Thursday, August 1, 2013

On Second (and Third) Acts

I became an editor at Computer Gaming World in my 30s. At this point, I had already had many years under my belt as an editor for technical books and magazines--jobs that offered only mild satisfaction at best.  I was also already a father.

My CGW job--which of course bled in and continued through 1UP, GFW, etc--was the job that made me feel like I'd "made it."  It was the first job I was truly happy in, and not coincidentally, was the most successful at. There was not one day, ever, when I wasn't happy to be going to work,  when I didn't know how lucky I was.  Yes, it was not all good times every day, there were lots of politics and headaches, I frequently got angry and frustrated as in every job---but I knew, always, that it just felt right to be there.  It did not ever feel like "work" to me.  It felt like I had just gotten extremely lucky to be doing what made me happy and actually getting paid for it besides. The paycheck almost felt beside the point.  That job allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream - having a humor column - but also helped me discover skills I had no idea that I had,  and, most important of all, gave me a sense of self-confidence I had lost, for a variety of reasons, around age 13 and until then had never regained.

I left 1up.com only reluctantly. Only because I could see the writing on the wall (I escaped the notorious "1upacolapyse" by just a few months) and knew I would be laid off.  In addition, my magazine, the laughable and unfortunately renamed Games For Windows: The Official Magazine, had closed down for good,  and while I was adapting well to life online - and was having the time of my life with the GFW Radio podcast - my day-to-day responsibilities were changing to a point where I just felt like maybe my time had come.  So I left.  And that, so far at least, has turned out to be the end of that Act of my life - the act in which I had found my proper place in the world and was happy and thriving and fulfilling my dreams.

This Act, the act I am currently in, is...well, I don't know exactly what it is yet. I sort of half-jokingly called it the "epilogue" the other day to my daughter, and she was swift to scold me. At 51, I still have many things I hope to accomplish,  many goals still unfulfilled,  and much, I hope, to offer. But I freely admit that these last four years,  from the time I left 1UP until now, have not been the easiest,  however else it may appear to anyone who for whatever reason has any interest in me and my career.  Not being able to find a job in the press,  unadvisedly trying my hand at being a game producer, and now muddling along in whatever the hell "social media" is, has not done wonders for my sense of accomplishment or self-worth.  I don't actually know what "success" in these positions means, or whether it matters, or whether what I'm doing is of any remote consequence.   I'm not complaining or feeling sorry for myself or issuing a cry for help.  I'm just saying that it's hard not to feel at times like I'm "the guy who used to be Jeff Green,"  that the past four years have been some kind of glorified early retirement home for me,  even though I sure as hell am not ready for that yet.

In the end, it's all on me. Whether it's at PopCap or somewhere else, whether it's in videogames or something else, it is my personal responsibility to actually take my life in the direction I want it to go, rather than let life happen to me - which is something I've been all too guilty of in the past.

Do I want to write more? Do I want to podcast again?  Do I want to walk away from all of it and go sell bongs on the beach in Kauai?  Yes, yes, and of course not because that would be wrong and not legal and please don't worry mom it was just a joke. The point is that I am in a heavy duty period of self-reflection right now, trying to figure out how best to spend this part of my life, how best to turn this Act into one as vital as the previous one,  one that does not in fact feel like an "epilogue" even when I'm pretending I'm joking about it.

 "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," according to a quote often attributed to John Lennon.   Sometimes, however, those "other plans" need to take center stage. They need to get shoved out from the corner of the closet they're hiding in and assert themselves. So that's kinda what I'm doing right now.  I'm trying to take those plans out of the closet,  see if they actually still fit, and then put 'em on and see if there's any swagger (as you kids say) left in this middle-aged doofus.

Answers TBD.





43 comments:

Jonathon said...

You should kickstart something! That's what everyone else is doing!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,

What I can say. I enjoyed GFW magazine but most of all I enjoyed listening to GFW Radio.

In all this time you guys did the podcast you and the other dudes where part of my life. When I was kinda down a lot of problems I always remember that I could count on you guys to have a break, to have a laugh at everything. And I am so very glad that you guys did that podcast.

