WHAT IS THIS?Don't Die started because I found the conversation around videogames stifling. It's repetitive, dehumanizing, and typically fixated on consumer goods -- videogames as products, not the result of the creative labor of individuals.
So in January 2015 I set about talking to people who make videogames and people who used to play them, focusing on certain problems and misperceptions within the industry. Two years and more than 200 interviews later, it is abundantly clear Don't Die is growing beyond the perspectives these two groups can provide. The questions are getting bigger.
We need a greater range of perspectives to make better conclusions about where videogames and the cultures they intersect with are heading.
This has to change.
WHY PATREON?The issues affecting the videogame community are systemic and require a level of analysis which is not possible through current media outlets and models of funding. So, again, my point of entry here is from the side.
As time permits, I try to use my site as an engine for sharing my findings with other outlets more amenable and under similar coverage umbrellas. What I have found is that few such publications exist due to either the inertia of their historic lack of interest or a literal outright fear of covering the videogame industry.
I began publishing on Medium in 2016 as a reaction to more than 20 outlets passing that year on an article about the cycle of labor abuses that persist in the space. Even when pegged to the SAG-AFTRA strike, they all turned me down -- from human rights outlets to gaming websites, nobody wanted to take a “risk” (their word). If there’s two things the media does not seem to care about, it’s videogames and media apathy. In an era where we claim to want better and more cutting journalism, neither half computes. To me, the game industry is representative of bigger issues, and I intend to use it as the Petri dish for challenging the standards of entertainment journalism.
WAIT, WHAT IS CHANGING?Increasingly, Don’t Die is changing, too. It will continue to feature those who make, play, write about, and care about videogames -- or other creative media. The discussions will remain, as always, fascinated by the conflicts, evolutions, triumphs, past, and future of games, and what people think of them. It will, as always, seek to unravel and make sense of how an industry and a culture handles success, failure, and total upheaval.
What’s new starting in 2017 is the project will make room for a new voice: my own. I started Don’t Die because I didn’t really know what to say about what the hell was wrong with videogames. But once you talk to a few hundred people all over the world about things there isn’t real estate for in the broader media landscape, you start to learn a few things. Separate and parallel to the interviews posted on the main site, I have already begun posting essays and reflections on what I’ve learned so far with Don’t Die. These are attempts to sculpt the myriad perspectives I’ve been cultivating into digestible, cohesive, and singularly focused narratives the rest of the media does not have the space, the reporting, or interest into empowering.
There is an entire world of stories and angles being disqualified just because the word “videogame” is used to pitch them. Videogames are not just for kids anymore (they never were), but they are stuck figuring out what they want to be instead.
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?It’s about humanizing an entire industry and medium, one voice at a time.
I’ve written professionally about videogames for 10 years, on the heels of growing up playing them and ascending to such phenomenal accolades as becoming the 1995 Blockbuster Store Champion at Donkey Kong Country (I won a year of free rentals). I never felt I had a community of peers I could talk with about games as more than just products to geek out over.
Geeking out is fine -- but my point of entry with games has always been from the side. I helped create The Onion’s games section as Chicago city ditor because I was in the position to help do so and because games deserve legitimacy and equal footing with the rest of entertainment coverage.
They’re still fighting to get there. Struggling. Flailing. Honestly, they are failing. We, as a community, are losing focus.
It is my belief that a great deal of the friction, in-fighting, and unwillingness to listen to one another in videogames stems from the way games have been marketed: People are only able to talk in context of a product. Not about their working conditions. Not about things they’d like to see progress or change. Not about the ways they’d like to see things improve. This is not the sign of a healthy, growing industry. It does not matter how much money is poured into it: If you are not respecting your audience and its desire to grow, you will be trampled by those who refuse to be scared away by jerks online.
I’m doing this because I want to see videogames be fun again and not have to wear blinders. Because I want to be pleasantly surprised.
And because I just want to listen.
WHO ARE YOU?I’ve been a professional writer-editor for 12 years -- the latter half as a freelancer -- slinging words and criticism for The Onion’s A.V. Club, Adult Swim, IFC, Comedy Central, NBC Chicago, Wired, and many games publications and outlets that are now gone.
Don’t Die is now entering its third year, and has since gotten me invited to speak at Gotland University in 2016, and then in 2017 on a panel at SXSW. Earlier this year I was given an award for journalism with my reporting on this project by the New York Video Game Critics Circle. The project has also been covered by USA Today and other international publications.
WHAT WILL MY CONTRIBUTION BE SUPPORTING?I spend most of my time as an independent journalist operating outside of traditional editorial structures, with both the freedom and lack of support that implies. Paying in for this is patronage. You will be funding the kind of writing I want to see and want others to read. Your support means being able to do this, period.
Your support might even foster actual change in the games industry -- something, if you’ve read this far, you undoubtedly feel is overdue. We can do this. Together.
If you also want to be interviewed for the site, you can read more here, and also. Following and retweeting quotes -- via the site’s official account from anyone who’s ever talked to me helps spread the word, too.