Welcome to Sexy Videogameland, an Interview with Leigh Alexander

Posted on October 24, 2010

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Welcome to Sexy Videogameland, the blogging world of Leigh Alexander.   “My name is pronounced ‘Lee’ and I am indeed a female, but I don’t mind if people don’t know this.”  According to her Sexy Videogameland’s FAQ, this successful female game journalist is the news director at industry news site Gamasutra and is a monthly columnist at the popular blog-site Kotaku.  Leigh used to do the Aberrant Gamer column at Gamasutra‘s sister weblog, GameSetWatch, and she was also the first editor of the Worlds in Motion weblog, which covered the business of online worlds and planned the inaugural Worlds in Motion Summit at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC).   Her work has also appeared in Variety, LA Times, Onion’s AV Club, Wired, Slate, the Escapist and Paste.  All of this success began with a simple, fun idea.

“I wanted very much to write about emotional reactions to games, commentary on the culture of players, deeper analysis of narrative, things like that,” Leigh said in response to an online interview. “Most of what was available in terms of game journalism all felt the same to me — a ‘product guide’ approach to games that focused on screenshots, tech and genre conventions…  A game like Silent Hill, to me, deserved a proper analysis of its symbolic storyline, not a review of its clunky gameplay and how much it scared you!”  So Leigh began her blog in February of 2007 as a way to “lay [her] thoughts out.”  However, becoming a game journalist wasn’t her first aspiration.

“I actually realized I wanted to be a writer before I realized I wanted to be a video game writer; I went to school for acting, which I still adore, but after graduation I realized that pounding the pavement and begging to audition for furniture commercials wasn’t the kind of career I wanted. It’s very hard to actually make your living as an actress, as it turns out! So I thought of writing as a good fallback, a way to make money that would allow me flexibility, and it just turns out games were where I felt I had the most knowledge, the most potential, and the most to contribute.”  If you grew up with Apple IIe, Commodore 64 adventure games and other first-generation consoles, you’d probably feel similarly- even if you only had a two-year degree from New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  Wait.  She doesn’t have a degree in English or Journalism?

“That’s right. I would never recommend people diminish the importance of education, but I think it just depends on who you are,” she said. “Sometimes I fear today’s academic programs haven’t kept up with the age of internet media, which is kind of its own Wild West, and that being in school for FOUR YEARS is just time you could have spent writing…”  So once Leigh realized that she wanted to write, she began with her uniquely named blog.

Sexy Videogameland sounds like a party, but how did she come up with such a name? “[W]hen I later became a writer, I realized that one of the challenges in getting people to understand and feel good about video games was that they weren’t perceived as ‘sexy’… Naming this blog was in part a statement of a goal to play some small role in helping change that. It was also a reflection of my interest in not shying away from sexual issues in games.”  Leigh continues in her blog’s FAQ with: “ ’Videogameland’ came from the fact that my very first idea for this blog was to write about characters and places in video games as if they were real, and report on ‘news’ that happened in the lives of video game characters.  That lasted all of two posts, but that was an early concept.”

And as with many early concepts, hers wasn’t exactly sure where it was headed or how it was going to get there. “I think I didn’t really know what I was doing when I started blogging, haha,” she continued in her online interview.  “I think at first I tried to ‘fit in’ to the blogging world, but the more I saw people reacting to my individuality and my concepts, I became more confident in being myself and felt less obligated to sound a certain way. It’s part of any writer’s process of ‘finding their voice’, I guess.”   Eventually, Leigh found her voice, and others noticed.

“Chris Dahlen offered me the opportunity to write a review for Paste, and eventually, Simon Carless liked my idea for a GameSetWatch column based on psychosexual issues. I began publishing one 200-word review in Paste every month or so and doing my column every week while working office jobs to pay my bills while I pursued my dream. I started blogging for Dtoid about that time to expose more people to my articles, and pitched ideas to the Escapist, a few of which turned into articles.”  Sharing her thoughts, ideas and stories are what got this game journalist started.  “I really just put myself out there. I declared a presence, and soon people began approaching me.”

For the aspiring game journalists and bloggers, Leigh has some tips to offer: know your writing goals, be unique, put together a portfolio to share with the world and most importantly, be professional.

“I think that people should always conduct themselves as professionals; blogging is informal enough that there’s a temptation to REALLY let it out. People should be themselves, but I think there is such a thing as being too personal — anger, being excessively opinionated, judgmental, or over-exposing one’s personal life where it isn’t relevant always comes across badly, I think. It works for some people who are good at creating a brand based on a persona, but not for everyone.” This includes having a professional email address. “[I]t’s such a small thing, but I think people should always have an email address that resembles their name! I find it really off-putting when someone is sending me an email about being a professional writer from, like, ‘steviepoo99@gmail.com’ or ‘xxEnslavedDarknessxx@aol.com’ or something, haha.”

As a last piece of advice for new bloggers and aspiring game journalists, Leigh offered this: “[W]hen you feel confident that your ideas are being represented in a way you’re proud of [,] you can start building a readership, even if you still feel new.”

For more information on Leigh Alexander you can visit her blog  http://sexyvideogameland.blogspot.com/ and follow her on Twitter  http://twitter.com/leighalexander .

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Posted in: People, Video Games