Hello, dear readers. I’m going to take you a bit “behind the curtain” today, as there are some things I need to talk about for the sake of my own wellbeing.
Oddly enough, the last time I talked about this stuff was at roughly the same time last year, so I’m not sure if there’s something in the air in August or what… but regardless, apologies in advance if I end up going over any of the same ground, which I probably will.
Normal business will resume tomorrow, but for today… indulge me if you will, please. These things are important to talk about.
I’m not doing well. A combination of the whole COVID-19 situation, the blisteringly hot summer we’re having here in the UK (and the fact our country is ill-equipped to deal with such conditions) and general dissatisfaction with a whole bunch of things has left me feeling frustrated, anxious and depressed.
As I described last year, being depressed for me is like being inside a bubble, and I’m sure this won’t be an alien experience to some of you reading this.
Everything outside of your immediate surroundings ceases to matter, and all you can focus on are the things that are making you upset… and how those things often feel like they’re beyond your control. It can feel like there’s no escape; you’re trapped in that bubble with a potent source of negative energy, and sometimes it can just feel easier to give up than anything else.
I can feel myself approaching that “give up” point, and I don’t want to get there. So this post, among other things, is me affirming to myself what the problem is and what I want to do about it. Whether or not I will be able to do anything about it remains to be seen — but regardless, that’s the intention here. By the end of all this, you might have a better idea of what I want to achieve — and whether you might be able to help.
Chief among the issues that are draining the life out of my bubble is my frustration with my occupation. For those unaware, MoeGamer is a one-man passion project that I do in my free time, funded entirely out of my own pocket and the generous contributions of those who have kindly chosen to help me out via Patreon. For the majority of the day, I have to work a day job to actually pay the bills.
I won’t go into detail, because I’ve made a point of not talking about the specifics of the company I work for anywhere online for various reasons. What I will say is that I’m dissatisfied, bored, creatively unfulfilled and continually frustrated at the stubborn reliance on needlessly complex, inefficient procedures and custom-built tools that are legitimately among the absolute worst pieces of software I have ever had the misfortune to come into contact with.
It’s a fairly typical corporate role, in other words, and over the course of the last few years — and several jobs — I’ve come to the conclusion that corporate life is not for me. It doesn’t gel well with my personality, the way I tend to work or, indeed, the things I really want to spend my time doing. And, while I’m working from home thanks to COVID-19 and suffering through probably the hottest, sweatiest summer we’ve ever had here in the UK, these feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration are magnified to ridiculous proportions; when I’m already feeling anxious and depressed about everything else that is happening, it’s a perfect storm of poor mental health. All trapped within that bubble.
I want — no, need — to escape. And that’s as good a reason as any to think through a few things “out loud”, as it were.
What I’d dearly love to do is to be able to take my creative projects — MoeGamer, Atari A to Z and the other things I do on YouTube — and go full-time with them — i.e. to be making enough money from them to be able to support myself and pay my half of the daily living expenses my wife and I incur.
This is, of course, an ambition that every creative person online confronts at one point or another, and regrettably, common sense usually seems to dictate that it’s better to keep it as a far-off dream than seriously pursue it. At least, it always was that way; the rise of crowdfunding platforms and various means for audience members to directly support creative types online means that it’s now — in theory, anyway — much easier than ever before to make a career out of your creativity.
You need a baseline to work from before you can even think about jacking in the day job, though. And right now, I’m not there.
There are basically several “tiers” of what I’d need to be making from my work online in order to accomplish various things. Here’s what they are:
Software and hardware
This is where we are right now. At present, my Patreon income allows me to pick up a few extra new games, bits of gaming hardware and things that make working on both MoeGamer and Atari A to Z a bit easier.
Covering site expenses
Right now, MoeGamer is hosted on one of WordPress’ Premium plans. There are much cheaper ways of hosting a website, but this takes all of the hassle out of what I want to do, keeps the site secure and safe and provides all the features I need to keep things ticking along as they are. From past experience, maintaining self-hosted WordPress can be a bit of a pain in the arse, so I’m happy to pay a bit more not to have to worry about that.
At present, a month of Patreon income just about covers the annual subscription to this plan, which comes around every June — though that then means no income to spend on anything else that month.
However, and this is becoming an increasingly important consideration, I’m starting to get close to the maximum media storage capacity, and the only means of expanding this is to upgrade to the next plan up — which is a significantly greater amount of money per year. Like, three times as much money per year — and you have to pay annually, not monthly, so there’s no way of splitting the cost.
The next plan up provides significantly more benefits than the current one besides over ten times the media storage capacity, though, so it’s something I’ve had my eye on for a while. Most notable is the ability to install plugins to the website, which would allow me to expand the functionality of MoeGamer and provide some features that are presently impossible to incorporate. I’d like to upgrade, but right now I can’t afford to subsidise that much of a jump in expenses myself.
