Interview with GameSkinny's Commissioning Editor and Program Coordinator Auverin Morrow
Playing games and turning it into a career sounds like a dream job to many. It's not something you would have been able to do decades ago, but now we have many talented people who turned their passion for gaming into careers. Among those people is Auverin Morrow.
Auverin is the current Commissioning Editor and Program Coordinator for GameSkinny. She gave me the opportunity to interview her and reveal crucial details about how she started and got into the position that she's in today.
David Martinez: For the sake of the viewers, tell me about yourself and who you are.
Auverin Morrow: I'm Auverin Morrow -- currently the Commissioning Editor and Program Coordinator for GameSkinny. I got my Bachelor's degree in English from VCU back in Richmond, VA, then moved back to my home state of NC to focus on post-grad employment and adulting and all that fun stuff. As for who I am... I'm about 90% editorial robot, 5% Lord of the Rings references, and 5% human who does other stuff like painting, pyrography, and yoga.
DA: What made you decide to pursue this kind of career?
AM: I never really made an actual decision to pursue a career in the gaming industry. It was a hobby I really enjoyed, but it never really occurred to me that it was something I could turn into actual employment. But I've wanted to get into editing since I was a college student. When I was studying English, I knew I didn't want to focus on literature and I wasn't really happy focusing on writing either. Which left me in a weird sort of "what do I do with my life" limbo for a while. I just knew I loved words. And at some point during various creative writing workshops, I realized I was best at deconstructing other people's words, finding the meaning in that, and then reworking the language to make those ideas more clear. So I started to focus on editing, and that's the area I focused on while I was looking for employment.
DA: What gets you up in the morning to do this job? Your Motivation?
AM: What gets me out of bed every morning? Lots of alarms and a pot of coffee. I'm (sort of) kidding, but I really enjoy what I do. I love games and most of the time I love the gaming industry -- it's a dynamic place that's chock full of talent and passion, both from players and from developers. It can be a fickle environment sometimes, and there are of course a lot of things that I would like to see change and progress, but it's really a great industry that's getting bigger and more complex by the day. And in my position specifically, I get to see all that passion that gamers have, and I get to help them channel it into something productive. I get to teach them how to talk about the games that matter to them, and how they can contribute something to an industry that has given so much to them and shaped them in so many ways.
DA: How did you come to working for GameSkinny?
AM: I actually found my job with GameSkinny on Craigslist. This was way back in the summer of 2014. They'd posted an ad for a simple weekend editor position, and I had just finished a two-year stint with a non-profit that was teaching creative writing in inner-city Richmond high schools. So I was looking for something a little different, and that ad popped up. So I applied immediately, and within a few days I was taking weekend shifts on the site. Eventually I took over our nighttime editing, then got promoted to where I am now, working with all you lovely folks.
DA: What is it about video games that gravitated you towards them?
AM: It's actually a kind of funny story. I'm not like a lot of gamers in that I haven't been gaming since I was a kid. I played a LOT of Pokemon, but that was pretty much it for the first several years of my gaming life. I remember getting a GameCube and having like 3 games for it -- I think it was some sort of 3D Pac-Man, one of the Lord of the Rings games, and Need for Speed Underground 2. Stellar lineup, to say the least. And when I played those to death I kind of stepped away from gaming for a long time because I was focusing on other things. But there was one fateful day around 2002 where I walked into a Target with my mom, and I saw a copy of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind sitting on the shelf. All I knew about it was that it had my last name on it, but I picked it up and took it home. And there went the next 3 years of my life -- just like that, I was back into gaming and a hardcore RPG addict. TES quickly became my favorite series, and my love for gaming pretty much grew from there.
DA: What are the actual games that made you want to pursue a career in gaming?
AM: Hahaha, I think I just answered this question above. The Elder Scrolls series was definitely a big influence for me. Those are the games that I keep coming back to over and over and over again. But weirdly enough, I don't see myself as being inspired by games. I'm more fascinated by them, if that makes sense. I don't so much want to live up to anything as I want to figure them out and see what they can do, you know?
DA: Why write for games? Why not just play them? Why should other people write for them and what makes it unique?
