) Oh, and then there were the days when I just wrote really short and/or crappy articles. Some might say this means it doesn’t count. To those people, I say: screw you.
Each article took an average of three hours to write. Some took as little as ten minutes, some took as long as seven hours. With very few exceptions, I didn’t miss a day or write a crappy article because I was being lazy. I was doing other, often more pressing work, or otherwise preoccupied with something that was more important. Without taking into account the articles that I wrote to make up for missed days, meaning that I actually wrote more than 60 articles after I began this streak, I’d give this completely unscientific number when determining how many hours I’ve written in this streak alone: 180 hours. It could be many more or many less, but I’d say it’s in that ballpark. I put in the work.
So how did I end up wanting to be a video game journalist in the first place? Well...
I knew that I loved video games the second I started playing them. I loved the repetitive, yet endlessly entertaining fun of Mario Kart DS. I loved managing my pet and its estate in Webkinz. And I loved zipping through New York City, solving problems as I went, in Spider-Man 2. My love for video games grew with me throughout my pre-teen years, finally peaking with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword when I was around 13. That was when I realized that I wanted to be playing video games for the rest of my life, no matter how old I got.
By growing older, however, I realized that I wanted my career to be more ambitious than my seven-year-old dream of becoming an ice cream truck-driver. But for the longest time, I didn’t know exactly what that career was. I knew that my favorite subject in school was English, but I didn’t know what I should do with that passion for language. I certainly didn’t want to be a teacher, knowing how much a pain in the butt I was as a kid!
In elementary school, I wanted to be a fiction author, but I realized that the stories that I would so vividly make up in my head as a kid seldom made the shift to paper without becoming generally bland and uninteresting. I had no idea how to structure a story, and thus I would quickly lose interest in writing fiction. It just wasn’t fun.
For a few years after, I wanted to narrate audiobooks for a living. But, similarly enough to “Patricia’s challenge” (It very well might not be Patricia, but I’m just going with it at this point), I found a video challenging all people wishing to become audiobook narrators to simply read out loud for a certain period of time over a certain number of days. I never even got started. I simply didn’t care enough.
All the while, I was playing video games, but I always thought of it as nothing more than a simple pastime. I knew about YouTubers such as PeanutButterGamer and The Game Theorists, who made a living off of covering video games, but I knew from the start that you simply can’t go into making YouTube videos and expect to make any decent money.
And then I discovered GameXplain.
This might confuse some of you, as GameXplain is a YouTube channel as well, but it was the focus of that YouTube channel that caught my attention. I witnessed them pour every ounce of effort into analyzing trailers, providing insight on news, and making criticisms, good and bad, about games that I hadn’t stopped to think about before then. It focused less on being entertaining and more on being informative.
I then discovered Kotaku, and I found that the same passion and high quality could be utilized not just for video, but for writing as well. As I watched and read more, I decided to research the job. What was made very clear to me from many sources was that video game journalism is in no shape or form a job for people who want to play video games all day. It is a job for people who want to write about video games all day. I was sure that I wanted to be a video game journalist at this point, but I was as “sure” as I was when I said I wanted to narrate audiobooks or be a fiction author. I thought the job sounded cool, but I hadn’t actually done anything to prove that it was the job I truly wanted to pursue.
Then, I JUST. STARTED. WRITING.
And you’d better believe that it was... not very good at the beginning. I started a YouTube channel where each episode was taking a critical look at a small chunk of Skyward Sword, and the script, voice-over, and editing were, ahem, in need of improvement. I realized that I really just wanted to focus on writing, and I made my own website that I had to pay money for, and of course nobody read it because there was no way for anyone to know that it existed!
And then I found TAY. I’ll admit that I skimmed over the TAY articles for a while when looking at the front page, but after eventually reading one article from there, I just kept on reading. I discovered that anyone could post on TAYClassic, so that’s what I did. I posted an essay that I’d previously written for school about the validation of video games as art. It got reposted on TAY, and then on Kotaku’s daily TAY selection. I later figured out that most articles from TAY eventually make it onto Kotaku as long as they reach a reasonable level of quality, but I was freaking out the day I saw that an article that I wrote was on my favorite video game journalism site when I was sixteen! My friends were also very impressed to log onto Kotaku in the morning and see my article up there with all the others, albeit taking up less space than those of the professionals. And you’d better believe I haven’t stopped bragging about it!
