So, I just turned 22 a few minutes ago. I’m still a little unable to believe where I am now. (Feel free to skip to the end for the bit where I go all gushy and thank a load of people for being awesome).
Two years ago I was just turning 20. I was in a dead end job, living a completely different life as someone completely different that none of you ever had the misfortune to meet. I was working a job that offered me nothing in the way of personal fulfillment, I had no formal qualifications beyond GCSE’s and some Failed A-Levels and I was battling a pretty wonderful battle with depression fueled by the fact I looked at my future and all I could see was me working a dead end job I hated in order to put food on my plate and not do much else.
Skip ahead three months and three things happened that completely changed my life. Firstly, my depression finally reached it’s peak with a night of serious suicidal consideration. Secondly, I finally decided to tackle my Gender Identity head on. Thirdly, I finally got my first Unpaid Writing Position under my new name. In the space of maybe two weeks in late January 2012 my life completely uprooted and went on an entirely new path.
I spent the next eight or nine months completely changing my life and starting over. I made serious moves toward starting a new life under a new gender, I put huge amounts of effort into kickstarting my writing career (motorbike metaphor, I didn’t use Kickstarter) and I went to great lengths to aim for a future that I could be proud of and excited for. I enrolled in a games Journalism course run by Hilary Goldstein where I met a series of other writers who would be instrumental in my future and I even got my first Paid Article in a Print Magazine. I wasn’t well known, but I was doing good work and setting my self up for the year ahead.
One year ago I turned 21. I’d had a single article in a print magazine, I had attended one event as Press and I had recieved two or three smaller games to review for various outlets. Little did I know how much more achievable the dream of a full time writing job would be within 12 months.
Following my first Print article I began to gain confidence. I started regularly pitching more ambitious ideas to sites and getting them published, I was getting regular paid review work in magazines and I was starting to get to the point where I could look at this as less of a hobby and more of a career path. The writers group I was involved in was becoming a great place to get feedback on my work and a good motivational tool to keep me producing interesting content. I was starting to try tackling articles that felt a bit more substantial.
I spent the next few months attending an increasing number of events, playing more and more games early and getting sent games of a much higher caliber. I was getting to the point where I was actually getting access to the materials I needed to make myself valuable to outlets and getting a chance to prove my worth.
In early 2012 I published an article that changed everything for me. Titled “Let’s Talk About Birdo”, the article was a huge article about depictions of Trans characters in games, the issues I’ve faced within the games industry and the ways things could change going forward. It drew a huge amount of attention my way and gave me a platform to talk about issues within games that felt important to me. It made a huge different to the kind of articles I was writing, pushing me to write more content that felt substantial and has formed the basis of a lot of my growth as a writer in the last year. It also got me noticed by a lot of other people in the industry who have helped me to push myself forward as a writer and progress my prospects in terms of making this a career.
I also spent the first six months of 2012 working on a project with the writing group I’d been in the previous year. Our sessions with Hil had finished, but he had set us a challenge in our final session that made a huge difference to where my life has gone. He challenged us, as a group, to design and launch a gaming site. It took over six months of weekly meetings to plan, a good chunk of the writers who had been in the class dropped out and lost interest, but me, Jose San Mateo and Isaac Federspiel eventually launched IndieHaven.com. It required a huge amount of meetings, arguing semantics about “What exactly IS Indie?” and similar unimportant topics, but it gave us all something to focus on.
We launched in May 2012 and our launch went much better than I ever could have expected. We were getting decent hits and becoming a known name within the Indie scene pretty quickly. I went to cover EToo in London in early June, about a month after launch and every Indie dev there had heard of the site and knew who I was. It was a really surreal experience. I just couldn’t believe it.
The last few months since have been a bit of a blur, but somehow I’m now one of the hosts of a Podcast that is getting pretty good downloads, with awesome guest hosts joining us every week. I’m getting invited to speak at conventions and events, I’m even getting on first name terms with my heroes, the people I dreamed of one day getting to work with.
Honestly, I can’t thank everyone enough. Everyone who has followed me on twitter and retweeted my work. People who have offered support when I’ve been going through rough times. People who have helped me get where I am. Thank you Hil, Jose and Isaac for helping me get to be an Editor on my own Awesome site, you have no idea how much I appreciate what you three did for me. Thanks to Mike Bithell for offering support a few months back at EToo when I was seriously considering dropping out of this industry. Thank you to James Moorwood, Leigh Alexander, Cara Ellison, Shalimar Sahota, Stuart Claw, Martin Wharmby, Jordan Erica Webber, Katherine Neil, Elaine Dore, Oliver Hindle, Tom Clarke, Nicoll Hunt, The Lewandowski’s, Hollie Bennet and anyone I’ve forgotten to mention (I’m writing this at about midnight after an 11 hour shift at a supermarket so my brain’s a little slow right now).
Thank you everyone for giving me the opportunities I needed to live my dream. I don’t know where I’d be without all of you. You seriously mean the world to me.