Starting (or kickstarting) a career in video games journalism

23 03 2012


I don’t usually do full written responses to pieces that I read – that’s what a few badly thought-out tweets are for. But after catching up on the kerfuffle Christian Higley’s Bitmob posts caused this week, I can’t really help myself. I’m still going to keep this short and sweet, as it’s late and I have a looong drive tomorrow, but I need to get some points out so that I don’t end up stewing over all this instead of sleeping.

I’ve already written at length before regarding how to go about doing games journalism, but there are certain key points that some people still aren’t getting. I’m not going to repeat the obvious ones that everyone else keeps throwing out (write lots, pitch lots, love writing, etc), but rather, highlight areas that I don’t feel are brought up enough.

1) Holy hell, will you please get on Twitter? Not to call Christian out, but he says in his follow-up post on Bitmob that he realised people were talking about him and his piece on Twitter well after the conversation was over, and everything had already been said and done. If that had been me, I would have been checking Twitter constantly after I posted it to see reactions, and then getting involved in the discussion from the moment it started.

I think he believes games journalism is some sort of elitist club because he hasn’t actually tried hard enough to be a part of discussions, laughs, controversy et al that appears on Twitter daily. I certainly have never received a tweet from him on Twitter, nor have I seen anyone else talking to him. When I first started on Twitter, I talked and talked and talked and talked and oh my God I would not stop talking, and I still don’t. Your Twitter presence is so, so incredibly important.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that my presence on Twitter (and let me note at this point that I’m incredibly small fry on Twitter) is a huge part of what got me jobs. When I applied for jobs, I made sure to supply people with a link to my Twitter. They click it, they see I have 1000+ followers, they think “Hmm he must have something interesting to say then” and they then go and check me out more.

To any aspiring journalist (including Christian) I say get on Twitter, follow every games journalist going, and talk talk talk to people! If people know who you are, they are more likely to hire you for work than someone else who comes completely out of the blue.

2) In the summer of 2010, I decided to apply for freelance work at every single games website I could find. Have a guess how many websites I emailed. 30? 50? No, in fact I emailed over 100 websites over the course of 2 days. From that, I received around 10 responses, and 3 acceptances. For the next few months I worked like the clappers for those 3 websites (they were DIYGamer, Gamezebo and Strategy Informer, if you’re interested), and then once again I emailed all 100 websites again. This time I got another 3 jobs. By Christmas, I was earning a decent wage, and in January I got my full time job with Gamasutra.

I *hate hate hate* reading how games journalists sent a pitch to one or two websites, waited a day or two, then got rejected and felt down about it. Here’s why you didn’t get it – there are people like me who are emailing every site under the sun, and getting the jobs. It’s basic maths really – the more websites you email, the more chance you have of finding a job. APPLY APPLY APPLY and then apply some more.

I have more points to make, but it’s late and I think I managed to get out most of what has rubbed me up the wrong way. What I’m saying is, if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, don’t give up for Christ sake – just try something different! Talk to other journos online, email them, ask for advice – I myself always try to email back with advice, for example, as I’m sure the majority of other journos do too.

There is no club. There’s just you and a wall you need to break through, as there is in the majority of careers. Make some friends, make a name for yourself, break that wall.