The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Leigh Alexander

Leigh Alexander

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

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.

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