Get paid thanks to games: A game journalist

In the previous part of the series I wrote about game blogging and vlogging. Today I will be continuing on the subject, by moving on to game journalism. I believe many conservative guys who write about games for living will get a bito offended, but... a difference between a game journalist and a game blogger is getting more blurry with every passing year and both professions have a lot in common.

Let's face it, it's not the 90's anymore. Paper magazines are dying, the online gaming sites have become a much more successful substitute and with the embedded videos and hourly updates, there's no way in hell paper magazines will get back on that horse. Game journalism, that was once a profession of the selected few, has become a free for all job market. There's almost no entry barrier. You should know how to write, but we all read these online magazines and we all know that not everyone there meets this requirement.

With the entry barrier practically non-existent, you can guess - there's a lot of people who want in. And whenever the market gets saturated and the supply of work keeps growing, there's only one reaction you can expect: the labor becomes cheaper. So while inthe 90's these relatively few people who wrote about games were able to support themselves doing this, nowadays the vast majority of game journalists have to treat it like an additional (and usually poor) source of income.

There's a nice article on GamesRadar that gives a rough overview of how much the game journalists can actually earn. Please keep in mind that the article seems to only take into account the guys that have actually succeeded in networking and manage to publish quite a number of articles. When you start out, you'll be lucky to get one or two reviews published a month, and that won't give you anywhere near the tens of thousands of dollars a year.

How do you get into the zone and make it possible to live off the game journalism then? Here's ten steps that will help you get there. Of course the sooner you start, the better:

1) Learn to write. Write well. The fact that you grew up with your language and were taught it at school means nothing. Read a lot - not only gaming sites, but good, well-edited books. Analyze the language. Learn to use it, learn to write.

2) If you're not from an English-speaking country, learn English. Yes, you will probably be writing in your native tongue, but eventually you will want to do some research on the global level and most of the news and info is first available in English. Also, how do you expect to get an interview with a foreign game maker when you can't communicate?

3) You have to learn to play a variety of games. Having 15 max level characters in WoW or having a 1000 hours of playtime in Call of Duty won't get you far. You need variety. You need to derive pleasure from exploring and discovering new games. Versatility and being interested in the whole industry are the key to success.

4) When you finally learn to read and write and play something other than StarCraft 2, start a blog or a vlog. Here you can find some tips how to go about it. It's important that the blog doesn't only consist of classic reviews. Any form of originality is great - screenshot-based stories, essays, your own drawings to illustrate the text... Some of the big gaming sites let their users start blogs there. If your blog is supposed to be your foot in the door, why not place this foot closer to your target?

5) When your blog or vlog has enough entries to make it possible to assess your skill, attack the offices of the game magazines and portals, offering your services. If you skipped the blogging step, you will have to send them some examples of your writing via e-mail. Seriously, it's as easy as "Hey! I was wondering, maybe you guys need some more content for your website? Here's a taste of my writing". It's of course easier to start with smaller sites - most often they just require less experience.

6) If you've been successful in the previous step, don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Well... maybe a little pat won't hurt. Still, you're just getting started. A few bucks for your review is great when you're 16, but you won't support a family with it. Continue to learn more about the industry, about the process of making games. It's time for learning from your older journalist colleagues and polishing your writing skill. Don't get discouraged, if you don't get many assignments or they aren't overly ambitious. These can't be avoid even in the next steps.

7) When you'll gain some notable experience working with the editor-in-chief and quite a few published articles, you should repeat step 5. You should get out there and offer your services to as many magazines and portals as possible. This time, trying the biggest ones as well. In most cases, nobody minds if you work with more than one magazine.

8) In a bigger and more "professional" team, you have to be prepared to be a newbie for a while. Newbies don't attend international game conferences, don't interview the game making stars. They put together uninspired top tens, they write reviews of second-rate games and trash articles on the evolution of Lara's boobs or which DoA girl has a skimpier outfit. These articles generate pageviews. You still shouldn't expect to make any good money at this stage. If you're lucky, it'll be enough to get by during your college days.

9) When you finally manage to get past the newbie step, you get a shot at more serious reviews. Older colleagues might take you to watch and learn during some interviews. Because your goal here is still to learn. It's easy to end your career on step 8 or 9 - there's lots of journalists like that. These are the guys that keep writing stock reviews, mumbling something about engines and middleware they have no idea about. If you want to get to the top, you will need to show a lot of commitment: visiting all game-related events you possibly can, being active in your editorial office and constantly increasing your qualifications.

10) Congrats. If you managed to get to step 10, there's a big chance that the reviews of the top titles, interviews with game developers, stories from game events and game industry articles let you make enough money to support yourself. And it's a high time - most likely you're already too old to delay starting a family anymore.

It's very important to be original. Articles that stand out can easily end up for example on digg.com - writing articles with such potential is a desired skill. Of course, the center of attention will always be reviews and news and your editor-in-chief will not always give you complete creative freedom. If you can write and keep learning more about the industry, you don't have to finish your career as a journalist or editor. PR departments of game studios constantly need people who know the industry and write well. Working at a gamedev studio is a whole other topic though.

Many thanks to Mielu from gram.pl for help and insight.

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