Alice B is leaving RPS, come say goodbye

On a Monday in early 2018, Adam Smith, Rock Paper Shotgun’s deputy editor at the time, handed in his notice. On Thursday that same week, I emailed Alice Bell, a person I’d never spoken to before, to ask if she would consider applying for the role.

Alice thought it over for a week, and then emailed her response: no.

Thank god I was able to change her mind, so I could spend the next six years giving her shit about it. But now Alice is leaving RPS, and you should join me in saying goodbye.

Alice’s writing sounds like how I want RPS to sound: funny and smart, yes, but best of all able to be strongly critical while still unafraid to be a fan of a game she loves. These are a mixture of qualities that it’s almost impossible to find in a writer, and typically you get an imbalance towards one or t’other: too cynical, or too game-pilled, or funny but insubstantial, or thoughtful but so, so dry.

Yet the balance is present across Alice’s work for the site. TFI Friday. Announcing her love for giant women. Recurring confusion at video game merch – from bath bombs to trainers. Coming up with the idea to commission a tabletop RPG based on Rezzed, so readers could experience it when it was cancelled due to the pandemic. Conceiving of and delivering our ethnic minority work experience programme. Her Ritual Of The Moon diary, about a game designed to be played for five minutes per day for 28 days. The Electronic Wireless Show podcast, the only podcast you need in her opinion (which will return, with Alice still hosting). More reviews and shitposts than I can possibly link to.

That’s not to mention Alice’s work behind the scenes. Consider the context of RPS at the time Alice was hired. Back in 2018, we were about to double the size of the team by hiring six people and branching into video, guides and hardware coverage. I told Alice that we’d gently introduce her to the various tasks of her new role, an intention I sincerely held until around 11am on her first day – a change of mind Alice has been giving me shit about for the past six years. I dumped a mountain of work on Alice that day, and while I haven’t been editor-in-chief of RPS in a few years, she never let me down while I was.

I’m conscious that I’m personally getting the balance all wrong here, that this sort of sappy outpouring of praise without jokes is very un-Alice. In a more perfect world, we’d all be roasting her for leaving, but we don’t live in that world. Instead, I need to address the redundant elephant in the recently acquired room. Last month, Rock Paper Shotgun’s parent company Gamer Network was bought by Ziff Davis, and following that transaction the decision was made to cut staff within Gamer Network. Alice’s role was one of those cut.

I can’t properly articulate how angry and sad I am about this, and I won’t try. I know most of you reading this already feel the same way.

I’m confident that RPS will be fine, eventually, as it always has been when great people have left before. I’m confident that Alice will be better than fine; Alice is going to conquer the world, as former RPS writers often do. (You should buy her novels, if you haven’t already.)

This confidence doesn’t make me any less angry or sad. Instead, I’ll hold onto the fact I’m friends with Alice outside of work, where I get to experience the best of her: not the supportive, thoughtful colleague everyone describes below, but the funny, gossipy, gleefully mean friend who shares my love of four-hour YouTube videos and obscure internet drama. Thank god I was able to change your mind.

Ed: Back in the golden era of the office days, I remember Alice and I first bonded over Love Island when she heard my former work sidekick James and I talking a bit too loudly about it in our Metabomb corner (the esports site we used to work on). Every morning from then on she’d join us for a quick daily “DID YOU SEE LAST NIGHT” debrief. That’s when I knew we’d get along just fine.

I started at RPS a few years ago, having been absorbed by the first of The Takeovers. I went from an esports-y guides writer who’d done a couple of features for our pals at Eurogamer (cheers to Donlan for giving me a chance), to a staff writer all of a sudden. It was a big change! I knew a few of the folks already, but above all else, Alice really helped me settle in. She took me under her wing, gave me loads of guidance on words and were just like, really nice.

Over the years she’d land on my work and dissect it in a way that I look back on and think, “Only Alice could’ve done that”. She’d sit with me and explain through clear, concise points how I could improve or rejig or think differently about things – to better my confidence.

I owe Alice a lot, to be honest. I wouldn’t be where I am without her fighting my corner, as she believed I could edit other people’s words when I ummed and ahhed over the step up. Later, she’d happily lend me advice on how to manipulate letters so they’d look nice on a page and read much betterer. I’m still working on how I relay those nuggets of word advice to those I work with, but Alice has instilled in me a lot of certainty I didn’t have previously. One thing I’ve taken away which she’d be pleased with: trust my gut when it rumbles.

She might think these very words on this very page are a bit daft, or a bit much, or a bit cringe. She should know by now that I am not only fond of cringe, I bathe in cringe. She’s probably still got CMS access, so she might try to attack the unpublish button, but as you read this I’m probably fending her off with a copy of Grave Expectations in one hand and Displeasure Island, its sequel, in the other. I grabbed my copies from my local bookstore, so you certainly can too. I could use the help! Oh god, she’s about to hit me with The People’s Elbow.

I won’t launch into how much she’s done for the site itself and for so many others. It’s immeasurable, really. Just know that it has been a joy. And will continue to be a joy, as I pester her and distract her from the exciting projects she’ll be beavering away at otherwise.

Jeremy: When Alice B interviewed me for this job and asked what games I was personally looking forward to, I told her one of them was Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening. She replied with an intrigued eyebrow raise and asked ‘Really,’ as if she too had a bemused appreciation for the rough-around-the-edges feel of Holmes versus Cthulhu as envisioned by Frogwares, a developer you can’t help but root for despite the fact that everything they make is sorta falling apart at the edges.

When I did get this job, I was pleased to find that Alice truly did share snippets of my odd tastes, especially when it comes to underrated adventure games and schlocky movies. It’s rare to find a person who appreciates The Legend of Kyrandia 2: Hand of Fate and has actually spent time analysing the plot of Van Helsing, a movie that made the questionable decision of basing its storyline on Dracula’s eggs. This potent appreciation of weird is what made Alice such a great writer for this corner of the internet. She will be greatly missed, we are less without her, and next time I play a Frogwares game, I will do so in her honour.

Nic: Ah, but can we hire Alice’s clone? Alice did Booked For The Week for me on Sunday, read that please.

Ollie: When I arrived at the office on my very first day, Alice immediately made me about 70% less anxious, seemingly without even trying. For the next five years, in between consistently writing some of the best words on the site, she would continue to make RPS feel like a second home and a second family. Even if she did think I’m a lot posher than I am.

Kiera: I don’t need to tell you all how talented Alice B is, her work speaks for itself. What I will say though, is that in the somewhat short time I’ve been at RPS, Alice was one of the most genuine, funny people to work with. When freaking out over my first Game Club pick, Alice helped guide me through the process and provided invaluable feedback. Instead of giving my work a blind pass, she took the time to give me tailored, insightful suggestions to push my work further and out of my comfort zone. It’s a real pity to see her go. I think I could have learnt so much more from her boundless experience in the field. Hopefully, we’ll work together again at some point. Although, I’m positive someone very lucky will snap her up long before that. Good luck Alice.

James: Alice, I’ve been saying this a lot recently, in less printable language, but this is utter codswallop. Complete poppycock. A load of balderdash festooned with bunkum. I’m sorry that these circumstances preclude the send-off you deserve, which would likely involve barrelling out the doors on a golden chariot pulled by a dozen miniature horses, down an aisle of the finest scented candles and surrounded by confetti where every piece is a valid, obscenely profitable book deal.

Still, the cool thing about being as enviably talented as Alice Goddamn Bell is that we all know you’ll end up doing something great. Probably several, all at once. For now, I’ll just say thank you for making the site what it is, for countless good times on the podcast, and for being a pal. RPS will endure, but only because we’ve all become a bit more Alice-like from working with you.

Talk soon, yeah?

Brendan: The job of games journalist gets a few reactions. People recoil, or they say “cool”, or they have no idea what you mean. A select few, upon learning about this role, will deeply covet it. They will enlist in the career as if it is a war. When people tell Alice they want to be a games journalist because they love video games, she often gives them the following advice, the soundest, simplest counsel I have heard in our sickly trade: you may love to play games, trooper, but do you love to write?

Observe the truth of this. Anyone can play Assassin’s Creed, not everyone will feel compelled to write a tour guide to its regular Grecian inhabitants. Anybody can indulge in nostalgia by playing their favourite game from the early 2000s; few will be driven to write about their favourite online ASCII art for those games. Anyone can play obscure indie experiments about the moon, not everyone will devote 28 days to said game with ritualistic rigour. Alice does not simply love (some) video games, she is that person who loves to write. As if you needed more proof, she’s only gone and written two bloody crime novels. WHAT THE FUCK.

Her departure is a loss for RPS, but I suspect it will be a net gain for the world of writing. She is equally capable of a lethal takedown, a swell of kindness, and all the insight in-between. From the shadowrealms of redundancy, Alice appeared to us in a goodbye call and asked everyone at RPS to “stay weird”. And, gotta say, it was hard to sit there and pretend like my eyes were not blurring out every face on the screen like a really shit episode of Traffic Cops.

I am being professionally sad here. But also personally. Only a few months ago, I was let go from an industry job (tl;dr – Embracer bullshit) and, by some grace or cunning, the very next day Alice Bell appeared in my inbox offering work, like a grizzled hand reaching up from a trench to pull a lost dog of war back down to the safety of boards and muck. Today, it stings that I have no power to return the favour. But if there’s one thing I know, as Alice winks at the camera and dashes off into the overworld of smoke and words, it’s that she actually doesn’t need my help to clear her way. Doesn’t need my cover fire, my always-alliterative artillery, nor rounds of rhetoric celebrating her ability. I don’t care. I’ll stand up and fire a full belt of this shit all the same. AHHHHH-HHHH-HHH-HH-H-h-h-h!

Edwin: I first met Alice Bell when she did a summer internship for Official Xbox Magazine, where I was online editor till we all got laid off in 2014. I have one story I always tell about how she borrowed my Skyrim savegame for a feature, and proceeded to humiliate me in the office by complaining loudly that I’d barely done anything other than become Thane of Whiterun, then threw away all my carefully hoarded in-game books while I was away at a press event, for reasons I can’t recall. She also mocked me for listening to Keane, right in front of Edge. This kid will go far, I said to myself, through the tears.

Alice B, you contain and create immensities. You will shrug off the arbitrary terms of your departure and out-videogames-journalism us all, assuming you don’t level up and disappear triumphantly into another sphere. You’re the kind of writer I think the games media needs but probably doesn’t deserve – somebody with an appetite and imagination for things beyond games which can then be called upon to think about games differently, and who can draw in younger writers who are similarly adventurous. You are also incredibly funny, and a supportive, compassionate editor who has signed off on some of the least expected and most rewarding freelance pieces I’ve read.

There are many great writers in this space, but I think everybody struggles with the basic insularity of a form of journalism that is enthusiast by nature and which doesn’t allow the time for cultivating wider knowledge, because the games are so big, and the biggest of them want all the time we have. It’s a sappy cliché but genuinely, Alice, your work shines a light. Who else would write a whole column on Nancy Drew? Anyway, I’m about to overdo it so I’ll shut up now. I wish you the very best for the next thing. Whatever happens, we’ll always have Whiterun.

By admin

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