“Write an essay about what you did last summer.”
Every year in English class, my teacher would ask this question for our first writing assignment and we had to recite it in front of everyone. It was the summer before fourth grade and most of my classmates wrote about their travels abroad. Others opted to stay local and recounted their rough adventures in their backyards. Some of my friends wrote about the new songs, recipes and moves they’ve learned from various summer clinics.
Then, the time came for me to stand up and say my piece. What did I write about? Well, I wrote about my exciting summer killing innocent bystanders, stealing expensive cars, selling drugs, shamelessly beating up prostitutes for cash, and how I learned about the glorious existence of Molotov cocktails. Was I joking? No, I was telling the truth. Why would I lie about spending most of my summer as Tommy Vercetti in Vice City? After all, I managed to take over the whole city and kill my arch-nemesis in the end. That has to count for something. I smiled and bowed while the entire class laughed their brains out. However, my teacher felt quite the opposite. I was scolded for writing about a violent and sordid topic. Honestly, I didn’t really care because it was definitely a memory worth having. Everyone in the classroom found it funny. I found it hilariously creative, since it was a different narrative for once than what we usually hear every year.
Ever since that day, writing and video games had always been two passions that complemented each other nicely. Mind you, I wrote and drew amateur comic book story lines based on Tommy Vercetti set after the events of Vice City when I was in sixth grade. I’m not bragging, I’m recounting one of the most childish works I’ve ever done.
Reading this, you probably think that I spent my years wanting to write about video games. No, it was a hard journey for me. Growing older, I lost the ideal passion and drive I once had even if video games still played a huge role in my life. I succumbed to society telling me that I should pursue a more practical field like medicine or business. I’m not joking when I say that I’ve only recently rediscovered my courage and passion in writing and video games after nearly a year enrolled in business school.
So here I am now with Commander Bedlam, my infant blog, as a testament to my courageous pursuit. It’s been less than a month since I first started this project and I’ve met great people because of it. I was lucky enough to get in touch with Paul Tassi from Forbes through my blog’s twitter account. Paul Tassi is currently the Editor-in-Chief of a film/TV/gaming site called Unreality and he is also a video game focused contributor at Forbes. We were first acquainted via Twitter when I volunteered to be a liaison between him and the Mass Effect fan community. As a fresh yet prominent face in video game journalism, I took this opportunity to ask him questions about his career and how aspiring video game writers like myself could break through the industry like he did. Read on below for the questions:
Were you an avid gamer growing up?
Tassi: Video games weren’t allowed in my house for a long while. But I did managed to sneak over to my friends’ places where I played Sega Genesis for hours. Eventually, my parents caved and bought me an N64 after a particularly good report card. The rest is history, and I’ve owned practically ever[y] major system since then.
If yes, what was your favorite console? What are your favorite titles?
It’s hard to top N64 for pure nostalgia factor alone. That produces some biased, but I loved Perfect Dark and still love the original Super Smash Bros. to this day. Other titles that are among my favorites would be Grand Theft Auto (any of them), Halo 3, Starcraft (1 and 2) and the Mass Effects. Been playing a lot of League of Legends recently, though I’m not terribly good at it.
Did you aspire to be a video game journalist? Or was it accidental?
Once upon a time, I wanted to make games, still unsure how I cam[e] to write about them. I was the film editor at my school paper at the University of Michigan, and from there got into entertainment journalist. My old site, True/Slant wanted me to focus on a specific industry, so I chose the growing business of gaming. Forbes bought True/Slant and kept me on, and that’s how I am where I am today.
Do you need to graduate with a specific degree to successfully write about video games as a career?
Not at all. I graduated with an Econ degree which I have used exactly none of since then. It’s a bit of luck and a bit of skill to do this for a living, and in my case probably more of the former. But no, you do not have to go to journalism school. In the industry, your writing speaks for itself more than a degree does. Though the things you learn in school can certainly help you be a better writer.
How can novices showcase their skills/talents so as to get better chances in landing a (writing) job in the industry when they graduate?