So, 2014 is without a doubt the year that changed my life. Seriously, a year ago I was a relative nobody in video games. Sure, I was someone with a small devoted fanbase, but I was also someone who had never done paid work for any known name outlet at all. I’d done some paid work for magazines and programmes, but never anything for places anyone actually knew existed haha. I was working a soul sucking day job I hated, trying to make a career as a writer on the side.
Yeah, this year has changed an awful lot for me.
My first paid thing for a big name site
So, January kicked my year off to an amazing start when I got my first paid feature for The Guardian. Funny story behind this actually, I got this not by formally emailing Keith Stuart, but by tweeting some offhand thoughts which he saw and jumped on. He asked if I had an outlet an to email him, I wrote up a pitch and my first article on a known name site was born.
That article was a bit of a crazy springboard for me professionally as for a number of the contacts who were instrumental to my year this article was the first piece of my writing they had seen. Following it being published I got followed on Twitter by a number of people who were really important in the year to come.
Things that came as a direct result of that article? Mainly me briefly appearing on American TV over webcam at 3am UK. That was surreal.
Downsides to that article? All anyone wanted me to write about was being Trans. I had some big name sites ask me to write articles that felt like a real invasion of privacy. I turned down a number of opportunities in the early part of the year to get myself onto the big sites because I wanted to do it on terms I was happy with. I took a fairly long break before pitching any more paid features to convince myself I could get where I wanted to without having to be pigeon holed as that Trans games critic.
The start of my journey to podcast dominance
In February I launched the first of what ended up being several new Podcasts I created during the year, titled The Geek Night In. The idea for the show was to get a bunch of geeky friends together for a ‘drinking in the pub’ style weekly geek culture catch up. I’ve not been as regular as I would have liked with this show but it’s fans are lovely. We also unfortunately lost one of our initial cast members through unfortunate changing circumstances, but we currently have a strong core group of 4 lovely geeky ladies. We’ve also seemingly become a welcoming safe haven for guests who might not feel comfortable on other podcasts, yay for lady formed safe space podcasting 😀
The Indie Haven Podcast kept up it’s weekly posting schedule during 2014, with some of my particular highlights being having Jonathan Blow, Rami Ismail, Lucas Pope, Hilary Goldstein, David Gallant and William Pugh on as guests. We’re now up to 76 episodes of the show, with no plans to stop recording any time soon. We recently crossed 30K downloads of the show, which I thought was pretty cool.
In late May I launched possibly the most professionally rewarding of the podcasts I do, Category: Video Games. C:VG is one of those all too frequent video game news podcasts, but with a slight twist. Each week, me, Patrick Dane and Andre Miller would aim to get the biggest name game critic or podcaster we could get our hands on to join us for an hour of discussion.
Considering we had zero background we somehow managed to get Adam Sessler onto our Pilot episode, before having the audio corrupt beyond recovery. One huge apology and a whole lot of fail-safe measures later we made another attempt and launched the podcast to a surprising amount of success. Some of our most noteworthy guests this year included Jim Sterling, Mitch Dyer, Max Scoville, Ben Kuchera, Jim Rossignol, Carolyn Petit, Arthur Gies, Total Biscuit, Emily Gera, Movie Bob and Alex Shaw. Not bad for three relatively unknowns, just goes to show what happens when you go for the seemingly impossible haha.
On the 1st of July I was very excited to be made a permanent cast member on the Oh No! Video Games! Podcast. I had been a fan of the podcast for a pretty long time before July, guesting on episodes here and there, but my addition to the show as a permanent cast member came a little by surprise. I was listening to an episode a few weeks before and the all male show cast got into a discussion about the fact they disliked the fact they were an all male hosted show and how that effected their perspective on the industry. It was a really interesting open discussion and I decided there was no harm in offering myself as a new cast member. Within a mater of days I had been snatched up by the long running podcast. You can hear my first episode as a permenant member of the cast here: ON!VG!
I also launched two other new podcasts this year, but I’ll get to both of those a bit later in this post for reasons that will become apparent soon.
Game dev stuff
One of the more interesting parts of my year was my journey as a game developer alongside my work as a critic. This year I released three small Indie Games, as well as bringing the demo for a much larger project to show at a public games event.
In January I discussed Why You Are The Reason has a Transgender Protagonist.
In June I wrote a lengthy post about my experiences going from video game critic to video game developer and touching on my experiences showing off the demo for You Are The Reason at London’s Radius Festival – Developer Blog – From Critic to Creator (Developer Laura Kate Dale)
I also Released “Tomorrow” on Itch.io, a depressing game about Trans stuff, Video Game Critic Simulator, my first Unity project in which you mash your keyboard to write a satirical review and You Only Get One, a game I made loosely themed around my step dad. Side note, he saw the game about 9 months after it went on sale and was a real bonding moment for us.
Appearances on other peoples things and times I got mentioned on things by people
I spent 30 mins talking about Hatred on BBC Radio 5 Live recently. That was pretty amazing!
I had the chance to talk at a couple of events during this last year, all of which went really really well.
Early in the year I was part of a wonderful panel event being held at Loading in Soho called the MMM Panel Royale, which had be beside people like Guy Cocker, Mitu Khandaker and Sophia George. In August I spent several days doing talks about Indie Games at NineWorlds in London. I was listed for a panel at Pax that unfortunately never happened due to an ocean getting in my way.