On top of the main site expenses, there’s also a monthly fee for Soundcloud, which hosts the audio version of the MoeGamer Podcast. Roughly equal numbers of people listen to the audio-only version as watch the video version on YouTube, so this is something I want to keep around. At present, monthly Patreon income means I don’t have to worry about this all that much — and when June rolls around, I can easily handle that monthly sub myself while Patreon pays the WordPress fees.
Covering daily expenses
This is the biggie, and the main thing that stops a lot of creators from jumping head-first into their work and doing it full-time. It’s a big jump from the amount of income you need to keep your site self-sufficient to what you need to actually support yourself. It’s possible, though; I’ve seen lots of creators out there earning a pretty healthy monthly income from Patreon, and in some cases those creators’ output can politely be described as “sporadic” in terms of frequency, while I’ve been putting out daily articles and videos for quite some time now.
This isn’t to downplay what these creators do, I hasten to add; it’s more an affirmation to myself that if they can enjoy a solid monthly income with, say, a video or two a month, surely I should be able to with what is, at present, almost daily output of articles and videos.
At the moment that feels like a far-off, impossible dream, but I’d love to make it a reality. It would take so much weight off my mind and afford me the opportunity to immerse myself in the things I love. And in the long term, this would also allow me to focus on the important process of improving my mental wellbeing without being in an environment or context that actively makes it worse on a daily basis.
Making it happen
What I’ve said all along with MoeGamer is that I don’t ever want this to become a clickbait or hatebait site where the things I write about are determined by the likelihood I can get people to click on them. SEO-optimised copy and clickbait have had monstrous effects on the quality of online writing, and I hate it; I want no part of it.
However, there’s one important consideration I find myself hard-pressed to ignore, and that’s this:
This is a graph showing MoeGamer’s growth over the years since I launched it in 2014. You’ll notice a big jump between 2016 and 2017 — which is when I started both the Cover Game features and putting out daily articles — and a huge jump between 2019 and 2020. This has happened with absolutely no effort whatsoever on my part with regard to SEO optimising anything about this site, and with no effort to “clickbait”.
The most I can say I have done in the latter regard is post occasional opinion pieces about current happenings in the video games and visual novel industry — the most recent at the time of writing being the drama over Bokuten on Steam — and these often do well for a day or two while they’re relevant. But in fact, the most enduringly popular pieces on this site are articles I’ve written about stuff no mainstream publications will touch — thoroughly NSFW titles like Hilzartov Fairy and Honey Select Unlimited.
I make a point of trying to write nearly everything on here as “timelessly” as possible, so that at any time someone can come along, read my article about something and get an understanding of it, without feeling like they need the context of specifically when that article was written. I think I’m doing a good job there, and the fact that people continually come to me on a daily basis for information about titles such as Hilzartov Fairy and Honey Select Unlimited would certainly seem to back that up. Particularly as I make a point of covering these titles in a level-headed manner, without any sort of judgement towards the people who might be interested in them.
With that in mind, you will perhaps find it forgivable that I can’t help but look at those numbers and wonder if I could be making some money from this site through advertising, given the number of page views I’m getting. I don’t want to do that — and I’m very proud of the fact that I haven’t done that to date — but still, it’s an option.
The alternative, then, is directly soliciting support from my audience.
At present, I have several avenues of direct support for MoeGamer. You can “buy me a coffee” on Ko-Fi, which is a one-off donation of a fixed amount. You can donate via PayPal, which, again, is a one-off affair, this time for any amount you see fit. Or you can sign up to become a member of my Patreon. (I also have a SubscribeStar, but despite someone requesting that I set one up a while back, no-one has even looked at the page, so I’m probably just going to shut that down in the near future.)
Patreon is tricky because most creators want to provide value for their patrons beyond just support of their work. At present, I have two tiers of support on Patreon; the lower allows you access to daily personal blog posts on any old subject — a chance to get to know the real Pete a bit better — while the higher also provides you with monthly wallpapers featuring the site mascots. From conversations with patrons in the past, I don’t think anyone is there primarily for those rewards; they’re just additional things I offer because, practically speaking, I can’t afford the time to do much else at present.
I’d like to grow that Patreon with a mind to at the very least making the site completely self-sufficient and, in an ideal world, making myself self-sufficient. Because, as noted above, I feel that would be good for me.
The difference full-time would make
At present, I just about have time to write one substantial article on MoeGamer per day, plus post a video. Videos I tend to make in batches every other weekend, so that I can leave some weekends completely free to relax, and others available to record episodes of The MoeGamer Podcast. On top of that, there is, of course, research to do; I will not launch into major coverage of anything without committing to seeing it through from start to finish. And RPGs and visual novels can be long!