I don't think you guys realize how brilliant, entertaining, funny and up lifting that podcast was. And I think the secret was that every single one of you had a complimentary role. And all of you were insightful, funny and (how can I say this) relatable. And the secret is: your part was "the glue" in a sense. You put order in that magnificent caos.

Man, seriously, thanks.

From a fan in Brazil.

smmoulder said...

I hear you man. I went through something similar after leaving Microsoft in 2004. Combine that with a divorce and you have the makings of an epic reboot (desired or not).

I don't have any easy answers for you, but it's possible you could mine your close understanding of our industry for some interesting writing. Would it change the world? Who cares? You like to write and tell stories, so write what you like and see where it goes.

Ryan Schuster said...

Join Giantbomb....... You would be awesome there.

Anonymous said...

Jeff + Giant Bomb = Perfect.

Stefan said...

Hi Jeff,

I just wanted to take the time to thank you for doing the GFW Radio podcast for all these years. I was a little late to the party but that podcast became a favorite of mine and I still think it has yet to be topped in terms of the balance between humor and serious gaming discussion. Good luck with opening a new chapter in your life, I admire how you handled your transition from the gaming press and let people take part in all the difficulties and rewarding moments that go along with that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,
Let me just echo what others have said. Giant Bomb! You'd be such a perfect fit there!

Also... Long time reader, first time commenter. The 1UP and CGW podcasts were some of the first podcasts I ever listened to, and I blame you and the rest of the guys involved for getting me addicted to 'em. The work you've produced in the past, and continue to produce on this blog and on Twitter, has brought a lot of people a lot of entertainment through the years. If that is not a legacy to be proud of, I'm not sure what is.

Anonymous said...

Let me echo what others have said, Giantbomb + Jeff Green! Your chemistry with the guys there is amazing.

Anonymous said...

You're never too old to reinvent yourself! (Unless it involves a ponytail and a Porsche.) Twitter and most of the internet believes in you. Look what Leo LaPorte started at such a late point in his career!

Love,

Most of the Internet

Anonymous said...

giantbomb

Curtis said...

Mr. Green, I've been a loyal reader since CGW and would love to see you at Giant Bomb. The staff there has a lot of respect for you already and to me at least, someone in your position fits into the mission of the site.

That said, I actually thought about writing them a letter re: this the other day but realized it might be too soon. Really have no idea how one would bring it up.

Hang in there, sir.

-Curtis

Adv (sweden) said...

Yes if the GiantBomb-crew would have you on staff it would be perfect for all! (atleast for me).

Anonymous said...

Giantbomb would be awesome.

Anonymous said...

Giantbomb Jeff. PLEASE

Anonymous said...

Have you considered publishing your own magazine online? It wouldn't be difficult to find people who want to work with you.

Anonymous said...

El bomba gigante.

Anonymous said...

go to giant bomb plz

Dangerkenny said...

The cliche always has been, "What would you do if you didn't have to work?" That's not exactly an easy question to answer. For most of us, it would be, nothing. Nothing doesn't pay the bills, but what does nowadays?

My thoughts? The 3 act structure is getting tired, and desperately in need of an overhaul.

There are studios that would be willing to take a risk. The Cudgel of Xanthor always seemed like something that could actually work as a game. Perhaps gaming's Adaptation could be a satirical look at creating art in a business.

Or, rent a boat for a year, and have your 'going out to sea' period. Go to an open mic night and recite beat poetry. Interview all the hippies in Berkeley and send it to This American Life. Life is full of insane plots and schemes, and we all work better without a safety net.

Tristessa said...

Awesome. Sounds like something I heard a rapper say in a song about coming back bigger and badder than ever. I support that!

And a podcast. And writing. I miss listening/reading your stuff.

I think the midlife crisis gets a bum deal. Probably because it's been made fun of in media for ages. But really, life is full of those. Had my first crisis at about 13 (oh, no...prepare for a future!). Then another at 19/20 (oh no, live on your own!). Then at 30 (oh no, what are doing with your life?). Then at 40 (oh no, didn't write that book yet? And where's your guitar these days?)...

So, yeah. we're all going through it constantly. And we're your chums. That means we want to hear your podcast, read your words, and scratch our heads over your eventual decision to mainstream the pro tiddlywinks circuit.

Cue, music...smoke machine...bird chirps...and fake sun beams.

