I’m broke, ha!

I haven’t really got time to write about this. In fact, this is probably the least helpful thing I could do for myself considering the circumstances, but fuck it, I need to muse on this moment.

Just a second ago, I had a look at my bank account, which has been something I’ve dreaded doing every month. I’m broke. Haven’t got a crumb. Fortunately, I’m in a situation where I don’t have to turn out onto the streets. Others aren’t so lucky.

I was brought up by my parents to save money, so since the age of 11 I’ve been working, really hard actually, and accruing as much coin in my bank account as possible. I did paper rounds every day at 6am, worked at cafes, restaurants; doing all the shittiest jobs I could get paid for. I was a whiz with a brush, as a cashier, or a chef’s errand boy. I did that for years while attending school and college, and at the age of 17 I had just over £7,000 in my bank, which felt really good. I also had my own car that I had paid for, including the insurance and everything else, which was a couple of grand by itself. I spent money on my girlfriend of the time. I could afford new clothes, games, music, pretty much everything I needed, and everything I wanted.

Then I went to university and was able to get student grants so I didn’t have to spend much of that money on paying for accommodation and other fees. I retained most of that money for the three years I was at university. I worked during the summer, and studied the rest of the time.  I ended up borrowing £9,000 from the government for my tuition fees, and I only have to start paying that back once I’m earning over £15,000 a year, and even then it’s only a small percentage out of my wage packet a week.

When I left university, I was uncertain what I was going to do, like I always had been. I had a degree in Film Studies, which I chose to do because I didn’t know what other course to do. Looking back now, I should have never gone to university, but I’m part of the generation that was told by the government, parents, and TV that if you go to university you’re basically guaranteed a good job. My parents believed this, having never even finished school themselves, so off I went to university. I remember my parents thinking I would come back with all of these job offers, and soon I’d be rising up through society, from working class nerd to, well, a posh twat with money bursting out of my wallet, or something like that.

Obviously, that never happened. And thank goodness, too.

I came back from university and became one of those kids that I read about in the newspaper when I had grown tired of searching for job ads. I was qualified for nothing. I had no experience in anything except the jobs I’d been doing the past 10 years, and now I couldn’t even get them.

For the first time in my life, I had no hope, no future. I was paying my parents rent for my measly room, and I couldn’t get a job. I felt stupid, and I didn’t know what to do. The funniest thing was when I went to the job center and they told me to apply for jobs I had already had interviews for. “Oh” they would say, “well, come back next week and we’ll see if anything else comes up.” I was doing their job better than them, yet, they were getting paid for it. I got a little bit of money a week from the job center, but most of that went on paying for trains back and forth to the job center. The rest went towards paying my parents.

It wasn’t long after this that I became depressed. I didn’t realize what it was at the time, but all I wanted to do was lie on my bed all day and watch YouTube or listen to music. So that’s what I did for close to a year.

I thought things would change when I got a temporary job at a PR firm, but that job was horribly stressful, and that didn’t mix well with my depressed mind, so it nearly drove me to suicide. I don’t think I could ever do that, though. But hell, I thought about it a lot. I had become so used to the feeling of being down that it became my only pleasure. I remember a feeling in the pit of my stomach, it was like every horrible thought I had bundled into my gut. At first it was almost painful, but after a while it was my only comfort, because it made me feel like I was still alive.

It was around this time that I figured that, instead of moping about doing nothing, that I would see if I could occupy my mind by writing about games for a website. I didn’t want payment, I just wanted something to do, and games were the only thing I could be bothered with at the time. I didn’t even watch films, despite my degree telling me I studied them for three years.

So I started writing about games online. This changed my life. I had a small team of people to interact with online, I could speak to them about games, which is something I’ve never really had, and I even got some free games, which was ace.

I wrote about games for about a year, even went to Gamescom and covered a big event for the first time ever; before that I’d never even been to a gaming event before. At some point I decided that there might be some worth in pursuing some payment for my writing, so I applied to write for a publication and was duly accepted. I wrote with the intention of getting paid, but I don’t think I received any money for several months, and when I did it was pretty much pittance. But I didn’t care, I was pulling myself out of my depression and I was finding some meaning in my life again. That’s what I needed.

This whole time my money was being pulled out of the bank in various directions. I was probably down to my last thousand by this time.

