There are days when in order to maintain my sanity I have to remind myself of the division between video game journalism and the actual world of video games. Otherwise I can get so wrapped up in my desire to make it in this business that I completely lose perspective. I was given a healthy reminder of this on Tuesday when I had lunch with a buddy of mine who I play games with on Xbox Live most days of the week, a friend I used to work with but who, since he moved to New Hampshire many years ago, I hadn’t seen in the flesh since.
I was telling him about the “Screw Your Criticism, I Want A Review!” panel I’m moderating at PAX Prime this year. The panelist list has changed somewhat – Jim Sterling can no longer make it, but Arthur Gies of Polygon and Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb will be joining us. I’m pretty stoked about it because I think it’s going to be good fun with Kyle Orland and Kirk Hamilton still on the panel as well.
My friend had no idea who the fuck any of those people are. I was shocked that he didn’t even recognize the name of Jeff Gerstmann after the Kane & Lynch firing, an event so widely discussed online that it solidified Gerstmann as one of the most recognizable names in this industry. Yeah, no, my friend had no idea who he was. I don’t think my friend had ever heard of Polygon, either. He knows what Kotaku is but after a few reads decided he fucking hated it and I don't think he's ever gone back, and if he knows Ars Technica it’s probably because I’ve linked him to stuff I’ve written over there.
My friends and all of their friends on Xbox Live are the grown-up portion of the core video game audience. They're almost all married with kids, in their mid-30's, and precisely the kind of audience that the new, grown up video game journalism outlets are aiming for. And most every member of the grown-up core video game audience I know has no fucking idea who anyone in the video game journalism industry is and hardly recognizes the name of any video game journalism outlets save the giants like IGN and GameSpot.
Hell, most of them don’t know who Cliff Bleszinksi is. If you’re reading my blog you’re probably a member of my small audience or were otherwise directed here by someone else who reads video game journalism and the idea of not recognizing Bleszinksi's name is probably insane, right? How the fuck do you not know who Cliff Bleszinksi is? Or Ken Levine? I don’t mean to put those two on a pedestal but as far as recognizable names in game development go I think those two are at the top of the list for all their willingness to speak to the press and being real characters.
My friend from New Hampshire and all our friends from Xbox Live don’t know who Bleszinksi and Levine are and furthermore they don’t give a flying fuck when I try to tell them. And that goes for my friends at the tabletop wargaming club, many of whom are video game addicts as well. They don’t know and they don’t care. And that goes for friends of mine at work who are hardcore gamers ready to talk the endless minutiae of games all day. They don’t know Newell and Molyneux, Miyamoto and Kojima, Wright and Spector or any of the myriad names I would personally consider it insane not to know as someone who plays video games…but then I remember that my knowing these names has absolutely nothing to do with being one of the most devoted people to video games in almost any circle I’m a part of.
It has everything to do with the fact that I’m a video game journalist, which has fuck-all to do with being a gamer, and realizing that makes it a little easier to deal with the stress of trying to break further into the industry and the inevitable drama one has to bear witness to along the way.