The echoes of disappointed parents everywhere fall on deaf ears in 2017, a year where career opportunities are nearly endless. These echoes spout disapproval of making a career out of video games, with the evidence to back up nothing more than labeling video games as toys.
Nick Calandra, a fifth year senior, multimedia journalism major and alumni of the Phi Delta Theta chapter, does not see these comments as he breaks his back to reach success. Since moving from Michigan to Nebraska, Calandra has come a long way to start Gameumentary, a company focused on producing 30 to 40 minute documentaries about the stories of game developers.
Groundwork for some of the most diverse options for careers seen in the past decade is thanks in part to entrepreneurs like Calandra. Calandra’s journey did not start with his idea for Gameumentary, though. It started with the very same thing turning some children away from career dreams as off the wall as documentaries about video game developers: his parents.
Though Calandra’s parents were initially dismissive of his time dedicated to playing video games in high school and middle school, later they saw them as catalysts by which his journey in the industry would begin.
“I was much more introverted at the time,” Calandra said. “My parents finally intervened and said I need to find something different to do and that is kind of how I got started with journalism.”
Calandra goes on to recount the beginning stages of his career as an entrepreneur on the internet.
“I had my dad buy my first domain name in 2009 and at the time I really had no writing abilities to speak of,” Calandra said. “I was bad, I had no business publishing anything on the internet.”
It was here where Calandra began to make a few connections in various comments sections of other websites.
“I found a few guys to join me on this site via the comments section of another website and that’s kind of how it all began,” Calandra said. “I ran my first site for a year, opened up a new one a year later and then opened up OnlySP (Only Single Player) a year after that and ran that from 2012 until 2016.”
At its peak, OnlySP.com garnered between 100 and 150 thousand visitors per month. After starting school at Northwest, Calandra’s involvement in OnlySP started to slip as he got more involved with school. It was also during this time OnlySP began to cultivate toxicity in its community. A combination of toxicity and other priorities was just enough to convince Calandra to let his first journalistic endeavor sit on the backburner.
From the ashes of his experiences gained with OnlySP came Calandra’s idea for Gameumentary.
“In September of 2016, Danny O’Dwyer, a high-profile games journalist at one of the biggest outlets in the industry, GameSpot, left and started up NoClip, a crowdfunded platform for making gaming documentaries,” Calandra said. “It was immensely popular and he’s currently making $22,000 a month through the platform and when he released his first documentary, we basically said, ‘we can do that.’”
Kyle Bailey, the Lead Media Producer for Gameumentary, lives in Southern New Jersey, but manages to be fully involved with everything Gameumentary. Bailey says Gameumentary is like a ton of puzzle pieces, and putting them together behind the camera or a computer is where he is most comfortable.
Even though Bailey and Calandra are half a country apart, they’ve still managed to build Gameumentary to a full fledged business.
“The collaboration is something difficult with a team of people who write for a site like ours,” Bailey said. “[Nick] and I had done OnlySP together already, so we kind of had the experience we needed to start up another site that was similar. The difference was that Nick knew exactly what he wanted so the process was much quicker.”
Calandra’s adventure to Gameumentary success did not come naturally like it may seem. Even with his previous success found in OnlySP, Calandra is still a student. To balance out the work of running a company, Calandra was forced to lighten his schoolwork load. This gave him the time and flexibility he needed to take his idea to the next level.
In late August, Calandra and his team launched a Kickstarter with a goal of raising more than $20,000. The time limit of only a month added to the stress of meeting this goal. According to Calandra, when it comes to Gameumentary he “pretty much handles everything,” so succeeding with this Kickstarter campaign was crucial to Gameumentary’s future.
“The hardest part was the Kickstarter campaign,” Calandra said. “Many of my colleagues advised against starting a Kickstarter campaign so early. The site had only been around for seven months when we decided to launch the campaign. So aside from all the contacts I had gathered from over the years working on OnlySP and previous sites, we had very little reach.”
The month of the campaign was long, but on the final day the Kickstarter came to a climactic close.
“We surpassed our goal of $22,000 on the final day of the campaign and so we’re going to get to do six more documentaries over the course of the next six to eight months,” Calandra said. “I will be traveling to Redwood, California in October, Austin, Texas in November and Orlando, Florida in December for our upcoming doc shoots. So I’m going to miss quite a bit of school. Luckily, all my teachers are totally behind me doing this and aren’t really making it an issue at all to go out and do this.”
Calandra is a living example of achieving incredible accomplishments in a short period of time. All it took was some of the hardest work he has ever done. Though the hard moments, after being under enough pressure, turned into some of the greatest moments of Calandra’s life, and he does not have a single regret.
“Any of my friends will tell you that I’ve literally busted my a** to get to this point,” Calandra said. “Running your own projects can be a really rewarding experience, but it’s also incredibly stressful because you’re your own measure of success. Nobody will take notice of your work and give you a raise, you have to go out and fight for everything you want to achieve and make it all happen yourself."