In the summer of 2012, I had barely been paid anything for my writing, except £120 for a feature on Eurogamer, and so at this time I decided to drop the idea of making money for writing. At least I wasn’t depressed any more, and I was older, maybe a little wiser, and decided that the job market may be a little better now. It wasn’t. I looked for a job, but in my area, the Somerset countryside, there’s nothing.

At some point I decided that moving to a city would be a good idea. There’s bound to be more jobs in a city, isn’t there? So I signed up for a place with some friends in Southampton for a whole year, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for that whole year. This was me giving myself a kick up the arse to find a job otherwise I’d be on the streets and in debt. I applied for a lot of jobs, got a few responses, all of them declinations of a position at their companies. Shit.

I did manage to get one job offer, and that was a door-to-door salesman. It was commission-based. This is the worst job in the world for me. I knew this, but I thought to give it a go because, fuck, I’m running out of money. I gave it a go, but it turns out I’m a shit salesman. Or at least, I can’t sell some shitty thing that nobody needs to people who can barely afford a tube of toothpaste. So that fell through.

My solution? I set-up a new website with Josh Mattingly called Indie Statik. I was returning to writing about games, and we managed to get some money to pay ourselves and a few other people. So we went ahead with it.

That was last November. I stayed at that place in Southampton for 7 months before I had to return home in order to be able to continue paying rent. So I was paying rent on a house I wasn’t living in, as well as paying rent to my parents. Turns out that was cheaper than paying bills and for food, and everything else that comes with living away from your parents. My payments to that house came to an end last month, so now it’s time to start earning a little more money again, month-by-month. Maybe one day I’ll move out for good.

But then the Indie Statik money came to a close. Luckily I’ve got a position at Pocket Gamer writing news, that pays every month, which is great. But right now, I have no money and my first payment is a month away. So I’m broke. For the first time in my life, I’m actually broke. I don’t know how, but in a few years I managed to spend roughly £7,000, and I have nothing to show for it. I’m still living with my parents, and I’m so grateful to them for that, and I don’t care what that makes me; I suppose a 24-year-old boy still living in the room he’s lived in all his life, with no prospects of getting out any time soon.

This isn’t the lowest point of my life. Things are looking up in the next few months and I’m generally pretty happy with life. I’m lucky. And now I’ve got that out of me, I’ll continue trying to make money so I can cover my costs, I suppose.

3 thoughts on “I’m broke, ha!

  1. Rob says:

    Aw man, being skint is awful at the best of times. As is being depressed. As is watching YouTube. Sorry to hear about the last one there!

    BUT! Thanks for the writing anyway. At a point where most indie sites pretty much stopped catering to what I wanted to read, you gave me loads worth reading. I appreciate that. Hope everything picks up soon and the money comes flowing in.

    -Rob

  2. Worthless Bums says:

    You’re not alone in this, Chris. The economic situation (globally!) is kind of shit wall to wall. I have friends and family moving to other countries and still not finding gainful employment.

    IndieStatik is a wonderful site. You, Josh, and everyone else on staff have done a fantastic job of covering interesting games neglected by other outlets. Do let me and others know what’s in the cards and what we can do now and in the future!

  3. WelshPixie says:

    “Obviously, that never happened. And thank goodness, too.”

    I studied Neuroscience at University, mostly because my family wanted me to do something ‘prestigious’. When I dropped out after the second year to do stuff that would make me happier, my grandmother told me “money is more important than happiness”. Thankfully I didn’t listen. I’ve never had much money. Before moving to South Africa four years ago I’d never actually been out of work and most of my jobs paid well, but various situations (like employers paying me late, banks fucking up repayments, money being withheld places) I’ve never had much money. I’ve always kinda been ‘on the breadline’ with just enough to scrape through. Right now, I can’t work in South Africa and me and Jaco are both living on his wages alone, and what small money I get from writing and youtube. We frequently have to take temp bank loans or hawk some stuff at the pawn shop to get it back the month after. But despite all that, I have no regrets. I have a good life and live with someone I love and we get through. I do stuff that I’m happy doing – playing games, writing, and as of late, making games.

    I guess the whole point of that preamble was, in my opinion, a person shouldn’t sacrifice what they love just to get more money. Unfortunately we live in a shitty society where money is the core of everything, but if you can scrape through somehow while still doing what you like most in life – in your case, I suppose, writing about games (and you do it so well), then stick at it. I hope a magic pound-coin fairy lands in your lap one day. Failing that, I hope your situation otherwise works out. If we make millions from The Maker’s Eden you’ll be high on my list of ‘people to send surprise banknotes to’. 🙂

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