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How Not to Get a Job as a Game Journalist

Susan Arendt | 8 Oct 2009 21:16
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Mistake #3: Using profanity

As laid back and awesome a job as game journalism may be, it is still a job, and your application email should reflect that fact. You probably wouldn't use the word "motherfucking" in an email asking about a position as an accountant or math teacher, so you shouldn't be using it when asking about becoming a game reviewer, either. Before you protest about a certain fast-talking Englishman, there's a difference between your product and your personal communication - especially when you've yet to form a relationship with the person you're emailing.

Solution: Be professional

Even if you've never actually had this kind of job before, it's not that hard to act like a professional. Show respect for the person you're addressing. Remember, you're not chatting with a pal over IM, you're inquiring about being hired to do a job. Use complete sentences, say "please" and "thank you" when appropriate, and stay far clear of any humor that may be considered off-color. Once you have a relationship with your editor and get to know them, you can use whatever language is appropriate, but until then, you're better off keeping it clean.

Mistake #4: Vaporwriting

If you are applying for a job as a writer, the most important thing I need to know about you is whether or not you can actually write. The simplest way for me to figure this out is for me to read something you've written. Simple, right? And yet almost no applications cross my desk with any kind of writing sample. One guy was pitching his idea for a comic strip, but didn't include any art samples. Now, I suppose I could do a Google search to see if I could find something you've done, or even just email you back and ask for something, but the plain truth is that I won't. Why should I? I've got dozens and dozens of people begging to write for me, and if you can't be bothered to show me why you're better than they are, then you are officially wasting my time.

Solution: Show me, don't tell me

Don't feel like you have to have a vast array of experience or published work to provide writing samples. If you have those at the ready, that's wonderful, but it's not at all necessary. If you're applying to be a game reviewer, send me a review, even if the only reason you've written it is to attach to your email. If you want to be a news writer, write a news story or two. While it would be ideal for your sample to be games-related, it doesn't have to be. What matters isn't how much experience you do or don't have, what matters is whether or not you can put words together in a meaningful way, and the only way I'm ever going to know that is to see you try.

Mistake #5: What site is this, again?

I once had a guy ask to be hired as a videogame reviewer because, and I swear I'm not making this up, "I see that you guys don't really do reviews." Before you ask for a writing opportunity, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the site (or magazine) in question. What features does it offer? What tone does it use? What niche could you fill? It's entirely possible that I'm just one of a dozen editors to whom you're sending inquiry emails, and that's ok - I don't expect or need you to be a die-hard fan of where I work in order for me to hire you. But I do need to feel like you paid attention to something other than the staff list.

Solution: RTFS

This one is the easiest of all. Take an hour or two and browse the site or magazine to which you're applying. This isn't just for my benefit, though: If you don't enjoy the time you spend there, odds are good you won't enjoy writing for it, either. Doing your homework is your best way to know who to approach first.

If any of this sounds like I'm discouraging you from trying to get published, believe me, I'm not. One of the things I love most about my job is the freedom I have to give untested writers a shot at the bigs, or even just helpful feedback about how they might improve. There are many different ways you can get published on The Escapist, but perhaps the easiest is to take a look at our editorial calendar and pitch an idea. Who knows? Maybe you're one of our favorite new writers and we just don't know it yet.

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Susan Arendt got her very first paid job as a game journalist because she was a fan of America's Next Top Model. True story.

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