Everything You Could Be Doing

I’m a budding journalist in my junior year of college with hopes of getting into the games industry through straight journalism (like IGN, Kotaku, etc.) or PR. I’ve been stressing out as graduation creeps ever closer about what my future may look like… I feel like I’m doing all I can now (I’m an editor at my school’s paper, the president of our Japanese club and an Editor for a video game website called REDACTED) but it still doesn’t feel like enough. Do you have any advice as to what more I could do to try and help myself get a job in the industry post graduation?

Question asked via Twitter DMs @Gameonysus

While this question was asked from a college student perspective my answer is the same for everyone and, damn, this is a long list. Here’s everything you could be doing to build a career in video game journalism and content creation.

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How to Avoid Plagiarism

I’m currently a student at uni and have been writing some articles about anime and video games for my uni’s website. I was tasked mainly to cover reviews on shows and games, my biggest problem as of recently is how am I supposed to avoid being accused of plagiarism and copyright infringement when it comes to reviews and guides for older shows and titles especially games that has been thoroughly explored and covered in detail. Where’s the line is drawn for plagiarism and copyright infringement? at one point I had one of my guides taken down because the editor accused me of plagiarizing said guide from Wiki pages that I only used as point of reference and detailed data for the boss fights and hidden drops.

Asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

The key to avoiding plagiarism is… to not plagiarize! But accidental plagiarism can occur if you do not have an understanding of what plagiarism is so let’s discuss.

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How to Draw the Line: Your Reputation vs. Your Check

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the website gamejournalismjobs.com, but if you’re not, it’s a site for (usually smaller) gaming sites to post their job listings. It’s a minefield of unreliable and often unpaid work, but that’s not what I’m here to ask about since you’ve already addressed that. It’s not unusual for a site that’s looking to hire writers who “Won’t include politics in their writing,” or staff who want the politics to “Stay out of video games,” which, even as a games industry baby, I know is bs. They usually offer more consistent (still not great) pay than most other sites that have listings on the site, but they’re clearly an environment that fosters a toxic mindset. So on to my question: In a medium and industry where every by-line and post sticks with you, how would you weigh your self-worth against a work environment that might be bad for you and your reputation if it means you get published and paid?

Asked via email to Gameindustryguides@gmail.com

Value yourself and your reputation above all else. You can always find money somewhere else. And if you are gonna sell your soul (not recommended) why would you do it for cheap? On paper this is an easy question to answer but I know this dilemma all too well so let’s get into the reality and the nuance of it.

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Is It Too Late for Me?

I am a near 30’s male… I have attempted a gaming blog but my own personal mental issues with my writing and the possibility of changing careers whilst getting older makes me feel that I am maybe too late. Do you feel there’s a moment where it might be too late to get into games journalism? I have always enjoyed writing about games and have wanted to do it but with no one in particular ‘marking’ or giving feedback on my pieces I worry that I am not improving and as time ticks on it may be a bit too late to reap benefits from sticking to it?

Asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

I’ve spent my life loving games and would love to work in the industry in any capacity. But I’m getting on in life. To the point where I feel like I’d likely be overlooked for any potential jobs that would traditionally go to a younger, more malleable person worthy of developing into a truly great journo/content creator. Is it too late for me?

Asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

Both of these questions boil down to the same inquiry: is it too late for me to become a game journalist/content creator? The answer is always no.

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Freelancing While Interning?

 I’ve felt conflicted about pitching freelance articles, since I’m interning at REDACTED (which is a great learning experience but is unpaid) right now and I want to make the best possible impression… I could write on the weekends but I’m already working 40 hours per week plus working on personal things. Should I just suck it up and work more during the weekend to pitch freelance articles or should I only be focused on the internship now? Thanks!

ASKED VIA EMAIL TO GAMEINDUSTRYGUIDES@GMAIL.COM

Don’t feel like you need to work more on top of your 40hr internship. It’s definitely an option but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest it for anyone.

