I am, apparently, good at knitting. Which is to say, when I put 300 odd stitches into a something resembling a scarf last year, I received plaudits for the neatness of my knit and purl and imagined a future in which I would create hundreds of wonderful items with trademark precision, and doubtlessly to widespread acclaim. Never mind that my casting on and off was terrible – practice would make perfect and I’d hit the big time soon enough!
Hello, sometime Reticule contributor Stephanie Woor here, and yes, the paragraph you just read is an overworked analogy for my attempts at games journalism on this site (and only here, really). But don’t let me leave you hanging on the knitting anecdote – I finished that scarf, took a look into something a little more complex and then immediately gave up when it turned out that a couple of solid, core technical fundamentals doesn’t help you when you have no real reason to create something or a reason to create.
The idea when I first approached Chris – who I knew as an intelligent and affable poster active on the Halflife2.net forums (now Valvetime.net) – about writing on The Reticule, was to write and magically get hired in video games journalism. Sure, everyone was pointing out to me that the field was entirely oversubscribed and underpaid, but these now compelling arguments didn’t really mean much to someone whose most recent employment included ‘sideshow operator’ and ’15-hour contract phone shop employee’.
So I wrote, and the Reticule graciously hosted my stuff (I appear to have clocked up 30+ articles, not counting my partial contributions to group articles) – but the story of my foray into journalism just fizzles out there. Basically, it turns out that if you don’t actually pitch articles to publications, you don’t get to write for them. Who knew!
Looking over my output here, it’s sort of obvious why that is though – I didn’t have enough to say outside of reviews of whatever we had codes for. My few features indulge in a pretty narrow list of all-time favourite subjects, and the one potentially good ongoing series I created (‘Gaming crowdfunding weekly’) spent too much time on the obvious, doomed-to-fail dross. Still, I called Nier:Automata character designer Akihiko Yoshida an ‘occasional enemy of noses’ at one point, so from that perspective at least, it was all worth it.
I persisted until 2014, where things started to break down. I was already struggling to find anything to say about the Nintendo games that now occupied my time (lacking the vocabulary to describe the refined play experiences they emphasise, having always focussed more on narrative and broader mechanics). I was also finding that I was reading less and less games journalism, and ultimately you want to produce what you consume (some of us just don’t have faces or voices that can ‘pivot to video’).
But if we’re honest, the conversation around games and games journalism had turned nasty and that dream job writing about games I’d lazily imagined just ceased to hold any appeal. Even putting aside the sense that paid gigs probably meant dealing with a level of audience toxicity I was never going to have put up with in my (better paid, better prospects) marketing job, it just seemed more important than ever for those in the job to have not only something to say, but something to defend and to fight for. I greatly admire those who manage it – but I’ve no real desire to discuss those aspects of my identity that arguably would be the most interesting to pick at in public. Not for the sake of games, and certainly not for “gamers”.
So that’s my sob story done with, and aside from pausing to ponder how many far more talented people were lost during that period (and how many thrived despite it), let’s talk no more of it. For any critical project to last 10 years through changes in both the industry that produces the objects of criticism and that which produces the criticism itself is quite the achievement. It’s always a pleasure to see contributors still working the coalface and weighing in on games new and old. So congratulations to The Reticule on the big 10 – may you last another 10 and may games continue to offer experiences worthy of your comment.