Announcing Clipping Through: A new book and a new content plan!

I’m excited to announce I’ve written a new ebook, available now! It’s called Clipping Through: One Mad Week In Video Games. It centers on my travels earlier this year from London through New York to GDC 2014 and it documents my time there. It’s available in PDF, Kindle, iBooks and hell, DOCX format, because why not.

This isn’t just a book to me: Please read on!

It’s some very personal reflection from me on some eight (!) years of writing about games, but it also contains stories, memories and conversations with the game developers I spoke to at GDC, and loads of my firsthand experience of the art and business of games — and the state of things now.

For example, I write a bit about why I love Castlevania: Symphony of the Night — and what it’s like to try to talk to its creator, Koji Igarashi, about it (I bring Tim Rogers along). I finally got to share my wrought “theory” of Metal Gear Solid 4 with former Kojima Productions producer Ryan Payton — all the while being frightened that Ken Levine, sat a few yards away, was about to come over and yell at me about my excoriating writing of late on Irrational and BioShock Infininite.

I write about San Francisco, and the uncomfortable gap it evidences between wealthy tech futurists and the deeply-suffering. And I show you what a developer show floor is like, why tools matter, and what it’s like to talk to the company men, the money men. Want to know why the IGF awards feel like prom night, except with more messily-inhaled hors d’oevures? Have I got some stories for you!

You may have seen a few early excerpts that I posted for free here on this website — Though things have been heavily-edited since, to get a feel for the flavor of this new book, you can still read them here, here, here.

Excitingly, I’ve hired Liz Ryerson, one of the brightest people I know in games, to contribute some art for the cover. She has also contributed a personal afterword. I’m beyond thrilled she agreed to collaborate with me.

I’m self-publishing Clipping Through on Gumroad for $5 or pay what you want. For me, this isn’t just a new book — the reception to Breathing Machine was amazingly kind, and in response this one is actually a bit longer. But this is also an experiment in sustainable writing on games, one that will hopefully help keep me in games writing — and also enable me to pay others.

I have a freelance job with Gamasutra that allows me to not starve. But as everyone’s been saying, the market for games writing has contracted massively. I now make about half what I used to a few years ago, despite having grown in experience and in reach (see my bio or my selected links to see a sampling of all the writing, speaking and advising I’m doing these days).

I’m doing well so far as a consultant, but we’re investing in our business rather than lining our pockets. There’s really not yet a significant market for mature games writing — you hear that time and time again — and moreover, there is no endgame for a mature games writer. It’s about time for someone like me to think about the fact that at this rate I’ll never have a financially-healthy adulthood or be able to start a family.

This is why so many writers eventually join public relations or community management, or become producers in the industry, and we lose their voices. The most sustainable “games writing job” is writing scored reviews of Battlefield games, and I know that isn’t why you are here with me.

I want there to be alternatives — not only for myself, but for the very idea of a mature career for experienced people who want to continue writing and speaking in games.

Self-publishing small books from now on and selling them directly to you is one experiment I’m doing to try to make my work sustainable in the long term, and to try to model what that might look like for others.

Although I absolutely support writers who use Patreon to allow them to make a fair wage doing work that doesn’t easily find a commercial audience, that’s not the route I want to go for my writing (though I may explore it for videos in the future) — I already currently have a job, and I simply want to continue selling more of what I make to the people who want to enjoy it.

Buying my books for low prices with a pay what you want option lets you make a donation to my continued existence in games if you want to, but it also lets you just buy a book. Easy.

I also have a dream that not only will I be able to earn money independently for my work, but that I’ll be able to pay other people and elevate future voices. I wanted to work with Liz on Clipping Through not just because I love her glitch art, but because I love the contribution she makes to games in general, through her criticism, music and games work, and I want her to get paid, too. I’ve paid her an advance for her artwork and I will pay her a percentage of everything this book earns over that.

In the future I want to publish more small books regularly along with collaborators — with particular attention to those that don’t get visibility through conventional channels or may be otherwise marginalized — and pay them money for the work they do with me. Here are some potential ideas I have about the future:

-An anthology of short stories like The Unearthing, working with an illustrator
-A package of essays and interviews and ‘tour guides’ to unusual or undiscovered indie games, bundled with each game and splitting the revenue with the developers
- More experiential stories about the world of games that come with a ‘soundtrack’, with revenue share to the musicians

In the future-future, who knows — if my plans go well, maybe I can even use the income from books to hire other writers to collaborate on other things with me, to spotlight and pay fellow games critics.

For now, it’s basically urgent for me that I develop an alternative revenue stream for my writing if I am to continue doing it. I hear a lot of criticism of, for example, crowdfunding, that it’s for people who “can’t hack it”, or that they feel “entitled to a job.” I have “hacked it” for years, and I have a job that I have clearly earned, and I have been generally very successful across most metrics, and I am telling you: the money is going away. I am telling you, the content economy is broken and I need to try something else. So I am selling books.

I put a lot of myself into this book, because I believe you’ll really enjoy the stories and experiences I have to share. If you’ve liked my writing over the years, it’s for you — please do consider buying it. Every purchase will help me keep doing this.

And if you can pay over the asking amount as a donation toward my future work — and hopefully that of others — I can’t tell you how much that would mean to me.