In roughly a week, I will be on a plane to Las Vegas, where I’ll be working with Yahoo Esports to cover Evolution Championship Series (commonly referred to as Evo), the largest fighting game event in the world. It’s a significant time for me because on July 15, 2015, I walked out of the door at my old job for the last time after seven years. One day later, I was on a plane to Vegas, en route to my first Evo ever.
Three years ago, I made the decision to change everything. On vacation in Lake Tahoe, I was hit struck by a lightning bolt of inspiration while listening to an episode of Podcast Beyond with Colin Moriarty and Greg Miller. I realized those guys went to college, worked hard, and applied multiple times to get jobs at IGN. They were mere mortals just like everyone else.
I went back to school full-time in 2013. I worked full-time at that job I left. My girlfriend and I had two kids in that time also. Oh and I started freelance writing part-time. I was doing everything I could to get out of my old job because I hated every second of the seven years I wasted there. I worked my ass off to get out of there and had zero luck finding other full-time work.
So I did what my good friend Brian Altano told me to do. I kept grinding. My first paid freelance story on EverQuest, a game I spent way too many years in, was published in June 2014. From there, I landed gigs at Paste Magazine, Pixelkin, PC Gamer, Playboy, Games Radar+, Red Bull eSports, ZAM, and IGN.
I freelanced news, features, and previews at IGN for roughly 18 months. I covered Street Fighter and the Capcom Pro Tour at Red Bull eSports for over a year, helping change the way fighting games as an esport was being covered. I got to do a story on long-time competitive fighting gamer and champion Ricki Ortiz and her struggle as a transgender woman in the FGC.
For the first time in my life, I was traveling to events. First I went to Evo 2015. The work I did there got me an invite to Tokyo Game Show 2015 to cover the Street Fighter tournament there. I checked two of my lifelong dreams in the same year off my list. At the end of the year, I went to Capcom Cup in San Francisco.
I was freelancing full-time. I wasn’t making a ton of money. I no longer had the benefits I had at my old job. I worked from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, which usually very early and very late. I loved what I was doing, but I wanted more. I still wanted a full-time job in the games media industry. Everywhere I applied, I never got a sniff at interviews. That’s discouraging in an industry that is relatively easy to get discouraged in.
There was a point where I had decided that as much as I love working in games media, I just can’t freelance long-term. I’m 39 years old and I have two small children. Making enough to survive another month didn’t seem ideal and I wasn’t sure I’d ever break into a full-time gig anywhere. I didn’t have any on-camera hosting experience and I never had time to really learn to create and edit video like I wanted because I was too busy hustling for as much work as I could get.
Then one day out of the blue, Yahoo Esports came calling. Yahoo had just launched its esports site and needed a fighting games expert. Suddenly, I’m talking with Yahoo Esports about a dream job I didn’t realize I even wanted. My goal was to always find a job in traditional games media at a place like IGN. I get hired on at Yahoo Esports and now I get to do all of the things I loved doing as a freelancer, writing about video games – specifically fighting games. On top of that, I’m doing video shoots where I’m hosting and conducting interviews. Thank goodness esports has grown so much in the last few years. These jobs didn’t even really exist six months to a year ago.
Here I am now, doing what I love, living out my dream of working full-time, talking about fighting games. I put in a ton of work to get where I am. Lost countless hours of sleep. Stayed positive and leaned on the support of many friends and mentors in the industry. I try to stay humble. There was a time I nearly quit freelancing but I humbled myself and asked for help. I try to offer any assistance I can to others because without help, I don’t know that I’d be here.
Respect everyone (because the industry is small and people talk) and build relationships. I pride myself on that because many years ago, I treated people like crap and didn’t care what anyone thought about me or what I did. Now, I want people to know me but I want to know people too. Getting to know people makes it easier to see their stories that I can share with the world.
One last thing. If you feel you’re trapped in a situation and figure there’s nothing you can do to get out, doing nothing is a choice you made. You can make excuses that hold you back, but ultimately, it’s up to you to make a change. I’m not saying do what I did. I wouldn’t tell anyone to follow in my footsteps but it took a drastic change to obtain the life I really wanted and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.
See you at Evo 2016 and beyond.