How Not to Get a Job as a Game Journalist

 Pages PREV 1 2 3 NEXT
 

Susan Arendt:
One guy was pitching his idea for a comic strip, but didn't include any art samples.

You mean all this time I could have been pitching my comic that I've felt would go nowhere to have a home here? Well hot damn, I may have to work on some concepts now.

On the whole, this was a good article. I've been looking to communities like the Videogame Journos group on Ning and Gameleon for advice on how to break in, and sometimes I feel more and more discouraged since I'm up against so many others and I don't know if I have the chops yet. I still read bloggings by Shamus Young (who, as a regular reader of his Twenty-Sided blog I'm glad you have added to the team) and Tycho Brahe of Penny-Arcade and think "damn, I wish I could write like them". A truly good author needs to possess their own voice, and unfortunately I don't think I have one of my own yet. Not a good one, at least.

Still, while the article is a good read, I may still have issues self-confidence in pitching an idea. Get me in face to face and there's no problem, but via e-mail and over phone I always just...I can't stand that sort of interaction unless I already know the person. It looks like other people share my sense of fright, though, so at least I'm not alone.

In terms of additional advice, I think an important one you left out is the ability to go out and talk to people and make contacts. This is important in just about any industry, but particularly with any that has a lot of people trying to break in and few getting the opportunity. TV, film, video games and games journalism. It's not all about sitting at a computer desk going back and forth between your games console and MS Word, but actually being able to go outside and do something else with your life and being able to speak with people.

If I'm lucky I'll be able to speak with some of you guys one-on-one at GameX in a couple of weeks and see how I measure up in person. Of course, you'll probably be swamped with people anyway. Or Croshaw will be, at least.

ccesarano:

Susan Arendt:
One guy was pitching his idea for a comic strip, but didn't include any art samples.

You mean all this time I could have been pitching my comic that I've felt would go nowhere to have a home here? Well hot damn, I may have to work on some concepts now.

On the whole, this was a good article. I've been looking to communities like the Videogame Journos group on Ning and Gameleon for advice on how to break in, and sometimes I feel more and more discouraged since I'm up against so many others and I don't know if I have the chops yet. I still read bloggings by Shamus Young (who, as a regular reader of his Twenty-Sided blog I'm glad you have added to the team) and Tycho Brahe of Penny-Arcade and think "damn, I wish I could write like them". A truly good author needs to possess their own voice, and unfortunately I don't think I have one of my own yet. Not a good one, at least.

Still, while the article is a good read, I may still have issues self-confidence in pitching an idea. Get me in face to face and there's no problem, but via e-mail and over phone I always just...I can't stand that sort of interaction unless I already know the person. It looks like other people share my sense of fright, though, so at least I'm not alone.

In terms of additional advice, I think an important one you left out is the ability to go out and talk to people and make contacts. This is important in just about any industry, but particularly with any that has a lot of people trying to break in and few getting the opportunity. TV, film, video games and games journalism. It's not all about sitting at a computer desk going back and forth between your games console and MS Word, but actually being able to go outside and do something else with your life and being able to speak with people.

If I'm lucky I'll be able to speak with some of you guys one-on-one at GameX in a couple of weeks and see how I measure up in person. Of course, you'll probably be swamped with people anyway. Or Croshaw will be, at least.

There are vast amounts of information that I didn't include -- this certainly wasn't meant to be all-encompassing. This article addresses one tiny aspect of getting hired, namely the introductory email.

Thanks for the article Susan! I'm actually guilty of #1 myself. ;)

Nice article, but a lot of this stuff is just general interview advise. Act professional, know something about the company and Have samples/resume/portfolio ready(if applicable).

Earnest Cavalli:

Earnest Cavalli:
As someone whose only experience in the "games writing" industry is scoring jobs almost entirely via a combination of luck and charm, I fully agree with everything Susan has said here, but would also like to add one final point:

Sleeping your way to the top -- Did you really think it was just a gross metaphor? Oh hell no. All I'll say is you attract more flies with an awesome handjob than you do with vinegar.

