Today ends my career at Ziff Davis Media, where I spent six of the richest years of my life as managing editor for EGM and then the 1UP Network. I'm leaving game journalism and heading over to the production side, where I'll be working at Sega as Associate Creative Director for Family/Casual games. This is a big deal for me. I started at Ziff in 2002 when EGM closed its Illinois office and moved to San Francisco with half a staff. Its managing editor at the time, Dean Hager, decided not to make the big move. I happened to need a job, having been at Next Generation magazine when it closed in December 2001, and I jumped at the opportunity to join EGM.
Six years later, I'm pretty shellshocked it's all over. The end hasn't been sudden -- obviously, my old print team has mostly dispersed, EGM has a bold new look and direction, and I've been working online at 1UP for almost a year. But having spent the better part of a week going through old work files and emails trying to decide what to save and what to toss, I've come to the bittersweet realization that I'm saying goodbye not just to a job, but to an era.
For one thing, being a girl writing about games is no longer as big a deal as it was the first several years I was in the business. Back in 2000, there were very few women editors, and those who were in the biz didn't generally attend demos, meetings, and events. There was an easy explanation for this: women tended to occupy roles like managing editor, copy editor, art director, etc. -- jobs that didn't require knowledge of games. I remember really looking up to Francesca Reyes (then with Official Dreamcast Magazine, now Editor in Chief of Official Xbox Magazine) back then. Fran was a truly rare bird -- she had her own expertise and wrote about the same games the guys did. But aside from Fran and perhaps a handful of others, it just wasn't safe to assume the girls at the mags were gamers. Often, quite the opposite assumption was made: I remember showing up at events and having PR people think I was some girlfriend on the arm of the nearest male editor. Once, one even denied me a press kit: "Editors only!" she chirped annoyingly. Clearly she meant "Boys only," and I've never forgotten the sting of her mischaracterization.
I knew I'd arrived somewhere unusual when, on my second day at EGM, fellow editors Greg Sewart and Chris Johnston invited me along to the Sony gamers' day happening down the street. They'd even RSVPd in advance for me, figuring I would want or need to go. (I doubt they knew what a shock it was for me to be included by default.) It was the first glimpse I'd have into the inclusive culture of EGM, where everyone who played games and could write was expected to play games and write for EGM, whether they were a hardcore fanboy weaned on NES or, like me, simply a gaming fan who'd happened to spend way too much time playing SSX Tricky during her unemployment. The Review Crew suffered no idle hands.
Nowadays, girl gamers are everywhere, and it's no longer safe to assume that a girl in the office can't kick your ass at Call of Duty. It's really difficult to believe what those early days were like and to see clearly just how much things have changed, but I'm really happy to have been a part of the transformation. It may have been a natural evolution, but I also feel like being at EGM helped me force things along just a bit. If I wanted to write a story, all I had to do was ask. Wanna review Tony Hawk 4? Sure thing. Think you're the best person to do a Knights of the Old Republic cover story? Go for it. Got an interesting angle for the GTA Hot Coffee scandal? Write it up. These weren't required parts of my job as ME, and often I didn't necessarily have time to take on the extra work. But I knew that by digging in everywhere I could, I was slowly infiltrating the "Boys only" society. It helped that I worked with a tremendous group of people who valued initiative and good old-fashioned elbow grease. Then again, it wasn't always easy; arguing about why "slut" isn't a fair term to use to describe women and why jokes relying on the "girlfriend" punchline were lazy, and constantly insisting we could do better wasn't exactly fun and didn't always make me popular among my coworkers. But even if there were times I would lose the fight, I'm glad I was there to fight at all. And when I look at the make-up of the gaming press now, I am utterly happy to see so many women playing integral roles.
Still, the changes in journalism aren't the only major difference. If it were just that, I'd be thrilled to stick around. The truth is that the era of the hardcore gamer is coming to an end. I used to dream of the day when women would be viewed as equally important to the creative gaming market as the traditional male demographic. But I genuinely never expected I'd see the day when I could get hired to work in game production, focusing specifically on appealing to new types of gamers. When Brain Age and Wii Fit would be system sellers. When a scenario like this would be not just possible, but normal:
Originally uploaded by generaltsao.
Yes, the era of the hardcore gamer is coming to an end, and while I've loved my years at EGM, I've also been waiting eagerly for this time to come. For so long, finding a way to reach women gamers was this magical holy grail -- something people could only fantasize about. Nobody had any clue how to do it, and a lot of people didn't believe it could be done. Casual games on the web, World of Warcraft, and Nintendo Wii and DS have proven that it's not only possible, it's happening NOW -- and I simply can't resist the call to join the cause. This has long been an interest of mine (way, way, way before it was cool or profitable :), and it makes sense that now is the time to jump.
But before I did that, I wanted to take this chance to tell you what it was like for one girl during a different era, and to thank you for reading and supporting me through the years. I'm really going to miss you all, and I hope you'll keep in touch on my personal blog.