What dealing with countless rejections feels like and how I cope.
Yesterday I was turned down for a game writing job I fiercely wanted. They called me a “unicorn” and made me feel so welcome in the interview. I thought maybe this time it was for real. Maybe this time I had an honest shot, I could find some steady income and contribute more to my household. Yeah, well I’m not the only one in that position and I can only hope that whoever got the job is as happy as I would’ve been. The truth is, any writer scoring that kind of gig in games is a victory for writers everywhere.
Writing jobs in the game industry are things of myth, there are very few of them and even fewer that provide steady income. Pretty much works that way for writers of any kind. When it comes to writing the one thing I keep in mind is that the answer is ALWAYS “no.” When I embrace the “no” way of life, I can cope more effectively. Adhering to my “no” philosophy makes that rare gem of a yes all the more satisfying.
“No” can be a gift, a stepping stone, a motivator, a weapon. It’s YOUR “no” use it as you wish, it’s YOURS, they gave it you.
I have been giving a lot of talks about rejection and helping people understand how the game industry really is. It has been very rewarding to share my expertise on the subject of “no.”
I thought I would try something new and write about my experience of rejection while it is still raw. While the words of the rejection email are still burned into memory. While my mind is still racing through the interview as I pick myself apart. I had a friend tell me this is a waste of time and energy. This is a friend with good intentions who unfortunately missed the mark. This person wasn’t wrong, BUT I am a human being, it has not even been 24 hours since I received the news as I type this. These reactions are HUMAN and very normal. I have done this more times than I can count, if you need to, you have EVERY RIGHT to mourn a rejection. Vent, get out those frustrations and fears. This mental health trend can push positive affirmations as a one stop cure for the bummers and they are far from it. I have been treating my panic disorder for most of my life.
Treating my negative emotions like they don’t exist only ensures they will take root and take over. Trust me, I tried it, it sucked.
Now when I say I am game industry roadkill, I MEAN it. I know it’s a brutal visual, but it’s as close as I can get to describing what it feels like when looking for work. I have been rejected from almost every game studio in the continental US and then of course there was my “nope” tour through Europe and Asia. “No” is not the only thing running me over with a truck. There is blatant bias against my gender thrown at me constantly in many ways. Be it pay or in interview processes, these biases are clear. What’s really tricky is once I had seen firsthand the proof of this bias, it’s hard to know when and where it’s lurking. A paranoia sets in where after every rejection I have to bury the fear and anger that it might have been related to my sex. I want to hope that this issue is getting better but even as the media continues to expose it, the amount of accountability is too low to truly register if change is happening or not. In most cases, I have no way to prove that sort of motivation and so I have to purge that paranoia from my mind and if I’m honest, it’s never fully gone.
At one point I THOUGHT I had the dream job. I worked in a game studio full of developers who I thought were my heroes, and yet that was the place where my drive to work on games nearly died. I was devalued, dismissed and robbed of writing credit. I also love covering esports, however, that’s a scene rife with gate keepers, elitists and again, the old chestnut of the gender issue. There is always a feeling with esports that I am being shown the door. These tire marks are DEEP, I’ve been in the game industry for ten years. What’s terrifying is how NOT alone I am. Even more so, I KNOW I am far from the worst case.
So what the hell am I still doing here? Well to start, I’m choosing to be here, knowing what I know and what I’ve seen because when there is work, I LOVE it. I am owed nothing from my chosen path, so when I get opportunities to work in the mediums I want to, I take into account that those are victories. I have worked on things I am so proud of like Mutant Football League, Shero and Vex and of course all the work I get to do here at Sugar Gamers. All of these things came with a rare “yes” and all of them worth all of the “no” I had to stomach.
This “no” was a little tougher than others. My life would have changed dramatically, for good or for worse, I’ll never know. I’m not certain yet how I’m gonna use this particularly loaded “no” of mine, but it definitely has a lot of powerful energy attached to it. At this moment, I am laying flat on the side of the road, glaring at the sun. I’m a little bitter and definitely coming at myself very harshly. I am questioning if maybe I’m just a shitty writer who should pack it in. How did I go from “unicorn” to roadkill once again? I think I need to accept that I will always be roadkill, job or not and I have a feeling very soon I’m gonna be cool with it.