On Leaving RPS

I’ve just put this up over on RPS. Go over there, read it, and come back.

Short version:
1) I’m leaving RPS as a full time member.
2) I will remain a director.
3) I’ll do the occasional piece for them, because just like the four tops, I can’t help myself. (i.e. I’m the new Quinns, Quinns is the new me).
4) But, basically, that’s it for games journalism as anything other than a dilettante. I’m games journalism’s Paul Morley, me.

One obvious change should be that this place will be a lot busier. One of the more obvious casualties of the RPS workload that the workblog reduced to plugging comics. While I doubt I’ll do anything as extravagant as the site used to be, I hope the time opening up gives me more time to hammer stuff here.

But that’s in the future. I actually have one more thing to say about games journalism before I head out the door.

****

This is a rant that a few of you will have experienced while drinking, so bear with me if you’ve heard it before.

If you’re on staff at a mag, eventually, your publisher or — in the worst cases — your editor will tell you something along these lines:

“You don’t matter. People are dying to be games journalists, which is why we pay so badly. We could replace you in seconds.”

The subtext being, don’t get ideas above your station, word-scum.

They’re not wrong.

Games Journalism pays badly because masses of people want to do the job. And the very best candidates will do the job — at least for a while – for that money. You are entirely disposable. So why pay more?

This is entirely beside the point and will only drive you mad if you think about it. It is beyond your control.

What they don’t tell you is that they don’t pick the writers randomly. From that mob of people who want to be games journalists, they can pick. And, because these are not stupid people, they pick the best available. They’re not going to pay for better writing, but since it doesn’t cost them any more, they may as well have it.

In other words, don’t think about the fact you’re replaceable. Think about the fact that out of the enormous mob of people who wanted your job, you’re the one who got it. No matter how much they treat you with disdain, they actually think you’re the best.

In other words, have some pride.

And be aware that you’re almost certainly pretty talented and could have done anything with this ball of nerves and words in your head. Instead, you’re wasting years of your life because you’re stupid enough to care about something no-one else does. If you didn’t have this strange compulsion, you could be doing anything. And afterwards — because games journalism isn’t a career for life yet — you probably will.

There’s enough case-studies of What Games Journalists Did Next to find inspiration from. The fact that — to choose the most obvious example — Charlie Brooker became what he is while basically doing what he’s always done for a bigger audience says everything. People complain a lot about the level of games writing, but the success of these people retroactively shows how much talent there was in their work. I could list games journalist developers, novelists, critics, theorists, screenwriters and so on and on. If they were such incompetent fuckwits, how on earth did they go on to excel in enormously competitive fields? Because they weren’t. They were brilliant and they were choosing to piss away their talent because they couldn’t help it. Even the routes out of games journalism which tend to get some eye-rolling — like, say, going to become a PR… well, for my money, the best PR in the country is Simon Byron. Simon Byron ex-games journalist.

You could even end up in cold, financial terms better off than the Capitalism-uber-alles wannabe-publishers. I look at the generation of writers directly before me, and the richest one isn’t the one who fell entirely in with the corporate line. It’s a brilliant, insightful writer who was minority shareholder at a games-company who sold for about one-hundred million quid.

As I said, have some pride. You’ve got talent. You’re using it in a stupid way. And when you smarten up, you’ll go on to do great things.

Do not listen to your bosses. They will infect and ruin your brain. They don’t have your best interests in heart. Who profits from making you hate yourself? They do. The less you realise how good you are, the more they can profit from you. And they do and they will.

In the RPS piece, I’ve said how lucky I feel. One of the many ways was that I’ve spent the majority of my adult life surrounded by smart, passionate, talented people. And I cherish every argument or agreement I’ve had with you. And as I step out the door, I’d like to say that.

You’re talented. Don’t let them ever make you forget it.

I can’t wait to see what you do next.