Sometime in September four years ago, I started writing for this site. I’d actually decided I wanted to join sometime before that, but getting the gig seemed like an exclusive club I didn’t know the password to. Turns out the password is get drunk with the editor-in-chief, Declan, and compliment his cooking.
I’d met Declan and a merry crew of convention goers and organizers 15 months previously to that, at the inaugural ArcadeCon. A friend of mine was writing for The Arcade at the time and shared the volunteer form. Through that weekend and in the intervening years to now I’ve built deep-rooted personal and professional ties with many of the people I met and staffed with. Some of whom I consider my best friends.
To say it was a life-changing decision is an understatement. And to say that the decision I made three weeks ago was difficult is also an understatement: as of midnight tonight I am no longer a contributor to The Arcade or any of its prospective projects.
Before this gets too melodramatic, it’s worth clarifying this is hardly some earth-shattering declaration. To even call it a declaration feels pretentious, to consider it anything more than a millenial nobody leaving a millenial nobody site is narcissistic. But this piece is less about me standing on a pedestal for a teary-eyed goodbye and more about my wishing to clarify why exactly I’m leaving in the first place.
If you’ll allow me wallow in some genuine narcissism for a wee bit, coming to the site alone was something of a triumph for me. I’m not good with decisions, nor have I a particularly remarkable work ethic or ability to stick with something for longer than the gleam of a new opportunity lasts. Beginning writing here was a first step in acknowledging I needed to work on those aspects of myself if I had any hope of improving as a person.
The Arcade presented a perfect platform to start: there was an audience of social media followers, a new circle of friends who weren’t already too aware of my glaring imperfections and the comfort of only needing to submit work as the legwork of making the site a thing was already covered. All neatly bedded with being a pop culture blog during the boom of pop culture blogs and facilitating the then-biggest convention in the country.
Sad as it sounds, it was kinda a dream come true because I felt comfortable in a way I’d rarely felt before. There were other factors besides – a recent move and a return to college – but The Arcade gave me something I’d been missing previously: purpose. Aside from finally having somewhere to put my opinions on horror movies and daft TV, writing for the site began the growing of a personal onus to yearn to improve and learn. When I say I’ve a bad work ethic I mean it, and with beginning here came the building of something resembling a work ethic and a professional curiosity for where I could go and what I could achieve.
Everyone I’ve ever met who attended the first two years of ArcadeCon tell me it was one of the best weekends of their lives. I share their sentiments. I wish I could share the same sentimentality for every other year of the event and the site as a whole. The simple truth is that although The Arcade was a dream, where the site was going and where I wanted to go began to diverge.
I started freelancing with my words, appearing in places like The Mary Sue and Paste, eventually landing in big league outlets like Playboy and Kotaku. I figured out through Twitter and from other critics and writer acquaintances that getting paid and getting out there as a writer is as complicated and as simple as pitching editors until an idea lands and they reply with an approval. Thanks to some foolhardy confidence instilled from friends down the pub who’d told me more than once “I saw that film you reviewed, it was pretty good, your review was class” without prompt, I began pitching. And through patient editors, online networking and a new profound hunger to learn and delve into culture, I improved and valued my work in a new way. My words were worth money, and my work could be worth a career someday, dare I fight for it with enough gumption.
This site ceased being a plausible platform for that and a place where I felt my value was best served. I became an editor in 2013 (I think), and for a while that was incredible – contacting PR, attending press screenings, developing a rapport with other writers to improve their work. I loved it. But behind the scenes, things weren’t ideal. Diverging attitudes and differences of opinion started as healthy debate over the future of the site before becoming slightly irreconcilable and therefore avoided – both things I am absolutely, 100% guilty of my part in.
Myself and Declan, and later with Mary and later again with Adam could run the hell out of a fun blog among friends and acquaintances. I’ve laughed until I was sore with them on a weekly basis while we were supposed to be discussing the welfare of the site and its writers. But though I’ve sweated and worked hard and sacrificed for it, this site isn’t mine. And though I love it and have poured a lot into it, I perhaps needed to know my place better as much as my colleagues did too. When I call any grievances I have with Declan, Mary, Adam or any other writer I’ve worked with on here diverging attitudes and differences of opinion, I mean it. I respect them a whole lot more than any petty urge to call them out, certainly publicly. If you’re hoping for some form of dirt on any of them – and there’s some that definitely hold a grudge for such things – you can fuck off. I’ve loved working with them and I look forward to having them back as friends in totality.
But alas, as I mentioned, this site isn’t mine, and with where I’d like my work to go and where this place is going diverging, Insofar as working here had strengthened me, I feel more capable than ever of making a decision for myself and doing what I need to do for me, which means acknowledging when something has to change.
I don’t know where this place is going to be a year from now. I don’t know where it’ll be a month from now. I don’t know where it’ll be tomorrow (though I suspect it’ll be right here). All I know is that tomorrow morning for the first time in four years, I won’t be logging in to write a news piece or work on a review or op-ed. I won’t be worrying about a writer’s misuse of grammar or a looming review I can’t seem to nail a good lede on.
Uncertain times for us all, to be sure. I can only hope The Arcade can be a constant, if for nothing else than any other lonely, depressed, overweight dorks to find a spot of refuge and maybe a piece of their dream too.
If you ever read anything I wrote here, whether a film review or an editorial or an interview or a news piece, thank you. It’s been a pleasure. You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr if you’d like to see where I go next.
Be excellent to each other – toodle oo!