Ok...I pep talked him. Do I get paid here or does it go to my bank account? What? It's still recording. Well, shit...

Ethan said...

I don't know you, but I think you're great, and I loved listening to you and the boys talk, sometimes seriously and sometimes sillily (?) for many an hour.
Please see if Giant Bomb will hire you to write for them and maybe even appear on their podcast more than once every three years.
You know if that's something you'd want to do. I immediately thought this for some reason while reading your post, and was startled, as I scrolled my way down to the "Post" button, how many others had already written that here!
Whatever you end up doing, thanks for sharing, and damn good luck to you, sir.

CallMeSarge said...

Joining Giant Bomb would be incredibly awesome. I don't know if its what you would want. But I think your fan base is clear on the matter :D

Worth remembering though, we will love your ass no matter what you do. Not your actual ass. You in general.

BIGMercenary said...

I'm sort of in the same spot: I feel like I'm too old to go back to school but I'm stuck in a job (with not enough pay) to where I can't move forward. I don't have time to stop and reflect for decision making. Usually making decisions on the fly that would be the best for me only end up with people telling me I'm wrong. It makes me feel like my life decisions are worthless; almost depressing and I can definitely say that I'm not where I want to be right now due to outside circumstances and yet people tell me that its my fault.
I usually give them the finger and proceed to make my plans because its what I want to do.
If people like us are waiting for a good kick in the ass and the right words to make us feel motivated then we're going to be disappointed.
I originally had an entirely different comment but I changed all of it just to say this: Do want you want.
You're friggin' Jeff Green. Companies will hire you based on your personality alone. Go for anything.

Anonymous said...

Dad, Giantbomb. Think of all the radiation you'll be saving yourself from not flying back and forth. You can ride that sweet bike into work everyday weather permitting... We're just saying... Fanboys CAN dream. =)

Matt Miller said...

Black dragon, light the fuse on that Giantbomb!

Anonymous said...

But didn't you once write a Greenspeak column in which you basically wondered if you shouldn't be doing more with your life than just reviewing and writing about games?

Aren't you kind of looking back on the CGW days through rose coloured glasses?

It seems to me that even when you were at CGW you were questioning the course of your life.

Imagine if CGW hadn't been axed. Maybe the other editors would've all left to do 'other things' with their lives? What then?

In that case you probably would've felt left behind. In that case you probably would've sat down and written this same blog post.

My advice: man up and accept that you have almost no control over any of this.

Robert Coffey.

James Jordan said...

As improbable as it might be, giantbomb would be incredible.

Jeff Green said...

@Robert Coffey: It's not rose-colored glasses, it's perspective. :) I acknowledged in the post that it wasn't always great, but, now, with four years at other jobs, I realize how actually happy I was, despite my protests at the time. Internally, at least, I felt "at home," where as I've been a stranger elsewhere.

And I'm assuming your last sentence is a joke?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see, perspective... yes, I suppose that we never really know what we've got until we see it walking away. I'm sure you felt the same way when your daughter went off to college.

I think part of the problem here might be with the writing itself. You're a writer. That's what you do. It's what fullfills you and defines you.

At Popcap you're burning yourself out writing about Popcap stuff. I can't imagine that after a day of writing you'd want to come home and write about 'other stuff', and yet writing about other stuff is exactly what writers need to do.

At CGW this was less of a problem because you were creating a new magazine every frickin' month! I suspect that during your CGW days there was so much stuff to write about that you never really felt drained. The opposite, probably. The satisfaction of signing off on that magazine, of sending it off to the presses, must've been wonderful.

I'm guessing that you're prone to high spirits when writing about something you're passionate about? At CGW you probably experienced frequent highs when writing - probably not so much at Popcap.

I reckon you've got a great job there at Popcap - it's just that you're constantly writing about that one thing.

So what's the solution to all this? The solution is simple. You're a writer. You need something to write about that's going to fill you up. Whether you find that after hours, or need to find a new gig during the day, is obviously for you to decide.

As far as 'manning up' is concerned. Yeah. That was a joke. I remember reading one of your tweets when you were at EA. Some guy didn't hold the door open for you or something, so you tweeted your displeasure. A follower of yours then told you to 'man up' - a delightful phrase, which I'd never heard before.

