I apologize in advance for this. I’m sharing simply because I think there’s others on this trail that I completed, and maybe it’ll help someone reach the finish a bit sooner; maybe something here will speak to you, maybe not. And before I get into it, I’ll answer some questions you might have at the end: I plan to continue writing here, and doing some casting here and there, and certainly will continue gaming - just with a different outlook. Time for my own existential crisis, as it were…
This evening I decided to put a cap on my efforts over at SK. I went into it with the mindset that it would be worthwhile to give it a try and see where it went, but I really thought that it would catch on better than it did. Thorin seemed to think so as well, and was very determined to advocate for me, but I wasn’t connecting well with the existing audience there. While I was getting greater readership there than I am here, they seemed to be largely empty hits, and it appears that the management there is more numbers focused than I expected.
I suppose I realized that I simply don’t need yet another lien on my spare time, another obligation that I’m stretching to fill. I guess that was the turning point, when I realized gaming was and had been more of an obligation I was placing on myself, rather than just something I enjoyed in my free time, when I had it. We had talked about taking my column there in a different direction, but it just didn’t click with me, and I’d end up having to rely on far more people than just myself to come through on deadline. I shouldn’t be building things into my free time that are more frustrating than enjoyable.
A while back, far before I started writing in this space, I was discussing with Jeff some very rough thoughts I had about gaming’s lack of local scenes. At one point, frustrated with my realization that very few folks in gaming even consider the scene at such a macro level, I asked, “Who is thinking about this sort of stuff? Who is being realistic about the scene?” To which his reply went something like, “Everyone who left it years ago.” I suppose my writings and diggings and musings over the last year have largely been an effort to try and mitigate the blunt force of that conclusion. There had to be something going on worth sticking around for, right?
Reaching even further back, my complete body of thought on the matter of competitive gaming as sport reaches back into 2006, undertaking a concerted effort to eke a business out of gaming content production. I’m pretty sure I figured that if I wanted to build something sustainable around gaming, I had better figure out what makes the whole thing tick. Besides the conclusions reached on that subject being relatively dark, it took me this long to realize that the motivation for much of my activities in gaming for some time have been pretty wrong.
I justified the time spent on the ‘shoutcasting’ project (I still despise that term but…there it is…) against what I expected to be future returns in revenues and the chance to supply my own means of income. I didn’t buy a game or play a game if I didn’t think it’d be useful for the project. It’s really been the one constant thing I’ve been working towards outside the day job. At 22 it seemed like a wonderful idea, but now…not so much, and I’m not sure my mind would be different even if I were fortunate enough to have struck gold with a big sponsor deal or two.
I really used to envy folks like Wheat, who can flip on a stream and instantly get a couple few thousand nerds to pile on. Now, that’s been replaced with something that seems more like pity. It’s not quite that but something close. The work he and other recognizable personalities in gaming have put in to get to that level of notoriety is far more than I have a stomach for, and being in the place that I’m in, I can’t help but consider the toll that has on other parts of his life, like the relationship with his family…or even simpler things like just being able to relax and watch TV without considering it prep work for an upcoming show. Hell, people now expect him to turn his kid into a goddamn youtube series. Either the guy’s a fucking machine and can make it work, or…well let’s just say I’d not still be married if I attempted to do several hours of shows every weekend.
Look, I know some of you are going to get your scruff all in a bunch and start barking at me for these lines here. Fine. All I’m saying is it takes a tremendous sacrifice of time and energy with no concrete sustainable payoff in sight. That either takes absolute conviction and passion for something or pure unadulterated insanity laced with narcissism. Maybe a bit of both. I recently realized that I’ve neither of those. Esports is great, but not great enough for me to justify simply treading water in all other areas of my life.
I think a lot of us in gaming think that if we just keep pushing this thing, if we just keep dumping more time and sweat and cash and life into it, that we’ll be rewarded at some future point, that it’ll all be worth it, that we can create our own escape from the rat race that our parents were in and that more and more of us find ourselves in. That all the spare time we spend on this now will be returned to us later, and then we can spend time with family, and work on relationships, and work on ourselves. For now, we work on gaming.
Right, well, fucking snap out of it. In the process, we’ve created something far worse than the rat race we’re trying to sidestep; you have to undertake the equivalent of second full-time unpaid job just to keep up.
I don’t have any cliches for you here that will tie this up in a trite little bow, so you can forget that. I’m not going to zoom this out to some larger commentary on society and life and some empty nonsense platitudes, just to make it more comfortable for you. It’s not about smelling the roses, or life being short, or that we need to shut the machine off and get outside for a while, or that there’s better ways to spend your time, or any of that bullshit. In the end, you’re going to spend your time how you will. My point is that everything I’ve written and thought regarding the world of competitive/professional gaming/esports has led to this inevitable conclusion, a conclusion that I’ve been trying to doublethink myself away from: that all of this is simply not worth it. Not for me, not for you, not for anyone. Maybe later, but certainly not now.
So, keep your legs dangling in the esports pool, the only thing I urge you to do is to make sure other parts of your life aren’t suffering as a result, because if you’ve cannonballed your way in then that’s likely already the case. Esports will break through when it will, and there’s nothing you can do to make that happen any faster than it naturally will. In the meantime, keep your friends. Keep your significant other happy. But most of all, keep yourself happy, and don’t kid yourself about all this. If your enjoyment of your efforts in esports is pending some big break or payoff you hope is coming soon, and in the meantime it’s all sacrifice and work, than just what the hell are you doing exactly?
As for me, I need to figure out how to enjoy gaming again.