re/Action is an evolution; here stands change grown out of necessity. The gaming industry as a whole is squirming in a cocoon, ready to emerge as something more beautiful than it was. We can all feel it in our bones — soon, nothing will be the same.
Something needed to happen. With many publications shutting their doors and fewer and fewer writers finding paying work, the current models we have for game writing aren’t working. Gaming sites see their relationships with advertising, and by extension the unsavory base-common-denominator demographic they wish they didn’t serve, as fatalistic.
This led to online publications being the last place a writer could really find a viable income. No less, many make excuses for why there can’t be good writing in the media because of the quota of eyeballs they need to fulfill. Many good writers not established at publications are in more danger than ever, and discouraged from pouring their heart and time into well crafted work to instead join the faceless ranks in order to make ends meet.
The media still struggles to be an inclusive institution; it doesn’t know how to attract different talent with new perspectives, instead the same old fan who is conditioned to see games the same old way. This attitude makes community spaces hostile to those not in target demographics.
I am but one of the people kept down by the system we have in place. After writing game criticism for a year, I was invited to speak at seven conferences and look forward to seeing my game Mainichi exhibited in a museum. Despite being described as important to the industry, it doesn’t sustain me, in fact, I have spent money to stay afloat as a community member. It ties into the theme of our inaugural issue, Survival. What do we need to do to keep our bright lights from dying out?
Why is this? Because publications can’t, or don’t want to, pay game critics like myself, even if they are considered valuable to the health of the media. The sites that do accept writing like ours don’t pay a livable wage, further discouraging many from pursuing this with rigor. It keeps people already financially disadvantaged out, and only rewards those both lucky and privileged.
re/Action is my last hoorah, a last grasp at staying inside the media and doing work I love. I’m not alone — many valuable writers and friends are also displaced, pulled between their want to inform and enlighten and their need to live and eat. I felt it was time for the community to have their last chance too, their last chance to save the good writing they want around.
This publication aims to celebrate the amazing writing often turned away from the mainstream sites and left unpaid. We want to capture the conversations that need to happen and create a safe space for all to participate. How will we be different?
Good writing deserves to get paid a fair rate. The typical case is critical work outside of the consumer press is paid very little, if anything at all. Writers that the community finds valuable are often, at most, offered $.02 per word rates for 1000-2000 word articles. Meaning, they would have to write over 30 of these pieces a month to even consider breaking the US poverty line. We want to change this- good, interesting writers shouldn’t be treated this way, and it’ll take a unique publication to do this. Once funded, you can be assured re/Action writers are paid $200 per 1000+ word piece, easily ten times the usual amount they would be receiving at another site.
Inclusivity isn’t an ideal, it’s mandatory. re/Action strives for both a diverse writer base and readership that can interact in a safe space. We aim to attract varied talent with policies that encourage the representation of many different identities; our founding body of writers is diverse and they are free to speak about any issue without mind to a target demographic. Discriminatory, marginalizing language will not be tolerated on any level, and voice will be given to talent who are good, no matter what they want to talk about and who they are. Money will never dictate what a writer or reader will have access to. Public conversation will be moderated heavily to ensure everyone is treated equally and with respect.
Dedication to alternative writing. We’re not going to be another site doing the same thing just ‘better.’ re/Action wants to provide the content often left off mainstream sites, such as sharp cultural criticism of games and illuminating personal editorials. This publication invites all sorts of analysis and storytelling in many different forms, all stylized by the writer producing it. Our philosophy at re/Action is to cultivate a strong enough voice for readers to recognize our writers without looking to the byline. We also want to highlight great games left unnoticed because they aren’t made in the traditional model.
It’s all about having a conversation. It is often hard to have a productive conversation over social media and underneath hot topic articles. Instead, we close off public comments and encourage the writers to respond to each other’s work. This lets an extended conversation grow with the people the readers want to hear from. Public comments will be curated onto the site to keep an active relationship with the community.
Now, you ask, how can we do such wonderful things?
First, we prove to the community that we need to exist. A group of essential game critics have assembled to show you a taste of what’s to come. They will show a scope of perspectives the community has but isn’t often represented. These are also hard workers who aren’t properly sustained yet continue to provide the game industry with thoughtful insight.
Then we head to crowdfunding. That’s right- there will be no advertising, subscriptions, paywalls; nothing. The community will have to come together to support this venture, believing both in excellent writing and ethical working conditions from the writers they enjoy. re/Action will only be commissioning an amount of work that it can afford and never will compromise a writer’s fair pay. Money from the funding goes directly to the writers and leftover will be saved for the yearly fund drives. We believe this system will work because readers want good content and will pitch together to make it happen.
We have many plans to build up the community around re/Action and want constant involvement with our readership. I personally am excited to show the industry new ways of existing without needing to exploit anyone for profits. People deserve to live happy lives doing what they do best, and it is our hope this starts a ripple that can turn into wave.
The re/Action Founding Team
Andrew Vanden Bossche