AM: This is a super great question, and one I actually ask myself a lot. If you talk to pretty much anyone who works in the games journalism industry (and I imagine in games development too, though I can't speak for those folks), you'll find that it's common for them to say that the moment they became employed in the industry, gaming became work. You play games because you have to. You read about them because you have to. They became a "must do" and not a "can do" way to occupy your time. And that's difficult for a lot of people, I think -- especially the ones who get into this because they think you're getting paid to play whatever you want, and you just throw out a couple articles and collect the perks. There are a lot of people who are looking for that. But there are a lot of other people who are just so passionate about games that they can't keep it to themselves -- that's where we get bloggers, and streamers, and LPers, and the really really great games journalists out there. Some people really want to contribute to this industry -- they want to be a part of it as much as it's been a part of them and help shape its future and share their passion for the whole thing. So I don't think it's a matter of who should write about gaming as it is a matter of who truly and wholeheartedly wants to. Because if you actually want to, you can -- I mean, that's why GameSkinny exists. But a lot of people take that step and then realize "oh....this is an actual job". And they aren't always prepared for that. So you have to be prepared to do real work, and think of this wonderful hobby as a chore sometimes. But if you can do that, and you can get by and still find your love for gaming on the other side of that, then you get rewarded with meeting great people, playing great games, and taking part in an industry that gets more exciting by the day.
DA: What is the worst game ever in your opinion?
AM: Worst game ever? That's actually a really hard question. Doing what I do, I've played a lot...a LOT....of indie and Early Access games that were broken or offensive or just downright bad. So it's hard to single out just one game. I've also played a lot of really terrible porn parody games for the sake of article writing, so pretty much anything else looks good by comparison.
DA: Since you are labeled as a commissioning editor, what is it exactly that you do? What are the ups and downs of your position and what do you like most? What do you dislike most?
AM: So as the commissioning editor and JTP program coordinator, my basic job description is overseeing the JTP and all content related to it. I spend most of my days editing and promoting articles to the front page of the site, but I also spend a fair amount of time focusing on more managerial/organizational aspects of working in a newsroom. I keep an eye on site analytics to see what's doing well. I poke around in Google Trends to see what gamers are searching for, what games are trending, what games look like they're about to trend, and what kind of content readers are trying to find in relation to games that have already released. I also coordinate our mentor program and act (alongside Rachael) as a senior editor among our editorial staff. Aside from that, I devise and create all our JTP and senior mentor lessons, lay out lesson plans, change the program according to feedback, go through new applicants, and manage all the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes the JTP happen. It's a lot like teaching, but in a more experiential setting I think.
DA: Do you plan on taking this career any further? Are you interested in being promoted?
AM: You know....this is something I've thought a lot about too. I'm happy where I'm at right now and I'm not really looking for any sort of promotion anytime soon -- I've reached this perfect balance of having a cool job that makes my life more interesting without being my whole life, if that makes sense. I think if I do stay in the gaming industry -- and there might be a time when I decide that it's time to leave it -- I think I want to focus a bit more on eSports. I didn't really get into eSports until I started working at GameSkinny, but it's quickly become my favorite corner of the industry. All my favorite events are eSports events by far. It's such an amazing scene.
DA: Could you see yourself doing anything else?
AM: Like I said, I do love my job. I'm lucky to be where I am -- this industry challenges me and my job allows me to do some really cool things. I love every group of interns that comes through, and I love seeing how different they are from each other, the various perspectives they have, and that kind of thing. And I love that I get to take all my favorite aspects of teaching and bring it to this industry that's really cool and cutting edge, and I get to work with words while I do it. It's great! But if I ever did leave the gaming industry, I think I might pursue something in fiction -- I'd love to edit short stories someday.
DA: As an aspiring writer, I like to hear advice. What is your advice and what would your ultimate advice be to other writers?
AM: I get this question from a lot of writers, and the answer always has to change based on context and a ton of other factors. But I think the essence of every instance is this: just do it. It might seem scary or hard. Just do it. You might not know where to start, but you just have to pick a spot and jump in. There are going to be days when it is the most frustrating thing in your life, and days where the words just don't want to come. But you have to do it anyway. Writing is a creative undertaking, and I think a lot of people forget that. Writing is an art, and art isn't known for being formulaic, or simple, or easy to do day in and day out. It's a craft that takes honing and dedication and some sort of passion, whatever form that may take -- and I realize I'm rambling a bit here and probably sounding like a motivational poster or every writing hack who's ever led a workshop, but it's true.
DA: Ultimate question: Favorite game of all time? Just one. The one that you would recommend to anyone and the one you could play multiple times.
AM: One game, huh? That's a tough call, and only because I have a hard time choosing between TES III: Morrowind and TES V: Skyrim. (The day TES VI becomes a reality is the day you will hear me dragon-shouting from rooftops.) But it really is a tough call. I love them both so much for such different reasons -- Morrowind for what it brought to the series and how it revolutionized it, and Skyrim for how beautifully it rendered the world that I'd been falling in love with since the early days of Elder Scrolls.
I want to thank Auverin for a thorough and intriguing interview!
As an aspiring writer, this was most helpful for me. For anyone who is an aspiring editor or if you just want to enter the gaming industry, these may be words of wisdom you really need to hear.
(Editors note - Auverin Morrow was in no way involved in the editing or writing of this piece)