You disgust me.

I still hate you for taking my totally guaranteed spot at Wired Game|Life.

Well, OK, maybe it's not hate. Alright, it wasn't totally guaranteed. Or even partially. But you did take it.

I knew I should have vamped my first name basis with Martin Sheen on that cover letter...

Susan Arendt:

Playbahnosh:
Interesting. But what about people from other countries? I mean, no matter if I'm a mildly successful game journalist with tons of reviews if you can't read any of them, because they're in Hungarian. With that, there goes my credibility since I can't prove my worth or what I've done. Plus, English is not my mother language, so I'm at a certain disadvantage here. Sure, one can learn other languages, but my raging accent is obvious even from my writing, I guess.

Any tips?

First thing is to be up front about English not being your first language. While it may not give you a pass if you really garble your English, it'll likely get you off the hook for minor errors or inconsistencies. If most of your work is in something I can't read, then write a sample or two in English.

This raises an intruiging thought with me. We have had Escapist pieces about homosexual gamers, female gamers, male gamers, ethnic gamers... has the concept of gamers whose english is a second language or who don't speak english ever been addressed?

Okay, maybe it's not an INTRUIGING thought, but at times it feels like the Videogame world only includes English speaking countries or Japan... I'm curious what the market is in South America now or the island nations. I know, for example, certain Anime that just never caught on in America are HUGELY popular in spanish speaking countries (ex. Saint Seiya), I wonder if the same applies to games.

Anyway, thats totally off topic. Great read. Any suggestions what a beginner with NO experiance COULD write, for practice or their portfolio? Are freelance 'reviews' passee and overdone? Are opinion pieces the way to go?

Susan Arendt:
I've been snubbed, slighted, derided and insulted. I've been driven to tears, threatened with violence, and told to "get back in the kitchen." It is still the best goddamn job in the world.

Driven to tears?! I guess a major requirement of this kind of job would be to have a VERY thick skin.

KazNecro:

Susan Arendt:
I've been snubbed, slighted, derided and insulted. I've been driven to tears, threatened with violence, and told to "get back in the kitchen." It is still the best goddamn job in the world.

Driven to tears?! I guess a major requirement of this kind of job would be to have a VERY thick skin.

Any writing job requires real thick skin, people will rip you UP. Compound that with the fact this is the internet, and the Internet is known for bullying so bad to drive some children to Scuicide.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Although I hardly have any desire to have a career in gaming journalism, it kind of ignited a spark in me. I had never before considered writing down my opinions, (of which I am fond of stating) and getting paid for it. Thanks for giving me just one more option in my list of career paths I might follow. Being only 17, (turning 18 on Halloween, yikes!) I still have a good amount of time to decide. The only difference is now I have to weigh in journalism, Japanese studies, Computer Science, and who knows what else. Maybe I'll just become a Japanese Computer Gaming Journalist, or something equally as awesome.

I'm surprised. I thought attaching samples was a big no no. I remember writing for the escapist once and at that time exploring the matter online on how to write a good query letter. I think I succeeded by writing short, curt and to the point, but in hindsight it may have been because I included some personal note. This was when Julianne Greer was still editor.

I've been eager to write for the escapist again since but received very little replies and or feedback since and I haven't really been able to identify why.

Back to the point: attaching samples is a good thing now?

TsunamiWombat:

This raises an intruiging thought with me. We have had Escapist pieces about homosexual gamers, female gamers, male gamers, ethnic gamers... has the concept of gamers whose english is a second language or who don't speak english ever been addressed?

Okay, maybe it's not an INTRUIGING thought, but at times it feels like the Videogame world only includes English speaking countries or Japan... I'm curious what the market is in South America now or the island nations. I know, for example, certain Anime that just never caught on in America are HUGELY popular in spanish speaking countries (ex. Saint Seiya), I wonder if the same applies to games.

This actually ties in with the last point Susan wrote: RTFS. The Escapist is an English magazine - therefor it caters to the English-speaking community.

