Ask GR Anything is a weekly Q&A column
that answers questions submitted by readers (as well as questions we're
particularly curious about ourselves). Got a burning question about games or
the industry? Ask us in the comments below and you may just get it answered!
This week, former GR editor and industry veteran Dan Amrich fills in for Andrew
Groen to finally answer a burning question posed ages ago by Lurkero, snipes101 and countless other readers…
As a game reviewer, I've been asked "How do I get your
job?" so many times over the years that I have lost count. I understand –
it's an awesome gig, right? Playin' games! Spoutin' opinions! Snappin' screens!
Crackin' wise! Beats workin'!
Above: You may even think every day is like this! (Warning: every day is not like this)
Naturally, if it's a fun job, it's not an easy job to
get. For a lot of new writers, I think just getting noticed is the hardest part
– like, you have the drive and the desire and the passion, but how do you
actually, you know, GET anywhere? There are thousands of people who want to do
what you want to do, so it may seem impossible to get anybody's attention in
that giant crowd. And… it kind of is.
So let's start small, with the most important things to
keep in mind as you chase this dream:
Accept that your chances are slim
Like I said, thousands of people. Thousands.
It's great to have a goal, but you also need to be realistic about how much
opportunity you can create for yourself versus how much timing, luck, and
happenstance may play in your big break.
Above: For the privilege of penning this column, Dan had to survive a grueling trial by combat against 27 deadly freelance writers. And that's how we treat the people we like
It's not as easy as it looks
tough to simultaneously encourage the people who are sincere in their desire to
write game reviews for a living and discourage them by crushing them with the
realities of low pay, brutal deadlines, and technological mishaps – but here I
am, doing just that. The first thing you must accept is that this job is work, not play, and there are a lot of
responsibilities that come with it, from respecting deadlines to simply being
able to back up what you say in your articles. It's not just playing games with
your feet propped up on your desk.
Be a good writer
sounds so simple, but "don't suck" is a big part of it. The core
thing to understand: They are hiring you as a writer who understands games, NOT
as a gamer who sometimes puts sentences together. Before you even make contact
with someone who might publish your work, make sure you have your writing mechanics
down: spelling, grammar, the ability to self-edit. These will be evident in
your writing samples, and your articles will do more to get you work than any
cheeky cover letter or fancy font choice on a resume.
Be a good-enough gamer
is the mindblower for a lot of people. You don't actually have to have an
astronomical KDR or have earned every Trophy or Achievement in every game you
play. It's way more important that
you understand what you play when you're playing it, and then can explain it
back to others in a way that they understand. Articulating opinions informed by
experience is what you actually do; the game part is just the experience.
Above: This image was seriously one of the first things our stock-photo service returned when we typed in "video game journalist." Ha ha!
Ask if they are looking for freelance writers
How can you get a job if no job exists? You politely contact the media outlet
you want to write for and ask if they need anybody right now. This does not
mean writing an email to every member of the staff. Write to one person,
preferably the editor in charge of the content you would like to help write
(reviews, news, features, etc). If the single person you write is not the
correct person, they will forward it to the correct person. If you write to
everybody, nobody will do anything.
Don't assume they'll come looking for you
so, Twitter/Facebook/blogosphere, I just wanted to tell you that I am available
for game review work, so contact me." How deluded are you? Do you really
think Stephen Totilo or Jim Sterling or Charlie Barratt are scouring the web to
find unknown writers who are not motivated enough to reach out to them? Spoiler:
Put your best foot forward
haven't written professionally before? That's OK. Just make sure that what you
send them as your sample articles are your best work. If the publication you're
contacting uses a template that includes certain information in a certain
order, follow that template.
Don't take it personally if you don't hear back
lot of editors are super-busy – not "I need to get all purple gear by
doing this raid again" busy, but actually, legitimately, "I have two
publisher visits and four articles due in 48 hours and I haven't had lunch all
week" busy. Your interest may be sincere and you may even have the right
skills and voice for their outlet, but they may not have the time to get back
to you. What's more, they may not have the budget to hire you right now. Just
check back later and follow up politely.
Apply for an internship
have lost count of the number of interns I worked with who went on to be hired
full-time by the publication after graduation. It's basically on-the-job
training, when you think about it. The tricks here are that you often need to
be in college and you always need to be local. So this is a really good thing
to do, but not necessarily practical for everybody.
Above: Like many GR staffers, Charlie Barratt started as an intern. Now he gets to wear shirts to work
These are some of the core building blocks; the rest is
rejection, embarrassment, frustration, and heavy drinking. Well, actually, there's
a lot more to it than this (such as crying, begging, and holding grudges), but
hey, that’s why I wrote a book about all this stuff. Critical Path: How to Review Videogames
for a Living is my insanely detailed answer to "how do I get your
job," with actionable advice on every stage of your potential writing
career. I spent eight years writing the damned thing to give you the most
complete response possible, so I would ask that you buy it for 10 bucks and get
the 78,000 word answer if you're really, really serious about this. There's so
much more to cover that I think that's one of the reasons why you rarely get an
answer to such a simple, straightforward question.
Submit your own questions in the comments (or
Tweet them to @sciencegroen) and we may tackle them in a future Ask GR