2015

Hope is a really powerful thing.

I usually post this for Facebook only, but figure I’ve done this everywhere throughout the year that I may as well throw it open — at least for this year — for everyone. Also, I feel like my blog has hit its quota of massively personal blogs every few years so I’ll spare it being posted there and just post it here instead. Plus, I kinda wanna try out Medium properly, so I figure this is as good an excuse as any.

Lost In Transition

This year was definitely one of transition. If the final half of 2012, my previously worst year ever, and 2013 were years of professional transition, 2015 was one of personal transition. One I would never, ever wish upon anyone.

This was going to be the first full-year I’d have to face without my mother not being here. The first Christmas had passed, but 2015 was going to be a year of a lot more firsts: my first birthday without her, which really stung moreso than I thought it would as the rest of my immediate family didn’t cop in it was my birthday, although I wouldn’t care as much as I knew there’d be at least one person who’d always know, that one person who told me in 2013 that “I hope you do get out of here [to England] this year” on my 23rd birthday in 2013 — except that person wasn’t here this year.

And then there were the other firsts: the first Mother’s Day without her, her first birthday without her (literally the day after Mother’s Day), not being around to see her grandson’s first birthday. Like I said, many firsts we had to deal with. As I linked to above, I wrote of how I dealt this past year with her not being here and I won’t repeat too much of what I wrote there.

But I’d been dreading the week leading up to the anniversary. On the day of the anniversary, November 10 (hey, Fallout 4 day! That was a fun time wracking my brain whether it was appropriate to buy and play a game on the anniversary, even if said game could help me get away from what was meant to be on that day — — something I’ll touch upon below) I remember having to walk from one side of Derry to the other to make sure the blog had gone live as our internet was on the fritz and I had a shit 3G signal so I couldn’t do it from my phone. But it was something I was absolutely intent on making sure I want to go up as I wanted it to go up so that, maybe, when someone goes through something similar, it can be of some help, even if minor, to them (though like I said in it, don’t let anyone tell how to grieve, only you know to cope with it in your way).

Saying that, that blog would be my only form of communication for a few days. Otherwise, I just spent that week — and one or two days before it — just being a straight up introvert and not wishing to talk to anyone, especially family, face-to-face, though I’d easily talk to friends on Facebook if they came to me.

And then, there was this past Christmas. Last year, I was just straight up dreading it because it was the first without her. Besides one or two little moments, last Christmas was, for me, the worst. After being an adult, I never really liked Christmas (though didn’t mean I didn’t celebrate it or harp on others for doing so), but last year moreso. However, last week marked the first Christmas in at least eight or nine years I’ve enjoyed properly than just an alright/horrible Christmas. Celebrating my nephew’s second Christmas and seeing him get spoilt rotten (he got a child-sized, battery powered Range Rover for fuck sake — lucky shit), being around family and friends for brunch (brother said breakfast, but as it’s served after midday, it’s brunch) and then — after agonising torture setting up an Xbox One — a few rounds of Mortal Kombat X (yours truly won a few rounds up against someone who knew her shit on it), a good Christmas dinner and little bits inbetween. Oh and a new Radiohead song. Christmas 2015 was well bloody good.

This transition has taken a toll on me — and my family as well, but for the sake of this, I’ll just speak only for me — which in turn has made 2015 for the most part really shit. But saying that, it had its moments. And this has been actually a really good end to the year, even if it the rest of it wasn’t as good.

So yeah, 2015, you were rubbish. But not that rubbish compared to 2012. Compared to 2014, you were the best year ever.

“I’ve got a feeling… a feeling deep inside.”

Even in the worst times, whether it was the final half of 2012 or what happened last year (or even parts of this year), there’s always been something driving me, be it writing or podcasting.

That said, it’s hard when, as I mentioned when writing on my blog about my mum’s passing, it doesn’t help your self-confidence has plummeted perhaps to the other side of China. Be it self-doubt or the thought that one person who has, for the lack of a better term, inadvertently played a part with said confidence and self-esteem in the worst possible way.