I'm working in the gaming industry myself, and a (tiny, tiny) part of my work is to check what gaming websites write about (which isn't nearly as fun a few years down the line as it was during the first two weeks). I'm concentrating on the European market, which is very different from the American market in the fact that over here, pretty much all the games are localized in at least four of the main European languages - French, Spanish, German and English (with budding markets in Polish and Turkye).

With localized games automatically come localized gaming websites. This is a chicken-and-egg situation and I wouldn't be able to tell which came first. Buffed.de for example is one of the world's most visited websites (according to Alexa) covering MMOs, and is entirely in German. Jeuxvideo is a massive gaming portal entirely in French. Vandal.net is a fun spanish anime/gaming blog community and also frequented by South Americans, as far as I am aware.

The point to all this rambling is:

If you're interested in getting a job writing gaming news in Spanish, apply to a website that's writing game reviews in Spanish.

There's this mental image of the gaming world that all the "cool" gaming sites are in English only - that's simply because we're more aware of them, as pretty much all the international gamers speak English at least on a consumer-basis, and so Spaniards, Germans and French meet with Americans in the English forums and websites. :)

Anyway... here's what helped ME get a job in the gaming industry. I'm actually a strong offender of #1, because that's pretty much how I started all my applications. "I'm a gamer." It's a strength, because it matches the profile the companies I work for needed.

However, for the "I'm afraid of rejection"-issue that many stated they were having (and I had at one point, too), there's a really simply trick that is made so much easier by e-mail: Expect to be ignored. Don't expect that your mail will be answered, or that you will receive anything but a "you're in our database now, thank you for your interest" automated reply. Instead, send more! Don't just apply to ONE position. Especially in the gaming industry (and gaming journalism), there's hundreds of open positions (not requiring a degree. Thankfully for me :)). Just follow the rules of spelling, grammar and prepare some samples. Nothing prevents you from applying for several positions at the same time, and if you then can choose between several positive replies - lucky you!

Capo Taco:

Back to the point: attaching samples is a good thing now?

An application for a creative position (such as a writer, journalist) is very different from applying for a position as a factory worker. The manager of the factory wants to know that you're a reliable, non-descript person that has the standard approved skills to work the machinery and doesn't require much training and isn't a risk. The manager of a magazine wants to know if you're a reliable person with skills that DO stand out.

So go ahead and prove it.

Tim Schafer wrote an awesome story about how he scored his first job:
http://www.doublefine.com/site/comments/twenty_years_only_a_few_tears/

(Although, note the cave-at: That were the wild 80s. It may not work today...)

This article sounds a bit too much like... common sense. I mean what kind of guy/gal would use profanity, bad grammar and have no idea about the site he tries to apply for? Apparently, more than I thought. And really would you expect someone to get hired for saying he is awesome but doesn't show anything to back it up? And just saying "I love games more than everyone!"? I wouldn't hire such a person, thank you very much (Assuming I was in a position to hire one)

Edit: Introductory e-mail or not, this still seems like a bit too much of a common sense.

Oh god

The Replies.

Georgeman:
This article sounds a bit too much like... common sense.

You'd be surprised how many people, especially in this industry, don't have any.

I for one found this article somewhat inspiring in that those who *do* have common sense can actually make it in this business. It's definitely helpful.

The replies... not so much.

Georgeman:
This article sounds a bit too much like... common sense.

As the saying goes, "Common sense isn't."

But yes, most of this applies almost as much to any kind of creative job inquiry, at least where it applies - even when I'm looking for web designers/programmers, very very few of them provide any examples of their work. Some of the letters/resumes/whatever we get here are surprisingly awful (and the worst of them almost always lead with Susan's #1). Susan and Jordan get to read all the pitches though, which are usually considered far less formal/important than actual resumes, so they tend to get the most 'special' ones.

Susan Arendt:

unangbangkay:
Also another tip: If the site you're applying to has community functions, building a presence there is one of the best ways to catch their attention.

