February 4, 2023

V from Cyberpunk 2077 lives his best life in Night City.

Image: CD Project Red / Kotaku

Oh hi. I didn’t see you there. I’m Kenneth Shepard, Kotaku‘s new staff writer.

If you don’t know me, I’ve been writing about the video game industry for the past three years fan byte as a staff writer, and I did so through the lens of strangeness, communityand self-reflection. I’ve also written about those things in places like Polygon, IGN, Paste magazine, Gayming magazine, and plenty of other places that I won’t list here. But if you would be so kind as to read my words there, you will find all of that here Kotaku, also. But besides, I’m here to help in our Tips & Guides section, where we talk about the hows and whys of how we play video games.

I started as a reporter on local news. What started out as writing for my college newspaper eventually turned into running it and then working at my local newspaper for a while. The end goal was always to get a job writing about games, but I think writing about people on the ground has told a lot about how I think and talk about the industry. Where once I was interested in watching giant corporations battle it out in the name of conquering the market, I now care more about what games mean to us as a culture of players and creators. I tell people the best question I asked in interviews when I worked for the paper was “What does this mean to you?” and I would see someone light up when they answered. I like to keep the same mindset when I write about video games and what they mean for people who aren’t on boards and brag about record profits while laying off half their staff.

Besides writing about video games, I also talk about them Normandy FMa bi-weekly retrospective podcast that I co-host Destructoidby Eric Van Allen. If the name didn’t alert you, we started as one Mass effect podcast that ran through the entire BioWare sci-fi saga, with episodes moving beat for beat through each game alongside incredible guests from across the industry. Doing that show has been hugely influential on my critical voice, because it shifted so much of my thinking about games, story, and player expression to really dissecting a particular moment, rather than trying to break things down into reductive broad strokes to summarize.

In the years since, the show has become just a general video game retrospective show. We continued to cover dragon age, jade rich, The last of usand Final Fantasy Xand are currently a few episodes away from finishing our look back at Cyberpunk 2077. In the new year we will start playing the Kidney series, which is exciting because it’s the first time I haven’t played a game on the show before we cover it.

Gosh, what else is there to say about me? pokemon is my vice in life, and I have a certain set of six Pok√©mon that I consider my core group (Raichu, Palkia, Latias, Beautifly, Torterra, and Houndoom). Before the pandemic, I lived in movie theaters and you saw me see everything there was to see, good or bad. I’m still trying to get into the habit of seeing movies again, but that transition to reopening theaters has been an ongoing process. Before writing about games, I was on my way to becoming a music educator and teaching a high school choir (I clearly have a knack for choosing career paths with extremely stable job markets), because any gay teen who is in the early their high school choir sang 2010s was caught in Glee’s understand and is probably currently in therapy to forget about Matthew Morrison’s performance of ‘Blurred Lines’. I don’t do professional music anymore, but I sing a mean show tune in my car and overpaid for a replica of Ellie’s guitar from The Last of Us Part II not to play it occasionally.

Before Kotaku, I lived in a small town in Georgia with my 16 year old Yorkie-Chihuahua named Lily who owns all my heart. I don’t know how she’ll react to city life when we move to New York, especially in her moody old age, but I’ve worked a long time to get us here. I started writing about the video game industry as a wide-eyed college student in 2013 with a terrible review of Grand Theft Auto V for my college paper (which luckily got lost to time and site redesign), but what I didn’t tell most people at the time was that I started writing about video games because I was sure the career would take me out the suffocating confines of the small town of Georgia to the big city where I would have loved to live. Years of college, a pandemic, health issues and a layoff later, I’m writing this from G/O’s New York office as a staff writer at Kotaku. I can see the tall buildings from the window and hear the hustle and bustle of the city below. For the longest time, seeing a city skyline felt like your family was taking you to a nice restaurant. It was a special event that you knew would earn you a paycheck or two. Utilities? As soon as my workday is over, I walk into town knowing I’m no longer passing through.

So as I write this, it’s a time of pretty significant changes for me. Moving from writing for one website to writing for another is one thing, moving all your life to the city you’ve been dreaming about for half your life is quite another. So to a new beginning in a new, exciting place. Both in the big city and here Kotaku. See you on the front page.

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