In fact, to use an analogy I’ve often thought of when thinking of this person (and one discussed when I was in Brighton earlier this year having dinner with a dear, dear friend), think of it like a rooftop party. Some of the most esteemed people are there and you are too. You’ve been there for quite a while, but then all of a sudden, you slip on one too many banana peels and fall off the side of the building but cling onto the rooftop for dear life. Someone comes over to you, thinking they’re gonna help you back up. Instead, they stamp on your hands over and over again to get you to let go. This has been me for over three-and-a-half years.

And yet, I still hang on. Because I have to. Not just for me, but for her (her being mum). No matter how much self-doubt and crisis of confidence that person has caused me inadvertently, I still hang on. Because the feeling of hope is such a powerful thing.

Hope in that My Favourite Game continues to thrive and does as well as can be in 2016.

Hope in that my games writing continues to be just as great as 2015 and hopefully means something to other people in 2016.

Hope in that The Masterplan — my plan to get out of Derry into England — pans out at last in 2016.

I promise, I won’t let you win. You will lose.

My Favourite Game (of 2015) — released earlier today (December 31, 2015).

“My Favourite Game is…”

My Favourite Game, having only started as a thing that I could perhaps use in a CV to help further myself, has now become its own big thing to me. And 2015 has been such an incredible year for the show, having only begun just a few short months earlier on what was essentially out of nowhere (and all before everything that happened with my mum).

My Favourite Game was up for a Games Media Award this year, which insanely made me proud. Whenever VG247 was up for a GMA when at the site, I was always very happy to be recognised to be part of an incredible team with nominations — Pat Garratt, Steph Nunneley and Brenna Hillier are three of the most passionate and talented writers in the industry and anyone who likes to snark on them because they do something different than what is the norm in the industry can fuck. right. off. — but there was always that part of me that felt disappointed I was never nominated for, say, Rising Star when there, especially in what I felt was my best year ever professionally, 2011.

But My Favourite Game’s nod was something I could be entirely proud of on my own. It was my baby, my creation and to see it recognised in such a way along the likes of Daft Souls, Regular Features, Chat Very Good and The Crate and Crowbar were fantastic.

(sorry for being all me me me for a minute there, but indulge me)

And the show has had some incredible episodes this year, if I do say so myself, of people talking personally at length of their favourite game and why it and gaming as a whole means so, so much to them. Here’s a links to few of my favourite episodes from the show I recorded this year (all of them recorded this year are all great, but these are the ones that stood out for me, one way or another).

(the ones in italics, if pushed for time, are your absolute essentials. Get on them)

So all in all, a fantastic 2015 for My Favourite Game. And if I have it my way, 2016 will be just as incredible. Here’s hoping for a second GMA nod and actually winning it this time.

(Sorry — it was the only version out there — but even then, Finn Balor is cooler than you, so… whatever, man)

The Masterplan & writing

Writing in 2015 has not been at the level I hoped it’d be at — at least in terms of volume of output — but whenever I have written, I have written about the things I wanted to write about.

In March, I wrote the most personal thing I had ever written — before the blog I published on the anniversary of Ma’s passing — on how games helped me cope whilst she was ill and then subsequently after she went for Official PlayStation Magazine UK. It was the same reasoning with when the anniversary came up, which was why in the end, I decided to purchase and play Fallout 4 on the day of the anniversary. That escapism in nuclear wasteland Boston, even if for a few hours, helped in a massive, massive way.

The piece I wrote in March on games helped me after Ma’s passing for Official PlayStation Magazine UK.

Seeing the reception to it and the feedback from it the night it came out was honestly one of the most fulfilling days I’ve had as a games writer. It even produced a moment not too dissimilar to the one had by my mum when I showed her The Last of Us feature I did for OPM in mid-2014 when my dad dropped a comment on it on Facebook saying he was proud of me for that piece. Again, it felt like vindication, just as much as the TLOU piece was when I showed it to my mum.

But it’d be a few weeks after when I got second-hand feedback outside of people I knew that meant it really hit home for me. One person said the article was “ truly inspirational”, while another said it made them want to share their story of how games helped them through difficult times such as their dad’s death and partner’s battle against cancer.

