Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Leigh Alexander

Leigh Alexander

Video game journalist (Edge, Kotaku), editor (Gamasutra)

Posted in editor, game, journalist, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Leigh Alexander, a journalist and critic of video games and their surrounding business and culture. I write about interactive entertainment and social media and the people who create and participate within that space. I'm editor at large at Gamasutra, I'm a columnist in Edge magazine, Kotaku and at Vice's Creators Project, and I write at Boing Boing and Thought Catalog and anywhere else if I can find the time.

What hardware do you use?

It's an entirely unscientific setup. I have two netbooks -- an Eee PC that I take to events and an Acer Aspire One that I use for slightly more things. My entire livelihood depends on being able to create and publish text immediately from anywhere, so that's all I really have the time and energy to care about.

But I suppose video game consoles, being essential to my work, count: I have an Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3, a PlayStation 2 and a Vita; a Wii and a 3DS, and I don't think my iPhone ever leaves my hand for more than a minute.

Um, except for yesterday, when it got lost. Luckily someone found it and it got returned!

And what software?

All I really require is a web browser, a word processor and some kind of image software -- that's Chrome, Word and IrfanView for me. I've been offloading more and more of my content creation and storage onto Google Drive; I don't even generally worry about where I store anything because if it matters whatsoever, it'll be an attachment in my Gmail archive somewhere.

I can't actually overstate the role Twitter plays in my life - Twitter's basically taken the role of my web presence. I use it to keep up on and comment on current events in my field, to broadcast the things I write, and to engage with my readers. I'm obsessed with Twitter; sometimes I use it as a giant chat room. I tweet to excess, I think. The pull-and-pop of refreshing the app on my phone is like my rosary. Freelance writing and having a career that basically lives on the Internet can be very isolating, and it keeps me company.

What would be your dream setup?

Only when you asked me this did I notice it's been forever since I had a proper PC with proper software licenses, instead of this scrappy little piecemeal stitched-together infrastructure I've built for myself that depends on netbooks and mobile stuff and things living forever on the Internet.

I wonder if I even remember how to do anything in Photoshop, for example. I grew up so attached to computing that I'd pet a PC tower the way one would a dog, but I find it very alleviating to think of the tech I use as lightweight, and not necessarily disposable, but certainly replaceable, since the important things are tangible.

Being a writer online I've had to learn to love how the content that's important to me isn't this essential, obsessively-protected save file I need to keep on a zip drive, but is fleeting; I can write something in a web backend, hit publish, let it go like a little leaf on a river, and yet it will probably live forever in some incarnation. Even losing my iPhone yesterday, of course I'd have been irritated about the replacement cost if I hadn't found it, but with the exception maybe of some of my photos, everything that lives on there is still alive, could appear on a new phone.

I guess what I'm driving at is I've stopped meaningfully desiring hardware anymore; I've become indifferent to it. I do wish I could afford some kind of tablet; I love how iOS games can feel so much more intimate, tactile and immersive on an iPad. If I could really have anything I wanted, I'd want, like, a Mac Quadra running System 6 or something so I could play ancient discs full of black-and-white HyperCard stacks.

If I lust after anything, it's the nostalgia of when my relationship to computing and gaming was weighty and tactile and puzzling, black screens winking serenely at me in luminescent green. I would love a working TurboGrafx-16 and an Apple IIe; I miss the particular texture of black, wiggly floppies. I have outlived the objects that raised me, and I feel very romantic about their physicality and their frailty and obsolescence.

But really, my ideal setup is pretty close to how it presently is: tiny little keyboard on my knee, and probably some kind of whiskey within reach. Simple stuff.