Hello. I am a Games Journalist who has written such contemporary things as “A few excited blurbs in PC Gamer’s 2010 Top 100” and “A news posts mainly containing new Skyrim screenshots”. I am heavily qualified to advise you about heading into the world of Games Journalism, with numbered points arranged in no particular order as I wrote this at 3am.
1) DRINKING IS GOOD FOR YOU
Do you know of a relatively unreported, yet popular gaming market that you feel you can confidently report on? If your answer wasn’t “Free-To-Play MMOs” then welcome to the first stage of competition for a job! It is called drinking.
It turns out that as a teenager during all those alcohol fuelled attempts to insert or be inserted with a penis, you also discovered drink was an important social facilitator in talking to and getting along with strangers. Remember these skills when you manage to meet Editors, who are at their most susceptible to liking you when plied with liquid narcotics. Don’t weird them out, don’t schmooze too much, put on some deodorant before going out and be enjoyable to talk to and they’ll most likely remember you when they’re next
deleting going through the 300+ emails they get a day.
2) I WANT TO REVIEW MODERN WARFARE, GEARS OF WAR AND ELDER SCROLLS
You are not going to review Modern Warfare, Gears of War nor Elder Scrolls. You will not even be reviewing Train Simulator 2012, as somebody is probably already “the simulator guy”. It’ll take you about a year of hard work and proving yourself till an Editor can trust your voice on something meatier than a Tesco PC Section quality game. Every industry you’ll have to jump through hoops, and Games Journalism is no different.
Have you heard of transcription before? It’s the Games Journalist equivalent of mucking out the stables, without the promise of warm hay to sleep on once done. Point being, transcription is where you take a vocal or video interview of a journalist and write down what both sides are saying, then send the transcript off to be edited down to a pretty 10 word quote. The most useful tool for this shit-shovelling is winamp, thanks to the keyboard commands for skipping back and forth 5 seconds you can now try to hear what that quiet Dutchman said on the bad recording somebody made with an iphone.
Keep handing such things in on time to build a professional image, keep annoying the reviews editor to give you a scrap and you’ll be on your way to being a household name for at least a dozen people. Before you know it you too can be pitching your own meaningful articles like “5 new ways to game with your bum on the toilet” and the defensive rebuttal “How my toilet gaming piece was still much better than the Kotaku version”.
3) HELLO CHAP! MY GOOD SIR I WANT TO ENQUIRE FOR A GAMES WRITING POSITION IN WHAT I THINK IS ORIGINAL TERMS
One mistake I still occasionally make and really shouldn’t is shitty email openings. You’re acutely aware that you want to make a good impression in somebody’s overflowing inbox, so to compensate you try way too hard to be funny. Though your own style will always be your own style, my first suggestion based on personal experience from once sifting through writer applications is to drop the faux-gentleman greeting.
The next thing to drop after that is what I’m guilty of; over-convolution. Nobody, not even yourself, wants to see painfully forced jokes in text if they don’t feel natural. My advice here is to keep it short, get straight to the point and don’t be nervous about it. If you’re interested, two of those three things in the last sentence can also be applied to sex.
4) WHILST MY BANK STATEMENT GENTLY WEEPS
Go to a cash machine and draw out a twenty. Now kiss it, hug it, make love to it one last time whilst carefully avoiding paper cuts then kiss it goodbye; you will not have that much money for a long time. That was the advice part, the rest of this point is mainly a warning. Games Journalism is stupidly competitive to get into, doesn’t make ground-breaking margins and in this day and age has budgets dictated mainly by people who have never been at the brunt end of being a Games Journalist or Editor themselves.
The accounts departments of such places are also notoriously stingy and poor at paying on time, so much so that you swear it borders on illegality in how long it can take to get paid; I’m still waiting for payment on work I did almost a year ago (and for which reason amongst others I’m taking a break from games journalism right now). In the U.K. at least, you’ll be lucky to be making more than £16,000-£18,000 per year for your hard work, and jobs are few and far between with a combination of a lesser recession and decline in print. Be a rent-boy/hooker and you’ll get paid more and shafted less often.
5) THE LAZY WRAP UP DUE TO ENCROACHING TIREDNESS
I love Games Journalism, with PC Gamer being a major influence in my comedic sensibilites whilst growing up alongside that of Spike Milligan, Terry Pratchett, my dad and others. I wrote this as fun basic advice for those who find themselves in a similar position to what I was in a year ago, even if my tone does seem negative at times. Don’t give up trying to be a journalist if that’s what you really want to do, I fully intend to return to the field once I’m sure I’ll get paid on time and regularly. Just don’t rely on getting anywhere without good networking skills, some luck and an inordinate amount of talent for the meagre money you’ll be earning.