I released a book, wrote a film that was critically mauled, and by any measure I'm a pretty successful kids TV writer. I have awards and nominations which are intended to tell me as such.
Admittedly, they don't mean a great deal to me. It's nice to get a pat on the head from your industry peers, but at the end of the day it's just opinions from a handful of people. It's success as measured by society; arbitrary and ultimately hollow. I don't fetishise or romanticise screenwriting as an art form, as some do. For me it's merely my job. Like all jobs, it's frequently a pain in the cracksie.
Getting an award for being World's Best Dad, or Best Partner, or just being known as a decent person, would mean more than anything else.
I'd much rather have personal satisfaction in my own work, knowing that I've been true to myself in what I produce. Something like Biffovision, or the recent Digifest spoof ads, mean far more to me than the Royal Television Society Award I've got semi-hidden behind the mirror in my living room, because I don't want it to look like I'm showing off.
And at the same time, there's that little voice in my head which serves to remind me - just occasionally - that I never lived up to my potential. I had a script editor once tell me - many years ago - that "We all know you're going to be massive". I don't think she was talking about my weight, and she probably wonders just what the hell happened.
Someone who is massive, in terms of how success generally gets measured, is Charlie Brooker. As his new series of Black Mirror is launched on Netflix, there's a great interview with him in The Guardian today. He's asked a question about getting out of games journalism, and describes it thus: "I look back at my career and say: 'Phew!', like I got off the embassy roof on the last remaining helicopter."
I used to know Charlie relatively well. He downplays his success as "luck", but there's no question in my mind that he would never have capitalised on that luck if he hadn't been phenomenally talented.
Not only talented, but somebody who people enjoy working with. There was never any evident ego about Charlie in all the times I met him.
The same can be said for other games journos who managed to escape the "ghetto" - Kieran Gillen (now writing for Marvel Comics), or Gary Whitta and Jane Goldman (both Hollywood screenwriters), or Danny Wallace (writer, presenter, actor).
Yes, there might've been a degree of being in the right place at the right time for all of them - Goldman is also, I probably don't need to remind you, married to Jonathan Ross. Nevertheless, luck and connections only get you so far. You have to be good at what you do. You need doggedness and vision, and not be an arse to work with.
Certainly, at the point at which I could've been catapulted to that sort of success, my private life was falling apart. I was so eaten up with bitterness and anger, that instead of pushing myself I pushed people away. Even Charlie was somebody I lashed out at online - utterly without justification. I was so consumed by it all that I only saw enemies, and in doing so I created them. Or, at least, created people who probably thought I was a dick.
By the point at which I knew I had to reclaim myself, the only option for doing so was to fade away from any spotlight, and regroup.
When I returned, I chose to return with the thing that first put me on your radar: Digitiser. In some respects it was me choosing a place that was comforting and familiar. Nothing I've ever done has been more mine than Digi. For all the battles with Teletext's editors, for ten years - almost a quarter of my life - I got to write about things that were important to me, and make myself laugh.
It was like coming home, and it says it all that my other half claims she can see a stark difference between how I am now, and how I was before I launched Digitiser2000. For years I'd been flailing around looking for some way to express myself without compromise, but was too scared to draw any attention. I'm beyond glad that I took the risk.
However, there are days when I question my choice to return to games writing. I love this site, I love writing about games, I love what it has given me: the interactions on Twitter, the emails, even the recent Block Party. I love the community that has grown around Digi2000 over the last couple of years. Not a one of you has been an arse to me.
TIME TO MOVE ON?
But... here I am, a 45 year-old man, writing about video games on a website that pays homage to the thing for which I'm still best known - a quarter of a century later. That isn't meant to happen.
Most games journalists have moved on by my age. In the years that I was off writing kids TV in the trenches, YouTube took off. I do wonder whether people like Ashens and Larry Bundy Jr - both Digi fans, who've become mates of mine since I came back - have filled a void that I might've stepped into, if I wasn't busy licking my wounds.
Digi2000 isn't huge. I don't need it to be huge; I like that we're all part of this cult. I mean, I'm blessed that so many of you support me either through donations, or by reading what I have to say, and even if just one of you said you liked my work I'd still appreciate it. My Found Footage Kickstarter stands at over £11,000 today, with three weeks still to go. I know full well that I am a very, very lucky man.
And outside of all that, in my domestic life I'm surrounded by love and support. I'm not wealthy admittedly - I was too busy feeling wounded to be smart with my money - but I'm far from destitute. By most measures I've done alright for myself. I'm a success in the ways that I know truly matter.
And yet... there's that little voice again. Have I, in some way, failed? And if so... what have I failed at?
I suppose it comes down to this: I don't think I've failed, but I wonder if I've failed in the eyes of others.
When I read Charlie talking about the way people look down on games journalists - heck knows I encountered it myself enough times - it does make me question myself, and my choices.
What is it about games journalism that makes it such an ill-respected profession? Why is there seemingly no honour or self-respect in writing about video games? I don't see myself as a games journalist, admittedly - Digi2000 is just me writing whatever the hell I want to write, from comedy lists about wasps to self-indulgent waffle like this. It's just that most of the time it's games that I want to write about.
The worst word in the English language is "should" - that sense that we have an obligation or duty to do something, irrespective of what we want, need, or are capable of. I "should" have pushed myself more, I "should" have tried harder to be a "success", but I wasn't capable of doing so at the time. I did only what I could.
Even now I remain hopeless when it comes to networking or being pushy - I don't even want to bother my bigger Twitter followers, people like Rab Florence, Robert Popper, Rufus Hound - or even Charlie Brooker and Danny Wallace - to plug my Found Footage Kickstarter. Even though their blessing would be a huge lift for it.
I know that stems from insecurity. I don't want to be bothering them, because I view them as much more of a success than I am. A success measured, absurdly, in Twitter followers and money and things they've created. And here I am, the last remaining games journalist on the embassy roof, bleating about Q*Bert's nozzle, because I find that funny.
There's no real point or conclusion to this post, but I suppose it comes back to why I need Digitiser2000. Or, at least, the outlet for expression and personal exploration that it gives me.
Part games website, part stupid humour thing, part personal blog, it covers everything I seem to need. It also gives me a routine and structure that I was lacking; get up, do Digi, get on with other work.
With Digifest, with Found Footage, it also gives me stuff to aim for, over which I have the ultimate say.
My day job is about meeting deadlines, pleasing producers and broadcasters, and writing to a brief. There's none of that with Digitiser2000. When I look at it from that angle, I don't feel any shame or embarrassment about not getting out of the embassy on time.
For so long I thought I "should" be writing mainstream sitcoms, or travel books, like my Digitiser co-creator Tim Moore, or newspaper columns. I had a stab at all those and more or less gave up, because either my heart wasn't in it, or because striving for it seemed like too much effort for the reward. I was trying to do the things others thought I "should" be doing, instead of listening to my gut.
Games journalism might be viewed as the lowest form of writing, but Digitiser was enough of a success for anyone's lifetime, and I love that. Digitiser - whatever it is - might just be the thing I'm best at. Reaching a point where I accept that - regardless of what others might think - is, perhaps, its own form of success. Too bad it's never going to make me a millionaire, eh? But I suppose you can't have everything.
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