It’s surprisingly hard to take a step back and look at your own success without seeming like an absolute tool. However, in the last few years I have achieved more than I ever thought possible, so I would like to reflect a little regardless. I’ve been getting so many questions about what I do lately that it’s made me start to think a lot about how I got to where I am. I still have a long way to go before I can completely consider myself a successful…writer? YouTuber? Twitch streamer?… well a successful anything really, but I think between Twitch, YouTube and writing, I’ve just been exposed to such a huge variety of people who have been nothing but supportive, so it’s starting to feel so real. The success is so close, I feel like I have almost made it and at this point and I really can’t see any reason why I won’t make it, as long as I keep working hard of course. With that in mind, here is a little reflection. I have promised a bunch of people that I will make a video about games journalism, Twitch and YouTube, and I will, but this is just a little look back on the last few years in blog form.
There was this weird time in my life where I was running a skate shop. It was a good time, I was young, healthy, drove a purple sports car, had enough money to get by and my day job was riding skateboards, reviewing them and then selling them. I was happy. I had this blog where I would write all my reviews and post random skate shots. It wasn’t uncommon for people to write messages or reblog my posts thousands of times – that was when I got my first taste of social media success. It was awesome, people would stop me in the street and say “you’re that skate dude from the internet!” which was awesome. I loved it, I loved being the go-to guy for skate stuff. For a few months, I thought my life was sorted, I thought my life finally made sense. Without boring you with the details, just as I was about to partner with my favourite skate shop (which would have allowed me to have access to a warehouse, office and a bunch of other cool things, putting me one step closer to owning a big shop with a skate ramp in it) the biggest skate shop in country decided they weren’t happy with me and started threatening to hurt me, my mum (I wish I was kidding, keep in mind these are fully grown adults we are talking about here) and my co-workers. They went to the only supplier of all the good skate stock in Australia and threatened to pull their account and sue if they didn’t stop supplying me. My supply stopped pretty quickly after that. I made a post on Facebook about what happened which got 70,000+ views worldwide, to which of course the shop in question denied everything. It was insane how many people reached out and supported me, some pretty famous skaters included. While I did try and fight it, it was going to be 6-12 months of me not selling skateboards before anything was resolved through the legal channels and eventually I made the decision to walk away. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and, to this day I sometimes wonder if I made the right call.
For a really long time I was lost, I thought the only thing I was ever going to be good at was taken from me and there was no way of going back. I was moving around $3000 worth of stock a week, so it wasn’t a small deal either. It was crushing, so I did absolutely nothing. At the time, I didn’t realize that my favourite thing about running that business wasn’t selling stuff, it was connecting with people and sharing knowledge and stories. I loved people asking me about skateboards, I loved knowing the answers. I loved writing reviews and making videos that got 30,000+ views (the quality of that video’s production makes me cringe these days, but I did have fun). It was the social side of things that made me happy and it took me way too long to figure that out, but eventually I did. I hadn’t really heard the term ‘blogging’ before, so I didn’t know what it was exactly, even though I had already pretty much been doing it for a few months. I remember sitting there in my room one day watching TopGear and thinking “how hard could it be to get Jeremy Clarkson’s job? I mean, he probably just started writing about cars one day right? Riiiiight?” – how wrong I was, but that didn’t stop me. I started a Tumblr called Shift Down, which got a few hundred follows in the first week. I was back and my social media success was returning slowly but surely. After about two weeks, I found out that DownShift was already a successful automotive site, so I respectfully decided to change the name of my blog. I went insane trying to find a new name for the blog and spent way too much time on it, time I should have been writing. This was around the time that Forza 5 was coming out, and at the start of that game, Jeremy Clarkson gives a pretty epic, Clarkson-y monologue about cars. The speech ends with “this is metal, made beautiful” so given that Jeremy was the catalyst for me to start this website, as well as loving Forza and games in general, I decided to name the website Metal Made Beautiful.
For a few months, it went well. I was blogging from my room about my obsession of all things 4-wheeled and fast. It wasn’t until I had bought my 11th sports car in 4 months (no one was going to give me cars to review, so I was just buying, selling and swapping cars every chance I could get) that I was asked to go to Brisbane to cover an automotive show. I was stunned, I couldn’t believe someone wanted me to make content for their website. I went and it was great. When I got home, Toyota decided to give me their latest sports car for a week (a car I had written so much about, but never had driven) and I still remember that car pulling into my driveway on a flatbed. It was the best feeling, well at least I thought it was. It wasn’t until I was handed the form with my name (although misspelled) on it with the words “journalist/media representative” that I realized how good that felt. It was intoxicating. I had never felt anything quite like that. My mind started whirling, I imagined myself at dinner tables saying that I was a journalist, I imagined my work printed in magazines and on websites. It was a completely new feeling and something I had never considered, after all, I was (and still am) just a goofball writing about things that he loves. After spending a week driving that car, shall we say exuberantly? I gave the keys back (with completely bald rear tires…whoops!) and the illusion was shattered. I was no longer a journalist test driving a car and I hated it. So I set out to become an automotive journalist, and I sort of did. I had been lurking a website called Zen Garage for a long time, pestering them to let me come in and work/write for them. Eventually they let me in and to this day that was some of the most fun I’ve had writing. I still contribute here and there when I can, not nearly as much as I’d like, but I’ll be doing some stuff there for Forza Horizon 3 and Gran Turismo I’m sure. Anyway, after a short while, through writing for Zen, I was offered a job testing and reviewing cars, a literal dream come true. This was around the time I got sick.
