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This September marks the 10th Anniversary of The Armchair Empire. Aaron marks the occasion with some harsh thoughts on what building The Armchair Empire for the last ten years has meant to him.

 

This feature is partly in response to a comment that came up after Aaron posted an editorial titled "How Do I Break into Games Journalism?" back in February 2010 that thought I should examine the reason I hadn't been able to answer that question positively.

 

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The Armchair Empire:

A Monument to My Failure

 

monument

 

In the land of video games, 10 years is a long time.

Actually, a long, long time. It boggles my mind with just how much things have changed in the last 5 years, never mind 10. This month (September 2010) the Armchair Empire hits the decade mark and Iím kind of wondering how that happened.

Was it a long and winding road? Filled with potholes, landmines, and hitchhikers? Strewn with roadkill and shattered dreams? Or did the blacktop stretch to the

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horizon in a straight line on a sunny afternoon? The answer is predictable: that damn road had everything.

In 2000 when Jeff Nash and I started this site, I really had no notion that I would still be doing it ten years forward. My own secret wish was that I would sell the site after a few years and springboard into a freelance writing career then earning the respect of my editors and

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scoring a full-time position writing about games and the industry. (Or even getting involved with game development itself, after all, story tellers are useful and Iím full of stories. Or "lies" as my wife often calls them.)

The first part of my plan almost came true a couple of years ago when I was contacted by Gamefly. They were interested in buying up The Armchair Empire. We got as far as a few phone calls and some confidential emails then I went to Florida where my cell phone was promptly drowned by a sudden torrential downpour as I monumentset up a tent. A planned telephone meeting never happened thanks to that and the entire thing fell apart. (This was before Gamefly purchased Shacknews.) I was marginally pissed off.

That would have been my ďout,Ē an escape (of sorts) from a job that I hated and all the bitterness associated with going through the motions of being at a place I didnít want to be, doing things Iíd rather not be doing. Whereís the fulfillment in living that kind of professional life?

There isnít.

The problem was that I settled for writing in my spare moments, when the demands of work and family werenít there. That was a mistake. I should have been much more aggressive in pursuing the goal of writing and creating full time.

It sounds pompous but I know I could do a better job than a lot of full-time and freelance writers in the enthusiast press.

What evidence can I produce that can out-write those hacks? Well, dammit, not much. Ignoring the last 10 years of articles on The Armchair Empire, I donít have much other than a few articles in the local paper (about being a new parent) and a memorable line on 1UPís GFW Radio back in 2008 about a cosplay midget dressed as Yaddle, my published articles are close to non-existent.

I wasnít aggressive enough. For a little while I had myself fooled into thinking that it was because I put more emphasis on my family, which now includes 4 kids, three more than when I started The Armchair Empire, and my job.

ďSome editor out there will read my stuff and be absolutely shocked that they havenít hired me yet!Ē

Thatís horseshit.

Is that how anyone in the games industry -- press or dev side -- was discovered? I canít believe for a second that anyone got into the industry without forcing their way in with cleverly crafted cover letters and schmoozing with anyone tangentiallymonument connected to the industry. Yet being "discovered" was exactly what I thought would happen.

Iím proud of The Armchair Empire and everything weíve accomplished over the last 10 years but thatís not enough for my dream to be made reality. If it were enough, Iíd be out of my day job and writing and creating full time. Getting paid for something I love to do. Who doesnít want a career like that?

So, the 10-year milestone for The Armchair Empire brings me really mixed feelings. On the one hand itís a monument to the fact Iíve failed to snag a full-time writing gig. But on the other side of that monument, thereís a reminder of how much fun Iíve had building the site.

Iíve written reams of reviews (some, under the worst kind of writing conditions), conducted many interviews and Q&As, scratched out too many features to remember, cultivated relationships in the industry, gone to industry events I didnít even know existed, and, well, just met a lot of interesting people that I otherwise never would have come across. I will not brush any of those experiences under the rug as failures in any way, shape or form. I may have failed to capitalize on those experiences properly to either launch the site into the money-making stratosphere or get a dream job but I canít say that I havenít learned a lot in these last 10 years. Itís a long way from being a waste of time but it has failed to fulfil my original desire.

- Aaron Simmer
(September 16, 2010)

 

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