There are loads of things I loved about being a freelance writer. I could be ‘professional’ and cite how awesome it is to work with an assortment of cool people across a range of fields, or evangelise about the freedom of being your own boss. In truth though some of the coolest bits were the bits not to do with work – the freedom to walk the dog in the woods late afternoon, the lunchtime PUBG, the lack of trousers, those wonderful early-afternoon naps. And the late morning naps. Am quite keen on the mid-afternoon naps too. And y’know, those early morning naps aren’t bad either.
The negative aspect about the vast bulk of those, though, is that they are not income-generating. I probably just about toed the right side of the line that divides self-discipline and lazy layabout for the bulk of my time freelancing, but it’s fair to say that you cannot understate the effort needed to be a prospering freelance writer. A tip of the hat to all of you who continue to do it, as getting paid to write is only getting harder. Even successful novelists often struggle to pay the bills, bewilderingly.
It’s also fair to say that while I’ve never been short of ideas, I did note throughout the 20 months or so I freelanced that some of my peers (who are a wonderful bunch, incidentally – the UK video games freelance scene is awesome) seemed to find it far easier to conjure feature and content pitches than I. What I came to realise, though, is that this was symptomatic of the fact that, actually, my interest games has become more personal and less critical. There’s obviously loads of great games writing out there and a huge amount that I enjoy (it’s a field absolutely drowning in underappreciated talent), but I shall confess that the amount that appeals to me has decreased. An increasing amount feels either superfluous or self-indulgent.
But that’s fine, because I don’t expect all of games journalism to cater to me. The games market is growing and diversifying and there are lots of people out there working very hard to adjust to this changing audience. It’s also true that the market is waking up to the need to diversify its voices too. I 100% fully endorse this – white dudes alone cannot and should not be the sole voice. Even if you (incorrectly) dismiss the industry’s moral obligation to diversify, from a business perspective it simply makes sense. A broadening audience needs a broadening media. The consequence, however, is that commissioning has become harder for me and others like me. Which is a price very much worth paying.
So while October 2016 felt like the right time for me to leave MCV, July 2018 feels like the right time for me to leave games journalism. So that’s what I’m doing.
It’s certainly fair to say that irregularity of income was the hardest adjustment to make when switching from 11+ years in a salaried role to freelance. With a young daughter and disabled wife who is unable to work regularly, the weight of responsibility felt especially high during those months when income was lower. The allure of a regular income grew and last month I started putting the feelers out to see what opportunities awaited.
There was no doubt in my mind that games development was the area I wanted to move into, but with zero coding knowledge and only the early buds of a creative writing career under my belt, the task was to find an editorial role. Luckily I was not looking for long before I was approached with what felt like a great fit. I’m heading over to join the fine people at Jagex in Cambridge, where I’ll be taking on the newly created role of Editorial Manager. And I’ve already started! Expect Runescape content to increase by about 1,000,000%. There is some very cool stuff happening over there and I’m thrilled and privileged to be part of it. And, like, it’s well flash there. Feels like what I’d imagine Apple or Google to be like. Arcade machines, pool table, fresh fruit everywhere… people a lot trendier than me (which admittedly means little). Oh and there were a shit load of replica weapons lying about. It’s going to be a real adventure!
I want to quickly thank some of those who have supported over this last year and half. Thanks ever so much to Craig, Alex, Danielle and Dave at Steel Media, who have been completely fab. A massive shout out as well to the wonderful Cathy at Warner’s Collectors Gazette who is an absolute superstar. I’m also immensely grateful to the fantastic people at BLB Solicitors, especially Richard. I know lawyers get a bad rap, but I’ve never encountered such a bunch of decent and principled people in my life. They were tremendous employers and, luckily, now good friends. Thanks too to Dringo and Spatch at GamesIndustry, and of course MCV. Also thanks to Attention Seekers, Stu, Lisa, OB and everyone else who played a part in my freelance adventure. Oh, and a big thanks to Maz – you know why!
Also the absolute biggest thanks to my incredibly incredible and supportive wife, and my dog, both of whom I am going to miss so much. I’ve already floated the idea of ‘bring your dog to work day’. They say couples should never live and work together, but we absolutely rocked it and I loved every minute (apart from all those minutes where I was stressing about money). Onwards to the terror of full time employment!