As you may have heard by now, I’m making a big change this week. I have sort of sprinkled the news out across my various social networks already, but I wanted to go ahead and put a quick note here about it, both for posterity’s sake, and to hopefully explain some of my thinking lately.

For the past seven years or so, I’ve been working for AOL under the blogs it acquired as Weblogs, Inc. many years ago (I believe the group is called Mediaglow now, but it’s hard to keep track — they keep changing it). This all started back when I was in Chicago — I was interning at a newspaper in the evenings and working retail during the day, and when AOL’s WoW Insider blog was hiring, I used some of my newspaper clips to get a part-time job there. I worked at Borders as a manager during the day, and then I would go home and write for WoW Insider at night. After a while, I then got a day job at a PR firm there in Chicago, but I kept my WoW Insider job, and eventually moved up to lead blogger there, so I would write press releases during the day for nonprofits we represented, and then continue to write and lead WoW Insider in the evenings.

Eventually, I heard there was also an opening at TUAW, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, another AOL-owned site that I constantly read and really admired. I approached that site and asked if they needed another blogger, and was invited to come on as a part-time writer there. The combination of TUAW and WoW Insider was enough to make my rent payment, so I left my job at the PR firm, and became a full time freelancer. This was back in 2007 or so (which, remember, is right when the first iPhone was announced, which means I’ve been blogging about it daily since then). I was so excited — writing at the PR firm was fun, but it was about things I wasn’t personally all that interested in, and of course World of Warcraft and Apple were two things I was very personally excited to write about every day.

I loved my job very much with AOL. Ever since I went to college, I had wanted to move back out to LA, and since I could freelance from anywhere, I was able to do just that around 2010. Once in LA, I was invited to step away from WoW Insider, and join Joystiq as a contributing editor, and since I’ve moved out here, I’ve gone to plenty of E3s, Comic-Cons, PAX shows, GDCs, Macworlds, and WWDCs. You name it, I’ve been lucky enough to cover it (with the notable exceptions of Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show — I still plan to visit both of those in the future).

And working with Joystiq and TUAW has put me on what I believe are the best teams in blogging. To a person, the Joystiq editorial staff was and is phenomenal all the way around, and the TUAW team is a terrific, hardworking bunch that it’s been a pleasure to work with. Over the past seven years, I’ve been hugely productive: The content management system we use says I’ve written 3,892,931 words on 9,612 posts over my time with AOL, and I’m very proud of everything I’ve done with the company. From calling out Blizzard for their BlizzCon mistakes to predicting the success of the App Store to giving Diablo 3 my first (and only) five star review, I couldn’t be happier with all the time I’ve put in on these blogs.

Still, as great as working for AOL has been, lately I’ve wanted something a little more stable. I have only ever been a freelance contractor at AOL — I’ve had to do my own taxes and track all of my expenses over the past few years. Medical benefits have been hard to come by, and I’m lucky in that I haven’t had many medical crises, but they’re always a possibility, of course. I’ve had no official vacation time, and I’ve had big stories hit at all hours of the day. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve been a man split between two worlds: I have worked very hard on both Joystiq and TUAW, but I was also the guy on both teams that also did work for another site. This isn’t anyone’s fault but mine — I definitely helped craft the position I was in on both sites, and I’ve enjoyed the diversity and helping the company share workflows and resources. But still, I’ve been looking for the past year or so for a more stable, fulltime position, where I could devote myself to one work goal and work with just one staff and set of procedures.

I also have been interested in the process of game development. I’ve always covered it, of course, but in the past year I’ve been to more than a few developer events, and I’m really intrigued by what it takes to be a game developer, to produce one of these experiences we share. I’ve dabbled in development myself, and I’ve realized that I have a lot of insight and a lot of good ideas, both about how to make games and how to make games better. I don’t have the resume to be a game developer or a game producer at all, but I’m very interested in the field and getting more directly involved in it.

Over the last year or so, I’ve had a few opportunities come up at different times, but until now, they had all fallen apart. Either I was really interested, and the company determined I wasn’t the right fit for them, or an offer was given, but it just wasn’t what I wanted — I was very lucky in that I really liked what I was doing, and money wasn’t really a problem, so I knew that I would be able to be patient and find something that was just right, something that fit my interests and would also allow me to be a real asset for whoever I was working for.

