So with that, let me take you on a brief, yet in-depth look at my year in gaming from my point of view, as I peel back the curtain and let you experience what I did throughout the year.
I wanted to get this out of the way early, instead of dwelling on it too much and letting in linger longer than needed. When I started the blog, my personal life was all pretty steady and stable, and I wasn’t worried too much about it getting in the way of my project. As a father of three, I planned on incorporating my kids into the blog project as much as possible, as they like to play and watch video games as much as the next kids. Playing games with them wasn’t going to happen every single day, but it was definitely something I wanted to make sure happened. I didn’t want to be that guy to just shut out my family and play games, ignoring the world around me.
Also, my domestic partner (girlfriend, mother of my children, etc.) wasn’t bothered by the fact I started this blog, even if she wasn’t excited about it. She couldn’t care less about video games, but me playing games and writing about them wasn’t going to affect her or her life at all, as I would get most of the play time in while she worked at nights, and do my writing late at night after everyone was in bed. I can’t say she was supportive in any specific way, but she wasn’t not supportive, which in turn was enough for me.
Long story short, I was just a regular family man. I was gainfully employed and my job wasn’t going to get in the way of this project, so I had no worries there. Other than any unforeseen circumstances or challenges that would come up throughout the year that I had no control over, I couldn’t see any reason why my personal life would get in the way of this blog project. I was committed to not let it ever be more important than my family, and not get in the way of my obviously more important commitments in life, and because of that, I thought for sure nothing in my personal life was going to be a challenge or put my year of gaming blog project in danger.
I was wrong. So, so wrong.
I don’t want to go into details about the specifics, because I’m not here to trash anyone or their reputation, but long story short, I unexpectedly was forced to end my relationship and promptly move out of the house and away from my kids. I was blindsided more than I could ever truly explain, and was completely caught off guard. One day I was waking up at my house, dropping my daughter off at daycare and going to work, and by that night, I was packing a duffle bag to go crash on my cousin’s couch in his apartment. My home was no longer my home, as I was forced to start a new adventure in life, take a new path and try to forget about the course I was already traveling on.
Being a couch surfer for a month was tough mentally, emotionally and physically, and the entire ordeal truly did test my limits for what this blog meant for me. The day it happened – for the first time all year – video games meant absolutely nothing to me. They were the farthest thing from my mind, and quite frankly, it was almost the day I quit blog. I had zero motivation to continue the project, and sadly, it had nothing to do with the blog itself. That first night almost ended it before many of you got a chance to experience it.
So what prevented me from calling it quits that one fateful day? You have my PS Vita to thank for that. For some reason, I unconsciously grabbed the portable handheld gaming system on my way out the door that night and threw it in my bag. I discovered it in there a few hours later and turned it on, with no real intention to play anything specific. I realized I had a handful of recently downloaded titles on the thing and decided to try one out. I played it for about an hour or so, and while it wasn’t a great game, it turned out to be exactly what I needed at that moment – a distraction. The blog post about wasn’t superb by any means either, but it might have been one of the most important posts I ever made. I realized how meaningful video games were to me, in my life, on so many different levels. I also realized that if I could satisfy my daily requirement for the project on that day in particular, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot that could stop me the rest of the year.
That wasn’t the only struggle in my personal life I encountered, but it was the most significant one by far. Early in the year – like, the first week – I came down with the sickness of death. It had been a long time since I had been sick like that, and it took all the energy I had in me to play and write about games. Only a couple of days into the project, and knowing that no one was reading anyway, it would have been incredibly easy to pull the project on the project and start back over once I recovered and had the energy to give my best effort. But, I convinced myself that I might get sick at some other point in the year, and I wouldn’t be able to just scrap what I had done and start over then, so why should I a week into it? I forced myself to push through it, and it was that initial hurdle I cleared that help reaffirm to myself that I was in the right state of mind to complete this mission of mine.
Throughout the year, I took a handful of vacations and excursions away from the comfort of my home (wherever that was at various times of the year), and the ease of not only playing games, but also being able to make my posts. Somehow, someway I did my very best to still post about the games I managed to fit in to my vacations, because I wanted to stay dedicated to the cause. I even made posts from Disneyland, of all places.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up that dedication throughout the entire year. Hear me out. While I did in fact play a new and different game every single day, later on in the year I got to the point where I wasn’t able to stay timely with my posts, occasionally letting a day or two pass before catching up on my posts. What happened that caused my writing to slack off just a bit, you might be wondering? Well, I jumped back into the dating pool, and once I found a certain special woman, my free time dramatically decreased. And not in a bad way, trust me.
Now I don’t want to make it seem like I am in any way, shape or form putting any blame on her. In fact, her coming into my life was an eye-opening experience, as I discovered for the first time that there are women out there who can and will accept guys like me. You know, the geeky and video game playing type of guy, who loves social media and writing blogs. Not only did I find someone who accepted me for me, but I found one who encouraged me to be proud of who I am and the hobbies I have, and let my full personality show at all times. Before she came along, I was always reserved about who I was, and never really cared to share my true self with others out of fear of rejection and persecution. So yeah, when the lovely lady in my life came along and set me free, I couldn’t help but cherish the time I spent with her, which every once in a while meant pushing my blog updates back.
After going on a handful of dates with other women before I found a keeper, I realized how miserable being with someone who didn’t like video games or looked down upon those who played them was and would be going forward. I even had a girl straight up make fun of me for being “so into games.” Needless to say, I tried to keep my gaming hobby down on the list of conversation topics, which was fine, but actually might have helped me weed out some before wasting time on them. In the end, however, the universe corrected itself and I found someone who liked, appreciated and played games, and encouraged my love for them as well as the project revolving around them that I dedicated myself to for an entire year.
