I’m a freelancer, just like the characters in BioWare’s Anthem. And in many ways, our lives are very similar. They wear Iron Man-style exosuits, and I wear pajama pants and a t-shirt that reads “Adult-ish” across the chest. They fight endless waves of enemies with cool names like “Scar,” “Wolven” and “Outlaw,” and I read the comments from endless waves of Internet trolls with cool names like “PlayStationFan69” or “Marvin.” By and large, I see a lot of myself in the scrappy, snarky nice guy mercs of Bastion. And so, here are seven ways that real-life freelance writers are just like the freelancers of Anthem.
Long Waits Between Activities
Waiting for an editor to respond to a pitch is the real-life equivalent of one of Anthem’s near-endless load screens. Sitting around wondering when an editor will respond to a draft, only to have them instead just rewrite and publish it is the real-life equivalent of talking to Neeson Giles for any amount of time.
The Constant Battle Against the Monitor
The Monitor — Anthem’s primary antagonist and the seven-foot-tall, owl-eyebrowed lovechild of Dr. Doom and Darth Vader — is one of the most boring villains I’ve ever seen in a game. He says things like, “A pity for you. Negotiations have concluded,” before wasting somebody with nasty purple magic, and “A freelancer? How useless,” when he sees me, a demonstrably non-useless freelancer. His lines would barely work in a 16-bit JRPG and with full voice acting this dude is just godawful.
You know what’s just as boring, though? Staring at your computer monitor at 10 PM, knowing you still have to come up with 600 more words to say about the seventh Metroidvania you’ve played this month.
Labor Outside a Traditional Workplace
I wrote this from my parents’ kitchen table, which is the real-life equivalent of a Scar acid mine. I have to shoot endless shotgun rounds at a giant bloated spider in order to get my reward, i.e. getting to wear my footie pajamas to sleep in my childhood racecar bed.
High Risk. Technically a Reward, I Guess?
As a real-life freelancer, the most important question I can ask is, “What’s my rate for this article?” If I’m going to get $20 for a review of a 50 hour game, I know that my time could be better spent elsewhere. This is one area where I have it better than one of Anthem’s iron boys. Before a mission in Anthem, the potential reward is a mystery. Even when enemies drop guns, there’s no way to see what loot dropped until the end of the mission. The jury is still out on whether this is better or worse than working for “exposure” and/or “free games.”
They Do, Like, Four Different Things Over and Over
Contracts. Missions. Freeplay. Strongholds.
Lists. Features. News. Reviews.
See? This list was not a mistake.
Javelins are incredibly difficult to get, and extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. At one point in Anthem, a criminal steals a javelin off a dead freelancer and then poses as a lancer before recruiting a bunch of outlaws to help him kill more freelancers. Meanwhile, for the last time, no, I’m not telling you how I got my laptop.
Someone Believes In Them
In Anthem’s opening cinematic, experienced javelin-pilot Haluk turns to the player character and says, “Freelancer, you might be new, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t show promise.”
I heard those words for the first time a little over a month ago at EA Redwood Shores at a press event where I got to play seven hours of a preview build of the game. Haluk’s words resonated with me. It was my first time traveling as a games writer — I was covering the event for a site called GameCritics. They gave me my first chance to write about games, back when I had nothing to show except articles from a small, daily newspaper and a few blog posts.
Brad Gallaway, the editor at GameCritics, gave me a shot. But Haluk’s words were a resonant reminder that those opportunities don’t come along if you haven’t done the work. And, as Anthem’s freelancers continue to risk their lives for the people of Fort Tarsis, they become symbols of hope. They’re a sign that maybe life outside its walls could someday be safe again.
But, not anytime soon right? Because then, hey, what would a freelancer do to stay busy?