So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, Dubai.
It’s been almost two years since I moved to London and rebuilt Citizen Game to the WordPress behemoth you see here before you. To many of you it probably seems as long since I updated the site. In honesty the last thing I remember publishing was our December podcast – so it’s about time I broke the silence and let you in on what the hell has been going on.
Around January of this year myself and games journalism had a bit of a falling out. The staff’s 4 month plan to drive traffic to the site and try and create a business around Citizen Game had been a failure. What’s worse was the reason we failed. In shying away from regularly updated news and concentrating on original writing and media, we’d been sticking two fingers up to the tried and tested methods of generating traffic. Don’t get me wrong, this was the plan all along. We didn’t want to work on a website that worked alongside the frankly ridiculous games newswire. I hoped that our content would be powerful enough for word of mouth to collect a strong workable user-base, especially as more and more high profile industry people were shouting our praises. But in the end it was wishful thinking and our daily numbers failed to get anywhere close to what was required.
So for me, this was pretty frustrating. To work in this industry I would have to bow down to those same forces I’ve been trying to rally against all along; getting in bed with the news cycle, promoting reviews above other original content and concentrating less on media to have more time to develope user tools.
At around this stage I began to understand the tired look on many thirty-something game journalists and I wasn’t particularly enjoying video games much either. Citizen Game was supposed to be a little leg-up for independent games journalists to get some sort of exposure. A decent looking website with a loyal audience that could help their portfolio look a little bit better to secure that illusive interview. The problem was it was also a showpiece for myself – though in what area (web design / media / journalism / production) I was still unsure.
Any of you I’ve met will know I’m a pretty humble guy, but I’d like to think I’m realistic about my abilities too. Before starting Citizen Game I had never not been offered a job I interviewed for. Up until London my professional life had been a string of successful toe-dips into a range of interesting media – many of which I still work in freelance today. I’d be the first to say it had been pretty easy. I was lucky that my interests (web / graphics / radio / video) were also things that people wanted to pay me to do – and as a young guy probably pay me less than the going rate. So whether or not I deserved all the work I was given, my confidence and winning mentality wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer. At least not for long.
Just before moving to London I had unsuccessfully interviewed for a position at a major UK gaming website. It was the “dream job” and not securing the position was devastating. I’m not a bitter person, and still wish the individual all the best, but I knew in my heart I had far more to offer and swore to prove to everybody that I new what I was doing.
I moved to London to do this. Without hesitation I said goodbye to my family and a bunch of possible career routes, to give myself a better chance of securing a job in games journalism in the UK next time my turn came around and Citizen Game was to help me showcase my expanding range of skills.
That’s how my involvement in Citizen Game version 3 started and this is, perhaps, how it ends.
My quandary is one of both heart and mind. In my heart my love of games journalism is wavering and my desire to expand my talents and live a rich and exciting life is growing. After two years of London I’m beginning to feel comfortable and I want to feel the excitement of adventure all over again. My girlfriend and I have jobs that allow us to move around. She teaches science and I make websites and media. We can pretty much work in any city in the world – the only barrier being language.
If I was work in games journalism this would no longer be the case. The list of places I could work drops to under half a dozen realistic possibilities. It would also mean taking a substantial cut in pay. The average entry level writer collects about £15,000 per annum. Next year I would be hoping to earn closer to twice that, and my girlfriend already does.
More importantly games journalism has become stagnant. Most sites are creativity black-holes, making basic errors on how to communicate effectively with their users. It’s staggering to me how major games sites write-off abuse from registered users as acceptable and it’s been this way for years now. Conversely the internet and video are constantly evolving.
So this coming July I’ll wave goodbye to London, the UK and Europe as my girlfriend and myself are moving to Dubai. She has already secured a job teaching English curriculum science in one of the city’s finest schools, while I am currently looking for a position. For those of you who don’t know Dubai is a city located in the United Arab Emirates, a state on the Eastern border of the Arabian Peninsula just south of Iran. It’s an incredibly fascinating part of the world where Western consumption and Islamic values collide. I’ll wait for another post to get into why I’m so excited to be moving to a place that has laws against homosexuality, bacon and beer.
In the back of my head I hope that in time my skills in and experience in web will allow me to return to the industry in a production or management role, but if there is anything I have learned about myself these two years in London – it’s to not expect something too much. I’m looking forward to expanding my own personal horizons in Dubai.
As it happens the Middle East’s gaming scene is expanding quickly, with the 4th annual Dubai Games Festival being held this coming Winter. Maybe I’ll become Citizen Game’s Arab gaming correspondent. Well, maybe just a blog – only time will tell.
But for now I leave you with this – the site is not dead, I’m just trying to figure out how to transition to a new core team before I leave. In any case I just wanted to thank everybody who visited the site, commented on our posts, listened to the podcast, watched our videos and attended our live event. In spite of it not reaching my own lofty expectations, Citizen Game has been one of the proudest projects I’ve ever worked on and if nothing else it has helped me make some genuine friends for life and a broad range of internet-mates I look forward to meeting in the future.
Talk soon citizens.
PS: I haven’t even gotten to mention how myself, Denis and Dale are making a video game.
The Citizen Gamecast will be returning this weekend for a special show. On it we’ll talk more about an interesting year for Citizen Game and future projects including Triple D Games. Id also like to mention that I had to write NEWS backwards for the webcam in the thumbnail of this article. This took me about ten minutes to get right.