In October I did a talk at London’s VideoBrains event as part of a fantastic group of panelists. ME, Emily Gera, Christos Reid and Phillipa Warr all sat down together to discuss Indie Marketing: How To Promote Your First Game. At the November VB event I did a solo talk titled “WHY THE INTERNET SCARES ME”.
In terms of guesting on other people’s podcasts, this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to guest on episodes of Justice Points, Not a Game Podcast, Fangamer, The Guy Cocker Podcast, Sensible Gaming, Beta Wave Radio, Digital Drift and GameBurst. Wow, what a year!
Also, this year there was a Jimquisition episode about me. My goodness that was surreal haha.
Thanks to the fact I got Jim Sterling to do some VO for You Are The Reason I ended up getting mentioned on the Gamespot Podcast, A number of Dismal Jesters episodes and Jim Sterling Youtube videos, which was really cool as a fan of his work. I also got mentioned during an episode of The Campfire, Quoted in a Polygon article by Ben Kuchera and mentioned in Masako X’s Alcon Review.
I also got interviewed a couple of times during the year, including “Interview: Laura Kate Dale on games, writing, diversity” and “Video Game Critic Simulator Interview”.
More new outlets
So, in the summer this year Kotaku UK was being put together as a UK counterpart to Kotaku and I was informed by a work collegue that Keza who was running the new site had a budget for launch window pitches, particularly those with a UK focus. I pitched her two articles, one on “How an RPG Desecrated My Hometown” and one on “What Grand Theft Auto Could Learn From Orange is The New Black”. She really liked both of the pitches and took them both on, with each of them helping me on my road through the year. I was really touched when I was thanked by Keza in the Kotaku UK GMA Award win acceptance post.
Shortly after this I finally moved out of my parents home and into a flat with my wonderful girlfriend Rebecca Tilley. I had some technical issues for a little while with regards to internet acess but it really allowed me to focus on my writing in a way I had not been able to before.
Shortly after that I got invited to start doing Youtube content for a channel called Family Gamer TV. I got paid to do weekly videos about Indie games and how suitable they were for families with children. It was really fun to start getting my face regularly on camera and was a huge confidence boost.
Following that I got an offer out of the blue to do a couple of days of freelance news writing for Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I really love the RPS audience and the work was really a great part of my year. Hopefully I get some more opportunities to return to the site in the near future.
Going full time freelance
Sooooo, it’s at this point in the year that I took the terrifying leap into full time writing. To make a long story short, I had not enjoyed the job for a very long time and when a series of events all lined up I took the terrifying leap.
I set up a Patreon, which has done surprisingly well and covers my minimum basic living costs. It’s not great, but it’s enough that I can justify the leap.
Kind of hilariously, one of the big driving forces for the Patreon gaining momentum early was Laura’s Gaming Butts, a joke I made on Twitter and was then forced to commit to xD
Jim Sterling and his impact on the end of my year
So, Jim Sterling had followed me on Twitter for a few months before the start of this year and I somehow had managed not to scare him away. I got him to do some VO for the YATR demo, he mentioned me on a load of his stuff and I was even the subject of an episode of the Podquisition. We talked semi regularly on Twitter and I was really excited to think that someone I admired actually liked my work.
Then, out of the blue, I get a message from Jim. He had a couple of months prior started up a Patreon of his own and gone independent which was going really well for him. He contacted me with an offer, would I like to record a trial episode of his new podcast, The Podquisition, with a view to being a permanent host? How could I say no?
Being on the Podquisition has been insanely imporant for me. It brought a huge number of fans my way who really enjoy my work, it gave me a creative outlet to get a bit silly and rude, as well as being a really strong piece of promotion. Suddenly, a lot more people knew who I was.
The final new outlet
So, just before Christmas I found myself as the UK news writer for Destructoid. I tweeted Jonathan Holmes out of the blue to ask about work, he told me to drop him an email and he picked me up then and there to fill the gap while the UK is awake but their American staff are asleep. What a way to end the year!
Links I had no good place for but wanted to share
So, before I say Thank You to people, be aware that I will without a doubt forget to thank someone instrumental to my year, it always happens, super sorry if that person is you. If that person is you, here’s your thank you… THANK YOU!!!!!!
I to start by giving a huge thanks to Stuart and Shalimar over at MCMBuzz.com. If they had not given me my first oportunity to write for an audience a few years ago I would never have made it here today, as a full time writer. Your mentorship and access to both materials and guests was invaluable. Thank you so much for the time you put into getting me where I am today. Oh, and thanks for not revoking my email address when I left 😛
A huge thank you to Andre and Jose at Indie Haven. I’ve not been as consistent on IH as I would have liked this year and you both helped keep this place afloat through thick and thin. Not only that, but you’re both wonderful amazing friends.
Thank you to every editor who gave me a chance. Thank you to Keith Stuart, Keza MacDonald, Alice O’Connor, Jim Sterling and Jonathan Holmes for giving me the chances that made this year possible.
Thank you to every one of my friends out there. There’s too many of you to mention without leaving someone out, but you know who you are. You’re the people who keep me sane day to day. Thank you all so much.
Thank you to every one of my podcast guests, interviewees and article subjects this year. Thank you for taking a chance and trusting me to handle our work with care.
Thank you to my 142 Patreon backers. I cannot thank you enough, you are the only reason any of this is possible. You’re all my absolute favourite people, thank you for letting me go on this wild ride.
Lastly, thank you to every one of my Twitter followers, fans, readers and listeners. I do this for you, thank you for helping me live the dream. I hope every one of you is still here with me this time next year. You are the best.