"the biggest crotch-desiccant since Piers Morgan"
August 28, 2014 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I tend to measure most of my work in rent. Freelance game critics, like most freelance writers, probably measure most things in rent. I also like to measure my wellbeing in whether I can afford a bottle of Sailor Jerry that month. This only reflects a little of the type of person I am. The Sailor Jerry sort of helps to cope with the fact that I am my own worst commenter. Sailor Jerry is also very useful for coping with actual commenters and the hell of the internet.
Cara Ellison: How to write about a game.
posted by MartinWisse (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would rather write about carpet cleaning system repairs than put up with this level of abuse and misery.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:46 AM on August 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Don’t use any marketing terms like ‘IP’ or ‘franchise’ or ‘title’ or whatever. Sometimes I catch myself doing it because I read so many silly PR emails and I have to get in the shower and cry whilst scrubbing myself down with sand.

I had to do this when I heard myself say "going forward" without ironic intent in a meeting.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


I really like her approach. The "but-is-it-any-good" contingent really are missing the point of reviews. Why should you care if somebody else thinks it's good? Let them describe the experience so you can decide for yourself if you'd like it.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cara Ellison is absolutely awesome, and you should read everything she writes. And she's made games too.
posted by kmz at 10:08 AM on August 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would rather write about carpet cleaning system repairs than put up with this level of abuse and misery.

God the money factor seems worse than ever, and for video games, that's saying something. This is an industry that writer Kieron Gillen left because writing comics book was more lucrative. And this is probably the only sentence that can contain the words "writing comics book was more lucrative."

So, once I thought, slightly before the turn of the century, about writing about games, about games journalism. I even followed through social media, first livejournal then twitter and tumblr, a guy my age who was "living the life", working for a major magazine, going to E3, talking to famous game designers.

Watching over the next 15 years, during large amounts of economic turmoil, his repeated layoffs from various magazines as the market for print magazines collapsed, then to various websites as consolidations destroyed a lot of them.

He's in a pretty good place, married with a stable job. But the path to get there was so full of suck it put me off for even trying to go through that.

The thing is, game journalism pays shit, has paid shit, and probably will pay shit. People who used to work at GameFan back at the day said that on Fridays there was a race to the bank to make sure you got your check cashed before the money in the account ran out. And freelance work in this day and age pays horribly. Put them together and you have You will eventually be paid a fifth of your rent if you hand your invoice in on time.
posted by zabuni at 10:13 AM on August 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I had to do this when I heard myself say "going forward" without ironic intent in a meeting.

When people say "at the end of the day" around me I ask if they mean work day or actual day. If they get pissy about it I then ask which timezone. It's fun. If they get real upset I show them tzinfo.
posted by srboisvert at 10:29 AM on August 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


The thing is, game journalism pays shit, has paid shit, and probably will pay shit.

That would be why one game journalist lists herself as "web marketer and SEO expert" and came to my attention for her Yelp! reviews on 3/9/2014 of places in TX,NY,CT,CA and France

Not sure how one has all those places in all those locations on one day or who one brokers positive Yelp! reviews through but no one ever said "reviews" are honest. I hope she was well paid.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2014


Not sure how one has all those places in all those locations on one day or who one brokers positive Yelp! reviews through but no one ever said "reviews" are honest. I hope she was well paid.

I kind of think most people who aren't trying to use Yelp to launch a professional/semi-professional career will write reviews a few at a time long after the fact. You sign on, review the place you went to last week, and oh hey, that picture reminds you of that place you ate when you visited your sister last October, that was great, though not as great at that place in France 3 years ago...

Of course, I'm not really sure why any of this is relevant to the thread, unless you're implying that Cara Ellison writes (what you perceive as) fake Yelp reviews on the side.
posted by kagredon at 11:17 AM on August 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: How to write about how to write about a game.
posted by Chuffy at 11:51 AM on August 28, 2014


The only reason game criticism exists is so that you can orientate yourself around a particular critic’s taste. If the critic is any good you can tell from their analysis whether you will like the game or not, regardless of whether the critic in question actually thought the game was any good at all.

Substitute "movie" for "game" and this is what I wish I had said every time someone dismissed me by saying, "I never pay attention to what critics say" when I mention that I like reading move reviews

posted by mmrtnt at 12:04 PM on August 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thing is, game journalism pays shit...

