Confessions of an Academic Blogger: How Did I Wind Up Here Again?

DSC00908thumb.jpg 2007 was a pretty big year for me - ch-ch-ch-changes! ruled supreme. I got into my dream PhD program (which left me wondering - after the requisite running around and squealing - 'How in the hell did I manage that?'), I moved back to Virginia from Taipei, I moved from Virginia to San Diego, I started grad school - and, oh yeah, landed a pretty sweet gig at Kotaku this past spring. It's been a year filled with getting used to new things. delightfully bad Chinese press releases, learning how to be a grad student, learning how to deal with undergrads, learning how to be on the Kotaku staff - and figuring out how to balance it all.

Of everything that's happened this year, Kotaku has been probably the most surprising and made me feel like a fish out of water most frequently. Me? I'm not a pro journalist. Well, I guess I technically am now in some small way - but I've not been to journalism school. I've never had any real desire to do the work of a journalist (give me an archive and books and I'm happy). Writing lit reviews comes more naturally than dealing with breaking news. I've spent the past couple of years aggressively pursuing academia, not breaking into video game journalism. I certainly never thought I'd wind up writing for one of the bigger gaming blogs out there. It was a pretty giant leap from the little site I wrote for to Kotaku Tower, and - just like when I got an email from one of my future advisors saying 'Congratulations, you're in!' - I find myself wondering with some frequency 'How in the hell did I manage that?'.

We get a lot of queries about breaking into the biz, which I always feel totally unequipped to answer. I haphazardly blundered into writing about video games (thanks to a post on Kotaku, of all things), and I found myself writing for Kotaku in much the same manner. How do you break into the business? Good question - let me know if you figure it out.

But despite feeling like the odd one out half the time, I really do love it. Weekends with Flynn are frequently the non-seminar related highlights of the week. While I have plenty of Saturdays where I just want to sit in front of the TV and veg out before plowing through another several hundred pages of whatever I'm supposed to be reading, spending a few hours a week wading through gaming related news and writing about it has been enjoyable. It also dovetails with my academic life in weird and satisfying ways - as I prepare to launch into studying Korean and Japanese, my immediate thought after 'I must be crazy' was 'Oh good, this really opens up my options for games! Wonder if I can squeeze some good feature articles from research trips to Asia?'.

I'm still getting used to explaining the dual halves of my life to people - 'You do what? And why?' is a question I'm used to answering when explaining exactly what it is I study, but explaining life in the video game blogosphere to most academics is a job in and of itself. One of my bookshelves is a good little microcosm of my life: it houses my copies of classic works of the field, the Shiji, Song dynasty lyric poetry, Lu Xun's short stories and ... the smallest members of my KOS-MOS figurine collection? Half-naked video game heroines and high-brow academia do go together!

As 2007 comes to a close, I'm thankful for a lot of things - mostly the fact that '07 was the year I landed a coveted spot at a great program in my field and all the stuff I have to look forward to as part of the Kotaku team. It's a real treat to be part of a great group of people, writing about stuff I love, and hopefully giving a little more exposure to some topics that are usually confined to niche blogs and news sites. Flynn may be living out of a suitcase, I may be busier than ever, and we may be in the middle of a holiday news drought - but 2008 is looking pretty bright indeed. Just keep your fingers crossed for Flynn that the new year brings him permanent digs - and soon!


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