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Do You Need a College Degree to Be a Video Game Journalist?

Will lack of college degree cause major outlets to overlook me? If I have a successful channel or just high quality content will that hard work be enough to potentially carry me to get hired one day? I’ve decided to put my career focus into this channel rather than being a student again and I just want to know if this effort is worthwhile or if I’m making the wrong decision.

asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

You don’t need a college degree. It’s always possible that some people in the industry still prefer a degree and having a degree never hurts. But if you have no interest in it, are already working in the industry, and don’t feel like formal schooling will help you build the specific skills you’re looking for I don’t think it’s worth going specifically to “look good” to employers. Admittedly, I do have a B.A in English and Secondary Education and absolutely list it on applications.

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What Looks Better?: Self Publishing vs. Working for Others

I was wondering how impressive it is to employers to show that I run my own gaming news site and focus on that rather than trying to get a bunch of freelance writing gigs. I’ve been wanting to get a job with an outlet like IGN for years but it seems like I’m not showing off the right stuff, even though I’ve been writing about gaming news, reviews, and even producing my own videos for years. 

asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

Both. Both is good. Now that the short answer is out of the way, let’s get to the nuance.

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Beginner’s Guide: Going From 0 to 100

Question: How do you begin to take the first steps for writing in video game journalism out of college and where do you go from there? How do you work yourself up to a company like IGN?

asked via email to gameindustryguides@gmail.com

My answer to this isn’t specific to college grads (though congrats if you’ve just wrapped up a degree!). Anyone can go from 0 to 100 regardless of professional background, educational training, or age. Of course, this isn’t to make light of the hurdles you’ll face or the years of hard work ahead of you. It’s worth noting that I’ve touched on this topic a bit before so definitely check out How Do You Begin? and My Biggest Piece of Advice for College Students for more insights. For the sake of brevity I’m going to assume that you already love writing and video games and are just ready to get started. Here’s a very short version of what you need to do.

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Tips for a Successful Freelance Pitch

Question: Should I wait for a freelance callout to apply? Should I pursue the lead editor of specific publications regardless of a freelance call? Should I pursue maybe not the lead editor, but another member of the same company who may understand my vision best to try and get them to take my idea to the editor? What does a successful pitch actually look like? If I fail to make any traction at one of my target sites of application do I keep applying and tweaking the idea/keep applying and stand firm behind my initial vision/at some point give up and target other smaller publications? 

As usual, we begin with rapid fire answers and then break them down into something more nuanced. Here it goes! Do not wait for a freelance callout to pitch. Follow the guidelines. There are times where it’s appropriate to approach the lead editor directly but not as many as you may think so be careful not to overstep or annoy. Other people at the publication cannot pitch on your behalf. Don’t put them in a position where they have to tell you that. However, you can contact to ask who to send your pitch to (this is for cases when the site has no calls and no posted guidelines and no staff page and essentially no way of you knowing how to pitch them). A successful pitch is clear, concise, interesting, fits the site, explains how you’re gonna execute, and why you’re the best person for the job. If it’s an evergreen pitch and a larger publication doesn’t want it, try it elsewhere sure! You can tweak it as well. Maybe run it by peers for feedback if the editor didn’t give you any. Also shift your mindset on smaller publications in general.

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How Do You Begin?

Question: How do you begin as a games writer. How do you get your work out there seen, but also use it as a step-up to start your career? Or, let me put it this way. How do you make yourself stand out from all the other aspiring game journalists or writers?

You begin by writing.

It seems obvious to the point of being rude, but it’s the truth. Writers write and love it (even on the days they hate it). So if you want to be a writer, open up google docs and get to writing. Have your own blog, channel, etc. Pitch like crazy. Do the work you’re hired to do and do it well. Repeat forever.

But you’re probably already writing so allow me to unpack some of the specifics as they relate to the question above.

Continue reading “How Do You Begin?”

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