Interview: Antony Terence (ICE-2020)

Please tell us more about your current profile, and what a typical workday is like for you?

I’ll start off with a bit of context. I graduated in 2020 with a degree in Instrumentation and Control Engineering. Fortunately, I secured a core job that involves a good deal of what I studied. I currently work at a reputed firm where a workday consists of a regular 9-to-5 schedule. Writing and everything else happens before and after that.

How did you start your journey in writing? How did you end up where you are right now?

So, the first serious piece of work that I had written was a Greek myth fan-fic back in 12th grade. I don’t think an Angry Birds comic from 7th grade counts. I was really into fantasy novels as a kid, especially ones with real-world myths. My parents encouraged me to take part in spelling bees too. I suppose the dots do connect when I look back. The Greek story was a start but I still wasn’t sure if I could build on it. Things began to fall in place once I joined Festember’s Content Team. 

Back in 2018, Festember’s theme was “An Arabian Odyssey”. Our heads Vishnu and Abhinaya wanted us to work on a branching story, one where your choices would shape the story. I started digging up Arabian myths and realized they were an unexplored treasure. This was something worth building a world around. There were voices there that needed to be expressed, especially with how the Middle East is portrayed these days. That’s when I decided that writing a series of novels would be my final goal.

This was augmented by my interest in captivating stories, be it movies, anime, or video games. That’s where I got a good grasp of what makes content worth consuming. My interests in video games led me towards learning about consumer tech as well, turning me into a friendly neighborhood tech support person.

Right after college, I did a few freelance gigs that helped me figure out what sort of writing appealed to me the most. It came as no surprise that I was inclined towards gaming and tech-related writing; gaming and technology were my bread and butter. I started writing for publications on Medium and that gave me the confidence to pitch to some of gaming’s biggest journalists. More than viral articles, what really pushed me forward was consistency that in turn built my confidence.

Content writing is demanding work. How do you manage to stay on top of your game while also handling your day job?

Well, to be honest, I don’t. I know I spoke about consistency but no one’s perfect. We all have things to deal with. Consistency will always come at the cost of something. And there will be times when things like social events, family or work will have to be prioritized.

One thing I focus on is cutting down on the friction between me and a finished article. I think a lot of writers starting out either deal with this “starting trouble” or face difficulties to remain consistent despite loving what they do. 

As for advice, I’d say minimize friction. Try working in a new space and devoting specific parts of the day to writing. No pressure, though. I also try to ensure that I don’t miss two deadlines in a row. That way, it doesn’t become a habit. More than the drive or intent of a person, I’d say friction is what you should be working on.

What suggestions or advice would you give to the juniors about walking on the ‘road not taken’?

I know a lot of established writers would say “give it your all” or “go all in.” Toss out your safe options and get backed into a corner so that the only way forward is pursuing your passion, that sort of thing. That’s not necessarily the best way to go about it. There’s no harm in safety.

I had a similar conversation with my Creative Writing prof back at NIT Trichy. Vinod sir helped me see things from a different perspective. Back then, I saw myself as a spirited kid, ready to write a couple of bestsellers. Vinod sir gave me a reality check by asking, “If you had the drive you think you have, shouldn’t you have finished a novel by now?” While that did sting at first, I realized that writing a novel needed a structured and well-thought-out approach. Not everyone needs that sort of path but I definitely did.

I figured that this was going to take some time. He told me that it’s not just about taking the road not taken. You could start off with one foot on a new path and another foot on a well-paved road. Most of you must be working towards your degrees with a job or a master’s degree at the end of the tunnel. Keep at it. Whenever you can squeeze in a few hours, build your skills, develop a portfolio and work your way towards turning your hobby into a career. Sort of like a superhero. It isn’t a leap of faith because you’ll have a foundation to support you.

You’ve had the opportunity to publish with the behemoths of gaming news like Kotaku and SUPERJUMP. How do you feel about the influence you have over people’s choices?

First of all, working with established gaming magazines like Kotaku, IGN and Superjump has been a rollercoaster of an experience. As a kid, I didn’t know I wanted this. If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self that things really do get better. As for people’s choices, it is pretty incredible to know that my opinion is capable of helping people make better decisions in buying smartphones, laptops, video games, that sort of thing. I know people who’ve made purchasing decisions after reading my articles. More than “influence,” I see it as giving people the tools to make informed choices. Instead of saying “A is greater than B,” I tell people about A and B and then ask them to decide.

How would you describe your time at NITT?

Well, that is a loaded question. Those four years were the best period of my life, so far. Made a lot of good memories and a lot of great friends. I’ve seen times both good and bad. Besides the hectic academic schedule, I was a part of both Festember and Pragyan. I believe that their contributions to me and my contributions to them made me who I am today. I would have been a very different person had I not walked into NIT Trichy.

How much has NITT changed your life?

Building on the previous question, I had no clue about what I wanted to pursue before entering NIT Trichy. I didn’t know much about engineering or being a doctor, but I ended up picking the former. Once I entered NIT Trichy, I realized there was so much more to a college than a syllabus-based education. Being in an environment filled with talented people can really shape your life. I got to work with some of the greatest minds on campus thanks to Festember’s Content Team. That’s where I realized that writing was my calling. I’ve spent countless nights thinking of who I wanted to be and I’m glad NIT Trichy answered that for me.

You have a sizable presence on social media. Can you tell us how it helps you in your field?

Yes, social media is a big deal. I know these platforms are known for people presenting the best versions of themselves and that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction at times. I think engagement with social media is important for creators of all kinds. Half of any form of success as a creator boils down to how many people you are able to reach. Even if you’ve got an incredible piece of art, you’re going to have to put in the work to market it. 

It’s something I didn’t bother with at first. But I’ve come to realize that there’s content out there that isn’t top-notch but manages to attract readers. Marketers know how to connect with people and get genuine support for their initiatives, be it paid subscribers or followers. That’s when I realized that this is something I need to devote time to as well. It might not be glamorous to self-promote at first but the rewards are worth it. 

Each platform has its quirks and tricks. But I believe that showing up matters even more. That’s what helped me get to where I am and that’s what will help me get to where I want to be. Less planning, more acting.

SEO, Tags, Clickbait and many more techniques are employed by writers all around the world. Where do you think the current direction of gaming journalism is when it comes to low effort clickbait articles?

I find it interesting that you’ve dabbled with clickbait and SEO. Yes, SEO and tags are pretty important. Stuff like keywords, trends, where to use tags, so on and so forth. When you take a look at gaming magazines, most of their earnings come from paid subscribers and ad revenue. The latter is directly influenced by how many people visit their site. This is also why gaming guides with plenty of keywords and pieces with clickbait titles are more popular these days.

If your article ranks higher on Google than someone else’s, you’re going to get more traction than their work. It’s said that the best place to hide a body is the second page of Google’s search results. As for the current direction of gaming journalism, I think clickbait is here to stay. Even reputed sites turn to clickbait titles to reel in readers. 

Clickbait isn’t inherently a bad thing. But, it’s a promise that writers need to fulfill. Fail that and you risk being misunderstood by all sorts of readers. If the main takeaway of your title doesn’t align with the rest of your article, things are going to get messy.

What would be the question that you’re most excited to answer in an interview?

This is something I usually ask interviewees so it’s pretty cool to get the same question. So, a question I’d love to answer would be “What is the biggest goal you’ve set for yourself (for the next five to ten years)?” Well, here’s a moonshot: I would love to create a world for a video-games. World-shaping events, memorable characters and races, that sort of thing.

Antony Terence can be reached at: @antoccino on instagram
Interview coordinated by Bavesh

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