It’s the end of the decade, and gaming outlets are busy cramming out “best games of the decade” lists. They include what you would expect to see: The Last of Us, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Inside, and probably even Duke Nukem Forever somewhere. But for the Escapist’s end-of-the-decade coverage, we wanted to focus more on the games that personally impacted us the most. Not the highest scored game or the prettiest game, but the games that actually helped to define and shape ourselves this decade in unexpected ways. That’s why I’m talking about Darksiders II.

At the age of 13, I was pretty addicted to video games. I was very introverted in junior high and high school, so video games were my escape from bullies and other things in my life at the time that made me generally unhappy. I can’t tell you how many hours I put into Halo, Call of Duty, or Gears of War, just to escape and not have to worry about other things going on in my life.

At some point though, it was all-consuming and I was spending way too much time on the games. I was rushing through school work and staying up too late, and in general my life ended up revolving around games. It wasn’t healthy — that’s for sure.

My parents thought the same thing. After threatening to take the games away, I decided that I would try and write about them. There’s a much longer story to tell here, but essentially my father bought me my first domain name, I found a few guys online that looked like they knew how to write on a website called PSXExtreme, and then we started up a small site called TitanReviews.

I had no idea at the time that I’d ever make games journalism an actual career. I was 13, naive, and wanted some free games because I had no money. Little did I know I had started a path that I continue on today. Fast forward from 2009 through 2012, and I’d started up a new site called Only Single Player. It grew relatively quickly because there were no other sites that strictly covered single-player games at the time.

Darksiders II defined game journalism career Nick Calandra game of the decade

In the summer of 2012 I received one of the first “big” review copies I’d ever been sent. It was for Darksiders II, a series that I knew very little about at the time, and in fact, I hadn’t even requested the review copy because I had never played the original game.

Within moments of starting up the game, I was hooked. The opening scene in Darksiders II at the time was pretty breathtaking, and coupled with the absolutely stellar soundtrack from Jesper Kyd, it’s still one of the most memorable opening scenes in a video game from the past decade for me. I think I ended up finishing the game in just a few days, and I even awarded it my game of the year for 2012.

Unfortunately in November of that year, THQ announced that it was going bankrupt. By 2013 they were gone — and the developers of Darksiders II, Vigil Games, with it. Much to the dismay of many fans of the Darksiders series, it seemed we’d never get the next two entries in the series that would undoubtedly tell the stories of the last two remaining horsemen.

Thankfully, Gunfire Games and Airship Syndicate were formed in 2014 and 2015 respectively with both studios composed of many veterans of Vigil Games, and we all know how the story goes from there.

For me though, my career was just getting started. I was finishing up college in 2016, and over the years OnlySP had dwindled as I had less time for the site due to being more active with my life. Thankfully, I reached a deal with Escapist’s parent company, Enthusiast Gaming, to sell them the site to keep it alive while I finished up getting my degree and started looking for a real job. By that point I was pretty tired of games journalism though. Writing news every day, fighting for every little bit of traffic you can get, and trying to break into the industry is exhausting.

Darksiders II defined game journalism career Nick Calandra game of the decade

But it’s also an addiction, and if you’re a creative, you know you’ll never be gone for long. By the time I was done running OnlySP, we had started to get into some more creative endeavors, creating longform analysis videos, big feature articles that told a variety of interesting stories. One series that would be the gateway to my future career was called Spotlight.

I commissioned an article from one of our writers to do a story on the real history behind Warhorse Studio’s upcoming game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and that story would eventually feed into my inspiration to start up Gameumentary, an outlet dedicated to producing video game documentaries.

After sitting behind the computer screen for over half a decade already covering games, I wanted to get out and meet the people behind the games I was covering, as well as see the world a bit. The article we did on Kingdom Come: Deliverance spurred that desire because we were talking about all these historical places and ruined castles, and the pull was there to get out there to show people this stuff instead of just tell them about it.

There was a video from Danny O’Dwyer on GameSpot covering The Witcher 3 where he actually went out to Poland and was reporting from some countryside area, and that was all it took for me to say, “That’s what I want to do.”

Long story short, my team and I filmed our first documentary in early 2017 at Runic Games as a proof of concept, and from there I started planning out a Kickstarter campaign to fund a number of other documentaries. The timing ended up being perfect because in May 2017, THQ Nordic announced Darksiders III was in development and planned for a 2018 release.

Having done some work with THQ in the past, I immediately reached out to my PR contacts to see about setting up a Darksiders documentary with both Airship Syndicate and Gunfire Games to tell the story of the franchise that many thought would never see the light of day again, especially not from the developers that originally started the series.

The stars aligned somehow and we got the studios on board for the documentary, which would be the main pillar of our Kickstarter campaign and gave us the needed publicity to reach our funding goal.

This would later lead to Enthusiast Gaming purchasing Gameumentary from me, hiring me, and now here I am at the end of 2019 as the Editor-in-Chief of Escapist Magazine, still continuing to produce documentaries, and in the past two years I’ve gotten to play two new Darksiders experiences.

I enjoyed Darksiders II so much that it was the first project I had in mind when looking to start making documentaries, and at the time, being pretty much a nobody in the industry, I didn’t think we’d have a chance in hell of taking it on.

I still can’t really believe to this day that everything came together and how none of it may have happened if I were never randomly sent that copy of Darksiders II from THQ.

It’s a bit crazy to think about how all these little random events in your life can lead to something completely unexpected and have a chance to define some of your life experiences. Video games are a big part of my life, providing me an escape when I needed it, the inspiration needed to create, happiness, and a career path.

What have games given you this decade?

Nick Calandra
Editor in Chief of Escapist Magazine. Previously founder of OnlySP and Gameumentary. Patiently waiting for the Red Wings to be good again.

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