Flying Saucer Media: Elevating Ideas

I’m a writer. I have always been a writer. I will always be a writer.

But I’m also a video producer.

My career has been a constant struggle between these two, at times mutually exclusive, jobs. At times I’ve favored the video producer job. At other times, the writer job. There have been social and employment pressures in each direction, and being my stubborn self, I have generally stood fast on whatever side I wanted to be on at the time.

When I helped found in 2012, my job description was both. I was to be a writer and a video producer, features editor, and executive producer of Video. And, for a time, this worked out fine for everyone. In those early days of Polygon, I produced what I think are some of my best works in both written and video media. But as the site grew, I inevitably had to choose one path or another. Panic.

When I had the talk with my boss about whether to focus on the video or writing side at Polygon, I remembered a similar situation years before, when I worked at The Escapist. I started there as a writer, and I wrote a lot of stories I was proud of. But then, seemingly out of the blue, video became a big thing in web media. Since I’d worked in television and film, I was asked to build The Escapist’s video program, and I agreed. I had no idea at the time that this would soon overwhelm my life and crowd writing completely out of the picture for the next five years. But it did. I helped create big brands, like Zero Punctuation and Unskippable, and I oversaw the creation of a division that would expand The Escapist’s traffic by 2,000% and help it win numerous awards and make all kinds of money and blah, blah. But in order to do all that, I had to walk away from the writing career I was building and focus exclusively on making and executiveproducing videos. It was an exciting time, but I spent a lot of it wishing I could have kept writing.

So when I thought about what to do at Polygon, the question, for me, was simple: I wanted to write. I wanted to see how far I could go with writing the kind of longform, human-driven stories I favor. I wanted to find my limit. I wanted to find out what kind of writer I wanted to be. What kind of writer I could be. So I stepped aside from video production and focused on writing and editing feature stories. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

But times change.

Having now moved on from Polygon, I feel I’ve finally proved to myself what I can accomplish as a writer. And I have the drive and energy to pursue writing projects whether they are commercial or not. (More often, they’re not, and that’s just fine with me.) I’m working on a number of projects now, and some of them might get published in magazines or online, and others might just be for myself. Some might start one way and end up the other. Doesn’t matter. I’m writing what I want to write. These days, I’m doing it for me. But having answered the question of what kind of writer I want to be, I find I am now in a place where working in production again feels less cumbersome. More than that, I’m finding I miss it.

The fact is, I’m good at producing video. I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager. I’ve worked with some of the most talented people and helped them do their best work. And I’ve created video products I’m genuinely proud of. I realize, having found my confidence as a writer, that I don’t have to do one or the other. I can do both. And if producing video just happens to be more commercial than writing, so be it.

TL;DR: I’ve founded a production companyFlyingSaucerMedia-Logo-Black

For now the goal is to keep the Flying Saucer Media client list small, working on just a few projects a year. Mostly brand-building or documentary-style consumer films highlighting the humanity behind products or services. We might also work on non-commercial stuff, if we feel like it.

It’s a small thing right now. But it might become a big thing. And I think I’ve found a market niche where my style and reputation for on-time and under-budget production will be in demand.

So if you like the stuff I worked on at Polygon and want me to do something for your company, let me know. We are now accepting requests for proposals.

Why Amazon? And what happened to Gumroad? And why didn’t you tell me?

These are all good questions.

As some of you have noticed I’ve shifted sale of my book “How Video Games Are Made: My 16 Months Inside the Development of Defense Grid 2″ from the Gumroad marketplace to Amazon. This was not a frivolous decision.

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Update on my eBook “How Video Games Are Made”

Since the publication of the last installment of my article series at Polygon about the making of Defense Grid 2, many of you have been wondering when those articles would be available in eBook form. I can now, at long last, give you an approximate answer: Soon.

I finished writing the book, adding new chapters, expanding the original interviews and restructuring the story to account for being able to apply hindsight (and now having an ending) in October. And last month a version of the eBook went out to people who’d ordered the “Steam Special edition” version of Defense Grid 2 on Steam. Early reviews of the book are positive.

Soon I will finally be offering the eBook for sale, via Gumroad, but it will be slightly different than what the Steam customers received.




The new title is “How Video Games Are Made: My 16 Months Inside the Development of Defense Grid 2, by Russ Pitts.” And the book will have new cover art (the above image is temporary) created by the designer of many of my Polygon articles, Tyson Whiting.

The book will be made available as soon as it is ready, which I hope will be sometime in December 2014. You can pre-order it here. (Thank you to those who have already done so.)

UPDATE (12/15/14): The book will definitely be made available this week. Thanks for your patience.

My Chili Recipe

I’ve been working on this chili recipe for a little over 20 years. The current version is based on my current tastes. Yours may differ. Feel free to shake it up. The only really important parts are that you brown the meat well and get the spices right. And don’t forget the peppers!

Here’s the recipe in a little more legible text. A step-by-step livetweet of the process follows.

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The last byline

I’ve just filed a story with the website It’s a story based on a pitch I sent to editor-in-chief Greg Tito on July 17th of this year, and that was officially assigned to me on July 24th. As I believe it is my professional obligation to Greg, his website and the subjects of my article to complete that assignment to the best of my ability, I have done so. I do not know when the story will be published, but it will most likely be the last time my name appears on a byline at The Escapist for the foreseeable future. Thought you, as fans of my work, should know that.


If you’re looking for something on this site and not finding it, I have bad news for you: It’s gone.

The short version is: Back up your database regularly.

The long version is: I migrated the site to a new host. I backed up my database at the old host. I attempted to build a new database at the new host and discovered that the backup I had was three years old and corrupted. For whatever reason, my current DB from the old host did not export, and the DB I had was unusable.

As of 9 am this morning, when my old host erased my old database, my site ceased to be. I’ve spent most of the rest of the day rebuilding the super important bits from an internet archive and whatever I had stored locally. I will spend whatever time I have in the coming weeks (spoiler alert: I don’t have much) rebuilding what I can of the rest. Whatever is left will simply be gone for good. Sorry.

Protip: Back up your database. And then verify those backups.