It's interesting to note that Penny Arcade is game journalism in comic form, and those guys have gotten paid quite well.

I wonder if that was a fluke?

posted by mmrtnt at 12:09 PM on August 28, 2014


I really enjoy Cara Ellison's writing. I imagine games journalism in general is difficult enough in terms of entitled, abusive keyboard tough guys, but being female on top must make it so much worse.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:31 PM on August 28, 2014


I wonder if that was a fluke?

Uh...yes? I feel like it's pretty uncontroversial that Penny Arcade is an unprecedented, runaway success by the standards of webcomics, game criticism, or pretty much any other classification you care to apply.
posted by kagredon at 12:33 PM on August 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


I had the opinion (wrong it seems) that everything tied to the video game industry was flush.

Sorry to hear otherwise, actually. I like seeing people be successful, especially in the arts

posted by mmrtnt at 12:38 PM on August 28, 2014


There may be flush people in it, the Gabe Newells and Notches and so on but for almost all the actual people that do the design and development work
.. well, back when I did in 1991 it was underpaid with insane hours and based on stupid milestones, and it only appears to have gotten worse.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:54 PM on August 28, 2014


I'd compare it to the music industry. Yes, there are millionaire rock stars, but you you decide to pursue a career in music in the expectation of becoming rich, you're a fool.
posted by baf at 5:51 PM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have one friend still in the gaming biz, down from perhaps two dozen 20 years ago. His is a tale of true love of the business colored by ever-present misery and woe as he packs his life up every few years (or months) as one opportunity collapses, usually quickly, and he chases the next one in another city/state/country. He had a short, interesting stay in Rhode Island recently, for example.

I'd compare it to the music industry.

I have one friend still in the music biz. Same story, so, yeah, spot on.[1]

P.S. - I miss Old Man Murray.

[1] Except for a handful of friends who long ago gave up music, who now because of success/retirement/empty nesting can play a couple of gigs a month or get involved with the local scene because, hey, they don't have to support a themselves on the proceeds. Not sure if they count as 'biz', but good on them.
posted by kjs3 at 7:00 PM on August 28, 2014


It's interesting to note that Penny Arcade is game journalism in comic form, and those guys have gotten paid quite well.

Robert Khoo.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Specifically:

While representing a Korean game developer with American dreams, Khoo thought of this popular little Web comic he knew called Penny Arcade. He got a meeting with founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, and proceeded to pitch them an advertising partnership with his client. It did not take long to learn that Penny Arcade was not really a business at all.

“It was just two guys who created this great comic out of their apartment,” Khoo recalls. “Their main revenue stream was donations from readers. They set their drive limits on how much they needed to pay rent and groceries. They had accidentally signed away the company twice already, and gotten it back by sheer luck. In the first 15 minutes, I realized they had no idea what they were doing.”

Penny Arcade’s readership was already impressive and impassioned. And growing like kudzu. But given the voodoo economics of the enterprise, day jobs were looking inevitable.

“I was shocked,” Khoo says, “because here was what I believed to be an amazing product that these guys put out – they should be millionaires.”

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And Khoo pounced. He drew up a 50-page business plan for Penny Arcade, then called a second meeting with the founders to discuss a less modest proposal: “I said, ‘Here’s the deal. This business plan is yours, no matter what. But I would love to execute it myself. I have the market experience, and I’m a gamer so I definitely understand the space. You give me the green light and I will quit my job and work for you for free for two months. If I can pay for myself after two months, great, keep me. And if I can’t, cut me.’

“That’s an offer you can’t refuse. Especially if you’re two guys barely making a living working out of your apartment.”

posted by Sebmojo at 7:16 PM on August 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


I love Cara Ellison's writing, I shall have to put together some samples of it and other writers at some point. It's a lovely article this one, because it talks about realities rather than necessarily complaining about it. Unfortunately this isn't a great time to be a journalist of any colour, especially one in the gaming presses, where free online content means paid work is at a premium. Obviously there are games writers who make a living, but they are definitely in the minority, although it does frustrate me that someone of Cara Ellison's talent cannot make a decent living writing about games.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:56 PM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a think piece about a mid-tier game critic struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of the internet.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:52 AM on August 30, 2014


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