I still remember the day when I was working on my Skyline and I went to pick up a wrench but was so weak that I couldn’t. I had lost around 25kg in 2 months and was constantly thirsty. I felt like I was rotting from the inside. I was supposed to pick Jess up from the airport the day I decided to go to the doctors. The last day of my life as I knew it. “You’ve got diabetes” I chuckled at the doctor and said “well, that’s rad, probably shouldn’t have had that ice tea this morning then hey?” I tried to play it cool because my mum was in the room and I didn’t want to freak her out, but my ears were ringing like a grenade had just gone off next to me. “you need to go to the emergency room, right now” (this was a particularly gentle doctor, if you couldn’t tell) so I went. I had all these different drips and needles hanging out of me for hours. I stayed overnight and watched TopGear on my laptop, the dream of becoming an automotive journalist slipping through my freshly pricked fingers. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the job, it wouldn’t be responsible. I sat there in that fucking hospital bed begging the universe to let me out, I couldn’t waste anymore time because my life had been reset. Everything I was working towards was redundant. I made a promise to myself that if I ever got out of there that I wouldn’t waste time, I’d just get cracking. The next few weeks were rough, it was an adjustment to say the least. But eventually, things got better, easy in fact, so it was time to get moving again. I needed to do something safe and that didn’t require me to be operating expensive and fast cars. During my recovery, I played a lot of video games. I formed opinions on them, I broke them down in my mind and assessed them. My personal blog became dedicated to these ideas I had about video games. Eventually, I wondered if I could be a games journalist…
At the time, it seemed so futile. I had no way in, I had no degree or experience in games journalism. I didn’t even know what I was doing. I doubted myself, I doubted everything. After a while, I remembered the promise I had made in the hospital. So the next day I woke up and decided I was a games journalist. I bought and reviewed every game I could get my hands on (I will talk more about this in my games journalism video) and while it was tough, I needed to do it. Eventually, I used my ties in the automotive industry to reach out and see if I could review Forza 6 for Zen Garage, which I did. I got the game pre-release, I signed an NDA and just like that I was reviewing my first game. I was so happy that it was Forza that was my foot in the door, my first achievement. I love that game so much and it seemed fitting that it be the bridge that took me from my old dreams to my new ones. From that point on, I was a real games journalist in my head. I reviewed Halo, Tomb Raider, Uncharted and a whole bunch of other games. My work was on blogs, websites, podcasts, YouTube and in magazines. It felt like I was on the road to success again. Fast forward a bit, to just a few months ago. I was super happy with where I was, but it started to become apparent that if I wanted to have a bit of stability and an income, that writing might not be the best option. My diabetes started to become a little unpredictable which incurred a shitload of medical bills and while things are getting better, the price of the equipment and services that help me manage are redonk. I was panicking again, I needed to do something different so that I could get a proper career started. Somehow, and honestly I couldn’t tell you how, I fell into Twitch and presenting YouTube videos. Both of which are much more viable and stable career choices right now. For some reason, people seem to like what I do on camera. I’ve always been very self conscious, so I don’t get it, but for some reason when the camera is pointed at me, all that just melts away and I get to be myself. I get to be excited, fun and happy. I get to be hyped on games and have a laugh with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. I still can’t believe I get to host shows and have guests, it feels so surreal. Some of the things that are coming up are so mind-blowing and huge that when I get to talk about them, I bet anything you’ll think I’m lying, cause I still can’t believe it’s real.
And that brings us up to here. That’s a little snapshot of what’s happened to me and how I got to this point. A point where I feel amazing and love connecting with people and telling stories. It’s taken a long time to get here and I’m so grateful for all the help I’ve been given from so many amazing people. Every single time I get a game with an NDA that has my name on it next to where it says journalist, I still get that feeling. Every time I get a comment or a follow, I get that feeling. I’ll never stop wanting that feeling, if I’m honest. I just can’t wait to see what the future holds and how different the next one of these reflections is.
Who knows what will happen…