Oh, and make soft copies of all your major pieces for any website you DO end up writing for. If it's not a huge site you never know when *fingers crossed* it might go belly up. Then all the reviews and features you've written go down with the servers.

Also, if you shift jobs, sometimes the application process requires an attached sample, rather than a blog link, so that would make it easier.

Sigh...testify. Five years of my work is gone because the site I wrote for no longer exists. I have some of it as Word docs, but not all of it.

I just wanna third this - the tabletop gaming site I wrote for back in my teens changed format just after I went to Uni. I applied for another writing job citing that site as past experience...

And they changed format, deleting all the old articles. Most of them were pretty rubbish, but I had a great Void 1.0 review and Syntha Tactics breakdown on there that I still feel was some of the best non fiction work I've written. May have to get writing again, get some stuff on a site like here :P

I almost wrote a resume for a gaming journalism job. I had Word up and everything. Then I remembered I'm 15.

Echolocating:
I don't know if this article was a good idea, Susan. Now every snot-nosed kid is going to look professional at a glance. It's going to take a lot longer to weed through the submissions now. You don't know how good you had it. ;-)

I was thinking the same thing. But you never know, this might actually help those few who actually want to improve. Writing for a magazine focusing on gaming always seemed like the dream job for me, maybe someday, but I will finish my law studies first and might train at writing articles as a hobby while I study ^^

Edit: And for those who wants to write game reviews, post them in the user review forum. In there you can get help with almost anything, be it grammar, composition or maybe just a better "flow".

KazNecro:

Susan Arendt:
I've been snubbed, slighted, derided and insulted. I've been driven to tears, threatened with violence, and told to "get back in the kitchen." It is still the best goddamn job in the world.

Driven to tears?! I guess a major requirement of this kind of job would be to have a VERY thick skin.

I spent pretty much every day of my first several months as a news writer sobbing hysterically as a result of the hate and bile that was spewed at me by the readers. And then eventually, I got readers who actually just showed up for me. So, yeah, you need one hell of a thick skin.

Oh, and for the folks who are saying this is common sense - you are absolutely correct. But each and every one of these examples is the result of a genuine email (or emails) that I received.

paulgruberman:
Yep, spellcheckers aren't everything.

I love this.

OT: Most of this stuff is just common sense, although I can imagine some of the submissions Susan must get, being that not everyone has common sense :-S

Mrsnugglesworth:
I almost wrote a resume for a gaming journalism job. I had Word up and everything. Then I remembered I'm 15.

Yeah? So what? I started writing reviews, guides and FAQs for games, even in English, when I was around 15. Who says you can't start training yourself for a future job want? You want a writing career? Well, WRITE! Then plaster the internet with it, and you'll get feedback. Sure, negative feedback, a LOT of nedgative feedback, but at least the internet doesn't lie, they will tell you if you suck, so you can do better next time. Remember, the only way to do something right is to practice. Now go, write a review about some game, and don't come back without it ;)

The company I work for has our main office in Edmonton. I usually don't sit in for the first interviews I will however sit in on the call backs etc. We are a development shop that is involved in iPhone, Blackberry, Flex3/4 and Air, and even though we don't need writers basic logic for some of these are amazing how far off they can be.

Some are only interested because we are working on some game development, others because they are fresh out of school and looking for work.

1. Telling people interesting things about yourself is definitely a must. We may be mostly a development shop but for a fit and polished piece of software sound work may be required. If you do sounds work and have samples bring them with you etc. Make your own action figures bring a photo.

2. In development spelling is not as important in some cases and doesn't need to be as perfect as when writing articles however it does need to be above a certain level. Applications do show text to users, error messages etc need to be spelled correctly.

3. Don't remember who I heard this story from believe it was a teacher... A guy was putting in profanity messages into his comments, calling his boss names etc. Had to do a surprise demo to a few clients that dropped in. Part way through they asked to see some of the source code for certain parts of the application. Since he had forgotten about the comments he promptly showed them the relevant code... He had his desk cleared out by the next day.

