I recently received an email from someone who wants to break into the industry as a video game journalist. This person has the talent, drive and motivation to do so. But a few specific things are holding them back. This person feels as if they aren’t “cool” enough or “attractive” enough to become a part of the “in-crowd”, which is something very important to them. This person want acceptance. This person wants nothing more than to cement their place within the tight-knit video game community.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
Remember high school?
I was never one of the popular kids. I didn’t have a ton of friends. And lunchtime was particularly hard for me. Socially awkward and shy, I would have rather sat on the floor of the cafeteria, alone, than make my way over to a table of strangers. I often claimed popularity never mattered to me. But I secretly longed to sit at a certain table in the center of the cafeteria. This was the table where the so-called popular kids sat. Watching them laugh and talk among themselves from a distance was almost like watching a mirage. But I would never make an actual attempt to sit there. It was too intimidating.
There were times when I would test the waters, though. I’d mosey by that table, make eye contact with some of the popular kids and see what reaction I’d get. While I was hoping for an invitational, “Hey! You’re Brittney from World History, right? Take a seat!” the reality was that most kids would look away, and even when I’d muster up a confident “Hello!” I’d be unanimously ignored.
But there was one popular girl who would always say “Hi!” back. We didn’t share the same lunch period, so I never received a table invite, but she’d talk to me in class. She’d ask me how my day was going. She’d compliment my silly t-shirts. As simple as her gestures were, I remember they made me feel important and accepted – an invaluable ego boost when one’s life is as small and confusing as it is during those awkward teenage years. And with those ego boosts came confidence. As time went on it became easier for me to talk to others and make new friends. I became more comfortable with who I was and soon realized I didn’t give a flying you-know-what about sitting at that fabled table in the center of the cafeteria. That girl and I never became anything more than acquaintances, but her kindness (likely paired with a much-needed burst of mental and emotional maturity) had a profound impact on my final years of high school.
Eight years later I’m a video game blogger who manages a pretty successful website. I have tens of thousands of fans who constantly push me to improve myself. If I’m having a bad day, they’re always there for me. If I need advice, they’re the first to bestow it. I’m very, very fortunate to experience the success that I do with what I do.
Of course it wasn’t always this way. When I first ventured into the world of video game blogging I had to relive a lot of what I experienced in high school. How do the majority of online peers judge worth and popularity? By the number of fans, followers and likes you have. How do you gain admittance to some of the biggest video game conventions? By bringing in a large amount of traffic. But when you’re first starting out you don’t have fans. You don’t have followers. You don’t have ANY traffic. Yet when you’re attempting to join an online community it’s your fans, followers and traffic that dictates your “online popularity.”
I can’t count how many times I’d reach out to someone much more influential with a question and be ignored. Or how many times an industry professional would brush off a point I was attempting to make. This happened a lot. It happened enough times to make me feel like the industry leaders of the online video game community were nothing more than popular kids sitting in the center of the cafeteria.
But I didn’t give up.
As I familiarized myself with social networks I eventually discovered other industry figureheads, some of which were editors for major gaming publications. These people were much different. These folks talked to me. They engaged me in conversation. They listened to what I had to say. They reassured an uneasy 20-year-old female trying to find her voice amongst a robust industry that she indeed had a place and that she didn’t need to feel secluded.
It changed my life.
I’ve had some time to reflect on the impact these people have had on me. I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll make a constant effort to engage with and support everyone I come across throughout the day, not only on social media, but also during my offline life. I know what it’s like to feel alienated and to feel as though you don’t have a place in the industry you love so much, and it sucks. My hope is that I’ve experienced enough in my journey to help those of you who feel like you’re struggling to find a path of your own, and to reassure you that there is one out there with your name on it.
And if you’re fortunate enough to have a highly-regarded opinion and a large following in this industry, don’t alienate. Don’t ignore someone because they’re not as “known” as you. This doesn’t make anyone less deserving of your feedback and/or attention. We’re all in this industry together. Someone likely once helped you, so pay it forward. You never know what impact you may have on someone’s life.
Keep strivin’. Keep pushing.
As always, feel free to reach out if you need anything.