At the start of 2015, my first written piece on board games went up at the Daily Worker Placement – my top 5 games of 2014 – and I’m surprised it took me that long. I dove into games hard in 2011 and was interacting with all sorts of folks via BGG and social media, but I suppose my efforts were more local. Then I started attending cons and it sort of spurred me to start something up, and my pal Sean had the DWP going (on Tumblr at the time!) so it was a natural spot for me to contribute.
On the personal side of things, I was meeting folks around Toronto and chatting more and more with folks on Twitter, back when Board Game Twitter was a wee baby. (Oh those halcyon days). I was in awe of folks who were doing really cool stuff like video and podcast content, but it was really all sorts of stuff that was beyond me at that time. (And, let’s face it, still today.) Eventually, I started meeting all these internet people in real life, forging even more friendships and reaching out beyond Toronto.
Mid-2016 I started up a goofy weekly stream (oh god, weekly, how) with friends. Every Friday night we’d go live on Twitch and have a theme and a themed drink to tie into it and just ramble on about games. It used to start so late for me as I was the furthest east time-zone-wise and I don’t think I could have sustained it if it weren’t for the fact it was a Friday night. Plus, there was little to no prep required as we were all fairly good at chatting off the cuff and we were all fairly in touch with the pulse of gaming at the time. We ended up doing it roughly 30 sessions and they really ended up being further and further apart toward the end, as life got in the way. I think we wrapped up October 2017.
Half a year into that streaming adventure, I kicked off the monthly podcast Greatway Games. A much more manageable schedule! This was the most planned of all my content outlets overall, with episode plans and occasional guests. After a while, we kicked off a Patreon and that honestly kept me busier than the podcast itself, with managing a Slack for supporters and sorting out the occasional mailout of swag and convention meetups. Having the Patreon has been really weird because.. well, imposter syndrome. But it’s let us pay for costs (editing programs, hosting for the episodes), send swag, host the meetups, do giveaways, pay artists and support bursaries for conventions. That has all meant the most to me, and none of us has taken a dime of that money.
Oh and somewhere in there, I took part in the Meatless Meeples project, researching and putting together maps for places to eat for vegans and vegetarians attending board game conventions, plus communications and promotions about that on Twitter.
So yeah, that first half of 2017 – I don’t know how I didn’t just burst into flame. Doing these three weirdly different things that each required a different brain being on for them was a lot. I had also taken on handling the Twitter for DWP & GWG, as well as monitoring emails for both and when it came to convention time, organizing press meetings for DWP. I don’t know if anyone realizes what goes on behind the scenes of someone who writes, podcasts or creates video. They’re all unique in their own way and require effort and time. Time to organize, time to play games, time to create the piece you’ll put out into the world. And for 95% of us “board game content creators”, this is linked to the hobby and done in spare time (lol). It’s been like having a part-time job on top of my full-time one, plus life and all of its.. curve balls.
It’s thankless, and it seems to be leading to more and more burnout for folks. Having to be on all of the time, constantly planning or creating is tough. Especially if you don’t want your quality of life to suffer. I started writing because I wanted to share my enthusiasm for games, and it’s become somewhat of a chore now to get something out weekly. I miss playing games for playing games’ sake. “You can just stop!” I can. But I feel super responsible for what I’ve helped to build up – good ol’ caring too much. And the responsibilities have to go somewhere else, they won’t just disappear.
Recently, I stepped away from Twitter entirely – personal and board-game related accounts – because it’s too much. It’s such a vastly different personal experience now to what it was when I joined in 2007. Everything I say and do is somehow picked apart or critiqued, I can’t seem to have an opinion without it having ramifications, I was harassed to the point of locking my personal account, subtweeted constantly.. the list goes on. I miss a lot of the information I’d see on there, but I really needed to stop. Once that went, I started to consider my other hobby time spent.
Things have to go. I want to get back to playing games again, where I get up from the table when the game is done, and leave, and my responsibility ends there. The process of untangling yourself from social media and friendships and partnerships and business relationships all tied to board gaming is weird and not fun. But when 2020 comes, I want to have my balance back. Write when it’s fun. Not be expected to continue on when I have nothing to say.
I’m small fry really, so I can’t imagine how it is for the folks with much larger profiles (especially those who aren’t paid for their time and efforts) (no, free games aren’t payment) who have woven themselves into positions where they’re lauded for their opinions and content and it’s not easy to walk away from. It’s not better to burn out than to fade away, but surely there’s some in between there. And surely the industry can’t keep riding on volunteer help for much longer. We’re all struggling and it’s a lot to ask.
After all of this, I’m not sure where my point lands. I just admire a good lot of folks in the hobby who are working their butts off for no tangible reward and I don’t want them to burn out for that. I want them to be valued, I want the hobby to stop getting in a flap about “ethics in board game journalism” or payment scandals (non-existent payment..) or when someone says they didn’t like a game. I want things to be reasonable, people to be reasonable, and the hobby to be more welcoming. I’m tired and I’ve reached the point where none of my output is helping and I think that’s where a lot of my burnout rests. Uphill forever.
So 2020 means time to hitch a seat to my backpack as I potter along up the hill, and take a rest every now and then. Maybe you’d like to join me. I’ll bring the tea.