Why you should support Unwinnable

Yesterday I published an essay on Unwinnable about what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder, set on the peg of an episode of The Walking Dead a few weeks ago.

It is deeply personal. It’s the sort of content that would probably never see the light of day anywhere other than on this blog, if not for Unwinnable, and I think that category defines a bunch of stuff on the site, not necessarily mine, which deserves a home alongside other awesome work by talented writers.

The uniqueness of Unwinnable’s content dictates the worth of the outlet.

So I would like to see you support the Kickstarter for Unwinnable Weekly.

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I am much more likely to get a pitch approved if my story has a news peg. I could write a piece about the satirical value of Grand Theft Auto V at any point, but I was likely only going to get paid for that work if I pitched it in close proximity to the release of the game.

The business of web publishing dictates the news peg for most everything. Sometimes I want to write outside that stricture. I want to write personal essays, or wacky off-the-wall stuff. There needs to be a home for that sort of content so it doesn’t have to compete for page space with news peg/status quo content on traditional sites. There is value in outlets that make this sort of content their regular fare, versus only running content from fresh voices when the subject matter is topical, or there’s a news peg for controversial discussion.

Authors who focus on nontraditional writing about video games are turning to Patreon to crowdfund money for their writing, which is hosted on personal blogs. Writing on blogs is isolating, and it doesn’t support discourse the way contributing to an outlet’s community does. I also think it’s important for writers to earn some of their money through an outlet, rather than through donations. A paycheck inspires writers to up the quality of their work, to justify their paychecks.

Writing primarily on personal blogs also means the writers don’t have editors, and the quality of alternative content about video games absolutely suffers for a lack of editing. How you express your ideas is just as if not more important than the ideas themselves. It’s not for nothing that I opened up Salon and NPR after being at this for three years. I am much better now than I was when I started in 2010 because I’ve had editors who whipped me into shape. They told me when my ideas were weak, when my sentences were sloppy, when I needed to be more clear, and when I could just plain do better.

Supporting Unwinnable Weekly means giving editors a way to earn part of a living from their work at the outlet. No one’s going to get rich writing or editing for Unwinnable Weekly, but making *any* money from the work is important psychologically to editors as much as it is to writers. It makes it easier for those editors to justify the insane amount of work, above and beyond full time jobs or freelance assignments for paychecks, that goes into producing Unwinnable.

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The inspiration for “I’m Not A Bit” came from my experience at the Game Developers Conference this year, and the realization that I’m not as much a part of the Unwinnable community as I would like to be.

If I can fit what I’m writing for an outlet which can afford to pay me, I’m obligated to pursue that opportunity, especially when freelance writing is my solitary source of income. I don’t mean to come off as some kind of egotistical douche by bringing this up, but I offer the point as a practical demonstration about why it matters to financially support outlets that want to host diverse content. I can’t be the only writer who has to crunch these equations when it comes to deciding where their efforts ought to be prioritized.

A cost of this necessity is that I don’t publish on Unwinnable as often as I’d like to, so it’s entirely on me that I’m not associated with the outlet as much as I’d like to be. When I see the list of authors cited on the Unwinnable Kickstarter, there’s a part of me that feels stung because I want to be on that list, and it’s no one’s fault but my own that I’m not.

When I went to the annual Unwinnable GDC gathering at the Hide Tide bar in San Francisco this year, I reveled in the opportunity to be with that crew, with Stu and Chuck and Ken and Steve and Owen. They’re so much fun to hang out with it. They’re warm and welcoming and humble and they work their asses off to make Unwinnable a reality.

Hanging out with that crew is always a jolt of badly-needed energy for me, a temporary break in the isolation that is freelancing, and I kind of made a fool of myself with over-enthusiastic entreaties to Stu Horvath about what I could do to help the Kickstarter. That’s what I mean about worrying about people not wanting to work with me, as I wrote about in “I’m Not A Bit.” That’s precisely how I felt at GDC last month in regards to Unwinnable, like I’m this person who isn’t around very often and then suddenly barges in the door wanting to help out like he’s been in the room the whole time.

I think offering them some more content, and writing this blog post, and promoting it on social media is the best I’ll be able to do for them, for whatever all of it is worth.

I’m obviously biased when I talk about the value of Unwinnable, but as someone who also has much less at stake in all of this than the other voices on the site, I hope you can take what I’m about to say with some belief that it’s not entirely self-motivated.

I wouldn’t feel the regret on such a personal level about not being more involved with Unwinnable if this was not an awesome group of people independently of any work they do as writers and editors. And they’re dedicated to delivering something that I hear so many people pining for when they talk about writing about video games and what’s missing from the landscape. They deliver variety.

Look at the connections the Unwinnable team has made with indie developers.This is not a small feat. Name indie developers don’t associate this closely with an outlet that doesn’t rightly deserve it.

Look at the fact that names like Chris Dahlen and Gus Mustrapa and Jenn Frank and Cara Ellison are associated so strongly with the outlet. If you don’t know who those people are, and if you really care about the state of writing about video games, you’re well served to look them all up. At the very least you’re find some awesome stuff to read. You’ll also understand what it means that they appear on Unwinnable.

This is not just another amateur website that publishes content on video games. It’s an outlet staffed by and featuring content from bona fide professional journalists and writers that is just as important to me as outlets like Salon and NPR, but it’s important to me emotionally as well as professionally. I would not feel that way if this wasn’t an outlet that is special.

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The thing about Kickstarter users is they operate on the principle of accretion. You get a mass of supporters and they develop their own gravity, pulling other supporters in when they realize this is a project they want to get on board with, that they should get on board with, because they don’t want to miss out on something cool.

We’re all missing out on something if we don’t support Unwinnable. Check out the site. Download Unwinnable Weekly issue zero and pass it around. Make a Kickstarter account if you don’t have one. Give them five bucks or whatever you can. Add a so important +1 to the number of backers on the project. Tell your friends. Help build the accretion disc of Kickstarter users that gets the project funded.

And thanks for taking the time to read this. 🙂

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