Writing About Games: The Not-So-Impossible Dream
I have been writing for TGH for about 7-8 months now, and next week I’ve been blessed enough to score a pretty big interview with an uber-popular gaming magazine. So in light of all these unforeseen developments, I thought I would give some advice to those who long to be pulling in a paycheck while writing about videogames.
Game journalism is a job that almost everyone who picks up a controller dreams about having. Getting paid to play games? Now that’s the life. But not so fast, tiger. That’s the first mistake anyone hoping to get into the industry could make: assuming that all game journalism entails is sitting behind a desk for eight hours, playing games all day long, then going home. Game journalism is a lot of work. When journalists hit the E3, or TGS show floors, they are there, first and foremost, to work. Interviews, phone calls, video editing; the list goes on and on. Writing for a video game mag is no easy task, and if you think it’s only about playing the games you desire, you’re better off searching for Q/A tester job.
Not that that’s the worst job in the world. Let’s face it, game journalism is an extremely competitive industry, and writing for a smaller site may not always be the best option toward achieving your goal of getting paid to write about games. Q/A testing is an excellent option toward getting into the industry. You may not be writing for a games magazine, but the people you meet and experiences you go through will prove invaluable over time, and you’ll make a little cash in the process. Check out gamedevmap.com. It’s a site that shows a ton of game development studios, publishers, and gaming organizations around the world. Check it out and find the developers nearest you. Peruse their websites and don’t be afraid to check their respective career sections and apply for a Q/A position, or something else if you think you’re qualified. Testing may not be an automatic boost into the game writing biz, but it’ll help a lot, and the experiences you gain will prove invaluable over time, not to mention it’ll look great on a resume.
Now, if testing isn’t you’re bag, and you wanna begin writing as soon as possible, do what I’ve been doing for multiple sites over the past year; volunteer. What’s that? Volunteering sucks, you say. Too bad, how else do you expect to get experience writing about games. I live in a small, podunk town where gaming journalism is non-existent, so if you find yourself in my situation, go to videogamejournalismjobs.com. It’s a site where they list all sorts of volunteer opportunities and even some paid ones, however I was never able to get back any word from the paid positions I applied for. But this is where I found Truegameheadz, and it has been an invaluable source for writing experience ever since. Volunteering for a site may seem impersonal at times, and you may feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but always keep writing, kids. It’s a great way to get yourself published and if you find yourself in a situation where you’re lucky enough to have an interview, you’ll have myriad writing samples to choose from.
If you do live in a large city, check for any sort of outlet for your skills. Check out local papers that cater to the youthful crowd, shop your talents out to the local newspapers and see if they need a volunteer columnist. Put yourself out there, or you’ll never get noticed.
Lastly, as far as schooling is concerned, a journalism or English degree certainly couldn’t hurt. In fact, I once read an interview by Geoff Keighley (famed gaming journalist and host of Gametrailers TV on Spike) that being a good writer is more important to breaking into the industry than being a know-it-all on games. The craft of writing is not as easy as most people think, and there is a lot of crap out there by people who simply have no idea on how the rules of grammar apply. A poorly written article is a quick way to lose the readers attention, so practicing your writing skills is imperative to becoming a good games journalist.
That’s about it kids. Scour the web for writing opportunities. Gamasutra, MySpace jobs… the list goes on and on. Look at your game cases on your shelf, and go to the websites of each individual developer to see if they’re hiring. Don’t be afraid to PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE. After all, you’ll never get noticed if you don’t try hard to be seen.
There ya have it, kids. Good luck to you all, and good luck to me! If all goes we’ll next Tuesday you be hearing a lot more from me in the future. Crap, I probably just jinxed myself… oh well. Take care, kiddos.