February 5, 2024 | Gage Allen
a reflective look
at the past
You know, I've been working in games a decent while now. It's been 16 years since I first tried my hand at making a game trailer, combining my passions for films and video games. It's been 12 years since I made my first official trailer for a game, which turned out to be huge indie horror hit SCP: Containment Breach. Now, after well over a hundred trailers in nearly every genre imaginable, I have come to realize I am at my best right now.
It's a strange feeling, realizing you are the best you've ever been at something. For so long you work hard to improve yourself and get better, to learn from your mistakes and failures, to grow as a person. The growing never stops, but when you realize how effortless some of the work ends up being now after so many thousands upon thousands upon thousands of hours of experience, it makes you reflective.
Last year was a huge year for myself as a director and my trailer company Player One Trailers, where we worked hard to deliver some outstanding work. Repeatedly, the work I did won consistent awards, it garnered praise from media and colleagues, connected with fans, and continued to have an emotional impact with a captivated audience. Yet its strange to think about the fact these are just trailers meant to promote a game. Yes they have my original writing, capture, and more, but...
How are people so emotionally tied to my writing?
I have been asked that a lot, and to be fair I have no clue. All I know is I keep myself vulnerable and honest with my feelings when working on something, and I try to replicate how I am feeling to the screen. When less of it is filtered through client feedback and briefs, the stronger the emotional reaction tends to be with the audience. It's been this way with my film work as well, from This Is Battlefield to Destiny: Solas, with the former being featured at the South Korean War Archive museum for an exhibit about the work of art in games and films.
Becoming more well known is also a new experience for me. Lately, I find I have to explain who we are or what I do less than before. People I do not know that do not work in the industry are somehow familiar with my work, and I hear second hand stories of university professors bringing up my work to their students as an example to follow. Yet anytime I hear this, I always think back to how I got started, with modular storage shelves moved around to make a make-shift desk, and no one caring or batting an eye when I did a small game trailer. To get fan mail, or fan-art, or incredibly emotional emails and messages from people who were directly affected by my work is something that I haven't gotten used to yet either, but it fuels so much of my approach nowadays. To me, that's what really does it, what really keeps me going. Knowing this work is directly affecting others.
When Forbes featured me on their 30 under 30 list, I was asked by them to speak to a class of students about my experience and life, and it was an enlightening experience for me. The questions by the students were really interesting, but it was a key moment where I realized I was no longer the student asking questions to the person on screen, I was the person on screen now. I felt like I owed it to them and whoever else asked for my advice to give the absolute best possible responses I could muster. To try to help as best I could. Nowadays I have an insane schedule, but I will force myself to make time for others who ask for help with advice or wisdom.
I have been asked to give talks multiple times since then but have held off. Why? I don't know, I guess I still wonder how much value doing a big talk would bring. I get told often my story of making things work without any high school degree or college degree, by being self taught and pursuing my goals and passions, and crawling my way into a life of success was inspirational to listen to. But for me it's just my life. Some people hear how it turned out and think it was great, but to be honest? It was brutal. I felt like there wasn't much help, even when it felt like I was drowning. I didn't get that golden "chance" that everyone dreams of where some famous celebrity hands you the golden ticket to your dream and says "come with me" with a smile. No, I had to make those things happen myself during those years of grinding. It felt like any opportunity I had to fight to make happen and fight to keep.
People don't see the scars of the experience that got you to where you are. The run ins with people who fully intended to use you for their benefit, the assault life constantly forces you to deal with, and the health sacrifices you are forced to do to stay afloat. Such as working 20 hours a day and suffering from so many long-term issues that your medical folder looks like a Stephen King novel.
So yes, on the one hand, it's an honor people respect my position now and seek me out for advice often. But on the other... I wonder if the scar tissue was even worth it. I feel aged, and jaded at times. Yet I have found the hardest lesson we have to learn as people is that... no matter what it is, what you fight to do, it is never meant to last. Nothing is.
The best you can do is enjoy what you have when you have it, and be thankful of the experiences you've had along the way, and then maybe help others avoid the same mistakes you made along that path.