Guys, I’m old. A realisation I make on an increasingly regualr basis these days. This particular trauma was brought on during some research into my older writings. Going back to my very first online presence; a Tumblr Blog of yore. And the very first, absentminded post I made on that blog popped up in May of 2009, nearly ten years to the day in fact from when this has been posted.
Looking back at the early days of that Tumblr, I can’t at all recommend anyone search it out While I’ve mostly skimmed a lot of my earlier writings, I imagine it’s a horrible treasure trove of 20 year old me’s online presence. Something that could result in some James Gunn level misdirected melodrama of my part. So let’s all avoid that if possible, thanks. Anyway, I’m going to jump into the time machine and look back at my blogging career over the past decade. You don’t have to come with me, this is mostly for me. But you’re more than welcome.
Back in May of 2009, I was a arrogantly naive student, living in the north of England working on a Bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism. Back then, my blogging concerns consisted of worrying about North Korea and commenting on toxic gamer culture. It’s nice to see how we’ve grown in the past decade…
Looking back at that entire year of 2009 on Tumblr; I’m shocked I had the audacity to write about things I honestly had no business commenting on. World politics and tabloid news, I cringe just thinking back to it, but that’s the student mentality. You’re built up to a point were you think your acts and voice are far more important than they actually are. When in reality, you’re just talking out of your arse. I know I was.
Eventually, I did settle down into more familiar territory, talking about movies and video games. Although I think I had a bit of hero worship for the early internet comedians of the time such as James Rolfe and tried to emulate them a little too hard. Everything has a pretty angry/negative bent to it. Plus there are a couple of gatekeepery articles in there that make shamefully hold my face in my hands.
It was early doors, but it’s a nice reminder of how much I have matured in the past decade.
There was a real sense of me chugging along in 2010. I was still very confident that I was preparing myself for a future as a video games journalist. Despite the fact that I now realise that I was working nowhere near hard enough for this to happen. Ah the blind arrogance of youth.
I ended up spending a lot of time reviewing roller coasters and doing deep dives into the history and lore of certain big coasters in Britain. I’ve long since lost my taste for those kinds of rides in the meantime. I’m almost proud of myself in some small way despite my arrogance, because even then I had a distaste for click bait style articles. I still wrote a few, but there was a real sneering tone behind them.
I spent most of this year unemployed after graduating University. Again, I was so sure I’d walk into a great job, despite spending most of my time sat on my backside playing Mass Effect 2 and Assassin’s Creed. I laugh at how often I’d write about not writing and complaining about how the country wouldn’t provide for me, that there were no jobs out there for my age demographic.
I was such a douchebag back then. I’d have probably owned a fedora at some point too.
I was taking on more and more writing projects in 2012, it seems like I was starting to take the whole blogging thing a little more seriously. Although I was still rather adverse to prep and research for the pieces of wrote. If only I could peer into the future, my head would spin.
Aside from my first failed attempt at writing a novel in a month, I had the bright idea of creating an online persona akin to James Rolfe’s Angry Video Game Nerd (a couple of years too late). I made a new blog called BlackCountryNerd, which is a reference to where I hail from, for those of you not from the West Midlands of the England. I don’t have much of a memory of the site, which has since been frozen, I think it was a webs blog. But it was a refocus of my efforts in video games writing.
This was the year I started reaching out and writing for a number of video game websites on a voluntary basis too. I started at TSGN.co.uk, which seemed to be in the process of dying as I was beginning to write for them. As well as a site called Geekmandem, which coincidentally, also doesn’t exist any longer. Writing for someone else seemed to light a fire under me though, as I did insane things like writing three, totally different lengthy reviews of Sonic Generations for the two different websites. (One of which was for the 3DS version of the game.)
I was taking my writing more seriously, finally.
At the time, this felt like a very big year for me. My Tumblr itself was pretty barren during this year, but that was because I spent most of my year writing for a number of other websites, overextending myself to a certain extent. But it felt like, for the first time, I was getting some genuine enjoyment out of writing, more than doing it as “a thing to do”.
After a point, I got together with the creators of Geekmandem; David Hollingsworth and Jon Blaney to work on a project called Rivaltide, which strangely had the domain of mytide.com. I was brought on as the head content editor, while they worked the background aspects of the site, leaving me search for writers, curate uploads and edit their stuff. As well as posting myself.
At the time, it felt like I was genuinely starting to break into industry, even if it was the edge of the very first step. Sadly, thanks to having zero budget to work with except for occasional review copies of games, my turnover was pretty high and the whole project seemed doomed to failure. I put a lot of time and effort into the site and, at the time, thought it would grow into something I could potentially live on. How naive I was.
I’m not bitter though, looking back I genuinely enjoyed the whole experience. David and Jon are two genuinely great dudes who have gone on to do very well for themselves writing for Esports Insider and Ubisoft UK respectively. I actually got a lot of experience collaborating, editing other people’s work and got the chance to be a co-host on a dozen or so episodes of a terrible, awful podcast that I truly hope never resurface ever again. As much as we enjoying doing them.
As the year wound down, so did Rivaltide, I moved on to sporadically write for GamerSyndrome.com which… wait for it… doesn’t exist anymore.
Sadly, 2013 was the year I gave up on my attempts to try and pursue video games journalism as a profession. Deciding instead of refocus my attention on my real life job, the thing actually putting money in my bank account. In hindsight, I went around the whole process in a very naive manner. Had I really wanted it, I’d have had to uproot myself, take risks and throw myself into where the action was, namely London.
It isn’t to say I turned my back on writing. Although I certainly did very little of it during this year. Which is why, despite the fact I have been blogging for 10 years, I’ve been doing it in earnest for much less than that.
Briefly, I wrote for Thumbsticks.com, which didn’t end up lasting all that long. Ironically, It was me that fell away from them, rather than them being the side to crumble first. Because Thumbsticks is still going strong, as you can see from the image above. It’s kind of a shame the stuff I wrote for them is lost to the ether, because it was some more of the mature observations on games and the industry. Looking at the other pieces on this site at the time actually helped my style mature. There was a certain degree of faking it with a hopes of making it in my writing before.
During my time away from blogging, I started to realise that quality was always preferable to quantity when it came to written content. (Which this post is a massive spit in the face of already.)
I continued to hunch over the dying embers of Rivaltide, like All Might over the power of One for All, but eventually, it was gone for good the fucking Tide pod company soon snatched that domain up when it expired.
As I moved away from trying to break into journalism, I took a break from article writing in general. I actually spent a good part of this year planning and writing the early stages of a science fiction noir novel. The project ultimately fizzled out when I came to actually write the thing and only got a small amount in before I realised I had enjoyed the planning process far more than the execution process.
It certainly wasn’t for nought though. I learned I was really into making tabletop game settings, weird coincidence huh. And so, most of my creative energies in this year went into reworking my idea into a D&D setting and running a 6 month long campaign with some people I met online. It was fun, if constantly nerve wreaking in a way that writing blogs never was.
I can tell exactly when this was because I dropped off the face of the earth in terms of my blogs from March, right up until December.
The first year I have some significant data to looked back on and see where I was and what I was writing about, that’s because it was the year I started this very blog. Although it took me till August to do it.
While infrequent, it’s been nice to go back and read some of my older stuff; talking about how mainstream media continued to disregard the increasing interest in nerd culture, something that is on the rapid decline, although still a happens. My first real realisation that I should dedicate some quarter of my brain to thinking about Dragon Ball, at all times. and plenty of reviews. There were some genuinely good pieces during this period that I got a kick out of writing back.
My writing was pretty inconsistent, and also pretty ignored. But at this point, I’d reached the stage where I’d realised I enjoyed writing enough to do it for me, and not just for clicks. My 5 months of blogging found me a respectable 467 hits on my website. Which I was proud of at the time.
This year was another one where I spent most of my creative energies writing and running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. This blog was getting updated at a rate of one or two posts a month. Which wasn’t great but it wasn’t total abandonment either. There were some good stuff in there. But writing certainly wasn’t at the forefront of my mind this year.
Mostly thanks to my Dragon Ball post about the Majin Buu saga and a few Pokemon articles, I managed to get 1,253 hits on the blog. Which isn’t great considering the year before I’d only written the thing for five months. It was a downward spiral leading into 2017.
This year had started out so well, I started January at a run, reviewing movies all over the place. But I just fell away. I’d consider 2017 my last bad writing year. Creatively, I was not feeling it at all. I was in a pretty miserable place at work and really not in a good place mentally.
While I’m not really a major sufferer of depression or anxiety, it’s a presence in most people I think. Sometimes, even mentally strong people have very low moments. Through sheer stubbornness, I made it through that year. I somehow managed to bump my annual views to 1,708 despite there being months long gaps between posts, only writing six things between the start of May and near the end of December.
When writing my “Best of Year” lists for the end of 2017, something clicked in my mind. It might have been the long break, it might have been how much I wanted to talk about The Last Jedi, but suddenly I wanted to push myself. 2018 was the year I started taking my blog seriously. It was certainly not the first time I’d made such a declaration in my own mind when it came to my creative output, but it certainly was the first time I followed through with it. I created a schedule for myself and stuck to it.
And my hard work paid off as my blog seemed to grow at an exponential rate that further booned my confidence and drive to continue. I started watching Anime again, which turned out to be a great idea because the anime blogging community on here is actually amazing. All great people.
I also pushed myself to interact with the community a bit more, to feel like I was part of something pushed me even more.
I managed to continue writing consistently all year, which was a first in my entire time writing. I was proud of myself in 2018 and felt in a much, much better place at the end of it than I probably had in the entire decade that preceded it.
Between forward steps in my career at my job and a renewed love of writing for the sake of writing, I really feel like 2018 was my best year creatively so far.
2019 and now
And 2019 is a year that is continuing the work I didn’t last year in long strides.
So far it’s been a pretty big year of change for me, personally. For one I bought my own home and basically started a whole new life for myself. While this year is not even half over, I already feel as positive about the future as I ever have. My drive to write and update this blog has never been stronger, and I have a drive to produce content at rate I never would have thought possible ten years earlier.
While the me of the past could have easily looked at how long I’ve had a presence online as a creative and how relatively ignored I still am, and felt deflated and lose motivation, Instead I feel drive and opportunity to better myself. This is the thing I’m passionate about, it always has been, but I’ve spent so much of my life indecisively floundering between projects.
While it may have been 10 years, I’ve only spent three years actually taking it seriously, between now and my time at RivalTide. It just means there is so much more opportunity for me to grow, learn and expand, and I really do want to push myself to be in a place I can’t imagine in another 10 years.
This is probably the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever written, at least when it comes to the length of this thing. But it’s been a nice exercise for me personally, to see where I’ve come from, and to remind myself of where I want to be going forward. Thanks if you stuck around this long, it’s been an experience.