For many, a love of writing and a love of video games come together to create the role of video game journalist, but what is a video game journalist and how can you be one? Plusnet finds out…
What is a video game journalist?
A video game journalist covers many areas of writing – one day they might write about an upcoming release, the next they could review a game and then they could attend an event. All these different tasks require different writing skills – something David Hutchinson, gaming journalist for The Times, is keen to stress.
“An ability to write for your audience is a must.”As a video game journalist you’ll need to be able to tailor your writing for whatever site or audience you’re writing for, and be conscious of your spelling and grammar. “A good understanding of the English language and a good grasp of grammar and punctuation is, ironically, more important when writing for smaller titles” says David. “National papers and big-name websites will have sub-editors to clean up your writing. Smaller sites will expect you to be able to write and publish yourself, so you need to make sure your copy is in top shape”.
How do you start working?
Like any job, you’ll struggle to get out there straight away with no experience. This is enough to put some people off, however by being prepared to work for free you stand a much better chance and can expand your portfolio in no time. Websites like Game Journalism Jobs provide you with an ever-expanding list of websites hungry for content and provides both voluntary and paid positions, helping you to find places to write for and get your name out there. Whilst you might be wary of writing for free, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting paid work later down the line than someone who hasn’t had their work published before. As well as contributing to sites, you could consider starting your own blog to direct people to. Journalists tend to have a personal blog where they can write anything – be it video game related or otherwise – and from this they can then link to examples of their work. Having a central place where people can find your work is great when you’re applying for jobs as not only does it show how committed you are, but makes it easier for potential employers to find your work. Don’t underestimate the value of social media either. Social channels, Twitter especially, offer you a place to share your work, network with other like-minded people and make a (hopefully good) name for yourself. Even if you only share your work on your account, it’s a great way of learning how to build your audience – a skill that will come in handy later on in your career.
“I want to be a video game journalist but am not an avid gamer. Is this a problem?”
For anyone who may be worried about not being madly into video gaming, David has some advice
“many of the best games journalists are average gamers. It gives them the perspective to see what would make a game worth shelling out £50 for for an average punter.”
Whilst being an avid gamer might help you write more in-depth reviews and provide references for other passionate gamers, it’s not a prerequisite for reviewing. The majority of people who play video games will be average gamers (hence the term “average” gamers) so as long as you know your Mario from your Master Chief, you’ll be okay.
David has five final top tips for anyone wanting to start reviewing video games online:
If you are writing for the specialist press then by all means go into frame rates and FPS type acronyms, but if you are writing for a more general site or publication, keep it accessible.
Be honest and don't read other peoples reviews until you've written your own.
Write with interest and flavour, but avoid trying too hard to be funny as what you think as hilarious often falls flat.
Use descriptives of the gameplay and environment. It's not a 'post-apocalyptic environment’; it's a 'post-apocalyptic environment with ashen skies and skeletal buildings’.
It doesn't matter if everyone else hates the game you love. If you can justify why you love the game, it's a valid review. Don't worry what everyone else thinks.