Archive for Patreon

You have to protect yourself

This month’s Patreon essay. You might not like it, and that is absolutely okay. Here is the Readability link (which should work. I hope).


My name is Jenn Frank. You may know my byline: I have worked in the video games industry, at varying velocities, for nine years.

You might best know me from my earliest “mainstream” work—, the magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, a few reviews in Computer Gaming World, a podcast called Retronauts—or you might know me from my incredibly biased “conflict of interest” work, like creative nonfiction, essays, or my participation in the creation of games like VIDEOBALL and ROM. (I scrupulously leave Super Hexagon out of this because I was paid for that work, a onetime fee, which was the same fee Cavanagh had paid another voice actor before me; and also because, before that collaboration, he and I and Chipzel did not know one another. The Internet, it seems, works in funny ways.)

Though I understand much of my visibility or industry “cred” comes from the former category—all that salaried work or, put more blunt, my understanding of what it means to work for a gigantic outlet with some sort of corporate fiscal backing—I also recognize that literally every accolade I’ve received, including a BAFTA nomination and last year’s Games Journalism Prize, was awarded to “creative” work derived from that latter category.

I also recognize that this same work is often pointed-to, or (with my permission, absolutely) republished by mainstream outlets that have never paid me. All of this is simply to say, some of my very most respected work, which is often lauded and even republished by mainstream outlets, also rarely pays. This isn’t even a talking point: We all know that “creative work” seldom pays.

But the accolades do mean a lot to me; in my old life, I was often warned against writing blogs “too long” or “too heady.” And as a community manager, my job was to protect everyone but myself. Leaving behind that old life for this new one, means a great deal to me.

Here I would add that, as a professional freelancer in this current job-bubble economy, being able to use my degree and experience, at all, are luxuries, not rights. This is why I am so quick to point out how happy I am with my lot in life, to ironically not be “biased” or otherwise be beholden to any given mainstream outlet anymore, or to use—potentially to the ire of others—my “voice” and also years of training, in any way I see fit.

Not only do I rarely have to work with an actual editor, I get to crowdsource my innermost ideas and conflicts via Twitter—after all, my views don’t represent anyone’s in particular, so I can share them all and check what sticks—and, also, I always type in a plaintext word processor with no built-in spellcheck. I am shooting from the hip, here.

So by all means, let us have a continued conversation about ethics, nepotism, Patreon, and how we pay and don’t pay. None of these quite seems related, but all certainly are. Everything is about being uncompromised.

I am a freelance journalist, and Patreon is a website I will tell you, right now, I absolutely use, not as a supplement to my income, but instead as my primary source of income.

By no means am I unhappy with this circumstance: Patreon affords me the use of my degree, a “creative writing” degree from Northwestern University’s English department, which I acknowledge is not a degree we, culturally, reward. But it is an incredibly competitive degree, awarded to a small annual pool of students, and an even smaller pool gets to do an independent study, and then those independent studies are torn down by a panel of professors and Chicago-area writers, and all of this is just to say that ten years ago I graduated with honors after persevering through a number of hoops.

And no, none of that matters in the end. My most successful classmate from undergrad, Karen Russell—a Pulitzer nominee—often seeks, as all creative writers eventually must, university teaching positions, because those roles do provide basic necessities such as “room and board.” All of this is simply to stress, a second time, a third time, and a fourth time, that out here in real life, we consistently devalue “creative work,” even the good stuff.

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