Man up. I kinda like that.

Anonymous said...

Follow your heart , Jeff. I wish you the very best as a long-time follower from the 1up days.

I myself recently went through a period where I had to put everything in perspective and decide if what I was doing in life was what was truly best for me in terms of happiness. I'm only half your age (hehe...sorry Jeff...) but I really sympathize with you in regards to your identify, your "finest hour," and what is best for your life.

Money comes and goes in life, but it's the laughs you have along the way; the proud accomplishments you achieve; and the confidence that where you are and what you are doing is where you should be and is what you ashould be doing... that's all that matters, I've found.

Jeff, identify what it is you are missing. Then find an opportunity and take it. You know you have a legion of fans and supporters who will be right behind you, so listen to your heart and live your life the way you should.

Thank you for all the great laughs and memories from 1up and beyond, Jeff. You'll be just fine, my man. (Please pardon any editorial errors, I'm writing this from my phone.)

- Clifton

Anonymous said...

life is a battle, mate.

Jan Stephan GrĂ¼n said...

Everything we need
Everything is what we've got
Everything we want
Is already here
Yeah, it's time to let it out
It's time to unleash the wild
Everything we do, we do it for you

If you are feeling low
Remember the good times
And let that feeling grow
Let it grow

Put on that song
And dream along
Make it real
The countdown to the thrill
We'll never stop, no
To turn it up, yeah

Everything we need
Everything is what we've got
Everything we want
Is already here
Yeah, it's time to let it out
It's time to unleash the wild
'Cause everything we do, we do it
for you

That is all I have to say.

Zeitgeist said...

Loved the podcast!

But I disagree about joining "Giant Bomb". These guys have nothing on the original GFW/CGW crew!

Even if you sometimes made fun of Germany :D ... which is great! No one does that! :P

Thank you Jeff Green from Germany

Helen C said...

Hustle in on whatever Shawn Andrich and friends may or may not be cooking up at GWJ. Just think, you could be a Gamer with a Gamers With Jobs Job!

Whatever happens, make sure you keep the twitter account. If I only had one reason to keep using twitter, following you would be it.

balbobuggins said...

As long as the will is there, you have what it takes to forge your own path. If you decide to make a change, I think you should go out on your own and create something from nothing. Something that only someone with your unique skills, personality, and experience could make. You've stayed in the back seat too long.

Tyson Mock said...

Hi Jeff,

I enjoyed reading CGW and have popped in here to see what you are up to every now and then.

Not long ago I stumbled onto an interesting blog...

http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com

You might enjoy it and maybe it will even serve as inspiration for your next project.

Lev Grossman said...

Is Revision3 at all a possibility? Giant Bomb would also be a great choice.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoyed GreenSpeak when it ran on CGW. I thought you were a great comic writer. How about writing for Cracked.com? They could use someone with your writing skills, and their readers are really into videogames and nineties stuff.

Oh and BTW, what you are going through is a phase that all people who achieve perfection too early- astronauts, child stars, olympic medalists, boxing champs, etc.- go through and eventually leave behind. I wish I could offer a helpful advice, but unfortunately I've never achieved perfection, so...

Harold Ong said...

Robert Coffey and Jeff Green in one page again. Man, I miss your monthly rants so much. A piece of me died when CGW/GFWM went away.

- Servantes

Allen W said...

Your CGW humor column was my favorite part of every issue, and I still remember being happy--for you *and* for me as a reader--when you became the editor. Since CGW unfortunately folded, I've though about that column often, and somehow found this blog and found you on Twitter, and have been reading both ever since.

Anonymous said...

1 word, Giantbomb!

Michael Kerr said...

Jeff I reinvent myself every 10yrs or so. Keeps life fresh, so look for something different in your life like going to the gym and adding weight training to your yoga or something.
I've been reading your stuff for 20yrs dewd and your good at what you do. You'll be fine ;)

Anonymous said...

As someone who lives on Kauai, I think I like that option:) Miss CGW and the podcast!

Royce said...

I just want to echo all the above comments - I really miss having you on a weekly podcast, and I miss the regular columns.

You brought a lot of smiles to a lot of us and I definitely hope you find a way to do it on the regular once again. I'm on board to Kick Start whatever you do!