4. Bring samples, projects, source code if you feel safe sharing it etc.

5. Do scope out the company, it is important. We do occasionally take on a few students, we do get general applications from schools. If we are interested and we call you at least Google the company before coming in for the interview.

Just a simple addition...

6. Show up EARLY for your interview. That is one of the worst things you can do.

Izerous:
3. Don't remember who I heard this story from believe it was a teacher... A guy was putting in profanity messages into his comments, calling his boss names etc. Had to do a surprise demo to a few clients that dropped in. Part way through they asked to see some of the source code for certain parts of the application. Since he had forgotten about the comments he promptly showed them the relevant code... He had his desk cleared out by the next day.

We have a pretty relaxed working atmosphere here for the most part, and way back one of our artists was doing a mock-up of a site layout for a client. The layout needed placeholder text, and the artist filled it with random profanity just to have text there for our internal reviewing. It accidentally got forwarded to our client in an update email with the text intact.

Luckily the client was someone who could out-inappropriate most of the people here, and didn't react too harshly. Although he was quite angry that he got that kind of text in a professional context (where his management may have seen it).

And this is why we use Lorem Ipsum for our placeholder text now. Even if it is boring.

Earnest Cavalli:
As someone whose only experience in the "games writing" industry is scoring jobs almost entirely via a combination of luck and charm, I fully agree with everything Susan has said here, but would also like to add one final point:

Sleeping your way to the top -- Did you really think it was just a gross metaphor? Oh hell no. All I'll say is you attract more flies with an awesome handjob than you do with vinegar.

So that's how Mr. Funk got to where he is.... (Ducks for cover and rolls to dodge the Banhammer.)

Thats a phenomenal bit of writing. Thank you.

I would love to write about games, unfortunately I find it hard to write or review things as i am a massive pessimist and i find it hard to "Look on the bright side" i was recently asked to re do an English literature assignment at my collage because when asked to Analysis the themes of love in Thomas Hardy's "at an Inn" i wrote 2 pages on the poem having deep meanings of a Homosexual relationship destroyed by society at which point i was handed the work back with a note from my teacher saying "Can't you just write something nice for a change"

Susan Arendt:
And then eventually, I got readers who actually just showed up for me.

Guilty as charged.

Playbahnosh:

Susan Arendt:

Playbahnosh:
Interesting. But what about people from other countries? I mean, no matter if I'm a mildly successful game journalist with tons of reviews if you can't read any of them, because they're in Hungarian. With that, there goes my credibility since I can't prove my worth or what I've done. Plus, English is not my mother language, so I'm at a certain disadvantage here. Sure, one can learn other languages, but my raging accent is obvious even from my writing, I guess.

Any tips?

First thing is to be up front about English not being your first language. While it may not give you a pass if you really garble your English, it'll likely get you off the hook for minor errors or inconsistencies. If most of your work is in something I can't read, then write a sample or two in English.

Thank you! Well, if anyone at The Escapist speaks Hungarian, I can supply a truckload of reviews, previews, guides and blog entries all the way back to ten years ago. I even wrote some game guides and walkthroughs in English for gamefaqs and other sites years ago, when my English was still horrible, but most of them are long gone though. I guess I'll write some reviews in English, see how that turns out. Maybe I'm the next big thing, maybe not :)

I speak Hungarian, and I'd love to take a look at those reviews and whatnot. I'm supposed to be taking an exam in the language next year, and I'm not as up to scratch as I'd like to be.
Reading about an area of interest would make studying much more enjoyable.

SaintWaldo:

Susan Arendt:
And then eventually, I got readers who actually just showed up for me.

Guilty as charged.

And I still love ya for it, Waldo. :)

Izerous:
In development spelling is not as important in some cases and doesn't need to be as perfect as when writing articles however it does need to be above a certain level. Applications do show text to users, error messages etc need to be spelled correctly.

This one I disagree with you on - a resume or cover letter is as much a representation of someone's work ethic as their work examples.

