Sunday, September 18, 2022

Get Your Foot in the Door: A Memoir

Are you nervous to start on Twitch because you don’t feel prepared? Like there’s some secret ingredient you need if you want to be taken seriously as a streamer? Maybe you’ve been streaming, but you can’t quite get yourself to make the leap to another category or feature on your channel. This is a very common concern among creatives in many fields. However, I’ve found that for the projects and accomplishments I’ve completed throughout my lifetime, perseverance is always better than preparation. Someone with enough drive can usually find a way to make their dreams into reality. 

In previous entries, I’ve spoken about how I used to cover video games for a living. This time, I’ll go into more detail about how I made that dream real. Keep an eye on the challenges I faced in my own journey, and the creative ways I overcame them. Are there any places on your Twitch channel where this same kind of outside-the-box thinking might serve you too?


My first ever video game industry coverage took place at the PAX East convention in 2011. I was attending as a fan, but throughout my years of consuming video game coverage up to that point, I began to feel the allure of such a lifestyle. Why couldn’t I cover this amazing, ever-evolving industry? I was in college at that point, and had just switched my major from Fine Arts to Film & Television. I was a novice in every sense of the word, not knowing how to make professional-looking videos, conduct on-camera interviews or really do anything in-between. But I had the passion, and I figured that being in the thick of things at this huge convention center was as good a chance as any.

Bastion ended up being an incredible 
video game as well. 

I ran to every booth for a game I was interested in, trying to find someone in charge of granting interviews, and asked for a slot. I got a lot of ‘nos.’ But doing this, I quickly learned the law of the land: AAA games were very unlikely to grant me an audience of any kind. Glimpsing the clipboards and schedules of PR people I spoke to, I could see that their days were booked solid with appointments, and it became clear that these kinds of things were set up in advance of the convention. Smaller games however, would sometimes have a few openings, and after getting dozens of refusals I finally got to film a few interviews. I’ll never forget my first ever industry interview. I spoke to a very gracious Greg Kasavin, an idol of mine from his previous days working at video game news giant GameSpot, about the newest game he’d been working on, Bastion. I was over the moon after finishing this talk, and I was proud of the interview footage I got. After filming a few more discussions and of course getting plenty of extra footage of the convention, I went home ecstatic. I was still very far from my goal, but I had gotten a taste of what it must be like. As unofficial and unsanctioned as it was, this was the beginning of my career in the games industry. 


Upon getting back to school, I started a video game-themed show with some friends for the campus TV station. The fact that we already had on-camera interviews and footage from my time at PAX East helped us get a green-light from the TV station’s director of programming. For the next year I got my team into progressively larger video game events. We went to the launch of the Nintendo 3DS in Times Square, as well as the launch party for Gears of War 3. With my group of fellow filmmakers behind me, our content only got better. I don't think anyone ever actually watched that campus TV show, which was screened only around our school. But we all gained a lot of valuable experience. After leaving school, I continued the legacy of the show by turning it into a website. I was able to leverage the video packages we’d made from other events to get press badges for progressively larger conventions. As early as the next year, we were attending conventions as actual press, and I had even managed to get us into a few parties and behind-closed-doors game showcases. I remember eating hors d'oeuvres in a swanky Manhattan loft during a private reception for Square-Enix’s Rise of the Tomb Raider at New York Comic Con 2012, not quite believing how far I’d come in such a short time. 

Square Enix always had good events. 

Though it may seem like everything just sort of fell into place, in reality the journey was anything but easy. I had zero connections in the video games industry on starting, and I used every trick I could think of to dredge up contacts. At any convention or event where I’d been refused an interview, I always made sure to get the PR person’s business card. I’d make sure to send that person my team’s coverage of their game later, which often opened doors for me to set up appointments at the next exhibition or event. I also made friends with other journalists at the events I attended, who could sometimes help me get further access. There were still huge gaps in my list of contacts however, and where all traditional routes failed, I simply made things up as I went along. I would trawl the internet for hours each night, trying to find working email addresses for people with access to games I wanted to cover. I looked everywhere- on the game’s sites, the publisher’s LinkedIn, the PR firm’s roster, sometimes even just making my best guess at email addresses for people whose names I knew. (This last one, surprisingly, did work a few times!) Slowly, despite my complete lack of resources, connections, and know-how, I started to build up a small contact network for my budding little video game website. Even during this time, I don't think anyone really read my website or watched any of my videos. But once again, I was gaining extremely valuable experience over the course of these next few years.


In the entry Stay Curious About Streaming, I described the next stage of my career, when I was hired by a major entertainment company to attend the industry’s biggest events around the globe and create content seen by tens of thousands of people every day. At this point, six years into my journey, I was being paid to do the exact thing I had set out to do back in PAX East 2011. But the early part of my video game industry career is still what I look on with the most fondness. This was a time when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Everything I accomplished involved simply willing a solution into existence. There was no rulebook, I had no mentors in the industry, and I had no idea where the journey would take me. But I didn’t let my lack of experience or equipment bother me. I didn’t stress that I was doing all this while simultaneously going to college and working for a living. I had a dream and I followed it. That passion allowed me to push through a lot of personal boundaries and create something that I could really be proud of. 

My career making video games industry coverage, which lasted (in various capacities) from 2011 to 2018, wasn’t the usual trajectory. I didn’t interview for a job, I didn’t take a test, and I didn’t wait for anyone to give me permission in order to cover video games. I just started doing it. There are very few things in life that you absolutely need to be prepared for. As long as you’re crafty and dedicated enough, you can always get your foot in the door. As you’ve seen above, this is true for the games journalism industry. You’ll find similar stories behind many of your favorite creatives and businesspeople. And it’s the same for becoming a Twitch streamer. If there’s something holding you back from starting your dream, or beginning a new feature on your channel, just ignore it and start anyway. You can always get better while you move forward. And whatever happens in the end, you’ll never regret having tried. 

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