From Glass To Games: An Origin Story

by Derek Swinhart on May 21, 2018 at 06:54 AM

I traveled 1,304 miles to get to Minneapolis before I started my internship at Game Informer, but my journey to where I am now has been much longer than that. At 26 years of age, I might be a little old for an intern. Unlike most I not only had no interest in writing at a young age, but I never studied it in college.  I got my start in games at a young age, playing Kirby on the NES and eventually getting an N64 as my first console.  Back then, my brother and I were limited to an hour a day at most of playtime, and we used every bit of that to play Super Smash Bros, Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time and many more.  Weekends were spent with my best friend, where the time restrictions were removed, and we played games through the night and into the morning (much to the chagrin of his parents). When we weren’t gaming, we were playing with Aliens and Predator action figures, or drawing and writing our own comics. 

In 2001, I moved from Arizona to Vermont, travelling 2,551 miles by car with my three siblings and my parents. That same year, my life and my relationship with games changed from a pastime to my inspiration. I played Halo: Combat Evolved for the first time at my best friend’s house. He and I shared a singular obsession with Halo: We poured over the manual and learned everything we could about the universe and the characters within it.  Halo was awe-inspiring; the art was incredible, and it transported me to a world the likes of which I had never seen in a game.  It inspired me to pursue art, but I foolishly cast aside my passion for more practical studies.  I ended up only ever taking a cartooning class in high-school, and despite the advice from my peers and teachers steering me towards writing and the arts, I studied history and attended military college.  

At military school, I enjoyed the structure and discipline, but found I still spent all the time I could playing games. Ultimately, I used art as an escape.  I painted and drew and used my skills to help create banners and imagery for my company; I lost myself in games like Dark Souls, Skyrim, Arkham City and Deus Ex.  Art and games saved me at my worst, when I felt creatively lost and stuck in a place I never truly wanted to be.  I ended up transferring and, while originally wishing to study concept art, I attended The Ohio State University and focused on art and technology.  It was here that I found the art of glass, and instead of pursuing my passion for drawing and painting, I challenged myself and started blowing glass.  At the studio, I learned to cast, construct, and paint stained glass windows.  I created many oddities, such as a replica of human teeth using colored glass, and a Luigi Amiibo using casting.  I had believed my future to be in the gallery. Despite all this, I had started to write in 2012 about games and music. 

My time with glass came and went, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Glass. My assumption was that I would be making stained glass for a living.  Ultimately, my passion had dwindled, and since I first encountered them, games were the only thing for which my enthusiasm never waned. I still was writing about games and reviewing music as much as I reasonably could, and in between playing everything, I worked jobs as a children’s program director, a stained-glass installer and in the supplement industry. I never once expected to be a writer, or to be in the games industry. The point of this long story is that despite what you do, and despite what you may think you should do, you are not on a set path.  Your life is your own, and you can change it in any way you see fit.  

I did not study writing, but I loved games, and I spent all the time I could writing – I started early and stuck with it.  The best advice I can give anyone looking to start writing about games is to start now.  Forget what people tell you or what you think you can do and stop doubting yourself.  Start your blogs, start playing more games and start talking to everyone about them, whether they want to hear it or not.  I never thought I would be here; I doubted myself for years.  I read Game Informer for the last seventeen years: I know all the editor’s names, I have watched all the super-replays, and it has always been my favorite place to go for games critique. Opening a new issue was as good as getting a new game to me, and pouring over cover stories with my best friend is still a highlight of my early gaming life. Watching Replay got me through some of my worst times in college, and it was then that I told myself I would start writing about games and I would be at Game Informer one day.  That was six years ago, and despite all that time, I still cannot believe I am here. The journey to get to where I am today had very little to do with games or writing, but that never made me give up on a dream that had been gestating for nearly two decades. Now, at the absolute eleventh hour of my young-adult life and the last chance I could have taken to be an intern, I am here at Game Informer.  It is an honor to be addressing a community I have been a part of as long as I can remember, and one I have loved for well over a decade at this point.

Extra Life is always one of my favorite days of the year because of the Game Informer community and the ensuing stream.  Interacting with everyone, feeling the positive energy and watching editors make fools of themselves always ends up being a blast. At the final moments of the stream there is a sadness, because despite the exhaustion caused by the twenty-four-hour binge, nobody wants it to end.  Luckily for me, I get to live and breath that feeling for the next three months, and I plan on making the most of it.  My goal is to write content that is informed by my background in gallery work and art critique, but also entertains and enlightens. Game Informer is in an amazing community full of giving and passionate people. I hope I can give back to the editors and readers as much as you all gave me. Thank you all, and I cannot wait to get started. 

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