In Welcome to The JHN Files, I wrote that I was sick of telling this story, and it was absolutely true. I was, and I am. However, I think it’s appropriate that the About page should feature the full, unabridged version of the events that led to The JHN Files, and so here it is — a Frankensteinian creation comprised of bits and pieces of previous walks down memory lane, copied, pasted, and stitched together.
I’ve always loved writing, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing games — but it wasn’t until December 2013 that I decided to put the two together. I say, ‘decided’, but, really, it just sort of happened. It was an exciting year to be interested in games, 2013, with the then-current generation of consoles enjoying a remarkable last hurrah with some of its finest titles, and the new generation just over the horizon.
For the first time, I had a decent internet connection at home, and was able to follow along — to keep up with everything as it happened. Not only that, but having access to the internet whenever I wanted it exposed me to some pretty inspiring people. Greg Miller, Colin Moriarty — and a lot more since… — people who changed how I saw those who make writing and speaking about video games their profession, people I came to look up to, who I wanted to be like.
The months passed. That new generation of consoles arrived, and I found myself writing about the game I was playing on my brand new, long-coveted PlayStation 4.
I first posted my review of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as a text-only Note on my personal Facebook page. Eventually, I added some screenshots. And there it lingered. But I was proud of that review — as horrifically cocky as it sounds, I wanted people to see it. It wasn’t long before I realised that my Facebook page wasn’t the proper home for it.
I took to Tumblr — and, on December 15, 2013, JHNBLOG was born.
I had no real experience of setting up a website, and Tumblr made putting together something relatively good-looking incredibly straightforward. It wasn’t long, however, before I ditched JHNBLOG for JHNREVIEWS. That sounded better, and was fitting for my original intentions for the site: to post reviews of each and every game I played on my PS4.
Shortly after that first change of name, I made the move from Tumblr to Blogger. I wanted more control over how the site looked, and Blogger — via a tremendous and thoroughly headache-inducing amount of custom CSS (though past-me should see the amount behind The JHN Files…) — gave me that control. Things were going swimmingly. People did indeed see my Black Flag review, and I began to post other stuff, too — which, eventually, led me to the second change of moniker.
Despite my original intentions, I wasn’t writing reviews as much as I thought I would. I was writing blog posts, general thoughts on the games I liked and the worlds around them. JHNREVIEWS became something of a misnomer, so it had to go. Thus, JHNWRITES ABOUT GAMES was born.
I should have realised what a tremendous mouthful that one was from the moment it floated into my head, but — for reasons I can’t now recall — I stuck with it. In fact, JHNWRITES ABOUT GAMES is, perhaps, the most notable of the site’s former monikers. Under that name, the site joined the Tomb Raider Official Fansite Program, and was subsequently included the credits of Rise of the Tomb Raider when it debuted on Xbox One.
In increasingly typical fashion, though, dissatisfaction soon crept in once more — both with JHNWRITES ABOUT GAMES, and with Blogger itself.
In April 2015, I took a proverbial machete to JHNWRITES ABOUT GAMES and rebranded the site to JHNGAMES.
But the rebrand alone wasn’t enough. I’d already moved from Tumblr to Blogger, and it was becoming apparent that another change of platform was needed. I wanted big, beautiful images, different layouts for different kinds of post — things Blogger couldn’t, for someone with my skill-set, deliver.
WordPress was the obvious choice, but — driven by curiosity — I’d looked into it before, and found that it could be staggeringly expensive to make a site on that platform what I wanted it to be. I knew I had to leave Blogger behind, however, so I decided to give it another go. I wasn’t going to get anywhere with WordPress.com, but after a lot of research, WordPress.org seemed like it would let me do what I wanted to do, so I took a leap of faith — and hit the ground like (as a good friend of mine might put it) a sack of shite. That initial attempt ended in complete, utter, demoralising disaster. I got fed up, and came closer to throwing in the towel than ever before — or since.
I took a very long break from it all.
I’d like to be able to tell you that I rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of defeat after that break, but I didn’t. Still, after a fashion, I staggered back to my feet and rebuilt JHNGAMES with a brand-new theme and a much clearer head.
For a while, things were good. But then Jurassic World came along, and in finding myself feeling as though I could write endlessly about that film, the limitations of the site’s latest name became clear. JHNGAMES, does, after all, imply a certain type of content.
I tried to skirt around the issue by giving the Jurassic franchise a dedicated page alongside those I already had for Assassin’s Creed, The Last of Us, Tomb Raider and Uncharted. I wrote about various tie-ins those games had spawned, so surely it wouldn’t matter if I wrote about the Jurassic films, too.
The thing about that, though, was that the aforementioned franchises all began with games. Jurassic didn’t — and as much as I tried to let myself not be bothered by this, as much as I tried to remind myself that plenty of sites primarily set up to cover games now put out content on various mediums, my mind just wouldn’t let me forget it. It was like a thorn embedded in my brain, niggling away, always reminding me that it was there.
Eventually, all this collided with a serious sense of disillusionment about JHNGAMES and what, to me, it had become, and so I made up my mind to move on.
I wanted to continue writing about things, though, and there was a lot of work I’d done on JHNGAMES and its predecessors that I was proud enough of to want to preserve. Even though I’d planned to take a break post-JHNGAMES, I started brainstorming almost immediately after I’d taken it offline. (Such is the lot of the restless mind.) I wanted the newest incarnation of the site (named, in a stunning turn of originality, JHNMCHLTNR.com) —
— to be a platform on which I could write not just about games, but about everything and anything I wanted to.
I also wanted it to be somewhere where I could take my time. Even though I often put things out long after the fact, I always felt a certain pressure to post things to JHNGAMES, to get things done as soon as I’d thought of them. This was, to put it bluntly, a crap feeling — sucking the joy from writing that started me down this path in the first place.
Though JHNMCHLTNR.com ultimately proved to be the shortest-lived of my sites, it’s its philosophy, more than any of the others, that informs The JHN Files. In the past, I often felt so paralysed by the need to cover everything relating to the stuff I posted about that I got virtually nothing done — but no longer. On The JHN Files, I plan to write about whatever I want, whenever I want. If that means putting a post out long after its subject has lost widespread relevance, or my thoughts on something months — even years — after its release, then that’s just the way it’ll be.
As I said in Welcome to The JHN Files, the road to The JHN Files has been both long and interesting. It really is about time I shut up and started down it.