“I’ve been gaming ever since the 1980s, when a neighbor moved off to college and left me with an Atari 2600.”
All of the things I said in the above statement are absolutely true, but that doesn’t make the sentence a good blurb for an author bio. Yet time and time again, I come across this exact formula in author bios for gaming websites. “I’m so and so, and I’ve been playing video games since such and such year.” Sometimes, they’ll tag on a tiny little mention of the one thing that initially sparked this love for gaming, like I did in my example bio above.
Now, I’m not going to name any names here, because I’m sure I have friends who are absolutely wonderful people who have fallen into this exact trap, and there’s no reason to humiliate anyone over this strange little nitpick of mine. But I’m sure you’ve encountered the formula at some point while you’ve been perusing your favorite gaming websites. It’s probably the number one most cliched way to write a bio in this industry.
This comes off, to me, like an overcompensation for a deep-rooted insecurity. It feels defensive, like the author is trying to preemptively quell arguments that he or she might not be “core” enough to be writing about video games.
It also comes off as uninteresting. It feels like an admission that gaming is the only hobby this author has, that he or she does nothing of interest outside of a virtual world.
I like to imagine that my favorite Games Journalists also spend time reading novels or bow hunting or skateboarding or drawing goofy pictures of monsters, and that these additional hobbies color their perspective on gaming in a way I’ve never considered until I start reading their work. Or maybe they play guitar in a band or do some small-time theater work or have an unusually large collection of Disney memorabilia. All of these things are interesting; they make these authors feel like human beings who do cool things rather than weirdly one-dimensional characters who write stiff prose about video games all day long.
I want to say this might be a symptom of a larger problem within gaming culture, the drive to segregate the elite from the casuals, to alpha-nerd one’s way into a more prominent position. Or maybe it simply shows a lack of creativity on the part of Games Journalists. Both of these scenarios depress me.
I feel like writing about games should be exciting and fun, an exercise in using your hobbies to explore new territory or even do a bit of confessional self-discovery. It should be about sharing things and building a community, about engaging people who love the same things you do, about making really cool new friends.
I know I’m being ridiculously idealistic here, and I’m almost certainly over-analyzing a really weird personal qualm of mine. Not everyone has the freedom to do these sorts of things, especially inside the sphere of paid journalism work. These people have to eat, after all, and that typically involves being forced to write things in a way that leads to a paycheck, not in the romanticized, freshman-English-major sort of way we like to dream about.
But even so, I feel like people who write about video games should stop feeling the need to shoehorn the obligatory message about how long they’ve been gaming into their author bios. They should let their writing come from a place that was honed over years of gaming, and their experience should be self-evident.
Show us that you love video games; don’t just tell us. But feel free to use your bio to tell us about some of the other super cool things you enjoy. This might very well lead you to finding a niche that fits you perfectly that you never even knew was there.
But seriously, guys, my first console really was a 2600, even though I was barely old enough to play the thing.