/ PATHWAYS / Career / Daryl Finding The Courage To Write
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I’m Daryl Baxter, I write for Tech Radar, specialising in software and apps. I also wrote The Making of Tomb Raider book. This is the story of how video games helped me get here.I’ve always enjoyed playing games. They have been an enjoyable escape and entertainment. But also, they planted the seed for me to find the spark and desire to write for a living. I may well have got there without games, but some specific games I've enjoyed definitely accelerated this journey. They offered me space to find my voice, especially when I was younger and struggling with school bullying that might otherwise have robbed me of the confidence to go for this career.From the simple cut-scene story-telling of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 to the open-world narrative of Tomb Raider 2, games got me wondering "What’s going to happen next?” These worlds were like books, only here I was in control of what was happening, so when something new presented itself it was happening to me.As I played more games this interest in the wonder of stories grew. Metal Gear Solid limited the world and what I could do, but in doing that it took the story in all sorts of new ways. Tangents and side quests drew me in and I was fascinated by the breaking of the fourth wall.Then came Shadow of the Colossus and the threads started making sense. The games that impacted me the most were ones where I could be the hero no one expected. I could confound my childhood bullies and be the champion. But more than that, I could do the same in real life and write about the wonder of these interactive stories of a living. Writing felt like an underdog activity. I had to compete with other (more experienced) writers or stretch my writing ability and expertise to clearly explain something new. I had to face my imposter syndrome, and the voices of those old school bullies, and find a way to get my hands back on the keyboard. Reminding myself of those unlikely video game heroes still helps even today.
Outcome Confidence and contentment in a career as a commercial author with published books, and work in a wide range of international outlets.
This outcome arises from the following 4 milestones over the span of 11 years, from 5 - 16 years-old:
Age: 5-years-old / 25/12/1994 / 29 years ago
Play Styles: Child Plays Independently (Independent Play)
Platform: Sega Genesis / Megadrive
Daryl talks about it like it was yesterday. Getting the Megadrive and Sonic the Hedgehog game for Christmas. But it wasn't just the fast action running, rolling and jumping that caught his young imagination.The third game in the series developed the story and included short cartoon-like cutscenes. From a young age, these narratives caught Daryl's attention and set in motion an interest in story that grew as he continued to play other games.
Age: 8-years-old / 01/07/1997 / 26 years ago
Platform: PlayStation 1
A few years later Daryl had grown fond of the James Bond and Indiana Jones films. He tried a demo of Tomb Raider and instantly loved how these adventures were mirrored in a world he could explore, complete with voice acting and narratives."It was the wonder of what might come next and where the story would go. It felt like anything was possible. Underwater, lava and what characters might you fight or control."Daryl was a sponge for these sorts of adventure stories. Not just films and games but reading as well. Having completed all his reading stickers for school he could choose a book from the library and chose The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. He was instantly engrossed by this magical world the children could enter as he did with Tomb Raider."They had a cupboard and I had a Playstation. I remember reading the book in an English lesson and imagining what Laura might do in these worlds. What would happen next”.
Activities: Daryl found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Tomb Raider:
Age: 10-years-old / 01/02/1999 / 25 years ago
Daryl was drawn from Tomb Raider's straightforward adventures to the more restrictive and unexpected experience of Metal Gear Solid. The early games in this series were viewed from overhead and restricted you to one area. You couldn't charge in guns blazing like Lara but had to use stealth and planning with help from your superiors. This was a new kind of storytelling Daryl found fascinating. Not only how the restrictive experience worked to create a sense of unease in the story, but how the game would trick and double-bluff the player. There were moments when it read your memory card for saves of other games or pretended it was going to wipe your progress.This wasn't only an unexpected hero, but an unexpected way to tell a story. Daryl found himself unexpectedly engaged in topics like war, prisoners, and nuclear disarmament. Even at a young age, he appreciated how this shone a light on the reality that these things are real-world issues. It was an experience that only a game like this could offer. "It showed me what a simple plot could deliver in nuanced and deep issues. But it was the power of tangents and side-tracks that stayed with me in a way that the books I was reading weren't able to."
Age: 16-years-old / 25/08/2005 / 18 years ago
Platform: PlayStation 2
It was a number of years later that Daryl found another game that connected with a similar power. Shadow of the Colossus was "a boy and his horse battling these dark powers," as he put it. A game where you take on out-sized monsters that fill the screen and you have no rights facing off with.But this was more than a lesson in the narrative potential of video games for Daryl. This game was something more personal. Being granted space in a story to stand up against an overpowered foe, helped Daryl revisit times in secondary school when he was badly bullied. "The memories of loneliness stayed with me. It was powerful for me to revisit this with the game." It reminded him of stories like David and Goliath or Rocky. "A boy, his sword and a horse taking on these monsters. Taking on an insurmountable challenge. You are the underdog suddenly confronted by unexpected monsters. The movement from exploration to combat was seamless."These things combined to offer an important moment for Daryl. Not only a chance for reflection but a way to move through those memories as he progressed through the game. Some find the killing of the Colossi in the game a moment of sadness, but for Daryl, it was a chance to find help from unexpected places.
Activities: Daryl found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Shadow Of The Colossus:
The culmination of the milestones in the pathway led to Daryl confidence and contentment in a career as a commercial author with published books, and work in a wide range of international outlets. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.
Along with the main outcome Daryl also changed in the following ways:
We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey: