When Danielle Partis was just a teenager, she was mocked for taking a notebook and camera to gigs. She was even told by an editor of a local blog that she would never write for Metal Hammer and that her work was merely “passable”.
Despite being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia at just twenty-one years old, Danielle not only went on to write for Metal Hammer but has established herself as a prominent figure in video games journalism. As co-founder of Overlode (an independent games publication) and editor of PocketGamer.biz (a leading video game website that focuses on mobile, portable and handheld games), her voice in the gaming industry undoubtedly serves as an inspiration for both women, and disabled aspiring journalists.
We got a chance to speak to Danielle about her success in video games journalism and how her disabilities have affected her journey.
Born from the innovation of her long-term friend Harry and his friend Jordan, both of whom were interested in setting up an independent outlet, Overlode became a popular space in games journalism, that would favour and spotlight rising talent and minorities in the industry.
“I kind of wanted to be on board anyway because I will just stick my fingers in any kind of projects that I get my hands on,” Danielle says.
With her previous experience of running a website, Danielle had an essential role in bringing their vision into fruition. “I really liked their concept and what they had going on. They just kind of needed a little bit of guidance.”
“It was a combination of just creating something a little bit different from my day job (because that’s very business orientated), and just setting up a kind of grassroots project with two people that I really like. I think their work is great and so yeah, it just it just kind of fell into place.”
Though initially set up as a “side hustle”, the project has developed from the joint work and vision of three people to being funded through Patreon. With regards to the future, Danielle expresses her hopes that Overlode will progress to becoming more sustainable, employing writers’ long term as well as offering up commissions.
Despite the gaming industry being very London-centric, Danielle roots in Hull are rigid. Yet by working remotely from home, she has been able to connect with other industry professionals all over the world.
“I think initially I was incredibly lucky with the position that I got at Steel Media that I’m still at almost four years later, because while the company is technically based in Bath (we have a HQ in Bath), everyone that works there works remotely. So, it really wasn’t an issue for me to kind of jump in. Although that did come with a lot of traveling around and going to events and things, I was able to have this quite high-profile role and this responsibility from home. That’s something that has obviously stayed with me as the role has progressed, and as my career has progressed as well.
Conscious of the south-centric reality of the media and journalism scene, Danielle and her team at Overlode aspire to even the scales by staying located up north.
“We wanted to sort of become a beacon for people that think that they can only curate these high-profile careers and roles if they go to the locations where this kind of stuff thrives. We kind of want to say no you don’t have to do that – you can build this from anywhere.”
With the pandemic forcing industries to adapt to remote learning and working from home, Danielle feels that at least one positive message about accessibility has been illuminated in people’s everyday lives: “You don’t need to be in the right place at the right time – you can just create whatever you want to create from anywhere.”
Since the Covid-19, she jokes that her typical day mirrors Groundhog Day due to its repetitive nature. Her full-time job enforces a busy routine that has her working on multiple projects at once.
“I’m up eight or nine in the morning and I log in to talk to my team because I have two very lovely full-time staff members and we set what we’re going to do for the day. Then my day job is just running Pocketgamer.biz. So, I’ll be doing anything from interviews and features, kind of deep dives and then I will spend my lunch breaks and early evenings doing Overlode stuff.”
“My late evening is either spent playing games with friends, catching up on stuff that I’ve missed or doing a bit of writing for Overlode. I think that was another reason I was so keen to get involved with it because I wanted to do more creative writing again outside of the very business focused stuff that I do at work.”
Looking back at her own success, Danielle expresses that it feels almost surreal. Five years ago, she describes a life in which she was struggling with money and a place to live, completely blindsided by the pressure of making her career sustainable. But with dedication, discipline, and an unwavering desire to work, she secured a freelancing job at Metal Hammer which led onto the life she currently leads as co-founder of Overlode and Editor at Pocket Gamer.
“It was like a massive amount of luck as well,” she admits, “but I think that if you just keep going and you keep taking the creative stuff seriously then you will eventually make an imprint.”
“I still even now catch myself like looking around at the things that I do, even like the apartment that I live in and that I’m able to have this kind of life for myself just with money that I earn from writing. It is still mind-blowing so many years on.”
Despite the criticism she was met with as a teenager for taking reviewing gigs seriously when she was not being paid, she didn’t let the ridicule get to her. In fact, she argues that resolute attitude at the cost of so-called ‘street cred’ benefited her in the long run.
“In my head I was like if I want to do this as a job as a career you have to take this small stuff seriously,” she says. “You have to act like everything is serious – not in a kind of way where you take yourself too seriously and you become a little bit of a wanker about it – but you know, you have to treat everything as a serious task, whether you’re reviewing like a local gig down the pub or you’re at the O2, it’s all the same thing it’s all the same skill set.”
Danielle’s advice to budding creatives is both realistic and reassuring. Having gone through the financial struggles herself, she admits that deviating from an intended career path is often necessary in order to pay the bills and get into the industry that you want to be in.
“I remember working in a call centre and thinking oh this is it for me now, working in a call centre I failed at my path, and it’s like no, it’s just another step isn’t it? It’s another tool to enable you to get where you want to be… don’t be afraid to kind of divert from the path a little bit and do something that might not be the direction that you’re heading in, even if it’s just so you can pay the bills.”
With regards to games journalism in particular she reiterates the importance of working in working in various formats: “even if you’re just writing on a blog and you’re reviewing the games that you that you can get hold of. Or reviewing music or whatever. As long as you’re doing something that is keeping you developing that particular skill then that is beneficial to you.”
Due to the small nature of the music and games industry, reputation is a major factor in attributing success according to Danielle. She particularly warns against misusing social media and creating an unappealing online presence as these industries are already so competitive and saturated.
“I’ve seen people that are in positions hire new people who literally won’t hire somebody if they’ve posted an annoying tweet or something,” she says. “I think that’s wild because that you know what you say in a personal social media space ideally shouldn’t dictate your professionalism. Probably the most opportunities that I’ve had in my career so far, is just by being kind and not thinking that things should be handed to me, because it’s all luck ‘cos nobody owes you anything in any of these spaces.”
On reflection, Danielle expresses gratitude for own disabilities due to the effect it had on her motivation to hone her skills. Prior to her diagnosis she describes a very busy life scouring local gigs that didn’t give her much of a chance to seriously cultivate her abilities.
“I mean it felt worse at the time, but in hindsight it made me really focus down on like bettering my skills as a writer because I had nothing else to do,” she says. “I was housebound and struggling to manage these disabilities and all I could do was write. I was like, well, this is my strongest skill set. I have to make to make this work if I’m going to live and I did, and it obviously paid off.”
Though she has a more positive outlook on her disabilities now, she is open about the downsides as well – “it feels like you are working twice as hard as everyone around you to achieve half as much,” she says.
“I have a really good team that’s really understanding of my disabilities, but it can feel like that and it can also feel sometimes that opportunities are kind of closed off to you because of your disability.”
Even though society is slowly becoming more accessible, there are still instances in which those with disabilities are not considered; Danielle has encountered many accessibility issues with live events in the game industry, citing 8-hour conferences in particular that do not consider her chronic fatigue.
She recounts one such instance of inaccessibility: “I remember going to a party that was on the top floor of a car park – like an abandoned car park – and there wasn’t a lift, and it was just sort of an oversight on every level of accessibility. But I feel like I am in a very privileged position now that people are aware and accommodating of my illnesses, which makes my job a lot easier.”
As someone with a growing presence in the gaming industry, Danielle hopes to be a beacon for others with limiting disabilities and has a desire to help other people like her get to such a distinguished level. Her story is one of encouragement to those who feel like their disabilities are robbing them of their dreams.
“[Your disabilities are] not going to stifle you because there are people here now that will help you up, that will help you get to these same heights and I think that something that’s really important to me – making sure that there is space here now for people like me, not in the way that it was when I was trying to get here.”
“The road to more accessibility to more inclusion gets better when there’s at least one person in a room of decision makers that has experienced or lived with a particular ailment and that can be, you know, a physical disability, it could be a mental disability, it could be, you know, somebody of a different race. You have rooms of white people making decisions and it only takes like one person of colour in a room to say, actually, this is a bad decision. It’s the same for me if I’m the only disabled person in a room of these decision makers.”
Negativity is undoubtedly an obstacle all creatives face and sometimes it’s spite that drives them forward as opposed to talent or determination. Danielle argues that this is partly the case for herself too when citing a time when she was 15 and dismissed by an editor for a local blog. Those discouraging words stuck with her and were proved wrong eight years later when she went onto write for one of the world’s most famous heavy metal magazines.
“I will use a Ginger Wildheart quote; he said in a song ‘Fuck all the experts with all due respect, because no one’s an expert in what’s coming next.’ I think that’s true… nobody knows what’s going to happen next and you know it might be you and you will never see it coming. So just keep working you know, if you have a dream and you have a goal just keep working towards it and keep taking it seriously and keep trying.”
Kind, encouraging and inspiring, Danielle Partis’ final words are a helping hand to those who are in a similar situation to what she was in as a young adult.
“I am now in a position where I can help somebody else, like don’t ever be afraid to reach out to me, because I will try my best to give you some kind of actionable advice to help you grow the thing that you want to grow.”
Interview: Dom Smith / Words: Jay Mitra