No Paper: I Can Totally Become a Writer, Right? (Opinion)

Updated: Feb 19

Change is equal parts healthy and terrifying

It’s scary to try and redirect your life. Especially when you’re going to be hitting 30 and you’re “meant to” have your life together. I’ve never had a grand plan, an end goal for a career and fell into customer support from a young age. I was always good at it and fortunately proved myself enough so that I was in leadership positions on two occasions in different companies. It’s experience I have that is undeniable, and I will always be able to fall back on it - Experience I simply don’t want to have to make use of anymore. I’ve done some college but no university, on paper I’m technically not very well educated. I’ve gone through countless ups and downs with mental health issues, horrendous relationships, and numerous fleeting ideas for what I’ve wanted to do as a career. Here I am, nearly 30 years old, with a variety of different experiences but so far without a plan to fulfill any potential I may have.

You know what I’ve always had though? Gaming and a creative side.

Enter, Casual Game Critic.

Don’t know where I’m going, just keep on rowing

I hope it’s kind of obvious that I’m a gamer. Since a young age I’ve been gaming, and some of my favourite memories are playing local Halo games with friends, some co-op games with my brother and many of the enthralling single-player stories I’ve had the pleasure of coming across. I remember being very excited when the hype train for Red Dead Redemption 2 was at full steam. Once it was released, I started playing it and was enjoying it immensely. Then I just... Stopped playing it? To this day I don’t fully understand it. I did however completely fall out of gaming for some time until earlier this year. I missed a number of releases I once would have cared about and simply did not give a f**k for a while and thought I was after moving beyond my interest in this glorious art form.

I was so very wrong.

When Phil came to me in the early part of this year, detailing his ideas for a gaming site and community, I felt a creative spark in me I had not felt for years. I’ve tried my hand at more traditional art, music, 3D modelling, game development and for a variety of reasons none of the above worked for me. But writing, while it’s not something I had done much of, is something I felt like I could explore despite not having an idea of where to start. I couldn’t turn down the offer from Phil and if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right.

I can do this, I can do this, I can do this

I can clearly recall being petrified when I sat down to write my first article, a review for The Banner Saga. I hadn’t at this point ever really put any creative projects out there in the public domain and was in fear of what the backlash might be - Because the internet can be a cruel place. Much to my surprise I got a wonderful response from it, which nurtured a confidence in me to keep doing it, and here I am now with generally one article published per week, with many, many more in the pipeline (I bet you’re all just so excited). My apparent ability to write for the web in the context of gaming has come as a revelation to me. I don’t think I’m particularly skilled at much, so for me to discover a burgeoning skill like this is amazing and I’ve rarely felt so fulfilled.

In terms of learning how to write and improving upon my grammar etc. I have taken a few steps. I’ve always been lucky in that my spelling and general ability to use the English language has always been great. I started an online course with the aim to help myself become more productive. I admittedly have yet to finish it but it has been really helpful for punctuating the importance of some level of routine, and getting yourself physically and mentally prepared for what it takes to write a piece. It can be very taxing, it’s difficult to generate creativity on demand.

Outside of this, it would have been very remiss of me to not learn from professional game journalists. I always read reviews, going back to the days of buying physical magazines with my pocket money as a teenager, and then transitioning to the online space when the Internet became more viable and accessible. While I most definitely don’t agree with everything published by some of the more major sites such as IGN, GameSpot, etc. they’re professionals and have experience. There is always something to learn - Small things such as the use of the em dash to larger lessons such as constructing arguments. The learning never ends and that is part of what makes this all so exciting.

Don’t call it a comeback

A delightful byproduct of getting into writing for games is that it gave me the opportunity to get back to actually playing them as well. I was no longer going to be playing them for just fun, but for legitimate writing purposes as well. Need to get the inspiration from somewhere, eh?

In the space of a few months I managed to (finally) complete Red Dead Redemption 2, The Banner Saga trilogy, a few Pokémon games, The Last of Us Part I & II, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Pillars of Eternity, and several other titles. It was gratifying to not just be playing games again but to also be thoroughly enjoying them as well, while simultaneously receiving brain waves for writing material. Through playing games again, I have enough ideas for an article a week for probably a year, discounting reviews. I’m pretty happy with my backlog of ideas and I’m sure you will be seeing a lot of them going forward.

Not only was my love for gaming reignited, I started to pay attention to the industry and what has been going on with it - All the latest with micro-transactions, remasters/remakes and all the other divisive topics out there. It would have been disingenuous of me to write about games without fully understanding the current landscape of the industry itself.

That’s great, why are you telling me all this?

I wanted to create a diary of sorts, a check in as to how I have been getting on as a fledgling writer, and to create some insight as to who I am and where I’ve been coming from. I don’t have a college degree in journalism or English and much like the other members of the CGC crew, I’m doing my best to learn as I go.

As they say, it takes 1,000 hours to master a skill, and I’m slowly working my way towards it, but it’s not going to be enough for me just to to write. I will make mistakes and learn a lot from them, but some of the next steps for me include some more formal learning. Currently I’m in the middle of the application process for a job that could be beneficial for my creative writing skills. I was laid off in March when the lockdown began in Ireland, so to find something that might be beneficial for me in this way is great. Other than that, I’m going to look for some evening courses to refine my skills and make myself more of a well-rounded writer. Ultimately, I would love to attend university and get a formal education in writing. Not only for my own learning but to lend myself more credibility as a writer, as this has essentially become my chosen profession now. While experience will always be valued, there is also an element of needing the paper from college to prove your mettle and I don’t want to be overlooked for any reason, especially that.

The story so far

This is where I am now. I feel as though, for the first time in my life, I’m on the precipice of unlocking my potential. I’m confident that this is something I can do, and it’s only because of Casual Game Critic, which has given me a new lease on life. What would I be doing at this stage without the outlet that is CGC? I don’t have a clue. Probably applying for some s****y jobs that I would end up hating. I wanted to write this piece as a progress report of how I’ve been developing with my new found ambition, but also as an expression of gratitude for the platform and direction I’ve been afforded.

For once, I feel like there is a future forming for me and I want to embrace that fully. Here’s to not having a clue what you’re doing, and wandering into something special.

All images are of random s****e that I took because I couldn’t think of anything better

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