February 3rd 2011

Gaming gets you places

I can't remember not playing games. That may not seem unusual for anyone reading this born after about 1990, but for this grizzled 31 year old, my generation were one of the first to be born in to a world engrossed in new entertainment forms and dominated by Atari. I can distinctly remember playing 'Gun Fight' on my Atari 800XL aged about 3, and have played and owned a lot of machines since - from Spectrum to Amiga, NES to GameCube, DreamCast to PS3 - I've clocked up more hours than is probably healthy.

So when I say I have an interest in the field, you can believe me.

Part of growing up with games is the media surrounding it, and in the pre-internet world, finding out about the latest games was entirely down to word of mouth and off the shelf magazines. In the UK, aged 10 - 15, pocket money only stretched so far and you had to choose wisely what you were going to read - the choice you made said as much about you as your iPhone/Blackberry/Android allegiance does today. I chose 'Computer and Video Games' (CVG) - the all-format smorgasbord of information, cheat codes (remember those?) and splashy reviews, and SuperPlay - the dedicated SNES magazine that was consistently better than it's peers, and had an otaku slant, before that word meant anything to me. Both were published by Future Publishing, and up until about 2 years ago I still had every issue of SuperPlay, neatly stored in their original, branded binders (and I've still got every issue of EDGE).

These were monthly Christmas presents, treasured and poured over until the next fix came along.

Along with all those matt plastic machines, broken joysticks and customised controllers came the games - I veer towards the typical; if I can shoot something, be it gun or football, I'll play it. I spent a long time playing Sensible Soccer 1.1 on my Amiga A500, and collectively an even longer time playing Winning Eleven (through all it's versions and names, it's now called Pro Evolution Soccer) on the PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360. I've since moved on to FIFA (it's been a better game for a couple of seasons now), but for about 5 years I was a fanatical Winning Eleven / Pro Evo player. Seeking out the latest Pro Evo news became a ritual, and the best news came from one particular source - the website was a pile of crap, but it provided the gaming nourishment I craved.

Being a web designer, I spotted an opportunity. I sent them a quick re-design and they liked it.

Building websites just for the fun of it isn't something I do very much in my free time any more (my first was a guide for Mortal Kombat, hosted on GeoCities), but when you're passionate about something, "work" takes on new meaning. Re-building that Pro Evo website, incorporating a FIFA site, and going through 3 major revisions of design and code was, when I look back at it, a huge effort and more man-hours than I've put into any other personal project. In the back of my mind though, I was always aware that so much work on a personal project would pay off one day - it had to.

In January I accepted a job as a 'Digital Designer' for Future Publishing, working on the new CVG website, as well as Nintendo and Xbox websites.

Yes, that CVG. That magazine I coveted so much when I was 13. That Future Publishing, who made my year when some of my artwork was published in SuperPlay. I start in March 2011, and can imagine skipping to work, smile on my face, London looking at me oddly. My friends are slightly perturbed that I'm not bouncing off the walls with excitement, but to be honest, I think I'm still in a state of shock - little ol' me now has what could only be described as a dream job. Yes, I'm good at what I do, but I think my interest in games ultimately pushed me over the line - without that, without the history, sore thumbs and muscle memory of how to win at Mario Kart - I'm just another web designer. If I've learnt one lesson from landing this job, it's this; if you can find out what you're good at, and merge it with what you're passionate about, in the end you'll find something that satisfies you on a level you didn't know existed before.

Thank you Shigeru Miyamoto, for indirectly getting me a job.

Originally written for the Gaming Lives 1st Annual Writing Contest

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