I don't expect flowing prose, but when I see a clumsily-written resume or cover letter I immediately wonder how much effort they're going to put into their 'real' work. Plus, a mis-typed character in code can have far far worse consequences than a typo in an article (and be far more difficult to detect).

Mrsnugglesworth:
I almost wrote a resume for a gaming journalism job. I had Word up and everything. Then I remembered I'm 15.

Playbahnosh:
You want a writing career? Well, WRITE!

Just as important in my opinion, if not more: Read. As much as you can, preferably books, but anything well-written will do. I have never met a good writer that isn't also an avid reader. (Start with the the best if you don't know where.)

Wonderful tips, u guyz lookin for some hawt music reviews?

Gah I hate badly written emails, I even type pretty properly in AIM and when texting. Maybe I'm weird like that, I'm not sure.

Perhaps I'll submit something...sometime

We'll see

Karacan:

However, for the "I'm afraid of rejection"-issue that many stated they were having (and I had at one point, too), there's a really simply trick that is made so much easier by e-mail: Expect to be ignored. Don't expect that your mail will be answered, or that you will receive anything but a "you're in our database now, thank you for your interest" automated reply. Instead, send more! Don't just apply to ONE position. Especially in the gaming industry (and gaming journalism), there's hundreds of open positions (not requiring a degree. Thankfully for me :)). Just follow the rules of spelling, grammar and prepare some samples. Nothing prevents you from applying for several positions at the same time, and if you then can choose between several positive replies - lucky you!

Anyone who's ever had to do a spate of job-hunting knows that this behaviour isn't just confined to the gaming journalism industry. It's horribly disheartening to churn out four or five applications a day and have none of them even acknowledge your existence. And you end up getting terribly excited about the ones who do bother to reply, even if it's just a C&C auto-response from HR, because they've noticed you!!!! Wooooo! And as you say, all you can really do is gird your loins and throw yet more apps into the black hole that is prospective employers' inboxes. Bleah. Show me someone who says they enjoy job-hunting and I'll show you a delusional liar.

I did enjoy the article though, even though I have no desire to be a games journalist! :) It's remarkable what some people apparently think appropriate.

I'd like to add that it's worth trying prospective applications, too. So the site/magazine/whatever that you'd like to work for isn't advertising right now? Then carefully read and follow Susan's excellent advice and send them an application email anyway! Even if they don't have a use for you immediately, it gets your toe in the door and your name in their records. Then if they do advertise, you can apply again and refer back to your initial application. It shows that you've got a steady interest in them and might help to give you a leg up. One of my colleagues at work (I'm a copy editor) got his current job because he emailed the Editor asking for advice on working in scientific publishing. A few days later they'd flown him out to Germany for an interview!

Lastly, if at first you don't succeed, don't be afraid to try again! I got rejected when I first applied to the company I work for now, but I re-applied 18 months later and got a job offer. In my second application I tried to show how I'd grown and developed as a person in time since my first application and I had more confidence because I'd been doing other things in the meantime, which helped too. I've been working here for two years now.

Virgil:

Izerous:
In development spelling is not as important in some cases and doesn't need to be as perfect as when writing articles however it does need to be above a certain level. Applications do show text to users, error messages etc need to be spelled correctly.

This one I disagree with you on - a resume or cover letter is as much a representation of someone's work ethic as their work examples.

I don't expect flowing prose, but when I see a clumsily-written resume or cover letter I immediately wonder how much effort they're going to put into their 'real' work. Plus, a mis-typed character in code can have far far worse consequences than a typo in an article (and be far more difficult to detect).

We hire a lot of people where English may not be their first language that's why we are not so picky about their spelling. And about the writing code it goes back and forth depending on the language, some compilers track and display variable typos while others may not. In general I was trying to be a bit specific about the company I work for and the languages/compilers we use compared to what she had outlined above, not just coding in general.

will fuxx for job!

Seriously though a nice heads-up to those who are looking for a job in the games journalism industry.

 Pages PREV 1 2 3 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here