It’s 1998. I’m eleven years old. My brother is nine. I flick on the television in the basement of our sticky, hot townhouse in our hometown. Our wide eyes took in this brand spanking new program: Electric Playground. A game review show. It was the first of its kind. We were hooked. Electric Playground became our addiction. As kids, my brother and I couldn’t afford to buy gaming magazines. The internet was still in its infancy. Victor Lucas told us the great games to play, the games to avoid, and the games that would outlast ’em all. For the most part, it was all fairly accurate.
My first taste of E3 was from watching Victor film his way through crowds, interviewing the big boys where he could and exploring all the new tech that would be coming our way at some point. It was intoxicating, thrilling, and completely ahead of its time. Colour me impressed.
Flash forward to 2010, GDC Day Two. I’m now twenty-three.
Still a hopeless fan-girl.
Tommy Tallarico (one of the co-hosts and producer of Electric Playground as well as the brain behind Video Games Live) and Victor Lucas take the stage and launch right into their retrospective of Tommy’s career in games, with a few tidbits about the beginnings of Electric Playground. I sat enraptured by these men that I’d only ever seen on TV, wondering to myself how many of these kids knew who these guys were.
Passion and Sticktoitness
“Be a fan-boy (or girl). You’d be surprised by the number of people in the game industry that don’t love games. Or even play them.”
We were asked if we played games, we audience members. Every single person in the room put up their hands, including the press (of which there were only a handful). Fervently. To me – girl gaming advocate – the thought of people in industry not bothering to play games was not only shocking but altogether distasteful. In its childhood, the game industry was about picking up people off the street or poaching them from software firms to create fun, interesting games with a small team of devs and artists. Sound wasn’t even a huge thing until the early nineties. Now that we’ve reached adolescence, the majority of the game industry is all about flash! Bang! Whiz! without any of the substance or game play.
The audience wanted to know: how do you make it? How do you set yourself apart from the other animators, designers, and developers? What will make you special?
Simple: passion. A passion for games; passion for the industry; and, most importantly, passion for your craft, whatever it may be. Attend conferences and conventions (for example, GDC Prime in San Francisco is a mega conference in comparison to the handful that attended GDC Vancouver). Ask questions. Fine tune your skills. Ask the smaller companies if they need anything done for free. Give them your utmost attention. As is in business, over-deliver. Impress. Be original. Be reliable.
Stick to it. Know that your path is in the industry and never let it show that you’re beaten down and broken. Business is a battlefield and the game industry is no exception. Or, if your name is Tommy Tallarico, just treat your future employer and/or business partner to a lap-dance. Apparently, that’s an excellent icebreaker and fun way to get to know one another!
Laughter is encouraged, especially at strip clubs.
Game Press and Why We Suck
“Out of all the different niche press, ours sucks the most. No one’s willing to ask the big questions. It’s not journalism: it’s a one sided argument with no fact-checking or follow-up.”
I swallowed hard at that. My badge said “Press”. My netbook and professional attire said “I do this for a living!”
But Tommy was right.
We are the fans. We are the consumers. Can we, the online press, call ourselves journalists without the credentials to back it up? I’ve been thinking about this for a week and I don’t have any answers. What I do know is that as concerned consumers and those that present our findings to the online public, we have a responsibility to investigate to the best of our ability to make sure that we’re not presenting half truths or all-out lies (whether or not we’ve been fed bad information). As online writers and contributors, we have a social and ethical responsibility to ourselves and our readers to double and triple check everything we say.
The internet monster has a long memory. Publish it and it’s not likely to disappear, even after you’ve deleted it from your server.
I posit this for all ye gaming fans and online writers: reading and writing online shouldn’t be “reader beware”; we need to be sure of what we’re posting and writing about in order to be considered serious contributors. If you don’t think it’s true, ask questions. Dig deeper. Ask the uncomfortable questions.
I, for one, am enrolling in an investigative journalism class to brush up on those skills because high school journalism just doesn’t count for much if you’ve been out for six years.
The panel with Tommy Tallarico and Victor Lucas was by far the most informative and interesting of the two days. Questions were asked and answered. Insights were provided. I got to see two of my game journalism heroes in the flesh. GDC Canada gave me a taste of what the GDC can offer to anyone in the industry, be they in it or looking to break in. I look forward to next year’s GDC and GDC Canada to see what they come up with.