Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Year One: My Time at IGN

One year ago today I was brought on to do freelance writing for IGN Comics. There are many people that I owe this success to, including my Editor Joey, the head of IGN Entertainment Chris, and my friends who listened to me drone on about it forever (Drew, Brian, Christian, Alex, Aaron, Byran, Eric, and Jason), but I’d like to think I also had something to do with it. I'm the one who has to read the comics, after all.

When I got the email from Joey last year after San Diego Comic Con, I did a fair amount of jumping around before calling my dad. He’s not into comics or anything, but he’s the smartest person I know and he always supports whatever crazy goal I’m reaching toward. He’s a quiet man who goes to church and believes in a hard day’s work, so imagine my surprise when I told him the news and he nearly blew out my eardrum with “THAT’S AWESOME!”
I had wanted to write for IGN for a while, but it was when IGN's Jack DeVries wrote a piece on gay video game characters in April of 2011 that I got truly inspired. I was shocked to see IGN run the “controversial” article, on the front page no less, and it proved to be a revelation for me. It showed me that even at a place like IGN -- known for hardcore gamers, features about hot babes, and a user base akin to a wretched hive of scum and villainy -- there was a place for someone like me. (Take a second to go support Jack’s Kickstarter for GaymerCon!)

Flash forward to today and I’ve done countless comic book reviews, covered Marvel press calls, and written all sorts of features. I was even quoted on the back of a hardcover graphic novel. But the real highlight of my time thus far at IGN came when I wrote my own gay feature, The State of Gay Characters in Comics. It got the expected reaction from the aforementioned IGN commenters, but on Twitter I found a different kind of response. People suddenly began following me by the dozens and gave me mad props for writing the piece. It felt good knowing I could write something that had such a positive influence on so many people. It also showed me that IGN was not afraid to “go there.” The support from Joey was incredible. Not only did he give me feedback on my writing, but he asked me to go further and give him more. And so I did.

A different sort of highlight came when my high school newspaper teacher Mrs. Weiss asked me to give a presentation at this year’s Florida Scholastic Press Association, the statewide convention for high school level journalism. It’s all thanks to Mrs. Weiss that I don’t make a complete jackass of myself when I interview someone or write a news story. She’s one of the first people who stopped to tell me I was a good writer. Seeing how my one recognized skill before that moment was playing Yu-Gi-Oh!, I thought writing would be a nice step in a direction that would lead to something more than social ostracization. The title of my talk was “From Blogging to Batman” and was about how to use social media to develop your professional image, make contacts, and help you get cool jobs in the field of entertainment journalism. As you can imagine, I used many examples concerning IGN.

If I’ve gained anything from writing for IGN, it’s the insanely talented people I get to work with. Joey has been the utmost professional of editors. He will proofread my writing and all that, but he’s also good for chatting over a beer when we meet up at conventions. I am embarrassed to say that I’ve promised him a few beers that I still haven't bought him despite the fact that we’ve gone to several bars together over the past year. One day soon, my friend.

The review crew Erik, Jesse, Poet, and Ben have all been amazing standout guys who not only do a bangup job every week reviewing comics and writing features, but by putting out such knockout content have challenged me to up my game. To say something smarter, to be funnier, to make more poignant references. As Gandalf would say, they’re the balls.

Okay see I'm still working on that reference thing.

And working behind the scenes like Emperor Palpatine is Chris, who I genuinely appreciate for always making time to chat with me despite his busy schedule and the knowledge that after enduring a conversation with me, he will have lost not only his patience but quite possibly his sanity. He talks about the industry with an overwhelmingly impressive amount of intricate knowledge and understanding, and so after I hang up the phone with him I can’t help but wonder if I really know anything about entertainment journalism at all.

I’m pretty sure I do. If not, then shit, I’m doing a good job at fooling everybody. Here’s to another year of being a Skrull at IGN! =)