The arrogance of youth. I had it. In abundance. I remember being 14 years old, clever at school, drowning in the confidence that gives a young person.
"If I'm not a millionaire by the time I'm 30 I might as well just kill myself."
Kids say the darndest things.
I'm now past 30. One year past to be precise. I am absolutely not a millionaire and I have no intentions of killing myself just yet. I write about video games and I like to think I am good at it. But I ask myself -- how long can I seriously continue to do this for a living?
I am ashamed of this question, because -- logically -- one should be able to write about video games until they're very old. As someone who pushes for games to be discussed, shared and accepted as a meaningful pursuit, the hypocrisy stings. It throbs in the deepest part of my gut, and I can't help it. I imagine myself in my mid 40s, still writing about video games for a living and that image does not make me feel good about myself.
Over the weekend I read a really well written Editorial by Keith Stuart. Keith Stuart is 41 and he writes about video games for a living. Keith Stuart wrote a brilliant piece about this experience.
This is what Keith Stuart wrote:
I write about games, and I am 40 – soon to be 41. Maybe, I should be writing some god-awful novel about, you know, guys growing up and being in relationships and discovering themselves. Eugh. It’s not going to happen. While games like Fez and Spelunky and Bastion still thrill me, while there are pretentious parallels to draw, and themes to discover and connections to be made between the individual points of light in this vast perplexing panorama, I will still do this.
With each sentence I was high fiving. I was celebrating. 'Yes,' I said to myself. 'Video games are important. I will continue to write about them and love them. I will celebrate them. One day I will be old, and I will continue to write about video games.'
I wanted to believe those words, truly; and as they spangled through my brain those words made perfect sense. But in my gut? I struggled to accept them. I imagined myself 10 years from now, a couple of kids, some extra flab around my waist, a little less hair, still writing about video games, and that image did not resonate.
I know this is the wrong thing, but I feel it.
I am 31. My wife is pregnant with our first child. One of my friends mentioned to me that when he/she goes to school they will have the coolest Dad. Or, at the very least, a Dad with a cool job. My Dad was a Firefighter, so I know the feeling. My job is 'cool', and my job is fun, but that comes with drawbacks. My job is so fun that people will do it for free. This means that my job does not pay well and most likely it will never pay well. At some point I'm sure I will ask myself -- is it responsible to continue doing this job when I have children to support?
There's a good chance I might say no. There's a good chance that I might explore my options. And the second I do, an orderly queue will form behind me; in that queue a hundred eager human beings willing to do my job for a lot less money. They might even do the job for free.
In a lot of ways, for many reasons, writing about video games feels like a young man's gig. I expect this might change in the near future, but progress will most likely move too slowly for me. I started writing about video games seriously when I was about 24. At that point most of the folks in senior positions were in their late 20s/early 30s -- the same age as I am now. Now that I'm in a similar space, I feel the rigidity and permanence of the situation. There isn't much room to move when you write exclusively about a niche topic. There isn't necessarily a clear career path and, for the most part, moving upwards means writing less. And I don't want to write less.
Some will mistake my reluctance to write about video games well into old age as a value judgement on video games as a cultural art form, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The 'video games are an immature medium' argument is problematic at best, complete bunk for the most part -- but even if video games were fundamentally broken cultural artifacts, they'd still be worth writing about for that reason alone.
No, that's not it. I would baulk at having to read, digest and respond to the same old bullshit for the rest of my days, but I'm sure I'd find ways to make that bearable. My issue is that, despite the fact that the average gamer in Australia is, in actual fact, the precise same age as me, most mainstream games are still targeted at a markedly younger audience. That may change as the average audience continues to increase, but I doubt it, and I wonder how much longer I'll be able to cater to this as I get older and less engaged with that age group.
I wonder how long I'll be able to write about video games effectively?
In the years to come I fully expect (and hope) to read this article and chuckle at how silly I was. Most likely I'll put it down to the arrogance of (relative) youth. But at the this precise moment I find it difficult to see how I'll be able to write about video games as a middle-aged man, but maybe that's because we haven't really figured out what a middle-aged man writing about video games should look like.
Most of the writers I grew up reading, in magazines like Crash, or Zzap 64, do not write about video games on a day to day basis like I do. They're either in more senior publishing positions, far removed from the act of writing, or in completely different industries, or in development. Very, very few are still writing, on a day-to-day basis, about video games culture. Not in the way that I, and my fellow writers do.
Maybe we just need to be taught. Maybe we need to learn how to do such a thing. But at this precise moment there is no real set example of how that should or could be done. That makes me feel a little sad.
Perhaps there is a solution. Perhaps there is an example to be set. Maybe in the near future that's something I can be part of. I hope so. Men and women are writing about other forms of media and art well into old age, so there's no real reason why myself and others can't do the same for video games.
But at this precise moment, burdened with the shackles of relative youth, the solution seems elusive. And all I see are the obstacles in my path.