conventions, awards, and making yourself a product
something something shameless self promotion and existential non-compliance
2023 was the year I got popular. Well, online, at least. Specifically January 2023. Most of us know why. (Here’s a rundown.) I’m both grateful and lucky that I achieved the smallest of tiny notorieties because of work I’m proud of; the kind of work that was impactful, important, and galvanizing. The OGL investigation is, ultimately, work that I consider emblematic of the kind of journalism that I want to do.
Now, as I am grateful and lucky to realize, sometimes good work gets recognized. So. I’m up for a couple of awards. The Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, the ENnie for “Best Online Content,” and the CRIT Award for “best blog, or article written in the TTRPG space.”
You can vote for the ENnies here. I’m under “Best Online Content.” Sure, it’s a clunky generalization, but it’s not inaccurate. The DJA is voted on by secret committee, so if any of y’all are here… voting for me would be… very rad.
What do awards mean, anyway?
In unrelated award news, Interview With the Vampire got absolutely snubbed in every EMMY category. Every single one. There is no reason that Succession and The White Lotus got all the award noms in drama this season. What are the Emmy voters doing? Who are they voting for? There is an incredibly deserving, brave, transgressive, boundary-pushing show right there and nobody seemed to notice.
But Succession blew up Twitter every Sunday. Even someone like me, who has never watched a single Succession episode, can name at least four members of the Roy family. (Logan, Shiv, Kendall… shit, I guess I can only name three.) There was a funeral, a wedding, a scene where a girlboss girlbossed too close to the sun in a limo that everyone freaked out about.
Far be it from me to compare myself to Succession, that’s kind of the point. I blew up Twitter (and other places). But there are so many television shows like Interview With the Vampire that has dozens of feral fans in dozens of communities that have been celebrating it nonstop since it was released. Tabletop is the same way. There were incredible games released this year that didn’t get anything. And if they get nothing, what do awards really matter?
We’re moving on to the next point here, the one that very few people want to admit or even talk about. So many of these awards—including the ones I’m nominated for—are popularity contests. It doesn’t mean that the stuff that got nominated isn’t worthy or even great, but it also means that without real data or metrics other than a hot couple at a bar saying “we like your vibes” there’s nothing to really point to say that these awards are anything but individual tastes kind of aligning based on whatever the zeitgeist has agreed are worthy of recognition.
And it’s not that I’m ungrateful or anything—I’m so fucking proud of the work that I’ve done, and as a journalist, I was sort of resigned (and kind of looking forward to) toiling in obscurity. But, I’ll fully admit… being popular is kind of fun. But let’s not forget that it is also arbitrary. Even if you work hard, even if you post good, even if you have an opus of work that is incredibly valuable, that is wonderful, gorgeous, challenging… some people still won’t recognize you. Popularity is, after all, a fickle thing. How it happens very often makes little sense. Some people try everything they can to get it. I’m not immune. I asked my EiC to submit my work to the ENies, after all. I’m still on Twitter. I’m writing this newsletter. I’m begging you to like me.
Often this kind of search for popularity—for being liked by a lot of people, many of whom are strangers—leads to people treating themselves like a product, creating a brand identity around their personality, their likes and dislikes, and the content that other people can take from them. People show off the art they consume, the art they patronize, and the art they produce because it makes them feel something. But it has the result of creating a skewed image of all online personalities as if all these aesthetic shreds and portioned-up bits of magpieism make up who you are as a person and help demonstrate what you mean when you say you’re sincere or earnest. The performance of being online, even being online in earnest, means that there is always some kind of brand-building alongside genuine expressions of Who We Are.
We’re all performing, even when we’re just shitposting online. Nobody is special. And you know, we’re all special. It goes both ways. Bummer, honestly. I would love biguity but all we ever get is ambiguity. Absolutely ridiculous. A total racket. Even when we are being as much ourselves as possible… it’s who we are and it’s also, deeply, very much not. Maybe none of this makes sense. I’m trying, but the words… they are coming out poorly. I apologize.
Quite often I find myself falling into a circular feed; the performance feeds popularity, which feeds performance, which feeds popularity, and so on and so forth. And sometimes all of this can be a good thing. It’s not a bad thing that Succession got nominated. But it just means that some other shows that were also worthy of popularity, that should have also been a part of the recognition, were left out. It’ll be all of us eventually. I am having an existential crisis of compliance. I wish I didn’t enjoy popularity as much as I do. I wish it didn’t feel as important as it does, in the weird, horrible media landscape.
Tying this all together… I got a nod from some very nice award shows and I’m unsure of how to feel about it besides flattered and slightly confused. Because when something like Interview With the Vampire, which I know deserved an EMMY nomination, gets literally nothing from the powers that be, what does any of this say about award shows at all? Popularity is a fucking shrift, but sometimes we have to rely it on. And honestly, grateful is the only allowable performance, when faced with something that is, in no small part, a generous and earnest result of popularity.
Regardless, if you think my reporting on the OGL fiasco is worthy of recognition, which Some People, Some Where believe it to be, you can vote for this work for an ENnie. I appreciate it.
The fight against AI in the G/O newsroom continues! Please use this link to write a letter to the C-Suite expressing how you feel. It’s pre-written, so feel free to adjust it as you like, and also it goes Directly To Their Emails! Very exciting stuff.
In support of both the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, I will not be talking about struck productions on social media unless I can directly link to an article I wrote as part of my job. Bummer, as I think [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] are absolute [REDACTED].
For example: I loved Barbie! I also did not love Barbie. Barbie and I have a complicated relationship.
I’m going to Gen Con! My schedule is a fucking mess.
THE RPG GAME SHOW — Friday 3 PM
CRITICAL GAMING JOURNALISM IS NECESSARY — Friday 6 PM
ENNIES! — 8 PM
WTF HAPPENED WITH DUNGEONS & DRAGONS' OGL — 2 PM (Sold Out!)
KIERON GILLEN AND GRANT HOWITT CHAT DIE: THE RPG WITH LIN CODEGA — 4 PM (Sold Out!)
NOTHING NOBODY TALK TO ME NOBODY TOUCH ME
Thanks for reading. Sorry if I made you mad. I’m not good at this. This is also about me.