It’s funny how things work out. And to think, I thought the year wouldn’t be impacted by my personal life at all when I started the whole thing.
Like I said when I was writing about the process of starting this blog project, I went in to this year with the mindset that while I wanted every set of eyes possible to see my work, I would be perfectly content if not a single soul were to read it, as long as I accomplished what I set out to do. At the start of the year, that’s about how it was too, as I was pretty certain that I was just writing for myself, and maybe a friend or two that I conned into reading it. And while there was a little sense of sadness that my words weren’t reaching anyone, I kept pushing forward, knowing that if I continued the project and did what I could to self-promote, eventually someone would catch wind of it. The only problem was, I am admittedly horrible at self-promotion, and thus put me in a Catch-22 of sorts. “If you build it, they will come,” I told myself. I just didn’t know how to build “it,” as in hype.
Fortunately, my luck would change. I was a runner up in a contest online through Twitter, and I actually won a package of free PS3 games because of it. Well, they announced the runner-up winners via Twitter, naturally, and congratulated all of us together in one cohesive tweet. Well, a guy named Chris from Everyday Gamers noticed my name and website via my Twitter profile, and I noticed he was part of a community himself. We exchanged pleasantries which soon led to a discussion about his community, and my blog project. Needless to say, he seemed thoroughly impressed by what I was attempting. Soon, he was tweeting about my blog, slowly building a groundswell of hype and attention towards my little project. I was honestly overwhelmed by the initial support, but everything that followed was just mind blowing. I had articles being written about me, invites onto podcasts to talk about my project and essentially a VIP pass into the great underground independent community of video games journalism and podcasting.
It was crazy, and felt like a whirlwind for a couple of months. I was proud of what I was doing, finally, and everything that was coming at me was so positive and supportive, I couldn’t help but feel like a kind of a big deal. Now, I know perfectly well that in the grand scheme of things, everything I was doing and trying to accomplish was fairly insignificant for the most part, but at the same time, I started to feel like a rock star of sorts. It was a cool feeling, I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t just happy about the positive attention, but I felt good knowing that my writing was reaching people and that people started to rely on my thoughts about games before making decisions on spending money or time on games I had played. I was earning a certain level of trust with my newfound readers, and I never took that lightly. For some, it would have been a heavy burden to have that kind of pressure while trying to accomplish a solo project, but for me, I thrived on it. It kept me motivated and pushed me to get better, improve my writing, keep it entertaining and try to stay as relevant as possible.
A project that started out being for just my own reasons, evolved into a project for everyone else driven by me. It felt weird, but good. And honestly, without the support from everyone, I wouldn’t have made it, especially when I hit rock bottom.
One thing that seemed to go overlooked throughout the year was the content I was providing. I made it a goal at the beginning to have a healthy mix of all types of content, covering games of old and new, and on as many platforms as possible. I wanted to keep things fresh and interesting, while doing my best to cover as many interests and genres that I feasible could, hoping to have something for everyone that dared venture to my website.
I started knowing that I had plenty of games to make the year possible, especially when considering how many games were coming out in 2013, but I didn’t quite have an idea of how the year would play out. I didn’t go in with a set plan of what games to play and when, I just let the process develop organically. Sure, I had specific games that I absolutely wanted to make sure I wrote about throughout the course of the year, but other than that, I just took it one day at a time. People seemed shocked to learn that, as such a big project would naturally need a lot of planning to ensure its completion, but that’s not how I work or operate.
One of my most popular things I did on the blog were the “Week Of…” posts, and that didn’t even start until February, when one day I decided I was going to play all the Halo games for a week straight and make a “thing” about it. The overwhelming support for that first “Week Of…” instantly made it a sure bet that I had to do one every month. And by the end of the year, I was up to a couple per month, for various reasons.
Another thing I tried to do was change up the styles of posts. Not every single blog post read like another, and I did my very best to keep my writing style different. Not only did I want to make it fresh and entertaining for the readers, but I wanted to prevent myself from getting bored as well. If I stuck with the same article structure day in and day out, I would have gone absolutely crazy in no time. So aside from changing my writing technique constantly, I also sprinkled in some off the wall posts for my own amusement, like photo essays, haikus and very short but bold statements. I incorporated YouTube videos into some posts, to spice things up. Heck, I even incorporated real world events and newsworthy discussions into some articles, just to remind people that there are a lot more serious things in the world to be concerned about than a simple video game. Most importantly, however, is that I never took myself too seriously and always tried to have fun and enjoy what I was writing, especially knowing I was creating content for other people to consume.
Many people mistook my posts for reviews, and while I see some validity in those assumptions, I never set out to fully critique games (especially the newly released games), and instead always wanted to talk about my thoughts and feelings about what I was playing, whether they were new opinions or memories from playing the game in the past. I always tried to relate to the games I was playing in some personal way, and also tried to see the best in each game. I understand that not every game is great, or good for that matter, but I honestly believe that without cynicism encroaching into your opinions, anyone can find something good and enjoyable in every game, despite how bad they might be. This blog was a celebration of games, not meant to be critical of the art form, and I wanted to extrapolate that sentiment with every post I made. Except for a few outliers, I think I did a decent job in keeping the blog mostly positive.
Video games should be fun, enjoyable forms of entertainment. I had fun playing so many throughout the course of the year, and I did my best to convey that. If I didn’t, then I didn’t do my job and “My Year of Gaming” should be deemed a failure.
Looking back, I think it was a success. Don’t you?