It was February of 2013 when I first heard of what would become USgamer. Jaz Rignall of Mean Machines fame, a veteran games journalist, was beginning a new site on Gamer Network, focused on the United States.
I had already been working over at GamesIndustry.biz for some years at that point, covering the deals, closures, and acquisitions of the games business as a side gig for my day job. I was vibrating with sheer excitement for the opportunity to talk about the games themselves. I ultimately got the job, coming aboard as a staff writer at the new USgamer. Later that year I found myself in New York, covering the launch of the PlayStation 4.
It would eventually add up to one whole generation with my head down, covering the new video game hotness every week. Seven years of review after review, features followed by op-eds, and a slow rise from Staff Writer to Reviews Editor. So it's interesting that I'm ending my time at USgamer with coverage of the PlayStation 5.
Yeah, I'm moving on. I'm not going to be cryptic and weird about it either; no "I'm moving onto an exciting new opportunity you'll hear about soon!" I hate that. I'm moving over to PCMag, where I'll be a writer and reviewer. I'll still be writing about games every week, just with a smaller focus and for a different site.
I've seen a whole lot of changes during my decade covering the games industry. The rise of microtransactions, the explosion of digital distribution, the larger community created by game streaming on Twitch and videos on YouTube. Most importantly, I've seen a change in the people with the industry and those covering it. We're more diverse now; I remember the days when I would be confused for Evan Narcisse while at events.
There's also been an expansion in how we cover games. Straightforward news and interviews have ceded space to weirder, more unique work. There's so much coverage out there, that people are diving deeper on more niche aspects of certain games. Digital Foundry is a big deal now because people want to know about all that technical minutiae, while at the same time you can find detailed critiques about how video games intersect with our daily lives. If you care about game design, Game Maker's Toolkit and others have you covered. If you're interested in how gaming touches upon race, gender, sexuality, and religion, there's likely some out there writing articles or making videos on the topic. Creating content around video games has grown.
I've viewed that growth mostly through the lens of reviews. I enjoy writing reviews from the perspective of telling you if a game is worth your purchase; getting across my experience playing a game to a degree that you can have some idea if you'll enjoy it. Sometimes it might not seem like it, but $60 is a decent chunk of change for some folks, especially now, when so many people are struggling and out of work. I have enough family members who don't make as much as myself that that's always in the back of my mind. Games are a luxury item, and I'd like to at least help you make an informed purchase.
But "reviews" don't have to be one single thing. It's a review of a personal experience. Maybe that'll take the form of a personal story as it relates to the game being played. Perhaps that's an essay on how themes present in a game reflect other stories or our current reality. Maybe that's a teardown of the game's design and why it does and does not work. There's room for all of these types of reviews. There's room for scores, and the lack thereof. There's room for more opinions, for loving the games others consider trash, or utterly hating what's considered a classic.
My personal writing might be horribly straightforward and dry, but that's just how I write about some games. After posting my own opinions, I love diving in to see what others think about a game and how they approach writing about something I've experienced. Sometimes the work approaches its own distinctive art. (I'm staring at Tim Rogers.) I enjoy seeing that happen too.
As I leave USgamer, I merely ask that you expand your ideas of what a review is, what an interview is, and how we "should" cover games. There's so much space for people to be informative, insightful, inventive, funny, and artistic. There are so many perspectives that are important, that may broaden your own understanding of a game. I love that. It's part of why I love games and the gaming community.
I'll still be in the industry, over at PCMag, writing my own personal style of review. I feel for my editors, who now have to take on my "dump all the thoughts on the page" writing style and hone that into readable work, like Kat, Caty, and others have over the years. And I hope I continue to inform you, entertain you, and let you know if a game is worth the money you've worked hard for. That's the least I can do.
And as I close out one decade in the industry, I offer my thanks to so many: to James Brightman for giving me my start all those years ago at IndustryGamers; to John Benyamine for answering my insistent badgering about joining USgamer, in addition to a host of other opportunities; to Jaz Rignall for agreeing to hire me full-time to write about games; to Jeremy Parish for helping me see how far I can take my writing and sartorial ambitions, and to Kat Bailey for putting up with my writing, and pushing me to dream big and take bigger swings like she does.
Caty McCarthy is deep in the bowels of Apple now, but I thank her for all the edits; she was a champ when I needed it. Nadia Oxford remains one of the funniest writers I've known, and I wish I could emulate her. Likewise, I only briefly worked with Cassandra Khaw, but she is, bar none, the best prose writer I've known. Matt Kim, Eric van Allen, Mat "Single T" Olson, Jake Green, Hirun Cryer, Joel Franey, Bob Mackey, and Tom Orry: I love each and every one of you. All your hustle puts me to shame.
And with that, I leave my last mark on USgamer. It was a great time and I'll miss it. But these bills don't pay themselves, so I'm moving on. I hope you enjoyed my work here, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy it elsewhere. Peace, and may your games always be fun.