Why I’m Leaving My Agency Job For Video Games

“Sometimes you have to take a step back to leap forward.” — A guest speaker in one of my college classes, circa 2014ish

Level 1: Coming to terms with where I’m at

She was glamorous. Not the has-too-much-makeup-and-tries-so-hard kind of glamorous. But the seemingly effortless, “adulty” way to look and feel glamorous to 22-year-old fashion students in Phoenix, Arizona.

She was a styling consultant — a dream career for 90% of the class — and was brought in to share her story of how she started her business and became CEO of her styling empire.

I’d be lying if I said I remembered the entire talk. But every time I think about my life and my career, this one sentence always comes to mind.

“Sometimes you have to take a step back to leap forward.”

For years, I rejected that sentiment. I couldn’t bear the thought of taking a step back. My ambition soared to the top of everything I wanted. I had to keep moving forward, keep pushing beyond everything pulling me back. I had to get ahead, stay ahead, and win the neverending battle of hiking up a mountain on a treadmill.

And it worked. For a while. I pushed forward, fighting the boss battles that were blatant sexism at one job, bad decisions in one business, and constant panic attacks, and the feeling of never being enough in another job.

Then came the ultimate war of fighting it all in the midst of a pandemic and being locked up inside of yourself for so long that even taking a breath of fresh air becomes more of a task than a state of being.

And ultimately, I won that fight. I used my special ability. But it depleted me completely. It left my energy drained and my mental health at an all-time low.

Level 2: Understanding the power of games

“A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Fighting battles and coming out winning every time is not something that is necessarily possible in the real world. It is, after all, the real world, and things not going as planned is kind of the M.O.

I spent most of my life using games not only as a means of escape but also as a way to find my voice and tell my story. It’s the only medium that allows you to be passively entertained and take an active part in the action.

Because of that, I could always feel the power of what games could do and the potential they had for making the world a better place, but it wasn’t until I read Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World by Jane McGonigal a couple of years ago that I realized how true it was.

Level 3: Building a community and finding my place

I’ve had my eye on gaming and have played games for years, but in January of 2021, I decided to take my hobby to the next level. On a whim and a strong desire to build a community of like-minded gamers (especially after a year of absolutely no community due to COVID-19), I ordered a mic off Amazon, set up a Twitch account, and began my first stream.

It was clumsy and it was awkward. My only viewer was my supportive partner, Allan, who thoughtlessly sat through the entire two hours and something minutes and chatted with me along the way as I played an indie author simulation game. And yet, I felt more fulfilled than I had in years.

Fast forward almost six months and I’ve improved my streams a ton, focusing now more on growing my community and using my 6+ years of marketing experience to create engaging content and feed my creative outlet.

Level 4: Figuring out the why

Meanwhile, I was balancing working 50–60 hours for a B2B marketing agency. I felt overwhelmed, stressed out, and ultimately like I was headed in the wrong direction. Every bone in my body was telling me I was in the wrong place and that no matter how many self-help books I read, that wasn’t going to change.

Over time, the message became clear: agency life isn’t for me.

Why that is still isn’t totally clear to me. But after reading a few posts, it’s clear that I’m not alone in this desire to get out.

One agency alumnus, Uwe Hook, wrote his own goodbye letter to the agency world after deciding to leave after 20 years (quite a bit longer than my two) of being in it. And in it, he writes,

“Not one person questioned my decision. Everybody expressed the urgent desire to leave the agency world as soon as humanly possible. No matter who you ask, almost everybody is ready to walk away. This “get-out-while-you-can” sentiment is prevalent.”

And just a few paragraphs down, he nails it on the head:

“Inspiration has been replaced with fear. The advertising industry is filled with scared people. That fear creates a culture of land grabbing rather than collaboration.”

I’m not a psychologist by any means. But I’ve seen quite a few of them. And I can tell you this: anxiety and fear don’t mix well. In fact, anxiety stems from fear. And that is why I’m making my exit.

Level 5: Figuring out what’s next

So, where do we go from here?

I am excited to announce that I am going to be using this time in the following three ways:

  1. Continuing content creation on Twitch (and possibly expanding to YouTube) and growing my audience on more of a semi-full-time basis
  2. Freelancing HubSpot management and maintenance for businesses looking to make the most out of their marketing platform investment (Interested? Send me an email at ash@ashhoff.com)
  3. Positioning myself for work in the video game industry — conducting research, creating plans, and rebranding myself as a marketing expert beyond the B2B space

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to grow in my previous employment and I’ve learned so much over my time being there.

More than anything, even though in some ways this feels like a step back, I know it’s going to result in that leap forward. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Looking forward to seeing more of you.

With love and anticipation,
Ashley

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