I am so proud of that piece and will forever remain to be until the day I stop writing. I can’t even begin to tell you how difficult it was just writing it. And it was only one page too. But it was in part cathartic for me. The fact it resonated with quite a few people meant it became even more special. So thank you to Matt Pellett for giving me the space and letting me write about it and to Daniella Lucas for sticking it up soon after on GamesRadar for more people to read (though you should have still bought the mag — magazines make things much prettier).

One other thing I was proud of this year in writing was a thing I did for Kotaku UK — which later ended up on Kotaku main — on the growing sector of games academia. This was a thing I had wanted to do since 2013, but only had the bottle to pitch near the end of last year to one or two places.

I got to have near hour-long chats with the wonderful Richard Lemarchand (seriously, if you ever get a chance to interview Richard, take it) and always highly-opinonated but excellent Warren Spector and just under an hour with the insightfuly brilliant Brenda Romero on their academic roles and how made games academia tick.

I have to thank Keza Macdonald for taking a punt on it. It’s a piece I wanted to do for a long time and I am really happy it finally got out there.


Of course, my writing is a huge part of The Masterplan, the plan to get out of NI into England. Much as I willed it to happen, wanted it to happen as it was more or less my final promise to my mum before she passed, it never did. In fact, at the end of 2014, I sent out these tweets regarding The Masterplan, writing, My Favourite Game and other bits in a sort of bravadoish fuck you to 2014.

While the My Favourite Game tweet rang true and thensome, all of the rest of the tweets provided mixed results. But the bigger emphasis is on that final tweet about The Masterplan. I never did achieve it in 2015 which, upon realising I wouldn’t achieve, made it go into a bit of a depression spiral considering the promise I had made nearly a year earlier.

With that said, without saying much else — because nothing will happen short term and even then, I don’t want to actually reveal the actual specifics of The Masterplan besides writing about games in England in case I somehow end up jinxing myself — I finally opened up to someone strongly tied to perhaps the core part of it of it and why I really wanted it to happen for the lack of a much less vague term. And that meant a whole lot to me, even if I’m willing to accept something won’t happen in the short-term, if ever.

Like I said earlier, hope is such a powerful thing to make you hold on long enough. But like all things, it can also be held by a tiny thread of string. I don’t know how long my tiny thread of string can hold on for. I just have to hope it lasts long enough.

In summary

All in all, 2015 was for the most part shit. But not as shit as I thought it was in hindsight. Certainly not compared to 2012, our previous winner of worst year ever, and the nuclear horribleness of 2014, our current holder.

Something I made became a lot more successful than I imagined, my writing resonated with people, I made new friends as well as catchup with my most cherished ones in England, I got to spend Christmas with family and have amazing food and have fun and see my nephew continue to have the time of his life. Not to mention, before I forget, helping to raise a decent chunk of money for Macmillan which, cumulatively along with other fundraising efforts elsewhere, meant me and the rest of my family brought in somewhere over the region of £3,000 for them.

I’m not going to make some bravado prediction stuff like I did at the end of 2014. All I want is this:

  • The Masterplan to finally be realised
  • Build on the continued success of My Favourite Game
  • Actually manage to write for the three outlets I care most about in 2016 instead of only achieving two in 2015: Eurogamer, VG247, Official PlayStation Magazine UK.
  • Continue to see the nephew grow up and help mould him to a good man some day.

That’s all I want from 2016. If I can get all of those from 2016, I’ll be the happiest person on the planet.

I wish you and yours a fantastic 2016.

xx,
Johnny/Jonathan

Best of 2015

  • Game — Life is Strange
  • Album — CHRVCHES — Every Open Eyes
  • Movie — Mad Max: Fury Road (only seen three movies in 2015, so I’ll give top three: MM, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fast & Furious 7)
  • Match of the Year: Bayley — Sasha Banks: NXT Takeover Brookyln
  • Most Antcipated Game of 2016: No Man’s Sky
  • Most Antcipated Album of 2016: Radiohead — LP9 (please let it be next year)
  • Most Antcipated Movie of 2016: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story