What drove me to accept the challenge that Patricia had given me wasn’t some earth-shattering revelation that I had, or some big event to push me to move forward. I just thought: why not? I had been putting it off for almost a month after publishing my first article on TAY by listing a huge list of excuses for why I couldn’t do it right then. But sometimes you just gotta listen to Nike/ Shia Labeouf:
I had an incredibly busy day, so the article I wrote was complete garbage, at least in my perspective. All the same, Narelle (aka Zarnyx) gave me authorship on TAY, meaning that I could post on there myself without it being reposted from TAYClassic. I’m not sure why it had to be that kind of embarrassingly bad article that gained me authorship, but it gave me the motivation to continue writing, so I am very grateful.
And continue writing I did, for about two weeks. I noticed the quality of my articles improving, and I started interacting with other writers on TAY through the comments. And then life got too busy for me to keep up writing. I’ve written before about how I made excuses for myself, but there was really no way for me to write anything, with every single hour of the day being taken up.
But I didn’t get back up. I was so focused on the challenge I had been given that I forgot why I was doing it in the first place. Instead of doing what I could, even once a week if that’s all I could manage, I took an “all or nothing” approach. If I couldn’t publish one article a day, then I wouldn’t publish any articles at all. It is something I regret, especially after my free time increased and I still procrastinated resuming writing, but we all make mistakes.
But after three months passed and summer break began, I set out to tackle “Patricia’s challenge” yet again. I made four consecutive days, and then missed three, erasing all of my progress in terms of the challenge, but still improving my writing.
Three more days, followed by three days missed.
One more attempt, then ten days missed.
I was getting discouraged. It seemed that there would always be a day when I either genuinely didn’t have the time or just didn’t have the motivation. I told my girlfriend about my goal and how I felt that I couldn’t do it, and she Shia Labeouf-ed me. Sometimes, you just need that extra motivation from someone close to you to get you started. She was that motivation for me.
The day was June 15th, 2017, and I kept on writing until I made it to today. I keep two notebooks, one physical, one on my phone, and I fill them with ideas for articles. Some of them never get fleshed out, and some of them turned into articles when they probably shouldn’t have, but I know that I would never have been able to think of something to write each day without my “gaming journal.” Inspiration will hit me at the weirdest places: during class, in the shower, eating, talking to someone, and, of course, while playing video games. Before I kept the journal, I would constantly think of what I thought were really great ideas for articles and then forget them when I sat down to write. Jogging down disconnected thoughts in line for groceries has been instrumental to me for when I sit down at the computer to write down (hopefully!) a hopefully more cohesive article about whatever I was thinking about.
I remember playing the ARMS Testpunch in the car, and overhearing my Dad say something that really made me all fuzzy inside. He said that he was unsure about my obsession with video games at first, but that he became proud of how I turned that passion into something creative. I’m always surprised when he texts me about one of my articles that he read, because his knowledge of video games doesn’t extend much further than PAC-MAN. My mom has also read quite a few, which is perhaps even more impressive. She has told me that she’s happy that I’m pursuing what makes me happy, which I’m very grateful for. “Video game journalist” isn’t exactly the most ideal job many parents would want their children to have, but my parents’ support in this has encouraged me immensely.
When undertaking this challenge, I expected to get better, as anyone does with practice, but not become a master. I didn’t expect to accomplish this and land myself with a paying gaming journalism job overnight. It might be years before I get even a low-paying gaming journalism job. So why did I do it?
To test myself.
I wanted to see if I really, truly wanted this. That this wasn’t just some passing fancy of mine that I wasn’t serious about. That this is the thing that I want to be working towards and perfecting throughout my life. And, while things happen, people change, and nobody is 100% certain what lies in store for them in life, I can now finally say with as much certainty as I’ll ever have:
HELL YEAH I DO!