Back in May of this year, I learned about a position at the research firm EEDAR as a games analyst that I thought would be a really good fit for me and my skills. I’ve talked with a few devs already about the possibilities of consulting, and over the years I’ve been offered a few opportunities to do mock reviews (though I’ve never taken them — my position as an objective journalist kept me from working with any developers for compensation, of course). To be honest, because I haven’t yet started, I don’t know exactly how EEDAR works or what I’ll be doing there, so obviously I don’t presume to speak for them, and I don’t yet have any insight on their process at all. But I went through the interview process, heard more about the company and the job, and I figured working in their “Editorial Insights” division would be an excellent fit for my interests in production and my extensive experience covering the game industry. They made me an offer a few weeks ago, and after a lot of personal deliberation and consideration, I decided to finally leave AOL, and take the job.

It’s going to be a change, for sure. For one thing, it’s an office job — I can still remember the day I finally joined TUAW and was able to go freelance, and I was overjoyed on the Sunday evening before that I didn’t have to wake up and go into the office. I was so excited to just get on my computer and write. The difference then, I think, was that I was again working with topics I wasn’t really interested in, but EEDAR is very focused on video games, and that’s a subject I can’t get enough of. I’m looking forward, too, to being in an office full of people I can see and speak with in person, and to separate my work and my home life apart just a bit more than I have in the past.

I’ll also be moving, from West Los Angeles down to Carlsbad, California, which is about halfway down to San Diego, where EEDAR is based. In the wild surburbia of southern California, that may not seem like a big move, but for me, it really is. Nearly all my life, ever since I came out here for a semester in college, I’ve looked forward to moving out to Los Angeles, to living out here underneath the palm trees. This move represents something entirely new for me, something I haven’t planned on since I was 21 or so. I do think the move will do me good — I’ve been thinking about getting a little farther away from the chaos of the city lately, and if I choose the right apartment, this should give me a little more home space to deal with, and I am hoping to find a place that will let me finally get a pet (a dog, probably — I’ve never had one before).

But of course I’m not sure how it will work out. I’m not leaving my friends completely, but I will need to go and find new ones. I went and did laundry at my local laundromat this morning, and even as I said hi to the attendant (a super nice guy who’s helped me out with some extra quarters when I needed some), I realized it would probably be the last time I ever went there. Just like any other move, I’ll be laying my head down in a brand new place, and that’s always a somewhat frightening proposition. I think (I hope) that it will work out for the best.

I want to say thank you to everyone reading this — working for TUAW and Joystiq and WoW Insider was a dream come true for me, and I just plain couldn’t have done it without the support of you, my family, friends, and fans. My new position of course means that I likely won’t be blogging publicly every day, at least on the topic of video games, and for that I’m sorry. I have already had my last days at both TUAW and Joystiq, and it was tough for me to say goodbye to those teams, to those great communities. I’ll still be a part of them, as a reader and a commenter, but I won’t shape the discussions or help lead them any more, and that’s too bad.

I don’t yet know how strict or even what EEDAR’s policies are yet, so I don’t know what they’ll allow in terms of me appearing online, but I’ll follow the rules as stated. If they allow me to appear as a podcast guest or write a column somewhere, you might see me do that, but I just don’t know. And I do have here — while I will probably stay away from the topic of video games here directly (just because I’ll very likely be working with and for specific game developers and publishers), I remain a writer, and I plan to put posts here when I have something to say. I love writing, and I plan to write for the rest of my life, period, whether I’m paid for it or not. I wrote a post here every day for free before I got hired by AOL, and who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to that schedule again. Or maybe I’ll start a new podcast — I’ve been very interested in Magic and CCGs and even board games lately. I plan to live even closer to the beach in Carlsbad, so maybe I’ll take up surfing and start writing about that. A cooking blog, maybe? We’ll see!

At any rate, you can follow me here and on Twitter and all of the other various networks I’m already on. I’m not “Mike Schramm from TUAW and Joystiq” any more, but I’m still me. I still have opinions, and I still love sharing them, and I still love hearing and reacting to yours. Thanks so much for reading all of my work the past few years. I don’t know exactly what this next big step entails just yet. But I can tell you that I am excited to reach out and take it.

Posted on Sunday, July 7th, 2013 at 6:20 pm. Filed under general.
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