I’ve been nominated for a Games Media Award in the ‘Specialist Writer (Online)’ category.
Specialist, in case you’re wondering, refers not to the fact that nominees are special, but rather to our membership of the specialist press, which covers the games industry exclusively, as oppose to the mainstream press, whose games coverage is but one piece in a bigger editorial jigsaw. Members of the specialist press are more likely to be experts but, on the flipside, are less likely to have, y’know, readers.
2009 marks the third anniversary of the GMAs. Each year the selection process has changed. In its first year, only PRs voted for nominees, a decision that caused no amount of consternation for some writers. Kieron Gillen described the process as being a bit like “the prisoners voting for their favourite prison guard.” After all, what PR is going to celebrate the writer who rubbished a game whose Metacritic rating was tied to their end of year bonus?
This year, however, the selection and voting process has been handled differently. In June the UK games industry was invited to nominate across 10 categories from ‘Best Games Magazine’ to ‘Best Regional Columnist’. Those publications and writers with the highest number of votes in each category were then shortlisted and now a panel of “over 200 members of the games media and industry PRs will be asked to deliver their verdict”. I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad system (that sort of depends on the wisdom and motivations of the panel, I guess) but nevertheless, that’s how it is.
Despite the legitimate reservations of a number of my contemporaries, I’m excited to be nominated. I didn’t ask for anyone to vote for me and, as I’ve never worked at a magazine or website, instead working from home, on the train or at the local library, there’s a good chance I’ve been selected because of my writing, rather than my contacts. Regardless of what happens next, that’s something to be happy about, I think.
More generally, I’m grateful for the editors who have funded my mistakes — and you only need to look back through the Chewing Pixels archives to see quite how many of those I’ve made in my time. Because mistakes (and the freedom to make them) are super important. Especially the big mistakes outplayed on a public stage where the embarrassment is so keen you either walk away forever, or grit your teeth, dust off your pen and write and write till you better find what you have to say and the voice with which to say it. Without those opportunities, I wouldn’t be here.
Videogames are ridiculous, frivolous things. Any honest person who dedicates sustained time and energy to writing about them (or indeed playing them) must, sooner or later, acknowledge this fact. But that’s OK. Because sometimes foolish things confound the wise; because, sometimes, videogames reveal truths about the human condition, and the way in which our world is put together in ways that their creators never intended. After all, what is a videogame if not a man-made universe? If a games writer can catch those revelations and somehow articulate them in a useful way, then they are joining in the great tradition of all writers.
Also, sometimes people just really need to sit about in their underwear and shoot aliens in the face. They do this as a way to escape worries about where the next mortgage payment is going to come from, or how they can help stop their kid from being bullied at school. Or they do it to distract themselves from the voices that tell them they’re never going to be kissed, or that nobody will notice very much when they’re gone. Games don’t solve those problems, but they can provide some space in which to find a solution, or, at very least, a some relief from having to find one.
And those people need to know which is the very best shooting-aliens-in-the-face game to help them with that. And that’s where we come in. And there are worse jobs to do well.