Instead of writing about a game, I’m writing about why I find it difficult to write – both about games and as a regular thing.
I like to write and I’ve always wanted to get into a writing job of some sorts; I specifically majored in journalism for writing instead of broadcast work because I don’t have the temperament for any proper video content. If a potential writing job was related to games? Even better. But looking for a job in that field is difficult. Scratch that – looking for a job that isn’t being an underpaid freelancer doing clickbait is difficult. Most jobs that don’t fall in that category are either positions for head editors that require years of experience and/or require you to move out as if writing wasn’t a job that could easily be done at home.
Wishing for a career is already dispiriting, but it’s kinda getting worse with the advent of AI. If a site isn’t looking for opinion pieces or something of the sort, why would they bother hiring someone when they could get some ChatGPT bullshit to do a bulk of the work? Yeah, the AI work won’t be perfect – but also, companies looking to make more money wouldn’t care.
Content machine go brr, line go up. But the content machine isn’t the only thing to worry about – sometimes, an outlet will just kinda shutter from overexpansion and failing to maintain growth in spite of it.
It was a big surprise (at least, for me) that VICE Media was declaring bankruptcy. To me, it looked like the shining star of digital media. Personally, their game division Waypoint seemed like a strong fortress of games journalism with consistent writing and an enjoyable podcast that I checked into every now and then. But just like that, Waypoint is disappearing into the aether, and while maybe VICE gets bought up, it probably won’t be in the same image as it used to be.
Hearing about Waypoint shuttering was a major blow to my motivation, especially after listening to a recent podcast episode where one of the host’s is clearly not optimistic about job prospects. If the road ahead is tough for these guys in this space, honestly, what hope is there for anyone else?
Really, besides job prospects, it’s hard not to feel cynical about media in general. Like, the New York Times, the paper of record, is a stupid institution where guys whose sole job is to write hot takes makes more and has more security than people that do actual journalistic work. And that’s still assuming they’re still doing good journalistic work. Like, imagine writing a puff piece about Elizabeth Holmes, a girlboss version of the fucked up stupid techbros that hold disproportionate power in our society who’s currently facing a decade in prison. Couldn’t be me.
It’s just, why would I want to pursue writing news at this point when the only people with stability are sociopaths? Why would I feel enthused about wanting to be like an outlet when most outlets turn into husks or become morally bankrupt?
“Okay, so what, you don’t like writing about news,” you might say to my mad rantings. Sure, I prefer doing criticism. But just fucking look at people on Twitter talk about anything – the world does not welcome criticism.
Everything is either good or bad, you can’t have a nuanced take on anything. People will go apeshit comparing critic and audience scores and treat the audience scores as more legitimate as if right-wing nerds don’t hop on review bombing campaigns against things they don’t like on a regular basis. In fact, I complained about this before, everything’s the same as it ever was.
And the thing is, if you raise any honest criticism against something, the fandom nerds will shamble out of their caves to post the “let people enjoy things” comic. Try to criticize anything on a deeper level besides “I like it” or “I hate it”? You’ll get “the curtain was fucking blue” or, I dunno, a picture of a guy standing in ankle deep water with a caption saying “it’s not that deep.” And god forbid that people come out with the defense that “people spent a lot of hard work and time on this, you can’t just put down their work :(.“ Yeah nobody sets out to work on something flawed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t flawed!
However, the thing with that last point is that it’s something I sincerely feel covering indie games.
Saying that line of defense for big triple-A games is kinda clown shoes shit, but the more smaller an operation is, the more personal criticism can be. If that criticism hurts potential sales, an indie dev will feel it way more than a developer working at a big studio, especially if they’re relying on sales for their livelihood.
This is honestly why I rarely play new things and usually ignore requests to cover something. There are lots of people that’d want coverage for their stuff, but I’d feel like I’d be kicking them in the face if I played their thing and didn’t like it. It sucks because I do want to introduce people to new things and experience new things myself, but I want the things I write to be honest, and I’d hate to devastate anyone.
For instance, earlier this year, I tried playing a game that I thought would be worth covering. I did not like it. Kinda hated it, actually. But the game was made by literally one guy and they don’t even have user reviews in the double digits. I’d hate to imagine how that dev would feel if I did write my honest thoughts on that game.
In a way, looking at bigger indie games – like ones published under Devolver Digital – is somewhat freeing. Yeah, people already heard of these games and they don’t need the coverage, but I feel like I can be more honest about things I dislike with them. It’s way easier to muster up the courage to be meaner against something that’s been around for years and/or is already an established success.
I guess I just don’t have the temperament to be a “real” critic in the indie games space. And the thing is, I don’t think I’d be much of a good one when it comes to bigger games either because honestly, a lot of them don’t interest me? Like, the last real “big” game I played was Civilization VI back in March, and that was mainly as an obligation toward someone I know. I felt no real passion playing it, and honestly, it’s really hard to write about anything if you don’t got any passion for it.
And another thing that’s going on with me is that I just don’t feel a drive to play anything new and seriously dig into it as much as I did last year. For the most part, when I’m not working on my own game and my plan C for escaping my life, I’ve just been stuck in the Bloons hole, a little bit of Super Auto Pets here or there.
But now that I think about it, with the writing job market, work life, and (gestures at the world around us), maybe I’m just really depressed. Would a depressed person listen to There Existed An Addiction to Blood over and over? Maybe.
A regular update will come out… sometime. I dunno. Maybe I’ll feel less fucked up by then. Uhh, maybe until then, you could read from some cool people that are less fucked up then me like DEEP HELL and No Escape.
Also, this is probably a given with my ramblings on writing jobs and hating AI, but I support the WGA Strike and you probably should too. “Why should I when all recent western shows suck?” I get it, you only read manga and have a crippling hentai addiction. Whatever.
Great Piece! its really disheartening seeing this industry operate and it really is too bad the world of good written gaming criticism just seems to shrink and shrink
[…] haven’t really played anything for Indie Hell Zone, as per what I wrote last time. However! I’ve been casually playing a game over stream with somebody over the past few weeks […]