Oh, hi. I didn’t see you there. I’m Kenneth Shepard, Kotaku’s new staff writer.
If you don’t know me, I spent the last three years writing about the video game industry over at Fanbyte as a staff writer, and I did so through the lens of queerness, community, and introspection. I’ve also written about those things in places like Polygon, IGN, Paste Magazine, Gayming Magazine, and plenty of other places I won’t list here. But if you were kind enough to read my words over there, you’ll find all of that over here at Kotaku, as well. But on top of this, I’m here to help out in our Tips & Guides section, where we talk about the hows and whys of how we play video games.
I got my start as a reporter working in local news. What began with writing for my college’s newspaper eventually turned into running it, then working at my local newspaper for a stint. The end goal was always to get a job writing about games, but I think writing about people on the ground level informed a lot of how I think and talk about the industry. Where once I was interested in watching giant corporations duke 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 working for the paper was, “What does this mean to you?” and I would watch someone light up as they answered. I like to keep that same mindset when I write about video games and what they mean to people who aren’t sitting on a board and bragging about record profits while laying off half their workforce.
Outside of writing about video games, I also talk about them on Normandy FM, a biweekly retrospective podcast I co-host alongside Destructoid’s Eric Van Allen. If the name didn’t clue you in, we started out as a Mass Effect podcast that went through the entirety of BioWare’s science fiction saga, with episodes going beat by beat through each game alongside incredible guests from around the industry. Doing that show has been wildly influential to my critical voice, as it shifted so much of my thinking about games, narrative, and player expression to really dissecting a particular moment, rather than trying to encapsulate things in reductive broad strokes.
In the years since, the show has become just a general video game retrospective show. We went on to cover Dragon Age, Jade Empire, The Last of Us, and Final Fantasy X, and are currently a couple episodes away from wrapping up our look back at Cyberpunk 2077. In the new year, we’ll start playing through the Nier series, which is exciting, because it’s the first time I’ve not played a game on the show before we cover it.
Gosh, what else is there to tell about me? Pokémon is my vice in life and I have a particular set of six Pokémon I consider my core party (Raichu, Palkia, Latias, Beautifly, Torterra, and Houndoom). Pre-pandemic, I lived in movie theaters and you’d catch me seeing everything that was showing, good or bad. I’m still trying to get back in the habit of seeing movies again, but that transition back as theaters have reopened has been an ongoing process. Prior to writing about games, I was on track to be a music educator teaching high school choir (I clearly have a knack for picking career tracks that have extremely stable job markets), because every gay teen singing in their high school choir in the early 2010s was caught in Glee’s grasp and is probably in therapy right now trying to forget Matthew Morrison’s performance of “Blurred Lines.” I don’t do music professionally anymore, but I sing a mean showtune in my car and paid too much money for a replica of Ellie’s guitar from The Last of Us Part II to not play it from time to time.
Before Kotaku, I lived in a small Georgia town with my 16-year-old Yorkie-Chihuahua named Lily, who owns my whole heart. I don’t know how she’s going to react to city life as we move to New York, especially in her grouchy old age, but I’ve been working for a long time to get us here. I started writing about the video game industry as a wide-eyed college student back in 2013 with a terrible review of Grand Theft Auto V for my university’s paper (which has thankfully been lost to time and site redesigns), but what I didn’t tell most people back then was that I started writing about video games because I was sure the career would get me out of the suffocating bounds of small-town Georgia and into the big city I so longed to live in. 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 out the window and hear the hustle and bustle of the city below. For the longest time, seeing a city skyline felt like your family taking you to a nice restaurant. It was a special event that you knew would set you back for a paycheck or two. Now? As soon as my work day is over I’ll walk out into the city and know I’m no longer just passing through.
So, as I write this, it’s a time of pretty significant change for me. Moving from writing for one website to writing for another is one thing, moving your entire life to the city you’ve been dreaming of for half your life is another. So here’s to new beginnings in a new, exciting place. Both in the big city, and here at Kotaku. See y’all on the front page.