Being able to devote my full time to MoeGamer and YouTube would allow me to spread this work out throughout the week — and do more of it. That means multiple articles per day, the opportunity to complete large-scale features more quickly and the chance to simply cover more games and visual novels in more depth.
I’ve been approached by a lot of developers and publishers who have very interesting-sounding visual novels and games they would like me to take a look at, but it’s sometimes a little difficult to squeeze those in amid the other stuff I have planned, and I always feel a bit bad when I’m not able to get around to them. Having all of my time available to work on my projects would, of course, make this much less of an issue.
I’d also be able to explore other avenues such as streaming. I must confess I don’t really “get” streaming right now — nor do I really have the time for it at present — but if I had all my time available to work on my projects I’m certain I’d be able to find some regular time slots to stream, build a community and have some fun.
The possibilities are endless, and you can hopefully see from my current work ethic for MoeGamer that I’m committed to making this place a cool, unique destination on the Web for people interested in video games and visual novels. With more time available to me, things can only get even better.
The value of my work
I think this is important to talk about, and it’s also important to emphasise that I don’t wish to sound arrogant here. But the fact is, a lot of the games and visual novels I cover either don’t get any coverage in the mainstream — or they get poor quality coverage from people unwilling to engage with them properly. We’ve regrettably seen that all too frequently.
Video games and visual novels are two sprawling, diverse, incredibly broad forms of media with so much of value that is worth talking about, exploring in depth and preserving over time. And so much passes by unnoticed or underappreciated by the public thanks to a commercial press that is primarily concerned with covering the games that will get the clicks — and a consumer base that often doesn’t look beyond triple-A because they’re not given any reason to.
My work has value because, when it comes to creative expression, art, media, whatever you want to call it, the more things you can explore and analyse in depth, the more you can learn. And, in turn, the more people talk about certain things, the more others will want to experience them.
I have endless respect for the hardworking developers, localisers and publishers out there who bring us the interactive experiences we love to engage with, and I want to give something back. And the best way I can do that, given my own set of skills and knowledge, is to talk about these games and visual novels at length and with passion, explain what makes them interesting and perhaps why they’re noteworthy from a historical perspective.
That’s what MoeGamer’s all about. And that’s what I’d love to be able to spend my time doing.
How you can help
I appreciate that in these difficult times, very few people can afford fripperies like contributions to an ageing autistic gaming enthusiast who is slowly slipping into the depths of depression as a result of his joyless day job, and so I’d like to emphasise that you should please not feel bad if you are not able to contribute towards making my dream happen from a financial standpoint. There are plenty of other ways you can help, after all.
Firstly, you can help share my stuff around online. If you enjoy something, please share it on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or wherever you happen to hang out online. While I’ve often said that I write primarily for my own gratification, it’s become clear over the last year in particular that there are plenty of people who are interested in reading what I have to say, too — plus it always feels nice when an article does particularly well. You can help build my audience by sharing it with family members or friends who you think might find it interesting.
Secondly, you can just hang out and talk to me. Post a comment, hit me up on Twitter or say hi on Discord. I write about this stuff because I’m enthusiastic about it, and having people to talk about it with makes it all the more fun. From the perspective of the mental health matters I’ve touched on in this piece, it also helps me feel somewhat less alone, which is, as I’m sure many of you know, rather important under the current circumstances.
Thirdly, explore my back catalogue, particularly if you’re a newcomer to the site and/or YouTube channel. The All Games and Cover Games pages are great places to start, as are my new Explore pages. I have over a thousand articles and several hundred videos for you to enjoy now and, as previously noted, I make a point of creating things to be as “timeless” as possible, so even my older stuff should be just as relevant today as the day it was first published. And, of course, with the above in mind — if you find an old article or video that you particularly enjoyed, please share it!
And if you are in a position to help with a bit of your hard-earned, here are those links again. Ko-Fi for one-off “tips” of a fixed amount; PayPal for one-off “tips” of any amount you please; Patreon for ongoing support.
Thank you for reading this. I know, realistically speaking, that however many words I write about this sort of thing, there’s no “magic bullet” that is going to make my dream suddenly happen overnight. But as time passes and I feel myself sinking deeper on a daily basis, I find myself wanting to do something more to pull myself out of this quicksand. Explaining my situation and what I want to achieve seems like a good first step if nothing else — even if nothing comes of it immediately.
And thank you for supporting MoeGamer and my other projects however you have done to date. If you’re reading this, chances are you already have supported my work in one way or another, and for that I can only humbly thank you. It means the world that there are people who care what I have to say about the things that are important to me — and I hope that, for you, MoeGamer provides a nice little oasis of positivity away from the sea of boiling fury that the rest of the Internet often degenerates into on a daily basis.
Thank you, sincerely, for taking the time to read this. I’m not okay right now, but I will be. 多分.
Pete Davison, August 2020
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